Wednesday, September 28, 2011


My latest compilation of new rocknrollers over at 8TRACKS is so good I’m just going to call it THE HEDONIST JIVE. Eponymous, because I like these young outacontrollers so much and want to attach the highest seal of approval I can upon them.

This 10-song compilation can be streamed on your computer or listened to on your iPhone/iPod Touch, and it’s a batch of the best new stuff I’ve heard the last couple of months. It’s a little dirty, a little pop-heavy at times, and, if I may say so, flat-out great. Here’s what you’ll hear:

1.    Apathy – MIKAL CRONIN
2.    Egyptian Magician – XRAY EYEBALLS
3.    Mid Waste – BURNING YELLOWS
4.    Carrion Crawler – THEE OH SEES
5.    Baby Come Closer – WAX IDOLS
6.    You’re So Cool – THE HISTORY OF APPLE PIE
7.    Right Side Of My Brain – VERONICA FALLS
8.    Sweetest Touch – GROSS MAGIC
9.    Electric Current – THE WHINES
10. False Horizons – BURNING YELLOWS

Come take a listen over here, OK?

Friday, September 23, 2011


I never really bought into the 1990s “SHUT UP, LITTLE MAN” phenomenon as a signpost of underground cultural caché. The struggles of two real-life, aging San Francisco roommate alcoholics who drunkenly screamed at each other for hours was documented, audio vérité style, with a live mic by two twentysomething neighbors. The resulting tapes, mass-circulated in the pre-Internet days, turned into a sort of hipster/nihilist badge of ironic mockery made popular by Bananafish magazine and then on from there. Before long, “Peter” and “Raymond” had amassed an army of giggling, chortling “fans” who drew comics about them, wrote plays about them, and wrote screenplays documenting their antics. This was completely unbeknownst to the poor saps who were documented fighting and cursing. One died without even having the faintest whiff of knowledge about the worldwide underground scenester guffawing about him, and the other, as is obvious from this film, barely comprehended it when told about it a year before he too passed from life.

“SHUT UP LITTLE MAN – AN AUDIO MISADVENTURE” is a documentary that, nonetheless, I felt I had to see. Early 90s San Francisco, particularly the underground nexus of music, film and fanzine culture, played a pretty big role in my life at the time. Making sense of this whole misbegotten phenomenon might, I thought, be worthwhile as well. As it turns out this is a pretty solid film. The stars are the original guys who made the tapes, “Mitchell D” and “Eddie Lee Sausage”, who will go to their graves with the whole Shut Up Little Man thing as their contribution to the low cultural arts. They discuss, both with humor and remorse, their original decision to record the fights going on next door. These fights kept them from sleeping, and had a layer of weirdness that unfolded each night that was far more interesting than just two drunks yelling at each other. One elderly roommate was homosexual; the other a horrific homophobe. The things they shouted at each other soared far beyond typical insults into the surreal, and when combined with alcohol, could be positively quote-worthy - which is what prompted all the recording.

The whole sad spectacle snowballed once it began to be shared on hand-traded tapes, and was soon in Los Angeles as a play, and being drawn by Dan Clowes and others as comics. The film talks about how it grew too large for Mitch & Eddie to control, and for a while, it actually looked like some real money might be made by someone from telling this story – again, with zero knowledge by the men who were being so honored. I do know that the Greg Gibbs play shown in multiple clips looks like one of the worst single-night experiences in the history of culture, and it’s hard to believe that the story wasn’t immediately murdered by his awful sub-Kuchar telling of it.

This documentary really tries to close the books as best it can, and does quite a lot of good with found footage, first-person interviews, and some intrepid staking out of one surviving hanger-on from Peter & Raymond’s lives. I found the questions raised in the film about the appropriateness of all folks involved’s actions to be the right ones, though they were not satisfactorily answered by any stretch. It’s simply a fun, well put-together documentary that’s worth a rep house theater visit or a stream to your TV if you get the chance.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011


Ever since my days as a one-dimensional punk rock music fan, I’ve thankfully been pretty omnivorous in my musical tastes. Rock usually carries the day, but not without some music-collection competition from 70s Jamaican dub, pre-WWII blues and country, African funk from the 70s, sappy 1960s country, classical radio stations listened to while at work, and 78rpm weirdness from around the world. Missing for the most part, for two decades now, has been the one forward-looking musical style that’s helped to define those decades: hip hop. Or “rap”, if you will. I’d like to talk about that a little, since I sense a change coming on.

I was “around”, so to speak, for the birth of this stuff in the late 70s, and I remember walking the entire distance from my house to my friend Ted’s house every morning before 7th grade silently reciting the 15-minute version of the Sugarhill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight”. My goal was to finish it before I got to his house, and to this day, I can “rap” the entire thing. I can’t remember birthdays nor people at work’s names – but I still know every verse of “Rapper’s Delight”. Not long after this I got really into The Beastie Boys’ “Cookie Puss” and “Rock Hard” when they came out and had the 12” singles of both – man, what are those worth these days? Yet to call me a fan of rap – no one used the term hip-hop then – was a huge stretch. The more “urban” stuff I’d hear around that time, like Kurtis Blow’s “The Breaks” or later in college, LL Cool J or the LA Dream Team – struck me as dumb party rock or entirely alien to my experience, white and solidly middle class-boring as it was. And post-‘84 Beastie Boys still makes my skin crawl.

By the mid-80s I had an allergic reaction to rap, rap culture and everything associated with it. It was getting insanely popular and by the 90s was the dominant “youth music” of not simply the inner city nor of blacks but of young whites as well. There was a part of me that has always had some level of appreciation for this. The never-ending story of black culture informing white culture is well told, and certainly even rocknroll was simply an evolutionary step from music developed in whole by blacks. Watching something so deeply rooted in black vernacular, with its own slang, customs and aura, become the top-selling music of an entire cross-ethnic generation – even informing Hispanic youth culture (the wildly popular Reggaeton of this past decade) – was sorta neat. At the same time, I couldn’t have been further from that world if I tried, and every time I saw a white kid with his pants slung low talking like an inner-city black, I cried just a little bit harder for the future of humanity. For that matter, during the crack epidemic & soaring crime rate of the 90s I conservatively, but likely wrongly, associated many of the pathologies of inner-city blacks with the music that documented them, and had a hard time recoiling from hip hop on that basis alone.
And yet! The three hip-hop acts that I did get into during the past 25 years were all among the most depraved, intense and hardcore of them all. Usually I’d hear this stuff from friends weaned on punk rock, so naturally they’d be attracted – as I am – to the loudest, most ripping hip-hop groups of all. The three acts in question, were/are N.W.A., WU-TANG CLAN and CYPRESS HILL. I’m not sure how much cred the latter has or deserves anymore, but I laughed my ass off the first time I heard “Pigs”, which opens their first CD and is essentially about shooting and then sodomizing cops in prison. It has a patently ridiculous sample that comes from a 1970s soul track from Chuck Cornish, and, if you’ve never heard these guys, features some of the most cartoonish rapping voices of all time. I loved it and still do, and in 1993 bought my first “rap” CD in some time. I do however remember being told  with disdain that Cypress Hill was “rap for white people”, but it’s hard to square these bizarre beats and thuggish lyrics with those coming from the new crop of tame white rappers hitting the charts around this time.

N.W.A. were and continue to be a different matter. “Straight Outta Compton” is truly vile – and is by far the best and most consistent start-to-finish hip-hop album I’ve ever heard. It came out in 1988, when I was completely ignoring rap, and though I frequently read about the controversy surrounding it and the group at the time, I didn’t actually hear the thing for another five or six years. I still laugh out loud when I listen to it. It is stunning on so many levels. You have to be an incredibly talented wordsmith and master of timing and beat to make this sort of intense, violent and horrifically sexist rap work, and if one listens to it at some level of remove (not much of a stretch for this 43-year-old white father from San Jose) you can, and should, take it in as raw humor and unbridled creativity. I was listening to it again this week, and it’s the immediate impetus for this post. Truly a landmark work, duly recognized as such. Such that it is.
Then there was my first hip-hop live show. Well, that’s not entirely true – for some reason I saw GRANDMASTER FLASH & THE FURIOUS FIVE around 1986 or so in Santa Barbara with a bunch of other white college kids – but seeing WU-TANG CLAN in 2000 was a trip for me. To be honest, they were lame. I realized that “live” hip-hop usually consists of rappers trading mics over pre-packaged beats and some live “DJing” – the total antithesis of the intense, all-in live rock experience I was used to. This felt like watching a record get played while people boogied in front of the turntable. Yet I got pretty into the Wu-Tang records, especially the one with “Shame On A Nigga”, still my other favorite hip-hop record of all time.
Yet here’s the thing. Outside of these acts and the more obvious stuff that you can’t help but inhale via airwave osmosis, I really don’t know a whole lot more about good hip-hop. Did I strike the mother lode and find the only acts worth considering in this genre, or, more likely, is there a whole universe of important and obscure hip-hop of this ilk waiting for me and others to discover it? And just what is prompting all this tomfoolery? Well, outside of a random recent listen to the N.W.A. album again, there’s this satellite radio station called BACKSPIN I’ve had the good fortune to listen to in my car the past few weeks. I bought a used car, see, and it comes with 3 months free of Sirius XM radio, so this and the baseball & hockey talk stations are the ones I’ve punched the presets for. They play commercial-free hip hop from the 80s and 90s, a lot of it pretty raw and underground. It helped me get the unsurprising notion that maybe I missed a big 'ol boat by spurning hip hop all these years.

What little I know about hip-hop is this – it often was/(is?) initially created on tapes or in ramshackle studios by the poorest of the poor. It's performed on the street and in tiny clubs, way off the radar of the mainstream. Sometimes, but not always, this stuff finds its way to a bigger audience. Obscurity being my stock in trade across all genres of music, I’m thinking there just might be a gold mine of killer hip hop made over the past twenty years that I didn’t even know existed. I’d love to request your services, via the Hedonist Jive comments box, in letting me know if that is indeed true, and where I might start my search if so.

Thursday, September 15, 2011


Conquering this book became something of an all-engrossing “project” for me over the past several months, one that I’m glad to have gone through and come out safely the other side. I daresay I’m a whole lot smarter about recent European history as well. I credit Tony Judt’s 2005 survey of Europe since 1945 as being the carrot that got me addicted to audiobooks last April, and over the course of five months, I listened to its entire 43 hours in chunks while commuting, before finishing it once and for all two weeks ago. Now I’ve got a monthly subscription to Audible audiobook downloads, and am concentrating on far more manageable 7-hour “reads” for the time being. I hope I can find another book this good in there.

“POSTWAR” has been rightly hailed as a landmark achievement in historical non-fiction. It is a deep exploration of how a shattered Europe emerged from two horrific wars to become the Europe of today. At its heart is the story of Western Europe and Eastern Europe, two hitherto unknown constructs that turned into a huge rift once the USSR’s iron curtain came down in the wake of WWII. Each half of Europe had its own struggles, but the specter of Communism looms large over the bulk of the book, and Judt deftly seesaws between stories of Germany, England and France’s quick social and economic rejuvenation with the contrasting miseries of Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia etc. The book is chronological, starting of course with the immense cost of the war on humankind, and how each country’s people dealt with the confusing and controversial topics of “war criminals” and “collaborators”. You can watch all the WWII documentaries you want, but only a work of history this good will make you feel like you’re part of the shattered lives, destruction and mutual recriminations that follow a war of this magnitude.

The early chapters on the Communist show trials that followed the war in Eastern Europe are amazing as well. Stalin consolidated his hold on “his” half of Europe because his Red Army were considered heroes across Europe for having stopped the Germans. Hatred and fear of Germany drove so many of the decisions made during this period – not just in Europe or the USSR, but in the United States’ reaction to it as well. The USSR, arguably justly, felt that they’d earned as much of Europe as they could possibly “take” through the deaths of millions of Russians over the past five years. They were welcomed as liberators in places like Hungary and Romania – only to be feared and hated as much as the Germans in due time.

Judt takes us through the 1956 Hungarian uprising, the 1968 Prague Spring and smaller revolts in Poland and East Germany, and shows just what an effect the crushing of these “counter-revolutions” by the USSR had on the people trapped in these countries. The stale, stagnant Eastern European 1970s, with their worn-out, dead-eyed people and declining economics, are shown to be the result of a sort of weary resignation. No one in these years expected 1989 to happen – but I’m getting ahead of myself. In Western Europe, meanwhile, a period of “sorting-out” in the late 40s and early 50s quickly led to one of the greatest economic and baby booms the world has ever known. Judt portrays the Western Europeans of this era craving stability and normalcy above all, and shows how each of the non-dictatorship Western countries elected a series of interchangeable Social Democrats and Christian Democrats who all governed on exactly the same sort of milquetoast principles. This is exactly what Europe wanted and needed, and only in the 1990s and 2000s did this uniformity start to vary a little.

You’d think a single book, even one of this length, could only intelligently touch on broad themes and not on smaller, country-specific events. The genius of this work is that I felt that I learned a ton about the Irish “troubles” of the 1960s and 70s; the Greek dictatorship of the same time; Franco’s Spain; the British miners’ strikes; the French, Italian and Swedish avant-garde film movements; the Communist chic that captivated so many of Western Europe’s youth in the 60s; Solidarity in Poland; and on and on. No major stone is unturned, and no significant chapter in Europe’s postwar history is written about with anything less than a brief but full sweep.

I’ve only got one complaint about the book, and it is Judt’s bizarre reaction to Margaret Thatcher. After laying out what a dismal wreck the UK economy was in the 1970s and how it was socially coming apart at the seams, Judt details how, and to some extent why Thatcherism helped turn England back into a strong, prosperous and self-confident nation in a fairly short period of time. Judt keeps hinting at ominous “free-market capitalists” during his telling of the tale, while continuing to tick off the material and indisputable improvements in the life of the average Briton. At the end of this chapter, he still smugly concludes that it “came with a cost”, which he purports in a single sentence to have been social alienation and a general lack of respect for society’s downtrodden. Unlike in most of the book, no evidence for this is offered. It’s the sort of “Yes, but…” reflexive disgust one often sees on the Left for the achievements of the Right, and it’s totally sloppy and out of place here.

Judt believes in a robust capitalist model tempered by a commitment to “social justice”, which is another way of saying that he believes in the Europe that developed during this timeframe into what it is now. There’s a sense I got that Judt believes it may have peaked in the 1980s or 90s, and he certainly pokes a lot of fun at the bureaucracy of the European Union. Early in the book, in the introduction, he posits that he will make a strong case for his belief in a capitalist/social democracy hybrid, and I kept waiting for the chapter that made this case before realize he was doing so the entire book. When the book’s timeline ends in 2005 or so, it’s on a hopeful note. Judt’s afterword is absolutely stunning and unexpected. It’s a long essay about Europe’s slow evolution into recognizing the Holocaust, and into public, rather than private, acknowledgement of just what happened to the Jews in its midst during WWII. He makes a convincing case that it wasn’t until the sappy late 70s TV miniseries “Holocaust” that Europe actually even began to talk about what had happened 30+ years earlier. It’s a fantastic piece of writing and a superlative piece of history that makes you challenge the received truths about this era with new eyes.

This is one of those books to put on your reading bucket list. Forget “Ulysses” and “War & Peace” – you’re never going to read them anyway. I assure you, whether you take this in via print or via audio, it will open your mind to understanding the recent European past far better than any museum visit or series of documentary films. Unfortunately, Judt passed away not long after this masterpiece was finished, from ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease). It will be a testament to his genius as a historian, and I hope it becomes the standard work for students who seek to explore the fascinating history of what happened after the two most destructive wars of all time.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011


See this guy in the crooked, weirdly-scanned photo? That’s me in early 1991, after having recently turned 23 years of age. That guy looks like he’s pretending to play bass guitar in a rock and roll band, without the bass – which would make sense, since he/I was in a band called HELEVATOR at the time. (Read my history of Helevator, such as it was, right here).

I look at that guy, and while I remember him well, we’ve parted company fairly dramatically over the intervening twenty years. Of course I really have barely physically aged during that time (right!), but there certainly have been some changes.

160 pounds
178 pounds
Thin-skinned, insecure wuss
Smug, Teflon-coated curmudgeon
No girlfriend
Married for 13 years
No children
1 child
Had never met Rebecca
Dated or married to Rebecca for 17 years
Bedtime = 12am-2am
Bedtime = 9:45pm
Awesome record collection
No record collection
Claw Hammer and The Humpers as house guests
In-laws as house guests
8” black and white TV
42” LCD flat panel TV
Never exercised
Obsessive middle-aged runner
Ironic “Smile If You Like To Get Stoned” hat - never worn
SF Giants hat to cover widening bald spot - worn frequently
BA, English
MBA, Marketing
High degree of tolerance and fraternization with partiers
High degree of annoyance with and condescension toward partiers
Red Hook
San Francisco renter
San Francisco homeowner
Non-internet user
Internet user
All-time favorite film: Apocalypse Now
All-time favorite film: Apocalypse Now
1980 Ford Mustang
2008 Honda CR-V
Microwave burritos, 8 for $1.19
$9 burritos at Papalote, extra guacamole
Frequent live rock shows
Frequent use of earplugs at infrequent live rock shows
Registered Libertarian
Decline to State
Instamatic camera
Bass guitar
CD player, tape deck, record player

Wednesday, September 7, 2011


And mort they most definitely are. No, it wasn't that long ago that I was presenting to Hedonist Jive readers my 2011 predictions, and here we are wrapping up the season already. Sure, there are nearly another two months of baseball to go, and I'll be dipping in and out during September and will certainly watch the playoffs and "The Fall Classic", a few games anyway. I got used to doing so for many years without my San Francisco Giants being a part of anything - years in which they were mathematically eliminated from the playoffs in early August, or years in which they'd fake a run to first place for a few weeks and then sink like a stone into fourth place, usually (gasp) somewhere behind The Dodgers. No, this year's inability to make the playoffs - and no, I'm not in the dwindling "you gotta belieeeeve" camp - doesn't really sting that much after winning the World Series last year. It's almost like welcoming back an old friend. I just hope he doesn't stay long.

There's really no shame in being a second place, 7 or 8 games out of first place to a surging Diamondbacks team. Not when every single player but one in the starting lineup spent time on the disabled list this year. Seriously! Only Aubrey Huff stayed healthy, and even he was out a few games early on (and he totally sucked this year too). All I ask is that we finish with a .500 record or higher, and then we finish higher than the Dodgers. That's it. I'll call it a decent year and pound the 'ol mitt in anticipation of 2012.

The Giants lost two productive sparkplug starters - Buster Posey and Freddy Sanchez - to ugly injuries fairly early in the year. If they were barely favorites to repeat in the NL in 2011, this pretty much blew up their chances - and yet, for a while, the boys kept winning anyway. Then a whole host of guys went down, including important ones like Pablo Sandoval, Andres Torres, Cody Ross and Brandon Belt, as well as unimportant cogs like Barry Zito, Miquel Tejada and Jonathan Sanchez. Several players who had magical years or postseasons in 2010 pretty much disappeared in 2011: Ross, Torres, Huff, Pat Burrell and others were total zeroes and mostly space-wasters, even when healthy. Belt, the rookie who was handed the starting first baseman's job on opening day, and later the outfield when Huff couldn't cut it out there, never matched his purported promise and was seesawed back and forth between the majors and minors. Giants fans howled that he simply needed to be given a chance - I was one of them - and he's up and starting right now. He's unfortunately been the master of the infield pop-up and the ill-timed strikeout. Time to get more AAA seasoning; the fairy tale Buster Posey-like season wasn't to be, even though I think he's still got it in him to be a quality starter.

The team known for their outstanding pitching, led by Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain and weird-beard reliever Brian Wilson, are now equally known for being the worst-hitting team in baseball. It has put a "they were lucky in 2010" pox on their accomplishments, and it made them nearly unwatchable the past two months. A 1-0 lead sometimes stood up thanks to the incredible pitching, but more often then not it was the only run they'd get in a given game, and the fans knew it. We savored any run, and hoped that this was the game where Timmy or Cainer or Vogey would go 8 or 9 and pitch another batch of shutout innings.

Vogey? Yes, there were some great things that happened this year. Everyone loved the story of Ryan Vogelsong, the ultimate washed-out journeyman who was pitching in Japan last year and only joined the Giants because of a halfway decent spring training and once Zito got hurt. He proceeded to pitch so incredibly that he made the All-Star team, and even here in September he's still pitching like a stud. Enjoy it while it lasts. Pablo Sandoval was mostly awesome this year as well, despite injuries, and brought his career back to life after an embarrassing 2010 that was really the only black mark on the whole blessed SF Giants season. Other good things? We were first place more of the year than not; every game sold out; the fans were still basking in the afterglow; and the pitching, with hiccups here and there, was still lights-out.

I'm already mentally constructing my moves for next year. The Giants helped me out last week by bidding adieu to Tejada and to Aaron Roward, despite the latter still being owed $6 million for the 2012 season. No takers. See ya. Here's what I'd do. Keep a rotation of Lincecum/Cain/Bumgarner/Vogelsong, and whomever else jumps out of the minors to surprise us for the 5th spot (the Giants still have a fairly talent-rich farm system). Let Zito go. Trade the mercurial Jonathan Sanchez for whatever we can get now, which probably won't be much. Keep the bullpen together as is - there's nothing there I'd mess with, except for giving Dan Runzler the heave-ho.

The lineup needs to almost go into "rebuilding" mode. I see an infield of Belt, a newly healthy Freddy Sanchez, Brandon Crawford at short and Sandoval at third. Posey behind the plate (yes!). I see an outfield of Nate Schierholtz and maybe Cody Ross. Everyone else can take a hike - Torres, Burrell, anyone else. Huff needs to take a seat on the bench. Did I mention Carlos Beltran, the Giants' big August trade? Let him go to someone else that will overpay him. He's an immense talent, most certainly hitting the downslope of his career. I admit that this lineup I'm constructing is still very, very weak - even with Posey and Sanchez back. A big offseason signing (Prince Fielder?) would make me very happy - then shift to an outfield of Belt, Schierholtz and maybe Ross. Still doesn't make me pick them to go back to The Show in 2012, but you never know, right?

Put a fork in this baseball season, baby - it is well done. I'm turning my attention to the NHL this year, I've already decided - even plunked down for a subscription to The Hockey News, which I do about every 5 years or so when I get all hockey-crazy. I know that at least one or two Hedonist Jive readers can't wait for my 2011-12 season predictions there, so sit tight and we'll see you in October.

Monday, September 5, 2011


The French director Claire Denis is someone whom I've read a lot about over the years - the NY Times film critics seem to pay special attention to her - yet whose films I've never seen. "BEAU TRAVAIL" I believe I once came close to seeing. Let me know if I should invest the time. Isabelle Huppert, on the other hand, is one of my favorite actresses on the planet, and frankly of all time. She absolutely owns every film she's in, and often combines a transgressive meanness or self-destructive streak with her slim, pretty femininity and nearly ageless beauty (she's 58 and looks a non-plastic 40 years of age - may we also be so lucky). She's best known in the US for "The Piano Teacher", a film so skin-crawling I couldn't help but want to walk out at the same time I was being dazzled by Huppert's self-hating, ultra-ruinous performance.

"WHITE MATERIAL" is a 2009 film directed by Denis and starting Huppert, who is on screen for about 90% of the movie. She's a coffee plantation owner in a nameless African country at a time when that country is exploding into violent, murderous civil war. She, alone in complete denial among the 4 white people who seem to be in this country (all of whom are in her family), wants to stick it out. Returning to France is about the worst thing she can imagine, worse than seeing all of her workers flee the plantation, worse than paying thugs $100 just to leave her plantation, and worse than tiny and then much larger acts of violence that she sees all around her. Her character, completely lost in ego, denies than anything larger is going on and does everything possible to ignore that she's likely mere hours away from having her life & livelihood taken from her.

The film is no masterpiece, but it is absolutely visually stunning. This is Africa in all its seething, tropical and sometimes violent non-glory. Child soldiers with huge guns and dull, rusted machetes appear in groups out of trees, their eyes wide and their minds full of hate. The beauty of the hills and valleys in which they live is contrasting with the random and senseless killings that are going on within them, which are shown in blood-splattering full color. People pile on tops of buses and vans and live a life that just so incredibly desperate. Having been to Kenya & Tanzania myself, though, it's spot-on. There's a quiet dignity and loads of humanity everywhere, yet besotted by poverty and ever-shifting tribal wars than don't make any sense to Western eyes. Denis captures all of this quite well, frequently without words and just the strength of her cinematography. Huppert is amazing as always, and her final act in the film with leave you, as we did, wondering what the hell just happened. A good one for discussion and contemplation - Hedonist Jive says check it out.

Friday, September 2, 2011


I’ve tried not to make too big of a secret of how my musical tastes have evolved over the past decade toward a distinct preference for female-fronted, pop-rooted but still raw & rough bands. It’s not that I still don’t cotton to straight-up, dude-ified garage punk or rawk, but so many of the songs that hit my cranium & stay there these days come from bands led by women, usually those who root their damaged guitar & feedback work within something approaching “harmony”. I’m talking about Grass Widow, Veronica Falls, White Mystery, Yellow Fever, The Dum Dum Girls (before their awful recent records), Eternal Summers, Soft Science, Liminanas & a few more. On the dude side of the gender divide, I’m a big fan of Times New Viking (who are often fronted by a woman), Sic Alps, Thee Oh Sees, Ty Segall, Wax Idols, Silver Shampoo and some others I’m forgetting. There’s not a lot of rhyme or reason to it, nor does it matter one iota, but my tastes seem to stack up pretty much 50/50 feminine/masculine, with women matching their population presence while greatly outweighing their representation within rocknroll.
One of my favorite recent discs is all girl, all the time. THE GIRLS AT DAWN are from Brooklyn and they put out an album last year called “CALL THE DOCTOR” that I only got around to listening to in its entirely this year, thanks to Spotify (subject of a forthcoming post in & of itself). Now I can’t stop playing it. “Call The Doctor” is about as ruff-n-ready as it comes, all Gories-style drum thumping, pulse-rushing tempos and chiming, echoey guitars. Circling around everything are swirling, semi-harmonious female voices – three of ‘em! – which sometimes sounds sweet as pie and sometimes almost weirdly psychedelic. It’s a garage band to be sure, and one that knows when to say when. Most songs hit about two minutes and then grind to a halt. We like that here at The Hedonist Jive.

I’d put this excellent young band – whom I hope to Christ haven’t broken up already like they all seem to – squarely in the 60s punk camp, one informed by girl groups, 1990s garage and a psychedelic stew of their own making. You listen to them and think maybe you’ve heard it before, and then you can’t put your finger on where. Play this YouTube “video”, which is actually just a song, look at their picture, and let me know what you think.