MORE INKLINGS, MORE MUSINGS (Vol. 6, No. 327)

Johnny Cooper, Johnny Devlin, Bill Orcutt, Harry Pussy, Magik Markers, Nirvana, Les Rallizes Denudes, Van Halen, Xosar, Hijokaidan, Chuck Dukowski, DJ Spooky, and even more Inklings & Musings

From the New Zealand Herald, a pretty intense Kiwi Rock’n’Roll Primer, starting with Johnny Cooper and Johnny Devlin in the 1950s (the latter’s rather raw version of Elvis’s “Lawdy Miss Clawdy” went to #1 in New Zealand in 1958 without radio airplay), and ending with a Chills reunion that took place in 2003, the year the article was published.

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Chewing on Coley’s one-sheet for the recent Bill Orcutt LP Reasons I Am Great. Food for thought: “A lot of musicians have tried this in little spurts over the years, taking extremely familiar musical themes and using them as crowbars to break into the minds of squares who would otherwise deny them entry, but this never seemed to be Orcutt’s motive. It always felt more like he was doing something sculptural, like Ed Keinholz or George Herms -- taking objects so banal they existed almost entirely on a subconscious level, and using those as the building material for a whole new language of guitar gesticulation.”

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Speaking of Orcutt, Harry Pussy representation on Spotify is so clean and simple, just like an Orcutt cover design: only three albums, What Was Music? (the 1995 CD on Siltbreeze that compiles most/all of their early 7-inches, EPs, and comp tracks), Ride a Dove (from 1996, their last record on Siltbreeze, a Life with the Lions-style single-track sound collage that messed everybody’s head up in a completely different way than previous Harry Pussy releases had, which was already considerable), and the 2008 archival “LIVE, ETC 1997” release You’ll Never Play This Town Again, as recently discussed in an issue of this very newsletter.

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Is it just me, or is the writing on the Magik Markers’ Wikipedia page pretty darn odd? For example, it has this to say about the Markers’ 2008 CD release Gucci Rapidshare Download: “In the same way the Magik Markers have at times blurred the line between performer and audience live, here they have attempted to switch out the authority of the producer and creator with the perceived ownership of the listener. Though [sic] no effort of the people who originally created it, music that was intended to be temporal, such as performance, or a cdr duct taped to a piece of cardboard, has become digitally permanent and musical recordings intended to be 'permanent' pieces have become disposable through the authority of the listener. The cd cover features a christ-like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar floating to a rookie dunk shot and a faceless picture of Elisa and Pete by a dumpster, making passionate love. In addition to the Markers, longtime collaborator Ben Chasny played, plus Joshua Burkett guested and John Shaw also plays on the record. Production is co-credited to Elisa Ambrogio and Ben Chasny. [citation needed]”

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You know what rules? The set Nirvana played at their own Rock’n’Roll Hall of Fame Induction party back in 2014. Krist Novoselic on bass, Pat Smear on guitar, and Dave Grohl on drums, playing four songs with four different guest lead vocalists replacing the dear departed Kurt Cobain. All are great. Joan Jett starts off with “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” and Joan is cool and heavy (I absolutely agree with Krist Novoselic when he says she should also be in the Rock’n’Roll Hall of Fame, for the Runaways alone), and even better, the band really sounds good. Great to hear Grohl playing those amazing drum parts he wrote for In Utero again, and at full blast. (I fully believe the last good record Grohl played on is In Utero. Okay, maybe the Probot album.) Next is Kim Gordon singing “Aneurysm,” and there are so many bros in the comments section complaining about her performance, and it is certainly a very weird, very challenging, and very great performance. Very rock’n’roll too, remember Darby Crash? A few bros make the joke that she sings like she’s actually having an aneurysm, and I’m like, yeah, exactly! Life is stressful! And this is challenging rock’n’roll music! I mean, just look at her mic stance throughout! She’s the best of the four at throwing shapes! Just look at her punch the air during the incredible breakdown the band plays starting at the 18-minute mark in the embedded clip… the way Novoselic sits out a few measures, then brings that creeper bass line in before the band tears back into the riff and Gordon overtone-screams… so good. Then Annie Clark of St. Vincent comes out and sings and plays guitar on “Lithium,” one of Kurt’s greatest pop songs, and does very well by it. Pretty low-key, love her stoic performance style, and it really comes together on the “I like it/I’m not gonna crack” bridge. Then the last song is “All Apologies,” and the guest lead singer is the lovely Lorde from New Zealand, who looks resplendent and sings beautifully; Novoselic switches to accordion, and the other three guests also come back out, Clark and Jett on guitar, and Gordon plays a killer bass line. I really do love this set.

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This Aquarium Drunkard interview with “the Japanese Ry Cooder,” Makoto Kubota, sheds some light on something I had always wanted to understand just a little more deeply, the making of one of my favorite 18-minute blocks of music ever recorded, the five songs that make up the theoretical “side one” of the theoretical Mizutani album by Les Rallizes Denudes. If you’re hanging with me this deep into a Blastitude newsletter, you probably already have at least a passing familiarity with the Japanese band Les Rallizes Denudes and their spaced-out scorching brand of troglodytic 1970s no-mind no-scene no-rehearsal VU/feedback psychedelic rock. If so, are you familiar with their never-released and only-bootlegged Mizutani album? A rare studio session for the band, recorded in 1970, bootlegged in 1991 as a CD that has since sold for $800 on Discogs? These songs present the band in an extremely different fashion, much lighter and softer in tone, in fact like an accomplished post-“Ipanema” bossa-nova folk-rock. Still very mysterious, but if the rest of their career is one “Sister Ray” after another, Mizutani is absolutely their ‘VU’s 3rd’. The “band” for these sessions was a very sparse trio: Takashi Mizutani of course, because he is the legendary leader of Les Rallizes Denudes, on vocals and electric guitar, one Tadanaka Makino on very delicate percussion (no trap set), and the aforementioned Makoto Kubota on guitar and bass (I’m guessing the musical director and arranger of the session, and the sole reason for the uncharacteristically skillful presentation).

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This 1981 Van Halen performance of “Mean Street,” a lip-sync for Italian television… man, this was a great band. It’s not just the music, it’s the moves too! Eddie was a triple threat! Playing, singing, and dancing! And when I say dancing, I mean it. His trademark scissor kicks alone, but the spin moves and shuffle steps too, often while holding down killer rhythm guitar and harmony background vocals. I know this is a lip-sync but there’s plenty of YouTube evidence of him doing it all the way live. Not to mention that his singing is so underrated and unassuming, uncanny in how solidly he plays the middle Crosby role to Roth’s Stills and Anthony’s Nash. (And by the way, which of these two California sunshine pop vocal trios sold more millions of albums? Hint: Neither Crosby, Stills, nor Nash were in it.)

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Going down a couple different Ron Morelli/L.I.E.S. rabbit holes and ending up on this exquisite Boiler Room festival set by L.I.E.S. recording artist Xosar aka Sheela Rahman. Apparently this set was busted out on last-minute borrowed equipment which makes her appearance of regal confidence and mastery (in what has got to be one of the more awkwardly punisher-ridden DJ situations in music history) all the more impressive.

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Interview with Hakim Jami in Three Fold Press, an impressive new in-house arts journal from Detroit’s venue/gallery/lounge/cultural center Trinosophes. Hakim Jami is a jazz bassist from Detroit and one of those mostly unknown but deep internal movers and shakers, as this fascinating interview reveals.

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God Bless Junko Hiroshige And All Who Sail With Her (Editing Cadence A Little Too Frisky Tho)

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So interesting how the acronym USBM has evolved to mean not only “United States Black Metal,” but also “United States Barista Metal,” “United States Brewpub Metal,” and “United States Brunch Metal.” (Me, actually. I would’ve thought.)

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After seeing Steve McQueen’s sublime film and hearing those grooves in my head all day long, now I’m actually hearing Neil Young’s (sublime late mid-period song/masterpiece) “Harvest Moon” as American Lovers Rock. (It’s American Lovers Rock, and therefore not reggae.)

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There’s so much that is hilarious about Chuck Dukowski’s solo acoustic performance of the “SWA Manifesto,” track 6 out of 84 (!) on the mind-blowing 1983 2LP spoken word compilation English As A Second Language. I wish I could link to this version of the “SWA Manifesto,” instead of this completely different, less funny, and more traditionally manifesto-like version, also delivered solo by Dukowski, that was on a different 2LP comp, also produced by Harvey Kubernik.

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And speaking of that utterly sick English as a Second Language double LP (back in 1985 it made the Washington Post!), I was listening to it just now via this tape I made at least 20 years ago, while living in your basic pre-9/11 boho college-town situation in Lincoln, Nebraska. My then-roommate found a copy somewhere in the pre-internet used bins of Lincoln (an eye-catching record, with that Pettibon cover and insane track list), snapped it up, and brought it home, having a special interest as the host of a late-night spoken-word show on KRNU, the University of Nebraska radio station, and always on the lookout for what we now call “content,” of which this spoken-word-and-beyond compilation promised much of. We listened to it in awe, and about halfway through, I grabbed the nearest tape I could find that I didn’t really care about, which happened to be a TDK SA90 with R.E.M.’s Murmur on one side and Lifes Rich Pageant on the other (sooooo boho). It’s not that I didn’t like R.E.M., they rule forever (back off tough guy), but because, since making the tape, I had found used copies of both records at supercheap 1990s prices. So we licked the English as a Second Language 2LP back and played it again from the beginning, this time selectively taping some highlights over the top of Murmur. And now, some 22 years later, I'm listening to those highlights, mind-blowing short pieces by Richard Meltzer, Charles Bukowski, Wanda Coleman, the aforementioned Chuck Dukowski, Mike Watt, John Doe, etc. At the time I selected 19 tracks, which sounds like a lot, but they’re almost all very short, and even 19 only fill half of one side of the SA90. At that point the tape reverted back to Murmur, a perfect leap right into the beginning of track 7 “Catapult.” The song played all the way through, but then, mere seconds into track 8 “Sitting Still,” instead of letting the remainder of Murmur stand, I apparently decided to head into mixtape territory and kept throwing random new stuff on. (These were the days when I’d fill up C90 after C90 pulling random tracks from my stacks, all “for the car.” And by random, I mean that I used a random number generator to choose the next LP or CD from the respective stack, and then again to choose which track on that LP or CD was going on the tape. My random number generator was a copy of The Holy Bible. Works pretty well, actually; just flip open to a random page, and the first small-print verse number your eyes focus on is your random number. If I focused on, say, verse number 25, and the LP or CD in question only had, say, 10 tracks, I would add the two digits together to get the random number I needed, in this example 2+5 means track 7 goes on the randomized mix tape.) The track I used to re-interrupt Murmur is seriously one of my all-time favorite songs, one I was just thinking of a couple weeks ago because of a link I clicked on, now strangely pertinent due to the parenthetical comments I just finished writing, “B.I.B.L.E. (Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth)” by GZA. After that classic (“why should you die to go to heaven?/The earth is already in space”) I added an electronic instrumental, definitely not by The GZA, more in a new-age pastoral style, and I’m really not sure who it is because I only wrote down the English as a Second Language tracks, but it might be like 90s Brian Eno? (Edit: I realized I could use my phone to identify these songs, and it’s “#20” by Aphex Twin from Selected Ambient Works II.) After that, the mix doesn’t try too hard and just goes back to Liquid Swords by the GZA for the track “Labels,” which is a fun one, and then maybe the first 45 seconds of “Cold World,” when suddenly a new track abruptly slices in from side two of Rembrandt Pussyhorse by The Butthole Surfers, in media res, the insane final seconds of “Perry” followed by the whole of the next track, the glorious and terrifying “Whirling Hall of Knives” (have you heard this track lately?? even more psychotronic and one-of-a-kind than I’d remembered). Then, filling up the rest of the tape side (only a minute or so), I cutely select a track by DJ Spooky from the Songs of a Dead Dreamer CD. That’s still the only album by DJ Spooky I’ve ever heard. I actually really liked it at the time, and it’s sounding great right now, not gonna lie. Haha, I flipped the tape over, and instead of it being Lifes Rich Pageant as labelled, I kept the mix tape going. In fact, I kept the same DJ Spooky track going! I figured out which one, it’s “Galactic Funk,” which is followed by Sebadoh “Holy Picture” (Eric Gaffney track from Sebadoh III), more DJ Spooky with “High Density” (another great track, maybe his very best track, and strangely not on the Spotify version of Songs of a Dead Dreamer), The GZA “B.I.B.L.E.” track begins again but after a few seconds is hijacked absurdly by the Dead C “Sunshine/Dirt For Harry” from the Clyma Est Mort LP, then another Spooky track “Hologrammic Dub,” then “Blast Off!” by The Monks (which I also had to use my phone to identify), and then “Running Away Into You” by John Frusciante (from the essential Niandra Ladies and Usually Just a T-Shirt album), and then a very 90s indie rock (Crank! label even) song I love, and totally forgot about, “Inflated Passions” by The Regrets, and then more Monks (this time I know it’s them), the track is “Love Came Tumblin’ Down” (still need my phone to figure that out), then some very-90s garage-punk with gross lyrics (the dude actually says “f*** me hard” and then that phrase turns into a weird background football chant by a buncha dudes, who the hell is this and why did I put it on this tape?) that even my phone can’t recognize (I’m worried now it’s someone I was personally acquainted with and we traded our own band’s music, and that’s how they randomized their way onto this tape), and then another Frusciante track from Niandra Ladies, and I realize I must’ve just been taping my 5-disc CD changer set on “shuffle all,” and I happened to have DJ Spooky, Sebadoh, The GZA, The Monks, The Regrets, John Frusciante, and even more going in and out of the player, including that bad garage rock track, occasionally interrupted by what was on the turntable instead of the CD player. Anyway, thanks 25 years ago me, half my life ago, for making future me (now present me) this (almost entirely) excellent mixtape! Talk about “the present”! Merry Christmas indeed! (More like Happy New Year, amirite 2020?)

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P.S. New Bob Dylan rules, right down to DIY Photoshop cover design. “I sing the songs of experience like William Blake/I have no apologies to make/Everything's flowing all at the same time/I live on the boulevard of crime/I drive fast cars, and I eat fast foods/I contain multitudes.”