Blood and fire – A review of The Mountain Goats Beat the Champ

Beat the Champ
The Mountain Goats

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In 2009, The Mountain Goats released Life of the World to Come, a melancholy album which found its roots interpreting Bible verses. Fans trusted singer/songwriter John Darnielle to avoid Christian rhetoric and preachiness and were rewarded with a dozen tracks of surviving heartache, loneliness, and death. In Beat the Champ, Darnielle once again asks fans to trust him as he delivers thirteen tracks about wrestling.

Of course, in the past twenty some-odd years, the songs are never really what the songs are about. Darnielle is a poet invested in word play and the subtle malleable flow of language. Beat the Champ, on the surface, focuses on the early days of professional wrestling and its bloody and pre-Hulkamania rawness. It’s an album whose premise can be as alienating as religion. But, just as wrestling itself is a gimmick of violence and melodrama, there exists something under the mask of Darnielle’s lyrics.

In “Choked Out”, The Mountain Goats deliver one of the most rocking studio tracks in the post-Tallahassee years. It’s an adrenaline rush of of a number about surviving against the odds and pushing beyond one’s limits. “Heel Turn 2” and “Stabbed to Death Outside San Juan” harken back to older songs in The Mountain Goats’ catalogue, with the latter sounding like something vocally culled from one of the early cassettes . Hell, even “Foreign Object” echoes an obvious refrain designed to be an encore sing-a-long; but, mark my words, the real crowd thumping will rise for the “ba ba da da” filler at the end. Beat the Champ exists as a culmination of sounds from decades worth of experience.

Overall, it’s a fantastic album. TMG seem to have found their groove with the full backing band sound of horns, slide guitars, and piano, but something itches at the back of my mind. After several albums with this advanced sound (advanced from brutalizing an acoustic guitar and singing about Anglo-Saxons), there is an ‘adult contemporary’ feel in this new direction. The lyrical complexity still makes Darnielle one of the greatest songwriters of the last fifty years, but the music itself is strange in that there is no real genre to it. Tracks jump from acoustic strummers, piano crooners, crowd-pleasing rockers, and Tin Pan Alley showtunes.

Trust in The Mountain Goats.

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Punk for Nothing ep 4: No Commercial Viability

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Toy Dolls – Dig That Groove Baby
The Bloody Hollies – Good Night, Sleep Tight
The Art Attack – I Am a Dalek
Urinals – I’m A Bug
Late Bloomer – Use Your Words
The Teen Idles – Teen Idles
All – Crazy?
Big Drill Car – Crust
Doughboys – I Wrote You A Letter
Married with Sea Monsters – Face It Tiger
Dag Nasty – I’ve Heard
7 Seconds – Regress No Way
Youth Brigade – Sink With Kalifornia
Wingnut Dishwasher Union – F*#! S*#! Up
Verbal Assault – Trial
4 Skins – Yesterday’s Heroes
The Mr. T Experience – Alternative is Here to Stay
Dropkick Murphys – The State of Massachusetts
Fifteen – Family values
Section 13 – Coffee Grinds
The Queers – Wimpy Drives Through Harlem
2.5 Children – Land of the Free

The Man that Challenged the World: A review of the new King Automatic album

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The most difficult part of listening to King Automatic’s new album Lorraine Exotica (Voodoo Rhythm), is getting past the first track.

“King Outomatic from Auto Space”** is a full-on floor-stomper which sounds as though it’s been beamed from an ancient alien relay station and rebounded through a set of bakelight speakers. It’s an invasion of sound with no way to stop it. It commands you to hit repeat. After the third or fourth go-round, its nothing but explosive engines of sound waiting like reinforcements among the vinyl grooves.

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King Automatic has built a reputation on being the one-man band with a full sonic sound. Not only does he back himself up on organ, banjo, harmonica, etc, but he slides across genres with flawless ease creating danceable garage, fuzz-stained exotica, and Latin beats that sizzle with alien electricity. If it wasn’t for a live show surrounded by loop machines and live samples, you’d swear he had rows of arms like something from a dingy back-galaxy cantina.

Lorraine Exotica peels back like an alien egg sack revealing “La Vampira del Raval” and “Lorraine Exotica”, songs layered in Latin roots and bringing a range of sounds not often connected to garage punk and even more rarely to one man bands. “Plan B (Adopt a Lapdancer)” (one the best song titles of 2015) slams down some Chicago style blues with an unmatched ferocity. “Lee Marvin” pays tribute to the actor in a song as bad-ass as he was and “All Crossed Out In Red”, an ode to King Automatic’s Ukrainian roots, is just as hypnotic and mesmerizing as anything label-mates The Dead Brothers have released.*  This album makes no effort to play it cool for anyone. It expertly collects sounds from across the globe and brings it all together in a display of sheer talent and diversity.King Automatic knows how to rock in any language.

This album isn’t a test for your speakers – It’s the fucking exam.

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** Spelled correctly

*I even had to double check to make sure it wasn’t a cover song.

The Hippies Were Right! Review of The Juke Joint Pimps New Joint

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In 2011’s Boogie the Church Down, The Juke Joint Pimps split the line between Heaven and Hell belting out hymns for saint and sinner alike. It was a soundtrack for the wayward soul, the gambler, and proved blues legend Big Bill Broonzy right when he said the only real difference between gospel and blues is where it was sung. Both forms seek to salve the soul and express the inexpressible. And it has to rock the body as well.

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This time around, German duo T-Man and Mighty Mike worry less about the immortal soul and seek salvation of the flesh with through deeper blues punk grooves, reefer laden lyrics, and the confident swagger of a band that knows how to preach the Blues. Recorded in just two days at Italy’s Famous Outside Inside Studio these recordings continue to espouse the Broonzy ideal of Blues; “You just play the blues. Now a real blues, a Mississippi blues, you just change [chords] when you feel like it and you play what you feel”. These tracks have an energy and urgency that would have been destroyed by multiple takes and contemporary music mixing. And The Pimps don’t simply play the Blues, they bring it to its knees.

In “Let’s Do the Hippie Shake”, Boogie Pimp’s premier ripper, the boys suggest that the unwashed peacemaking longhairs may have been on to something with their Tune-in/Drop-out sentimentality. From there, The Pimps keep pace in a manner which suggests that chilling out is easier sung about than practiced. “High This Morning” and “Blues & Reefer”, with their shredding harmonica and distortion fueled rhythms, are solid hip shakers and fit for hot summer nights. Similar to Boogie the Church Down, the Pimps offer a flip side to their rawkus preachin’ as “Don’t Push that Button” nails the album’s anxiety a world willing to annihilate itself because the powers that be ain’t got no soul. Boogie Pimps is, simply put, a ‘60’s Blues revival album which took 50 years to come out. Hell, you should hear them rip through Polka Dot Slim’s classic “A Thing You Gotta Face”. Under the layers of bawdy drug references is a message of peace, love, and understanding. If Blues is meant to connect us all in a common woe or celebration, than, yeah, I guess we all better tune in and realize the hippies might have been on to something.

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This Island Surf 9: Songs for Tura Satana

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It’s March here in the Northeast corner of America and there is four feet of snow outside my window. But cabin fever is for the weak!
It’s the perfect time to crank your stereos, brew some coffee, and warm yourself on great tunes and B-movies!

This month goes out to the wild and brilliant Tura Satana.

Also, check out this painting by Shawn Dickinson

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its available here – Feel free to buy it for your favorite surf DJ!

Rage Well, Gang

This Island Surf 9 – Songs for Tura Satana
(incidental music) Les Baxter – Sophisticated Savage
Crushers – Faster Pussycat
The Dustaphonics – Tura Faster Pussycat
The Reverb Syndicate – Return of the Angry Gentlemen
Steve Reverb & the Sound Tones – Mr. Mysterioso’s Secret Siren
Man or Astro Man? – Reverb 1,000
The Valkyrians – Astro Zombie
Elvis Presley – Girls! Girls! Girls!
The Revelaires – Third Man Theme
Don Ralke – Head Hunter
The Alohas – The Headhunter
Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass – Freckles
Billy Mure – Hawaiian War Chant
Johnny Aloha – Drink to Hawaii
The Vi Kings – Desert Boots
Danny Amis & Lost Acapulco – Terremoto
Me’s – Oui Oui Oui
Satan’s Pilgrims – Boss BSA
Clouseaux – Shrunken Heads
Mysterymen – The Age of Envy
The Surf Zombies – Tattoo Pin Up Girl
Mercury Four – Commie Rat Stomp

Andy Dale Petty – Frick’s Lament

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Andy Dale Petty is a fucking genius.

Here’s how I know? Frick’s Lament (Voodoo Rhythm VR1284) opens with a self-titled track that perfectly uses that half-barbaric twang of the banjo, the kick of a bass drum, and wafting vocals to perfectly capture a fever dream melody of travel and freedom. In short, it’s the ideal track because everything that follows is the sound of freedom.

Now, I’m not talking about freedom as prescribed by the false promises of a government or even as an ideal. Petty composes for the freedom of road trips, train-hopping, and late nights sleeping under the stars. The sorta freedom Woody Guthrie and John Steinbeck ascribed to.

Born in Northern Georgia (USA) in the mid-80’s, Petty is timeless without pretension. Frick’s Lament doesn’t try to sound old or country, in fact, it’s pretty obvious Petty isn’t really trying to impress anyone. He is a craftsman of incredible ability and any hard work is made to look seamless and simple.

I usually have no trouble going on about albums and various tracks, but Frick’s Lament doesn’t need my words – It needs your attention. Seriously, I could bore you with more adjectives for ‘excellent’, but you’d only be wasting your time. Go buy this now.

The Ten Best Songs about Death

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“I do not fear death. I had been dead for billions and billions of years before I was born, and had not suffered the slightest inconvenience from it.” – Mark Twain

I’ve been away too long, gang, and I’m sorry for the absence.
Death is a strange beast and we all have our own manner of mourning. For me, it’s by making lists and listening to music.

There is a thesis out there that music was created to tie us all together. Songs bind us and help define our emotions – they work to express the things we can’t and allow us to share the things we feel. You can only tell so many people that things suck before folks get tired of hearing it – music doesn’t care. In fact, it welcomes you to song, moan, holler, scream, and express yourself.

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10. Deuteronomy 2:10 – The Mountain Goats

It’s a hard thing to realize that you are the last of your kind. We all die and time erases us from its collective memory. In this track The Mountain Goats build a beautiful dirge from the point of view of various extinct species.

9. Don’t Fear the Reaper – Blue Oyster Cult
Not even the overused joke of more cowbell can wear down this amazing track.

8. See That My Grave is Kept Clean – Blind Lemon Jefferson

Originally recorded in 1927, this plea for remembrance has been covered by dozens of blues artists and pop musicians. My favorite is the scratched and mutilated vocals of Lou Reed with its heavy fuzz guitar lurking in the background like the grim specter of Death itself.

7. There is a Light That Never Goes Out – The Smiths
Morrissey manages to up the ante for depressed void-staring youth in one of the most specific death wishes ever: Fighting off the melancholy of a terrible home-life, the protagonist suggests that being crushed by a 10 ton double-decker bus isn’t such a terrible thing. Yeah, death is a common theme in The Smith’s music, but this track treats it with the fancy and foppishness of pure teen angst.

6. Rockin’ Bones – The Cramps
Ronnie Dawson’s original track gets a full Return of the Living Dead treatment in this scorcher. The heavy bass riff and zombie moan of the background singers gives this cover a supernatural feel that echoes the chain wielding ghosts of Rock’n’Roll’s grislier past.

5. In My Time of Dying – Blind Willie Johnson
Forget Led Zeppelin and listen to Blind Willie growl through this track as his guitar fights to keep up with his primeval growls and wailing. Johnson captures the true sounds of a man struggling with his mortality.

4. Dirt in the Ground – Tome Waits

“’Cause hell is boiling over
And heaven is full
We’re chained to the world
And we all gotta pull
And we’re all gonna be
Just dirt in the ground”

We all end up as worm food or fertilizer, but Waits makes it seem like it’s  better than the alternative.

3. Death Don’t Have No Mercy – Rev. Gary Davis
Death is speedy and efficient. Escape is impossible and Davis delivers a morose and sorrowful, yet catchy, tune about our inability to remain free from Death’s rapacious grasp.

2. Death’s Got a Warrant – Georgina B. Pettibone
If you are lucky enough to own a copy of How We Got Over: Songs of Gee’s Bend – a collection of songs recorded by Richard Sonkin in 1941 from kitchens, yards, and quilting circles – then you will hear one of the most impressive songs about Death ever recorded. In it, Death is warrant officer and no matter where you hide, he will find you and bring you in. To hear it sung with the Southern- drawl infused harmony of Georgina B Pettiway and friends makes it sound as though its age old advice coming from your grandmother. Track it down.

1. Vertebrae – Christine Fellows

“Sunday traffic clears a path
We float inches above the road
Close our eyes and drive so slow
Like we never need to get home.”

Brace yourself before listening to this song. Fellows not only writes one of the most perfect songs ever, but flawlessly captures the post-funeral haze of returning home after that final good-bye in the moments before mourning begins. Death comes to us all, yet the hard part rests on the survivors.

Punk For Nothing ep 3: Complete Maximum Evil

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Bat Loveman’s Punk for Nothing Ep. 3
Complete Maximum Evil!

Decrying the collapse of popular culture, and saying it is being taken over by “the occult,” a Christian radio broadcaster warned that pop singer Katy Perry’s upcoming Super Bowl halftime show “will be complete maximum evil,” according to The Column.

Since the end-times are apparently here and, in honor of two things I don’t care about merging into one massive thing I don’t care about, here’s the latest Bat Loveman’s Punk For Nothing appropriately retitled.

Swingin’ Utters – Windspitting Punk
Statues – Distance Duration
The Vibrators – Judy Says (Knock You in the Head)
The Rezillos – 2000AD
Anti Flag – Spaz’s House Destruction Party
The Gits – Cut My Skin It Make Me Human
Fugazi – In Defense of Humans
Government Issue – Teenager in a Box
Redd Kross – Annette’s Got the Hits
7 Seconds – Not Just Boy’s Fun
Alison Angst – Give Us Theirs
Mustard Gas, Hard Skins – Another Terrace Anthem
Refused – Summerholiday vs. Punkroutine
Tim Timebomb – Bob
Suede Razors – Rubies and Pearls
The Oppressed – Boots for Stompin’
The Pietasters – Maggie Mae
Mr. Symarip – I’m Gonna Knock, I’m Gonna Knock
Anti Nowhere League – I Hate People
Western Addiction – Rat Patrol
Roy Loney & Senior no – Love is a Spider
Suicidal Tendencies – I Want More
Sunglasses After Dark – Sunglasses Ron
The Trouble – Youth is Wasted by the Young

Bibliodiscoteque Ep 52 – The Corpse Wore Pasties

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From Johnny Porkpie’s site:

Jonny Porkpie: The Burlesque Mayor of New York City, regular candidate for “actual” mayor of NYC, creator of Pinchbottom Burlesque, the “Best Burlesque” in NY (New York Magazine, The Village Voice) which produced the Off-Broadway shows “The Pinch Brothers in The Bawdy House” as part of MarxFest in May 2014, and “Pretençión: un cirque de burlesque, un burlesque de cirque” in 2013. A Pastor at the Church of Titillation, her is also the creator of Dead Sexy and international bump and grind gameshow Grab My Junk, author of The Corpse Wore Pasties, burlesque performer, teacher, and host, and all-around fool.

The Periscopes – Beaver Shot
The Genteels – Take It Off
Mel Smith – Pretty Plaid Skirt
Reverend Beat Man – Don’t Stop to Dance
Gold Dust Lounge – Bunny Yeager
The La Bombas – Taboo
Big Bo and the Arrows – Big Bo’s Twist
The Embers – Alexandria
The John Barry Seven – The Stripper
Earls of Suave – In My Dreams
Stinky Lou and the Goon Mat – Sexual Feeling
The Cramps – I’m Customized
Los Mambo Jambo – G String Murders
The Megatons – Shimmy, Shimmy Walk Pt 1
Eddi Platt – Cha Hua Hua
Miss Kitty and The Texas BS Band – The Pussy Cat Song
Arsen Roulette – Shake It All Around
Daddy Long Legs – Long John’s Jump
The Spellbinder – Casting My Spell
Syd Hale – The Hell Raisers
The Tremolo Beer Gut – The Sleaz e nator