Scattershot & Pell-Mell

FallRiver

I’m scattered this week. Scatter-brained, definitely. Days late and dollars short on everything I put my brain to.

Not that I want this post to be a litany of excuses, far from it. But it’s a bit all over the map. Geographically, thematically, everything. OK.

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UT CONTEST WINNERS:

One set each of the two UT reissues go out to the following winners:

JON HOPE and IAN BEVERLY.

JON is the only one who got the correct answer to the Noise-Fest cassette question. The UT song on the Noise-Fest cassette was mistakenly called “No Manifestos” on the limited-edition run of the tape. (That Thurston is scatter-brained too, evidently.) The song is actually “Swamp,” which reappeared on the Live 1981 cassette. Either way, it’s incredibly rare! So, good Googling there, Jon. That was a sneaky trick question!

IAN didn’t get the Noise-Fest answer, but I loved his definition of UT: “Ut: n. Abbr. The symbol for the element gold as designated in the periodic table of essential listening.”

Both of you will get copies of the CDs, which won’t be released in the US until October! Congratulations!

And thanks to everyone else who sent in their entries!

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I don’t go to Fall River often. But whenever I find myself there (usually on stifling summer evenings) I always think of the opening lines of Angela Carter’s short story, “The Fall River Axe Murders”:

“Early in the morning of the fourth of August, 1892, in the city of Fall River, Massachusetts.Hot, hot, hot. Even though it is early in the morning, well before the factory whistle issues its peremptory summons from the dark, satanic mills to which the city owes its present pre-eminence in the cotton trade, the white, furious sun already shimmers and quivers high in the still air.

Nobody could call the New England summer a lovable thing; the inhabitants of New England have never made friends with it, More than the heat, it is the humidity that makes it scarcely tolerable. The weather clings, like a low fever you can’t shake off. “ [from SAINTS AND STRANGERS, 1985]

A perfect incantatory vision of the haunting (and haunted) summer evening that Lizzie Borden took an axe and —well, you know the rest.

I saw Rasputina last week at Fall River’s beautiful Narrows Center. It wasn’t the first time I’d seen them —I saw them once before, a couple of years ago, in a depressingly generic Ye Olde Irish pub that had a personality-free music venue in the basement. They counter-acted the exaggerated frat vibe of the place by belting out a raucous cover of Sir Mix-A-Lot’s “Baby Got Back.”

Their performance Thursday night was less giddily, self-consciously subversive —the band, for the most part efficiently on-point, preached to the choir as we sat in our church pews. It only served to remind me how unfortunate it is that the group have such an aesthetically precise and narrow visual image —at this point the “ladies cello society (with corsets!)” feels more like a millstone.

The costumey formality of their visual aesthetic gives every song a lingering aura of in-jokey anachronism by proxy. It’s too bad, because they —like Edward Gorey before them, another misunderstood, tarred-unfairly-with-the-Goth-brush writer & artist, are incisive storytellers, lyrically pungent and armed with an utterly deadpan sense of humor. (Melora introduced the final encore with a tentative, “Um, we’re going to utilize our classical training now,” right before tearing into a thunderous version of Heart’s “Barracuda.”)

To bring it all back to Fall River, murderous rage & baroque fantasy, I’d love to see them adapt Angela Carter’s short stories to a song cycle. The Bloody Chamber in ten acts, perhaps? I can just picture the opening lines: “Never stray from the path, never eat a windfall apple and never trust a man whose eyebrows meet in the middle…” Words for all cello-toting, rockin’ maidens to live by…

(What bands would you pair up with your favorite writers & why? Would you go for tonal complements or opposites or some variation thereof? )

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Last night I was lucky enough to see Gillian Welch and her husband David Rawlings play a secret pre-Newport Folk Festival show at beloved local watering hole Nick-A-Nees. Needless to say, the “secret” got out and Nick-A-Nees, a pretty tiny place, was crammed full of more people than should be humanly allowed (especially considering it was hotter than hellfire n’damnation in there). Lots of people loitered outside, craning their necks to try and get a good glimpse. I’m glad I got there early enough to get a relatively good spot near the stage.

They’re charismatic, relaxed performers. Low-key, holding everyone’s attention without any demands. Speaking softly and saying so much, especially with beautiful guitar interplay. Watching them playing their warm, charming music for a small, rapt audience, I got the feeling they’d just as soon play for ten people as 1000 so long as they knew they were appreciated.

And last night, they definitely were.

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I hate to poach the fabulous 20JazzFunkGreats , but my my my, how I love new Ze signings Michael Dracula. Navigating Ze’s partially reconstructed site is a nightmare of misdirection, so I couldn’t find their new single anywhere. So I’m posting “Destroy Yourself” instead. It’s one of those songs with enough atmosphere to burn. It’s a surfy, slightly scuzzy Hammer horror delight, its scorched-earth, razor-sharp angularity giving way to a lush, louche, cherry-filled center. Existentialist bubble-gum?

Picastro’s tension-filled, atmospheric “Red Your Blues” arrived in the mail today. I celebrate by giving you “Sharks.” Slow-build music. Cat Power via Sabbath, scrabbling in the dark.

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This weekend I will FINALLY post the first part of my interview with Rykarda Parasol. If you’re in SF tonight you can still make it to the record release party at the Mission district’s swank Make Out Room.

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MP3Picastro, “Sharks” [from Red Your Blues, Pehr Records]

MP3Michael Dracula, “Destroy Yourself”

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Gillian Welch | Michael Dracula | Ze Records| Picastro | Rasputina | Angela Carter’s short story “The Fall River Axe Murders” can be found in the collection Burning Your Boats. A wonderful interview with Angela Carter can be found here.

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1 Comment

  1. James

    That Michael Dracula song reminds me a bit of Jonathan Fire*Eater (mostly the organ part). Neat stuff.

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