Category Archives: The TVD Storefront

Graded on a Curve:
Kathleen Edwards,

“And you can’t even make up my mind/Another song the radio won’t like.”

If you ask me, and I don’t really know why you would seeing as how I’m not very smart and a renowned prevaricator to boot, Kathleen Edwards is the Queen of Alt-Country. “Ah,” but I can hear you saying, “Lucinda Williams is the Queen of Alt-Country.” And you might be right. So let’s just say they’re the co-Queens of Alt-Country, and avoid lots of useless bickering. It’s not like the position comes with a crown or bejeweled scepter or anything. Hell, people don’t even have to bow in your presence.

One could question Edwards’ bona fides, seeing as how she didn’t grow up in Texas or Mississippi or Tennessee or any of your good-for-nothin’-but-producing-country-stars Dixie states (just joshin’). She’s Canadian, for Christ’s sake, and spent her formative years overseas, the daughter of a diplomat. In short, she’s about as authentically “country” as Nico, and I suspect she’s never been within a mile of a three-legged pig. But who cares? Country is a state of mind, and to get to that state you don’t have to drive a battered Ford pickup down any gravel roads way off the interstate, where the roadhouses (and I mean all of them) have neon signs with one letter on the fritz. All you need is a guitar, a couple of albums by Loretta Lynn, and an attitude.

And Edwards has attitude in spades. The first song of her songs I ever heard was “One More Song the Radio Won’t Like.” It was so lovely, yet simultaneously scathing, that I became an immediate fan. She had it all: great songs with great lyrics, and the voice of a bruised but unbowed angel. It didn’t hurt that the album it came off was called Failer, which led me to believe, true or not, that she shared my belief that we humans were placed on earth to fail, and fuck up things real good. I mean I know it’s just a theory, but you have to admit that the history of our species backs me up.

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TVD Video Premiere:
MR NASTI, “Like A Wild Animal”

“As I write, I am sitting in my Iowa cabin, listening to a Simon and Garfunkel record. It’s morning, and light is peeking across the corn fields through the East-facing octagonal window to my right.”

“I began collecting vinyl eleven years ago. The first record I bought was Licensed To Ill by The Beastie Boys, which still gets a lot of rotation. I remember digging through my mama’s records and pulling out Rhymes and Reasons by John Denver, with a weathered little piece of paper taped to the front that reads “Billie,” my mother’s name. She listened to it frequently as a kid, and it now holds a prized position in my collection. It’s interesting how all the CDs I collected through my teenage years have all but disintegrated, but this record still sounds vibrant.

What I love most about vinyl is the deliberate nature of the medium. It takes effort, thought, and energy. The required intention makes the experience more valuable and memorable. It’s big, and it feels like something, like a real piece of art. We’re in an age of streaming, where music has become less tangible. You don’t even have to download anything anymore. Where there used to be a square foot of infinite artistic possibility is now an abstract idea that comes and goes so easily that it has no value. A record is a big, beautiful object that feels good to hold in your hands. The sound of vinyl is organic, earthy, and human.

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Graded on a Curve: Throwing Muses, Purgatory/Paradise

In October 2013 Throwing Muses released their ninth album and first in ten years on CD in tandem with a book of photos, artwork, lyrics, and short essays by leader Kristin Hersh. An atypical yet smart combination, and in a swell turn of events the Athens, GA label Happy Happy Birthday To Me is issuing Purgatory/Paradise in a 2LP edition of 500 copies. Intrigued parties who missed it should not dally to investigate, for it finds the three-piece of Hersh, drummer Dave Narcizo, and bassist Bernard Georges in skilled, vibrant form.

Another encroaching year’s end foretells many things, and a certainty is a surge of Best Lists. I enjoy reading them almost as much as writing them, as I’ve done a few times here at TVD. What’s important is to not take them too seriously, in part because nobody, not even rapscallions and dandies living lives of utter leisure, can absorb everything released across the span of a dozen calendar pages, and most assuredly not by the 31st of December.

For instance, I’ve just recently become acquainted, roughly 12 months after its emergence, with Throwing Muses’ outstanding Purgatory/Paradise. Now, I could chalk up the delay to the music’s unusual connection to the publishing industry described above, but that wouldn’t be accurate. I’ll simply confess to not keeping up with the singer-guitarist-bandleader’s activity post-University back in ‘95. As stated, one cannot hear it all. Bluntly, I’m very pleased to have belatedly caught up with this record.

Last year’s dual release is frankly a savvy idea, one I’m surprised hasn’t been employed with more frequency. And I do look forward to examining Purgatory/Paradise’s accompanying tome, for clearly the text will provide scores of insights into a rather unique collection; however, this review is specifically concerned with those 32 tracks. Not to worry, for their uniqueness stands up easily on its own.

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Graded on a Curve:
Patti Smith,

“Would it be a Patti Smith album without bullshit?” asked Robert Christgau following the release of one of her many albums. And he likes her. Me, I’ve mainly disliked her for years. Her 1975 debut is undeniably brilliant, but only to the extent that you can mentally filter out her “poetry,” because exactly 62 percent of the verse in Horses is pure horseshit. Her next three albums had their share of great songs as well, but only reinforced Smith’s delusional image of herself as the second coming of the famed French poète maudit Arthur Rimbaud, as well as the Official poet-prophet of boho NYC. I say delusional because even the most cursory reading of her lyric sheets reveals she’s neither a good poet nor a visionary. At her best she’s a poetaster and a second-rate Jim Morrison.

What irks me even more about Smith is she has somehow managed to convince ostensibly intelligent people (including the French Ministry of Culture, which named her a Commander of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in July 2005) that she’s a sort of shamanistic priestess, when in fact, as John Strausbaugh notes rather cruelly but accurately in his 2001 book Rock Til You Drop, she is “one of the least talented posers in rock… Jim Carroll with breasts, Lydia Lunch with anorexia, the Madonna of punk rock: everything bad and pretentious about the union of punk and poetry in one self-conscious package.” She was only a punk poet priestess to the extent that she lacked a sense of humor (priestesses take everything, especially themselves, far too seriously to laugh), which even pseudo-acolyte Bobby Christgau conceded when he wrote she “always took herself too seriously” and “Good thing she’s a little nuts, because funny’s beyond or beneath her.”

In short, Smith put one brilliant album and three more-than-decent ones while being utterly humorless, totally pretentious, and the worst rock poet (because she takes herself more seriously) since Bernie Taupin. Except Taupin would never unleash a line as bad as “Wisdom was a teapot/Pouring from above” on a defenseless world, or for that matter the fecal mysticism of “The transformation of waste is perhaps the oldest pre-occupation of man/Man being the chosen alloy/He must be reconnected via shit, at all cost.” I don’t quite know what she’s getting at with that mini-lecture, but if it’s really true that shit must be transformed, I humbly suggest we start with her poetry.

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Needle Drop: Rachel Goodrich & The Grrrls, “MonstA Mash”

We have a special Halloween Needle Drop for you all starring Rachel Goodrich & The Grrrls in their campy video send up, “MonstA Mash.”

Filmed for genuine VHS glory and boasting an array of janky props and gags, this music video is a must see for any home-made-movie horror fan. Rachel and The Grrrls have to battle vampires, mummies, and Frankenstein and do so without smudging their make up or frazzling their teased hair. In the end, it seems the only logical solution is to pick up their instruments and entertain their demented guests with punchy power chords and doo-wop harmonies. Well played, ladies… well played.

“MonstA Mash” is from Rachel’s newest EP, “Baby, Now We’re Even” which digs deep into the fuzzy influences of the British Invasion, catching some ’70s pop punk veneer on the way back to 2014. The ladies definitely have a solid and identifiable retro sound which adds serious points to this already kitschy video.

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Graded on a Curve:
Philip Johnson,
Youth in Mourning

As the bleakness of the ‘70s begat the stagnation of the ‘80s, Philip Johnson was one of numerous figures populating the often fascinating DIY underbelly that fermented in the UK. Issuing over two dozen tapes during the period, he managed a solitary LP, 1982’s Youth in Mourning. Originally released without fanfare by the Namedrop label, the album has been retrieved and given unexpected but welcome reissue by San Francisco’s Superior Viaduct.

In the succinct background information provided by Superior Viaduct regarding their fresh pressing of Youth in Mourning, Philip Johnson is described as a component in Great Britain’s “cassette culture,” an impulse that gets regularly tagged as UK DIY. The origins of this scenario can be traced to the hugely influential shambolic punk act The Desperate Bicycles, the back of their ’77 debut 45’s picture sleeve containing the mantra so many have embraced since: “It was easy, it was cheap—go and do it.”

The increasing ease of cassette reproduction that eventually came to be associated with DIY was also an integral aspect of the fledgling Industrial scene, with Throbbing Gristle one of the earliest adapters of the format. Indeed, DIY and Industrial have much in common, and that crossroads is where the work of Philip Johnson resides.

Along with a ton of self-made tapes, Johnson started the Namedrop label in ’81. That enterprise completed four records: Exist, a 10-inch by Doof, the project of Johnson and a gentleman named Paul Platypus, Straight Out the Fridge, a 10-inch by Twelve Cubic Feet (also featuring Platypus), “The Machinist” 7-inch by Cold War, and Johnson’s LP.

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The TVD First Date

“What I love about vinyl is it ties me to a listening experience where I’m home and still.”

“I’m one of those on-the-go Americans, and listening to vinyl in my den or bedroom is grounding—I stop hustling or meeting with people and just basically hang with a record. That hang and the physicality of records ties them to the place and time where I bought them and listened to them most. I moved from Alabama to Austin in 2008, bought Amy Winehouse Back to Black at Waterloo Records, and probably listened to it 50 times in my bedroom over my first couple months there. When I listen to that record now, living in New York, it takes me back to my little house in Austin, when I was new to a city, didn’t know people with future unclear.

For me, a vinyl collection is about great 12” full-lengths from top to bottom—true pieces of music, not singles. I love the A side – B side aspect of how it breaks up a piece like intermission between two movements. I have some records where I’m particularly attached to one side. Rolling Stone’s Tattoo You, for example, I’m all about that drippy B side. I play it on repeat and don’t usually listen to side A.

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Graded on a Curve:
Robert Lester Folsom,
Music and Dreams

Music and Dreams, a 1976 private press album by Robert Lester Folsom, isn’t exactly a new find, but its fresh reissue by the Mexican Summer imprint Anthology Recordings will surely introduce it to a wider audience. Coupled with the emergence of Ode to a Rainy Day, a collection of Folsom’s home recordings made between ’72-’75, Music and Dreams doesn’t necessarily contain the man’s best work, but it is the most representative documentation of the singer songwriter/ guitarist/ studio maven’s artistic personality.

Murky and satanic basement heavy metal, overwrought Hendrix idolaters, hippie burnouts on a Christian kick, twisted mystic folkies, and efforts of maximum expressiveness if questionable competency; these are but four apt descriptions of what can be discovered in the self-financed wing of the sonic 1970s.

While certainly not synonymous with the categorization known as Outsider (“Real People”) Music, many of the period’s privately pressed LPs do flirt with or directly fall into this admittedly wide scenario. So the highly developed approach of Georgia, USA resident Robert Lester Folsom is refreshing; where the output of cultish margin walkers regularly flies in the face of their era’s norms, Folsom was truly of his time, his folk and country-tinged soft rock singer-songwriter gestures lacking in overly exaggerated tendencies as they occasionally inhabit a zone retrospectively branded as Yacht Rock.

Ode to a Rainy Day is edgier and perhaps nearer to what one might anticipate from a rescued private press, and in fact much of it was self-released by Folsom onto 8-track tape. If humbly produced (but with considerable ingenuity already on display), as the solid instrumental “Heaven on the Beach” attests, the musicianship throughout is unstrained.

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The Stone Foxes,
The TVD First Date

“The first vinyl record I remember listening to was Led Zeppelin IV.

“The record was my mom’s, stored in the garage along with the record player. I was probably about 10 years old at the time and Shannon and I were primarily listening to MC Hammer and Michael Jackson tapes.

Even though I can’t remember what exactly sparked my interest enough to pull it off the shelf, once I plugged in the turntable and hooked up the speakers, I definitely remember being frightened by how heavy the music sounded coming out of those speakers.

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Dave Davies:
The TVD Interview

At its essence, rock music is about little moments that become something big. Even if The Kinks were one-hit wonders, they’d still deserve a place in rock music history for THAT RIFF. You know it. The world knows it. A seventeen-year-old Dave Davies knew it when he slashed up his amp, attacked his guitar, and gave “You Really Got Me” the distorted power chords that changed rock music the instant it was committed to vinyl fifty years ago.

That The Kinks were responsible for some of the most influential music of their generation will never be in dispute. It was the fractious relationship between Dave Davies and his brother Ray that fueled the art and fury of the band, hurtling them into a superstardom that was always a thrilling hairsbreadth away from total implosion.

Despite being notoriously tormented by brother Ray, Dave Davies nevertheless enjoyed the massive success of The Kinks and lived the rock and roll lifestyle to prove it. His 1998 autobiography, KINK, was as much an exposé of his ongoing conflicts with his brother as it was an unflinchingly honest account of his dalliances in various lifestyles and substances. More than anything, however, KINK chronicled Davies’ journey as a stifled, deeply creative soul.

Happily, “stifled” is the last word that describes Dave Davies these days. He has had a prolific solo career; his latest album, Rippin’ Up Time, will be his second album in the last year when it’s released on November 24, and one of a dozen or so live and/or studio records over the last fifteen years.

Once widely known for being rebellious and incendiary, Dave Davies today exudes a sage-like tranquility. This is not merely an inevitability of time: a stroke in 2004 that nearly killed him sent him further down the path of reawakening that he began in the early ‘70s. Today, Davies is feeling humbled and wildly creative. The ever-present Kinks reunion rumors don’t seem to affect him as they once did. Right now, it’s all about the new. 

Rippin’ Up Time is a collection of true Dave Davies musical musings: reflections on the past, fretting about the future, and appreciating the present. Davies opened up to us about the album, his creative process, and how quickly the last fifty years have flown by.

A few years ago, Rolling Stone named you one of their “100 Greatest Guitarists.” Do you feel like you’ve gotten the credit due to you, overall, for your contributions to rock guitar?

Well… not really, no. [Laughs] But I’ve had a very successful career up to now, and I’m happy about the work I’ve been involved in—The Kinks and my own work. I’m still recording and still out playing. I’m happy for what I’ve got!

When I read your autobiography, I was particularly struck by how cathartic it felt to read. You’ve been much more prolific in the years since the book was released; was there a creative shift for you once KINK was out there?

I thought the book was very important for me personally, just to get a lot of things off my chest. It’s important to express ourselves and deal with the issues we keep squashed down inside us. I think it was a very transforming exercise doing that book, yeah. 

You released more solo albums after the publishing of KINK than before it. It seems as if it unleashed a backlog of creativity for you. Do you feel that’s the case?

Yeah! I think once I started [song]writing, it became easier each time. I felt the same way with my new album [Rippin' Up Time]. I hadn’t written anything for a while, and last year I released an album called I Will Be Me and was writing this album virtually straight afterwards. Rippin’ Up Time was a very inspiring record to make and to write.

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