Monday, April 28, 2008

March into Madness

Does anyone pay attention to College Music Journal anymore? Did they in the first place?

Looking at the magazine's website with its archaic layout (but really, can the term 'archaic' actually be used to describe graphic design that is probably not quite 5 years old?), it's kind of laughable to think that college kids actually read this shit to find out what's cool and hip. These guys were like the proto-hipsters before the variety of white belt strappin', angular haircut sportin' Romulans made the scene so the staff give off an air of being washed up in music critique business.

If someone that reads this blog actually reads CMJ, feel free to drop a comment to blast how full of shit this perception is. It would be nice to know a little more about a publication that has been ignored for the most part.

This CD was part of a monthly giveaway that came with the magazine when it was printed back in the '90s; a lot of people still didn't have access to the internet, so this was a great way to get new sounds out to people. No one cared about flexi disks any more... except for those of us who never gave up our penchant for vinyl in the first place!

Beastie Boys: These guys don't need any introduction to most people. The tracks on this comp were taken from the album Some Old Bullshit, which featured their music from their hardcore beginnings before their mocking of rap music proved to pay more bills than playing gigs with Bad Brains.

Solsonics: This LA-based manufacturer of grooves produced a pretty decent fusion of acid-jazz and hip-hop. Although, the vocal ramblings don't quite match the finesse of the other musicians, their re-workings of pieces by the likes of Ahmad Jamal are enthralling enough to suck you in and make you forget about the verbal fluff that occurs on the upper layers.

Therapy?: Formed in Belfast, Northern Ireland in 1989, this band's influences vary from Black Sabbath to Can to Captain Beefheart to Public Enemy to John Zorn. The band formed when the individual members met at a gig comprised of local bands. The opening guitar chords on this track are intense but beyond that it's pretty standard '90s pop-punk with a bit of grunge added for good measure.

Failure: Although, one could state this is standard alt-rock faire, the guitar work and signal processing of this recording is pretty nice. One can definitely feel the impression of the finger print of Steve Albini in this recording; this isn't surprising as he produced the first album that Failure recorded. The quality of the drum track is a bit sludgy but it really goes well with the overall soundscape of the song. Jello Biafra joked about calling a band Failure; wonder if these guys ever heard that record...

Texas: Blues rock hailing from Glasgow, Scotland. Sounds kind of like Bonnie Raitt gone rock 'n' roll. Famed for re-recording their song So Called Friend for Ellen DeGeneres' comedy sit-com.

Luna: Hints of Jesus & Mary Chain if they were strictly acoustic- but only during the verses. Then this really silly schmaltzy chorus goes into effect, ruining the vibe of the song. Apparently, two of these band members got married after playing together for over 15 years and for some reason people are making a big deal about it. Now, if they were same-sex, then that would be some news!

Bruce Cockburn: If you know anything about this Canadian musician, then you know that he has an incredible amount of output. The myth is that he found his first guitar in his grandmother's attic, to which he affixed stickers of stars and played along with the radio. His second band, Olivus, actually played a gig with Jimi Hendrix and Cream in 1968. In 1969, he headlined the Mariposa Folk Festival because Neil Young canceled the gig to play Woodstock. In 1984, his previous spiritual work became more politicized and he wrote a song called If I Had A Rocket Launcher after visiting a Guatemalan refugee camp that had been attacked by military helicopters.

NRBQ: The New Rhythm And Blues Quartet formed back in 1967 in Florida and have been performing under various membership to this very day. Their eccentric approach to pop, blues, jazz, and even country has earned them a quirky following amongst some music listeners but not so much that record labels will keep them on the roster for longer than an album or two. Most of their records were released by Rounder Records in the 1980s and 1990s. As a result of this trend of working relations with those in the music industry, people have jokingly referred to NRBQ as standing for Nothing Really Beats Quality or No Records Bought in Quantity. Despite their rocky standing in the mainstream music community, it hasn't prevented them from playing zombies in Day Of The Dead, blowing up Cabbage Patch Dolls during their live sets, or writing songs for episodes of The Simpsons.

The Grays: The beginnings of Power Pop in the '90s was hailed by bands like Jellyfish and Beagle. Jason Falkner (ex-Jellyfish) met Jon Brion and inadvertently started a band while at a rehearsal studio with Buddy Judge and Dan McCarroll. Jon had spontaneously called a rep with Capitol Records and the next thing they knew numerous record companies were dangling offers before them. The Grays were formed, recorded one powerful album and then broke up mid-tour due to differences that arose between the musical composers despite their vehement attempts to avoid this pitfall. The vocals in this track are reminiscent of Joe Jackson.

Th' Faith Healers UK: When the record label Too Pure signed their first band, Th' Faith Healers announced that Thee Hypnotics had stolen the letter 'e' from their name. A fascination for Krautrock, a trilogy of bizarre sleeve designs that gave a whole new meaning to the word 'tasteless,' and a dance known as the Lurch are but the tip of the iceberg when delving into the legend of this "shambolic mess" from Camden.

Eat: After releasing two albums on the Cure's record label Fiction and being lauded as harbingers of a new sound that seemed to incorporate the best elements of bands such as the Doors, Gang of Four and Big Audio Dynamite, Eat went on hiatus for two years. Singer Ange Dolittle was recovering from a heroin addiction that was wreaking havoc on relations with the other band mates. This space of time led to a new line up and a new sound; the band released a third album that met with some positive reviews but by this point the band had run its course and just wasn't the same.

Loren Mazzacane: This guitarist has recorded over 50 albums under several names over the course of his musical career. Some may know him as Loren MazzaCane, Loren Mattei, Guitar Roberts or Loren MazzaCane Connors. Violin lessons in childhood and listening to his mother play Bach at funerals spurred him into studying the music of Giacomo Puccini, Frederic Chopin, Robert Pete Williams, and Muddy Waters. In 1978, he began recording an 8-volume series of LPs under the self-released Daggett record label. He has performed with Keiji Haino, Alan Licht, Jim O'Rourke, Chan Marshall, Darin Gray, Rafael Toral, John Fahey, Thurston Moore, Henry Kaiser, Dean Roberts, Jandek, and Suzanne Langille; he currently fronts the band Haunted House. Downloading this CD is a must, if just to hear this sample of his bleak folk music.

Grifters: Sub Pop band from Memphis who was all the rage in the '90s. Their credo summed up in three statements:

1. We promise not to incorporate hip-hop beats in an attempt to reach a younger audience (This shouldn't be a problem because there are still so many genres to pilfer.)

2. We promise to keep touring until we have a freakish yet devoted following of drug-addled suburbanites hanging out in the parking lots at all our shows.

3. We promise not to clear up our act any more than on this record. Why, even now we're working on ways of screwing up our personal lives even more just to assure you, the listener, that the future holds even more songs about confusion, heartbreak and dependancy.

R.L. Burnside: Although, RL recorded with George Mitchell back in 1967, it wasn't until the 1990s, with the release of an album on Fat Possum Records and the track on this compilation, that he began to really pick up steam as a musician. His album recorded with Jon Spencer Blues Explosion (A Ass Pocket Of Whiskey) further solidified his stature in modern blues and stirred further interest in the younger generation of music lovers.

Heavy Vegetable: Rob Crow's past involvement in this band paved the way for further musical inanity in the form of bands such as Thingy, Optiganally Yours, and Pinback. If you like any of the bands just mentioned, you owe it to yourself to give this band a listen. "Looking dumb is exactly what I'm doing right now, but I've got this illusion that I want to keep my integrity." Good male/female vocals coming from this outfit.

Sone: Sone were a band from Portland who released a short string of excellent and grotty singles in the 1990s. Their EP Holiday And Sport actually experimented with an electronic sound. Give it a listen and see whatcha think.

Cub: Having a reputation for being a "cute girl band" led to this band's music being dubbed "cuddlecore." There was once an incident in Houston where Neko Case, the drummer for Cub at the time, got into the audience and knocked the shit out of another girl for calling her a "whore."

Magic Hour: Wayne Rogers (the singer of Crystallized Movements) and longtime partner and guitarist Kate Biggar formed an alliance with Damon Krukowski and Naomi Yang (the rhythm section of Galazie 500). The result of which was the space rock band heard on this compilation. The band released three albums on modern-day psychedelic record label Twisted Village.

Varttina: A very unique roots-based vocal and musical style that combines Finno-Ugric elements, Finnish runo poetry, and distinctive harmonies. At the time of this release, the Varttina collective had recorded five albums and were part of the WOMAD (World Of Music And Dance) Festival. In this same year, the collective won MTV's anti-racist video competition in Europe. Live performances by the group are always dynamic and not to be missed!

LiLiPUT: After a legal action taken by Kimberly-Clark, makers of Kleenex, in 1979, this Swiss band, was forced to change its name from Kleenex (a brand of condom) to LiLiPUT. In the '90s, Marlene Marder, saxophone player for the band, put out a collection of Kleenex/LiLiPUT recordings, which this track is taken from.

CMJ New Music March No. 8

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