Monday, April 02, 2007

Blast From The Past

I was going through some old archives of my writing and ran across my music column that I had for WB On-Line on AOL between 1996 and 1998. Here’s a random one from 11 years ago. I was drunk when I wrote it, I think…

The photo is of Shyly in the studio we shot in. She had literally just come from shooting with Terry Richardson and was tired…

Greetings From The Edge
August 28, 1996


"I don't have a very stable character of my own, I have a series of borrowed personalities."

-Literary Agent Andrew Wylie

I am in Los Angeles. I do not belong in Los Angeles. I have nothing against Los Angles or it's many, many peoples, I just intuitively know (and that means from birth) that I was not meant to be here - even for an hour.

I've not seen a lot of music here. Of the little I've seen, most of it has been good - hell, The Leaving Trains at the Whiskey on "local band night" several years back was one of the best shows I've ever seen - but like the climate and the smog and the way of life, it just doesn't seem to hold a lot for me. I'm just basically an East Coast guy, and although never having fully thought it out before, most of the music I really, really appreciate and the musicians that I really, really admire do not come from Los Angeles. I say this with no prejudice - it's merely a fact.

I love punk rock but X weren't my favorites back then, neither were The Germs or Black Flag. And even if I had been born here, I have to believe that I still woulda gravitated toward The Replacements or the Bad Brains or Television. I do like The Doors (a guilty obsession), but it seemed like they were everything that was good about Los Angles in that era. I think that ultimately my problem lies in the fact that I fundamentally believe that human beings just we're meant to live here. There's no natural water and most importantly, there's no history. Now I realize that a great song can be written simply from one's own personal history - 15 years, 32 years, 66 years - whatever - but if there had never been a gold rush and D.W. Griffith hadn't been frozen out of movie making in the East, would I even be able to be here now?

But you can see the mountains from here. I don't care. But you can get to the coast in half an hour. I don't care. But you can visit Hollywood! Please...although I would like to visit the LaBrea Tar Pits (I'll write a song about it when I do...).

I'm clicking the heels of my Doc Martens three times - now three more - and then three more...nope, still here.

So I guess it's "Greetings From The Edge From The Road" this week. Hold on. Fasten your seat-belt and try to relax. We'll be home soon.


A blues legend - plain and simple. And there ain't many more around. I've never seen B.B. in the flesh, but I've sure heard him play. If you are unfamiliar, he's the one that plays on U2's "When Love Comes To Town." If you like what you hear, visit a local record store and get something by Mr. King, preferably a live recording. For those familiar, I needn't say anything else.

I saw these guys the last time they came through and literally fell asleep. Out like a light at The Bottom Line. I thought them a hopeless rip off of Mark Eitzel ripping off Nick Drake. Thank you, goodnight. But a group of persuasive and relentless friends kept plugging them - I kept saying no thanks. Then one of those friends gave me a copy of the song, "Lord Kill The Pain" from their first EP. And the damn thing grew on me. Next thing I know, I'm whistling past the graveyard with that EP under my depressed little arm. I'd say that regardless how much they've grown on me (truth - you can convince yourself to like anything through massive repetitions - it's how "radio" works...) I'd still rate them the sadcore "B team." But that ain't bad, and they do strike a nerve every now and then. So I'll give them another chance. And there are no chairs where they're playing this time. And I'll ingest plenty of caffeine. I should be fine.

A rock institution returns to the road for a before-even-announced-sold-out tour. If Nirvana was the Sex Pistols of Grunge (and I'm not saying they were), The Jam are most certainly Bad Company (I am saying that). Watch 'em fight TicketMaster. Watch 'em blaze new ground as they lock up venues that rock bands never thought about playing (and coincidentally that TicketMaster never thought about locking into an exclusive agreement). Wonder to yourself why you are listening to "Jeremy" in a cow pasture somewhere in Connecticut. Smile when you see the guy hang up the sign that says "Continental Airlines Cow Pasture." Ain't life grand?

Where'd she come from? Self-releasing a gaggle of albums in the past several years, Ani has now officially arrived. And she's arriving in huge theaters that are being packed with loyal fans and curious newcomers. I've heard that she's the new Patti Smith, but I thought that was P.J. Harvey. Or is it Patti Smith? I'm so confused. Anyway, Ani purportedly puts on a great show and spares the crowd the Tori Amos "mysteriosity." Hell, just the simple fact that she's turned down offers from major labels in order to retain her current independent and answering to no one status earns her points with me. See her now, a good thing can't last forever - and you'll be able to say you were there when...

Crazy men. Mike Patton, crazy punk rock guy, is lead singer with the second incarnation of Faith No More and has been with Mr. Bungle from the beginning. John Zorn, crazy avant-jazz guy, is a seminal member of the downtown New York Knitting Factory scene and "conductor" of Cobra, a free-form improvisational group with myriad members. Together, they make a lot of noise. I saw them as Naked City and Zorn and buddies cranked out this amazingly short, yet complex din of sax, guitar, bass and drums while Patton screamed little thirty second poems over it all. If you have the tolerance and get the chance, it's pretty cool, although, admittedly, it does wear a bit then after a while.

The leftover lead singer guy, David Lowery from Camper Van Beethoven. Remember them? If you don't, just stop reading now. Whether you go to see Cracker or not is completely up to you. If you do remember that band at their finest, trust me on this one. Stay at home and listen to their first three records instead. And then top it all of with their cover of "Pictures of Matchstick Men" and turn in for the evening. You'll be glad you did and you'll still respect yourself in the morning.

If Pearl Jam is the Bad Company of Grunge (I and I didn't say that - oh, yes I did...) then these guys are the Osmonds. Except the guy who wrote all the Osmonds songs didn't kill himself when the others kicked him out of the band. Don't you have anything better to do than listen to this crap?

They don't do anything for me, but I understand the appeal. Two very strong singer-songwriters, writing tunes that appeal to a broad range of demographics. It's the way it should be for everyone playing music. Total marketability that includes a broad spectrum of audiences crossed with the necessary specialty groups. Well done - this should be a model for musicians of this genre - they could call it the TIG Economic Musician Model and sell it on a CD-ROM for millions. If you've heard The Indigo Girls, you know what you'll be in for. There'll be no surprises here.

Just saw this band in Central Park playing with Luna and Cornershop. Kristin Hersh is still out front although Tonya Donelly has long since departed and lived through the rise and fall of Belly. The band was running through material off of their new album which all sort of sounded the same. The sun was also shining as it was about 4pm on a Saturday - and as I've said before, small dark bands like this are not supposed to play in the sunlight. The exaggerated paleness of their skin (and in Hersh's case, bright, rose-colored sunburn before the end of the set) always puts me off. Anyway, I always preferred Throwing Muses when Donelly was in the band and then I always preferred Belly to Throwing Muses - and I didn't even like Belly that much. The show in Central Park seemed a little strained - I don't know if that was due to the new members or the new material - but the whole thing came off as a bit awkward. Given time, one of two things will most certainly happen to this band: 1) They'll fund the confidence they need to retain their loyal fan base...or 2) They'll sink into oblivion once Donelly announces her next big project.


Nobody... (8/6-12/96 - NYC)
I started to go out to about a hundred shows last week but for one reason or another, I didn't make it to a single one. Here are some of the shows that could have been reviewed here but weren't and my accompanying excuses:

I called the press office and the lovely folks at Virgin told me that I shoulda called earlier and that their press list was completely full. Fine, I thought, They shoulda toured earlier, like back in 1987 (a ten year thing) and I'd just wait for the fat, old Clash reunion anyway, thank you.

I went out to dinner with some very good friends and then went and played pool with Selena and Trixie. I swear.

I was on a plane headed toward Los Angeles. I saw the band from the air, but only briefly...

I've read a lot about his band, which played NYC this week, and everyone made them sound slightly interesting. About going to see them - I forgot.

So if anyone out there wants to volunteer to be my personal assistant, and I'll be honest with you - I don't have a dime to pay you with but if you get me into the shows, I'll take you as my "plus one."


"Bad Brains"
(ROIR Records)
It's about time. This was one of those rare ROIR cassette-only releases (an evil, yet admirable policy ) where they knew damn well that when the tapes wore out you'd be hooked into buying another and another and another, the catch being that the sound quality would always suffer. Their catalog is amazing - a lot of early punk from all around the country, most of it specially recorded for ROIR. Well, after many years, the good folks at ROIR have begun to re-issue their catalog on CD. So now, I own two copies of THE BLOW UP by Television on cassette (one is a safety copy) and the newly released CD version. Lydia Lunch's "Eight-Eyed Spy" has just come out and is highly recommended as is the first ever release from the legendary Bad Brains. I had forgotten exactly how good this record was. Way back in 1984 following the release of the (also) seminal "I Against I," I finally agreed to listen to the ROIR tape after a friend repeatedly proclaimed "Oh man, you haven't even heard their good stuff." I finally asked him to prove it. Bingo! And then before I could buy one, they disappeared (ROIR cassettes were always hard to find in the first place). Recorded in 1981, it showcases the Brains at their absolutely finest. Not completely set into a single style, they beat the odds, played that up and it worked it with astounding results. They described themselves as a "gospel band" and you can hear it (way, way back there somewhere) but in the front are pure crystalline blasts of punk, hard-core, reggae, and old fashioned thundering rock 'n' roll. Then music critic / now Yo La Tengo frontman Ira Kaplan supplies the original liner notes (reprinted here) and sums it up best by declaring "Movements come and go. The Bad Brains are real!" Well, they were very real, even though nothing lasts forever and today, they are no more. If you miss them like I do, buy this record. Unlike the Brains themselves, it is timeless.


Stupid Girl (LP Version) / Stupid Girl (Tee's Radio Mix) / Driving Lesson
CD Single
(Almo Sounds, 360 N. Cienga Blvd., Los Angles, CA 90048-1925)
I gotta admit it's catchy as hell and Ms. Manson sure is a sultry little vixen, but this one has me a bit confused. Knowing Butch Vig's production credits and having actually spent several days out at his Smart Studios several years ago, the sound of this band just sorta surprised me. I know he didn't have to sound like Sonic Youth or any of the many others that the grunge king produced - and I know that he's a drummer, instrument-wise, and drummers are usually not responsible for the words and the melodies. I just expected them to be more "alternative" or something (and it's rare that I'm at a loss for opinions). I like the way they sound, don't get me wrong - it's just hard to pin them down - and they can count that as a compliment. It's sorta weird, haunting - almost like Mazzy Star on speed, but not really (still trying). And they respected The Clash enough to credit them for the use of a loop from "Train In Vain" (which I cannot hear for the life of me) not only in the production notes but as actual co-writers of "Stupid Girl." Who's backing these guys?

Mint Car (Electric Mix) / Waiting / A Pink Dream / Mint Car (Buskers Mix)
CD Single
(Elektra Records, 75 Rockefeller Plaza, NYC, 10019)
The song "Mint Car" sucks. It is not excellent. It's wild mood swing reminds me of the worst stuff on "Wish" - which makes sense. The guitar line is a parody on all the serious work they've done, borrowing most noticeably from "Inbetween Days." And the lyrics sound like they were written while Robert Smith was taking a dump or something. Or passing out from too much, uhh, medicine. "Waiting" is a bit better, containing slide guitar (a first for The Cure?) and the lyrics are sharper, sort of part two of "A Night Like This," but it's still too damn cute. "A Pink Dream" also steals all the good parts of the songs on "Head On The Door" but it don't even come close as an homage. And (okay, I admit it) I didn't even listen to the second version of "Mint Car." (Heavy sigh....) Where's the sense of doom? the sense of overwhelming loss and hopelessness? Oh well, at least we can sleep soundly until Bob gets over all this. He usually does.

Big Me / Winnebago / How I Miss You / Podunk / Ozone / For All The Cows
(live) / Watershed (live)
CD Single
(Roswell Records, 1750 vine Street, Los Angeles, CA 90028)
You sure do get your damn money's worth here boys and girls! Seven, count 'em, seven songs plus the big hit single by (I read this somewhere) the Paul McCartney of Nirvana (I guess that would make Kurt, John, but then Krist is not really either a George or a Ringo...hmmmmmmmmmmm). Anyway, so Kurt gives Dave Grohl, the drummer, the opportunity to start his own band and now he sings and plays guitar. Good for Dave. They're a really tight little unit - Dave retained Nirvana's touring guitarist, Pat Smear - and most of their stuff really rocks, but they ain't the Beatles. They're more like Nirvana for kids. I don't mean that negatively, just factually. There is none of that grown-up edge - this band wouldn't scare a 10 year old, though Dave does him best to emulate that Cobain growl/yell thing that meant he was about to lose touch, except Dave just doesn't get away with it. He does, however, get away with a cover of Ace Frehley's "Ozone" played with much more finesse than The Face From Outer Space could ever muster. By the way teeny-boppers, the Seals & Crofts-ness of "Big Me" is NOT indicative of this band's sound.


Keep those cards and letters coming...And remember, if I take a likin' to what you write - I reproduce it below...If you have non-virtual stuff you want me to hear (like if you are in a band or somthing)...send it to me - and if I like it enough, I'll make you a star (as far as you know).

This week, some very kind words from MojoAuntie:

"I totally agree with you about people needing to get out of the house more. Sadly, this has not been happening as often as I would like in my own life. At least not since my car blew up. The last concert I saw was on my lunch break about a week ago. I work in downtown Santa Fe, and every Tuesday and Thursday a local band will play on the downtown plaza. I stumbled onto a reggae band and could only stay to hear their versions of "No Woman no Cry", "Oye Como Va", and "All I Wanna Do". I don't know if they where really good or they where just live, but I had fun. I was wondering if you have seen "Trainspotting". If you like Iggy Pop (and you sure seem to) you should go see it. Also, have you ever heard of a band called "Morphine"? You should do a review on them some time. Hope you enjoyed your beer."

Well Mojo, I sincerely hope you get your car fixed soon. I once had a car "blow up" (quite literally) and it was a drag as the town I lived in then had no public transportation worth mentioning. It sounds like you are being quite resourceful though. I have seen some amazing music for free - from Robert Fripp to people I cannot possibly remember, it's a small investment and the rewards can often be huge - and if the band sucks, you can always walk away or throw something at them.

I have seen "Trainspotting" and think it to be the third best film of the year so far (behind "Heavy" and "Flirt"). I read an interview with the director, Danny Boyle where he said, "My film is not about heroin, it's about Iggy Pop." Go, Danny, go! And finally, Mojo, if Morphine plays live again (which, I would imagine is almost a certainty) I will write something about them - I promise. Oh, and the beer was excellent.

Remember to join me for a beer every Sunday night at Midnight Eastern for "Greetings From The Edge: The Chat." Show up and tell me I have no taste or something... It's in the place they call "The Rap" in the "Cafe.Com" room in Insomniacs Asylum...

Bring in your thoughts about your favorite or least favorite music and we'll...uhhh..."chat."


Anonymous said...

Well...I like the Gin Blossoms. Serve me up a big plate of that "crap".

Sarah said...


I was JUST there two fucking days ago!

Stacy Leigh said...

ahhh....I remember my 10 hole docs and my poppy red manic panic. Teen angst at it's finest!!! I used to listen to some wierd shit like, Sonic Youth, They Eat Their Own and Who can forget my favorite (of that era) Nitzer Ebb....but I also LOVED my rap music, which is what is was called then!

ahhh my early 20's were sweet, and the music was special.

Gary M Photo said...

Dejá Vú overload... ;)