Anthem of the Moon (Jagjaguwar 2001)

I once read that Anthem of the Moon was based on a dream one band member had where they discovered an alternate version of the Grateful Dead’s Anthem of the Sun. They even went so far as to remember each song on this imaginary album and appropriate them for their fourth and possibly best album. Although it would have been endlessly cool if did, not a single moment on Anthem of the Moon resembles a single lick of Anthem of the Sun. However, they are kind of kindred spirits in that they both try to establish their own peculiar wrinkle or twist on psychedelic rock and roll. Where the Grateful Dead tried o approximate the sounds of endlessly shifting rorschach blots, Oneida approximate the throbbing and pulsating thrills of some day-glo light show. One aimed to be amorphous, the other is precisely repetitive and structured. You’d never confuse them as kissing cosigns, but the connection makes sense if you listen to both albums as much as I do.

Anthem of the Moon is yet another album that kind of got relegated to the backburner because there were a lot of crappy flavors of rock and roll in favor and this was just the long-haired weirdo marring a landscape where electroclash was somehow in vogue. At the time, they were unstoppable live and I wish I could transport you to their shows during this timeframe because it really frazzled my mind because it was so expansive and aggressive that I truly lost myself in whatever they played. The recorded version is no slouch either and alternates between tightly wound groovers and weirdo tunes that kind of rely on organs, reverb, echo and ethereal choruses.

This album is all over the damn place. You get songs like “To Seed and Flower” which kind of starts off like some unforseen mid-ground between Bastro and Tortoise that suddenly shift into some bizarro world version of a pop-punk song. “All-Arounder” is another tale of three songs going on at once as the instrumentation layers some synth melody from a Silver Apples song over some incessantly dissonant riffing while Kid Milions sings “I can see the feeling/creeping ‘cross the ceiling all around her/All Around Her/I can See the Dayglo/Wrapping in a Halo/all Around Her.”  The end result is a rare example of when you try everything at once and it somehow works. “Almagest” occupies some vague space where Wicker Man vibes can co-exist with some mid-70s Cluster record playing as the soundtrack. Anthem of the Moon borrows from the best and spits out something entirely their own. It isn’t a perfect album by any means, but it does conjure its own little world populated by song.

New Riders of the Purple Sage

s/t (Columbia 1971)

If there was some way to astrally project myself into the my college dorm room circa 1993, I would take great pleasure in revealing that I now absolutely adore the Grateful Dead just to watch my shaggy, elitist doppleganger retch and vomit in disapproval. “Believe me, I tried to fight it, but the years just mellowed my edges and I found myself becoming more and more of a kindred spirit with my hippie brethren whom I once mocked and assailed for their worn shoeboxes of meticulously documented Dead shows. In retrospect, I had no leg to stand on as I look back upon my worship of melancholy mopers and nihilistic noise mongers that seems so shallow and trite when I kick back and listen to a righteously gorgeous, life affirming and downright genius string of albums beginning with Anthem of the Sun and ended with From the Mars Hotel before the drugs, hangers-on, financial and personal disasters took their toll and they slowly became the punchline I envisioned in my 20s. However, my wife has seen the Grateful Dead over twenty times and converted me to the other side.

You are all grown men and women here and have probably picked what side of the fence in which you reside regarding the Grateful Dead, so there’s no point in delivering a passionate sermon about how “Pride of Cucamonga” is a flawless mutation of country music or why American Beauty is a seamless suite of songs that perfectly encapsulate all that is transcendent about 70s Americana, so let’s focus on New Riders of the Purple Sage, an offshoot of the Dead that’s been brightening my dark corners these days.

Although the New Riders of the Purple Sage were an ongoing and occasionally brilliant concern until 1997, it’s their self-titled debut and its followup Powerglide that are worth examining closely if you have even a passing interest in 60s and 70s country rock in the vein of the Byrds’ Sweetheart of the Rodeo, Dillard and Clark, Flying Burrito Brothers and Gram Parsons. However, their self-titled debut is the strongest entry in their discography and best conveys the rollicking, loose and patchouli scented vibe they aimed for throughout the 70s. Centered around David Nelson and John “Marmaduke” Dawson, the band got their start via their connection to Jerry Garcia since they used to play together in the mid 60s and Dawson was the one who turned Garcia onto the sounds of Buck Owens and Merle Haggard. This seamless synthesis of the Bakersfield sound and psychedelic country was  achieved through the talent imported from the Dead as Jerry Garcia returns the favor by playing an integral role here playing pedal steel, guitar and banjo while Mickey Hart provides percussion alongside Spencer Dryden of Jefferson Airplane. I always liked the more country-tinged side of the Dead instead of the bluesy workouts, so the New RIders of the Purple Sage give me all I could ever want since every song mines this fertile vein.

All that is impeccable about the New Riders of the Purple Sage can be found in the very first song on the album. “I Don’t Know You” bests anything recorded by their contemporaries by a long shot as it intersects the late 60s Byrds and 70s Dead and encapsulates all that was blissful about both bands at their best. It captures all the bright eyed and bushy-tailed innocence of meeting a potential love connection and deriving their true intentions as hormones cloud your vision and you battle the urge to dive into the pool or dip your toes in the water. It’s followed by “Watcha Gonna Do” which may repulse anyone who dislikes the Dead since it’s central hook is almost a archetype for any number of Dead “jams” as the guitars lope and dive in a nimble dance in a way only they could in the early 70s. Well, I guess their hippie credentials are stamped and validated next on “Portland Woman” which champions the superiority of those Portland women that “treat you right.” I guess somethings never change since hippies of today would probably parrot the same sentiments. “All I Ever Wanted” counters the Bacchanalian call of “Portland Woman” and flips the script as our protagonist bemoans a love gone sour as the target of his affection spurns him and parades her suitors before his teary eyes as a gentle riff builds and builds in unison with chiming harmonies as instrument and voice plead their case for a little respect and honesty. It’s kind of a simple song, but deep as an abyss if you listen to it enough times. By now, I guess you’ve surmised I’m the guy who listens to New Riders of the Purple Sage far too much. However, I’m unashamed since this is a forgotten gem that has been tarred by its association with the Dead while the same folks embrace Gram Parson and his nudie suit. They may have traveled far beyond their expiration date, but dig into any of their 70s albums and you will find yourself wondering why you’ve ignored them all these years.

Magicistragic Mix Tape #3

January 25, 2012

Magicistragic Mix Tape #3

I haven’t compiled one of these in many a moon, but the tea leaves have gathered in such a way to make it so. Anyhow, the vibe is one of mellow hibernation as the pace never quickens and life remains static as you waste an hour or so listening to whatever has been echoing throughout my domain. Pay special attention to Nathan Abshire who is pictured above since I am kind of dumbfounded by how great his music is lately.

Please befriend magicistragic on facebook if you would like additional links, videos and the inane prattlings of  yours truly.

arthur verocai-cabocia

the woods band-everytime

howard nishioka-incresha

wild nothing-live in dreams

papercuts-once we walked in the sunlight

nathan abshire-pine grove blues

meat puppets-up on the sun

fairport convention-tried so hard

carlos paredes-variaes em r minor

comet gain-you cant hide your love forever

pink floyd-fearless

clive palmer-the girl from the north country

charlie rich-i can’t go on

grateful dead-pride of cucamonga

james gang-there i go again

john villemonte-i am the moonlight

kevin ayers-all this crazy gift of time

monochrome set-inside your heart

the humblebums-mary of the mountain


the hollies-stop right there

leon russell-out in the woods

barefoot jerry-come to me tonight


Revelater (Elektra 1996)

The major label frenzy to sign anyone within sniffing distance of your Nirvanas and Sonic Youths resulted in greater exposure for some and ruin for others. Were advertisements in shitty rags, MTV airplay and product placement in the rural malls really going to make Jennyanykind, Scrawl, Jesus Lizard and Jawbox more palatable to most folks? Hell, most of these bands weren’t even palatable to me by this point.

I have no clue why a major label like Elektra decided to sign a band that was enamored by Jesus Christ, Jerry Garcia, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Howling Wolf, Flaming Lips and Pink Floyd and market it as an indie-rock album. Sure, their work had a raw, punky edge at times and their earliest work was released by the No. 6 label(Beme Seed, Crystallized Movements, Luna, Nada Surf, etc), but this was surely a big ass square block in a teensy-weensy round hole. It’s a shame since Revelater cuts the fat from their meandering jams and rants which results in bizarre southern rock songs about the apocalypse, humility in the face of god’s power, the dangers of a sinful life and repentance.

This isn’t a shtick–No sight of high pitched whines and tree costumes ala Danielson. Michael Holland’s lyrics are earnest explorations of his own struggles with faith and the misdeeds of his past. He comes off as troubled and angry on half of the tracks while the other half play loose and fancy free with light-hearted hippie psych that wouldn’t sound out of place on an early 70s Dead record. I’m more interested in the angry, conflicted side of Holland that searches for meaning in the universe in a three-minute pop song on his major label debut. What were they thinking? It was commercial suicide and sit kind of sunk the band for good. Yes, they released many more albums, but they sort of blew their cosmic, soul searching load on this one.

Revelater got no respect from anyone. Its been dismissed by hipsters, hippies and christian rockers alike. However, I believe it may be one of the most underrated albums to result from the major label feeding frenzy of the 90s. Revelater is a fried, almost paranoid ode to the power of a vengeful god masquerading as an indie-rock album. Love it to death and like most of this band’s work. i’ll be posting more this week.