Sunday, October 30, 2005

"Oh the last bus is gone. Or maybe I'm wrong - it just doesn't exist ... so I'm walking the long miles home."

yes, there are songs at the end of this rant

It's official - SEPTA is on strike. So Philly's 400,000 bus, trolley, and subway/EL riders (wage slaves, fixed-income elderly, high school students, etc.) are up shit creek with a turd for a paddle. The last strike was 40 days.

I can't believe that after narrowly escaping massive layoffs due to a state bailout, these workers are risking permanantly weakening their employer because they don't want to contribute 5% of their health insurance costs. Which is a far better deal than most of their riders get, including yours truly ($130/month thank you). To be fair, of course, SEPTA management is barely qualified to run a hot dog stand.

Lucky for me I'm only 25 blocks from work - a nice bike ride when it's not raining. But man, the traffic - riding up 16th Street was like weaving through a parking lot this morning and if it rains hard I guess I'll get wet or stay home. Of course, it's not all glum - this is a great time to be Curtis at Via Bikes or a used car salesman, that's for sure. Parking attendents and cabbies will no doubt be raking it in as well.

So anyhow, for those in Philly, here's some songs to get you through it. And for those who don't, enjoy getting to work on time.

Violent Femmes - Waiting For The Bus
Richard Thompson - Walking The Long Miles Home
Hindu Love Gods (Zevon fronting REM)- Walkin' Blues
King Arthur & The Carrots (a young Kinky Friedman) - Schwinn Twenty-four

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Uncle Tupelo. Seminal would be one word. Kick-ass, another
I'm sure many of you know that Uncle Tupelo was a band that brought together punk and country in the early 90's, helping to usher in a whole genre of "alternative country." Yeah, there was outlaw country in the 70's and cowpunk in the 80's, but Uncle Tupelo helped craft a lasting movement. In fact, the preeminent magazine covering ",whatever that is," No Depression, grew out of an AOL newsgroup named after the title track of Uncle Tupelo's debut album (it was also an old Carter Family spiritual - that was pretty radical right there).

After releasing several critically acclaimed independent albums, they got signed to a major and released Anodyne, a beautiful album that brought them to the verge of something big.

Then, of course, they broke up. Specifically, soulful-voiced Jay Farrar left the band over rivalry with the other singer/songwriter in the band, Jeff Tweedy. Jay formed Son Volt. The rest of the band become Wilco. The rest is (ok, recent) history.

Son Volt's first album, Trace, was inarguably a classic, while Wilco's A.M. was a pleasant but lightweight effort. Since then, however, Jay has released a string of nice but ultimatley forgettable records while Jeff has inspired record reviewers all over the world to take bootlicking to levels of Waylon Smithers-like proportions.

In some future post, I'll feature the work of another musical partnership Jeff Tweedy couldn't deal with, but for now, a track from Uncle Tupelo's 1991 raw-around-the-edges masterpiece, Still Feel Gone, in which the band really came into its own. The second featured track was a single that is happily given a home as a bonus track on the remastered edition of the album. It was actually the first Tupelo song I heard, as featured on a 1993 Dutch East India comp, Buy This Used CD sold to my impressionable teenage self for $3.99 as I recall.

So enjoy Uncle Tupelo. They didn't exactly start it all, but their contribution was incalculable nonetheless.

Unclue Tupelo - Gun (via savefile)
Uncle Tupelo - Sauget Wind (via yousendit, expires 11/1)

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Hot Damn - The BellRays
My friend saw this band at some club on the lower east side recently and turned me on to them. I don’t have the record yet but I am pretty excited about The BellRays.

The lyrics are retro to the point of kitsch (their whole '81 punk image is too) but there is no arguing with the sound, the concept of which is basically Tina Turner fronting a hardcore band. Which actually ends up sounding like your basic Ike & Tina track, which is just fine. Here are some places to listen:

Someone has a geocities site with some mp3's up.
Their myspace profile has three songs in the internal player.
Their home page has some downloads but they are .wma files.

Now come play Philly you bums!

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Oh Bearded Ones (who mope)

What is the deal with this Sufjan Stevens guy? Am I the only music fan doesn’t think he’s the second coming? Okay, he’s a talented arranger but a mediocre singer/songwriter. Halfway through his songs I’m convinced they’ve been on repeat for 20 times. Is he exercising some kind of hippie Christian mind voodoo on the whole world or is it just his dreamy good looks?

I’ll tell you what – if he looked like these guys...

…he’d still be at home programming his laptop midi crap. Yeah, that’s right. I’ve had it with these slavish imitators of Nick Drake and Eliott Smith: Quit trying to ape their beautiful music and follow their OTHER example!

So yeah, there’s these two bands - one that's really just one guy and another that is one guy and a parade of about 50 friends sitting in on various sessions. Different process, similar results (and how). They are Iron & Wine (or here) and Willard Grant Conspiracy. Yes, this is what mopey avante folk music should sound like. They both seem to like their shroud of mystery and I won’t interfere. Just check ‘em out further. Iron & Wine has a gorgeous EP out in collaboration with Calexico right now as well as a couple fantastic solo albums. Willard Grant has am impressive discography as well.

Here are my download picks but there are plenty on each artist’s web site and of course go buy the records.
Another Lonely Night - Willard Grant Conspiracy
Naked As We Came - Iron & Wine

Monday, October 24, 2005

Walkabouts: Das Ist Gut Seattle Rock Musik!

Hey, anybody remember that Sub Pop anthology, The Grunge Years? I think I must have bought it at Record & Tape Traders when I was a geeky Bel Air, MD 8th grader, and it introduced me to the existence of underground music via its inclusion of a single-only Nirvana track. A whole post could be devoted to it at some point but anyway... one of the several bands I discovered via that disc was The Walkabouts.

Very different from the stereotypical Sub Pop band, The Walkabouts were and are a punk-influenced folk rock band with a dark, dare I say grungy? sound that I can’t always put my finger on. In their two decades they have never earned the stardom they deserved, but they are apparently huge in Germany for some reason. In fact, it appears that they don’t even bother touring the states anymore and their latest album, Acetylene is, as far as I can tell, only available in Germany. Maybe they live there (although they are from Seattle) – I don’t know. As far as I can tell, they don’t even maintain a web site of their own.

So anyway, apparently they have a new album available only as an import. Says band leader Chris Eckman: "I wondered what it would have been like if Neil Young had stopped by Wire's rehearsal space, sometime in 1977? That seemed like a good place for us to start."

Actually, I think it just sounds like Neil Young’s On The Beach myself, which is a good thing. The tracks available online are a lot more angry and raw than their sometimes detached earlier work, but not quite as accomplished either. I’ll have to devote another post to their best work, but this is pretty good nonetheless. No other band captures The Walkabouts’ odd mixture of isolation, desperation, and good ol’ rock n’ roll.

Devil In The Details
Fuck Your Fear

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Even Freedom Will Not Make Free (and what's that got to do with me?)
I had PBS's The News Hour on in the other room tonight and every night they do the "honor roll" - saluting soldiers who died in our overseas misadventures. I've gotten a little jaded lately - I remember when every death was it's own news story and now it's just a blurb - Dow Jones down 400, 3 dead in Iraq, more after this.
But see - on News Hour, they don't read the names or do any profile. They just show the pictures and the names in total silence. So all the sudden I'm thinking "what happened to the TV" and it hit me - that many guys died over there.
Which is to say, I got to thinking about Phil Ochs. Phil Ochs wrote a lot of protest songs and some of them are dated, and some are a little condescending. But he nailed it on these tracks - they ring truer today than they ever did. These aren't the songs about flowers and wind you think of when one mentions 60's protest. War Is Over mixes hopefullness with heavy cynicism, and Pretty Smart On My Part is sung from the point of view of one of those paranoid militia types.
Ochs was more than just protest songs - on his last few records he really branched out into the personal. Most of it was pretty dark. His last album was considered career suicide and he followed that up with the real thing in '75.
Pretty Smart on My Part
War Is Over

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Moviola - At least one good thing from Ohio

I don't know too much about this band other than their album just keeps playing and I don't get sick of it. Here's a blurb from their press kit: Columbus, Ohio’s Moviola have been together for ten years, on and off, living, working, and rarely straying from their homes in the Midwest flatlands. They’ve made six records and countless singles by themselves in coal storage rooms, converted cement factories and elsewhere, which music-heads from Amarillo to Amsterdam—folks who can simultaneously dig Kristofferson, the Louvin Brothers, and, say, Spacemen 3—hold close like a secret.
Live appearances, few and far between. Eleven kids between them. Split singles with everyone from The Handsome Family to Cobra Verde. And vive la difference: in this band everyone writes, everyone takes a turn singing lead. It’s a five-headed beast, the result of which is a well-deep collective of dusty country-through-a-space-echo, folk-soul, and adult lullabies.

Here's one nice track. Kew Garden Hills

More info and more mp3's can be found at and where you can also buy their records. Please do - they deserve it!

Kinky Friedman ... Why The Hell Not?

Kinky Friedman has made a living writing mystery novels about himself and his buddies, and now he's running for governor of Texas as an independent (his slogan? Why The Hell Not?). But before that, he was the first Jewish Texan country and western singer, touring the country with his backing band, The Texas Jewboys.

His songs range from crudely funny like this Merle Haggard parody Asshole From El Paso to extraordinarily moving like Ride 'em Jewboy, probably the only country song about the holocaust.

These tracks are live numbers pulled from a very shoddy comp Da Kinkstah produced before his old records were re-released, called Old Testaments & New Revelations. More on Kinky can be found at

Asshole From El Paso (funny)
Ride 'em Jewboy (sad)

Really old blues song about meat

Jim Jackson was from Memphis and he knew a lot of songs and contributed a lot of verses to the blues vernacular. I like this one from 1927:
I Heard The Voice of a Pork Chop
His complete works are collected on this CD but it, as well as volume II, is out of print. I don't have it either, I only have a compilation, Wild About My Lovin' that is also out of print and cuurently selling for way too much. Great song though.