Saturday, April 18, 2015

Mad Dog Cole 
Kingdom of the Scarecrow (Western Star)

I suppose there may be veterans of the ghoulish, rampaging psychobilly sideshow who eventually evidence reduced viability, but Mad Dog Cole is outstandingly not in that number. The legendary ex-Krewman here continues his baneful and defiantly beastly narratives. Head thrown back, he howls at a blood moon with all the vitality of a never-aging cursed man thrilled to be damned. 

Recommended "Scarecrow ,"  "Bullet Holes," "One Step Closer," "Lucifer," "The Machine"

The Cool Whips 
Goodies (self )

Muscular riffs, joyous harmonies, swinging farfisa, and sparklingly upbeat power-pop sensibilities leap and gambol in this delightfully jangly retro sunbeam kaleidoscope. 

A thought presents itself: Lost on those who insist that all past phenomena share equally the deserved rejection of historic inequities is the soul-happifyin' truth that much cream soda-good also bubbled in yesteryears. In the salutary push to change upward, let's not be indiscriminate. Let's remember that preserving what made Then bearable has earned not just preservation Now, but a joyful shoulders-ride into Tomorrow. 

'Cause it turns out that a bright and happy world was here all along.

Recommended "Boom-Shang-A-Lang," "On the Seesaw," "Pink Lemonade," "Lost In the Summertime," "Turpentine," 

VIDEO: "Pink Lemonade"

Sunday, April 12, 2015


An occasional blog series, featuring my past reviews of important (if undersung) discs. Though all are recommended, these recordings appear in no particular order.

Truly Lover Trio
"Bullseye" (Twinkletone)

Suavity, enthrallingly gentle melodicism, implicit ebulliance - these rank prominently among Truly Lover Trio's identifiers. Affectionate and winsome nods to the Wink Troubadour elevate Bullseye tall o'er less graceful, clambering roarers. Refinement offers strength not accessible to unthinkingly cacophonous cut-outs.

Recommended "Twice Sorry," "You"

(This review originally ran in Rockabilly magazine #48, in 2011.)  

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Cold Blue Rebels
"Blood, Guts, 'n Rock'n'Roll" (Rank Outsider)
"Love of the Undead" (Rank Outsider)

If some riffs and musical moments ring familiar in these psycho-sprees, that's OK; it just illustrates the blood-bond with hip predecessors. (I should stress that unique firings outnumber echoes.) And the garish/gorish B-flick scare cinema imagery lends an appropriate dastardly vibe. The band leaps out at listeners with all the clawing immediacy of a hyperventilated 3-D haunting. Knuckle-crackin' monsters you should meet.

These discs were originally released in 2011 and 2013, on Horror House. 

Recommended "Hell Block 13," "Lil' Grave Robber " (cd 1)
                          "Haunted Hollywood,"Zombie L.A.M.F."  " (cd 2)

                "Haunted Hollywood"              

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Robert Gordon

"Something Else" (Victrola)

Collecting a singer's major label output isn't a challenge. Depending on the particular label's promotion, releases can practically fall into your lap.

But it's the dogged fan (call us obsessive, if you must be unkind), we who prowl thrift store bins and off-the-main-drag online spots, who value most an artist's toil and who, sometimes, are rewarded beyond expectation.

And so it is here, in the case of roots singer nonpareil Robert Gordon. Anyone can find the crucial, rockin' vinyl he put out on RCA, back in the day. But new this 500-copy, 2-disc set offers gems no less precious.

And it hips listeners that the Robert Gordon of today sounds even better than the RCA-era one. (We always knew he was an gifted singer of tremendous range. Now we know that he always will be. The commanding baritone of earlier days resounds as powerfully. But, with the passing of years, experience and maturity have lent bold character.

Some time back, there was talk of Robert doing some European recording with old friend and colleague Chris Spedding, drummer Todd Glass, and drummer Lesse Sirkko. As there are no personnel listings here, I can't confirm that these gentlemen appear here - though I recognize Mr. Spedding's masterful fretboard navigations.

The mood on Disc 1 is light, casual. And that bouyancy finds manifestation in the rollicking, good-time sounds.

Disc 2 is a 1978 live gig. It was recorded some two weeks after Robert and legendarily ferocious six-stringer Link Wray had completed their second LP for Private Stock, "Fresh Fish Special."

Incredibly, this taped gig sat forgotten until recently. Robert and Link are abetted with relish and joyful abandon by an uncredited crack rhythm section. Given the date, I'd wager bassman Rob Stoner was on hand. Perhaps also drummer Howie Wyeth.

Captured on these 24 1978 tracks is the sort of barnburning rock 'n' roll kicked up by men who love it. 

In fact, that last would also do as a description of the recent studio tracks on Disc 1. While they are for the main more mid-tempo than flat-out screamer, they are no less charging and vibrant. Heartening, in fact, in that they underscore the truth that worth can endure time's inexorable march. 

It pays to be obsessive!        

Recommended "Believe What You Say," "Hot Rod," "Knock Three Times,"                            "You Don't Know What 
                         You've  Got (Until You Lose It)," "Don't Let Go" 
                         - Disc 1

                         "Twenty Flight Rock," "Red Hot," "Sea Cruise," "Flying                                  Saucers Rock 'n' Roll," "Rumble"
                         - Disc 2

VIDEO "Don't Let Go"

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

I Was a Punk Before You Were a Punk 

In a 3/13 gush-piece in the online Mic, "With one amazing quote, Pussy Riot sums up what every punk fan feels," staff writer Tom Barnes lauds the Russian group. (Though, joining trendy identity bloc disjuncture with sharism sensibility, he pronounces them a "feminist punk rock collective." To quote Chris Farley, "Well, la-di-frickin'-da!") 

Barnes notes that the band lectured to Pitchfork, in February: "A punk is someone who knows how to ask the world uncomfortable questions, and does everything possible to make sure the world can't cop out of answering those questions. A punk is a person who lives and breathes astonishment. Astonishing other people and yourself, as well -- that's what art is for us, and without art life can't exist. It would be too boring."

I lived through the 1970s punk blast, though as a long-distance fan, not an on-scene, onstage participant. Perhaps that accounts for my being here, when, sadly, so many others aren't.  I know CBGB's-era adherents sometimes held up differing definitions of punk. But the ones that have always rung truest to me are those that place the actual music, kicks, and humor before all else - before cultivated provocativeness, fashion-consciousness, Euro political stances, etc.

So, for a better definition of punk than the pretentious bannering spouted by Pussy Riot, let's consult an authority. 

The late and legendary Joey Ramone once declared to, "For me, punk is about real feelings. It's not about, 'Yeah, I am a punk, and I am angry.' That's a lot of crap. It's about loving the things that really matter: Passion, heart, and soul."

You may have noticed that Joey said nothing about challenging the world to answer uncomfortable questions, expressive arty musings, or astonishing anyone. 

See, Joey was a punk.

- DC Larson

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Richie Ramone
"Entitled" (DC-JAM)
CJ Ramone
Last Chance To Dance" (Fat Wreck Chords)

DC Larson

I first glimpsed the Ramones in a b/w cheap paper Rock Scene magazine photo essay. 1975. It chronicled the filming (in what I later learned was Arturo Vega's loft) of their pre-Sire video audition tape. 

The music was jarringly monochromatic. So were they - stark in black leather before a draped bedsheet.  1-2-3-4, and the world was made a cool place for misfits, outsiders, and assorted irregular psyches. 

Drummer/singer Richie and bassist/singer CJ would pass through the punk juggernaut in its later years -- Richie replacing Marky for three albums (Marky returned), and CJ taking up the bass after Dee Dee's 1989 departure. 

The two never did appear together on a Ramones LP, but each added something distinctive to the group. 

And they offer distinctly individual solo works. Therin lies the key to appreciating these new CDs. Not comparing their Ramones-consistent traits to the originals (a competition no one could win), but rather listening for what might distinguish them from their august predecessors.

Richie's Entitled tends to be the angrier and more aggressive. Its militant guitars are set on 11, Surly riffs stalk amongst the chunky power chording fury, and a rhythm section probably wanted by authorities for disrupting global peace rages ever forward.

Ah, the songs. Direct progressions are layered with intriguing melodic additives, and invigorating instrumental ambition jumps up from the chaos, only to duck back into shadows to plot new attacks.

Atop the whole is Richie himself, his unique sneered vocals alive with attention-riveting attitude. Loud. Defiant. Detonative. A whipsmart presence in black leather. 

Back in the day, he penned several notable tracks for the Ramones proper. Three are reinterpreted here (closer to the author's own vision, one assumes).

Of these, "I Know Better Now" and "I'm Not Jesus" are in the familiar headlong-dive style. But they incorporate novel twists and 
newly minted textures. ("I Know Better Now" benefits from a gang-yelled "Nobody can tell me!")

As the youngest Ramone, CJ brought a freshness and energy to their presentation. Last Chance For a Dance is welcome for the same reason. Its athletic energies speed through cut after cut of ebullient flame. Arrangements, even those tending toward the elementary, surprise with unexpected curb jumps into head-spinning change territory. 

Keeping all percolating above the storm is an infectious optimism. Not as in happy-go-sappy, smiley faced obliviousness. But rather a lopsided grin-through-untoward experience that refuses to cede the battle.   

As demanded by CJ's top-drawer original material, the playing here is uniformly strident and declarative. It surges, true, but with winning amiability, The pounding comes with a hearty handshake.

Variety is served with the inclusion of pensive balladeering, For these, CJ's otherwise muscular singing settles back into an agreeable introspectiveness. 
My advice? Buy both.

Recommended Richie "Criminal," "Entitled," "Smash You," "I Know Better Now," "Into the Fire"

Recommended CJ "Understand Me," "Til the End," "Long Way To Go," "You Own Me," "Last Chance To Dance"
VIDEO "Entitled"
VIDEO "Last Chance To Dance"