IT'S A LIVING… BUT IT'S NOT A LIFE #14.9
J Church and Honey BearRecords – n The High Grass
Better to die than to live a fucking lie...

  

ANYONE WANNA LEND ME $3000?

No? I didn't think so. I'm about to finish up my book and I just have a couple of things to do. Unfortunately, that means finding a way of getting back to London and possibly Spain for a couple of days. I'm broke, of course, and will be even more so after this tour. So, I'm selling everything I can to raise the dough.

Incidentally, if you do wanna lend me $3000 or any part of it, get in touch. I've been trying to avoid groveling for loans. But I've done it before and I suppose I could do it again.

  

FILTH

Thanx to anyone who came out to the show the other night with the band I tend to refer to as quasi-Filth. We played for the second time the other night with Career Suicide and Limp Wrist and it was a blast. Sorry about the technical problems. Don't know if and when we'll play again.

  

MILESTONES

Grant McLennan (1958 – 2006)

The Go-Betweens were the kind of band that inspired the right people to get involved in music. It may not have been their intention. But they were an inspiration to those who would prefer artistic and intellectual pursuits in music rather than entertainment and financial gain. Not that they wouldn't have loved to have had a Top Ten hit. But commercial trends never affected the band and they put out beautiful record after beautiful record in the face of such adversity.

Starting off as a Velvet's meets Saints meets not-really-like-that-at-all sort of band in the early `80s, Grant McLennan and Robert Forster started the Go-Betweens while at college in Brisbane, Australia (Security City to Saints fans). While punk may have been their mode at the start, the main themes were much more melodic and almost psychedelic in their pop sensibilities. Over that unforgiving decade of largely unlistenable music, the group managed six fantastic albums mining in many different areas of intelligent pop. A Go-Betweens song can make the Smiths seem illiterate.

Despite the critical success and a hardcore cult following, the band never did break through commercially and were done before the end of the decade. The '90s saw McLennan still busy producing four great solo offerings (one a double LP) as well as a one-off Go-Betweens reunion tour. Surely that and his prolific nature led to the groups 2000 permanent reunion. Four LPs were to follow. While they didn't quite pick up where 1988's 16 Lovers Lane left off, they were still very much so Go-Betweens records and made sense in the overall catalog.

McLennan died early in May at home of a heart attack.

  

FESTIVUS 2005 – J CHURCH / URCHIN TOUR #3 part 2

November 20th – Gainesville, FL

McKee is heading home today, so I'm on my own. I make it over to the Common Grounds for the day show featuring mostly lo-fi, singer-songwriter stuff. I get to see Erin Tobey, which is really why I got up so early. She has a cool guitar technique and I like her little voice. Plus, she just writes such good songs. Before I even knew she made music, I was checking out her zine. It's not a surprise that the music she makes is so personal and unique.

There's a crazy house party going on with a bunch of bands I wanna see. Lefty Lucy are a cool group that we met at a house party in Milwaukee a little while back. They put on a good show with lots of great pop songs. They sort of remind me of a much punkier Tiger Trap or something. I don't know if that's what they're going for. But it comes out nice.

Another member of Yusuke's band, Blotto, is over for the fest. Recruiting Mole from the Urchin and Tomo on drums, they put together a brief set of Blotto songs to play at the party. It's very cool to see people willing to take such chances and go to such great lengths just to play to the cool party people. It was all very much in the spirit of the Fest.

We make it back for another big show with Dillinger Four opening. They're not looking too good. They readily admit that they are way too hung over to play. The result is that they seem to be really concentrating. Even though it doesn't make for as fun of a show, it sounds great. None More Black play after them and I'm not really into it. I dunno. It's just rock music and I'd just as soon listen to BTO or whatever. I'm talking with Bill Florio when somebody sneaks up behind him and dumps are garbage can over his head. Turns out it was one of the guys from Against Me. But he sneaks off before anyone can do anything. Seems pretty cowardly but I don't really think much of that band anyway. There's something really fake about them that I can't put my finger on. The Soviettes are next. I like `em. I mostly like Annie's songs. The crowd sucks as I think they've just been waiting for the headliners.

Anyway, enough of the big rock club. I split and go check out the hardcore show with Bury the Living who are amazing as always and our fellow Austin-ites, Army Of Jesus. Oh, much more fun. A really great atmosphere. Pretty much no stage in a small hall. Friendly pit. It's like a really old style hardcore show.

Afterwards I go with Mike from the Observers and Dave from Drunken Boat (amongst other things) to a vegan café. Why does all the food at the hippy vegan coffee shops have to have such stupid names? No wonder I hate these places. I get the Indiana Jones and the TEMPEH of Doom and a salad with a name so stupid I can't remember. Over greens and fermented soy, we decide to do some recording together back in Austin. I guess they're riding back with Toys That Kill and will be around for a few days. Time to call Stan and see what his schedule is like. Perhaps a new band is born at the Fest.

  

November 21st – Atlanta, GA

The last time we were here we played a shameful, shameful show. It was so bad. I don't know what the hell happened. There was a good crowd. It was a nice club. I just couldn't get anything going. I couldn't sing that night to save my life. Yeah, yeah, I can't really sing anyway. But that night was especially bad. Yikes. After a string of great shows in Atlanta we've had two or three stinkers in a row.

Man, there's just nothing to eat around here. It must be some sort of holiday because everything is closed. We drive forever to eat some pretty dire Chinese food. It really took the life out from under me.

We get back in time to see the amazing Black Cougar Shock Unit. I love these guys and missed them at the Fest. Just too much shit all happening at once. So I was really happy to find out that we were playing with them in their hometown. They were as powerful live as you would imagine. Two guitars really work for them. This bar is really cool. The room where the bands play is nice and cozy.

It's Monday. It's not packed. But it's the best time we've had in Atlanta in forever. I'm feeling a lot better about this place.

  

November 22nd – Chattanooga, TN

I needed some alone time so while the rest of the entourage went to a somewhat pricey café for breakfast, I snuck out to a pizza place. A little privacy can go a long way and it was the cleanest bathroom of the entire tour.

We still manage to get to Ziggy's hours and hours before we need to be there. Nothing to do? We eat again. This place was great. After walking around in the cold, looking at the old bridges, we find a cool coffee shop diner. It's nice just to chill out and I get a chance to really chat with Maya, Ben's significant other who we've picked up for the rest of the trip.

There are two shows tonight and ours is the early one at the bar. Well, it's not really at the bar. It's in this big, graffiti covered, empty room behind the bar. It's crazy. Yoichi says he likes it because it's like a European squat show. Yup. The show is total madness with loads of people turning up.

Lots of great bands tonight including a great set from Sexy who are at their best. They've had some drinks but they've got it together. They're tight as hell and every song is a high-speed pop miracle. The crowd goes equally nuts for the Urchin as this must be their best show of the tour. Even we go down really great ending with our Misfits cover and Mole on bass.

After our show ends, there's a house party with some of the other bands from the Fest. I couldn't hang out for long in the basement because my allergies were going crazy from the dust. So I don't know all the bands that played. I wanna say Lefty Lucy, maybe Bent Outta Shape, the Modern Machines… I'm sure others played too. It was a crazy scene and I was really, really not up for the overnight drive that we had.

  

November 23rd – Denton, TX

What the fuck are we doing? We're playing a college town right before Thanksgiving. Nobody is here. Nobody we know is around. Oh well. The club is really nice actually and the people working the show are really cool. Hailey's? I spent a lot of time walking back and forth to the coffee shop. I was starting to feel my legs get wobbly from the overnight drive and just general fatigue. Shit, I had to make it back to Austin tonight as well.

The show isn't even half full, but it's fun anyway. I say my good-byes to the Japanese crew and head to the Greyhound station. Fuck it. I need to be home for work. I get the first bus outta there and wake up with the Austin sun burning my eyes out. None of the buses are running so I wind up walking half the way. Hours later I make it back home only to find out I don't need to work after all. Fuck me.

  

IN THE J CHURCH LISTENING ROOM

CODE OF HONOR / SICK PLEASURE - split LP

I love hardcore bands doing split records. I love the Faith / Void split. I love the Concrete Sox / Heresy split. I love this record so much. To this day, both sides totally hold up. Okay, first there was Sick Pleasure. Niki Siki and crew put out a great 7" and this side. Totally fucking snotty punk that was the template for everyone from the Dwarves to Blatz. I love that it's so violently anti-civic pride with, my favorite song of theirs, Let's Kill The MUNI Driver.

Once Niki Siki split, the band regrouped with a new singer under the name Code Of Honor. They had some other stuff, but nothing as good as this recording. Skater dudes from the time of Action Now, they went political and everything went haywire. It's a little confused but amazing all the same. Their theme song has some of the best phrasing in all punk rock. "Your self-determination is more important than your life!" Fuck yeah! (Subterranean Records)

  

FREE SPIRITS - Out Of Sight And Sound LP

What the fuck is this record all about? I dunno. But I love it. I guess when people say "jazz rock" you expect the most mundane form of fusion. I mean, there's good fusion… I guess. But there's a lot of not good fusion. Right? So what the fuck is this?

Imagine if the jazz and rock interface happened before acid rock or the `70s guitardation of the western world. In fact, this could have more to do with jazz meeting pop music culture more so than rock. If it weren't for the amazing performances, the imaginative arrangements and the fascinating instrumentation (sitars, sax, flutes as well as the usual suspects)... If you strip away all that stuff, you get something almost like the Association or something.

But you juxtapose those things and you get something wholly different. Don't Look Now is a fantastic pop song that is totally subverted by the wild sax. Sunday Telephone is the same with its great quasi or proto-psych pop. This is like a '60s pop record for brainiacs. (ABC Records)

  

RAINCOATS - s/t LP

I bought this record solely based on a quote from John Lydon saying that all music was rubbish except for the Raincoats. I still love the record cover. It's self-conscious quasi-naiveté. It's perfect for this beautiful teetering color field of sound.

No Side To Fall In is still the greatest way to start a pop record ever. I love it. From that first screech of the violin to the humbly sweet harmonized vocals, it's a perfect post-modern pop song. Ditto for Black And White as well as their totally classic deconstruction of Lola.

From there the album never lets up. There's quirky arrangements by a self-taught band pushing their own limits with wonderful vocals holding it all together. I don't know how to explain this kind of music. Imagine a lo-fi Trout Mask Replica coming from a pop or reggae background rather than the blues. Does that make sense? (Rough Trade)

  

ROLLING STONES, THE - "untitled" LP

In 1972, the Stones were meant to release a movie and a live LP. The movie is the notorious Cocksucker Blues which to this day is one of my favorite rockumentaries. It's a fucked document that manages to turn a glamorous rock-n-roll tour into a Kenneth Anger descent into maelstrom.

The live album was recorded for Decca and was never released. It got as far as the editing stage and now boots are everywhere. The band are as loose as in the flick, but it's cool to hear them roll through live versions of Rocks Off, Brown Sugar, Heartbreaker, All Down The Line, Gimme Shelter, Happy, Tumbling Dice, Love In Vain, Sweet Virginia, You Can't Always Get What You Want, Midnight Rambler, Bitch, Jumpin' Jack Flash, Street Fighting Man, and Rip This Joint. Mick Taylor was never totally represented on record. But live he was really in a groove and at this point he seemed to be the most confident.

I fucking love bootlegs from this period. I loved them as a kid and to hear something that was properly recorded for legitimate release is exciting and satisfying. (Decca)

  

STINKY TOYS - s/t LP

Weren't you curious too? Come on! I was a kid and I would read everything I could about the punk explosion. I read accounts of the punk festival at the 100 Club and was totally thrilled. The Clash, The Damned, The Pistols, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Subway Sect and some French band called the Stinky Toys. The other bands all fell into place for me as I began collecting the records. But even the live reviews had back then had a real ambivalence towards the Stinky Toys like they were clearly not invited to the party.

Ever since then I've been curious as hell. I didn't feel totally compelled to track down an expensive French import LP. I would see it around but it was pretty low on my list what with the Stones possibly putting together another half-assed compilation package.

This record isn't really what I expected. I thought it would either be arty-farty stuff that was the French being French and that got confused as punk. Either that or I thought they would just be a rock or pop group with no real connection to punk at all.

But the Stinky Toys were a punk band and not too bad at all. Thing is, they've clearly got much more of a New York influence. With the exception of the fast rocking Driver Blues, this record has a lot more in common with the first Patti Smith Group or even someone goofy like the Tuff Darts. There are even some Quine like guitar runs. The girl can sort of sing. But she can yell too and mixes it up pretty well like a young Vi Subversa. Imagine if Patti Smith wasn't a poet but that it was all just a bad translation from French. You get the idea. It's cool. (Polydor)

  

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