Via WNYC, this is too good not to share. Everybody remember this guy's name.
MY DEAR FRIENDS AND ACCOMPLICES: Get fired up for the coming week! It’s WPRB's annual membership drive, during which time we put our good foot forward and try to remind you that community radio is worth your financial support. Although PRB is housed on Princeton University’s campus, beyond facilities, they provide ZERO funding for the station. That means it’s on us every time a turntable goes on the fritz, a computer croaks, or our webcasting fees shoot through the roof.
As such, I’ll be dropping all on-air pretense this Wednesday between 11 AM and 1 PM and asking you to help us reach our fundraising goal. And I’ve assembled a pretty badass assortment of analog and digital goodies to tempt your dollars with, including albums by recent show-faves like Herzog, the Numbers Band, U.S. Girls, Dot Wiggin, Marissa Nadler, William Onyeabor, the Entrance Band, Black Hollies, Cheap Dinosaurs, Dexter Johnson, and many others. That’s in addition to all of the station-branded swag (this year including flasks, backpacks, and mugs along with the customary t-shirts and such.)
WPRB occupies a unique middle ground between the realms of college and community radio. The station’s got an enormous cultural footprint that’s most synonymous with the metro-Philly area, but which also extends as far north into Jersey as Newark. We’re staffed and run by a revolving cast of dedicated University undergrads, who offer some airtime to community members with an unflinching jones for good radio. That’s how I came on board the station back in 1992—I was a local townie who was hooked on the crazy sounds of underground music, which WPRB was a critical, local mouthpiece for. The friends and experiences those early years provided for me inadvertently directed the focus of my career, and I’ve been working in community radio (or: “up and down this goddam dial”, as I sometimes like to put it) for the last 15 years.
What does that mean? Well, in addition to hosting the Freeform Pathogen, I also serve as WPRB’s Educational Advisor. I’m not “the boss” by any stretch of the definition, nor do I aim to be the type of crusty old barnacle who’s paid to oversee operations at a lot of other college stations. I never tell my student colleagues to reign in their shows or conform to a strict set of guidelines. More often, I’m encouraging them to stretch out, to experiment, and to put crazy ideas into action because that’s the best way to connect with PRB’s rich legacy and the most exciting traditions of community radio. Some of my earliest radio heroes were student DJs on WPRB: Ken Katkin, Tim Kastelle, Mr. Mike Shmelzer, Matthew Robb, Sean Murphy, Jen Moyse, Corey Magnell, and so on. They spoke confidently, candidly, and passionately about their interests on the air, routinely challenging themselves so as to share that challenge with the listeners. That’s a strategy that meant a lot to me when I was young and I’ve taken a great deal of creative nourishment from it in the 20+ years since PRB first put it on display for me. It’s an idea that I’ve worked to instill in the last three generations of WPRB’s student DJs and which I hope to continue doing for a long time to come. The true pride of my function here is connecting WPRB and its staff to the broader network of independent broadcasters that are out there, all finding their way through the same challenges we face. If you think WPRB’s airwaves should be a place where creativity and spontaneity are the principles that light the way ahead, I hope I’ll be hearing from you this Wednesday. With your help, we can prove how great I believe this radio station can be.
Click here to listen with your preferred media player.
Dengue Fever - "Uku" - Cannibal Courtship (Concord) *
Risto - "Seuraavan Skupolven Paykopaatti" - 176-671 (Ensimmäiset Askeleet) (Fonal) *
Duffy - "Come Back, Come Back" - Beyond the Calico Wall (Voxx)
OMD - "Electricity" - 7" (Factory)
Magic Carpathians - "Enjoy Trees (Lynx Lynx)" - Enjoy Trees! (Free Music Archive) *
Lou Reed - "Dirty Boulevard" - New York (Sire)
Thee Oh Sees - "I Need Seed" - Castlemania (In the Red) *
Standard of Living - "N.F.A" - Bay Area Retrogade Vol. 1 (Dark Entries) *
Moving Targets - "The Other Side" - Moving Targets (Taang!)
Willie Loco Alexander - "Bass Rocks" - 7" (Pure & Easy)
Dynastie Crisis - "Le Corbeau et Renard" - Dynastie Crisis (Formule 1)
Spectre Folk - "The Blackest Medicine" - The Blackest Medicine, Vol. II (Woodsist) *
8-Bit Weapon - "Future Paths" - Mario in an Elevator (Free Music Archive)
X-Ray Spex - "Highly Inflammable" - Germfree Adolescents (EMI)
Belong - "Come See" - Common Era (Kranky) *
Tor/Aesop Rock - "Star of Wonder vs. None Shall Pass" - Best Of Breitband Vol.3 (Free Music Archive) *
Tommy Blake - "F-Oldin Money" - Before the Fall 2xCD (Ace) *
Roberta Flack - "Reverend Lee" - Chapter Two (Atlantic)
Sixtynine and The Continuous People - "I Know Where Syd Barrett Lives" - On a Distant Shore: A Tribute to Syd Barrett (Windless Air)
Roots Control - "Roots Control" - Crooklyn Dub Consortium Certified Dope Vol. 1 (Wordsound)
Human Eye - "Impregnate the Martian Queen" - They Came from the Sky (Sacred Bones) *
The Criminal Minds - "Just Check It" - TCM (Rephlex) *
Off Band - "Wake Up Her Majesty" - German Punk & Wave 1978-1984, Vol. 1 (Vinyl on Demand) *
Spartak - "Nightshift (Version)" - The Sound Of Young Canberra (Free Music Archive) *
Rites Wild - "Rites Wild Theme" - New Weird Australia, We Are After All Here (Free Music Archive) *
Prince Buster - "Earthquake" - Fabulous Greatest Hits (Sequel)
David Bowie - "TVC15" - Station to Station (RCA)
The Vandelles - "Losing Touch with my Mind" - Summer Fling (Eep!) *
Sven Kacirek - "Dear Anastasia" - The Kenya Sessions (Pingipung) *
Robert Wyatt - "Born Again Cretin" - C81 (NME)
Townes Van Zandt - "Come Tomorrow" - Delta Momma Blues (Tomato)
Okapi - "Mangoonia" - Bah! (Free Music Archive)
Six Organs of Admittance - "Dawn, Running Home" - Asleep on the Floodplain (Drag City) *
False Front - "Maniac I" - Dude (Shimmy Disc)
György Ligeti - "Atmosphere" - 2001: A Space Odessy (MGM)
Jackie DeShannon - "She Don't Understand Him Like I Do" - Come and Get Me (Ace)
This first installment honors the debut album of Jersey Weirdo band, Ween-pals, and Shimmy Disc confidantes, False Front. I distinctly recall grabbing their debut album (the terribly-titled Dude) out of WPRB's to-be-listened-to pile in 1992 and being immediately taken with the lush acidity of the opening track, "Maniac I." The twin guitar leads sounded like Thin Lizzy under the magical spell of Robitussin, and let's just say that lyrics like "when all the acid hits your brain, leave it to me to feel your pain" spoke with a particular kind of townie-DJ poignancy for me when I was 20 years old. Subsequently, the song became a staple of my program for years afterwards, even following me to WFMU (where I've apparently only aired it twice, according to the playlist search database. Both times in 2007. Huh.)
Having lost track of my own copy of the album years ago, I might've forgotten all about "Maniac I" had it not popped up randomly on the iTunes rotation yesterday. I went back and listened to it three times in a row. Yep, still a great song! Listen using the player below.
The term "podcast" has seen some rough road over the last decade. I'm no tech-head, and the amateurish design stylings of this blog certainly don't give me any license to kvetch, but a proper podcast implies automatic delivery at regularly scheduled intervals. Sort of like a magazine subscription, in that you sign up for it, and get a new issue at around the same time every week or month. As such, MP3 blogs that haphazardly post 40MB Audacity mixdowns and call them 'podcasts' might be exposing people to a lot of interesting sounds, but they are doing so while severely agitating the RSS nerds in their collective midst.
While I appreciate the plight of said nerds, I don't actually know very much about syndicating content or RSS feeds myself. So in a feeble effort to distance myself from this conundrum of syntax, I'd now like to announce the Read:My:Back... Mixtape!
Same concept, slightly different method: The R:M:B Mixtape will occur on no set schedule and will hop genres with reckless abandon—pretty much like the last three years of my terrestrial radio shows on WFMU, but minus the James Gang deepcuts and rambling mic breaks. (Though I am considering rectifying that last detail... Can anyone recommend a reasonably-priced condenser mic to me?) Furthermore, downloading the entire show is more than likely to just scatter the songs into your iTunes library according to whichever filing protocols get you hot and bothered. So much for my meticulous and thoughtful segues, eh? But never mind about that -- As always, it's the music that matters.
The source material for this project is WFMU's Free Music Archive. With more than 30,000 free and legal MP3s now residing in their stable, the FMA has been my first and best connection to new sounds as my life transitioned from that of weekly radio host on WFMU (with regular access to the station's fabled new bin) to stay-at-home dad, where daily engagement with the art that I love is now limited to around 45 minutes during naptime. Not to say that the 180 degree lifestyle changeup hasn't delivered amazing rewards.... I just didn't come here to tell you about them.
So for whatever it's worth, here's the first of what will hopefully be many editions of these musical diversions. Observing the metamorphosis of my music sharing habits across the years from obsessive mixtape-maker to radio show host to harried blogger fills me with a kind of weird anxiety -- where or what will the next leap forward will be?
Praise be to Joltin' Joe Belock. He's had Steve Wynn as a musical guest on his radio program almost as many times as I've had Dalek, and from my perspective, nothing defines the Three Chord Monte aesthetic better than these fantastic sessions from the former Dream Syndicate frontman. Now based in New York after years of being closely affiliated with the left coast musical underground, I've had the pleasure of seeing Steve and band perform many times and under many different circumstances. Two that come immediately to mind include a spur-of-the-moment run through of the Dream Syndicate's Days of Wine and Roses (at Manitoba's sometime in mid-2001), and also the odd occasion of them providing ambient musical accompaniment to a reading by crime fiction writer George Pelecanos (at Magnetic Field.) The latter was especially great, as my wife lived mere steps from Magnetic Field at the time—that afforded us the rare opportunity to rock until the late hours sans the mood-killing reality of a 3 AM subway ride on a work night. (Feel free to ignore that last bit if you're younger than 30, though I've always been ornery about getting home so late. I have theorized that my fleeting interest in hardcore music was mainly rooted in the fact that most of the shows were weekend matinees.)
Anyhow, in the midst of what were at one time fairly frequent live dates around town, Steve and band also made periodic stops at WFMU for live sets on Joe Belock's program, all of which are now available in their entirety in the FMA. This mix is whittled down to reflect my favorites, so take the fact that I've titled it "The Best of..." with a grain of salt. Try as I might, I was powerless to shy away from his epic renditions of old Dream Syndicate classics, even though Steve's more recent sounds are just as impressive. Naturally, if you like what you hear, I'd certainly urge you to go grab everything else.
I've been to exactly one Wedding Present concert. They played Maxwell's sometime in 1993, and although they performed masterfully and were louder than a freakin' atomic bomb going off, the fact that "Dalliance" (or anything else from the brilliant Sea Monsters LP) did not figure into the setlist sort of tarnished the experience in my memory. Sea Monsters and Bettie Serveert's Palomine totally defined a particular era at WPRB for me, and even as those months were unfolding in realtime, getting stiffed on "Dalliance" was a palpable annoyance. Getting on twenty years later, this live radio session from around the same time makes me feel like it's finally time to forgive.
Originally heard on the Black Sessions program which broadcasts on France Inter (French Public Radio—"FPR", if you will...) this great-sounding set showcases the band at their creative peak, and David Gedge's vocals in their exquisite and froggy-like prime. That's not to suggest that their later material is anything to scoff at—many years after this performance, a reincarnated version of the band effortlessly blew a lot of minds (mine included) with the track "Interstate 5", and rightly so.
But I didn't come here to tell you that. (Focus, man, focus!) These sounds have been blaring forth from the official r:m:b sound system all morning, and show no signs of relinquishing their control any time soon.
Go forth and amplify!
It seems like every other new release these days is a re-issue of some kind. At WFMU, re-issues compete at a rate that seems almost neck-and-neck with new releases by current bands, making the prospects of actually staying on top of things an essentially impossible task—a game left only to the truly lionhearted. And Brian Turner. There is both an upside and a downside to this, and like a lot of my radio pals at WFMU and elsewhere, I try not to wade too deeply into the waters of musical archaeology, at least when trying to assemble an engaging three hour freeform program. There's no denying that the glut of re-ups from quality labels like Soul Jazz, Norton, and Munster have opened a lot of people's ears to sounds they might never have heard otherwise, but reveling strictly in the legacies of bygone art scenes is a fast ticket to musical burnout, if not straight up Wavy-Gravy land.
"Hey man, is that late 2002 minimal techno?"
"Well then turn it up!"
Regardless of which direction your musical compass points, there are probably enough genre-specific re-issues out there to fill your hard drive several times over. As with new releases, some of them are great, others utterly forgettable, and still others (the majority, one might argue) have fleeting moments of brilliance but are more or less disposable. Nowhere is this phenomenon more immediately apparent that in the case of of 60s garage and psychedelic comps, where exalting utterly pedestrian Rolling Stones or 13th Floor Elevators-wannabes has been transformed into something of an art form. This wasn't always the case, however.
When I first started doing radio at WPRB in 1992, the station's record library was carved up via a ridiculously genre-fied filing system that grouped almost all left-of-center music made after 1980 together, with exceptions for select kingpins from past eras like Faust, Iggy, Wire, Velvet Underground, etc. Compilations were filed similarly, and I quickly discovered an auxiliary section of them that interested me just as much as titles like They Pelted Us with Rocks and Garbage (80s Cleveland noise), Wanna Buy a Bridge? (UK Post-Punk), or Dry Lungs (proto headache music) did. These were the 60s psych and garage comps, spearheaded by the wholly brilliant Back from the Grave series on Crypt Records.
The original eight volumes of Grave looked uniformly amazing to me, and were scrawled with exaggerated praises from DJs who'd long since fled the station's regular programming rotation. Feeling like I was on the cusp of something important, I decided to start at the very beginning and cued up the first song on Volume 1—a track called "We All Love Peanut Butter" by some apparent hoodlums calling themselves The One Way Street.
It wasn't the savage filth hinted at by the Grave series' attention-grabbing album artwork, but it was amateurish, funny, and sounded like it had been recorded in a bunker on a malfunctioning reel-to-reel deck—just like everything else I liked in 1992. Not surprisingly, I was hooked immediately.
That song was more than enough to fuel my jones for all eight volumes of Back from the Grave, most of which I eventually tracked down in the cutout bin at the local Record Hut. Back on the radio, my interest further blossomed at the behest of two other re-issues of older sounds, not on Crypt, but which seemed equally menacing in some way. The What a Way to Die collection from 1983, and the more acid-drenched Beyond the Calico Wall from 1990. Just as "We All Love Peanut Butter" became the flagbearer of the entire Grave series in my mind, these comps also vaulted certain songs to a kind of iconic status, and no selections from the countless 60s comps which have come and gone in the 20 years since have ever threatened their security at the top of the trash heap.
From What a Way to Die, it's "Leave Me Alone" by The Knaves—a song that deploys a musical middle finger with impressive deliberacy and panache. And from Beyond the Calico Wall, it's "Up in My Mind" by Spontaneous Generation, which I like to think of as a musical version of pork cracklings. (That is, it tosses your brain into a deep-fryer for a few hours, and then re-fries whatever particulate matter remains.) One can never be too certain, after all.
Here are all three songs, for your critical consideration. God bless these electric freaks.
The One Way Street - "We All Love Peanut Butter"
The Knaves - "Leave me Alone"
Spontaneous Generation - "Up In My Mind"