I am ashamed to admit I have been sitting on this record for months, then when I finally decided to take a listen, my shame exploded on Sunset Boulevard, above the 405 near the Getty Center.
Os Mutantes is such a polarizing band: Most people I know that have heard them either fall madly in love or snicker at the oddity of crazy psychedelia sung/wailed in portugese. Admittedly, at first I liked them because they were odd and seemingly obscure. Nothing gives you more cred as a fledgling indie-rocker in Athens, GA than peppering your conversation with a declaration of the unhinged brilliance of Mutantes by Os Mutantes, even though you don’t understand a word and not completely sure that what you are hearing are "songs." I mean, My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless is one thing, but this is just…nuts. When the second track, "Nao Va Se Perder Por Ai (You’re Not Going to Lose Yourself Out There)" is announced by that crazy cackle/bird call noise from what I always assumed was Rita Lee, you just think this whole record is inpenetrable Brazilian abstraction…until that kick-ass fuzz bass brings the song into a psych-country stomp that I have tried to imitate more that once and failed each time. I once tried to drop Mutantes on my Alabamian 2nd cousin and his redneck buddy who were visiting the big city for the first time. I got them high and convinced them that Kid A is the greatest record ever made (it’s not), convinced them that Emitt Rhodes was robbed by Paul McCartney and Badfinger and will one day get his just recognition (he was and will, by God…). And now, having these bumpkins believing I was their own personal Lester Bangs, I dropped Mutantes on them with much pomp and ceremony. They laughed uncontrollably for at least 5 solid minutes…which is a long time to be laughing…even when you are stoned. Pearls to swine, indeed. That was quite a few years back and I think time has healed that wound. After my cousin learned that I could NOT get him a record deal for his band just because I lived on Hollywood blvd, that emails and phone calls stopped coming, much to the relief of my wife. Can’t blame the kids for having the dream.
So let’s fast forward to last week when I slipped Hoje é o Primero Dia do Resto de Sua Vida into the CD player on my way home from work. First of all look at the cover:
So, yeah… I have been absent for a very long time and I want to apologize. Not that folks have been wearing out the "refresh" buttons waiting for a new "A Beautiful, Ugly Noise" entry to show up, but none-the-less, I feel like the kid who hasn’t been coming to practice and can’t figure out why he is always sitting on the bench during all the games. I promise to do better, coach.
Where have I been? Well here, there, ultimately nowhere. I will shamelessly plug Waxflight, an albums-worth of songs I have recorded with lots of help from musician friends who are much more talented than myself and who I love dearly. I hope to have it all cleaned up and shiny by the time the Mayan Calendar cycles us out of existence, so I have a good 6 years left, right? Anyways, stop by the take a listen and be my friend.
Last Sunday I went to La Fonda on Wilshire Blvd for the first time since I moved to LA in 1997. Good Lord that was some slammin’ Mariachi. I want to go back when the Mariachi Divas are playing. How in the world could you possibly go wrong with an all female Mariachi Band?
Well, I am back, this is a promise. It’s been so long this is almost like another introduction. I have lots of records that I want to write about and those will be coming up soon, soon, soon.
I have had a DVD in my possession & the best of intentions of writing about it. You know how it is with life and laziness beating you down daily. Well, that is hardly a good excuse, so let’s just get on with it.
We all like music, right? I mean you don’t come here for updates on my 1 year old daughter’s newest, cutest trick. (Let me know if you want to hear about them, because I can provide stories in Technicolor detail). I love music. I have come to a point in my life where my favorite songs are made by some of my favorite people. That is living a rich life, friends. Sometimes the music is slicked up, shiny, major-label fare, but mostly it is folks doing what they love and throwing it out there into the world and seeing if anyone claps. Now, I am not one of those lo-fi DIY religious fundamentalist that can’t look past the spinning reel-to-reel machine to see the virtues of Pro-Tools and a good promoter, but there is something to be said for just getting stuff done without hemming & hawing over obstacles, monetary or otherwise.
I am in awe of prolific artists who are always 3 projects ahead of themselves, filled with so much creative energy that each work is thrown out there not so much for the awaiting masses, but because they must move on to the next thing or else he or she might explode from within. If you fly under the radar, it seems much easier to purge your creative inventory without hindrance. I have heard plenty of stories of records being held back for a "season" or a timed release or having to wait in the queue for a fellow label mate to have their moment to shine. It is frustrating and ultimately stifling for a work-horse artist to sit it out in the stable of label-limbo. So when you get your hands on evidence of a band cranking not only quantity, but quality you must take pause and tip your hat.
Admittedly, I had not heard of The Willowz until I got the DVD in my hands. Judging by their myspace page I am about 31,363 people behind. No matter…I can’t keep up with it all, man. What am I, Pitchfork? Any way, this is probably for the best because I had no idea what this band sounded like, looked like or even that they are from Anaheim. All I knew was that Michel Gondry directed one of the bands videos and used 2 songs in Eternal Sunshine for the Spotless Mind. That is a pretty good endorsement.
The Willowz released a record last year called "Talk in Circles" that apparently was a hit, making it onto Rolling Stone’s best 50 albums of 2005 list. Ok, that is cool, I don’t get Rolling Stone any more, well I do, but they still show up at my parents house in Birmingham, Alabama and I can’t make them stop (for perspective I haven’t lived there since the first Clinton Administration, so that is a whole other story). Recorded in the bassist’s brother’s garage, the record is a sprawling, 20-tracked opus that jumps around genres with ease, but always remains energized and focused. A regular band would be pleased, maybe move onto to make a few video promos for the singles. They are on the smaller, but notable label Sympathy for the Record Industry, so I suspect the money hose is not drenching these kids. Oh yeah, they are all barely drinking age. Trust me, I did my research – all of this is old news, especially if you are from Orange County – I am not.
Well, you can’t stop art. The band has, somehow, managed to wrangle some of the video art-worlds hottest directors and on a thread of a budget, released a companion DVD to "Talking in Circles" called, cleverly, "seeinginsquares." Yes, all 20 tracks get 20 videos…and if I’m lyin, I’m dyin, not a single one is filler. The smart move was getting a different director/directing team for each cut and giving them, I don’t know, $100 to make a video (well not really, but it wasn’t much). The results are some of the best examples of low budget visual trickery you will find.
The first track, “Ulcer Soul” is a prime example of the “how-they-do-that” treatment. Director Ace Norton (who I think is like 12 or something…maybe early 20s) delivers the band in what appears to be their natural habitat, a practice space in some split-level in the suburbs, playing the song while suspended in air, like the pause button is stuck…I can’t even begin to explain it, think time lapse times 100. I read in the additional materials on the DVD (thankfully all directors have a bio and a bit of info about their respective projects) that the band had to jump in the air some 200 times to create the effect. Work-ethic? Yes, it seems so.
That is what I loved most about the DVD as a whole; the band seemed to really take an active part in creating the magic. Watching almost 2 hours of videos featuring the same band can be daunting, and often exhausting. I mean you really have to love a band to sit through every minute and I bet you a dollar you hit the skip button at least once. I have to say I didn’t do it; I sat down and watched the entire DVD without touching the remote. It was almost, and I swear I mean this as the highest of compliments, like watching an extended episode of the Monkees. The Willowz are such a unique looking band, that you will never mistake them for any other out there: Richie, the guitarist/singer/what appears to be ring-leader, is going to get the leading role in the future bio-pic about J Mascis, Alex is preparing for his role as the next fair-skinned baddie in Lethal Weapon 5 and Jessica, well she is the prom queen of 1972 that all the A/V club geeks wanted to date. They are all funny and charismatic alone and tear it up as a collective band. And again, none of them are any where near 25 years of age.
I could go into all of the infamous dirt on these guys, but why bother…you can read plenty of that stuff with a simple google search. Get the DVD and enjoy.
About 10 years ago I lived in a sweaty attic in Athens, GA with my good friend Michael Tully. Mike brought few possessions down from his home state of Maryland: A suitcase filled with indie rock tees, a pair of Jack Purcells and a very large box of video tapes filled to the brim with every essential film to watch before you die. I think I got a heavy dose of an indie film education from that box. Before his arrival we were forced to watch a borrowed video cassette containing 6 episodes of the sit-com "Friends." Those were dark times.
On Mike’s birthday his sister express-shipped a large container of Maryland crabs for us to enjoy. I remember a steady pile of empty PBR bottles and crab carcasses scattered on newspaper all around the living room while Altman’s Nashville played in the background. I remember thinking that a grand gesture of sending seafood to your little brother on his birthday, not just for him, but enough for 10 people to enjoy was something special and showed the power of having family members that were also your best friends.
Mike also does an amazing impression of his Irish father drinking a beer. He raises his pint, says "Gud luck" in the thickest of brogues and drinks it down in one, long swallow. It is hilarious to see.
This long introduction is meant to show you how golden the Tully family is to each other and to those around them. This brings me to jt songs. Jt songs is the musical product of John Tully, my friend Mike’s Irish cousin. I don’t really know John, only through his music and a few messages back and forth on that other site with the teens and the music…you know the one I am referring to. John’s songs have that dusty reel-to-reel, buried in the back of the closet "how did this stay hidden for so long" feel. When I first heard "song from limbo" I was floored. It is so haunting, so rocking and so, well Irish, I had a hard time believing this guy was just making these dirges to fill an artistic need until he finished Med School. Yeah, I feel lazy and ashamed in comparison.
Apparently the legend goes like this. Mike’s sister Carol passed John’s songs to Mr. David Berman, the Silver Jew. Out of politeness to his friend Carol, Mr. Berman gave the disc a spin and was so smitten that he arranged for jt songs to come to the States and play some shows with the Silver Jews. The rest will soon be history. the jt songs website isn’t up and running yet, but you can find and download a few tracks from that other site…until the real record drops.
And Mike? Right now he is burning up the festival circuit with his beautifully tragic directorial debut, Cocaine Angel.
Please support the good Tully folks and check out their offerings. I am all the better for it.
This is Craig and I am going to try my best to write as much as possible about music I like and love. Does the world need another voice about the subjective noise that we are all so very fixated on?
Yes, I think so.
Reviewing records is really a new charge for me. I have been treading on it with a soft foot, as initially I really had no idea how to approach someone else’s labor of love with a critical eye without either gushing over it senselessly or tearing into it with sadistic pleasure. Neither responses are really interesting to read nor ultimately to write for that matter. So this has become an excercise in detailed description and appreciation.
As the records keep coming, I have come to the realization (which really has been there all long) that there is so much good music in the world right now that is hardly noticed (yeah, that reads like a revelation – my next entry will shed light on the growing popularity of “television”). It is exciting that music will never reach peak use.
So I think everyone has a place when it comes to talking about music (or film, or theatre, or interpretive dance…you get the idea).
Ok. No real content today…I just thought I would write my name in my trapper keeper and sharpen my pencils for the coming school year.