Monday, April 02, 2007

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Taste your buttery muffin

The Jesus Lizard were filthy, irrational degenerates who made a horrible racket and rubbed their junk on all-too-suspecting audiences over the course of ten spittle-and-sweat spattered years from 1989 onwards.

In his book Our Band Could Be Your Life, Michael Azerrad describes lead singer David Yow's vocals as sounding like "a kidnap victim trying to howl through the duct tape over his mouth; the effect is horrific." Their songs are furious things, surly and pissed-off, elbowing their way at you with great slabs of gut-rumbling bass and thundering drums, while Yow caterwauls over the top with remarkable dexterity. The Jesus Lizard had an amazing knack for sounding absolutely unhinged and completely on-a-dime precise at the same time. Here, now, almost ten years since their demise, I'm still kicking myself for never having caught them live when I had the chance.

Here's the promo clip for "Nub", which is undoubtedly my very favorite Lizard track. The band beat the living hell out of the song and it's a tremendously feral 2.5 minutes of sickness. The slide guitar and the stalker-bassline just kill me, even still.

Today's selection, "If You Had Lips", comes from the band's 1990 album, Head and it's a slow-burner with snaky, sinister guitar courtesy of Duane Denison and pummeling bass and drums from Mr. David Wm. Sims and Mac McNielly, respectively. In a live recording of this I've heard, Yow, who was often prone to send himself hurling into the audience, flailing and thrashing like a lunatic, is heard to exclaim "I got somebody's hair!" upon his return to the stage at the song's conclusion.

The Jesus Lizard - If You Had Lips (MP3, 192kbps, 4.5MB)

Update: Yow's back on vox again, this time around with sludgy L.A. rockers Qui. Having started as a two-piece in 2000, Matt Cronk (guitar/vocals) and Paul Christensen (drums/vocals) then enlisted Yow into their ranks last summer. They'll be releasing their 9-song full-length later this year and touring for it, as well. Check out the link to their Myspace page where you can sample a few tracks and keep updated.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Sexy Time Tuesday

Has there ever been a more fucking perfect soundtrack for driving down the 101 Freeway in the dead of night?

The Gun Club - Sex Beat (MP3, 192kbps, 3.9MB)

Inexplicably, I avoided direct contact with Flipper for years. Sure, I knew their name, I could describe the album cover art to you in vague terms, but I had yet to really hear them until last year. They were one of those seemingly-permanently-filed-away bands to check out eventually, but I never seemed to cross paths with them. "Sex Bomb" sounds like James Chance being slowly crushed to death by a drunken steamroller. In an echo chamber. I harbor no bad feelings towards Mr. Chance, none, and I certainly wouldn't want him to be crushed to death by said steamroller, but if it sounded like this, how could I complain? Please, do whatever it requires, but try and listen to this as loudly as possible.

Flipper - Sex Bomb (MP3, 192kps, 10.8MB)

Wichita, Kansas jitterpunks The Embarrassment offered up this, their debut single, upon an unsuspecting public in 1979. All f0ur members of The Embarrassment wore glasses, and I'm generally pretty excited when there's just one dude in a band wearing 'em. "Sex Drive" is a twitchy, wound-up teeth-gnasher of a tune, sounding both cagey and horny at once, and dripping with fantastic teenage snottiness and awesome guitar wrangling. Totally wired, paranoid and just nerdy enough, "Sex Drive" could be the Feelies hopped up on diet pills and black coffee, with a healthy shot of Wire or Mission of Burma tossed in for extra-chewy angularity.

Heyday, a solid double-CD set released by Bar/None a few years back, collects singles, unreleased recordings, two albums and scattered scraps together in one tidy package. This saves countless hours spent trying to track this stuff down, and leaves you just that much more time to plan out the wild party you'll be having to celebrate these three sexy songs I've shared with you today. I'll bring the Lil' Smokies and hot fruit.

The Embarrassment - Sex Drive (MP3, 192kps, 7MB)

Monday, October 02, 2006

I got a pain down inside

I got a new job. It kicks my ass (but I'm enjoying it). I've not felt like writing in my down-time much, and my attempts at finally squeezing out Installment Three of the Thinking Fellers super-deluxe-bonanza have proved frustrating and fruitless. The more I fretted about it, the less I felt like doing it. It'll come eventually, but I think I need to get back into the rhythm of posting things off the cuff, and out of instinct and enthusiasm, rather than tying myself in knots over even doing them at all. If that makes even a scrap of sense, I'll Paypal you a cookie once I figure out how.

When I stumbled upon this YouTube treasure this evening (thanks to Ann Magnuson's blog, Ann, I love you, let's do pancakes sometime, call me), I knew it had to be posted here. Screamin' Jay's grunts and shrieks were just too precious to keep to myself, and the title of the song - "Constipation Blues" - spoke volumes of these past two months of creative cloggage. I don't think Jay's referring to writer's block or exhaustion, but it works for me, nonetheless.

This was an improvisation from a French television program filmed in 1983. I'd love to know how Serge and Screamin' Jay's night out on the town went following the taping....can you imagine?

Monday, August 07, 2006

Too much desire for one mouth to hold

Due to unexpected derailments (i.e.: life/work), our third and final installment of Eat This Grenade's salute to Thinking Fellers Union Local 282 has been delayed. Please stop back by mid-week....until then, just because I want you to be happy, here's one more track from the Fellers' Admonishing The Bishops EP for your enjoyment.

Thinking Fellers Union Local 282 - Million Dollars (MP3, 192kbps, 5.9MB)

Monday, July 31, 2006

Sleepwalkers, storm clouds, tail-biters and transformation.

So, I've been sitting here, listening to Mother Of All Saints intently for a while now, staring at the album cover, and wishing that the two lovers caught mid-embrace on it would turn to me and explain what the hell to say about such a weird, murky chunk of 70 minutes and 23 tracks, but as of yet, no luck. It’s such a blurry head-fuck of an album that I’m not even sure those are lovers pictured on the cover…they could be preparing to eat one another’s faces off, I can’t tell for sure.

Thinking Fellers Union Local 282 didn't sound a like a five-piece band on Mother Of All Saints, they sounded like five different bands. These tunes were loaded up with even more trap-doors and booby-hatches than before, and with each band member (except drummer Jay Paget) contributing lead vocals, you couldn't be quite sure what was around the next bend. The Fellers had always been slippery shape-shifters, prone to sudden mid-song acrobatics and genre-shuffling, but here, it felt like anything could submerge from the swirl at any moment. It was best to just let it wash over you and not ask too many questions.

"He's suspended in dreams tonight," crooned Brian Hageman on the lurching, manic "Catcher", the third track in on Mother, and it's a predicament that could apply to the whole album, rather than just the song's subject. From beginning to end, Mother Of All Saints sounds like a fever-dream, delirious and sweaty and a bit hazy. I don’t know what the band were ingesting during the recording sessions for this beast, but it was certainly potent stuff, if nothing else.

(l-r: Anne Eickelberg, Mark Davies, Jay Paget, Brian Hageman, Hugh Swarts)

The characters in these songs are desperate people, clawing frantically out of the speakers, shaking you soundly, repeatedly. "Speak to me! About your holy! fucking! experience!" shrieks Anne Eickelberg on "Tell Me", as the song self-destructs and collapses around her in a shuddering frenzy. "Hornet's Heart" features a narrator who wishes to buy a spike "for planting hornets in the heart of my wife". He needs this because the wife, well, she's had "conversations with my darker side....and now she's left me with a poison mind". The song twitches and spins in tight, tail-biting circles as we're told, "I let slip I love her so, I'd cook her to keep her warm".

Thinking Fellers Union Local 282 - Hornet's Heart (MP3, 192kbps, 3.7MB)

One of my other favorites from Mother Of All Saints is the surreal sprawl of "Wide Forehead". Everything here just clicks - the band sounds huge, hallucinatory and thunderous, but in a truly skewed way. "Flakes fill the air and the bug-eyed embrace is ours....a 2-D cloud tries to stop your heart."

Thinking Fellers Union Local 282 - Wide Forehead (MP3, 192kbps, 5.8MB)

The band embarked on a U.S. tour with Sun City Girls in '92, and once back home, spent much of the following year keeping a low profile. The Fellers released only a single EP during 1993...but what an set of songs it turned out to be. Despite being just four tracks, Admonishing The Bishops is the Thinking Fellers at the absolute peak of their powers. Featuring a crude cover drawing of what appeared to be levitating skewers speared with marshmallows, the EP found the band sounding entirely transformed, refreshed, renewed and - unexpectedly- achingly beautiful at times.

The lead-off track, "Hurricane", a slow-burning creeper, sounded like nothing the band had ever done before....a dreamy, eerie hypno-lullaby with a storm-cloud of churning noise at its center, the track immediately let the listener know that they were in for a journey over these next four songs. Mark Davies' keening, spooked vocals cut through the drone like a laser beam, and the whole thing slowly untangled itself into near-stillness, a few times...and roared back to life, repeatedly, in a shimmering, warped billow of guitar-spray. Here was a tune to sleepwalk to. The band was in telepathy-mode here - there's such an effortless, weightless feeling to the music, but a tense, ominous undercurrent at the same time. I could be completely biased, sure, as I've been in awe of this song for the past 13 years, but it still gives me the chills when I listen to it, it's so fucking beautiful and cracked and odd. I hope you enjoy it.

Thinking Fellers Union Local 282 - Hurricane (MP3, 192kpbs, 8.6MB)

Eat This Grenade! will crawl from the sludge yet again next Monday, August 7th, with the third and final piece of our Fellers retrospective....Until then, be well, keep your ears happy, and get some rest, it's late.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Lay down and drown in this happiness...

I don't know about you, but every few years, I'll stumble across a band that completely turns my tastes and perceptions regarding music upside-down. I've always been fascinated by the flowchart of how one artist will lead you to another, and which sounds, once they've hit your ears, will send you off in unknown, unexpected such band for me, many years ago, were San Francisco's Thinking Fellers Union Local 282. Today's installment of ETG! begins a three-part special on the Fellers, as there's just too much to share in a single installment, and I didn't wanna overwhelm you all at once or anything...

Thinking Fellers Union Local 282 had a huge impact on me when I first discovered them in the early 90's, as they literally sounded like nothing I'd heard before. Sure, they were a rock band, and had guitars at the core of their sound, but they also took cues from artists like Captain Beefheart and Zappa, being utterly unafraid to twist their songs inside-out, fuck with tempos and time-changes, and throw all sorts of freaky, funny psychosis into the mix.

The first seeds of the Thinking Fellers were planted when Brian Hageman, Mark Davies and Anne Eickelberg moved themselves from Iowa City (where they'd each played with bands such as Pink Gravy and Horny Genius) to San Francisco in 1986. Shoehorned into a one-bedroom apartment in El Cerrito, they began (according to their self-penned bio) consuming generic burgundy and listening to two different big-band radio stations simultaneously. Songs were written, noise was made, and an irate next-door-neighbor eventually forced them out of the garage and into the the Gilman Street Project, where they could make as much racket as they wanted . The trio was soon joined by Hugh Swarts and Paul Bergmann, previous bandmates from various Iowa City groups, and in a hasty scramble to name themselves before their debut show at Gilman, drunkenly pulled the moniker of Thinking Fellers Union Local 282 out of their asses. They claimed they'd come up with "something better" for a band name. They never did.

In 1987, the five Fellers moved into a home together near a freeway overpass in Oakland, where they remained for the next three years. They also hooked up with longtime producer Greg Freeman, and put out their first release, a cassette entitled Wormed by Leonard. Their early recordings were chaotic affairs, jagged and unpredictable, with unexpected angles and terrifying moodswings. Ghostly one minute and feral the next, their songs were loaded up with fuzzed-out banjos, blasts of organ and chewy wads of distortion. The first thing I often think of when I hear the Fellers is disease, and I mean that in the most complimentary way possible. They simply sound infected. If a song could foam at the mouth and roll its eyeballs back in its head, then these early tunes were likely candidates for rabies shots.

The band released its debut album Tangle on their own label, Thwart Productions, in 1989, and were joined by drummer Jay Paget in 1990 after Bergmann departed due to family commitments. Another dense, weird batch of hallucinatory freak-outs, Tangle's standout was undoubtedly the white-knuckled dementia of "Sports Car", 5:18 of spittle-flecked, teeth-gnashing mania. Oh, and it's catchy as hell, too.

Thinking Fellers Union Local 282 - Sports Car (MP3, 196kbps (VBR), 7.5MB)

In 1990, the band signed to the then-fledgling Matador Records, and unleashed the cracked brilliance of Lovelyville upon their listening audience the following year. Here were fifteen chunks of sprawling, shuddering invention, and you even got a truly creepy cover version of Sugarloaf's "Green Eyed Lady" for the price of admission, too. Tacked onto the CD release was the 7-track EP, "The Crowded Diaper", featuring what some fans like to refer to as "Feller-filler": snippets of studio randomness, disconnected ramblings and atmospheric noodlings. Your appreciation of these kinds of scraps is probably pretty closely related to how funny you find either the sound of oboes/flatulence or titles like "The Wonderbread Display".

Here's a track from Lovelyville that shows off the Fellers doing what they do best, I'd say...sounding both fucking out-of-their-minds as well as surprisingly, unexpectedly beautiful. I don't even want to ruin the fun by heaping a bunch of wanky verbiage on top of it before it hits your ears, so I'm just gonna post the damn song and let you sort it all out yourself. Please listen carefully for the squawking seal barking before the song careens into its majestic slo-mo crescendo and lovely coda. It makes me laugh every time I hear it, even after all these years.

Thinking Fellers Union Local 282 - More Glee (MP3, 192kbps, 8.7MB)

We'll return on Tuesday, August 1st with another couple offerings from the Fellers, centering around their 1992-94 period, and featuring selections from the Mother Of All Saints double-LP, as well as the Admonishing The Bishops EP, which contains, in fact, my favorite song of all time.

See you then...!