IT'S A LIVING… BUT IT'S NOT A LIFE #9.8
J Church / Honey Bear Records Newsletter - Summer '01
Coming down fast…
BAY AREA GIGS…
Hey, thanx to anyone who came out to or helped out with those Bay Area
gigs this past weekend. It was really great to come out for just a few
gigs. It was really great to play with Citizen Fish again. You know, our
very first gig was opening for them at the Chameleon. No lie.
Also, it was great to see Pirx The Pilot live not to mention The Urchin
from Japan. It's hard to call these bands up and coming as they've both
got music out and they're both made up of veteran scenesters. Suffice
it to say that I'm sure we'll be gigging with them again and I'll be greatly
looking forward to it.
I didn't get to see `em play as our gigs conflicted. But it was also
nice to hang out with the folks from Kill The Man Who Questions (I think
that's what they're called. I get all these "Man Starts Fire To Warm
The Down Comforter Of Revolution" type band names mixed up) at the
MRR house. Man, they are some of the funniest guys I've ever met. It's
a shame we didn't play together as we were all in town. Shit, it all leads
back to my argument against genre segregation. There was a time when we
could play with hardcore bands and it was no big thing. Why do promoters
feel the need to book a bunch of bands that are all similar? Wouldn't
it have been great to have one big gig with Citizen Fish, The Urchin,
Kill The Man, Pirx The Pilot and (if time permits) J Church? Blah, blah,
blah. I know I'm repeating myself…
THE TRUTH ABOUT PUNK IS OUT THERE
Of course, it was also really great staying at the Maximum house and
chillin' with Mike "The Thorn" Thorn and Arwen. I have to say
that they are the first coordinators that I have total (uh, well, as close
to total as I can get) faith in. They strangely compliment each other.
The straight edger and the drinker. The vegan and the fish contemplator.
They're a demented yin yang.
Meditating on that idea led me to an epiphany:
Mike "The Thorn" Thorn and Arwen Curry are the Mulder and
Scully of DIY.
Think about it. No, don't think too hard about it. Just a little…
Tell me you don't totally agree with me… Follow this metaphor for
a moment, please…
Mike Mulder: "Arwen, can't you grasp the concept that by exploring
the possibilities of revolution through demo tape and zine culture the
entire structure of society can be altered which is why the government
has developed a secret program to disseminate "travelogue zines"
to dilute the revolutionary potential of zine culture?"
Arwen Scully: "Mike, isn't it more likely that most zines just suck?"
Of course, that would make Mark Murrmann, Tom Hopkins and Floyd the
Lone Gunmen. But that's enough of that…
NEW J CHURCH CD IS OUT ON HONEY BEAR RECORDS
Okay, Meaty, Beaty, Shitty Sounding is finally out
on Honey Bear Records. Needless to say, you can mail order it right from
me. I'm pretty happy with it. It's got 20 tracks from singles and compilations
from the past few years. Here's the list:
Telephone Line, Turn To Stone, Sweet Talkin' Woman, Don't Bring
Me Down, Tightrope, Palm Tree, Closing Time In An Early Town, Harvest,
You're The One That I Want, Kill Surf City, Lemon Zinger, Winter Comes
Again, Indignation, Socialist Newspaper, Disappear, Pointless Pointing,
Sea Of Pearls, Earthquake Song, Crazy Lady On Market Street, Travelers
THE FUCKING CHAMPS HAVE STARTED THEIR OWN FUCKING GENRE
I love the Fucking Champs. I love the guys in the band and I love the
music they play. Hey, there's a sleeping metal head in all of us and he/she
needs to be awoken. But I have to admit; I thought that what they did
was on the periphery. To be a mostly instrumental metal band ("instrumetal"
if you will) is unique enough. To have no bass makes you even further
out there in the concentric spirals of musical conformity. I never could
have guessed that they would spawn an actual genre of music.
I guess we are reaching the new wave of metal and it's nothing that
anyone could have predicted. Smart, self-aware, prog metal? How could
this have happened? Where was metal heading?
Once the leap was made from heavy metal to speed metal, forces were
set in motion that could only lead in one direction; Satan (and I mean
that in a good way… sorta). All musical currents can usually follow
some sort of genealogy and metal is no different from jazz or punk or
avant-garde polka in that respect. It's not to hard to see how Venom paved
the way for Slayer who paved the way for Carcass who paved the way for
Morbid Angel who paved the way for Deicide who paved the way for Cradle
of Filth. Shit, looking back on it, they look like battles in a long war.
There's something really macho even about the progression from generation
to generation. Everyone wants to be more and more extreme. What's the
The Fucking Champs are smart guys. They read books and stuff. They watch
"films" as well as "movies". These guys aren't your
stereotypical metal heads. No "Heavy Metal Parking Lot" types
in the lot. You can talk to them lucidly about subjects other than beer,
metal and American pride without worrying about getting your ass kicked.
Not your metal stereotype…
At first I thought bands like C Average were wannabe's and shockingly
derivative. But now I'm thinking that there's a new reality for metal.
It's nice to know that there is a serious alternative to the metal head
stereotype without it being a joke band. I ain't saying that they're all
a bunch of geniuses. This ain't the hesher version of Good Will
Hunting. But they don't revel in the ignorance that a lot of
traditional metal heads do.
I always thought it was random chance and musical Darwinism that prevented
a more cerebral strain of metal from developing. My theory is partly proved
true with this new scene. It was all just a matter of time.
I think a lot of critics (musical and social) have dogged metal because
of its self-imposed limitations. Historically, metal bands were forced
to work within a very narrow framework. This was largely due to their
careerist ambitions as musicians. Metal bands are entertainers. There's
never been much more to it. So, rather than take risks that might affect
record sales and concert attendances, most bands have played it pretty
safe. It's a lot easier to simply focus on what most metal heads thought
of as progress (guitar solos and getting laid for the most part).
But after years of punk rock and indie rock, there is a new consciousness
in metal. There is the idea that you can play whatever you want and not
be concerned with commercial success. If you're playing metal strictly
out of the love for metal, then aren't you just as much an artist as someone
playing any other strain of independent music?
This lack of limitations as defined by commercial ambitions is probably
the main reason for the new freedom in metal. There's no reason to feel
intimidated by outside influences. How many metal heads are into Gary
Numan and Kraftwerk? There was a time when you could get your ass kicked
for admitting that you liked those bands to your metal buddies.
This new freedom and adventurousness in metal is epitomized by the Fucking
Champs. They're in it for the music, man.
* - I'd like to qualify this by saying that I really liked Carcass and
the first couple of Cradle of Filth records.
IN THE J CHURCH LISTENING ROOM
BOW ROETHKI - What Was A Scare CDEP
I don't know much about this duo. Got this randomly in the mail. For
a while, there were a lot of bands like this. But right now, it's a nice
change of pace from all the "challenging" stuff I've been getting
in the mail.
Bow Roethki is Kristabelle Lee and Dave Coscia. Kristabelle seems to
be the main person as she writes the songs, sings the songs and plays
most of the instruments. This bedroom band is from Portland though what
they do is certainly reminiscent of a lot of UK lo-fi stuff like the Slampt
bands or even Sarah Records. It's sweet pop music with lyrical nods to
the Beat Happening School of tasty-treats-as-metaphor-for-romance type
It is especially catchy and if you just focus on the song structure,
it's a lot like Heavenly or even the Buzzcocks. But the bedroom recording
inhibits the sound in a pleasing way. Bands like this often find more
success with understated performances than with an all out attack. Everyone
knows you're recording in your bedroom on a little cassette four track.
Nobody is expecting Flight of Icarus. The subdued approach
takes the focus off of the technical aspects and redirects the listener
to the songs themselves.
Again, it's not groundbreaking. But I'm assuming this is their first
release and it shows a lot of promise. On a personal note, it was a nice
little present after a hard day of work.
(Empty View Rrekerdz, PO Box 5312, Portland, OR 97228)
FIJI - The Glue Hotel Tapes CDEP
Ooh, I really like this one. It's great that Jamie from Scarfo is making
music again, though it's without the support of a functioning band now.
Fiji is a one-muso band along the lines (in function at least) of Sparklehorse.
There are, in fact, moments that do recall Sparklehorse in it's blending
of `60s 7th chord pop music with the fuzz and white noise of today's underground.
On the first track, Pillshop, I was almost knocked
down by a feeling of nostalgia. It really reminded me of the old days
way back in the early `90s (tongue only partly in cheek), wandering around
rainy streets listening to Oh My Lover or Victory
by PJ Harvey on my Walkman. It's an interesting little rhythm that's equal
parts international, hip-hop and theatrical rock n roll. It's
a lot of varied sounds strung together by a disturbingly catchy tune.
A lot of the music's style is in that it's so purposefully unusual with
its use of melody.
This is the music made by people that felt (like I do) that The
White Album was the Beatles' finest moment. Maybe their only
moment, to some… There's even a bit of an attempt to usurp that
atmosphere with a song about Manson with lyrical references about "piggies".
At this point, this CD has been out for a little while. Last I heard,
Jamie was doing something with the dreaded Sheryl Crow. I guess everyone
needs a day job. Let's hope he finds more time to continue this fascinating
(Impresario, PO Box 357, London SE19 1AD, UK)
HALF JAPANESE - Hello CD
Lester Bangs once described Half Japanese as "…sub-Jonathan
Richman white-burba-infantilismus vocals that as they natter tunelessly
onward actually tell little stories… This may be a whole new songwriting
genre, or at least one terminal of the Lou Reed "I walked to the
chair / Then I sat in it" school of lyrics." Of course, that's
a compliment and remains true to this release.
I've always liked Half Japanese and all things Jad Fair albeit usually
from the sidelines. Over his long career, I can't say there's anything
I've disliked. I mean, I'm one of those people who still think the Half
Japanese song was the best thing on Let Them Eat Jellybeans.
But my interest has come and gone. Maybe that's why I see him as an inspiration
as J Church's relationship to the public has been very similar.
You know what's weird? Call it a conundrum. Okay, don't. But it is a
little weird how on songs like Red Sun there is an uncanny
resemblance to The Weakerthans. I'm sure, if anything, it's the other
way around. But it's the first thing I thought on first listening to this
The profound influence on punk rock and independent music by Jad Fair
is now coming full circle. Influence in the indie world is always nebulous
when you look outside the world of dilettantes and track down bands at
least attempting to do their own thing. It's a pyramid scheme. One band
like the Velvet Underground or Devo will influence the subsequent generation
of bands. They in turn influence the following generation. The mathematics
are exponential and soon you have a million bands saying they're influenced
by Duty Now For The Future though I doubt that record
sold that many copies! Half Japanese are certainly one of those bands
at the top of the heap. Though it's often buried, confused and reconfigured,
their influence exists either purposefully or inadvertently in a million
indie bands around the world.
For that reason alone, you've gotta give 'em a little props for sticking
to their guns and coming up with this interesting album of tales and adventures.
It's amazing that in this day and age, someone can still create a very
distinctive and unique style and do it for 20 years AND still manage to
sound fresh and excited. You wouldn't think that there was much uncharted
territory for Half Japanese. But there is a lot of really interesting
stuff here. The keyboards on this record are tasteful and add a psych
meets Battle of the Band era Turtles type of sound. Lots
of inventive backdrop music here but also a lot of fresh pop songs. Patty
might actually be my favorite song on the record though it almost sounds
like a Pavement cover (though Pavement were an especially self-conscious
Half Japanese most of the time).
I pretty much enjoyed this record from start to finish. It's very comforting
that Half Japanese are still putting out these types of records. And the
records are good.
V/A - The Christmas Fisting EP
Hmmm… I just got this a month ago (it's the end of July as I write
this) and it's supposed to be a Christmas record. It was actually meant
for release at a December gig from last year where the three bands on
the comp were playing. It was a really great gig at the Underworld and
if you were in London and not there, you blew it.
Anyway, this three song 7" features Southport and Capdown covering
each other's songs. I have to admit that I wasn't too familiar with Capdown.
But they're a mix of ska / reggae and punk / hardcore. Not usually my
cup of tea, but I can get into it for the purposes of this novelty record.
Of course, Southport is the new band featuring Simon who was the original
guitarist / songwriter / sometimes vocalist for Snuff. They're pretty
great and the take they do on a Capdown dub-style song is very Fugazi-like.
It makes me wanna re-investigate their full length on Go-Kart.
Of course, the real stars on this record (as is the case anywhere they
appear) are Hard Skin. It's been a while since we've seen any recorded
music from this amazing skinhead juggernaut. But it's well worth the wait
as they wonderfully massacre the Christmas standard re-christened Ding
Dong Merrily, Oi Oi!. What can I tell you about this band? They're
great and no matter what you think of their intentions, they've produced
some of the greatest Oi! music of all time. This track carries on a great
tradition. I should mention (for bragging purposes) that I got an advanced
tape of some stuff they've recorded presumably for TKO. Bigger production
this time around and it sounds great.
I dunno what the availability is like on this record. If you find it,
you should grab it, as I'm sure it's a one time only pressing as it was
for a one off gig.
Name Records, PO Box 12286, London, SW9 6FE, UK)
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