Thursday, December 31, 2009

Good things about the last decade

1. Meeting my wife
2. Making some music I'm pretty proud of
3. Ear Candle Productions
4. Ear Candle Radio
5. The world didn't end, despite many people's best efforts
6. All in all, on a personal level my own life is infinitely better on Dec. 31, 2009 than it was on Jan. 1, 2000.

But out in the world, things sucked pretty bad in ways that I can't even go into because as usual, Doghouse Riley says it all.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Put on that dress, I'm going out dancing

This is awesome in so many ways. Attempting to discredit and humiliate a male member of the Iranian resistance, the government publishes a picture of him dressed as a woman. The junior high tactic is less than successful:
Within hours of Tavakoli's photograph being published in the newspapers, hundreds of young Iranian men posted photographs of themselves dressed in headscarves, bed sheets and other forms of improvised hijab. This has spread online in chat rooms and websites and soon enough to the meetings of the opposition.

The message sent back to the men in charge in Iran is an invitation to wake up and smell the coffee. The contemporary opponents of the regime are not hampered by the symbolic language of oppression.
So much for the "ewwww! Icky girls!" approach to counter-revolution. A major turnaround in the ongoing struggle against misogyny.

Here's a song in these brave boys' honor. "Haystack" by the Granite Countertops is, on one level, simply a passionate and amusing love song; on another level, it's a wink in the direction of intellectual, cultural, and sexual freedom for the downtrodden citizens of Iran. Nice to see history taking place without our bombs getting in the way for a change.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

West Of Rome

Well-loved Southern singer-songwriter Vic Chesnutt, who, despite living with paralysis most of his life, had a long and distinguished career in the folk/indie-rock scene, died on Christmas Day, while struggling with a lawsuit from a Georgia hospital trying to recoup thousands of dollars worth of medical bills from him. Is this an indictment of our system or what? Will the new, watered down, mandated health care bill do anything to prevent furture tragedies of this kind? In the UK, Robert Wyatt is taken care of and given the respect he deserves. Our homegrown wheelchair-bound geniuses are not so lucky. This is a crime.

I admit I had not followed Chesnutt's career very closely, but I saw him perform and liked his records when I heard them. He was a big favorite of my old editors at Puncture mangazine, and my friends Flavio and Fabrizio Steinbach, later of Barbara Manning's Go-Luckys and their own instrumental combo Crashing Dreams, called their first teenage band West Of Rome after one of his songs. He was a gruff, gravel-voiced little guy with a dark sense of humor, but his songs were full of heart. He deserved better.

Filmmaker Jem Cohen writes on Chesnutt's record label's page this morning:
"The most important story to report now is not Vic’s death but a life and work overflowing with insight, humor, and yes, resilience. This, after all, was the man who wrote: “I thought I had a calling, anyway, I just kept dialing.” Sixteen extraordinary albums, five in the last couple of years; countless live shows so powerful and sublime they deeply altered the lives of those on the stage with Vic and those looking up, yes up, at him. The second most important story here has to do with a broken health care system depriving so many of the help they need to stay around and stay sane, and a society that never balks at providing more money for more wars but fights tooth and nail against decent care for its citizens. Vic’s death, just so you all know, did not come at the end of some cliché downward spiral. He was battling deep depression but also at the peak of his powers, and with the help of friends and family he was in the middle of a desperate search for help. The system failed to provide it. I miss him terribly."
Due to that broken system, Vic's family and friends are stuck with the bill for the death of their loved one that the system failed to save. Ex-Throwing Muses leader Kristin Hersh has put up a website for donations to help them, if anyone has resources and Christmas spirit to spare in these rough times.

Friday, December 25, 2009

A Christmas gift for you

The Granite Countertops album, Crashing Into The Future, is coming in the new year. Here is a sneak preview for all you loyal lurkers. Check it out, and tell us what you think in the comments.

A note to other musicians and/or labels: we are available to create Flash pages like this one for you as well. Contact us at earcandle at earcandleproductions dot com if you are inspired.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

And I made sure my hand was holding the string

Vision Philms in Atlanta sent us this cute video which uses J Neo Marvin and the Content Providers' cover of Yoko Ono's "Kite Song". What a cool surprise.

Most of their other videos are soundtracked by local hip hop acts, so we're quite impressed that they saw fit to put us (and, by proxy, the inimitable Yoko Ono) in their mix. Thanks!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Durian air freshener

For years, I have read references to the notorious durian, a Southeast Asian fruit rumored to be delicious, nutritious, and vile-smelling. The idea of it was always highly amusing, one of those oddities of nature that makes you wonder, who was the first brave caveman or cavewoman to chance upon one of these foul, thorny things and say, "gee, I wonder what that tastes like?" But even while living in a mostly-Vietnamese neighborhood in Oakland, I managed to miss out on the Durian Experience.

Yesterday at work, I came out of a meeting with two managers and something wasn't right in the air. I immediately announced, "I think there's a gas leak in the building. We might need to evacuate", and the two young Chinese girls in the billing department burst into uncontrollable giggling. "She brought it", one said, and the other started blushing. "Brought what?..." I started, then my memory for trivia kicked in. "Is that a DURIAN?" Turned out that they sell durian-flavored COOKIES too, which smell pretty strong in their own right. "Oh, I've always wanted to try them!" our Filipina CFO enthused, and took one. My coworker waved the package my way, asking if I wanted one too, but my nausea overpowered my curiosity. "Sorry, I can't handle it." "I'll cover it up", she said bashfully, wrapping her package in double plastic bags, while I felt like a xenophobic coward. (Multiculturalism FAIL, I thought to myself.) Another day and I might have gone for it, just for the experience, but phew. If that's how the cookies smell, I can only imagine what the real thing must be like.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Thank you, Dennis

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Babelfish or Janusnode? You decide. The Mad-libbiness of this entry rivals even the delicious recipes Substance McGravitas occasionally deigns to share on Sadly No!

(UPDATE: Upon re-reading, it looks like it may actually be a badly translated version of a rant by a misogynistic curmudgeon bemoaning the appropriation of a respectable workboot by pretty fashion-conscious girls at the mall. Boo-effin-hoo, grandpa.)

Sunday, December 6, 2009

E-mails don't change the weather

For our friends who must visit their agitated Fox-head relatives in Texas and other similar states of mind for the holidays, here's a quick rundown of everything you need to know about the so-called "Climategate scandal", which should be renamed Swifthack.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

And here I was, naively thinking that there was no point to this whole thing and people are dying for no good reason...

Why we fight, according to Fafblog:

Let us never forget just what's at stake in the war in Afghanistan: nothing less than the success of the war in Afghanistan. This war may be a mistake, a blood-soaked blunder, an unholy charnel house mindlessly consuming the bodies and souls of untold thousands, an open sore on the pockmarked face of history and an abomination before the sight of God and men, but it is first and foremost a war, and wars must be won. If the United States doesn't win this war, then will it not lose it? And if the United States loses this war, then won't the United States have lost it? And if the United States has lost this war, will that not then make the United States a kind of thing that loses wars? And then where would we be?
It goes on from there. Read it all. Funny, but mainly in the "keep laughing to ease the pain of all the mindless, senseless, stupid waste of human life" sense.

Ear Candle Radio's Top 20, November 2009

And the theme for this month appears to be comedy, what with the Firesign Theatre, the Bonzos, Eddie Izzard, the Coasters, and those wags in the Mod-Est Lads (in their alter-ego band, Danger Can, who show that they should have been commissioned to score the new Astro Boy movie), as well as reggae DJ star Trinity, who brings a whole battalion of chipmunks with him to pay tribute to Ali, and Zal Yanovsky, who infuses an old doo-wop great with a touch of Spike Jones looniness.

Topping the chart is the stately, stomping "Baby Come Rock" by the Wailing Souls, followed by an early T-Rex hit that shows yet more evidence that Marc Bolan copped his whole sound and persona from "Barabajagal" by the ever-underrated Donovan. From the astounding Eccentric Soul series comes a heartfelt piece of community criticism from Marion Black. We get the sole single by 1978 Canadian Patti Smith fans the Poles, who salute the tallest manmade structure of their day to a rocking groove. The Mountain Goats' John Darnielle emerges from the low-fi fuzz to ask the musical question, "Is that the most delicious thing you ever tasted in your life?" Hell yeah.

Neo recalls hearing, on 70s FM radio, a very rough, primal-sounding record of the old spiritual, "Travelin' Shoes". We never found that, but we did find a much sweeter and propulsive version by the great a capella gospel group the Golden Gate Quartet. Remember, the Devil can't take you if you're not wearing the right shoes. We hit a manic vein with the 13th Floor Elevators and the Cramps, Chris and Cosey throb and coo sexily, Chumbawamba bring back the a capella with one of their English Rebel Songs, and Bill Callahan returns to continue meditating on his void of faith and faith in the void.

As always, we tip our hat to non-dour multiculturalism, this time out with Joe Strummer's ballad of world cuisine on the high road and finally, with the mighty virtuoso warble of Yma Sumac.

20 more reasons to keep listening! We also have a widget on this very blog, so you don't need to stop reading.

1. Wailing Souls - Baby Come Rock - Inchpinchers
2. Tyrannosaurus Rex - Elemental Child - A Beard of Stars
3. Marion Black - Listen Black Brother - Eccentric Soul: The Prix Label
4. The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band - By A Waterfall - Tadpoles
5. The Poles - CN TOWER - CN Tower / Prime Time 7-inch
6. The Mountain Goats - Orange Ball Of Pain - Nothing for Juice
7. Golden Gate Jubilee Quartet - Travellin' Shoes - Rock My Soul
8. Firesign Theatre - W.C. Fields Forever - Waiting for the Electrician or Someone Like Him
9. Eddie Izzard - Great Escape - Dress To Kill
10. Danger Can - Jet Turbo Theme - Let's Get Clecky!
11. The Coasters - Shoppin' For Clothes - The Very Best Of The Coasters
12. 13th Floor Elevators - (I've Got) Levitation - Easter Everywhere
13. The Cramps - I Was A Teenage Werewolf (With False Start) (Original Mix) - Songs The Lord Taught Us
14. Trinity - Mohammed Ali - Three Piece Suit
15. Chris & Cosey - This Is Me - Heartbeat
16. Chumbawamba - Poverty Knock - English Rebel Songs 1381-1984
17. Bill Callahan - Faith/Void - Sometimes I Wish We Were An Eagle
18. Zal Yanovsky - Little Bitty Pretty One - Alive And Well In Argentina
19. Joe Strummer & The Mescaleros - Bindhi Bhagee - Global A Go Go
20. Yma Sumac - Chicken Talk - Mambo!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Get on the good foot

Time to dance off all the weight we gained yesterday. The late, great James Brown is here to show us how. Hat-tip to The Barman for this top find.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Creeple People on YouTube

My childhood next-door neighbor and original comrade in rock and roll fandom, George Galvas, had a band in the 90s called the Creeple People. You can't find much evidence of this band's existence anywhere, but they were a good, snarly garage-punk outfit with a lot of quality material from George's pen. I did stumble across this video somebody did that combines their version of the surf tune "Mr. Moto" with some wave-riding footage. Too bad there's not something more representative of them out there, but here it is:

Monday, November 23, 2009

If you want to be trite, be trite

Since I'm always trying to check out cultural touchstones from the past I may have missed, we put Harold And Maude on our Netflix queue. Well, after watching it for the first time, then reading all the glowing reviews on the IMDB, I am baffled that so many people think it's the greatest movie ever. What are all you people smoking?

The concept is cute, and the story is a nice reversal of the usual older-man-younger-woman cliche, but the execution? Not one character in this exercise in self-serious silliness resembles an actual human being, Harold's flighty straw-mother being the worst example. The script is riddled with loose ends where some action would lead to big trouble in the real world, and then we cut to the next scene like nothing happened. (Call me humorless, but while stealing a cop's motorcycle for a joyride might be a fun adolescent fantasy, the movie treats it as just another quirky day for lovable old Maude and we never hear about it again, which is asking a lot from the viewer in terms of suspension of disbelief.)

Ruth Gordon did a good job of making her character believable as someone a moody young man could fall for, despite what she was given to work with. Bud Cort came off more like a baby-faced Norman Bates than the poor, misunderstood, sensitive little rich boy he was supposed to be. Everybody else was a cardboard character set up for us to sneer at. The ending was a forced ironic cop-out. By the time it was all over, I was starting to really detest Cat Stevens. So that's the movie my high school friends were all talking about? Whatever, maaan.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Spin around and fly, fly, fly

Our friends Junko and Mark of Cyclub know how to put on a party. Here is the video invitation for the incredible event they hosted last Saturday, Amid all the fun ambient video collage, you can hear their insanely catchy theme song, "Cyclub Cafe". This is a band/art project full of heart, imagination and international social consciousness. Pay attention.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Faces blur in the flash

Just because the mood strikes us...

The Content Providers' first and last shows at the Hotel Utah in San Francisco, featuring two completely different lineups, sounds, and attitudes. Such is life.

"Are You A Good Witch Or A Bad Witch?" in 2003 (I'm not really balding; it's just an optical illusion):

"Soft Shoulder" in 2008 (note: I am coming down with the flu here and my voice isn't at its best, so Davis steps in with some strong country harmonies):

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Our new ad for Ear Candle Productions will be in the next Big Takeover Music Mag! Thank you Jack Rabid for reminding us to get one in!

You see it large and sooner here!

There are benefits to visiting our Blog!


Note: It's a big file, but it's gorgeous. We're so stoked to have nine-going-on-ten albums.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Ear Candle Radio's Top 20: October 2009

Ex-Slits guitarist Viv Albertine, who was so impressive at the Part Time Punks show at the Mezzanine a month back, vaults to the top position with a track from her limited edition four-song EP. Close behind are our own Experimental Bunnies with a long, hypnotic jam from the Biology And Physics album, and A.J. In Evolution, who actually contacted our station asking for airplay, and won us over with a flamenco-flavored instrumental. Yoko Ono, with some help from Sean, gives us a potent dose of anti-nuclear thrash-punk while Tom Lehrer serenades us with a bit of vintage satire.

Porter Wagoner's tragic ballad of the poor man in the rubber room continues to resonate with our listeners. MC5's classic "what's going on in this world?? I can't handle it!!!" rave up follows, then LaVern Baker calls on the ultimate super-mensch, Jim Dandy, and East Coast Middle-East-jazz-rock-fusioneers Consider The Source lay some sensuous grooves on your ears.

Ex-Smog mastermind Bill Callahan instructs us to put away childish things, the late Willy DeVille cautions the youth not to make the mistakes he did (in a song that the Content Providers also covered on What Is Truth?), young SF band Festizio admonish their superficial peers, Ana Da Silva and the Raincoats take us on a surreal journey, John Cale serenades medieval Spain, and the Rutles rock out in a Rat Keller style.

Johnny Cash appears with the angry pro-Native American story-song that was banned from country radio in the '60s, the Mekons and Fairport Convention represent two threads of UK folk-rock, the Buzzcocks get stuck in a mental feedback loop, and Robert Wyatt holds the #20 spot with an instrumental tribute to multicultural London.

Keep tuning in! We are putting together a new playlist soon.

1. Viv Albertine - If Love - 4 Track EP
2. The Experimental Bunnies - Our Just Rewards Are Right Around The Corner - Biology And Physics
3. A.J. In Evolution (Aka A.J. Fritscher) - A Trip In Barcelona - A Work In Progress
4. Yoko Ono/IMA - Warzone - Rising
5. Tom Lehrer - Pollution - That Was The Year That Was
6. Porter Wagoner - The Rubber Room - The Rubber Room
7. MC5 - Over And Over - The Big Bang! Best Of The MC5
8. LaVern Baker - Jim Dandy - Soul on Fire: The Best of LaVern Baker
9. Consider The Source - Patterns - Esperanto
10. Bill Callahan - Faith/Void - Sometimes I Wish We Were An Eagle
11. Mink DeVille - Slow Drain - Le Chat Bleu
12. Festizio - Every Now And Again - Festizio
13. The Raincoats - Balloon - Moving
14. John Cale - Andalucia - Paris 1919
15. The Rutles - Blue Suede Schubert - The Rutles
16. Johnny Cash - The Ballad Of Ira Hayes - The Essential 3.0 Johnny Cash
17. The Mekons - Perfect Mirror - Natural
18. Fairport Convention - Genesis Hall - Unhalfbricking
19. The Buzzcocks - Hollow Inside - A Different Kind Of Tension
20. Robert Wyatt - On The Town Square - Comicopera

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Most Halfway Decent Album Of All Time

So, this year happens to be the 20th anniversary of the debut album by Manchester band The Stone Roses, and the UK music media are falling all over themselves. Polls are coming out voting it "the greatest album of all time", and I realize I have never heard a note of it. Don't ask me why; I guess I had better things to do in 1989. I know they were often grouped with Happy Mondays as exemplars of the "baggy" scene, and I've always thought Happy Mondays were utter crap. Also, it wouldn't be the first time the British have made an icon of a phenomenally unimpressive rock band (Manic Street Preachers, anyone?), so no, I never once sought out this alleged cultural touchstone until now. But you know, I'm a curious sort, so one day, with some record store credit burning in my pocket, I decided to check it out.

What's it sound like? Well, to these ears, kind of like a slightly watered-down Brian Jonestown Massacre. (Yes, I know the Roses probably came first.) Or maybe an '80s New Zealand band with a huge studio budget. Catchy tunes, driving beats, lots of reverb, a hazy psychedelic tinge, some neat guitar bits, and breathy, somewhat colorless vocals. It did live up to the "sounding like you're coming on to ecstasy" hype, frankly. It's quite pleasant. I can play it all day at work and it rolls over my ears in an agreeable way without sticking out too much.

I like the song that runs the previous song backwards with new lyrics that sound like a phonetic interpretation of the original reversed vocals. And I like the fact that the song entitled "I Am The Resurrection" turns out to be about some jerk who has wronged the singer in some way, but the singer is too cool (and probably high) to engage said jerk on his level, instead rejoicing in his own ability to rise above such pettiness and "resurrect" himself. It's so gleefully over-the-top egomaniacal in a benignly enlightened way that I have to smile at the presumption of it.

My copy has one bonus track called "Fools Gold" that sounds different from the album: a long, plodding percussion-heavy attempt at a funky jam that goes nowhere and takes forever to get there. But the album itself is nice. Greatest of all time? Hardly. But it's nice.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The most refreshing thing to see after a long, stressful workday

I had to google "Bill Of Attainder" to refresh my memory on this. All I remembered from junior high civics was that the Framers specifically targeted it in the Constitution and it was a fucked up loophole in British law that allowed all kinds of unjust abuse. Well, it turns out that it totally applies to this "Defund ACORN" bill running through the House right now, and my current favorite Representative, Alan Grayson, is on the case.

Man, this guy is such a breath of fresh air. "Will the gentleman yield?" "NO." Watch it, and keep giving this brave, audacious lawmaker your support. We need a few hundred more like him.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Busy little bees, we are! Working on our new release. Previews in shock wave flash files!

Hi Visitors!

We are having so much fun making our next digital album by The Granite Countertops!

We have a new routine. We make them, show them off in flash player so you all can know what is coming.

Then we release it on iTunes, and on our radio show.

This is the preview stage. We've been leaking them for a while. And we know you are enjoying them and passing them around because we check our hits and visits everyday and see what is moving around. The Blame's version of Leonard Cohen's anthem Democracy, from the EP The Full Disclosure Principle, is still getting loads of attention, along with some other great tunes. Check it out at iTunes. You can google it or go to our website for links.

On this new material, hits and visits seem pretty constant. We have uploaded previews of 5 and adding these three we now have a total of 8 finished mixes. Once we finish the next four, we will release the album on iTunes and notify you all at that time to get out your dollars and humor us with your choices!

But for now, check out these three newest ones J Neo uploaded today. We have some guest appearances.

The horns in Lullaby For Hamza, a Robert Wyatt cover song, are played by Junko Suzuki Parsons from Cyclub. Every time I hear them, I feel for the children of war, and want it to stop.

Lullaby For Hamza

On our cover of Donovan's Riki Tiki Tavi we revisit the notion that there really isn't anyone out there anymore to kill our snakes for us, so we have to do it ourselves, just like in the sixties/early seventies. Good to revisit, hopefully re-inspire. We saw a recently-produced Donovan DVD and recommend his music for the younger set, and offer our version for your pleasure.

Riki Tiki Tavi

And finally one for the more mature crowd (you know who you are), we originally wrote this song during the Iranian upset and were empathizing with the struggle for freedom of expression in Iran and wanted to share a sense of what freedom might sound like when they finally produce a Democracy of choice, and what it might sound like when two equal human beings make love. I am both pleased with this and shocked often. It's nice.


Give us some feedback!

UPDATE: Fixed the "Haystack" link. Check it out!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

More sound judgement from the Values Party

Missed this when it was on. Worth seeing again. Rub it in their faces, Jonny.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorRon Paul Interview

Delta 5 on Top Of The Pops

Excellent vintage clip of this once-forgotten band from Leeds, who recently had their old material reissued by Kill Rock Stars on a CD that used a couple of my photos. You can actually hear both bass parts here! Hot stuff.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Song and dance man

We can now cross "see Bob Dylan once in your life" off our to-do lists, despite the best efforts of unknown malevolent forces out there.

Word to the wise: if you're taking your car from San Francisco to a show at the Greek Theatre in Berkeley, come early, find a safe parking space and make a day of it. We gave ourselves an hour and a half to get there only to be stuck in a huge traffic jam from South of Market to Treasure Island, then by the time we got to Berkeley, every parking lot was full. We finally found a paid UC campus parking lot with a broken ticket machine and took our chances. (The fate of our car loomed in the back of our minds through the whole concert; we hoped that we would just be ticketed rather than towed or booted.)

Shaking off our stress (we're here at last! Let's have fun!), we tromped down Bancroft and up the hill on Piedmont, hearing cheers and bits of harmonica, organ, and a familiar wheezy voice. Shit, he's started already. Hope he hasn't been playing long. We finally found the right set of stairs to reach the entrance while the guitar line from "I Don't Believe You" wafted over our heads. Once we got in, everything was cool. Two little bowls of Thai food and a couple beers later, we strolled into the enormous amphitheatre.

The entire band was dressed in black with black gaucho hats to match. Bob looked as old as the hills, but he was extremely animated, prancing and grinning from ear to ear. He only played guitar on a handful of songs, preferring to cup a harmonica and a big microphone together in his hands, bluesman-style, or stand behind a keyboard pumping out warm, vibrato-laden Al Kooper-like organ parts (which he did quite well...maybe he really did play piano for Bobby Vee all those years ago) and apply his strange, dessicated croak to songs from the 60s or from his most recent albums, leaving out pretty much everything in between.

New Bob Dylan songs tend to be bouncy Jimmy Reed-style shuffles with mischievously flirty lyrics. He brought down the house with the final verse of a song called "Spirit On The Water":
You think I'm over the hill
You think I'm past my prime
Let me see what you got
We can have a whoppin' good time!
The multi-generational crowd ate that one right up.

The biggest surprise was a soulful, organ-led take on "The Lonesome Death Of Hattie Carroll", done as if it was a Percy Sledge ballad. Wow. When Bob came out from behind the organ to deliver a harp solo, it sounded nothing like the endearingly dissonant high-pitched squeals that have punctuated his songs for years. A lot of that familiar sound comes from using a harmonica holder while playing a guitar; close-miked and cupped, the tone was rich and expressive. News flash: Bob Dylan has actually been a really good harmonica player all these years after all! Who woulda thunk it?

What I had not expected was how much fun Bob was clearly having. It suddenly became clear why he has taken on such a rigorous touring schedule (popularly known as the "Never-Ending Tour"); he's got a band who know his every move and can play any style they choose, a massive catalog of material to draw from, and even more pertinently, a guy on rhythm guitar who's so solid that Bob can fart around on other instruments all he wants with no loss of groove. Bob Dylan (an artist who is infamous for never rehearsing and changing set lists at will) goes onstage knowing he has total musical freedom to follow any tangent he chooses, knowing those guys are right there. And he's having a whopping good time.

So yes, old man Dylan is still worth seeing. Caveat: you have to accept the state of his voice. Personally, I like how he sounds these days, even though lyrics sometimes get obliterated in the phlegmy grumble. In the 80s, I couldn't handle the way his voice had deteriorated into a high nasal whine, but by the late 90s, his throat had achieved such a completely wrecked state that by Time Out Of Mind, it had evolved into something bottomless, emotional and compelling. Now it sounds like the croak of a an old sage with a heart of a trickster. Nice to see an illustration of how an angry young man may run the risk of turning into a cranky middle-aged man, but if he can keep delving into the heart of his craft, he has the chance of becoming a wise old man in the end.

Oh, and the car was fine when we got back. No tickets, no nothing. Win!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Here they come, la la la la la la...

Quick notes from last night's Part Time Punks mini-fest at the Mezzanine:

We came in just in time for Death Sentence: Panda!, who make an incredible racket with drums, shrill girl vocals, and a heavily-treated, distorted clarinet. They were something like a cross between Teenage Jesus and the Jerks and Henry Cow. Occasionally the singer added flute or glockenspiel to the maelstrom. The only band of the night that I felt the need to stuff cocktail napkins in my ears for. An adorable hurricane.

The Magic Bullets were catchy, Postcard-style indie-pop with snappy soul-funk riffs and warm vintage keyboards flickering amid the jangle. Their singer was a hyperactively bouncy six-foot-plus warbler. The lyrics were droll slice-of-love vignettes. Fun.

Veteran Slits guitarist Viv Albertine (who sat in on a few recent shows, but announced recently she has no intention to rejoin the band permanently because in her view they have become Ari's backup musicians rather than a group of equals) played a brief but stunning solo set of new songs. Wry lyrics, elastic rhythms, and that same ticklish guitar style that helped give the Cut album such a distinctive sound. She's got a new four-song limited edition CD, but judging by her set, there's a lot more where that came from.

Savage Republic are as mesmerizing as ever. Big sonic landscapes that sound like they are reverberating across the desert. A sound full of wild, open space and relentless rhythm. They ended their set with a cover of "Viva La Rock And Roll" by Alternative TV. The crowd went wild when they recognized it; that's the kind of show this was. Post-punk is here to stay!

In the early 80s, Section 25 was considered "one of those OTHER Factory bands", and not given much respect. The title of their best-known song didn't help matters. It seems they're all too aware of that themselves these days; when someone in the audience requested it, the singer sheepishly mumbled, "Ehhhh, sorry about that one. Girls DO count!", to thunderous applause from the audience. The songs they did do were mostly driving, propulsive, one-chord bass-and-drums led motorik chargers over which the singer chanted and sneered (when he wasn't delivering nakedly romantic love lyrics) and the guitarist alternated between spiky Manchester post-punk riffs and oddly incongruous flashy high-velocity rock soloing. Later in the set they shifted from one-chord songs to two-chord songs, including a faithful cover of Joy Division's "Shadowplay", which they dedicated to the late mad genius producer Martin Hannett.

What we came for was the first-ever west coast performance of the Raincoats, a band I have wanted to see for thirty years, ever since their debut single, "Fairytale In The Supermarket", came out on Rough Trade in 1979. I'd already heard and liked the Slits, Kleenex, X-Ray Spex, Siouxsie and the Banshees, and Essential Logic, but here was an all-female band who had invented their own radiantly messy take on the Velvet Underground with frantic, yowling vocals, crudely strummed folk-rock guitars and mad, scratchy violin: totally up my alley. The Raincoats didn't have the accessibility of many of their post-punk peers and they weren't fashion plates (though they always looked cool and gorgeous in the same thrown-together way that gave their music so much appeal), and they didn't have any problems with the "f" word (feminism, I mean), so they were always a little-known cult band with a select few devoted fans until Kurt Cobain convinced them to reform in the 90s. Now that a new generation has embraced them as pioneers (check how the New Bloods totally bite their style and put their own unique spin on it at the same time), they have reformed yet again and San Francisco finally gets a chance to see them in person.

Offstage, Ana Da Silva was incredibly sweet, gracious and friendly, perfectly happy to look a couple of gushing fans in the eye and listen to what they have to say. Onstage, she was grave, serious and reserved, like a lightning rod around whom the giddily exuberant Gina Birch and the confidently powerful Anne Wood could fly wildly. Her guitar sound is as primitive as ever (a good thing in this case!), but no one else plays quite like her. Occasionally when picking out a melody line or trying to get a sound out of a small cymbal and then dropping it haphazardly, she seemed more like someone grumpily puttering around in the attic than a musician putting on a show. Then she would open her mouth and unleash that haunting Portuguese-accented contralto moan, and you just got carried away by the emotion and knew you were in the presence of a true artist who is authentically herself every single moment. She made mistakes sometimes, but she never made a wrong move.

The other original Raincoat, Gina Birch, was a perfect foil and co-frontwoman, irrepressibly chatty and hilarious, a lanky bundle of energy and laughter. Her own songs are quirky, blunt, and neurotically wise, her once-chirpy voice has matured into a craggy Marianne Faithfull-like rasp, and her bass was bubbly, snaky, and all over the place. She seemed to enjoy teasing her relatively stern bandmate Ana, who indulged her antics like a slightly annoyed big sister. She joked, "We break up after every show! David Thomas told us that's a sign of a great band!"

Anne Wood, who replaced founding member Vicky Aspinall when the band first reformed in the 90s, tore into the violin parts with relish and joined in the bass-and-guitar roulette with Ana and Gina. Vice Cooler, a young veteran of bands like XBXRX, did a great Palmolive impersonation on drums. Speaking of whom, at one point Viv Albertine joined the Raincoats onstage to perform "Adventures Close To Home", a Palmolive song recorded by both the Slits and the Raincoats. Gina gushed, "We're all going to visit Palmolive in New York soon!"

The best thing: we were treated to two unfamiliar songs: one performed solely by Ana and Gina with two slashing guitars, and one by Gina with verses that went "You ask me if I'm a feminist/if I'm angry/if I'm happy...why would I not be?" and a chorus of "I'm a city girl!* I'm a warrior!" Profound and goofy at the same time. Is there a new album in the Raincoats' future? That's something I look forward to hearing.

*I did originally hear this is "I'm a silly girl/I'm a warrior", which is kind of a cool lyric in its own right, but it's incorrect. Thanks for the heads up, everyone.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Nine Versions is out!

The newest Ear Candle release is a collection of cover songs by J Neo Marvin & the Content Providers, three of which are seeing the light of day for the first time.

Click the icon below to get yourself some spankin' new mp3s and help us recoup the money we paid the composers of these fine songs:

J Neo Marvin & the Content Providers - Nine Versions

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Heretic pride

Two masters of the Unreliable Narrator trope, together at last!

The Mountain Goats showed up on the Colbert Report for an interview and a song. Apparently, the new album is based on the Bible. Knowing John Darnielle, this will be yet another splendid opportunity to write some truly creepy songs and inhabit some truly twisted characters' psyches.

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
John Darnielle
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorMichael Moore

Is this song about the Tiller murder?

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
The Mountain Goats - Psalms 40:2
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorMichael Moore

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Not quite spring yet

After the madness of the last decade, it's just great to see Gil Scott-Heron alive and onstage again. After a great unannounced set by a young East Oakland poet named Ice Life (hope I got the name right...we need to hear more from this guy) and some energetic funk by Orgone, one of the greatest sharp-witted honey-voiced black protest singers of all time came swaggering casually toward his Fender Rhodes piano as members of the audience leaped from their seats and rushed the stage to shake his hand. It was a tremendous show of respect, and a good omen for what was to come. We had come to witness the dry humor and righteous anger of the genius showcased in the excellent documentary Black Wax, but I had some fear in the back of my mind that we might get something more on the order of Arthur Lee's final show, where the reverent crowd got a serious challenge to their reverence. (One day I'll write about that show. It was great drama.)

No need to fear. Scott-Heron, while showing some signs of having had a rough time of late (a slight slur in his speech, a touch of nervousness in his gestures), was all there and focused on his music and his message. Opening with a long monologue that began with a sincere tribute to civil rights leader Fannie Lou Hamer, then veered into 10 minutes of hilarious stand-up comedy covering everything from the internet ("I go online and I read about things I NEVER did"), rambling bits of autobiography, and his new plan to move Black History Month from February to May because everyone can pronounce it and the weather's nicer. Simultaneously cranky, quirky and warm, he had the whole audience in the palm of his hand from that moment on.

Sitting down at the piano and laying down his distinctive jazz-soul chord progressions and bringing out a group of veterans from his past bands, he ran through a string of classics, stretching them out with long improvised introductory monologues, improvisations and new choruses. "Home Is Where The Hatred Is" became an exorcism of his recent troubles, alternating an extended "kick it, quit it" chant with a mournful repetition of "I'm going home tomorrow". I wondered how, after being MIA through most of the Bush years, Gil Scott-Heron might comment on these times, where we actually have a black President, but real change is still frustratingly slow. Scott-Heron never mentioned Obama by name, but in a long prelude to "Winter In America", while telling a humorous parable about the seasons, he kept coming back to the lines "NOT. QUITE. SPRING. YET.", which seemed to sum up what a lot of us are feeling right now.

Some of the frequent instrumental breaks left me impatient after a while ("OK, you're great musicians, thank you, but I want to hear more Gil and less jazz showboating , please!"), but otherwise the show was riveting. Gil Scott-Heron is as vital, witty, conscious and soulful as ever, and you need to spend some time in a room with the man while he is still here. Thank you for coming back to share yourself with us, sir.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Ear Candle Radio's Top 20: September 2009

Our Top 20 is bookended with returning guitar wizards this month, the remarkable Kaki King on top and our Japanese pen-pal Takeshi Murata bubbling under. These are dread times, and dread times call for the dread sounds of Bunny Wailer, Trinity, Ranking Dread, Earth & Stone, and the Easy Star All Stars, whose take on Pink Floyd is no mere novelty act. The late Joe Strummer keeps the reggae groove going with a track from the stunning Global A Go Go album, which belongs on any "best albums of the Noughts" list anyone is cooking up right now.

We've also got the twisted cabaret of Vinsantos; some sarod-filled goodness from George Harrison's best-ever record (featuring the artistry of Ashish Khan, son of the late Ali Akbar); a whole side of mad, enigmatic, decadent comedy from the Bonzo Dog Band's genius wordsmith Vivian Stanshall (Neo did promise to add this to the playlist, and obviously the listeners have given it the thumbs up; he says he finally heard this for the first time only this year and while he can recite "Rhinocratic Oaths" in its entirety, it will take him a lot longer to master this one); a little anatomical romance from Mose Allison, an awesome single by the duo of Sharon Cheslow and ex-Quail Julianna Bright, aka the Electrolettes; and just in time for our hat-tip to Drake Levin, a cool Paul Revere & the Raiders album track wherein Fang lays out his plans for an ideal community. Thank you, Fang. Hope you've kept your ideals after all these years.

Also: Judy Collins shows that she can kick ass on a Brecht-Weill tune; four guys from Liverpool slouch their way through "All You Need Is Love"; those boys from the Beards (new season starting soon!) lift their voices on the Leonard Cohen song that still packs a punch no matter how many times you hear it; Vomit Launch, another band we've paid tribute to recently, is here with the gorgeous ballad that made a surprise appearance on the soundtrack to The Wackness; 60s cult heroes the Move do a moving baroque-pop song about homelessness (one of the very few Roy Wood songs whose lyrics actually make sense); and Swiss post-punk goddesses LiliPut regale us with one of their greatest numbers, a convulsively stirring rocker about air travel fear.

OCTOBER 17, 2009 MARKS THE FIFTH ANNIVERSARY OF EAR CANDLE RADIO! Our little station is going strong, and we're proud to be here, spinning the mp3s on the virtual turntable of your mind. Keep listening; we have so much more music to get to!

1. Kaki King - Close Your Eyes & You'll Burst Into Flames - Everybody Loves You
2. Easy Star All Stars - Us And Them - Dub Side Of The Moon
3. Bunny Wailer - The Monkey - Hook Line & Sinker
4. Vinsantos - Anger Makes Me Mad - A Light Awake Inside
5. Trinity - Mohammed Ali - Three Piece Suit
6. George Harrison - Gat Kirwani - Wonderwall Music
7. Vivian Stanshall - Sir Henry At Rawlinson End Part 1 - Sir Henry At Rawlinson End
8. Mose Allison - Your Molecular Structure - The Best Of Mose Allison
9. Electrolettes - Octane Lies - Octane Lies/Anxiety
10. Ranking Dread - Love A Dub - Greensleeves Most Wanted
11. Paul Revere & the Raiders - In My Community - The Spirit Of '67
12. Judy Collins - Pirate Jenny - In My Life
13. Joe Strummer & The Mescaleros - At The Border, Guy - Global A Go-Go
14. Echo & The Bunnymen - All You Need Is Love (The Life At Brian's Sessions) - Ocean Rain (Reissue)
15. Conspiracy of Beards - Hallelujah - Demo CD
16. Earth & Stone - Devil Wise - Kool Roots
17. Vomit Launch - Exit Lines - Exiled Sandwich
18. The Move - Mist On A Monday Morning - The Move
19. Liliput/ Kleenex - DC-10 - Liliput/ Kleenex
20. Takeshi Murata - Decipher - Decipher

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

"Oh, puh-leeze! That's amorphous nonsense!"

More Democrats like this, please. The pseudo-civil sanctimonious enablers on CNN don't know what to do with this guy. It's a joy to see Grayson refuse to acknowledge the frame they try to stick him in. Ridicule, people. It's a tool that can be used for good if you know how to wield it with skill and integrity.

UPDATE: More wisdom from Driftglass:
And that is what elevates this from mere farce to tragedy: the fact that our public discourse has become so arch, empty, encrypted and craven that after treating the simple act of telling the unvarnished truth with sneering incredulity for about nine minutes, our Serious Journalists eventually lapse into something that sounded quite a lot like...awe.
You can support Grayson's truth-telling here.

The Rude Pundit weighs in, in his inimitable style.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Steppin' Out

OK, I was late in discovering this news, but I am truly sorry to hear about the passing of Drake Levin. As lead guitarist for Paul Revere & the Raiders, he put his stamp on some of my favorite records that weren't by the Beatles when I was 9 or 10.

Vivid memory coming back: One night sometime in the late 80s or early 90s (I'd better start writing this stuff down now before my memory goes completely...Jeezus!) X-tal had just finished a set at the I-Beam on Haight St. As we were loading out I noticed the marquee across the street: Drake Levin was playing the Full Moon Saloon. Wow, I thought, it has to be the same guy. Should I go? Nah.

I've regretted not crossing the street that night for a long time.

Synchronized dance steps and Vox Teardrop guitars...those were different times. When my childhood friend and fellow Paul Revere & The Raiders fan George Galvas guested on the Content Providers' "How I Spent The Dark Ages", he brought along a Vox Teardrop bass AND 12-string guitar. (We refrained from breaking out the dance steps, however.) The lovely wall of sound on that track is the result.

UPDATE PT. XXX: OK, so in the sober light of day, I see that Mr. Levin is actually playing some sort of lovely double-neck job. It was bassist Phil "Fang" Volk who rocked the Teardrop. Still, Fang's Teardrop bass (which he would periodically flip around to show his nickname painted on the back---this was a band who loved their shtick) has forever been imprinted on my mind as the definitive "Raiders guitar". What's odd is that a group who were on TV so much have so little footage available on YouTube. Come on, Dick Clark, cough it up.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Word to the wise

Here's a good article on record production from Tunecorner, the blog of our digital distributor. You get a nice outline of a producer's responsibilities and rights, and how to intelligently prepare for a project.

Most important point to take away from this: don't embark on any recording until you've already sorted out the business side, whatever you decide that ought to be. It's possible to get so excited about a project that you jump into it without a contract or even a clear agreement, and end up getting burned by unscrupulous people. It's even worse when they call themselves friends. Don't let a fun thing turn into a bitter disappointment; it's bad for your biology.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

This is not high school and I have no need to feel small now

One of my old favorite bands, Vomit Launch, have a posthumous website where you can download some of their rarer gems (like the long dub version of "Swelling Admiration") and even a video page where you can find clips like the one below.

Maybe their willfully goofy name kept some of the more faint-hearted fans away who might have propelled them to indie fame, but for those of us who were there, Vomit Launch were a special band. Each individual in the group was a vital piece of the puzzle, and they served up one great song after another with wild-eyed, absurd yet nonchalant glee. Larry Crane, who anchored the band with his eloquent, Peter Hook-like basslines, has gone on to greater fame via Tape Op magazine and Jackpot Studio. My former X-tal bandmate Mick Freeman and I used to tease Larry about his resemblance to Al Franken, but now that Al's a senator and Larry's a legendary recording engineer, I think the two of them can be proud of both their own and each other's achievements.

Meanwhile, Steve Bragg, their tall English drummer, was the muscle of the band, Lindsey Thrasher delivered the jangle, and Trish DeRowland fronted the band with a heart full of angst and mischief. They were true characters, and a brilliant, unjustly forgotten band. Let the revival start here.

Here's a time capsule from the early 90s with Vomit Launch plugging their final album not long before their breakup. I'm raising a glass to Trish, Lindsey, Larry and Steve tonight. Saw you about 10 times in the 80s and 90s (usually sharing a bill) and you never did a crappy show. Always poignant, funny and resolutely musical, Vomit Launch were twisting Joy Division's sound to their own purposes years before it was cool. Glad to get a chance to enjoy them again.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

New song: Picking A Fight

Here is a sneak preview of the newest finished song by The Granite Countertops, Picking A Fight. Joining Davis and Neo here are trumpeter Junko Suzuki Parsons (of Cyclub) and saxophonist Mark Parsons (an alumni of the Conspiracy Of Beards and presently in Cyclub as well), a brilliant husband-and-wife horn section who add to the dub-licious surrealism here.

Enjoy, and add our work-in-progress to your Christmas list!

Animal Panic

So I'm seeing bus stop ads everywhere for a new animated movie called "Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs" with pictures of people standing under an umbrella with looks of wonder in their eyes as meatballs fall from the sky, and the ex-vegetarian in me immediately starts thinking, "what kind of animal is being butchered, ground and processed in the clouds up there, and what does this book entitled To Serve Man REALLY mean?"

Now I'm going to tuck into a nice chunk of Chateaubriand, if you don't mind.

(Title comes from another unfinished tune from the Granite Countertops album, which is coming along nicely. More to come.)

Monday, September 7, 2009

Quote of the day

The one line from Nuts In May that made me laugh out loud. (Context: this is in response to the question, "Do you mind if I smoke?")
If I could take one of your lungs, put it on the table and cut it in half, I think you'd be horrified.
I don't even smoke, but I certainly would be.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Won't you let me see?

One of my favorite Leonard Cohen songs. I had no idea he made a video for it. Check out these hot dancers:

Hat tip to A Tune For Today, a great new blog you all should be reading.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Nine Versions and the widget

You may have noticed that we have added a widget to the blog, located at the top right just above the links, blogroll, etc. Our digital distributor, Tunecore, is now providing these to its clients, which is cool; you get to turn it on and hear a selection of the various releases we've put out on our label through them. Great, huh?

We should let you know, though, that we have a new release by J Neo Marvin & the Content Providers called Nine Versions, which compiles six previously-released cover versions by the band plus three more we never put out before that we cut in 2005 and are happy to finally find a home for.

Nine Versions, with amusing Hollywood-Squares-esque cover art by Davis Jones, will be available very soon. HOWEVER, while you can enjoy tracks from this album on our widget right now, the "buy" link won't be functional until then. Since we have already paid the writers of these cover versions via the venerable Harry Fox Agency, we hope you will help us get our investment back by using the iTunes link. Now that the music business has evolved into a glorified honor system, we rely on the goodwill of our dear friends in the cyber-fog.

What, you say you want NEW material? Just you wait, darlings.

Dancing machine

A brief, elegantly minimalistic animated German tribute to Michael Jackson

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More animation: Leo's song


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Animation: Medium of choice? Sand.


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UPDATE (by J Neo Marvin): Davis, you are on a roll today!

Here's a sample of this amazing artist's work. The most mind-blowing thing is she is doing all of this live!
Click the link above for more info and movies of Ms. Simonova.

The Beatles: Rock Band

The Beatles: Rock Band

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Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Ear Candle Radio's Top 20: August 2009

The whims of our listening public never cease to fascinate, exposing little corners of our playlist to the light and giving the thumbs up. D.O.A.'s glorious 1984 cover of Edwin Starr's Vietnam-era classic has lost none of its potency over the years. War, ugh, good god y'all. It's still good for absolutely nothing, folks. A striking a cappella mix of vintage Beach Boys amplifies the existential teen angst that was already there in the original. We have TWO items from our good friend Jack Rabid of The Big Takeover: his old punk band, Even Worse, (Neo says they always were his favorite band on ROIR's New York Thrash comp; sorry Bad Brains, sorry Beastie Boys) and his more recent band Last Burning Embers.

Closer to home, we are a proud aunt and uncle to the gifted Trevor Simpson, who has put together a highly popular studio, Right Right Recording, outside of Baltimore, and fronts a hella-snappy power-pop band called Brighter Shades, who have made their new album available FREE via the Intertubes. Check it out.

We continue to salute our fallen hero, Chris Knox, with a track each from his bands the Tall Dwarfs and the Nothing. We have not one but two Patti Smith tracks, one from an absolute classic bootleg of a concert in Sweden in the 70s. If you have never heard Patti's take on the Velvets' "Pale Blue Eyes", well, you have two choices: seek out that long-lost bootleg any way you can, or keep your ears glued here! The other one from Patti is her take on "Within You Without You" from her recent covers album.

A rare, strange artifact from the Rolling Stones is culled from the exhaustive Satanic Sessions, an intriguing look at the making of their woefully underrated psychedelic classic Their Satanic Majesties Request. Hearing these bare backing tracks, you notice that Keith was very much in charge of the sessions despite his later misgivings about the whole project (it's hard to tell what Mick Jagger is doing, if anything), that Brian Jones played even more mellotron than what ended up on the album (often you hear him trying to play heavily syncopated, rhythmic parts on the beautiful but clunky instrument, which really doesn't lend itself to such things), that they relied heavily on Nicky Hopkins to hold everything together, and that it sure took that band a LOT of takes to get warmed up. Once they did though, amazing things happened, and it's a revelation to hear how the backing track for "Sing This All Together" sounded before the song was split in two pieces. Keith Richards heads into free-jazz territory here. It's a delight.

Our friend and supporter Peter B shows up in the charts this month on a Kirtan blowout recorded live at Harbin Hot Springs. Be not fooled, idren and sistren: this is not esoteric religious babble, this is pure joyous singalong release. It's good for you, and as fun as thumping the table along with Ras Michael. Lose yourself in the trance. We may be releasing video footage of Peter and his cohort somewhere down the road. As Lord Buckley's character the Nazz shouted out so memorably, "DIG INFINITY!"

Ear Candle Radio: You dug it before, re-dig it now.

1. D.O.A. - War - War and Peace
2. The Beach Boys - I Just Wasn't Made For These Times (a cappella) - Pet Sounds Sessions (Early Mix)
3. Last Burning Embers - The Vacillator - Pink Frost/Big Takeover Sampler 2008
4. Kaki King - Close Your Eyes & You'll Burst Into Flames - Everybody Loves You
5. Brighter Shades - You Shine So Bright - You Shine So Bright
6. Tall Dwarfs - Rorschach - Weeville
7. Paleface - Stupid War Movies - Paleface
8. Nothing - To The Sun - A Warm Gun
9. The Fall - A Figure Walks - Dragnet [Bonus Tracks]
10. The Dirtbombs - Fire In The Western World - We Have You Surrounded
11. John Coltrane - My Favorite Things - My Favorite Things
12. Roxy Music - Pyjamarama - Street Life - Greatest Hits
13. Robert Forster - It Ain't Easy - The Evangelist
14. Even Worse - Last Nights Blimpee - Pink Frost/Big Takeover Sampler 2008
15. The Rolling Stones - Sing This All Together (Take 7) - The Satanic Sessions Vol 1 [3 of 4]
16. Patti Smith - Within You Without You - Twelve
17. Patti Smith - Pale Blue Eyes - I Never Talked To Bob Dylan
18. Peter B & Friends - Radhe Sham - Harbin Temple Kirtan
19. PJ Harvey - This Is Love - Stories From The City, Stories From The Sea
20. The Gossip - Listen Up! - Standing In The Way Of Control

Monday, August 17, 2009

The history of misdirected indignation

Rage is all the rage, in the 90s '00s, rage is money
The righteous fury of a baby who won't share his toys
It's so easy to climb those charts
It's so easy to win those votes
Selling pointless, phony, blind, cheap, stupid powerless anger!
X-tal, "A Lemon Song" (1996)

Apparently, things have not really changed all that much. Adlai Stevenson knew how to handle these cretins back in the Sixties. Today's politicians could learn a thing or two from him.

Then there's the Barney Frank approach, which is fairly awesome in its own right. Arguing with a dining room table, indeed.

Friday, August 14, 2009

R.I.P. Les Paul

We bid a fond farewell to the guy who not only designed a classic electric guitar but who, along with Mary Ford, was a pioneer of overdubbing. (Hmmmm...take a married couple and multiply their voices and instruments until they sound like a full band...sounds like a useful concept!)

Also, here's a guy whose commitment to his craft was such that, when his right arm was shattered in a car crash and doctors told him his elbow would have to be set in one place for the rest of his life, he insisted that it be permanently bent into a guitar-playing position. How did the poor man sleep, one wonders?

Here's a little sunshine from Les and Mary:

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Oh say can you see?

Best idea yet. Congresscritters, pay attention!

(Working on a new song inspired by this summer's astroturf riots against health care. It may be called either "Tool Revolution" or "There You Go, Astro Boy!")

Monday, August 3, 2009

J Neo Marvin performs SOLO at Hotel Utah

Have you seen my guy in action?

More coming!

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Make it so!

I like the way this guy states his case.

Ear Candle Radio's Top 20: July 2009

The Art Ensemble of Chicago shoots to the top this month with a funky free-jazz number voiced by Fontella Bass (of "Rescue Me" fame): "Your love is like an oil well/dig, dig, dig it!" Chumbawamba's great conspiracy theory anthem comes from the last album by the definitive lineup; whatever happened to Alice Nutter? Return visits from Matthew Grasso (with the Nada Brahma Music Ensemble) and Takeshi Murata (our Japanese virtuoso friend) join the late Johnny Thunders for a symposium on what defines a guitar hero. Chris & Cosey appear with a sexy duet from their 80s debut, Slim Gaillard clucks it up, Harry Belafonte throws a party, and the Buzzcocks take a trip. Big Brother and the Holding Company contribute a whimsical 60s garage-band love song. Check out that girl doing backup vocals...I think we may be hearing more from her. Also, a first-time appearance for local artist Deborah Crooks, return visits from the Damned, Kevin Ayers, and our own Experimental Bunnies, and Lou Reed's amazing Frank Sinatra impersonation.

Don't touch that dial!

1. The Art Ensemble of Chicago with Fontella Bass - Theme De Yoyo - Les Stances a Sophie
2. Chumbawamba - Everything You Know Is Wrong - Un
3. Nada Brahma Music Ensemble - Papamagama - The Five Deadly Talas
4. Johnny Thunders - Pipeline - So Alone
5. Chris & Cosey - This Is Me - Heartbeat
6. Slim Gaillard - Chicken Rhythm - Vout For Voutoreenees
7. Harry Belafonte - Angelina - Jump Up Calypso
8. The Buzzcocks - Are Everything - A Different Kind of Tension
9. Big Brother And The Holding Company - Caterpillar - Big Brother And The Holding Company
10. Kevin Ayers - Run, Run, Run - The Unfairground
11. John Cooper Clarke - The Day My Pad Went Mad - C81
12. The Experimental Bunnies - Our Just Rewards Are Right Around The Corner - Biology And Physics
13. Eater - Outside View - The Album
14. Takeshi Murata - Decipher - Decipher
15. Deborah Crooks - Living Proof - Adding Water To The Ashes
16. The Damned - Lovely Money - Smash It Up: The Anthology 1976-1987
17. The Clean - Twist Top - Anthology- The Clean
18. Bonzo Dog Band - Rhinocratic Oaths - The Doughnut in Granny's Greenhouse
19. Lou Reed - Broadway Song - The Raven
20. Yo La Tengo - Spec Bebop - I Can Hear The Heart Beating As One

(blank): The band

In response to the continuously growing plethora of bands around the world who share our conviction that The Blame is a great band name, we have decided that the duo project of Davis Jones and J Neo Marvin (with occasional honored guests) needs to be renamed.

After coming up with a whole list of clever handles and finding a Myspace page has already been created for just about every one of them, we racked our brains and scratched our heads until Davis suggested, what about The Full Disclosure Principle, which had been the title of the first Blame release? The more we kicked it around, the better it sounded, and no one else is using it. (Accounting jokes are not very big in the rock & roll scene in general, so we have staked out some new territory here.)

With a fresh name and a fresh attitude, The Full Disclosure Principle continue to piece together their first full-length album in their kitchen studio; Change Is All There Is will be the next digital release on the Ear Candle Productions label. It's gonna be a humdinger, we promise you.

UPDATE: Still working on a name. Don't think it'll be this one. Watch this space.

Friday, July 31, 2009

You can't please everyone

A bittersweet comment passed on from an Ear Candle Radio listener:
I'm new to your station, started listening about a week ago and have really enjoyed it. But is this "Spoken Word Friday"? No, thanks
We've been playing the Firesign Theatre's I Think We're All Bozos On This Bus in its entirety (with musical breaks between Side 1 and Side 2) for a few months now. Is it time to give it a rest? How about the bits from Eddie Izzard, Lord Buckley, Beyond The Fringe, and excerpts from The Prisoner? Share your opinion in the comments.

Our radio station's special flavor comes from the fact that we play whatever we please, and we reserve the right to keep it that way. At the same time, we are interested in what our listeners have to say. Talk to us.

UPDATE: If we don't hear anything from you all out there, we will assume our listeners have granted us tacit approval for MORE spoken word on Ear Candle Radio, and add all 50 or so minutes of Vivian Stanshall's Sir Henry At Rawlinson End album to our playlist. Consider yourselves duly warned.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Seen some videos

We've decided to end the DVD review feature in the blog after a year's worth of posts, because we've ended up hanging on to the same Netflix DVDs for a month while I decide what to write about them. Way too much effort put into something that was supposed to be for fun.

That said, here's what we've been watching since that decision was made, with a few brief comments:

Don't Need You: A Herstory Of Riot Grrrl: Turned out to be the same movie I caught at ATA Gallery in 2001. A sketchy, 35-minute documentary that someone else will need to flesh out someday. Some of the principals come off a lot better than others. Let's leave it at that.

Dream Of Life: Could be subtitled "Hanging Out With Patti Smith", as this is essentially what this sprawling, charming, non-linear documentary is like. Lots of fun.

Happy Go Lucky: Mike Leigh's character study of a relentlessly upbeat woman surrounded by snarky North Londoners. Poppy Cross gets an incredible amount of hate in the IMDB, but I thought she was all right. She means well, and the comedy and drama of the movie lies in how she and the other characters try to interact, and ultimately raises the question, can someone this "happy go lucky" function effectively in the real world?

Easy Riders, Raging Bulls: The gossipy movie version of the gossipy book about the "New Hollywood" of the '70s. Censorship was eliminated, directors had the power to tell any story they wanted, and society was being questioned on every level, which made it possible to re-examine all the old tropes the movie biz had taken for granted. A lot of great work came out of this wave, though it's easy to walk away from this account thinking the end result was mostly just ultraviolent nihilism spewed out by cocaine-crazed egomaniacs. One thing you get to see here is how fast one year's counterculture rebels become the next year's new establishment. Roger Corman gave a lot of the directors here their start, which made me think: four decades later, most of the movies that come out of Hollywood are basically Roger Corman exploitation flicks with a big budget and state-of-the-art effects that take themselves far more seriously than Corman ever did. Nowadays we don't really need to break any more taboos, but we could use some soul. A LOT more soul. It's hard to find a new movie these days that's even remotely interesting. If a "New Hollywood" came along today, what would it look like?

Man On Wire: This will give your acrophobia a workout. I had to keep reminding myself, he made it, he didn't fall, look, there he is on the screen getting interviewed. Half the suspense lies in the crew's meticulous planning to pull off this highly illegal stunt. After 9/11, they'd have been labeled "terrorists" and thrown into Guantanamo. Here we get a reminder that a sense of wonder can be worth taking a risk.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

So will we have to wait for "Archives, Vol. 2" before we can see the whole movie?

When The Human Highway, Neil Young's rarely-seen 1982 film, was being shot sometime in early 1978, an announcement was made at the Mabuhay Gardens that they were looking for extras for Neil Young's movie for a scene where they played the audience at a Devo show. A lot of San Francisco punks showed up as extras (including my late girlfriend Maati, who was also filmed shooting pool in another scene that may or may not have been used), and I always wondered whether their antics made the final cut. Anyway, this is the first time I've seen the Devo vs. Neil rendition of "Hey Hey, My My". Neil's messy intensity meets Devo's kinetic stiffness in an exciting way. We need to see more footage of this odd clash of scenes.

UPDATE: Aw gee, Neil pulled the video.

Behold a pale horse

Because the blogging has slowed down while we hunker down in the kitchen to finish the Blame album, to keep y'all from being bored I give you:


Monday, July 13, 2009

Hey Ian, have you ever heard this?

One of those great, gloomy yet infectious post-punk singles that came out of nowhere and went straight back there, Clock DVA's "4 Hours" has haunted my ears for decades. This is the first time I've ever seen any footage of the group live. They're pretty faithful to the record, except for the weird sort-of harmonies on the chorus. First time I heard this on the radio, I wondered "how do you even begin to write a song like this?" It must have fallen into place unconsciously. Certainly the band themselves never came up with anything else like it again.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Please stand by

Not much activity on the blogging front, partially due to technical considerations. A very important external hard drive bit the dust, taking with it much of our vast music library, including several hot new acquisitions we were about to add to the radio station. Fortunately we had the smarts to back most of it up on disc, and Davis used her formidable skills and patience at problem-solving to free up a huge amount of disc space, which Neo has been filling with music for the last week.

In the meantime, the Blame are busy concocting some very special tracks for their first full-length album. While we wait for the upcoming magnum opus, here is another taste of Atlas Wept.

We've sorted out the credits on this one, and here they are:

ATLAS WEPT (Marvin-Grasso-Borden)
Vocals and instruments: J Neo Marvin and Davis Jones
Plus guests:
Matthew Grasso: 7-string guitar and vocals
Lizzie Borden: Vocals

P.S. Our CD by Chris Knox and the Nothing arrived, and it's a good 'un. The voice and brain of the Tall Dwarfs combined with a full-band backing, rolling through many moods and styles, with the usual Knox gift of melody, heart and caustic wit. Visit the Chris Knox blog and support Chris by ordering a copy. You'll be doing a good turn for a deserving artist who needs our help, and you'll be getting yourself some great music too.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Ear Candle Radio's Top 20: June 2009

A nice show of solidarity from our listeners, who put Chris Knox at number 1 with this Tall Dwarfs classic. The late Ali Akbar Khan gets some props, as does his former student, Matthew Grasso, whose "Papamagama" makes a return showing here. The newest Blame recording, "Atlas Wept" (a sneak preview of our album-in-progress which made it to #15 this month. Woot!), also features a guest appearance by Matthew on 7-string guitar and vocalizations. Last month we met a Japanese trumpet player named Junko, who gave us a CD of her band Cyclub that impressed us so much, we had to immediately add "Diabolo Chatan" (a multi-lingual play on words, protesting the US military presence in Okinawa) to the playlist, where you gave it a nudge to #18. Elsewhere we have everything from Tinariwen to Porter Wagoner to the MC5 to Suicide.
Keep listening, dear friends.

1. Tall Dwarfs - Bodies - Weeville
2. Wanda Jackson - Rock Your Baby - Rockin' With Wanda
3. Tinariwen - Afours Afours - The Radio Tisdas Sessions
4. Porter Wagoner - The Rubber Room - The Rubber Room
5. Dengue Fever - Sober Driver - Venus On Earth
6. Davy Graham - Blues Raga - Mojo Presents: The Quiet Revolution
7. Booker T. & The MG's - Slum Baby - The Very Best of Booker T. & the MG's
8. The Wild Magnolias - Smoke My Peace Pipe (Smoke It Right) - The Wild Magnolias
9. Suicide - New City - The First Rehearsal Tapes
10. Sly & The Family Stone - You Can Make It If You Try - The Essential Sly & The Family Stone
11. MC5 - Back In The USA - The Big Bang! Best Of The MC5
12. John Cooper Clarke - Beasley Street - Snap, Crackle & Bop
13. The Magnetic Fields - Washington, D.C. - 69 Love Songs, Pt. 2
14. Lou Reed - Broadway Song - The Raven
15. The Blame - Atlas Wept - Change Is All There Is
16. Ustad Ali Akbar Khan - Raga Chandranandan - Traditional Music of India
17. Incredible String Band - A Very Cellular Song - The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter
18. Cyclub - Diabolo Chatan - Science Future
19. Nada Brahma Music Ensemble - Papamagama - The Five Deadly Talas
20. Slim Gaillard - Chicken Rhythm - Vout For Voutoreenees

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

I've left memories behind

While our hero Chris Knox recovers from his stroke, let's have a rare look at him and his peers at a very tender age in this incredible vintage documentary on New Zealand music. This video is the holy grail!

(Hat tip to New Zealand music blog The Doledrums.)

When the Flying Nun label first reached US ears around 1986, I flipped immediately. Suddenly Rough Trade was flooded with a small nation's worth of rough, scraggly, eerie, whimsical post-punk psychedelic bands, all distinct but all sharing a haunting, other-worldly feel, like multiple Syd Barretts and Velvet Undergrounds from a parallel universe. I remember Rolf at the Rough Trade shop on 6th St. proclaiming in his German accent, "THEY SOUND LIKE THEY HAVE MUSHROOMS GROWING OUT OF THE SIDEWALKS!" The underground music of New Zealand ruled my world for a good chunk of the late 80s, and its nice to see the scene in its infancy here.

Hmmm, this documentary seems sadly incomplete...


Saturday, June 20, 2009

Seen Your Video: Soul Comes Home---A Celebration of Stax Records and Memphis Soul Music

It wouldn't have been a bad idea to open this concert movie with the short bonus feature on the opening of the Stax Museum Of American Soul Music in Memphis, rather than tucking it away among the extras. The mini-documentary covers how the Stax label's legacy was not well-served by the city of Memphis for a long time until, after a lot of effort, a museum was opened on the same block where the old Stax studio had been, finally making up for the indignity of having a vacant lot left where musical history was once made.

The concert on this disc was a reunion of original artists (and a few odd friends) celebrating the opening of the museum in 2003. Had it all happened earlier, maybe more of the original Stax artists might have been available, but at least they did it while Isaac Hayes was still with us. This is not the place to find definitive performances of classic songs. For that, check out this thrilling footage from 1967, courtesy of the mighty KrustelKram blog.

The great moments include: Eddie Floyd, Jean Knight, and Percy Sledge putting everything they have into their big hits; Isaac Hayes looking dead cool, if slightly frail, as he sings and conducts the Theme From Shaft (it's great to watch his gestures as he acts out every little orchestral detail in the song's epic intro); Al Green (not a Stax artist, but he was from Memphis and Al Jackson played on his records, so close enough) blissing out as he delivers "Let's Stay Together" and "Love And Happiness" and letting us know he can still hit those high notes; and the righteously maternal Mavis Staples, commanding the stage on "Respect Yourself" and "I'll Take You There".

Less awesome: an OK blues jam from Little Milton and Jimmie Vaughan; Rance Allen wailing out a gospel number where he testifies that he's never been to Paris, India, Switzerland, or New Orleans, but he doesn't care because he's going to Heaven (sorry, just can't get behind that attitude); Solomon Burke, still full of warmth and stage presence but not doing any of his own material. Instead, he duets with Mack Rice on one of my least favorite Wilson Pickett songs, "Mustang Sally", which goes ON AND ON AND ON, then lends his commanding voice to a heartfelt take on Otis Redding's "Try A Little Tenderness" that ends with him looking skyward, raising his walking stick and proclaiming, "I love you, Otis." That was a nice moment.

Strange but interesting and sweet: The Bar-Kays ripping through "Soul Finger" as Chuck D delivers a potent, laudatory rap and somebody, possibly the Bar-Kays' lead singer, imitates Flavor Flav's trademark "Yeeeeeeeeeaaaaah boyeeeeee" yells. Just plain strange: Michael McDonald standing in for Otis on "Dock Of The Bay" and, with Carla Thomas, standing in for Sam and Dave (where the hell was Sam Moore? He should have been there) on "When Something Is Wrong With My Baby". And yes, Stax was a wonderful example of integration and color-blind creativity, and McDonald has always had a passable soul voice, but come on, the Doobie Brothers guy?* Was he the best choice for this? Sigh. Oh well, it could have been worse and Michael Bolton could have shown up instead. On the other hand, if Arthur Conley had been available instead (sadly he passed on in Europe that very year) that would have really been something.

The three surviving members of Booker T & the MGs tear into an extravagant run-through of "Green Onions". When you've been as snappy, tasteful and economical as the MGs were through their career as both session musicians and instrumental stars, you have earned the right to showboat a little, and they do. But it's Booker T. Jones and Steve Cropper we're talking about, so even their self-indulgent soloing comes out immaculate and crafty. I definitely could've sat through two or three more numbers by just them.

Overall, it's a nice concert and a fine tribute; I agree somewhat with some of the Netflix reviewers that it felt a bit like a public TV pledge drive feature, dull moments and all, but the value of the event is more than the actual performances: it is the joy of seeing these folks back together and being honored for their achievements while they are still alive. The bonus features are not to be missed either; I felt like there's the seed of a proper, comprehensive documentary on the history of Southern soul in these scant but intriguing interview clips with Mavis Staples, Isaac Hayes, Steve Cropper, Solomon Burke, and more. Perhaps a movie version of Peter Guralnik's Sweet Soul Music? How about a five-volume DVD set like the Beatles' Anthology? This is our cultural history, the dramatis personae are dying one by one, let's do it right, shall we? I'd buy one.

*George Clinton said it best back in the 70s: "It was cooool...but can you imagine Doobie in yo' funk?" I don't even know what that line means, but it never fails to crack me up.