Sunday, February 19, 2012


I'm well aware over here that there's only a tiny subset of what is already a small group of Hedonist Jive readers that care about what I have to say about professional sports. Yet the cultural flag that I've chosen to fly out my digital window very much includes sports dorkery on an even and very respectable plane with music, film, books, politics and whatever else it is I choose to cover here. Just as pro sports is evolving to better places in some areas while backsliding in others, so too does my fandom ebb and flow in weird and unpredictable ways. I was thinking about it whilst running today and thought maybe I'd rap about it a little with ya, and see what your take is.

First, pitchers and catchers reported to Spring Training this weekend. That's baseball talk, for those of you who don't know. No matter how hard I try to make the NHL or the NBA my "thing" through their respective playoffs, even early-season baseball trumps it every time. That's just how I was wired & weaned from an early age. Baseball's my sport, and everything else is a distant second. I get really wrapped up in the rhythms of the season and stay that way just about all year. I don't watch every game on TV, in fact I watch only a few......but I'll bet I caught at least 120-140 of last year's SF Giants games on the radio, for instance, and was enraptured by that incredible final day of the season in which the Red Sox and the Braves completed epic chokes. Game #6 of this year's World Series also blew my mind (greatest game I've seen in at least a decade), despite caring not a whit about the Cardinals nor the Rangers. There's a certain highbrow intellectualism that goes with baseball's lowbrow aspects that really appeals to me. The people that write about it in places like ESPN, Grantland and in the blogs are often extremely funny, self-deprecating and able to pick apart the "science" and stats of the game in fascinating ways, and I continue to feel that, unlike the NFL, the yahoos and the idiots are deeply in the minority out there in the greater baseball audience.

This brings me to the NBA, and contrasting it with the NHL. Careful readers may remember this piece in which I predicted the 2011-2012 NHL hockey season and offered all manner of commentary. I was fired up. Something elusive happened during the offseason to get me thinking, this year. This is the year I'm really going to get into pro hockey. And let's be clear - I am into it. My predictions may have been wildly off the mark, but I still check the winners and losers every day, read the Backhand Shelf blog, and definitely read (American) Katie Baker's weekly column in Grantland, which frankly is the only - and I mean only - piece of hockey writing I'd truly call world-class.

Mere weeks into this year's NHL season, and I seriously already started getting bored. Many of the complaints about this sport have been repeated in many forums ad nauseum, and let me say that it's really not the sport - the on-ice action - that I have problems with. It's these things:

1. Canadians are not interesting. They may be nice, they may be funny at times, but it's obvious after diving into it that just about every media outlet for hockey is comprised of the bland leading the bland. Canada absolutely dominates hockey talk and hockey writing as well. I compare this to the incredible richness of the NBA media landscape - from Ryan Russillo at ESPN to the Basketball Jones guys (Canadians!) to the FreeDarko collective to even Bill Simmons himself, and it's no contest. The NBA is just a better product to dish about and argue about.

2. The players are not interesting. See #1. Compare the "celebrities" of the NHL with the swagger and brashness of the Greek Gods of the NBA. Nice Canadian farm boys who talk in cliches 99.9% of the time makes for utter boredom. I tried to subscribe to The Hockey News this year before realizing that there's barely anything to talk about here, and that an actual player interview is like death by 1000 cuts.

3. The regular season sucks. In no sport but hockey does the 82-game regular season really feel like a training camp leading up to the real season. I try to watch Sharks/Flames or Sharks/Blue Jackets games in December, and sometimes I can indeed get worked up about it, but with the league's idiotic "you get a point for an overtime loss" rule, I can't even tell anymore who the great teams really are. I just wait for it to sort out come late March, and then we'll see what happens. The NBA is only slightly better on this count, truth be told.

4. Hot goalies are far more frequent than consistently great goalies. This really bugs me. Outside of consistent studs like Dominic Hasak and Martin Brodeur and the like, ever since I've been watching this sport is seems like the goalie is almost an afterthought. Some nights he makes saves. Some nights he doesn't. He's on a "hot streak" this week. He's "running cold" this week. I know there is such thing as goalie skill - these guys wouldn't be in the pros if they didn't have it - but more often than not it feels like Lady Luck rules most goalies' careers. And I hate it when something other than skill or coaching is regularly the deciding factor in a sporting event, I just do.

I was just getting warmed up there, but you get where I'm going. I converted over to the NBA right when they ended their lockout, and I'm having a lot more fun following hoops - and that was before Linsanity. Sure, the NBA's no MLB. The last quarter can either be amazing fun or a total drag - all depends how close it is and how much they're fouling. That's been true of the sport of basketball since it started, and it's not like a new revelation for me or anyone else. Yet on balance, I find myself way more interested in every aspect of the NBA than I do the NHL.

Finally, as I've written before and as it probably obvious, all this obsessive mania for these 3 pro sports leaves no room for any others. I watched the SF 49ers' playoff games out of local pride and that's about it. I gave up on the NFL years ago. College sports is a joke - why watch an inferior version of basketball when the good ones will be pros next year anyway, really showing how great they are against elite competition? This way I can focus laser-like on the intricacies of my chosen three pro sports. Then when baseball season comes, I can give lip service to how great the NBA and NHL playoffs are, when I'm really watching Blue Jays/Rays over on TBS.

Thursday, February 16, 2012


Was pretty smitten with RADAR EYES’ 45 “Miracle” that came out late last year on HoZac Records, and perhaps you were too. Drony, New Zealand-inspired psychedelic pop with hooks and choruses and yet a deep sense of murk that clouds their sound in a glorious way. One of the best of 2011. HoZac’s been pumping this Chicago band’s debut full-length pretty hard in advance, and darn it all if they weren’t just about right-on for this one. It’s a really good record. “RADAR EYES” (it’s self-titled, you see) embraces many avenues of psychedelia, except the most patently obvious flower-power kind, while staying in a warm, heavy pop realm. Pretty sure you’re going to like it.
The standout track (besides “Miracle”) that’ll make you dig out your Flying Nun collection, Velvet Underground box set & your molding British 80s/90s noisy jangle-pop 45s is “I Am”, which I’m posting for you here. Stellar stuff, and on the fast track for song of (and keyboard riff of) the year. Other songs are nearly as solid, though some attack heavier than others, while others go for the heavy-lidded slow burn. There’s even something I think you kids call “techno” at the very end, although it’s techno run through goth and hippie and garage punk. Because these guys are popmeisters, there’s no long jams. They don’t play that way. A lot of guitar, old-model keyboards, vocal effects and more are crammed together in each song, giving them a tightly-packed, soaring sort of otherworldliness. I’m happiest when I can’t understand the lyrics; when I can, as in the cute doggie tribute “Prairie Puppies”, I’m, uh – less happy.

I put this on a level with The Brian Jonestown Massacre if that band had gone a little heavier, louder and had embraced the raw. Radar Eyes are already more consistent than they ever were, too. Play some songs and you’ll see what I mean – and you can buy it right here.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012


Naturally, after devouring the Dan Fante memoir of what it was like to be John Fante’s son (my review is here), I had to get busy filling the gaps in my papa Fante readings. I decided to go a little more “deep cuts” for my next Fante book and therefore chose one that I knew very little about, “WEST OF ROME”. Dan Fante lovingly mentioned a late-in-Fante’s-life novella that makes up 75% of the book, “My Dog Stupid”, in his own book. That was enough for me to give it a try – a nice way to ease back into John Fante after years of not having read him. As expected, it’s excellent. There are two parts to the book, the “long short story” My Dog Stupid, and a short story called “The Orgy”. I didn’t want either to end, and yet they’re so simple, funny and bathed in hurt, they move very quickly.

“My Dog Stupid” is what greater critical minds might call “tragicomedy”, or tragic/comic realism. Knowing what I now know about John Fante’s relationship with his kids and his wife while he puttered around Malibu in his 50s and 60s, I know that he was a bit of a bastard, yet one who also had a great sense of self-mockery and self-evaluation which comes out full-stop in this novella. While the narrative centers around a large, dumb Akita that Fante finds in his yard, and chooses to keep as a way of holding onto something that he can love and that loves back, it’s really more about losing one’s children from the nest in a time of changing morals and a fast loosening of the “old ways”.

It’s obviously the early 1970s, and the hippie era has had its effect. Fante, called “Molise” here (of course it’s Fante, basically writing an autobiographical story while changing the names of his kin), longs to shuck everything and move to Rome – the old country of his dreams – whenever life’s pressures become too much. Those pressures include a daughter sleeping with a surfer/soldier whom he doesn’t like; a son dodging the draft; another son (obviously Dan) who has a black girlfriend and smokes too much pot; and a wife who won’t let him keep a dog.

Molise alternates between bewilderment, dreams of escape and acceptance of his lot in middle age. The dog, meanwhile, has a predilection for brutally humping male humans and other large male dogs during conquest, and the descriptions of him “unsheathing his orange sword” are hilarious. Molise loves having an alpha in the house, perhaps a stand-in for his own diminished fatherly stature, even though his daughter’s boyfriend calls Stupid a “fag dog”. His marriage nearly falls apart as quickly as his children flee the nest, but you get the feeling that this is something that happens all the time between these two. Again, the line between reality and fiction is about as thin as can be. I’ll know more when I finally read “FULL OF LIFE”, the John Fante biography that’s on my list.

“The Orgy” is about forty breezy pages, a reminiscence by an older Fante about his immigrant bricklayer father in 1920s Colorado. Whether it’s fiction or a real story, I do not know, but it seems wholly plausible. His dad and his atheist, ne’er-do-well friend Frank get a claim to a “gold mine” 18 miles from Boulder from a newly-rich black man who until recently had prepped their bricklaying activities every day. What goes on at the mine, however, is very far from mining. I’ll stop right there. Just remember the phrase “hemorrhoid cheese”, which pops up during the story’s denouement. Hilarious, and exactly the sort of thing a red-faced, stammering 10-year-old boy would say when confronted with adult truths. Terrific book, and I’m on the next few from late-period Fante to try and complete the list.

Thursday, February 9, 2012


Continuing my plow through 1970s filmmaking and correcting the injustice of not having seen all worthwhile 70s American cinema, I streamed 1978’s “AN UNMARRIED WOMAN” the other evening. This film, which I actively remember Jill Clayburgh getting an academy award nomination for & which has resided in that second tier of American 70s film that I’m working my way through, is a combination of insightful, penetrating pathos and total, unadulterated schmaltz. Paul Mazursky directed, and one reason it was something I really wanted to see is because he was so insightful talking about 1970s film in the excellent documentary, “A DECADE UNDER THE INFLUENCE”, which had clips from this film as well. “An Unmarried Woman” comes a little late in the great pantheon of film from this era, and in some ways, it shows.

Let’s dispense with the easy part and acknowledge that Jill Clayburgh is fantastic as a spurned wife going through multiple stages of reckoning with the husband that unexpectedly leaves her for a younger woman. Her stages include abject grief, confusion, self-loathing, unbridled anger, promiscuity, self-discovery and…..well, wherever it is she’s supposed to be at the end of the film, as she walks through Manhattan's grimy streets carrying an oversized painting. The script doesn’t always do her acting ability justice, but there are some scenes in which she’s an absolute force of nature. My favorite is when she meets her ex-husband is his corporate office to discuss their teenage daughter and visitation and just starts to unload on him. He says, “Hey, whoa, do you want to have an argument here or what?”, to which she replies, pure fury on her face, “I WANT TO HAVE AN ARGUMENT!!”. It plays better than it reads, believe me. There’s also a long, uncomfortable scene with her therapist that felt so raw and real, it reminds you that they truly don’t make movies like this anymore.

Manhattan in the 70s is interesting just simply for being in its dirty, decaying non-glory, and I got a kick out of the many super-dated nods to disco, phones that hang on walls, and New York intellectual namedropping of people like Ingmar Bergman and Norman Mailer. So it was kind of a bummer that the last third of the movie, in which Clayburgh’s character Erica starts dating again, seemed so cheesy. On matters both love-related and sexual, her relationships struck a really hollow tone while trying to convey a sense of realism and feminist bravado. The feminist stuff was fine – it’s the subtext of the entire film – but some of the dialog, gawd. Then Bill Conti’s sweeping, overly-orchestrated music would rush in, as Clayburgh giggled with her new mate in the funky cobblestone streets of the city, and it was all my wife and I could do to keep from gagging.

So “An Unmarried Woman” is sort of a mixed bag, albeit one I’d see if I were you and if you aspire to be any sort of a 70s cineaste. It’s not as daring as it probably thought it was at the time, but Clayburgh and some stellar directing choices – like knowing when to not talk and just let her expressions do all the heavy lifting – help it rise above the normal Hollywood fare of the time, which was itself on a far higher plane than today’s.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012


Check this out – MONOSHOCK skin-pounder and vocalist Rubin Fiberglass sent me this short mp3 in which legendary UK disc jockey John Peel back-announces his playing of the band’s “Nobody Recovery” on UK radio. It’s dated July 8th, 1994. Not only does he call out “Rubin Fiberglass” for special mention - as well he should – he mentions the record label, Womb Records, which happened to be my label.

John Peel Monoshock back announce 7-8-1994

To read more about Monoshock & Womb, click here. To watch an amazing video of the band playing live, check this out.

Monday, February 6, 2012


I’m a little late to this one, like 15 years late – but New Mexico’s RONDELLES sure were a blast when they were around, weren’t they? Yeah, I’d heard this analog keyboard-driven roller rink punk band before, but I’d somehow had this idea that their discography began and ended with the one 45 that the late, lamented blog STATIC PARTY posted several years ago. It ain’t the case. The Rondelles, a trio of one fella and two ladies, had a decent-sized discography from 1995-1999 that we at Hedonist Jive have been acquainting ourselves with. We’d like to take you through it, record by record, if you don’t mind.

 “He’s Outta Sight / Indication / Catastrophe” 45 (1996)

This is the one that Static Party posted, and it’s one of the band’s two high-water marks. These kids – and they were indeed kids, juniors in high school! – have that learning-to-play innocence and sense of who-cares that transcends generations. It’s phenomenal lights-out farfisa party punk with singer Juliet Swango’s terrific melodious vocals. The drummer apparently drummed and played the Casio keyboard at the same time. You get the sense that things are being knocked over & broken everywhere these gawky teens are taking their act, and it’s among the high-water marks of slipshod garage rock from any era. Totally rad.

Play The Rondelles – “Indication”

Play The Rondelles – “Catastrophe”

Download The Rondelles – “Catastrophe”

“Safety In Numbers / Shimmy-Becker / Six O’Clock / Strike-Out” 7”EP (1998)

The other top-notch record this band put out. In two years they moved from a comic sort of party band into something stronger & louder. Handclaps, sudden breaks, girl group harmonies and lots of roaring guitar make for a golden EP, with all four songs being knockouts. This record in particular probably has staying power for the widest number of people, and in an alternate universe (mine), this is the defining alterna-rock of the 90s. Would have been awesome on a Lollapalooza tour.
Play The Rondelles – “Safety In Numbers”

“Fiction Romance Fast Machines” LP (1998)

Their first album, while good, is surprisingly bereft of truly great songs. It’s an effort that definitely fits in with where they’d been & is fully serviceable, but it appears they shuttled their best songs to the singles. That said, it’s got some zingers like “Drag Striprace” and the cutie-pie “Mission Irresistible”, and I’d at least listen to it if I were you.

“Revenge / Back-Stabber / Kersmash! My Eye” 45 (1998)

My single favorite song of theirs, a short crusher called “Back-Stabber”, was on this one. I’d like you to maybe take it home with you tonight.

Play The Rondelles – “Back-Stabber”

“The Fox” LP (1999)

Here’s where things started getting really uninteresting, recorded when the band moved from Albuquerque to Washington DC. Bland alternajerk-rock with great vocals and little else. It’s apparent that someone told Juliet Swango that she had a nice voice and could maybe escape the tyranny of playing fun, reckless punk rock music & maybe make a little coin if her cards were played correctly. We’ll never know, will we?

“TV Zombie / He’s Got Heart” 45 (2000)

Last-gasp single with dumb lyics from a band unfortunately starting to run on fumes.

Posthumous Stuff

“Shined Nickels and Loose Change” LP/CD (2001)
“In Your Face” CD (2008)
“Good Enough For Gravy” CD (2008)

Of these three, “Shined Nickels” is essential, since it contains both their second and third singles, plus a few smokin’ odds and ends that find them in full brazen malt shop mode. The other two, an early-recordings-from-practice-tapes thing and an awful live record, are worthless.

In sum, I’ll admit I’m ashamed to only be doing this sort of tallying-up now. I would have loved to be in on the ground floor with this band when they were around, but they were lost in the shuffle of that period of my life – grad school, getting married, moving twice, and all that. Anyone in the HJ reading audience see them live when they were still with us?

Wednesday, February 1, 2012


I'm glad there are still bands like THE SPITS within the punk rock ecosystem in 2012. While it’s difficult to scoop out a judgment of a punk band’s intelligence & sense of humor from their simplistic music and lyrics, Seattle’s Spits have a decidedly tongue-in-cheek, almost tribute-like manner of charging through 90-second scorchers, all the while actually writing offbeat & distinct punk songs you’d actually want to listen to. At least I do. It’s funny – way back in 2003, having never heard of them before, I saw them live while up in Seattle and took them to task for wearing KISS masks onstage, while suspecting them of being aging poseurs fresh out of the grunge scene. Though the shocked, taken-aback comments from band members have since disappeared, we had a nice little angry back-and-forth banter going for a while, and much mirth was made.

Thanks to the magic of Spotify, I find that The Spits are still an active concern, and now have five albums under their undoubtedly expanding belts, each self-titled in roman numerals. I’ve been blasting “SPITS IV” and “SPITS V” at inhospitable volume for several weeks now. They’ve got all the parts, far as I’m concerned. Rooted in a shameless apeing of the Ramones’ riffs, lyrics structure and vocals, The Spits then branch out from there with vocal effects like phasers and processing that makes one of the three vocalists sound like he’s just had his nose broken and is trying to sniff the bones back in. Like the pre-Sub Pop-era DWARVES or early Meat Puppets, songs are not only exceptionally short, they often stop in places you’re not expecting – boom, just cut off in the middle of a riff or in illogical time. While the subject matter is trĂ© dumb (“My Life Sucks”, “I’m Scum”), neither the delivery or the lyrics themselves are lacking in smarts. Keyboard whoosh in, riffs flame out, overdubs from films cut in and wham - it’s over.

Another exhibit that might prove that these guys are one step ahead of their peers is this website,, which is either a well-played elaborate parody or truly one of the weirdest Viagra spam-phishing sites I’ve ever encountered. I’m betting on the former. Each of the two records I’ve been getting down with are over-and-out in like 20 minutes each – another notch on those belts for a band that understands how to make an audience ask for more. Listen to these songs here and let me know what you think. And if you know whether these guys are brain surgeons, one step out of the bread line, or somewhere in between, let us know. They’ll earn the final notch and Hedonist Jive punk rock sainthood if I hear they’ve ditched the monkey masks as well.

Play The Spits - "Flags"

Play The Spits - "All I Want"

Download THE SPITS - "Flags"
Download THE SPITS - "All I Want"