Listening To “The Best Show”: 12/23/08 Episode

bestshowA weekly recap of The Best Show On WFMU, Tom Scharpling’s call-in/comedy/music show broadcast every Tuesday night from Jersey City. The three-hour program is available for free download at iTunes.

In this week’s episode, our host makes the uncharacteristic move of allowing the inmates to run the asylum. Tom lets certifiable nutjob callers such as Charlie the Addict and Fredericks from New Port Richey babble. At least it’s more interesting than the nice-guy listeners who called in just to extend holiday wishes. Instead of wasting air time, next year just send a Christmas card.

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This Isn’t England

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But it sure sounds like it. Say hello to The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart, the Brooklyn band that sounds like late-’80s Creation Records. We mean the entire roster (but especially Ride). The self-titled debut comes out in February on Slumberland; as much as we love the Jesus And Mary Chain/My Bloody Valentine-style guitar fuzz, it’s high time that the jangly, chiming side of that Britpop-era sound (Aztec Camera, Black Tambourine, et al) got its due. Please consider this our first Hot New Band Alert of 2009. February tour dates after the jump.

“Everything With You” from The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart:
http://magnetmagazine.com/audio/EverythingWithYou.mp3

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Glen Campbell Readies Greatest-Hits CD

glencampel3601Maybe you know Glen Campbell as the guy who would fill in for Brian Wilson on Beach Boys tours in the mid-’60s. Or as the guy who played with everyone from Frank Sinatra to the Monkees. Or as the guy with the totally awesome mugshot. But around the MAGNET office, we just like to think of the legendary singer/songwriter as the guy who can make a red jumpsuit and a skinny microphone look hot. On the heels of August’s hit-or-miss Meet Glen Campbell (featuring the man covering songs by the likes of the Replacements, Green Day and the Velvet Underground) comes Greatest Hits, a 16-track collection due February 10. You’re probably saying to yourself, “But wait, Glen Campbell already has more greatest-hits albums than he had hits, so why should I care about this one?” To tell you the truth, we’re not really sure, but we’ll do anything for a chance to run a photo of Campbell in his red jumpsuit. (You know, because he makes it look hot.)

In 2003, MAGNET’s Bob Mehr visited Campbell at his Arizona home, where the music legend talked about his impressive career and his impending retirement (guess he changed his mind about that one). Read it here.

“By The Time I Get To Phoenix” from Greatest Hits:

Redwalls Guitarist Andrew Langer Wakes Up, Forms New Group

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Redwalls guitarist Andrew Langer has left the Chicago band he co-founded and formed a new quintet dubbed the Sleeptalkers (pictured). “The Redwalls was our childhood dream,” Langer says of the heavily Beatles-y outfit of friends from Deerfield, Ill. “It was a fun and exciting experience for a while, but as my musical taste grew outside of that bubble, it became apparent that I wanted to move in a different direction.” Langer picked Robert Pollard’s main collaborator, Todd Tobias, to produce and play bass on the Sleeptalkers’ first record, currently untitled and label-less. Langer is hoping for an early-2009 release. Continuing on the Pollard-connection front (we are MAGNET, after all), the Sleeptalkers’ first gig, February 7 at Schuba’s in Chicago, will be opened by Regal Standard, Pollard sideman Jason Narducy’s new band. No word on what the remaining Redwalls are up to, or whether Chris Slusarenko is involved in any way.

The Sleeptalkers’ “Falling Apart”:

Miles Davis Masterpiece Turns 50, Gets Reissued

miles-davis500Kind Of Blue, not just one of the highlights of Miles Davis‘ stellar career but an important milestone in the lifeline of jazz, is being reissued this month by Columbia/Legacy as a two-CD/one-DVD set to celebrate the album’s 50th anniversary.

Recorded in 1958 by the trumpet legend’s sextet that included John Coltrane on tenor sax, Julian “Cannonball” Adderley on alto sax, pianist Bill Evans, Paul Chambers on bass and drummer Jimmy Cobb, Kind Of Blue was an early excursion by Davis into modal improvisation, which allowed a player to improvise on a series of scales rather than the more constricted chord progressions of bebop. The modal style, first developed by jazz composer George Russell in the early ’50s, emphasized soaring melody over bop’s often frenetic rhythmic creations.

After leaving Davis’ group, Coltrane would take the modal concept to new heights on his signature 1964 album A Love Supreme. Disc one of Kind Of Blue (the best-selling jazz album of all time, incidentally) features the original work with alternate takes and false starts added; disc two presents session tracks that didn’t make the cut (“On Green Dolphin Street,” “Fran Dance”); and the DVD spotlights a pair of documentaries, one on Davis’ career and the other on the making of the album.

“Blue In Green” from Kind Of Blue:

Classic Alternative: Girls Against Boys “Venus Luxure No. 1 Baby” [Touch And Go]

gvsb_300Dateline 1993: Lollapalooza moshed its way down Main Street while Billy Corgan, Eddie Vedder and Zack de la Rocha vented about spaceboys, elderly women in small towns and killing in the name of, respectively. Outside the rage cage, something genuinely alternative was taking shape: a sleazy brand of bottom-heavy rock trafficking in seduction-as-bloodsport. The Afghan Whigs gave Greg Dulli’s cartoon Satan a leering, soulful backdrop. Girls Against Boys, a New York City quartet formed from the wreckage of D.C. punks Soul Side, spliced frontman Scott McCloud’s stalker persona with the raspy delivery of the Psychedelic FursRichard Butler, resulting in an altogether more disturbing character. Inspired by a Spanish soft-core TV show the band watched in its hotel room while on tour near Barcelona, GVSB’s sophomore disc plugs the group’s fast-and-louche style into a set of songs finally worthy of their creepy charisma. Within the heartbreak beats of “In Like Flynn,” the churning churlishness of “Go Be Delighted” and the time-suspended tension crackling across “Bughouse” pumps the pulse of a serial killer. There’s no fake anger here: The all-too-real scary monsters and super-creeps conjured by McCloud and GVSB’s twin-engine basses unleash a wave of fear and unsettling menace. The lyrics on Venus Luxure No. 1 Baby don’t spell anything out but still manage to emit a cloud of unmistakable stank. McCloud growls vague come-ons such as “all the good things are in season” (“Seven Seas”), “stop the machine if you see something you like” (“Bullet Proof Cupid”), “if I can only show you a good time, I’m already tired of waiting” (“Bughouse”), and somewhere the nagging suspicion begins to emerge that the profile you’re building in your head is entirely consistent with the Son of Sam. Then the bottom drops out, and the endless fall through space begins. Welcome to hell, motherfucker. [www.touchandgorecords.com]

—Corey duBrowa

“Bullet Proof Cupid”:


The Back Page: Don’t Look Back In Anger

The occasion of MAGNET’s anniversary has a lot of us reflecting on just what the hell we think we’ve been up to the last 15 years. It turns out that what I’ve been up to is the slow, inexorable, sometimes painful realization that I’m as full of shit as everybody else. No way, gasp you, the loyal reader of this space. Surely you (that is, me) are joking, setting me (that is, you the loyal reader) up for some delightful and well-crafted punchline. But no, not this time. There is no joke. At least I don’t think there is. I really have come to the conclusion that I’m precisely as full of shit as everyone else.

Here’s why this is relevant for discussion purposes: When you’re given the privilege of a space like this to communicate with some number of random strangers, it’s assumed by all parties that you somehow deserve that privilege. That you’ve earned it. If I don’t feel like I have something worth saying, then there’s no way I sit down at my laptop and tweeze every painful one of the 1,100 to 1,300 required words from the shriveled lobes of my poor sodden brain. And if you don’t feel like I have something worth saying, even if you think that only because it’s sitting there on the final page of an otherwise really good and fun and smart music magazine, then you don’t make it this far. That doesn’t mean you automatically agree with what I’m saying, incidentally-only that you start reading this thing on faith that it belongs here.

So it has become kind of troubling for your humble narrator to continue to fill this space while growing ever more aware and certain that he (that is, I) is (am) just as full of shit as everyone else.

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Damon & Naomi Issue Live DVD, New Galaxie 500 Reissues Get Released

Damon & Naomi, who recently reissued their 1992 debut More Sad Hitshave released a limited-edition live DVD. Shibuya O-Nest 2008 was filmed on the duo’s Japanese tour supporting 2007’s Within These Walls and features D&N backed by a band consisting of Michio Kurihara (Boris), Bhob Rainey (nmperign), Helena Espvall (Espers) and Masaki Batoh (Ghost). The film draws from two Tokyo shows last January shot by Hiroo Ishihara, who did the same for Shibuya O-Nest 2005, the last limited-edition D&N DVD. In other Japanese-related D&N news, the Video Arts Music label has issued a limited-edition set of all the albums by Galaxie 500, the seminal band that Damon & Naomi were in with Dean Wareham back in the day. The trio’s three studio album (1988’s Today, 1988’s On Fire and 1988’s This Is Our Music) and the live Copenhagen (recorded in 1990 and released seven years later) have been reissued as a four-CD set that’s limited to fewer than 1,000 copies.

Damon & Naomi made us an excellent mix tape in 2005; to check out what’s on it, click here.

“E.T.A.” from More Sad Hits:
http://magnetmagazine.com/audio/ETA.mp3

Cut Copy: Untold Stories From MAGNET’s First 15 Years

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All the sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll (plus some petty hang-ups and tawdry gossip) that MAGNET didn’t find fit to print are now declassified, courtesy of our longtime cover-story operative. Thrill as we try to guess Kim Gordon’s age and gasp as R.E.M. kicks us out of Conan O’Brien. By Jonathan Valania

As Donald Rumsfeld once said, “There are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns—the ones we don’t know we don’t know.”

Truer words have never been spoken, although in many corners of the world, Rumsfeld is regarded as a war criminal, so take them with a pinch of salt. Be that as it may, it’s the latter, the unknown unknowns—things you didn’t even know that you didn’t know—that concern us today. None of the gruesome facts I’m about to reveal to you rise to the level of high crimes. Mostly they are low misdemeanors, sins of convenience, vanity, venality and high blood-alcohol levels that, taken as a whole, fall short of the spirit of generosity toward your fellow man we associate with likeability. In other words, they either made me or the people I was writing about look bad, so the powers that be decided to excise them from various cover stories I wrote for the magazine over the years and lock them in a basement vault at MAGNET HQ with a time-release lock set for 2077, when all the primary figures would be reasonably expected to have left this mortal coil. We got the idea from the Kennedy assassination.

Well, a funny thing happened on the way to 2077: I got bored. Turns out waiting for 75 years to pass is a lot longer than I thought. Besides, you bitches love this tawdry tell-all shit about Sebadoh ‘94 and Jeff Tweedy ‘99. Which brings me to my final qualifier in this intro. A lot of this happened a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away—the 1990s, to be exact. Record companies were still capable of selling CDs, marketing budgets were flush, and airfare was cheap. It was a smarter time, but we worried about dumber things: whether the president got a blowjob, who could refrain from self-abuse the longest (Jerry, George, Kramer or Elaine) and how many Bud Lights it takes to journey to the center of Robert Pollard’s suitcase of songs.

SEBADOH, 1996
Sebadoh was kind of a spent force by the time I got to them, but Lou Barlow’s soft and gooey bedroom pop was the toast of indiedom for a while in the mid-’90s. I remember hanging with Lou in Boston. It was on this assignment I discovered that beer—and lots of it—was a powerful interview tool. Lou and I pounded innumerable pitchers of suds at some bar off Harvard Square, and over the course of several hours, he vented about getting kicked out of Dinosaur Jr and the night a drunken Courtney Love crawled onstage during a show in London, clung to his lower leg like a dog in heat and tearfully proclaimed him The New Kurt.

THE JON SPENCER BLUES EXPLOSION, 1997
There was a time when the Blues Explosion carried a wallet that said BAD MOTHERFUCKER, as anybody who ever saw Jon Spencer and Co. live could attest to, and I tagged along for a few days on the road so I could testify firsthand. I remember being a little surprised at how easily Spencer’s pride could be wounded when I inadvertently let slip in a taxi that the only reason we were putting the Blues Explosion on the cover was that a Sleater-Kinney piece fell through. After the gig in Boston, we went out for drinks with Rivers Cuomo, who was on hiatus from Weezer and working on a degree from Harvard, and I don’t remember him saying more than three words. After closing a couple bars, we wound up back at the hotel with some girl from the gig. We were all pretty liquored up, her especially. Judah Bauer and Russell Simins talked the girl into a little striptease, and they wanted the MAGNET photographer to take pictures. Soon they were badgering the girl. This was not cool. This was the first serious questioning of my journalistic ethics: If I left, I was willfully turning my back on a telling episode in the life of the subjects I had been assigned to write about; if I stayed, I’d have to write about it, even though Bauer and Simins would surely beg me not to when they sobered up. Mercifully, she called the whole thing off after removing her blouse.

SONIC YOUTH, 1998
I remember trying to determine Kim Gordon’s age being a sore point between me and the band. Which, of course, I kept poking and poking and poking.

TOM WAITS, 1999
Tom Waits pantsed me. Sort of. I made the effort to dress sharp in honor of Mr. Waits, the quintessential hipster clotheshorse. Cranberry leather coat, porkpie hat, turquoise wraparounds, smartly tailored thrift-store trousers. By the late ‘90s, Tom had ditched the Cuban-heeled boots and sharkskin suits of his New York days in favor of a denim-and-workboots look better suited to his country squire life in the wilds of Northern California. After conducting an interview over breakfast at Tom’s favorite greasy spoon, we headed out to the countryside with the MAGNET photographer to take some cover shots. We wound up in a spooky orchard of gnarled trees straight out of The Wizard Of Oz. Tom posed gamely for a while, shooting glances my way between shots. “That’s a good look, that’s a good Philly look,” he croaked in approval. “Lemme see those shades.” I handed them over, and he posed for a few shots. “Lemme see that hat.” Again, I handed it over, and he posed for a few shots. “Lemme see that coat.” Next thing I knew, Tom Waits was wearing my clothes for the cover story I was writing about him.

BRIAN WILSON, 1999
Talk about surreal. The day after I interviewed Waits, I was sitting in Brian Wilson’s Beverly Hills mansion waiting for an audience with the maker of Pet Sounds. Inside I was sweating bullets; I was in the depths of a rather obsessive period of Brian Wilson worship. “It could last 15 minutes, it could last five minutes,” his publicist warned me. “If he is uncomfortable, he will just get up and walk away.” He never did get up and walk out, but he was plenty uncomfortable. At one point, I found myself reassuring my hero that people were not, in fact, trying to kill him. I brought along a cassette tape of outtakes from the then-unfinished 1966-67 album SMiLE. Back then, Wilson was understandably loath to talk about the record that cracked his psyche and broke the back of his career. I coaxed him into listening to a few tracks, and then something fairly miraculous happened. As the gossamer choral strains of “Our Prayer” blared out of the boombox, all the tension left Wilson’s face, he settled back into his chair and smiled while swaying his head in time to the music. “Man, this is great!” he said.

“Yes, Brian,” I replied. “It is great.”

ELLIOTT SMITH, 2000
I miss him more than Kurt Cobain. I spent a week with Elliott Smith on tour and at his home around the time of Figure 8, the last album he would live to see released. On the last day I was with him, we sat outside his bungalow, tucked away in a leafy section of L.A.’s Silver Lake neighborhood. I asked him a lot of pretentious big-picture questions about love and death and God. At one point, I asked him if he thought suicide was courageous or cowardly. “It’s ugly and cruel and I really need my friends to stick around, but dying people should have that right,” he said. “I was hospitalized for a while and I didn’t have that option, and it made me feel even crazier. But I prefer not to appear as some kind of disturbed person. I think a lot of people try to get mileage out of it, like, ‘I’m a tortured artist’ or something. I’m not a tortured artist, and there’s nothing really wrong with me. I just had a bad time for a while.” Even then, I could tell he didn’t really believe that. It sounded like whistling past the graveyard. Tragically, things did not work out. I don’t know if he stopped insisting that they would or if he stopped believing what he was saying. Either way, 34 years was all he could stand. We just have to respect that. After all, he made it clear from the very beginning: Sooner or later, the world will break your heart.

R.E.M., 2001
The cover story that never was. Circa Reveal, I believe. Even though I had already done all the interviews with each band member—including record shopping and bar-hopping with Pete Buck—the cover story got scuttled because the band failed to follow through with a promise to sit for a photo shoot and insisted that we use a stock shot for the cover. Also, for reasons I still don’t understand, the band ejected me from the green room of Late Night With Conan O’Brien. One minute, I was on the couch next to my good pal and drinking buddy Pete Buck, reading the New York Times and trying not act like I was eavesdropping on every conversation; the next minute, the group’s tour manager was escorting me to the elevator and thanking me for my time.

I saw R.E.M.’s world up close, and it’s all five-star hotels that recycle and solar-powered limousines. I’d never begrudge those guys the right to get stinking rich from the high art they were capable of transmuting rock into when they were at the height of their powers—or even just stinking drunk on airplanes. But they’re millionaires locked in a bubble of climate-controlled luxury, far removed from the heat and friction of ordinary lives that make for music worth listening to. In the end, you have to choose between the mansion on the hill or the art in the streets. And the only time the twain shall meet is when art is hung over the sofa in the mansion on the hill. That’s a gross overstatement, of course, but that doesn’t change the fundamental fact that when you get to a certain tax bracket and the zip code that comes with it, you can’t go back to Rockville again.

THE BREEDERS, 2002
Kim Deal wants to kick my ass. Which kinda sucks, because I love Kim Deal. I was one of those folks who always said the only thing wrong with the Pixies is Kim Deal doesn’t write and sing more of their songs. I loved the Breeders and was super-jazzed when Kim’s sister Kelley named Feel Nice, the debut album by the Psyclone Rangers (my band at the time), as one of her top 10 faves of 1993 in the pages of Rolling Stone. My fellow Rangers and I met up with Kelley backstage at Lollapalooza the following summer and a plan was soon hatched to have her sing on the follow-up album we were going to record that fall in Memphis. Unbeknownst to us, Kelley had developed a heroin habit in the interim. I remember long, drowsy phone calls with her from the control room of Ardent Studios, wherein she would say she still wants to come but she is feeling poorly. One day, we were sitting in the TV lounge when an MTV News Special Report announced that Kelley Deal had been arrested for accepting a FedEx package of heroin.

Fast forward four years or so, and I was in New York with the Flaming Lips. During a smoke break with drummer Steven Drozd, he casually mentioned that the last time he was in New York he was in bad, bad shape. With some gentle prodding, he mentioned that he was playing on a Breeders album (which ended up never seeing the light of day). It was around this time, as you may recall, that Kim Deal went off the rails, going through drummers faster than Spinal Tap and finally deciding to teach herself how to play so she could get the sound and the beat she was looking for. Drozd described the recording sessions as a druggy trainwreck and told me he packed up his kit in the middle of the night and left without saying goodbye. Some variation of this was included in MAGNET’s Flaming Lips story, and it eventually got back to Kim Deal.

Fast forward to the spring of 2002. The Breeders were back, everyone was clean and sober, and there was a decent new album, Title TK. MAGNET arranged for me to do a phoner with the Deal sisters. It was pretty rough going at first; Kelley was friendly, Kim was surly and had been drinking. Kelley got angry with Kim for being rude. I decided to play the chaos card, and it went downhill fast:

MAGNET: I heard Steven Drozd played with you guys for a while.
Kim: [Annoyed] No, he didn’t play for us, dude. I know him, he’s a friend. He came up to New York because I asked him to work on some songs. He did so for about 10 days, and then he left. He never played for the band.
MAGNET: OK, I guess I heard wrong then.
Kim: Yeah, you did!
Kelley: God, Kim.
Kim: This is the dude that wrote that crap that Steven … Whatever, man. (Sonic Youth drummer) Steve Shelley was not in the band, either. I don’t know if you thought that—he was just a friend also.
MAGNET: I never thought they joined the band, that they just—
Kim: They didn’t join the band!
MAGNET: Can I ask a Pixies question?
Kelley: Jonathan, I’m gonna hang up.
Kim: No, I’ll shut up.
Kelley: I don’t want to talk about it … It was nice talking you, Jonathan. [Hangs up]
Kim: Kelley just got mad and hung up.
MAGNET: Is she mad at me or mad at you?
Kim: She’s mad at me. What’s the Pixies question?
MAGNET: If Charles Thompson called you and asked—
Kim: Shut up! Go away! Pass! What’s the next question?
MAGNET: Uh …
Kim: Dude, I’m out! Bye! [Hangs up]

WILCO, 2002
I have beaten this horse fairly extensively. (Google “what it feels like when the band you love hates you” for the gruesome details.) But there is one last dodgy Wilco anecdote I never published: Wilco tries heroin.

I won’t reveal my source, except to say it came directly from the horse’s mouth. Understand this was back around the time of Being There and Summerteeth, when the band was still relatively young and dumb enough to believe you had to repeat the mistakes of rock elders in order to breathe the same rarefied air of greatness. There isn’t much to say, really, other than everyone wound up vomiting profusely and more or less vowing never to do it again. So now you know.

Actually, there’s one other Wilco-related anecdote I was sworn to secrecy about. I remember a disturbing phone interview with Howie Klein, who was the president of Reprise Records for the better part of Wilco’s tenure with the label. It was shortly after Klein’s somewhat forced departure from Reprise that the great Yankee Hotel Foxtrot soap opera began, all documented in painful detail in the film I Am Trying To Break Your Heart. Klein basically went on a tirade about how, in the wake of all the mergers and acquisitions of the ‘90s, nearly all the music men had been forcibly removed from the executive suites and replaced with accountants, people who saw music not as art or a source of pleasure but a commodity, and an under-performing one at that. “These people hate music,” Klein stressed. “And they hate artists.” Wow, I thought to myself, this is just the sort of thing Steve Albini warned us about, but it’s pretty explosive stuff coming from a guy who was, just a few months ago, the president of Reprise. I said as much to Klein. “Oh, you can’t print any of this,” he said firmly. “I signed a confidentiality agreement.”

Jonathan Valania is the editor of Phawker.com

Here’s Neko Case With The Weather

ncase2h520Middle Cyclone, the fifth album by Neko Case, is due March 3 on Anti-. We’re reserving comment on the record until the appropriate time (like three months from now), but there is a flurry (hey, weather pun) of information to share:

1. The album cover depicts Neko, crouched on the front hood of a sportscar, wielding a broadsword. The car might be an early-’70s Pontiac GTO. No idea about the sword, though.

2. There is a making-of-the-album video posted on Anti-‘s blog here.

3. Neko covers two songs from the ’70s: Sparks‘ “Never Turn Your Back On Mother Earth” and Harry Nilsson‘s “Don’t Forget Me.”

4. There are many guests on the album. We’re feeling loopy today, so after the jump we list them all and comment rudely upon their existence.

Continue reading “Here’s Neko Case With The Weather”