Lost Classics: Amphetamine Reptile Records

tapem200bThey’re nobody’s buzz bands anymore. But since 1993, MAGNET has discovered and documented more great music than memory will allow. The groups may have broken up or the albums may be out of print, but this time, history is written by the losers. Here are some of the finest albums that time forgot but we remembered in issue #75, plus all-new additions to our list of Lost Classics.

chokebore545Like so many indie labels in the ’80s and ’90s, Minneapolis-based Amphetamine Reptile was started by a guy for the sole purpose of putting out his own band’s records. In this case, the guy was a Marine named Tom Hazelmyer, and the band was Halo Of Flies, an angry, in-your-face punk trio with a large chip on its shoulder. After three Halo singles (released in 1986 and 1987), Hazelmyer started issuing seven-inches—and, eventually, full-lengths—by similar-minded outfits such as the Thrown Ups, the God Bullies and the U-Men. By the early ’90s, AmRep was the premier label for all things aggressive, with a roster including hard-rocking stalwarts Helmet, Tar, Surgery, Boss Hog and Helios Creed. What Sub Pop had become for grunge, AmRep was for noise. (The word was even incorporated into the label’s logo.)

Like Sub Pop, AmRep excelled at generating as much—if not more—interest in the label itself as it did in the bands signed to it. There was the popular Dope-Guns-N-Fucking In The Streets seven-inch series, which featured new songs from AmRep groups alongside exclusive tracks from the likes of Mudhoney, Superchunk, the Jesus Lizard, Jawbox and the Boredoms. There were AmRep package tours (given names such as Ugly American Overkill and Clusterfuck), in which the label sent up to five of its bands out together, always with plenty of tour-only merchandise to sell. AmRep even had its own recording studio, manned by in-house engineer (and Halo Of Flies bassist) Tim “Mac” McLaughlin, where bands could record inexpensively.

The group that most personified Amphetamine Reptile was the Cows, a Minneapolis quartet that could make you laugh, cry, puke and crap your pants—all during one of its gloriously bizarre sets. (Suffice it to say, if you didn’t enjoy being kicked or having food—or worse—thrown at you by the band, you didn’t want to be in the front row at a Cows gig.) Led by Shannon Selberg—who, when not shrieking like a mental patient, added bugle and trombone to his group’s manic mix—the Cows released all but the first of their nine albums on AmRep. 1992’s Cunning Stunts was the band’s best LP, as it added some much-needed structure to the Cows’ unrelenting anti-pop noise.

AmRep eventually began releasing records by groups that didn’t fit into the noise genre, including Chokebore, Gaunt and Nashville Pussy. During each month in 1996, the label issued a new single by the Melvins (who had released the deliberately obtuse Prick on AmRep in 1994 under the moniker Snivlem) in editions of 800, then compiled all 12 on CD the next year. In 1999, AmRep put out its last record while functioning as a working label: a single by the Heroine Sheiks, Selberg’s post-Cows band. Since, Hazelmyer has done a handful of limited-edition seven-inches by Billy Childish, pre-Hold Steady outfit Lifter Puller and others. The most notable of them is a one-sided single of the Melvins covering Halo Of Flies’ “Spit It Out.” What makes it notable? The fact that the Melvins don’t actually appear on it; it’s simply Halo Of Flies playing one of its original songs. Which goes back to the reason why Hazelmyer started AmRep in the first place: to put out his own band’s records.

Anything Near Waterz // Amphetamine Reptile, 1995

Chokebore (pictured) was the first AmRep band to sound absolutely nothing like an AmRep band, but nonetheless, this Los Angeles-via-Honolulu quartet was one of the label’s best. (After hearing Chokebore’s 1993 Motionless debut, Kurt Cobain asked the band to open for Nirvana on the In Utero tour.) Led by Troy Miller—whose melodic warble was equal parts yodel and yelp—Chokebore was far more minimalist than its labelmates, specializing in an exhilarating brand of post-punk. Sophomore effort Anything Near Water remains the band’s high point, a 15-track journey through a sexually charged bizarro world populated by dying birds, bleeding camels and scared little mice.


TiVo Party Tonight: PJ Harvey & John Parish, Bruce Springsteen, Chris Cornell

tivopjEver wonder what will happen during the last five minutes of late-night TV talk shows? They let musicians onstage! Here are tonight’s notable performers:

The Tonight Show With Jay Leno (NBC): PJ Harvey & John Parish

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart (Comedy Central): Bruce Springsteen

Last Call With Carson Daly (NBC): Chris Cornell

What’s 15 feet tall and on TV tonight? Polly Harvey, Bruce Springsteen and Chris Cornell. Ah, short-people jokes. Harvey and producer Parish have a new album, A Woman A Man Walked By, due March 30. The Springsteen Daily Show episode is a rerun from earlier in the month. We’ve picked on Chris Cornell a lot lately, and for good reason; we’ll just mention he’s on Carson tonight and tomorrow night, both as an interview guest and performer.

MP3 At 3PM: Exclusive Track From Cosmos (Robert Pollard And Richard Davies)

We have a little secret for you, but you can’t tell anyone: MAGNET really likes Robert Pollard. You might even call us big fans, if that means compulsively collecting all of the 12,000 records the man has put out over the course of the last 22 years—on every format they were released on. (Yes, we own GBV cassettes.) Well, we also really dig Richard Davies, the former leader of the Moles and Cardinal, so when we heard that Pollard and Davies were releasing an album together under the moniker Cosmos, let’s just say we were freaking excited. The 14-track LP, due June 9, is titled Jar Of Jam Ton Of Bricks and features Pollard on lead vocals for eight of the songs and Davies for four. One of our favorite tracks on the album is “Nude Metropolis,” whose music was written by Davies and whose melody and lyrics were done by Pollard. The dynamic duo was kind enough to give us this exclusive mp3 of the song to pass along to you. Enjoy.

“Nude Metropolis” (download):

The Over/Under: R.E.M.


MAGNET’s friend Roob (you’d know him if you saw him) was a Yes man until he took a trip to Chronic Town in 1982. He’s left the city limits since then, but now he’s back to inform you of the five most overrated and five most underrated R.E.M. songs.

I was 23 years old when I first heard 1982’s Chronic Town bursting from my friend Linda’s speakers, and that seminal EP, which was essentially a template for the entire indie-rock movement, managed to turn me overnight from a proghead who spent his free time in a room lit only by a lava lap, listening to Tales From Topographic Oceans (on headphones) spinning on an old turntable into a diehard fan of cutting-edge guitar-pop music. I gave up on R.E.M. sometime in the mid-’90s, disgusted not only with the obvious decline in the band’s work but by the notion that somehow the stuff the group was still putting out was even better than everything from 1983’s Murmur up through 1987’s Document. As I revisited all of R.E.M.’s records for this piece, I tried to approach the newer stuff with an open mind. Maybe it’s not as dreadful as I thought. Maybe I dismissed everything after 1996’s New Adventures In Hi-Fi too quickly. Maybe R.E.M. really is still a great band, only different. Sadly, I was wrong. No group in history has ever plunged from such remarkable heights to such dismal depths. But, then again, R.E.M. was once the greatest band in the world. Anyway, here are the five most overrated and underrated tracks in R.E.M.’s 29-year history.

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The Wooden Birds And The Worst SXSW Prank Ever

andrewkenny380Let’s just say that things got a little lonely last week for music journalists who weren’t in Austin for the South By Southwest festival. The phones stopped ringing. The mail crate was lighter than usual. Emails trickled in from PR interns.

So when senior editor Matthew Fritch began receiving emails from ex-American Analog Set frontman Andrew Kenny regarding load-in times and practice schedules for his new outfit, the Wooden Birds, one man’s autofill mistake (the emails were intended for bandmate Matthew Frank) was another’s ultimate time-waster. We quickly registered a proxy gmail account, pretended to be Matthew Frank and fired off some group emails to our new bandmates. Even though the prank was hastily conceived, poorly executed and ended up fooling maybe one person (not likely), we feel obligated to present it to you:

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Josie Cotton’s B-Movie Guide: “She Devils On Wheels”

Josie Cotton may have stolen the prom scene in a cult-classic film (1983’s Valley Girl, singing new-wave hit “Johnny, Are You Queer?”), but she never committed such cinematic high-camp crimes as found in vintage b-movies. Each day this week, Cotton surveys one of her favorite films and offers a song from her latest album, Invasion Of The B-Girls. Read our Q&A with Cotton and her memoir about “Johnny, Are You Queer?”

josiedevil550She Devils On Wheels (1968)
If you’ve ever wondered about the origins of chlamydia, look no further. She Devils On Wheels is where the beaver hits the road, with an all-girl biker gang called the Maneaters who pummel and bang their skanky asses across an entire neighborhood. With not much in the way of a plot line, this movie was director Herschel Gordon Lewis’ self-confessed attempt to even the score for all us babes in boyland. Instead, it ends up making you want to take a shower.

The Maneaters live by one code, and one code alone: Men are the scum beneath their skidmarks. And if you make the the fatal mistake of turning sweet on one, you have to kill him. Period. OK, there are two codes. They live by two codes … except for the other ones. Whatever. This is a multi-tiered organization. If you wanna ride with the Maneaters, you’ve got to have sex immediately after a race. But if you’re gonna need a real “juicy stud,” you have to win, and then you can pick from the “stud line,” a hairy male smorgasbord forever marinating in the girls’ X-rated clubhouse. When the Maneaters aren’t dragging some poor slob behind their bikes, they’re hosting extremely unattractive orgies (thankfully clothed), rolling around on dirty mattresses in their bras and estrogen-soaked capri pants to a soundtrack straight out of The Dating Game. (This is moviemaking!)

“Hey thing, move it to the stud line!” barks horny, trash-talkin’ heifer Whitey to her terrified man prey. As bubbly, underaged mascot Honeypot wistfully watches on, Queen, their sado-ponytailed leader emotes, “No guy deserves what you got, Honey.” Later, in the Maneaters’ sacred initiation, while they chant, “Sex, gas and blood/All men are mothers,” the gleeful virgin strips down, is slathered with black motor oil and then gang-raped by some lowlife dweebs hiding in a ditch. Awwww … she finally made the gang!

“We’re not a bunch of daisy-pullin’ broads,” cackles Queen, decked out in white go-go boots, oozing in understatement plus other unmentionable fluids, right before she decapitates a guy then beats his headless corpse with a tire chain. Make no mistake: She Devils On Wheels is a tender coming-of-age movie in which girls struggle to find themselves in a baffling world through a series of kooky misadventures. While I wouldn’t want to ruin the ending for you, there really is no ending—along with no middle and no beginning.

“She Devils On Wheels” from Josie Cotton’s Invasion Of The B-Girls (download):

Lost Classics: Beachwood Sparks “Once We Were Trees”

tapem200bThey’re nobody’s buzz bands anymore. But since 1993, MAGNET has discovered and documented more great music than memory will allow. The groups may have broken up or the albums may be out of print, but this time, history is written by the losers. Here are some of the finest albums that time forgot but we remembered in issue #75, plus all-new additions to our list of Lost Classics.

beachwood545:: BEACHWOOD SPARKS
Once We Were Trees // Sub Pop, 2001

Beachwood Sparks couldn’t walk a block without hearing some kind of Gram Parsons comparison, and rightfully so. The Los Angeles band’s mellow-gold appropriation of California country/rock sometimes felt like the equivalent of trying on a Western shirt and fringe vest at a Melrose Avenue vintage shop. But sophomore effort Once We Were Trees (recorded at the home of J Mascis, who played guitar on two songs) pushed the signature sound into psychedelic places where Parsons had never been. Many of the album’s tracks began nice and steady with honky-tonk fingerpicking and woozy pedal steel but ended in a miasma of organ drone and haunting harmony vocals. A little too weird for those expecting more cookie-cutter cowboy songs, Trees was met with as much puzzlement as praise.

Catching Up: Beachwood Sparks was last heard from via 2002’s Make The Cowboy Robots Cry EP, and its members have since moved on to other projects. Bassist Brent Rademaker formed Frausdots and joined brother Darren in the Tyde. Guitarist Chris Gunst plays in Mystic Chords Of Memory. Guitarist Dave Scher and drummer Jimi Hey formed the short-lived All Night Radio. Drummer Aaron Sperske fronts As Is. Beachwood Sparks reunited in 2008 to play Sub Pop’s 20th anniversary party.

“The Sun Surrounds Me”:

TiVo Party Tonight: Morrissey, Bloc Party

tivomorrisseybEver wonder what will happen during the last five minutes of late-night TV talk shows? They let musicians onstage! Here are tonight’s notable performers:

Late Show With David Letterman (CBS): Bloc Party
The U.K. group is still flogging last year’s Intimacy and pre-flogging the May release of Intimacy Remixed.

Late Night With Jimmy Fallon (NBC): Morrissey
Apparently unfazed by MAGNET’s declaration that Morrissey Phase Two is overrated, Moz does Fallon in the middle of his Years Of Refusal U.S. tour. Also on the program: Regis!

Block Party’s “Ares (Pin Me Down Remix)” (download):

MP3 At 3PM: Joan Of Arc

joa400Since 1995, Chicago’s Joan Of Arc has set itself apart from its musical peers by making intricate, experimental rock layered with dozens of sample tracks. Tim Kinsella, JoA’s sole original member, continues his crafty songwriting on Flowers, due June 9 on Polyvinyl. Kinsella and Co. describe their 10th record as “cooler and more formal.” Read MAGNET’s Joan Of Arc career overview from 2006.

“Explain Yourselves #2” (download):

Q&A With Josie Cotton

josieqa37513Most people remember Josie Cotton as the adorable new-wave princess in the prom scene of 1983 cult classic teen film Valley Girl, singing “Johnny, Are You Queer?” Cotton wrote all about the celebrity and controversy that followed in the wake of “Johnny, Are You Queer?” for MAGNET in 2006. (Read the piece, which garnered an honorable mention in 2007’s edition of Da Capo’s Best Music Writing Series.) Cotton hasn’t returned to the pop-music charts since the ’80s, but she’s continued to write songs, work with artists (via her Satellite Park studio in Malibu, where Elliott Smith recorded his final album) and partake in pop culture’s more interesting shadows. Her latest album, Invasion Of The B-Girls, consists of covers of songs from the campiest, best/worst b-movies of the ’60s and ’70s. Each day this week, Cotton will write about some of her favorite b-movies for magnetmagazine.com.

“Creeps” from 2006’s Movie Disaster Music (download):

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