Friday, May 25, 2012

I'm Going to Review You so You Should Shower

I'm working towards starting a new Music Column (via the Ferndale Patch) and I made the brilliant mistake of asking Josh Malerman (singer of the High Strung, author of myriad madness-es) to suggest a list of potential "titles" for the fledgling series....

Some of the highlights of what I got back (emailed within minutes):

Sound Up Your Ass

Bass Clef and Treble Clef Waltz into a Bar

The Slalom Column (..."watch me ski through songs")


Fa-fa-fuck it up with the fa-fa-freak

Let's get drunk with Jeff Milo's Family

Violent and Disturbing Opinions

Revenge of the Sith

Jeff Milo Plants a Tree Inside an Album
and... ...
I'm Going to Review You, so You Should Shower...

oh, and somewhere in there, there was this one too: "Fuckin' Good Fuck Shit Music Holy Crap"

The column is not yet named - but I am giving equal consideration to each suggested title... Stay tuned.

***In the meantime, dig this recent post by Lisa Parisi - on a fine smorgasbord of neopunkgaragerockrevivalistpsycheswirling preservation 

Mix: Greetings from Detroit 

A Get-Bent curated anthology featuring a healthy blend of contemporary artists "...for the love of our city and the creative enterprises we sustain here. There is something similar about the concept of GET BENT and what we do here in Detroit; it’s all grassroots, by-us-for-us, and all fueled by the love of rock and roll..."


Alright then, -  have a good weekend and enjoy some locally produced videos for locally-written-recorded music sounds:

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Nurturing Noise

...There is the day
and then the night...

When we're as good as sleeping
...and then when we are running, voracious!

Day-dreaming and night-screaming

hurting our brains with thrums of white noise (staff meetings, news-radio, sports scores and bank statements)
...and then healing our ears with drones of thrust timbres, screeching.....melodious

making our own nurturing noise.

The escape -into music, into the night. Said-night.
The day, then, letting out, yours' mine and our...volumes
            going up

The appeal of dropping out. Marching to freak beats.
Sounds that shatter, lines that smear.
The very, VERY-least passive of art forms
the one that demands, forces your participation

Cathartic kicks, beats to the chest, choruses stuck to the brain - nurturing noise to the ears.
Hooked. Pushed. And, in and out -in four minutes flat.
2-3-4- GO

Not Why, Specifically, But... you write...

Often when...I want to collect my thoughts, when they're ricocheting 'round like a sonorous gargle of pinballs, whizzing and jutting, such that it sets on this delerious preoccupation with describing each nagging cloud of contemptlation with evocations of noise and...color and music...before the disipate.

It's when I want to lasso these musings, yank them down, inhale their various essence, bring them through, into words.

My only kind of music.

Or...(when) I write to ease frustration - particularly that unique irk wound when my brain is disappointingly empty, yearningly inert.

Idleness is madness. Better, then, to write madly... find (some) sanity. I don't want to lave my page, milled, rendered or digitized, ...unmarked. Incorrigible.

The illusion (oh, alright, delusion) is that you'll find, grasp, surmise, understand the real-me at the end of the sentence. But my elusive victory of cobbled-anonymity is -
-that the sentences never end.

Why, then, do I write?

Why do you record? Sing? Make noise?

Saturday becomes Sunday

A Block Party

~But then,...
Saturday Looks Good To Me:

 Sun 05-20 - Ypsilanti, MI - Woodruff's

w/ Body Holographic and Santa Monica Swim & Dive Club

Doors 7 pm

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

All Things

“I try all things, I achieve what I can.”
Herman Melville, Moby-Dick, or The Whale

Jon Berz is doing it. He just did it. It’s done. Trying something else, next.
He needs to sleep.

Jon: "I think I need to get another cup of coffee..."

Jon plays a lot of different types of music. He writes poetry. He writes prose. He collages.
He is a collage.

Punk...ragtime...arena rock...

Jon: "Sure! Whatever comes. Whatever it is. Whatever you want."

His band is called Songs From The Moon... They just just made a video for this song of theirs':

Jon's got a blog and he's got his own record label / publishing company (co-operated by SFTM guitarist Shaun Wisniewski).

"I'm always learning," says Berz, who splits his time between tutoring English at Oakland Community College, pursuing his Masters' (in English) at Wayne, helping his landlord with odd-jobs around the house, delivering pizzas...and then, yes, also playing in bands (also including, now, The Walking Beat). "And I'm always getting better."

Local music scenesters will recall Jon as "the rhythm guy," meshed into the pop-raucousness of now-defunct Blase Splee. Being in that band, getting able to chip in a few signature strokes into the songwriting processes for their handful of releases, edified the guy's confidence. After a dozen years always being in one, if not two (or more) bands while eking along any old job that could provide a roof over his head, he came to the realization that he had to start breaking ground on something of his own - and the path to that began with his first few pages of personal writing, something he hadn't really done in his life until his mid-20's.

But he's getting more and more confident. Confident... "in my abilities to come up with something new and just to do it. Just, to make it, whatever I'm thinking. I just do it." 

He has a 7"x4" flipped-up notebook, stressed with bend marks and grayed by pencil lead, filled with song ideas, chord progressions, half-finished/false-started/fleshed-out poems and essays.

"I just do it. That's it. To me...I wake up, I do it and I go to bed."

And maybe he doesn't go to bed until  4 a.m. -the tumbleweed cliff-dive at the edge of some ungodly tear through 39-straight-hours of consciousness and bustling. Yeah, he admits he might over-do it sometimes - but that allows him to pick and choose over the material he's poured-forth. If he hadn't stayed up for 40 hours, hadn't shunted his soul straight to that 4:01 a.m. mark, then he wouldn't have gotten that perfect song cinched.

"I've never been a perfectionist, I don't consider myself one. More a completion-ist. I love to work, but more so, I like to get it done and get it done right. I just do it. Put it out there. I don't wait back for any response. I just move onto the next idea, the next thing. The flood gates are open."

And then he passes me his copy of "Spring and All" by William Carlos Williams.

And, really, I've been writing almost-compulsively ever since.

~~Is what I have written prose? The only answer is that form in prose
ends with the end of that which is being communicated--If the power to
go on falters in the middle of a sentence--that is the end of the
sentence--Or if a new phase enters at that point it is only stupidity to go on.

There is no confusion--only difficulties.

--William Carlos Williams, from Spring and All, (1923).  

"I feel like there's a lot of competition out there," Berz says, "I ..." he shakes his head and waves both hands, "...don't want any part of that. But, I do want to compete with myself -to always challenge myself and do things better than I did last week..." 

And that's been the whole thing... Is part of me has become frustrated and anxious to break out. Part of me wants to test my legs of language when they're applied to different terrains - invented terrains - terrains beyond music. That part of me is breaking out and poking at Music-Milo to run along, try to keep up. That's why I've been dancing around this whole idea of either killing this blog (or, at the very least, putting it on hold for a bit...) ((or, at the very-very-least-least, killing it melodramatically and then shamelessly default on that and come back ala Doyle resurrecting Holmes))

But - my writing on Detroit music will never cease (sheesh, from how many other outlets do I spew my spastic rants now?), because, damn it, I'm still wholeheartedly inspired by all the glorious noise of my neighbors.

As Faulkner said... “Don't be 'a writer'. Be writing.” 

...Trying to...

Is what I have written prose?

And what about the next piece?

(More posts to come...or, at least one...)

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Bonnie "Darkness"

Few songwriters stir me quite like Will Oldham...
Consistently, too! A "new" EP is coming this summer, via Drag City, Now Here's My Plan -

See the push-broom-bearded brooder bounce his way through the bars of Glasgow via this video -stremaing on the New York Times web site.


Aside from that... there's a weird lil' piece out this week on Detroit's The High Strung - via the Metro Times - (photos: Doug Coombe) -

Monday, May 7, 2012


This month, in the pages of the Ann Arbor Current, I sat down to make a “Top 5” favorite local rock songs – so far – of 2012 ...and by "local" - I mean Washtenaw-based - and by "top 5" I mean, more like, 8 or 9...

1.) Chit Chat – “Cruisin” – This Ypsi trio are exactly what I want a band to sound like if I hear the prefaced descriptor: pop/punk - they’re like spinning tops’ ricocheting from guttural noise, to hazy indie-rock grooves, to elbow-scraped jostles, to daydream-sunshine struts, all of it glistened with that surfy reverb guitar shimmying over a buzzy low end pipeline. One song is chaos, the other is jangly, and “Cruisin’” is a lovely driving sunset ballad that soars for its first two acts and then revs up into a sweet squall of riffs.

(Chit-Chat doesn't have this particular track streaming, yet, on their SoundCloud - but, just as well, try out "Johnny"

2.) Matt Jones & the Reconstruction – “Special Forces” – Josh Malerman (of the High Strung) sat beside me as Jones performed this song (aided by Chris Bathgate on mandolin) inside Jim Roll’s studio. As the hushed acoustic guitar jittered and jigged towards the rushing, cello-sawed poignancy of the chorus, I nudged Malerman and whispered with dorky enthusiasm that this’ll be the song to make Jones famous. Compared to his usual fare, (elegant/eerie, sweet/supernatural chamber-pop), this is practically a pop song.

3.) Secret Twins – “Hands Up (Arms Down) – Drummer Tim Thomas still calls Ann Arbor home, even if his “twin,” singer/guitarist Dina Bankole, recently settled east in Hamtramck. They released this song at the end of November, not-even-2-minutes-worth of a jangled, jogging, stomp and slide ditty – Bankole’s crooning-cooing-belt harmoniously sweetening what’s just two shades sunnier from being a punk-rock punch-out.

4.) Nightlife – “Radio” – Going off, similarly, of dulcet voiced lead-female vocals – this Ann Arbor duo is coolly rollicking in the darkly beautiful seas of new-wave-bedazzled, dance-pop – the hazy, dreamy vocals winding their way through finely composed layers of buzzy synths sawing and chiming like a synthetic orchestra.

5.) Bad Indians – “The Other Side” – Okay, back to punk…well, punk-esque? Psychedelic-rock? I’m cheating here, since this song is part of an EP that won’t be out for a month (even if you can stream this single, now, on the band’s bandcamp-site). This band’s always open to experimentation (and copious reverb), but sometimes they can settle in for 3-minute shambled-up jams where the quavering organs dazzle your ears, the snaky guitars put the hook in you and the drums keep kicking you forward…

And then… my “top 5” quickly broke down and opened up to further entries… Photographer Kenny Corbin just bent my ears toward a new-ish Ann Arbor band (with two albums out) called Pity Sex (check out “When You’re Around”) who are quenching nostalgic thirsts for the intricate, knotty-guitar-slung avalanches of more eclectic 90’s-indie-rock…

And then there was the post-hardcore shreds and guttural guitar grinds from a band called All The Wild Children (a group made up of most of the now-defunct Sharky & the Habit) – but whose faces, voices and instrumental stylings are likely already familiar to Ypsi rock crowds (check out “Breaker Breaker").

An eighth song for my list would be from a Detroit-based collective with some Ypsi-ties: Infinity People is a staggering (super) group made up of more than a dozen avant-garde, psychedelic/noise/performance-art-leaning rock provocateurs – They’re double album In Love With The Light came out last month on Fred Thomas’ label LifeLike.

And while I’m on the subject of singer/songwriter Thomas, one of his most revered projects, Saturday Looks Good To Me, reassembled last month and recorded their first proper album in five years, which is coming out this summer on Polyvinyl.

…Anyway, that’s what I’ve been listening to, so far.

If you're keeping score, Tom, Lo-fi Bri... this doesn't count as the 2nd-to-last- D.C. post. I'll call em as I see 'em.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Substance - DC goes to the movies: "Kick it up a niche"

I slouched in my seat, curtains of awe-struck eyes and gaped mouths enveloping my theatre chair, young ones and dads with juicebox stains on their Oxford shirts, teenagers with shoes that mom bought for them, hip grandparents clutching metro-sexual struts as they unleash their herd of offspring's offspring into the multiplex with chocolate smeared finger tips and sugar-kicked legs flailing...

I slouched, feeling dirty. Watching destruction porn. Or...disaster porn...what-have-you...

I felt like an animal rights activist picketing zoo exhibits, like Jack Kevorkian kicking over card-tables inside the games-and-activities room at the convalescent home, disruptive disputes from the snobby would-be-literati... I walked out of The Avengers at the 90-minute, assholiously-assured of myself that the final 37-minutes of the film would be nothing but explosions. I peed in the glossy bathroom, no one inside it save the robots that spat soap, shot water streams, blew hot air or oozed hand-sanitizer, waiting for me to finish and freshen...

I come back in and buildings are blowing up on the 90-ft screen. High definition.

The downer in me wants to harangue their insensitivity - but their gut reaction would be to suggest, maybe, that I politely fuck-off... And that's fine.

This world is not my own - I've allied with others... the groupthink of the Underground. But it isn't so black and white, hasn't been for a while, not even a century, really. I'm easily overwhelmed by the glossy-stares surrounding me, looking up at the screen as Rihanna saves them from holographic-horrors as big as monstrous tidal waves...the perverse curling of their mouths into satisfied smiles as fire-furled missiles zoom over roaring fields of gnashing bodies of aliens and chiseled hunks hi-yaw-ing their perfect, metallic-cut limbs in choreographed dances of green-screen augmented jujitsu - there's bullets everywhere but the names over the marquee will never get hit - extras are running through the streets, screaming their heads off as they chew-up the exploding scenery for the 2-seconds of screen time they get... Lava and flipped-over cars and fire-spewing space-jets that eradicate flying cars that can travel back in time to fix the fucked-up future that we've long-ago triggered some ominous countdown...

Shit gets blown to hell.

This guy does a back flip and lands on two dudes heads before breaking their necks with his telepathic powers that he's heretofore been ostracized for until some Wizard told him he held the key to saving the world and that he should train for an epic battle that he is destined to win and thereby win the super-model who kinda flashed flirty eyes at him in the first scene but wasn't sure if she wanted to date a guy who could read her thoughts...but that was before he killed the monster that leveled the Empire State Building by surfing atop a crashing helicopter and hanging-ten on the blades before sending their shards down its gaping gullet...

And boom.

Roll credits. Please turn in the 3-D glasses you just dropped two extra dollars for...

And I remember why I'm attracted to the other world. Emptier theatres with dust-coated carpets, chairs that haven't been replaced since 1998, and modest screen sizes - Boring movies that effectively use symbolism, Obscure movies that clash together experimental montages to comment upon the apathy of mainstream society, Weepy-movies where people live in shoe boxes and talk about their feelings and find deeper, cosmic meaning at unassuming locales like the laundromat.

And I can draw the parallels fairly easy between movie-worlds and music-worlds. These mega multiplexes are playing the mindless escapism while my financially-strapped art houses are playing the weird think-pieces. Mainstream terrestrial radio, the stuff that dominates Billboards charts and feeds fodder to the NOW That's What I Call "Music" -volume 49...

While I'm so far niched I'm like a spore clung to the over-turned pedal of a moss-shielded flower fed with just enough nutritional sunlight sucked up from its spot under an umbrella of brier burrs...

Some of us are so turned off by all this noise - And yes, we feel self-conscious that we're coming off as grumpy old codgers who are yelling at the clouds - Somewhere in the last twenty years or so, going to the movies, to the big blockbusters, became akin to seeing feather-maned, mascara-winked, pyrotechnic-pushed hair-metal bands inside a roaring sports arena - Cinema started down the path of away from substance 'cuz substance don't sell.

And I start thinking about the same things that irk me in music-world. It's an old complaint, a tired tale, to rail against the -all-flash- of frothy-pop radio.

Not all of us make our mind up so quickly on the new hit single from The Whatevers or the scandalous new music video from Those Other Guys or all the grammys piling up for the The Soundalikes, The Throwbacks and the Party-Starters...

"Oh that's just all crap..."

"But I like it..."

I excused myself to the bathroom and let them all have their explosions. There'll be nothing I can do to save the salivating mob - save for going home and listening to some of my favorite albums by artists who are currently slaving away inside musty basements to make their next minor masterpiece that will be seen as brilliant-in-my-eyes-and-maybe-the-eyes-of-a-few-dozen-others, but that's it... I'll listen to that sweet song from a pure heart and write this with jittery angst and tell myself that I'll cleanse my cultured side, detox my discerning arts' side by diving into highly provocative, experimentally rendered, confrontational works, dense, knotty, weird, eye-splitting, heart-wringing, soul-rattling works...

But who will I talk to about it later?

Dude, like that one scene where the hat-maker has to chase the peg-legged overweight woman out of his store because she tried to kidnap young Pierre, the nine-year-old runaway circus boy who took refuge there from the exploding austerities of war-torn Paris...and that montage where the rose-in-her-teeth turns into a knife and she starts throwing them fish flying through her kitchen window...

Like that scene...

We can't all really talk to each other about art, really, is what it comes down to...

Roving gangs - roving niches.

Are ID cards have grids with check-marks. Into this, but not into that. Into that, but not into this...  Oh,'re into that? Puh-leeeze. Oh, but wait, you're into this? That's like my favorite album of all time...let's get married.

But maybe if you subjected yourself to the degradation of disaster-porn this summer, and you want to commiserate, then, maybe we can get along - no matter how nuanced our respective niche. Tell me something good to get into, to cleanse myself. Tell me something that you like that might challenge me...

And I take heart in knowing that each niche is still out there, fighting the good fight - for whatever it's worth, the worth of "art's sake..." - Just as the mega-movie-plex peddles out fireball-flumed shit storms - endearing, local-level enterprises, ripe with sincerity and heartening devotion to fostering the creative spirit of the community, like, say the Mitten Movie Project, continue to persevere.

There's always the next weird song - and the next weird movie - giving me the inspiration to go on another weird rant... But the walls are up, higher than they were, it seems. People are palpably aware now that they are just not the type of person who reads The New Yorker. Or I only read the Sports section.

Those people, it felt to me, were all aligned together (against me?) in that theatre - enjoying their destruction porn. Blithe in the boom-booms.

And I decided to relax. The Underground grows every day, I reminded myself. There's no need to worry about what they're doing up top, on the Billboards, on the big screens.

They've got their noise.

We've got our own thing. You sure to find someone who'll get what you're getting-at... I think, reassuringly, that that's a good thing.

There ya go, Tom, that's the official 3rd-to-last post... Maybe we can put on a show?

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Bassett, Strange Boys, Strung and K.

{Bassett looks, learns, leaves the local Lost Generation; releases Here Lies the Lion that Lies in Your Bed LP – “first proper solo album” }

from this week's Metro Times

Mick Bassett looks back, admitting that when you’re 20 you think you’re John Lennon. But you’re not. You’re you. Beyond that, you’re only still becoming whatever-you-is…

Bassett had to get away from music for a minute, as he puts it.

He broke up his band and escaped to New York to sample that scene, coming back after four months not any-less disillusioned. He sought sanctuary from the hustle at U-M in Ann Arbor, focusing on himself, just focusing on something else, studying literature and trying to get back to why he started writing songs in the first place. What started with an acoustic guitar, a desk and a sparsely furnished bedroom somehow became too unwieldy, his band burgeoned, re-staffed then stalled.

Standing on the Magic Stick patio at the edge of the shuffleboard paint, hugged by a tight white t-shirt and red pants, dragging one last cigarette before he plays an abbreviated set of White Stripes songs for a special night of cover performances, Bassett’s the first to admit that he doesn’t know what the answer is…But no longer will he force an answer, no longer is he going to force a certain sound, style, or force any song. The trilling troubadour who cut his teeth as an 18-year-old at the tail-end of Detroit’s “garage” days posits whether he and many of the 20-somethings bandying about this town ten years on from that are part of something of a “lost generation” of musicians.

On one level, the post-recession/post-Internet-chaos is increasingly frustrating for any band. Success, Bassett says, is gauged more starkly than ever. But he’s channeling it. “I made music a big part of my life, but I believe in learning from your mistakes; I wouldn’t trade any of the time, though, because of the experience, the people I’ve met and because of how it helped me. I’m having more fun with music now, honestly.”

That said, “It is strange to me,” Bassett says, thinking back to those weird and exciting days in 2003 when Seymour Stein was checking out local shows by his high school band, the Dollfaces, “I don’t consider myself to be a veteran or something; I think I’m just starting. Strange, to be approached like an old man of the scene, like: ‘Oh, I remember the garage-days,’ heh…I feel like this is all in preparation for what I do next. That was the nice thing about starting out young, you can spend all this time and still be young.”

What Bassett will do next, immediately, is perform a spat of release shows for what he considers his first proper album, Here Lies the Lion that Lied in Your Bed, a collection of mostly new and some older, reworked pieces penned either in the meditative dismount post-New-York and in-between U-M classes, or songs that he never brought out live during his time leading the Marthas from ’06-’10, a collective that churned out a capricious blend of New Orleans tinged, wild-waltzed psychedelic folk.

“I could never find my voice with all that going on,” he says of the Marthas. The Detroit night sky yawns above him, stars bleached by light pollution while his bandmate, Anthony Kanakri (also of The Kickstand Band) puts on fake boobs to embody Meg White. Bassett thinks about this run that he sounds more than ready to make; he repeats the words: “comfortable, fun, confident…willing to change…”

Graduating with an English degree, he talks more about “writing” than he does music, divulging where his true focus is: “Writing is hard, it’s not fun, but…it kinda is. Not fun like going to the circus, but fun because it’s important to do, on some spiritual level, as a pressure-release.”

Lions was Bassett finding his voice, presenting it in its rawest form and cooing his crackly coo over the jangly purity of an acoustic guitar. “I think good things are coming, now, because I’m not afraid to leave any comfort zone. I don’t wanna get stuck being content with just having a good weekend. I’m always trying to learn. I’m always looking…”


In Video News:

Ann-Arbor based Nathan K. - with "Leave Them" --from his forthcoming album, Dishes (out June 26)

Detroit-based The High Strung - with "?Posible-o-Imposible?" - the title track from their new full length - which gets a proper release-party on May 19

Austin-TX- based The Strange Boys - who come to play the For The Hell of It Fest - at the Lager House on May 11  - offering "Doueh"

This may or may-not count as my 3rd-to-last- D.C.-post-ever... I don't think it will...but, then, it might...