Friday, April 8, 2011

Writers' Playlists. Part 1

Last issue (#30) I asked each of our regular writers to choose five or six of their current favorite records, books, films or whatever and write a few sentences about each. The section was popular with readers so the plan was to do it again with #31. However, space proved to be tight so the playlists had to be dropped at the 11th hour. So I'm going to run them here instead. I'll add several each day.


1.       V.A. - A Real Cool Time Revisited CD - A killer expanded reissue compilation of Swedish neo-garage bands from the '80s. There's lots of amazing songs, both by relatively well-known (Nomads, Screaming Dizbusters, Stomachmouths) and obscure bands (Dolkows, Slobster).

2.       The Subways - Young for Eternity CD - A super cool new UK punkish band with catchy songs and alternating male-female vocals. It somehow has a fresh, exciting sound despite recycling lots of classic riffs and hooks.

3.       Plan Nine - Generation Action CD - a ferocious Swedish punk'n'roll band with blasting guitars and driving rhythms that makes you wish you were seeing them in a rock'n'roll dive while totally wasted on Jaegermeister. That's a compliment.

4.       Q65 - Nothing But Trouble CD - a terrific remastered compilation of this great Dutch beat punk band's many stellar tracks. In my book, there are very few songs from that (or any other) era as good as "Cry in the Night" or "The Life I Live."

5.       22-20s - Shake, Shiver, Moan CD - this UK group's second album is uneven, but "Heart on a String" may be one of the greatest rock songs I've ever heard. Period.

6.       R. Scott Baker - Neuropath - one of the most provocative novels in the horror-scifi genre I've read in years. Not only is it really nasty and creepy, it also forces one to question - both biologically and philosophically - what being human really means. The answer is not reassuring.


1. Flamin' Groovies – “Shakin'” (about 2 dozen live albums and compilations) Song - Long after they had any business being good, the Flamin' Groovies (i.e., Cyril, George and a bunch of sidemen) cranked out this pop gem that's on par with anything they ever did. Check out a great clip of them performing it on Spanish TV here:

2. X - At Home With You (Morphius Archives) CD - Stellar second album from these Aussies is chock full of impeccably played punky hard rock. "T.V. Glue" features one of the most achingly beautiful trumpet riffs this side of "Alone Again Or." If I had to guess, I'd say the Laughing Hyenas listened to this record a whole lot.

3. The Dirtbombs - Party Store (In The Red) CD - Give 'em credit for recording an album of Detroit Techno covers. Give 'em even more credit for making it good.

4. Robert Altman Movies - Most of the time, Nashville is my favorite, but sometimes I'll take The Long Goodbye or Short Cuts. And just between me and you, I even like "Ready To Wear" (nee "Pret A Porter").

5.  Franklin W. Dixon – What Happened At Midnight (Grosset and Dunlap) - A diamond smuggling gang foolishly sets up shop in Bayport, the home of crime-fighting prodigies Frank and Joe Hardy. Be amazed as Frank dons tight pants, a Nehru jacket and a fake beard to squeeze a confession out of a suspect. I'm fairly certain I'm enjoying this even more than my kids are.

6.  The Ruts - The Peel Sessions Album (Strange Fruit) CD - As potent a blend of punk rock and reggae as you're likely to come across in this lifetime.


1.       The Soft Boys – A Can of Bees (Yep Roc) CD As much as I love their other stuff, I’d never checked out the first album until this 2010 reissue. Over the years I’d been led to believe it was inferior to critics’ fave Underwater Moonlight, but, having spent a few months with it, I think I just may like A Can of Bees a whole lot more.

2.       William Trevor – The Collected Stories (ePenguin Kindle edition) Like Balzac, Trevor’s one of those writers who just seems to take it all in, and when it comes to black comedy, there are few who get blacker than he does. My second copy of this collection is now in tatters, hence the e-book I’m currently reading.

3.       BBC Great British Railway Journeys With a copy of George Bradshaw’s Victorian era railway guidebook in hand, presenter Michael Portillo travels around the country along the old train routes in search of what’s changed or remained from those times. The series is an Anglophile’s dream, and Village Green Preservation Society would serve nicely as its soundtrack.

4.       Robert Fisk, Middle East correspondent, The Independent A hero journalist if there ever was one, Fisk has been on the relentlessly grim Middle East beat for decades now. Which make his recent reports from Egypt, and now Bahrain, all the more uplifting.

5.       School of Seven Bells – Disconnect from Desire (Vagrant) CD My judgment may be clouded by my love for the way this group channels the Cocteau Twins’ Gothic ethereality in a more OK computer, rhythmically charged direction and—who’s kidding who—the fact that the gorgeous vocals emanate from strikingly beautiful identical twins, but this is very much my record of the moment.


 1.       DESPAIR CDR. I can’t believe this pre-Vibrators material is still mostly unissued. Fab mid-70’s Lou-Reed-in-the-garage rock.

2.       SOUND CEREMONY [RON WARREN GANDERTON] - Guitar Star/s-t LPs. More 70’s Lou Reed by-product bordering on art brut… with the best anti-tobacco song ever!

3.       BERLIN BRATS - Believe It Or Rot LP (The L.A. Dolls have their album. 35 years after the facts, it’s about time)

4.       PERSONAL & THE PIZZAS - Raw Pie LP. Seems like it’s getting hard for new acts to be both great and original, so you might as well mix the Stooges with the Ramones and sing about pizza while pretending to be from New Jersey.

5.     THE RUNAWAYS movie. I had low expectations. It wasn’t perfect but still a fan dream come true.

6.       POLI STYRENE JASS BAND – Drano in your veins 45 (nice 1976 Cle eccentricity)


1.       The Doors - Morrison Hotel, 40th Anniversary Mixes (Rhino). CD What’s more impossible to believe—that this album is 40 years old or that, in this version and with all these bonus tracks, it sounds even better today? Believe ‘em both. From this distance it’s also possible to more fully appreciate the musical brilliance of Jimbo’s supporting cast.

2.       Bert Jansch – L.A. Turnaround (Drag City)-CD/DV. -First released in 1974 on the Charisma label, this reissue finds the Pentangler assuming the then-ubiquitous persona of “singer-songwriter.” His idiosyncratic singing and playing, happily, shine through the L.A. session veneer. Bonus disc has a 13-minute DVD of Jansch performing with Mike Nesmith at Charisma label founder Tony Stratton Smith’s Sussex mansion.

3.       Gary Higgins – A Dream A While Back (Drag City) CD. In 2005, Drag City reissued Higgins’ psych-folk album Red Hash, which became a “classic” 35 years after its initial release. Jail time on drug charges curtailed the Connecticut native’s career then, but his recent resurgence is one of the “happy endings” UT readers live for. This collection of 6 songs are circa Red Hash (1970-71), more of the same dark, woodsy musings from a true original.

4.       Fantastic Mr. Fox directed by Wes Anderson. Film. A “children’s” movie more entertaining and provocative than ten contemporary grown-up films, it pits underground heroes against over-ground villains. It features the best use of “Street Fighting Man” outside of Beggar’s Banquet.

5.       Neil Young: Long May You Run, The Illustrated History by Daniel Durchholz and Gary Graff (Voyageur) - Book. Consider this the visual (and essential) companion to Jimmy McDonough’s Shakey biography. The lovingly and lavishly compiled ephemera of Neil Young’s life and career (mostly solo) reveals treasures on nearly every page.

1.       Steve Gunn - Boerum Palace (Three Lobed Recordings) LP. An amazing folk 'n raga guitarist from Brooklyn-via-Philly. Really top-notch creatively, and you know how much I hate new music. Dealt from the hands Sandy Bull, JJ Cale, and Phil Yost held.

2.       Grateful Dead - Road Trips Vol. 2 No. 2 CD. Caught on tape during the Northwest "Quick and the Dead" mini-tour with QMS and then back at home at the Carousel Ballroom on Valentine's Day '68, these recordings catch the group at their most faroutiest, working out new material that would become Anthem of the Sun. As psychedelic as things have ever been. Totally baller.

3.       Big Love series on HBO. I stayed in Utah for a while a decade ago. They got their own thing going on out there. Not exactly like this but it'll suck you in anyway. Bruce Dern's best role since the Seeker in Psych-Out.

4.       Dino Valenti - Get Together-the lost recordings pre-1970 (It's About Music) CD. Rescued from a storage unit after his passing, these long-lost tapes translate to two CDs worth of Tamalpais troubadour terrificness. Words can't describe how excited I am to listen to this over and over and over.

5.       Frankies Spuntino Kitchen Companion and Cooking Manual (Artisan). Yes, I have more than one favorite cookbook but this one has seen the most action lately. If you haven't eaten at their Brooklyn and LES establishments, well you oughta. So yum.
6.       Los Angeles Lakers. It's not hard to back your hometown team when they're like the best in the world.

 1. Roy Harper and Bill Nelson/Be-Bop Deluxe. These two wordy, Northern English six stringers have occupied a massive amount of recent turntable time. Nelson’s Northern Dream is particularly underrated.

2. Chris Petit – Radio On (plexifilms) DVD. A slow-mo road movie, late ’70s post-punk style. Dig the scene where Wreckless Eric rules the jukebox…

3. Iain Sinclair – Hackney, That Rose Red Empire (Hamish Hamilton, UK) hardcover. The latest psychogeographic report on East London from Petit’s friend and co-conspirator.

4. Spider John Koerner – Music Is Just a Bunch of Notes/The Secret of Sleep (Nero’s Neptune) CD/DVD. Total genius from up north. My record of the year.

5. Phantom Payn Days – Phantom Payn Daze (Destijl) LP. My other record of the year: these unreleased late ’90s tracks are as good as any Juergen Gleue did with 39 Clocks. Reissues of all the still OOP Clocks and Phantom Payn releases would seem to be in order?

6. Lee Sandlin – Wicked River: The Mississippi When It Last Ran Wild (Pantheon) hardcover. A freewheeling crash course in pre–Mark Twain tall tales; legends; battle plans; and ecological histories.

1.       Whole Lotta Shakin’ by JW Brown and Rusty Brown (Continental Shelf Publishing) Book. Finally, after decades of silence, Jerry Lee Lewis’s original bass player and father of “Child Bride” Myra Gale, tells his side of things. Fascinating.

2.       Duane Eddy – The Birth of a Guitar Legend the Jamie Singles Sessions 1957-1962 (Jamie) CD. The best early works from the King of Twang with dynamite undubbed versions mixed in.

3.    JD McPherson – Signs and Signifiers (HiStyle) CD. Modern-day jump and rockabilly doesn't get much better than this, go to YouTube and check out “North Side Girl."

4.     Hayden Thompson – Standing Tall (Bluelight) 2CD. The former Sun rockabilly lays down fresh studio tracks and a solid live set on the Smart two disc set.

5.     Chuck Berry – Have Mercy: His Complete Chess Recordings 1969 to 1974 (Hip-O) 2CD. The true King of Rock 'n Roll’s final recordings for Chess contain a lot of vintage charisma.

6.    Carl Reiner & Mel Brooks – The 2000 Year Old Man: The Complete History (Shout Factory) DVD. Everything they recorded plus some surprisingly flat TV appearances make this four disc set a must have for comedy fans.

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