Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Process!

A preview of the next Experimental Bunnies album, BUNNIES ON FIRE. We found this incredibly inspired improvisation that was captured on video, edited out about 8 minutes of fumbling, and ended up with a 26-minute track. Enjoy with the intoxicants of your choice.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Time to build a house in Purgatory

Hawaii/New York punk blues raconteur Rob K's Purgatory Home Companion is finally being released! An epic adventure through Dante's imaginary universe employing collaged musical fragments from scores of artists from all over, this is something you're going to have to really sit down and devote some time to.

Our own Experimental Bunnies can be heard on the track "Time To Pay", which samples extensively from a xylophone/acoustic guitar/brushed drums jam that will also appear on the third Bunnies album as "How To Build a House". We are thrilled with what Rob and co-producer Mark Abramson did with our music and honored to have played a part in this ambitious project.

The entire album can be found here.

On first listen, if there is a "hit" on the album, it has to be the swaggering Stones-esque "Bardot Hotel" (whose title punningly combines the lovely French icon with the Tibetan word for the state of existence intermediate between two lives on earth). Which is a convenient excuse to repost the excellent live performance of the song we taped at An Undisclosed Location many moons ago. Enjoy:

Saturday, December 4, 2010

And the youth they go "oh, oh, ohhhhh!"

My year old post on the Mighty Ballistics Hi-Power seems to have generated some action. May this wonderfully elusive band (or at least their still-timely 80s recordings) resurface at last! We need their music.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Ear Candle Radio's Top 20, November 2010

Sometimes the best thing to do in the face of opposition is to take all the insults thrown at you, embrace them, and shove them back in your detractors' faces, as Yoko did on this 70s track that tops our charts this month. Don't let them kill your spirit! Number two is a flashback to our childhoods with some infectious Peanuts cartoon music, then at number three Winston Tong and Tuxedomoon deliver a classic 80s hit that gets under your skin. Paula Fraser and Tarnation take an obscure 60s nugget and make it lilt, Ken Nordine gives us some twisted words of encouragement, Isaac Hayes tells it like it is, our own Experimental Bunnies (with a guest appearance by Baltimore guitarist/producer Trevor Simpson) let their psychedelic melodies unfurl.

International space pirates Cyclub invite us on a journey, the Beatles drop a classic from the BBC Sessions, Vivian Stanshall returns with a sprawling number from his just-reissued '70s solo debut, the Aislers Set give us a seasonal instrumental, Little Richard shouts about freedom on his late 60s hit, the Bonzos roll out the noises, Olatunji leads a slightly premature happy new year singalong, and the Who give us one of their all-time quirkiest songs, a Kinks/Small Faces influenced Cockney pop tune about greyhound racing that the band are apparently still embarrassed about, but really, it's no more absurd than Tommy.

We were e-mailed by a young Russian band named Put who asked very nicely for airplay, and we obliged by adding our number 16 track this month. We have no idea what they're singing (though the title offers a slight clue...any Russian speakers out there?) but it's a catchy tune. A track from the first Parliament album (penned by Baltimore cult heroine Ruth Copeland) cries out to a deity that doesn't seem to have much to say in response. An early New Order track swells with post-Joy Division dread, Matthew Grasso's Nada Brahma Ensemble ascends with an extended 25-string guitar raga jam, and the Fall bring it home with an epic anthem to defiant middle age.

Thanks for tuning in and submitting your ratings. Have a smashing December, and keep listening!

1. Yoko Ono - Yes, I'm A Witch - Onobox (A Story)
2. Vince Guaraldi - It's Your Dog Charlie Brown - Oh, Good Grief!
3. Tuxedomoon - No Tears - Desire
4. Tarnation - Little Black Egg - Mirador
5. Ken Nordine - You're Getting Better - The Best of Word Jazz, Vol. 1
6. Isaac Hayes - Soulsville - Shaft
7. The Experimental Bunnies - Waiting For A Bad Idea To Die - Biology And Physics
8. Cyclub - Let's Go On A Journey - Science Future
9. The Beatles - Soldier Of Love - Live At The BBC [Disc 1]
10. Vivian Stanshall - Strange Tongues - Men Opening Umbrellas Ahead
11. The Aislers Set - Christmas Song - The Last Match
12. Little Richard - Freedom Blues - The Rill Thing
13. Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band - My Brother Makes the Noises for the Talkies - Gorilla
14. Babatunde Olatunji - Odun De! Odun De! (Happy New Year) - Drums of Passion
15. The Who - Dogs - 30 Years Of Maximum R&B
16. Put - About Pot, Jerk And Sorrow - Dirty and beauty
17. Parliament - Oh Lord, Why Lord/Prayer - Osmium
18. New Order - Truth - Movement
19. Nada Brahma Music Ensemble - Miyan Ying - The Five Deadly Talas
20. The Fall - 50 Year Old Man - Imperial Wax Solvent

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

"We celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr., Day, not J. Edgar Hoover Day"

Why doesn't Doghouse Riley have a column in, say, the New York Times as opposed to the brain-dead hacks they employ now? Maybe, as with the mighty Rude Pundit, it's down to the naughty words factor. I suspect though that it has more to do with having the bad manners to point at the incontinent elephant relieving itself in the middle of the dinner party and describe it with the most cutting, shaming prose the English language has to offer. In other words, the man is hopelessly overqualified. Thank providence for the internet.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Hit the North(west)!

This was the most inspiring punk documentary I've seen in quite a while. It made me want to be 21 again. Great footage of Wipers, Neo Boys (who apparently shared my good taste in Patti Smith poems), Sado-Nation, Smegma, and half a dozen early punk and post-punk bands I missed at the time because I was one state away. See the trailer here, then seek out the movie. It's already on Netflix.

Random thoughts:
1) When will Kill Rock Stars take their wondrous archive-releasing powers to their own back yard and put out a comprehensive Neo Boys anthology?
2) I didn't know John Shirley used to be in Sado-Nation. Wow. And quite the frontman as a youth, too.
3) Did Lo-Tek ever release anything? Loved them.
4) WHY does Jello Biafra get so much face time in a film about PORTLAND? Not to downgrade his contributions, but I'm really sick of seeing him propped up as the be-all and end-all of punk rock.
5) Late 1970s Portland sure was full of bands who sounded like the early Fall.
6) Why did the original camera crew that filmed the Rats zoom in on every member BUT Toody Cole? Reflexive resentment for female bass players? It's not as if she's hard on the eyes.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Ear Candle Radio's Top 20: October 2010

Our October charts are topped by Sam Cooke's awesome civil rights anthem and last testament, which, as Substance McG states in the comments, should be heard by everyone on the planet.

Bonzo Dog alumnus Roger Ruskin Spear weighs in with a mostly instrumental track from one of his hard-to-find solo albums, followed by a rare Public Image track that was bootlegged by departing founder Keith Levine shortly after the band played a brilliant set at the Galleria Design Center in SF. (J Neo Marvin remembers looking down on the stage from several floors above. You could move around all over the place.) More Bonzo goodness follows with their first-ever single, followed by a tender ballad from the waggish James Murphy, one of the finest lyricists of the last decade who we know we'll be hearing more from even if LCD Soundsystem has called it quits.

Continuing down the list we have Ken Nordine with his word jazz fable of epiphany and conformity, a rare, ragged post-punk premonition from New York's False Prophets, a piece of behavior modification hypnosis from the two wackos who gave us Non and Mute, a thought-provoking catchy number from our favorite ex-Chumbawamba member, a spring-loaded song of longing from Corin Tucker's very welcome solo comeback, a poignant ode to air travel from Australia's wondrous Cannanes, and a real oddity: a 70s Brian Wilson production featuring his first wife singing what was originally one of his brother Dennis's sleaziest songs and distilling the core of sweetness inside. Makes you wish all three Wilson brothers were around today to bring out the best in each other.

A flamenco-delic instrumental from a dude we originally met on Myspace (A.J. In Evolution, we're not tired of your tune yet!) is followed by a gem from left field: Slovenian post-industrial satirical totalitarians Laibach bring out the megalomania in the Beatles' swan song. Next we revive an odd '90s collaboration between Ear Candle favorite Alan Vega, Ben Vaughn, and the late great Alex Chilton that offered yet another rough & ready setting for those sensuous Vega pipes. Lou Barlow comes through with what may be his alltime finest moment (a strummy, eerie sound collage tucked in at the end of the second Dinosaur, Jr. album), Neil Young tears your heart out with the pointless finality of death, Jimmy Smith and Booker T give us lessons on how to caress your organ correctly, and Bill Callahan lends his sonorous baritone to the cause of keeping the great Chris Knox's music alive.

We have received complaints from some regular listeners about Live365's new website design, saying it has become almost impossible for non-VIP listeners to rate songs because of stuck pop-ups on certain operating systems. We think this sucks, and we sympathize. If you encounter this problem, refreshing the page may help. Also, this does not seem to happen if you invest in a VIP membership with Live 365, so consider that. We are not into the hard sell, but every time a VIP listener tunes in to our station, we get a bit of change deducted from our monthly fee. So, if you are doing well in these tough economic times, please consider taking the plunge. If it's beyond your means, yes of course we still love you. Just as long as you keep listening!

1. Sam Cooke - A Change Is Gonna Come - Portrait Of A Legend 1951-1964
2. Roger Ruskin Spear - My Goodness How (Or The Revolutionary New Concrete Mixer Show) - Unusual
3. Public Image Limited - Lou Reed, Pts 1 and 2 (Where Are You?) - Commercial Zone
4. Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band - My Brother Makes The Noises For The Talkies - Gorilla
5. LCD Soundsystem - New York, I Love You But You're Bringing Me Down - Sound Of Silver
6. Ken Nordine - Flibberty Jib - The Best of Word Jazz, Vol. 1
7. False Prophets - Baghdad Stomp - False Prophets
8. Boyd Rice & Daniel Miller - Cleanliness And Order - Darker Skratcher
9. Danbert Nobacon - Christopher Marlowe - The Library Book of the World
10. The Corin Tucker Band - Half A World Away - 1,000 Years
11. The Cannanes - Marching Song - Cannanes
12. American Spring - Fallin' in Love - Spring
13. A.J. In Evolution (Aka A.J. Fritscher) - A Trip In Barcelona - A Work In Progress
14. Laibach - I Me Mine - Let It Be
15. Ben Vaughn - Alan Vega - Alex Chilton - Do Not Do Not - Cubist Blues
16. Dinosaur Jr. - Poledo - You're Living All Over Me
17. Neil Young & Crazy Horse - Carmichael - Greendale
18. Jimmy Smith - The Champ - The Definitive Jimmy Smith
19. Booker T. & the M.G.'s - Sun King/Mean Mr. Mustard/Polythene Pam/She Came In Through The Bathroom Window/I Want You (She's So Heavy) - McLemore Avenue
20. Bill Callahan - Lapse - Stroke: Songs For Chris Knox

Saturday, October 23, 2010

One small step towards making NPR bearable

Best take I've read on the Juan Williams flap. This guy has been insufferable on the radio for years; now he gets to thrive in his own chosen environment. We don't have to listen to him in the car anymore. And the Right gets something new to whine about. Everybody wins!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Dread More Than Dead

I would so like this to be a hoax, but I know it isn't.

We are devastated to hear about the sudden, unexpected passing of the Slits' Ari Up. A one-of-a-kind character. She will not be replaceable. So much energy and attitude, and such a role model for retaining your youth in middle age. I know it's true, but I still can't accept it.

We shot this in San Francisco at the first tour of the reunited Slits. A great song that didn't make it to what I guess will be their last album. I'll remember her like this.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Ear Candle Radio's Top 20: September 2010

At the end of the 70s, soon after Lee Scratch Perry cut the haunting Heart Of The Congos at his Black Ark Studio only to be ditched by his newest discoveries, the Congos themselves, stories have long circulated about a couple of African singers who found their way to Jamaica and showed up at Scratch's doorstep, looking for a break. Scratch, who was not in the best of shape and ready to heed any omen he could perceive, proclaimed he had found the "real" Congos, since they hailed from what was then known as Zaire but before and after is referred to as the Democratic Republic Of The Congo. The new allies set about recording an album together, while Scratch's increasing eccentricity and various hangers-on continued to propel the Black Ark into chaos. The tracks that were cut have been both hard to find and usually disparaged as being not very good, a testimony to Scratch's delusional state at the time. Well, our Ear Candle Radio research team managed to find a disc of these rare recordings, and we are here to say that the naysayers need to clean out their ears because this music is incredible. Sweet yet shrill West African vocal stylings coupled with the wobbly, echoing Black Ark jungle of sound. Kalo Kawongolo and Seke Molenga, together with Lee Scratch Perry at the peak of his powers, created a lost masterpiece that is finally surfacing, and our listeners have put it at number one this month! (Our listeners have impeccable taste.)

Another underrated gem, the Television Personalities' mournful anti-war rant "A Sense Of Belonging", made it to number 2, a reminder of how it felt to be a conscious human being in the 80s, when the media and the right had learned from their past experience with Vietnam and first mastered the art of making mass dissent invisible unless it was convenient for them. (See also, the 2000s)

Following that, we get funky with James Brown and cool like that with the Digable Planets on their hits from the 60s and 90s. Then comes a Portland, Oregon songwriter named Cheralee Dillon (who we discovered through our friend Celine Keller) squeezing some love from the little yellow lemon in her heart. A track from one of the last good (and weirdest) Beach Boys albums, "Solar System" is a quirky gem that J Neo Marvin once saw Alex Chilton cover in the 80s.

Yet another unfairly disparaged (this time by the band themselves!) album is the Pretty Things' Emotions, which was inappropriately tampered with by their record label and producer and festooned with orchestral arrangements the band hated. In spite of that, it's a smart, snappy mid-60s pop record full of great songs, including "Children", a foot-stomper with lyrics that decry the way innocent kids are led astray by the system. Keeping with the theme of children perhaps, this track leaves out the strings and horns and replaces them with kazoos! One wonders who was responsible, the producer on a creative roll calling for the top session kazooists in London to lay down a track, or the Pretty Things making fun of the whole process? What matters is that this is top stuff. After you have digested the first two Pretty Things albums and S.F. Sorrow, check out Emotions. You'll be glad you did.

Deerhoof do their inimitable twee-prog thing next, followed by Bo Diddley with a sweet, raucous tribute to his dearest darling and X-tal grinding through their swan song. "What Now?" Sergio Mendes pops in unexpectedly with a bit of psychedelic lounge music, then Os Mutantes at their silliest mug their way through a song about a Latin musician making it big in America that is said to be a parody of Sergio Mendes, but in fact it sounds a lot more like Santana to our ears. The Holy Sisters Of The Gaga Dada make their boundaries clear in "Mr. Mr.", Marc Bolan and Tyrannosaurus Rex (with the much-missed John Peel making a cameo appearance) spread some goofy mysticism from their debut album, the great Ken Nordine gives us a fable about a series of tall poppies who start out bold and get cut down to size by their jealous peers who rob us all of the power of the flibberty-jib.

A Kirtan cover of "Within You Without You", recorded at the temple at Harbin Hot Springs, features Harbin's jack-of-all-trades Peter B leading the singing and the late multi-instrumentalist (and highly talented and nice guy...much missed) Jeff Palmer playing the dilruba part. Spooky Swedish traditionalists Garmarna do an instrumental tribute to skulls, the Firesign Theatre give us a hilarious Hitchcockian nightmare, Le Tigre combat tall poppy syndrome ("The things you tried to kill/I've found a way to grow"), and the Velvet Underground invite us to Coney Island. "Like a sister and brother we'll cling to each other when they find out their parents are mad." Sometimes it be that way.

Thank you listeners for another great chart. Keep tuning in to Ear Candle Radio!

1. Kalo Kawongolo / Seke Molenga - Masanga - African Roots
2. Television Personalities - A Sense Of Belonging - Yes Darling, But Is It Art?
3. James Brown - Mother Popcorn - Star Time
4. Digable Planets - Rebirth of Slick (Cool Like Dat) - A New Refutation Of Time And Space
5. Cheralee Dillon - Little Yellow Lemon - Citron
6. The Beach Boys - Solar System - Beach Boys Love You
7. The Pretty Things - Children - Emotions
8. Deerhoof - My Purple Past - Offend Maggie
9. Bo Diddley - Dearest Darling - His Best: The Chess 50th Anniversary Collection
10. X-tal - What Now? - More Fun
11. Sergio Mendes & Brasil '66 - Crystal Illusions - Crystal Illusions
12. Os Mutantes - Cantor De Mambo - Everything Is Possible!: The Best Of Os Mutantes
13. The Holy Sisters Of The Gaga Dada - Mr. Mr. - Let's Get Acquainted
14. Tyrannosaurus Rex - Frowning Atahuallpa (My Inca Love) - My People Were Fair And Had Sky In Their Hair... But Now They're Content To Wear Stars In Their Brows
15. Ken Nordine - Flibberty Jib - The Best of Word Jazz, Vol. 1
16. The Harbin Kirtan Band (featuring Jeff Palmer) - Within You Without You - Live From Planet Harbin
17. Garmarna - Skallen (Cranium) - Vittrad
18. Firesign Theatre - Waiting for the Electrician - Waiting for the Electrician or Someone Like Him
19. Le Tigre - Tell You Now - This Island
20. The Velvet Underground - Coney Island Steeplechase - Another View

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Tastes like chicken

How to turn your stomach...toward something better? The more innocuously shapeless a chunk of flesh looks on your plate, the more disgusting it probably is once you get to know it. Better to not be so squeamish and face your naked lunch honestly, perhaps.

Arthur Lee: the wilderness years

Felt like posting some rare Arthur Lee footage, and found these two performances from 1990, well after the dying days of the original run of Love lineups, but still before his highly suspicious arrest and jail term, and his subsequent glorious 21st century revival, sudden decline and exit from this plane. This was a time when Arthur was ignored, taken for granted and thought of as a has-been, knocking around L.A. clubs with various pickup bands. His astounding voice, wryly witty lyrics, and total commitment to self-expression never faltered, even in these dark days.

One of his greatest solo songs: "Everybody's gotta live/and everybody's gonna die!" If rock and roll is an art form that finds the most stunning and illuminating ways to speak the most obvious truths, this song is one of the best examples.

This song is new to me. "Somebody's Watching You": not the Sly Stone song, but equally paranoid. Hard-living African-American hippie geniuses do have to keep looking over their shoulders, after all.

I'm not really certain what Lee's spiritual beliefs were, but the final punchline, "God is watching you" does not sound the least bit comforting here, which is part of what makes this song is so appealing, I think. A very complex guy, Arthur Lee. We miss him.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Here comes the argument

I used to get caught up in this kind of discussion all the time. Brilliantly rendered.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Number 3!

"Mark Time", a track by X-tal, from the Ear Candle retrospective album, Who Owns Our Dreams?, has just leaped to the number 3 spot on the charts on North Fork Sound. North Fork Sound is an excellent online radio station run by our old acquaintance Howard Thompson. Thanks for playing our music, Howard!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

The lights and the sound

A nice clip of Alan Vega's visual art retrospective in Lyon, France. Belated congratulations to the great man for getting recognition for his work.

Plus, a snippet of a great, passionate improv version of "Cherie" at Hurrah in 1980.

These clips and many, many more can be found on the Live-at-Hurrah video archive. What an incredible time capsule of New York. Check it out.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Ear Candle Radio's Top 20, August 2010

Oh, what a month.

Hip-hop academic DJ Spooky recently supervised an ear-tickling mix of reggae gems from the Trojan label to celebrate their anniversary and a particular highlight of that collection tops our charts: An a capella mix of Bob Marley, Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer harmonizing sweetly and spookily on the eerie Lee Scratch Perry collaboration "Mr. Brown". Is Mr. Brown controlled by remote? Calling Duppy Conqueror!

There's a new album by 90s New York indie stalwarts Versus; it's loud, brash and tuneful, and we picked one of bassist Fontaine Toups' featured numbers for the station, where it has already shot up to the number two spot. Behind that we have the spiritual Celtic drone of the Incredible String Band, the harsh, dubby post-punk protest of World Domination Enterprises, an exquisite jewel from the Tall Dwarfs (keep sending your love to Chris Knox!), exuberant catchy gibberish from the Plugz, a brief burst from the Minutemen with more ideas than most bands muster on an entire album, a track from one of our favorite dub albums ever courtesy of the late great Mikey Dread, and an incendiary love song from the mighty Flesh Eaters.

An exciting new Portland band, Explode Into Colors, bring forth rhythms that pin you against the wall in a track from the bonus CD of an issue of Yeti, which if you don't know what it is, you should: it's a nice, thick bound book/fanzine courtesy of Mike McGonigal, former editor of Chemical Imbalance, ably assisted by Steve Connell of Puncture and Verse Chorus press fame. They've got a new issue out; get it!

Behind that, there's Centry And The Music Family with their heavy dub version of "Smells Like Teen Spirit", the Bonzos with Vivian Stanshall's first installment of the mad soap opera he would keep coming back to for the rest of his life, X-tal caught improvising at a practice and stumbling on something gorgeous, the Skatalites stretching out (heavy dub content on this chart; the summer sun must be affecting our listeners!), the Poison Girls at their caustic best (no one else will ever rhyme "Ethiopia" and "utopia" with as much bitter, ironic truth), the Conspiracy Of Beards winning the ladies' hearts and teaching the men to be gentlemen in New York last year, Van Morrison gasping through a bad case of survivor's guilt at the dawn of his solo career in the 60s, Jefferson Airplane lead guitarist Jorma Kaukonen offering a breathtaking melancholy folk ballad that shows he's more than a mere jammer, the Zombies giving voice to the optimism we struggle to maintain against all odds (as in fact they were themselves at the time), and dear Yoko, supported by an all-star, mostly-Japanese Plastic Ono Band, reminding us how to love.

This station is a tonic for its creators and a gift to our listeners. Listen, vote on the songs you hear, and give us your feedback!

1. The Wailers - Mr. Brown (DJ Spooky remix) - Creation Rebel
2. Versus - Into Blue - On the Ones and Threes
3. Incredible String Band - The Circle Is Unbroken - The Big Huge
4. World Domination Enterprises - Asbestos Lead Asbestos (Heavy Pollution Mix) - Love from the Lead City
5. Tall Dwarfs - Open Wide Your Pretty Mouths - The Sky Above, The Mud Below
6. The Plugz - Wordless - Electrify Me
7. Minutemen - Straight Jacket - The Punch Line
8. Mikey Dread - Fast Forward Dub - At The Control Dubwise
9. The Flesh Eaters - Tightrope On Fire - Forever Came Today
10. Explode Into Colors - Paper (Hot Sax Version) - Yeti 7
11. Centry Meets The Music Family - Release The Chains - Dub Revolution
12. Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band - Rawlinson End - Let's Make Up and Be Friendly
13. X-tal - Slow Fidelity - Who Owns Our Dreams
14. The Skatalites - Middle East Dub - Skatalites Meet King Tubby
15. Poison Girls - Price Of Grain - Poisonous
16. Conspiracy of Beards - Lady Midnight - Live at Highline Ballroom, NYC
17. Van Morrison - T.B. Sheets - T.B. Sheets
18. Jorma Kaukonen - Genesis - Quah
19. The Zombies - This Will Be Our Year - Odessey and Oracle
20. Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band - Calling - Between My Head And The Sky

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Waiting For The Miracle

Something stupid came on TV yesterday. Here's the best quote from this witness:
It’s not, of course, that I wish to downplay the most World-Historical Significantest event in the history of doughy insane cable television lunatic hucksters yelping soppy tedious halfwit whiny bullshit to morons. Gosh no. It was as momentously momentous and miraculously marvelous as advertised, I’m sure. But I had other, better things to do, like sort socks and check to see if the paint was drying properly.
Well, OK, not so much a witness, maybe.

Being morbidly curious, we did watch some of it. The gist seemed to be that God is good, Martin Luther King was good but his legacy has been hijacked by people who just talk about racism all the time and aren't even white, we are threatened by some horrific vague threat that threatens us, and while we're full of love and goodwill, you'd better get off America's lawn. Davis was wondering what sort of elaborately staged "miracle" was going to occur, but the only miracle turned out to be the lovely new suit the emperor was wearing, which can only be seen by the people that count. Perhaps the miracle was the way the hate speech was kept on the down-low this time around.

I do remember the anti-war demonstrations of 2003, which drew millions across the country and around the world, but somehow were just not newsworthy enough to rate a place on our teevees, unlike yesterday's Burning Man For Dummies event. Must be that liberal media bias again.

UPDATE: The very thoughtful and valuable Mahablog offers an analysis with a little less snark and a little more wisdom, as usual.

SON OF UPDATE: The inimitable Doghouse Riley volunteers some very badly needed perspective.

Saturday, August 28, 2010


I have recently been hit with a misdemeanor charge for "Failure To Blog" by the authorities. My alibi: Facebook has eaten my brain. Will resume regular posting as the novelty wears off.

Sort of on topic: the Club Mekon mailing list is putting together their second Mekons tribute compilation. (The first, I Have Been To Harehills And Back, included the first release of the Content Providers' take on "Sometimes I Feel Like Fletcher Christian") In a tribute to the aforementioned brain-eating, time-sucking social media website, our ever-waggish UK comrades on the list have given the upcoming compilation the title ARSEBOOK. All potential proceeds will go to Amnesty International, who can always use more support for their good work. The Granite Countertops will contribute a cover of "Hard To Be Human" that will surprise you.

In other Ear Candle news, our former housemate and Content Providers lead guitarist Glenn Stevens visited from Qatar with his wife and two-year-old daughter and by the time they left, we had the seeds of five more new Experimental Bunnies tracks. Some of these should show up on the new album, due by the end of this year. We are busy!

Monday, August 16, 2010

As long as these corporate shenanigans continue to occur, it's better to buy your cheap underwear somewhere else

Civil disobedience through silly show tunes! Now that oversized puppets are becoming played out, there is a new demo frontier to be explored.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Two hot chicks debate the existence of God and the value of secular humanism

This video is 100% guaranteed to pass the Bechdel test.

(Music: "We're Only Lost When We Stop Exploring" by the Experimental Bunnies and "Neroli" by Brian Eno, both playing at the same time.)

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Ear Candle Radio's Top 20: July 2010

1. Leonard Cohen - One Of Us Cannot Be Wrong - Songs of Leonard Cohen
2. Kaki King - Kewpie Station - Everybody Loves You
3. The Controllers - Electric Church - Tooth And Nail Comp.
4. Society of Rockets - Try Now Why Not - Future Factory
5. Sergio Mendes & Brasil '66 - Crystal Illusions - Crystal Illusions
6. Killdozer - The Pig Was Cool - Uncompromising War on Art Under the Dictatorship of the Proletariat
7. Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band - Turkeys - Let's Make Up And Be Friendly
8. X - See How We Are - See How We Are
9. The Soft Machine - Love Makes Sweet Music - Out-Bloody-Rageous - An Anthology: 1967-1973
10. The Who - Dogs - 30 Years Of Maximum R&B
11. CAN - Yoo Doo Right - Monster Movie
12. King Tommy's Velvet Runway - Black Treacle Oil - Dance On The Volcano
13. Ken Nordine - Reaching into In - The Best of Word Jazz, Vol. 1
14. Gil Scott-Heron - ...And Then He Wrote Meditations - Free Will
15. Sandie Shaw - Hand In Glove - Hand in Glove 12"
16. Vivian Stanshall - Strange Tongues - Men Opening Umbrellas Ahead
17. Russell Kirk - Novus - Black & White
18. Jeffrey Lewis & The Junkyard - Mini-Theme: Moocher From The Future - 'Em Are I
19. Consider The Source - Patterns - Esperanto
20. Arthur Lee - Everybody's Gotta Live - Vindicator

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Bardot Hotel by Rob K: Best Rolling Stones song in 38 years

So I believed the hype, or was at least curious enough to check it out for myself. I bought the mid-priced version of the remastered Exile On Main Street, the one with the second disc of "unreleased outtakes", because it happens to be one of the most kickass/murky/richly atmospheric rock & roll albums ever made, as well as the last time the Rolling Stones put out something that was more about depth than gesture. I figured that there was a chance that there might be some more goodies in that well.

Reality: some decent groove-oriented tracks, some blah early versions of songs that were much better after they were finished, and several Frankenstein monsters where Jagger takes an old backing track, writes lyrics, overdubs vocals, and mixes said vocals ridiculously loud just to please his own ego. (When you have the kind of voice that sounds best when it's buried underneath a pile of loud guitars, that's hardly an effective strategy or a good listening experience.)

I see a clear agenda coming from rock's most famous London School Of Economics graduate: after decades of mediocrity, people may still love to go to Rolling Stones shows, but nobody cares about new Rolling Stones albums. However, if you shove some new songs onto a deluxe edition of one of your old, beloved classics, you might get more of a reception just because of the context. And some of the new/old songs aren't half bad, but they simply don't belong on the same street as Exile.

Which is a rather roundabout way of introducing another really cool video we shot a while back:

Here's my idea of what a good Exile On Main Street outtake would sound like. Rob K, Mark Abramson, Mary Kelley, and Debbie Hopkins serve up the most sensuously dirty, swampy, sexy midtempo groove imaginable while Rob delivers another hilarious, mystical, profane tall tale. The spirit of Keith is all over this one in the best possible way.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Fooled you twice, shame on who?

Oh surprise, surprise. The whole "Shirley Sherrod hates white people" scandal turns out to be a complete lie. Who would have thought that the very same guy who instigated the defunding of ACORN through laughably edited video footage would do it again, after seeing how spineless the Democrats are when an alpha bully picks on them? At least some people are paying attention.

Which is worse: a "traditional values" party run by nihilistic sociopaths who would gleefully destroy the entire planet to put a little extra change in their pockets, or a supposedly "progressive" party who consistently rolls over and plays dead because they're scared of what Fox News might say? I wish Obama was even one tenth the left-wing radical the wingnuts are convinced he is. We'd all be a lot better off.

Shirley Sherrod should be rehired and given a public apology. Andrew Breitbart should be sued for defamation of character. See how simple this is? Oh, and by the way, why didn't the Obama administration declare a state of emergency and start issuing executive orders when this BP oil spill happened, instead of letting some Bush-appointed judge keep him from placing a moratorium on the kind of risky deep-water drilling that is destroying the Gulf Of Mexico, especially after the oil companies have proven themselves incapable of and uninterested in taking responsibility when something goes wrong? Or does the "unitary executive" status he inherited from his predecessor only apply to continuing the Bush policies of secrecy, torture, war, illegal imprisonment, etc. After all, he wouldn't want Glenn Beck to call him a dictator, would he? Damn it Barack, we really want to support you; why do you pull this wimpy crap?

UPDATE: The White House shows some class after all. Lesson learned?

FURTHER UPDATE: Wow, this really is becoming a massive story now. The mainstream media are desperately wiping the egg off their faces. The MSNBC liberal media ghetto is having a field day with this, and they should. Olbermann reminded us again tonight what a pleasure it is to watch him when he's really pissed off. Again I have to ask: is our Democrats learning? All this stuff is sort of insider politics, but it's a very important indicator of whether America is capable of governing itself.

Time to quote some Richard Hell:
Look out liars and you highlife scum
who gotta keep your victims poor and dumb--
Your motives and your methods are not disguised
by your silk, soap, sex, or your smiling lies.

Look out here
you pompous jerk
Look out here
I go berserk...

You were sixty-five when you wiggled out--
your mind all twisted and your mom all shout.
I'm a man with his share of excess nice
but it can't be spared for drooling lice.
Of course, The Granite Countertops have a song that comes to mind in this event too:
And they say: “We create reality!
What we declare will be
We are the masters and we make the decrees
For the good of all…and that means us.”
Stop handing power over to these hacks already. People in the business of deliberate disinformation are not to be trusted, especially when the issue involves an innocent person's career. You'd think this crew of allegedly shrewd political operators would have a clue about this. How will they react the next time the slander circus comes to town? It won't take us long to find out.
(Graphic stolen from the ever-brilliant Watertiger, with thanks.)

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Old enough to repaint, but young enough to sell

Yes, I know the correct lyric is "repay", but that doesn't make a lick of sense. The above is the way I always heard it since the record first came out, which I totally understood: old enough that you could arguably use a fresh coat of paint, but still young enough that people are interested in what you have to offer. That's 60-something Neil Young in a nutshell. Hey, he's still young enough to sell us two unbelievably expensive tickets to see his solo show at Oakland's Fox Theater on July 12.

Do I regret it? Naaaahhh. I never saw Neil Young before, though I've liked his records since I was a tad. In between, he's had his ups and downs, the worst of which may have been his bizarre brain fart of outspoken Republicanism in the 80s (which I'll forgive; a great many "classic-rock" artists became unbelievably useless in the post-punk years, but a lot of them got over it later in fine style, Neil included).

But the first decade of the 21st century has been an interesting one for Young. The fascinating biography Shakey by Jimmy McDonough paints a portrait of a passive-aggressive guy who's burnt many of his bridges, lost his essential producer/collaborator David Briggs, and didn't look likely to contribute anything new and important in the future. What happens after the book comes out? Neil Young releases Greendale, a sweet, eccentric, moving, heartfelt multimedia piece (album, movie, performance, and soon-to-be comic book) that revived the socially conscious (especially when it comes to the environment) side of his art. And who's that playing Grandpa in the movie? None other than Ben Keith, the wonderful pedal steel guitarist who McDonough portrayed as having been so let down by Neil that he would never work with him again. Goes to show that life is a process, and while we may be caught up in our grievances in any given moment, tomorrow may bring new opportunities, new revelations, and new priorities.

Later in the decade, Neil puts out a very blunt album of protest songs called Living With War, coerces Crosby, Stills, and Nash into a tour where they are required to delve into their most confrontational anti-war songs and bring them to venues that aren't ready to greet them with warm nostalgia, and makes a film about the whole thing. Clearly, old age has brought out the fire in this guy, and resting on his laurels is the last thing on his mind. I haven't heard the much-maligned album Fork In The Road, which was apparently a whole album about how we need to switch to electric cars, but I guarantee that, like everything this guy does, there have to be at least two songs that are as good as his intentions. Because that's how Neil Young rolls.

This year, it's all about the "Twisted Road" tour: solo shows, mostly electric, lots of new songs. Fans have been moaning that he's been using the same set list every night, to which I say, WHO ON EARTH can afford to go to more than one, maybe two, of these gigs? If it's got to be this expensive, I appreciate that he's thought very hard about his program and what he wants to put across, and he's not just winging it.

Bert Jansch, a legend in his own right, opened the show. Sensuous acoustic guitar, purring vocals, thick accent I could barely understand, the music went down like a hot toddy. I would have liked it if people had talked less during his set. He was personable and enthusiastic, and his music was sublime.

Neil Young got down to business, starting with some oldies like "My My, Hey Hey" and (as quoted up above) "Tell Me Why". He tended to favor songs from the early 70s, especially from After The Gold Rush, but the real point of the show seemed to be the eight unrecorded (I'd say "new", but some of them apparently go back a while) songs. Every single one of these was striking.

I noticed the big difference between old Neil Young songs and new ones; in the 60s and 70s, his lyrics were primal, subconscious and random, like mad non sequitur fever dreams that evoked strange emotions but never added up to anything logical. The songs were wide-eyed, delirious, enigmatic, sometimes downright insane. Can you tell me what is going on in "Down By The River"? Do you even want to know?

The new songs are nothing of the sort. They are as strikingly direct as the old ones are strikingly mysterious. Neil Young is taking you aside, confiding in you, cracking jokes, and telling you exactly what's on his mind. And he's got a lot of interesting things to say, whether he's reflecting on a deceased friend, the themes of his own writing over the years and what more can be said about "Love And War", or a very straightforward cataloging of his drug experiences and how they made sense at the time and how he moved on. Once a poet, now a storyteller. If he doesn't change his fickle mind and goes ahead and records this batch of great new songs, this could be the best new Neil Young album in quite a while.

You have to acknowledge this guy for the stubborn bastard he is. He will not budge an inch from where he thinks his muse is leading him at any given moment. At the same time, he will change direction on a dime and leave everyone around him high and dry if his intuition tells him that's what he must do. I'm sure it makes him hard to work with, but if you read between the lines in Shakey, what makes this artist tick is so obvious even his biographer misses it: not only is Neil Young an intense, curious, creative person, but he is also an epileptic. When he was younger, playing with Buffalo Springfield and CSNY, he was plagued with horrible seizures, often while he was onstage. It makes sense that rather than going the way of Ian Curtis, he decided long ago when he had achieved a certain level of success that he was not going to subject his nervous system to any stress by doing anything other than what is fulfilling him at this exact moment. This is how he functions. The rest of us either like what he's doing or we don't, but we don't have a say in what that is. We can only choose whether or not we want to witness his process. He's certainly done his part by keeping things interesting most of the time. Long may he run.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

R.I.P. Sugar Minott

In the early 80s, my late girlfriend Maati started working with Karen Lippmann, who did a radio show on KALX in Berkeley under the nom de dub of Jah Light, to promote local reggae shows at The Stone on Broadway. The first one was a stop on a tour that combined the talents of the legendary veteran reggae organist Jackie Mittoo with an up-and-coming roots/lover's rock artist named Sugar Minott. At the time, I was playing a lot with my roommate Alan Korn under the tentative band name PDR, which eventually evolved into X-tal. At this time, though, we are talking about a 2-track reel-to-reel and two guys who can't find a drummer but have a few ideas. Nothing special.

It so happens that Alan was a BIG fan of Sugar, especially his Lover's Rock showcase album, whose title song was pretty incredible, a gluey groove featuring a huge, warm blaring trumpet and Sugar's sweet, heartfelt croon. Somehow, due to Maati's instigation, Alan ended up driving Sugar and Jackie around San Francisco in his VW bug. He dared to play the visiting musicians a cassette of one of our early demos, a dub-flavored song I wrote about the Mission District called "Party In The Street" which you have never heard because...well, actually, it wasn't all that great, to tell the truth. BUT we had done a good recording with melodica and percussion overdubs. Apparently, Jackie listened and commented, "This sounds like the Clash!" A short while later, he added, "No! Better than the Clash!" which was certainly encouraging at the time.

Later, Maati gave the guys a ride in our trashed Plymouth Valiant station wagon, an oil and brake fluid-leaking monstrosity which we had just bought from Karen Jah Light for $100. Sugar and Jackie couldn't help making comparisons: "Didn't like that other cyaar. Now, THIS a good cyaar, mon!"

Anyhow, it was an incredible show all those years ago. Sugar went on to put out an intimidatingly large catalog of records, including the obscure but magnificent "Buy Off The Bar", (a real favorite in our Rough Trade days), "Four Wheel Wheelie", and the rootsy "Wicked A Go Feel It". I remember him as a nice, down-to-earth, sincere guy with a golden voice. Unlike some of his contemporaries like Gregory Isaacs, he wasn't particularly cool, suave, or sexy, just a regular dude from Trenchtown who sang like a dream.

Maati and Jackie left this plane years ago, and Sugar just followed in their footsteps this weekend. Thanks for the memories.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Painting The Devil's Office

You really need to acquaint yourselves with the brilliance of Rob K. Here is another song we shot at An Undisclosed Location from his in-progress song cycle about purgatory.

The introductory rap is priceless. "Life hands you lemons so you...commit a terrorist act." Yeah, this is how a LOT of people are feeling right now, is it not? This is an awesome song about the drudgery of labor and the inequalities of power. Again, Rob is ably supported by Mary and Debbie of the Contractions, along with his longtime crony, Mark Abramson. Rob is probably best known as the frontman of New York City's Workdogs, but his recent work isn't getting as much attention as it ought to. Here's a taste.

Now if he can just finish that new album. (Which may or may not include a sample from the Experimental Bunnies, by the way...)

Monday, July 5, 2010

Fool's Gold at the Mezzanine

Fool's Gold are a unique band from Los Angeles who combine many diverse strains of (mostly) African music, from the desert blues of Tinariwen to traces of Zimbabwean Chimurenga or Ethiopian sounds, with lyrics in various languages, primarily Hebrew. A real American band.

We shot this at the Mezzanine in San Francisco on May 26, 2009 when Fool's Gold opened for Sila & The Afro-Funk Experience, along with Diego's Umbrella. Enjoy.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Ear Candle Radio's Top 20: June 2010

Another month, another top 20. Another rare bootlegged outtake from the Stones' psychedelic period tops the chart; this time it's a mad Moroccan-Indian jam that shows they kept going long after the final edit that appears on Their Satanic Majesties Request. One of the interesting things about these session tapes is how noticeably in charge Keith Richards actually was during this project. No matter how trippy and exotic the results end up, each song is built on some snarly, droney, syncopated Keith riff, every bit as much as the songs on Exile On Main Street. Exhaustive, revelatory, and tedious by turns, The Satanic Sessions is an intriguing fly-on-the-wall document and a correction of revisionist rock history.

One of the Ramones' most exhilarating cover versions; drones, echoes, and affirmations from Yoko Ono; an eerie, mysterious Fall track from the 80s; David Bowie's best song from the 90s (just in time for the 4th of July!); an underrated, mellotron-flavored Kinks classic for cat lovers; Neo's favorite cover of "Hallelujah" (of course, he's a little biased since these are his boys!); the Minutemen's incomparable opening shot from their masterpiece Double Nickels On The Dime; a beautifully catchy and scathing a capella cover of a 19th century protest against the garment industry courtesy of Chumbawamba; expansive, spiritual, psychedelic jazz from Alice Coltrane and Pharaoh Sanders; an obscure, evocative grumble from Vivian Stanshall's rare solo album...

(Pausing to catch breath)

...mathematical bliss from the great composer Steve Reich; a bouncy pop song from Trader Horne (short-lived group featuring ex-members of Fairport Convention and Them); a lecture on economics and basic human needs from Fela Kuti; compulsive punk-soul from Detroit's mighty Dirtbombs; a multilingual flamenco-tango-chanson thing from SF's Rupa & The April Fishes (title means "I Am A Clown"); an exquisite folky number from Portland's Golden Bears (two ex-members of late great SF band the Quails...welcome back, Juliana and Seth!); a great song-poem bemoaning the state of human absurdity, which has only gotten more absurd since this recording was done some 40-odd years ago; Julie London's slow, seductive take on a 60s bubblegum hit; and finally, a good sarcastic pre-Lawrence vs. Texas protest song about the audacity of a state declaring themselves to be a place for lovers at the same time their legislature is taking way too much interest in what goes on in their citizens' bedrooms. (Presumably Virginia is a little bit safer for lovers these days...maybe.)

AAAAAAAAAAAAAND, that's the charts for this month! Keep on rockin' in the sort-of-free world!

1. The Rolling Stones - Gomper Part One (Takes 2 - 6) - The Satanic Sessions Vol 2
2. The Ramones - Do You Wanna Dance? - Rocket To Russia
3. Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band - Calling - Between My Head And The Sky
4. The Fall - Gross Chapel -- British Grenadiers - Bend Sinister
5. David Bowie - I'm Afraid Of Americans - Earthling
6. The Kinks - Phenomenal Cat - The Village Green Preservation Society
7. Conspiracy of Beards - Hallelujah - Demo CD
8. Minutemen - Anxious Mo-Fo - Double Nickels on the Dime
9. Chumbawamba - Poverty Knock - English Rebel Songs 1381-1984
10. Alice Coltrane - Isis And Osiris [Live] - Journey in Satchidananda
11. Vivian Stanshall - Strange Tongues - Men Opening Umbrellas Ahead
12. Steve Reich - Music For Mallet Instruments, Voices And Organ - Music for Mallet Instruments
13. Trader Horne - Better Than Today - Morning Way
14. Fela Kuti - Original Suffer Head - Original Suffer Head/I.T.T.
15. The Dirtbombs - The Thing - Ultraglide In Black
16. Rupa & The April Fishes - Soy Payaso - Este Mundo
17. The Golden Bears - You and All the Other Humans Like You - Wall to Wall
18. Norm Burns & Singers - Human Breakdown Of Absurdity - The American Song-poem Anthology: Do You Know The Difference Between Big Wood And Brush
19. Julie London - Yummy, Yummy, Yummy - Yummy, Yummy, Yummy
20. Black Angel's Death Song - Virginia Is For Lovers - Due Ragazze

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Winston Tong and LX Rudis

Former Tuxedo Moon collaborator, performance artist and San Francisco character Winston Tong is seen here at the Vortex on Sept. 11, 2008, accompanied by LX Rudis, a founding member of local synth-punk legends the Units, who went on to front Modmach, a band J Neo Marvin insists were even better even if they are less celebrated at the moment. Our camera caught these two weaving their spell. They need to do this more often.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

What Doghouse Reilly said

Yet another example of how our most astute commentators write their commentaries on blogs for free, while our paid press pundits type pablum that reads like hastily-written book reports by fifth graders with slightly larger vocabularies:
Well, y'know, maybe you Official Keepers of The Memory of 9/11 could try to recall that original rationale of the thing was to get bin-Laden and his three-dozen #2 men. And that Your Boy in the White House had seven years and unlimited black budgets to catch him, and failed. (I'm sorry. I know The Memory of 9/11 isn't suppose to evoke anything unpleasant.) In theory, anyway, if The Taliban had just handed over al-Qaeda before sundown, the way we demanded, we wouldn't have given a shit about how they treated their women. Or no more than we give about how our corporations and health care systems treat ours.
One more nail on the head:
I don't particularly care for the Taliban. In fact, I was making my objections known back when they were just subjugating women and destroying world heritage sites, the sort of shit you couldn't care less about...I just don't imagine--since I pretty much see it close up everyday--that the United States has the fucking answers, the capability of finding the answers, the political will to put those answers in place over the objections of Mitch McConnell or Glenn Beck, nor the ability to do so even if it did. And I think the record going back sixty years now is pretty clearly on my side.
Sometimes the most dangerous words in the English language are "We have to do something!" Well, we did something. How's that working for us now?

Monday, June 28, 2010

Why things are the way they are

As long as these guys and people like them are considered to be acceptable on the spectrum of mainstream America:

and this guy is considered to be part of the lunatic fringe:

America will never solve its problems. Period.

Big Sky feels sad when he sees the children scream and cry

About ten years ago, there was news of a reunion of the original lineup of the Kinks. Ray Davies, Dave Davies, Pete Quaife and Mick Avory would be playing some shows and recording a new album. Now, knowing how these reunions go, who knows how it might have turned out? All the same, how sad that right after the announcement, first Dave had his stroke, and now, Pete Quaife, who played bass during the Kinks' finest years, has passed on. Fate has never been good to the Kinks (why, even now, has no documentary been made worthy of the subject, unlike the Beatles, Who, Rolling Stones, Donovan, or so many other original "British Invasion" icons?), and the latest sad news is no exception.

A visibly moved Ray Davies was just captured at the Glastonbury Festival dedicating "Waterloo Sunset" and "Days" to his fallen former comrade, the guy who always played the mediator in a rabidly conflict-habituated but brilliant band until he quit because he was sick of the fighting. If anybody could have brought the other three together again, it would have been him.

We dedicate the Content Providers' cover of "Big Sky" (a song originally from his favorite Kinks album, The Village Green Preservation Society) to Mr. Quaife. Thank you for the bass lines (which were really quite nice and worthy of a little extra notice...time to pull those songs out again).

Scripture of the year

Thank you for your clarity, Fred Clark:
But knowing their hypocrisy, he said unto them, "Why are you putting me to the test? Bring me a dime and let me see it."

And they brought one. Then he said to them, "Whose head is this -- FDR's or Herbert Hoover's?"

They answered, "Roosevelt's."

And he said unto them, "Right. So shut up. Have you morons already forgotten the 20th Century? When the choice is between imitating what worked and what really, really didn't work, why are you pretending it's terribly complicated?"

And after that, no one dared to ask him any question.
New Deal Jesus kicks ass!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Search For The Sun

Found this while cleaning up old entries on defunct old blogs. It's a passage from the temporarily aborted punk rock memoir I was working on for a while and will one day resume work on. (Pauses, cocks ear to listen for clamor of eager readers begging for more...crickets chirping, tumbleweeds rolling past the window...OK, I'll check back later) Anyhow, this is the tale of how my late partner Maati Lyon ended up producing a classic anarcho-thrash album in 1983. Still a good story, worth rescuing from the far corners of the internet.

Crucifix were a group of young kids from the East Bay who had put out a couple of EPs on their own and appeared on the first Maximum Rock & Roll compilation. I'd seen them once at the On Broadway and heard some of their recordings, but they sounded like a big sloppy blur to me. Of all people, they had been chosen to be the first US release on the Crass-run Corpus Christi label. Crass had been looking for a band from the Bay Area that fit in with what they were doing.

"Why them and not, say, Social Unrest?" I asked.

Maati tossed her head dismissively. "Social Unrest are egomaniacs and they want too much money. Crucifix already have a rapport with Crass. They have the right kind of attitude." Her face suddenly lit up. "John Loder wants me to produce the album!"

"Wow." All I could think of was how cool it would be to see her name on an album cover. "You think you can get a good recording out of them?"

"You have to see them again. Wait till you hear the newest songs. And they're great people! They're just young boys, full of energy, but…really honest and respectful. Sothira was a refugee from Cambodia, did you know?"

"Really? So he actually knows a thing or two about war then, huh?"

"Exactly. He's not just another white suburban kid trying to look tough!" We were both getting fed up with the standard hardcore image: four muscular Caucasian boys barking orders at the world over a fast beat. It got monotonous very quickly.

"Well, if you say they're great, they probably are. I've always trusted your judgement."

"This is what I'm doing this for. You remember how we felt three years ago? First Reagan gets elected, then they shoot John Lennon a month later. It's not a coincidence."

"I certainly never thought so."

"Everything my generation worked for is being destroyed by these fuckers. I thought I was going to see something better than this in my thirties."

"Me too!" (I was 26 at the time.)

"And sure, it's great to have all these English people making a statement, but"…she flicked her wrist, indicating all the stacks of promos in the room. "Finally, here are some American kids. And they really rock. Maybe they can get across to the teenagers in this country now."

"They're that good, really?"

"Go see 'em again, Neo."

The hot, humid, smoke-filled interior of the Valencia Tool and Die was charged with energy. I was close to the stage, fending off the spiral of moshing kids behind me. I hardly noticed; I was so absorbed in the band. Sothira's raspy growl made it impossible to catch every word. (Comprehensibility was a common problem in thrashy punk bands with a message---some would attempt to remedy the situation by passing out lyric sheets at shows; others like Dave Dictor of MDC would actually recite a whole song as a spoken word piece and then the band would jump in and bash it out. Most just expected you to read their interviews, buy their records, and pay attention to what they had to say between songs. It was one of the unspoken punk rules: "Figure it out for yourself!") But certain phrases would pop out that made it clear where Crucifix were coming from: "These men! Bought by prejudice!" "Indochina! Lost forever!" "Youth! Violence! Youth! Don't! Fight!"

And the band was tight. Not quite stop-on-a-dime Minor Threat tight, but a unified roar that was fast and massive at the same time. Matt Borruso was an unbelievable bass player: strong and steady as a tree come to life, throwing out deep, monstrous riffs that grabbed you and pulled you into the current.

"This is our last song!" Sothira announced breathlessly. "It's called 'Stop Torture'!" The band crashed right in, faster and harder than ever, like "Ace Of Spades" played at triple speed, while Sothira ranted passionately, struggling to fit the syllables into the song. Suddenly they lurched into a slow, grinding Black Sabbath-like riff while Sothira railed, "US government-backed butchers! In the guise of friendly advisors! The friendly neighbor with a bloody trade!" then they returned to the fast verses and skidded off to a halt with one last shout of the title phrase. I was stunned and elated. Somebody finally got to the point and reduced the whole critique to a simple, perfect statement. Stop torture. Fuckin'-A. This is what rock and roll is supposed to do. Maati was right, as usual.

Maati and the band got to work, shopping around town for a studio and an engineer that could bring out the full force of their music. Crucifix's goal was to combine the speed and intensity of Discharge with the overwhelming, undeniable momentum of Motorhead. The winning candidate was a veteran English musician and recording wizard named Peter Miller, who had floated around the periphery of the music scene since the early '60s and had a passion for vintage rock & roll and vintage equipment. His own most recent self-released album was titled Pre-CBS, in honor of the guitars built by Fender before Leo Fender sold his company to CBS. A rock & roll "moldy fig" enamored with the technical minutiae of the past might have seemed an odd match for such a band, but Maati saw Peter as the perfect set of ears to see the project through.

The phone rang at Landers St. and I answered.

"Neo?" a familiar breathy female voice cooed.

"Maati! I haven't heard from you in a week! How are the sessions going?"

"I got so much to tell you. Why don't you come over right now? And bring a bottle of wine."

"Sounds good to me."

I arrived with a bottle of decent Valpolicella from around the corner and knocked.

"It's open." I entered to the sound of hyperfast instrumental thrash punk. "These are some basic tracks. That's all I've been able to bring home so far."

"It sounds even faster than they play live. How on earth is Sothira going to keep up with that?"

"Poor Sothira. He's a nervous wreck. He was supposed to finish the lyrics and he hasn't been able to. The others are getting really impatient, which obviously isn't helping."

"I didn't know there were songs that aren't finished. They seemed to have plenty of material when I saw them."

"Yeah, but they're not happy with all the songs. Now that Crass are involved…you know. Suddenly they're having more expectations put on them. But I think it'll be OK. I had them take a break and I took Sothira out for a walk. He needed some air. So I say to him, 'Look, you came here as a child from Cambodia. Your family escaped the Khmer Rouge and you lived here as refugees. But you haven't written about any of that yet. You have all these songs about war and prejudice and they're great, but maybe what's missing is your own story. All the people who come see your band don't have any idea of the things you've gone through. Why don't you try writing some songs about that? It might be what you're looking for.' And he was really listening. I think he'll come up with something good."

"'The personal is political', and all that?"

"Exactly." She paused. "This could be what I end up doing. I really like being in charge of a recording session. Being a record producer is a lot like being a teacher, and I always wanted to be a teacher." She focused her eyes on me. "You ever hear of the concept of 'right livelihood'?"


"You have to read more Buddhist books! You need to know about more things than just music! It means earning your living by doing things that are good for humanity. I want to make a positive impact on culture, and I like working with sincere young kids in bands. I can never decide what I want to do; maybe this is it! All I need is a good engineer. Peter is really cool and fun to work with."

She cranked up the volume on the cassette player. "Listen to that guitar sound. ADT really makes a difference. The sound is so big and full, they'll probably hate it at Maximum Rock & Roll," she grinned. "If it doesn't sound like shit, it's not real punk to them."

"It's gonna be an amazing record. I hope Sothira comes through with those lyrics. A well-told story is way better than a lecture."

Maati's pep talk was just what was needed. Sothira came back with "Another Mouth To Feed" ("from country to country/you're treated like shit/one camp to another/where do you fit?") and a rewrite of one of their most exciting live songs, a fast number with a catchy, lurching chorus, originally titled "Nobody's Fooled", now recast as "See Through Their Lies": "Slept under mosquito nets/we used kerosene lamps/I remember the discomfort/the air was so damp." On the front cover of the album was an image of a weary mother and a crying baby taken from Is Anyone Taking Any Notice?, a collection of horrifying pictures by the British war photojournalist Donald McCullin published in 1973. The book featured image after image of starving or disfigured children, dismembered corpses, desperate refugees, and other collateral damage from the ongoing global game where important men make important decisions and the human cost is hidden from the view of average citizens so as not to spoil their appetites over breakfast. The shot we chose was probably the mildest one of the lot.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Tin Sandwich!

A favorite moment from the extremely fun Conspiracy Of Beards end-of-season party at the Cyclone. These three gentlemen fix up one spicy sandwich.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Ladies And Gentlemen, The President Of The United States

Rachel delivers the speech Obama should have given. Brilliant.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Those are the Beards and that was New York

Some videos from the Conspiracy Of Beards' 2010 New York jaunt. Read all about the trip here.

A montage of images shot at the Chelsea Hotel to a performance of the song of that name at the Cafe Du Nord in San Francisco:

Crashing the Bowery party and singing for our juleps:

Practicing in the noisy park:

And as a bonus, an example of how the art of conversation is alive and well on the New York streets:

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Things we miss out on by avoiding Twitter

Ladies and gentlemen, please note the awesomeness that is FEMINIST HULK:


For more wisdom from a strong male role model for enlightened gender relations, go here.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Golden Seal

Here's a real find, some footage of two great departed reggae artists. Augustus Pablo, of course, was the genius who found the eerie heart of an unassuming little instrument called the melodica, and Hugh Mundell was the haunted-voiced teen prodigy who collaborated with Pablo on the ghostly Rasta protest album, Africa Must Be Free By 1983.

After cutting the album, Hugh ended up living in San Francisco for a time at a notorious punk rock house on Oak and Fillmore, along with some friends of ours, so we got to know him a little bit and caught a lot of his local gigs. He was still very young, but his voice was starting to deepen while retaining its childlike innocence. He seemed like a really nice kid.

Eventually, it was time for Hugh to go back to Jamaica. Maati and I had caught the news that Augustus Pablo was suffering from some sort of undiagnosed illness that wasn't being treated because he was a hardcore Rastafarian who had no use for Western medicine. We thought we ought to do something to help, so we bought a big bag of goldenseal at the health food store to give to Hugh with the instructions to make sure Pablo got it.

All too soon after that, we got the awful news that someone shot Hugh in his car in Kingston for reasons that have never been confirmed. We grieved for the boy we hardly knew who'd crossed our path, and we cursed the violence that robs us of so many who could give us all so much more. We wondered if he had ever had a chance to see Pablo before his senseless murder.

Many years later, a new Augustus Pablo album came out. One of the tracks was titled "Golden Seal". We were stunned. Thank you Hugh Mundell, and thank you Augustus Pablo. I hope we made some small difference in your all-too-short lives.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

BP: What Really Happened

They say laughter is healing. So bring it on.

Twin Human Highway Flares

We haven't been playing live much lately, but here's a recent solo performance of the Content Providers' cover of the incredible Mountain Goats song, "Twin Human Highway Flares", captured at the Harbin Hot Springs open mike. Thanks for putting this up, Davis!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Terese Taylor weekend

Terese Taylor is a friend of ours who writes compelling songs and performs them loudly and softly. Here's some of her work that we have shot over the years.

"Defrost" at the Zeitgeist, featuring San Francisco's beloved Tamale Lady:

"Had A Heart" at An Undisclosed Location (J Neo Marvin's 50th birthday celebration!)

"Hermit", a nicely jarring post-punk instrumental, from the same Undisclosed Location show:

"Call In Sick" at the Dolores Park Cafe, with guest violinist and puppy:

"Doesn't Shine" at the Zeitgeist:

And one from the Cafe Du Nord several years before. This one's a bit more fly-by-night casual as far as cinematography goes, but it's great anyhow, because it features one of her finest songs, "Goats For Daddy":

Monday, May 31, 2010

Ear Candle Radio's Top 20, May 2010

The clattering sounds of two giants jamming top our chart this month with John Cale and Terry Riley's Church Of Anthrax, followed closely by one of Neo's favorite Experimental Bunnies tracks, a barrelling gem from 21st century Wire, and a great Robert Wyatt song featuring the late Ivor Cutler smashing up the telly with what's left of the broken phone, and who can blame him after all? Leonard Cohen just nods and says "everybody knows".

We were very lucky to find a very rare vinyl copy of the Holy Sisters Of The Gaga Dada album and it's gratifying to see that Jill Fido's sultry psychedelic love ballad connects with our listeners, as do our own Granite Countertops and their smoochfest "Haystack". The Vivian Girls set the controls for the heart of the sun and ride a chord to infinity, while Slapp Happy's Dagmar Krause sings sweetly over a clattery VU-esque backing provided partly by Faust, who also make an appearance of their own with an extended epic jam.

Along with the Holy Sisters (as well as J Neo Marvin himself when you get right down to it), another group of veterans of the Santa Cruz scene are early 80s sax-bass-drums trio The Love Dogs. Dutch anarchist avant-gardeners The Ex show their quieter side, lo-fi wonders Wavves (who we first discovered via our sometime commenter Ian) make a showing with their catchy hit, Led Zeppelin appear from the distant past and still can't find the confounded bridge, SF's Society Of Rockets serve up some lush harmonies and promote new beginnings, and Robert Wyatt surfaces again with an expansive jazz setting of Alfie's poem about the woman wishing for wings.

Howlin' Wolf howls for his darling and, by proxy, for all of us and all of our darlings. Brian Eno and Cluster rhapsodize about the machinery, the Detroit Cobras put the pogo into the shing-a-ling, and Daoud & Saleh Al-Kuwaity represent the Iraqi sound.

That's it for this month. Keep listening!

1. John Cale & Terry Riley - Church Of Anthrax - Church Of Anthrax
2. The Experimental Bunnies - Uncertainty - Music For The Integrity Tone Scale
3. Wire - Our Time - Read & Burn 03
4. Robert Wyatt - Little Red Robin Hood Hit the Road - Rock Bottom
5. Leonard Cohen - Everybody Knows - The Essential Leonard Cohen
6. The Holy Sisters Of The Gaga Dada - Beside You - Let's Get Acquainted
7. The Granite Countertops - Haystack - Crashing Into The Future
8. Vivian Girls - Out For The Sun - Everything Goes Wrong
9. Slapp Happy - Blue Flower - Sort of...Slapp Happy
10. The Love Dogs - Oh, I Have To Think - The Love Dogs
11. The Ex - Oskar Beck - Dizzy Spells
12. Wavves - So Bored - Wavvves
13. Led Zeppelin - The Crunge - Houses Of The Holy
14. Society of Rockets - Circulate and Sing - Future Factory
15. Robert Wyatt - September The Ninth - Shleep
16. Howlin' Wolf - Howlin' For My Darling - Howlin' Wolf: His Best (Chess 50th Anniversary Collection)
17. Faust - No Harm - Faust/So Far
18. Eno, Moebius & Roedelius - The Belldog - After The Heat
19. The Detroit Cobras - Shout Bama Lama - Life, Love & Leaving
20. Daoud & Saleh Al-Kuwaity - Shwy shwy - Masters of Iraqi Music

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Red Devil Lounge Acts

We were at the Red Devil Lounge on Polk St. on April 11 with our cameras. Here's the best of what we got.

Deborah Crooks, "Let's Move":

Festizio, "Questions":

Monday, May 24, 2010

A mixture of greed and the smell of oil

The Rude Pundit cuts to the chase as usual:
The Rude Pundit can't get his mind around the fact that the well is still pouring out oil a month later. He can't grasp how BP executives haven't been arrested for, at the minimum, criminal negligence, if not manslaughter, and the well blown up and sealed. He can't understand why BP is even involved in any decision-making here, why any notion of protecting profits and shareholders has had any effect on the solution, why the Obama administration, the Army Corps of Engineers, fucking NOAA hasn't told BP to go fuck itself, that the well's not theirs anymore. And then order the Coast Guard to shoot on sight anyone from BP who gets near it.
But of course, it isn't playing out like that, and a major environmental crisis is metastasizing while we watch, helplessly, because nothing is more important than protecting the bottom line of a huge multinational corporation. I can't think of a more perfect example of our own profits-over-all system of laissez faire capitalism and where it leads. Our only hope of a solution is coming from a damn movie star. All right, Costner, you talk a good game. This better work.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

The intellectual guru of the loyal opposition

Some things you may not know about Ayn Rand.

Warning: not for the squeamish, but absolutely essential if you want to understand what's behind the philosophy of the self-anointed "Real Americans" our allegedly liberal press can't get enough of.

Hat tip to Amanda Marcotte at Pandagon, who offers a pointed argument on why we should keep a close watch on the Pauls, their followers, and their cracked belief system here. Winning comment on the thread, courtesy of Rick Massimo:
Libertarians try to make it sound like they’re explaining some complicated philosophy that hasn’t been tried before (or, alternately, a very simple philosophy that you’re too dense to understand). But they’re not. We tried it their way. It didn’t work. You could look it up.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Livin' in a world insane...!

As we continue our vintage punk binge...

Chris Bailey is one cool mofo.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Identity is the crisis, can't you see?

Look what I found while poking my nose around the internets: a video clip of X-Ray Spex in their prime, doing "Identity". All right!


"Later, Clifford learned that his classroom had been searched. Republicans who had attended the convention called Principal Mike McCarthy to complain about "anti-American" things they saw there, including a closed box containing copies of the U.S. Constitution that were published by the American Civil Liberties Union."

Why do Maine Republicans hate America?

Thought experiment

What if the teabaggers were black?

Friday, May 14, 2010

These are a fraction of my powers

One of my personal favorite performances that we have filmed. Rob K, formerly of the Workdogs, backed by the Contractions at An Undisclosed Location, doing "Bad Gita". This is a truly slinky, elegantly bad-ass song.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

I want one of these!

Years ago, I bought a khaen at an Oxfam fair in Berkeley. It's an awesome Southeast Asian wind instrument that sounds like a wheezy, twisted bamboo harmonica. You can hear it on some X-tal songs like Passing, A Lemon Song, and our cover of Crucifix's "Stop Torture".

Unfortunately, many years ago, I made the grievous error of leaving many of my instruments at the home of a certain self-destructive, self-absorbed singer-songwriter who shall remain nameless, and the khaen probably went up in flames along with her house later on.

I've been looking for a place that sells them in the Bay Area, but no luck so far. I'm a bit reluctant to order one online, sight unseen, because who knows if I'll be getting some crappy-sounding knockoff that's only good as a glorified decoration? (OK, I may be a bit paranoid.) But I want one of these again. Anybody out there have some recommendations on reputable khaen dealers?