(MORE) STUFFS & THINGS & THINGS & STUFF (STTS-02)
Circuit des Yeux, Ennio Morricone, ZZ Top, Surfers:Beatles::SCG:Stones::Pups:Dylan, Alice Coltrane, Tom Recchion, Caroline K, Western Automatic, Nirvana, Elvin Jones, Angel Bat Dawid, La Monte Young
Whoah, Haley Fohr aka Circuit des Yeux with brand new fresh and heavy next-level propulsive film music styles, just in time for Matador Records… and that deck chair with the Dunkin Donuts (?!) iced coffee persona is killing me right now…
Speaking of film music, I’ve finally decided on my all-time favorite Ennio Morricone OST (for this week anyway): A Lizard in Woman’s Skin (1971, d. Lucio Fulci). Also one of the grossest-titled Morricone OSTs, but I’m here to talk about the music, which is no less than the true apotheosis of what we really do call “crime jazz,” still very modern sounding even today, and right there with some of the most adventurous underground music recorded at the time, such as Can, whose Tago Mago was also released in 1971, as was Miles Davis’s Jack Johnson OST. In fact, I think that at this very moment I’m realizing that Miles (or maybe just his bassist Michael Henderson given a little free reign) might have completely ripped off the bassline from the last half of Morricone’s “Silenzio nel caos” (from 1970’s Bird with the Crystal Plumage, d. Dario Argento) for the first half of Jack Johnson’s “Yesternow.” The chronology would make it possible, and jazz musicians were probably also catching sexy Italian movies at the cinema now and then like everybody else, right? Regardless, I’m sure Miles and Ennio were both big fans of the other’s work. Morricone was a trumpet player after all, and everyone is a Morricone fan, even people who don’t know his name. His body of work is staggering. It’s like if the Beatles had made 200 albums.
Man, this is ZZ Top in 2010 at something called the Crossroads Eric Clapton Guitar Festival and who cares if it’s late-period, oldies circuit, literally 27 years and counting after they had last made a classic album: they sound fantastic. They get introduced, stroll right out, and within less than 2 seconds lay right into “Waitin’ on the Bus” and it’s just funky as hell and the power trio alchemy is so heavy. (RIP Dusty.) Not to mention, Billy Gibbon's voice at age 61 seems to be getting even deeper into bulk viscosity (i.e. it’s gnarlier than ever). He does kinda mess up his guitar-move on the whole big dramatic pause out of the solo section though!
Whoah, just imagined Butthole Surfers/Sun City Girls/Meat Puppets as the Beatles/Stones/Dylan of American post-punk madness, like Butthole Surfers:Beatles::Sun City Girls:Stones::Meat Puppets:Dylan. Extrapolating from there, Psychic Powerless:Revolver::Locust Abortion Technician:Sgt. Pepper, or Torch of the Mystics:Let it Bleed::Live at Planet Boomerang:Exile on Main Street, stuff like that, whereas with Meat Puppets:Bob Dylan it’s not so much album-to-album as trajectory-to-trajectory: both of them stared into the respective (early 80s:late 60s) terrifying abyss they’d self-rended into the psychic fabric of the universe, and retreated (with success) from said brink back into poetic country rock.
On my last check-in with the real Satchmo, aka Journey in Satchidananda by Alice Coltrane, an album I love so much I can spell the name correctly from memory, I was head-over-heels for Cecil McBee’s masterful bass-playing, which I’m still loving today (really nimble but subtle stuff going on in “Shiva-Loka,” for example), but this time I’m also really understanding for the first time the reason Pharoah Sanders’s playing is so lovely and gentle on this record is that he plays only soprano sax throughout, never once using his signature tenor sax and its attendant gut-splitting proto-Brotzmann tones. I haven’t looked too closely at Pharoah’s discography, but from what I can tell in 1970, the year this album was released, an exclusive soprano sax album might’ve been a first for Sanders. As for the sounds: yes, his soprano playing is more traditionally melodic and lyrical than his tenor playing, although a few times on here he goes into very fast runs over relatively small groups of wide-interval notes, achieving a fractal free-fall structure that, despite its lightness, ends up in the same place as his tenor’s inner-core white-out overblow approach does, which is to say: quantum physics.
And now I’m over here practically swooning when I think of the material on Tom Recchion’s archival 1996 CD Chaotica being recorded in 1985-1986, and Caroline K’s Now Wait For Last Year being recorded (and released on vinyl) the very next year in 1987, and how both releases are basically sui generis but could still be aligned with the 1980s industrial music genre. Industrial music is its own very strong thing within post-punk, amalgamating not only 1980s punk, dance, and goth music but also 1980s noise, ambient, and experimental music, and all the cross-cross-pollinations thereof. What’s more, the early and very noisy development of Throbbing Gristle (not to mention that of even earlier groups like Intersystems) fully predates the punk rock we know from 1977. Proto-post-punk is a real thing, pre-1977 music that completely overrides the need for punk and is already embracing a post-punk world. (UPDATE: Learned of another one to throw on that weird 1980s industrial-adjacent pile, Theme from Hunger by Sema, thanks MM.)
A couple hours after all this industrial-adjacent 1980s greatness and I’m listening to disc one of the Crows of the World 2CD compilation from 2007. Suddenly an unknown track is reminding me of some sick amalgam of Tom R. and Caroline K. (calm down now, I don’t mean it’s that good, as if a sum total of these two amazing records could even be achieved, just that a certain continuum and affinity of approach is there, okay?), but it’s from 20 years later, literally the next generation, a 2006 recording by an artist called Western Automatic (from right in here in my own far-north Chicago neighborhood by the way, a solo project by Matt Christensen from the seriously good post-post-rock band Zelienople). As with punk, the huge industrial music innovations that were made in the mid-late 1970s and throughout the 1980s can now just sit and be available and influential, something in the water, as it were, for time immemorial (or at least until the electricity runs out).
And now I’m listening to the Sun City Girls, specifically a long spaced-out noise jam called “Gulf Con 79” that is very industrial as well, a dark ambient noise jam that might be electric guitar amp static, or might just be shortwave radio, but either way kind of sounds like slowly hovering military helicopters for 25 minutes. And, not only does it have a possibly military-industrial-complex-referent title in “Gulf Con 79,” it was also released right in the heart of the industrial culture zone, on cassette only in 1986. It got reissued, or at least re-presented, as part of this 2009 double LP release, which is how I’m listening to it right now.
I think I love Nirvana more than I ever did in the 90s, and believe me, I loved ‘em in the 90s too, and was lucky enough to see them live on December 9th, 1993 at Aksarben Coliseum in Omaha, with the Breeders and Shonen Knife, really great concert from beginning to end. Every now and then these days, I rabbit-hole my way through a few Nirvana live clips, interviews, and whatnot. Tonight a clip I loved was this live performance of “Breed,” also from 1993. Foo Fighters are somehow more bland than Coldplay, but Grohl was always so perfect and powerful in Nirvana, Novoselic has great dorky super-tall-guy moves (and a nice SSD shirt), I’m always so stoked to see Pat Smear so stoked, that main riff is a real cyclotronner, and I think there’s a lot to chew on with Kurt’s chorus of “Even if you have, even if you need/I don't mean to stare, we don't have to breed/We could plant a house, we could build a tree/I don't even care, we could have all three.” There’s the unstoppable high-velocity way the band tears from the riff into this utterly melodic chorus, and there’s the “plant a house/build a tree” joke which I love, and then there’s something much deeper being said too, something about planning a home, a life, a family with someone you love… or not. It’s a quintessential 1990s Gen X non-decision about heavy and important personal topics. I remember when I was in that situation myself (1996, in fact, this song probably love-buzzing through my head a lot) and moved from my low-rent one-bedroom bachelor pad (there was a cockroach or two) into the house my future wife was sharing with a couple roommates. She and I considered ourselves ‘common law’ at the time, but ended up getting officially married (in a church and everything!) in 1999, and then had babies together in 2003 and 2005, basically choosing to “have all three,” if I’m reading Kurt right.
You might want to stop what you’re doing and watch this 28-minute 1979 documentary on Elvin Jones called Different Drummer right now, like right this minute. (Go on, click on it…) It’s just really damn good at being what it is, which is a clear and concise portrait of a master musician. (Shout out to producer/director Edward Gray.) I mean, it’s already a cliche to call Elvin Jones a “force of nature,” but you can’t deny it when you watch this documentary and witness the sheer authority with which pure music can cascade out of this guy at a moment’s notice.
Dude, let’s hang out with Angel Bat Dawid and listen to records for 45 minutes! It helps that she has a siiick record collection and the best energy ever.
And finally: one of my favorite things the internet has given me is that particular Wikipedia rabbit hole where you read about someone awesome, and the article mentions where they went to high school, and then you click on that high school name and go to its Wikipedia page, and scroll down to the “notable alumni” section to see who else went there. I’ve shared at least one very impressive example of a ‘notable alumni’ rabbit hole with you before, and here’s another one that starts with La Monte Young (pictured), who graduated from John Marshall High School, a public high school in the Los Feliz neighborhood of Los Angeles, in the early 1950s. Who else went to John Marshall? Well it just happens to be, no shit, where will.i.am met apl.de.ap [sic], which, for those who don’t speak pop-rap, means it’s not only the birthplace of Just Intonation Dream Music, but also of the platinum-selling Black Eyed Peas. But there’s more . . . how about Def Jam’s own Lyor Cohen? Hollywood madam Heidi Fleiss? The guy who played Malachi in Children of the Corn? Judge Lance Ito himself? How about this trio of beautiful and legendary female vocalists: Julie Newmar, Michelle Phillips, and Andy Reid? Oh wait, sorry, the last one isn’t a beautiful female vocalist, he’s the 2020 Super Bowl-winning head coach of the Kansas City Chiefs. His assistant coach son Britt Reid caused a terrible drunk driving accident just a few days before their second (losing) trip to the 2021 Super Bowl, but long before that his father also went to John Marshall High School. Oh, and one more thing: “The video for Van Halen's "Hot for Teacher" was shot inside the school library.”