I first characterized Battlehooch and their album RAD NAR, as what would happen if the Danielson Family quit Jesus and went on a cross-country bender with Gogol Bordello and Nick Diamonds from the Unicorns. However, by the time I got to track four, I wondered if perhaps this San Francisco band sounded more like James Chance and Elvis Costello, locked in an Eastern European basement together, forced at gun-point to write a score for a children’s cereal commercial based on the theme from Family Matters.
Clearly, Battlehooch don’t fall nicely into categories. They’re a pastiche of garage-pop, psych-punk, cabaret, funk and the occasional jazzy freak out. Despite the ramshackle mixture of styles, they never find themselves meandering into indulgent experimentation. Their sense of melody is much too good for that. Instead, they supply the hooks and lyrics about sharks. Battlehooch give the people what they want. I can envision people of all creeds, colors and stripes taking off their clothes to this music. Perhaps you should be one of those people!
Battlehooch play the BTR SXSW showcase on March 17th in Austin.
RIYL: Holy Ghost Revival, Man Man, Gogol Bordello and The Unicorns.
March 17 – SXSW – Austin, TX
March 17 – Palm Door, Austin TX (BTR showcase)
March 24 – Beauty Bar – Las Vegas, NV
March 25 – McWorld – Los Angeles, CA
March 26 – Jose’s Lounge Underground – Monterey, CA
March 27 – Santa Cruz LP release @ Crepe Place – Santa Cruz, CA
March 28 – Vulcan Lofts – Oakland, CA
April 17- SF vinyl release @ Bottom of the Hill – San Francisco, CA
Tapestry of Webs
It is always depressing when a great band breaks up and its members go on to form totally mediocre bands (At the Drive-in I’m looking at you). Such was my fear when Seattle’s Blood Brothers broke up. The Blood Brothers played spastic, oddly melodic hardcore, boasting two vocalists, Johnny Whitney and Jordan Blilie, whose shrill call and response lyrics came like news bulletins from a post-apocalyptic hell-scape (think Blade Runner on loads of cocaine). A friend once summed up the band’s live show as “two strung-out storks screaming at each other.” Of course, I loved this band. So, after the Blood Brothers split and two-fifths of the band (Johnny Whitney, vocals and Cody Votolato, guitar) debuted their disappointing new project Jaguar Love, I worried about what the three others might be up to.
Fortunately, my fears have been assuaged. The three other Blood Bros. alums — Morgan Henderson (guitar), Mark Gajadhar (drums), Jordan Blilie (vocals) and ex-Shoplifting guitar player Devin Welch (guitar) — formed Past Lives, and they have just put out their first full-length: an impressive new LP called Tapestry of Webs.
The album opens with “Paralyzer,” a slow burner driven by striped-down drums and two fuzzy guitar lines that give Blilie’s nervous baritone space to croon, whisper and drone. Immediately apparent and refreshing are the departures from the Blood Brothers’ grading style of hardcore. Here, the tempos are slower and more relaxed, though not without tension. Instead of throwing hissy fits, this music broods. The album’s third track “Past Lives” reveals a contemplative side to Blilie’s lyrics. Over a delicate guitar melody Blilie sings: “I’ve seen it all once or maybe twice / I’ve read the scriptures taken the advice/ I’ve asked the prophets, asked the crystal ball / I’ve asked the silhouettes climbing up my walls.” This comes as a welcome shift away from the Blood Brothers’ fluorescent lyrical bombast.
Past Lives display an impressive amount of diversity on Tapestry of Webs.There’s the galloping stomp of “Hospital White” and the dub-influenced “Deep in the Valley”, with its lonely bass-line and tremolo guitar. The song “K-Hole” opens with blaring horns and what sounds like a bassoon. “Hex Takes Hold” boasts the album’s best hook: Gahadhar’s syncopated snare hits punctuated by nimble guitar upstrokes and Blilie’s chorus, “I’m telling you the bad news!” “There is a Light so Bright it Blinds” closes out the album with a slow build of tom rolls, horns, bassoon (I think) and droning organ.
Past Lives are not a re-imagined version of the Blood Brothers, yet, all the qualities that made the Blood Brothers an interesting hardcore band—the strange tempos, asymmetrical arrangements and distinctive vocals—remain in tact. Blilie and co. are merely interested in exploring ways to get a point across that don’t involve hysterically screaming at everyone. Any Blood Brothers fan who understands that will be totally delighted with Tapestry of Webs.
RIYL: Hot Snakes, Gang of Four, Les Savvy Fav, and The Blood Brothers
MAR 16 – Casbah – San Diego, CA
MAR 17 – Trunk Space – Phoenix, AZ
MAR 18 – Percolator – El Paso, TX
MAR 20 – Mohawk – Austin, TX
MAR 21 – Ten Eleven – San Antonio, TX
MAR 23 – Record Bar – Kansas City, MO
MAR 24 – Firebird – St. Louis, MO
MAR 25 – Bottom Lounge – Chicago, IL
MAR 26 – Eagle’s Nest – Milwaukee, WI
MAR 27 – DAAC – Grand Rapids, MI
MAR 28 – Majestic Cafe – Detroit, MI
MAR 29 – Now That’s Class – Cleveland, OH
MAR 30 – The Bug Jar – Rochester NY,
APR 01 – The Garrison – Toronto, ON, Canada
APR 02 – Casa Del Popolo – Montreal, QC, Canada
APR 03 – Garfield Artworks – Pittsburgh, PA
APR 04 – DC9 – Washington, DC
APR 05 – Snug Harbor – Charlotte, NC
APR 06 – 529 – Atlanta, GA
APR 07 – The Social – Orlando, FL
APR 08 – Downunder Club – Tallahassee, FL
APR 09 – Rion Ballroom, Univ. of Florida – Gainesville FL,
APR 10 – Cafe Eleven – St. Augustine, FL
APR 12 – Soapbox – Wilmington, NC
APR 13 – Cat’s Cradle – Carrboro, NC
APR 14 – The Southern – Charlottesville, VA
The Red Krayola with Art and Language
Five American Portraits
Mayo Thompson—avant-garde pioneer, founder and enduring member of The Red Krayola—-has a list of musical accolades too long to transcribe, but here are some highlights: He produced albums for Stiff Little Fingers and the Raincoats. He did a brief stint in Pere Ubu. One time—during a performance at Berkeley in which he placed a sheet of tin foil and a contact microphone under a block of melting ice—-he was paid $10 just to shut the hell up.
Thompson’s Red Krayola project has been around in various incarnations since the late 60s, spanning over a dozen releases. The most well known, 1967’s Parable of Arable Land, is regarded by some as one of the strangest and most groundbreaking pieces of music to come out of the weirdo 1960s. Yet, most people haven’t heard of Mayo Thompson or The Red Krayola. I certainly had no clue who the man was until I stumbled on his latest work, a collaboration with Art and Language called Five American Portraits.
The album’s concept is just as literal as the title suggests: five portraits of notable Americans. Included are a cartoon character (Wile E. Coyote), two former presidents (George W. Bush and Jimmy Carter), a movie star (John Wayne) and an artist (Ad Reinhardt). However, these musical “portraits” do not describe their subjects in the conventional sense. Take the hyper-literal lyrics for starters. Speaking more than singing, Thompson and guest vocalist Gina Birch (of Raincoats fame) simply name the facial features of each song’s subject. For example, track two starts like this: “Ridges and creases, high on the middle-forehead / The right temple near the eyebrow. / A small ridge under the right eye… The underside of the left eyelid of President George W. Bush.” Every song goes on like this.
As for the music that accompanies each set of lyrics, at first it seems almost arbitrary. However, repeated listens, or a trip to Wikipedia, reveal the melody to Bo Diddley’s “Roadrunner” buried in “Wile E. Coyote.” An improvisation on “Georgia on My Mind” is woven through “President Jimmy Carter,” and so on. Because neither the music nor the spoken word provide any useful idea as to who these five Americans are, what they look like or their cultural significance, we’re left with a misleading and ultimately pointless code for learning all about famous American faces, without learning anything at all. It’s all pretty funny. I guess an intricate and clever joke is to be expected from a guy known for melting ice onto a mic’ed-up piece of tin foil.
Two thousand years from now, I imagine an archaeologist discovering Five American Portraits, reverse-engineering the faces and using them as the basis for piecing together the rise and fall of a lost civilization. Then I imagine Mayo Thompson, laughing his head off.
RIYL: Mayo Thompson, Bo Diddley, jokes.
Link to this article: http://www.breakthruradio.com/index.php?b=article.php?id=1355
– Thomas Seely