Normal History Vol. 479: The Art Of David Lester

Every Saturday, we’ll be posting a new illustration by David Lester. The Mecca Normal guitarist is visually documenting people, places and events from his band’s 34-year run, with text by vocalist Jean Smith.

Shake this land
raised up to wait
without windows

Shake this land
Shake it

Muttering about a strength to ignore all tools
rasp, chisel and oil

Shake this land
Shake it

Red proud eyes
born on a shadow of a legend

Shake this land
Shake it

Muttering about a strength to ignore everything
all tools
rasp, chisel and oil

It’s a truly uncivilized nation
that treats medical care
as a commodity to be sold

Take it
It’s yours

“Museum Of Open Windows” from Flood Plain (K, 1993) (download):

Wonder Women: Madonna, Heart, Sinead O’Connor, Wilson Phillips and Janet Jackson

28 years ago, for the first time ever, women held the top five spots on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart: Madonna (“Vogue”), Heart (“All I Want To Do Is Make Love To You”), Sinéad O’Connor (“Nothing Compares 2 You”), Wilson Phillips (“Hold On”) and Janet Jackson (“Alright”). Heavens to Betsy, can’t believe it took that long.

Unfortunately, however, all five songs were written or co-written by men.

MP3 At 3PM: Joel Levi

Nashville’s Joel Levi released his sophomore album earlier this month, sharing his simple and emotional songs with the masses. Not only is Levi a talented singer, he’s also a gifted songwriter. All 10 of the tunes on this self-titled, self-released album are relatable, tackling subject matter we face in our everyday lives: marriage, kids, work and life on the road. Levi’s songs definitely have an alt-country feel to them (MAGNET fave Jason Isbell comes to mind), but they have a style that’s uniquely his own. Lyrically, first single “Will We Ever Change?” reminds us that we can’t run away from our problems. Stream and/or download this catchy song below.

“Will We Ever Change? (download):

Flashback Friday: Wooden Shjips (Smoke On The Water)

Wooden Shjips are releasing new album V. today via our friends at Thrill Jockey, and trust us, it’s a must hear. As you might gather from the LP’s title, it’s the San Francisco band’s fifth album, though these psychedelic sailors insist the “V” references the two-fingered peace sign. (We’re more familiar with the one-fingered salute, but we digress … )

Lazy music journalists might say Wooden Shjips sound like what would happen if Spacemen 3 were American and listened to a lot of the Dead and Suicide, but it is the Friday before Memorial Day, and marijuana possession has been decriminalized in our hometown of Philly, so go ahead and call us lazy.

Speaking of weed, it’s Flashback Friday time, man. We first introduced you to Wooden Shjips in issue #81 back in fall 2011 around the time third album West came out. We’re bringing you that article today, published online for the very first time. Get psyched:


Wooden Shjips

Brevity becomes Wooden Shjips on their best album yet

Wooden Shjips don’t know when to stop—in the very best way imaginable. Newly out on Thrill Jockey, West provides a fresh perspective on (alien) terrain once broached by the likes of Chrome and Spacemen 3. But the San Francisco-based (still, kinda) psychedelic quartet pursues their mission with a restless inventiveness that makes seven minutes seem too short, and seven songs too few.

“When it came time to record the album, we really didn’t talk about how long we wanted songs to be,” organist Nash Whalen explains by phone as he prepares for a string of tours that’ll last into late fall. “We just played them in the studio, and then later on, we were like: ‘Wow! That was only four minutes?’”

Granted, they were working in unfamiliar surroundings. Recorded and mixed in six days by Phil Manley (Trans Am, Oneida, the Fucking Champs) and mastered by psych/experimental legend Sonic Boom, the band’s third album (not counting two singles collections) is the first they’ve recorded away from their practice space. The added clarity brings West’s constituent parts into sharper relief without sacrificing anything in the way of immediacy.

As always, Whalen, bassist Dusty Jermier and drummer Omar Ahsanuddin mostly contribute momentum and texture—though Whalen occasionally steps to the fore. Founder, singer and guitarist Ripley Johnson’s spectral croon sounds more disembodied than ever, a perfect foil for solos that unfold like some cosmic rupture the Hubble might capture a glimpse of.

With the likes of Animal Collective introducing the indie rock masses to psychedelia and events like Austin’s annual Psych Fest enhancing their visibility, it’s no wonder that demand for the band is rising.

“It’s one of those kinds of music that’s always going to have hardcore fans,” says Whalen. “But when more good bands come along, the genre expands and more people are able to get excited about it. It seems like right now a lot of bands are tapping into it, and I think it’s a good thing. Everyone’s coming at it from a different place. It’s not a one-trick pony, not a one-dimensional genre at all.”

—Rod Smith