Monday, October 30, 2006

mp3 archive problems

Like practically every other music blog on the planet, we're having problems with EZ Archive (where we store our mp3s) right now. Their "upgrade," as it presently works, sucks ass. We will be back to posting mp3s soon, either when EZ Archive gets their shit together or via another mp3 hosting service.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Pure Joy

Somebody smart once said that for every Elvis Presley there is a Charlie Feathers: there is always some talented guy out there who was at the right place and the right time but, for some unknown reason, doesn’t quite achieve gigantic, mainstream success. Rusty Willoughby is kind of one of those guys. I can’t think of an Elvis for Rusty’s Charlie Feathers, but the point is that Rusty is one helluva talented guy. His late 80s/early 90s band Flop were, in my expert opinion, the best power pop band since the late 70s glory days. Prior to Flop, Rusty was in another great band called Pure Joy. Their catalog, which might all be out of print now, is highly underrated, and sadly, it got a bit lost in the grunge shuffle. Along with the Fastbacks and the Young Fresh Fellows, Pure Joy was part of the Seattle Holy Pop Trinity during the otherwise bleak 1980s pop scene.

Formed in the mid eighties as the Dwindles, the band consisted of singer/guitarist Rusty, bassist Lisa King, keyboardist Randy Willoughby, and drummer Jim Hunnicutt. They later renamed themselves Pure Joy after the Teardrop Explodes song and made their vinyl debut with a self-released, self-titled EP in 1986. The four-song EP contained the song "Ocean,” which was played on the long-gone local radio station KJET and included on the Lowlife Compilation LP (Ironwood Records). Welcome to My New Psychotic Dream was supposed to be their debut record on No Big Business Records, but after their financer ran off with the master tapes, it remained unreleased until Flydaddy Records released it on CD in 1994. By the time of this record, Randy had been replaced by future Nirvana soundman Craig Montgomery, and the nine songs are more developed than on the previous EP. While this record was unreleased at the time, the song “Standing on a Bridge” was included on the C/Z records compilation, Secretions (CZ006). The band then stripped down to a three-piece, with future Sister Psychic/Lawnmowers member Andy Davenhall taking over on drums for their next record, the “Now I Know” single on ex-Silly Killer/Chemistry Set member Bryan Learned’s Fat Bald Records (FB11). Popllama released the Carnivore LP in 1989, and Kurt Bloch’s No Three Records put out the live EP, Sore Throte, Dead Goat (N3-10), in 1990. Pure Joy then disbanded, and Rusty went on to Flop who recorded two records on Frontier and one on Epic.

After Flop broke up in the mid 90s, Rusty, Jim, and Lisa reformed Pure Joy and put out two more full-lengths. The Getz, The Worm (The Great Utopia/Flydaddy, 1997) and Gelatin and Bright (Book Records, 2003) were damn fine pop records that were out of step among all the lousy nu-metal bands that were clogging the airwaves at the time. Between Pure Joy records, Rusty also put out a solo record on Book Records and did a Sub Pop single of the month (SP473) in 1999. Rusty currently plays in the band, Llama.

New Psychotic Dream
Standing on a Bridge
Calvin and Hobbes
Orphan Sky
Gun Thing

-- MC Tom

Friday, October 13, 2006


In the post about Green River, I talked about the importance of seeing Mother Love Bone in my musical education. Since I already discussed one of Mother Love Bone’s parents, it would be fitting to discuss their other parent: Andrew Wood’s first band, Malfunkshun.

Malfunkshun formed in 1980, when Wood was only 14 years old, and they disbanded in 1988 (they were, for all intents and purposes, a high school band). Although their recorded output was limited to a handful of tracks on compilation albums, they achieved a fair amount of local notoriety. In the early 90s, my brother interviewed Lori Black during her second stint in the Melvins, and she singled out Malfunkshun as among the best bands from that era. (The Melvins later covered “With Yo’ Heart Not Yo’ Hands”; someday, we’ll post it here.)

I feel rather unqualified to write much about Malfunksun; they disbanded very early in the grunge years, and the only songs they released while together were on the Deep Six compilation. Histories of the band can be found elsewhere on the web, but I’m not too certain how trustworthy they are. On the wikipedia page, for example, the writer claims that SubPop opted not to sign the band because they weren’t “Grunge enough.” This claim strikes me as preposterous; they sounded as sludgy as anyone.

However, Malfunkshun also sounded more schizophrenic than their peers: a typical song also included a track of shredding guitar on top of the heavy 70s bottom end, and Wood’s vocal style owed more to glam rock (and, dare I say, hair metal) than to the MC5 or the Stooges. Wood’s love shtick, well, it was a bit unfortunate, but I hate to think that his legacy includes Dr. Seuss hats and glitter. He died at the disgustingly young age of 24 and had already started to outgrow the college campus, fly-your-freak-flag look. Furthermore, the look is almost refreshing: it indicates he didn’t subscribe to adolescent boundaries in taste, whereby one wouldn’t permit himself to like both Kiss and Black Flag at the same time.

(Also, in the interests of full disclosure, I should note that I wasn't immune to the freak-flag silliness at that age either. Although I never owned a Dr. Seuss hat, I did play in a band with a song called "Hippie Woman Child" (thankfully, I didn't pen it), and not only did I own a pair of small, rectangular sunglasses, but I also owned a beaded necklace, and I was even known to wear both at once.)

Wood’s death happened just before—literally days—the planned release date for Mother Love Bone’s Apple, their heavily hyped major label debut. His heroin overdose also began a tragic and stupid trend in the northwest, but nobody needs to hear that lesson again. Kevin Wood, the band’s guitarist, later found a reasonable degree of local success with the Fire Ants (with ex-Nirvana drummer Chad Channing), Brad, and Satchel (the latter two of which also included Malfunkshun’s drummer, Regan Hagar). I think I saw the Fire Ants play at Bumbershoot one summer. Whoever it was played absolutely dismal white funk with falsetto vocals. They also smiled a lot; the white funk made them happy. Maybe it wasn’t the Fire Ants. Come to think of it, I probably saw some other band.

An interview with Kevin Wood, can be found here. Also, a movie about Andy Wood premiered at the 2005 Seattle film festival; the producers anticipate an eventual DVD release. I haven’t seen it, and clips do not appear to have landed on YouTube.

The first two tracks come from the infamous Deep Six compilation (C/Z Records, 1986), and the latter two come from Another Pyrrhic Victory (C/Z Records, 1989). Both are long out of print.

Malfunkshun--"With Yo' Heart (Not Yo' Hands)"
Malfunkshun--"Stars n' You"
Malfunkshun--"My Only Fan"
Malfunkshun--"Shotgun Wedding"


Thursday, October 12, 2006

Comments on comments

Somebody recently pointed out that, originally, the blog allowed comments only by other blog users. We changed the setttings to now allow comments by any readers.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

An Earth Post That Barely Mentions Kurt Cobain

One of the stranger marriages in modern music is heavy metal and minimalism. As an 80’s thrash metal kid, I expected all my metal bands to be fast, loud, and obnoxious. Bands like Cryptic Slaughter, the Crumbsuckers, and Wehremacht were the Speed Kings and there were a million other garage metal bands fighting for the fastest band in the heshian land status. Of course, in their speed quest, a lot of bands forgot about songwriting and good riffs. The music was played at such a spazztic blurr that heaviness took a back seat to insanely fast tempo. However, the Melvins took the opposite approach. They realized that heaviness is found in the low frequency so they played lower and slower than everybody else. Dylan Carlson, who once swore off music because the Melvins already perfected it, soon came along with his Earth project and took the Melvins’ dirge template even further. Earth slowed it down even more and used repetition to create some of the heaviest music on the planet. At the time, I used the Melvins as my reference points, and enjoyed Earth in that context. Years later I heard classical minimalist composers like Steve Reich, Terry Riley, and Morton Feldman, and Earth’s music made even more sense. Earth were one of the first heavy bands who understood that there is power in the drone and influenced a whole slew of modern day dronesters like Sunn 0))), Growing, Black Boned Angel, Asva, and the Holy McGrail.

The band was originally formed in ‘89/90 by Dylan, future Kill Rock Stars’ head honcho Slim Moon, and Greg Babior in Olympia, Washington. Greg and Slim didn’t stick around long and were then replaced with Joe Preston and Dave Harwell for their debut 1991 recording, Extra-Capsular Extractions. Recorded by Mike Lastra at Portland’s Smegma Studios and featuring guest vocals by Dickless’ Kelly Canary & Kurt Cobain, Earth’s debut confused the hell out most hipsters who were expecting the ‘Sub Pop’ sound. Joe Preston soon left the band for the Melvins, recorded the great Lysol and solo EP on Boner, and then set off to join as many bands as possible. The remaining members (with some help from Laceration’s drummer Joe Burns) then released Earth 2 in 1993, which was pretty much ignored at the time yet has become the definitive drone metal record. Several line up and records later, Earth broke up and Dylan vanished from the public eye. But Dylan couldn’t stay away from the drone metal spotlight for too long and resurrected the band with Adrienne Davis a few years ago and released the great Hex LP on Southern Lord Records in 2005.

Around 1994, some friends and I drove from Bellingham to Seattle’s Velvet Elvis for a Thanksgiving Day Earth show only to find out that band had canceled at the last minute. Since we were already there and made such a big effort, we decided to stick around and watch the other bands. Earth’s replacement was a New York hardcore band called State of the Union and their signer went on a twenty-minute lecture on the genocide of Native Americans in the 1600’s. It was not a fun show and I will carry the disappointment of Earth’s cancellation to my grave. Luckily, a Portland friend taped this solo Dylan Phase 3 era show on his hand held tape recorder at the X-Ray Café a few months later. It’s crude and lo-fi, but if that bothers you then you are a pussy.

Earth – Live at the X-Ray Café

Buy the Sub Pop reissues here.

-- MC Tom

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Even though we're headed for war, this nation is prouder than ever before

Seeing Mother Love Bone at Bumbershoot when I was fourteen or fifteen years old was one of the formative moments in my musical education. They seemed to possess all of the swagger and volume of the hard rock bands I liked at the time, with none of the misogyny, tastelessness, vacuity, or Bacchanalian overkill of, say, Guns n’ Roses or Dokken. Hindsight I gained a few years later, of course, corrected my youthful misimpressions: Mother Love Bone didn’t sound like the second-coming of rock; they sounded like the Cult.

However, watching Mother Love Bone in that pavilion and hearing very early Soundgarden the University of Washington station, KCMU, led me to investigate other bands from the region—specifically, Mother Love Bone’s divorced parents (Green River) and newly estranged sibling (Mudhoney). And although Mother Love Bone made the first impression, Green River made the lasting one. I bought the Rehab Doll record first. And when I admitted to my buddy Dean that I preferred Rehab Doll to Guns n’ Roses, he called me a homo or something.

Green River’s Dry as a Bone EP (their best record) and Rehab Doll still hold up pretty well. After giving those records a decade-long rest, I pulled them out not too long ago and found that I liked them even more than before. A good friend loaned me the CD SubPop issued with both records (plus two unreleased tracks), and I’ve been spinning it pretty frequently. In fact, a couple of weeks ago, one of the later songs on Rehab Doll (“Porkfist”) came up on my iPod while I was running by Lake Michigan. It gave me a little lift.

Green River were the first grunge rock stars. Their name popped up frequently alongside those of contemporaries Husker Du and Sonic Youth, and they wrote the first grunge staple, “Swallow My Pride,” which both Soundgarden and the Fastbacks covered. Two guys later went on to jaw-dropping levels of fame in Pearl Jam, but everybody already knows that.

What you may not know is their first record, Come on Down (Homestead Records, 1985). I don’t believe it has ever been reissued, and frankly, beyond Pearl Jam completists, I’m not certain that much of a market for it exists. This record, more than their others, embodies the grunge sound—it’s thick, slow, sludgy, and hard. However, it’s also their least interesting record. They're clearly a young band, still finding their bearings. Except for “Come on Down” and “Swallow My Pride,” I don’t find much to recommend it; furthermore, Green River recorded a superior version of “Swallow My Pride” for Rehab Doll. Still, it’s an important record in other regards (it’s the only one on which Steve Turner appears), and I don’t expect it to be reissued anytime soon.

Incidentally, web reviewer extraordinaire Mark Prindle thinks little of Green River, especially Rehab Doll. His reviews should be taken with a grain of salt; after all, he owns everything that Johnny Cougar ever released. Then again, he also has a jaw-droppingly comprehensive collection of records by the Fall, so he's allowed to love "Hurts So Good" as much as he wants. I mention his page only because I like it.

Finally, a decent entry on Green River can be found on wikipedia, and this Mudhoney page also has a good history of the band.

Green River--"Come on Down"
Green River--"New God"
Green River--"Swallow My Pride"
Green River--"Ride of Your Life"
Green River--"Corner of My Eye"
Green River--"Tunnel of Love"