Volume II, Issue IV Winter 2003

Outsight music column for February, 2004

By Tom Shulte


Outsight brings to light non-mainstream music, film, books, art, ideas and opinions. Published, somewhere, monthly since July 1991. Feel free to reprint this article. E-mail Outsight at outsight@usa.net

Outsight Radio Hours – Internet radio Webcasts with live interviews.

January 2004

Hopscotch Records

Triptych MythHopscotch Records is a vibrant label with a full catalogue of modern free jazz recommended for fans of the Aum Fidelity label, cutting-edge jazz on Thirsty Ear and the like. Four albums from the label have kept my CD carousel occupied for several days. Each is a unique ensemble and similarly packaged in three-color cardboard folders with an indie aesthetic approaching punk rock design principles. Among the revolving cast is pianist/percussionist Cooper-Moore and Chicago Underground drummer Chad Taylor. Along with bassist Tom Abbs, this trio is on the album "Triptych Myth." Cooper-Moore is in a duo setting with reeds man Assif Tsahar, who also plays a little classical guitar on "America." This album leads with a vocal title track (music on the four discs is generally instrumental) with a tone and message similar to Allen Ginsberg's "Howl." The music is also more basic, more primitive and even rural ("Back Porch Chill"), but still very lively. Tsahar is in another duo with percussionist Tatsuya Nakatani on "Come Sunday." That album is like stormy weather; it ebbs between a rage and quiescence. "JAM," another very worthy album, features Mat Maneri on five-string electric violin with Tsahar again and Jim Black on drums.

TKO Trio

"Less is More" is rare oi/street punk tracks from the Wretched Ones' entire history. These tracks are all making a CD debut and are all from small label 7" releases like Force Majeure, Headache, Black Hole Scrapsand more. There are also seven unlisted bonus tracks, apparently all covers. I was able to identify six: Minor Threat's "Good Guys (Don't Wear White)", "Pirate Love" (The D4), "No More Heroes" (Stranglers), Connie Francis' "Lipstick On Your Collar," AC/DC's "Live Wire" and "America The Beautiful" What is the other? ... Those Unknown offers a collection of rare street punk material called "Scraps." This covers the years 1991-6 and all songs are either previously unreleased or long out of print. Fifteen of the 16 tracks have never been on CD before... Hearkening back to the original oi sound is Atlanta's Adolf & The Piss Artists. Adolf and company's new CD on TKO is "Hate Generator" and it follows up on its promise of no-holds-barred hard punk.


Reading with Friendly Rich

Friendly Rich calls his book/CD combination release "an anti-music video." The single track is matched with an illustration of its narrative lyrics in "Magnified Lyle". The work concludes with a reading of dramatic personae, which adds to its theatrical quality. It is a morbid tale of a child's ant-burning antics becoming a global holocaust. Fans of Captain Beefheart lyrics (one line: "her melanoma chuckled") and Tom Green's humor will appreciate this... Elaborating on this theme, Friendly Rich offers the cryptic "De Rien." This is a collection of essays and poems along with a "listening activity" called "Mercy." No track listing accompanies the CD, which in this case does not follow the text. The audio is live audio miscellany and field recordings from a carousel organ rally. The two are "blended" for your schizophrenic pleasure. However, "De Rien" is not presently commercially available. Hear Rich himself discuss these projects and earlier works in a series of three audio interviews produced by Outsight Radio Hours.

(Ratings on a scale of 0-5 stars)

Nude Tent Torse* * * ½
Nude Tent Torso, Issue No. 1: The Pink Couch Project
Various authors
Vireonyx Publications, Pontiac, Mich.

This premier issue of Nude Tent Torso is a collaboration of authors on the theme of a pink couch. Generally, the writing takes a humorous direction as the many manifestations of the pink couch take on mythic proportions in mock-honorific poetry, short stories, graphics and even a script. Some of the most memorable pieces are "The Pink Couch Periodic Table Project" (multiple authors), the imaginary film reviews of "Pink Couch Cinema: Films from the Pink Couch Film Festival" (my favorite, by Mark Ashley), and Denise Thomas' surrealistic piece that begins "Fresh baked pandemonium/tattooed on a pink couch".

All Music Guide to Country* * * * *
All Music Guide to Country, 2nd Ed.
Backbeat Books, San Francisco, Calif., 2003

With country music and its manifestations reaching ever deeper into the world's cultural, psyche, All Music offers this in-depth encyclopedic guide to the massive genre. The book covers the extended bluegrass scene given greater popularity by "O Brother Where Art Thou?", with entries from close-harmony traditionalists the Osborne Brothers to such progressives as Darrell Scott. Doc Watson gets four pages, and the FM country scene from Dwight Yoakam to popular Western swing revivalists Asleep at the Wheel is here. The alt-country scene is present, too, covered from Bloodshot recording artist Robbie Fulks to the popular Old 97's. The entries are in the expected form for these successful All Music encyclopedias. That is, biographies and then key reviews with recommended starting points. This makes for more than 10,000 rated reviews. The well-indexed tome includes style descriptions, a section for compilations, soundtracks, essential albums by genre and two dozen rich essays on aspects of country music, like "Country on Film" and "Country Soundtracks." This is an invaluable resource for the serious fan of any part of the varied country music spectrum. Where else would you find that The Residents, Savoy Brown and Elvis Costello all drew on the early '70s countrified British pub rock group Chilli Willi & the Red Hot Peppers for members?

* * *
Farming Uncle International Journal
No. 92, Winter 2003-04
Box 427, Bronx, NY 10458

Farming Uncle is a self-described alternative network magazine devoted to holistic living. The quarterly is a photocopied and saddle-stitched digest. Small classifieds and quips and tips on life and land-based liberty make up the bulk of the journal. There are also a few interesting agrarian reprints, like a piece on beekeeping in Syria and an advertising paean to the Welsummer breed of fowl. Recipes can also be found here.

Vinyl reviews

(Ratings on a scale of 0-5 stars)

* * * ½
Art Rats The Neurotic Swingers Demolition Derby

This French punk rock band offers an old-school sound on this LP. The band draws heavily on the North American punk tradition, like Teenage Head, The Saints, Dead Boys and New York Dolls. Another influence is France's Dogs. "Nineteen" on this album is a cover from that band. So, this is a very hard rock-influenced take on punk with heavy riffs and pronounced choruses.

* * *
Leg Hounds
Leg Hounds
Demolition Derby

New York punk rock groups (New York Dolls, Dictators) and '60s trash rock (Sonics, Wailers) inspire this band. However the Wisconsin group also has a melodic and romantic streak that allows for such ballads as "Too Late." This is a fun and rocking album that is a time capsule of what was cool and underground thirty years ago and remains vital today.

* * * *
"Straight" b/w "The Creature in Disguise"

Tsar places itself between joyously rocking glam that is in no way self-conscious and the eerie, guitar based goth rock sound that gave us Bauhaus and Siouxsie Sioux. Shades of that goth loom over the B-Side "The Creature in Disguise." "Straight" is an anthem to glam throwbacks in the spirit of New York Dolls delivered with Dead Boys passion.

DVD reviews

(Ratings on a scale of 0-5 stars)

Commissioner of Sewers* * * *
Commissioner of Sewers
William S. Burroughs
Screen Edge/MVD

To a backdrop of music by Jorge Reyes, Fish for Fish, F.M. Einheit and Burroughs this DVD treats the viewer to Burroughs readings, interviews and film excerpts. Films excerpted include "Thanksgiving Prayer" (Gus van Sant), "Decoder" (Maeck/Muscha) and the Antony Balch films "Towers Open Fire," "The Cut Ups" and "Ghosts at No. 9." Through able editing, eye-catching images and good pacing, filmmaker Klaus Maeck makes this film an entertaining and enlightening documentary on the ideas, persona and style of the fully developed Burroughs mind. One common theme throughout is excerpts of a TV interview with German writer Jurgen Ploog. Ploog awkwardly hits Burroughs with such topics as the possibility of an afterlife and the old standby "advice for young authors." Particularly entertaining is how Burroughs handles this series of unrelated questions by using each answer to go into an attacking response or tangent much more interesting than the question promised.

Demons Dance Alone* * * ½
Demons Dance Alone
The Residents
Euro Ralph/MVD

The Residents were early in the game on music videos ("One Minute Movies"), synthesizer experimentation (use of the emulator) and user interactive CD-ROMs ("Freak Show"). Now they dive into night vision as a weapon of concert documentation, not war. While The Residents look ready for war in costumes based on camo fatigues, this convert footage is of the most introspective, personal and emotional music yet to date from the mysterious group ("Life Would be Wonderful," "Betty's Body"). Attempting to capture the darkened stage flooded with infrared light presented a range of difficulties for these musical technophiles. After digital processing, The Residents came up with this DVD inviting us up on to the stage to see the concert from the point of view of an all-access band member's pass. A bonus extras section is a slide show of images from "Icky Flix," "Kettles of Fish," "Eskimo" and "Disfigured Night."

The 1962 Newport Jazz Festival* * * ½
The 1962 Newport Jazz Festival
Various Artists
Quantum Leap

The visual quality is blurry, but just put this DVD on and enjoy the hot jazz high points of this festival and glance at the screen from time to time, if you would like. Captured here in small, representative episodes spliced together are Count Basie, Joe Williams ('50s graduate of the Count Basie Orchestra), Roland Kirk and Duke Ellington, as well as piano greats Thelonious Monk and Oscar Peterson and more. There are some biographies and discographies rounding out the hour of audio and video.

CD reviews

(Ratings on a scale of 0-5 stars)

Talk is the New Action* * * *
Talk is the New Action
The Collisions
Windjam Records

Along with "Gasoline Can" and "Amateur," one standout truck on this post-garage indie rock album is "Live by Fire, Die by Fire." That title reminds me of the Bukowski book "Burning in Water, Drowning in Flame." That leads me to fellow Bukowski fan Adam Grossman, who used that title for the title of a Skrew album. This album from The Collisions reminds me of Grossman's earlier post-Texas punk band Angkor Wat, at times. Angkor Wat was doing industrial music with a rock combo, and it is the focus on heavy, persistent rhythms that is making that connection for me. However, there is also a wild, unfettered, shrieking theatric flair for the dramatic that really makes this disc singular and worth listening to repeatedly. There is also something about a held-back laugh in the extreme subject matter that suggests gallows humor and may be due to the fact that singer/songwriter/guitarist Bo Barringer was a one-time gravedigger. All of this comes to a climax in the trio's fiery rendition of Robert Johnson's "Me &and The Devil Blues".

Nevertheless Optimistic* * * *
Nevertheless Optimistic
R. Stevie Moore

The eccentric, quirky music of R. Stevie More recalls Jad Fair and Daniel Johnston. Somewhat damaged pop and exuding a childish charm, this music also grabs the listener with its catchy, memorable lyrics and spirit of instant joy. R. Stevie Moore was a leader in the DIY home recording movement, and this album selects from his huge archive of home recordings for a selection covering 1975-2003. Largely short on length, these pieces are long on comedic and cracked pop genius.

Weapon of Mass Instruction: Live* * * * ½
Weapon of Mass Instruction: Live
Greg Palast
Alternative Tentacles

With wit and humor Greg Palast delivers a scathing review of the Dubya presidency on this enhanced CD. The CD contains copies of government documents that Palast uses as a basis for numerous topics, any one of which should be scandalous. Topics include mechanizations by King George I to deliver Chevron oil money to George W.'s campaign fund, Dubya's draft-dodging tenure in the Texas Air Guard, connections from questionable Saudi arms dealer Adnan Kashoggi to the Bush family and murderous gold-grabbing in Tanzania. Learn the name of World Resource Institute member Tundu Lissu, the source of the video documentation of those murdered in the mine takeover by Barrick Corporation – a Canadian-American gold-mining operation that employed George Bush Sr. Perhaps the most explosive is the revelations about pre-9/11 forced suppression of Bin Laden investigations by the U.S. government. Palast makes the shocking entertaining with his delivery, so this is enlightening and fun. Containing its own comedic content is Greg Palast's discovery of Katherine Harris' purge of thousands of black citizens from Florida's voter rolls – especially the manic reaction of Harris' assistant. The spreadsheet of the dropped voters – some for committing future crimes ala Minority Report – is included on the CD's files.

Spiders from Venus* * * ½
Spiders from Venus: Indie Women Artists and Female-Fronted Bands Cover David Bowie
Various Artists
Skipping Discs

The long-winded title sums up the angle here. This disc avoids the fate of most compilations of being uneven with only a few shining tracks. First, the material is, of course, excellent. The Bowie songbook is sampled from "Space Oddity" to "Heathen." This includes such songs as "Golden Years," "Starman" and "Boys Keep Swinging." On hand to cover the Bowie material are Lunasect, Switchblade Kittens, Neil Young's sister Astrid Young and Essra Mohawk, the critically acclaimed singer-songwriter who has been making music since the '60s and was the "Uncle Meat" of the Mothers of Invention.

The Set-Up* * *
The Set-Up
Boss Martians
MuSick Recordings

This is a melodic indie rock album that strays into Elvis Costello-like territory on "Walk Away" and "He'll Be Around." So, this is pretty accessible stuff. This may be garage punk, but the garage has a new automatic door, is heated and freshly painted with everything in ship-shape order. This group has left its surf-rock roots behind for something like polished Joe Jackson, witness the steppin' out on "Oh, Angela."

* * *
Hole in my Heart
Mutant Press
Mutant Press Records

This is a memorial CD by Jerome T. Youngman, a.k.a. Mutant Press, for his departed mother. Youngman wrote all the original songs and performed all instruments. Some of the songs directly etch out the details of sadness and uneasiness that follow on the loss of a loved on, for example "Fantasy Fix" and "Season of Sad." Some are mad-at-the-world type songs ("Creeps at my Door") and some are just catharsis, like "Big time with You" and the cover of "Wang Dang Doodle" (maybe Mom was a Willie Dixon fan). It is amazing how sometimes Mutant Press sounds so much life Johnny Dowd, witness "Let's Float Away" and "Big time with You."

Lunar Ecstasy* * ½
Lunar Ecstasy
Mountain Mirrors
Zen Frankenstein Music

Mountain Mirrors strives for a psychedelic rock sound that draws on Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath for its guitar style without quite reaching the same heights. A lot of the beats are down-tempo electro-beats. The genre blend is either dynamic and vital or keeps the whole thing off-balance, depending on your point of view. The album has its high points and is well-produced. Lunar Ecstasy is recommended if you like late-period Pink Floyd.

The Moan* * * *
The Moan
The Black Keys
Alive Records

The Black keys has so incorporated the Delta juke joint hard-liquor blues sound that the duo of Patrick Carney (percussion) and Dan Auerbach (guitar/vocals) sounds out with deep-rooted authenticity on each track of this 4-song CDEP. The primitive instrumentation and raw blues sound is gritty and substantial. Auerbach does not feel it necessary to growl aloud like Jon Spencer, but instead lets flow melodically, if disjointedly, and the vocals are soulful, if rugged, as on "Heavy Soul." Another standout track on the album is when the pair takes Iggy Pop's "No Fun" for a Mississippi drift down to where the kudzu grows.

School of Etiquette* * * ½
School of Etiquette
Alive Records

This all-girl band from San Francisco provides an interesting blend of modern indie pop with a tasty blend of early goth pop, a la The Cure and Joy Division, as if Sleater Kinney or PJ Harvey were more influenced by Siouxsie & The Banshees. This approach relies on simple keyboard riffs and high, fading vocals best exemplified on "Identity." The influence of The Cure is best heard on "Back to Bed." This is the song for which a QuickTime video is included on the CD. While the group itself calls its own arrangements "dungeony," there is such dance pop as "Imaginary" on the album which still evidences the underlying theme of a distinct beat and early '80s influence. (3.5)

* * * ½
Cruisin' For A Bruisin'Cruisin' For A Bruisin'
The Bobbyteens
Estrus Records

The basic, punk rock of The Bobbyteens draws much from The Ramones and New York Dolls. The brazen ladies of the band seem to be of the kiss-and-tell variety. The group dispenses with foreplay and launches right into a tale of the bathroom wall ("Jenny") as well as the total lack of hidden meaning in "Hot Sweet 'n' Sticky." One of the high points it the album is the cover of "He's So Dull" done originally by the Prince spin-off female trio Vanity 6. While the brassy punk attitude of The Bobbyteens does not remind one of Vanity 6's pop/new wave blend, both bands feature three women waving a flag of wild, decadent and trashy entertainment for your listening and fantasizing pleasure.

* * * * ½
Act Your AgeAct Your Age
Kids of Widney High
Moon Man Records

There was a time when singing songs in a group setting was as natural an entertainment as watching the game or going to the movies. This was also a more active way of entertaining than the passive entertainments that prevail today. The natural enthusiasm and infectious joy of these Los Angeles high school special education students will summon in the listener this innate desire to sing and be happy as a result of it. It is probably this fact that has resulted in the therapeutic success of involvement in this project for Michael Monagan's class as well as the commercial success of the recording and performing project. The Kids also have really interesting perspectives on their schools, including the thoughtful analysis of Fidel Castro in the Latin-flavored "Two Faces on Fidel" and the celebratory non-vegan "Life Without The Cow." Shantel Brown stands out on this album for singing "Miss Understood" and "Valentine's Day." Here the love song is warm and natural, more authentic than many examples of the genre that one could find on radio and in films. The spirited title track, like the rest, features the Kids in chorus to a rock band of studio musicians, some of whom are also teachers. The songs are an anthemic ode to the type of self-respect and Golden Rule lifestyle we need more of out there.

Avanti* * * ½
The Ramblin' Ambassadors
Mint Records

In the spirit of Dick Dale, this is big beat guitar music with nods to surf rock, Dave Alvin and Link Wray. This instrumental trio of twang-men is formed around Huevos Rancheros guitarist Brent J. Cooper. This is recommended if you like The Ventures (witness "Hawgtied"), Ennio Morricone (witness "Theme from 'The Ramblin' Bastards'") or Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet.

Rocket Redux* * * *
Rocket Redux
Rocket from the Tombs
Smog Veil Records

The band that gave birth to Pere Ubu and Dead Boys, '70s Cleveland rockers Rocket from the Tombs, here offers a reprise of a reprise. Material for this first-ever studio album was taken from the collection of demos and live recordings that made up "The Day the Earth Met the Rocket from the Tombs" (Glitterhouse, 2000). This means we have the first studio recordings of "30 Seconds over Tokyo" and "Life Stinks." These two Peter Laughner songs were originally done by Rocket from the Tombs and only later by Pere Ubu. The group had already been together for a summer tour before it decided to record these songs, now fully rehearsed, with Richard Lloyd at his Manhattan EGB Studios. The group existed for less than a year but was seminal and very important, making this belated recording an important moment in rock history.

Winter 2003 Music Section | Winter 2003 Main Page
Current Music Section | Current Home Page