Friday, December 25, 2009

Best of 2009

01. Jonathan Richman - ¿A qué venimos sino a caer? (Munster)
02. Chuck Perrin-Down2Bone (Webster's Last Word)
03. Outrageous Cherry - Universal Malcontents (Alive)
04. The Higher State-Darker by the Day (13 O' Clock)
05. The Mantles-s/t (Siltbreeze) meandering forward with that Bucketfull of Brains sound.
06. Marked Men-Ghosts (Dirtnap)
07. The Barbwires-Searider (Wild)
08. The Woggles-Throwing a Tempo Tantrum (Wicked Cool)
09. The Dex Romweber Duo-Ruins of Berlin (Yep Roc)
10. The Resonars-That Evil Drone (Burger)
11. The Riverdales-Invasion U.S.A. (Asian Man)
12. Mark & the Spies-Give Me a Look (Screaming Apple)

Top 5 Reissues/Archival/Comps/Out-of-print rips

01. Where The Action Is: L.A. Nuggets 1965-1968 (Rhino)
02. Jonny Chan & the New Dynasty Six-I Hate You Baby (Sound Camera) 2-CD set includes the second unreleased album, outtakes, and live cuts
03. Up From The Grave: North Valley(Sacramento area) Garage 1965-1968-(Frantic Records)
04. 2131 South Michigan Avenue: 60s Garage & Psychedelia from USA and Destination Records (Sundazed)
05. The Folklords-Release the Sunshine

Favorite music related blogs I came across in 2009:
South Bend Power Nineties:
Busybuddy (mousepad travel with Peter Zaremba of the Fleshtones)

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Down2Bone-Emotional States of Matter

While the front cover might mislead some to think this is a country album from the 90’s and the name of the album/group/concept reflects hip-hop, rap-rock or even Prince from the same decade, this album actually comes from a long linage stretching back to mid-sixties Midwestern folk and garage rock. Over the years, listeners spanning from Sweden, France, England to Japan have found their way to the American music of Chuck Perrin and his Webster’s Last Word label which has been independently spinning since 1968. The close of this decade brings the world Perrin’s most varied, yet simultaneous most unified effort with the thread continuity being a confrontation of the conditions and a questioning of the directions we find ourselves here in the Pacific Southwest 2007-?.

The heartland rocker “Find A Way” aptly opens the album with seemingly over-simple, yet true sentiments. Perrin passes down his father’s words: “Put one foot in front of the other & do your best each day/You’ll find a way.” It’s also analogous to the writing process by replacing foot for word while recalling John Cougar Mellencamp’s Scarecrow & Lonesome Jublilee-era harvester rock (then at his peak of corralling of musical hooks with social consciousness under Don Gehman production.) “Too Much to Ask” spurs us to further examination and re-examine not the way the powerful run the Divided States, but the way we run ourselves during our momentary interactions, actions and reactions—frequently surrounded by incessant & shrill phones, our own crying children, grinding leaf blowers and diesel exhaust.

The protagonist of “Where the Wild Winds Blow” is fully aware of Henry Ford’s opinion that “Beaten men take beaten paths” but like a River Rouge lineman, a Nogales maquiladora assembler and the broken circles of Latino men waiting and wanting for work everyday of the year, there is little opportunity to change their plight. Dexterous guitar and Chuck Almond’s percussion offer solace against this backdrop rut before drifting out to Calexico or Friends of Dean Martinez-like ending that evokes the layered and sloping sand dunes framed by Interstate 8. Unfolding and unencumbered, “Chain of Choices,” navigates the listener through the labyrinthine structures about playing our cards with dharmic purpose, even when life frequently has countless trick cards up its sleeve. “Down to Bone” is an invocation by way of William Faulkner’s famous proto-emo statement, “Given the choice between the experience of pain and nothing, I would choose pain.” This is a jarring proclamation of wanting to work through the aforementioned constructs and entanglements while questioning what constitutes the core with the desire to return to the rudiments of life itself.

With its catchy chorus, jaunty rhythm and reassuring lyrics of gratitude “Tennessee” is the accessible and possible pop hit on this CD/download/website. This standout, moving between downtown and the down home, could be on the hot country charts or countrypolitan radio--if touched up by a big glossy production riding over minor steel guitar accents and major guitar pyrotechnics. Better yet, it could be interpreted by Johnny Cash, Buck Owens in their heydays or even the 1968 country-tinged Byrds (think “Goin’ Back). I like it just the why it plays as it is comfortable as broken-in border town boots.

“Trustville” arises cracked and fragile like an atmospheric Sufjan Stevens song before widening out to swaying bossa-nova with its evocative percussion floating over an ocean of clouds. Veering into Don Henley territory, “Bring it Here,” highlights Perrin’s smoky & grizzled vocals that are world weary on the edges, but ultimately optimistic at the core. A flaring sax exchanges the jagged unease with the healthy desire to expose what’s currently behind the curtains. The guitar sounds on “Tell Me You’ll Be Mine” appear exhumed off Columbia House "12 for a penny" Mountain, Foghat, Nazareth albums (stacked and overpriced in a Yuma antiques store) while the over-the-top bravado lyrics give solo Diamond David Lee Roth a run for his money. A Little Stevie Wonder harmonica riff tags the end of this diddy, but the setting is not of a bleacher stompin' & sweaty 1963 high school gym, but the open doorways of a salty Ventura Harbor blues bar.

“Life is a Stream” floats us back inland and is a minor key remodel of a wistful song Chuck and his sister Mary first started performing in 1968. I still prefer the sepia-toned and seamless original version and instrumental found on their 1971 seminal album of the same title. The clangorous guitars return with “The Glass Off” and finishes off the album with vengeance. Aptly, the album concludes without melodic resolution, but with the ship sinking, the floor coming out and things burning to ground. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust, note to note, word to word and only time will tell where we are headed next in century 21. As for now Perrin has made his definite statement on this crossroads decade as we make the necessary stops, continuations and starts towards a better one. In his Down2Bone website introduction, Perrin simply states it best, “There is no going back.”

Audio and visuals (from photographer Dennis Reiter) found here:
If Walker Evans ever saw aspects of current times of bordered-up businesses, broken homes, crushed dreams and undercurrent of hope in the 2009/2010 Southwest...

Monday, July 20, 2009

Jonny Chan & the New Dynasty Six: Circumstances Beyond Their Control?

After a decade of delays, the second Jonny Chan & The New Dynasty Six album has finally lifted off the runway. It could be said that “I Hate You Baby” was a decade in the making or a decade overdue. Whatever your perspective, Sound Camera Records has ventured over the coiled barbwire and rescued this previously unreleased treasure from the dust yards of no availability. The reconditioned album, lovingly renovated by Sound Camera Records as a bonus tracks galore 2-disc edition, is ready to land under the glow and into the stereos of the sixties garage world.

Some may recall Jonny Chan & the New Dynasty Six made a major dent in 1998 with their debut album “So You Want Action” featuring “Little Black Egg” lyrically rendered in Mandarin Chinese. Others might remember their extensive interview atop an ambulance in Flipside Magazine. Still others might think back to their live shows and festival appearances (e.g., Fuzzfest ’97 in Atlanta and L.A.’s Dionysus Demolition Derby) where they opened up the sense of anything could happen and many times frequently did. In fact, during their "It's All About Me" finale, an amusement park character walked into Detroit’s Magic Stick (a venue loft above a bowling alley). It was a surreal and perfect jolt for a stripped-down garage festival called Gutterfest held during Indian Summer ‘98. So what happened in these intervening 11 years besides the usual compounding conflictions of work, school life, egos and musical differences? I will refer you to the CD booklet for both sordid details and brushes with fame. The music will be the main focus here.

You may be thinking, “This sounds like any garage band that managed to play a live set on WFMU, shake some NYC action at Manitoba's Bar and release a record on Dionysus or SFTRI.” Yes, the band was guilty of crash landing at any moment, being comprised of shifting and incongruent lineups while sending out infrequent communiqués over intermittent cut-rate websites. In this turbulence, lies the genius of Jonny Chan & the New Dynasty Six. They could sound so sharply focused and other times spinning out of control--and out of their heads. In the end, Jonny Chan is kind of like art or life itself—sometimes there’s understanding or momentum, but most other times something entirely else it transpiring. This is the soundtrack to both the clarity and chaos.

The instrumental “Hook, Line & Sinker” sets the album off in true go-go motion before setting stage for the downbeat and folked-up “I Say Yeah” featuring a soaring Rickenbacker solo that recalls the Optic Nerve and the Nightcrawlers at their finest. On "It's All About Me,” the band reaches its summit with the song’s perfect arrangement, shifting dynamics and musical execution. The first time I heard the flowery strums of the intro at the aforementioned Gutterfest show, I thought they were going to cover The Monkees’ “The Day We Fell in Love” which would not only be heretical, but truly dangerous to play in rough & tumble 1998 Detroit. Everything comes together for them in this instantly connecting and signature song touched by the divine spark. Next, “See My Way” surges things forward and displays their Kinksian side. (JC & ND6 belted out a charged up cover of the Kinks' "I'm Not Like Everybody Else." at the same Gutterfest show.) The song is also a perfect vehicle for Chan’s rush hour vocals conveying a native Detroit gunk accent clashing and converging with a transplanted snotty New York one. Chan’s vocals end up veering somewhere between John Felice of the Real Kids and the garage-pop sensibilities of Robert Wojz (of the Insomniacs). While this might not sound appealing under monitor glass, the voice is captivating, distinctive and a perfect fit for either a heartfelt ballad or a fast fuzz-filled ride.

The overflow reservoir department brims with an alternate and superior take of “This is the Place” overlaid with the more congruent vocals by Jonny vs. Wayne’s huskier straining lead vocals heard on the proper album. As every good architect has a trail of bad projects behind them there are a few throwaway pedestrian numbers (e.g. “Fatty Fatty Two by Four”) which were understandably sent to the impound. The real revelation is the pristine folk-rocker “I Want What I Can’t Have” which rates up with “Time Has Gone” from their debut album. One can only surmise sounding too much like Manfred Mann’s “Pretty Flamingo” layered with a veneer of “Norwegian Wood” disqualified this minor-key magnificence. While it may seem surprising this discerning Mr. Chan, who knows his Knaves from his Saturday Children, would have a Manfred Man blind spot, the head honcho of Sound Camera Records testified in Oakland County Circuit Court of no chicanery and Mr. Chan was truly unfamiliar with # 1UK hit from 1966. Flagrant rip off or not, this song is immaculate folk ‘n’ roll with an undercurrent of raga echoing in the distance. JC & ND6 always seemed attuned and aligned to regal feel and look of the Chicago ‘60s bands—from the Dunwich label in particular. This is testified in their glorious cover of “A Girl as Sweet at You” from their debut and the acoustic version of the Knaves’ “Your Stuff” which rounds out disc one. It’s not every decade that you hear a band covering the Knaves. Disc two features the Mosier Safe Sessions with its very apt echo making these rehearsals a Mondo Mid-sixties blow out. Also included on disc two, is a solid and satisfying WFMU set (15.5 songs from Joe Belock's Three Chord Monte program) from the dawn of this decade.

While coulda, woulda, shoulda surround the legend of Jonny Chan and the New Dynasty 6, these are only shadows contrasting with the moments of brilliance. With the perspective of time, Chan has come to terms with the missed opportunities, “It was 2000, Garage was hotter than it had ever been and we did everything wrong, we blew it big time. Nobody was willing to do what was needed to be done including myself.” Even if the band was able to ride the momentum, make an appearance on the Sopranos, play at the Randall's Island Donut Festival and release a glossy record on Wicked Cool, this path would have belied the unraveling energy of band lead by the unorthodox and unbounded spirit of Jonny Chan. Conversely, if the band was able to sidestep the fallows and minefields, they maybe could have achieved a string of releases and international festival appearances placing them in the upper echelons of the garage world. Nevertheless, this recovered bounty of previously unreleased recordings emanates with Chan’s considerable talents and vast capacities in commanding musical order while simultaneously dishing out the chaos. Furthermore, the story and sound are far from over as anything can happen when you enter the indomitable world of Jonny Chan and New Dynasty Six.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Best of 2008

01. The Explorers Club-Freedom Wind
02. Jonathan Richman-Because Her Beauty is Raw and Wild
03. Various-Sing Me a Rainbow: A Trident Anthology 1965-1967
04. Chris Sprague-Diesel Made for Two
05. Brian Wilson-That Lucky Old Sun w/Believe in Yourself single
06. Dear Nora-Three States: Rarities-'97-'07
07. The Fleshtones-Take Another Look & Stocking Stuffer
08. The Autumn Leaves-Long Lost Friend
09. The Surfites-Escapades in Space
10. Fleet Foxes-s/t