Doubled Exposure is the new eight-song album from D. Charles Speer & the Helix. Mixing non-cornball psychedelia with legit country influence while tossing in a desire to experiment and the impulse to boogie, it produces a tidy and highly individual ride.
Choogling, or if one prefers, chooglin’, is a concept that’s been roughly but not rigidly defined. Coined by John Fogerty, most famously in “Keep on Chooglin’” but also in “Born on the Bayou” (notable bookends on Creedence Clearwater Revival’s second LP Bayou Country), for a dirty-minded few the word refers to coitus, but many more understand it as continued motion in service of certain goals.
For Fogerty there were objectives fitting the action especially well, best expressed in his lyrical couplet “you got to ball and have a good time / and that’s what I call choogling.” But not all fun embodies the choogle; the essential factor is movement. Basically impossible to imagine is the presence of choogling not accompanied by some amount of perspiration.
Dancing obviously fits the bill, as does a game of pick-up hoops, Frisbee in the park with one’s pooch, baking a birthday cake for one’s grandma and delivering it on roller skates, and yes indeed, sexual kicks, either alone or with a well-chosen partner. But not all activity is included under the choogling umbrella. It does appear that some form of life-affirmation need be the aim, with the aura of choogle greatly elevated when rhythmic repetition is involved.
Manhattan is the debut long-player from the New York City-based outfit Skaters. Due to its swagger and big-label push, it’ll undoubtedly divide audiences like Hipster Moses. Far from a groundbreaking album, it does hold a few strong moments, though in the end it’s not enough to keep the record from registering as a mild disappointment.
I must confess that as I began chalking-up a fair amount of time listening to Manhattan my mind started to wander a bit. Thoughts initially turned to the general health of contemporary rock ‘n’ roll, but it wasn’t long before I was mulling over the band’s point of origin. A few spins later and I was struck like a bolt from the blue by another Manhattan, specifically the 1979 film directed by Woody Allen.
One of Allen’s biggest successes, the movie is also sometimes described as amongst his most charming, though it’s also not without potentially alienating undercurrents; it’s about a group of humans, most in some way artistically inclined and therefore also harboring varying states of emotional imperfection, living in one of civilization’s great metropolises.
Indeed, the cast frequently displays troubling and occasionally quite disturbing behavior, and does so very rapidly, in a span analogous to an LP’s opening track. And yet there’s such a grand sense of scale, as the succession of terrific shots accompanying the narration of Allen swiftly bloom into a gorgeous cityscape made even more beautiful with fireworks and the sounds of Gershwin, that when the film’s problematic characters are revealed the viewer’s resistance to them is, at least possibly, lessened.
Roughly twenty-three years ago the first of two exceptional Devo compilations hit the racks, and along with its counterpart from the following year, it provided a wealth of insight into the early work of an often misunderstood band. Unfortunately, neither installment received a US vinyl pressing at the time, but courtesy of the outstanding reissue label Superior Viaduct that lack has been corrected with panache. Any listeners curious over the sound of Devo in their wily ’74-’77 stage should begin with Hardcore Devo: Volume One.
When looked at through a commercial lens and in mainly New Wave-ist terms, it can be easy to overlook just how stridently critical Devo was of the culture that spawned them. And like many first wave American punk outfits, by the time they began impacting a wider consumer consciousness in the second half of the ‘70s, the group’s members were actually full-blown adults choosing to express their dissatisfaction with contemporary society through a prickly, rough-edged music that stirred up a lot of negative reactions amongst a sturdy and steadily growing base of support.
Some might quibble with the description of Devo as punk, but in the form’s early stages, before its moves became defined as largely rudimentary and classicist, the band fit into this emerging milieu as easily as New York’s Suicide or their fellow Ohioans Pere Ubu did. That Devo now seem like stylistic outliers to many observers is almost entirely wrapped up in retrospective “rockist” assessments of punk that when applied to the music’s invention are actually a little (or a lot) narrow.
And like many of their contemporaries in ‘70s discomfiture, Devo had solid roots in the previous decade. Indeed, the group’s very concept, specifically that of De-evolution, or the idea that mankind’s best days were over and in the place of intellectual growth was a stilted, oppressive conformity, started not as a musical form of expression but more as a conceptual joke instigated by Gerald Casale and Bob Lewis while they attended college in the latter portion of the 1960s.
A beautiful eccentric residing in mid-20th century NYC, Louis Thomas Hardin aka Moondog also possessed extraordinary musical vision. An associate of Leonard Bernstein, Arturo Toscanini, and Charlie Parker, a collaborator with Julie Andrews and the Brooklyn Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra, a key influence on the minimalism of Philip Glass and Steve Reich, covered by Janis Joplin, Kronos Quartet, and Antony and the Johnsons; there was truly nobody else like him. After a handful of singles and EPs his long-playing debut arrived with 1956’s Moondog.
A simply fantastic photograph of Moondog is used for the jacket of the 2LP compilation The Viking of Sixth Avenue; it finds him on a ‘50s Gotham street corner standing in front of a lamppost and decked out in full regalia. He cuts quite an appealing figure, but what makes the snap such a kick is the older couple passing by on his left side.
For other than Dwight and Mamie, one would be hard-pressed to find a better, or perhaps I should say more stereotypical, representation of Eisenhower-era America. The contrast between Moondog and this strolling pair is so sharp that the cynic in me has occasionally suspected the pic was staged in an attempt to play-up the legendary composer’s unconventionality.
This is not to insinuate that Moondog’s image was some sort of con. To the contrary, the legit uniqueness of the man’s background rivals that of sui generis American boho-hobo Harry Partch. Born in 1916, Hardin lived in Kansas, Wyoming, Missouri, Iowa, Arkansas, and Tennessee, with exposure to Native American tribal ceremonies having a profound effect on his art. After moving to NYC in 1943 he lived as a street musician and sporadic recording artist until the early ‘70s.
The remastered and augmented edition of Indoor Living hits racks next week as the second installment commemorating Merge Records’ admirable 25th anniversary in the biz of quality music production. It also returns to print an LP that’s initial release inspired a diversity of reactions, from vociferous praise to the promulgation of the notion that Superchunk had outlived their usefulness and overstayed their welcome. The band is still alive and well 17 years later, and this reissue underscores that one of the most important elements in the evaluation of any worthy album is time.
Naturally, this fresh version of Indoor Living will serve a variety of functions; some will use it as an introduction while others will seize the occasion to get reacquainted with a disc they once knew and maybe even loved but somehow lost track of as the years passed by. Additionally, a sizable number of consumers will repurchase Indoor Living for the physical upgrade, many retiring terribly battered compact discs as younger fans jump at the chance to acquire a copy on sturdy 180gm vinyl.
In every instance, smart cookies. And for writer Anna Marie Cox, it allowed for a reconsideration of the record she reviewed in Spin magazine upon its first release. That might seem dissimilar to the other examples listed above, but what they all share, either now or at some point in the indefinite future, is a relationship to memory.
So please allow this humble reporter to add to the mountain of remembrance. To begin, I’ll make no attempt to obscure my belief that Superchunk is simply one of indie rock’s finest long-serving representatives. Self-deprecating yet driven and confident in a manner that can only derive from a healthy artistic ego, as their releases have amassed, the group has also been extremely cognizant over what exactly it is they do well.
Don Bikoff waited 45 years for his album Celestial Explosion to gather the attention and acclaim it deserved. His new CD Hallowed Ground finds him honing an increasingly distinctive instrumental voice through deep and at-times edgy exploration of tradition. While it lacks the intriguing background of the debut, Bikoff’s follow-up delivers an equally strong musical statement.
Made in ’68 and reissued last year by the Tompkins Square label, Celestial Explosion uncovered an original exponent of American Primitive guitar. Naturally the playing was superb, and quite impressive was how Bikoff staked out his own terrain amidst the big names of John Fahey, Robbie Basho, and Leo Kottke. But when nearly half a century separates your first and second efforts, there is bound to be some quickly discernible changes.
In this case, the most immediately tangible differences seem tied to an obvious reality, specifically age, and it’s an idea enhanced rather nicely by the titles of the two records; while also conjuring dynamic outer space imagery, Celestial Explosion simultaneously details the arrival of a highly talented young player in no uncertain terms. By contrast, Hallowed Ground places the emphasis on the resources of the guitarist’s inspiration (surroundings, influence, ritual, memory.)
“Rindler’s Metamorphosis,” the opening cut on the debut, is noted for its instantaneous energy and the aggressiveness of Bikoff’s fingers. But Hallowed Ground’s first track “Good Dog, Josie” begins in a rich, contemplative mode, the instrumental assertiveness subtly increasing as the picking is infused with cascading beauty.
Due to their primal gangbang of punk belligerence, disturbing humor, occasionally transgressive behavior, noise-rock abrasion, and full-on bad trip psychedelia, the Butthole Surfers’ importance remains. Unsurprisingly, opinions vary wildly over exactly where in their discography these Texan loons began their qualitative nose dive. Looking back, a clear indicator that things were going south came via 1990’s Digital Dump, the sole LP from the Gibby Haynes/Jeff Pinkus side-project The Jackofficers.
In a manner similar to certain partisans of The Grateful Dead, I’ve met a slim few who persist in completely dismissing the studio catalog of the Butthole Surfers. It’s a line of thinking that’s always flummoxed me, though I do absolutely agree with the high assessments of their once formidable live ability and will add without hyperbole that my one occasion seeing them play in a modestly-sized indoor setting (1989, Washington DC, the original 9:30 Club packed tight as pickled sardines) was a life-changing experience.
But to totally deny the worth of the Surfers’ ‘80s recordings is a head-scratcher. Now it’s true that some might not want to begin with their ’83 Alternative Tentacles-issued self-titled debut LP, a disc also known as Brown Reason to Live or Pee Pee the Sailor. This is mainly due to its loose but obvious connections to the punk scene that spawned them; amongst the mayhem are a pair of moments, “The Shah Sleeps in Lee Harvey’s Grave” and “Suicide,” that are basically surrealist hardcore.
Cayetana are a relatively new melodic punk trio on the scene, hailing from Philadelphia and composed of singer-guitarist Augusta Koch, bassist Allegra Anka, and drummer Kelly Olsen. They’ve been busy making a demo, taping a radio session, and most recently completing a short tour with All Dogs and Waxahatchee, but it’s their “Hot Dad Calendar” b/w “Ella” 7-inch that really positions them as an act to watch.
The story is that all three members of Cayetana began learning their respective instruments right at the moment they decided to form the group. It’s a reality that’s quickly palpable in their still very slim repertoire of original compositions, though I don’t intend to suggest their songs are lacking in accomplishment or are somehow rudimentary.
To the contrary, the band consistently exhibits solid command over their songwriting, though it’s also executed without flashiness, a lack wholly appropriate to the style they offer. In contrast to the sound of those ever-present youthful outfits that feature a disparity of instrumental ability, containing one or two obviously talented players as the rest of the band do everything they can to keep up (or maybe better said, not screw up), Cayetana’s songs present a group equality that’s refreshing.
Refreshing but not unfamiliar, especially from within the various related genre descriptors they inhabit, with the tags on their Bandcamp page reading as follows; alternative, grrl band, indie rock, punk, queer, Philadelphia. I don’t disagree with anything on that list, but will add that the trio embraces melodicism so deeply that it wouldn’t hurt a bit of they tossed the terms post-punk and even indie pop into the mix.