Wednesday, February 27, 2013


A name that's aggressively and deservedly making the round of throwback hipsters' lips this year is that of Ian Nagoski, a youngish man who right now is probably the most informed and interesting world musical curator around. As a collector of pre-WWII 78rpm records from around the planet, he's amassed a relatively low-cost collection of some of the coolest and most lost-to-time recordings of the first half of last century, and he has the refreshing "share it all with the people" aesthetic that marks the best curators and collectors. By focusing on ethnic music recorded in the village vernacular – particularly things recorded in the United States, by newly-arrived immigrants to the USA – he's preserving a terribly ignored slice of American music, ignored for never having been heretofore acknowledged as American.

"THE WIDOW'S JOY" is an LP-only compilation of fresh-off-the-boat, Ellis Islanded Eastern Europe immigrants from Poland, Ukraine and the rest of the recently imploded Austro-Hungarian empire from 1925-1930. It's subtitled "Eastern European Immigrant Dances in American 1925-1930" and is definitely an upbeat "party record", as these things go. (Oh, and by the way – if you're blanching at the "LP-only" format, don't worry, I got digital download codes with the LP I ordered on the Sound American website). The 16 tracks are pulled together in a thematic representation of things people danced to back then, usually to blow off steam from their awful gruntwork jobs. You're invited to mentally picture the musicians as providing succor for the huddled masses who've recently yearned to be free, and imagine them all drinking mightily and dancing heavily to these very high-energy ethnic songs. It's certainly not hard to do so.

I'll post a track for you here so you see what I mean. Meanwhile, feel free to get your order in for the LP here before they're all gone.

Monday, February 25, 2013


The city of Detroit is pretty meta right now. Merely talking about Detroit and its unprecedented decline is old hat. We've all seen the ruin porn, breathlessly emailed across the internet and splashed across design and news sites to generate clicks and ad sales. We're now into the phase where we dissect why we're all so fascinated with Detroit, and mock those who spend an inordinate amount of time gaining schadenfreude or perverse thrills from watching a city that has hopelessly, helplessly imploded. Former resident Mark Binelli decided to write an entire book about it – a journalistic tendency so many others have of late have shared, either making documentaries or writing their own books about the city. As one of those people sitting on the other side of the internet with his hand on the mouse, clicking on picture after picture of destroyed train station and trashed high school and weed-choked house, I figured I probably needed to get his take on the matter, so I bought his book.

"DETROIT CITY IS THE PLACE TO BE" is a new (mid-2012) book that's pretty up to date on Detroit's situation – its decline into near-state receivership, the supposed rebirth of the auto industry, the "let Detroit return to the land" plan by Mayor Dave Bing; and most interestingly, the rebranding of Detroit as a hip, cheap, art-friendly place for slow foodies, sculptors, musicians and other underground types. The book sets up tension between the viewpoint that Detroit is a total goner and the more optimistic view that the seeds of its rebirth are being planted. Along the way, Binelli takes chapters-long detours into topics like the city's obscenely high crime rate; its gun culture; its ruins; its car industry's sordid history; the popularized techno and arts scenes and the many Europeans who still make pilgrimages to the city to find them, and much more. Every chapter evinces the tension and the debate he's set up in a very entertaining and story-laden manner: Dead, or Being Reborn?

It's probably important to note that Binelli is what my conservative father might call a "pinko". That is, his hard-left politics get a little too much in the way of telling a factual and well-rounded story. Seems that every time he's about to unload his journalistic guns on incompetent and ridiculous political boobs like former Detroit mayors Kwame Kilpatrick and Coleman Young, he instead finds a way to extract some silver lining that exonerates them nearly in full, based on their swagger or their mouthiness or some other ludicrous characteristic, and blames Reagan or Wall Street or yuppies instead. So when you're reading Binelli, just know that in his world, the unions and their leadership are mostly blameless for Detroit's predicament, and the mayors were primarily victims of the white establishment, who didn't want them to succeed and therefore brought about their downfall for racist or subconsciously racist reasons. When he got into this mode, that's when I went into book-skimming mode, waiting for Binelli to start telling good stories again – which he thankfully does more often than not.

All Binelli needs to do is record the things that people he meets in Detroit say, or quote some outlandish things that politicians of the present and past have said, and the book is nearly a laff-a-minute. He's a good writer and storyteller, and he brings the right perspective to his former hometown. He's saddened, chagrined, and a little angry about what's happened to the city (which was in sorry decline during his 1980s boyhood and is far worse now), and he's a very good historian of the sordid and the seedy when he's not on his high leftist horse. He speaks truth to power, as long as the power aren't the ones pretending to be shilling for the working man and the downtrodden. Binelli makes it abundantly clear that even though the media are hyping these white back-to-the-land urban farming types , with their artisanal coffee collectives and outdoor art exhibits, Detroit is a black city through and though, and what's getting media attention is about 5% of what's really going on in Detroit.

Detroit doesn't really have an African-American middle/upper class the way Atlanta does; they all moved away. It's a poor city, with very little tax base, no infrastructure, awful weather, and a singular industry propped up by the beneficence of government and American taxpayers that makes cars that no one really wants (or when they do, it's gas-guzzling enormo-trucks). Whole sections of the city lack public services and are being reclaimed by nature – even while people continue to live there, for lack of money or the will to leave. That Binelli strikes a hopeful note in the conclusion, however, is not altogether disingenuous. He makes a strong effort at documenting how, when you've hit bottom, everything is "up", and he convincingly outlines a future for Detroit. It may not look anything like the past – nor like the green paradise that some people might wish upon it – but a future nonetheless. I'm buying it. I just might not be around to see it when it arrives in 50-100 years.

Sunday, February 24, 2013


I've put together a new 1-hour edition of the DYNAMITE HEMORRHAGE RADIO SHOW PODCAST, my phony rocknroll radio show recorded and assembled on a laptop and turned into a podcast. This is the 7th one I've made - the other six are all available to download at the links below. This features all manner of underground rock music from 1966 to 2013. Bands you will enjoy hearing include 100 Flowers, Murphy & The Mob, Clorox Girls, Veronica Falls, Spray Paint, White Fence, Burnt Ones, Rachel Sweet, The Dum Dum Girls, Pink Floyd and a whole bunch of others - interspersed with talking from a wild, wacky radio disc jockey!

Download Dynamite Hemorrhage Radio Show Podcast #7
Stream Dynamite Hemorrhage Radio Show Podcast #7 (desktop or mobile OK)

Track listing:

THE DELINQUENTS - Motivation Complex
BURNT ONES - Strawberry Tomb
THE CROWD - Modern Machine
SWELL MAPS - Vertical Slum
JOHNNY & THE SELF ABUSERS - Saints and Sinners
RACHEL SWEET - Cuckoo Clock
THE MINDERS - Hand Me Downs
THE FLOWERS - After Dark
WHITE FENCE - Real Smiles
SPRAY PAINT - Spock Fingers
PINK FLOYD - Arnold Layne
TAKE IT - Twenty Lines
THE LOSERS - Snake Eyes
MURPHY & THE MOB - Born Loser
THE VORES - Amateur Surgeon
100 FLOWERS - Salmonella 

Download past shows, each about an hour long:

Download Show #6  
Download Show #5
Download Show #4
Download Show #3
Download Show #2
Download Show #1

Saturday, February 23, 2013


For all the press/hype that director Steven Soderburgh generated over the years, his body of work's a little meh, wouldn't you say? I just scanned his IMDB directing profile to see how many of his films I'd seen in the past decade, and while I've seen a few, the only one I really liked was "Contagion", and I've forgotten everything about that one other than there being a disease or something and Matt Damon was somehow involved. Last really great film of his? 2000's "Traffic". Well. We were all so much younger then. Into that breach steps his new "SIDE EFFECTS", and in the post-Oscar nomination, pre-Oscars period, this seems to be the mainstream-ish film that discerning filmgoers are going to see. Wanting to be just like them, my wife and I went to see it this past weekend.

Not really knowing what to expect, about midway through the film I realized that this was one of the best thrillers I'd seen in ages, and blurted out to my wife that this was so, which she of course very much appreciated me saying during a crucial scene in the movie. It stars Rooney Mara as a clinically depressed wife whose husband has just been released from prison for insider trading. She can't function in normal society with her crippling depression, which has her breaking down sobbing for no reason, and unable to hold it together even with her husband. She begins seeing a psychiatrist played by Jude Law, who prescribes her a variety of antidepressants before settling on a new, more experimental one that has profound side effects.

We then see Mara's character murder her husband while in a comotose-like sleepwalking state. She's put in prison, and mounts a defense that she was the victim of the drug and didn't know what she was doing. I'm going to have to stop there. I'm sorry about that - I only got you about halfway through the film, but like any good thriller full of curveballs, things get a little more interesting from that point on. Soderburgh's directing is tense, taut and well-edited, and he gets excellent performances out of Law, Mara and Catherine Zeta-Jones, who plays Mara's psychiatrist from her years living as a rich lady in Connecticut, before her husband was arrested. The latter's role is key, so watch her closely when you see this one.

The film exists on a few levels; most media are calling it an "anti-pharma" film, and perhaps it is. It certainly shows the sleaziness of the medical/pharmatological complex, what with the pretty drug reps and their free samples coming onto horny older doctors, who then prescribe those samples to their patients. The real film is about the psychiatrist played by Law, trying to figure out whether he himself is guilty of a being a part of this complex or if he's a victim of something more sinister. Totally first-rate film and one you should probably take a gander at.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013


Long on my list of can't-believe-I-haven't-seen-this 1970s films, 1973's "THE LAST DETAIL" is a showcase for the raw and wide-ranging acting ability of Jack Nicholson, as well as a deliberately subtle commentary on the values of the American military in the age of a losing war in Vietnam. Hal Ashby directed, two years after he won many plaudits (as well as slings & arrows from reviewers like Pauline Kael) for his previous film "Harold & Maude". It's ostensibly formatted as a "road movie", but rather than having the characters hit the road to find freedom and new insights, it's just the usual 1970s cinematic bummer all the way. It's why watching the films of this era fills me with rushing endorphins, heavy levels of seratonin and a sense of weird glee. They just don't make 'em like this anymore, do they?

Two bored navy lifers are assigned to take a fellow 18-year-old serviceman to navy jail in Portsmouth, NH for having stolen $40 from a high-ranking officer's wife's charity fund. They're incredibly reluctant to do so initially, and even more so once they get on the road with the intellectually-challenged and socially inexperienced greenhorn, played by Randy Quaid (fresh off his role in "The Last Picture Show"). Nicholson and Otis Young, who plays the other escorting sailor, quickly come to realize that this guy's circumstances – 8 years in jail and a dishonorable discharge – are preposterously unfair, and with Nicholson very much in the lead, they do what they can to make the young man "feel better". They get him drunk, laid and even try to let him visit his mom. With 5 days to get to Portsmouth and only 2 days actually needed, there's plenty of opportunity to raise hell in Washington DC, New York City and Boston on the way.

The sadness of the situation, and of these sailors' vocations and lives, permeates the film. Nicholson in particular plays the "sailor on shore leave" card to the hilt, and really just wants to make the most of his rare time away from his commanding officers and have some fun. Yet the fun is suffused with an anxiety about their place in the world. They visit a hippie chanting cult and are totally perplexed; then then follow a hippie girl to a party and get asked uncomfortable questions about Nixon and Vietnam. The character played by Otis Young is black, and to the film's credit, very little is made of this beyond a question or two from the hippies and a comment made by a redneck bartender ("The law says I have to serve him").

"The Last Detail" is perhaps a slight cut below some of the all-time 70s greats, what you might call a four-star film as opposed to five. Totally and absolutely worth seeking out on video if you get the chance and haven't waited forty years to see it like I have.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013


MARIKA PAPAGIKA is rightly heralded as one of Greece's primary exponents of a pre-WWII sound and recording culture who indelibly stamped her era's Greek culture and music in time, while recording most of her material in the United States, where she immigrated in 1915. Depending on how you use the term, she wasn't a "rembetika" artist, as her music is mournful, hazy and drawn out. You're not gonna be cutting a rug to it anytime soon, but once you get a handle on her voice and the soaring strings of the instruments behind her, it's easy to lose yourself in her mystical world. 

To get started doing so, I recommend putting your big boy pants on and settling in with 2010's compilation, "The Further The Flame, The Worse It Burns Me". This came out via a collaboration between Mississippi Records and Canary Records, with all original 78s coming from the collection of Ian Nagoski. As I understand it, the warbling and wailing Ms. Papagika, who often sounds like she's cinematically descending into a pit of flames or possibly into a vat of her own tears, was usually accompanied by cymbalon, cello, violin and clarinet. Clarinet is very present in these recordings - it hovers a wavers and snakes in and out of the strings in a dark and almost menacing way. I'm not entirely sure what a cymbalon is, so I looked it up, and the only references to it on the interweb are in reference to this collection - which means someone spelled something incorrectly. I believe it's called a "cimbalom". 

It would also appear - and this is where I show my ignorance - that Marika Papagika's lonesome mystic style was more in a musical genre called "mortika", and that she was captured on a various-artists compilation by that name by Mississippi a few years before this one. If anyone wants to give me the lowdown on that comp, I'd love it; I am a huge fan of the later, more jaunty and bouzouki-driven rembetika, and would love to learn more about "mortika" - if my heart can stand it. Heavy and deep outsider ethnic folk music here. I think you might like it.

Monday, February 18, 2013


I'll blame two prime culprits for springing me back into deep, revenant listening to obscure and ancient world music the past several months. The first is a radio show on San Francisco's Radio Valencia called GRAMOPHONY BALONEY, hosted by an affable Irishman known as "D.J. McSchmormac". I stumbled upon the show almost by accident, and have been transfixed over recent weeks by his slavish devotion to weird and yes, otherworldly, pre-1951 sounds from around the globe

The other culprit is this 2xCD on the Tompkins Square label called "AIMER ET PERDE – TO LOVE AND TO LOSE SONGS, 1917-1934". I first heard tracks from this on the Gramophony Baloney radio show/podcast, and sent away a few sawbucks immediately in order to procure a copy. In theory, the songs are about love and loss, as you might expect them to be from the title. Given that at least a third of those songs are instrumentals, it's sort of a dubious proposition – but we'll pretend that the more upbeat instrumentals are about love, and the mournful ones are songs of loss. 

It's a terrific collection – 36 tracks from regions hither and yon, and all from pre-WWII 78s compiled by master world music curator Christopher King from his extensive collection. I'm most partial to the Ukrainian and Eastern European stuff, like a wild call & response, multi-layered, 2-part party song called "Ukrainske Wasilla w Ameryci", translated as "Ukrainian Wedding in America", and performed by Orchestra Pawla Humeniuka. I'm posting the first of the 2 parts for you to listen to here. Yet once you leave the realm of the Ukrainian village or immigrant tenement, you're soon transported to the Louisiana bayou and Cajun Country, or to Poland. There's also two or three heavy hitters from the world of deep south blues and country; a terrific Carter Family song from a little late in their career called "I Never Will Marry"; the amazing Dock Boggs; and the gravel-voiced bluesman Richard "Rabbit" Brown and "Never Let The Same Bee The Stung You, Sting You Twice".

Different people will experience the genre- and geography-skipping differently. After my first listen, it was easy to take it all in stride. The track selection is so high-quality, and the sound so perfectly scratched and distant and out of time, that genre and regional differences vanish pretty quickly. It comes with a 60-page book of liner notes as well, and some of the best colorful "recycled cardboard" package design I've seen in a while, including some cool R. Crumb drawings of the musicians. Who cares if it ain't 100% about lovin' and losin', right?

Saturday, February 2, 2013


Here's the sixth edition of Dynamite Hemorrhage Radio Podcast, recorded in early February 2013 - i.e. today. Brand-new stuff this time from Spray Paint, Veronica Falls, Little Queenie & a smattering of art, noise, punk, pop and psych from eras both hither and yon.
You'll hear Morty Shann & The Morticians, The Cheater Slicks, Bill Direen & The Bilders, The Bangs, Fizzbombs, Lazy Cowgirls and a whole helluva lot of other tasty malarky, adding up to just over an hour of "good times".
Track listing:

VERONICA FALLS - If You Still Want Me
SPRAY PAINT - Throwing Cans
PUBERTY - Parties
LA DRUGS - High School
SUICIDE COMMANDOS - Attacking The Beat
CHEATER SLICKS - Savage Affection
LAZY COWGIRLS - Bullshit Summer Song
MOGEL - Hall Mig Hart
GOOD MISSIONARIES - Keep Going Backwards
THE NIG HEIST - The Nig Heist
ZEBRA HUNT - Get Along
BEYOND THE IMPLODE - This Atmosphere
THE BANGS - Call On Me
THE MODDS - Leave My House

Download each of the past shows as well, while you're at it. They're each about an hour and might even be almost as good as this one:

Download Show #5
Download Show #4
Download Show #3
Download Show #2
Download Show #1