Issue 12 aka Chunklet In Space Features include The Moog, Moon Radio, Guru Bob, Krautrock, The Star Wars Movie, The U-J3RK5S, Childproof Lighters, Dorky/Cool Things About Drummers, How To Be Annoying (Part II!), a Don Caballero ghost story, NASA fun facts, Reviews and the usual array of funny crap that you expect. Also included is a compilation CD (titled The Money Shot) featuring exclusive (and still otherwise unreleased tracks) by: Six Finger Satellite, Arcwelder, Man…Or Astro-Man?, Spatula, Azalia Snail with Harry Pussy, Cash Money (now Cash Audio), Thee Hydrogen Terrors, Harvey Milk, Hurl, Elf Power, The Quadrajets, The Yips, Steel Miners, Windy & Carl, Xerobot, Cruel, Cruel Moon, Stirling and The Azusa Plane.
During my illustrious stint as “human doormat” for the nuts and bolts that are Servotron, the name Moog Cookbook was bandied about the van quite a bit. With an album of performing the “best” of modern alternative rock vis-a-vis every trick in the Moog play book, there’s no doubt that (if nothing else) they’re amusing. The straw that broke the robot’s back was when we discovered that the Cookbook would be making a rare “performance” on the same bill with none other than Servotron. Before their performance at Spaceland in LA, I had the chance to sit down with Brian and Roger who make up the Cookbook. Sure, I won’t mention their sucky band history (Roger was in the undeniably atrocious Jellyfish), but the Cookbook sure know how to put on a good shoe.
How did the Moog Cookbook come about exactly?
Roger:We had a lot of old keyboards and people wouldn’t let us generally use those [the way they should sound] on the records we’d be on.
How long ago was this?
Roger:We only met each other two years ago, but we’ve been buying antique gear separately for five or six years.
Brian:Maybe because we wanted it when it was new and $5,000, and state of the art, but we couldn’t afford it [seeing as how we were] kids. Later on, when it became useless junk in pawn shops, it became cheap and we still wanted it.
Roger:Thank you grunge rock!
Brian:Yeah, so when guitar was big and Guns And Roses and Nirvana hit, nobody wanted synths so we bought every one we could that was mostly working, and interesting and fun.
Roger:We actually met because Brian was selling a piece of gear in the paper. I came over to his house to buy it and we started talking and found out that we had a lot in common. Most importantly, we had a similar sense of humor on the stuff.
So when did the revelation come about that you should do an entire record devoted to nothing but covers?
Brian:Roger and his girlfriend had talked about doing a Moog style album in the style of the late 60’s ones which were funnier and goofier than sincere synthesizer albums. They were just thrown together, arranged real quick and had a synth thrown on top of it. That’s all they would do. It was so simple and haphazard in a way that it makes for some very interesting music. So we had these records that we had bought over the years and really liked those arrangements and styles even more than the real controlled synth albums of the 70’s and 80’s. The out-of-control 60’s ones were great.
You don’t worry about people saying “Ah, you guys are just cashing in” or do you want people to say that?
Roger:We don’t honestly care. There’s a new trend every week thanks to MTV. So it’s just a matter of time before every band has a keyboard player. We wanted to do this before Thurston Moore or the Beastie Boys did it and we felt that we could do it right because we understood the vocabulary of those old records.
But don’t you feel that the resurgence in synths has been coming for a while now? There are bands that have been employing them for three or four years now. Like what do you think of Stereolab?
Brian:We make fun of Stereolab all the time. I’ve known them briefly and they don’t even own any synths. They borrowed one from a friend. They use a Farfisa organ which isn’t even a synth.
Roger:There’s been several bands that put pictures of modular systems behind them with antique graphics. It’s being hip by association.
Brian:If I was a bicycle band, I sure wouldn’t want to put a picture of a Harley Davidson on the cover of my record because the wrong people might buy it. I know people who have bought Stereolab and are very upset because what’s pictured on the cover is not what’s on the record.
Roger:They make a big deal out of playing a Farfisa, and I’m thinking “Hello! New Wave! Elvis Costello! Hello!? Been there!”
Brian:But there are true synth bands that have been in Germany and Italy and doing pure synthesizer music which isn’t fishy. It’s straight up synthesizer music with synths using their boundaries and not doing Rentals like melodies which are very minimal. We actually try to do synth sounds in our record that haven’t been done before and we did ones that are direct copies of others. Part of our fun is to duplicate a Steve Miller sound or a weird McMillan and Wife sound and also throw in new sounds of our own creation. Part of our thing is that we know how to use a keyboard well enough to be able to make those sounds up instead of doing it by accident.
Roger:We’re not sitting here on our high horse pissing on Stereolab. I’m happy that they’re bringing back old sounds into music and being progressive that way, but I’m a purist in a lot of ways. If you’re going to brag about it, learn how to use the thing, and make music on it. Don’t just hit the “Space” button. Anybody can do that.
Brian:The good thing about it is that hopefully people get to the levels of Gary Numan or the Cars and just write really good songs which happen to be written on the synthesizer. That’s where we come from because we both grew up totally loving Gary Numan stuff, but he was making guitar music for two albums before he made a synth album, but it sounded just like Gary Numan. He just started doing guitar riffs on keyboards.
Brian:We had so much fun doing this. We have people come up to us and say “Oh, you’re copying Stereolab” which is weird because Stereolab didn’t even own a synth. I was talking to them a couple of months ago….
It’s not even that you’re ripping off Stereolab, it’s just that you employ the same aesthetic.
Roger:[The album] was our attempt to make grunge rock with just synthesizers. We overdrove all the synthesizers, all through fuzz boxes and Marshall amps and stuff. Every song has a certain attitude.
So what are the immediate plans for Moog Cookbook? Or are there any?
Brian:We’re going to play tonight….
Well, obviously! This is your second show!
Brian:And possibly one of the last. It’s not a touring band, it’s not a live band. It was even a big struggle to get this show together. Roger’s very busy and I’ve got work. So we don’t rehearse this, we only do it for fun. It’s a lot more of a joke entertainment show than us playing synths. We definitely play, but if that’s all we did, it’d be really boring. It’s sort of dull to see keyboard music with two guys playing along. We’ve got the music on tape to make it easier to jump around and have fun. We have the costumes and signs and all sorts of gimmicky things that make it a show.
Roger:There’s a lot of people who will come up to me and want to give me a compliment, but they’re afraid to laugh because they think I’ll get offended if they laugh. My God, we made a comedy album! This is one of the funniest things I’ve heard and we intended for it to be this funny. But people will say “This should be respected as high art” and I’m like, yeah, art and comedy can be the same thing! You don’t have to do this with a straight face. You can enjoy all the gags. Lighten up! I’ve heard through a few people at our label that this album doesn’t leave Ween’s turntable. That’s the biggest compliment to me in the world.
Brian:That’s actually a really great compliment when you make fun of somebody’s song and they still like it. For them, they’re probably sick and tired of their own tunes, so it’s nice to hear another version.
Are you planning to do any more albums of cover songs or are you going to do original work?
Brian:It’s hard to say. It was easy at the time because Roger had six months off where he didn’t have anything to do. He was in between projects and knew he’d have a time frame to work in so he said “Let’s do it”. It didn’t take much time or much effort. It was done almost a year before it came out. That’s why a couple of songs were already old because they were current when they were recorded. It was an easy thing to do. Plus, we have to consider how much we can do that hasn’t been done before by us because we touched on a lot of stuff. We did a disco thing, we did a Kraftwerk/Euro thing, we did a country thing, we did the ’69 Moog record thing, the groovy thing, so there’s not a lot of styles that we can do that haven’t already been covered. We could do another Green Day style Muzak thing, but it’d be like our first album. We’ll have to kick it around to make sure it’d work in theory.
About a year ago, Don Caballero were traveling through the far midwest doing a two week stint of gigs. I mean, fuck it! We were giggin’, right? Anyhow, we rolled into Iowa City. I forget the name of the club, but it was totally cool and didn’t seem out of the ordinary in any obvious way. Bands were entitled to two pitchers of tonic water (one before set, one after), a buy-out allowance of $2 (or free pork rinds all night), and of course, $3 pitchers of draft beer. Situation normal. So far, so good. The 8x10s of some pretty legendary bands were also encouraging. This was evidence that this was no deadbeat club, or town for that matter, that we were playing.
Well, right there was where our luck was to run out. We played to this smooth and feminine black jock guy who wore a fluorescent green tank top who demonstrated terrible taste in women. The women had perms and wore flannel lumberjack tent/shirts in the month of July. They heckled us throughout our set and, aside from the support from the opening band, were our only audience. I had to be honest and told them that they were an okay audience.
So we got paid and loaded out. After everything was packed, we went back in the club and made what we called a “John Bickell check.” It was right then where we met “this guy.” The guy introduced himself as Sam Preston. He was wearing a Meat Puppets shirt, shorts, Birkenstocks and had this moppy kind of frizzy hair rubberbanded back into a mastadonish pony tail. At least he didn’t have a beard. He told us that if we needed a place to stay that we could stay with him. However, his seven roommates were asleep and we’d have to be quiet, sleep in his tree bark filled garage, get no showers, and be out by 6 a.m. because everyone had class the following morning. This sounded fine to us so we thanked him and went for it. The only strange thing so far was that we had no recall of him at any earlier part of the evening. It didn’t really phase us, though. He gave us directions and split on his bike as we finished our tonic water and argued whether or not riot-boy geeks controlled the independent music world.
Now is where things got wild. We followed his directions to where his house was supposed to be. We noticed that there were no streetlights or lights on at any of the houses so it was really dark and hard to see the address signs through the huge fucking trees. We stopped to look around at the houses, and wondered which could be his. Suddenly, we saw a faint light come on in the vestibule of one of the houses and Sam’s silhouette waving back to us. “There he is! Cool.”
We then had to park two blocks from his house. We gathered our sleeping gear and made our way back up the street to where we saw him waving at us. Everything was still dark and again we found ourselves not knowing which house was his. “Which house is it?” “I don’t know.” “Wow.” Oh well, what could we do? So we headed back to the club which at this point was closed, but the bartender was still there. He let us in and we asked him if he knew the number for this Sam Preston guy. “Sam Preston?” the bartender asked.
“Yeah, he said we could stay at his house.”
“Do you know ’em, dude?”
“Is he cool?”
“The bartender just looked at us like we were “harsh.”
“Are you serious?” he finally asked.
“Hell yeah, biatch!” we replied.
“Well, then you definitely don’t have a place to stay.”
“How do you mean?”
“About a year ago this time, Sam was in a really bad bicycle accident after he left here one night.”
“Wow, that sucks.”
“Did he get broke pretty bad?” we asked.
“He was hit by a car. He was killed, man. He’s dead!”
We ended up doing some coke and drove all night to the next town. This was the second wackest thing that ever happened to us on the road.
Drummers are generally annoying people who get back-seated and made fun of. Here are some reasons explaining the causality of that status….
1. Going bald
2. Air drumming to “YYZ”
3. 3 Words: Black Zildijian T-Shirt
4. Sweat bands
5. Having your arm chopped off in a freak accident, then still trying to retain your career as a drummer
6. Pre-show warm-ups or Rollins-type leg stretches
7. Pronouncing conga “cuungga”
8. Reciting desired kick drum frequency response to the sound man
9. Stick twirling (winner of the obvious award)
10. Being in the opening band and completely breaking down the kit, cymbals, and hardware while on stage
11. Wearing a see through mesh tank top
12. Playing shirtless
13. Just thinking about doing a drum solo
14. Being fat
15. Having a roadie check the drums while you tell the sound man what to “tweak”
16. Jamming at a “Drums for Freedom” type protest in DC
17. Jamming at an open mic night
20. Drummer/ Producers
21. Having a mini-fan attached to a cymbal stand 22. Wind chimes
23. Spandex, spandex, spandex
24. Using the word “chops”
25. Changing into a specific pair of “drumming only” shoes
26. Voting for Phil Collins in a “Drummer of the Year” poll
27. Dave Weckl hair imitation
28. Cymbal buffing or polishing
29. Playing a full-size kit and listing yourself in the liner notes as a “percussionist”
30. Cage hardware
31. Owning a China Boy cymbal
32. Getting Simon Phillips to sign your China Boy cymbal at a drum clinic
33. Counting off in a foreign language
34. Using the term “Ghost Stroke”
35. Scratching your back or doing some nonchalant movement while playing flawlessly with one hand
36. Rolling drum sticks on the floor at a music store to check their consistency
37. Breaking the “Tom-tom to teeth” ratio
38. Trying to get out of touring by faking an aneurysm
39. Re-tuning drums during the actual show
40. Coming up to the front of the stage and talking[exception: performing a cover of “Beth”]
42. Two words: Double bass
43. Saying “Well, you know, my main interest is jazz”
Occasionally, drummers miraculously show themselves to be hip and creative individuals. This list explores such an alternate universe. By their very nature, drummers are dorks, and will never able to be cool individuals. The best they can hope for is the semi-cool region of social rock and roll status….
1. Electronic drums
2. Off brand sticks
3. Mocking the front people of the band by mimicking their hand motions
4. Champagne sparkle kits
5. Fashion by Todd Trainer
6. Pizza warmers as cymbal bags
7. Golf club bags as hardware cases
8. Spitting fire
9. Wearing Peter Criss make-up
10. Drum stools that serve as a storage compartment
11. Listen to bootleg tapes of Buddy Rich chewing out his hand
12. Kick drums that are 18″ or smaller
13. Partaking in a “No Nudity” set
14. Trixon kits
15. Spitting on the audience
16. Taping over rented stick control instruction videos with America’s Funniest Home Videos
17. Trashing your kit
18. Learning to play by careful study of Animal’s work on The Muppets
19. Ambidextrous drumming
20. (outdated info) See through Lucite kits
21. Gongs (bonus if on fire)
22. Playing while wearing infrared vision goggles
23. Catching up on some Vonnegut during the guitar player’s in between song banter
24. Saying “NO” to drum cases
25. Using your kick drum pillow to sleep on after the show
26. Mixing the sizes in drum stick cubby holes at the Sam Ash music stores
27. Putting your sticks down on the floor tom and clapping your hands high above your head in an attempt to get the audience to join you
28. Writing a letter to Ludwig that complains about finding a mouse in your rack tom
29. Light up drumsticks
31.Painted or Customized drum heads
32. Playing on “Unemployment Office Issued” ashtrays
33. The Nick Knox “Zero Movement” approach
34. Cocktail drums
35. Drum solos using Nunchucks
36. Putting a reggae flavor on all your beats without informing the rest of your bandmates during a live show
37. Being a girl
38. Axis hardware
39. Matching kit an snare drum
40. Attempting the Tommy Lee/ Shiela E. drumstick-somersaults-off-the-rim-trick
41. Stealing beats from a Casio keyboard demo functions
42. Spitting on monitor guys who try to fix shifted drum mics
43. Tying rubber bands around your wrist half an hour before the show thus being able to play for another 45 seconds after being shot dead
44. Bun E. Carlos style multiple cigarette intake
45. Stand up drumming
46. Using a beer crate as a kick drum
47. Wearing a headphone system instead of using standard wedge monitors
48. Explaining that you are an ambient drummer after getting off time
49. Stealing the rubber caps off other drummer’s floor tom legs for your own personal collection
50. Being kicked out of your band and getting replaced by a drum machine
When I was a strapping young lad of 5 or 6, my best friend and I discovered the wonderful world of fire. We’d visit the big round fishbowl on my parents’ coffee table which was full of matchbooks from all the restaurants my parents had been to. We would proceed to stuff our pockets with sulfur-coated swag. I especially favored the boxed matches.
Our early adventures in pyromania would basically consist of making a bonfire, then watching it burn out. Sometimes the surrounding brush would catch on, and then we’d have an entire field of fire. We discovered early on that the Fire Department was pretty fast on the response, but decidedly non-enthusiastic about the frequency of our exploits. One day, we started three fires at the same location within a six hour time period. We almost got caught by an enraged homeowner, too!
Soon, we became bored with merely tossing a lit match on the ground, hoping that something would catch…. Surely, there had to be a more creative way to have fun with this, so we moved on to garbage cans, and the woodpiles at construction sites.
It was at this time that we had depleted our parent’s matchbox collections to the point that it was getting pretty obvious that something was going on. Being smarter than my pal Danny, I soon began to get matches from our other friends whose parents, also had big jars of restaurant matchbooks!
As word of our exploits spread around the neighborhood, our little club grew into a legion of pint-sized arsonists. We set fire to anything that would burn. Other kids, older ones, introduced us to the concept of kindling, and also the use of gasoline or charcoal fluid in order to fan the flames as it were….. If it wasn’t for the next part of my story, I’m pretty sure that I would have veered off into a life of vandalism and petty crime, even to a greater extent than I actually did. I would definitely be a guest of the state at some secured institution, no doubt!
The scene is set in a boy’s bathroom at Hillcrest School. I had just successfully ignited a trash can full of paper towels, and who should enter but the school principal. As you may well have guessed, he was not pleased. So after weeks of crimes unchecked, I got lazy, and got busted.
To this day, I am still the only person I know to have been suspended from school in the first grade. Thank you, thank you…..
My point is that to “childproof” a lighter is easily one of the most idiotic things I’ve ever seen, right up there with “Tie A Yellow Ribbon” and other baby boomer related crap. I mean, hey, I didn’t need a lighter to burn down half of Wilmette in the early 70’s, and excuse me, but aren’t matches literally available everywhere you go these days??! Yes. Yes, they are….
So, by all means, let’s inconvenience everybody. Child proof this and safety restrain that. Do this all to meet the demands of the whiners??? Sure, why not? The future’s gonna suck anyway! Hey, you stupid yuppies!!! You got kids??? Yeah? Well, take all your lighters and matches, and put them out of reach!
Just for a change, take some responsibility for yourself. Childproof your own damn house, and keep an eye on those kids…. Or don’t, and maybe the little bastards will torch the joint. It would serve you right, if you are that lazy and/or stupid.
So, do childproof lighters and mandatory bicycle helmet laws equal the rise of a new fascist state? I think so. I feel it is the duty of all free citizens to stand their ground, and fight the evil childproofing by whatever means before we are required by law to use safety belts when we sit in a chair!
Now what you’ve been waiting for. Ahem. To quickly and safely discomboobulate a childproof Bic: In an informal survey, I discovered that the Bic is the standard by which all disposable lighters are compared to, and therefore it shall be the model I use for the remainder of this article. First, you take a sharp knife, and cut the little button you have to press, just along the bottom. Then, do the same in the opposite direction. By scoring the bottom of the button, you should quickly be able to cut it in half. At this point, you can either pry it out or just leave it right there. Either way, the lighter will now function normally [see author’s photo for reference].
Note: There is now a new design childproof Bic that has a metal band over the top which prevents a small child from using it. However, it will be no problem for a severely alcohol impaired adult.
Wir sind auf Deutchland abgefahren ‘cos…SAUERKRAUT’S ROCK!!!
Hi there “Pop Pickers”! So you want some Krautrock now, huh? Not since the late seventies to early eighties has it been so fashionable to dip your toe here. I suppose it was inevitable though with one side of Western culture (America) championing the guitar and the other (Europe) samples and electronica, the place they would both meet was going to be here where minimalism took on excess and gave it a good kicking before punk killed it off.
One moment though, first off let me tell you a story. Around the time of the last issue, Henry tells me that he dislikes record reviews and as such, no more shall appear in his tome. I, however, want some REVIEWS!! [okay, so I had a change of heart, sue me!-ed.] I guess that there’s quite a few of you out there who feel the same as me so via the back door he’s going to get some fat to go along with his lean. Uncle Jezz is going to help guide you, the helpless and needy with some reviews and comment on the wonderful world of “Krautrock & Kosmische Musik auf Deutschland,” when untethered expertimentation met its S&M mistress and had a few revered children on the way. So if he wants this article there ain’t nothing he can do about it!! Zieg Heil!!
Achtung! Let’s roll. A precis on the rise of the New Kosmische Musik. LSD breaks out of it’s CIA safe house mind control experiments into their garages and the kids of North America Punk up while wigging out. Fashion spreads across the ocean colliding with the beat scene and pop music explosion in the UK. A Hippy, Punk, Mod, Rocker, Sex, Drugs, VietPopMelt spawning “Psychedelia,” most of Europe simply watched and waited for it to go away, to them music was art or 50’s chic, the Germans however had an edge. To them not only was it art, but experiment driven by Karl Heinz Stockhausen and his protogees. It was politically militant squeezed between The Eastern Bloc and Western culture and it had a catalyst in the form of Allied forces in permanent residence, the result was a Psychedelic Timebomb. A Psychedelic Timebomb set to go off sometime after the US/UK axis had left it all behind to start rock music careers in the dull confines of FM, AOR, HM Stadium Rock, (God bless Punk and all who sailed with her in ’76). A Psychedelic Timebomb that had a potential market large enough to sustain it without having to cross its borders. A Psychedelic Timebomb that would give a “Youth” the ability to vent its spleen on its father’s past and create an identity in the face of an Anglo-American pop culture onslaught………… Jetz the Donner und Blitzen! Mmmmmm!
Or was it Donner Und Blitzen? Sadly not!! This Psychedelic Timebomb had an Albatross that hung around it’s neck so tightly that it was eventually asphyxiated by it. The Albatross was called “Progressive Rock”! Sheeeeeet! Prog Rock was dull dull dull and don’t let anybody try and persuade you otherwise. A time when musos tried to wrestle back control from pop wizards and acid casualties, when A & R men wanted album sales and not the sublime 7″. A time of the strangulation of musical creativity that finally produced Punk as the the Hippy’s revenge. Consequently, 95% of all Krautrock and supposedly Kosmische Musik is unadulterated shite!!!! However, it is that 5% that we are interested in. If only Prog Rock had followed the path of the 5%, then Can, Ash Ra Tempel, Popol Vuh, Faust and Neu would have been a generation’s guiding light instead of Yes, Genesis and E.L.P. In other words Boys and Girls, beware the one who only sells CD’s and tells you that vinyl’s dead for he definitely speaks with forked tongue!
Of Die Schalspielplatten and the labels, Ohr, Pilz, Brain, Kosmische Musik, which ones are recommended and which ones aren’t? The bands. Where do we start? Germany is a large geographical area, local scenes developed in isolation with little camaraderie towards each other yet exploded together. Cross fertilization only seemed to take place within those scenes. So initially, let’s fahr fahr fahr auf die Autobahn nach Munchen and we’ll start with Amon Düül, and not Amon Düül II who split from their Munich commune in 1968.
AMON DÜÜL I & II
Now I’ve heard Disaster (BASF DLP 1969) and Collapsing (Metronome 1970) culled from their 1969 Psychedelic Underground (Metronome 1969) sessions a couple of times, but frankly after a while they start to grate. There’s little form, just massive freak out albums that I would personally align with the Hapsash & the Coloured Coat LP that supposedly acted as a catalyst for the whole scene. Now skip along to 1971 and Paradieswarts Düül (Ohr 1971) and you have a whole different ball game. I just love the single coil pick-up guitar sound epitomized in Fender Guitars. I piss myself when I hear them played like bells chiming and I’m a sucker for cyclic repetitive playing of any instrument especially guitar and drums. Blissed out states of mind usually ensue. Well, what do you think you get here my friends? The whole forking shooting match no less, and all in the initial moments of the opening track of “Love is Peace.” I’m in seventh heaven throughout all its glorious 17 minutes. “Snow Your Thirst And Sun Your Open Mouth” follows in a somewhat somber VU mood before it’s back to the cyclic flow of “Paramechanische Welt.” Grab yourself a copy of the CD reissue and get their impossible to find 7″ of “Paramechanical World/ Eternal Flow” included which, for me, is one of the lost Kosmische treasures. Cyclic, drifting, chiming, it’s all there, bloody marvellous Pop Pickers. Kosmische Krautrock Top 20 no worries!!
Amon DüüL II explode into our minds with the wonderful Phallus Dei (Liberty 1969). West Coast influences abound, especially in “Den Guten Schonen Wahren,” alongside droning violin creating the trance-like eastern feel of “Kanaan” that’s stomped all over by the teutonic, don’t-mess-with-us vocals in “Lucifers Ghilom.” It’s this use of Deutsch that gives the Krautrock Kosmische Bands an edge, an extra dimension in the ears of English speaking fans that their US/UK contemparies couldn’t match. In fact, as a general rule approach English singing Krautrock bands with a great deal of skepticism, the majority of them end up in that 95% of Krautrock is Prog Rock bag. Back to “God’s Cock” for that is its English translation.
After the psychedelic feel of side one with its bizzare, not quite song like structures, it’s off on the almighty moodfreak of the title track “Phallus Dei” and IT IS WONDERFUL! Jeez, I hear Beefheartian fiddle, acidic belltone guitars, rallying cries from the Munich communes, clanging of industrial percussion, and Wagnerian choral work. A true Kosmische Krautrock Top 20 classic. After this, we were sent Yeti (Liberty DLP 1970) and this starts a descent into Prog Rock territory, but don’t let that detract you from getting into and enjoying this album. The first LP has its moments of shear Kosmische brilliance. In particular, “Cerberus” with its dueling acoustic guitars driven along by “Shrats” tablas which eventually metamorphosize into fuzzed out electric riffmaschinen and the guitar solo in the middle of “Eye Shaking King” that slides in as a real headphone treat after the off key teutonic devil voice has scared you shitless. The real treat, however, is yet to come. Unsurprisingly, it comes in the form of an improvisation that eventually rolls in with pounding floor toms, driving bass and screeching acid-fuzz guitar and we’re off on another freeform trip called “Yeti.” It has to be heard to be believed in the Kosmische Church that wears lots of its West Coast hearts on its sleeve while chewing it up and spitting out on the other side of the Cosmos as “Yeti Talks To Yogi” in a place many bands said by design they would go, but I point my finger in the direction of Detroit.
Dance of the Lemmings (Liberty 1971) that followed continued the descent started in the first part of “Yeti” full of stop start pompous rock structures, drawn out pieces that never get underway and never gel, over arranged misconceptions rather closer to Dave Gilmour’s Floyd with some jazz masquerading as freedom. In a word, it’s crap! Carnival in Babylon (United Artists 1972) that followed wasn’t much better. More open, relaxed and folky than its predecessor, but still Prog Rock without a shadow of a doubt.
Now if a band had produced two crap albums on the trot, you would have probably have given up on them and just cherish the Kosmische moments that they had left behind. But hold on there my little Kosmische Kouriers. There’s one treat left in store called Wolf City (United Artists 1972). Opening with a song so bloody brilliant with Renate Knaup-Krotenschwanz at her vocal best, “Surrounded by the Stars” consistently gives me that hair standing on end all over body experience. You just know something is good for you, Sex, Drugs or Rock and Roll and you know that this is Kosmische Rock and Roll par excellence!! It ebbs and flows taking you along with it all the way on the back of the up-front bass. Just as you think it’s gone “blam!” and your hairs are off again, you don’t come down until the end of “Jailhouse Frog”!!!. At this point, we are suddenly treated to those chiming guitars again that we’ve not really heard played the same repetitive way since Paradieswarts Düül and “Green Bubble Raincoated Man” is out of the blocks with vocals that have a David Bowie/Brian Ferry/Steve Harley feel to them that are cool smooth and lazy. Side two continues the Kosmische song structures with “Wolf City” before slipping into the Neu!-like ragga of “Wie der Wind am ende einer Strasse,” then it goes ubermensch on us with the guttural Fuhrer style vocals through “Deutsch Nepal,” still humming, still singing Amon Düül II style. If ever a Krautrock Kosmische band could lay claim to a Greatest Hits LP then this could be it. Only Can would have anything to say about that.
That’s it on the Amon Düül I & II front. Paradieswarts Düül, Phallus Dei, Yeti and Wolf City the rest are nowhere in the Kosmische stakes with the exception of one item. If you ever buy an LP for its sleeve then Amon Düül II: Live in London (United Artists 1974) and its Mars Attack Stormtrooper ripping up the London Post Office Tower is one for the clip-frame.
So while Amon Düül were setting the pace in Munich, what else was brewing away? In Dusseldorf, The Organisation, later to be known as Kraftwerk were developing their “Kling Klang.” In Berlin, Tangerine Dream were laying the foundations for “The Great Rush to the Kosmische Musik.” And in Cologne, the heaviest, funkiest, most cyclic repetitive minimalists were sowing their seeds in readiness to influence musicians for the next three decades and probably beyond…
Can. Most powerful. Most timeless. Most sexy. Most ethereal and funky as f*ck! Although just like Julian Cope, I have to admit that Ege Bamyasi (United Artists 1972) was the first Can LP that I bought and is undoubtedly my favourite. An album of Kosmische Pop Musik throughout. It all started with Monster Movie (Private Press 1969) a Kosmische Funkmonster of an album. Karoli takes the Albert Lee rhythm work of Loves’ first LP to the stars while Liebezeit and Czukay pin everything down. Schmidt points his Organlaser at the Milky Way while Mooney careers all over the place sketching here and there in his own linear wanderspeak. Off the first side, my personal fave is “Mary Mary, So Contrary” a true Kosmische Pop Hit. When you think it’s about to finish that solo is one of the all time greats. So flowing yet concise before disappearing out of the Universe onto “Outside My Door” from whence the line “Any Colour is Bad” comes from. This was the rule that they seemed to live by for the first four albums, and were able to revisit with the release of Delay ’68 (Spoon 1981), but back to Monster Movie. You want cyclic, monotone, minimal funk mantra then look no further than “Yoo Doo Right.” Definitely recorded live at Schloss Norvenich, it’s improvised but still as tight as Ike was with Tina. Fifteen minutes in, Czukay and Liebezeit underpin the thing to the hilt, Karoli gets all funky spiky and I bet James Brown wishes he’d done time there. F*ckin’ A! The close of this LP saw the end of Mooney’s involvement with Can until 1988 with the reformed Monster Movie line-up and the end of Chapter One in their history. Chapter Two was to be just as spectacular.
As legend has it, four months after Malcolm Mooney departs, Damo Suzuki joins after being found busking in Cologne. The initial result is seen in Soundtracks (Liberty 1970) consisting of real headmovie soundtracks for films by Roland Klick, Leonidas Capitanos, Roger Fritz, Jercy Skolimovsky and Thomas Schamoni. Can always claimed this was not “The Can Album #2” probably because we get two tracks featuring Malcolm Mooney recorded in ’69, and in their own opinion unrepresentative of what they were then doing with Suzuki. The Mooney pieces are on the edge straight from Monster Movie while Suzuki is much more drifting, melodic, ethereal as heard on “Tango Whiskeyman.” A chartbound sound! Even when the band gets absolutely shit-faced acidic, the guitar solos in “Mother Sky” coupled with those thunderous cyclic drums, allows Suzuki to sing while we trance out held there by minimal funky bass. Listen and learn.
The official second album, Tago Mago (United Artists DLP 1971), was finally unleashed and it starts with one of the greatest first sides of any sprawling double album ever. “Paperhouse” kicks off the proceedings with a lilting melody of guitars, keyboards and voice for us all to float along with before Karoli is allowed to take off in euro-acidic fashion above the pulsing, chugging, engine like rhythm. Bells go off in your head, the engine is brought to a halt and we get a sample of Czukay’s quite exquisite editing skill into the funkiest, most laid back single repeat shuffle you’ve ever heard that the Meters never played. Suzuki becomes Mooney for four minutes in “Mushroom” before it rudely ends in a cloud of fallout to segue into “Oh Yeah” and Damos’ backwards vocals. The second coda has the vocals apparently running in the right direction but in what tongue? Japanese? Whatever. It’s smoothly done at what Czukay was going to be the supreme master of, the tapedeck and the mixing desk. Side two is one eighteen minute track of Liebezeit funky steamtrain blitzkrieg and Czukay editing skills. It’s a little over halfway before “Hallelujah” starts to get remotely Kosmische when Karoli breaks away from funky chops to West Coast acid, rolling into interstellar Schmidt, a bit of a chill-out zone after that ripping first side. Drift along with the drums to enjoy. The third side is a Czukay collage that never works for me titled “Augmn.” The undisputed highlight is the barking dog sample long before samples became fashionable and doubtless the track that became an overwhelming influence on This Heat when studio bound in “Cold Storage.” Just sat NO to the second and third sides and leap straight into the fourth and final side. “Peking O” is mostly Suzuki and Schmidt wigging out and severely edited down into some vocal nightmare with weird and cheesy casio keyboard style rhythms before “Bring me Coffee or Tea” pulls the album back together again. Starting folky with high end tabla style bass, this floats until Liebezeits’ toms move towards cyclic mode and Damo takes off and is then mixed out to leave these mighty drums driving an acid-folk implosion. For many, this is the finest Can LP, my serving suggestion is to practice Czukay’s editing skills by recording the first and fourth sides onto one half of a C90. The purists will probably call this sacrilege, I say sod it. There’s stacks more to listen to, and what’s more, the next port of call is Ege Bamyasi (United Artists 1972).
Thus we are greeted as we slide the inner bag from the “Can” of Okra and your most Kosmische Pop Reise begins. After the hours I have spent contemplating this is unknown, time is a conception that ceases to exist when listening to this album. “Pinch” is the sexy percussive opener, pure Sly funk over drone keyboards while Suzuki licks your lobes. The percussive funky nature of the track I always reckoned to be a massive influence on what 23 Skidoo attempted to do in 1979/80. It’s funny though, I can never tell a word of what is being sung until “Pinch” is spoken at its very precipitous conclusion and then there’s running water. Yeah, years before ambient new agers started taping mountain streams to help themselves relax, Can had gone all liquid with the beginning of “Sing Swan Song.” The melodies just float in the middle of a mist-laden atmosphere created by Schmidt’s keyboards and Czukay’s three note bass. Wonderful! The Meters circa Rejuvenation rhythms return of for “One More Night.” What’s more, it’s a sexy Saturday night seduction groove with guitar harmonics that build and build towards its severe edit of a conclusion. I often wonder just how long this groove went on for, but “Vitamin C” kicks off the second side and prompts another question: If Damo Suzuki could sing this sweetly, how come every other Japanese singer I’ve ever heard sounds like Akira Mind Blast or Bubblegum Sweet? Fill me in Japan, what is his legacy back home? I digress, n ée I don’t as “Soup” languidly slides into earshot only to start strutting around with hands on hips. This seems to be their take on the Stones before colliding with the tape splice into the aforementioned mind blast collage territory just as you thought they were going all soft on you. Then it’s back to the Kosmische Pop as the album closes with “I’m So Green” and their greatest hit “Spoon.” Yup pop pickers, “Spoon” originally written as the main theme of a TV series, was released as a single in Germany during December 1971 sold 200,000+ copies and went to number one with a bullet! An acid folk cha-cha-cha of a song full of melody, but still after two decades of listening to it, the only discernable words to my ears are “afternoon,” “spoon,” “fork,” “knife” and “alive.” Is “Spoon” a song about cutlery? Bollocks! An unadulterated Kosmische Krautrock Gem!
What always strikes me most about this album is it’s keyboard driven, all relaxed atmosphere, melody and funky shuffling drumming with a complete absence of those acidic guitars that I am so fond of!! Yet it is without doubt their finest and my favourite. Guess I’m just a Kosmische Pop Kid! All good things must come to an end and the next album Future Days (United Artists 1973) came to be the beginning of that end. The taughtness had gone, as had the editing knife. Suzuki was mixed so far back for much of the record and worst of all the musos started to colour in the pictures. The title track sets things off in reasonable fashion, a sexy vocal over a bossa nova rhythm but the whole thing rather overstays its welcome. “Spray” follows and is complete bollocks. After all these years and all those wonderous Kosmische soundscapes we get Keith Emerson keyboards and the classical and jazz training that Schmidt, Czukay and Liebezeit had in their years preceeding Can. What follows is the highlight when the Kosmische Pop returns for “Moonshake.” Iit’s straight out of the Ege Bamyasi mould lasting three minutes, M.O.R. backbeat, it’s there and then it’s gone. In contrast, the final track “Bel Air” arrives and will not go away. Twenty minutes in Can’s presence has never felt so long and obviously the band felt this as well. Jaki Leibezeit said “It really went off with Future Days, I think it became too symphonic.” Perhaps the acid guitar missing from Ege Bamyasi was a portent of things to come? Whatever. It was the last time we would hear Damo Suzuki. End of Chapter Two.
Soon Over Babaluma (United Artists 1974) saw Can record as a four piece with Schmidt and Karoli sharing vocal duties and a return to some sort of form. The symphonic approach is pretty well entrenched as we see their academic training shining through as heard on “Splash,” an indication of the way they would have been but for the presence of Malcolm Mooney and subsequently Damo Suzuki. Perhaps Future Days was the indicator of Suzuki’s inability to force and shape the sound, to prevent the colour and consequently the source of his dissatisfaction and cause of his departure. Yet through his departure, the remaining members regained a sense of fun and playfulness apparent in Soon Over Babaluma as it is this album that they come up with their most perverted, M.O.R., ballroom dance number ever-the most lethal cup of exotica that is “Come Sta, La Luna.” Tango extraordinaire! The ability to press the “cheesy button” on the rhythm box and to turn it into a winner was never lost on these boys. Beyond this though, it was very obvious that the Kosmische days had gone.
After this Landed (1975), Flow Motion (1976) and Saw Delight (1977) saw them descend into rockist mode and I can’t recommend any of them. There are, however, two or three albums that do enable us to go back in time and revisit their Kosmische days. Limited Edition (United Artists 1974) of which only 15,000 copies were pressed contained previously unreleased tracks recorded between 1968 and 1974 with both Mooney and Suzuki. This eventually saw the light of day again as Unlimited Edition (Virgin DLP 1976), a double album now, sides three and four offering even more unreleased cuts and outtakes. The very nature of the album being edits from previous incarnations means that it doesn’t quite flow, and at times can be somewhat irritating. What it does give us is more of Can when they recorded lo-fi and invariably improvised live when they were undoubtedly at their best. It provides an almost filmic insight into the way they worked rather than an artistic statement especially on the 1969 piece “Cutaway” with examples of Mooney controlling and directing all edited together by Czukay. “I’m Too Liese,” an acid folk muse from their Ege Bamyasi period, and “Fall of Another Year” circa Monster Movie/Soundtracks are the only pieces that could have been considered for inclusion in any of those albums. As a bolt out of the blue, Delay 1968 (Spoon 1981) is rumoured to be partially compiled from tapes circulated to various record companies pre-Monster Movie with its fuzz belltone guitars, true cyclic drumming, minimal bass and droning Manzarek style keyboards. Mooney seems far more together (mixed up front and not freaked out) than all the previously material he’d been on. The band plays direct and punky on “Nineteen Century Man” and “Uphill,” beautiful melancholic on “Thief” and funky acidic on “Little Star of Bethlehem.” Once more, all colour was bad!
ORGANISATION & KRAFTWERK
In Dusseldorf, the Kling Klang set was thrashing away creating some frightening noises. Ralf Hutter and Florian Schneider started their road to world domination-a road that would throw out some marvellous Kosmische Krautrock bands as Neu!, Harmonia and La Dusseldorf. Everything began in Kosmische terms with their five member band Organisation and the percussive experimentation of Tonefloat (RCA 1970). The title track takes some sixteen minutes to become remotely listenable. No melody, just percussion driven noise. Side two is far more approachable. “Milk Rock” opens the Klanger sound that so many Kosmische bands would fondly utilize as a basic fuel rod to the stars. (NB. a Klanger was an animated creature from a kids TV programme that communicated by whistling. The sound was commercially sold to the fledgling pop kids as a pipe whistle with plunger that could slide up and down changing the pitch of the whistle accordingly. [aka a penny whistle…duh.-ed.]). On the whole though this album is bang, bang, klang, thud, thwak, bash uneasylistening. This same basic uncompromising approach transformed into Kraftwerk and gave us two additional percussive albums of uneasylistening Kraftwerk (Phillips 1970) and Kraftwerk 2 (Phillips 1971). This Kosmische Pop Acid Belltone Drone Kid can only cope with them in small doses, approach these in No Wave mode if any semblance of listening pleasure is to be derived from the experience. In spite of the experimental non-melodic venting of their initial musical ideals, they became the stepping stone to their journey down the Autobahn becoming The Godfathers of Techno and the sires of Neu!. They released Ralf and Florian (Phillips 1973), Autobahn (Phillips 1974) and went onto world domination, ’nuff said. Klaus Dinger had been a percussionist on the first Kraftwerk album while Michael Rother was occasionally used as guitarist for live performances. Around the same time, a grand friendship formed whilst Kraftwerk recorded the second LP as a duo. Dinger and Rother were invited back into the band in the period between Kraftwerk 2 and Ralf und Florian and immediately started to mess with the Kling Klang and add some proto punk to the sound. Willful and confident, their strength of character was forcing the Kraftwerk sound somewhere, Ralf Hutter and Florian Schneider didn’t want to go. The blue touch paper was lit in readiness for the band to turn supernova on us. It didn’t take too long to happen and when it did, it occurred in public on TV at The Beatclub. Hutter split from the band yet Kraftwerk were committed. The performance had to go ahead with Florian, Dinger and Rother, and after an eleven minute number called “Truckstop Gondolero,” Neu! was born. Now I have never heard a recording of this important Krautrock moment so will not attempt to describe it. However, I will make a plea to anyone out there who can help me in this matter. Suffice to say, it really was the first Neu! performance and the last of the old Kraftwerk.
Ahh Neu!, sweet Neu!. Without a doubt the closest all Krautrock Kosmische bands came to Can. Although you hear no black funk or bass, what you get is an absolute hypnolovewheel auf der Autobahn propulsion that follows the Kosmische rule of restriction that “All Colour is Bad.” Four nights in December 1971 saw the recording of their first album Neu! (Brain 1972) an unmitigated Kosmische Klassic. Born of Dinger’s simplistic, pulsing drumming in 8/4 time that seems unstoppable, a melodic, metronomic rhythm picked out on the guitars bass strings and Rother’s radiating textures of chiming guitar in “Hallogallo” starts Neu! and at once sends the entire Kosmische melting pot off in a new direction that would leave the rest of rock scrambling around wondering where its beloved child had disappeared to. “Sonderangebot” is one great vacuous space that we halt in for a while during this Kosmische journey. Then it’s on into “Wiessensee,” a slow haunting number that is so simple and sparse, yet so totally complete. Someone coined the phrase “Wa-Guitar” to describe Rother’s playing which is the most controlled Cry Baby on the planet if you ask me. Whatever the guitar melody is, it closes the first side and we’re floating almost in Ash Ra Tempel territory. This Kosmische floatation tank treatment continues with “Jahresubersicht im Gluck” then ends the mantra with a bleedin’ jackhammer! This point has never failed to make me jump, even when I know it’s coming. The anticipation just builds waiting for the moment that never seems to arrive until it does. That’s the affect that “Negativland” has on you. This is Neu! at their most f*cking excellent. The guitars howl and screech, dominant and drifting, the drums veer from walking pace to amphetamine fueled. You can hear the birthplace of P.I.L. and Sonic Youth and the sound of a thousand musicians screaming and falling into some Black Hole wile the ubermensch laugh as they apply another Kosmische Krautrock trick of the severe edit bringing us to a precipitous halt and catapulting us off the edge of their world back into the floatation tank of “Lieber Honig.” This was Neu!, a wonderful Kosmische Klassic, but it’s success heralded their dissolution!
The push for success, probably from quarters other than Neu! forced them back into the studio somewhat too soon to begin recording Neu! 2 (Brain 1973). It starts off in fine fettle with “Fur Immer.” Eleven minutes of Klaus Dinger propulsion, full throttle pedal-to-the-metal wonderfully coloured by Michael Rother’s wa-guitar. It’s an absolute whizz that’s quickly followed by “Spitzenqualitat” which is a dub version, or that Krautrock speciality “the Kosmische Treatment Version,” of it’s predecessor. It then opens right out onto the windswept silence of “Gedenkminute” (trans. Minute For Thought) to ponder on your journey thus far. Then the real payoff, a true Kosmische Bubblegum Pop Mantra that is “Lila Engel.” Never has repetition been so blindingly good. If I could put it out as a single today, I’d do it with no hesitation. True Kosmische dreamers at play. What’s more, it rocks like stink!!! So there the band are half way through an album that seemingly is going to be as bleedin’ good as it’s predecessor when the record company tells them that the recording budget has been used up….Say what?!? Short sighted, stupid or what?! All they had to do was listen to what they already had. Jeez, it was shaping up to be another best seller. Their label, Brain, could have found the money somewhere surely! United Artists, Metronome, Rolf Ulrich Kaiser, or the Bundes Bank? Instead they decided to take the piss, so Neu! reacted the only way they could and returned the compliment. What do we get then? Well, a complete abomination of a second side to this album that totally annoys which is precisely what they wanted. A side filled with those experiments you used to attempt with your old Dansette playing your faves at 78 and 16 rpm consequently you’ll find the A & B sides of their first single “Neuschnee” and “Super” played at 45, 16 and 78rpm with the odd finger put in the works to slow things down and the occasional scratch, pop and jump to complete the annoyance. I mean “Neuschnee” is pretty cheesy at the best of times while “Super” is far more fun. Another piece of Krautrock Bubblegum, vocals and all, while the only redesigned number that appears to work is “Hallo Excentrico.” I shall comment no more other than to say that perhaps it should have more accurately been titled Neu! 1.5. Anyway, the whole debacle was to prove to be the end for this incarnation of Neu! and Michael Rother split to start Harmonia with Moebius and Roedelius otherwise known as Cluster. I’ll cover these later, at least we had the first side of Neu! 2 to truly enjoy and three out of four sides of music as Kosmische Klassics is pretty good going in my book.
The final chapter in the Neu! story and influence on what would turn rock upside down would appear after Michael Rother recorded Musik von Harmonia with Hans Joachim Roedelius and Dieter Moebius. Klaus Dinger had been attempting to get a label off the ground called “Dingerland” when destiny had already earmarked him to hammer the nails into the coffin of Krautrock and become the Godfather of Punk. This destiny became fulfilled when they decided to reform and record their final definitive work Neu! 75. Neu! 75 (Brain 1975) takes but three open piano chords to get going as Klaus Dinger crashes straight into that simplistic, pulsing, Neu! motorik drum sound and we are off on a journey through a sequel that actually works. Side one seems to have been directed predominantly by Rother. The lyrical side to his playing had come to the fore whilst playing with Harmonia as the first side is dominated by Rother at the piano and synthesiser instead of the chiming slashes and sliding licks of guitar that had come to dominate tracks like “Hallogallo,” “Negativland” and “Fur Immer.” In between we are treated to “Seeland” which is kinda like “Wiesensee” revisited where melodic guitar washes repeatedly all over the soundscape. In fact the entire first side is back to the floatation tank. But rather than catapult us there to leave us frantically thrashing around wondering how we are going to get out-scaring us shitless in the process-you feel relaxed and at peace with the experience. This is just gorgeous music for the chill out and seduction zone. Just drift along, feel the water wash over your body and love it to pieces. Beware, though, because this state of mind is ephemeral. You still have to turn the record over…..
….mmmm the second side. Whereas its Neu! 2 predecessor had been so infuriating, this one delivers itself in exquisite form as the harbinger of punk. Whereas side one had belonged to Rother, side two was Klaus Dinger’s moment of destiny. Unbeknownst to him, he killed off Krautrock and provided a generation with the means to express itself.
Neu! had teamed up with Thomas Dinger and Hans Lampe for this album and for Dinger’s side they played double drums. Although I prefer the German word of Schlagzeug or in this case “Doppel Schlagzeug,” it sounds far more solid and threatening. Schlag has some meaning-like thump and this is what you get as “Hero” opens up, the most solid thumping upfront underpinning of any Neu! song ever. What does this do? Well it gives Klaus Dinger the opportunity to sing, n ée scythe through the vocals. He’s not too pretty but he pitches well and the style would be kopped by a well known North Londoner and transformed to channel the bile and anger of a dissillusioned and dissaffected youth in Thatcherite Britain through The Sex Pistols. Both “Hero” and “After Eight” are as punk as f*ck! They are “Anarchy in the UK,” “God Save the Queen” and “Holidays in the Sun.” Accept it or sod off!! That was their parting shot and it killed off Prog Rock, Pub Rock, Glam Rock, Krautrock, EMI, A&M, a host of other major labels, bloated A&R men, beards, flares and Bill Grundy. Now that’s what I call a legacy and Neu! 75 is a Krautrock Klassic.
HARMONIA, CLUSTER & LA DUSSELDORF
After this, Michael Rother departed to produce Zuckerzeit for Cluster and to reform Harmonia. Klaus Dinger, Thomas Dinger and Hans Lampe formed La Dusseldorf creating something unique that could only be described as a take on Kosmische Beirkeller Musik. They kept the Doppel Schlagzeug line-up from Neu! 75 which enabled Klaus Dinger to concentrate on guitar which I understand was his first love. Their first album La Dusseldorf (Decca 1976) is more of a pop-hook take on Neu! 75, as evident with their mega-instrumental hit “Silver Cloud.” Pure Kosmische Eurocheese. More importantly, check out Dinger’s vocals in the song “La Dusseldorf.” Listen to him roll those “R’s” and then try to convince me that Johnny Rotten didn’t kop it from him! Listen, and then tell me that you can’t hear Rotten shout “RRRRRRight!!!!!”
Their second album Viva (Radar 1978) was even better. Punk, pop and Kosmische confidence just oozes though it. It blasts straight into your heart with a bullet and buzzes out fuzzed out guitar with the Kosmische Pop gem “Viva” thumpingly driven by their Glitterband style schlagzeug. It’s a simple singalong anthem, and a statement of intent positioning everything you are about to hear on the first side. It then segues straight into its even catchier pop partner “White Overalls” concluding with a few bars from “Viva”! What follows this illustrates how easy it is to misinterpret this album. What you get is “Rheinita,” an eight minute synthesiser driven instrumental that could quite easily be taken for an Olympic TV show theme tune. My wife upon hearing “Rheinita” said “I know this track….it’s Jean Michele Jarre…it’s Oxygene!” Therein lies the rub as she approach-ed this in isolation with no conception of its past, but if you add the history, you hear another Kosmische Krautrock habit of revisiting previous sublime moments to rework and reinvent them, forcing them down some new music tunnel to explode into our lives at the other end. Iin this case as a Kosmische take on Europop with a direct line of descendency from Neu! and their 1972 hit “Neuschnee.” Now she could have argued that it’s me that has got it wrong, in fact she did. So as all’s fair in love and war, I gave her a good kicking and banished her to the bedroom with her Disney movies!! The logical conclusion to the first side is “Geld,” the synthesis of all the preceeding tracks and one too many sessions down at the bierkeller doing the “Birdie Song.” Hell, it’s as catchy as f*ck.
“Cha Cha 2000” is the sole track on the flip and is twenty minutes of pure Kosmische Musik whose heart shines brightly. Coming from where the whole journey started some 10 years before, it’s a plea from Klaus Dinger to take the whole trip to its logical conclusion and in his words “Dance to the future with me…Cha Cha 2000”
La Dusseldorf went on to record one more album titled Individuellos (Teldec 1980). Sadly, I can make no comment as it’s one of those records that have slipped out of my grasp. Again, if anyone out there can help me in this matter I’d appreciate it.
So here endeth the first part of “Sauerkraut’s Rock.” Regarding my requests for assistance in obtaining recordings of Kraftwerk’s legendary Beatclub performance (unofficially the first by Neu!) and the album Individuellos by La Dusseldorf, please write to me and we’ll sort something out.
The Moog Wave
Part one of this article talked about the history of the beloved Moog synthesizer and how it became the instrument of choice for the seventies space rocker. While Ash Ra Tempel, Tangerine Dream and Tonto were cranking out overblown space epics on their banks of Moogs, something unpredictable happened. Punks got their hands on synthesizers and created some of the wildest music on the planet. You say punks hate keyboards? Punk was always more attitude than fashion and, along with new wave, was willing to experiment both within and without its own parameters. This was the one asset that allowed its message to thrive while allowing enough variation that even the weird kids with Moogs were invited to the punk party.
Synthesizers were originally the property of rock’s intelligentsia, the mainstream “serious” art rockers like Yes and Pink Floyd, but one band came along that didn’t quite fit the mold – Roxy Music. Combining mainstream art rock and conceptual glam, Roxy baffled critics on both continents. Crucial to their sound were the atonal synth stylings of one Brian Eno. Using the same VCS3 that Pink Floyd used to record Dark Side of the Moon, Eno produced atonal “free” sounds against the arty backdrop of Roxy’s stylish Brit pop. Eno left the band in 1973 and went on to single-handedly create the ambient music genre in which he continues to thrive today.
Also influencing what was to come was one of the few groups to survive the prog rock fallout and go on to create compelling, moog-driven sonic rock – the German quartet Kraftwerk. Liked by punks and art rockers alike, Kraftwerk stands the test of time and makes an excellent launching pad for any serious Moog aficionado.
The punk explosion of the late 70’s was more than bands that could be labeled “punk” in the strict sense of the word. Throbbing Gristle, Cabaret Voltaire and the Pop Group were considered part of the punk scene despite their quite different approach. What further complicates this picture is that many of these “punks” didn’t identify themselves as such. Despite the musical differences, their anti-mainstream stance guaranteed them a place in the record racks alongside Generation X and other guitar-only punk bands of the day. On the other hand, some of the early “synth-punk” bands like L.A.’s The Screamers and Nervous Gender did identify (or dress) as “new wave” and played music that was essentially punk done on synthesizers. The closest contemporary equivalents would be Six Finger Satellite or The Clears.
At the same time, the Sex Pistols were packing London dives and new sounds were creeping into the indie racks. Groups outside the mainstream began releasing singles that used synthesizers in sometimes crude, sometime rude, but in a totally refreshing way. By the late 70’s, synthesizers had become more affordable which brought Moogs into the hands of a decidedly different class of rocker. Moog driven indie singles started filtering in to the underground magazine reviews: The Comateens, Fad Gadget, The Twinkeys and Rikki and the Last Days of Earth, to name a few. The major label efforts of angst-poppers Ultravox paved the way for pop cyborg Gary Numan who would be the one to break synth pop on the masses. Numan’s love affair with the synthesizer yielded over a dozen albums and at least one international hit, “Cars,” which featured his standard deadpan vocals spread across a wash of precise, antiseptic synth melodies.
Another classic single from the era was “Warm Leatherette” by The Normal. Actually a one-man band comprised of Daniel Miller, head of Mute records, this single defined the DIY style of minimalist synth pop. The song features a dry, pumping drum machine punctuated with synth screeches and a monotone vocal describing a sexual encounter in the fresh wreckage of a car wreck which was based partly on J.G. Ballard’s future novel Crash. Next to Robert Moog, Miller was probably as responsible as anyone for the rise of synthesizers in modern rock via his Mute Records which also released Moog wave classics by the Silicon Teens and the Flying Lizards. Daniel prophesized that the synthesizer would eventually replace the guitar as the ultimate punk instrument, since you not only didn’t have to know how to play it, you didn’t even have to know how to hold it!
In the English countryside, another flavor was brewing. Sheffield’s Human League recorded the dour Being Boiled in 1978 and Dignity of Labor the next year which were cold, simplistic slabs of electronic pop. The band went on to release a series of albums with increasingly wider variety of synthesizer shadings and emerged in the 80’s with a style of danceable synth pop that foreshadowed today’s techno and dub. From Human League spawned the British Electric Foundation who created sounds that ranged from icy Germanic synth-garde to wild instrumental experiments, and Heaven 17 featuring Ian Craig Martsh and Martyn Ware’s toe-tapping synthesizer drenched arrangements.
The most challenging and darkest music was being produced at the same time further north in the grim wasteland of Manchester. Fed on a steady diet of Williams S. Burroughs and Philip K. Dick, the four members of Throbbing Gristle created a vast world of twisted synthesizer and distortion based music which would later be known as “Industrial.” The term “Industrial” goes back to about 1976 and came from the label Throbbing Gristle started, Industrial Records, which was in turn taken from a slogan thought up by Monte Cazazza (a San Francisco artist)-“Industrial Music for Industrial People.” The category was applied to TG and other bands on the Industrial label and, by extension, other artists with a similar aesthetic. Their first release, Second Annual Report, defined the TG sound with its unpleasant droning synth soundscapes. They continued to mix synths with tapes and unconventional anti-pop over a series of albums and tape releases. Members Peter Christopherson and Chris Carter were the main knob twiddlers with legendary noise merchant Genesis P-Orridge in charge of bass, violin and primal screams. And don’t forget the former porn queen Cosey Fanni Tutti starring as the band’s noise dominatrix.
P-Orridge was fascinated with the possibilities that sound offered, and their live shows were designed to torture as much as entertain. At several performances in the late 70’s, Throbbing Gristle played behind a blinding bank of airport landing lights and a huge P.A. that covered the entire front of the stage. While the audience was being blinded, their entrails were being rearranged by the 130 decibel sub-sonic synth tones that Orridge hoped would induce spontaneous evacuation of their bowels. Not exactly “Captain and Tenille”!
Perhaps even more influential (and by far more easy on the ears) than Throbbing Gristle was Cabaret Voltaire. Initially a purely experimental tape loop combo named after a 1911 Dadaist nightclub, Cabaret Voltaire were interested in making art (in this case sound) out of the “ordinary.” With their Extended Play single (Rough Trade, 1978), CV began a career crafting sometimes harsh, sometimes haunting music that took electronics in a totally new direction. CV’s sound was bland in texture, remote, synthetic, even hypnotic. All three members played synth, tape, and voice manipulation. Their ’79 single Nag, Nag, Nag was one of the highlights of the punk rock era proving that you didn’t need spiked hair and Marshall stacks to make punk rock records. Their unpredictable sounds and rhythms were cranked out on Revox 77 tape decks and British made VCS3 and AKS synths. They continued to produce increasingly more sophisticated and funkier music throughout the mid-80’s until members Richard H. Kirk, Peter Hope and Stephen Mallinder drifted into solo careers.
The folding of Industrial Records in 1981 is a convenient point to divide the Industrial and post-Industrial periods for it was at about this point that Industrial music began to diversify a great deal, building on ideas that had been explored by Throbbing Gristle and others. Psychic TV and later Coil pioneered what became know as Ambient Industrial while Chris & Cosey (building on TG’s pop side) and Cabaret Voltaire started Industrial dance music.
While England dreamed, the heartland of America was spawning what would change our notion of pop music forever: the wonderful sounds of the original punk scientists from Akron known as Devo. Is there anyone who lived through the first punk era that doesn’t know “Whip It” or “Are We Not Men? We Are Devo!”? From their first single released in 1977, Devo were one of the most entertaining bands of the era. No other band more cleverly utilized the analog synth, and their song writing was at once punk and pop – irreverent but strangely beautiful. At one point, Devo had completely dropped their guitars and every member (sans the drummer) were hammering away on a synthesizer of some type. For a real dose of pre-industrial Devo dabblings check out Hardcore 1974-1976 or the bootleg Mechanical Man EP. The sounds they squeezed from their Emulators and Prophet 5’s were at once rude and clever, and their sarcastic manifesto of De-Evolution made them a favorite of the fun-loving punk crowds of America’s West Coast. Such a band will definitely not pass this way again.
Another Ohio-based outfit that featured offbeat use of the synth was Pere Ubu. Ubu were lumped in with the Cleveland punk scene of the late 70’s although their music was really just disoriented and dissonant urban blues. Synth noodler Allen Ravenstine punctuated Ubu’s quirky punk/art rock with bursts of white noise and modulated waveforms from his EML synthesizer which was a rare analog machine produced for use in schools and manufactured for only a brief period. Ubu was a different sort of industrial music. On stage, Ravenstine would be seen standing at this synth panel waiting for the right moment to wring a perfectly planted synth belch into the proceedings. For curiosity seekers, the recently released Datapanik in the Year Zero box set is certainly worth the purchase for their early work alone.
Suicide was once called the synthesized equivalent of the Ramones. Regulars on the mid 70’s Manhattan music scene that spawned CBGB’s, Patti Smith, and Television, Suicide’s Alan Vega and Martin Rev produced stark minimalist music that caused riots on their tour of Europe with The Clash and Elvis Costello. Punks did not like synths at all! The duo are generally credited with influencing sounds to come such as Soft Cell and goth drones Sisters of Mercy although they were a modern variation on the two man hippie synth sound of Silver Apples.
Washington, D.C. offered another variation on moog-driven punk: the inner city math rock of Tiny Desk Unit. Their otherwise ordinary new wave rock was made distinctive by Bob Boilen’s Serge modular synth which had no keyboard and forced the operator to milk pure tones from the grid of modules and patch cables. He was often seen hunched over the unit on stage, quickly re-patching the machine for the next volley of sound bursts. Boilen today carries his work over the airways as director of Morning Edition on National Public Radio.
American punk and new wave that adapted synthesizers were frequently more light-hearted and wry with their applications than their British counterparts. About the time that punk was exploding in London, a ferocious, scrawny singer named Tomata du Plenty and conceptual artist Paul Roessler formed The Screamers, a bashing L.A. punk group that had no guitars. Tomata sang in front of the band’s two keyboard players (Tommy Gear and KK) and a drummer. The sounds came from two Arp Odysseys synths, a Fender Rhodes electric piano and a keyboard made from car horns. They played alongside The Germs, X, and the Dickies, and kicked out a minimalist punk assault that ignited the small crowds packed inside The Masque and the Whiskey in the golden days of L.A. punk. The band once did a live radio broadcast on L.A.’s KRAB where they set up their synths on automatic, went out and drove around the block listening to themselves on the radio, and then came back in to finish their set! Holding out for a record deal that never came, no commercially available recordings of the Screamers exist except a very rare Target Video recorded live in late 1979.
Nervous Gender was another unusual L.A. synth-based band that featured a couple of Arps, and the transsexual folk singer Phranc. Everyone sang in turn, and everybody dabbled with knobs and switches as three of the four members played synths.
The first San Francisco band to perform using no guitars was The Units who were the Bay Area’s answer to the Screamers. The Units featured strong rhythms incessantly grounded in aggressive punk as a base for a whole range of sonic textures that their synthesizers provided. Live sets were fast and short and featured film and slides for the crowd to dance to the angst or just to enjoy the light show. They released two singles and an LP before disbanding in 1981.
San Francisco also produced the most famous, prolific and bizarre band of this era: The Residents. Recording on their own Ralph Records for over 20 years now, The Residents began their illustrious career in 1974 with a series of limited-edition singles which were hand-crafted releases containing bizarre, Beefheart-esque pop droolings. The Residents are superior synthesists and since they’ve guarded their true identity successfully to this day, no credits can be given to individuals. However, it is known that they use Emulators for live gigs, but the identity of their other synths is unknown. Their approach to the synthesizer is na?ve, refreshing, dissonant, playful, and sincere. Their songs are ridiculous, funny, scary and incredibly creative. Their use of synths and samplers is particularly evident in their rare live shows which are performed by mysterious members perched behind keyboards and concealed from view with costumes or translucent screens. You’re either in on the Resident’s joke and love them, or don’t get it at all and find them incredibly annoying. Recommended as essential listening are their pre-1980 releases Duck Stab and Fingerprints.
Thus ended an era. What came later was more sophisticated and certainly more profitable for the record companies. There are lots of bands that have been left out here: SF’s Tuxedomoon, Japan’s Yellow Magic Orchestra, Swizterland’s Yello, Enlgand’s Prag Vec-, Chicago’s Ministry, DC’s The Velvet Monkeys, Pittsburgh’s The Cardboards and Carsickness. It could go on for days. Synth pop and industrial gave way to techno, ambient and industrial dance. Analog synths were traded in for digital midi-linked keyboards and sequencers where no musical talent was required to crank out letter-perfect electronic dance hits. Despite the high-tech sophistication of today’s techno and trip hop, the practitioners of electronica heading into the new millennium owe their very existence to the simple synth bleeps of yesterday’s spike-haired geeks twiddling the knobs of their pawn shop Moogs to the pogo beat of 1977.
You really should listen to your mother and go out more often….
The Runs / Gaunt
Atomic / Athens / 2 April
Rolls of toilet paper were hanging from the rafters and….it was the Runs first show? Get the joke? The Runs? Hoooo! It kept running thru my head that maybe the Runs were trying for that Radio Birdman type punk skronk, but it just never connected. So I just went to the back and played Joust. But the good news is that Gaunt, if anything, is getting better as they go on. I mean what? Did they release three albums and as many singles in a year? Man, just too damn much to keep up with, but the songs are short and catchy enough to make it not that much of an effort. As long as we’re talking about it, does anybody have a copy of their first two singles they’d be willing to part with? Getting back to it, Gaunt seemed to really love playing this night, especially when you consider that they played Knoxville the night before to seven people. After the show, the Gaunt taxi service was on call as I was sitting down with Jovan (1/2 of Gaunt’s guitar entourage) and told him that I’d had to leave to go find a ride home. Y’see, my car was in the shop at the time. And without hesitation, he sprang up and said “I’ll take you home.” So I bid my farewells, and sure as sugar, he drove me to my front doorstep. Now how often do you get to have a band rock you and then make sure you get home safely? Not often enough, mon frere!
Lazy / Brainiac
BLTs / Atlanta / 8 April
Ashley and I arrived just as Lazy started. You might remember them from that split they did with Brainiac. Well, at least I did. It was their final show which was a pity, coz they were actually quite good. Very herky-jerky and loud as all get out. The middle band had a name like Tenth Grade Scholar or some such nonsense. They obviously made a nominal impression because for the life of me they were one big yawn. Brainiac were fantabulous as always (‘natch!), but they weren’t as mind-bendingly brilliant as their show at the Midtown a year ago. Man, has it been that long? Well, the one thing that impressed me was that they just tore the shit out of their equipment and the stage during their final song “Drag”. But still, isn’t the “Trashing-our-equipment-because-we’re-nuts” bit getting to be old hat? I’m sure people were saying that about Hendrix and Townshend, so what do I know?
The 42 / The Hal Al Shedad / Rebar / GalanasCerdd
BLTs / Atlanta / 12 April
For about the past year, I’ve been hearing off and on chatter about this collection of Atlanta bands. And coincidentally, they were all on this same bill. An omen? You be the judge. The 42 were totally inspiring. Much like the three bands after them, they employed that DC/Soulside/Ulysses hard riffage, but dammit, they were hot. Don’t know how else to put it, really. The Hal Al Shedad were sorta funny. The three piece had the ’50’s look’ down pat complete with greased down hair and a Sun Records looking microphone, but they were not bad by a long shot. If I had to peg them with one other band, it’d be Circus Lupus. No problem. Rebar had the protractor-rock thing going on which sort of left me dry. Sure, they’re all students at Tech (thereby explaining their math-rock tendencies), but that shouldn’t mean shit. They still had this head banging nastiness about them (which is good), but during their songs I could literally pick out where they got their different sounds (which is bad). OK, there’s Rodan. OK, there’s Engine Kid. It was getting easier as their show progressed. GalanasCerdd (pronounced guh-lan-us care-th) were the final act for the evening and is the phoenix of Freemasonry. They gave out free discs and tapes of their former band’s Sparrin’ the Varmint release, so you know they were ready to unload all that excess baggage. With this said, they weren’t as good as I was hoping, but as a later show at the Landfill would prove, this was just happenstance. I’m not exactly the most receptive audience at one in the morning. I found out that BLT’s shut down which is quite the bummer because they served the best pizza in Atlanta. And hey, they had chunks of garlic in their husky crust. You gotta love that!
Drip / Elf Power
Atomic / Athens / 24 April
Stuntdouble / Elf Power / Vineland / GalanasCerdd
Landfill / Athens / 26 April
The Elf’s triumphant return (of sorts) to Athens was a trip. And obviously, others were in agreement. Both shows brought a bunch of people out of the woodworks and of course there were the usuals so the crowds were pretty large at both. The first show at the Atomic was OK. Nothing incredible. When they had that guy from Allgood come up and play drums for the final songs, it really clicked, but it went by waaaay too quickly. Dern.
The Landfill show was one of those that I think people will be talking about in years to come. From my vantage point at the door, Stuntdouble were miles beyond the practices I had to endure. Sort of in a Lazy Cowgirls vein. And for a first show? Not bad at all! EP played to quite a crowd. Being the claustrophobic goon that I am, I didn’t stick around the front for too long. Vineland brought their own ‘crowd’ of folks that wanted to see Jerry Fuchs (ex-Space Cookie and Chunklet alum!) or Jon Fine (ex-Bitch Magnet) or both. Now mind you, they were pretty damn loud. Not as loud as the Speaking Canaries were about 8 months ago, but they were up there. Whereas Soo Young went on to form Seam and on to explore the more delicate end of things, Jon has undoubtedly gone the opposite route. A lot of blasting cap type riffs and dense structure. It’s a good thing that Jerry was playing drums coz he sure can belt out the rhythm. Still, I wasn’t even remotely blown away. Just sort of amused. Nothing more. In light of the rest of the night’s acts, GalanasCerdd really stole the show. Unlike the BLTs show, they were as tight as a drum. They still carrying a lot of the noisy harmonics that their previous bands (both Freemasonry and the all too over looked Fiddlehead) did so well in their career. The crowd was much more lively (and heckling!) than the one in Atlanta which didn’t hurt either. Which ever way you look at it, they were the clincher for the night.
Two Foot Flame / Spackle / Mecca Normal
Atomic / Athens / 29 April
40 Watt / Athens / 29 April
As if the torrential rain storm earlier in the evening didn’t do enough to keep me in, the fact that three quarters of the bands this night bit down hard didn’t help things out much. I arrived at the Atomic just in time to catch the Michael Morley (Dead C) absent Two Foot Flame. One crowd member was sad to hear of that as well, asking “Where’s Michael Morley?” and even asking it again while he was outside (presumably) walking away from the Atomic. The addition of Peter Jeffries was a pleasant one, though. TFF were nothing more than Mecca Normal, but playing much more atonal and pulsing drone. During Spackle’s set, I strolled down to the Watt just in time to catch Bloodloss. Being the Lubricated Goat fan that I am, I was sort of anxious to see if this was going to at least hold a dim candle to Stu Spasm and gang’s previous outing, but such was not the case. By the time I left to get back to the Atomic, I could easily tell that major labels would sign anything that even remotely seems like a “money maker.” With Mark Arm’s addition on guitar, I’m sure some slimy A&R rep thought “Gee, bet we could cash in on this!” Errrrr! Wrong! Go find another Marilyn Manson band to make you rich, you dumb bastards! This was horrible by all accounts, and proved that some indie weenies just want to put out substandard records. At a yawn-y 1:15, Mecca Normal hit the stage. I’ve never been a big fan, so this show didn’t really sway me one way or the other. I get the feeling that it’s an acquired taste, but come on, it’s the 90’s! We don’t have time to wait around, at least not on my clock! The one saving grace was the guitarist doing really spectacular windmill guitar action during one song. Does he do this all the time? If he does, maybe I’ll give ’em another try! It was a good thing that I remembered by umbrella because the rain started up again during the time I was in at the Atomic. The good news is that I didn’t get wet, but the bad news is that at the end of the night, all this rock was pretty damp.
40 Watt / Athens / 1 May
Midtown Music Fest / Atlanta / 3 May
For all that people in town wax poetic about how Athens “used” to be, there sure as shit wasn’t anybody there to support that notion as Fred came to Athens for this sort of homecoming. I did spot Vanessa from Pylon there during soundcheck, but otherwise, I didn’t see anybody there. No more than 50 people. The somewhat Albini-selected back up band consisting of Tom Zaluckyj (Tar), Chris Fuller (dis-), Rick Didjit, and Todd Didjit played in suits while Fred wore a t-shirt and jeans. Ah, the tables are turned, Mr. Bond! But Todd was a total nutjob. Once Tom and I arranged Todd’s daily pot fix he was giddy as a sugar-pumped six year old. Like we were getting him crack or something! In Atlanta, the Budweiser (and any other beer for that matter) sponsored Midtown Music Fest was totally bonkers. Six or seven different “stages” and Fred and company played at the one with Shawn Colvin, the Squirrel Nut Zippers and some other duds. Bruce and I scored some back stage passes and drank free booze and picked at the deli tray all night. Musically, Fred & Co. were much more in their element than the other night in Athens. Crowd barriers and security gave this the air of being professional, and sure as shit, it was. Bruce and I got directed and bossed around by dorks who did nothing more than reposition monitor speakers. Ugh. Still, it was great up until the point the entire Just Fred band was wisked away for a signing at the Hard Rock Cafe. I’m not sure if that was a good thing or a bad thing.
5ive Style / Sea and Cake / Tortoise
Cotton Club / Atlanta / 8 May
Let me just clear the air here and say that the whole “post rock” thing is getting a bit out of hand. When it comes down to laying the cards on the table, you either like what you’ve got in front of you or you don’t, and for the most par most of this stuff reeks of the pretension that punk was trying to get away from. Am I right? Sure, it’s one thing to happen upon your parent’s jazz records, but it’s quite another to pretend that you can perform on “their level.” Whatever. But seriously, when it came down to it, maybe the “touring” aspect that has reduced these bands to more conventional setups, but compared to other shows I’ve seen, this seemed to be a much more planned out and static performance. First thing, there was no (as in none) crowd interaction. Well, I sort of lied. The singer guy in the Sea and Cake said something like “Hello” and the bass player from 5ive Style said “Thanks” during their respective sets. David Yow they are not. So six in one half, a dozen the other. I dunno. The whole thing about going to shows is to get something that isn’t on the records and I just felt like this was total regurgitation. And to add insult to injury, I don’t think the bands would’ve cared one way or the other if the crowd showed up or not. Feh.
Woggles / Guitar Wolf
The Point / Atlanta / 15 May
Yet another Guitar Wolf tour of the states, and, God bless ’em, they saw it fit to make their way to Georgia once again. Da Wolf were pretty incredible in a technically unhindered sort of way. I mean, it was basically the same show that I saw in Athens in ’94. You know, the posing, the machine gun guitar……the leather! But still, it was sort of a let-down to see Seiji’s lame attempt to ‘chug’ a beer. Hell, he took almost a minute. Not to brag, but I know I could do that in a fraction of the time. Five seconds. Tops. Their set ended with Buffy from the Subsonics on stage playing T Rex’s “Born To Lose” thru Seiji’s temporarily un-amped gear. And to make it seem “unplanned,” Buffy pretended not to know what a guitar was. Hoo! What a kidder! But the show wasn’t really over until Seiji, standing atop the kick drum on stage, leapt into the crowd. That, my friends, was the ceremonial “closing of the curtain.” Totally rad.
Kincaid / Karate / Joe Christmas
40 Watt / Athens / 14 June
The Hal Al Shedad / Karate
Driver Dome / Atlanta / 15 June
By mere coincidence, I saw Karate two times in a row. I’d like to say that it was on purpose to give me an air of hep-cat-dom (which Lord knows I need!), but alas such was not the case. The first night at the Watt was with Kincaid and Joe Christmas who see as many Pavement comparisons flung at them as Karate get regarding their remarkable similarity to Fugazi and Codeine. For as much as I wanted to like them, Karate sorta bored me. They were enjoyable for the first ten minutes or so, but it got terribly grating very quickly.
And by happenstance, I was at the Karate show in Atlanta at the “punker-than-thou” Driver Dome. This was my first time at this house and it definitely gave off a vibe like every one there was monitoring your every move. Well, I was eighteen, too. Maybe I was just being paranoid. And in keeping with the air of “scene unity” (or “insolence,” the terms are interchangeable), the great white wonder of Atlanta, the Hal Al Shedad opened up the night’s festivities. Rumor had it that this was Hal’s final show which would have been quite the disappointment, because for being so damned young, they sure know how to rock in a Dischord-y vein. Karate were more of the same from the previous night. It seemed more evident to me that the band whines a lot. Maybe that’s their “thing.” I must say, though, that any band that could actually withstand the heat and still rock in that kind of environment at least deserves a modest amount of credit. My point being that during the show at the Dome, I stood near the entrance with a “cool” 100 degree breeze licking my back. Gotta love these Georgia summers, right?
Elf Power / Neutral Milk Hotel /Joe Christmas
The Landfill / Athens / 23 June
Elf Power and Joe Christmas have received enough ink in Chunklet to cover a double decker bus, so I’ll pass on discussing them. However, allow me to blow my wad about Neutral Milk Hotel’s glorious (sort of) homecoming to Athens. Apart from Jeff’s footnote-ish appearance at the Landfill in December (see Chunklet 11 for details), this was his first chance to rock this town in over two years. To all you Johnny-Come-Lately’s out there, he used to live here, y’know…. And as somebody who has truly missed him, let me tell ya that the wait was well worth it. Not to be totally blowing spoo over this performance, but this show was a real corker. In temps much akin to the Karate/Driver Dome show (see above) it was amazing that the crowd wasn’t all carted off to the emergency room for heat stroke. But I must say, that unlike that other show, people were going totally ape shit as Jeff, Julian and the rest of NMH Inc. belted out their string of hits. By their fifth song, I was suffering from a touch of heat exhaustion. That lovely sensation of being so hot that you’re cold? Lovely. The intoxicants in my system kept me from coming to the realization that I needed medical attention. For the first time since I’ve been going to house shows in Athens (or in any town for that matter), I saw a crowd totally enraptured and enjoying the performance that night. The crowd pogoed in place for about an hour, but the bummer was that the PA kept cutting in and out. And seeing as how I was the one standing closeset to it, it was up to me to remedy the situation. Hell, I can barely find the ‘on’ switch, and I needed to keep an eye on this?! Pffff! In your dreams, rocker! The good news was that there was an impromptu reunion of Synthetic Flying Machine (Jeff plus Will and Bill from the Olivia Tremor Control) who I remember fondly from their many performances at Frijolero’s. Scandinavian Headdress! Man! That still kills me! As the performance came to an end, I could tell that the band didn’t want to stop, but if they didn’t they would’ve been dead meat. At least an encore was given the old college try. God love ’em for it! But in the end, things worked out and the floor was then mopped at the Landfill as the people filed their way out.
Six Finger Satellite / Shellac
First Avenue Club (early show) / Fargo / 7 July
During the all-conquering Man or Astroman?/Servotron tour, we had a day off between Fargo and Bozeman, and as luck would have it, we decided to catch this here show. There were two shows, the first being all-ages and the second being over 21. And of course, we wanted to catch the first one before the 12 hour drive to Bozeman. Six Finger Satellite were markedly better than they were in Chicago just days before with Servotron. To put a point on it, the band seemed a lot more spiteful and ready to take out the audience with a blunt instrument. Big booty thumbs up on this ‘un. Shellac played for just a bit too long with too many technical delays on Steve’s behalf. And to top it off, there was a….guitar solo?! What the…? And no heckles? OK, OK, I lied….
Me: “Hey guys, where are your shellac green amps?”
Steve: “They’re right here, Henry…”
Bob: “Way to go, Chunklet!”
D’oh! Sometimes I’m such a boob. I can say that performance-wise, the band was as precise as I have ever seen them. However, one of the great things about Shellac in general are the members ability to somehow “feed” off the audience. And with the lackluster Fargonian crowd being of no help whatsoever, this show definitely clocked in as the worst I’ve seen of them. footnote: After recently seeing 6FS with the Jesus Lizard, J Ryan said that the second show that night in Fargo (as in the one we didn’t see) was one of the best ones they ever played in their entire life. Damn, sometimes I have all the luck….
OK Hotel / Seattle / 12 July
This show was barely promoted, but I still feel lucky that I found out about it just in time. Now please correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe that Cluster had just finished (or were about to start) recording with Brian Eno who has served as a collaborator for some time now. And I’ve got to say that as a recently converted fan to Cluster’s 20 year body of work, I was floored. Dense soundscapes. 100% improvised. Loud. Totally unbelievable. And I saw it. Much like when I saw Tony Conrad over a year ago, I became mesmerized (or hypnotized, if you will) in what was going on. Even though it was minimal in both attendance and performance, this clocks in as one of my fave shows of the year. Easy.
Subsonics / Cheater Slicks / Monomen / Man or Astro-Man?
Satyricon / Portland / 13 July
Decided to go down to Portland to see this show with Lance from Thingmakers just so he could get out of Seattle for a night. First off, I’ve got to clear up an on-going Chunklet misconception about the Subsonics. Sure, I’ve seen them a lot. But to be honest, I’ve always thought of them as being quite sucky. But after this show? I’m a convert! I’ve been on quite a Velvets tizzy recently, and sure, I had a couple 6’s of brew before the show, but dammit, they finally gelled with me! Cheater Slicks were drunk and loud. The Monomen were doing their first show as a three piece which was a bit shocking to see. Still, they were deafening and put on a good shoe. By the time the Astromen? made their way to the stage, it was waaaaay too hot inside, and Lance and I were dreading the long drive back to Seattle. Sure, we got back at sunrise, but that’s livin’, baby!
Cellophane / Seattle / 16 July
Some Theater / Lawrence / 14 August
I must confess, I haven’t owned a Melvins record I’ve ever liked. But I think I’ve given it a good try. A single here, a ten inch there, a couple of promo CDs sent to me. However, each record I get sounds the way Star Trek looks. Totally sterile and not nearly engaging enough for my taste. On the other hand, though, Melvins live shows are tremendous. It’s almost difficult NOT to enjoy them. Heavy and merciless. And no, all those fags who say Harvey Milk are like these guys don’t know what in hell they’re talking about. It’s like comparing a slaughterhouse to a sledgehammer. It’s apples and oranges, baby! So yeah, Melvins played an ‘in store’ (music biz lingo there for ya, kiddies!) in Seattle for their new CD which I still haven’t heard properly. The crowd went absolutely nuts. The store was packed (like….duh!), but the outside situation is what really surprised me. Mounted police officers tried to contain the crowd which (at that point) had spilled over to the opposite sidewalk. The “pit” which was going full force right outside the store’s entrance bounced me back in front of the band three times before I successfully got the hell out. A month later, I went to see Melvins top off their show at a theater in Lawrence whose name I’ve forgotten. I’m such a ditz! And yes, as you could easily imagine, my head was bobbing up and down just like those kids in them there Quiet Riot videos. I really love Melvins, but I just don’t think I’ve got a good track record when it comes to their discography. That stinks.
Treble Revolution CD release party
Atomic / Athens / 29 & 30 July
Two days of admittedly Pavementy/Barlowfied indie gunk celebrating the second installment in the Treble Revolution series. Apart from some drunken baboon who MC’d the first night, there wasn’t much to complain about. The Olivia Tremor Control put on a truly Faustian free form noise/rock show on the second night which I was tickled to see. What a blast! There were a couple of blatantly obvious duds that played the two day fest, but let’s not get me started, shall we?
Q-Zar / Chunklet 3d Anniversary / Athens / 31 August
There were many who said I was mad for having a band of robots play at a laser tag joint, but I showed ’em. Boy, did I ever! Even though I lost my shirt, I showed ’em alright! With that said, this was one of the most incredible show ideas I’ve ever had the nerve to go through with. For a paltry $6, party goers got a chance to see the band, play a game of laser tag and (AND!) be entered in a raffle to play Servotron at laser tag. Although the employees were just a wee bit on “slow” side, everything went off without a hitch. There are many people I need to thank, but in the spirit of avoiding a self-congratulatory spiel, I’ll knock it off. Now if I could only get Shellac to come down so I can make good on my promise to have them play at a slaughterhouse, we’d be doing fine!
Flour / Arcwelder / Zeni Geva
Upstairs at Nick’s / Philadelphia / 4 October
Brother JT & Vibrolux
Khyber Pass Pub / Philadelphia / 4 October
Taking the train from Lancaster to Philadelphia costs $18 round trip! Hell, the tolls and gas alone would cost $15 if you drove, so this was found to be quite the deal. However, there was one minor problem – the bastards at Amtrak have always decided to run behind schedule. So when I arrived in Philly, the sun had already set and I was hungry and cranky to top things off. So when I finally made it to Nick’s, Arcwelder was getting their van situated in the club’s cramped parking lot. I can’t imagine what it would’ve been like to see them do the same maneuvers with their old clumsy ambulance tour van from four or so years ago. Whatever. I had dinner with the bass player from Flour with whom we shared some acquaintances, but before long, the show was underway. Some lousy ban called Vitamade started things off and blew pretty hard. Flour had all 3 Arcwelders in their employ and did a decent job. Much better than I remember them being in Chicago back in November at the final Tar show. Arcwelder were up next and seemed a tad tired due to their double duties, but were still mighty swell. Then there was this Zeni Geva band who have received many a blessing from many a “Who’s Who” list, but you know what? If it weren’t for the fact that they were from Japan nobody would give them the time of day. Not even good enough to be “bad metal.” Maybe hype for hype’s sake? So anyway, 15 minutes into their set, I made my way to the Khyber Pass (just a couple store-fronts down!) and caught Original Sins front man John Terelsky’s “gospel” side project Brother JT and Vibrolux. I got in by telling the door guy I was in Zeni Geva and that I should be on the list. Of course, I don’t look at all Japanese, but he let me in. Hah! Jedi Mind Trick works every time, folks! Brother JT and crew were terribly sensual and passionate about what demons they were exhuming from the stage. Wow! I sort of lost myself in the whole thing and didn’t regret it at all. I can’t say that the CDs I’ve heard really do this band justice at all. Highly recommended. So I made my way back to Nick’s and, in fashion similar to that of Gaunt earlier this year, Bill and Scott Welder drove me 15 minutes away (at 3:30 a.m. no less!!!) to the Miner Street studios where I was to sleep on a floor for the night. A memorable journey to say the least!
Enboil / Gaunt / Superchunk
40 Watt / Athens / 31 October
Enboil started things off in fine fashion although I must admit I was back stage sampling the beer cooler during much of their set. D’oh! Anyway, here it was Halloween Night and those kids in Gaunt didn’t even bother to dress up. It’s not like I was one to talk (I wasn’t in a costume, either), but they’re supposed to be here for the kids, man! The kids! Gaunt had a totally refurbished line-up (Jovan and Jerry being the only constants) but still smoked heartily! And hey, any time I get to see Mac wearing a leotard is a good time in my book. He didn’t disappoint as a Playboy Bunny. Hoooo, nelly! And you might think that the Nutty Professor is some lame-assed computer graphiky Eddie Murphy vehicle, but dammit if the Superchunk drummer wasn’t dressed as Mssr. Lewis to a tee. And his introduction of the ‘Chunk was totally dead on. What a ham! So yeah, Super “No, We Ain’t Playing ‘Slack'” Chunk were a bit off the mark, but I reckon the Halloween gear made up for it. Personally, I haven’t seen a “great” Superchunk show in about 4 years, but hey, I never walk away feeling totally cheated, so I guess I should slap my cake hole shut.
Irving Klaw Trio
Lizard and Snake / Chapel Hill / 2 November
The L&S reminds me of a more earthy/grainy version of Frijoleros. Meaning that they serve pretty wicked (pronounced “wikt”) burritos and have bands play. But I never remember anybody as great as the Irving Klaw Trio playing at Frijo’s. Hell, they did a Can cover, fer Chrissakes! I’m getting ahead of myself. The opening band was an improv group consisting of Chuck from Spatula and all of Tractor Hips opening things up with something not unlike the more quiet moments of either band. The booze was flowing pretty freely by the time the IKT hit the stage, and The Tractor Hips guys and myself left after about 30 minutes to go to a party with plenty of free alcohol. In retrospect, I regret leaving so early seeing as how they were actually pretty damned spectacular. Maybe I need to come up with some more descriptive words, coz I really can’t describe the Trio who were actually a five piece. Sorta jazzy, very skronky and, as the ultimate compliment, sassy!
The Azusa Plane / Flowchart / Asteroid #4 / Bardo Pond
Trocadero / Philadelphia / 7 February
I started the evening pretty spaced out (if you know what I mean) so you know I couldn’t have been too disappointed. The Azusa Plane started things off and played for only 20 minutes and were not unlike moments on their live 12″ from last year. Improvised and noisy as an oncoming train. As Paul (my traveling partner for the evening) said after their performance: “It was like the crowd were afraid to breathe.” I couldn’t agree more! Flowchart were up next and had this sort of turntable/sampler/guitar/moog/drums ensemble going on. After hearing their CD on Carrot Top, I was a bit disappointed by their seemingly dry live show. I started to notice that after the Azusa Plane performance, the crowd talked constantly thereby pushing the band’s music to the background. Bummer. Asteroid #4 were like a poorly executed Spiritualized cover band without the awesome light show. Next! And Bardo Pond? Oooof! Not at all what I expected. Heavily swirledelic drone and fronted by the female equivalent of Jim Morrison. I think “intense” would best describe them. And after purchasing almost all of their albums and singles, I can honestly say I was skeptical on how they’d pull it off live, but I walked away from this show a believer. endnote: And in case you are looking for another “can’t lose” purchase when you’re flipping thru those record bins, be sure to purchase (don’t just “check it out”) the Hash Jar Tempo CD featuring Bardo Pond playing with the esteemed Roy Montgomery. A 100% Chunklet guaranteed clincher.
Humidifier / Thee Hydrogen Terrors / Six Finger Satellite
Silk City / Philadelphia / 20 February
This show happened right on the heels of getting back from the strenous Revo tour and did I have to drive to Philly? Hell no! But I did it anyway. Humidifier were the real peculiar ones on the bill seeing as how they have nothing in common with the other two, but still, they were pretty alright. With the whole “indie rock” sound (flag me down in a bar sometime and I’ll tell you about it) becoming all too easy to sport, at least Humidifier do it pretty damned well. And shit, they were doing it back when many of you were still in high school listening to Winger and sportin’ a mullet. This show was their first in over seven years. Christ, give these sorry bastards a medal! I can sort of sense already that they’ll be pushed aside, but they will at least go down admirably in my book. The Terrors and the Satellite were sort of a study in why Philly sucks. During the 25 minute Terrors set, the crowd was sort of taken aback. Didn’t really know what to do. And the Satellite were having technical problems out the ying yang so half way thru their set I left, but not before heckling J Ryan who didn’t know what to do with the crowd during the delay. Hey man, make a hole!
The Rogue Lounge / Providence / 25-27 April
If you join a band in order to get laid, I wouldn’t have suggested playing Terrastock. Not that you wouldn’t have had a good time, mind you, but there just weren’t any available girls there. Sausagefest ’97! 99% of the crowd (male, of course) looked like disgruntled record store clerks, junkies, closet pedophiles or university faculty. And as I heard Bill Kellum say “Well, this is your constituency.” How true. But also, how spooky.
With that out of the way, I must say that this was the most hedonistic weekend I’ve had since my burnout days back in college. There was a no booze allowed rule during the weekend which just made the people in attendance do narcotics or smuggle booze in to spite The Man. Whichever way you look at it, there were a ton of plastered souls walking the halls (the least notable of which being me). And without a doubt, this was thee event of a lifetime.
Brief highlights of Terrastock? Well, I missed the Silver Apples, but I heard they were good. Windy & Carl were wistfully lush during both of their sets. The Major Stars (Wayne Rogers and Kate Biggar’s new thing) were able to rock like a hurricane in spades. The Elephant Six (OTC/NMH) clan arrived fashionably late and split as soon as they were done to go to Boston. Bardo Pond were spectacular, as were the Azusa Plane. Flying Saucer Attack disappointed me and what the hell was that “Fuck You, Clown” joke that Jim O’Rourke told all about anyways? I also missed Damon & Naomi which was one of the few things I really wanted to see. The Tadpoles sported a dense psych sound which helped my intoxicants kick in even harder. By the final night, Ben (aka “my ride”) wanted to get to his folk’s house in New Jersey so I missed the Magic Hour reunion at 2am which bummed my shit right out, but I did get to see a phenomenal Flying Azusa Carl Bardo Plane Saucer Pond Attack “jam” (I know people hate that term, but that’s what it was) which blew everybody away in the lounge. Another terrific aspect of this festival was the non-corporate, musically enthusiastic vibe that was floating around. I can honestly say, that it was a first for me to walk away this impressed. So to Phil, Nick, Flydaddy, and any other organizers, my hat’s off to you. Keep up the tremendous work and make sure that the next Terrastock (which there better be more of) is at a place where we can have a proper party. Alright?
Luke, I am your hairdresser….
WHAT’S UP WITH ALL OF THIS STAR WARS CRAP?!
Give into the Dark Side, you hoser!
During the month of February, hundreds of thousands of people were robbed. And what’s worse is that most of them never even saw it coming. Like many of those faceless, nameless victims, I too was robbed. I didn’t have a gun pointed at me, I wasn’t beaten senseless and I even saw who committed the crime. The suspect had no previous convictions and had no plausible reason to steal my money. Years upon years of work has secured his place as a world famous celebrity and more importantly, multi-millionaire. The suspect in question is George Lucas.
When Star Wars first hit movie theaters in the Spring of 1977, a phenomenon—paralleled only by the Beatles—was born. As a gawky 9 year old kid, much like the rest of the masses, I was hooked. Sure, my parents never broke down and let me be a part of the “in crowd” and purchase me even the littlest trinket from the never ending stream of merchandise that came out subsequent to the movie, but hey, I was busy enough with my Lincoln Logs. And unlike many, I only saw the movie once because where we were living in Houston was on the opposite side of town from the only theatre where it was being shown. No big deal. But enough about the sundry details… Anybody who hasn’t heard of Star Wars yet is obviously hiding under a rock of Herculean proportions.
The big question of the hour is: Did Star Wars need to be “repackaged”? Have people ever considered similar questions about Gone With The Wind? Wizard of Oz? Casablanca? Porky’s? Hell no! But the glimmer of a couple odd hundred million was obviously too much for Lucas. He went ahead and boned up the ass what was perfect to begin with.
And what did this new version offer that the original did not? Very little.
In the wake of the computer graphic wizardry triumphs called Jurassic Park and Twister—the special effects of which were done entirely “in house” by Lucas’ Industrial Lights and Magic (which Star Wars basically put on the map)—there must’ve been an air of confidence running through their minds similar to that of the Vatican Cardinals when they decided to restore the Cystine Chapel. But to think that “beefing up” the movie would improve it is where they were led astray. Sure, there’s nothing wrong with Lucas wanting to polish his gem, but a blatant full on marketing blast that doesn’t even deliver? I don’t think so. The “new and improved” which was added to the original added up to little more than four minutes of inconsequential scenes and dialogue which (I’m guessing) ended up on the editing floor 20 years ago for good reason. And the “graphics”? Not worth it at all. Scenes involving an all-too-obvious synthetic Jabba the Hutt, Jawas, Stormtroopers and other assorted organisms does not improvements make. And was the graphic mastery passed along from the T-Rex’s in Jurassic Park and the wind-destroyed farms in Twister to the improved Star Wars? Let’s just say that in a word “no.”
Now enter from stage right The Star Wars Movie. Not to be confused with Star Wars, The Star Wars Movie gives what the newly refurbished Lucas classic has failed to deliver. And what is this movie? Simply put, it is a rendition of the original movie performed entirely with Star Wars figurines. As in the four inch tall toys. And it doesn’t end there either. The short film’s soundtrack (including accompanying dialogue) is supplied from an album cum book adaptation of the original film. Poorly read dialogue is read from actors who sound more like soap opera stars than Obi Wan or Han Solo and the story is read like that of an infomercial for tele-psychics.
The Star Wars Movie started originally as (surprise, surprise) a college film project, but has become the introduction to the most recent string of shows by (once again, surprise, surprise) Man or Astro-Man?. And to compound matters, it is no coincidence that one of the three who created the movie, Troy Durrett (Astro-named Pez D. Spencer), mans the film projectors during the Astroman? live show. But prior to the Astro performance, the crowd is treated to Durrett & Co’s pop art masterpiece that Warhol is kicking himself in his grave over. From a massive television propped at the front of the stage, crowds are instantaneously hypnotized. This is a feat that not even the most riveting performance can manage. Nobody talks to each other. Nobody goes to get another beer at the bar. Nobody does anything at all except marvel at the masterpiece that these film students have created.
The cheers and hisses occur in the crowd almost as if on cue throughout the movie. And during the finale—the rebellion’s assault on the Death Star—the figurines and cheap sets are replaced by lo-resolution graphics courtesy the Star Wars video game for the Atari 2600 (yes, that old Atari game). Once the Death Star is destroyed, the cheers in the audience ring out louder than that of any rock band’s encore. It’s truly startling.
So who should get the props in this year of the 20th Anniversary of Star Wars? Most obviously, George Lucas is still a cinematic genius who will never get an Oscar because of his simplistic (read: non-artsy) story lines. And even with the series of bad judgement calls that have made the newly repackaged Star Wars, it’s heartening to see that The Star Wars Movie is not so much a mockery as it is good old fashioned justice for those whose money was snatched by Lucas this year.
The kudos really belong to the rag tag bunch who tweaked the Lucas oeuvre and called it their own. And in case you’re curious, the fun doesn’t end there either. By this summer, Troy and his filmmaking buddies will have their rendition of The Empire Strikes Back ready to show all of the people who come to see Man or Astro-Man?. And as with The Star Wars Movie, it’ll be for sale after the show. What will it be called? The Empire Strikes Back Movie I’d reckon.