Monday, March 24, 2014

some FUCKIN' RECORD REVIEWS


 Autodramatics  ‘Reaction’ LP

Former Horror (Iowa not UK) Andy Caffrey comes roaring back on this self-released platter. Plenty of fuzz coats some pretty good songs, with some pretty women singing most of them. “Tigerman” tears it up, hell the whole record does. ‘Reaction’ could’ve come out on Crypt circa 199something and you wouldn’t’ve thought anything was amiss. Ironically, mebbe ahm jus’ gettin’ ol’, but a little more fidelity could’ve helped a bit, there’s not a lot of sonic depth to the band itself. But they could prolly give a shit, so why don’t I shut it. Side B opener “Go Be a Lesbian” is the headsticker, and the swampy blues of the title track get you prepared for the last-call jones of “Methadone."  (Obsolete // theeobsolete@gmail.com)








Bone  ‘For Want of Feeling’ LP


Bleak and uncompromising, Bone pull off the weight of their intention. Any band who uses scenes from one of the most fucked movies ever filmed (‘Begotten’) is not dicking around for shits n’ giggles and nuthin’ but a good time. Bone is originally from Perth, with Cuntz drummer Mike on bass, but neither of those bits of knowledge prepare you for the desolate sound of math-rock stripped of all equations, post-punk stripped of any hope, replaced with a steel exoskeleton. A song like “Pedestal” is a perfect fusion of the choked hopelessness of early Swans and the right-angled grooves of the best Shellac. The construction of these songs sneaks into your head when you’re not listening, and when you do listen, they reveal themselves to have all sorts of memorable passages embedded. There is a similar path being trod as Drose, although less metal, more wire-y. Over the course of steady listens for the past half year or so, For Want of Feeling has maintained itself as a compelling listen. (Tenzenmen // tenzenmen.com)







Division Four  ‘1983 Demo Cassette’ 12”


This is goddamn glorious. I live for this shit. Thank you Smart Guy and dude from anti-PC punx Rupture for digging this little gemstone of a post-punk EP up from the cellar. Thirty years ago, five guys on the far side of the world (Perth, Oz) got together, jettisoned the guitar (doubling up the bass in lieu), and squeezed out this six-song mini-masterpiece. Of course, maybe a hundred tapes get made, and Division Four sink into the memory of the punk-scarred few that are still drawing breath following their self-destructive youth. There are similarities to what Soft Drinks were doing as regards to synth-driven punk, but Division Four were far more serious, and even more acerbic. “Doctor’s Wife” busts in like an accessible Screamers, singer Alan Hooper asserting himself with incisive lyrics and a snide vocal delivery that slices quick and deep. “Blank Prostitutes” is my kinda synth-punk, Hooper delivering the lines “Open your wallet and I’ll open my legs/Fuck me til you’re broke/ Your 20 dollars will buy me a hit/Take me away from life’s tedious shit” with such knowing disgust, that you imagine him creeping through alleys, telling himself he’s just doing “research.” It’s that Travis Bickle kind of disgust, the sort that comes from being at the same level as the scum surrounding you. But just when you think it’s all curled-lip bile, side two opens up with the lovely OMD-on-a-budget “I Was Walking”; it’s sensitive New Wave underpinnings go exactly where you expect them to, and the song is no weaker for it. “Azzaria” combines both these modes, verses positively seething in a Rotten-esque manner, chorus resolving into melody, the whole thing reminiscent of Flowers of Romance-era PiL, and reverse vice-versa, Total Control. This EP-that-never-was wraps itself up with the epic trudge of “Sewer Song,” a pit of sonic quicksand sucking you deeper into its foul embrace. Much like this 12”, it’s life-affirming in the worst possible way.  (Smart Guy//smartguyrecords.com)



The Gotobeds  “Ipso Facto” 7”


Now here’s something to sink your goddamn teeth into. Who'da thunk it? A kick-ass new indie rock single in 2013?!? Say it is so, Joe. Packaged in a snazzy sleeve w/ a printed inner, this “record store day” release (part of a singles series of local bands by Pittsburgh’s Mind Cure record store) hits all the right buttons at all the right moments. “Ipso Facto” is like a great lost Volcano Suns tune rung thru a Swell Maps sweat towel. One rocking guitar, one chiming guitar and a melodic bass driving an insistent rhythm; is that so fucking hard, people? (help, I’m turning into Andrew Earles) Look here, folks, a cool breakdown followed by an extended coda. Is it too late to make up my mind? B-side? Oh, just an above-average run-thru of a lil’ rager called “Television Addict.” Personally (and you know I like to get personal), I wish someone would attempt to out-trip-over-your-own-guitar-chords “TV Freak,” but I also like American Horror Story, so whadda I know? I think I know that there’s an LP coming soon courtesy of 12XU, so……..cool beans.  (Mind Cure // mindcurerecords.com)




The Invisible Hands 2xLP/CD  


Following the dissolution of the long-running esoterrorist art collective Sun City Girls (feels disingenuous and pedestrian to call them a “band”), Alan Bishop found himself in post-Tahrir Square Cairo with a fistful of songs and a need to make sense of the chaos around him. With the help of a few skilled Egyptian musicians, Bishop was able to complete this excellent self-titled album. The Invisible Hands conjures a somber and elegiac mood; the bitter, biting humor of songs like “Hitman Boy” and “Nice On Ice” is pitch-black, nearly suffocating in its hopelessness. “Soma” brings sha-la-las and bright, nearly Beatles-esque accompaniment to an aching plea for “freedom from the slaughter.” Despite its carefully orchestrated and masterfully executed musical framework, violence seems to stalk every step of The Invisible Hands’ existence. “Black Blood” finds Bishop channeling Leonard Cohen; a lament for fallen friends, abducted and tortured by secret police. “Death Zoo” closes the album with a shuddering finality. Fortunately, Bishop is able to balance his fatalistic gallows humor with meticulous sonic detail and deft playing from his cohorts. And this really comes in handy for part two of The Invisible Hands, which shows that Bishop is no mere dilettante cautiously dipping his toes into exotic waters. On this companion album, the same songs are performed (with slightly different mixes), but here they are given voice by Aya Hemeda and guitarist Cherif El-Masri. This is protest music, and it needs to be heard by everyone. Apparently a documentary is in the works, so stay tuned. 
(Abduction; http://www.suncitygirls.com/abduction/







Joel RL Phelps & the Downer Trio  ‘Gala’ LP


The people love Silkworm, as well they should, but the best Silkworm stuff is early-mid 90s when they were a four-piece, and this cat, Joel Phelps, played second guitar and wrote/sang about a third of their songs. After he split following ‘Libertine,’ the band was still good, but diminished without his idiosyncratic voice, both literal and writing. His physical voice is a weedy but strikingly powerful presence, and it enhances songs of naked emotion and a sort of existential clutching -- for others, for meaning, for something, for anything. Phelps’ trio of songs from personal S’worm high point Into the West, still send shivers racing down my spine. Even now, I’m still slightly unnerved by the time I saw this line-up and Phelps played the entire set sitting in a chair with his back facing the crowd, periodically and reluctantly stepping up to the mic, and letting loose with a caterwaul that sounded exactly as his contorted body looked. And that’s pretty much where I’ve kept Phelps all these years, trapped in my own little memory box. But, with his Downer Trio, he went on making records every few years. I never really checked in, which was stupid, cuz the guy is talented, and he’s not so far removed from those twenty year-old songs. ‘Gala’ is the first new one in nine years, and opens with two meticulously-recorded (you can hear every inch of that drumkit, in a warm, non-clinical way) songs -- sparse, yet tense, full of feints, parries and surges. And it continues apace, stopping for the occasional murder ballad (“Exiting the Garden”). ‘Gala’ is an excellent record of minimalist rock music played with a subtle grandiosity that compliments its blatant honesty. (12XU //  www.12xu.bigcartel.com)





Neo Boys  ‘Sooner or Later’ 2xLP/2xCD


I was pretty excited by the prospect of this release, but decidedly underwhelmed with the finished product itself. While it’s obvious that a lifetime of love went into this career-spanning collection, I’m not so sure Neo Boys deliver the musical goods. At least not to an extent that justifies this overlong overview. I’ve always dug the first Neo Boys single (put out by fellow Portlander Greg Sage’s Trap Records), particularly the B-side “Rich Man’s Dream.” Their excellent ‘Crumbling Myths’ EP opens with another of their finest songs, “Poor Man’s Jungle” (detecting a theme here?). ‘Sooner or Later’ jumbles a pile of Neo Boys recordings into a sprawling mess of mid-level femme post-punk. Neo Boys are not boys, but they don’t quite equal the heights of the best in the worldwide boom of female-guided post-punk. As a local concern, the Neo Boys are a classic Portland punk band, but too much of this collection is flat, tuneless and doesn’t quite justify their legendary rep. I’m not trying to out-and-out diss da Boys, they have some good stuff, and you can certainly hear their influence in a band like Grass Widow. But a single LP with the 45, the 12” and maybe the best of the unreleased stuff would have gone a lot further in solidifying their legacy. We don’t always need the kitchen sink. And no, that’s not a “wash the dishes, woman” pun, it’s a plea against warts n’ all. Calvin, some more careful curation next time, please. (K // krecs.com)





 
Pampers  s/t LP


I’m completely biased re: Pamps by both geography and friendship. I don’t care. You’re a dumbfuck if loud-ass banging cavemen-who-can-write-songs-type rock n’ roll is your bag. And you’re a dumbfuck if it ain’t. If the cover (by bassist/singer Jordan Lovelace) grosses you out, we’re off to a good start. These guys are getting up there in years, so any resemblance to an Oblivian or Spit-style pummel is not a coincidence, nor is it some new affectation. It just is. Lovelace-yelled “Not” is a live favorite, a relentless rocker with a sweet change-up. With bad-ass new slamma-jammas like “The Wigga,” I’ll admit I was slightly bummed about re-recorded 7” cuts, but damn this version of “Monkey Drip” is just stellar. Carl’s songs are generally more melodic, and his “Purple Brain” is the winner on this debut, and was quite literally, my favorite song of this past summer. To me it sounds like a science-fiction ode to love – spacejunked Devo. But the extended psyched-out pounding of side one closer “Sack Attack” comes in a close number two (and live it’ll make you doo-doo). Nice to see the boys on such an esteemed label. I think this was recorded in a cabin in the middle of the woods. Well done, boners. (In The Red // intheredrecords.com)







PYPY  ‘Pagan Day’ LP/CD


PyPy are somewhat of a Montreal supergroup, pulling together Choyce from Red Mass/CPC Gangbangs and Annie-Claude, dynamo singer of aggro-electro unit Duchess Says. ‘Pagan Day’ is a hard record, and a party record. PyPy songs are not quite Andrew WK posi-anthems, and based on the death disco of “Too Much Cocaine,” hard drugs may have contributed to the decadent squall made by this quartet. “New York” captures a sleazy post-punk vibe better than just about any bearded fuckface from the 11211 zip code (or 11249 to you johnny-cum-latelies), and if you think “Molly” is about a girl, then this probably isn’t the record for you. Meanwhile, “Daffodils” could score a Miami Vice drug-dealing montage. “Ya Ya Ya” is a warped dance number that sounds like Les Sexareenos got left out in the sun too long. “Psychedelic Warlords” brings you down easy.  (Black Gladiator // slovenly.com)





 
Quailbones  ‘In Lord Dion’s House of Discovery’ 7”


Good but ultimately forgettable garage moderne. Which means > a whole lotta OhSees. Now, I like them OhSees, still do, if less attention is paid (and payed). And I would put these cats near the top of Oh Sees tribute bands (that Wooden Indian Burial Ground band does a striking imitation too). Well-played, energetic, pretty deece recording, but all the hallmarks of that band’s style are here in droves, spades, and other things that come together. The flipside’s “The Long Hair of Death” does stick to the ribs a bit, but between its yodeling vocal hook and even the title itself, it’s just Dwyer-damaged thru & thru.  (Ghost Orchard // ghostorchardrecords.blogspot.com)







Sex Tide  ‘Flash Fuck’ 12”          

Things sure have been Sex-y as of late; between yer vids and yer churches and yer cults and yer tapes and 8-traks and......it’s enough to make you say Sorry, not tonight honey, I’ve got a headache. But here’s another Sex rolling in, and once again, we gotta say Yes, let’s fuck, as if we were in a flash-flood of Biblical proportions. UNFFF-NNNGGGGGG-UUUUHHHHHH----OH goddDDDD. Ain’t no atheists in the bedroom, who said that? Here we have 8 songs of loud n’ crude bashing from Cowtown USA (that’s Cbus to you). Sex kitten on obnox vox/standing Moe-drums, two dudes on geetars (one ex-Geraldine, who did the best Gun Club cover I’ve still seen yet).  Plenty of Pussy refs for you ref-heads, plenty of stanky punk for you panty-sniffers. Let's go deeper, baby, and say "Jackknife w/o the speed." Final cut “Gone” is a slo-burner that nicks the lead lick from “You Only Live Twice.” There ain’t no wheel reinvention going on here, but plenty of groovy hate-fucking. How else can we mention swampy genitals in fetid basements? Hey, what’s your name by the way, wanna fuck?  (A Wicked Company // awickedcompanyrecords.bandcamp.com)







Sperm Donor  ‘Accidental Incest’ LP


The underground will always have room for bespectacled geeks who carry around bucketfuls of pent-up rage, and attempt to exorcise said rage via tight rock group dynamics, angular riffing and non-melodic speak-singing. Call it the Albini factor. Sperm Donor are the latest to don the wire-rims, and they acquit themselves……okay. Opener “She Fucked Kevin Bacon” is def Rapeman outtake material, and the following “Compulsive Fornicator” doesn’t do much to dispel the notion of Sperm Donor as, well, a collective of compulsive masturbators. “So Long Motherfuckers” and “Dolly Parton” bring the proceedings down to a typical ‘90s plod. I’ve heard enough sludgefeasts like this to last a lifetime. It’s Melvins-lite, and it’s no fun. Besides, isn’t Dolly Parton getting a bit saggy these days? I mean, she’s like 100 years old (OK, yeah I would, fuck you, you would too). These “heavy” rock tropes are goddamn saggy. Soggy, even, but still not heavy enough. Side Two opens with “Song X,” which I wish sounded as close to Karp as Sperm Donor probably thinks it does. Dammit, I wanted to like this more than I did, and while it hits its markers well enough, in the end, that’s really the whole problem. (self-released // spermdonor.bandcamp.com)







Ultrathin  ‘Minimum Payout E.P’  cass/download


Melty Montreal negative space punk more onna Blade Runner tip than a blast into interstellar overdrive; fun stuff like Monoshock, Simply Saucer and Chrome gets the bomb-shelter treatment. “Walk Into the Void” and the relentless/obsessive “Downward Spiral” seethe with frustration and noisy head-down effects-riddled riffage; not gazing at shoes, just trying to avoid the average citizen’s zombie stares. Didn’t everyone hear yours truly when I declared a moratorium on Urinals covers? It was on Twitter (j/k #notfunny). Despite being slightly gauche, the live “Black Hole” here acquits itself well, but we’re more keen to hear the ‘thin’s take on The Pagans’ “Real World,” which they killed on stage. “A.K.A” is the two-minute punker that makes the Pagans influence more than apparent, convincingly desperate and thoroughly rockin’. If Ultrathin only wrote songs like this, they could open for The Spits in Halifax. No surprise that the cut called “Cyborg Skin” is the Chrome-iest of the lot, but, despite it being a bit long in the tooth, I’ll be damned if it don’t scratch that itch better than anyone has in awhile. “Spaceman” gets loose and far-out, all 3 Ultrathinners going for broke, like Loop huffing gasoline in the garage.  (Bruised Tongue//bruisedtongue.com)

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

LIGHTNING DEATH LITERATURE

CYANIDE TOOTH

TWENNY THIRTINE


Let’s get real. The story of the year was not, belie it or not, Ed Snowden (or Kanye West). It was Christopher motherfuckin’ Dorner. Blambo: The Revenge. A real-time terror spree, an epic statewide manhunt, an armed stand-off, a fiery demise. Brought to you in living (ahem) color by a slew of three-lettered acronyms and one pissed-off ex-everything. A man with a special set of skills. Twilight language. Ignore this at your own peril. Blambo was out for blood. In my heart of hearts, he’s still running free, lining up corrupt peace officers for execution. Every ‘80s actioner coming true all at once, forever. Strange how his “narrative” seems to have been excised from all major media, less than one year later. Why? It’s too fucking terrifying to contemplate, that’s why. One of “our own” turned inside-out by abuse and self-hatred, years of simmering rage, exploding in a cool, calm, and collected targeting of former “comrades.” It doesn’t get much richer, thicker, more desperate and dramatic. Did you forget? How about all those other shootings? Carried out by civilians, no less. Sorry to bring you down. Can I see both of your hands? I’m not sure I trust you. Don’t take it personally, it’s been a rough year.

If you didn’t give a slice of your (y)ear over to Cuntz, you must either hate to laugh or not enjoy getting your head kicked in. I can understand the latter, but I cannot forgive the former. If you ain’t a Solid Mate, say Aloha, baybee. Based upon the wake of their month-long US tour, in the modern parlance, Cuntz “won” 2013.

A case could be made that, in fact, Obnox won 2013, and that case would be hard to argue. Against. I’m wondering when Bim will catch up on jotting down all those names of all those asses Obnox kicked, live or on wax. He probably needs at least a few more weeks, it was a long year. Corrupt Free Enterprise (12XU) is the heavyweight, but that A Ragin’ in the Sun 7” (Anyway) is pure ‘scale. A double set, a maxi 12”er, a 2x45 and two 7” EPs.  Hell, let’s throw the Bassholes platter Boogieman’s Stew (CDR) in there too. Game, set, match.

Have you heard Human Eye? Oh, finally! Thank you Goner Records, with 4: Into Unknown, the best band OUT THERE seemed to finally get some real notice outside of our little bubble. Couldn’t happen to a better band. No, really, it couldn’t; there isn’t one.
           
Destruction Unit put out two LPs and a couple 7”s this year. It’s all good, but I sure hope you caught them on their endless tour -- live is where their desert found its true voice, and it is a loud and anguished moan.

Hey shithead, Australia’s Homeless Records was the label of the year. Going from releasing one LP in 2012 (Bits of Shit’s debut) to ten this year, Homeless established itself as the go-to label for dirty, grimy real world rock music. Featuring a nice split between crucial archival releases (both Stabs LPs and bringing late 90s Tasmanian heroes The Stickmen to wider attention) and vital new Oz bands like the aforementioned Cuntz, the Teasers-meets-Killdozer grind of Sewers (Hoisted) and the corroded psych-punk of Gentlemen (Sex Tape). Homeless even found the time to squeeze out K-85, a lovely album by Dan Melchior that is like Dan’s miniature Another Green World. And for the finishing blow, Richie even snuck in first-time vinyl issues of Tasmanian local legends The Stickmen; I’m partial to the livewire postpunk of the ’98 debut. More meaty stuff is on deck for the coming twelve months. It’s a good time to be Homeless (??).

While I have nothing but respect for the Drag City label (I grew up indie-damaged in the early/mid 90s after all), not much they have released in recent years has pricked up my ears. That changed with the welcome Venom P. Stinger reissue campaign they embarked upon this year. Nothing fancy (tho a lil’ pricey), straightforward re-ups of classic stabs of anti-you Antipodean rockjazz. First, buy 1986’s scabrous, borderline psychotic Meet My Friend Venom, then pick-up 1990’s What’s Yours Is Mine, which is one of the more effectively portrayed descents into personal hell on a (ostensibly) rock n’ roll album. It sucks Lou died, and Berlin is a bummer, but this album will keep you comfort in your loneliness like a plague blanket and bottle of cheap red. The merely-good Waiting Room EP is optional IMHO, but the “Walking About” 7” is about as essential as they come. Total tornado, your life is not your own.

The Floor Above’s Bishop (Savage Quality) turned the whole “one-man band” equation on its head. No Hasil Adkins disciple, this fella continues to grind steel wool against the open wounds of society. Bishop sounds like one dude’s refusal to consent – a giant FUCK EVERYTHING communicated through caustic, blazing-fast punk with thrilling noise guitar taking place of done-to-death hardcore chord “progressions.”

Hardcore Devo – what else can be said? You’re all devo, volumes one and two. A doff of the clear plastic mask to our friends over at Superior Viaduct. Holy shit, what a year they had. There was no way in hell I could keep up. But I will tell ya that the remastered version of MX-80 Sound’s Hard Attack is fucking unstoppable; make no mistake, MX-80 is a force, and this is their finest LP. Anyone who tells you otherwise, while surely well-meaning, is still a liar and a fool. I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it even after I’m dead: If you don’t own the Negative Trend EP in some form (no, digital files don’t count), then you are not, and never will be, punk. Is that annoying to read? Imagine how annoying it is to hear people blubber and blabber about punk, and they know naught of this record. Now you really have no excuse. SV gone and done made it easily available; I hear squares are even allowed to buy it (making them instantly cool, whatta deal!). Couple these significant victories with essential reissues that range from 100 Flowers, Martin Rev and Tuxedomoon to Heldon, Glaxo Babies and a cornucopia of obscure prog and lost soundtracks. One of my favorite things to listen to this year was Craig Leon’s Nommos, an intergalactic transmission from alien astronauts, recombo’d by futuristic Mayan priests floating on a cloud-like bed of glowing crystals thousands of years forward in the future-past. There’s an interesting behind-the-scenes conflict regarding this reissue too, but I’ll let our Goggle overlords direct you in the case you wanna know more.


Siltbreeze’s Scorched Earth Policy & Victor Dimisich Band collection LPs + Captured Tracks/Flying Nun reish campaign (Toy Love! Snapper! Clean! Verlaines! more!) + 540 Records’ Peter Gutteridge Pure vinylization x Peter Jefferies’ Last Great Challenge in a Dull World (De Stijl) = NZ DUZ IT. Evverytime.

One more thing from Down There: The Division Four 1983 Demo Cassette 12” (Smart Guy) was one of my favorite releases of the year, new or old. An absolute must for any self-respecting post-punk enthusiast.

S-S Records had a bit of an under-the-radar yet stellar schedule: the open up n’ bleed Slavic punk of Satan Panonski collection Hard Blood Shock, Banque Allemande’s Gordons-gone-Velvets (or is it the other way ‘round?) Willst Du Chinese Sein Musst Du Die Ekligen Sachen Essen, a coupla quality Spray Paint albums, and other stuff like neg-vibe “merchants” Life Stinks and decades-old Italian HC demos. Bravo.


Toronto’s Teenanger continue to make very cool punk rock music. Singles Don’t Sell (Telephone Explosion) is another winner, 12 infectious cuts with a few new wrinkles. Consistently excellent band.

Liquor Store went big-time on In The Garden (Almost Ready), and they have the songs, balls, charm, guitars, and guitars to back it up. “I’m just a pile of dirt” is one of the year’s more succinct and right-on statements. Write on, ride on.

There was some really great stuff this year that I only heard via demos or bandcamp, or demos on bandcamp. Like Taiwan Housing Project (Kilynn from Little Claw + Mark Feehan from Harry Pussy), or School Girl Report’s Success is Dating or just new bands with hard-to-find albums (Quttinirpaaq are cool). Blogs like Terminal Escape and the Urbankill tumblr are rife with all kinds of cool international sounds discovered via either dusty tape or easily-clickable streaming pages. Even if the tech is new, the game is the same: the constant hunt for that next band that locks you in, dredges up more than just “Oh cool, it sounds like X crossed with Q.” One band I listened to this a lot this year (courtesy of TE) does both of those things (ie. fulfill both trainspottery and engage my actual remaining emotions). A demo called Yeah I Know by a trio from Atlanta called Dasher got stuck in my craw almost instantly. In a current climate of ‘90s revivalism, Dasher gets “it” right, while also sounding vital and contemporary. Singer/drummer Kylee has a rasping voice that I initially mistook for a person of the male persuasion. She has a knack for welding intense, almost Jap HC vocals to big, thick anthems of strangled noise rock. MBV, Sonic Youth and Archers of Loaf steeped in a lifetime of Southern crust. Spring brings us a 7” on Die Slaughterhaus.


Other musics [good to great/new and new again]: Pampers s/t (In The Red), Counter Intuits s/t (Pyramid Scheme), TV Ghost Disconnect (In The Red), The Haxan Cloak Excavation (Tri Angle), The 39 Clocks Pain It Dark (Luxury Products), Circuit Des Yeux Overdue (self-released), Joel RL Phelps Gala (12XU), Pop. 1280 Imps of Perversion (Sacred Bones), Giant Henry Big Baby (Numero Group), Murderedman Love in Danger (Soundesign), Sightings Terribly Well (Dais), Pussy Galore Groovy Hate Fuck (Shove), The Invisible Hands s/t (Abduction), Run The Jewels s/t (Fool's Gold), Afflicted Man I’m Off Me ‘Ead (Permanent), Bone For Want of Feeling (Tenzenmen), 15-60-75 (aka The Numbers Band) Jimmy Bell’s Still In Town (Exit Stencil), True Sons of Thunder Stop and Smell Your Face (Little Big Chief), Tar 1988 – 1995 (Chunklet), Moonrises Frozen Altars (Captcha), Androids of Mu Blood Robots (Water Wing), Dan Friel Total Folklore (Thrill Jockey), Cut Hands Damballah 58 (Blackest Ever Black), Orchid Spangiafora Flee’s Past’s Ape Self  (Feeding Tube), Bona Dish The Zaragoza Tapes 1981-1982 + Earth Dies Burning Songs From the Valley of the Bored Teenager (1981-1984) (Captured Tracks), Shocked Minds s/t (Hozac), The Zingers s/t (Million Dollar), The Love Triangle Clever Clever (Static Shock/Sorry State), Matmos The Marriage of True Minds (Thrill Jockey), Tiger Hatchery Sun Worship (ESP-Disk), PYPY Pagan Day (Black Gladiator), Dirty Beaches Drifters/Love is The Devil (Zoo), The Feeling of Love Reward Your Grace (Born Bad), Rodion G.A. The Lost Tapes (Strut), AANIPAA Through a Pre-Memory (Editions Mego), Fuzz s/t (In The Red), Bad Noids Everything From Soup to Desert (Katorga Works), Rodan Fifteen Quiet Years (Quarterstick/Touch & Go), Thee Oh Sees Floating Coffin + Moon Sick EP (Castle Face), Joint D Satan is Real Again, Again… (Sorry State), The Gotobeds 7” (Mind Cure), Cellos 3-song 7” (Doormat), La Luz 45 (Water Wing), Livids various singles, Cosmic Psychos reissues on Goner (and live, it’d been awhile).







[originally published on Terminal Boredom, minus the last bit]

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

SOME KINDA FUN

Here's a mix I made.

Enjoy/destroy.


SOME KINDA FUN


Andy Cameron  “I Want to Be a Punk Rocker”
The Mekons  “Letters in the Post”
Coitus Int.  “Trap Questions”
Husker Du  “Some Kind of Fun”
The Dishrags  “Tormented”
SSKKKRAGGG  “Saw You On the Street”
DEVO  “I’m a Potato” (demo)
Come On  “She’s Latent”
Crawling Chaos  “Mummy’s Tummy”
Crème Soda  “(I’m) Chewin’ Gum”
Steve Treatment  “Head of a Raven”
The Homosexuals  “Prestel”
The Now  “Development Corporations”
Kebab  “Anti-L”
Antipop Consortium  “Melted Wax”
Diagram Brothers  “Bricks”
Arkansaw Man  “Every Job”
Herco Pilots  “Shooting at Gerald McBoing Boing”
Mud Hutters  “Stabbings”
Liimanarina  Kuinka Aku Ankasta Tehdään Poliisi”
Aparat  “Viltaja Jack”
ANTI  “I Don’t Want to Die In Your War”
Battleship  “You Could Feel”
Butterglove  “Teenage Softies”
The Birthday Party  “After the Fireworks”

Thursday, November 28, 2013

NU VIEWS




Afflicted Man  I’m Off Me ‘ead LP 

The strange and twisted history of Steve Hall aka The Afflicted Man is best recounted elsewhere (not least of which in the liners to this reissue), but suffice to say it includes hippies, punks, skinheads, anarchists, glue-huffers, speed-freaks, junkies and, never one to be excluded, God his damn self. Oh, and techno. I wouldn’t say this is Hall’s best album -- general consensus is the glorious din of Get Stoned Ezy (billed under High Speed & The Afflicted Man) is his apex – but it’s still an essential piece of the jigsaw. “Survival in the 80s” is a prime chunk of drunk stumble, lurching between the seemingly disparate poles of thug and psych rock. Hall seems to be trying to channel earlier gen freaks like Pink Fairies, and the sheer wrongheadedness (offme’eadedness?) of how his attempt comes out coats the proceedings in a sheen of enthusiastic, intoxicated amateurism, triumphantly emerging as unique DIY psychedelic post-punk rock n’ roll. In my mind’s eye, I see burly bikers with death’s head tattoos and fey cardigan-clad Homosexuals enthusiasts in a circle, hands clasped tightly, all enjoying these gone sounds together. Maybe I’m just a hopeless utopian, but, brothers and sisters, can’t we all just pass this communal glue-bag, take a huff, turn off our minds, float downstream, etc….? 

(Permanent // permanentrecords.com)






Androids of Mu  Blood Robots LP

Sometimes I wished I lived in an alternate universe where the majority of rock n’ roll bands were comprised of mostly female members -- that the almighty cock did not hold sway, and in fact, the feisty V was where the power sat. I could get down with this Amazonian utopia if the popular bands of the day were lady-powered dynamos like the Raincoats, Kleenex, Girls at Our Best, Dishrags, The Nixe, Wrecks, Nog Watt, Bound & Gagged, Neo Boys etc. Count the fantastic foursome of the UK’s Androids of Mu in that stellar lineage. Originally released in 1980 on the seminal Fuck Off Records, Water Wing does a splendid job providing a faithful reissue of this overlooked classic. Supposedly, Crass offered to do an album but requested a drummer change. The women of Mu promptly said “Fuck off,” and went and Fucked Off. Emerging out of the intoxicating smoke of the Gong off-shoot Here & Now, Androids of Mu wedded ecstatic freedom with sharp post-punk grooves. According to the accompanying dossier, the guitarist had a “previous deployment” with Inner City Unit featuring Hawkwind’s Nik Turner. Co-producer and Fuck Off Records founder (and main shaker in the great World Domination Enterprises), Keith Dobson provides liner notes and direction to this first-time reissue. The intertwining strands of British freak-rock and outer-limits post-punk weave a nice tapestry for the trainspotting record-geek. But these ladies were not fucking around for your benefit. They were forging their own path through the ’77-as-year-zero forest. “Atomic X” opens the album like a ska-influenced answer to Ubu’s “30 Seconds…” with bombs exploding on the horizon for the song’s duration. The Androids utilize that dub/ska rhythm quite a bit, which is a deal-breaker for some, but they leaven it with spikey guitars, whooshing bits of synth-noise, and alternately pleading or too-cool vocals. “She is A Boy” fucks with your gender biases something fierce as a woman observes a drag queen in action and it “makes me feel strange/when I’m in her range/hope she don’t hate me/I don’t hate her.” This is followed by the smirking “Pretty Nun,” which wonders “How do you really give up the good times/sacrifice your pretty youth?” Hey, who doesn’t love a hot nun? “Bored Housewives” is a legit classic, mixtape material when The Slits get to be old hat, providing a similar rejection of society’s incessant need to compartmentalize half the population. Most telling is the line “Sunday afternoon I take the kids to the park/never have a chance to meet a stranger after dark.” Ironically, this seems like a great song to sing along to as you do the dishes. “Lost in Space” is the track the singers from Sun Ra’s band never made, Joe Meek transmissions darting around the mix like a malfunctioning satellite. Blood Robots isn’t necessarily the album to break you into the wonderful world of femme post-punk, but if you’ve already got a taste, then this record is mandatory.  

(Water Wing // waterwingrecords.com)








German Shepherds  Music for Sick Queers LP + 7”

Complete fucking freaks. I’m not sure how I was made aware of this album, but way back in Y2K I found myself with access to a college radio station’s music library and I proceeded to go as apeshit as possible within a few hours each week burning obscure LPs onto CDRs. Music For Sick Queers was one of the first, and one of the freakiest. This record will never not sound like the product of disturbed minds; no surprise that surviving original member Mark Hutchinson hails from Northeast Ohio. Once again, Superior Viaduct gives up the goods, cementing their rep as the finest retro outsider-punk label in Christendom. If the menacing drawings that serve as German Shepherds artwork don’t clue you in as to the damaged nature of this SF duo, one listen to “Communist Control” will set you straight. This is music that considers Throbbing Gristle’s “Hamburger Lady” a love song. All of the classic subjects are touched upon: apocalypse, Hitler, Commies, Satanists, drugs, pedophilia. This last one is a touchy (ouch) subject for the Sheps. There were rumors for years that the now-deceased half of German Shepherds, Stephen Scheatzle, had been accused of some sort of child abuse and then committed suicide. It appears that this was merely a media stunt (and perhaps an inspiration for The Dwarves and He Who Cannot Be Named?), but I wouldn’t put anything past these damaged cretins. The kid-stalking anthem “Booty Jones” practically implicates you in an unspeakable crime, tossed off so nonchalantly that the creep factor rises as the song progresses. “I Adore You” is more throbbing fluorescent light-buzzing and insistent rhythm, like the gait of a persistent stalker, clinging to the shadows, patiently. “Mr. Tupper” is an audio collage, not unlike Orchid Spangiafora, cutting-up radio adverts and snatches of conversation. “THC,” the Devil’s weed, brings the Satanic goods, as only the mid-80s could, a peak time for ol’ Beelzebub and his countless minions. I wonder what Bob Larsen would’ve made of this cacophonous invocation of psychedelic music, heavy drug use and patricide. Satan is boring? Nah, not always. Christ almighty, I wanna shove this record into every noise-dork’s earholes. Don’t worry, children, I brought lube.  

(Superior Viaduct // www.superiorviaduct.com)







Giant Henry  Big Baby LP           

When I was in high school, my two favorite currently-existing bands were Unwound and Gaunt. To the astute ‘90s punkologist, much about my younger self could be inferred from such knowledge. Gaunt was local(ish), kicked major ass, were snarky as fuck, but wore their heart on their sleeve, like every great Midwestern band should. I Can See Your Mom From Here was a crucial album in my life, and remains a go-to staple. On the other side of the river stood Unwound. A power trio from the rain-soaked PNW, Unwound sometimes seemed like Nirvana’s younger siblings. And they kind of were. Per the liner notes from their classic debut Fake Train: “thankyounirvanaforthebuyingusbeerthankyounirvanaforlettinguspracticehere.”  But, in many ways, Unwound was the superior band. They were far more punk and underground, and their music evolved by leaps and bounds over the years. While they certainly never had the innate ear for melody like Cobain & co. did, they still managed to write dozens of memorable songs over their decade-plus existence. While sonically closer to Mission of Burma, Unwound’s howls of rage and sorrow had more in common with the emotional terrain of Husker Du’s Zen Arcade. Unwound’s songs were dust-storms of existential fury that channeled teen angst like few bands ever have (see Fake Train’s opener “Dragnalus”). And now that the Nineties are “back” (whomever said that pop culture moves in twenty-year cycles should get a MacArthur genius grant), Unwound has come around again, with new reissues on Numero Group, including a deluxe representation of the hard-to-find true first-album (posthumously committed to wax by Honey Bear in 1995). And that takes us almost back to where this record sits in the continuum. Before Justin Trosper, Vern Rumsey and Brandt Sandeno got Unwound-proper going, they had their high school band, Giant Henry. One Giant Henry song, “Crab Nebula,” managed to find its way into the early Unwound set, but all of the songs contained on this record are previously unheard. Recorded in their hometown of Tumwater WA in 1991, this is what teen spirit truly smelled like. “Super Nova” blasts off with a thick sound, unexpected noisy breaks and Trosper’s Cobain-esque yowl. On the insert, Rumsey is wearing a Nirvana t-shirt and the influence is transparent -- “Listenator” sounds like a Bleach outtake -- but Giant Henry manage to sculpt it into something that can stand on its own. And, much like Nirvana, these kids “loved the Melvins to death.” This kind of noisy off-time sludge seems to come natural to our friends up in the Loggerlands. As the trio morphed into Unwound and became more serious, the music grew even noisier and more unhinged. Big Baby is for completists-only, of course, but I can’t imagine any such person would be disappointed with this unexpected early glimpse into one of the ‘90s crucial bands. 1000 copies; silkscreened jackets w/ silkscreened inserts.  

(The Numero Group // numerogroup.com)




Murderedman  Love in Danger LP

Clevo noise rock vets do some of their best work yet. “Sleight of Hand” is a concise and electrifying burst of power that could have come straight off of Six Finger Satellite’s Paranormalized, secret melodic bass line included. “House of Eyes” is full of Bauhaus-ian drama; spiraling guitar and bass lines wrap around singer David Russell’s throat, threatening to choke the life out of him, and us. “My Catastrophe” is a relentless slice of avant-hardcore, buried blastbeats competing with fragmented electronics. “Toil & Toll” is Murderedman’s nu metal cut, featuring Russell’s most effective vocal performance overtop a hammering groove and sheets of skree. This is a brutal record, modest in its ambitions, but ambitious nonetheless. As good as they are here (and live), I feel Murderedman’s finest material has yet to come. But for now, this record will satisfy those who miss the likes of Drunkdriver and White Suns, not to mention Slug and Glazed Baby.

(A Soundesign Recording // polarenvy.com)







Poor Lily  Vuxola CD

I wanted to like this; really, I did. I’m a sucker for things in this nebulous genre – post-hardcore pseudo-artpunk whatchamacallit, obviously inspired by the Minutemen and most specifically recalling the mighty Nomeansno. Poor Lily are old hardcore dudes based in the Bronx who still feel the fire and wanna jam out their socio-political issues via tight power trio dynamics. And they almost succeed. But then there’s the singer’s nasally voice which falls on the wrong end of the Biafra Annoyance Spectrum. And when the other guy occasionally chimes in, you’re wondering how the CD player suddenly switched to a Biohazard album (and I only have a single-disc player). Despite some promising song titles (“The Days are Not Piano Keys,” “Justice Kennedy Has a Cold,” “The Drunken Mapmaker”), not one of these 19 songs stands out. To their credit, Poor Lily only waste a half hour of your time, but then again, that time would have been better spent listening to Sex Mad.  

(self-released // poorlily.com)






Sonic Youth  Smart Bar Chicago 1985 2xLP

Nineteen eighty-five was a peak year for da Yooth, what with arguably one of their finest albums, Bad Moon Rising, coming out on Homestead, and them beginning to tour the entire country, often with Swans and at least once in the Mojave Desert with the Meat Puppets and Redd Kross (and *cough* Psi-Com). This gig from Chicago is a helluva live document and might remind you why Sonic Youth, at their best, divorced from all the recent drama, really are a unique and powerful band unlike any other. The set is basically all of Bad Moon Rising with a few things off the impending EVOL. The recording is excellent, utilizing both board and room mics to give a real presence to the room, while still being able to hear what each instrument is doing. You know the guitars are going to be gnarly and otherworldly, but what really comes through is how pulverizing the rhythm section is. Steve Shelley had just joined the band following Bob Bert’s departure, and his time in Wisconsin’s Crucifucks had prepared him well for Sonic Youth’s intense sets. He’s a more straightforward drummer than Bert, and live it comes together as he keeps the band from floating away or jamming too long. They start things off with “Halloween”s slow grind, then get “Death Valley ‘69” out of the way. It thrashes pretty hard, but it’s “Intro” into “Brave Men Run” that really kicks the set up an extra level. Shelley and Gordon drive the song forward as Moore and Ranaldo make Swell Maps chimes on their guitars. The dark, tribal threat of “I Love Her All The Time” is so focused it feels like an incantation. “Ghost Bitch” sets hackles on edge with arcs of achingly abrasive feedback, eventually erupting in what sounds like a voodoo dance in pitch-black darkness. Older gems like “The Burning Spear” and “Making the Nature Scene” get feverish readings. This is before Sonic Youth felt compelled to weld their outre’ tendencies to traditional rock songcraft. At this point in their career, Sonic Youth sounded like no one else, aided by their heavy use of tape loops during this period. They had shed all of their No Wave forebears’ trappings and established a singularly menacing style of rock noise. Smart Bar has some of the heaviest SY action I’ve heard on wax, we’re talking some real head-banging noise rock, so come get ducky, dodos.  

(Goofin’ // sonicyouth.com)



The Thing From the Crypt LP
Seminal comp of an isolated sub-scene gets the treatment by coldwave impresarios Dark Entries. There’s a gothic sensibility to much of this music, but it’s not heavy-handed, and often, tongue-in-cheek. Released in 1981 and containing two songs by each band, this comp’s quality is, for the most part, excellent. Exhibit ‘A’s “Rain” sounds like a New Zealander’s take on darkwave, ditching the menace for an extra dose of melancholy. “Take Me Inside” by Sad Lovers & Giants comes off as a more accessible, new wave Screamers, while Flying Beechcraft’s sly “Bugger Off” is a minor classic. Of course, half the reason to own this LP is for the two songs by the supremely satisfying Soft Drinks, a synth-vocal-drum combo that approach their arch songs with a thuggish glee. Imagine early Passage in a caveman karaoke and you’re getting close. “Squash” does just that, but “Pepsi Cola” is the choice of a new generation (of miscreants). A muscular drumbeat pounds away as synths act like a quickening pulse, while the singer yammers on about drinking a soda, literally, everywhere. Flying Beechcraft come up with another winner in “Frog Girl,” almost like an angles-rounded-off Embarrassment, or perhaps a slightly less pretentious Verlaines. I really dig how most of the bands walk this strange line between synth-punk-pop-new wave-goth. But trust me, there’s more than enough guitar here, this is still rock music, generally speaking. Joy Division looms large, but taken in creative directions. S-Haters provide good, noisy mope but Sad Lovers & Giants “Clint” could easily get an ‘80s nite dance floor moving. On the other hand, Mex’s “Functioning Fripp Girls” has more in common with Danny & The Dressmakers, and the album closes out with Gambit of Shame’s nearly trad garage-rockin’ “She Lawn.” If anyone would like to send me a copy of Soft Drinks’ lone 45, “Popstars In Their Pyjamas,” well, shucks, that’d be just swell.

(Dark Entries // darkentriesrecords.com)



[most reviews originally appeared on Terminal Boredom]





Monday, September 9, 2013

RUSTY HINGE

He should never have walked through those doors. 

He knew better.

Knew better than to let the rusty smell of whiskey tempt him. It’d been one year four months and who gives a fuck how many days. Rules are meant to be broken, eh?

The look that slip of a girl had shot his way (or had he imagined it?) at the rest stop was enough to set him off. Weak. He hadn’t sold shit in days anyhow. Fuck it. The gaping maw of drunk awaited him; jaw slack, tongue throbbing, nose twitching.

“Whiskey, two ice cubes.”

He leveled the last of these words at the bartender like a threat.

Larry Lynch, you sad-sack shit of a man. Drink your fill, vomit your guts, keep on laughing. No one hears, except for the grave, which sports the biggest smile of all – a broad grin that could swallow the whole world.

A woman walked in, like an echo of the rest-stop girl. Except quite a bit older, perhaps even older than him. She sauntered in like she owned the damn place, like she owned every damn place. Shut up, you idiot, he chided himself, you have no business even being here. The woman walked around the right-angled bar, exaggerating her movements almost theatrically. Who’s she trying to impress, Larry thought, it’s just me, the bartender and that schlub in the corner. The sun was still beating the blacktop and unless you were some kinda do-nothing hippie, it sure as hell wasn’t party time yet. But this woman -- with her finely-coiffed medium-length blonde ‘do, and her hip-hugging high-waisted white slacks, which revealed a sculpted torso culminating in generous breasts -- was acting like she was Lauren fuckin’ Bacall, and where’s my Bogart? her pursed lips seemed to be on the verge of asking, hell, more like demanding. Well, I’m taller than that dead fuck, toots, is what Larry wanted to not so much as say, but throw at her -- right at her pretty little head.

Larry made a vague motion towards one of the beer taps and the bored-looking bartender, so used to this scene as to be hopelessly mundane, poured the cheap suds and shuffled over to where Larry half-sat at the bar, one leg up and one leg firmly on the ground, as if he was ready to sprint out of there at a moment’s notice. Mr. Bartender delicately dropped the pint glass right next to Larry’s now-empty whiskey. All it took was Larry making eye contact for the bartender to blindly reach behind him, snag the whiskey bottle, and swing it around in an arc, coming to rest directly above Larry’s rocks glass. The bartender looked Larry directly in the eyes as he turned the bottle upside down and expertly poured the brown liquid. Just as Larry was about to demand two more ice, the bartender’s other hand seemed to appear out of nowhere with a small, stainless steel scoop sporting two square cubes. He slid the cubes into the glass without so much as a fleck of whiskey escaping over the lip of the glass. Larry picked up the glass, took a long sip of the rich, smoky poison, quickly followed by a desperate guzzle of the beer, draining half in one swallow.


A full bladder equals an occupied mind, as his father used to say. He lifted himself off the stool, wobbling slightly, legs still weak from the ass-numbing ride of the past few hours. He practically stumbled away from the bar and the bartender shot him a warning look. After all, it was only quarter after three in the afternoon, he wasn’t quite lubed up enough to deal with some shit-heel drunk who came floating in on a cloud of fumes. But Larry quickly righted himself and made his way to the restroom in the back, snaking his way through a cluttered maze of mismatched tables and chairs.

In the bathroom, Larry kept inching into the urinal, the tip of his dick touching cold linoleum at a steady rhythm; the only steady thing about Larry as his pants slipped down his weak-kneed chicken legs and his worn-out buster browns slipped on the dirt-tiled floor, his soles squeaking in his own piss.

It took him a few minutes to recover any sense of his surroundings. Oh yeah, here I am again, trapped myself in a bar. Bet the sun is still out there pounding the concrete. Fucker is merciless. Might as well stay in here and beat the heat, Larry thought.

“What’s the harm, hell it’s good for my skin,” Larry said out loud, to no one. Then he realized he was talking to his own reflection. At first, he hadn’t even recognized the unkempt vagabond staring back at him. It had been days since he’d shaved; and last time he shaved he had to use one side of a pair of old scissors, digging at the stubble in his chin as if he were foraging for root vegetables, or digging mines out of an old warzone. It hadn’t gone well, especially as hungover as Larry had been, as Larry was, in that moment. Both moments. Every moment. At this thought, he felt the vertigo hit him again and he swayed in place, like an inflatable wind dancer. Those inhuman advertisements that reminded us all how small and earthbound we truly are. Larry felt inhuman. Just then the portly schlub came barreling into the cramped bathroom, shocking Larry out of his fog and nudging him towards the sink. Larry reached out, suddenly desperate, and managed to secure the lip of the sink in his clutching hands. He steadied himself as the man pulled up at the lone urinal like a horse to water.

“Sorry, chief, gotta drain this weasel something fierce, boy I tell you!”

Back at the bar, Larry’s head swiveled around like a broken-necked doll, unsteady on his badly-shaven throat. He felt like a forgotten toy at the bottom of a child’s closet. For how long would he remain neglected? Perhaps not as long as he thought, as the bartender decided to take pity and poured him a double, this time catching his eyes with a slightly sympathetic look. We’ve all been there, he seemed to say. Larry raised his glass in salute and the man said, “No problem, bud, this one’s on me.”

Larry asked for another beer on top of his full rocks glass (he somehow forgot to ask for ice and the man had not offered). As the delicious warmth began to spread over his body – is this what heroin addicts feel like? Larry thought – he managed to take a little more control over his upper spine and found himself gazing fixedly at the lone woman. She was sitting catty-corner from him and she matched his stare, her face betraying no emotion whatsoever. Not so much as dismissive, but impassive. Stone-faced. Larry imagined her elegant features supplanting one of those fuckers at Mount Rushmore, might even class that craggy rock up a bit. She was certainly making this shitty bar more inviting by the minute.

“I like the way you look at me,” she said. “Like a problem you are trying to parse.”

A dim recollection of grade school pushed its way to the front of Larry’s brain.

“Don’t you ‘parse’ sentences?”

“Oh I am a sentence, baby. Some would say ‘life,’ some would say ‘death.’ I say let the chips fall where they may.”

“Easy to say, hard to follow through.”

“Oh sugar, don’t make it too easy for me now, would you? It’s still early yet.”

Larry waved this comment away with a floppy hand, accidentally rapping his knuckles hard on the bar counter. Somewhere, nerves screamed in pain, but they failed to penetrate the spreading warmth.

“Leave that poor, old bar alone,” the woman mock-scolded him. “What’s it ever done to you?”

“Plenty. More than plenty. It’s done it all, and then some, and then one more time for good measure.”

“Yet here you are, sucked back in.”

“Goddamn black hole.”

“We’ve all got holes, honey, just depends on if you want to turn the light on or not,” she smiled. And all Larry could think was, There, that smile, that’s my light. Turn me on, baby. Hit that switch.

Instead, Larry grunted a response, in an attempt to show that he was above it all.

The woman wasn’t fooled. “Come on, stranger, come closer. Let’s co…..mmiserate.”

Larry let the comment float in the air for an extra beat. Then, feigning reluctance, he gradually lifted his sore ass off his stool and slow-walked down the bar, trying his best to appear as nonchalant as possible. But secretly, desperately, his heart was taking a drum solo and he felt something like electricity shooting through his veins. Aha, now this is what junkies feel.

Larry led with his whiskey, placing the rocks glass close to her cocktail, and parking himself next to her.

“You got a name, sugar?”

“Larry.”

“That’s a strong name, Larry. Larry of Arabia,” she giggled to herself. “Desert warrior. I’m Annabelle, pleased to make your acquaintance, sir. Are you coming in from a long journey through sandstorms and the like?”

“Something like that. I sell, I travel. It feels like war sometimes.”

“And what do you sell, Sir Larry?”

“Vacuum cleaners, cleaning products, peace of mind.”

“Do they still do that? I had no idea.”

“I still do it. It’s all I know. My brother got me into it fresh outta high school, and I guess I’m just too dumb or too stubborn to figure out how to do anything else.”

“I think it’s charming.”

“Feh, don’t bullshit me, Annabelle. It’s the pits and you should be laughing at me. God knows I do. Sometimes I turn off the AM and just laugh myself silly.”

“Oh Larry, that’s sad. Please don’t do that.”

“Looks like your drink’s empty. What’s your poison?”

“Today, I’m feeling tropical. I can almost smell that Caribbean air, the salt and the sand and the sun.”

“Going on a trip?”

“Perhaps.”

“Hey buddy,” Larry jerked his chin at the bartender. “Can the lady get a pina colada?

The bartender rolled his eyes and began to prepare the cocktail. The entire time, he shook his head imperceptibly, not knowing whether to laugh or be annoyed at this putz.

Larry was oblivious, trying to appear in charge, in control – to not let on that his head was swimming and his thoughts were growing more primitive by the second. He took a sip of whiskey, figuring that would level him out.

Annabelle smacked at her lips, the sound drawing Larry’s eyes to her mouth, and in that instant, he felt like he could disappear into her mouth, that between those lips and those pretty white teeth, he could dwell forever, safe from harm, content in that moist cave. It had been too long since Larry had been with a woman, and this broad was a step-up from the usual floozies he took to second-run movies and then dingy bars to patiently wait for them to get drunk enough to fuck him. Now, he was the drunk one, and it felt good, and she was going to be his, he could just feel it.

The bartender frisbee’d a cocktail napkin onto the bar-top and placed the garish drink in front of Annabelle. A miniature umbrella poked out of the comically large glass. Larry raised his own drink, “Here’s to you, toots.”

Annabelle clinked his glass and took a long sip from the double-strawed cocktail.

“Thanks, hon. I’ve got to visit the little girls’ room and make a quick phone call. I’ll be back in two shakes, don’t you go anywhere,” she winked at him.

Larry just nodded dumbly. He watched her as she navigated the furniture maze with grace, plump derriere moving in slow motion. As she closed the bathroom door behind her, he turned his head and noticed the corner schlub licking his lips and giving him a curious look. Then the schlub raised his glass as a sort of salute, or perhaps it was a congratulations. Truth be told, Larry was just as surprised as he was. But the whiskey provided bravado, so he gave the guy a pitying look and half-raised his glass in acknowledgment. Sucker, he thought as he turned back around.

As the minutes ticked by, Larry seemed to be frozen in time. He felt like a relic from another age. A traveling salesman. A drunk. A failure. Goddamn, was he sick of all this self-pity. He just needed one good night. One night to feel the caress of a woman, to feel alive again. He deserved that much, didn’t he? Look at all these bastards running the world, starting wars in unpronounceable countries, shitting on the common man. They should be strung up and beaten to death. Give ‘em the ol’ Mussolini headkick.

Larry glanced over to the dimly lit hallway in the back, which housed the cigarette machine and some novelty toy-grabbing doohickey. He saw Annabelle on the payphone, laughing at someone’s words, sure as hell not his. He felt a pang of jealousy, but eased it with a long pull on his whiskey. While she yammered on, probably with some girlfriend or perhaps a family member, Larry ordered another beer. It had been awhile since Larry had drank, but he hadn’t forgotten that he preferred to have a chaser for the brown stuff. Double-fist. A real man.

Annabelle sashayed back to her stool and seemed even perkier than before. She wriggled her perfectly-round ass on the stool, finding her comfort zone. She looked as at home as a lioness on the plains of Africa. There was something slightly exotic about her; not the way she looked necessarily -- although she was a fine specimen no doubt – but in the way her eyes played over Larry’s face, seeming to read all the hurt and bullshit he had been through. If she could see it, maybe she could heal it. Or at least soothe it. This wild beast needs soothing, Larry thought. Before I go extinct.

“Now, where were we?” Annabelle said, tracing the outline of her glass with her forefinger.

Larry snapped himself out his hypnotic trance. “I think you mentioned going somewhere more private,” he gambled. Fuck it, she wants it.

“Oh, did I?” Annabelle chuckled, tossing her head back slightly, revealing her long, pale neck. Larry longed to kiss and bite at that fleshy column.

“Yep. And gentleman that I am, I suggested my car. It’s parked right outside and it’s a Lincoln, so there’s plenty of room.”

Annabelle looked amused. “You brave and dirty man. You are asking for a world of hurt,” she teased, as her hand seemed to drop accidentally onto his knee and slowly moved up his thigh, stopping just as it was entering the no-fly zone, so to speak. Something stirred deep in Larry. A voice way back in the cheap seats of his brain wondered what he had done to stumble upon such luck. Well, a million drunks drinking in a million bars, someone’s gotta get laid eventually…

“It’s like that monkey typewriter thing,” he said out loud.

“What’s that, hon?”

“Nothin’. Wanna get out of here?”

“Not quite yet, I still have my drink to finish! you impatient scoundrel,” she squeezed his thigh good-naturedly. “Don’t forget, it’s still early yet. This bar is dark, but outside, well, there’s a whole wide world, bright and shiny as a new penny.”

“Whatever you say, babe,” Larry said as he slipped his hand behind her and placed it on the small of her back. She didn’t flinch. He needed to possess her. Larry forgot about everything else in his life; it was all a joke anyway, all that seemed to matter was making this flirty broad his, if only for a few hours. Sometimes that’s all a man needs to recharge his batteries. Larry was running low, but he could feel the electricity radiating off of Annabelle. The current ran up his arm and juiced his brain.

Just then, the front door swung open and daylight burst into the dark bar. Everyone jumped slightly, except Annabelle, who continued to smile her enigmatic grin. Even the bartender had appeared to be lost in some sort of reverie, perhaps recalling a time when he didn’t spend his afternoons in this shit-hole.

Once Larry’s eyes adjusted to the burst of light, and the door swung shut, he saw a tall, dusk-skinned man stride in purposefully. A few steps in and he took stock of the bar and its patrons. He gave the schlub in the corner a perfunctory glance and the man nodded his head. He shot the bartender a look and the bartender seemed to shrug, almost invisibly. Or perhaps Larry imagined it. The room was teetering and he was having trouble staying on his stool. Finally, the man fixed his gaze towards the couple at the bar. He lingered momentarily on Annabelle’s visage, but he fixed his gaze right on Larry. Larry felt like lab rat, or a zoo animal. He didn’t appreciate the attention. He only wanted attention from one of these people and this big fella sure as shit wasn’t the one.

To Larry’s surprise, Annabelle waved at the man and motioned for him to walk around the bar. With his gaze still locked on Larry, he cleared the corner, came up on the other side of Annabelle, and planted a kiss on her cheek, which she offered willingly. Larry’s heart hit the floor and the back of his neck tingled.

“Larry, this is Ramon. Ramon, meet Larry. He sells vacuum cleaners. He’s a real sucker!” Annabelle erupted in hysterical laughter at this last sentence, cackling like some idiot hyena.

“Pleased to meet you, Larry,” Ramon said with the trace of an accent, “Now get your fucking hand off my girl.”

Larry realized that his left hand was still perched on the small of Annabelle’s back. He almost drew it back, but then the whiskey re-asserted itself and Larry thought, This is it. This is my moment. I can get it all back, here, now, in this bar. My self-respect is within reach. Fuckin’ grab it, Larry!

“Sorry, bud, I don’t think so. Me and the lady were having a nice conversation, and we ain’t finished with it yet. Ain’t that right, darlin’?”

Annabelle just looked straight ahead with that smile playing on her lips.

“Oh, I don’t know, Larry, I was just thinking how my flight was soon. That trip, remember? To the tropics? Well, here he is.”

As Larry’s whiskey-soaked brain tried to piece together what was exactly happening, Ramon grabbed his wrist in a tight grip and flung it off of Annabelle’s back. That seemed to spark the adrenaline Larry needed and he immediately stood up, knocking his stool over. The beast was loose.

“Touch me again, and you take a trip to the hospital.”

“Oooooo,” Annabelle cooed, her smile widening.

Ramon, a good six inches taller than Larry, stepped forward and pushed him hard in the chest. Larry went flying backwards into a mass of tables and chairs. He hit his head, but barely felt it. He was barely feeling anything. The schlub jumped up and Larry could have sworn he saw him rub his hands together. Larry looked at the bartender, and once again, he shrugged so faintly, Larry couldn’t tell if it was just a weird tic he had. Guess I’m on my own, he thought, as he made his way to stand up. He felt like he was moving through molasses. The room was still spinning, but it had slowed down enough for him to focus on Ramon. He was a big motherfucker, that was for sure. But Larry grew up with two older brothers, and they were merciless in their youth. He suffered beatings on a daily basis until he was big enough to swing back.

Larry took a step forward, and so did Ramon. They were almost in each other’s radius. The bigger they are, Larry thought, as he rushed at Ramon. He threw a punch at the man’s chin, but ended up hitting him in the arm -- like he was kidding, like this was all just a joke. Ramon pushed him hard again, but Larry came back for another try. This time, Ramon blocked the punch, covered Larry’s face with his hand and threw him back onto the floor.

The schlub was roaring with laughter, “You swing like a rusty hinge!”

Larry had picked a fight with the wrong man, but it was too late to back down. He charged at Ramon with all of the desperate strength he could muster. Ramon side-stepped Larry’s clumsy attack and grabbed him by the collar of his cheap suit. There was a split-second where everything in the room stopped moving, the scene became as tranquil as a deserted street during first snow -- pure calm and peace reigned.

“A rusty hinge!”

Ramon pulled Larry towards him and everything went red as Ramon’s fist detonated on Larry’s nose, blood and cartilage flying everywhere. His only satisfaction was seeing a few flecks land on Annabelle’s white slacks as Larry hit the floor for the third time in less than a minute. This time, he wasn’t getting up. He was beat. The beast was dead.

The couple towered over his prostrate body, his muscles limp and defeated.

All Larry could manage was a squeak.

"Why?"

“Just needed something to kill the time, sugar.”

They walked out into the heat and light and Larry just lay there.

He wasn’t going anywhere.