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NeareSST Relatives, Part II

7 Jul


I did promise to eventually finish what I started with my very first post, didn’t I. Yes, I admit it is not hard to get me blabbering about the great and wonderful SST RECORDS. So I’ve done it again – written about what all my favorite SST heroes have been up to since jumping Greg Ginn’s ship, that is. But as this whole conceit is actually pretty damn arbitrary, I thought I’d get myself focused for this one. This time – to keep it simple: I’m only discussing post-SST tangents that have come out in the last decade. Off we go!

1. THE UNKNOWN INSTRUCTORS“At The Center” (from The Master’s Voice, Smog Veil Records, 2006) A conscious attempt by poet Dan McGuire to recreate that SST spoken word/jamnation trip of yore, using the very cats (Mike Watt, George Hurley, Joe Baiza etc.) that created said SST jams in the first place. Such a proposition could be dicy, but forget that – since the 2 CDs they’ve put out so far are compelling, meaty examples of just how improvised rock + the right words can combust in totally sublime, meaningful ways. The new one, The Master’s Voice, feels stronger, tougher, even more confident than the first, and hence has my pick between the two. The beautiful Pettibon cover artwork (plus his disassociative lead patter on one particularly mindbending track) had me captivated from spin one. The rest – Baiza’s slithering/scrambling leads, Watt’s powerful, widemouth basslines, Hurley’s rockgroover drumming, and McGuire’s ominous incantations – settled in nicely after a few days. What took longer to get accustomed to was the presence of Mr. David Thomas of PERE UBU – on birdcalls, yodels, and non sequiturs, what else! Clearly, this man still posesses the innate power to wedge himself uncomfortably high up into yr asscrack with remarkable ease. But hey, I didn’t bitch. I just took a couple of deep breaths, and relaxed into it all. Now, the whole thing fits real fine. REAL fine.

2. THE CHUCK DUKOWSKI SEXTET“Night of the Hunter” (from Eat My Life, Nice & Friendly Records, 2006) Just be happy Chuck’s back. I, for one, can overlook a singer who makes me feel a bit queasy. Shit, every one of Chuck’s bands (WURM, SWA, even FLAG) had difficult singers; it’s what I’ve come to expect from the man. Here, the tunes are good, and playing inspired, and the mix warm and bassy. So what if I don’t dig the vocals? And this probably sounds way better live, but I ain’t anywhere near Venice, CA no more (where Chuck’s living these days). This CD’ll haveta make do til they TURN UP THOSE GTRS and release another.

3. TEN EAST“Expanding Darkness” (from their Extraterrestrial Highway CD, Alone Records, 2006) Just amazing recent instumental work by gtrists Gary Arce & Mario Lalli plus bassist Brant Bjork and drummer Bill Stinson – all of whom (Brant excluded) played on various SST releases during the 90’s. Clearly, the best rock album EVER to listen to while hauling an 18-wheeler up and over the Grapevine at 3:00 am on an early Tuesday morning. And I ain’t gonna go into how important ALL these men have been in the continual development of hard ‘n’ heavy rock over the past decade. Just go now and grab the first record you see with ANY of these guys names on it, and find out for yourself. Or better still, go order a meal and a beer at Mario’s Sierra Madre restaurant, Cafe 322, and ask him to throw on the last FATSO JETSON CD. There’s no way you won’t be leaving a really, really big tip.

4. PUTTANESCA“Shiny Red Box” (from their Puttanesca CD, Catasonic Records, 2006) It’s Joe Baiza’s MECOLODIACS + singer Weba Garretson (ex-PEARLS, Eastside Sinfonietta, etc.), and to these ears it’s a total mismatch. I mean, here’s Joe and co. tearing at strings & skins in really inspired, JAMES BLOOD ULMER goes south-of-the-border fashion, and then: Weba swoops in from the winebar with her NPR jazz croonerisms and basically kills any possibility of attaining nirvana. She seems so caught up with getting the changes right and sounding sultry that what’s lost is the fact that the boys are groovin’ on a whole looser, more intuitive plane altogether. Maybe Joe will consider issuing a vocal-less remix of this? I’d recommend that version, fr sure.

5. JOE & MIKE“Everywhere” (From Joe & Mike, private press, 2003, available from THE LAST website) Largely-acoustic CD-R by the Nolte brothers revisiting lost tunes never waxed by THE LAST proper. And it’s as great as any legit LAST record you might wanna point to. I realize these guys’ strident vocal harmonies have always been a bit of an acquired sound, especially to shaggy 60’s folkrock heads who want their vocalists to sound all soft, mellow n furry ala RAIN PARADE’s David Roback. But I can name 3 dozen great sixties pop/rock acts who had singers who didn’t sound particularly soft – think Arthur Lee in early LOVE, or Sal Valentino in THE BEAU BRUMMELS, or even Rob Grill of THE GRASS ROOTS – and THE LAST have always swam a similiar course. Don’t ignore the significance of these men! They practically began the entire South Bay independent music scene in mid/late 70’s, they were a huge influence on a PANIC-era Greg Ginn when he was first scheming to putting out his own records, and they jumpstarted THE DESCENDENTS (in whose early songs I can identify dozens of little LASTisms). These guys still ring true, 30 fucking years on.

6. THE NEW ROB ROBBIES“Pot au Feu” (from Pure Whore, Owned & Operated Records, 1999) Aggro, fullfrontal rock from Chicago, IL by-way-of Bowling Green, OH, and produced by Joe Carducci and ALL/DESCENDENTS drummer Bill Stevenson. At times it reminds me of an amped up version of a “Neil Armstrong”-era ANGST – but that’s probably because singer/songwriter Paul Johnson’s lyrics stick in similarly warm places within my head, glued as the are to really inspired playing and post-punk folkrockin’ songstuff. There’s this rambling webpage with tons of obscure tunage by Paul, charting his progression from the REPLACEMENTSish (but totally listenable) college rock of his earlier SHEEPISH GRIN project, to the more firebreathing attack of THE NEW ROBS. Though this is a bit older now, it still gets loaded onto my I-Pod fairly frequently, and sounded totally fresh and pipin’ hot on my earbuds earlier today in fact. Go find a cheap cutout of this and you, too, will find yourself wondering how many other great bands like this one you missed out on the first time around.

7. TOM WATSON“Future History” (from Country & Watson, Leiterwagen/ Theologian Records, 2000) One could go on and on about guys with post-SST solo careers (Rollins, Watt, Mould, Mascis etc.), and one day I promise to provide you with an EZ listener’s guide to safely navigating the hairy world of Greg Ginn’s post-FLAG projects! But today, all I’m gonna talk about is Tom. Tom’s from the Manhattan/Hermosa Beach area, and came up playing first with TOXIC SHOCK (who donated the standout track to the Keats Rides a Harley comp. from ’81), then SLOVENLY PETER/SLOVENLY (who had a gaggle of monumental recs on SST/New Alliance), and eventually OVERPASS (2 records, the second being a classic). You can read a bit about his early days here; currently he’s playing with Mike Watt in THE MISSINGMEN, opening for dorks like THE RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS all across Europe. This record was initially only available in Europe until Mark Theodore at Theologian (a long-time fan of all that jammy/jazzy late 80’s SST stuff) sought fit to put it out stateside. Great call, Mark. It’s a quiet, homemade record full of sweet melodies, nice gtr playing and a whole lotta oddball, creaking and croaking sound-debris that places it squarely in Tom’s sonic lineage.

Bonus: an ex-roommate, once highschool gal-pal of mine plays my old bass gtr on one live cut on this CD! 7 years later, and I’m still jealous that wasn’t me.