Volume III, Issue I Spring 2004

Outsight music column for March, 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.

February 2004
January 2004

Kittie settles Aramis suit, enters studio

KittieOntario's Kittie settled its lawsuit against Artemis Records and spent March recording its third release, titled "Until the End." The band recorded at Longview Farm Studios with producer Steve Thompson (Metallica, Korn, Simple Plan) and engineer Ian Hatton (Bonham, Luxx). "We are excited that the suit is over and done with," said guitarist/vocalist Morgan Lander. "The number one thing is the music and we are looking to make a great album!" "Until the End" is tentatively scheduled for a summer release. There is an Outsight interview with Kittie at musicsojourn.com/AR/Alt/page/k/Kittie.htm.


ScannerScanner (left) has announced the formation of Githead with Colin Newman of Wire on vocals and guitar, Malka Spigel of Minimal Compact on bass, an expensive computer on drums and Scanner on lead guitar. The new group has already written and recorded a number of songs for performance and release. Says Scanner, "Describing the music has been the toughest part and all we could conclude was that it sounded like none of our solo projects at all! Interestingly, all the lyrics have been taken from junk e-mails so expect songs about mortgages, winning prizes and Viagra. Having watched the School of Rock repeatedly I've learnt a number of sharp, sexy moves to use on stage as well as finding out how best to crowd surf!" Scanner's new solo album is available at www.posteverything.com/bette. "Titled 'Double Fold,' it's loosely themed around the controversial American book of the same title by Nicholson Baker. 'Double Fold' is one extended elastic track focusing on a pulse, 128 beats per minute. The book is an exploration of the dismantling of the greatest archives of our recorded heritage, paper as a resource now too fragile to store our history on. I collaged hundreds of fragments from my domestic tape archive to produce what is ultimately a very listenable and funky entertaining album, equally one to sip a martini at the end of the day and tap your foot to, or else to begin the day with the finest Scanner aerobic workout session," explains Scanner.

Pixies concert dates sell out

The PixiesTickets for Pixies' North American reunion headline dates have sold well, generally selling out. The Pixies will wrap up this series of dates on Saturday, May 1 when they co-headline, with Radiohead and Kraftwerk, the Coachella Music & Arts Festival in Indio, Calif. The Pixies lineup of Frank Black (vocals, guitar), Joey Santiago (guitar), Kim Deal (bass) and David Lovering (drums) have been in a Los Angeles rehearsal studio playing Pixies music together for the first time in eleven years. All four agree that the "reunion" has, so far, been great. According to Black, "We were all a little nervous when we first got together, but within maybe five minutes, everything felt completely comfortable, and it was like the last eleven years had never happened." Deal added, "I experienced what I call 'muscle memory' - we'd be playing a song and I didn't even have to think about what note came next - my fingers remembered what to play."

NRBQ tribute

The Q PeopleBonnie Raitt, Steve Earle, R.E.M.'s Mike Mills, Los Lobos, Widespread Panic, Yo La Tengo, Spongebob and more pay tribute to NRBQ on a new compilation release. The Q People is the debut release of new Massachusetts indie label, Spirithouse Records, and marks NRBQ's 35th Anniversary. Penn Jillette wrote the liner notes to the project that Spirithouse founders' Danny Bernini and Paul McNamara stipulated must be comprised of only true NRBQ fans. Qualifying band Los Lobos stated: "In my version of a perfect musical universe, NRBQ would be as big as The Beatles" and R.E.M.'s Mike Mills said, "I would describe them as the perfect amalgamation of sound."

Midpoint Music Festival

Midpoint Music FestivalRegistration is open for the third edition of The Midpoint Music Festival. More than 200 bands and solo artists and 25,000 music fans attended last year's showcases and industry seminars in Greater Cincinnati. This year's Festival takes place Sept. 22-25. The conference is headquartered at the Crowne Plaza Hotel. The festival will again be held in downtown Cincinnati's Mainstreet entertainment district and Main Street Corridor over three nights. Artists interested in submitting for showcase consideration can visit the MPMF website to register and apply. Final registration ends Sunday, May 16. The artist notification process will begin in June with showcases and time slots to be announced shortly thereafter. This year, one lucky band that registers will win MPMF's Demolition Song Contest and win a prize package that includes recording time, mixing, mastering and 500 CDs from QCA. E-mail MPMF at info@mpmf.com.

DVD reviews

(Ratings on a scale of 0-5 stars)

Death Metal - A Documentary* * *
Death Metal – A Documentary Various artists Bill Zebub Productions/MVD

This documentary is an education for those into metal and those not. A series of interviews elucidate the state of death metal and its history from architects of the genre and more recent adherents. This is fleshed out with video clips and live footage, some of it X-rated. Among the guests interviewed is Peter Steele, vocalist for Carnivore.

Hey is Dee Dee Home* * * *
Hey is Dee Dee Home
Dee Dee Ramone

In 1992, Dee Dee Ramone met with Lech Kowalski so that Dee Dee could contribute a filmed story to Born to Lose. In this footage, Dee Dee tells the camera several stories, often using his own tattoos as a departure point. Tales of drugs, violence and the birth of New York punk flow from one to the other as Dee Dee talks and Lech films. The focus on Dee Dee as a revelatory talking head is very successful here, shades of Errol Morris ("Fog of War," "A Brief History of Time"). Johnny Thunders performing "Chinese Rock" is included as a bonus, along with some behind-the-scenes footage. This is part of Lech's vision of a series of films on the founding of punk, to be called Born Losers.

Relentless* * * *
Walter Trout
Ruf Records/MVD

This DVD is the visual side of the CD "Relentless," the latest live album from this blues guitarist who, with his band The Radicals, looms ever larger over the contemporary blues scene. The set is bookended with two covers that exhibits the truly relentless blues playing fans can't get enough off from Trout: "Dust My Broom" and "Serves Me Right to Suffer." However, the point of the 2003 recording in Amsterdam at Paradiso was to showcase the new originals. Many of these are very personal, intimate songs that Trout communicates well. However, in baring himself, he dispenses with a lot of the powerfully stated blues guitar. This can be said of "I'm Tired", "Cry if you Want to" and the ode to a departed friend, "Work No More." However, there are several good, solid blues numbers new from Trout and a fun, lively jab at Internet dating, "Chatroom Girl."

Punk Can Take It* * *
Punk Can Take It
U.K. Subs

While U.K. Subs was at the heights of its fame, during the "Another Kind of Blues" era, it was filmed playing the Lyceum for use in this mockumentary. There are episodes of the band playing live, but this is no concert DVD and there are no complete songs. Instead, this was parody film in the tradition of World War II morale-boosting propaganda. Punks have it tough on the front lines in this funny film narrated by BBC voice-over legend John Snagge. Along with a photo gallery is another bonus feature, Nicky Garratt exhibiting his collection of U.K. Subs memorabilia. This includes albums, CDs, framed posters and news clipping with his explanations and commentary.

Sideshow Fez* * * * ½
Sideshow Fez
Asylum Street Spankers
Buffalo Records

This Aug. 15, 2003 concert includes Stanley Smith (clarinet and more) and Korey Simeone (violin and more). While the current version of the band is great, it is also great this lineup with these two talents is preserved performing before this sold-out Portland audience. There are 21 songs performed by the acoustic band full of wit, bawdy content and musical skill. Some Spanker things, like Wammo performing "Hick Hop" and Korey performing "Fanny," have to be seen for true appreciation. That makes this DVD the best introduction to Asylum Street Spankers that can be had.


(Ratings on a scale of 0-5 stars)

Jambands: The Complete Guide to the Players, Music, and Scene* * * ½
Jambands: The Complete Guide to the Players, Music, and Scene
Dean Budnick
Backbeat Books

Dean Budnick, through the success of his Web site www.jambands.com, succeeded in popularizing the term "jamband," and this encyclopedic resource goes far to mark out and delineate exactly what that term covers. This detailed tome touches on nearly 200 groups. This includes a biography of the band as well as recommended recordings reviewed and rated. In this way, it combines elements of the "All-Music Guide" and "The Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll." Web sites may make this resource dated on that level relatively soon, for there is frequent mention of URLs for band sites, discussion lists, fan sites and the like. Just as the text highlights the important and worthwhile, it does not shirk from pointing out albums or groups not worth serious examination. This adds credibility and makes the book valuable for forays into the genre by the inexperienced music enthusiast who wants to explore uncharted territory. Extra sections cover Budnick's Jammies awards series and the festival scene.

CD reviews

(Ratings on a scale of 0-5 stars)

My Life in the Gush of Boasts* * * *
My Life in the Gush of Boasts
Scott Marshall
Windjam Records

The title suggests Brian Eno and David Byrne's groundbreaking album "My Life in the Bush of Ghosts." Like that album, there are elements here of electronic music of the cerebral and dance varieties. While the album title and such piece names as "Squirrelbrain" (in three parts) and "Days of War, Nights of Love" suggest a comedic if not frivolous attitude, the electronic music is serious and cinematic, Eno-esque and often eerie in its organic minimalism. However, Scott is not content with being merely a Steven Reich with a home studio. His music transmutes into being the angular soundtrack of robot marionettes and can at times feature the impulsive breakbeats of today's techno.

Colossus of Destiny* * * *
Colossus of Destiny
The Master Plan
Total Energy

This is a release of a New York supergroup of sorts. Keith Streng is on guitar and vocals here, as he was in The Fleshtones. Drummer Bill Milhizer is also from The Fleshtones. Making for a good two-guitar lineup is Paul "Peppermint" Johnson (Waxing Poetics). Also adding vocals, as do all members, is bassist Andy Shernoff (The Dictators). The music is fun, a blast of '60s garage rock. Everyone but Milhizer is credited with songwriting, which contributes to the variety of this great rock 'n' roll record. With all the history in this band, you know some cool covers are going to happen. That happens on side two. We get here a version of Lloyd Price's "Just Because" (also recorded by Freddy Fender), "Annie Had a Baby" (the answer song to "Work with me Annie"), "Broken Arrow" (Chuck Berry) and Eastern Dark's Australian garage pop classic, "Walking."

Cirrhotic* * * ½
Mike Allen
Sun Sea Sky Productions

Mike Allen was guitarist and vocalist for Sunday Flood. Some of the dream pop approach taken by that group can be found here. However, the pale luminescent dawn of the nascent shoe gazer broke forth into a stormy and windswept day of post-industrial electronic akin to Aphex Twin and Nine Inch Nails. So, do not come here looking for the safe sounds of Sunday Flood. Guitar textures and the treated sounds of other instruments are broad-stroked with umbers, grays and other dark earth tones in this portrait of nightmares and conflict. Breaking the mood is vocal interludes recalling early Depeche Mode or The Cure becoming warm beacons in the tempestuous night of "Cirrhotic."

No More Secrets* * * *
No More Secrets
Instrumental Quarter
Sick Room Records

This instrumental music album is sophisticated and rich in moving, protean arrangements. The timbre of the music is greatly enhanced by attaching to a rock trio (guitar, bass, drums) a cellist (Marco Allocco). The rock trio is three-quarters of the Italian indie pop band Kash. This gives guitarist Paride Lanciani a new creative outlet and direction from Kash.

Franz Ferdinand* * * ½
Franz Ferdinand
Franz Ferdinand
Domino Record Co.

On tracks like "Tell her Tonight" and "Take Me Out," this band named after the WWI-inducing assassinated archduke, recalls New Order and the later dance club-influenced Manchester scene. This scene, led by Stone Roses and Happy Mondays, was documented much on Factory Records and this seems to be a significant influence for Franz Ferdinand. As dance pop goes, this is a very good album with great hooks and rhythms.

My Body - The Pistol* * *
My Body – The Pistol
Les Baton Rouge
Elevator Music

Punk siren vocalist Suspiria Franklyn leads this Berlin-by-way-of-Lisbon band. Suspiria subtitles the picture on her Web site "a feminist woman non-stop." That sounds right as she combines her musical influences of Sex Pistols, Nina Hagen and The Slits with riot grrl politics and delivery. Post-garage guru Tim Kerr (Mooney Suzuki, Monkey Wrench) produced the album.

The Convincer* * *
The Convincer
Silvergirl Records

T*Shirt of Lawrence, Kansas had a lot of critical acclaim while it was around, but the music rings kind of hollow in this posthumous release. The opening track "Shrine" seems to echo this empty, unfulfilled promise of college rock that T*Shirt is just a small chapter of. However, it must be said that a lot of what is to be gained from songs like "Broke" is subtle and this album bears greater fruit with repeated listenings. The album covers 1995 to 1997 through EP and singles.

Muzak for Robots* * *
Muzak for Robots
The Vindictives
Teat Records

This is over an hour of instrumental music crossing Kraftwerk with a cheap Casio. The thin keyboard music could be a homemade soundtrack for public access TV espousing New Age philosophy and alien contact. Still, the extreme stylization adds a charm and appeal to what could be just as easily called Vangelis Lite. One standout track is "Oberseite Aus" (all the songs have German titles), which could be a Wendy Carlos wannabe trying to reincarnate "These Boots are Made for Walking."

Hell and Back* * * *
Hell and Back
Buddy Miles Express

Patriarchal funk-rock drummer Buddy Miles went from Wilson Pickett to The Electric Flag to the unfortunately brief Band of Gypsys with Jimi Hendrix to less successful projects to prison and from there to be the voice of cartoon raisins. Miles is now back on track doing the progressive funk-rock he is made for and as exemplified on this album and with his other project, Hardware. This album patiently flows from song to song, delivering electric rock-fueled ballad soul. This version of the Express features Nicky Skopelitis (Material, Elliot Sharp), frequent collaborator Kevon Smith on guitars and a four-man horn section. Much of the material is familiar: "Born Under a Bad Sign" and "All Along the Watchtower" are here. Miles also includes his own monumental "Them Changes", which is present on the "Band of Gypsys" album. This album still seems far-seeing and progressive, although it was originally released on Rykodisc on 1994.

ROIR Dub Sessions* * * *
ROIR Dub Sessions
Bill Laswell

This full-length, four-track album compiles material from ROIR's four Laswell releases. This is an excellent introduction to the post-dub electronica Laswell available from Laswell on ROIR. Priced like a sampler but laden with over 45 minutes of bass bliss, this album features Nicky Skopelitis, Aiyb Dieng, Jah Wobble and more with Laswell. This compendium excerpts "Sacred System Chapter One: Book of Entrance," "Sacred System Chapter Two," "Dub Chamber 3" and "Book of Exit." What this collection will not do is tell you which of the four to acquire for further listening – they are all required for any hip CD collection.

Clones & False Prophets* * * * ½
Clones & False Prophets

On Clones & False Prophets, Badawi enhances his dub electronica with the infusion of avant-garde guitarist Marc Ribot (John Zorn, Tom Waits), jazz drummer Ben Perowsky (Lost Tribe, Elysian Fields) and saxophonist Doug Wieselman (Kamikaze Ground Crew, Robin Holcomb). This allows for a mix of the expected dub flavors ("Enter the Etherics") with sophisticated, arty fare ("Fire and Brimstone"). Carolyn "Honeychild" Coleman, frequent collaborator with Badawi creator Raz Mesinai, is on hand, though she provides vocals on only two tracks of this largely instrumental album.

Your Country* * * *
Your Country
Graham Parker
Bloodshot Records

Graham Parker proves himself an elder statesman of the intelligent pop song on this latest album that is marked by subtle shades of Nashville. The songs are largely touched by melancholy, even when on the surface this is not expected, such as the lyrically defiant "Nation of Shopkeepers," one of the standouts on the album. Lucinda Williams is on hand to duet with Parker on "Cruel Lips." This further accentuates the roots direction this excellent album is headed in.

Ennio Morricone Remixes, Vol. 2* * * *
Ennio Morricone Remixes, Vol. 2
Various Artists
Compost Records

Setting the mood for a high noon gunfight is the drifting, floating 2-CD remix album of spaghetti western scorer Ennio Morricone. The remixes touch on scores for "My Name is Nobody," "The Good, The Bad and The Ugly" and beyond. It is "Il Bruno, Il Brutto, Il Cattivo" from "The Good, The Bad and The Ugly" as remixed by Hird that really stands out here. The accentuated Western sounds take on an almost jungle atmosphere, while the plaintive melody still wistfully rolls on like a tumbleweed. There are a lot of moments like that on this album, such as the breathy vocalizations and disco beat on Swell Session's take on "A Lidia." Other remix artists presented include Chicken Lips and Tom Middleton.

Get Inside* * * * ½
Get Inside
Johnny A.
Favored Nations

This is Johnny A's second release and the instrumental guitar album has many highlights, including the country soul rendition of "Poor Side of Town" (Johnny Rivers). Johnny A. spent much time in Peter Wolf's solo band, but this music is more sophisticated and less ostentatious than that association would suggest. Much of the music has a sunny, effortless, breezy joy like the swinging "Sing Singin'." In this way, the album straddles rock and jazz, drawing on the genres for a fine mix of muscle and agility like an artful pugilist making sweet art out of a wicked punch. All of this is blended together with a common theme of blues that will be keep record store employees guessing as to what section to put this disc in.

Tranzition* * * *
Richard Pinhas
Cuneiform Records

French guitarist and electronic composer Richard Pinhas offers an organic, flowing sound where the rolling waves of processed guitar loops wash over the sedimentary sandstone foundation of Brian Eno and Tangerine Dream. The instrumental music effortlessly fills your deepest headphones with aural adventures aplenty. The mesmerizing, mystic nature of this disembodied, floating music makes it right for massage, magic-working and meteor shower parties.

You Know the Rules* * * ½
You Know the Rules
The Gay
Mint Records

The Gay is a bright, crystalline indie pop group featuring the group female lead vocals from Coco Culbertson (bass, keyboards; The Tennessee Twin, Bif Naked), Tobey Black (guitar; Maow), Maija Martin (accordion, guitar) and Sara Lapsley (piano; Vancouver Nights, Kreviss). As can be seen, the instrumentation is rich in this sophisticated album of bright and shimmering surfaces that reveal glossy textures of a hip, pop band that has hooks and smarts. This is a strong, promising debut from the ambitious Vancouver quintet. The sunny and swinging vocal pop here will have you smiling and humming.

Fabulous Muscles* * * ½
Fabulous Muscles
Xiu Xiu
5 Rue Christine

Xiu Xiu takes its name from an art house film that showed how the upheaval of China's cultural revolution made one young girl's life cruel, hopeless and, ultimately, unbearable. Maybe something good could be found in the changes that arose from that radical time, but the film does not offer anything. Similarly, this opus fuels itself by giving in to the sheer weight of negative experience by combining the worst aspects of the U.S. occupation in Iraq and personal experiences of a father's suicide, a young child's molestation and more. The arrangements vary greatly from the spoken work and noise art piece "Support Our Troops" to the sad and graphic tale of murderous sexual domination told in the solo acoustic ballad that is the title track. Forced fraternal incest gets cacophonous electronic treatment in "Brian the Vampire." Hopefully a catharsis for the songwriters (I cannot imaging holding on to all this negativity), this experimental exploration of a taxonomy of misdeeds may be just the thing to listen to when you think no one has it worse than yourself.

Born Innocent* * * *
Born Innocent
The Proclaimers
Persevere Records

Scottish twins Craig and Charlie Reid are back with a collection of triumphant and poignant songs on "Born Innocent." Important people have a way of recognizing the talent in the Reid brothers. The group got early advice and demo time from Kevin Rowland (Dexy's Midnight Runners) and a break as tour support from The Housemartins. Now, as they return to the scene, we should not be surprised that Scottish musician and producer Edwyn Collins (Orange Juice, Nu-Sonics) produced this album, which was released in the UK in the fall of 2003. While a Celtic-punk substrate remains in the music, this album is much more sophisticated and polished than, say, the raucous and successful Top 3 single "I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)." These Scottish soul gems are replete in wide-eyed awareness ("Blood On Your Hands") and compelling poignancy ("Unguarded Moments"). This album includes a cover of the '60s hit "Five O'clock World" as well as live versions of "Unguarded Moments" and the memorable title track.

Educated Guess* * * * ½
Educated Guess
Ani DiFranco
Righteous Babe

In a way Ani DiFranco returns to her own roots on Educated Guess. She is very solo here, having stripped away the backing band. Ani herself played all the instruments on this album. Going further, the specially bound book, removable from the CD case, includes Ani's own artwork and a trio of poems released only with "Educated Guess." The eight tracks of audio were recorded on vintage reel-to-reel equipment and this may have enhanced a more personal, intimate feeling that we have not heard from Ani since the early '90s. The album thus comes forward as Ani's testament of the trials of love ("Origami"), the complexities of patriotism in this day and age ("Grand Canyon") as well as feminism and more.

The Legend Live* * * * ½
The Legend Live
Robert Jr. Lockwood
M.C. Records

This is Lockwood's first domestic release since 2000, and the exquisite live album is well worth the wait. The performance at Phoenix's Rhythm Room sees the 89-year-old elder statesman of the blues draw upon six decades of bluesmanship. This masterful performance on 12-string electric guitar comes to us from the only living performer to have learned the craft from Robert Johnson, his stepfather. (Lockwood performs four of Johnson's songs here, including "Sweet Home Chicago".) Lockwood spent the '30s and beyond gigging with Sonny Boy Williamson and Howlin' Wolf and became a noted Chess session guitarist. Lockwood continued to innovate and improve his clear, crystalline style through the '70s resulting here in a gifted performer exhibiting emotion and soul honed to a sharp edge with precision and technical ability shining with the glint of a jazz patina. The dozen songs here cover material by Mance Lipscomb, Leroy Carr, Roosevelt Sykes and more. Lockwood never before recorded many of the songs here, or never recorded them as a solo performance.

Live* * * *
The David Johansen Group
Lemon Recordings

This is the post-New York Dolls group David Johansen formed with ex-Dolls Sylvain Sylvain. This album comes from a July '78 gig at New York's Bottom Line. The set list includes such New York Dolls songs as "Personality Crisis" and "Looking for a Kiss." Johnny Thunders joins the band on stage for "Babylon" in the ending climax of this great rock-n-roll show. They just don't build 'em like this anymore.

War Bird* * * * ½
War Bird
Velocette Records

Jucifer continues its captivating formula of contrast. The heavy, distorted death metal dirge of "Ides of Light" suggests a prelude to a cookie monster voice. Instead, Amber Valentine swings sweetly and melodically, which highlights the effect when the bottom drops out of the song leaving Amber to deliver a verse a cappella as the bridge to the song's second half. One of the many engaging duos on the scene now, the other half here is Ed Livengood on kit drums behind Amber as vocalist and guitarist. Spawned from the fertile breeding ground of Athens, Ga., the pair offers a schizophrenic dichotomy of the heaviest of Melvins with the most dulcet of your favorite electric female singer-songwriter.

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