Friday, December 30, 2016

New Oldies For Ear Canals

What once felt like a gridlock of rock albums during the Seventies and Eighties now appears to be an embarrassment of riches in terms of new albums and bands to discover now that there's very little new product grabbing your attention. I've just begun to discover all kinds of old treasures, and while I come off looking like Johnny-Come-Lately, I'll gladly accept that title with a smile on my face. What great new sounds await!

Here are some finds, some you may have enjoyed through the years, but new noise for my pink ears:

Fanny Hill (Fanny): Yes, I've always known about them and even bought their Casablanca Records single Butter Boy when it came out, but never really looked further into their albums. Big mistake, there's some great stuff going on here. Fanny Hill may be their best album of the bunch, featuring some great original songs and a legendary cover of The Beatles' Yellow Submarine song "Hey Bulldog".

Among the great originals are the Glam-Bowie /Suffragette City sounds of Borrowed Time, Nickey Barclay's great keyboard playing and soulful vocals on Blind Alley, and the overwrought soap opera drama of Knock On My Door. Great lyrics on that one! There will never be a complete Fanny reunion ever (Barclay's turned down several offers) but we'll always have this entertaining album to enjoy.

Faust IV (Faust): This may be their most accessible album (that's a good thing) and I hear a lot of Frank Zappa in Giggly Smile and some Joy Of A Toy-era Kevin Ayers in It's A Bit Of A Pain and Jennifer. Tracks definitely have more of an acid-drenched picnic vibe to them than on their other albums, and if you're normally afraid of Krautrock this is a good place to start. There's even a jazzy reggae number called The Sad Skinhead.

Huffin' Rag Blues (Nurse With Wound): How do you follow up several decades' worth of industrial skronk? How about releasing a lounge album with enough curve balls to drive you crazy? Well, Huffin' Rag Blues is all that and more. Favorite tracks include Thrill of Romance, Cruisin' For A Bruisin' for the car crash set, and the David Lynch-Julie London nightmare Wash The Dust From My Heart.

Other tracks I like from other scattered albums are The Bottom Feeder and Beetles Crawl Across My Back, definitely not so loungey as the Huffin' album but still pretty amazing stuff. Not for the weak of heart but ultimately rewarding, nevertheless.

Nurse With Wound is the brainchild of Steven Stapleton and he has collaborated with other legendary artists such as Stereolab and Faust, who really get around.

Black Antlers (Coil): It's feels weird hyping an album with a set of testicles on the cover, but when it sounds as outstanding as Black Antlers, nothing's going to stand in your way. A synth & electronics duo featuring Jhonn Balance and Peter Christopherson, the sonic landscapes created by the dearly departed duo have a cinematic intensity to them that you definitely need to check out.

Favorite tracks include Departed, Things We Never Had, the somber Teenage Lightning, and the title track. This is great music to get in your car and fly down the dark highway in the dead of night. This is very moody music best enjoyed for those days when the sun is nowhere to be found.

Subliminal Sandwich (Meat Beat Manifesto): Jack Dangers' electronic soundscapes run the gamut from downbeat to jazz to dubstep and beyond. Tracks like Transmission and She's Unreal have a sexy trance dancability to them, while tracks like Cancer offer bleak, dark urban soundtracks in the Blade Runner mode. Future World indeed!

There's some great listening to be had from these bands, and it's pretty sad that these artists never got the attention they truly deserved. Look into these albums or any other ones by these artists and you'll discover a brave new world of insane sonics guaranteed to crack your brain open like a pink porcelain piggy bank!

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Suburban Adam and Eve

There were green lawns with sprinklers
shooting water towards the azure sky
Spanish tile towered with television antennae gables
tropical palm trees swaying in the soft wind
blowing away dark gray clouds coughing out of battered station wagons

Things were cool when I was sixteen years old
there was the girl, with her long, dark, wet brown hair
which often fell into her dark, wet brown eyes
she gave me a dark brown smile and said,
“Wait a minute”

she climbed over the backyard fence
and I waited
I heard her voice over the fence,
“well come on”
I climbed over the fence too

she stood next to her neighbor’s peach tree
she pulled off a peach and handed it to me
“Bite” she said

I bit into the soft flesh of the fuzzy fruit
The juice ran all over my hands
she took my hands holding the bleeding fruit

She bit deep into the fuzzy peach
her eyes boring into me
her warm, hungry, brown eyes not moving away from me
the stare of a tiger
the stare of a wolf

This is the way it began
and this is the way it goes on
Even in suburban Culver City

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Lovers Come and Gone

The world is full of love songs about people you love madly and the ones that broke your heart and the ones you drop as well as the ones that drop you in return, and…it got me to thinking. I want to talk about the loves I’ve had in the past. Real and imagined (the imagined ones can be defined as Internet Lolitas with the accent on the first three letters LOL).

There are the girls you ran after and the ones that ran after you. You worried about looking like a stalker when you ran after that girl, but when a girl runs after you she makes no bones about the fact that she’s stalking you. She’ll even tell you straight out, “I’m stalking you”. “Don’t you wish you never met her”, as PJ Harvey sang in Rid Of Me. Well, sometimes. It’s sexy when it’s the girl you want, but if she’s not then it’s a scene from Play Misty For Me, all signs of manic desire, obsession, unhealthy fixation, so on and so forth.

But I digress: I’m driving up Pacific Coast Highway making a delivery, staring at the big, blue waves and listening to The Flying Burrito Brothers. Feeling like such a California boy. “She’s the devil in disguise, she’s been telling dirty lies…she calls me ‘The Man In The Fog’, ‘Take me’, she says, ‘Just one time’”.

I think about the Jim Jarmusch film Broken Flowers, where he visits a few of his ex-girlfriends to find out who is the mother of his only child. In his quest for the mystery woman we see him visiting a biker mama, a high-strung animal psychiatrist, a reformed hippie turned Stepford Wife, and an over the hill dragstrip queen.

None of the women are connected in any way, and collectively represent the phases of his life and what interested him most at that time about women. I think we’re all like that in many ways, and in that respect I can say that what interested me in a woman thirty years ago would never interest me now, because I’ve changed. I think we’re all like that; we change our taste in people, as we do in music or films.

People search endlessly for someone to love, not because they lack independence, but because who they choose to be with marks a milestone in their life. To live an entire life without love is a life lived without reference or signposts.

But I digress: Drove for 11 hours straight yesterday, and the last job was delivering some fashion over the hill from Laurel Canyon. It was pitch black and I was already tired and felt myself floating in the darkness up the canyon and when the job was done I drove back down the canyon, floating in the darkness and feeling like a Laurel Canyon ghost. It was a beautiful feeling.

There were the girls that made me cry and the ones I made cry, but above all the ones that gave me fire, inspired me, great pretenders of the muse…some of them were the real thing and others who just didn’t have it.

I think about people who have love all the time and others who never get any, and even worse, the ones who have to fight for it, like beggars in a tent camp. Do the people who never have love dream pleasant dreams or is life just a long nightmare for them? I wonder.

P.S. Many of the girls I've loved are either still single, a few are divorced, and most of them have gone mad. What’s it all about? You will know love and love will drive you mad, but loneliness is worse.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Does This World Make Me Look Flat?

When I was a kid I went to my music school's talent show. It was a fairly dull affair; lots of classical piano pieces, a homely girl on clarinet, even some operatic aria.

Just when all seemed lost, however, the big finale was worth the trip: ten boys and girls came out with electric guitars and music stands to perform Heartbreak Hotel. It was absolutely glorious. Half the guitars were out of tune, louder than sin and no one played in time with each other. It was the most no wave thing I ever heard, DNA, Mars and Theoretical Girls be damned.

On a separate note, I don’t need to go into laborious detail about the bizarre victory of a highly unstable and unqualified man for the most coveted position in the free world, the President of the soon to not be United States. Get ready to see reversals of everything resembling remedial thought, including the concept of the World being flat. Science, along with our natural resources will be taking quite a beating for the next four years. I’m sure even Isaac Newton’s theory of gravity will be destroyed by these imbeciles in the years to come. No one is safe.

How will that affect art for the next four years? I suspect that there will be a lot of artists playing it safe out of fear of the new bully regime. On the other hand I suspect we’ll see more Joel Greys than ever, artists becoming more decadent and defiant as a form of revolution.

On the way home from the psychedelic dance party I had to drive through Skid Row. In the middle of the street was this girl who looked like Cissy Spacek all covered in blood a la Carrie. She was looking for her other sneaker. When she saw my car slowly crawling she made this intolerant Aileen Wuornos face and threw her arms up to wave me through. If I could put subtitles under her it would be "WAIL CUM ON, SPORT!"

Am I the only one who nurses a strange nostalgia for obscurity? Thanks to the internet, nothing can honestly be branded as obscure anymore. What I’m referring to is a day and age in my childhood where tons of data couldn’t be gleaned from a computer and had to be simply discovered. Case in point, when I’d take a bus up to Hollywood Boulevard and I’d walk up and down the street and its many side streets, an endless labyrinth of old pulp magazine stores, magic shops, stores specializing in Eastern herbs (not yet approaching the mainstream as this was 1966), and even the odd witchcraft store with black candles. Bereft of any advertising, one had to roam through the Hollywood jungle to discover all these esoteric shops.

But all the mystery and kink of Hollywood Boulevard is gone, now, it’s just a jumped up Disneyland for tourists with the odd teen runaway wearing a Misfits t-shirt. Kids nowadays don’t even have a clue who Sid Vicious is, even. That might be a good thing. Maybe Sid can finally rest in peace.

Speaking of Syd I’ve posted a picture of the late Syd Barrett in the autumn of his years. I find the photo interesting, probably because the resemblance to Brian Eno is more than coincidental. Barrett was definitely a big influence on Eno during his Taking Tiger Mountain/Another Green World period, China My China and Third Uncle, for example. Kink and mystery, kink and mystery…it’s all over now.

Guitar art by Tim Biskup; DJ picture by Chris Reccardi.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Quark, Strangeness & Charm

I'm not one to obsess much over milestones because it's a game one can play indefinitely ("The 50th Anniversary of Sgt. Peppers", "The 70th Anniversary of Hiroshima", etc.), but I'll break my rule and let you know that this Monday, October 31st, will be my 60th birthday. Sixty years of...quark, strangeness and charm (thanks, Hawkwind).

This week also marks the 60th Anniversary of the Hungarian Revolution, where I was born. I find it ironic that there was fighting in the streets as I was born, and that the cacophony of street fighting somewhat influenced me into a life-long love for playing free jazz and other areas of improvisational music. By my parents' account, I was smuggled out of the country as they escaped to the USA. Contraband is my middle name.

Now that I've turned 60 I have to confess that I've started moving slower for things. I no longer run for anything - I just take my time. I've been here long enough. What's the point of running for anything? I've seen enough shit to know how things will turn out.

But in essence the importance of getting older is that there's less a feeling of guilt in general. I find it harder and harder to feel bad about anything. And even worse, I find my self-esteem rising higher and higher. I really like myself and all the things that I've done. I've lost all sense of shame. I won't dwell on self-hatred.

But all kidding aside, I've done just about everything I've ever wanted to do. I was a rock musician, touring the country and recording several albums; I've designed and made my own fashions, many of which have been featured on this blog; I worked for every strata of American government (Fed, State, County and City); I've done private investigative work, and now I'm doing what I love best, writing punk rock crime novels. If I died tomorrow I couldn't ask for a refund. I got on all the rides.

For the celebrity obsessed I've shaken hands with John Cassavetes, helped Harrison Ford at the election polls, hugged Raquel Welch, attended Julie Newmar's birthday party at her home, attended Gene Simmons' own 60th private birthday party, hung out with Iggy Pop and Shaun Cassidy at Rodney's, danced with Patti Smith and made Sun Ra smile. Yeah, I got on all the rides.

I don't cry much over terrible things that have happened in the past. Crying isn't really that cathartic and I prefer to just keep moving. anyway. My pain is a luxury I can't afford. Life is mostly loss, anyway. You lose friends who decide they hate you. You lose parents who pass away.

So what's it all about? Sex and death. Sex - getting it, dodging it from lecherous men, singing about it, writing about it - by the way, writing sex scenes in my books have always been the easiest part of my books. I don't get writers who can't knock out a decent sex scene in their novels. If you like sex then writing about it's the easiest task in the world.

Death, not just the end of mortality but the end of friendships, relationships, marriages, i.e. anything that entails someone yelling FUCK YOU as a parting shot. Life is filled with a lot of that, sometimes just a wee bit too much of it. For fuck's sake.

But still, what's it all about? I don't know. I just keep writing about people doing bad things to each other, laughing my ass off as I type away. And this week I'm listening to The Slits...Ari Up, passed away six years ago this week...Who invented the typical girl? Do a runner, do a runner....and then I hear the answer. In the beginning there was rhythm. Silence is a rhythm too>>>>>.