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A compendium of all my online content in one handy bloated site! You're welcome!

Lunch tonight was: Carnitas, carnne asada and pollo tacos from the place by the Harley Davidson store. Washed down with a half litre Mexican coke!

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Alex V. Cook is an author, journalist and music critic living Baton Rouge, LA. His work has appeared in The Believer, The Oxford American, DownBeat, Paste Magazine, Hails and Horns and The Wire, and his first collection of essays Darkness, Racket and Twang: Essential Listening from the Fringes of Popular and Unpopular Culture was published by Side Cartel in 2006.

He is the music editor for, editor for Sweet Tooth, and a frequent contributor to 225 Magazine, OffBeat and Country Roads.

He is a founding contributor to the Badasses of Contemporary Composition blog.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Flame On!

I've never been one to shy away from the latent homo sexuality that lies in the heart of every straight man. And this isn't any "But - I aint' gay OK???" admission, but an honest acknowledgement and celebration of what's inside. To deny it's existence a disservice to yourself, why would you shy away from the parade that marches down your internal street? And my inner gay child is a torchy motherfucker. My manly-man music journo tastes ususally incline toward more distilled forms of expression, where a lot of the humanity is squeezed out and titrated into a laser beam, but then I hear some sweaty, fleshy soul rock workouts like "Fistful of Love" from Antony and the Johnsons, and I want to rise up and charge the establishment like Don Quixote on poppers, with a markedly penile lance, a flaming rainbow flag hanging thereupon.

I'm well aware too that dumping this baggage is playing the game. Its like when they asked Basquiat what its like to be a Black painter. Its insulting, taking away from your talent, and I apolgize, Antony, but its also my gut reaction to this music, and its not often that something gets my undies in a bundle like "Fistful of Love" does.

Johnson is just about worth the hype foisted upon him, and defintiely more deserving than most that get that much spotlight. He manages to do the torch thing without descending too far into self-parody or crossing into Streisand-ville. His voice is a battering ram, and his arrangements are thick and electric, and leave it to this songbird to suss out Lou Reed's best performance since the mid 90's on the spoken into.

So fellas, I'm not suggesting that you go full-tilt and get some denim short-shorts and grow a bushy moustache. I'm saying, we - as men - have done plenty in this life to justify hating ourselves. Don't hate this particular volcano raging inside you. This is one of the good ones. Next time you are tempted to push your chair back in a "what you lookin at, faggot" moment we babboons have all the time, maybe you should reach into your psychic fanny pack, and gaze into the mirror in the compact of your male plumage. You know very well what they are lookin at.

And for real, is Antony any "gayer" than Kenny Chesney or pro-wrestlers or fucking boring ass NASCAR or whatever heterosexuality blanket you wrap your cold little tootsies in? I think not.

Antony and the Johnsons - "Fistful of Love"

Friday, February 24, 2006

We call It "The Departure"

I was listening to WFMU the other day, and heard the classic Bruce McCulloch "Doors," a brilliant oration on being a fan of The Doors. I like WFMU, even though they veer dangerously close to Dr. Demento territory, and McCulloch's impassioned speech made me laugh out loud and break the Freelancers Silence at the coffee shop whose wi-fi I was hijacking for my temporary office.

The Doors is a tricky one for me. I think they are iminently laughable on one hand, but also, they were willing to go there with the love-me/kill-me artboy theatrics. If The Velvet Underground is the psychotic's Rolling Stones, The Doors are the Little Theatre version of the Velvets. But there is something to be said about the resilliency of Little Theatre. Sure, its going to be horrible, and its going to be that same lousy plays, but dammit, they are getting out there and laying it on the muthafuckin line, man. What are YOU doin'?

And yet, I'd be lying if I wasnt stirred a little by McCulloch's speech. I was transported to an old girlfriend in college who nursed that obsession with Jim Morrison that only a hot female poet can pull off. Sure Jim stood shirtless, peering out of her closet, and most likely, she was thinking about him while I made her squirm like a toad, and I' m cool with that. My crazy was a lot less epic, more mealy than ol Lizard Eye's. I was a neurotic Woody Allen to his Antonin Artaud, so I was very happy to serve as a physical proxy for J-Mo. Anytime, G.

I tried to download it all day, but could not find it, so here it is from teh source I last heard it.
Bruce McCulloch - "The Doors" (from WFMU's stream of Ken's show on 2/22/2006)

and WFMU's brilliant comprehensive website is the best use for the Internet ever. Better than eBay, even more useful than IMDB.

and for fun, Snoop Dogg toasting over "Riders of the Storm"

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Funky Minimalism - The Greatest Common Factor

x-post facto: orginally posted at outsideLeft

Glissandro 7o - s/t (Constellation)

Now, this is turning out to not only be my favorite CD of so-far-2006, but that of my daughter as well. The CD player in the car is a field of battle, my side looking to see how far I can push the tolerance of a free mind, her side seeing how many times we can play the Laurie Berkner Victor Vito CD. To Ms. Berkner’s credit, I still like that “Bottlecaps” song after the 10,000th listen, but the rest of it has spent my interest. But this surprisingly funky, twinkling little broadcast from my favorite Montreal shivering anarchist collective is a winner for everyone. I’m guessing their name is a lamp on Fela Kuti’s Egypt 70 band, and it’s an apt description. The music usually entails a rather simple rhythm loop, an interlaced bass line and some chanted lyrics, and not a lot else. But it turns out, that’s all we need.

Those lyrics are rather reductive too, being snippets borrowed from Talking Heads and some group called Model 500, or just some fa-la-la’s being ululated over the rippling tranquility. It’s the collusion of rhythm and shimmer and repetition, pushing post-rock Jazzism into deconstructed Afropop territory. It's world music in the sense that it's of the entire world all at once, a beatbox programmed by our collective alpha waves. Its sweet, simple, poetic. I really love this CD a lot. If you remember that Ambitious Lovers song “Umbabarauma” from ’91, with its incessant world beat-meets-minimalism thing, then you might have a taste for what’s on the menu here. Or maybe Steve Reich’s “Music for 18 Musicians.” Or maybe your own heartbeat, pumping away in your chest, unencumbered on those rare moments of simple bliss.

Glissandro 70 - "Bolan Muppets"

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Scraping up Krautrock's Resin: Guru Guru

Stoned is the new Wired. Many a band are jumping on the slowmoving badwagon of Queens of the Stone Age and the new "stoner rock" thing, but for my weed money, the finest crop came out of Germany in the late 60's in the fabled first albums of what became known as Krautrock: Ash Ra Tempel, Amon Duul (I and II), Can, even Kraftwerk and Tangerine Dream -bands that later grew into much, much less groovy things got nervous when Der Kommisar pulled them over while doing 20 on the Autobahn. The crowning gem for many Krautrock enthusiasts (Julian Cope wrote an excellent book on the subject) is Guru Guru's 1970 debut UFO, and I tend to agree. This is what it sounds like in the head of a man when he plugs that nice Les paul in the effects pedal display at Guitar Center, the sun goes supernova with each power cord, throbbing in heavy heavy menace. What it sounds like to the other people just trying to buy some goddamn strings is irrelevant, they are not piloting the Death Star.

Guru Guru never went on to greater success like some of the associated groups did, and truthfully, their anonimity is somewhat deserved by their lackluster later work cracked out in the 9 years remaining as a band. But no matter. Most bands don't even have one good album in them, much less a great one like UFO

Guru Guru - "Stoned in"

and for grins, here is Tangerine Dream's semi-venomous first single "Ultima Thule" which catches the band before setting sail on the seas of cheese of which they later became master navigators, which recently came to my attention via WFMU's Beware of the Blog

Monday, February 20, 2006

Black Sabbath: Thank You and Fuck You

I find myself in need of some simplistic, brutal "fuck you" music right about now, for reasons that are too hopelessly tangled to uncoil, and while my hard drive is brimming with smouldering Norwegian death-howls, its the lost sons of Birmingham I turn to in this hour of need. Sabbath's menace was always found in the undercurrent, the blues-rock of the late Sixties slowed down to the speed of rubberneckers, analyzing a particularly grizzly car wreck. There are more blatant displays of the Desire for Anihilation out there, to be sure, (The Stooges "Search and Destroy" being the prime example) but the lazy whip crack of early Black Sabbath, flailing wildly at the dim future factory-infested England held before them does it for me in my dark hour of need.

Thanks, Ozzy, for all you've done for us: giving voice to that sick, empty pit in our young stomachs, for being a cartoon image of faux-Satanic menace in my formative years, giving the parents a little taste of danger when they were paying attention, and for ultimately winning in the end, growing past ones melodrama to show everyone that flowers bloom out of shit, that there is hope for all us damaged goods out there. Of all the TV dads we've tried to latch onto in the years, Ozzy is the most believable, attainable, and respectful out there. I would've paid closer attention back in jr. high and snuck off to Monsters of Rock like I wanted to had I known ol' Ozz would still come in handy 20 years down the road.

Black Sabbath - "Behind the Wall of Sleep"

and while I'm at it, here's a completely different impassioned "fuck me" bearing the same name by New Jersey's finest

The Smithereens - "Behind the Wall of Sleep"

Friday, February 17, 2006

Son of His Own Pretend Preacher Man

x-post facto:

Why do so many rockstars eventually find religion, like it was something they dropped along the way? Isn't just being Bob Dylan or Bono a messianic enough of a thing by itself? With our service economy in full lotus bloom, we are always looking for ways to streamline the final solution, and that goes for religious tinged art. Daniel Smith begun his ecstatic revival-tent themed journey back in 1995 as an senior art school project titled Danielson - a subversive mix of old time family gospel,shambolicc indie rock and bizarre cult-like enthusiasm. Having gone through a number of name changes over the years (Danielson Familie, Tri-Danielson, Br. Danielson) over the he has come full circle on the aptly titled musical vessel Ships. Smith definitely occupies center stage with his compelling raspy whine cutting through the impressive crew he's assembled here, including his bothers and sisters, Sufjan Stevens, members of Deerhoof, B.A.L.L. and even Shellac's Steve Albini.

The joyous choir of hand claps and Godspell freakouts will evoke other recent choir directors like Stevens or The Polyphonic Spree's Tim DeLaughter, but Smith's production has a decidedly more schizoid, feral tint to it. "Did I Step on Your Trumpet?" starts off like a Philip Glass horn array until it quickly descends into a cartoonish warning fable that is equal parts Cab Calloway, Flaming Lips and Tenacious D. "When It Comes to You, I'm Lazy" and "My Lion Sleeps Tonight" are fractured sunset love songs, doing battle with more volcanic numbers like the majestic "Kids Pushing Kids" and the endlessly ascending "Five Stars and Two Thumbs."

Smith's Pavement meets Pentecostalism routine never gets tiring on this album, since it veers wildly form quiet moment to full explosion without losing its course. It has touches of New Weirdness folk about it, but Daniel is not floating in the ether, he is plotting his eminent invasion of your soul. With a documentary about him making the rounds at film festivals, and our appetites for wide-eyed boys with a knack for orchestration whetted by Sufjan and Devendra, the time for Smith's peculiar vision may just be nigh.

Still aligning yourself with Satan? get some weird time religion! "Did I Step On Your Trumpet?" is now streaming on Danielson's Myspace Page.

Perfect Song: "Hanging on the Telephone"

For some reason, I was singing "Hanging on the Telephone" in the car on the way back from the show documented below. NO reason, except I think it is one of those perfect pop songs, and is never off my mental playlist. Blondie of course are the ones that made it big-ish - Blondie was not really on the cultural radar at large until "Rapture" I believe, but I saw Videodrome on Night Flight late one night, so she was forever etched in my adolescent mind.

Blondie's version of the song off Parallel Lines is good, great even - a last gasp of rock and roll for the band before disco, Richard Gere and bad island music ruined things for everyone; but its the original by LA punk band The Nerves that wins the cigar. So tennagerly urgent, so desperate, such a great song. I could listen to that guitar riff for days on end.

Consider it Confronted

Wow, DJ shows are boring unless you are in posession of one of the key ingredients:

1) Ecstacy; 2) longing to participate in fake public lesbianism; or 3)cool skateboard moves you can work out, sans board. It kind of worked in a starfucker context, that Perry Farrell, that guy on the giant poster in the bedroom of that gloomy art chick that would never sleep with me - I mean, you, was right there just a few yards away, smirking behind some gizmos. His material had a rockist bent to it, I suppose. A few dub tracks thrown in, some guitar-y sounding things, and evidently Peretz is a revolutionary in that he picks up the mic and sings a little during his four-on the floor - mostly little yips and yo's sent through the echo chamber but he actualy sang on a couple numbers. And the members of the meager crowd that weren't dryhumping their roommates went nuts, or nuts-ish. But it was all dimishing returns. he didn't do much, we didn't say much, but the signifiers all pointed to customer satisfaction so we smiled and threw devil horns and shouted "PEEERRRRRRRRRY" hopin he'd smile at us, and he did. It's almost like we all wanted something, but didn't want to pay for i-it.......

Ol Perr looks pretty good, I guess all the extreme sports stuff he does pays off, though his drug ravashed face looks not unlke that of the Skeksis from The Dark Crystal . And if the almost cartoonishly foxy blond chinese girl in the wings was his paramour , then hats off to you and your giant Gelfling penis.1

He had a little Arnold Horshack thing going on as well. "Mr. Kottt-ere, I was standing in the shower thinking this moooooorning...." Kremember when Horshack was going to join a cult? I was 9 at the time, and cults were big then at the end of the seventies. Were Walter Kronkite to be believed, and he was, cults lurked behind every bush waiting to snare you in with their pesky acceptance.

I like how this one came out, with its Gary Numan electro-purity forming a rainbow halo around his head.

1. and I am not a dork for knowing that much about The Dark Crystal, so shut up already.YOU ARE JUST JEALOUS!

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Been Caught Squealin'

Tonight, I confront a combination
of two of the greatest forces of popular music I just don't get: Perry Farrell and turntables. I have nothing particular against either, in fact I think they have both been catalysts for very interesting thing outside of themselves. Janes Addiction, while being an OK band at best in my view has encourages a generation of shoegazing mumblers that you can rock out without having to give in to Cro-magnon masculinity, and I see turntablism as a form of distended folk art, with roots as DIY as cigar-box banjos and diddley bows, but it is now a field clogged with "geniuses." I don't buy into the Myth of Talent, I don't view music as a Van Cliburn competition, but dude, samplers are kinda easy. I'm more impressed with just plain DJ's that anonymously produce a perfect soundtrack without needed an ironic name attached. It could be jealousy, my college DJ name that somehow stuck was the Lord of the Bored, so it is possible I'm throwing stones at Perry's glass DJ booth.

But Janes Addiction. In the late 80's when they broke, they formed a trimuverate of really irritating music that blasted out of every crappy stereo as its owner and his buds peed in the yard. The pre-dub 311, Janes Addiction and pre-Rubin Red Hot Chili Peppers was a three-way clusterfuck dubbed Asshole Music. I hated this stuff. I remember seeing a hungry young Janes open for Love and Rockets at Tipitina's - one of the more inspired bad-booking-ideas ever. We superior Love and Rockets fans viewed this dreadlocked, shirtless howler monkey, bellowing "somebody give me a girl I can fuuuuuuuuck" at us with furrowed brows and furtive glances at our Swatches. We wanted our batcave denizens polite and aloof, thank you.

My next co-occupation of space with P-Fa was at Lollapalooza in the early 90's where all I remember about the Porno For Pyro's gig was: 1) it sounded like they had never played together, 2)Farrell was incredibly cut and 3) his gigantic serpentine penis he produced at unnanounced intervals and wagged at us.

Fast forward a decade, and I am sitting in a crappy bar/restaurant in Kansas City with fellow doughy office drones, waiting for our chicken finger baskets when P4P's appearance on SNL was being rebroadcast on the bar TV. My country bumpkin togolodyte co-workers were a tittering cacaphony of "WhatinthehellisTHAT" to P-Fa cavorting in what looked like a burnt Mardi Gras headdress. I answered their highly orginal assumptions of the performer's homosexuality with an assurance that the man in the exploded geisha costume up there had seen more pussy than the combined experience of the table. So he finally did me a little good, helping to bug the squares, but still, Jane will never leave Sergio no matter how bad he treats her, and I'll never think Janes is avery good despite pulling out my copy of Ritual de lo Habitual and old girlfriend left behind every six months, thinking I came around to Led Zeppelin, maybe I'll come around to this. Nope, still irritating. OK, "Jane Says" I've come around to, I like the steel drums vs heavy acoustic guitar in the dope haze aura. but you can have the rest of it.

But I'm on the list, and it should be a heartwarming freakshow mix of Baton Rouge's disco elite and some goth chicks hoping to ask him if he still has the painting they sent him years ago.

I tried to find the Da Capo Players version of "Been Caught Stealing" from The String Quartet Tribute to Janes Addiction, so
this DeanMartin redux offa Richard Cheese's Appertif for Destruction will have to do.