It's always pretty after an apocalypse So we strolled past the flowers planted by the Bloods and Crips And they chose white lilies cause they're such wacky kids It was a good day Damn right, it was a good day
Almost all the hypocrites and demagogues were gone Like the sacramental moment In a Last Poets song And Bayard Rustin came back just to bitch slap Farrakhan It was a good day Damn right, it was a good day
Burned to the ground We knew it would burst into bloom Healthy and good So we struck that match and went back to sleep
Lee Atwater was on the corner turning tricks Clutching the failed box set of his heartfelt blues licks He said "I think I liked the ghetto better when it was sick" It was a good a day Damn right, I gotta say it was a good day
Razed to the ground We knew it would burst into bloom Healthy and good Bayard Rustin smiled and went back to sleep
Check out this drop-dead amazing track from the new Magic Carpathians album, appropriately titled Enjoy Trees! It's cool to hear them occasionally veer from their psychedelic, soundscapey ways (which I happen to be a big fan of) and point themselves in the direction of hypnotic pop like this. You can download the whole album from the Free Music Archive over here. Load your personal bleep box accordingly and go commune with nature, maaaan.
Having recently decided that I am now too old to continue wearing ratty, camouflage-pattered shorts all summer, I can' t help wondering how much longer my taste for utterly fried sounds--the type pedaled by Scott Soriano, for example--have on my docket. Observe here, courtesy of his recently-hatched page on Soundcloud, the battered, shrunken-head glory of Charles Albright. (Originally from the invitingly-titled I'm On Drugs single.)
Tempted? Well, the record's probably already out of print and maybe even fetching stupid money on eBay. Better to save your dough and travel west next month for the S.S. label's 10th anniversary blowout weekend in San Francisco. Scheduled performers include Albright, The Hank IV, A-Frames, and freakin' NAR, for cryin' out loud! (Hey You Kids fans, can I get an amen for Nar? Definitely an iconic band from my WPRB era that slipped through the cracks. So glad to see them being rightly exalted on their home turf!)
More info on the weekend-long S.S. anniversary-fest can be found here>|< You can also keep tabs on the related details via Twitter>|< And on second thought, maybe these shorts don't look so bad after all.
Much to my wife's concern, I'm becoming the sort of person who walks around the house muttering about politics. She's caught me doing it a couple of times, and no longer believes that I'm just "singing softly to myself", as I've tried claiming. Realizing that it's a short hop from such behavior to the kind that involves wearing a ratty old bathrobe in public, I've been trying to do some corrective mental surgery by eschewing my usual diet of online news for the more stately and civil Brian Lehrer show on WNYC. (Which has been a regular thing in my house for years anyway, but which lately is becoming more a matter of exclusivity. Especially in the recent wake of worrisome news a la Libya, Japan, and the national budget.)
I've also found myself in desperate need of a good laugh. The kind of laugh that makes your gut ache, your eyes water, and which summons aftershock snickering throughout the rest of the day. The kind of laugh that drives a wedge between my brain and its seemingly limitless obsession with the folly of man. In short, I needed the kind of laugh that's routinely inspired by Jack Handey's all-too-infrequent New Yorker submissions, which I have just decided to catalog here for my convenience and sanity's sake, as well as your hilari-tainment. Enjoy! I recommend consuming these while riding the subway, where strangers will certainly regard your uncontrollable cackling as evidence of severe mental instability. Stretch out and enjoy those vacant seats on either side of you.
WPRB lost a programming giant this weekend. George Mahlberg, more commonly known as "Doctor Cosmo" to listeners of his excellent and long-running Nocturnal Transmissions program, passed away after a long illness. As an old acquaintance and former WPRB programmer, I extend my sincerest condolences to those who were close to him.
Cosmo came on board at WPRB sometime in 1991—about a year prior to me, but his experience and radio wizardry far surpassed anything in my stable. He was older than most of PRB's other non-student DJs, and had a long résumé of radio credentials, reaching all the way back to the 70s when he'd been a programmer at L.A.'s then-adventurous K-Rock. He was also a brilliant storyteller, had a voracious appetite for unusual sounds, and most of all, he really enjoyed the company of young people who were passionate about radio. To call him an inspiration and a hero may sound trite, but after spending the last 18 hours reckoning with the cruel news of his sudden departure, I'm having trouble denying how appropriate those terms are. Recollections on his Facebook page, as well as the phone calls and emails I've fielded from former WPRB colleagues seem to validate the sentiment. There are probably dozens of mic break techniques I've nicked from him over the years, and I feel no shame in admitting it. WPRB was beyond fortunate to have a shepherd like him, even if only a small minority of the staff were aware of how incredible his talents were.
Though I didn't realize it at the time, Nocturnal Transmissions was freeform radio at its finest. When Cosmo joined the airstaff, much of WPRB was very much entrenched in the indie/underground scene of that particular era. While his programming did acknowledge those trends, he also dosed listeners with generous helpings of the avant garde, free jazz, Zappa, Krautrock, 20th Centrury Classical, 70s Marshall Boogie, fringe politics from across the spectrum, and schitzoid spoken word from all manner of radicals, revolutionaries, and acid casualties. More importantly, to the mix he added his own fierce intelligence, his incredibly eccentric humor, a tremendous appreciation for science, and an open door policy for any listeners who wanted to join the fray. As you might imagine, central Jersey doesn't offer too many rewarding avenues for seekers of adventurous art and culture, but to the avid listeners of WPRB's Friday night programming, the reality seemed very much otherwise.
I have many wonderful memories of Doctor Cosmo, but perhaps my favorite was the night he joined me on air when the DJ who followed my program failed to show up. Scrambling for a long track to eat up time, I put on "Die Donnergotter" by Rhys Chatham—a 20+ minute epic of ringing, hypnotic guitars. I'd surrendered control and had assumed a new position behind the guest mic while George slid easily into the captain's chair and engaged me in a lengthy on-air banter while "Die Donnergotter" churned away in the background. As the track approached its crashing apex, George calmly reached over and switched the turntable off so that the audio began spiraling down as we continued our on-air rap. In the kind of seamless transition that true radio geeks get their panties in a twist over, he then began manually rotating the record in reverse with his finger at what sounded like a perfect 33 RPM clip. Presto! Another 20 minutes of background music for us to push later into the evening with.
There are many songs that I'll never be able to distance from the immediate Cosmo-connection they hold for me, but "Die Donnergotter" is probably chief among them. I can only hope that wherever George is now, the guitars sound as great (whether in forward or reverse) as they did to my ears that night. To my friend, I say thank you and goodbye. I wish that we'd had more time together.
If you think my periodic musings on moldy oldies like the Gun Club, Swell Maps, or Roxy Music indicate that I've sworn off new jams forever, let these periodic mixes from the FMA be the first to state otherwise. Yeah, I write about a lot of old music here—mainly for my own enjoyment. But more importantly, I listen to a lot of new music because that way lies the future. It's the same balance I've always sought to apply when programming a radio show: let 'em know where you come from, but also give 'em a sense of where you're heading. Too much of either ingredient, and you end up either sounding like an insufferable hippy or a dough-eyed neophyte. As such, here are Thee Oh Sees, Wovenhand, Dragen Espenschied, and Outpost—Four modern artists comped together thematically by what seems like the only constant in any of our lives here in the metro area.
This time of year always reminds me of the night a squad car carrying John Lennon's body sped past me on the streets of New York City. On December 8th of 1980, I was eight years old and in the city with my family for a holiday-related dinner with relatives. We were out late—much later than my parents ever kept me out back home, but I'm sure they'd been drinking and having a grand old time. The relatives we'd dined with were somewhat wealthy, and in fact we had eaten dinner at Tavern on the Green, then regarded as one of the city's more exclusive (albeit touristy) restaurants.
I had only a dim awareness of who the Beatles were back then. In 1980, I was far more interested in reenacting scenes from Star Wars with my friends than I was in any kind of music. But the Beatles' legacy was forever burned into my consciousness after my father jerked me away from the street as that squad car came screaming past, the bloody head of its famous occupant slumped against the rear passenger window. The Dakota apartment building where Lennon was murdered is only a few blocks from Tavern on the Green's old location near Central Park West, and sometime shortly before 11 PM, we were walking back to the garage where my father's car was parked. But when we crossed 72nd Street and observed the chaos left in the aftermath of the shooting, someone—a tear-streaked woman, by my father's recollection—told us what had happened. We left the city and drove home to the dark suburbs of New Jersey without speaking, probably listening to the news on the radio.
In spite of the weirdness of having been only blocks away when one of history's most famous murders went down, I never got into the Beatles the way most other kids seem to, and I often wonder why that is. Until I got older and started getting an allowance, the only Beatles record in the house was Let It Be, which belonged to one of my older siblings. Perhaps Lennon's death coupled with the eulogistic tone of that album's eponymous track is what set my associations with the band on such a weird path so early on. When you're a little kid, a song's lyrics are often the first thing that hits you, and lines like "in my hour of darkness / she is standing right in front of me / speaking words of wisdom / let it be" certainly influenced the childhood anxieties I experienced in bed at night. Long after my parents had ordered the lights switched out, the images conjured by that type of poetry were a lot to wrap my head around. It's funny to think about it again thirty years later—by anyone's estimation, a long time has passed since then. It's also quite peculiar for a band that broke up two years before I was born to in some way serve as a milemarker by which to observe my own aging. Maybe that's what people mean when they call Lennon's music "timeless". Maybe it's why that term has always bothered me so much.
The second annual week of all-45 programming is now underway on WFMU—a suitably punchy lead up to the station's gargantuan Record Fair, which starts this Friday. I was in charge of the Fair for a solid eight years (and will likely be plagued by the related anxiety nightmares forever), and was a regular customer for the five or so years preceding my arrival at the station. As such, I am well acquainted with the victory dance performed upon finally discovering some long-sought 45 in one of the vendor's dusty record bins. That unique satisfaction is a large part of what inspired me to launch the Anti-Static podcast back in January of 2007—what better way to marry the stone-age technology of 7" records with the bleeps and bloops of present history than to pull three obscuro vinyl sides a week and give 'em the MP3 treatment?
In spite of the initial enthusiasm and (generally) great feedback I got from Anti Static, the podcast was hung out to dry after a year and a half. However, you can still stream or download old editions on the Anti Static homepage and thrill to the sonic delights of bands like the Astro Zombies, Geezer Lake, Tanner, Fire in the Kitchen, the Trashwomen, Pitchblende, Men's Recovery Project, Das Damen, the Silver Jews, Crash Worship, Unwound, Mecca Normal, Venom P. Stinger, and Tonka. Here's a sample edition for you to warm up your record-flipping fingers in advance of this weekend's throwdown at the Metropolitan Pavilion: The 11.14.07 edition of Anti Static featuring Land of the Loops, the Lynnfield Pioneers, and Ghost.