IT'S A LIVING… BUT IT'S NOT A LIFE #14.8
J Church and Honey BearRecords – Month of Sowing
Looking through a glass onion…

  

J CHURCH RECORDS ON THE HORIZON

I just thought that now was a good a time as any to give you a brief rundown of all upcoming J Church releases and what their status is. Needless to say, the further I go, the more the info is strictly for trainspotters...

The main thing is our new full length will be out soon on No Idea Records. We've gone the opposite direction of the last LP where one song took up a whole side of the record. This time we squeezed 16 songs out. Here's the track listing:

Side 1
Vampire Girl Prefers Me Alive
Eric Dolphy
Cosmonaut
If I Have To Dance Then I Don't Want Your Revolution
Horror Of Life
New Ho Chi Minh City
We Play Secular Music
The World's Smallest Violin

Side 2
Viva La Muerte
Unrequited
Flirting With The Bourgeois Dream
Bande A Part
The Ocean
The King
Tomorrow And Forever
What We Talk About When We Talk About Love

I'm really stoked about it and think it's our best record since Arbor Vitae 10 years ago.

We also have a bunch of split records coming out. Our man in Ypsilanti at grateful... is still putting out a split with Liverpool's best kept secret, Flamingo 50. Our songs on that are Near 600 Pages and a cover of the Cars' Just What I Needed.

Underground Communiqué, who did our split 7" with Minority Blues Band, will be putting out a split with Chicago's Hiruden. Our songs will be Flirting With The Bourgeois Dream and a cover of Where Eagles Dare. That one is also already in the works as there's not much for me to do.

Itchy Korean out of Houston are doing a split with us and King Prawn from China. I've got this all packed up and ready to go. I just need to make it to the post office. Our songs are The King and a cover of Prejudice by Crucifix.

I don't remember all of the details, but we also have a split 10" coming out with the Croatian band, Analena. Very cool band and great people too. Our songs are Who Killed Pasolini?, Aeroplane Angel, Near 600 Pages, Prejudice and Time.

Finally, I just found out we have a split single coming out on 1234Go! It's a split with Off With Their Heads who we played with last time we were in Minneapolis. I don't know all of the details yet. But I do know that our songs will be Trepanation Party and a cover of Too Late by Snuff.

As far as recent stuff that is available, there are the two new split 7"s. One is with Minority Blues Band from Japan and the other is with the Plungers from NYC. You can get them both from me for $4.00 ppd. Ditto for the Cilantro cassette tape. It's the thirteen songs I recorded over the years that popped up on J Church releases. From Birthday to Time I've culled them all. Comes with a badge as well. I've also got the third and fourth live LPs (Trick Or Treat – Feedback and Distortion and The Personal Document). They're $15 each, but if you want one you should act quick as I really don't have many left. They were both super limited and only available via mail-order.

There's always more stuff in the distant future. There are five more live LPs in the super limited, mail-order series. I've got a couple of potential mail-order only 7"s. I might put our WFMU show out on vinyl too. Plus, Cilantro has that single I need to remix. I'm also working on songs for a new Cilantro tape. Should be a busy rest of the year if I can get my finances in order.

  

FESTIVUS 2005 – J CHURCH / URCHIN TOUR #3 part 1

November 16th – Jackson, MS

We picked up the Urchin at Ben's place relatively early. They had a show the night before at Beerland. But I was working. I figure I'll be seeing them plenty anyway.

The drive from Austin to Jackson is ass. We should have left earlier, like the night before. Maybe we should have had a show in Houston to break up the drive. Uh, sometimes I wish we lived on the East Coast where you can tour endlessly with short drives.

Even though we're late, it turns out we're really only late for the soundcheck. Billy who set up the show is really cool. I've never met him in person, but he's written to us a few times in the past. His girlfriend, Chrissy, is really nice too. The Red Room is a decent club with a bar that sort of reminds me of a nice version of this club in North Beach we used to play called like Morty's or something.

Tonight is my first time checking out Bent Outta Shape. Wow. I don't know why I was under the impression that they were all Thrash-a-mundo. But they're quite poppy with lots of good tunes. They're one of those bands that get up, rock out, and then all find neutral corners of the club. I think they're having fun. But I don't want to assume.

The Urchin go down really well. We went out of our way to have some really fun shows on this tour so it should all be very Snuffy Smiles friendly. Yoichi is along for the tour (as well as Tomo from I Excuse and Yusuke from Blotto) so we want to make sure they all have a good experience. They've always been great to us over in Japan.

Toys That Kill are great. Paddy from D4 is sitting in with them on this trip and that means a lot more jamming than usual. It's cool. They even sort of evolve this one spontaneous thing into a Joy Division song. It's the loosest I've ever seen them and it's great.

That night goes crazy as all the bands are crashing out at Billy and Chrissy's. Everyone seems to be in various stages of wasted-ness. But nobody is as konked out as Billy. I'm almost worried about him for a moment. But then I see him bop around, pale as death, looking for a place to crash. I go with Chrissy to a 24-hour supermarket to get away from the ruckus and we have a nice chat about life while buying snacks and crap for the hordes back at the house. She even gives me one of her paintings. I had said before the tour that one of the things I wanted to look for was little pieces of original art and she's the first person to hook me up!

  

November 17th – Pensacola, FL

We've always had bad luck with this part of the world. But we've also never played Sluggo's. It's starting off good, as we are now two for two with the club providing some sort of vegan friendly meal. Chili is good especially when I soak it in Tabasco. Mmmm cornbread too. I even had a glass of wine. Shit, this is a punk bar and I'm drinking merlot. Does that make me a dick?

Our dearests from San Diego, Vena Cava, are up first tonight. I feel like we are two groups of pioneers that keep randomly encountering each other on the prairie. I think this is the third time we've played with them in the third different state. I don't think we've ever even played with them in Austin.

The rest of the night is something of a chaotic blur as there was a bit of drinking and there were a lot of bands. Bent Outta Shape, The Urchin, This Bike Is A Pipe Bomb, Sexy, Blood Bath and Beyond, Toys That Kill. I barely remember playing. This show is another one that with all that known talent was won by the Urchin. They were the tightest band of the night and they really won the crowd over. It was great to see people rockin' to them. Tonight's crowd was even more rocking than last night. God, I hope they're having fun.

  

November 18th – Gainesville, FL

Ah, festivals. I sort of hate them. I find myself mostly just wandering around with people I only vaguely know seeing bands play short sets to much too large audiences. It's hot, I'm tired and everything is expensive. No way was I looking forward to having two days off at the Fest. Hmmm… I actually had a great time.

First of all, a lot more people showed up than I expected. Mike McKee came down and became my partner in crime. David Hayes even flew out. Can you believe it? Hayes was here! I really miss Floyd too so that was cool getting to hang a bit with him.

I spent a lot of day one just wandering around and catching up with people. I got to see Dillinger Four who, while definitely wasted, were not nearly as wasted as the last time I saw them. PJ from Grabass has been cool enough offer his digs as a place for us to crash the whole weekend. I have a feeling it's gonna be band camp, so I find a neutral corner and snore myself into oblivion.

  

November 19th – Gainesville, FL

Me and Mike McKee got up relatively early and checked out the acoustic show happening at some house. Not the kind of house party I was expecting, there was a nice outdoor stage with 100 kids and free bar-b-que (maybe it wasn't free. I didn't really investigate).

We make our way back to the downtown area where most of the shows are happening just in time to catch Pink Razors. Good shit. I can see why people say they're like a more punk version of Superchunk. They've got the hooks and the vocals. I wonder if their name has anything to do with the Chixdiggit record or vice-versa.

Finally we get to play. All these bands, and I only feel anxious to get on stage. There's something weird about being in that tour mode where every band you see just adds to your own anxiety until you actually get up and play. It's not your typical competition thing. It's true that whenever we are an opening band for someone, I have a weird desire to try and blow them off the stage. But with these really big shows, it feels more like I'm part of a big bowling league and it's taking forever to get to be my turn. We have a lot of fun at the Common Grounds. We actually had a great show at this venue years and years ago when it was called the Covered Dish. After we're done, the craziness really starts. Radon do a reunion gig and are totally amazing. I've known these guys forever and I just can't believe they're playing. Every song sounds great and the packed house seems to know every word. This is the best way to see them.

When they're done we run over to another gynormous venue to catch Paint It Black. They were fucking amazing. I've never seen them before and I was really blown away. I dig both of those Jade Tree records. But now that I've seen them live I don't know if I can go back. Ferocious hardcore that you associate with East Coast bands. I should say that they were one of the main bands that I was looking forward to seeing at the Fest and they did not disappoint. I'll say it again: ferocious.

Having said all that, best band of the night was Ted Leo and the Pharmacists. Seriously, this was the best time I'd ever seen them. I've always loved Ted's songs and his voice. Plus he's a great guitar player. I really admire the guy. The band has always been fun. But tonight's show was especially powerful all the way down to the SLF cover at the end. Everything just seems to be clicking for them at the moment. They are totally solid and suddenly seem larger than life. It's weird. I've known Ted forever. It's crazy to connect the guy I've known for years with the guy onstage. The he pops off stage and he's same old Ted that I've known and loved.

  

IN THE J CHURCH LISTENING ROOM

APOCALYPSE / TRANSGRESSION split 7"

First of all, I've never really listened to the Transgression side. I've heard it like once and wasn't too psyched and went back to Apocalypse.

I loved the guys in Apocalypse. Rich and Ralph were good guys and this is one of those records that I was really stoked to get a shout out in the thanks list. Two really down to Earth guys, one was clearly the political voice of the band, the other was the social guy who could hang out in any crowd. I don't understand why everyone is so reverent of Iconoclast (who were a great band) while nobody remembers Apocalypse.

This is by far their finest moment. Better songs than the tracks on their own single or the one on the MRR comp, this is how I remember them live. Blindingly fast riffs with giant mid tempo breaks all held together by guttural vocals. The cover proclaims "noise from hell!"

I wonder what these guys are up to today. (Cide-Show/Desperate Attempt)

  

BEATLES, THE – The White Album demos 2xLP

As I've said before, I'm a later period Beatles guy. I like the early stuff somewhat. But it's Rubber Soul and beyond that get me going. I guess it's not really too surprising that The White Album is my favorite Beatles record. There's something mysterious about it that always sort of frightened me as a child and that's even before I was aware of the Manson interpretation. It's one of those records I am attracted to that feel like a weird insight into a scary and alien lifestyle.

So this crazy boot takes the fear another step further. Even odder versions of the songs or do they just seem odd because I'm so familiar with the official versions? I don't know. A lot of this is acoustic Lennon with mysterious versions of Everybody's Got Something To Hide Except For Me And My Monkey, The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill and yet another version of Revolution. Lots of cool unreleased stuff too like Child Of Nature and What's The New Mary Jane. I mean, they've been booted before (is there anything from Beatles archive not raided?) but it's nice to see all the '68 stuff in one place.

The George tracks are really incredible as well with the eerie Circles and Not Guilty. I even dig Paul's song Junk. The record ends with a weird grouping of Dear Prudence, Sexy Sadie and Helter Skelter. (no address)

  

DEAD MILKMEN, THE - Bucky Fellini LP

I was never a huge fan of this band like a lot of my friends were. In fact, like those oddballs that only liked the Mick Jones songs, I really only love the songs Joe Jack Talcum sung. Everyone loved Bitchin' Camaro on the first record. But I always thought Dean's Dream was the classic.

So this is, what, the third album? I don't even remember. The second one had Why Are You A Moron so this is at least number three. There's the normal funny business like Going To Graceland and The Pit. This record also contains my favorite Dead Milkmen song of all. Watching Scotty Die is a really great song that probably wasn't a hit with their snotty punk suburban fan base. But it's a great sad song with all the charm of one of Jonathan Richman's more sullen moments. Recorded in Austin, maybe the time they spent hanging out with Daniel Johnston had some influence (they even cover Rocketship). This is one of the songs that helped me learn to love the fiddle. (Enigma Records)

  

SPENCE, SKIP - Oar LP

The legend of Skip Spence always seems to me like an incomplete story. Starting off in the Jefferson Airplane, he drummed on their first album having never touched a kit before. He quit soon after resurfacing as guitarist in Moby Grape. In 1968, while recording with the Grape, he experienced some sort of mental breakdown in the studio. There are different reports of his rampage from yelling and screaming fits to running through the control room with an axe. He was committed to Bellevue where he was contained and treated. Six months later, he put together a masterpiece of a solo record that would wind up being his final and greatest statement.

The album Oar is an eerie 22-song affair. Assuming you can't really separate the artist from the art, every track is a mystery and every pun has some deeper meaning. Musically, it's delta blues transmogrified by meds and psychedelics. There is an odd lightness to the whole project. Even the sound collages seem to be both meticulously and delicately put together. The doubled vocals and their utterly life-weary delivery add to the atmosphere.

Spence plays all the instruments on the record, which would have something to do with the laid back feel. He was probably pretty medicated at the time. Even the drums sound like rain patter more than percussion. The record is beautiful. It's a time capsule in a way. But there's something soothing and gentle. But beneath that lurks something much darker, which I think is a lot of the appeal of this record as a cult item. Part of it is knowing the story of Skip Spence. But you can't help feel that there is a darker side that he's seen and this record is meant to prevent you from seeing. (Sundazed)

  

SYMBOL SIX - s/t 12"

Posh Boy was really the shit for a little while. I really got into a lot of the SoCal hardcore scene via the Rodney on the ROQ comps. They had the best records from TSOL, Social Distortion and Agent Orange. They also did the US version of the amazing Punk And Disorderly compilation.

Symbol Six were the last really great record to come out on the label. With only this four-song 12" to show, they captured a sound that defined OC punk. There were clear elements of Agent Orange with the classic track Taxation built around a great guitar riff feeling like Everything Turns Grey. Ego utilizes great backing vocals that are like some of the best music from MIA.

It's a really solid record if you can ever find it. Don't be put off by the horrible record cover. It's a shame that this band didn't record more. But from what I remember from a later Flipside interview, one of the guitarists split or was booted. He was too punk and the rest of the band was getting into heavy metal and glam. It's hard to be a dignified musician in Southern California. Trust me to know. (Posh Boy)

  

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