Saturday, December 5, 2015

Ear Candle Radio's Top 20 for November 2015

1. McCarthy - Nobody Could Care Less About Your Private Lives - Banking Violence and the Inner Life Today
2. Systemwide - Earshot - Sirius
3. Althea and Donna - Uptown Top Ranking - The Story of Jamaican Music: Tougher Than Tough Disc 3
4. With the Dinosaur - The Floor is Lava - With the Dinosaur
5. Thee Oh Sees - No Spell - Floating Coffin
6. Killing Joke - Turn To Red - Wild Dub: Dread Meets Punk Rocker
7. The Fleshtones - Hexbreaker - HEXBREAKER!
8. The Esso Trinidad Steel Band - If You Let Me Make Love To You Then Why Can't I Touch You? - The Esso Trinidad Steel Band
9. The Staple Singers - Long Walk To D.C. - The Very Best Of The Staple Singers
10. The Holy Sisters Of The Gaga Dada - Paranoid - Radio Tokyo Tapes Vol. 4 - Women
11. Augustus Pablo - Natural Way - East Of The River Nile
12. Y Pants - Off The Hook - Y Pants
13. The Rolling Stones - Mercy Mercy - Out Of Our Heads
14. Steve Mackay - Lament For The Leaving Of The Isle Of Lewis - Sometimes Like This I Talk
15. The Stooges - Lost In The Future [Take 1] - Fun House
16. Trader Horne - Luke That Never Was - Morning Way ...Plus
17. Van Morrison - Ring Worm - Contractual Obligations
18. Chris Knox - Song For 1990 - Song For 1990
19. Robert Wyatt and the SWAPO Singers - The Wind of Change - The Wind of Change
20. The Birds - No Good Without You - Collectors' Guide to Rare British Birds

A little late this month. We've been busy! Stay tuned in December for tons of new songs!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Visit the new Ear Candle Productions site

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

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

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Ear Candle Radio's Top 20 for October 2015

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

Saturday, October 10, 2015

The Granite Countertops - High Definition

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

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Ear Candle Radio's Top 20 for September 2015

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

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Ear Candle Radio's Top 20 for August 2015

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

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

Sunday, August 30, 2015

The Tiger's Dream

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

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

Falling Into Place

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

Tuesday, August 18, 2015


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

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

The New Klondike Loop

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

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

Get your Bunnies At Large here.

The Rooster's Dream

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

Get your Bunnies At Large here.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

What's happening with Ear Candle Radio?

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

Brain In A Chair: The Video

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

Move This Monster

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

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Ear Candle Radio's Top 20 for July 2015

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

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Ear Candle Radio's Top 20 for June 2015

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

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Ear Candle Radio's Top 20 for May 2015

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

Friday, May 1, 2015

Ear Candle Radio's Top 20 for April 2015

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

Friday, April 3, 2015

Ear Candle Radio's Top 20 for March 2015

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

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Just like spring rain

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Ear Candle Radio's Top 20 for February 2015

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

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

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Ear Candle Radio's Top 20 for January 2015

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

Sunday, January 25, 2015

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

Empathy For The Evil

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

I've Always Been On Fire

Dirt EP

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

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

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

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

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

Coming up: Reviews of 2014

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

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Ear Candle Radio's Top 20 for December 2014

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