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Monthly Archives: March 2009

Re-up. Tons ‘o’ bonus tracks! Probably gonna be better than any new albums released this year. Years before The Pixies and Nirvana. I don’t think I’ve listened to one album more than THE BRIGHT ORANGE YEARS in the past 2-3 years.

Don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten about the rest of the GBV stuff! -Ian!

Rising out of the ashes of the disbanded Mission of Burma, drummer Peter Prescott put together the Volcano Suns with bassist Jeff Weigand and guitarist Jon Williams to continue making rock music, but to do it in a lighter, less serious way than Prescott’s former band. 1985 saw the band’s debut, The Bright Orange Years, released on Homestead.

Between Ian MacKaye and “Sherman the Tank,” the thank-you list on the back of The Bright Orange Years tellingly acknowledges beer. Somewhat akin to what would follow with the remainder of the Volcano Suns’ records, their 1985 debut is a messy sprawl of basement jams. Regardless of how long it took for the record to be made, the restless energy gives the feel of 12 songs written and recorded in one alcohol-soaked night. A batch of fast and furious raucous blasts form the basis of the record (“Descent into Hell,” “Promise Me,” “Animals”), broken up by the occasional instrumental (“Truth Is Stranger Than Fishing”) and midtempo breather (“Balancing Act”). The arrangements are more straight-ahead and less experimental than Peter Prescott’s former band, but they’re no less interesting. Structural conventions are rarely messed with. During “Cornfield,” a noisy piano comes into play that sounds like Nicky Hopkins attempting to beat a wind chime at its own game, and a couple short spates of weird interplay between Prescott and new partners Jeff Weigand (bass) and Jon Williams (guitar) break the mainly hyper-folk and ’60s garage band flow. Lead-off track “Jak” is the real standout, one of the Suns’ most tuneful and strummy numbers. Solid and endlessly fun, it’s their finest record.

Volcano Suns followed their best album, The Bright Orange Years, with a set that is decidedly less melodic and more rambunctious — less sing-along hyper-folk and more, well, noisy (but still fun). The slight change could be attributed to the increased participation of Jon Williams and Jeff Weigand in the songwriting; half the album features full involvement of the whole trio, while Peter Prescott is the lone writer on only four songs. (Prescott seems to make up for this reduction with a much greater frequency of whooping and bellowing — no problem there.) The noisier abandon is immediately apparent from Jon Williams’ nasty abrasion at the beginning of “White Elephant,” undeniably sounding much like some of Roger Miller’s more memorable antics in Mission of Burma. And with that song, as with The Bright Orange Years’ “Jak,” the band once again sticks their catchiest (and funniest) song at the very beginning, as if to grab the listener by the throat, and the grip here never really slackens. Aside from the near-ballad “Room with a View” and the schizo tempo shifts in “Blown Stack,” the first side — also highlighted by the charmingly sloppy neo-rockabilly of “Cans” and the hurtling “Walk Around” — whips by at breakneck speed, while the second side is slower yet no less rowdy or welcoming.

-Andy Kellman, AMG



Looks like I get to move my images off photobucket today/tomorrow.

Please buy this and other classic Indiana punk bands at GULCHER RECORDS, like I have! -Ian!

Relive the early days of Midwestern punk rock with a jam-packed 24-song CD from Indiana’s first high school punk rock band, the Panics!! Included in this 2001 reissue are the three Panics tracks from their highly-collectible 1980 maxi-single, their cut from the 1981 RED SNERTS compilation album, and one never-released studio recording. Remastered for CD from tapes untouched for 20 years in the Gulcher Records vaults, I WANNA KILL MY MOM!!! showcases the Panics in an amazing 15-song live performance from August 1980. Then hear how well they’ve aged with four tracks from last December’s Panics reunion. And there’s more!!

As a special bonus, Gulcher has included BEST BAND, the legendary 1980 film starring the original Panics, as a QuickTime movie. Not only do you get to hear the Panics original vinyl tracks, 1980 live show, Y2K reunion, and a studio outtake, but you can actually see them perform in BEST BAND!! The Panics I WANNA KILL MY MOM!!! includes a 16-page booklet featuring several never-published photos of the group performing live, stills from the BEST BAND movie, and liner notes by Panics lead singer John Barge, who went on to form the Molemen and later the Walking Ruins with Panics guitarist Ian Brewer. Here’s what Village Voice music critic Robert Christgau had to say about the Panics back in 1981: “I’m pleased to report the best L.A. punk single I’ve ever heard comes from Indiana–the Panics genuinely funny yet genuinely abrasive (and annoying) “I Wanna Kill My Mom”/”Best Band”/”Tie Me Up, Baby!”

-Gulcher Records

The Panics-1980-1981: I WANNA KILL MY MOM!!! (2001)

Hopefully it doesn’t need to be justified that these are haunting recordings, in spite of their brutal context. I’m not some sort of opera purist, which is probably why these recordings don’t seem as boring to me as a masterfully executed performance by Pavarotti. -Ian!

Alessandro Moreschi was born into a large Roman Catholic family in the town of Monte Compatri, near Frascati. He had been castrated in 1865, in line with the centuries-old practice of castrating vocally talented boys well before puberty.

It seems likely that Moreschi’s singing abilities came to the notice of Nazareno Rosati, formerly a member of the Sistine Chapel choir, who was acting as a scout for new talent, and took him to Rome in about 1870. Moreschi became a pupil at the Scuola di San Salvatore in Lauro, where he was taught by Gaetano Capocci, maestro di cappella of the Papal basilica of San Giovanni Laterano. In 1873, aged only fifteen, he was appointed First Soprano in the choir of that basilica, and also became a regular member of the groups of soloists hired by Capocci to sing in the salons of Roman high society. His singing at such soirées was vividly described by Anna Lillie de Hegermann-Lindencrone, the American wife of the Danish Ambassador to the Holy See: “Mrs Charles Bristed of New York, a recent convert to the Church of Rome, receives on Saturday evening . . . The Pope’s singers are the great attraction . . . for her salon is the only place outside of the churches where one can hear them. The famous Moresca [sic], who sings at the Laterano, is a full-faced soprano of some forty winters. He has a tear in each note and a sigh in each breath. He sang the jewel song [sic] in [Gounod’s] Faust, which seemed horribly out of place. Especially when he asks (in the hand-glass) if he is really Marguerita, one feels tempted to answer ‘Macchè’ [not in the least] for him.”

In 1883 Capocci presented a special showcase for his protégé: the first performance in Italy of the oratorio Christus am Ölberge by Beethoven, in which Moreschi sang the demanding coloratura role of the Seraph. On the strength of this performance, he became known as l’Angelo di Roma, and shortly after, having been auditioned by all the members of the Sistine Chapel choir, he was appointed First Soprano there, a post he held for the next thirty years.

The Sistine Chapel Choir was run on traditional lines centuries old, and had a strict system of hierarchies. In 1886, the senior castrato, Giovanni Cesari, retired, and it was probably then that Moreschi took over as Direttore dei concertisti (Director of soloists). Moreschi was very much a silent witness to the struggles between the forces of tradition and reform, but was also caught up in secular matters: on 9 August 1900, at the express request of the Italian royal family, he sang at the funeral of the recently assassinated king, Umberto I. This was all the more extraordinary because the Papacy still had no formal contact with the Italian secular state, which it regarded as a mere usurper.

In the spring of 1902, in the Vatican, Moreschi made the first of his phonograph recordings for the Gramophone & Typewriter Company of London. He made additional recordings in 1904: there are seventeen tracks in all. Between these two sessions, several most fateful events occurred: in 1903 the aged Mustafà finally retired, and a few months later Pope Leo XIII, a strong supporter of Sistine tradition, died. His successor was Pope Pius X, an equally powerful advocate of Cecilianism. One of the new pontiff’s first official acts was the promulgation of the motu proprio, Tra le sollecitudini (“Amongst the Cares”), which appeared, appropriately enough, on St Cecilia’s Day, 22 November, 1903. This was the final nail in the coffin of all that Mustafà, Moreschi and their colleagues stood for, since one of its decrees stated: “Whenever . . . it is desirable to employ the high voices of sopranos and contraltos, these parts must be taken by boys, according to the most ancient usage of the Church.” Perosi, a fanatical opponent of the castrati, had triumphed and Moreschi and his few remaining colleagues were to be pensioned off and replaced by boys. A singing pupil of Moreschi’s, Domenico Mancini, was such a good imitator of his master’s voice that Perosi took him for a castrato (for all that castration had been banned in Italy in 1870), and would have nothing to do with him. Ironically, Mancini became a professional double-bass player.

Officially, Alessandro was a member of the Sistine choir until Easter 1913, and remained in the choir of the Cappella Giulia of St Peter’s, Rome until a year after that. Around Easter 1914 he met the Viennese musicologist Franz Haböck, author of the extremely important book Die Kastraten und ihre Gesangskunst, who had plans to cast Moreschi in concerts reviving the repertoire of the great eighteenth-century castrato Farinelli. These never came to fruition: by this date Moreschi (now fifty-five years old) no longer had the required high soprano range, and in any case he had never had the necessary virtuoso operatic training.

Critical opinion is divided about Moreschi’s recordings: some say they are of little interest other than the novelty of preserving the voice of a castrato, and that Moreschi was a mediocre singer, while others detect the remains of a talented singer unfortunately past his prime by the time he recorded. (Moreschi was in his mid-forties when he made his recordings.) Still others feel that he was a very fine singer indeed, and that much of the “difficulty” in listening to Moreschi’s recordings stems from changes in taste and singing style between his time and ours. His vocal technique can certainly seem to grate upon modern ears, but many of the seemingly imperfect vocal attacks, for example, are in fact grace notes, launched from as much as a tenth below the note – in Moreschi’s case, this seems to have been a long-standing means of drawing on the particular acoustics of the Sistine Chapel itself. The dated aesthetic of Moreschi’s singing, involving extreme passion and a perpetual type of sob, often sounds bizarre to the modern listener, and can be misinterpreted as technical weakness or symptomatic of an aging voice.

Alessandro Moreschi-THE LAST CASTRATO (1902/1904/1993)

Erin Tobey is a very nice lady who lives near me, and you should go buy her 2005 record from Bakery Outlet, if it’s even still in print anymore. -Ian!


I posted this like two hours ago but the tags were all messed up. Fixed! -Ian!

Recorded between 1934-1940 by folklorist John Lomax, this offers an interesting cross-section of songs sung by “real” people in Alabama. And a cross-section it really is, from blues to spirituals to lullabies to work songs. It’s a collection that introduces a voice that should have become well-known — Vera Ward Hall, who opens the set with a startlingly pure “Another Man Done Gone” and keeps cropping up throughout. While the emphasis is on song, there’s also some wonderful harmonica playing on “Train on a Hill” by Richard Amerson (who also reminisces about his days on steamboats), and Tom Bell accompanies himself on guitar on “Worried Blues.

A little bonus track I threw in.

Perhaps the most intriguing piece is “Billy Goat Latin” from Joe F. Williams & Booker T. Williams, a bizarre field holler. All the way through, material that’s become quite familiar over the years pops up in its folk roots — “Honey, Take a Whiff on Me,” “Hush Little Baby,” “Alabama Bound,” and “Go to Sleep (Little Baby)” — all of which have become part of the national consciousness. Lomax proves to be as able as his son in finding great performers (although you have to wonder when he asks one to take a song into double time, obviously a first-time occurrence for the subject of this particular recording). By its very nature — field recordings from the 1930s — the sound quality is sometimes far from perfect, but overall the remastering is little short of miraculous, and the sleeve notes are thorough and extremely informative.


Good article on Power Pop 101 from Noel Murray of the Onion AV Club:

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I would take issue with The Shoes as an entry point, choosing probably Flamin’ Groovies or The Toms, but it’s still cool. The comments are sure to be insane and educational.

A re-up, coincidentally, I just noticed, one year to the hour from the last time I uploaded these. -Ian!

After NEU! broke up in 1975, Klaus Dinger formed La Düsseldorf with his brother Thomas and Hans Lampe, who had both contributed percussion on NEU!’s swan song album. NEU! always displayed a split personality, rooted in the conflicting temperaments and sensibilities of Dinger and guitarist Michael Rother, differences that were dramatized on the duo’s final record, where Rother’s mellower, melodic atmospherics contrasted with Dinger’s anarchic, noisier inclinations. Recorded in 1975, La Düsseldorf’s self-titled debut effects something of a compromise between those two aesthetics. Built on driving beats and fleshed out with expansive synth coloring, the 13-minute “Düsseldorf” is a grand, pop-friendly homage to Dinger’s home town. Although its repetitive glide recalls NEU!’s signature motorik groove, there’s something more playful and joyous about Dinger’s approach here, especially at the moments when the vocals venture briefly into mock operatics and a glammy piano hammers away. The title track involves similar sonic ingredients but puts them to more concise and aggressive use.

As with NEU!’s “Hero” and “After Eight,” Dinger injects this song with a speedy, sloganeering rush that anticipates punk; at the same time, though, its incorporation of a soccer-crowd chant seems almost a prescient parody of the brainless variant of punk that would later turn the movement into self-caricature. Indeed, while Dinger was punk avant la lettre, he already had a foot in the post-punk era, something that’s most evident on “Silver Cloud” and “Time.” These tracks are more minimalist, looking forward to the pared-down, monochromatic austerity that would follow punk’s color-cartoon demise. On “Time,” an oceanic ebb and flow and somber church-organ sounds eventually yield to a hypnotic, nodding pulse. The album’s standout, the mesmerizing instrumental “Silver Cloud,” sees prominent synths and mechanical rhythms impart a cool electronic aura that certainly resonated with Bowie and made its presence felt on his Berlin recordings.

La Dusseldorf’s Viva crystallized Klaus Dinger’s progressive rock vision into a symphony of swirling guitars, rich keyboard melodies and driving percussive beats. The magnum opus “Cha, Cha 2000,” will forever stand as one of the all-time anthems of futurist rock & roll.

-Wilson Neate,

La Düsseldorf-LA DÜSSELDORF (1976)
La Düsseldorf-VIVA (1978)