Friday, October 30, 2009

Happy Halloween!

Hope everyone has a safe and happy day of marauding homes, pillaging chocolates and freaking out the neighbors.

In the words of The Misfits:

Letters From A Tapehead

Chuck Biscuits (1965-?) UPDATE!

D.O.A.’s Joe Keithley has gone on record that reports of Chuck Biscuits’s demise are false. There’s an article at

In the meantime, if Biscuits is alive and well, can someone update his Facebook?

Letters From A Tapehead

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Chuck Biscuits (1965-?)

I received a text message earlier today from my brother about the "late" Chuck Biscuits, a drummer whose credits include Black Flag, Danzig, D.O.A, Social Distortion and Circle Jerks to name a few. Immediately bummed about the news, I sought out and found a few articles that claimed he'd died after a long battle with lung cancer at the age of 44.

But, that's changed...

There have been reports that Chuck Biscuits may be alive and that the entire story could be a hoax. As of yet, neither story's been confirmed.

The story in NME...

The story at

The story at Spinner...

So, no grieving just yet.

Letters From A Tapehead

What I Heard This Morning: Them Crooked Vultures

Queens of the Zeppelin Nirvana Foo...

The super trio of Josh Homme, Dave Grohl and John Paul Jones, Them Crooked Vultures, posted their new single, "New Fang," a couple days ago.

To put it obviously, "New Fang" is exactly what you would expect from such a direct marriage between Zeppelin and the Queens, a happy and heavy thump thump that incorporates Homme's grab bag of inspiration with Jones's natural arena blues inclination. Abandoning the Foo Fight for a little while, Grohl seems to typically mesh well with Homme, as QOTSA's Songs For The Deaf readily and ably confirms. With "New Fang" a decent enough preview, I think it's safe to say that Them Crooked Vultures sounds more exciting and dignified than a Zeppelin reunion would have.

Their self-titled debut will be released November 17th on Interscope.

Letters From A Tapehead

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

No Ripcord: The Jesus Lizard

The Jesus Lizard
Pure/Head/Goat/Liar/Down Reissues
Touch and Go
Released: 10.6.09

No Ripcord review

Letters From A Tapehead

Thursday, October 22, 2009

What I Heard This Morning: Warpaint (...again)

A couple months ago, I posted a track from Warpaint's new EP, Exquisite Corpse, and properly kissed the collective ass of song and band.

Today, I'm posting their video for the song, "Stars," and properly kissing the collective ass of song, band and video.

Fifteen, maybe sixteen, years ago, Warpaint would’ve been one of those bands that I’d have played over and over again, awestruck and engaged by the poignancy and mystifying beauty of what they do. Music was more visceral to me back then, as it is with anybody when pubescence takes hold and the realities of the “real world” have yet to sink their jaded teeth into your psyche, withdrawing the emotional attachments one has before they’ve seen and done it all. Even the video, the band more or less fairytale frolicking through the ashes of Angeles National Forest, sparklers and playful childhood exhibition, both innocent and sincere... I don’t know. I think this band makes me nostalgic for discovery. As often as I hear good new music, it’s not often a new band grabs my attention like music used to. I’m not sure if it’s their voices, the chords... “lovely” is the only word I can come up with.

Exquisite Corpse is available through Manimal Vinyl.

Letters From A Tapehead

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Boris Put Out Some Singles and Make Some Hits…

Japanese Heavy Rock Hits Vol. 1-3 7”
Southern Lord
Released: 9.09 (Vol. 1), 10.09 (Vol. 2), 11.09 (Vol. 3)

Rating: 7.75 out of 10

It’s actually not too off-putting that Boris decided to dub their new series of 7” releases as “hits.” The Japanese drone trio has tapped into the manufactured mainstream to come up with their own variation on the pop genre while utilizing a “singles” format. They combine 80s hair metal, glam rock, somber chick rock and then bookend it with the more familiar aspects of their sound. The word “heavy” is included for a reason, as this 3 part series isn’t meant to abandon the brand of sludge that Boris is typically known for, just take it somewhere else for a little while.

Though 2008’s Smile made the mistake of allowing their signature mire to obscure what was going on musically, Boris was at the same time positioning themselves to do more than just make loud noises. Although 2005’s Pink had already communicated a fondness for genre hopping, Smile was a cut-‘n-paste noise collage, emotionally drawn out and abrasive when necessary. Japanese Heavy Rock Hits seems a culmination of the two, though humorously kitschy at points. How can you listen to something as overtly “metal” as “H.M.A. (Heavy Metal Addict)” and not appreciate its super-fast Van Halen soloing and clap-a-long rock riffs?

Obviously, the most remarkable aspect of this release is its format: Two songs per 7,” released a month at a time. In the same way music was once sold in a market dominated by singles, Boris take the old model out for a test spin just to see if there are enough music fans out there willing to indulge them.

Vol. 1 starts off with “8,” somewhat of an “emo,” My Bloody Valentine-tinged soul rocker, mostly demonstrative of the familiar noise rock they’ve committed to Pink and Smile. Its B-side, “Hey Everyone” almost has a “Dancing In The Streets” flair to it, the song’s pop make-up carried as far as a band like Boris can take it without betraying their otherwise dark sensibilities.

They flirt with accessibility for the Hits series, not only in a mock-worthy sense, (“H.M.A.”), but in terms of song structure and instruments as well. Vol. 2’s “Black Original” is damn near Prince in a way that makes you forget who you’re listening to. It’s almost voyeuristic for them to attempt to incorporate their sound into something so obvious, as if they’re imagining what it’s like to have mainstream presence. In that sense, Hits works as a concept, an attempt at commercializing a non-commercial band and seeing how far they can go. They even go a little Lilith Fair with Vol. 3, guitarist Wata given an opportunity to play the sad chick for “16:47:52...”

But, you can’t expect Boris to release anything without at least one ethereal drone track, Vol. 3’s B-side, “…and Hear Nothing,” a slow and enveloping piece of sonic gloom that only brings them back to established territory.

As open to change as they continually express, Boris, at its core, is a monster of a power trio and Japanese Heavy Rock Hits is another step in their perpetual evolution and expansion. Though Hits inadvertently cements Boris’s standing as a powerhouse that will never have commercial viability, (irony is alive and well), it also points out the flimsiness of modern pop and how well it can be appropriated. This sort of exploration is in a vein similar to Mike Patton’s Peeping Tom project, his own efforts to fuse pop aesthetics with underground integrity generating fascinating results and making one wonder why pop music has to suck so bad. Is it really that hard to make good music that the general public can agree upon? As the singles market once drove radio and as mass market consumption once fueled some of the best music ever committed to LP, what exactly happened to pop music? When did become the unlistenable mass of trite and mediocre airwave puss that it is today?

These questions beg answers, but in another venue. Boris, in the meantime, is still a band to be taken seriously. Luckily, they don’t take themselves so seriously.

Letters From A Tapehead

Monday, October 19, 2009

Shopping For Records #19: Bleach Is Twenty...

1989 was twenty years ago.

Although the realization had set in when Sub Pop claimed those numbers a year ago, twenty being the number where "modern" becomes "antique," the idea that an album like Bleach, (or a band like Nirvana), could reach the point of "classic" is humbling to someone like me.

Photo courtesy of Sub Pop Records

In a few weeks, I'll be reviewing the album's reissue. As essential as the album was to my teenage years, I don't want to blow my introspective/analytical/fanboy wad on what is meant to be an announcement, so I'll say this:

November 3rd, Bleach is being reissued in honor of its twentieth year. It will be released as both a CD/double-LP with new artwork (as in "never seen before") and a live performance (as in "never heard before"). The double-LP will be available in white vinyl, as was the case when Bleach had been first pressed twenty years ago.

Since you're here, why not entertain some nostalgia and listen to "About A Girl." It's still a great song.

"About A Girl"

Letters From A Tapehead

Breakfast at Sulimay's: Episodes 30, 31 & 32

Modest Mouse & Willie Nelson with Norah Jones

The Big Pink and Gold Panda

DJ Tiesto and Volcano Choir

Letters From A Tapehead

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

No Ripcord: Locrian

Drenched Lands
At War With False Noise/Small Doses
Released: 7.15.09

No Ripcord review

Letters From A Tapehead

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

What I Heard This Morning: Sun Boxes

I received an email a couple days ago from Craig Colorusso, (member of a band called, MUUD), about a sound installation called, Sun Boxes. Information is somewhat lacking, but Important Records (Grails, Acid Mother’s Temple, Sic Alps) seems to be sponsoring the event.

Image taken from MUUD Flickr page.

Basically, Colorusso sets up twenty speakers, all powered by solar energy, that will each play a different guitar sample as the sun activates them. So, over the course of the day, a composition is generated that an audience can basically walk around and experience from within the “orchestra.”

The installation is taking place this weekend at The North Shore of Boston, Saturday, October 17th.

Were I in the neighborhood, I’d definitely check this out.

Letters From A Tapehead

Sunday, October 11, 2009

A Band Named ZUU…

Released: 5.12.09

Rating: 7.75 out of 10

Can you take me there? Can you give me more? Can you include any more appropriate questions in your album? Questions that I ask of any album I listen to?

More than a month of listening to Everywhere, the self-released sophomore album from Cali trio, ZUU, (their drummer is credited as an “additional musician”), and I’m still objectively uncertain about my feelings toward it. At times, it’s unsettling to hear something this well done. ZUU is a really tight band, churning out nineties-stalgic sex appeal, licks and glam’d out riffs that would entice the deaf. Everywhere provides Everything: alt pop near-ballads, smooth rock n’ roll, psych atmospheric nuance, experimentalism sans distraction.

ZUU is what Sonic Youth would sound like if they really had sold out and I’m aware of how insulting that sounds. To put it another way, they have all the heart and the vision, but seem light on the grit. And, that’s why Everywhere is a daunting album to figure out: I can’t tell if it’s too clean to be credible.

As a band that’s obviously clawing their way to notoriety, yes, ZUU is deserving of praise. The opening riff of “Wasted Today” demands attention, and it’s a worthwhile experience. Droning and sneering guitar shrieks haunt the background as the rhythm cuts glass with a smooth and refined edge. “Water” introduces an almost Nuggets-era or Kinks-ish garage dynamic with syncopated beats and muted blasts of feedback, only to mutate into some healthy alt-rock chords for its chorus. “Nothing Special,” which may be my favorite track, lengthens the album’s energy with extended bass rhythm and one of those glistening guitar solos that bends like mile long serpentine. A simple rock song and it does wonders.

They get sentimentally acoustic (“Sigh”), introspective (“When I Die”), and a little overwrought (“Weaning Nettles”), taking very few missteps along the way and delivering an impressive album for being an unsigned act.

Keeping that in mind, that aspect of their identity also seems to fuel the album’s intensity and its spotlessness, leading one to believe that, at its very core, Everywhere is meant to appeal to Everyone as a showcase of the band’s capabilities and less as… art. Something as accessible as “Resolve” for instance, seems like a peace offering, flirting with easy-to-swallow pop sounds that sort of betray the rest of the band’s material. And, it’s not as if Everywhere would be considered challenging, but the songwriting is too good for pedestrian radio. In the Internet age, at least until they get signed, ZUU will be an online presence. Which is fine. At least they can call their own shots.

Point is, Everywhere is a better-than-average neo-psych alternative album from a band that’s probably better than their album demonstrates. Skill, technique, chops: yes, these are important for any band. But, there’s something to be said for viscera, blood, sweat and fatigue. ZUU either lacks the essence, or they’re unwilling to share it with us until they get Somewhere.

Letters From A Tapehead

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

What I Heard This Morning: Birds & Batteries

It would be impossible for me to talk about this band, San Francisco electro-funk quartet, Birds & Batteries, without employing the same list of ever-tapped comparables: Kraftwerk, Talking Heads, Devo... etc. I will say though that Birds & Batteries take the CBGB art band formula and apply some second wave D.C. hardcore aesthetics, creating an emo synth pop hybrid that sounds noir-ish, clean and accessible.

"The Villain" is taken from their new EP, Up To No Good, which comes out in November.

”The Villain”

Letters From A Tapehead

New Selections — DEAFKIDS, Marisa Anderson, Circuit des Yeux, Moaning, Here Lies Man

Some new and not-so-new selections for June.  DEAFKIDS: " Espiral da Loucura " (via Rarely Unable /  Bandcamp ) Via Ra...