David Allan Coe

Longhaired Redneck/Rides Again (1976 & 1977, reissued by Bear Family in 1993)

http://www.divshare.com/download/4727672-671

Lordy, Lordy, David Allan Coe conflicts my PC soul. He has included racial epithets in his country tunes and there are some youtube interviews that reveal the ugly side of the man’s soul. However, it is very hard to deny the brilliance of his unflinching take on outlaw country. He is a thoroughly honest songwriter that documents an element of American culture and does it in a heartbreaking and tragic manner.

It isn’t too hard to see what made him such a squirrely individual. He was in and out of reform school, correctional centers and prison on and off from age 9. He claims to have spent time on death row for murdering a fellow who requested oral sex and when questioned about the authenticity of his penal claims, he responded by writing a musical tirade entitled “I’d Like to Kick the Shit Out of You.” Before outlaw country was just a twinkle in a marketer’s eye, Coe already sported multiple tattoo and long hair and rose around on his Harley. This made him a perfect foil to Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson and others lumped into that rowdy wagon.

He already had many albums under his belt as well as a hit song penned for Tanya Tucker by the time these albums were released in 1976-77. By this point, he seemed frustrated by the outlaw country tag, but embraced every element of it as well. The title track of Longhaired Redneck sees Coe rebelling against his pigeonholing by critics and DJs while embracing “true outlaws” as he sings:

Country DJs knows that I’m an outlaw.
They’d never come to see me in this dive.
Where bikers stare at cowboys who are laughin’ at the hippies.
Who are prayin’ they’ll get out of here alive.

The loud mouth in the corners getting’ to me.
Talking about my earrings and my hair.
I guess he ain’t read the sign that says I’ve been to prison.
Someone ought to warn him, ‘fore I knock him off his chair.

‘Cause my long hair just can’t cover up my redneck.
I’ve won every fight I’ve ever fought.
And I don’t need some turkey telling me that I ain’t country.
Sayin’ I ain’t worth a damn dog, ticket that he bought.

‘Cause I can sing all them songs about Texas,
And I still do all the sad ones that I know.
They tell me I look like Merle Haggard,
And sound a lot like David Allan Coe.

Overall, he was the epitome of the genre, but George Jones’ troubled songs of addiction, anger and wasted opportunities are a better parallel than the more sensitive, radio-friendly voices of his contemporaries. By no means, were they purveyors of pop, but Coe and Jones are kind of repellent characters who aren’t just telling a tall tale. They lived what they wrote and pursued paths which were sometimes a source of personal ruin. Plus, I always enjoy his incessant jabs at hippies. They really bother the man. His salute to the Byrds and Flying Burrito Brothers on “Willie, Waylon and Me’ also lifts my weary soul.

The 6ths

Wasp’s Nest (London 1995)

http://www.mediafire.com/?eztmxiwxdnt

Stephin Merritt has always utilized the vocal talents of others to realize his artistic vision. His choices were sometimes a bit suspect on 69 Love Songs, but he usually has a great ear for who best coalesces for this tragic songwriting. His best collaborations can be found on Wasp’s Nest, the 6ths debut, but how can you go wrong with a roster of vocalists that includes Barbara Manning, Mary Timony(Helium), Dean Waeham (Galaxie 500), Amelia Fletcher (Heavenly), Rober Scott (The Clean/Bats), Mark Robinson (Unrest), Chris Knox (Tall dwarves), Georgia Hubley (Yo La Tengo) and Max MaCaughan (Superchunk)?

The music doesn’t differ from the baroque electronic indie-pop that marks his work in the Magnetic Fields. The lyrics doesn’t stray from his usual tales of unrequited love and romantic promises, but the roster of vocalists make this his best release. From Barbara Manning’s ode to the joys of the San Diego Zoo to Georgia Hubley’s rejection of a lover who can never compare to her own imagination, every element of each song is on point. The highlight is Dean Wareham’s take on “Falling Out of Love With You” which documents the dissolution of a relationship in a blase sort of way. I always loved the lyrics to this one although they sound better in performance than on your screen.

“In an old silverline
I was yours, you were mine
I was hoarse, you were mean
We designed drum machines

But every day in every way
Im falling out of love with you
Every kiss means less and less
Im falling out of love with you
Every hour kills a flower
Im falling out of love with you
You just bore me more and more
Im falling out of love with you

They made sounds much like drums
I was young you were dumb
Now youre older and im wiser
We design synthesizers

But every day in every way
Im falling out of love with you
Every kiss means less and less
Im falling out of love with you
Every hour kills a flower
Im falling out of love with you
You just bore me more and more
Im falling out of love with you”

It is playful, bitter, sarcastic and a downright mean rejection, but the music is so chirpy and bright that you find yourself humming along with each caustic word. Now that’s a pop song.

Surgeon

Basictonalvocabulary (tresor 1997)

http://www.mediafire.com/?z9nwdiygvzy

Named after the method used to contact aliens in Close Encounters of the Third, Basictonalvocabulary is Surgeon’s second album, but he made a name for himself via his early singles. His earliest efforts were highly indebted to Detroit techno, especially Jeff Mills, whose influence is strongly felt on this record. In addition, Surgeon’s trance-inducing sounds hearken back to Kraftwerk and YMO who both had a strong impact on the earliest efforts in the Motor City. Add in a love of trance and electro and you get a big picture of what he attempts here. However, I find it funny that Napalm Death drummer Mick Harris was the one who pushed him to lock himself in a studio and actually make his first record.

Basictonalvocabulary is best heard on a pair of headphones or in a club since there is a lot burbling underneath the surface of these tracks. His strength lies in his ability to layer complex rhythms in the foreground and background while laying the bleeps and bloops on pretty thick. Repetition is a powerful thing and Surgeon drives each sequence of beats into the ground while inserting all sorts of ambient whooshes in the background to create a subtly psychedelic effect. It has been twelve years since it was released but much of Basictonalvocabulary wouldn’t sound out of place on a Kompakt or Perlon compilation.

Os Mutantes

Cavaleiros Negros EP (1976)

http://www.mediafire.com/?9zuskbeowql

I hold the unpopular opinion that Os Mutantes did their best work from 1973-76, after Rita Lee had left and the drugs were in high supply. This is their final studio work from 1976, just a three song single. I believe this material was also released on a rather spotty rarities collection of the same name. The sound quality isn’t perfect, and there isn’t much to say about the overall originality of these tunes- they’re basically channeling the big groups (namely Yes) from years earlier. However, in my mind the first song “Cavaleiros Negros” might be the best example of how fantastic symphonic prog could be regardless of originality. An extended, somewhat psychedelic intro building to beautiful guitar and keyboard interplay giving way to the most mind blowing synth climax I’ve ever heard about six and a half minutes in. The best song I’ve ever heard without a doubt. The other two songs are awesome, too. An Os Mutantes fan won’t necessarily enjoy this EP, but it’s certainly my favourite of their discography.

Camper Van Beethoven

Key Lime Pie

http://www.divshare.com/download/4720786-c87

The advent of Ronald Reagan’s reign over American politics inspired a strong reaction from the arts. Reagan’s huckster routine was designed to sell mom, apple pie, the American Dream as a way to make us feel better about cuts in government services, the arts and a sharp increase in our nation’s deficit which plagues us to this very day. It was Leave it to Beaver shrouded in leg warmers and Hollywood smoke and mirrors. However, I would take the calculated deviance of the Reagan era over the clueless bumbling of the Bush administration. Plus, Reagan’s administration had a plan, but it was one which disenfranchised and dismantled America’s unions, arts funding and assistance to the poor.

Yes, there was “Piss Christ” and Mapplethorpe’s photography that garnered media attention as a reaction to the Reagan era. In addition, the Dead Kennedy’s cover of Frankenchrist and various heavy metal covers gained the attention of the prudish pointers of the PMRC. Yes, punk, hardcore and many artists made their disapproval heard in some low-key and high profile ways, but Camper Van Beethoven’s Key Lime Pie is one of the most caustic criticisms of the Reagan era. It didn’t resort to shock and awe, but assumed the form of thoroughly American musics like Country, folk and rock and roll.

Camper Van Beethoven was an odd combo. David Lowery was the child of an Air Force officer who pushed the country and rock and roll side of the band while the rest were artsy-fartsy intellectuals. Both sides were intelligent and adventurous, but in different ways and this cultural clash eventually caused their breakup. However, this friction is the impetus behind Key Lime Pie.

Key Lime Pie takes a look at the seedy underbelly of the 80s and the forgotten. From “I was Born in a Laundromat” where Lowery paints a picture of a woman who finds comfort in being a queen bee of a laundromat as long as she finds sexual release. “All Her Favorite Fruit” skewers American domesticity and portrays the nuclear family as a sad and pointless endeavor. “Come on Darkness” features a patron at a honky-tonk who pursues smokes, drinks and sex as a way to escape the pressures of the workweek.

The most damning criticisms come in the track “Jack Ruby” where Lowery sings:

So draw the box along quickly
Avert your eyes with shame
Let us stand and speak of the weather
And pretend nothing ever happened on that day
Grant us the luxury, ’cause all our heroes are bastards
Grant us the luxury, ’cause all our heroes are thieves
Of the innocence of the afternoons
Now we think it’s a virtue to simply survive
But it feels like this calm it’s decaying
It’s collapsing under its own weight
And I think its your friend the hangman coming
Choking back a laugh, a drunkard swaggering to your door
Now do you feel that cold, icy presence?
In the morning with coffee and with bread
Do you feel it in the movement of traffic
And days are terrible, simply forget

Key Lime Pie may be one of my favorite albums because it relentlessly attacks complacency and addresses many of the shifts in American culture which plague us today. Oh yeah, it is catchy as hell and is an amazing country album by way of indie-rock.

Stretchheads

Pish in Your Sleazebag (Blast First 1991)

http://www.divshare.com/download/4720684-9da

I posted their album Five Fingers, Four Thingers, etc. this week, but this release is entirely a horse of a different color. Yes, they still possess the ability to blast beat their way through chaotic punk songs, but the band have embraced a more chaotic path, but one where oddball samples, electronic fuckery, relatively quiet passages and industrial meanderings/tape loops ala Severed Heads enter the fray. Now, this isn’t to say that they have transformed into a bleak, noisy offshoot of Throbbing Gristle or the Kronos Quartet, but they have expanded their musical worldview.

This album makes you wonder why I ever associated them with The Ex and Dog Faced Hermans because Pish in Your Sleazebag alternates between testosterone-fueled anthems that wouldn’t sound out of place on Amphetamine Reptile, jagged Gang of Four fiascos and oddball smooth jazz interludes that sound like bad Ninja Tune outtakes. Overall, it rages non-stop and their vocalist jabbers like madman throughout, but the experimental touches point towards a more interesting future cut short by their dissolution.