IT'S A LIVING… BUT IT'S NOT A LIFE #9.7
J Church / Honey Bear Records Newsletter - Late Summer '01
Hinkley Had A Vision

 

GIGS

Oh boy. Looks like the gig on the 13th of next month has been moved from the Covered Wagon to a place called the Voodoo Lounge on Mission and 25th. I don't know what that's all about. Wasn't that a Rolling Stones record? I dunno. But that gig is with the Urchin from Japan. If you're in the area, you should really try to check that gig out.

The other two gigs are still set at the Bottom of the Hill on the 11th and Gilman on the afternoon of the 12th. Both gigs are with Citizen Fish and Pirx The Pilot are opening the Gilman gig. Should be a good time.

 

SINGLES FUCKING CLUB

Fuck, still have only got stuff back from one band. All hail Semiautomatic. Okay, I've really got to get this singles club moving. If I don't hear back from any other bands soon, I may just do a Cringer 7", a Cilantro 7", a Semiautomatic 7" and three J Church 7"s exclusive to the club. What do you think? Would that work for everyone? Of course, I'd rather go ahead with my original plan. I just don't wanna wait around too much longer.

Incidentally, it's not too late to join the singles club. People keep asking and, yes, you can still join. Just e-mail me…

 

E-BAY

I've finally given in and put all of my Rocket From The Crypt 7"s on E-bay. Take a look if you're interested. I'm really, really broke and I've still got my medical bills. So I'm putting more and more records up for sale…

 

OLD FUCKERS

Am I the only person waiting to throw a party when Ronald Reagan dies? God, why won't he just go! When he was President, I had doubts about him surviving his tenure much less into the new millennium.

It's so pathetic to think that many of the hardcore punker kids in California of the early `80s who were writing all those songs about hating Reagan are now yuppies and fuckin' suits feeling sorry for the old clown.

I find it really disturbing that people are showing so much concern for his well-being. "Oh, he's just a fragile little old man!" Like being old absolves him of what he did to this planet. He was a real fucker during his entire political career. I'm not some super-vindictive person. But I'll be glad to see him shoved off of this mortal coil.

What is it about getting old that absolves you of all crimes? I've been fascinated with this quotient ever since Nixon's death. I mean, even liberals were singing his praises when he died. Are we all really that afraid of our own mortality? Are we so un-easy with our own thought processes that we can't call a spade a spade on his deathbed?

Shit, I couldn't believe that Robert DeNiro and Scorcese would escort Elia Kazan on stage a few years back at the Academy Awards. I mean, where are people's principles? Hey, they're not letting Pete Rose into the Hall of Fame because of what he did to baseball. They sure shouldn't give Kazan a lifetime achievement award. The Blacklist was certainly a part of his life… He made his choice at the crossroads.

At least Nixon and Kazan had to go through hell. They were largely recognized as fuckers and in many ways they paid the price.

That makes the Reagan thing all the more frustrating to me. It pains me to think that Reagan will be known in the history books as a great American hero. It's bad enough that Americans give a shit about Presidents and think that they are somehow intellectually and ethically above the average citizen. But to think of someone like Reagan as a hero just shows what sheep we all are.

It just blows my mind to think that he "got away with it". He's like Dudley Smith in L.A. Confidential. He's the guy that gets away with it. My only hope is that in a hundred years, archaeologists will look back at America in the `80s and beyond and be able to compare it to the final years of the Roman Empire. I'm hoping...

He's a sad, old man and when he dies I'll be the first with a celebratory cheer.

 

IN THE J CHURCH LISTENING ROOM

BOYRACER - Boyfuckingracer CD

Are Boyracer still a functioning band? I don't know. I do know that some incarnation passed through town and spent the night on my futon. But I don't know if it was a fleeting flashback or what. It would be a shame if they were done for good. I love Steward. But it's an entirely different beast…

Anyway, this is a long over-due collection of Boyracer material spanning the band's 10+ year career. I think they get wrongly stuck in the camp of UK indie pop because of their releases on Sarah. They've been sort of type-casted as a Another Sunny Day / Field Mice type band, when they really have always been much more diverse. I don't mean that as a slight on Sarah bands. I've always been a defender of that label from back when I worked at Revolver and I was convincing stores that they needed Doom 7"s AND Even As We Speak 7"s.

What Boyracer has in common with those bands is a great sense of melody. Unlike some bands that come up with parts and then go back trying to find a tune, Boyracer have always been able to craft a catchy pop song first and then arrange it in a matter that both hides the tune in textures and simultaneously reveals it through incessant melody. There's a hell of a lot of noise, fuzz and distortion on this record. It's warm and inviting. But at the same time, every song pays the bills. At least one catchy moment per song that will stick in your head.

Boyracer are what I think of when I think of great pop punk. Not pop punk in terms of the Lookout or Fat or whatever. Pop punk in the traditional sense that also includes the Chords, the Wedding Present, and the Mice. The highlights of this record accentuate my point. You can't go wrong with songs like I've Got It (And It's Not Worth Having), He Gets Me So Hard and this odd little version of West Riding House.
(555 Recordings)

THE EX - Dizzy Spells CD

The Ex is an enigma. Seminal punk band. Euro free improvisers. Anarchist collective. This ain't no party. This ain't no disco. Fuck, Holland isn't even a country. It's a commune!

For over two decades now, The Ex have been creating it's own vision of a liberation music orchestra. They've released record after record of musical collages and bursts both beautiful and abusive (I consider both of these terms to be positive and they are meant in praise). Their newest release, Dizzy Spells, is still another challenge to their dedicated followers. Twelve songs considerably more subdued than their most recent material, the Ex have again shifted to a new position from attack to seduction.

In Seduction Baudrillard wrote "total liberty, or total indeterminacy are not opposed to meaning. One can produce meaning simply by playing with chance or disorder." This could have been the manifesto for The Ex and their musical discourse. Historically, they dive headlong into areas often completely foreign to them and at times unwelcome. Their new record, while maybe not a tightrope walk, is still unlike anything they've done in the past. While creating a record of downplayed rhythms and elliptic structure they still surge forward into un-charted realms of their own private investigation.

Experimental music implies that an actual experiment occurs in the making of the music. Dizzy Spells is an experimental album. While it's an experiment that isn't without precedent (there are certainly shades of early Mekons, Wire, Steady Diet era Fugazi, maybe even the Au Pairs at times) it is unique to the context of The Ex. They can't help but bring their own brooding yet strangely playful style to whatever they do. Discordant and often staccato guitar parts become their own rhythm connecting with the always unique and often tribal drumming style. The vocals clearly announce their proclamations while becoming their own texture. In a format that doesn't often rely on traditional melody and harmony, this record in it's understatement creates its own beautiful field of tonality.

Albini's production with The Ex (he also recorded Starters And Alternators for Touch And Go) has been a godsend. The work they've done with him is certainly their best sounding (with the one exception being their Peel Session) and it's certainly their best drum sounds. They've made all of these changes with little effort. It makes me wonder if they themselves know how bold they are.
(Touch and Go)

STEVE LAKE - The Bacteria CDEP

Four fascinating solo pieces from the former front person of Zounds. This is serious music from the morbid revelers. This isn't really angry music. But it's painful. Interpret the lyrics personally or politically; either way they're about pain.

Musically, the piano backdrops are fascinating little Kurt Weil-esque tunes. At times it's like the Bad Seeds' more somber moments. Other times, it's like Tom Waits. Languishing In Languedoc is somewhere between Kurt Weil and a Fellini soundtrack.

A lot of this is thanks to Dominic DeGrande's piano playing which is simple and deliberate. The more understated moments verge on "ethereal" in terms of This Mortal Coil or the Virgin Prunes. It's like the music of a whiskey bar being played at a funeral.

I don't know if this little EP is mere experimentation or a teaser for a possible full length. But it's very engaging and an interesting new travel plan for someone most comfortable off the beaten path.
(Beverly Recordings)

PIRX THE PILOT CDEP

Nice little 5-song debut from Ernst's (ex Jack Acid, Bumblescrump, Half Empty, God Hates Kansas, etc.) new power trio. Ernst has always had pretty decent taste if his record label is any indication. Now he's got a band that fully lives up to those expectations. I've liked all of his past bands. But I think with this new group, he might be able to really create something really special.

While it's some of the most sophisticated music he's made (there's lots of… uh, parts) it still comes off as straight for the heart punk rock. His vocal stylings are especially featured in this band. They definitely brings to mind middle period Government Issue (Joyride maybe…) and a little T.S.O.L. (Beneath The Shadows possibly…). Actually, on third and fourth listen to this CD its remarkably like Government Issue. Even the guitar sound is almost reminiscent of Tom Lyle on those records. I'll bet if they covered Understand it would totally kick ass.

Lyrically, it's a mish mash that finds success in its use of allusion while the song titles at times exist to throw you off the trail. It's stream of consciousness with a bit of self-consciousness and a sense of humor even. How else can you write Ginsberg-ian lines like "Self proclaimed mystic. Black helicopter theorist. Viva la whatever." in a song titled Potato Cannon Ricochet?

It's interesting to look at the trajectory of someone like Ernst and the musical expressions it's wrought. I mean, could anyone have predicted something like this from the guy that used to be in Jack Acid?
(New Disorder Records, 115 Bartlett St., SF, CA 94110

PURRKUR PILLNIKK - Ehgji En: CD

Fuck, this is a great little CD. I can't believe I haven't investigated this band before now. And I have no idea what this is all about…

Purrkur Pillnikk was an old Icelandic band fronted by Einar Orn who would later go on to front KUKL and the Sugarcubes with Bjork. But with the exception of occasional vocal inflections, the Purrkur Pillnikk has little in common with those groups.

As part of the late `70s Icelandic punk movement, their sound is adventurous and raw. While never strictly adhering to the three chord formula, the band have more in common with a stripped down Television or even Pere Ubu at times. The occasional quirky moments are tied together with Orn's ranting vocal style. It's all in Icelandic, so I really don't know how structured it is. But phonetically, it does often seem like an energetic Mark E Smith.

The recording was done at Southern Studios in London, which was a good move. The clarity of the production greatly helps a band like this in conveying it's sound. None of the rhythmic subtleties, which are really crucial in many songs, are lost.

With any luck, this CD will indicate a possible reissue of music from other pre-KUKL outfits like Theyr and Tappi Tikarrass. God, I wish I knew Icelandic so I could read the liner notes…
(Smekkleysa S. M. HF.)

V/A - Rokk I Reykjavik CD

I guess this is some sort of soundtrack to a film made about the early `80s Icelandic punk scene. Wow, that sounds like something that I would love to see. I know, fat chance.

Anyway, this is one hell of a compilation featuring a lot of bands I'd only read about and more I'd never even heard of until recently. It's all great. But here are some of the standouts:

Ego are great. Straight up punk rock that you would expect to find on Bloodstains Across Iceland if there is such a thing (I would imagine that there is). Slightly dubious song titles (Sieg Heil?) though in the context it seems more theatrical than anything else. I mean, this was the breeding ground that evolved into the anarcho scene around KUKL.

Some of the best moments are, in fact, provided by pre-KUKL bands. I've already talked in this issue about the greatness of Purrkur Pillnikk who are featured on this comp. But more great music comes from Theyr and Tappi Tikarrass.

They are experimental and combine certain elements of Gang Of Four and PiL with driving punk rhythms. Their occasional blasts of open guitar wash add an "arty" edge as well as imply an anxiety that can't be contained by traditional chord progressions.

Tappi Tikarrass seem miles more professional than the other bands on the comp. Bjork's punk band is brilliant. Imagine a punky version of the Sugarcubes with male / female rants reminiscent at times of early Chumbawamba. I'm not a huge fan of Bjork. I like some of her stuff. I'm neither really here nor there. But she could really sing even back then.
(Smekkleysa S. M. HF.)

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