Live! Random! Tonight!


I guess I should apologize for the lack of posting lately. I've been taking a class to become a nurse's aid and I have a test every other day for the next few weeks. I guess for now, you can sit back and enjoy some rare brevity on the part of my "blog."

Here, have some randomly assembled live tracks!

"Corinne, Corinne" by MUDDY WATERS: That's right, I'm going back to the well and pulling out another version of "Corinna, Corinna." I can't vouch for the spelling of the Muddy version, but that's what it said on the back of the CD. His take on the song is much different than Bob's, leaving out most of that mournful sadness while keeping that basic element of the blues intact. I've also been told to hunt down Taj Mahal's take on the song. Anyone have any other rec's?

"Type Slowly" by PAVEMENT: This track comes from the 3CD "TIBETAN FREEDOM CONCERT" compilation. While most of the stuff on those discs winds up being fairly disposable, this Pavement song is one of my favorite live recordings I've heard from the band. Back when they first surfaced in the early 1990s, I had trouble with liking Pavement because of an interview I'd read where Steve Malkmus bragged about how they didn't know how to play their instruments. This song blows that notion clean out of the water. Once I heard "CROOKED RAIN", I fell in love with 'em and never looked back.

"Cupid" and "Bring it On Home to Me" by SAM COOKE: From the incredible "LIVE AT THE HARLEM SQUARE CLUB" album, which is right up there with The Who's "LIVE AT LEEDS" as one of the best live albums ever released. Here, one of the greatest singers ever tears it up for a rabid audience, screaming and testifying like his life depended on it.
"Cupid" has always been one of my favorite soul songs, and I remember even as a young boy feeling that chorus deep under my skin. "Bring it On Home to Me" I would eventually discover in college. While this live version is lacking Lou Rawl's impeccable backing vocal, Cooke more than compensates with a vocal performance that sounds like a man on fire. One year later, Cooke would be shot dead by a hotel manager at the young age of 33. Tragic.

For more on tonight's artists:

- The Sam Cooke home page.
- The Official Muddy Waters site.
- Matador Records' Pavement page
- Free Tibet





I was sad to hear about Karl Mueller's death from throat cancer earlier last week. Mueller was the bassist for Soul Asylum, one of the bands me and my small group of high school friends held dear to our hearts for those years. While the success of the radio friendly "GRAVE DANCER'S UNION" album put them in the limelight, we all shared a fondness for two of the band's earlier albums, "...AND THE HORSE THEY RODE IN ON" and "HANG TIME."

Mueller, in the midst of his throat cancer treatments, had rejoined the band and played bass on their new album, which has yet to find a record label. Say what you will about their later output, but those early records were great, Replacements-style bar rock. And they were a hell of a live band, as well. I only got to see them once, in support of G.D.U. with the Screaming Trees and... dear god... the Spin Doctors as headliners. My friends and I left after the Trees and Soul Asylum sets, which always makes me proud.

In memory of Karl, here are a few tracks from those albums.


"We 3"

For more on Soul Asylum and Karl Mueller:

- The Minneapolis Star Tribune breaks the news
- Send memorials to The Karl Fund
- Soul Asylum at Sony Music Store



BOB DYLAN: I can't help it if I'm lucky...


Sometimes I think everything in life would be better with bonus material, like on DVDs. Wouldn't it be great to be able to put commentary over a photo album? Or to be able to see all the snippets your memory has cut out over the years? Maybe you'd finally be able to get some perspective on that night you blacked out in college after a bad Jagermeister binge.

If your name is Bob Dylan, tonight I'm posting some of the bonus material from your life.

If forced to decide on my favorite Dylan album, it would be a toss up between "THE FREEWHEELIN' BOB DYLAN" (the first Dylan album I ever owned) and "BLOOD ON THE TRACKS" (the searing ode to his crumbling marriage to Sarah Lowndes). Where the former is built around the hope and power of the whole folk movement, the latter is a shambling, hopeless journey through one man's heartache. It's like Jekyll and Hyde born over a decade apart.

I bought FREEWHEELIN' when I was in high school, and it was a far cry from the punk, grunge and hip-hop I was cranking in my dad's car whenever I could borrow it. The closest reference point I had for it in my record collection was maybe R.E.M.. I'd heard some Bob before and liked a few songs, but I had never heard him so honest, or so young. After the first time I laid ears on "Girl From the North Country," I was sold.

It wasn't until a few years ago that a trade through someone on the internet netted me the outtakes for the FREEWHEELIN' sessions. It's an astounding document of Dylan recording in the spring of 1962, with a ton of unreleased tracks and covers of songs from Arthur Crudup, Robert Johnson and Hank Fuckin' Williams' "Lonesome Whistle". There's even a crushing alternate take of one of my favorite Dylan songs, "Corrina, Corrina." I love how defeated he sounds, both on the album version and here, when he sings "I've got a bird that whistles / I've got a bird that sings / If I ain't got Corrina / Life don't mean a thing."

Good stuff, but nothing compared to the revalatory nature of the bootleg version of Dylan's classic BLOOD ON THE TRACKS. I've seen this bootleg titled "BLOOD ON THE TAPES", which I think is a terrible title. Bootleggers are always doing shit like that... trying to be clever when all that's really called for is something like "BLOOD ON THE TRACKS: THE NEW YORK SESSIONS."

The story goes that Dylan recorded a version of BLOOD in New York City in September of 1974. The instrumentation was sparse and Dylan's vocals/lyrics took center stage. The album was set for release, when suddenly Dylan had a change of heart after listening to the record. He turned to his brother David, who helped him put together a group of virtually unknown musicians in Minnesota to rerecord some of the songs.

The crazy thing is that some of those original New York versions, most of which remain unreleased by Columbia records, are in retrospect just as good... if not better than... the original versions. Take "Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts." While the actual album version is a bouncy little toe-tapper, this NY version is almost a minute longer and tells a real story instead of rushing through it haphazardly.

Dylan fans may have heard the alternate take of "Tangled Up in Blue" on the BOOTLEG SERIES 1-3 box set. Maybe it's just my impartial preference for Dylan's rawer sounding records (want to talk underrated? check out "WORLD GONE WRONG" some time), but I'd put this one up against the final album version as well. And hell, I'll do the same with this version of "Idiot Wind", which features a more humbled, less accusatory Dylan and all kinds of different verses that never made the Minnesota version.

The final version of "BLOOD ON THE TRACKS" featured songs from both sessions and trimmed away a couple of tracks from the original pressing Bob had planned to release before his change of heart. Aside from that "BOOTLEG SERIES" track, the only other song to have seen the light of day beyond bootlegs was "Shelter from the Storm" (which appeared on the soundtrack to JERRY MAGUIRE). It would be nice to hear the masters (the tracks I'm posting tonight are from a digitized vinyl copy of the bootleg). But Bob's a pretty unsentimental guy... I guess these will have to do for now.


- Check this awesome Uncut article which compares the tracks from both sessions
- Some nutjob cross-ref's all the Freewheelin' tracks
- FREEWHEELIN' and BLOOD at BobDylan.com



Fucking excellent: (SOUTHERN) DEATH CULT


One of the most memorable birthday presents I've ever been given was a cassette copy of "LOVE," by a British band called THE CULT. It was given to me by my older brother Ryan, a few days after my birthday. It had already been opened, and instead of being rewound to start on side A, it was cued up to B. Normally, I would have been offended by such gift-giving transgressions. My brother's obvious love for the gift he was giving me, however, made me appreciate it all that much more.

Little did he realize that bridging that gap for me between the sappy pop music I was listening to at the time and the "alternative" music (which wouldn't be defined by that term until years later) would create a monster. Soon, I would be spending all my lunch money on bus fare downtown, where I could seek out other records I wasn't hearing on the radio in Omaha. ("LOVE" also became the first CD I would ever purchase, two years before I had my own stereo.)

I also began to seek out anything else this band might have done, which lead to my discovery of both SOUTHERN DEATH CULT and DEATH CULT. The former was the first band lead by singer Ian Astbury (then named Ian Lindsay), an angry Brit with a hardcore crush on Native American culture. The band's posthumous CD, a collection of singles and live recordings, was probably my first induction into the world of postpunk/goth music. Full of songs about war, death and decay, it was a hard listen that contained two classic songs in "Moya" and "Fatman" (available here in .m4a format).

After touring with Bauhaus on what would become their farewell tour, Southern Death Cult disbanded. Lindsay began collaborating with a guitarist named Billy Duffy, who had just finished duties in THEATRE OF HATE. Legend has it that Billy Duffy taught Johnny Marr how to play guitar. It's not inconceivable, since Duffy was in a group called The Nosebleeds with a young Stephen Morrissey, well before old Steve-o would drop his first name and become the King of Mope as the singer for THE SMITHS (Marr was the band's innovative guitarist).

DEATH CULT was born. On the two EPs the band released in 1983/84 before changing its name, the music is full of piss and vinegar, lashing out at imperialism, religion and most importantly, America. The music and vocals echoed groups like Bauhaus, Killing Joke and Sisters of Mercy, with tribal beats and almost disco-esque basslines. Their first single, "God's Zoo" pointed an accusing finger at the dark side of humanity and Christianity. "Hands in others' pockets to fill their own / You know, I'm pretty confused watching you." "I can't wait to see you burning."

It doesn't take a genius to figure out the subject matter behind the lead single on their second release, "Christians". Here, Astbury's vocals drip with hatred, creaking and soaring like Peter Murphy's on Bauhaus tracks like "Bela Lugosi's Dead." How did the guy who screamed brilliance like "Home, where the green grass grows / Shit on, from up high / This parody pisses off the world!" go on to write cock rock like "Fire Woman"?

Astbury's fascination with Native American culture, which he wears proudly on his sleeve on songs like "Ghost Dance" and "Horse Nation" was born when he lived in Canada after a brief stint in the military. He would continue to write about it throughout his career, but never as potently on the aforementioned tracks. Part of me wonders if it's because he never had a drummer behind him like Ray Mondo or Nigel Preston ever again (Mondo was replaced by Preston, who found his way onto "DREAMTIME" before becoming one of over a dozen drummers for the band).

In January of 1984 -- on Friday the 13th no less -- the Death Cult announced its new name: THE CULT. While they began a more "positive", less gothic path with the name change, they still performed some of that early material live. If you can find it, there's a great performance captured on the "DREAMTIME - LIVE AT THE LYCEUM" video, which includes this hot-as-shit live performance of "Brothers Grimm". I love the cocky way Astbury ends the performance by screaming "Fucking excellent!"

While "DREAMTIME" and, to some extent, "LOVE" would pursue a similar gothic mysticism, the band gradually became a sort of classic rock/heavy metal revival act, and quickly lost its punk edge. I really wish a band today would take the sound of Death Cult and run with it for a few more albums. This EP just isn't enough.


- A bio of Wovoka, a Native American mystic referenced in "Ghost Dance"
- A 1982 interview with Southern Death Cult in the NME, featuring photos by Anton Corbijn
- Read more at Deathrock.com
- Buy the Ghost Dance collection now
- For rockers, ravers, lovers and sinners, a Cult fan page. Or, check out Cult Central



PORTASTATIC: Slow notes from sinking ships...


Today I managed to hitch a ride with a friend to a grocery store (I have no means of transport just yet), and the poor bastard had to walk with me as I wandered the aisles in complete confusion. I felt bad as I realized that I had no shopping agenda whatsoever. I was just glad to be in a store, finally able to buy food that wasn't from a Quick Trip or the local Cubby's gas station down the street.

I realized tonight that I really have no "blog" agenda, either. Sure, I'll walk around with my headphones on some afternoon and think "Damn, I have to post this tonight." But most of the time, I'm coming up with this stuff about 20 seconds before typing it. If you hunt long enough through the stacks of records out there in the world, you'll find there's really an embarassment of riches, and not enough time in the day to enjoy them all.

So, I have to go on tangents. "Maybe I'll do a cover song post." Then a reader will mention something... a band or a theme idea, and I'll run with it. And that's why tonight I'm piggybacking that PORTASTATIC post from last night to tell you about my favorite album from said band, "SLOW NOTE FROM A SINKING SHIP."

If you rewind about a decade or so in my life, you go to a time when I'd heard a bit of Mac McCaughan's lo-fi band SUPERCHUNK. A friend of mine was really into the band, but I hadn't been fully swayed. I had the "FOOLISH" CD and liked a handful of songs on it, and always got a kick out of hearing their "Slack Motherfucker" single. I respected the guy for running one of my favorite indie labels, Merge Records. That same friend of mine was hoping to get an internship there after our Freshman year in college.

Near the end of that summer, I was shopping in the basement of Omaha's Antiquarium, a massive used book store/art gallery with a great indie record store and a comic book shop housed literally underground. I saw that Portastatic album in the New Releases section, and something about the artwork and the title piqued my curiosity. Say what you will about the ease of hearing things before you buy them on the Internet these days... there's just something really special about finding a great record by rolling the dice on a few choice words and pictures. Here are a few of my favorites from that album, and my apologies to Matt K. for not including the New Wave herky jerky brilliance of "A Cunning Latch." You guys will have to go buy that one yourselves. For now:

"San Andreas": This is the closest to a Superchunk song you're going to find on this record. Still, if this were a true Superchunk song, it would have to be played at double the speed it's played here.

"The Great Escape": I loved this song so much that I wrote an opening scene in a movie script around it. It was something Matt and I had been discussing at the time, a comedy about two friends who travelled around the country as con artist/thieves. They would get jobs at malls, slave away for 5 or 6 months (one would get a job in security, the other in a large department store or jewelry store) as they earned the trust of their coworkers and bosses, and then rob the places completely blind and fence a semi-truck's worth of merchandise before moving on to the next town. Their final heist was to take place in Omaha (their old hometown, of course), and this song heralded their arrival at the beginning of the movie. Sadly, Matt and I didn't get much further than mapping out the movie and creating one hell of a soundtrack that featured music from the Afghan Whigs, Archers of Loaf, Marvin Gaye and more.

"Taking You With Me": Okay, so maybe all of these songs could have graced a Superchunk record in another incarnation. And maybe I'm getting you into this record by using the most palatable material. Hey, do what you will. Go over to iTunes and check out "When You Crashed" or "You Can't Win." If you love old GBV, you might love "Skinny Glasses Girl." I can't give you the whole damned record, you know.

Before or since, I haven't gotten into another Portastatic record the way I got into this one. There are a handful of great songs on the "band's" debut, "I HOPE YOUR HEART IS NOT BRITTLE." Downloaders should hunt down "Gutter," "Silver Screw" (another Superchunk blueprint), or "Naked Pilsners." Or, get the "Pilsners" EP and enjoy Mac's cover of The Magnetic Fields' "Josephine." It's just as good as Superchunk's cover of the 'Fields' "100,000 Fireflies."

Gradually, Mac started getting more experimental with the Portastatic moniker, adding elements of jazz and Brazilian Tropicalia to later releases, for results that could be either brilliant or boring. While I don't fully love Portastatic's "THE NATURE OF SAP" album, it does contain a couple of fantastic songs in "Hurricane Warning (Ignored)" and the swinging "You Know Where to Find Me."

Mac has still maintained great taste in covers, as proven in his rendition of Caetano Veloso & Gal Costa's "Baby" from the "DE MEL, DE MELAO" EP. The original version is just a fucking soaring work of gorgeousness. If I had any mack daddy skills whatsoever, I could probably find my future wife by playing her this song. Download it right now... maybe you're her! This song is totally getting played at my wedding someday. Anyway, while I don't think Mac captures all that swooning lushness of the original, I really like how he recreates the string section with an echoey electric guitar. Plus, you get a little more of a taste of the lyrics in English ("Baby, you need to learn English." "I don't know, with me everything's all right.")

And hey, if nothing else, Mac gets props in my book for his work with Guided by Voices' Robert Pollard on their "Postal Service before there was a Postal Service" tape swapping exercise, GO BACK SNOWBALL. Mac played all instruments, and Pollard added lyrics/vocals from his own studio. The album's title track, "Calling Zero" is some of the best work either gentleman has done in years.


- Buy GO BACK SNOWBALL from the Merge Records site
- Hell, get yourself some Portastatic records while you're shopping.
- Snatch up some free MP3s from the Portastatic site, including three unreleased live tracks
- Haven't heard Superchunk? Visit their site for MP3s.
- Gal Costa and Caetano Veloso at AllMusic.com



4 a.m. bonus track

A new reader wandered over to this site after reading one of my comments over at Said the Gramophone, one of my favorite blogs to frequent. Jordan over there posted a link to a cover of Brian Eno's "St. Elmo's Fire" (no, it's not that re-dunk-ulous "Man in Motion" theme song from the Brat Pack movie of the same name) done by UILAB.

I mentioned my favorite cover of the same song, done as a collaboration between PORTASTATIC (Mac from Superchunk's side band) and Ira and Georgia from YO LA TENGO. I first heard the track when I was in college, from the former band's "Scrapbook" EP. Any Yo La Tengo fan will surely recognize the immediately calming backing vocals from Georgia, and Ira's manic electric guitar solos. That little white boy can puh-lay, yo.

Cheggitout here:

"St. Elmo's Fire"

UPDATE, 4:40 a.m.

For those of you who still actually pay to read magazines, the new issue of PLAYLIST magazine should have hit most stores (Barnes and Noble, Borders, the Apple store, etc) by now. This issue features my very first column, along with a few other pieces and reviews I wrote. Please, if at all possible, support this magazine. We're on our third issue now and we're hoping this thing can catch on. Every issue sold matters, so go grab a copy for yourself, your little brother, your mom... anyone you know who is going whole hog into this digital music phenomenon.

I just noticed that a few of the playlists I also created for the magazine are on their site... here's a link to one:

Grand Theft Audio


4 a.m. stolen moments

("The Cat Burglar" by Will Bullas)

While I'm still waiting to get my cable/internet hooked up in my new apartment, I just managed to sneak onto someone's signal this morning. I've only managed to piggyback onto this strange signal one other time in my week here, so I'm going to abuse it before it's gone in the morning like all the women in my life.

That's not true at all. I just wanted to sound like Mickey Spillane, okay? There aren't even women in my life.

Since I'm at the mercy of a complete stranger's wireless signal, I'm going to make this a speedy entry. Here are a few quiet disasters, classic rockers and other ephemera for you to enjoy on your own late, sleepless nights.

"Nothing Up My Sleeve" by WILCO: This track, a demo from the YANKEE HOTEL FOXTROT sessions, is like the morose, beat-down twin of the Beatles' "Two of Us." It has almost the same tempo and that galloping pitter-patter "beat" (played on the Wilco track by slapping the body of a guitar). "Your phone won't ever ring in the middle of the night. And if it ever does, I can assure you it won't be me." A great kiss-off song.

"Follow if You Can" by WE THE PEOPLE: I don't know a damned thing about this band. I originally got the track from one of my favorite blogs, Soul Sides (this link takes you to to the November 2004 post, archived at about the middle of the page), who says the band is from Peru. Why did the same band show up on the Nuggets II box set, though? I thought that set was all UK acts. I'm sure O-Dub over at Soul Sides knows more about We All Together than I do, so take his word over mine fo' sho'. (Upon further review, Soul Sides includes a link to this bio of the band. So, I'll shut up now.)

"Options R (Star)" by WIRE: From the absolutely essential debut album PINK FLAG comes this groovy less-than-2-minute chunk of punk that makes you want to dance like Molly Ringwald in "The Breakfast Club." This wasn't originally included on the record, but you can find it pretty commonly now as a bonus track.

"Ride Into the Sun" by THE VELVET UNDERGROUND: A song I don't feel needs any description whatsoever. If you don't own any VU at this point, I can't help you. May God have mercy on your soul.

"New Jersey" by RED HOUSE PAINTERS: I wrote about Mark Kozelek once on my short-lived first attempt at a music blog. You'd be hard pressed to find someone who can pen a sadder song than that guy. (Even his cover songs will break your heart. Clock what the brother does with John Denver on his cover of "I'm Sorry"!) His greatest songwriting achievement, for me, may be this track, which appeared in this version on the "Bridge" self-titled RHP album, and appeared in this alternate version on the "Rollercoaster" album that was released simultaneously. The lyrics here are absolutely killer. "You're an American girl / red-headed, eyes blank / living in a freckle on the face of the world. / Another dying kid that learned too much too soon / You're not as good as your mom / but you're as good as dead." I personally prefer the full band version, but I had to provide you with both so you could decide for yourself.


The official Wilco homepage
Wire's site
Links to Wire MP3 samples and videos
An unofficial Velvet Underground site
Mark Kozelek's new band, Sun Kil Moon
John Denver's discography



PINBACK: Protect! Embrace! Engulf!


I've been in Omaha for about 5 days now, and in that time I've been to three concerts of varying degrees of professionalism. It's always good to see my friend Sarah's band, THE SPRINGHILL MINE DISASTER (a Richard Brautigan ref. for those who might be curious... I myself wrote a song once with a Brautigan reference called "Spinning on the Bottom of a Top"), and if you ever get the chance, you should, too.

Last night I had the chance to finally see Pinback, a San Diego band who recently (okay, back in October of 2004) released their fantastic third album, SUMMER IN ABADDON on Touch & Go records. I'd been reading about Pinback for a while, and they've been gradually picking up steam/popularity after the 1999 release of their self-titled debut.

Listening to the band on record, you'll notice the songs are full of these intricate little bass, guitar and rhythym segments that, in my mind, could have been assembled with a computer program. It wasn't until I started hearing live tracks on various blogs that I realized that this was a fully formed band that was able to not only duplicate these songs in a live setting, but could also propel them even faster and more bouncy than on record.

The first Pinback song I really fell for was "Crutch". a droning little ditty with obscure lyrics like "Some sit down / Let the rest decide / Over what divided you." It has just the right mix of sadness and head-bobbing poppiness.

You may have heard one of the band's newer songs on television. "Afk" is currently being featured in commercials for the new Nintendo portable player. Apparently, the band's "Where to play?" lyric caught the ears of some pothead indie rocker working at Nintendo's ad agency. I'm glad, because I'm sure the sizeable check written to Pinback will be enough to help them get by on an indie band's salary for years to come. Plus, this song absolutely whips ass.

Last night, Pinback also played a charged up version of "Penelope", another favorite track of mine from the BLUE SCREEN LIFE LP. This song really showcases the dual vocals of Zach Smith and Rob Crow -- one sings the dreamier, airy vocals while the other sounds like he's singing through a vocoder. I found out last night that he's not treating his vocals; he actually sings like that.

The crowd favorite last night had to have been "Prog", a song which embodies its namesake with crazy time signatures and noodly guitar work. If I'm not mistaken, this was the set closer, and it really got the Omaha Hipster crowd hopping and acting out all of their hilariously well-rehearsed Britt Daniel dance moves.

With the show over, I returned to my apartment with my roommate and finished out the evening sharing a few beers and listening to music. As we relaxed, Pinback's "Trainer" came on my iTunes party shuffle. On the verge of passing out in my seat, these lines jumped out at me:

"Stick your arm inside the mirror,
Crawl back into bed.
Take a swim inside the mirror.


Grab some free MP3's from their site.
The Pitchfork review of SUMMER IN ABADDON
Pinback at Touch and Go Records
Video for "AFK"