June 21, 2009

FACE IN THE CROWD, Sax and Drums and Rock and Roll (EEEEEEEE Records), orig. release 1985

Factory Food
Total Eclipse
Dr Fizz......... Clown
Face In The Crowd
Face To The Name
All Little Anarchists
A Strong Voice
How Much Do You Know ... Statement ... Justice

R. Loydell and Russell Kirk, plus “whoever else”

Take a little Fall, stir in some Glaxo Babies (according to the stalwart label head – I’ve heard of the band, but don’t really know them well…) or some Jazz Butcher (my reference point for anarchic music with saxophone), and you get this band.

“Factory Food” has a vaguely ska feel, but with louder guitars and less catchy vocals. Nevertheless, the song has a certain ramshackle charm in its rant about factory food (years ahead of the whole Frankenfood concern).

“Total Eclipse” continues the clipped guitars, earnest vocals and skronking saxophone of its predecessor, tossing in a power chord or two for maximum effect.

“Dr. Fizz” has a repeated vaguely spacey/metallic guitar riff, with a spoken word narrative a la the Velvet Underground’s “Lady Godiva’s Operation”. I am hard-pressed to make out most of the words, but the zany ping-ponging guitar and saxophone chaos are beautifully warped.

The track bearing their name (why do some bands insist on doing that?) has a catchy slide guitar loop to it, as well as some chugging rhythm guitar and, again, wacky sax.

“Face To The Name” also has an echoing metallic/spacey guitar thing going on, but the vocals are still sadly squished beneath the noise.

“All Little Anarchists” has the most punk-rocking structure, complete with 1-2-3-4’s and a vocal that is more forward, but still hard to make out. It is so brief that one feels it must be a bit of a piss-take, somehow…

“A Strong Voice”? Not really. I hear lots of guitar noise and drums, but the words might as well not be there.

“How Much Do You Know” – this time the bass, assuming it was present before, is more audible. Oddly, this sounds like “Forming” by The Germs, but without Darby’s undeniable vocal presence. It goes on at great length, into space-rock territory, in a way, and mercifully jettisons the vocals as a lost cause for most of that time.

In short, I like the music on this record, but the vocals really needed some sort of help or further amplification (it mostly sounds live-to-tape, other than possibly “Dr. Fizz”).

Exploding Head Trick, s/t cd (EEEEEEEE Records), orig. release 1989

Jane Anfinson - violin
Harry LeBlanc - keyboards
Satoshi Shinozaki - guitar
W Harper - bass
Joe Miller – drums

So far, these would be the pop stars on the EEEEEEEE roster. “Why So Much Hell” has lively complicated drumming, a super-catchy chorused and arpeggiated guitar and a pretty vocal a la Joni Mitchell (swooping and rangey) – could have stood to be mixed a bit higher to make the lyrics more comprehensible, though the wordless components of the vocal are keening and cut through. “Capsize Corsage” follows and makes us forget that, to some extent – the guitar squeals and feeds back and occasionally makes little squonky noises, and some guy is singing, a tad like a robotic Adrian Belew or maybe even those tracks by Martha and the Muffins that Mark sang on (hey, I’m Canadian!). “The Angel” continues the same pattern, complete with whammy bar attacks. “Lucky 7” returns to the land of tunefulness, complete with a somewhat eerie violin, jazzy guitar and burbling bass – it’s an instrumental – yes, it gets a bit busy, but it’s a GOOD busy. “Through No Power” returns to the female singer, who REALLY sounds like Joni here, and the melody is 80s Joni, complete with rhythmic twists and turns, clanging guitar and the nice winding violin again. “PKU” has ska hints winding through it, as well as the violin, so Camper Van Beethoven comes to mind, but devoid of country and most smart-ass tendencies – once again, no words. “The Solution” starts with gentle cymbal taps, tentative guitar, bass, keyboard and possibly violin sounds, then the female singer, and eventually a virtuoso violin attack – if you don’t like the beat on this one, be patient, because it will change. “Now I’m Grownup” combines a slightly detuned piano and organ sound with hyperactive drum rolls and a lyric about childhood/adulthood differences, and again has an off-beat/skanking component to its rhythm – it sounds like nothing so much as a highly caffeinated circus soundtrack. “Trial by Fire” brings on the sawing violin and a patient, broad piano sound, as well as the polyrhythmic drum attack (where is this drummer today?). “Take Me Home” is not the John Denver song, though it definitely has a fiddle on it and a passionate vocal. “Sneeze” finally brings on the full prog, complete with synthesizer solo, violin madness, instruments pushing in several directions at once, the assertive drums, the constantly shifting structure and, yes, some of the pomposity (just a little, though).

The notes on the website indicate this band was around from 1986 to 1993. It is just WRONG that this seems to be their only document…WRONG, I tell you…


Harry Zantey – EMS synth
(one take, live, no overdubs), orig. release 1981

Mr. Zantey was in the Australian band Crime and the City Solution, which, as the label owner notes, IS surprisingly under-represented on the ‘Net. I remember seeing their albums around – they had four – they were on MUTE, for goodness sakes! Why is there so little data?

The EMS synth, by the way, has an interesting history. It is a fairly rare instrument, and its most loveable trait is that it seems to have a disturbed mind of its own. Hence its favoured status by Pere Ubu, I’m sure…

Sleep Part One (Some Snoring)

It opens with a looping drone akin to, oh, Kluster, Suicide or Silver Apples and gradually gets very loud and obnoxious. With the squeals of feedback and white noise, it is not entirely unlike certain PiL tracks. All I can say is, if this is the sound of snoring, I am NOT sleeping next to this person…

Sleep Part Two (Sleep)

Evidently a restless slumber. This time, the synth is a lot more lively, producing squealing waterfalls and scratched balloons of sound. There’s a beat, or certainly a pulse, which sounds not entirely unlike someone trying to start a wet engine. Towards the end, the synth starts to sputter, so I guess it’s getting sleepy…

SONS OF BITCHES, Death to Music (EEEEEEEE Records)

Oblivion David Stomach - Vocals, guitar, etc
Elvis Khomeini - keyboards, backing vocals, bass
Brain Capacity, Ltd - percussion

In terms of future fame, it might be a bad idea to use pseudonyms on your cassette (1986). Of course, if you’re from Providence, Rhode Island, it might be your idea of fun. Based on what friends have told me about this town, it might be the ONLY way to keep on living…but they could be wrong…I mean, I meet people who HATE the town in which I live, and I can’t picture living much of anywhere else…

Lyndon LaRouche Vs The Abominable Snowman (You Can't Put The Lunatic Back Into The Asylum)

Cheesy coffee-drip beeping and blipping keyboards – growls – some right-wing radio guy rambling on, presumably Mr. LaRouche – then a roar and a rush, and it’s over (I guess Abominable won).

Escape From You

This track opens with a super wah-wah’ed sound of either a keyboard or a guitar (in either case, it sounds right out of the Residents catalogue), which is joined by a growling spoken word vocal which sounds ripped from the throat of the snarly Mr. Skull of that eyeball crew. It’s sort of a romantic song, in which the narrator longs for a place where there’s ‘no syphilis to remind me of you’. Sweet, really…


A fuzzy sequenced keyboard pulse kicks things off here, right out of Suicide. Eventually, an equally distorted cheesy organ-type sound layers over that repeated throb. There seem to be some deeply buried vocals/vocal samples, but I can’t make them out very well.


Ooooh, synth pizzicato strings. The narration is a bizarre shaggy dog story about jock itch, Communism and slave labour in Siberia. There are odd twangy guitar sounds too, but nothing close to a hook. Towards the end, the guitar starts to sound more like a tennis racket being tortured, and still more odd radio/TV samples from the news. It is true, though – the sight of 15 to 20 men scratching their balls in Red Square WOULD be disconcerting…

Michael Jackson

I’m not sure why this track is so named. More odd keyboard sounds and a severely distorted guitar (but not in a garage rock kind of way) and a peculiarly accented voice rambling on incoherently. Would not be out of place on THIRD REICH ‘N’ ROLL – interestingly, the final words of the song are also more or less found in a Girls On Fire track…

Gamelan Of Angry Housewives

Another track in which terrible, unnatural things are done to keyboards, ranging from an electro-beat to chiming sounds to more wah-wah’ing. Pretty much a one-note piece, figuratively speaking, in terms of arrangement.

My Head Is My Only Home

Much as with the previous track, it doesn’t go much of anywhere. If it is true that the head of one of these individuals (assuming there really is more than one person behind this music) is his/her only home, then it must be a rather frightening abode…

Sick 'Em, Reverend

Ah, mid-to-late-80s keyboard sounds. A repetitive clang that would not be out of place on a Deborah Harry record like ‘Feel The Spin’. However, the growling and threatening ‘Reverend’ would probably not be hanging around the sort of clubs where this demented disco genre played – but perhaps he might…


This track sounds as though it were one of the most laboured over on this cassette. A dense web of sound samples and vocal snippets over a keyboard bed. It is almost tuneful – but not quite.

June 20, 2009


Girls On Fire, Girls Who Grew Up To Be Arts Administrators 5xcdr (EEEEEEEE Records)

(Brief background: Leslie Singer began her music career in Washington, DC, as part of an industrial band,Psychodrama, then fled to NYC (where she might have picked up a bit of the skronkiness in her sound) and from there to San Francisco (where, other than possibly a case of weirdness that rivaled The Residents, though sounding nothing like them, the town seemed to have little effect). She moved on from these ’83-’85 cassettes to film, though she is evidently thinking of returning to music).


This cassette (and now CD) contains seven lengthy pieces of guitar noise, distorted vocals and venomous poetry to rival Lydia Lunch, Patti Smith and Kim Gordon at their most nasty. Every song title begins with an ‘I’, but they do not appear to be direct personal confessionals, at least in terms of anything profoundly autobiographical (I would like to think so, anyway). Some of the vocals almost sound as though they were recorded at night under the covers on a portable cassette player, being very close-miked and sometimes unintelligible. The guitars – well, they’re loud, tormented, seemingly attacked with various scratchy substances and, other than perhaps ‘I Ride The Bus Everyday’, which has, if not a hook, then at least a repeated bass-heavy guitar racket, they are not there to amuse you (well, perhaps they might, but you have one sick sense of humour if they do). ‘I Saw A Car Crash’ sounds like what Taffy Davenport might have made if she had been an art-punk rather than a destined-to-die-young Hare Krishna in Female Trouble. Not fun, but certainly unique and very forceful.


This time, the pieces are a bit shorter (16 instead of 7). “Grace Kelly Never Used The Word ‘Fuck’”, in addition to being a wonderful title, begins to show the academic background of our heroine, as she chides the use of the phrase ‘crazy and/or stupid’ many times (and manages to hold the naughty word for an alarmingly long time) – this time, there seems to be an electronic pulse of some sort, as well as bursts of static and what may or may not be ‘real’ percussion, so there is something approximating rhythm, though this is not a disco cassette. The repeated proclamation of the title line in ‘Here Comes Picasso’s Ghost’ almost qualifies as a hook, since she vocalizes it in a rather Ethel Mermanesque brassy style (far from tuneful, but certainly cutting through). “Underwear with No Holes” has an almost catchy beat, and is close to pop-tune length (not in sound). “Cat Vomit Punk House” revisits themes from earlier pieces over a sort of troubled guitar hook (think Sonic Youth rather than The Beatles). “The Almighty Beat” sees our chanteuse experimenting with harmonies (the operative term being ‘experiment’) for about two minutes – this time, I’m almost CERTAIN she’s doing multi-tracking like I did – from one cheap tape player to another, which she carries on into the “let’s hit many objects for a rhythm track” brief selection “The Sky Up In The Sky”. I’m pretty sure “Sick of Donuts” is a metaphor for the stultifying nature of labour under capitalism – because surely you could find SOMETHING to eat other than donuts – this is spoken word with some noises that may just be tape artifacts from the transfer to CD. “Skyscrapers Are Maternal” is actually funny, I think (if something falls from the universe, it will hit the tall building before us, so they protect us like our mothers – of course, at this stage in history, things hitting tall buildings have unpleasant associations…). “Ron Gilmore” has an almost locomotive beat to it, a la “Mind Train” by Yoko (though much less funky) – again, you won’t be able to dance to it… “Helen Schwab” is almost approaching pop music (in a Bizarro world, though), as it has a repeated tuned percussion figure and a, well, steady (if not accomplished) drum pattern – but her philosophy on life is, well, forbidding of air play. “Rotten Bananas” actually sounds like Jandek. Remember, I would consider this a good thing…you might not…


Alarmed by her own commercialism on the previous release, Leslie begins by tormenting us (and a live audience) with the screaming and static of “Dead Poets Don’t Shave Their Heads” (it’s true, though) and “Camus’ Car Crash”. “My Calvins” is slightly less noisy, but the final sentiment is pretty ugly (I won’t spoil the surprise), and the sound doesn’t get any nicer with “Fassbinder Had A Good Set Designer”. Perhaps slightly contrite, she then does #1-#4 on slightly more obvious and more ‘straight’ guitar (perhaps courtesy of the guest guitarist, Clara Lusardi), revealing there is actually something approximating tune and structure to her art attack. Not to worry, though – “Mary Davis Kills” will make you forget that…


Don’t be fooled by the similar title. This sounds nothing like the previous release. It sounds noisier. Her roots in industrial music are clearly in evidence. Lots of screaming, distorted and disembodied/echoed vocals; guitars being subjected to unnatural acts; use of what sounds like tapes, but might be a real person. The cassette listed no titles, and neither does the CD. It’s, well, like early Half Japanese (hint: this is not necessarily a compliment or an insult – more of a caution…).


And so we reach the end of our little story. This one is definitely live, and the ode to “Jessica Savitch” almost has a catchy guitar hook, though the vocals are sadly buried. Remember, I think Half Japanese have hummable tunes, though… “My Groovy Apartment” is very Jandek, too, with big strummed dissonances and a sort of bluesy-from-Mars vocal approach. The untitled fourth track has a catchy syncopated rhythm, though the guitar tune is not ‘catchy’ to the presumed ‘you’ who is reading this, unless ‘you’ are, like me, Jandek’s #1 fan. “South of Market” is midnight humour about how to avoid getting raped in San Francisco. “Life Is Too Funny” calls to mind the ‘pop’ songs Sonic Youth did at the time – which is to say, there is an actual chord structure and some rough song arrangement, but it is far from, oh, Flock of Seagulls. It all concludes with the familiar shriek and guitar-murder of “Camus Crashing”. And so we have come full circle…and the Girls are still on Fire…

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