Wednesday, April 30, 2008

We've Solved the Mystery

De De Troit in full Cleopatra Goth Spider Queen regalia. Scan pinched from here

So, hooray for the internet! For years a fragment from a distant song had lodged annoyingly in my brain. All I could remember was the fantastic opening line of "My mommy died a social drinker and my daddy still collects guns," and that it was a killer track. Nothing else. I periodically Googled the intro to see if someone, anyone in the noosphere could help scratch my itch. No luck.

That is, none until the other day, when I chanced on a post at Good Bad Music For Bad, Bad Times, curated by the mysterious Erich. Oh, frabjous day!

Turns out the track is "Immunity" by the mighty UXA. United eXperiments of America, to give the band its full name, hailed from San Francisco in the late 1970s and put out some righteous old-skool punk. It was fronted by the formidable De De Troit, one of the original (and seemingly largely unsung) riot grrrls. UXA split up in the early 1980s as the burgeoning hardcore scene (Black Flag, Circle Jerks et al) eclipsed the "Class of 1977." But afore they went, they released one LP, Illusions of Grandeur, most of which you can find ripped from the original vinyl and posted by Erich right here.

I'm mortified that such a fabulous song had slipped my feeble mind! Methinks it's an absolute gem. From the aforementioned opening lyrics to the buzzing guitar that starts in the left speaker then migrates to the right to De De's howling to the song's sheer defiance. Almost perfect.

Right, here you go then:

UXA - Immunity (buy here, but only on vinyl. An Italian label released a CD version in 2004, but buggered if I know where to find it)

Monday, April 28, 2008

Crystals, Droids, and Noize

Japandroid photo nicked from here

Dearest Friends, by now you've probably figured out that what you get here at Pogo a Go-Go is a mix of old music, new tunes, and some sort of a wonky diary of FiL's comings & goings. While there's been plenty of old and wonky, lately I've been extremely remiss in posting new music. Bad FiL, dirty FiL, no dog treats for you today.

Anyway, now that I've duly chastized myself, let me try to redress that shortcoming somewhat. A week or so back I was noodling around the amazing Zulu Records on my lunch hour and picked up two towering slabs of Vancouver noize that I really must share with you.

First up are the deceptive Japandroids, who sometimes carelessly lose their vowels and go by the moniker JPNDRDS. I say deceptive, because upon slapping on their latest EP, Lullaby Death Jams, one gets the impression that there's an army of axe-wielders, percussionists, and shouty blokes generating this wonderful racket. But in fact it's all issuing forth from Brian King and David Prowse. They had considered getting a vocalist at one point, but couldn't face the hassle. And we're all the richer because of it.

Heavy guitar, at times almost crushing (I'm thinking early Helmet). A distillation of the finest classic rock sensibilities (yes, there are some). Strident vocals sung in screamy harmony. Stop-start shambolic arrangements that mask (HAH! more deception!!) an impressive tightness. Urgent, anthemic transcendence that makes you want to sing along at top volume while going fast ten thousand miles an hour. It's all here, and you should seize it with both fists and both ears. Two blokes, and all that sound.

Japandroids - No Allegiance To The Queen (buy here, but watch for their debut full-length album later this year)

Next we have Twin Crystals, who bored a hole through my skull when we met at the Zulu listening post. Shards of Sonic-Youthesque guitar embedded in thick, synthetic electronica and vocals that veer from shouted polemic to muffled desparation. Oh yes. I left with a disc of theirs that turned out to be a ten-track CDR packaged in a photocopied replica of their 4-track disappear/forever EP. Unable to determine the titles of the wonderful songs I was listening to, I dropped the band a query via Myspace and got a very pleasant reply along with a songlisting. Seems what I'd ended up with was a demo disc from their summer tour. They said that they have a new release out with "wayyy better" recordings, which I think is separate/birth. Hurry and get yours now - there's only 500 been pressed.

Twin Crystals - Trinity (buy separate/birth via their Myspace page, where you can also hear more of their lovely, lovely stuff)

P.S. You lucky dogs! Both bands have live dates coming up! Japandroids play Calgary on May 2 (@ Broken City), Edmonton on 3 May (@Pawn Shop), Seattle on 17 May (venue TBA), and on 25 June they're back in Calgary at the Sled Island Festival. Twin Crystals wreak aural havoc in Seattle on 27 June (@ the Ark) and back in Vancouver on 28 June (@ Pub 340).

Saturday, April 26, 2008

It Always Comes Back

It was something that I hadn't done. But it just as well could have been something that I had done. Something small, but dense and caustic, lodged in my conscience for years. A chance remark had jabbed it, sparking off a fierce growth into a cancer that eclipsed the sun-filled day and absorbed levity like a black sponge.

I dosed myself with a chemotherapeutic cocktail of impeccable reason, human interaction, and gluttonous indulgence. Look, it's not really that bad, you're blowing it completely out of proportion. So, how was your holiday? Mmm, I'll have another of those lovely biscuits. All to no avail. It flowed heavily, like a stream of molten dread, through my chest and into my gut, where it coagulated, oozing malevolence and taunts. Calling me names, pointing out my shortcomings with caustic sting. I left work promptly.

At home I still could not shake it, and I was ill-tempered, snappy, and short as a result. I tried to purge it, hoping it would wither in the light of discussion, but my efforts were inarticulate, oblique, and ill-timed.

Sleep finally sent the bastard thing into remission.

Big Black - Bad Penny (buy here)
Joy Division - She's Lost Control Again (buy here)

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Snap Dragon Style

Ha! You think you know DJ stylee?? See here!!

What day is it? Sunday?? Then I must be home. Hang on a sec, let me check... Yep, this seems to be my house, and those seem to be my kids. And the lovely lady pottering about the garden bears a resemblance to my Dearest Wife. But I'll examine her more closely later, just to be sure...

Dearest Readers, I've been on the road (or more accurately in the air) a fair bit last week, which means that I've not had the chance to tell you about last week's Contrast Podcast episode, which saw the contributors playing a nifty game of snap! Whotsitallabout, you ask? Well, the idea was to come up with two totally different songs with the same title. Pop along over here to download the episode directly, and over here to leave comments.

Truth be told, I've yet to listen to this installation (gasp!) owing to my peregrinations. But I'm off tomorrow on yet another work jaunt, one that includes a four-hour drive from here to here along a twisty mountain highway bereft (in spots) off cellphone coverage but full of moose, deer, bears, and falling rocks. And what better soundtrack to dodge ungulates and landslides to than the dulcet tones of the CP Nation?? Especially when this is what's on offer:

(00:00) The Roots - Sacrifice
(05:49) Anouk - Sacrifice
Eiron from A Blog of No Importance

(09:40) Snow Patrol - Velocity girl
(15:40) Primal Scream - Velocity girl
Matthew from Song by Toad

(16:57) The Smashing Pumpkins - Tonight tonight
(21:42) The Mello-Kings - Tonite tonite
James from Appetite For Distraction

(24:12) Ash - Kung fu
(27:04) The Dirtbombs - Kung fu
FiL from Pogoagogo

(32:42) The Four Tops - I can’t help myself
(35:50) Moloko - I can’t help myself
Chris from

(41:33) Bourgie Bourgie - Careless
(45:48) Cinerama - Careless
JC from The Vinyl Villain

(49:00) Edison Woods - Baby doll
(52:57) Lydia Lunch - Baby doll
ZB from So the wind won’t blow it all away

(54:28) Matthew Sweet - Evangeline
(59:26) Los Lobos - Evangeline
Brad from Brad’s Blog

(01:02:01) The Heartbreakers - Born to lose
(01:05:19) Social Distortion - Born to lose
SiD from Too Much Rock

(01:09:25) Dub Sex - Push
(01:14:05) The Cure - Push
Dirk from Sexy Loser

(01:18:27) UnAmerican - Sometimes
(01:23:04) Michael Franti and Spearhead - Sometimes
Andy from Circles of Concrete

(01:26:45) Massive Attack - Better things
(01:32:56) The Kinks - Better things
Crash from Pretending life is like a song

As this episode was prepared weeks ago, I can't for the life of me remember what other songs I considered for my submission. But I thought I'd fling you a couple more kung fu ditties, given that I spent many weekend afternoons of my New-York youth watching 70s kung fu flicks on WPIX's Fists of Fury.

Carl Douglas - Kung Fu Fighting (buy here)
Whether you practice"Classic Soul Style" or "Cheesy Ironic Hipster Style," this'll have you throwing the Shaolin moves, guaranteed. I'm more than a little bit frightening when this comes on.

Cornershop - Hong Kong Book of Kung Fu (buy here)
Ha! You guys! You're no match. For the mighty. Awesome Cornershop. New album, is expected. Sooooon. Heh!

Last week my travels took me clear across Canada to Halifax, Nova Scotia, where Old Man Luedecke cut his teeth on the banjo strings. You may recall from this post here that I became a convert to Chris and his magisterial pickin' at the 2007 Vancouver Folk Music Festival. Well, he's got a new album out and judging by the title track, Proof of Love, it's as lovely and heartfelt as the rest of his work. And he's got a band now to back him up! Joy!!

Old Man Luedecke - Proof of Love (buy here)

Next week, my aforementioned four-hour drive will take me over the curiously named Anarchist Summit. Dearest Friends, I'm not quite sure what to expect there. Bakunin, Goldman, and Chumbawamba having a chinwag on a mountain peak? If so, maybe we'll all have a boogie to this:

Discharge - State Violence, State Control (buy here)

But then again, they may pelt me with rocks and moose. Sigh.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Tales From The Double Down, Part 3 (or Adventures in the Silver State)

It's true, you know. Just ask Meeshatron!

You know how it is. You live mere blocks away from this really good friend of yours, but you never seem to find the time to hang out. Things get in the way, like work, family, holidays, or (for those that are so inclined) kids. So you bump into them at the local grocery, exchange speedy updates, enthusiastically agree to meet up "sometime," then never do.

Sigh. Ain't modern life grand?

Such was the case with our Dearest L. It had been months, possibly a geological age, since we had had a proper chinwag with her & hers. But thanks to the entwining of local gossipy grapevines, we realized that we would be overlapping in Vega$ for a day or so. Though we still had professional obligations (mine: that bankery conference; hers: learning how to bring the white light / white heat of process engineering to the world of film), we were both free of children and therefore vowed to meet up.

And where did we hang? Why, at The Double Down, of course. Going there once and twice had convinced me it was just the place to leave the madness of Vega$ behind and have a good natter. So we chilled on the ratty sofa by the stage, chatted about this 'n' that, prodded the jukebox to spit out some bitchin' fast tunes, and got all caught up.

Halfway through our soiree, I went up to the bar to get a refill. As I waited for service, a cackly, gruff voice off to my left loudly asked "Hey, who's the square??" I realized that it was addressing me. I turned to look, and saw, a few seats over, a rather squat, cubic, muscle of a man who bore a passing resemblance to Goldie. "Unbutton your top button!" he demanded. I protested that the top button (aside: of my black, rather ace, Ben Sherman longsleeved shirt) was, in fact, already undone. "Undo the next one down!!" he countered. So I did, and he cackled beery approval, flashing me the thumbs up. I accused him of wanting to see my hairy chest, and got another boozy laugh, along with a hearty pat on the shoulder as he passed me on the way to the men's room. It was all good.

"Don't mind him," said a mild voice sitting by my left elbow, "he's real famous in the Vegas punk scene." Still waiting for my beers, I struck up a conversation with the guy who had counseled me. I asked him what he did, and he replied that he was a dental technician. He then stared off into space for a bit before intoning "You don't know what meth can do to your teeth." After a few seconds he refocused, and mentioned that he also played guitar in a band, The Silver State. Apparently the other members had moved to Brooklyn, but he had remained in Vegas. I asked what they sounded like, and he once again returned to space to consider for a spell. He then tentatively said that they all really liked Radiohead, but didn't really try to sound like them. Ah, I see. He went on to say that they were good friends with Margot and the Nuclear So & So's and were supporting them on their upcoming tour. I was beginning to form some rudimentary context, and my interest was piqued.

Somewhat embarrassed, as I often am when mentioning the humble interweb endeavour you are currently visiting, I said I had a music blog of sorts. His eyes brightened and he said that their debut album was going to be released on 15 April by Young American Records, and would I be interested in hearing some of the songs. Oh, yes please, I replied! I thought we'd exchange emails and I might get an MP3 or two in the fullness of time, but instead he went out to his car and returned with a CD. It was a lovely souvenir from what truly is the Happiest Place On Earth. Many thanks, Taylor Milne!

And so, to the album, Cut and Run. Well, it's not Radiohead, at least not to my ears. And that's no bad thing, since I must admit I've never really been able to get them. But The Silver State I get. And what you get is ten hypnotic songs that proceed at their own stately pace to draw you into their tales of love and loss. Frontman Caleb Lindskoog has a lovely way with lyrical structures, while Alex Stopa on drums, Brendan Fitzpatrick on keyboard/bass, and (my old friend) Taylor Milne on gee-tarr provide the just the right pacing and fuzz to both embellish and underpin.

So, if it's not like Radiohead, then what is it like?? Sigh, you do want your comparisons, don't you? Well, here you go: Pavement, a bit of Sebadoh, maybe some Eels, and a definite undercurrent of Dinosaur Jr minus the frenzy. Gosh, this is turning into a winetasting. Enough already, have a taste of the album below, then hop along and buy it. It actually came out on 1 April, so it's available now, my Dearest Friends.

The Silver State - Vampire Practice (buy here)

Monday, April 07, 2008

Swap Meet

Two small FiLs, one large Dirk

Dearest Friends, I have been sorely delinquent in keeping you apprised of goings on in Contrast Podcast land. Now I know that I don't really need to keep you informed, since obviously you all have such exquisite taste that I'm sure you tune in each week as a matter of course. But still, I feel a sense of responsibility...

Dearest Tim, the CP Godfather, is off on holiday in New Zealand, where he's no doubt enjoying sheep pestering and kiwi stroking. But thanks to the magic of technology and his whacking big heart, he made sure we'd get our weekly fix of Contrast goodness.

So, what have I missed telling you about? Well, two weeks ago we had another fine episode of musicians introducing their own songs, which you can download here. Then last week and this week it's the Contrast Podcast CD Swap! Yes, so many CPers wanted to take part that they could not be contained in one lone podcast. By way of explanation, each participant had to lovingly compile a CD for another participant, then choose one track from the disc he/she received to submit for the episode. Pop on over here to hear part one, and over here for part two, and make sure you stop by here to see the wonderful photos the contributors supplied as icing on this scrummy cake.

I was a very lucky FiL, for I got my CD from tastemeister extraordinaire Dirk of Sexyloser. Thanks Dirk!! I say lucky, but I was also cursed, for it was extremely difficult to pick just one track from all the delicious ones on offer. In the end I went for "Girl About Town" by Helen Love. What swung me? Well, first I was taken by its compelling disco-punk franticness. Second, it namechecks Joey Ramone. Third, the title and refrain plays on the excellent "Boy About Town" by the mighty Jam. Finally, every time it played out on the car stereo Little Man would exclaim "Again!"

But of course there were other contenders:

Leyton Buzzards
- Saturday Night Beneath The Plastic Palm Trees (buy here)
Anthemic pop-punk-pub-rock with a slinky ska undercurrent from East London circa 1979. Sadly it was all downhill after that, but we don't need to talk about that here.

Abbreviated Ceiling - Partyline (gosh, try eBay)
Hailing from the increasingly hardcore Washington DC punk scene, back in 1980 these lads purveyed a sparse, spiky sound that was urgent, but not as pummeling as their cohorts. The band was originally called Absolute Ceiling, but a promoter misheard the name and the mistake stuck. I had heard of AC, but had not heard anything by them until now. Thanks again, Dirk!

Die Sterne - Universal Tellerwäscher (buy here)
One of (and arguably the most successful of) the disparate group of German bands from the so-called Hamburg School (Hamburger Schule) of the late 80s - early 90s. Though varying in style --this track is a wonderfully catchy bit of noodling guitar pop-- they all sang in German (shock, horror!) and offered up arch social commentary of one sort or another. My exposure to this brand of Teutonic indie had heretofore been limited to the excellent Lassie Singers, so I was thrilled to dig a bit deeper. Thanks yet again, Dirk!!

And as an extra-special treat, here's a video of Die Sterne in action. Note frontman Frank Spilker's bohemian locks, artistically scruffy clothes, and, er, poor dentition. Watch out also for the most excellent shuffling old guy...

Next week's theme is Snap, which sees contributors offer up different songs with the same titles. It was suggested by Eiron, a marvellously curious young man with a delightfully askew world view (or Weltanschauung, as they'd say in Germany). Pay him a visit over here.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Black Death

I have Bubonic Plague. No, really, I do. Black Death itself. And I can cuddle up with it in bed.

It was a hard choice; E. Coli was pretty cute, as was Louse, Red Tide, Mange, and Athlete's Foot.

But simple Black Death stole my heart...

The Fall - Van Plague? (buy here or e-here)
Crispy Ambulance - Black Death [Life is Knife] (buy here or e-here)

P.S. And earlier today I posted something lovely over here.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Mothers and Fathers

His beach & crab, not mine

My Mother rang last week to tell me that she has sold the house. The one I grew up in.

It has been almost two years since My Father died. During that time My Mother has been debating where to live, what do do next. The decision has been a difficult one for her to make; there was so much to consider. Stay or go? If go, go where? In the end she has decided to move to the end of Long Island. To a cottage in a retirement complex near where for years we spent summers as a family. My Father loved sailing, you see.

I asked what had prompted her to make up her mind. She replied that she had wanted to move and settle while she still had her health. That her new neighbours all seemed to be the right sort of people for her. That all her needs will be catered for. That she felt a connection to the place. A raft of understandable, sensible reasons.

But it's a raft afloat in a deep and bitter sea, one inhabited by scaly grudges, chimerical misconceptions, and poisonous self-righteousness. Because you see, it's all my fault she's being forced to choose. All. My. Fault. And she spares no opportunity to remind me of this.


I have vivid memories of those Long Island summers. Weekends spent combing long beaches that left my heart curiously desolate. Suffocating heat. The dry whisper of wind tousling dun seagrass. The prickly thrills of approaching marooned horseshoe crabs, unsure whether they were alive or dead. The peace of exploring alone for afternoons on end in a stout rowboat. Frustrated adolescent hours spent wishing I was somewhere more hip and interesting. Guilt that I did not like sailing anywhere near as much as My Father did.

I've not been back there for fifteen years.

After the call I dreamed of My Father for the first time in nearly two years. We were in a large car, a late-model Dodge of some sort. I was driving, he sat in the passenger seat. We talked minimally as we drove through a dreamscape neighborhood not unlike the leafy, green one in which I grew up, turning left and right. Eventually I found myself on a rutted, sandy road lined with dun seagrass. I tried to drive on, but the car was too wide and the ruts to deep. I got out and pushed, with no success. Then, almost without my noticing it, My Father faded away.

I woke up sometime in the depth of the night, still able to feel the contours of the dream. Dearest Wife slept on beside me, and Ginadawg snored beneath the bedclothes. My eyes were wet; I had been crying. I wiped them dry on the duvet and turned over on my side, feeling hollow inside.

Pale Saints - Mother Might (buy e-here)
Swans - Mother/Father (buy here or e-here)
This Mortal Coil - My Father (buy here or e-here)