Sunday, April 26, 2009

Movie
of the
Month:
Part Five

A few
weeks a-
go, I re-
viewed
the fol-
lowing
DVD for
Video Librarian, and thought the results were worth sharing.

CAREFUL [***1/2]
(Guy Maddin, 1992, Canada, 100 mins.)

For his third fantastical feature, Winnipeg iconoclast Guy
Maddin added glorious color—in saturated shades of gold,
sky blue, and violet—to his palette. Co-written with collabor-
ator George Toles, this "remastered and repressed" version of
1992's Careful pivots on the imaginary turn-of-the-century
alpine town of Tolzbad, where any loud noise could cause an
avalanche, so the villagers live their lives in virtual silence.

For mother-obsessed butler brothers Johann (Brent Neale) and
Grigorss (Kyle McCulloch, Tales of the Gimli Hospital), physical
and emotional repression leads them down some dark and twist-
ed paths (entwined in cobwebs, a third brother lives in the at-
tic, where he receives visits from their blind father's ghost).

Since Maddin has also dir-
ected a few silent (or semi-
silent) movies, notably 20-
06's Brand upon the Brain!, the premise provides a per-
fect fit for his expressionist-meets-constructivist style, except his artificially-aged films are always funnier than their descriptions suggest, and Careful is no exception.

In their uninhibited commentary, Maddin and Toles cite Ger-
many's mountain melodramas and the literature of Robert Wal-
ser as two of their wide-ranging influences. Maddin also attribut-
es the hazy, dreamlike look of the picture to over-exposure, "wav-
ery apertures," and "dipping the film in some sort of colorful acid."

Other extras include his symbolist-inspired 1994 short Odilon
Redon: the Eye like a Strange Balloon Mounts Towards Infinity,
and Noam Gonick's Waiting for Twilight, a Tom Waits-narrated
documentary on Maddin's background and the making of 1997's
Twilight of the Ice Nymphs. At the time, he claimed it might be
"my last movie.” Fortunately, Maddin failed to follow through
on that threat and Careful comes highly recommended.

Click here for Movies of the Month, Part
Four: Summer Palace and Lost in Beijing



Endnote: Slightly revised from the original text.
Images from Kill the Snark and The Auteurs.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Hallowed
Ground

The
Curious
Mystery,
Rotting
Slowly, K
Records
[5/19/09]

Curious Mystery lays claim to the same sort of hallowed
ground carved out by David Roback's Opal and Mazzy Star. More
recent practitioners of the narcotized proto-punk blues include
Nina Nastasia, Cat Power, Scout Niblett, She Keeps Bees, and P.J.
Harvey on To Bring You My Love. I'm a sucker for this kind of
thing, so Rotting Slowly is right up my...lonely avenue.

Granted, it's a formula: smoky chanteuse, usually an alto, confes-
ses her darkest secrets over slow-motion guitar (with slide inter-
ludes), minimal bass, and jazzbo drums (heavy on the brushes),
but like any formula, it only seems tired when executed poorly.

Though guitarist and Texas trans-
plant Nicolas Gonzalez takes the mic
on occasion ("Teeth of all Types," "It's
Tough," and "Community Bed"), with
Shana Cleveland (banjo, guitar, auto-
harp) providing backing vocals, Cleve-
land is the band's secret weapon (if she
goes off-pitch on "Go Forth and Gather,"
her seductive voice helps to compensate).

Faustine B. Hudson (drums, gong, dinner bell, plastic tube) and Bradford Button (bass guitar) complete a Seattle-based line-up that boasts some of the coolest names in rock. (If you run an Amazon search on the band's name, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button shows up among the results).

If I've never heard of an artist before, I don't tend to expect
much, because buzz travels louder and faster than ever these
days, and Curious Mystery was new to me until a day ago.

So, I turned on Slowly, with no preconceptions about what was
about to unfold. By the third song, a frisky instrumental, I realized
this is one of my favorite CDs of the year. If you like any of the ar-
tists above, along with the Black Angels, you may feel the same.



Endnote: For more information about Curious
Mystery, please click here. Images from Flickr
(Jay Cox; 02/08 at the Mars Bar) and the AMG.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Passion
and Power

The
Tiptons
Sax
Quartet,
Laws of
Motion,
Zipa!/
Spoot
Music

"Our music is a high energy blend of 'twisted folk' with world
music, second line, funk, jazz, and Eastern European influ-
ences thrown into the mix of mainly original material."
-- the Tiptons Sax Quartet

Formerly known as the Billy Tipton Saxophone Quartet, the
bi-coastal outfit returns in fine form on their eighth outing. Sax
players Sue Orfield and Tina Richerson join co-founders Jessi-
ca Lurie and Amy Denio and percussionist Chris Stromquist.

For those unacquainted with the 20-year-old outfit, they de-
fy classifications like pop and jazz, although both genres come
into play, along with afro-beat, klezmer, rai, and more (the 11
tracks include vocals and instrumentals). This particular album
reminds me of the Lounge Lizards and the Jazz Passengers—es-
pecially the opening track —and I mean that as a compliment.

Naturally, there's some spirited blowing here, especially on
"The Shop of Wild Dreams." If the Tiptons are best known for
their playing, they offer some fine singing, too, especially on acap-
pella closer "Mi Yo Mei," a traditional Taiwanese chant. And if
you keep listening, a short hidden song follows, in which they
throw a little old-timey country into the mix. Recommended.



Born Anchors, Sprezzatura, Steer Clear Music

“This is the best local rock release this year”
-- John Richards, KEXP


"The most exciting rock band
in Seattle right now.”
-- Megan Seling, The Stranger

Music to wake you up, to shake you up, to thoroughly invigorate you. In all honesty, I didn't like this Seattle trio's debut on first listen, but it started to click into place the second time through. Still, their energetic take on emo isn't my thing—though KEXP, KNDD, The Stranger, and The Weekly are
all over it—but I can appreciate their passion and power.



Tucker Jameson and the Hot Mugs, Or
Something in Between..., Horizon Music Group

On their second CD, Jameson and his Hot Mugs mix
up a hearty bar band concoction with an organ-fueled kick,
like a cross between Greg Kihn and John Cougar Mellencamp.

In the UK, they prefer the term pub rock, and I don't mean that
as a pejorative. Remember those 1970s and '80s indie labels, like
Stiff or Beserkley? This Berklee College of Music-trained quartet
would fit on either quite well. Could be more memorable, but Or
Something... plays like a not-unwelcome blast from the past.



Tara Jane O'Neil, A Ways Away, K Records

Whispering words entwine with dreamy guitar and gong-
like sounds on the fifth solo offering from Tara Jane O'
Neil. Sometimes multi-tracked plucking takes over alto-
gether, sometimes her voice, which recalls folksinger San-
dy Denny, rises above the strings. Nice rainy day music.



Ronald of Orange, Brush Away
the Cobwebs, Velvet Blue Music

Ronald of Orange sprinkles wavery, Brit-inflected vocals
over bright, tinkly keyboards and drum-machine beats. His five-
track EP is the essence of '80s-style twee pop, and fans of the Cure,
Pete Shelley, and M83's Saturdays = Youth would do wise to lend
him an ear. If his thin voice strains at time, a bit of crackle only
serves to add character to his bouyant charm offensive.



Endnote: The film Passion and Power: The Technol-
ogy of Orgasm documents the history of the vibrator. For
more information about Born Anchors, who play the Sunset
Tavern on 5/2, please click here; for Tucker Jameson, here
or here; for Ronald of Orange, here; and for the Tiptons,
here or here. Jessica Lurie image from Something Else!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

For God's Sake,
Turn It Down!

Sweet, Action: The
Sweet Anthology,
Shout Factory! [4/28/09]

"Are you ready, Steve? Andy? Mick? All right, fellas, let's go!"
-- "Ballroom Blitz"


Between 1968-1973, my favorite songs were the Ohio Express's "Yummy, Yummy, Yummy" and Sweet's "Little Willy." Though the latter was a real band, the former was a faceless assemblage of session musicians (I'm sure they had actual faces; they just didn't show them to the public). Granted, Nicky Chinn and Mike Chapman wrote Sweet's early material, but that makes them no less authentic to me. They weren't auteurs, but the British quartet made each song their own through ace musicianship and a certain indefinable joi de vivre. They always gave the impression they were playing at the world's grooviest party, and you wanted to be there. Fruity drink in hand.

The reason I liked them so much as a grade-schooler isn't just be-
cause of the sticky-sweet hooks, but because a lot of Chinnichap
lyrics sound like nursery rhymes. The faux-calypso "Poppa Joe,"
for instance, consists primarily of the lines, "Poppa rumbo rumbo"
and "Hey Poppa Joe coconut!" which says it all (island twin, "Co-
Co," features steel drums and the chorus, "Ho-chi-ka-ka-ho Co-
Co"). It's as if Harry Nilsson had constructed his entire car-
eer around "Coconut" instead of "Everybody's Talkin'."


(The) Sweet - "Little Willy"

Further, Sweet rocked hard in a glam-glitter style, yet they
shared little of David Bowie or Queen's artistic aspirations (the
press notes also cite ELO, Supertramp, 10CC, and Def Leppard).
Granted, I love '70s Bowie, but as the Ramones would prove,
a complete lack of pretension has its place. It is what it is: no
multi-syllable words, no high-brow references. Just fun.

But with experience, the fun took on some weight—some heft, if
you will—and it comes as little surprise to find that Shout Facto-
ry's excellent two-disc collection leans heavily on the 1974 com-
pilation Desolation Boulevard, a completely amazing album and
not just a smattering of singles surrounded by filler (it adds tracks
from the UK-only Sweet Fanny Adams). That's right, it's up there—
or should be—with Queen and The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust.



"Ballroom Blitz," in particular, fills me with joy like few other songs
(with the possible exception of "Fox on the Run," the set's other
showstopper). Andy Scott attacks his guitar as if he were Marc
Bolan biting into "Last Train to Clarksville," while Brian Connol-
ly's vocals are simply virtuosic. As for Mick Tucker's drumming,
my vocabulary is insufficient to do it justice. Even Scott's solo
at the end fails to wreck the flow (as Mick Collins might say).

Ironically, I spent more time listening to Sweet in elementary
school and after college than I did in high school, yet many of
their tunes revolve around the teen years. By the time I got to
that point, however, new wave and classic rock ruled the roost.

Queen weren't that much heavier—despite a more imposing
image—but they lacked Sweet's bubblegum/teenybopper bag-
gage. So, by the time I re-discovered the prefab foursome, I'd
spent years in the punk, post-punk, and alternative rock trench-
es, and they came on like a breath of fresh air and a nostalgia
trip at the same time, always a heady combination for me.


(The) Sweet - "Ballroom Blitz"

I feel the same way today, and my view of their discography also
remains unchanged: they peaked with Desolation, and everything
that came after seems anti-climactic. Consequently, the second
disc pales in comparison to the first, but it's still better than the
Shondell-free portion of the new Tommy James collection. After
scaling similar teenybopper heights with "Hanky Panky" and the
like, James made the mistake of growing up, but Sweet never
really did, so even their weakest tracks retain a youthful vigor

Plus, the second disc features "Love Is Like Oxygen," where they
leave their glam-rock roots behind for a foray into the prog-pop
of ELO and 10CC. Connolly, who always had a fine falsetto, aban-
dons any suggestion of masculinity, and gives in to his feminine
side. The single even incorporates a Ren Fair-meets-pastoral Led
Zep passage, a total 180 from the Sweet of old. Yet, it works. And
it was their last hurrah. In the years to come, the less sexually am-
biguous Cheap Trick would pick up where they left off, but no one
has ever been able to recapture Sweet's special alchemy circa
Desolation Boulevard, that unique mixture of experience and
innocence, aggression and sensitivity: all the agony and the
ecstasy of the teen years poured into one pretty package.



Endnote: Image from Wikipedia, words from Lyrics Download.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

When
Tomor-
row Hits

Spectrum
Meets
Captain
America,
Indian
Giver,
Birdman
[***1/2]

"A meet-
ing of the minds, a musical summit, staged in a sagging barn in North Mississippi."
-- Andrea Lisle in the liner notes

***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****

Years ago, I interviewed Pete Kember, alias Sonic Boom, and
asked why he chose to cover Elvis' sparse lament "Lonely Ave-
nue" on his debut album, Spectrum. His answer was simple:
he had a thing for songwriter Doc Pomus, i.e. it was more about Pomus than Presley (and Indian Giver's "Til Your Mainline Comes" even features a noirish "Lonely Avenue" bassline).

So, it's not completely unexpected to find that Sonic also has a
thing—a jones, if you will—for Memphis session musician/pro-
ducer Jim Dickinson, who's manned the boards for everyone
from Big Star to the Replacements and contributed keys to the
Stones' "Wild Horses." (And I can only assume the admiration runs both ways.) Their collaboration combines space-rock with south-
ern stylings, and it's unlike anything I've ever heard before.

Recorded in Mississippi with an eight-piece band plus the Tate
County Singers, the nine-track recording represents a harmo-
nious melding of two different worlds, to say nothing of diver-
gent geographic and generational backgrounds (Sonic grew up
in Rugby, UK), though the drone-rocker's interest in gospel
has always been crystal clear; see "I Walk with Jesus," et al.

Throughout, the collaborat-
ors alternate vocals over a
bed of theremin, moog,
keyboards, synthesizer,
saxophone, electric and
acoustic guitar, upright
and electric bass, fiddles,
trumpet, and drums (plus,
crickets on "Mainline").

The whispery Sonic sounds the same as ever, while Dickinson comes on like a crusty cross between J.J. Cale and Tom Waits. Neither is a great singer, but both have enormous appeal. I particularly like the way the Captain sounds as if he's singing through dentures or the bottom of a bottle of bourbon.

For "Mary," "Mary Reprise," and "Confederate Dead," the gen-
tlemen put the vocals aside. Fittingly, two sound like Sonic; the other like Dickinson (to clarify, Sonic decorates "Mary Reprise" with wordless utterings that have a certain "instrumental" feel).

Spaceman 3 and Spectrum adherents will surely recognize
three of the other tracks, specifically "Hey Man" (Perfect Pres-
cription), Mudhoney's "When Tomorrow Hits" (Recurring), and "Take Your Time" (Highs, Lows & Heavenly Blows). These new iterations may not be superior, but they're hardly inferior. I particularly like the extra fuzz on the hymn-like "Man."



I doubt I'll be the first to describe Indian Giver as a sort
of psychedelic gumbo or Delta drone. (For the All Music Guide, Mark Deming dubs the disc a "Dixie-fried freakout.") Had I heard this record in April of 2008, the time of its original release, it would've easily made my top 10 for the year. Call this mu-
sical meeting what you will. I call it: absolutely fantastic.

***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****

"A gentlemanly agreement escalated into a full-fledged battle for
the controls, and then whoosh! Sonic was ejected from the ship...
an experiment halted midstream, with just these nine songs as proof that it even happened. Which man was in the right? Each has his battalion of saints ready to voice an opinion—and, each says, the collaborative door has shut. There will never be a second mission."
-- Andrea Lisle



4/20 update: Will Bratton of Pomus Songs, Inc. writes, "Re-
garding the song 'Lonely Avenue' (Pomus), Pete Kember prob-
ably spoke more about Pomus than he did about Elvis because
Elvis never recorded 'Lonely Avenue.' Ray Charles and countless
others did, however. Pomus did write 19 other songs that were
recorded by Elvis, including 'Viva Las Vegas,' 'Suspicion,' 'Little
Sister,' 'Mess of Blues,' 'Surrender,' 'Kiss Me Quick,' and '(Marie's
the Name of) His Latest Flame.'" I can no longer remember
whether Sonic made the error or me—I suspect it was the
latter—but in my mind's ear I could hear Presley perform-
ing "Lonely Avenue" while we were speaking, and must've
conflated song and performance with "Heartbreak Hotel."

***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****

Endnote: Spectrum plays Neumos on 5/2. Click here
for my 1991 interview with Sonic Boom. Image from Pure
Music
and Harp (click the link for Fred Mills' preview).

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Sonic
Boom's
Revolu-
tion: Part
Five


Click here
for part
four



My '91 Wire interview with Pete "Sonic Boom" Kember concludes.

***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****

Wire: How do you know that "Jesus loves the Spacemen"?
And doesn't that line come from the Jazz Butcher?

Sonic: Almost certainly. I do have spiritual beliefs, but I don't believe in Jesus Christ as a person from Nazareth and...

Wire: You do mention Jesus Christ a lot. Do you like the image...

Sonic: Jesus, never Christ! Jesus is how I term the embodiment of what I believe in as well as the embodiment of my religious beliefs. In the same way, Lord is mentioned in quite a lot of the songs. It's like I use it in the same way the gospel singers would use that [term]. They use it as the embodiment of their religion. But my religion is more about belief in oneself and one's potential and belief in other people and the potential of people. I mean, I believe the kingdom of heaven is within. Different things can access you to that. Some of those are psychoactive drugs.



Wire: What got you interested in psychedelic music?

Sonic: Ummm, psychedelic drugs.

Wire: Just a natural progression?

Sonic: Almost as soon as I started taking drugs, the only
band, the only drug band that I listened to—before taking
drugs, really—was the Velvet Underground. And yeah,
the drugs made me want to listen to the music and the music
made me want to try different drugs. I felt that I wanted to ex-
perience different levels of consciousness anyway, with or with-
out music, but music is a nice jump to recreational drug use.

Wire: Who are some of the English bands
you like best or look to as contemporaries?

Sonic: My Bloody Valentine, and an American band that I think
are probably bigger in the UK, Galaxie 500. I like Dean Wareham's
solo stuff that I've heard, particularly a track he's done called "In-
dian Summer," which is on a record with Chemical Imbalance [fanzine]. That is one of the most beautiful songs I've heard, I think I can safely say. Also Daniel Johnston, another American songwriter—someone I admire as a contemporary. And Happy Mondays. Their first album came out the same time as our second album. In fact, they, or a couple of them, introduced themselves to me after a gig we played in Manchester around that time. They'd obviously recognized the parallel that we were running to them. Although they were using different types of rhythms and sounds, they were basically putting them together in the same minimal way and putting the lyrics on in the same sort of way to have a similar effect. Obviously, different people using different ingredients, but kind of baking the same cake, if you know what
I mean—pretty baked, the whole lot of us! [laughs]



Endnote: Spectrum plays Neumos
on 5/2. Image from Brooklyn Vegan.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Sonic Boom's
Revolution:
Part Four


Click here for
part three

My '91 Wire in-
terview with Pete
"Sonic Boom" Kem-
ber continues.

***** ***** *****

Wire: Is it true that Perfect Prescription is a concept album about drugs?

Sonic: I think Spacemen 3 is a concept...

Wire: About drugs?

Sonic: [laughs] Yeah, well, my motto from the start
was "Taking drugs to make music to take drugs to."

Wire: I've got the record with that title, the "demos" record.

Sonic: Right, another bootleg.

Wire: For a bootleg, the sound quality is actually very good.

Sonic: That was the first thing...that was when I
chose to outline what we were—our manifesto.

Wire: What can you tell me about your song "Angel." Is that a true story?

Sonic: Yes, about a friend
of mine who overdosed.

Wire: Lyrically, it's something that stands out to me.

Sonic: Musically, it's inspired by Lou Reed's "Street Has-
sle," which "Ode to Street Hassle" was inspired by, and is a continuation. In the same way, "Angel" is a continuation of where "Ode to Street Hassle" left off. It's basically...what can
I say? It's about a friend of mine who died. It encapsulates
the thoughts and feelings I felt when that happened.

Wire: I'm also curious about "Revolution." What
spurred you to write a song like that? It's different
lyrically from what Spacemen 3 usually does.

Sonic: Well...not particularly. Thematically, not lyrically, but
thematically, it's more political or sociopolitical even though it's
not political-politics. It was basically [that] I wasn't very happy
at that time. I could see that what I'd felt over the previous few
years was...a negative social situation amongst what I'd consider
my peer group...or social group. And I felt that there needed to be
some changes and that a lot of people were looking to make chang-
es. To a certain extent, I was talking about a drugs revolution. The
normal thing in England is for people just to go out and drink five
pints of beer every night. People start to realize that there are
more beneficial ways of raising their consciousness and there
are a whole load of levels of consciousness worth experien-
cing that had far more to offer than alcohol.



Revolution
(lyrics: Spacemen 3)

Well look out

Well I’m sick
I’m so sick
Of a lot of people
Tryin’ to tell me
What I can and can’t do
With my life

And I’m tired
I’m so tired
Of a lot of people
In a lot of high places
Don’t want you and me
To enjoy ourselves

Well I’m through with people
Who can’t get off their arse
To help themselves change this government
And better this society
‘Cos it’s shit

But hold on a second
I smell burning
And I see a change
Comin’ ‘round the bend
And I suggest to you
That it takes
Just five seconds
Just five seconds
Of decision
To realise
That the time
Is right
To start thinkin’ about
A little…
Revolution!

Click here for part five



Endnote: Spectrum plays Neumos on 5/2. Im-
ages from Rhapsody, words from Lyrics Time.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Sonic Boom's
Revolution:
Part Three

Click here for part two

My '91 Wire interview with Pete "Sonic Boom" Kember continues.

***** ***** *****

Wire: Which is
your favorite rec-
ord of all the ones
with which you've
been involved?


Sonic: My favorite track is probably something like "Ecstasy Symphony." My favorite LP is possibly either side one of the
new one [his side] or Perfect Prescription. I like them all. They
are all really great, so—I'm bad to say that, aren't I? [laughs]

Wire: How will you make records in the future? Are you go-
ing to continue to make one half and Jason the other or...

Sonic: No, no. The band split up. Spacemen 3 split up.

Wire: There have been these rumors that you
were getting back together. They aren't true?

Sonic: Let me set the record straight. You see, we'd been
drifting apart for various reasons for a number of years, and
we recorded Recurring, and decided it was a great album. It
would make a good swan song. We weren't getting on, so
we decided to complete the album and call it a day.

Wire: So you're gonna go off and do solo stuff and Jason's...

Sonic: No, I've got a new band called Spectrum—after the solo LP. I'm doing some gigs with them, I've already done some gigs with them. I'm doing more the end of this month and, hopeful-
ly, the end of this year—early next year—we'll be in the States.


Wire: Do you like that format better—working in a band—as opposed to working solo?

Sonic: Yeah. I've nev-
er done anything solo.

Wire: Well, except
for your record.

Sonic: I mean, I've recorded a lot of things solo. Even in Spacemen 3, there were things I've recorded totally by
myself. Even on my solo album, there are four or five peop-
le on each song. There's a band on each song, as it were. I mean,
I can do things by myself, as well. I can stand up and sing and
play a keyboard or stand up and sing and play a guitar. It's
an alternative thing I do sometimes, a low-budget set.

Wire: What can you tell me about the seven-inch Drone
Deam EP released by Sympathy for the Record Industry?

Sonic: In the UK, with the Spectrum album there was a
bonus offer to people where they could send for an EP with
those experimental tracks on it. The two tracks are playable
at any speed—16, 33-1/3, 45, or 78 rpm. That was a color-
ed vinyl ten-inch. In the US, Sympathy put it on a colored
vinyl seven-inch with a brand new picture sleeve.



Wire: Have you ever met Martin Rev or Alan Vega?

Sonic: Yes, both of them, several times.

Wire: Do you see the kind of music you make
as a sort of guitar version of what they do?

Sonic: Yeah, particularly. I mean, we actually cover "Ché"
on guitars on the B-side of our "Revolution" single. We did that
song on guitars. I also do a Suicide song on my solo album.

Wire: "Rock 'n' Roll Is Killing My Life."

Sonic: Right, that is done on keyboards in that instance.

Wire: Do you see yourself using keyboards more in the future?

Sonic: No, I've been using keyboards since Perfect Prescription, and I still mainly use guitar on stage, and in the studio I use both.

Click here for part four



Endnote: Spectrum plays Neumos on
5/2. Images from Last.fm and 991.com.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Sonic
Boom's
Revolu-
tion:
Part
Two

Click here
for part one

My '91 Wire
interview
with
Pete "Sonic
Boom"
Kember
continues.

***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****

Wire: How come Spaceman 3's version of Mud-
honey's "When Tomorrow Hits" never came out
as a Sub Pop single as was originally intended?

Sonic: Basically, because it was all talked about while I still
believed Mudhoney were doing their version of "Revolution"
[from Playing With Fire] as they had done it when they were
touring around Europe at the beginning of '89, but I didn't know
they were going to change the lyrics like that. See what they'd changed them to—which was basically a pisstake, a wordplay,
on some things I'd said in the UK press—I wasn't interested in doing a joint project when I realized what sort of fans they were.

However, we had recorded this version of "When Tomorrow Hits,"
not to do a single originally, but because it had stood out. I'd writ-
ten to them and said I'd enjoyed their version that they'd been
doing live of "Revolution." They sent a tape back of stuff they were
doing for their future album as it was then, and that song stood
out, so we did that. Then they brought out their version of "Rev-
olution" [a B-side on Glitterhouse]. I didn't want to have anything to do with it. Partly that, and partly because I found the guys at Sub Pop—one of them was very charming and one of them was a total dickhead. So, I didn't really want to get involved with them.

I didn't like it because
they'd re-written the lyr-
ics, yet still credited them
to Spacemen 3 when the credits should have been to them. I felt they should have credited themselves for that little piece of "songwriting."



I thought it would be a good idea for our version of their song to come out, because I felt it was more a pisstake of them than their version of "Revolution" was of us. In a totally different way, it was a far superior pisstake in that we made their version look like a demo. Whereas their version was like some kind of college brat hum-
or which I don't particularly like in rock bands. I mean—don't get me wrong—Animal House is one of my favorite films, but it's great as a film.

[Funny, Animal House is one of my favorite films, too...]

Wire: Do you have any idea what they think of your version?

Sonic: No, I don't. I don't really care. I mean, that wasn't the reason for doing it. It was just something I found I could do something with. They did say in an interview afterwards that they'd actually written the song originally to be like a "Spacemen 3/Wire" song. So, they'd written it to be like that anyway, I guess.

Click here for part three.



Endnote: Sonic Boom has been performing "When Tomorrow
Hits" as part of his current repertoire, which also includes a
sprinkling of Spacemen 3 numbers. Spectrum plays Neumos
on 5/2. Images from Rate Your Music (Mudhoney single) and
I Rock Cleveland (Sonic in the studio). Click the latter link to
sample "Take Your Time," a collaborative effort between Sonic
and Captain Memphis, AKA legendary producer Jim Dickinson.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Sonic Boom's
Revolution

An Interview
with Pete Kem-
ber: Part One


In honor of Sonic
Boom's upcom-
ing Seattle appear-
ance, in his Spec-
trum incarnation, here's an edited version of an interview which debuted in KCMU's Wire in 1991. Around the same time, I also interviewed Pete "Bassman" Bain and Jason "Spaceman" Pierce. The latter two had just left the "3" to form

their own outfits: respectively, the Darkside and Spiritualized.

***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****

I discovered Spacemen 3 in 1988. It was at a time when
I hadn't come across anything new in a while that I found
particularly original or exciting. Perfect Prescription was—if
you'll pardon the saying—exactly what the doctor ordered.

Like Fried-era Julian Cope, early Rain Parade, and the now-
defunct Opal, here was neo-psychedelia done up right. No sit-
ars, backwards guitars, or hippie-dippy lyrical clichés. This stuff
sounded retro, contemporary, and totally timeless all at once.
I was an instant convert to their guitar-as-god religion.

I immediately got ahold of their first record, the grungier,
heavily Motor City-influenced Sound of Confusion. Two more
full-length releases followed: the slightly disappointing, yet ul-
timately more eclectic and experimental Playing With Fire and
their latest—and last—Recurring. Perfect Prescription is still
my favorite—possibly one of my favorite albums of all time.

Spacemen 3 broke
up just before issu-
ing their final long-
player—and with a
major label, no less
(RCA). Various art-
icles and interviews
published earlier this year in the British weeklies would lead one to believe that the split was due primarily to major personal-
ity clashes between singer/songwriter/guitarist/solo artist Sonic Boom
and singer/songwriter/guitarist/Spiritualized founder Jason Pierce.

Regardless as to the reason—or reasons—for the break, the
fact remains that the band is dust. While Recurring isn't their
best record, it isn't their worst either. Side one is credited to
Sonic Boom and side two to Jason. Surprisingly, the two
halves fit together quite well—proof that their differences
probably were more personality-related than musical.

This spring, I got the chance to speak with Sonic Boom long
distance from the offices of Dedicated Records, the last label
Spacemen 3 recorded for in the UK (ironically, Dedicated
will be releasing both Sonic Boom and Spiritualized projects).

Although I decided against asking about the possibly still-sensi-
tive issue of the group's demise, I asked just about every other
question I've ever had about Spacemen 3 and/or Sonic's solo
career. For the most part, I found Boom, i.e. Pete Kember, to
be friendly and forthcoming—contrary to British press opinion.

Click here for part two



Endnote: This piece was originally published as "Focusing
on Sonic Boom's Revolution." Click the links for my Wire in-
terviews with Lucinda Williams and Dinosaur Jr. Spectrum
plays Neumos on 5/2. Images from the AMG and Wikipedia.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Some-
times
in April

These are
the reviews
and other

pieces I'm
working
on this
month.

Amazon DVD: Crude Impact.

Amazon Profiles: Peter Falk, Norman Jewison,
and Sidney Lumet for
Armchair Commentary.

Amazon Theatricals: Hunger, acclaimed film about IRA
leader Bobby Sands (with Michael Fassbender, above left), State of Play (remake of the British miniseries with Russell Crowe),
and Lemon Tree (with the always amazing Hiam Abbass).

Still playing (or yet to open): Confessions of a Shopaholic, Doubt, Gom-
orrah
, The Great Buck Howard, He's Just Not That into You, Milk, Rachel Get-
ting Married
, Sin Nombre, Sunshine Cleaning, Two Lovers, and Tyson.

Seattle International Film Festival: Thirteen blurbs
for the program guide. My eighth year as copy contributor.

Siffblog: Silent Light, film number three from Mexico's
Carlos Reygadas. Given time, I also intend to wrap up my interview with Trouble the Water's Tia Lessin before start-
ing one with Medicine for Melancholy's Barry Jenkins.

Still playing: Gran Torino.



Video Librarian: Battle in Seattle (click here for my Amazon
review), Bird by Bird with Annie (a portrait of writer Anne La-
mott), Kurtis Blow - The Hip Hop Anniversary Tour, Fashion in
Film, Flavor Flav - Live in Concert, Trouble the Water (click here
for my interview with Tia Lessin), and The World of the Doll Artist.



Endnote: Sometimes in April is the title of Raoul Peck's
fine HBO film about 1994's Rwandan genocide, starring The
Wire's Idris Elba. Hunger image from Time Out Sydney.