Local reviews
Three-Song Sampler Glinda’s Bubble (self-release)
Walking into my house is like entering an auditory Old Country Buffet.
This morning, for example, I decided to forgo Digimon so I could listen to my library tape compilation: Neil Diamond Greatest Hits 1966-1992.
While I gritted my teeth through “Heartlight,” I couldn't help but revel in hearing “If You Know What I Mean” (I am a confessed listener of ‘70s AM rock radio).
Later, I plunked a form of auditory Mystery Meat (which I usually check out from the library just to challenge myself) into my CD player: Funkadelic — One Nation Under Groove.
After hearing “Promentalshitbackwashpsychosis Enema Squad (The DooDoo Chasers),” I remembered that I had to review the recent sample release from Glinda’s Bubble (no coincidence whatsoever).
With some trepidation that I was committing a sort of harmonic faux pas — the dietary equivalent of following soft-serve chocolate ice cream with baby carrots cooked in butter sauce — I pressed the play button and listened to Glinda's Bubble — Sampler 2002.
And yes, there was an odd confluence in my brain. Funk-injected soul was still ringing in my ears when Glinda’s Bubble's first track began to play. But I listened on.
“Incoming” reveals Glinda’s lead singer — Phyllis Dwyer — as a sort of Grace Slick still mad about the white rabbit’s hi-jinks. Dwyer then trails off into a mildly riled Eddie Brickell. (I just sold Shooting Rubber Bands at the Stars to CD Warehouse for the handsome price of $1. For some reason, they wouldn’t buy my Lazerlove5 CD.) Perhaps it wasn’t wise to follow funk with folk, but what the hell. I was determined to finish the review.
Anyway, “Incoming” is another entry into the subset of angry songs by the likes of Alanis Morrisette, but — by the sounds of it — with far more standard instrumentation. The drum pattern that starts the song and stalks it throughout is almost maddening. The tune communicates betrayal over and over again. Though I’ve been betrayed in my life, my girlfriend periodically reminds me that my repeating that fact becomes tiresome rapidly. Now I know what she’s talking about.
By then, the funk had left the building.
The next song “Fatal Flaw,” starts out with what sounds like the subway chatter you hear in Golden Earring’s “Twilight Zone.” That sound quickly fades to be replaced by a sort of a clucking drum machine. When Phyllis Dwyer’s voice enters into “Fatal…,” it does so with a mild echo. There’s an overproduced Madonna/techno feeling in this track, which is somewhat haunting. But “Fatal Flaw” suffers from the same fate as many Madonna tunes — it’s background music.
While I know Dwyer cites Joni Mitchell as one of her inspirations, it might pay to get away from the sound-studio feeling a little bit; her voice is strong enough to stand on its own without someone sliding it around on mixing equipment and burying it under a drum machine. She proves that with the next track.
“Level Horizon” melds the nursery rhyme concept with a rolling melody you might find in a Dave Matthews tune. It features lively guitar work with a busy bassline, and nice tempo changes. The band is tightest on this track, probably because it’s the most challenging and energetic. And best of all, this tune sounds the least produced. Maybe that's the way Glinda’s Bubble should keep it — as honest as a natural ‘fro.
‘Scuse me. I’m going to slip that funk CD back into my player for a second serving of filet o’ soul. — Dave Moore

My So Called Knife Lollipop Lust Kill (Artemis)

WOW! Toledo pumps out a seemingly endless amount of cookie-cutter, heavy rock bands and Lollipop Lust Kill certainly is NOT one of them. These motherfuckers are here to cause some SERIOUS damage! What we have here is a quite impressive offering of hard driving arena-rock ready to take the world by storm: My So Called Knife. The cover art is great! Upon examining the back of the inner sleeve, you’ll see what I’m talking about. I belted out a disturbed chuckle when I saw what the boy has in store for you guys.
Very cool.
The production on this record will put most Toledo producers to shame. My So Called Knife is one heavy-ass record that comes off tough as nails through the hi-fi system. This album rocks! It’s got plenty of low-end fueled by solid playing throughout. LLK should be proud of this one.
As for the music, it’ll suit those of you who are into the shit that was made to piss off parents. I don’t think that the older folks will dig this nearly as much as the young guns, but either way, the power that Lollipop Lust Kill has amassed is undeniable. There are only a few tracks that are lacking on this record that are made up for by songs such as “Black All Over,” “Like A Disease,” “Everything I,” and the heavy malevolence of “Kill Greedy.”
Bottom line, it’s great to see a Toledo band show some initiative and get their act together. These guys have been at it for quite a while and it’s nice to see them reap some rewards for their efforts. Look out Orgy; Lollipop Lust Kill wants to steal your fans, the whole time administering a healthy dose of "MURDER ROCK"! *Smirk* — St. B

The Meat The Meat (self-release)
This may sound odd to you (then again, if you’ve read any of my past
reviews, this won’t sound odd at all), but my cats sometimes serve as
my musical barometers.
When things get marginal — say, I play some angry John Lee Hooker —
they skedaddle. It’s too hot in the kitchen for them. Not cool enough.
When I play the new promo release from The Meat, they stay put,
thumping their tails contentedly. When I heard this CD first, it reminded
me of what my practically unflappable cats would sound like if they
formed a band.
Well, not exactly: my cat Buzz sounds something like Alvin (from Alvin
and the Chipmunks) when he meows, and my other cat, Hairee, lost his
voice because of a respiratory illness. And because Buzz and Hairee
lack opposable thumbs, they would sound even worse than me if they
tried to play an instrument. But their attitudes fit the music on the
new Meat CD.
In this release, The Meat shows that it has captured cool in a bottle (or
at least in a CD), and it isn't afraid of spritzing the world with the stuff.
The strongest example of this non-plused-yet-groovy essence on the
album is its first track: “asongforjeremiah.” It's got a really catchy
rhythm guitar, with completely understated — yet somehow infectious
— vocals. You won't hear a tremendous range of vocals on this album,
as “jeremiah” lets you know immediately.
And the vocals are unintelligible throughout most of the album. For
example, in this song, I can understand the words “and the
soccer teams.”
The song “diversions” continues where “asongforjeremiah” leaves off.
It pulls off the improbable: The cowbell, which nearly killed BOC’s
“Don’t Fear the Reaper,” is baptized with The Meat’s bottle-o-cool and
“diversions” is the result.
In “diversions,” The Meat puts the mic where its mouth is (literally —
the mic is literally an inch or two from its lead singers’ mouths, I
suspect), giving the tune an intimate feel. The rhythm and lead guitar
dance off each other in a low-key — dare I repeat, cool way — until
they diverge in a loud jam. The cowbell adds randomness to this song,
but somehow doesn’t distract.
Unfortunately, the next three tunes, “upfromthedownandout,” “no”
and “swordinmythroat” don’t quite measure up to the first two.
“somethinggained” jarred me back awake with its vocals, probably the
most expressive on the entire CD. This tune’s guitar work is especially
clean. Eliza Eureste’s bassline trails off into an interesting
constellation of notes, nearly taking over the melody
in “somethinggained.”
“Carma” slips back away from the interesting, saved by a strong bass
line. Without a clear idea of the song’s lyrics, it’s difficult to find the
tune interesting. The tune itself certainly isn’t.
The Meat avoids ruts nicely with the “interludetojackson” instrumental,
which features some honest gimmick-free guitar work.
Maybe the coolest track on the album is “10ms21.” Are they in
Someone’s basement? Now it sounds like someone’s banging a garbage
can lid. Hey, one of the women started singin’. They ARE in a basement.
The acoustics crystallize in time for the guitar solo. Whew.
While “theaffair” clearly shows The Meat's limited vocal range
“headless” — with its infectious guitar and rhythmic lead-in — left me,
my tabby and my long-haired cat wanting more.
In fact, I proudly loaned this CD to a former music writer and told him
that this band is from Toledo. That’s the first time I’ve done that. I’ll
play this tune at a party if a get the chance — I’ll bet my tabby's
stripes on it. — Dave Moore

The Sexual Deviance Record seven inch & the Foundations EP combined treysuno (Kicking and Screaming Records)
I’m a man of many musical tastes, MANY! I can relate to the stressed-out, Fruit Roll-Up buying, minivan-driving soccer mom and say, “Yes, I also love Sting, he is one of my favorites.” Then, I could walk down the hall and find her 15-year-old son and give him an enthusiastic “Hell yeah dude, Korn is sweet!” After that, the 13-year-old daughter’s piano instructor might just come over, and we will get into conversations on classical and jazz, which both I thoroughly enjoy. Now, while I love these completely separate genres of music, there is one that I never was familiarized with, not because I don’t enjoy it, I just simply didn’t stumble upon it often enough to understand it. So when I was handed a CD entitled “Treysuno,” I said, “Cool, I get to do a CD review, I hope this doesn’t, A) suck, B) turn out to be an indie-rock record, cause I don’t know much about indie music.” Well it turns out that yes, indeed, it was an indie-rock record. The good news though is that it doesn’t suck, far from it.
Let me get some of the bad stuff out of the way. The first and one of the few problems I have with this record is the recording. In this case it’s different, when I say the recording isn’t good, I mean compared to a commercial disc. But this recording isn’t that bad, it doesn’t completely screw the songs over and it is completely listener friendly. I actually probably wouldn’t like this record as much if the recording was top notch. The recording gives this record a grungy, dirty feel to it that is completely appropriate. The biggest plus is the recording doesn’t down play the actual intensity of the group. I know a lot of you know that you write an “amazing song” then you record it and you’re like, “What happened?,” not in this case at all. The CD really, I think, captures exactly what they were trying to do, and they should be proud of that, it’s not often that happens. I think the only other complaint I can think of right now is that every once in a while I would find myself kind of cringing, and digging my nails into my arm hoping that somehow I could change guitar tuning problems, but understand those moments are far and few between.
Now, on to the fun stuff about this record. The first 20 seconds of the first track offers a little boost of excitement as you anxiously wait what follows as a bass riff and drum stick clicks acting as a metronome get you pumping. Then as the flow kicks in, I found myself listening to a cool rock groove, when something caught my ear. I heard what sounded completely like my childhood days of playing Mega-Man on the very first Nintendo. I very quickly picked up the copy of the CD case to find anything that could tell me about this cool sound, and realized that this sound was coming from probably the guitar/synth player. Now I was going, “Cool, they’re doing something totally different, and it’s not failing miserably.” Overall, this song got me feeling “it,” and feeling what they were about, and when the track was over I still remember the lyric stated as “I’ll give you 10 bucks, you give me 10 minutes,” just plain hilarious. Then the second track, creatively named “Song of the Sexual Predators,” kicks in with some pretty cool, interesting chords and guitar textures, only problem was I felt it could have been a bit longer. So, the songs kept on playing and I kept on listening, then I got to a track that completely showcased their ability to write a nice, good song. The track was entitled “Polaroid,” and for you undergrounders, it reminded me of a band called The Magnetic Fields off their record, 69 Love Songs. If you listen to one song off of Treysuno, listen to “Polaroid,” it’s a good song, but its long.
So, overall I’d give this record a nice, good A-. Great record, nice solid drumming, very appropriate, interesting vocal patterns and executions, fun bass walks and very cool guitar tones and sounds going on, but it’s not flawless. But hey, in time their sound and songwriting will grow, and who knows, they may be the next best thing! They certainly have their sound and their ideas down, big time, and they execute them. Definitely check this record/band out if you like indie rock or not, because I knew little about it, and now I have another cool CD in my record collection. Good job boys, and thanks for letting me get in touch with my inner indie, he needed air. Keep up the great work!!!!! — Steve Dwyer

Machine-Extended Shuttlecock (Iron Compass)
You can’t read a single Shuttlecock review without seeing that word in
there. So I solemnly resolve that I will only use it one more time. You
can count on it.
Shuttlecock are Toledo’s secret treasure. I say secret because catching the
band live in the Glass City is about as easy as catching the great white
whale in the Maumee River. Some may wonder why Shuttlecock aren’t more
eager to perform in the town they proudly call home. I don’t dare presume
to speak for them, but perhaps it’s because the majority of the Toledo
audience simply wouldn’t get it. And I don’t think they’re itchin’ to play
behind a chicken-wire screen anytime soon.
Shuttlecock has changed quite a bit since the release of their last CD, This
Is The Hour of Lead
. The three-piece has slimmed to two with the departure
of bassist Andrew Leitner. The sound difference is staggering. The loud,
angular rumbling of previous records has been mostly tempered and augmented with the beeps and bleeps of sequenced synthesizer. The end result is a record that comes off not as sleeved influences and hero worship, but as a sound that evolved by subtraction.
Recorded by Bob Weston (of Shellac fame, and also one of the world’s best
engineers), Machine-Extended takes the potentially glossy and fake synth
lines and makes them live and breathe like the guitars and drums always
have. The minimal production is well-suited for such minimalist stop-start
tracks as “Orbit” or “Code,” but leaves a touch to be desired for more
fleshed out tracks like “Instruction.” Regardless, the sounds captured on
tape are wonderful, raw and powerful.
Just because the songs can be considered minimalist doesn’t mean these boys
can’t play. Drummer John Hubbell is consistently inventive and teeters
along the fine line between animal aggression and calculated precision.
Guitarist/vocalist Kenneth Chojnacki delivers his cryptic lyrics in a
detached and earnest way that helps to effectively bridge the topical gap
between science and the interpersonal, such as in the album closer
“Theorem”: “This is a theory designed to encompass all the dynamics between you and I.” It just doesn’t look as beautiful in print as it sounds coming off this disc.
It’s a shame that you can only see this band play here in Toledo on
approximately the same frequency as Halley’s Comet. A town whose indie
scene needs guidance and a focal point for forward progress is being
deprived of one of its greatest potential assets. I promise I’ll block all
the incoming beer bottles myself... — Justin R.L. Hemminger

People and Places On the Beach (self-release)
Hi, I’m Rob from Pulled Groin, and I volunteered to review the CD entitled People and Places by a band called On The Beach. I give it a rating of eight piles of flaming dog crap out of 10. It was quite painful to listen to. Here is the track-by-track breakdown.
“Dear Emily” — Bad drum program (get a freakin’ drummer!!). Unnecessary percussion, I never have enjoyed percussion in pop songs. Nice female background vocals, that girl should sing more.
“Going Home To Graceland” — Nice drum fills. Nice slide guitar work. Nice vocal intro effect. Cheesy crash cymbals.
“Spirit of Natalie” — Ill-fated attempt at being Dave Matthews. The first section of the song drags. I enjoyed the latter Latin parts of the song. They should have stuck with the Latin parts and canned the front half of the tune.
“Global People Now” — Here’s an idea, don’t try and change the world. This song was unlistenable. After 10 seconds I was diving for the fast forward button.
“Romeo and Juliet” — Mark Knopfler tune. I won’t review a cover.
“Peter Piper” — Nice fills, between “Joe Blow” verses.
“You Saved My Life” — Has some Ray Davies feel to it. Predictable (let's go to the ride cymbal chorus). Not my cup of tea.
I definitely want Jeff Tucker to review the next Pulled Groin project. He can review us any way he feels. I feel my opinion is only that, my opinion. You can give this CD your own review. — Rob Weaver
National reviews
Since We’ve Become Translucent Mudhoney (Sub Pop)
As the opening track of the latest Mudhoney album rolls through my speakers, I have to momentarily become that reviewer who tends to read too much into an album. Track one, “Baby, Can You Dig the Light,” is unlike anything Mudhoney has ever done before. Strange delayed bass and organ intermingle with Jimi Hendrix-styled wah guitar and saxophone that sounds straight out of the 1974 King Crimson album Red. Vocalist Mark Arm enters posing the question that is also the title of the song, “Baby, can you dig the light?” This is followed by more of the intro atmosphere. Then, suddenly, an acoustic guitar enters the mix. Arm is now stating he’s at the end of the tunnel, and there’s no light. I can’t help but wonder, is Arm referring to the rebirth of Mudhoney. The old Mudhoney with bassist Matt Lukin was becoming somewhat stale, and the old Mudhoney died when he left. But, this was a good thing, because new bassist Guy Maddison, of Arm’s other band Bloodloss, stepped in to fill Lukin’s shoes. Hence, a new Mudhoney was born. As the old Mudhoney was passing from there old life to their new one however, did anyone care if the group was reincarnating. Could this be the darkness at the end of the tunnel: Fans who don’t care anymore, and new audiences that aren’t willing to embrace the band? This may be the case, but it shouldn’t be, and I’ll tell you why. Mudhoney has released possibly the most important album of their 14-year career. Now, I inspect each one of the following tracks to prove just that to you.
“The Straight Life” chugs along like something from 1995’s My Brother the Cow, but it has a better groove than most of the material from that effort. It’s kind of a garage romp and stomp. The solo section has a nice ascending/descending bassline that acts as a bridge to the lead guitar part.
“Where the Flavor Is” has big band horns. The band dabbled with saxophone on My Brother the Cow, but it was nothing of this caliber. On that release, there was only the solo horn of Renestair E.J. On this release, there’s a full-blown horn section; another first for Mudhoney. This really brings out the bright spots of the band’s sound and doesn’t hinder it at all.
“In the Winner’s Circle” is mid-tempo and sleazy in a good way. It has a very bluesy feel to the main riff, yet, it’s also reminiscent of The Stooges’ “Gimme Danger” to some degree, which makes it even more worthwhile. Arm also breaks out a few lung-collapsing yowls to prove that he can still scream with more conviction than most of the young guns around today.
“Our Time Is Now” sounds a bit like “Poisoned Water” from Tomorrow Hit Today. However, this is only true of the introduction. It breaks into a shuffling riff that chugs like an out of control locomotive. “Our time is coming. Here comes our time. Our time is now,” yells Arm. Even the vocals seem to be more positive on this release, which may be a reason for the better sounding music. The whole attitude of the group has truly changed, and it’s one of the best things that’s happened to it in the last 10 years.
“Dyin’ for It” is upbeat and fast with tremoloed wah guitar interspersed with heavy bass. It’s as if Mudhoney took the best aspects of their past albums, reworked the ideas to suit their newly revised attitude and created a masterwork. Drummer Dan Peters really beats the life out of his drum kit on this one as well. Definitely one of the highlights. The wahed guitars of Arm and lead guitarist Steve Turner interlock at the end and take the listener back to the middle section of Superfuzz Bigmuff’s “In ‘N’ Out of Grace” for a few brief moments.
“Inside Job” contains the MC5’s Wayne Kramer on the bass. It’s kind of chunky and rollicking. It seems that the songwriting has gained more complexity than is normally heard from the group. Turner also churns out solos that are a bit more fluid than normal.
“Take It Like a Man” is another song with the horn section. The horns huff and puff to make it sound like the track is breathing. Turner’s guitar work is extremely fuzzed out. It’s amazing, I think it’s possibly the first time in history that a horn section and fuzz guitar have been used together. It’s definitely a combination worth repeating.
“Crooked and Wide” I’ve got two words to describe this track: Black Sabbath. Overly flanged and fuzzed guitars at a mid-tempo pace cause this song to take on a “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath” feel. It’s great. It’s the heaviest Mudhoney has ever sounded. Turn this up and shake down your walls. And, if the walls don’t fall down, at least the neighbors will wonder what the hell that noise is. You wonder if Ozzy Osbourne is throwing things at his neighbor’s house on his television show because he’s tired of their antics or if he’s just aggravated that he can’t write riffs like this anymore. My guess is that it’s a bit of both, but more of the latter.
“Sonic Infusion’s” intro is best described as a slow death riff. If you close your eyes, you can see yourself traveling down a dark tree-lined road in late October as you come face to face with the Headless Horseman. But, suddenly, the tempo speeds up and the song takes on a totally different form. “They don’t think that we exist since we’ve become translucent. Rewriting history and transmitting our revisions,” Arm shouts as the band is truly rewriting their history. The end returns to the slow beginning riff and is layered with an ominous violin part, something else that’s never been heard on a Mudhoney record. Mudhoney has definitely matured and moved past the grunge phase. Let’s hope it continues.
Of course, there will still be those old and cynical Mudhoney friends that state how awful this latest album is, so tell them to open their ears while you press play on the latest Creed CD, and make the statement, “Here’s a perfect example that it could always be worse.”
Pay attention to Since We've Become Translucent, and you won’t be disappointed. — Steve Howell

Title TK The Breeders (Elektra)
I was really looking forward to this record coming out. I have always had a thing for Kim Deal since the Pixies. She is still playing guitar (and occasional drums) and singing with her sister Kelly As for the rest of the band, I’m not really sure who is left over from previous versions of The Breeders and who is new.
Unfortunately, I didn’t like this new record very much. It seems like they were trying to go back to the darker sounds of Pod but missed something. The sound just isn’t as full. I personally think Pod is a great album and the recording quality is fantastic. I’m not sure if it’s because they took too much heroin or maybe not enough while writing and recording Title TK but at times it could be an Iron Butterfly or Pink Floyd record. Most of the songs are a lot slower than previous recordings. Some songs even made me laugh - like in “Sinister Fox” Kim Deal sings, “Has anyone seen the iguana?” for about three minutes while these slow drums echo in the background. That’s some good stuff there…
Anyway, it has some nice slow moody songs on it, but they seem to go on and on. The one thing I can say that is nice is the different version of “Full on Idle” (an Amp’s song that is slowed down quite a bit) and “Forced to Drive” has a nice summer feeling. If I didn’t compare this record to their others I would probably think it was a bit better. But sadly, I can not. I got bored and had trouble making it through the whole thing. – Dan Horvath

Pixies Pixies (spinArt)
Yes, that's right — a new Pixies release, but don't get too excited. Comprised of nine tracks, this CD is not worth the typical CD price due to the fact that it only clocks in at 18 minutes and 14 seconds. Another sore point is that this thing is pushed as those nine tracks left over from the original Purple Tape sessions in the late 1980s. For the uninformed who don’t know about the Purple Tape, it was a recording funded by Charles Thompson’s (aka Black Francis) father. Legendary Boston, Mass./Fort Apache producer Gary Smith recorded the session, which consisted of 17 songs when it was finished. As some might remember, eight of these tracks wound up on the first Pixies album, Come On Pilgrim. So, now spinArt has decided to release the nine remaining tracks. Well, all that I can figure is that Thompson (now aka Frank Black) must be hard up for money, since spinArt is also the label that releases his solo material. Low on cash Mr. Black? Other than the fact that I feel I was reamed on the purchase of this CD, it is interesting to hear some of the differences in the material. For the most part, “Broken Face,” “Down to the Well,” “Break My Body,” and “In Heaven” are the same as they were on Surfer Rosa, Bossanova and the Live at the BBC albums. So, these are pretty much a big yawn for the listener. Yet, I divert your attention for a moment to “I’m Amazed,” “Here Comes Your Man,” “Subbacultcha” and “Build High.” First off, “I’m Amazed,” which would appear in a different version a year later on Surfer Rosa, includes a part that was dropped for that album’s version. After the chorus, another part is added where bassist Kim Deal and Black sing, “All girl parts below me.” Or, at least it sounds like that. It’s slightly bizarre and doesn’t really fit that well. It’s no wonder they dropped it. You can almost hear Steve Albini as he’s recording Surfer Rosa going, “What’s that piece of shit part after the chorus in that song? Take that out you assholes.” Beautiful. The version of “Here Comes Your Man” that is here, however, is quite another story. Granted, it’s not terribly different, but the intro is expanded. It gives it a nice build-up to a song that was basically mediocre when rerecorded for Doolittle. Probably the most dramatically transformed is “Subbacultcha.” That big opening low-reverb guitar sound is missing in the main riff. Instead, it’s this really anorexic muted rhythm guitar. This is followed by a background of heavy sighs that contribute to the sexual theme of the song. Then, to top it off, there’s a part that doesn’t even fit, where Black and Deal are saying something to the effect of, “We’re having real fun.” As for “Build High,” it’s a fun number with a southern/rockabilly sound in the vein of “Weird at My School” from the Monkey Gone to Heaven EP. As for the “unreleased track” that is pushed upon the consumer on the front of the album, I’ll keep the description short and sweet. It’s called “Rock A My Soul,” and it’s not worth the cost of the CD. This release is only for diehard fans and completists. — Steve Howell

St. Arkansas Pere Ubu (spinArt)
I need to preface this review by telling about an encounter a friend and I had with Pere Ubu vocalist David Thomas two years ago. My friend, Josh Eppert, and I were writing for a zine called Project: Atlantis based out of Bowling Green, Ohio when we caught wind that Pere Ubu was playing a 25th anniversary show for the band at Cleveland’s Rock and Roll Hall Fame. We decided that we’d schedule an interview with Thomas. I spent hours upon hours researching the group, and Josh and I spent about three hours the night before the show assembling a long list of questions from the notes I’d gathered. Both of us had taken a half a day off from our full-time jobs in order to attend the event since we were both big fans of the band. We had some problems arranging the interview and weren’t even sure if we’d be able to conduct it until the day of the show. The press agent at Thirsty Ear Records called us by phone in transit to the Rock Hall confirming that we would indeed be able to go ahead with it. When we got to the venue, we went upstairs to the press area for free appetizers, while we waited for someone to tell us something. While we sat at a table, a large man came up to us stating, “Are you the guys who are here for the interview?” It was David Thomas, who looked much older than I was expecting. I pressed record on the tape player and it wouldn’t record, but after shuffling the tape around a bit, I pressed record again, and away it went. We began our interview with Thomas, but before we even got into the first question, he stated, “Let me move that recorder closer to me, because what I have to say is important, and what you have to say isn’t.” This was true. We had our questions, and we wanted to hear his history. So, Thomas moved the recorder from the middle of the table to a spot directly in front of him, where he fiddled with it the whole time. We asked Thomas about the group’s music and where they grew up and performed in Cleveland. Thomas said something to the effect of “These are as good as your questions get?” We continued to ask our “uninteresting by David Thomas’ standards” questions. When Thomas got to one answer, he stated that “Pere Ubu is the best band in the world.” I thought to myself, “Well, this guy must be that bad. After all, he just poked fun at himself.” So, I laughed a little bit. Well, that turned out to be a mistake. It seemed that Thomas didn’t have a sense of humor after all, and he growled at me asking, “What are you laughing at?” I told him that sometimes I got nervous during interviews and laughed to relax. Of course, this was the biggest pile of bullshit, but I didn’t have the heart to tell the guy that he was the biggest pompous ass I’d ever met. We finished the interview after about 20 minutes, and Thomas said, “You might want to check your tape recorder,” as he handed it back to us. Then, he walked away with a chuckle. We played the tape back, and the recording stopped after about a minute. Josh and I never did figure out if Thomas turned the tape player off or not, but we have a pretty good hunch. After that, we proceeded to watch the band play their 25th anniversary show in the lobby of the Rock Hall.
Six months following the fiasco, we noticed that Pere Ubu was once again visiting the Midwest at Detroit’s St. Andrew’s Hall. By this time, we didn’t think much of Thomas, but we didn’t write the whole band off just because of one man’s ego. We bought our tickets and drove to the show, and half way through the performance, we realized that the group was playing the same set of songs they had performed six months earlier. Not only was it the same songs, but it was the same set order as well. Something humorous happened shortly thereafter, as one of the songs quieted in the middle section and Thomas took a very serious rock star pose as the synthesizer accompanied his Kermit the Frog-like voice. The synth was running off of what looked like a central processing unit, and right in the middle of Thomas’ clenched fist, holier-than-thou moment, the CPU went haywire and began spitting out broken, atonal shards over the P.A. The synth player threw his hands in the air with a look of confusion, and Thomas’ moment of glory turned into utter horror. Josh and I looked at each other and began laughing hysterically as I thought, “There’s justice after all.”
So, when the new Pere Ubu disc, St. Arkansas, was recently released, I hesitated for a moment as to whether I wanted to purchase the album to review. After all, Ubu really hadn’t released anything of relevance since the late 1970s with The Modern Dance, Dub Housing and New Picnic Time. But, I thought to myself, “I still like the music. So what if the 1980s and 1990s were mediocre for this band? What are two decades.” So, I picked up the new CD and took it home. To my surprise, it turns out that the record is one of the best since the late ‘70s (excluding maybe Pennsylvania from the ‘80s).
The opening track of St. Arkansas immediately kicks into high speed with spastic drums and gut-rumbling bass. The guitar of Tom Herman, one of the original Ubu’s, is somewhat buried a bit though, as the synth tends to drown it out. Bassist Michele Temple keeps her patterns interesting and knows how to juxtapose them against the guitar.
The second number, “Slow Walking Daddy,” has a mid-tempo groove dominated by heavy synthesizer. It has the typical quirky sound effects that Ubu is known for, while Thomas sings of wearing a suit and tie on his way to work and seeing signs reading, “good cod dinner Fridays $5.95. Good steak Saturdays $5.95.” When you realize how large of a man Thomas is, you realize that’s all this guy needs is more fried or fatty food, but none-the-less, the funkiness of the song surpasses any of the lame lyrical content. The synth solo has the same sound as “Green Eyed Lady” by the 1970s band Sugarloaf. Coincidence? I’m sure it is.
When the record gets to track three, titled “Michele,” Thomas’ vocals are very effected. It sounds like he is using his trademark electronic apron as the mic for this song. The apron is often used for the group’s live performances. Thomas usually wears it while sucking on a flask of whiskey. Then, occasionally, he removes the apron and shoves it up against his own personal Fender amp, from which he gains some bizarre feedback. As for the rest of St. Arkansas, the band sounds like anything from a futuristic country/western band on “Steve” that’s channeling experimental rock group Ui to a half-speed Brainiac. Unfortunately, the record stays strong until the last track, titled “Dark.” It becomes somewhat repetitive as the guitar follows the vocal melody. Whatever drives people to continue playing a song that goes nowhere for almost 10 minutes is beyond my comprehension. I don’t give a shit if you’re considered avant-garde or not. It doesn’t mean that you’re given license to beat an idea to death. In this case, the carcass was also stomped on a few times after the spirit departed the song. But, one lemon out of 10 songs isn’t bad, so go out and buy this CD, as it’s one of the band’s strongest efforts to date. — Steve Howell
Retro review
Confusion is Sex Sonic Youth (DGC)
I don’t think there was a scarier album prior to this release, and I don’t think there has been one to match its terror since. While Sonic Youth was frightening the parachute pants off of the kids in 1983, it was somewhat hard to believe that once they stepped offstage, there wasn’t anything scary about them at all. In fact, the band’s members were filled with humorous sarcasm. This, Sonic Youth’s full-length debut, was full of detuned guitars presented in a most raw manner. When bassist/vocalist Kim Gordon is yelling that she’s going to “shake off your flesh” in the song “Shaking Hell,” you truly believe that she’s capable of such a violent act as you run for cover from your stereo. Every song is full of tension that makes you grind your teeth and white knuckle the chair you’re sitting in. Guitars tend to sound like wind chimes, wind-whipped sheet metal or synthesizers made out of garbage cans that have been amplified through a working blender. Here, Sonic Youth wasn’t the refined group (or at least refined in terms of themselves) it would come to be by the time of the release of Daydream Nation three years later. Many fans of the band site Daydream… as the penultimate piece of work by the band, but it was truly the earlier releases like Confusion… that made Sonic Youth stand out from anything else during the 1980s. Unfortunately, following the release of Daydream…, Sonic Youth basically became a parody of themselves. Most releases since then have rehashed the same ideas, while not necessarily taking any new risks. Sonic Youth never completely returned to the challenging music on Confusion…, although there have been brief moments on releases since that time. If you’re one of the fans that got turned on by Goo or Dirty in the early 1990s and have been buying their latest albums since that time, or if you’re just someone who wants to hear something slightly off the beaten path, pick this CD up, and you won’t be disappointed. Or, at least, you won’t be able to get to sleep. But, that’s a good thing sometimes. Just cover your head with the sheets if it gets to be too scary. — Steve Howell