Sunday, November 21, 2010
Released in 1979, the Contortions debut is one of my favorite albums to come out of the No Wave scene. In a manner of speaking they were more "musical" than "No New York" split mates DNA, Mars, or Teenage Jesus and The Jerks. Instead of detuned dissonance (like my other favorite, Theoretical Girls) Contortions offered a scratchy, off kilter take on James Brown (one of James Chance's pseudonyms was James White, where he ventured into Disco to fuck it up from the inside) with saxophone breaks that make free jazzers sound tame and pretentious. Not that I have anything against the more sonically antagonistic groups, but this album's musicality warrants more repeated listening. There's more of a noticeable sense of humor here.
If difficult, skronky, noisy music you can dance all fucked up to sounds good to you...
Now for contrast, contemporaries DNA performing a song that gave name to a terrible, over-rated band. Taken from Basquiat's "Downtown '81" which also features James White and the Blacks
After the release of "Here Come The Warm Jets," Eno embarked on his one and only solo tour with the Winkies (a glam-ish Pub Rock band) as his backing band, but he suffered from a collapsed lung after only five dates.
It's weird to think of a Pub Rock band backing Eno, but these more direct, rocked out, and non-electronic versions work just fine. A great song in any form is still a great song.
1) Baby's On Fire
2) Totalled (re-worked later as "I'll Come Running")
3) The Paw Paw Negro Blowtorch
4) Fever (Peggy Lee cover)
Saturday, November 6, 2010
It's great to hear Lee perform live.
1) The Performer
2) You Look Like A Lady
3) It Was A Very Good Year
4) Hello In There
5) Medley: Jackson/Summer Wine/Sugar Town/Some Velvet Morning/Houston/These Boots Were Made For Walkin'
6) Fire And Rain
7) Come Spend The Morning
8) She Comes Running
9) A Better Place To Be
Unfortunately this record is cracked from the inside all the way out, but it only makes a small pop...not too bad. Just another solid instrumental RNR 45 by a band I've never heard anything else by. Tough stuff.
Secret Message Machine's 1st full length is one of those albums that seems a bit too strong to be a debut. Michael (Barrett: AKA SMM) seems to have reservations about it now, but at least he'll admit there are several songs he still likes. Any artist worth a damn is their own worst critic.
From start to finish CBCF delivers one direct lo-fi gem after another. Recorded during the G.W. Bush administration, political and war protest songs pop up here, but they all avoid getting TOO political and none are the least bit preachy...quite a fantastic rarity. As always nothing is overdone, for example: pop, anger, song length, folky leanings, etc. It's all just right.
You could say there are similarities to Guided By Voices, Neutral Milk Hotel, and other crunchy indie rock bands, but SMM has a voice all its own.
A rare (for what reason?) single from 1969.
Great stuff...both sides (both covers). If you've ever wanted to give a puppy to a woman with chili all over her dress or crucify a hippy, this record is for you.
There is no information at all on the CD jacket, allmusic.com says the label is: Gallerie Dessford Vogel.
It comes across like an instrumental Gate album with lo-fi minimal electronics, de-tuned guitar and some samples. Great harsh ambience.
Thursday, November 4, 2010
Monday, November 1, 2010
Secret Message Machine is Michael Barrett from here in Greensboro, NC. His music is arty, but not too arty. Poppy, but not too poppy. Serious, but not all that serious. It doesn't conform to any genre or trend but remains accessible. It's homemade and lo-fi but sounds warm and clear. It's difficult to describe in short but holy shit does it get under your skin. Few musicians with this much talent and individuality can remain so modest, and regrettably unknown.
This album is a collection of outtakes from around the time of "Giants Madmen and Ghosts," which, as far as I know, he only gave to a handful of friends. Some tracks are more experimental, some are more bare bones than what ends up on his albums, a great Guided By Voices cover (many tracks here remind me of lo-fi GBV), but all are endearing and stimulating to the imagination.
Some of you may think that odds and ends collections aren't the best place to start with any band, but if this is the stuff that got cut, imagine how good the albums are.
Taking a chance on a SMM album is a chance well worth taking.
More to come...
A track from the newest (and ridiculously great) album, "Orphanville," which you can buy or stream at secretmessagemachine.com
A live solo performance
I must admit that the first time Michael played me some of his songs, I immediately offered my services to be in a live version, and still do play bass in the live band. BUT, since I had no part in the writing or recording of any SMM song I can thereby praise the records this highly and not be a self-serving bastard.