Monday, December 1, 2008

Ear Candle Radio's Top 20: November 2008

A very interesting chart this month. JJ's song has vaulted to number one, after a showing on last month's charts. Times being what they are, we're sure a lot of people can relate to JJ's sad tale of a family farm going bust.

Elsewhere, we have three appearances by our own artists, including a piece from the upcoming Experimental Bunnies album as well as the still-appropriate "Get Out!" by the Blame. Our friend Matthew Grasso and his Nada Brahma Music Ensemble show up with Papamagama, which we recently taped a live performance of. As a matter of fact, this is a good month for trippy guitar pieces, from Funkadelic to Television to Kaki King to Steve Barden. Another friend on this month's chart is The Big Takeover's Jack Rabid, who takes a rare lead vocal on a new track from his band Springhouse. Elsewhere, we have a little New Zealand, a little Detroit, a long detour through Cologne, and much more, ending with former Incredible String Band co-leader Robin Williamson offering a wistful bit of social commentary in his craggy, well-worn voice and sounding a far cry from the elf-like boy he once was.

We will be sending buttons to our chart toppers once they arrive.

1. JJ Schultz - Song Of The Independent Rancher - Bustin' Outa Town
2. The Blame - Get Out! - Unreleased
3. Iggy Pop - Cold Metal - Instinct
4. Funkadelic - Maggot Brain - Maggot Brain
5. Can - Bel Air - Future Days
6. Steve Barden - Scenic Drive - Tallulah Lake
7. Nada Brahma Music Ensemble - Papamagama - The Five Deadly Talas
8. Jefferson Airplane - The House At Pooneil Corners - Crown of Creation
9. The Great Unwashed - Born In the Wrong Time - Collection
10. Springhouse - Time Runs Out - From Now to OK
11. Electrelane - Five - No Shouts, No Calls
12. Kaki King - Happy As A Dead Pig In The Sunshine - Everybody Loves You
13. Tall Dwarfs - Up - Stumpy
14. J Neo Marvin and The Content Providers - Kite Song - What is Truth?
15. The Experimental Bunnies - Ready For Your Instructions - Biology And Physics
16. The Dirtbombs - Ever Lovin' Man - We Have You Surrounded
17. Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band - Slush - Let's Make Up and Be Friendly
18. A Paper Cup Band - Just Because You Smoke, Doesn't Mean You're A Philosopher (A Brief Intermission) - Midwestern Post-Sarcastic
19. Television - Marquee Moon - Marquee Moon
20. Robin Williamson - Political Lies - The Iron Stone

Sunday, November 30, 2008

DVD Of The Week: The Life And Music Of Ronnie Lane: The Passing Show

This is an example of renting a music-bio DVD not so much because I was a huge fan of the artist in question as because I was curious about someone I had only sketchy knowledge about. As a teenager I was a fan of the Faces during their heyday (really, was there ever any other setting where Rod Stewart ever made the slightest bit of sense?) and like a good rock geek quickly traced them back to the Small Faces and their rich, magnificent catalog. But when Lane walked out on the Faces, leaving Ron Wood free to play eternal kid brother to Keith in the Stones and Rod Stewart free to become the thing that he became afterwards, I never managed to investigate any of his subsequent activities for whatever reason, though my sister actually had a copy of the Lane/Pete Townshend collaboation Rough Mix (Why, I wonder? I must have recommended it to her) [UPDATE: No, she was a big Faces fan at one point, I recall now] and I remember liking the song "April Fool" a lot. Then punk comes along and I couldn't care less anymore, until I find out that he died in the 90s after suffering from multiple sclerosis for nearly two decades. So here is an opportunity to get some answers to the question, who was this Ronnie Lane, anyway?

The movie begins in familiar territory with young Ronnie growing up working class in the East End of London, learning guitar, getting into the Mod scene, switching to bass, meeting Steve Marriott, and forming the Small Faces. There is an absolutely riveting performance of "Whatcha Gonna Do About It?" here that knocked my socks off: pure, high-energy garage-punk Motown pastiche, Marriott flinging himself around the stage, shouting soul, and spitting out Townshend-like chords like a little demon. You get little snippets of classics like "Tin Soldier" and "Itchykoo Park", as well as bits of Ogden's Nut Gone Flake material like an intense rendition of "Mad John" and a grungy "Rollin' Over" that previews Marriott's future leading the boring arena-boogie band Humble Pie. (Like Rod Stewart, Steve Marriott achieved greater fame while plummeting to the depths of suck musically when he parted company with Lane.)

Fun also are the bits of Faces footage. The Faces jumped in at just the moment when the Rolling Stones were beginning to lose the plot, taking a similar sound and adding drunken knockabout humor (and leading the way for the Replacements, the Pogues, the Cat Heads, and others) to deliver something joyous, ridiculous and life-affirming. (Not that there weren't quieter moments; there's a great version of "Richmond" with the two Ronnies on acoustic slide guitar and Rod Stewart plunking a stand-up bass to the side) If they had any shortcomings, it was a lack of consistent material (though Lane's contributions like "Debris", "Love Lives Here" or "Tell Everyone" tended to be the highlights of their albums) and the way the band's lovable rogue image sometimes crossed the line into pure misogyny, often in some of their best songs like "Stay With Me" (which Lane had nothing to do with) or "Ooh La La" (which he co-wrote with Ron Wood---a beautiful, wistful song whose lyrics are basically about a sad old grandfather telling his grandson that women will ruin your life, so watch out). Well, it WAS the early 70s; you might as well comment that the sky was blue, I suppose.

Meanwhile Ronnie, energized and inspired by a new relationship (with a woman he met in the Meher Baba community who, like him, was married to someone else when they met), undergoes a metamorphosis, becoming obsessed with rural life. He invests his money in a van containing a mobile recording studio, quits the band, and does the "getting it together in the country" thing. Having grown up on a farm myself, I was always amused by the phenomenon of urban hippies getting carried away with romantic notions of life on the farm. (It's the perfect example of "the grass is greener" thinking; "life on the farm" for me was synonymous with boredom and drudgery, and I ran off to the city as soon as I had the chance.) Running a farm is hard work and requires dedication, and the Lanes' qualifications for the task were pretty questionable; the music that emerged as a result of all this was more promising, though.

The new band, Slim Chance, was a largely acoustic group, a loose-knit backdrop for Ronnie's new musical aesthetic, which brought in fiddles, accordions, and at one point, a black father-and-son sax section. Very much a Basement Tapes sound, showcasing Lane's likeable voice and knack for instantly catchy tunes that served him so well in his previous bands. They put out a lot of music, indulging in interesting ideas like running cords from the mobile studio van and recording a whole record literally outdoors, and later attempting to tour with tents and generators like a traveling circus. Everything they tried was a resounding failure, financially and popularly, and the band broke up in exhaustion. A few of their songs cracked the British charts and the TV clips of the time show a large, loose folk group having a lot of fun. They didn't fit in with 70s butt-rock or the punk scene that rose in reaction to it, and they didn't make it to America in time to take advatage of the singer-songwriter boom. Too eccentric to have fit in with the smug mellowness of LA big-label folk-rock of the time, yet not eccentric enough to be embraced by today's freak-folk scene, Ronnie Lane really was an artist who never found a simpatico audience. Some of the songs you get a taste of in this video are quite enticing though; "The Poacher" is an odd Celtic/country-western/baroque thing that I really want to hear more of. And Lane's voice has an incredibly warm appeal, a rough, nasally melodic Dylan/Richards croon that's very inviting. Must hear more.

But then Ronnie got sick.

What a horrible diease multiple sclerosis is, slowly robbing a sufferer's mental and physical faculties while leaving them all too aware of what they're losing, plus inflicting excruciating pain in the process. Ronnie's mother had it, and by the end of the 70s, it had hit him as well. The 80s saw him recruiting his old rock star friends to do benefit concerts for an organization he founded to fight MS; then, later it was discovered that the woman he put in charge had embezzled most of the funds they collected. What a disgrace. The movie doesn't indicate how he felt about it, but he must have been devastated.

Towards the end of his life, Ronnie married yet another woman who stayed with him until the end. The couple moved to Austin, where his particular brand of rock/country/folk fit perfectly with the local aesthetic and he was treated like a king by his fellow musicians. There are clips of him in a wheelchair or on a stool, bellowing out old favorites in the best voice he can muster. A terrible irony occurs when his old bandmate Ian MacLagan moves to Austin just when the Lanes split for Colorado because Ronnie can't stand the Texas heat anymore. At the time of his eventual passing in 1997, he was a forgotten footnote in musical history, something this movie seeks to change.

So who was Ronnie Lane then? From this evidence, a modestly talented songwriter but a brilliant catalyst who could create magic with the right collaborators. A curious fellow who followed whatever path interested him, and a sometimes flaky, sometimes difficult but ultimately sweet and decent guy who kept a positive spirit under the most brutal and disappointing circumstances. That sense of cheerful stoicism may be what drew him to folk, country, and blues: all working class musical forms that thrive with that same upful-in-the-face-of-hell mentality. I was convinced enough to want to look for a good Slim Chance/solo Lane compilation sometime soon. RIP Ronnie.

Getting closer...

The Experimental Bunnies' second album, BIOLOGY AND PHYSICS, is due in about six weeks. J Neo just completed an improved mix of the song "Waiting For A Bad Idea To Die", and uploaded the ten finished tracks to Tunecore. We have taken advantage of our distributor's special offer of a free single release for every album completed by midnight tonight! Watch this space for a special one-song digital single from The Blame, in which we take a big sour lemon and turn it into a tall glass of the most refreshing lemonade you have ever tasted! (That's just a teaser...we'll be following with more details in the next week or two.)

In other news, we have ordered a big bag of Ear Candle Radio buttons from our Cafe Press shop (we encourage you to mosey on over there for a Christmas T-shirt or mug!), which we will be distributing to any artists who make it onto our monthly Top 20. (Applies to artists who are alive and/or reachable, so stay in touch and stay healthy!) If you are a band or soloist who knows you have a song on our playlist, now (or any time, for that matter) is the time to cast your votes, get your button, and get heard. Cheers!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

DVD of the week: The Weather Underground

Now that the Republican noise machine's attempt to portray Bill Ayers as The Scariest Man In America has failed so resoundingly, this movie is a good one to re-examine. (The Rude Pundit has the best take on Ayers himself that I've seen so far...don't worry, it's far less rude than usual.)

The movie places us in the late Sixties and early Seventies without using any music of the era (an effectively alienating decision); instead the predominant theme is an eerie drone piece (possibly courtesy of San Francisco experimental band Tarantel, who show up in the end credits) that creates an underlying tension that suits the story. We are assaulted with gruesome Vietnam War footage fairly quickly, just to remind us of the violent context that gave rise to the whole question of violent vs. nonviolent resistance. Unlike now, where the general public is relatively shielded from the reality of a war their own country has been embroiled in for years, this sort of stuff was on every TV, which may have made some difference. When people think of the Sixties, they invariably think of hippies, the Beatles, peace and love, etc. What can get forgotten is that all this went on during a nasty little war on the other side of the world that was being resisted by a steadily growing portion of the population. (By the same token, why do you suppose there are so many classic reggae songs about peace and love? Because the slums of Jamaica are so horrendously violent.)

The Weather Underground were the stars of the SDS, the most visible, charismatic members of a large and increasingly influential anti-war youth organization who, enraged and frustrated with what they saw as the ineffectiveness of non-violent resistance, broke away and started their own, more militant faction. They were young, magnetic, sexy, committed, and self-serious. As the movie traces their history, there's a palpable sense of envy that these privileged white kids can't hide for their peers in the Black Panther Party. I kept thinking of the old Clash lyric:
White riot, I wanna riot!
White riot, a riot of my own!

In a piece of vintage news footage, one Panther coolly dismisses the Weathermen (as they called themselves in the beginning before the more gender-inclusive name was a group with an intense, dominant personality like Bernardine Dohrn speaking for them could ever have given themselves a name with the word "men" in it in the first place is beyond me but those were different times), labeling their actions as "folly" and labeling the group "Custeristic", going on to explain that "Custeristic" means irresponsibly leading others into life-threatening situations for their own egos. (Good word...I must remember it; thank you, Mr. Anonymous Uncredited Panther.) The Custeristic tag certainly manifested itself in the WU's first big action, the Days Of Rage. Oh yeah, I can just see this: it's 1969, a year after the 1968 Democratic Convention fiasco, and somebody decides it'd be a great idea to get as many young people as possible to descend on Chicago, go wild, and mess with the cops. Remember, these are Chicago cops we're talking about. Yeah right. Had I been a young activist then, I probably would have been tempted to respond, "hmmmm, nice idea, good luck with that, I think I'll be washing my hair that night though."

Bill Ayers himself recalls the event (in a slightly cutesy move on the part of the filmmakers, he is shown in his present incarnation as a mild-mannered middle-aged academic, retracing the route of the demonstration with a baseball bat in his hand), saying that they had been assured that there'd be hundreds of thousands of kids there, but it turned out to be more like 150. So they made the best of it, rampaging through a rich Chicago neighborhood, breaking windows and fighting with cops. The film is vague about how they managed to get away with this. The whole escapade comes off as a nice cathartic political tantrum, but ultimately pointless and having zero impact on the war or the power structure, and probably even playing right into Richard Nixon's hands by strengthening public support for "law and order". Custeristic folly indeed.

The expressed desire was to "bring the war back home", to make the average American feel the visceral impact of a faraway, unjust, and deceitful war more directly so that they would be forced to take a stand one way or another. But the fantasy of a spontaneous, violent mass uprising was a failure. The attempt at shock therapy only made them another piece of the spectacle. Former SDS comrades (like Todd Gitlin, now a liberal pundit who contributes to Talking Points Memo and gets a lot of face time here as the Designated Critical Voice) started trashing them publicly for their "kindergarten" ideas of revolution.

Needless to say, our protagonists were undeterred by such talk, but reacted to the less-than-overwhelming response to their attempted mass uprising by concluding that America as a whole was a lost cause, and therefore it was time to step up the violence and make as many ordinary citizens as possible feel the pain that their government was causing other innocents in faraway corners of the world. Call it divine intervention if you want, but this near-turn towards outright terrorism (and there really isn't another word for it, my dear angry punk rock friends) was thwarted when a New York townhouse occupied by a particularly militant faction of the WU was blown to bits by an accidentally premature detonation of a bomb that was meant to be set off at a dance on a military base, killing three members of the group. The tragic accident may well have prevented them from pulling off something really stupid...or, if the New York faction's plan had been pulled off, would it have set a whole different chain of events in motion? A real revolution? Martial law? A quicker end to the war, or internment camps for dissenters all over the US? One has to wonder.

Oh yeah, we have to stop for a moment and ponder the whole "revolutionary" concept. Here is a small collection of people, maybe 20 or 30 strong, who (in Mark Rudd's words) fancied themselves as a "Communist cadre", whose goal was the violent overthrow of the US government. Delusional much? How exactly was this supposed to work anyway? And what exactly, IF all the odds had somehow been defied and this little group had actually succeeded in their goal, what would they actually have DONE NEXT? I can't stop thinking about the old joke about the dog who can't stop chasing cars and the burning question: if said dog actually caught one of the cars it was chasing, would it have the slightest idea what to do with it? OK, here you are, a group of starry-eyed hippies who've read a couple of Marx books, now in charge of a nation of a couple hundred million people, most of whom are less than enchanted with your views. Now what? Now that you're on top, how do you deal with the inevitable dissenting voices of the hundreds of millions of people you looked down on, whom you're now in charge of? Custeristic folly, anyone?

Not to mention the "Communist" thing. At one moment the filmmakers give us a montage of revolutionary unrest happening simultaneously all over the world. Conspicuously absent is the Prague Spring in Czechoslovakia, though the Chinese Cultural Revolution is shown, as if one could draw equivalencies between a top-down authoritarian manipulation of youth with the uprisings in Paris or Mexico City. As a recovering anarchist turned intensely anti-authoritarian but social-program-supporting liberal Democrat, I don't have much patience with or regard for anyone gullible enough to idealize the old state-capitalist systems of the defunct Iron Curtain; I recommend the history of 20th century Spain or Volume 2 of Emma Goldman's autobiography for anyone who still harbors the fantasy that hardline Communists should ever be trusted, and when Rudd and company start talking Communism (not long after Soviet tanks have rolled into Czechoslovakia), my own personal bullshit detector hits 11. As if the dinosaurs of the Soviet regime would have had any tolerance for these free-love acid-head libertines. The enemy of your enemy is not necessarily your friend, dumbasses.

So their ultimate goal was unattainable and ethically questionable nonsense; what fascinates us about the Weather Underground anyway? Perhaps it's their sheer audacity and boldness; here we are, several years into an even stupider, less justified, less popular, and dirtier war, and where are the strong voices that dare to really fuck shit up, who dare to say, "this is enough, and if things don't change NOW, THERE WILL BE CONSEQUENCES"? Part of the surreal feeling of watching this movie is the thought that "nobody would do this now". Of course, now we have an even weaker Constitution, we have the Patriot Act, the Department of Homeland Security, no-fly lists, "First Amendment Zones" for anti-war ain't the same. On the other hand, the internet has altered the whole concept of mass communication; information is being shared in ways that weren't possible then. It's a different world now, for better or worse; we have the possibility of more access to what's really going on, but can we do anything more than watch it all on our screens?

Back to our story. The stated goal of bringing the war back home through indiscriminate carnage was scuttled after the New York explosion. Here's where things get interesting. The survivors convene, debate, argue, and most of them come to the conclusion that they must ensure that their violence is only against property, and actual human beings should be warned and protected from any harm as much as possible. At this point, the Weather Underground truly goes underground, dropping out and assuming new identities, while their activities become a sort of exploding performance art piece. Public statements are made that a relevant and related building will be bombed as a response to a particular injustice, authorities are informed that the premises must be cleared, BOOM. Sort of a non-violent approach to violence, or is it a violent approach to non-violence? Whatever it is, statements are made, material damage is done, but no casualties ensue. This sort of kinder, gentler terrorism goes on for a few years, and the Weatherfolks' romantic outlaws-with-a-cause stature continues. Some rich acidheads give them a pile of money to bust Timothy Leary out of jail, and they pull it off! You can't say these guys and gals did not know their stuff. (Leary looks especially foolish in this footage, clearly in over his head in Algeria with Eldridge Cleaver, mouthing revolutionary slogans less than enthusiastically. What a weird time this was.)

Again, the Vietnam War clips aid tremendously in the context, keeping the viewer focused on what these crazy people were so upset about. Accordingly, the resignation of Nixon and the end of the war sucks the wind out of everyone's sails. Suddenly, the scattered, hidden would-be revolutionaries are starting to feel irrelevant, even though the end of the war did not suddenly make everything better or leave America without any serious issues to argue about. But the war was clearly the main focusing issue for this group. The social dynamic falls apart gradually. Individuals are isolated, only connecting at designated meetings; when a member dissents against the group, they suddenly stop being told when the next meeting is scheduled, and the group dissipates further. By the 80s, most of them get sick of it all and turn themselves in. Many of them end up going free because the FBI conducted themselves so ineptly and illegally that their evidence against them is inadmissible. Other members, like David Gilbert, who is interviewed in prison, ally themselves with even more militant groups and get in far worse trouble. (Gilbert's nose is quite noticeably crooked, as if it has been broken. Who knows from where?)

Most of the interviewees seem dazed, yet sure that they were fighting for a just cause, though many are less sanguine about their own tactics. It's amusingly ironic that so many of these former college students who were so desperate to divest themselves of their bourgeois privilege have reverted to the academic life, but in the case of the Right's would-be betes noires Ayers and Dohrn, it seems appropriate that their obvious intellect and social conscience be channeled into something more constructive and influential now. From all accounts, they are big players in the Illinois educational system who have earned their place there, and only the hysterical inverse-Stalinists of our current nutcase Right could be afraid of them now. Mark Rudd, another former leader and a particularly strong voice of the group, looks emotional and a bit embarrassed towards the end as he cops to his "mixed feelings" about the whole experience. Naomi Jaffe says she would do it all again, but do it "better". Gilbert, in prison, has no doubt that they were doing the right thing.

One of the most affecting characters is Brian Flanagan, all working class New York gruffness (a left-wing Archie Bunker!), now the owner of his own bar. As he tells his story, Flanagan gives an air of older-but-wiser cynicism ("Oh God, they used to go on all night got a little too cult-like") still maintains his conviction about what he and his friends stood for, but takes a jaundiced view at their tactics. Fiercely loyal to the end, he will not give too many details about specific things they did, proudly sloughing it off, saying "I just can't do that." No matter what he's talking about at that moment though, in every scene his eyes are haunted in spite of himself, as if he knows things that he can never tell that traumatize him to this day, but he'll be damned if he ever tells you what they are. He is shown staring at the rebuilt townhouse where his old friends blew themselves up in the process of working to blow up somebody else. The pain in his eyes is clear, then he collects himself and turns away with a little resigned grin.

We've just passed through a time when the country teetered even closer to fascism, with an even more incoherent war and an even more malicious and dishonest administration in charge. Maybe it's because the focus was on the phantom of "terrorism" itself that nothing like the Weather Underground managed to emerge. Maybe we're better off for that, because it could be argued that they really were not very helpful. On the other hand, maybe we'd have been better off with some crazy Quixotic, Custeristic radicals out there on the fringe helping to move that old Overton Window over to a more sensible position.

Each time I watched this movie though (and I ended up watching it about six times trying to work out what on earth I was going to say about it), I couldn't help wondering if the excesses of the Weather Underground were part of the reason that, by the time I entered adulthood in the mid-70s, eager to find some sort of living, vibrant counterculture I could align with, the hippie generation seemed prematurely old, tired, and drained of all their blood, nerve and boldness, with little tolerance for the rude, unruly punk rock scene erupting all around them. Perhaps those oddly uptight longhaired fuddy-duddies I rebelled against so vehemently back then were nursing the same post-traumatic stress disorder that poor Brian Flanagan can't hide in this movie.

And maybe what seemed like apathy in more recent times is more a product of those years..."well, non-violent demonstrations don't work, but violence really doesn't work...what the hell does work?" I like to think that our new interactive media forms are beginning to make a difference---certainly they had everything to do with this new President (and yeah, now that the election is over, I feel perfectly free to say that some ex-Weathermen may have had an influence on him, AND THAT IS PROBABLY A GOOD THING)---and that everything from YouTube to Noodlebrain has had an impact on our evolution, which may be frustratingly slow, but may be ultimately more trustworthy than naive revolutionary fantasies which, given the unending potential craziness of the American psyche, are probably better not messed with, however much we may be tempted to court the notion.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Fun stuff to stumble on whilst poking through Wikipedia

How awesome is the small Welsh town of Aberystwyth? Awesome enough to have had both former Incredible String Band bassist Rose Simpson and Sue Jones-Davies, who played Judith in Monty Python's Life Of Brian, serve as mayor there.

Update: OK, perhaps not quite so awesome since, due to the influence of the local vicars, Life Of Brian is actually banned in Aberystwyth, despite Mayor Jones-Davies' best efforts. No word at this time whether you can find rare ISB albums at the local shops.

Son Of Update: I didn't even notice when I posted this last night, that one of these mayors is a Simpson, and the other is a Jones. Hmmm, maybe we should move there. Wanna be a Welsh mayor, Davis?

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Change is now

Party on!

What a relief. So America, one wheel already hanging off the edge of the cliff, turns out to have enough presence of mind to turn off at the last minute. Now we get to see whether Mr. Obama can govern as well as he campaigns, whether there will be any accountability for the criminals who got us in the mess we are in today, whether the economy has a chance (and whether Democrats have the guts to be even one-tenth as radical as the right wing pundits like to pretend they are) and how culture will shift as a result of all this.

Best thing I read all week: an e-mail from my mom.

We have splurged on a bottle of Martinelli Sparkling Cider that will be opened in celebration tomorrow night when Obama wins the election!! It will be so refreshing to have a man of intelligence, morals, and dignity in the White House. Our country and the world's perception of us will change overnite. Don't be surprised--we aren't so stupid as to think McCain would make a decent president, or Heaven Forfend, Palin. What an embarrassment to women and America she is.

Ha ha, funny thing: Our latest mailing from Netflix is The Weather Underground, which I want to watch one more time before I write a review. Now that Bill Ayers is officially a non-issue, I may be a couple weeks too late, but such is life. Here at Ear Candle, we serve no whine before it's time.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Ear Candle Radio's Top 20: October 2008

From now on, we'll be posting our charts here on the blog, as well as on the Ear Candle Home page.

The three new artists Davis mentioned previously have all made a fine showing in this month's charts. Congratulations, and happy post-Halloween.

We also have a hot, bubbling organ instrumental by reggae great Jackie Mittoo topping the charts, with a rare vinyl single by Sid Merritt of Weenie Roast, Barbara Manning and Content Providers fame following close behind, and a bittersweet plea from New Orleans' own Irma Thomas coming in third. Elsewhere we have the ultimate Shonen Knife song, "Giant Kitty", a rarity from the little known all-female San Francisco band of the 60s, Ace Of Cups, Sonic Youth's cover of the title song from one of our favorite movies of last year, a sad drugstore cowboy lament from JJ Schulz, and another great track from the incredible solo debut of Jenny Hoyston of Erase Errata.

Keep tuning in to Ear Candle Radio. We are planning an all-new playlist soon!

1. Jackie Mittoo - Oboe - The Keyboard King at Studio One
2. Squirrel Grab - In Love With Barry Manilow - Mediumistic Presents The Golden Tones Of Squirrel Grab
3. Irma Thomas - Wish Someone Would Care - Time Is On My Side
4. Beyond the Fringe - Aftermyth of War - Beyond the Fringe
5. Ana Da Silva - Friend - The Lighthouse
6. Systemwide - Eyupsultan - Pure And Applied
7. Shonen Knife - Giant Kitty - Genki Shock!
8. Marson Ramos - The Halloween Theme - The Halloween Night
9. Takeshi Murata - Decipher - Decipher
10. Liliput/ Kleenex - Turn The Table - Liliput/ Kleenex
11. JJ Schultz - Song Of The Independent Rancher - Bustin' Outa Town
12. Ace Of Cups - Glue - Love Is The Song We Sing (Disc 3)
13. The Rolling Stones - Going Home - Aftermath
14. Phil Manzanera - Frontera - Diamond Head
15. Dean Farnell - Ghost On The Stairs - Ghost On The Stairs
16. Jenny Hoyston - Spell D-O-G - Isle Of
17. Sonic Youth - I'm Not There - I'm Not There Soundtrack
18. The Soft Boys - There's Nobody Like You - Underwater Moonlight
19. Paleface - World Full of Cops - Paleface
20. The Dirtbombs - Ever Lovin' Man - We Have You Surrounded

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Matthew Grasso and his newly designed 25 String Raga Guitar!

Here is Matthew Grasso, a local San Francisco native, presenting his band members and his newly designed 25 String Raga Guitar. The band is called the Nada Brahma Ensemble and this performance was presented by the Sangati Center in the City. Matthew graduated from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music where he focused on Western Classical music, and then later studied with Ali Akbar Khan in San Rafael where he became enamoured with Eastern Classical sounds.

Born of New Yorker Italian Father, and Chinese Mother, Matthew brings together those two worlds in a variety of records. You can find him at his website for more information and bookings.

Music to follow shortly... as soon as I am back from Holiday!
Two angle edits of two hours of great sounds!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Three new international artists make the top twenty so far this month!

I am so thrilled about how Ear Candle Productions is making its way around the world. Our own "Democracy" is listened to more than 1500 times a month and we have artists sending us music all of the time for airplay on Ear Candle Radio!

Just this month, three unique artists have sent their recordings, two of whom have Halloween themes!

Marson Ramos, from Brazil, sent us "The Halloween Theme" which is now number 17 on our top twenty, which is a delightful promise from a ghost to be nice if he gets some candy! Well! Isn't that what we do on Halloween? The song is a playful and jaunty piece that makes you smile as you listen. We could use some smiles here in this political climate! Thank you Marson!

The second one offering a Halloween theme is Dean Farnell, from England called "Ghost on the Stairs", which currently sits at lucky number 13 on our top twenty. Ghost on the Stairs is a jangly indie rock song based on a true story that his mother told him about! Hmmm.... cool. Given that energy cannot be destroyed, something of our human energy must be around lingering but I would be scared to see it! But not Dean! He is quite sure that ghosts are a certainty! Check it out!

The third artist hails from Japan and his name is Takeshi Murata and his song is called "Decipher". Takeshi has his own podcast in Japan and requested a PSA from us about how we described his song, and something about our station which he will upload. So J Neo created a really cool 30 second PSA, and Takeshi is really happy! We like to make people happy, especially real gentlemen who reciprocate! Thank you Takeshi, your song is now #20 on Ear Candle Radio. Get some of your friends to vote the next time you are on so we can make sure you are one of the top twenty in your first month out!

Starting next month we will be sending out Ear Candle Radio buttons for those who make the top twenty. And for those who have in the past, we will send you one with your request, which will keep us from having to go back three years and track you.

Give us a listen. Send us your music. Airplay for the underground sound!


PS gee this is fun!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

The Mountain Goats and Kaki King, The Fillmore, 10/24/08

The very idea of The Mountain Goats headlining the Fillmore would have been hard to imagine not so long ago. I started paying attention to John Darnielle in the late 90s, when the Mountain Goats consisted of one intense guy sitting in a chair, thrashing at an acoustic guitar and blurting out compact tragicomic short stories with folk chords, punk energy, and unreliable narrators. John always knew how to carry off the solo-artist-with-a-group-name paradox, sitting in his chair, fixing his laser beam eyes on the crowd, and shouting jovially, "Hi, we're the Mountain Goats!"

The records (and there were truckloads of 'em) came out on various small indie labels, all recorded on a cheap cassette boombox with a loud motor that sounded like another instrument in the mix. The songs themselves, though, were conceptually ingenious, full of telling details, outrageous hyperbole, literary references, and moments of heart-rending humanity. To put on a Mountain Goats disc was to be in the presence of a mind teeming with ideas that had to get it out there, right now. This was the lo-fi revolution that bands like Sebadoh promised but never delivered. (It helps to have material, not to mention something interesting to say.)

This is the stuff of cult stardom for sure, and a devoted audience was already growing. One thing about Mountain Goats gigs: they were always tremendous fun. You got a funny, wired, engaging guy up there who loved to banter with the crowd and could veer at any point into a hilarious, spontaneous, breathless monologue about just about anything, a catalogue of songs with outrageous wordy titles that are fun to shout out loud, and there was always a good chance John might actually play them if you did.

Then something shifted around the turn of the century. 4AD signed the Mountain Goats, and suddenly, all the atmosphere implied in those stark strums became fleshed out. Suddenly, Mountain Goats recordings were being created in studios, with budgets, sympathetic musicians, and attention to sonic detail. John seized the opportunity and has created a whole second career and a string of intriguing song cycles, the third of which, The Sunset Tree, shattered the mold he has created from the start, abandoning his character-driven songs for a set that drew directly from personal experience as a teenager with an abusive stepfather biding his time until he can step out and be a free adult. ("I am gonna make it/through this year/if it kills me!") Then, just to keep us all on our toes, he followed with Get Lonely, in which the very happily married Darnielle put himself in the shoes of a bereft soul recovering from the aftermath of a breakup and left you wondering whether he was OK. (Sure he's OK. He's also empathetic as hell, which is why his lyrics work the way they do.)

And Mountain Goats fans have stuck around through all this, and their ranks have grown enough to fill the Fillmore last Friday. Joining the bill was Kaki King, a virtuoso acoustic guitarist who has come up recently and has a big fan in John Darnielle. We hadn't been to a Mountain Goats show in several years, and intended to bring a copy of Freedom Fried to give to John, so he can hear how our cover of "Twin Human Highway Flares" came out. No video cameras for this one, this is the Fillmore.

We staked out a place up front and chatted with a family who came together, a young son in his early 20s who brought his out-of-town mom to show her a good time. An unannounced opening act came on (I can't find their name anywhere online...The Invisible Frames, or something like that?) [UPDATE: The band is called INTERSTELLAR GRAINS. We will be adding some of their music to the station as soon as they send it.] and plunged into some psychedelic fusion funk. They were all right. Short songs are a good quality for a jam band to cultivate. The best part was when they brought a fifth member on with a solid body electric sitar and they took off into classic San Francisco acid-rock territory. Otherwise, they were a pleasant, skilled warmup for the main event.

Kaki King strolled onstage, a tiny, dark-eyed woman with a piercing stare, accompanied by a three-piece band. Starting solo, she performed a piece that showed off her hammer-on technique, her hands flying all over the fretboard and drumming out melodies, countermelodies and mesmerizing patterns on the strings until the band eventually joined in for a climactic pow. From there, she was all over the place, sometimes churning out more intricate, hypnotic instrumentals, sometimes switching to electric guitar (she switched guitars between every song, from roundbacked Ovation-like acoustics to hollow body electrics, all Hamers...I wonder if they're giving her any sponsorship money? They certainly ought to.) and singing original indie-rock flavored songs with vigorously strummed circular chord patterns and bitter lyrics. (Several songs were prefaced with "This song is about breaking up with an Israeli girl", which probably fed into the fantasies of her many adoring fans of both genders in the crowd who undoubtedly would have jumped at the chance to soothe her furrowed brow.) It's very nice to see a guitarist who is equally at home with stunning viruosity on a John Fahey or Matthew Grasso level or spirited Sterling Morrison or Stephen O'Neill hyper-strumming, and throwing herself into both with equal gusto. The backup band did well, as did the very busy guitar tech, tossing her one Hamer after another.

The Mountain Goats are a true band now. Along with dapper longtime bassist, close friend, and occasional early contributor Peter Hughes (a full-time Mountain Goat since 2002), Superchunk drummer Jon Wurster, who first appeared on last year's album Heretic Pride, is now a live member. John Darnielle did not hide his joy one iota; for him, this Fillmore show was clearly a victory lap. At one point, he testified to the crowd about the importance of San Francisco in his life. The first shows he and original bassist Rachel Ware played outside of his then-home in Southern California were here, and he found a simpatico audience immediately. Now headlining at this famous historical rock ballroom, he gushed to his audience, thanking us for supporting what was once a peculiar, quixotic lo-fi project and helping nurture it into what it is now.

Most but not all of the songs were drawn from the 4AD releases, but there were a few flashbacks to earlier times like "The Mess Inside" and "Going To Bolivia", where Wurster's drumming locked into the urgent patterns of the old cassette-recorded acoustic strums and inhabited them with explosive concentration. I can't think of any other drummer who could fit into the Mountain Goats' music as perfectly as this guy has. The songs didn't sound rearranged so much as we finally got to hear the drum parts that had always been there in our minds.

John was great to watch, a superb example of how to approach live performance. He was so un-self-conscious, so unconcerned with looking cool, and so totally in the moment and in his body. Jumping around, shaking his head, grinning from ear to ear or opening his mouth wide, closing his eyes and enjoying himself, the obvious pleasure he was taking in this whole experience was an odd contrast with the sad, desperate characters in his songs. But those characters were not slighted in the least: from the dying Prince Far-I in the heartbreaking story of his murder, "Sept. 15, 1983" ("Try your whole life/to be righteous and be good/wind up on your own floor/choking on blood"), to the raging, comically hateful Alpha Couple in the over-the-top rant "No Children", to the fatalistic yet defiant speedfreak from Chino getting carted off to jail in "Pigs That Ran Straightaway Into The Water", all of them were given their voices, their dignity, and their humanity. This is the core of what the Mountain Goats are and have always been all about: come for the catchy tunes and the humor, stay for the empathy.

Mid-set, Kaki joined John and company to run through the songs that make up their newly-released vinyl EP Black Pear Tree, which we will soon be (via our USB turntable) adding some cuts from to Ear Candle Radio. On one song, Kaki was on her knees assaulting a lap steel like I have never seen before. The six songs ran the gamut of both artists' ranges, and you could tell John was having the time of his life, announcing "Kaki King is so awesome it takes 18 guitars to contain her awesomeness!" It was a mutual admiration society between two extremely different talents (who share one quality: focused intensity) finding a way to collaborate. What a night.

I asked my mother for 15 cents to see the elephants jump the fence

Avedon Carol of The Sideshow, an expatriate yank in the UK (though no relation to our blog pal Expat might ponder what caused these Americans to pull up stakes for the land of mushy peas in the first place), offers up a neat summation (in the midst of eviscerating the latest obnoxious piffle from New York Times columnist David Brooks) of why the tide is starting to turn in the US:

The real reason, of course, is that conservatives finally tipped their hand by winning and doing what they'd been promising all along - imposing the "liberty" of being gouged by "the marketplace" and leaving the rest of us on our own, while using our own tax money to do it.

Follow the link. It's all well worth your time.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

New Bunnies album coming up

We have settled on the track listing for the second Experimental Bunnies digital album, Biology And Physics, which will be available through iTunes, eMusic, Rhapsody, and other distributors by the beginning of the New Year. Once again, we have drawn on our vast archive of exploratory jams and soundtrack music for the Noodle Brain Productions TV show which aired on channel 29 in San Francisco from 2005 to 2006, and we are busy re-editing, remixing, unearthing lost outtakes, overdubbing a few tracks, and forging a complete instrumental statement for these transitional times.

The core lineup of multi-instrumentalist/producer J Neo Marvin (who also contributes a couple of solo tracks), keyboard impressionist Davis Jones, and guitar wizard Stephen Abbate is augmented on one song by Baltimore studio prodigy Trevor Simpson adding some sweet guitar of his own.

The track listing for Biology And Physics:

2) QUAGMIRE (Marvin-Jones-Abbate)
3) GOLD STAR MOM (Marvin-Jones-Abbate)
5) WAITING FOR A BAD IDEA TO DIE (Marvin-Jones-Abbate-Simpson)
8) RESCUE REMEDY (Marvin-Jones-Abbate)

We are beside ourselves with excitement and looking forward to sharing this music with all of you!

DVD of the week: The Triplets Of Belleville

Revealing too many details of the movie might spoil it for you; it's best experienced with as few expectations as possible. The basics: it's a modern, almost dialogue-free French/Belgian/Canadian animation feature from 2003 that combines lovingly detailed, often stunningly grotesque hand-drawn characters with some amazing effects that could only be generated by a computer, resulting in the best of both worlds. (The art, storyline and attitude would make it a perfect fit for our friends at Ideas In Animation, who scour the world for bizarre and poignant cartoon shorts from all over for Nik Phelps to apply his musical magic to.) The movie is probably too much for small children (the Fred-Astaire-eaten-by-his-own-shoes bit at the very beginning will be enough to give the more sensitive little ones nightmares...not that I haven't seen far worse and less clever stuff on Adult Swim), but both artistically-inclined adults and teenagers who enjoy a good gross-out joke (and vice versa) will dig it.

Without giving too much away, here are some of the things you will see: a devoted grandmother, a deadpan cipher of a grandson, a strange trio of aging avant-garde Andrews Sisters types, the Tour De France, a breathtaking ocean journey, many entertaining violations of the laws of physics, a hint at what Pink Floyd's abandoned Household Objects album might have been like, a glimpse into a horrific underworld of sadistic exploitation, a look at Americans as the French see us* (perhaps we should cut back on the hamburgers a bit), a dog's increasingly mad and nightmarish dream sequences, and a truly ridiculous chase scene. Oh, and the frogs.

*Considering the year that it was made, the jab at American culture from a French animator is probably not so surprising.

Friday, October 17, 2008

It's food for thought, monsters

Commenter Owlbear1 argues this morning on Sadly No that, rather than reviving the Fairness Doctrine, perhaps we could introduce (and enforce) this simple rule:

News must be clearly separated from commentary. Song or Jingle to announce the News. Announcer who is not one of commenters, announcing that he is reading the News. The News. Announcer telling you that was the News and now back to commentary.

That little bugger right there would solve tons of issues.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Let It Be Clear!

Ear Candle Productions does NOT work with people who lie, cheat, steal, attempt to diminish others, or cannot keep their word.

So, if you are privy to some nastiness regarding our work or our persons, please consider the source.

In this economy, people like us are unstoppable.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

DVD of the week: Auntie Mame

We do keep a lot of old 40s, 50s and 60s movies in our Netflix queue. A lot of them are there because they conjure up memories, either of childhood experiences in movie theatres or watching the late show in the living room, or maybe catching some old flick in a distracted haze on the tube at three in the morning sometime in my twenties. It's interesting to retrace one's cultural steps and say, "OK, is this really as good as I thought it was once?" And sure, we like to be entertained too, but part of our idea of entertainment is to play amateur sociologist and follow the first question with, "So, what can this fun, corny old movie teach us about the times it was made in?"

Case in point: Auntie Mame. Made in 1959, based on a popular novel in the guise of a memoir, the basic story is: stuffy old businessman kicks the bucket (no real explanation of what happened to mom), leaving his young, impressionable son in the care of his eccentric sister, who in her lovably goofy, semi-responsible way, strives to raise the boy to appreciate life, culture, craziness, and the world, and not grow up to be so damn stuffy. A close call ensues later when the boy falls for a vapid, boring rich girl whose obnoxious, bigoted nouveau-riche parents want to set him up in the family business, but Auntie Mame saves the day by pulling out all the stops to shock the small-minded bourgeois family by being her extravagant, bohemian, transgressive (She likes Jews! She takes care of unmarried pregnant girls who've been ditched by their asshole one-night-stands! Oh, the impropriety!) self. Rosalind Russell is gorgeous and likeable, playing Mame as a good-hearted, if slightly flaky, woman who is devoted to her nephew and sincerely wishes to open his mind.

Right off the bat, the movie made me think about the ridiculous Presidential election season we've had to suffer through this year, particularly the shifting definition of "elitist". When Mame meets would-be in-laws the Upsons, a rich-but-ignorant couple in a "restricted" gated community who turn out to be nasty anti-Semites, it's like a confrontation between the old definition of "elite" (those who have all the power and keep those whom they look down on out of their circle and away from all opportunity) and the new one (anyone who dares to show any uniqueness, personal taste, education, or curiosity beyond what is presented by the mainstream). The question is raised: who is the real snob? The one who barely tolerates bad drinks and worse jokes, or the one who lobbies to keep the "wrong" kind of people from buying the property next door?

OK, so for all its good intentions, this is still a Fifties movie, and even while it's making extravagant statements about tolerance, there are other bits that make you stare in disbelief. Number one of these is Ito, the Japanese butler. What's the deal with this guy? Is he meant to be a gay stereotype or an Asian stereotype or both? After a while his incessant giggling got so distracting that I found myself inventing a backstory for him where every time he wasn't in a scene, he was in another room smoking a giant bong, which made his behavior appear somewhat more explicable. I suppose, in the years following World War II, a Japanese man portrayed as a giddy queen spouting broken English was an improvement from previous stereotypes. Still annoying though. (At least Ito was played by an actual Japanese actor rather than Mickey Rooney with bad makeup and prosthetic buck teeth. Could've been worse.)

Slightly problematic also is the comical portrait of genteel Southern plantation life where Mame meets the family of the Southern millionaire who (conveniently) falls for her and saves her from destitution during the Depression. (Though she never seems to risk losing her huge New York apartment.) It would admittedly put a damper on the comedy to notice who exactly was picking the cotton on said plantation. (Unless maybe it was a sort of theme-park plantation built on the husband-to-be's oil fortune, that didn't actually grow any cotton, but just adopted the look, but that would be weird, wouldn't it?) The pre-Civil Rights Movement Hollywood fantasy of Southern aristocratic life carries on as usual here. Pay no attention to the black guy in the background; he's cool with all this, honest he is.

We'll file those last two paragraphs in the Product Of Its Times file for now, though. Auntie Mame is a great character, the sort of sweet, loopy, adorable aunt many of us would love to have brightening our childhoods. Interestingly for a Fifties movie, the nudist schools, drunken actresses, and wacky endless-party atmosphere are portrayed as good influences on the young boy. A lot of the comedy and conflict comes from the fact that the kid is dropped into this environment and learns from all his new experiences, all the while shadowed by a disapproving banker/conservator with his own plans for the boy's future.

Making her an aunt allows the story to unfold this way, but I just had an odd thought for a completely different movie: what would it be like if the Mame character was the boy's mother instead? That would be interesting. Would she be considered even more inappropriate by society then? Maybe she'd be widowed, or better yet divorced, with the Mr. Babcock character as the father and ex-husband, now turning the conflict into one between two parents with radically different ideas on how to raise a boy. Now make the story otherwise the same. How do the relationships look now? A fascinating mental exercise, hmm?

Davis had her own interesting take on Mame. She saw her as a shallow, frivolous character until her husband (the aforementioned Southern oil millionaire who happens to be a really sweet guy who loves's that for good luck?) dies in a freak mountain accident, leading her to retrace all of their steps, revisiting every country they had traveled together in their marriage. Davis argued that after she took this journey and got complete with her past, Mame has more of an air of seriousness and idealism about her, and cares far more about other people. That's another, equally intriguing way to read it, definitely.

None of this should take away from the fact that this is a warm, fun and sometimes hilarious piece of entertaining fluff with a decent message overall: get out there and learn about the world, have a sense of humor, show compassion for others, and to hell with jerks who try to restrain your self-expression. This is one of those movies you ought to see before you die, but be sure to avoid that godawful musical remake with Lucille Ball. Loooooo-cy, you got some 'splainin' to do.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

This whole thing has sure been a lesson to me...bang, you're dead!

R.I.P. Nick Reynolds.

At a time when so many musical acts once considered kitsch are suddenly being re-evaluated as cool, we're still not seeing much love for the Kingston Trio. Well never mind those bollocks, I say. As I've said on the station before, if you stop judging them by folk purist standards and instead hear them as a pop group who played folk songs, it's clear how brilliant they really were. As my first exposure to harmonies, guitars, hooks, and songs that told a story, I have to tip my hat to them as the doormen to a million musical experiences. Even Dylan gave them props in his Chronicles book.

Nick Reynolds was the boisterous, enthusiastic high-harmony guy who balanced out Bob Shane the romantic balladeer and Dave Guard the snide intellectual. (Also, he was a fairly good conga player on the side and helped steer the group to try the occasional African number, which they would do very, uh, whitely, but they planted a seed in my 5-year-old mind that made Soweto township jive sound intriguingly familiar to me when I heard it much later.) The mix of personalities was a template for folk groups and later, rock bands, of individuals making up a whole and retaining their individual identity. On the documentary DVD that came out a couple years ago, Reynolds did not look well, slurring his words as if he had had a stroke. Maybe he did, but he held his own, contributing his story to the record.

Hard to remember now that there was a time when they were the most popular group in the country until the Beatles came along, but it was true. Call them bland and commercial if you must, but you'd be missing the context: in 1959, just as rock & roll was shifting from the abandon of rockabilly and doo-wop to bigger production numbers, three guys with acoustic guitars came along and made music look easy to the general public, inspiring countless amateurs to give it a go themselves and serving as the perfect gateway drug to the heavier stuff that the folk tradition had to offer. So, here at Ear Candle, we are lowering the flag to half mast in honor of the guy who sang lead on the first version of "Sloop John B" I ever heard.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Holidays in the sun

Our friend Jill forwards us this story from a UCSC professor one Ana Dubey:


It was just before John McCain's last run at the presidential nomination in 2000 that my husband and I vacationed in Turtle Island in Fiji with John McCain, Cindy, and their children, including Bridget (their adopted Bangladeshi child).

It was not our intention, but it was our misfortune to be in close quarters with John McCain for almost a week, since Turtle Island has a small number of bungalows and their focus on communal meals force all vacationers who are there at the same time to get to know each other intimately.

McCain arrived at our first group meal and started reading quotes from a stack of William Faulkner books with a forest of Post-Its sticking out of them. As an English Literature major myself, my first thought was "if he likes this so much, why hasn't he memorized any of this yet?" I soon realized that McCain actually thought we had come on vacation to be a volunteer audience for his "readings" which then became a regular part of each meal. Out of politeness, none of the vacationers initially protested at this intrusion into their blissful holiday, but people's buttons definitely got pushed as the readings continued day after day.

Unfortunately this was not his only contribution to our mealtime entertainment. He waxed on during one meal about how Indo-Chinese women had the best figures and that our American corn-fed women just couldn't meet up to this standard. He also made it a point that all of us should stop Cindy from having dessert as her weight was too high and made a few comments to Amy, the 25 year old wife of the honeymooning couple from Nebraska that she should eat less as she needed to lose weight.

McCain's appreciation of the beauty of Asian women was so great that David the American economist had to move his Thai wife to the other side of the table from McCain as McCain kept aggressively flirting with and touching her.

Needless to say I was irritated at his large ego and his rude behavior towards his wife and other women, but decided he must have some redeeming qualities as he had adopted a handicapped child from Bangladesh. I asked him about this one day, and his response was shocking: "Oh, that was Cindy's idea - I didn't have anything to do with it. She just went and adopted this thing without even asking me. You can't imagine how people stare when I wheel this ugly, black thing around in a shopping cart in Arizona . No, it wasn't my idea at all."

I actively avoided McCain after that, but unfortunately one day he engaged me in a political discussion which soon got us on the topic of the active US bombing of Iraq at that time. I was shocked when he said, "If I was in charge, I would nuke Iraq to teach them a lesson". Given McCain's personal experience with the horrors of war, I had expected a more balanced point of view. I commented on the tragic consequences of the nuclear attacks on Japan during WWII -- but no, he was not to be dissuaded. He went on to say that if it was up to him he would have dropped many more nuclear bombs on Japan. I rapidly extricated myself from this conversation as I could tell that his experience being tortured as a POW didn't seem to have mellowed out his perspective, but rather had made him more aggressive and vengeful towards the world.

My final encounter with McCain was on the morning that he was leaving Turtle Island. Amy and I were happily eating pancakes when McCain arrived and told Amy that she shouldn't be having pancakes because she needed to lose weight. Amy burst into tears at this abusive comment. I felt fiercely protective of Amy and immediately turned to McCain and told him to leave her alone. He became very angry and abusive towards me, and said, "Don't you know who I am." I looked him in the face and said, "Yes, you are the biggest asshole I have ever met" and headed back to my cabin. I am happy to say that later that day when I arrived at lunch I was given a standing ovation by all the guests for having stood up to McCain's bullying.

Although I have shared my McCain story informally with friends, this is the first time I am making this public. I almost did so in 2000, when McCain first announced his bid for the Republican nomination, but it soon became apparent that George Bush was the shoo-in candidate and so I did not act then. However, now that there is a very real possibility that McCain could be elected as our next president, I feel it is my duty as an American citizen to share this story. I can't imagine a more scary outcome for America than that this abusive, aggressive man should lead our nation. I have observed him in intimate surroundings as he really is, not how the media portrays him to be. If his attitudes toward women and his treatment of his own family are even a small indicator of his real personality, then I shudder to think what will happen to America were he to be elected as our President.
Mary-Kay Gamel
Professor of Classics, Comparative Literature, and Theater Arts
Cowell College
University of California, Santa Cruz
Santa Cruz, California 95064

Update: The original e-mail contains her phone and e-mail. We have removed these to keep bots, spammers and trolls out of the good professor's hair. Speaking up these days is hard enough as it is.

Bonus update: Prof. Gamel did not write this; she forwarded it from Ana Dubey.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Couldn't have said it better myself.

The last word about this silly, annoying person. Definitive quote:

"I think Palin, trying to come off as a potential national and global leader, seemed instead like the HR representative who's summoned America into the conference room to do a presentation on the bosses' new, crappy, drastically diminished health-care plan."


DVD of the week: Music Scene: The Best Of 1969-1970, Volume 2

(Note: Yes, it has not escaped our attention that lately, due to circumstances beyond our control, our "weeks" for this feature are looking more like months. I'm not changing the name, though.)

A time capsule of what mainstream TV considered to be cutting edge at the end of the 60s, The Music Scene was one of two short-lived 45 minute shows that occupied a 90 minute slot from 1969 to 1970. The show that followed it, The New People, was a painfully earnest drama about a group of hippies who crash-land on a faraway island and their attempts to create a society together. This was the season where the networks, possibly reacting to films like Easy Rider, decided it was time to reach out to the maturing baby boomer market with "relevant" TV shows. The mainstreaming, formatting, and watering down of 60s counterculture started here. But it hadn't quite set in yet, which is what makes a lot of this collection interesting.

My most vivid memory of the show is the Pete Seeger segment that shows up here. I was 12, the whole family was gathered around the TV, my dad was drinking as usual. Seeger comes on, strumming a 12-string guitar on a catwalk with an audience full of kids on either side of him, and launches into a singalong: "If you love your Uncle Sam/Bring 'em home, bring 'em home/Support our boys in Viet Nam/Bring 'em home, bring 'em home". The kids immediately pick up the chorus, and the room is full of voices chanting "Bring 'em home". It was one of those Zeitgeist-shifting moments. My dad was livid that something this unpatriotic was being broadcast into our living room. He wouldn't shut up for the rest of the evening. I was quietly enjoying the provocation. It's a shame that these days Seeger may be best remembered as the square who tried to take an axe to the power cable at Dylan's electric set at Newport, because the old guy has an honorable record of sticking his neck out for good causes. Seeing this affable, avuncular figure casually pull off something so subversive was a nice reminder of that brief moment when we sort of almost actually had a "liberal media".

Other notes:

1) Whatever happened to David Steinberg? As I watched him do his shtick, it seemed clearer that Dennis Miller totally copped his style, except a) Steinberg's obscure references tended to actually be from classical music or literature (How big a target market is out there for Lawrence Durrell jokes?) rather than being the end result of sitting in front of a TV for 20+ years, and b) Steinberg is actually charming.

2) Great to see James Brown in his prime, but why is his entire band sitting in chairs? It's to their credit that they can do so and remain so funky. Maybe James insisted on being the tallest one in the shot.

3) How weird was Neil Diamond in his heyday? What the hell are the lyrics to "Holly Holy" about? Catchy pop songs portentiously delivered in a husky baritone, with totally surreal word-salad's like he was the Jim Morrison your mom could like.

4) The Everly Brothers just rule, period. Bo Diddley is awesome. Chuck Berry is brilliant even when he's phoning it in.

5) Mama Cass Elliot seems like a real sweetheart.

6) The Johnny Cash footage looks and sounds like it had been soaking in a bucket of water for a month. Cash is his pilled-up, dangerous, charismatic self here all the same.

7) I'm still looking for an explanation for Bobby Sherman's career.

8) Creedence blow everyone off the stage doing "The Night Time Is The Right Time". Too bad they didn't do "Fortunate Son" as well, instead of a lame lip-sync of "Down On The Corner".

9) Buffy Ste. Marie looks scared out of her wits as she warbles "The Universal Soldier", a song I've never liked. (Dumping on draftees is not my idea of helping the cause.)

10) There's a running joke where a trenchcoated guy with a camera walks into the frame and snaps a picture whenever anyone says something halfway liberal. People were starting to become aware of gummint spying even then. There's nothing new under the sun.

11) John Sebastian, you were cool in the Lovin' Spoonful, but jeez, stop trying so hard to be cute, will you?

12) By the end of the show's run, Steinberg becomes noticeably more cynical about the show's lack of popularity. He was probably getting angry memos from network executives before each shooting. The final episode, where he gleefully lets Groucho Marx upstage him the entire time, is one giant "aw, fuck it" shrug.

13) I almost forgot Tony Bennett, who gets a lot of screen time and seems to represent the "older generation" at its most open-minded. Unlike his main rival, Frank Sinatra, who was revered almost as much for being a larger-than-life, nasty, power-abusing piece of work as for being the titanic singer that he was, Bennett comes off as a genuinely sweet guy. He's certainly a good sport when he has to sing "I Gotta Be Me" to a roomful of showroom dummies.

UPDATE: Edited slightly for general coherence.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Moving up in the world

Ear Candle Productions got a shoutout in Re-Search's blog, linking to the live Meri St. Mary video, our selection of Slits videos, and two songs by The Blame, Get Out!, and Democracy. Welcome to our world, new visitors. Thanks, Vale.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

A strange convergence between second wave feminism and British satirical art rock

One of the oddest songs the late great Bonzo Dog Band ever recorded (in a career full of odd ones) was the final track on their second album, The Doughnut In Granny's Greenhouse, "11 Mustachioed Daughters". In it, the Bonzos suddenly abandoned their psychedelic music hall slapstick tendencies in favor of something more along the lines of Exuma The Obeah Man: heavy percussion, dread sound effects, repetitive chanting, and Vivian Stanshall gleefully babbling faux-Satanic incantations like a foppish Aleister Crowley wannabe. (And just to remind you that it's still the Bonzos, the final fadeout features an American voice---probably temporary bassist Joel Druckman, who never got proper credit for his contributions to the album---repeating over and over, "I don't remember too good, but I think John Wayne was in it...")

Druckman is not the only one left out of the credits, because an odd thing happens during the song's bridge. Suddenly a woman's voice bursts in, loudly declaiming, "AND BELLADONNA TO MAKE YOUR EYES...", while Stanshall responds "LIKE...A...BEAST!" They continue trading lines, and then she's gone again. Who was that masked woman with the stentorian voice?

Well, if this history of the Bonzos is to be believed, said woman is none other than the legendary feminist writer Germaine Greer, which makes sense since Greer and Stanshall were an item for a while, and posed together in several amusing photos at the time. The claim comes from Ginger Geezer, the Vivian Stanshall tribute site put together by his widow, so it may be credible. I wonder how many Germaine Greer fans and/or critics (and there's much to both admire and criticize her about, which would require a whole 'nother post) know about her Bonzo Dog Band cameo? I think it's a pretty cool thing to have on your resume, myself.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Criswell predicts!

I just put this up as a comment at Sadly No, but I think it deserves its own post:

I really think the Republicans are deliberately throwing the election this time around, and that big business has already lined up behind Obama. The Republicans do best when they're sitting on the sidelines complaining while the Democrats tie themselves in knots with their own compromises. The feces-flinging during the Obama administration will make the Clinton years look like a Teletubbies episode in comparison. All of our legitimate complaints about Obama (oh yes, we will have much to complain about, make no mistake) will be drowned out by the nonstop Stupidfest the right and the "liberal" media will be serving up come 2009. Get ready for the garbage avalanche. It's inevitable.

Tell ya what, though. Even if Barack Obama compromises his principles and lets the Democratic base down in the name of "centrism" in too many areas, he still stands a good chance of being the best president this country has had in the last 50 years. Am I voting for the guy? Hell yeah.

Trumpets fly through my memory

The three Aislers Set albums still stand tall since the band that played them dissipated and the woman who masterminded them left town. "Attraction Action Reaction", from the third, How I Learned To Write Backwards, just came on the iPod while we were taking our evening walk, and I was reminded all over again how much I loved this band. At their live shows, when they reached the instrumental break of this song, bandleader Amy Linton would suddenly pick up her trumpet and blast out the poignant horn melody, fingering the notes with her left hand while still picking out a dizzy, dissonant arpeggio on her 12-string guitar with her right hand. I saw her do this at least three times and was dumbfounded each time she pulled it off. Uncanny. A far cry from when I interviewed Amy back in 2000 and she swore she was too nervous to ever play trumpet on stage. A few years later, no such fear. Amy's been relatively quiet lately, but she could drop another genius pop nugget on us at any moment when we least expect it. You never know.

My old Australian acquaintances the Cannanes have also been known to bust out the occasional trumpet on their records, (check out the wonderful song, "Frightening Thing", both the classic and rare single on K Records and the weird dub mix that opens their album Arty Barbecue) but as far as I have witnessed, Stephen O'Neill sticks to the guitar at live shows. I recall one show at the Bottom Of The Hill where Fran Gibson was entertaining the audience in her deadpan, Australian-accented voice, telling the story of someone who came up to her after a set and told her that she looked like she should be sitting at a desk when she sings, presumably because Fran has never been one to move much on stage.

"A desk!" she repeated, warming to the idea. "That would be good. Then I could pull things out of the drawers during the songs, like..." She paused, unsure where she was going with this.

"Trumpets!" I shouted spontaneously.

"Yes! Trumpets!" she agreed. Now that I am far less inclined to get outrageously drunk at live shows, I find myself cringing at some of my inappropriate audience antics in the past. But that one still makes me smile.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

DVD of the week: O Lucky Man!

One of my favorite movies as a teenager still holds up today. By far the best installment of Lindsay Anderson's "Mick Travis" trilogy IMNSHO. (Not to slight If, a fine movie all in all, but as an American, English boarding schools are an alien concept to me, and the fabled shock ending seems tacked on...not that O Lucky Man's ending isn't even more "tacked on" in a different way, but, well, let's just say I experienced worse oppression under my own roof as a child and I never killed anybody over it.)

There is so much to love about this movie, starting with Alan Price at his peak playing the Greek Chorus role with a series of songs that fall somewhere between Randy Newman cynicism and Ray Davies warmth and hit the perfect note of English working class stoicism for an epic story of innocence, ambition, corruption, and paradox. Malcolm McDowell plays his greatest role (in a story he conceived and co-wrote) as Michael, the earnest young salesman who falls into an increasingly absurd series of situations, sustained and tripped up by his own drive for success. Even in the last third of the movie, when he renounces material things, takes up philosophy, and strives to be a secular saint of sorts, Michael is driven to be the most saintly, most generous, and most honest man he can be, which leads him to even more trouble. The ego is a harsh mistress.

This is a long, huge epic feast of a movie with so much in it that it would be easy to ruminate on it for hours and still leave out most of the best parts. The scene with the cold Machiavellian businessman Sir James (who Michael meets after having a fling with his flighty hippie daughter, played by a very young and very cute Helen Mirren), hosting a meeting with a prominent African dictator to discuss lucrative business deals and genocide, is chilling and realistic. We are surrounded these days by childish minds who jabber in the press and in front of microphones about "evil", while in the real world, true evil is most likely to be found in boardrooms where powerful people conduct their affairs politely with the best of manners. On the commentary track, McDowell muses that everything they were talking about way back then is still going on today.

Yes, this is another classic British satirical comedy like other personal favorites Bedazzled and The Ruling Class, but the humor is far less of the belly laugh variety and more the "darkly chuckling at the uncomfortable irony of it all" type. There are moments of horror so deep that you almost have to laugh at their sheer awfulness, and almost every character in one way or another is up to no good, but you don't go away hating these people. Instead you marvel at the fallible complexity of humanity. Even Michael, the protagonist, is both self-centered and idealistic, out for himself yet striving to be of service to whomever he's involved with at the moment. One could conclude he is living his whole life at the effect, and one would be right. Still, he's an affable young rogue you don't mind spending almost four hours with.

One of the most ingenious gimmicks in the movie is the use of multiple roles. Most of the actors played at least three parts, and the same faces come back again and again in vastly different and often incongrous roles, creating an unnerving deja vu effect. It works well, and it brought out the film geek in me to figure out where I'd seen each of them previously. The most ridiculous of the lot was the guy who played the owner of the coffee factory and the small town bigwig turning up later on (in what seemed to be a deliberately bad blackface makeup job) as the aforementioned African dictator. This use of the actors came off as a Brechtian wink to the audience, or a nod to the budgetary restrictions of small theatre companies. Whatever the rationale, it added to the fun.

The whole movie could be seen as the evolution of a smile, from Michael's initial superficially winning "sincere" salesman smile to the wry, sadder but wiser half-grin at the very end that tears your heart out with gripping intimacy. After that, there's nowhere else to go but to drop you in the middle of the post-shooting cast party, where all the warmth and sweetness that the characters never get to experience comes bursting out of the screen in a gorgeous, cathartic explosion. Yup, 35 years on I'm still loving this movie. I should take a moment to drop a line of thanks to Nick Pierotti for turning me on to it way back then. Now I have to go find that Alan Price soundtrack on CD.

Monday, August 11, 2008

How old is Alan Vega, anyway?

Alan Vega, frontman of Suicide, and all-around top artist whose palette ranges from confrontational horror to quintessential pillow talk, recently celebrated a milestone birthday, but is it really his 70th, as some sources say? If Wikipedia and Mojo magazine are to be believed, yes, but others say he was born in 1948 rather than 1938. Interesting.

If Mr. Vega really is 70, this means that Suicide formed when he was in his mid-30s, and released their first album when he was 39, their second album when he was 41, and those first two wonderfully eccentric rockabilly-influenced solo albums would have come out in his early forties. He would have been in his twenties in the '60s, which makes me wonder, what was he doing then? Seems odd that he didn't surface as a New York underground artist until later, but hey, I of all people know what it is to be a late bloomer, if this timeline is indeed correct.

Anyway, whether you are 60 or 70, I salute you, Alan Vega. Thanks for the raw, naked courage you brought to the stage, and thanks for the thrills and heart you have shown us over the years.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Long way to go

Just got back from seeing The Wackness. It had its moments. The most surprising thing, though, was hearing "Exit Lines" by Vomit Launch on the soundtrack. All movies would be vastly improved by adding a Vomit Launch song to the score, when you get right down to it.

If great forgotten indie bands of the 80s and 90s are the next vein to be mined for movie soundtrack material, I can think of another one for you. Aspiring directors, have your people call my people. Ciao!

Saturday, August 2, 2008

The Bunnies have arrived

We are pleased to inform you that...

It's here at last!

The technical difficulties are finally over and the first digital release by the Experimental Bunnies, Music For The Integrity Tone Scale, is up and running. Click the icon below to buy it from iTunes:

The Experimental Bunnies - Music For The Integrity Tone Scale

Neo and Davis are exceedingly proud of this collection of trippy soundtrack music they've put together with the help of the brilliant guitarist Steve Abbate and the rocking Bachmann brothers' rhythm section. It's a journey from dwelling in the pits to being your own power source, touching on all stops in between, set to music that ranges from abstract psychedelic noise to Krautrock to surf instrumentals (many of which you have already gotten a taste of on Ear Candle Radio). Now you have a chance to get these goodies on your own hard drive for your dining and dancing pleasure. Give it a listen, and please support us by buying some mp3s!

1) The Bachmann brothers' surname has been corrected! Apologies to those other German brothers, the Steinbachs, whose dynamic instrumental combo Crashing Dreams can be heard on Ear Candle Radio.

2) iTunes users out there: please test the button above and let us know whether or not it works properly. If there is a problem, we will fix it. Meanwhile, if you log into the iTunes store and do a search, you will find the Exp Buns album.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

DVD of the week: The Velvet Underground Under Review

We're going to try as much as possible to make this a regular feature. We spend enough of our time talking about the latest thing we got from Netflix that we figure we might as well blog about them, so here goes...

This is the third movie in this series we've seen (the previous two being the Syd Barrett and Patti Smith volumes), and like the others, it's a quick glide through a career through the eyes and ears of a fairly random sample of witnesses and critics. This one had the distinct advantage of having a couple of actual band members involved, said members being the humbly awesome (as always) Maureen Tucker and a rather dazed and bemused Doug Yule, who still seems to be reeling from being thrown into the deep end some 40 years ago.

Other talking heads include Billy Name, who comes off as a likeable, bearded old sage explaining how various album covers came into being (mostly through happy accidents), recording engineer Norman Dolph who sheds some light on the recording of that first album, and a slew of critics: the incredibly snotty yet sometimes insightful Robert Christgau, the well-informed but sometimes questionable Clinton Heylin (Heylin has written several very useful books, but often when he sets out to State His Big Case, I end up going "huh?"; for instance when he asserts that, unlike any other band of their time, the Velvets were completely unprecedented and there was no way to trace their influences on first hearing, my own critic-brain started thinking of the first album's near-direct allusions to everything from the Stones, Byrds, and Dylan to Marlene Dietrich and Ornette Coleman. Now if their first album had been White Light, White Heat, Heylin might've had a case, but anyway...this is the sort of overreaching "definitive statement" that bugs me to no end about rock critics in general. Moving right along...), and lesser known characters like Malcolm Dome, who seems to show up in every one of these things and never has much to say, but is such an thoroughly entertaining maniac it doesn't matter.

There's also a series of segments featuring a guitarist who explains the mechanics of several songs by playing them, which is actually more enlightening than that might sound. And we get to meet the former owner of the Boston Tea Party, who seems like the coolest club owner ever as he reminisces about his role in giving the band a home base away from home when they left Andy Warhol and stopped playing New York.

What you don't get: any input from Lou Reed (probably a good thing, considering his ego and controlling nature) or John Cale (would have been nice, but you can't have everything, and for his side of the story, What's Welsh For Zen will do fine), or much in the way of live footage, as the VU, especially considering their immersion in a wildly creative and self-documenting art scene, barely seem to have been captured at all other than a few scraps of out-of-sync or silent film. But Mo Tucker is always a delight, dead cool without trying to be, with a sweet twinkle in her eye and great pride in her voice when she talks about the band. The fleeting moments where we can watch her drumming inspired me a lot when I laid down a drum overdub for a Meri St. Mary track we're working on. (More on that later.) It's such a crazy idea, yet so effective: don't bother with the kick drum pedal, just lay it down on its side and pound it with mallets! (I remember seeing Bobby Gillespie copy this style in the early Jesus & Mary Chain.) And I enjoyed seeing her state emphatically that she hated it when drummers would stop playing the drum because they were busy with the cymbal, and that drummers should be hitting the drums all the time. (Mo's style was not a cute, primitive accident, it was an artistic decision, and she wants you to know that!)

It's interesting to see the Doug Yule footage. He doesn't get a lot of respect, and he seems to know it, which is sad. I used to be one of those VU fanatics who had a glib attitude regarding Yule too. These days I think I was unfair; after all, he had a hand in that deep, lovely third album as well as the incredible 1969 Live recordings, and the immortal "What Goes On" shows that he could drone with the best of them. What we are reminded of here is that Yule, the guy who replaced the very influential, strong-willed Cale, was nothing but a kid who clearly had no idea what he was getting into. Now middle-aged, he often becomes sullen, defensive and uncomfortable as he recalls his years with the band. When the subject of "Candy Says" comes up, he bristles at Reed's past mocking statements that Yule had no idea what the song was about, and counters that if he had, he would have refused to sing it. (If so, Reed was smart not to have told him, since his innocent choirboy voice nails that song like nobody else ever has since...including the highly overrated Antony Hegarty, IMNSHO.)

If you're a true VU fan, you probably won't learn too many new things from this movie, but it's a fun ride nonetheless.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Brain and brain, what is brain?

My youngest brother is a staunch, downright fanatical right-wing Republican. He also has a mildly autistic daughter. Wonder how this grabs him.

Never mind. If we were speaking, I'm sure his response would be something like "well, Michael Moore is no different, so there!"

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Arthur Lee, part one

One of the reasons we decided to start this blog was to have an outlet to write about our impressions of music, movies, and "culcha" in general, as well as to talk about the activities of our label. I spent a couple decades as a zine writer, for Puncture and other magazines, but called it quits after that magazine finally folded in 2001. At the time, I thought I had spent far too much time in my life writing record reviews when I should have been writing songs. No regrets on that decision---What Is Truth was the result---but sometimes I miss writing down my opinions instead of just spouting them in passing.

Anyway, we'll be musing on the arts from time to time here on the Ear Candle blog. For starters, here is a reposting of my impression of Arthur Lee's incredible show at the Great American Music Hall in 2004. I will be following up with some words about Arthur's strange, touching and sometimes excruciating performance at the Cafe Du Nord the following year. (One of his last live shows ever.) But for now, let's remember Mr. Lee at the peak of his twilight glory once more:

Last night's Arthur Lee gig at the Great American Music Hall was inspirational. Good to see the old eccentric genius in such fine form. This time out the regular present-day lineup of Love (formerly Baby Lemonade) was augmented by two male trumpet players (one of whom doubled on flute for "She Comes In Colors") and an all-female string quartet: different musicians than the Swedish mini-orchestra on the DVD from two years ago, probably some L.A. people they hired. After a blasting rendition of "Your Mind And We Belong Together", they gave the people what they wanted and played Forever Changes from start to finish. It was something else, seeing these songs come alive.

Lee himself was in fine spirits, flashing wry grins, flailing maracas and tambourines, occasionally picking at a third guitar, and dancing with peculiar grace like a man half his age. He's got himself a cracking little ensemble of supporting players who know his music inside out (and help him with the occasional missed lyric...hey, some of these songs are nearly 40 years old; cut the man a little slack!).

There was one moment where it looked like it was all going to go to hell in a handbasket, when a wag from the audience (a guy I vaguely know from Hotel Utah open mikes past who plays old-timey music with a group called the Motherfolkers) started teasing Lee about hiding behind his shades and singing some of the lyrics (particularly the Bryan McLean-written "Old Man") from a music stand. After the first remark ("make some eye contact", I think), there was a flash of the man's notorious temper and he angrily flung his Calistoga bottle (the soft plastic kind, luckily) at him. In a split-second I could see Lee collecting himself and remembering what he was there for, how much trouble he'd had in the past and how now, older and wiser, he was determined to rise above reacting to what were really good-natured jibes as though they were insults, and yet, retain his command of the stage. He broke into a wide smile and muttered "sorry about that, man", in the most disarmingly sweet way imaginable. The Motherfolker persisted, taunting Lee about the lyric sheet that had just been brought out for "Old Man", when suddenly Lee shouted, "Who said that??" and leaped into the audience, still holding the mike. I fully expected an ugly scuffle to ensue, and so did many of the others around, immediately clearing a wide berth around him. (Arthur Lee is not a small man, and definitely looks like someone who could do some damage if he chose to go that way.) I couldn't quite catch what was being said, but Lee said something like, "I'll show you", and signalled the band to start the song. Lee brought up his microphone, put his arm around the Motherfolker, and started singing McLean's lyrics flawlessly, putting himself fully into the slightly-mawkish-but-oh-so-moving song about receiving guidance from a wise old man, then weaving through the crowd, focusing on various graying middle-aged record-collector-fanatic guys in the audience (and there were a lot), seemingly dedicating the song to all the "old men" who'd come out to support one of their old favorite obscure cult heroes. It was alternately sweet and side-splittingly hilarious, and from that moment on the whole crowd was in the palm of Arthur Lee's hand. Bloody brilliant, it was.

The rest of the show was equally great; a wide selection of songs from various stages of Lee's career followed the Forever Changes reading, from essential oldies like "7 And 7 Is", "My Little Red Book", and a wrenching "Signed D.C.", to an OK new song, to some numbers from the Four Sail album including a great one called "Singing Cowboy", that ended as a wild sing-along rave-up, with the string players sawing away ferociously. (Sadly, Steve Abbate says the original version doesn't have that was a spontaneous bit of brilliance that night. Still, I will have to give Four Sail another chance. When I first heard it, it was just too late-60s proggy hard rock for my ears. But now that my wife and I have become full-on Arthur Lee fanatics, it's overdue for a reassessment.) After a long generous encore including gems like "My Flash On You", "A Message To Pretty" and "She Comes In Colours" as well as the above-mentioned numbers and much more, Lee's final remarks went something like "If you take one last thing with you from me tonight, I want it to what's that all about? Laughing when I'm trying to say something here...come on. Now what I was saying was, if you take one thing with you tonight, I want it to be this: Love each other. Good night." Could have been trite as hell in another context, but from someone who's had the ups and downs this guy has, it was pretty damn deep and meaningful. Thanks Arthur.

Waiting for the Bunnies

We apologize for the delay in the release of our first Experimental Bunnies album, Music For The Integrity Tone Scale. We are presently working out an upload problem with Tunecore, our digital distributor, who have been slow to answer their e-mails lately. We hope that the technical difficulties will be resolved soon and this first of many mindblowing, already-recorded Bunnies releases, will be available for your enjoyment as swiftly as possible.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Get Out!

The newest Blame track, "Get Out", can be heard here.