Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Unblinking Ear Podcast: The List (So Far)

(I promise this will be marginally more fun than filling out your census form.)

Hello, fans of my podcast, tolerators of my podcast, and tolerators of my person.

Because I have far too much time on my hands, I've assembled a list of every artist I've played on the Unblinking Ear Podcast.

Why? Well, it's sort of been my unofficial policy to never play the same artist twice. This is, of course, unless the artist has a new release, which I'm always happy to feature. I just don't like redundancy. Rather than play the same favorites over and over again, I'd much rather find and air things less appreciated, even if I'm just digging through the corners of my own record collection.

I've been doing the podcast for nearly two years and with list I will no longer have to check the tags of each post to see whom I've already played. The list features 308 different artists.

Now here's the part where you come in.

Who HAVEN'T I played?

Is there any band conspicuous by their absence? Is there someone of whom you know I'm a big fan, but isn't featured? Is there a band that you think it just so damn good you just can't believe I have played them?

Please let me know. All your responses will be considered (and possibly mocked). All kidding aside, I'm looking for your help to stimulate some dead links in my brain and make me go "Oh, man! I forgot all about them."

So get to it, folks. At the very least, I hope this will make for some lively discussion.

Oh, and if you mention your own band, I'm going to smack you in the mouth.

1. AC Newman
2. The Action
3. The Adverts
4. AK-47
5. Alan Milman Sect
6. Alternative TV
7. American Music Club
8. Angry Samoans
9. Animals and Men
10. Article 58
11. Barbara Manning
12. Bartlebees
13. Bassholes
14. The Bats
15. Beach Boys
16. The Beat
17. Better Beatles
18. Bevis Frond
19. Beyond the Implode
20. Big Star
21. Bird Nest Roys
22. The Birthday Party
23. The Bizarros
24. Blue Orchids
25. Bobby Soxx
26. Bottomless Pit
27. Box Elders
28. The Boys
29. Brain Eno
30. Busted Statues
31. Cabaret Voltaire
32. Carolee
33. Cause Co-Motion
34. Chain Gang
35. Cheap Trick
36. Cheveu
37. Chills
38. Chris Carpenter
39. Christmas
40. Chrome
41. The Chosen Few
42. Circle X
43. Classic Ruins
44. The Clean
45. Colin Newman
46. Coral
47. Coloured Balls
48. The Cramps
49. The Creation
50. The Creepers
51. The Crescendos
52. Crime
53. Cyclops
54. Daniel Francis Doyle
55. David Bazan
56. Dead Boys
57. Dead C
58. Death
59. Desperate Bicycles
60. Destroyer
61. The Dicks
62. The Dictators
63. Died Pretty
64. Dieter Meier
65. The Dils
66. Dirt Shit
67. Dirtbombs
68. Disappears
69. Distractions
70. The Dogs
71. The Dream Syndicate
72. Drunks With Guns
73. Eat Skull
74. Eddy Current Suppression Ring
75. Electric Eels
76. The Embarrassment
77. Embrace
78. Endtables
79. Eppu Normaali
80. The Ex
81. The Fall
82. Fang
83. The Feelies
84. FIlth
85. Flamin Groovies
86. Fleetwood Mac
87. Flesh Eaters
88. Flipper
89. The Fresh and Onlys
90. Fucked Up
91. Futureheads
92. Gaunt
93. Gem
94. Gene Clark
95. The Germs
96. Girls
97. The Girls
98. Girls At Our Best
99. Go-Betweens
100. Golden Error
101. Gordons
102. Grass Widow
103. Great Plains
104. Grifters
105. Guided By Voices
106. The Gun Club
107. Gun Outfit
108. Guv'ner
109. Halo of Flies
110. Hank IV
111. The Haskels
112. Thee Headcoats
113. Helmettes
114. Henry's Dress
115. Herman's Hermits
116. Home Blitz
117. Homosexuals
118. Hot Snakes
119. The Hunches
120. Hüsker Dü
121. The In Out
122. Inferno
123. Jay Reatard
124. Jean-Paul Sartre Experience
125. Joel RL Phelps and the Downer Trio
126. John Cale
127. John Felice
128. Johnny Moped
129. Johnny Thunders
130. Kevin Ayers
131. The Kids
132. The Kinks
133. Kriminella Gitarrer
134. Kurt Vile
135. La Peste
136. The Laureates
137. The Leftovers
138. The Lewd
139. Liket Lever
140. Liliput
141. Lilys
142. The Lines
143. Little Claw
144. Lollipop Shoppe
145. Long Blondes
146. Lou Reed
147. Loudon Wainwright III
148. Love
149. Love of Diagrams
150. Magick Heads
151. Magik Markers
152. Marked Men
153. The Mayfair Set
154. Mayyors
155. Mecca Normal
156. Mekons
157. Meth Teeth
158. Mick Farren
159. Micronotz
160. Minutemen
161. Mission of Burma
162. The Misunderstood
163. The Monorchid
164. Motorhead
165. Moving Sidewalks
166. Moving Targets
167. The Mystic Tide
168. Nasal Boys
169. The Nazz
170. Negative Approach
171. Negative Trend
172. Neil Young
173. The Nerves
174. Neu
175. New Bomb Turks
176. Nitwitz
177. Nocturnal Projections
178. Nodzzz
179. Nothing Painted Blue
180. Nothing People
181. Nubs
182. The Obits
183. The Only Ones
184. Opus
185. The Oranges Band
186. Oxford Collapse
187. The Pagans
188. Pere Ubu
189. Phil Ochs
190. Photobooth
191. The Pin Group
192. Pissed Jeans
193. Polvo
194. Ponys
195. The Pop Group
196. Prisonshake
197. Psychic Ills
198. Public Image Ltd
199. Pylon
200. Randoms
201. Real Kids
202. Red Krayola
203. Red Transistor
204. Reigning Sound
205. Richard Hell
206. Richard Thompson
207. The Rich Kids
208. Rip Offs
209. Robert Wyatt
210. Roger Miller
211. Roky Erickson
212. Ron House
213. Ronnie Mayor
214. Rose Tattoo
215. Rot Shit
216. Roy Wood
217. Rude Kids
218. The Ruts
219. Sado-Nation
220. The Saints
221. Sally Crewe and the Sudden Moves
222. Satan's Rats
223. Screaming Urge
224. Sebadoh
225. Severe
226. Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings
227. Shop Assistants
228. Sic Alps
229. Silkworm
230. Silver Apples
231. Simply Saucer
232. Singles
233. Skrewdriver
234. Slant 6
235. Sleater Kinney
236. The Sleepers
237. Snuky Tate
238. Soft Boys
239. Sonic Youth
240. Sonic's Rendezvous Band
241. Spider Bags
242. Spoon
243. Spring
244. The Squad
245. Stiffs Inc
246. The Stooges
247. The Stranglers
248. Strapping Fieldhands
249. Stuart Murdoch
250. Styrenes
251. Sugar
252. Suicide Commandos
253. Superchunk
254. Swamp Rats
255. Tall Dwarfs
256. Tampax
257. Tapeworm
258. Ted Leo and the Pharmacists
259. Teenage Fanclub
260. Terrorways
261. Thee Oh Sees
262. Thermals
263. This Poison!
264. Third Bardo
265. Thomas Function
266. Thomas Jefferson Slave Apartments
267. Thought Criminals
268. Tights
269. Times New Viking
270. Tommy Keene
271. Tre Orsi
272. Troggs
273. Twink
274. Twinkeys
275. Ty Segall
276. Tyvek
277. Unrest
278. Urinals
279. Uzi
280. V-3
281. Vaselines
282. Vast Majority
283. Vee Dee
284. Versus
285. Vicious Visions
286. The Victims
287. Victor Dimisich Band
288. Vivian Girls
289. Vomit Launch
290. Vomit Pigs
291. Volcano Suns
292. Vulgar Boatmen
293. Wanda Jackson
294. Wavves
295. The Wedding Present
296. Weirdos
297. The What's New
298. The Wipers
299. Wire
300. Wounded Lion
301. Wooden Shjips
302. X
303. XYX
304. Yo
305. Yo La Tengo
306. Young Marble Giants
307. The 3Ds
308. 45 Grave

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Children By The Million...

...sing for Alex Chilton.

I'm quite certain there's no chance of me writing a better tribute to Mr. Chilton than the one Westerberg did many years ago. So I'll just note that the three albums he made with Big Star are indeed every bit as brilliant as everyone says they are and worthy of their legendary status. In fact, they cast such a long shadow that many seemed to resent Chilton for not remaking them in his (admittedly scattershot) solo career. At the very least, you have to hand it to Chilton for being a muse-follower rather than a crowd pleaser. Songs like "Walking Dead" and "My Rival" are among the most fucked-up rock n roll recordings you'll ever hear from a major artist, released well before that sort of willful deconstruction had any aesthetic cachet. (The collection Stuff, is as good an introduction as any to his solo work.)

Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be any performance footage of pre-reunion Big Star available, nor any of his prior band, the Box Tops, where they aren't miming. (Though this one pairs footage of the recording of their first album with a song from their third.) So here's LX, in the mid-80s, promoting his Feudalist Tarts EP by playing a few songs and giving a brief interview.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

New Release: Eddy Current Suppression Ring

Let's write a little speculative fiction, shall we? Let's say that John William Cummings was born with no hands, thus could not innovate the blitzkrieg downstroke. And let's say that Malcolm McLaren decided that he had an even better idea of how to sell clothes than putting together a rock band. If these things happened, does punk rock, as we know it, still happen?

Maybe it does in Australia. First wave Aussie-punk archetypes the Saints and Radio Birdman were performing as early as 1974, concurrent with the earliest CBGBs bands. They released their respective debuts back in 1976, both pre-dating vinyl from any UK punk group.

However, it's arguable that what the Saints, Birdman and their children were doing wasn't especially different from what was already going on in the rock scene down under. Bands like Coloured Balls and AC/DC weren't the bloated, in-need-of-shunting dinosaurs that Pink Floyd and Led Zep were. They were making some of the most vital, alive rock music of the mid-70s. Unlike in the UK and US, this new generation of Aussie rockers were more or less continuing in a straight line from their forebears rather than starting a revolution. Before "punk" existed, they had already figured out hardcore rock n roll in the land of Oz: keep it simple and dirty, attack with brute force and don't forget to swing. Ugly Things' Johan Kugelberg calls it "grillfat rock." I'm not sure exactly what this implies other than it probably goes best with lager.

Melbourne's Eddy Current Suppression Ring are firmly in the above tradition. Their third album Rush To Relax comes out today in US through the reliably fantastic Goner label. Needless to say it's a more than worthy purchase for anyone who likes their rock music stripped down and nasty.

In my post on 2008's best records, I wrote of ECSR's prior album, Primary Colours:
Sometimes it's hard to explain exactly why a band stands above the pack. Eddy Current Suppression Ring plays garage punk, plain and simple and lean and mean. There's no angle. No bells and whistles. Nothing to make blogger/critic/hype machine-types to perk up their ears and say "Oh, isn't that interesting!" So what makes ECSR better than the rest? It's that's indefinable quality called... I don't know... talent?
I'm perhaps a bit closer to figuring what it is that makes ECSR so much better than most of their garage punk brethren. I have some theories, at least. Maybe it's because they're equally adept at the slow burn and the stomper. Maybe it's because they know how to ride a groove. Maybe it's the fact that their guitars are a treble-y clang rather than a wall of fuzz, which allows the other instruments room to breathe. Maybe it's their keen sense of melody.

Well, whatever it is, the conclusion is that this is one of the finer rock music outfits around right now. If you're looking elsewhere for THE album to pick up this week, you're a real chump.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

New Release: Ted Leo and the Phramacists

As a rule, writers who cover pop music tend to overvalue artists whose work is in touch with the zeitgeist. A cursory look at the essays of any Village Voice Pazz and Jop poll bear this out. It's simply not enough for critics to say what their favorite records of the year are. They need to explain why those records are important to the grander scheme of here and now. However, topical relevance and sociological implications are usually inessential to enjoying music, even if it makes for good (and, frankly, easier to write) copy. Plus, when heard many years later, it can sound incredibly dated. Have you listened to Lou Reed's New York album lately?

Still, it's impossible to listen to music outside of the context of one's existence. And even the most hermitic of us is surely shaped by the current state of the world. When an artist comments on the present, it can affect as us though they're expressing our own new and inexplicable feelings, perhaps in a way we never thought to before. Does this necessarily make for a better record? It can and often does add a vitality to the music, but only if the music's vital in the first place.

Such was the case with Ted Leo and the Pharmacists' Hearts of Oak, which perfectly encapsulated the emotions of post-9/11 America: The anger, the fear, the confusion and the subtle hope for a better, more peaceful world. Leo managed this without resorting to ponderousness or pretension, focusing his (and our) complex feelings of uncertainty and conflict into something relatable yet poetic. The album was a powerful statement and gave notice that Leo was a major artist. He's released a pair a full-lengths since, both of which had wonderful moments though neither quite managed to replicate the grandeur of Hearts of Oak.

That is, until now. With today's release of The Brutalist Bricks, Leo and co. give us what may well be their best effort yet. Like Hearts of Oak before it, The Brutalist Bricks captures its moment beautifully. Since the 2008 election, the reactionary response of the right has led many us to feel real change may not be possible. Hope has faded in cynicism. Leo shares our frustration but refuses to be beaten by it. His conviction makes us believe that there's glory in simply fighting the good fight whether or not we always get the outcome we want. Unfortunately, promos didn't come with a lyric sheet, so I've got nothing to quote but, believe me, the message comes through loud and clear.

This is all well and good but would mean little if the music wasn't as captivating as the lyrics. It is. The Brutalist Bricks is not any kind of departure from Leo's trademark sound. Rather, it distills his greatest strengths and offers some strongest melodies of his career. And it sounds fantastic, sporting crisp production with each element clearly pronounced in the mix. Listing highlights from an album this strong feels a bit arbitrary and redundant. However, I will note that the soaring "Ativan Eyes," the vibrant, pounding "Gimme the Wire" and the insanely catchy "Bottled in Cork" are the songs I'm most looking forward to hearing the next time I see the Pharmacists at one their justly lauded live shows.

The album is streaming in full on MySpace, if you want to give it a listen. And you really should. It's an early contender for album of the year.

Friday, March 05, 2010

53 Years Ago Today...

...Mark Edward Smith was begat into this existence, making the word a much more colorful and rewarding place/

Despite the evidence in the right hand corner of the above that it has happened, it's worth nothing that I've never seen a Fall video on 120 Minutes on VH1 Classic. Not that I watch 120 Minutes on VH1 Classic all that often. Though "not all that often" is still more often than I'd like to admit.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

The Unblinking Ear Podcast: Punk Springs Eternal

It's nearly springtime. What better way to enjoy the new season than to listen to 4th in our series of podcasts featuring nothing but vintage late 70s and early 80s punk rock?

It will provide the perfect soundtrack to to strapping on your Converse® sneakers, which you can now wear without fear of stepping in a pile of slush and freezing your foot as it soaks through the canvas. Converse®: bringing you great sneakers for certain kinds of weather and the concept of anarchy®.

Earlier installments of our series are available here, here and here.

Download the latest The Unblinking Ear Podcast
Or Subscribe via iTunes

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Why The World Needs WFMU

I'm fairly certain that nearly everyone who reads this blog is familiar with WFMU. Yesterday the station is began its annual fund-raising marathon, which will carry through the next two weeks. For those that know the station, I will remind you not to take it for granted and pony up some cash. Those who haven't... well, you've been missing out and I hope I can convince you to send them a couple of bucks.

WFMU is an outlet for creativity that exists entirely on its own terms. It's a cultural touchstone completely removed from the mechanisms of industry. In this day and age, this is nothing short of remarkable. I don't want to slip into punk rock/pinko cliché here but so much of mass entertainment media is controlled by small group of corporations less concerned with presenting the public with quality work than fiscal prudence. This is especially true of radio, where playlists are generally limited to a handful of already commercially proven artists lest listeners tune out upon hearing something unfamiliar. Even independent music blogs, ostensibly a forum for individual ideas, have become increasingly little more than outlets for publicists. The results aren't always pablum, but they are often enough to make one suspicious and cynical about the entire enterprise.

WFMU is a real alternative to the above, airing work by artists who are not, in the terms of the music industry, unit shifters. Each DJ is an unpaid volunteer who programs his or her own weekly block of the schedule. There's no "format," no program director dictating what goes over the airwaves. Thus, every DJ's show is a reflection of his or her personal tastes, varying wildly in content from person to person. The station accepts no advertising, which ensures that WFMU's DJs are unencumbered by any restrictions that could be imposed by commercial interests. For those who volunteer there, the only motive is passion to offer the world the type of programming they want to hear. It's a shame to know that culture presented by human beings rather than conglomerate groupthink is the exception rather than the norm. WFMU is not the only exception but it may well be the most prominent. Their continued existence is an inspiration to anyone who values art over commerce and the unique tastes of individuals over focus group reduction.

Of course, the ethics granted by the station's lack of underwriting comes with the price of having to ask their listeners for monitory support. So tune in (91.1 FM in the New York area), listen to their extensive archives, check out their innovative iPhone app and, above all, send them some money.

There's all kinds of prizes and thank you gifts for your donation. And if that's not enough, one of the finest rock bands of all time will be playing your requests in exchange for pledges on Friday night.