Richard & Linda Thompson “The Calvary Cross” from I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight (1974)
This has been playing constantly in my head this week; the soundtrack to a freezing start to spring. Thanks to Bryan Daly for first introducing me to this a few years ago.
Songs: Ohia “Steve Albini’s Blues” from Didn’t It Rain (2002)
NASA Space Universe: various new songs, live on WHPK Chicago (2012)
NSU giving us all a reason to give a shit about hardcore in 2013. All songs featured here are slated to be on the band’s next record.
Ego Summit “We Got It All” from The Room Isn’t Big Enough (1997)
My day got off to a bad start by reading some long-winded and somewhat unfocused defense of Appleton, WI band Negro Sprituals. While I did appreciate the defense of the state of Wisconsin from sweeping stereotypes, comparing the band’s art (i.e., their 7”?) to the work of R. Crumb and John Waters in the last paragraph is infuriating. Slapping a controversy-baiting moniker on some B-list shoegazing pop doesn’t scream out “transgressive art” in the least, unless the art in question is the overreaction of the internet, in which case: the band wins, I guess. I’m sure the band is composed of reasonably smart and polite people, but unfortunately their intentions are completely unclear. Are their songs some mockery of cultural appropriation? I doubt it, and I’m not going to listen closely to try to decipher the reverb-soaked vocals. Transparency works best in transgressive art, and if you’re not transparent, but are out to shock people, be ready to handle some criticism, however personal it gets.
With that out of the way: this song by Ego Summit, five white dudes, uses the n-word in its lyrics. The Country Teasers used it a few times, too, among other appalling lowbrow descriptions worthy of an R. Crumb comparison. The difference is that these bands used their art, their lyrics, to shed light on the topic of white privilege, knowingly pointing the finger at themselves and making the listener squirm while looking him or her squarely in the eye and telling ‘em that they’re guilty, too. “We Got It All” reeks of desperation, like waking up in your car half-dressed and smelling like rum and realizing that you’re the idiot that gets to have everything easy in life because of the color of your skin. It is a song that makes me equally miserable and infuriated, and that’s a hell of a lot more than I can say for Negro Spirituals’ “Black Garden” b/w “Ancient Trees” 7”.
540 Records is doing us the favor of reissuing Ego Summit’s sole LP The Room Isn’t Big Enough, and making it available at the nice price of $10. Now there’s something worthy of your blogging time.
The Drones “I See Seaweed” from I See Seaweed (2013)
I had no idea this was coming out - thanks to Z. Dane for the heads up - but what a way to end this tumultuous week. I was heavy into Melbourne’s the Drones in 2005/6 when Wait Long By the River and the Bodies of Your Enemies Will Float By (still the best album title ever) and Gala Mill came out, respectively. The violent, harrowing storytelling on those records was magnified by the band’s gnarled, white-knuckle musicianship; hard blooze for the down and out without all the misogyny of Nick Cave. Cave is still the master but it’s tough to listen to him sometimes without imagining the guy being an unabashed womanizer. Anyway, the Drones released Havilah in 2008, which I admittedly have not spent much time with, and they seemingly disappeared for a few years. (Discogs tells me they kept busy, releasing a few singles and a live album.) Now they return with the new LP I See Seaweed, and the lead/title track is everything you’d hope it’d be, assuming “Jezebel” is your favorite Drones song like me. Gareth Liddiard’s vocal delivery gives me chills like few other frontmen/women can do, going from a whisper to a full-on roar in the span of a second. The Drones have mastered the quiet/loud dynamic that few other bands can even attempt to utilize with as much feeling and heft. The song is an immediate triumph and I’m confident the rest of the album will be as essential. In the oversaturated music scene of the internet, it’s refreshing to have a band like the Drones kick you down in the dirt to provide some much-needed clarity - this is why I bother to keep up with new releases anymore.
The band is self-releasing the vinyl for I See Seaweed and you can get it on their website - it’s steep, and the recent USPS rate hike isn’t going to help matters. Hopefully it will get some stateside distribution so the band can get some overdue recognition.
Iceage “Ecstasy” from You’re Nothing (2013)
The sun’s out for the first time in a while, and Iceage is my go-to band on sunny days for some reason.
The Wormwood Grasshopper label recently released a new (old) 7” by Hammering the Cramps, “Ghosts” b/w “Black and Blue.” These tracks were recorded live during the band’s heyday of 2005-2007 but were left off the excellent self-titled LP that was reissued in 2011. As you can tell from the above track, the 7” ain’t no slouch either.
Limited to 150 copies - check in with Little Big Chief to get one (and buy that Housewives 7”, too).