Sunday, March 30, 2008

I Killed Albini With My Big Fucking Dick

Displaying the usual teenage penchant for useless gestures, I actually called Steve Albini's home phone once. Albini used to write a regular column back in the early 80's for Matter, a really bad glossy 'zine outta Chicago that must've paid writers a little bit of money, because occasionally top-notch guys like Gerard Cosloy and Byron Coley would contribute. Albini's column was called "Tired of Ugly Fat?", and sometimes he'd give out his phone number, probably because he had no real reason to give a shit.

Anyway, Albini slagged "Let It Be" (which would place this around '84), and since the Replacements were my favorite band at the time, I called the number-- as if I actually had a chance to get him on the phone and have a discussion or something. Really, the only interesting thing that happened was I got to hear Albini's answering machine message, which went, "How can you tell how many Hitlers are in the room? Count the number of balls, and divide by one!"-- I swear to God. I mumbled something stupid about how I thought he was a jerk, leaving my own number to show that I wasn't a pussy, and hung up.

Since I disliked Albini as a writer before I ever heard Big Black as a band, it took some really awesome records to sway me back to the other side, and "Atomizer" and "Racer-X" were those records. I did get to see Big Black once before they broke up, at CBGB's in 1986 (?), a show which also featured Killdozer (who were totally killer at the time), Pussy Galore, and Happy Flowers. I didn't even bother trying to talk to Steve after the show, though I did talk to Dave Riley a little. The crowd all went off in the other direction, leaving Dave sitting by himself on the edge of the CB's stage, drinking a can of Bud. Dave was feeling a bit prickly, and made some sarcastic comments to the effect of, "I just do whatever Steve tells me to do, we're all just here to do what Steve wants." It was an obvious sign that Big Black wasn't going to be together much longer, which was really just as well. To me, Albini's disturbed/gross-out type of subject matter had a creepier edge when Big Black was just a small-time project out of Albini's apartment, or whatever; once Big Black got huge and were playing in front of tons of fist-pumping college dopes, it all became too cartoonish and silly.

Not that it didn't stop Albini from sounding the death knell for one of my other favorite bands, Scratch Acid, by stealing their rhythm section for his next band, Rapeman-- although at least they were rock, y'know? Fuck this faux-new wave drum machine shit.

Onto the records; all of them at once, since I don't feel like writing three separate Big Black posts:

This was released in tandem with the "Headache" 12-inch, which I found kinda boring, so I slagged the two of them together in the first issue of Brushback when they first came out ("Doesn't suck by any means, but I can't wait for them to break up now. Jerry-rigged 'collector's items' suck shit, too"). I admitted to liking "Things To Do Today", and that was about it. Man, I can be a dumbfuck sometimes.

The sayings on the back of the sleeve are a reference to Dr. Bronner's All-One-God-Faith soap; if you don't know what that is, you should really go to a hippie health food store and read the label on a bottle sometime, it's a riot.

Big Black -

"Heartbeat" (crackly!)

"Things To Do Today"

"I Can't Believe"

(these files are now listen-only)

click for enlarged view

At the time, it seemed weird to me that Albini would like Cheap Trick, but they're both from Chicago so I guess it makes sense. This single was my first clue that Albini had more up his sleeve than just acting all dark and scary, and that he actually had a sense of humor-- slight as it might have been. A couple of years later Albini was covering ZZ Top and talking about how great their first three records were, while producing records for the Pixies and eventually Bush and Nirvana. I think it woulda been better had he stopped at Cheap Trick, but what do I know.

The effort they put into the picture sleeve is awesome; it kills me how much they actually look like Cheap Trick. Albini's vocal on "He's A Whore" is a total rip-off of Steve Björklund, too. As for the Kraftwerk cover, who woulda guessed that Big Black would be into Kraftwerk? I mean, that's a stretch.

click for enlarged view

Big Black -

"He's A Whore"

"The Model"

(these files are now listen-only)

click for enlarged view

click for enlarged view

This one's not the original version that came out on Homestead in '85, but the Touch and Go re-press from '92. This was the first Big Black record that I remember liking, and I still think it's one of the all-time great 80's singles.

The picture sleeve to the Homestead pressing baffled me a bit when I first bought it, as it was a thin, glossy paper sleeve, and the other Homestead singles that I was buying at the time (as well as the ones on Ace of Hearts, etc) all had thicker paperboard sleeves. I think I figured that flimsy glossy sleeves were better left to the Huey Lewis 45s that were sold at the mall.

In any case, if you stare at the back of the sleeve long enough while trying to read it, the colors get fuzzy and you'll start to go cross-eyed.

Big Black actually left Homestead for Touch and Go over this record, or actually the 12-inch promo version, though not because they put it in a junky Huey Lewis sleeve that made people crosseyed, but because Homestead supposedly sold some of the promos when they weren't supposed to.

click for enlarged view

Big Black -

"Il Duce"

"Big Money"

(these files are now listen-only)

Friday, March 28, 2008

J.S. and The Cupids

This is a demo that Scott Munroe gave me a copy of back in 1987 or thereabouts, on a tape with a bunch of other stuff. It's basically John Stabb with some of his ex-Government Issue bandmates goofing off and doing some covers, although there's one song on here ("Little Boys") that seems to be a full-fledged original*... and it's actually a really good song, too. Even with the stupid Billy Idol cover, to a G.I. freak like myself, getting to hear this demo was pretty much the best thing ever at that point.

I can't really place the exact time when this might've been recorded, since the line-up that Scott lists in his notes (Brian Baker, John Leonard, Steve Hangsen... so who was the drummer?) is spread out over a whole bunch of different G.I. eras. Judging by the "Like A Virgin" reference, though, this would have to be from around 1984/85 or so.

Despite the fact that this was most likely recorded live in a basement somewhere with a boom box or whatever, the sound quality to this is pretty damn good. I really like "Make An Effort", the record that G.I. made with Brian Baker in the line-up, and there's a similar feel to this demo. Plus you get to hear some vintage Stabb-ishness-- especially during the intro part to "Calling Dr. Love"-- which is just about priceless.

*it's not, it's a Professionals cover

J.S. and The Cupids

"Public Defender"/"I'm Crying"

"Little Boys"

"Cathy's Clown"

"Slammin' With Myself"

"Calling Dr. Love"

The above files don't work anymore, but for a limited time here's another download of them:

J.S. and The Cupids .zip

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

I Been Hittin' on a Russian Robot

click to enlarge

This is first of many Boris The Sprinkler singles that I'll eventually be posting here, seeing as I own practically all of 'em-- although not every pressing and every sleeve and every color of vinyl, because that would be obsessive and stupid (athough I do own one of the obsessively stupid "Mimi" sleeves, so all of you record nerds can't count me out completely).

I'm also reversing the trend-- re: Bands Of Which I Own More Than Single-- by not starting off with my favorite one here* (that would be "Little Yellow Box", by the way), which is no big loss because this one's pretty okay and probably my second or third favorite anyway. Plus the Russian theme kinda ties in with my old blog, which you probably don't even know about (it's listed in the sidebar over to the right there, under "Stupid Shit").

Note that I've included the lyric sheet, the point being that you can sing along at home while the song is playing and have a nice sort of Boris The Sprinkler karaoke moment all by yourself.

click for enlarged view

Boris The Sprinkler -

"I Been Hittin on a Russian Robot"

(this file is now listen-only)

click for enlarged view

click for enlarged view

*seriously, I haven't been doing that at all, but it sounded good when I wrote it

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Get To The Chopper

click for enlarged view

There were a few things that I didn't get to see at the Murdervan/Haymarket Martyrs show on Saturday. I didn't get to see Humanoid, who were on the bill but didn't show up for whatever reason (Tombstone Minds were also listed on the bill at one point, but you knew that wasn't going to happen). I also didn't see BLudrum, who drew the last slot on the shortened bill and thus went on after I'd already decided to call it a night. What I did get to see earlier was someone scrawling "Join Us or Die!! --BLudrum" with a piece of chalk onto the sidewalk in front of Monkey Bar, which was part of the reason why I left early, since I didn't feel like doing either one at the time.

Haymarket Martyrs are not quite your standard three-piece jittery punk band, throwing into the equation a synthesizer guy who wore a "Science. It Works, Bitches" t-shirt while sending out a constant array of sometimes-funny electronic burps and samples. Their songs are built around jagged guitar riffs, which means they sound a bit like The Ex, I guess. I'm only guessing because I'm not really up on that sort of thing. I'm also not really up on heavily political bands that list "universal health care" as one of their influences, although Haymarket Martyrs were fairly entertaining, and their singer came up the best line of the night when he looked over the meager crowd and said, "Murdervan and Bludrum are up next. But you already knew that, because you're in 'em."

click for enlarged view

Since it's better that I not talk about bands just for the heck of it (as I'm sometimes so lousy at it, like right now) when instead I can give you something of theirs to listen to, here's a song that I cribbed from Haymarket Martyrs' MySpace page:

Haymarket Martyrs -

"The Arpegiattor"
(Live at Cherry St. Station 2007)

(this file is now listen-only)

click for enlarged view

Murdervan wasted no time after a brief 30-second soundcheck, saying "Can we just start playing now?", and then immediately tore into a shortened set that was fast and loud as hell. Like the guy from Beware The Hippie Menace said, Murdervan almost always sound like they're ready to fall apart. For a band that can build a pocket about as well as anybody, they have this way of playing extremely loose, while still sounding incredibly tight... yeah, whatever that means. If you go see 'em, you'll find out.

I'm going to hold off posting anything from the new "Jaundice" EP until sometime later, but here's another track from Murdervan's self-titled CD that came out in 2006:

Murdervan -

"Like a King"

(this file is now listen-only)

click to enlarge

click to enlarge

Monday, March 24, 2008

Climbing The Burden

click to enlarge

I don't know what it is about this record. I mean, I think Teeth put together a particularly good single here: colored vinyl, nice picture sleeve with sharp-looking typefaces and a neat design, cool-looking labels, and two pretty decent songs. Yet it seems like I'm always finding this single in the clearance bin, or on Dr. Strange's $1 Sale... once I even had a collector that I was recently buying some odd 7"-ers from offer to throw in a Teeth single for free, just to get rid of it. On top of that, there's now about 8 other bands on MySpace named Teeth, and there's even a movie out called Teeth. (I guess all that means is, when it comes time to sit down and come up with a name for your band, it pays to think a little harder.)

Anyway, I liked this single when I first reviewed it back in '95, and I still like it today. "Marathon Man" is a good, churning, Naked Raygun/Pegboy-style punk song, so for Teeth's sake, why not give it a listen.

Teeth -

"Marathon Man"

(this file is now listen-only)

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Who Am I To Tell You Something?

Deep Elm used to send me their records back when the label first started in 1995; at that point, all of the label's releases were cute colored-vinyl indie rock 7"-ers in full-color picture sleeves, and had really nice packaging. I ended up getting six of their records in the mail, and I reviewed two of them in the fifth issue of Brushback.

I was pretty sure that both reviews were fairly positive, and you can still find the one I wrote for Muler on the Deep Elm web site ("seething with tumbling buzzsaw guitar lines and hoarse, disappearing vocals, so painfully post-modern that it's like punk rock was never invented"). In my Nada Surf review I said that Deep Elm was "an obvious trust fund label setting itself up as bait to the majors," and I'm guessing that's the reason why Deep Elm stopped sending me their records right after that issue of Brushback was published.

Deep Elm went emo soon afterwards-- the minute label chief John Szuch heard "In Circles"-- and if I'd kept my mouth shut I would've been swimming in bad Appleseed Cast records. Serves me right for being such a dick.

Muler themselves went on to make a really bad CD ("The State of Play"), but I still like the a-side to this single a lot; they have a nice Small/Superchunk thing going on here, and the song is hooky as hell.

Muler -

"On The Rug"

(this file is now listen-only)

Friday, March 21, 2008

Setting a Bad Example

click for enlarged view

The back of the sleeve swipes the adidas logo, and the front sleeve is a plea for animal sex. Who put this record out, freaking Nike?

I saw the Didjits at the Anthrax in '87, back when "Fizzjob" had just come out. I don't really remember anything about that show except for Urge Overkill's matching marching band outfits, which were pretty gay terrible.

The flipside to this is a Dickies cover, which absolutely no one needs to hear.

Didjits -

file is now listen-only

click for enlarged view

Thursday, March 20, 2008

One Two Three Steps And You're Cured

click for enlarged view

This record didn't sink in with me right away when I first bought it (note the original Brass City Records price sticker up in the corner, which I tried to peel off unsuccessfully 20-plus years ago), but luckily I still had it filed away when sometime later I read a review of "Coca Cola & Licorice" in Forced Exposure. The review basically said, "Didn't strike me at first, but now I can't stop playing it", so I pulled the record out again, and whaddya know, the guy was right. Hopefully a few plays right now will help lead you to the same conclusion:

"This here is a motherfucking jam." *college-rock speak so that you'll get it

Of course, Death of Samantha went on to make some incredibly rocking LPs for Homestead (a couple of which I still have, so get ready for more of that action later), which, along with the primo "They Pelted Us With Rocks and Garbage" compilation, really jump-started the whole Cleveland thing for me. I eventually owned something like 8 of the first 10 singles on St. Valentine, and CLE bands like Starvation Army and the almighty Prisonshake became some of my all-time favorites.

Now that I think about it, that was one of the few times reading Forced Exposure ever did me any good, even.

click for enlarged view

Death of Samantha -

"Coca Cola & Licorice"

"Listen to The Mockingbird"

(these files are now listen-only)