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andee's world: Death Metal, Disco and Robot Rock: What I've Been Listening to this Spring

andee's world

Hello and welcome to my blog. This space will be devoted to opinions, observations, lists, articles and whatever else I feel like posting. Subjects will include music, human nature, politics, life in NYC, etc. If I paste someone else's writing up here, it is because the author said something way better than I ever could. By the way, I don't claim to be a particularly smart guy; I'm just a musician with some opinions. If you disagree with me, that's cool -- but then, you're probably wrong.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Death Metal, Disco and Robot Rock: What I've Been Listening to this Spring

Various Artists Grindcrusher
This charming Whitmann's Sampler of death metal and grindcore features genre kingpins like Napalm Death and Morbid Angel, alongside less-likely inclusions like Naked City and Old Lady Drivers (whose "Colostomy Grab Bag" wins first prize for best songtitle of the bunch -- which is saying alot).

Best band name goes to Lawnmower Deth.

Public Enemy
Fear of a Black Planet
An amazing album by any measuring apparatus, FOABP also represents the golden era of the pre-litigation sampling era, along with the Beasties' Paul's Boutique. Listen closely and you can hear beats swiped from Big Audio Dynamite, the unmistakable cackling of Vincent Price (from "Thriller") and Prince's (sped up) solo flameout from "Let's Go Crazy", among many many many more.

Chris Kowanko
I've been listening to singer-songwriter Kowanko's brilliant, self-titled, Lenny Kaye-produced disc since it came out in 1993. Its single "Grey Crayon" got a lot of play on alternative station WDRE in those days. I thought he sounded a bit like Chrissy Hynde, with a very unique vocal delivery and gorgeous lyrical imagery.

Recently I decided to look him up online and found out that he'd released a little-known follow up called Spell in 2001. I bought a copy and was positively delighted to find the man in fine, undiminished form on the rather delayed sophomore effort.

I also found a very cool Kowanko website and decided to email Chris and tell him how much I loved both records. I also asked what he's up to nowadays. He emailed me back promptly and said he had a new band upstate called Monsterbuck...

Land of Makebelievers
...and offered to send a free copy of their CD if I wanted one. I said "of course" and emailed him my Williamsburg address. He replied by saying that he'd lived right around the corner from me from 1985-1994...meaning that he wrote that first album right here in my 'hood. That is so cool! I live for stuff like this -- finding out that an album I've been listening to for 15 years was written literally a stone's throw away from my apartment. So cool!

I asked him what W-burg was like in those days and his reply was:

The old neighborhood was like it is now, only different proportions of everything and everybody. Now there are hundreds of places to drink and eat and spend money. For the first few years we had to take the train to 1st ave to get a slice. It was pretty creepy at night. Garbage in tidal swirls under the street lamp, long shadows, ratty prostitutes. The days were blaring with salsa music. Gentrification was underway but it was like the quiet munching of termites. Not all that visible. It's so interesting how a new city forms right where another was. Same name, different place.

Poetic, to the last.

Chris sent the Monsterbuck CD, as promised. Between it and the Spell album, I've been wallowing in a wonderfully unexpected Kowanko revival lately. Monsterbuck has a rustic, loose, band vibe (it was recorded mostly live in a barn) but Chris's haunting sensibility is still front and center. What an incredible musician, what a great guy. Unfortunately still a secret to most.

The Kills No Wow
I saw the Kills years ago, opening for the YYY's, and, maybe because I wasn't in a very good mood at the time, they didn't make much of an impression other than "here's another male/female duo with a drum machine." But lately I've been hearing some pretty scorching Kills songs that remind me of all the things I love about rock. Their music is ultra-sexy, all oozing attitude and sensuality slathered over mechanized beats and incredibly grungy lo-fi guitars. This album is pretty hot -- and their new song "URA Fever" is just molten.

Trans Euro Express

Incredibly fresh sounding robot rock considering its late-70s release date. Fuck it, this record sounds new. All electronic music and hip hop owes a debt to Kraftwerk, as you all know.

Various Artists
Disco Not Disco
This is the third volume of the DND compilation series (subtitled Post Punk, Electro & Leftfield Disco Classics), and sadly the first two are impossible to find. Features lost gems by the likes of Material, Delta 5, Quando Quango and loads of bands no one has ever heard of. Great fun and perfect to hula hoop to!

songs on my new stick drive/MP3 player
Here I go again, demolishing my hearing.

Don't worry, I'm keeping the volume down.


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