Nov 30, 2009

New Holland The Poet

In the winter time I tend to not get very excited about most Christmas ales and Winter Warmers. There's a few here and there but for the most part I end up feeling disappointed by them and wondering why I paid so much for them (esp. considering some run upwards to $15 a sixer or $10 or more for a bomber in some cases.) Nothing against them-I know it's a matter of taste. My diversions from my standard favorite style's in the cold months tend to lean towards a porter here and there, the occasional Scotch ale and all the different ways stouts are made.
Michigan is in really bad economic shape these days. Over 15% percent unemployment say most recent reports. In an attempt to keep as much money possible in this state I try to go for things made here first before I venture into other places wares. My first stout of this season was Mt. Pleasant's Steam Engine Stout. My second is this oatmeal stout out of city of Holland.
Very dark brown in color but when held up to the light auburn shades come through. Nice half inch head that dissipates fairly quickly leaving a spotty cloud on top and a lacing that builds more and more along side of the glass as the beer is drank. The aroma is very chocolaty malted up front with underlying notes of oatmeal and coffee. The chocolate characteristics are not over bearing and the oatmeal and coffee nuances work very nicely with it.
A very rich and roasted malt & coffee flavor is the backbone of it's taste. There a slight bit of smokiness in there that compliments a sweet dark chocolate and oat demeanor through the middle. It finishes with a slight hop tinge that brings the whole thing together with simple but nice complexity. The amount of carbonation here is nice too making the beer somewhat more effervescent than a lot of other oatmeal stouts but not enough to make it too fizzy. Because of this, and not too boozy 5 and a half percent abv, it's the kind of stout one could drink all day without getting too blown out while watching the snow fall outside.

Nov 21, 2009

R. Stevie Moore "U.R. True" 7inch EP

Most people who have heard of R. Stevie Moore probably first heard of him in the late 70's and on through the 80's in magazines like Trouser Press and Op. It was through those years that he became a major figure in DIY cassette culture world but his musical career started decades earlier when his voice was heard on a Jim Reeves song in 1959. Most folks of his vintage, if they're even still playing music these days, have relaxed into an box of oldies but goodies or go out there and fancy themselves as preaching the blues (as long as that blues is Clapton or SRV. Mention, say, Son House, Ma Rainey or even Leadbelly to a lot of those type of dudes and blank stares are usually expected rather than any lesson in American roots music). On the other hand Moore is still at making the type of sounds that have gotten him dubbed a "lo-fi legend" in places more hoity toity than the page you are reading right now.
It doesn't say on the record what year these songs were recorded but it doesn't really matter cuz Mr. Moore has always been a man out of his time. The ramshakle tape deck still rolls and out comes a conglomeration of things that he was doing over 25 years ago that today are pegged as Bedroom Pop & Weird Punk. Nervous new wave collides with Hawkwind on "U. R. True". It's followed by "How Many Moore" which is anchored by a lunkhead hard rock riff and the mental image of Lemmy Kilmister inviting you to join him in one of those inflatable bouncy castles.
"Advertising Agency Of Fucking" brings 60's melody wrapped in a blanket of peak limited tape hiss and "Oh Pat" finishing off the record resembling Syd Barrett if his sense of humor leaned more to slapstick than whimsy.

Nov 17, 2009

DONALD THOMPSON "Bite My Ass" 7inch EP

A few years ago I put a whole slew of late 90's/early 00's records up on eBay. Hellacopters, Turbonegro, Glucifer and so on. A friend of mine joked telling me that I was to ahead of the "Rawk" revival curve and that I should've hung on to those records a few more years to make a real killing off them. Listening to this record by Donald Thompson I'm wondering if they're way ahead or way behind the RAWK revival curve.
The name drop touchstones with these type of bands always end's up being Iggy and the Stooges "Raw Power" and Bon Scott era AC/DC. Both incredible rock-n-roll bands. The former rips your head off, sounds like it was recorded under the most messed up of situations and is about to blow up in a million pieces at any second. It either lures you into wanting try the most dangerous of illicit substances or scare you away from them forever. The latter took the templates of blues and the originators of rock-n-roll boiled it down to it's basics then souped it up with a Marshall stack swagger that the generations beforehand could only dream of. The rub is though is that a lot of the RAWK bands that have followed and used such things as their base pallet since seem to want to refine it taking out the impurities and grubbiness and replacing it with just flash (but not stoned out of their gourd make up applications) and baseball hats. Recklessness gets substituted with studying. Big dick swinging attitude bad assery finds itself switched out for cucumber stuff down the pants contrived arrogance. It fills a void the way a McDonalds hamburger fills hunger pangs. It's not exactly what you were craving but it'll have to fill the spot until something better is put in the gut. Donald Thompson do RAWK and maybe their hearts are in the right place and they have the best intentions but if they actually ROCK is a whole 'nother discussion.

Nov 14, 2009

MOON DUO "Killing Time" 12inch

If the Wooden Shjips are an earthy and organic pillar when it comes to drone out head music that you could groove to then the Moon Duo, a side project featuring the Shjips main man Ripley Johnson, are a clandestine rocketship sauntering towards the stars. Soundwise there are parallels between the two such as disjointed and reverbed almost to the point of incomprehensible infinity vocals and peas soup thick guitar fuzz but where the Wooden Shjips set adrift their sound washing over the ears and sparkling the Moon Duo are straight jettison full of glare.
A backbeat sounding like beach blanket Motorik sets the tone for this record on the opening title track. It's followed by "Speed" where a spiky organ sound possibly lifted from Deep Purple blares and guitar noise ungulates then is joined in towards the end by milky way bound blues harmonica.
Both songs on side two are all about a floating in space with feeling with "Dead West" sci-fi keyboard line and "Ripples" doing just that with a Spacemen 3 having a nice lazy day in the sun sound instrumental.
It's hard to find good modern head trip music. All the modern hippies try to prescribe something that ends all noodly so you can't really veg out too because it's too damn busy and the intellectual stoners want to play you something that sounds like the aural equivalent of watching paint dry. "Killing Time" is an antidote for both of them.

Nov 10, 2009

Mt. Pleasant Steam Engine Stout

After picking up a 6 six of this I went over to a friend's house who attended college in Mount Pleasant at CMU. They still go out there to visit several times a year and seemed surprise to learn that the city had it's own brew pub let alone one that was bottling it's beer and selling it around the rest of Michigan. We checked around on the web for a few before cracking the bottles open. We became a little hesitant because some of the opinions of the beer they weren't the most glowing. The more we looked around though we noticed that the more positive reviews were of more recent vintage so maybe they figured out whatever the problems were and rectified them.
Steam Engine Stout is very, very dark in color. Almost black actually if it wasn't for the slight bit of light that peeks around the edges giving the look a bit of a brown luminescent glow. A inch head melts away pretty quickly and leaves minimal lacing behind.
Chocolate and smoke can be detected in the scent but neither of them really jump out. It takes a couple of deep whiff's to detect them but while doing so there's also something akin to blackberries that comes out as well. There is a bit more going on in the flavor department though. Roasted malt is on the front end followed by dark chocolate and ends with a slight hoppiness.
The brew itself is a bit thinner than some of the other stouts I've been leaning towards in stouts but it's not wimpy and fizzy like a Guinness or anything which made go down pretty easy and quite sessionable.
If you're looking for a big and burly stout that'll grow hair on you knuckles thicker than a national forest this may not be one to reach for (which is maybe where some of the poo-poo'd reviews we read came from) but if you're looking for a solid winter stout that you can drink a few of at a time in these cold winter month this might just be one that hit's the spot.

Nov 6, 2009

SHANNON & the CLAMS "Hunk Hunt" 7inch EP

One thing that always holds strong in, the lack of a better pigeonhole at the moment, garage-punk scene is the sound of the classic girl groups. I think it a lot of it stems from hearing oldies radio in the parents/grandparents cars while growing up. Phil Spector, Shadow Morton and the sorts made songs to jump out of the speakers and get stuck in your head to never leave. Whatever else that was going on inside some of those heads and how it's been processed is a whole 'nother can of worms though.
Take the Ramones & the New York Dolls for example. They took and mutated it to a point where you could obviously cite it (and not just because they covered songs from the era) but it didn't really sound like that. Shannon & the Clams have the same kinda thing going on....sorta. Like the Ramones they also pay nods to sun & surf influences as well as the Ronettes et. al. After that though-the comparisons end.
The want for a "Wall Of Sound" here is sound bouncing all over the walls. Sometimes sounding like Supercharger running through the Beach Boys or the Shaggs if produced by the Ventures but mostly all of them mentioned playing at the same time making an overdriven and echoed out racket in a tin can they bring some kinda really fun party with pizza, hot dogs, lots of candy and 3 different people spiking the punch.

Nov 2, 2009

Pop. 1280 "Times Square" 7inch

Math and me don't see eye to eye. Sure, I can do roundabout multiplication and subtraction in my head but set some calculus in front of me and I'll most likely make a paper airplane out of the sheet of paper it was written on before I'd even comprehend any explanation on how to solve the written problem.
The first time Big Black entered my orbit was in high school. The same time calculus did. I threw away any notes I had concerning the math theory, which weren't that much cuz I DID never learn it no matter how hard I tried, and listened to Big Black all through the class. I tried to turn on a couple of the "cool nerds" on to the band but they'd always pull the headphones off quickly and say something like "Ewww" and mention the new Adrian Belew album or how the next RUSH album is suppose to display even more new wave influences. An average stint through college later I started running into the same people at shows with headliners like the Jesus Lizard. At first I thought it was kinda weird but as times went on and me thinking "The Jesus Lizard are cool and whatever" but what caught me about them in the first place was that it was they guy from Scratch Acid and they reminded me of the Birthday Party. I loved (and still do) the Birthday Party and went back to their well. I lost any interest in the Jesus Lizard after that. The math geeks love it cuz it reminded them of a more aggressive YES or Zappa "getting really mad."
About a year ago I started sifting through old CD's thinking about what I can dump off at a used store or might want to think about keeping as some kinda musical archive for my kids to have available. I kept to two vinyl pieces of Jesus Lizard I own. Everything else by them is waiting a credit slip once I make the trip (there isn't ONE place that buys/sells/trades within a 30 mile radius of where I live anymore). "Original pressing" CD's have some kinda weird cult all to themselves (irony never stops I guess) and with the band back out on their reunion tour maybe the buyer will see the quick $3 overturn flash before his eyes. Maybe then I can pull this Pop. 1280 record out and convince him that it's a ultra rare collaboration of the Jesus Lizard and Big Black on vinyl only. If he hem and haws and say he's never heard of it and the internet shows nothing about it I can say "Dude! It's that rare!!!!" and then throw in some other bullshit trivia that they use Chris Spencer's (ya know to throw more of that "aggressive rock" hubris at them) favorite floor tom on the record or some shit.
None of the math dorks I saw at "grunge shows" back then probably will be at the Jesus Lizard reunion shows. Nor are the most likely to be found sifting through vinyl bins at their local record store (if there were any). If they did though music to do calculus to would be playing loud out of their basement laboratories or safety orange painted Volvo's. If anyone asked "what is this" they could drop some trivia that the band took their name from a Jim Thompson story. Wait a minute though...Math geeks wouldn't do that though. They'd just jerk their heads around a lot to the martial beats and creep everyone out in the room instead.