Ice Cream for Crow (1982) by Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band

Categories: 1982 and Music.

If you have come at the Captain through his earliest works, this record might feel like not much or a man settling into his mid life. It’s far less radical than his most radical work of the early ’70s, wherein he basically pioneered the intersection of blues and free jazz and other things. Read More

Fabulosos Calavera (1997) by Los Fabulosos Cadillacs

Categories: 1997 and Music.

In 1997, I fell in love with Grosse Pointe Blank, the only romantic comedy that was violent enough for my 15 year old soul to feel okay about liking. I liked it so much I went out and bought the soundtrack. (Well, the first soundtrack as there’s a Volume 2 I never purchased.) It was the one of the few contemporary albums I owned at the time (everything else was Beatles). On that CD was a song called “Matador” by this band. Read More

Traineater (2007) by Book of Knots

Categories: 2007 and Music.

I think most people who come to this record because of the musicians involved will invariably have really high expectations, which is a problem. But a concept album about the decline of US industry made by some of the best experimental rock musicians with so many notable guests – Tom Waits!!! Trey Spruance!!! Mike Watt!!! – is bound to raise expectations. And, if you come to this later, as I have, there might also be an inclination to see this as the beginning of Bossi’s and Kihlstedt’s descent from avant garde weirdness and cutesy indie pop. And so I must Read More

Weasels Ripped my Flesh (1970) by Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention

Categories: 1970 and Music.

Zappa takes his musique concrete collage obsession and applies it to a live album. It’s nowhere near as radical as the Mothers’ records at their apex – as this is mostly a collage of songs, rather than song fragments, jokes and the like – but it’s still hard to recall another live album of this (or any) era that is this deliberately constructed, and where the construction is visible on its sleeve. Though I have yet to fully familiarize myself with Zappa’s post Mothers discography (beyond his biggest “hits”), this has to be one of the last times Zappa was Read More

Rabbit Rabbit Radio, Vol. 3 – Year of the Wooden Horse (2015) by Rabbit Rabbit

Categories: 2015 and Music.

The third edition of Rabbit Rabbit Radio is different in conception than the first two. This time out, Kihlstedt and Bossi asked twelve guitarists to submit riffs to them, and then they’d build the songs. The results are significantly different than the first two outings. If Volume 2 was “Rabbit Rabbit Goes Pop” then this is (mostly) “Rabbit Rabbit Rocks.” And though the basic guitar tracks aren’t necessarily obviously straightforward – though sometimes they are, sometimes they are all off the wall – the goal seems to have been to create something significantly more accessible than, say, Sleepytime Gorilla Museum, Read More

Soused (2014) by Scott Walker and Sunn O)))

Categories: 2014 and Music.

This should be a match made in heaven. (Or hell. Or the ether. Or nothingness…You get the idea.) I feel like Walker’s recent song-writing and his aesthetic should have matched utterly perfectly with Sunn O))), a band that I more appreciate than like. One of the things missing from Sunn O))), in my mind, is songs. And Walker can certainly write songs. But the problem is that it sort of feels stitched together. What I thought would mesh doesn’t. It’s almost as if Walker’s sound sits atop (or in front of) Sunn O)))’s, and the results are a little disappointing. Read More

OU818 (1989) by Mr. Bungle

Categories: 1989 and Music.

This demo, their last before their major deal, starts out as a not very funny parody of a hip hop mix tape. Most of the actual musical material made it to the debut, and a lot of it is somewhat close to the sound of said debut, minus the production: the sound is clearly not up the Warner debut quality but also there is ample evidence that the band needed a producer (as in a person who would edit their work and tell them what works and what wouldn’t). And that may seem like an odd thing given that their Read More

Goddammit I Love America (1988) by Mr. Bungle

Categories: 1988 and Music.

For me, this is the first Bungle demo that really sounds like Bungle, rather than a bunch of guys who would turn into Bungle later. A lot of that has to do with the presence of songs that make the debut, but they sound a lot better – more coherent, more obviously themselves instead of a Metallica- or Camper van Beethoven-wannabes, and just way more like the band I fell in love with. This is still pretty rough – they were still a ways from refining their very unique sound (and you could argue the debut was still very unrefined) Read More

Grand Opening and Closing (2001) by Sleepytime Gorilla Museum

Categories: 2001 and Music.

SGM’s debut is an idiosyncratic mix of metal, ‘modern creative’, theatricality and some other disparate genres (prog for example). Part of the idiotically named ‘Rock Against Rock’ sub-genre – the standard-bearer? – SGM sound like a less chaotic, less Zappa-crazy Bungle at times, but don’t be mistaken by the oft made comparison. This is an entirely different beast – in part because they clearly like different weird things from Bungle. Perhaps their most distinguishing feature is their use of home made instruments and effects, which makes some tracks even less accessible. I must say I prefer their later stuff slightly, Read More

N’ecoutez pas (2004) by Fly Pan Am

Categories: 2004 and Music.

I feel like they really are on to something on the first track, like some kind of unholy mixture of post-hardcore and Stereolab. But the second track – and all future noise fillers on the album – is just pseudo-avant-garde nonsense – honestly people have been making “music” like that since at least mid-’70s (and likely the 1950s). “Autant zig-zag” is I guess a little closer to what I thought I would be getting; like a more directionless GY!BE without the chamber influence and with more of a not so obvious pop – or at least Krautrock – influence, but Read More

This Heat (1979)

Categories: 1979 and Music.

This is like some unholy combination of ’60s avant rock, early industrial music and the earliest post-punk. And that description really isn’t fair. Really, there’s little out there like this, especially so stylistically diverse. Usually experimental music is experimental in one or two ways; this manages to run a whole gamut. Like little else. 9/10 Read More

Bish Bosch (2012) by Scott Walker

Categories: 2012 and Music.

Walker continues his unique path – nobody else makes music like this as far as I know – which seems to my ears to be some kind of combination of the singer-songwriter of the folk and rock traditions with someone who listens to way too much serialist and horror film music (and also no wave and post-no wave, specifically Swans). Walker has made a few concessions towards his audience this time (at least on some of the songs) where riffs that could conceivably be found in rock songs do indeed appear, briefly. I can’t decide whether this makes what he Read More

RIP Ray Collins

Categories: Music and RIP.

Ray Collins died on Christmas eve. Because he was Ray Collins, I didn’t find out about it for four days. Collins was Zappa’s earliest lead vocalist in the Mothers of Invention – that is, when Zappa himself wasn’t singing – which was actually initially Collins’ band under another name. He also provided backing vocals to these early Mothers albums and numerous other Zappa projects (allmusic lists around 30 credits). He contributed some rhythm guitar and percussion as well to the early Mothers albums, when they were still an actual band, and not just whatever Zappa was doing that day. I was Read More

The United States of America (1968 Columbia)

Categories: 1968 and Music.

This stuff is mind-blowing. Almost as out there as Zappa and the Mothers (at their very weirdest) or the Velvets (at their very artiest) and not quite as crazy – and far more artsy – as Beefheart was about to get. It’s too band the sound isn’t exactly great, as apparently these guys were very, very noisy in concert, which doesn’t exactly come across here. The songs aren’t exactly great – Zappa was certainly the better composer – and the band could really use a real rock singer. (I do get that having a singer like her was part of Read More

My Favourite Music Scene

Categories: Music.

Throughout the years, New York has been a hot bed of the avant garde, the new, and the different. And London has also been a real centre of forward thinking music. (Though with London – even more so than NY – many of the bands that were doing the forward thinking originated in other communities before moving to London.) But for me, the one scene that consistently excites me – when I go back to it, when I encounter new bands from it, and when I think about the overall creativity of a given time and place – actually was Read More

RIP Ween

Categories: Music and RIP.

I found out about Ween’s demise last week, and I have been trying to think of how to sum up what they meant to me (and the world, but of course…) in some kind of measured way. I have a rather bizarre relationship with them: I came to them rather late (2001? 2002?) and I never, ever saw them live. So I can’t really do them justice. But I will try. I think the best way to do it is to discuss what I think is their greatest achievement – and one of the great rock albums of the 1990s Read More

Zaireeka (1997) by the Flaming Lips

Categories: 1997 and Music.

In the CD players (this time around): 2 of the four discs of Zaireeka by the Flaming Lips. In case you don’t know, the album is 4 separate discs of the same “songs” and you are supposed to create your own listening experience using 2, 3 or 4 discs played at certain times. Right now I have disc 1 and 2 going slightly off, it’s pretty rid-damn-diculous. Incidentally, the theory is you will never once repeat a playing because each CD player is different. Who knows? It’s pretty crazy to hear one piano chord (obviously distorted by something) from one Read More

Why it’s good when bands break up or have lots of side projects…

Categories: Music.

In the CD player: King for a Day, Fool for a Lifetime by FNM (yes, I know…) I was just thinking, it’s amazing the number of other bands and artists and various other people I’ve been exposed to because of one band I really like. For example: Mr. Bungle I don’t really remember why I first bought their debut album. Certainly, I think I was fairly young. I must have bought it for “The Girls of Porn.” Anyway, not only did the album significantly expand what I thought could be considered music (they’re more chaotic than prog rock…) but I Read More