The William Loveday Intention – My Love For You (Damaged Goods)


The William Loveday Intention - My Love For You - 7" – Rough ...

This 7″ is the first release from Billy Childish’s latest musical project, The William Loveday Intention. It’s an interesting release because these two songs are so different from one another that I’m left unsure what this band’s “thing” is going to be. Bass player, and Mrs. Childish, Nurse Julie handles the sultry vocals for the Morricone-esque A-side, which comes drenched in dramatic trumpets and strings. The B-side, “A La Mort Surbite (Sitting In Jacques Brel’s Seat),” was inspired by a Belgian bar Childish frequented in the 1980s, and it finds him back in more familiar rock and roll territory, complete with hefty doses of harmonica and a strong vocal. These songs prove, yet again, that Childish, now 60, still burns an artistic intensity and creative passion that people half his age aren’t able to muster up. Will either of these songs be the conceptual core of The William Loveday Intention’s sound? I don’t know, but we’ll find out soon enough, because, in keeping with Childish’s prolific nature, they’re currently recording three albums.

The Other Half – “Mr. Pharmacist”/”I’ve Come So Far” (Harlem Shuffle Records)


The Other Half - Mr. Pharmacist / I've Come So Far (2019, Vinyl ...

The A-side of this December 1966 single, “Mr. Pharmacist,” was a paean to a pharmacist of dubious origins. Somehow the song’s drug connotations slipped past the censors, who must have been complete out of touch with young people, because the lyrics are pretty blatant (ex: “Dear pharmacist won’t you please/Give me some energy?”) The song is a garage rock classic, thanks to inclusion on the Nuggets box-set and The Fall’s chart-scraping cover in 1986. The band behind the song, The Other Half, were a San Francisco by way of Los Angeles outfit who projected a tough image, and an even tougher Yardbirds-inspired sound largely crafted by guitarist Randy Holden. The song still sounds amazing today – Jeff Nowlen’s leering vocals and that double-time rave-up section are just about everything you want from a badass ’66-era American garage rock song. The B-side, “I’ve Come So Far,” written and sung by rhythm guitarist Geoff Westen, pulls the band in a different direction. The song is less heavy, and a bit soulful even, but Westen’s vocal makes it work, pushing beyond the outer limits of his range to the point where he sounds like he’s pleading as much as he is singing.

Harlem Shuffle’s new issue of this single is fully authorized, and the sound quality is top notch. The record comes in a generic sleeve with no artwork, photos, or liner notes. But that’s OK, a single like this is meant for playing, not archiving.

Craig Smith/Maitreya Kali – Apache/Inca (Maitreya Apache Music)


CRAIG SMITH / MAITREYA KALI - Apache-Inca 2-LP

To fully appreciate Apache/Inca, you’ll need to know a little bit of history on Craig Smith (aka Maitreya Kali), though his story is best told by Mike Stax’ biography, Swim Through The Darkness. Smith was your stereotypical California kid in the mid-’60s. His clean cut image and good looks helped him land a role as a regular cast member on The Andy Williams show, he was a shortlisted candidate for The Monkees, and was a promising songwriter, penning tunes for Williams and The Monkees, among others. Mike Nesmith even produced an album of material recorded by Smith and friend Chris Ducey, with Nesmith dubbing the group The Penny Arkade. Smith’s star seemed to be rapidly rising, but then things went south very quickly. Despite Nesmith’s efforts, and label interest, for some reason a record deal never materialized, and by 1968 the Penny Arkade splintered. Smith, like many young people at that time, started going on LSD-fuelled journey’s of self discovery, and decided to use his entertainment industry earnings to travel what’s known as “the Hippie Trail”, an above-ground trek from Europe into Asia. On that trip, Smith was viciously robbed, beaten, and raped in Afghanistan, and when he return to Los Angeles in 1969 it was clear that he was not the same guy his friend had known. Smith began suffering from intense delusions and would refer to himself as Maitreya Kali. Worse, he became increasingly unpredictable and violent, and would spend the next few years mixing spiritual journeys, court-ordered mental institution stays, and scaring off his old friends. He still wrote music though, and in 1972, Smith, now with a spider tattoo in the middle of his forehead, went to Custom Fidelity Inc. with a handful of tapes (including the unreleased Penny Arkade sessions) to put together two albums, Apache and Inca. He filled the LPs’ packaging with unfocused writings on religion, music, drugs, and himself, giving some insight into his fractured state mind at the time of recording. Printed in small amounts, Smith distributed the records among friends and acquaintances.

Chronologically, the music begins with seven Penny Arkade songs from 1967. These tracks leave you wondering why they found a record deal so hard to come. The band was a solid L.A. folk-rock outfit, with some psychedelic leanings that surely could have found an audience in 1967. You could drop a harmony-laden song like “Color Fantasy” in the middle of a set with The Byrds, Buffalo Springfield, The Turtles, and The Monkees, and nobody would bat an eyelash. As good as those songs are, Smith’s solo recordings as Maitreya Kali are far more interesting. Along with a new name, Smith also adapted a more sophisticated folk approach and a sweeter, more innocent vocal style, sounding at times like Art Garfunkel or Colin Blunstone. Given Smith’s history of mental illness you might expect these songs to be off-kilter documents of his deterioration, like Syd Barrett or Skip Spence, but the demons Smith was facing left his talents thankfully intact. Smith included some weird snippets of conversation, and a strange recording of him and Mike Love from The Beach Boys listening to a playback of Smith’s version of “Salesmen,” which he wrote for The Monkees, but these moments are mostly outliers among a strong set of songs. The album peaks on delicately rendered psych-folk tunes like “Black Swan” and “Music Box Sound,” which sound like they were both cut at the same session and answer the question, “what would it sound like if Arthur Lee recorded Harvest instead of Neil Young?” “Revelation” also stands out, a heavily psychedelicized piece of self-mythologizing with Smith feeding his voice through a Leslie speaker and covering a variety of spiritual/religious topics while simultaneously warning, “Someone’s out to get you/I think it’s gonna be me.” That warning takes on added meaning when you learn that the year after he released these albums, Smith went to jail for three years for beating up his mother. He would then spend his post-jail years drifting around Los Angeles in various states of homelessness until his death in 2012.

This reissue features the best sound you’re likely to get from these albums, since the original tapes were likely destroyed a long time ago. There’s also informative liner notes by Smith biographer Mike Stax (of Ugly Things Magazine) who put this album out as well. Definitely seek this one out.

Flat Worms – Antarctica (God?)


Antarctica | Flat Worms

You may recognize Flat Worms’ members from their musical resumes. Singer/guitarist Will Ivy comes from Dream Boys and Wet Illustrated, bassist Tim Hellman and drummer Justin Sullivan both show up on a lot of different projects but are probably best known for their work with Oh Sees and Kevin Morby, respectively. Together, the trio has forged an instantly recognizable sonic attack over the course of two full-lengths, two singles and an EP, combining the directness of punk rock with the abstract ideas of post-punk. To me, they sound like a mid-’80s SST band getting “unstuck in time” and landing in the middle of modern-day California. A lot of that has to do with Ivy’s detached vocal style, which recalls Lee Renaldo’s tone and range. Basically, he’s there as a Mark E. Smith-styled commentator, not a traditional vocalist.

Antarctica, the band’s second full-length album, was recorded by Steve Albini and Ty Segall, the latter also releasing it on his Drag City imprint, God? Records. Those are good people to have behind the board, and Antarctica certainly sounds beefier than the band’s previous releases. The question is, do the songs warrant the upgrade? Sometimes yes, and sometimes no. “The Aughts” certainly does, displaying the band’s great chorus-writing, coupled with a sense of real urgency in the music. Problems arise deeper in the album, as the overarching lyrical themes of discontent, disillusionment, and the impersonal nature of modern society never quite hit their mark. Song titles like “Condo Colony,” “Market Forces,” and the title track indicate the alienation Flat Worms are trying to address, but they have trouble successfully connecting the brains behind the lyrics to the muscles of the music. They’re not going to send panicked listeners scrambling for whatever mechanism they use to shut music off while shouting “this sucks!”, and each song is individually enjoyable. It’s just that hearing a band – even a good one – take thirty-three minutes to make a convoluted statement will leave you unsatisfied, and perhaps even a little disillusioned too.

The Only Ones – Live In Chicago 1979 (Alona’s Dream)


Live In Chicago 1979 | Alona's Dream Records

The Only Ones were perhaps the most severely underrated British band of the late-1970s. Sure, “Another Girl, Another Planet” is a cult hit in underground circles, but they were so much more than that one song, having put out a trio of great records from 1978-1980 that rivals just about any of their contemporaries. Getting lumped in with punk probably didn’t help their fortunes much since they didn’t subscribe to its image or sound, functioning more like a mix of The Velvet Underground, Neil Young, Bob Dylan, and Bowie that just happened to land right in the middle of the punk era. If anything, they were British equivalent of Television, right down to the fearless guitar solos and casual cool sound of the vocals.

Live From Chicago captures the band at Mothers Club on 10/3/79, seven months after their excellent sophomore record, Even Serpents Shine. The show was taped for radio broadcast, so the sound quality is loud and punchy, giving these live versions a more visceral feeling than their familiar studio counterparts. Peter Perrett and John Perry’s guitar interplay is, as usual, fantastic, but the rhythm section of Alan Mair and Mike Kellie really benefits from the raw immediacy of this recording. At times they even recall John Entwhistle and Keith Moon thunderous high-volume attack from Live at Leeds, but streamlined for a punk-era club date. The twelve songs include highlights like “Miles From Nowhere,” “No Solution,” and the obligatory (though no less powerful) “Another Girl, Another Planet.” There’s also a version of “The Guest”, a song by Peter Perrett’s pre-Only Ones band, England’s Glory, that The Only Ones never recorded in the studio. Personal favorite “The Beast” draws the album to an exciting close after forty all-too-brief minutes, leaving me with a reignited passion for a band I’ve already loved for decades. Do yourself a favor and buy this one! Your ears and your soul will thank you.

Sonny Vincent – Primitive 1969-1976: Diamond Distance and Liquid Fury (Hozac Archival)


Diamond Distance & Liquid Fury: 1969-76 | HoZac Records

No label is better at finding and releasing music from underground rock’s forgotten footnotes than Hozac Archival. They’re not the kind of label that gets to put out Stooges rarities, but they’re the ones who’ll put out an EP with a pair of unreleased Stooges songs covered by a band who recorded them in late-70’s off a bootleg tape. It’s that kind of dedication to diving down obscure rabbit holes that makes them the perfect label for this release. Sonny Vincent is as “culty” a figure in the story of punk as any, having fronted The Testors in New York City in the back half of the 1970s. An album of Testors songs would already push the average rock-geek’s obscure-meter well into the red, but Hozac goes one-further, compiling tracks from Vincent’s various pre-Testors power-trios from 1969-1974, along with one actual Testors song from ’76.

Hozac has already released singles by two of the bands here (Fury and Liquid Diamonds), and those sides are accounted for, as is a previously unreleased number by each. There’s also a radio advertisement for a Fury gig at Greenwich High School, which tickles me pink since it’s located just a few blocks from where I live. The real “find” here is the first three songs, which come from Vincent’s earliest band, Distance, from 1969-1971. Like the rest of the music here, the sound quality isn’t great, and the songs are more psychedelic hard rock than punk rock. If you’re looking for comparisons, think of New York proto-metal bands like Dust or Sir Lord Baltimore and not The Dolls or The Stooges. The volume and hard attack are there, especially on “Flying,” but the songwriting and lyrics are dated. That’s OK though because this album is as much about documenting history, as it is about music. In fact, the best part of the LP is the liner notes where Vincent and Hozac honcho Todd Novak discuss the former’s bohemian lifestyle during this formative era. His encounters with The Manson family, Suicide, The Velvet Underground, and a host of other cultural figures, are fascinating. With stories like these, he should consider writing an autobiography.

   

Mark Lanegan – Sing Backwards and Weep (Hachette Books)


Sing Backwards and Weep: A Memoir: Lanegan, Mark: 9780306922800 ...

As a longtime Mark Lanegan fan, I knew he had enough stories for a great autobiography. After all he was part of the SST-led underground rock scene of the ’80s, the mainstream alternative boom of the ’90s, and he’s collaborated with just about every musician from the last thirty-five years that you’d want to read about. Somehow Sing Backwards and Weep managed to blow away my admittedly high expectations, and I breezed through its 341 pages in just two days. The story starts in Ellensburg, a dead-end Washington town where Lanegan was on the fast track for trouble early, having spent most of his teen years drunk, stoned, getting into fights, and amassing a hefty rap sheet. Discovering punk rock showed him that perhaps there was something more in the world for him than just getting fucked up and going to jail. Or at the very least, it gave him the idea that he could find kindred spirits to get fucked up and go to jail with…and that’s the path he chose. Of course The Screaming Trees are a big part of the story, as they’re probably the most commercially successful thing Lanegan has been a part of, but many will be surprised to learn that he’s embarrassed by most of their musical output (he’s not wrong either) and he especially couldn’t stand guitarist Gary Lee Connor, who is painted in an unflattering (and often comical) light. Despite feeling completely alienated from the band he was supposed to be leading, Lanegan still has great stories from their early years, including Greg Sage of The Wipers making (non-musical) overtures towards their boyish-looking drummer Mark Pickerel, Mike Watt’s penny pinching tactics on their tours with firehose, and his encounters with pre-Sub Pop Nirvana. There’s even the revelation that Krist Novaselic actually wanted to leave Nirvana for The Screaming Trees at one point. Luckily, Lanegan could tell early on that Nirvana had something special, and as much as Novaselic would have been a great pick-up for his band, he knew enough to tell him to stay put where he was.

As the ’90s began things were looking up for The Screaming Trees, with a major label deal and a lot of attention being paid to Seattle bands. However, Lanegan, ever the contrarian, went in a completely different direction from his radio-friendly alt-rock peers, launching a solo career inspired by quieter, more introspective music like Nick Drake, Galaxie 500, Leonard Cohen. Unfortunately, the pressures of a real career brought out the worst in an already dysfunctional group, and Lanegan began diving deep into drugs, alcohol, and kink; and that’s where the book takes a really dark turn. Soon he became the old cliche of going from a musician dabbling in drugs to a drug addict dabbling in music. While his friends were off conquering the world (and finding their own personal hells inside the trappings of success), Lanegan spent the next few years going off the deep end on heroin and crack, coming close to death several times. By the back-half of his ’90s his band was sputtering to a halt, whatever money he made from album sales and touring was gone, and Mark was dealing drugs just to get by. Lanegan hit rock bottom in 1997, ending up virtually homeless until Courtney Love paid for him to go into rehab, and Duff McKagan (who Lanegan had never met before) offered to get him off the streets by letting him be a caretaker at his homes in Los Angeles and Seattle.

The hardcore depths of drug addiction are brutally dark, and reading about them can be grueling, but these years were not without humor. For every shot of dope there’s a hilarious quip or story, like Lanegan’s encounters with Liam Gallagher’s cocaine-fuelled arrogance on tour with Oasis. After Gallagher made a few disparaging remarks, Lanegan spent most of the tour plotting his revenge, only to find Liam was never seen without a team of bodyguards. The book ends abruptly with Lanegan getting the news of Layne Staley’s drug-fuelled death in 2002, which is a shame because the past eighteen years have seen him get sober, build an inspired solo discography, get married, become a sought-after collaborator, and just generally get his life together. Sing Backwards and Weep could have benefitted from that redemptive ending, but maybe he’s saving that for sequel? One can only hope.

Mick Harvey – Waves Of Anzac/The Journey (Mute Records)


Mick Harvey may not be a household name, but the solo albums, collaborations, soundtracks, and musical accompaniment he’s been a part of since the late-’70s add up to a tremendous body of work. His latest release crams music from two separate projects together on one disc. The first is Waves of Anzac, the soundtrack to a documentary called “Why Anzac,” where actor Sam Neill recants episodes from his family’s history which dovetail with the history of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (aka ANZAC). I only have the soundtrack to review, and not the accompanying film, but the subject matter, and the tone of Harvey’s instrumental music (which includes titles like “The Cemetery,” “After The Bomb,” and “Modern War”) leads me to believe there’s a lot of tension in the story. The soundtrack has a lot of instruments, but it’s the meticulous string arrangements that are dominant throughout. There’s something beautiful, and almost classical in nature about the title track, but I keep coming back to “The Somme” which features a haunting piano melody that harkens back a bit to the mood of a few mid-’90s Bad Seeds songs. All that tension finally boils over on “Vietnam,” with jagged guitar noise conjuring up mental images of war-torn landscapes and brutal devastation.

The Journey is a four-part composition Harvey wrote and recorded with The Letter String Quartet, and originally released as a standalone download in 2019. It’s a soundtrack of sorts, but instead of accompanying a movie, these songs were recorded to support asylum seekers caught up in Australia’s offshore detention program. All the feelings of struggle and anxiety the detainees (i.e. prisoners) have is captured in these songs, which have a far more urgent and direct tone to them than the Waves of Anzac soundtrack. The final part of this four-song suite ends with vocals (the first on the album) emerging from the string section, perhaps offering a final sense of hope and peace after so much turbulence.

This isn’t music for everyone, but if you’re into atmospheric film scores, as always, Harvey’s got the goods.

Acid Baby Jesus – Selected Outtakes (Slovenly Recordings)


Selected Outtakes Vinyl | www.soundeffect-records.gr

Selected Outtakes is a misnomer for this archival release from Greek psych rockers Acid Baby Jesus. The two songs on this 7″, “Amalia” and “Hermit,” aren’t outtakes from the band’s 2014 opus Selected Recordings, just early recordings of two songs from the album. However, those two songs, “Night Of Pan” and “Ayahuasca Blues,” were so strong in their finished state that I’m totally OK with scouring these early versions for differences. The melodic structures are pretty much the same as the final product, but “Amalia” has different lyrics and there’s new ghostly psychedelic sounds and hard-hitting drums on “Hermit.” The trade-off is that these versions are (in true demo fashion) a step slower, and the tones, which are so crucial to the finished product, aren’t completely locked in at this early stage. It’s good, if somewhat inessential, stuff for a small but dedicated subset of listeners who still have Selected Recordings in heavy rotation six years after its initial release.

Dodged & Burned: Seminal Rock Photography 1976-1984 by Brian Shanley (Hozac Books)


HoZac Records

This book collects mostly unseen punk and post-punk era photographs taken by Brian Shanley, a music and art enthusiast best known for his graphic design work for Wax Trax Records. Shanley first got the bug to shoot his favorite bands on a brief sojourn to New York in 1976 where he snapped photos of Television, the three-piece version of Talking Heads and a one-off John Cale show backed by David Byrne, Mick Ronson and Allen Lanier. Pretty cool, right? Well Shanley thought so too, so upon returning to Chicago he began photographing as many local and touring bands he could get access to. The list of artists Shanley’s subjects reads like a who’s who of the era’s alternative acts – everyone from Iggy to Gang Of Four to Motorhead to the B-52s is represented here. While the majority of Shanley’s photos come from concerts the book also includes a handful of posed publicity-type shots, including really great stills of The Dead Boys and The Birthday Party who look impossibly young and fresh faced back in 1981. Some of the live shots are a little blurry, or taken at imperfect angles, but that’s OK. I’ll always welcome another opportunity to gaze at the intensity of Black Flag, the strung-out gauntness of Peter Perrett, or the Ramones in their leather and denim uniform. Dodged & Burned gives you those joys and plenty more too. It’s a great chance to revisit one of the most vibrant times in rock’n’roll history in all of it’s arty, flamboyant and damaged glory.