the Horn Farm Paste Mob


The Desperate Bicycles – “Advice On Arrest”

Hear it on Youtube.

The Desperate Bicycles were a DIY band in the UK at the end of the 70s*, maybe known best for ending their first 7″ with a few seconds of silence and then the shout “it was easy, it was cheap– GO AND DO IT”.

Vocalist Danny Wigley starts this song with pretty standard political lyrics (the man on the street saying “if you haven’t done anything wrong, you have nothing to worry about”) but then matter-of-factly changes gears to a survival guide for those being arrested. I find it uniquely compelling how the same chorus can function as information (for a listener who does imagine they could ever be arrested) and as polemical narrative (for a listener who doesn’t).

* They get called “the first DIY band” a lot, though I don’t know how you’d verify that.

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Uffie – “MC’s Can Kiss”

Hear it on Youtube

I’m temporarily fascinated by this song. As Uffie says early on, “There’s two kinds of MCs out there / The ones who rap and the ones who don’t care / And frankly I don’t give a fuck”. In other words, she’s too tough to bother being good at music, and that toughness is (unspokenly) exactly what she thinks makes her qualified to be a rapper. That and record sales, anyway.

I feel like that’s the aesthetic argument implicit in a lot of Ol’ Dirty Bastard too. I mean, plenty of performers are more endearing for lacking technical skills, but most genres don’t have a convention of totally identifying some non-musical characteristic with being good at that genre. Maybe if Madonna or Britney wrote a clumsy song about how lazy she was, in a way that made laziness seem sexy?

There must be some other example involving slackerhood and mid-90s indie rock. It’s tough, though; I never felt like the looseness of “Slack Motherfucker” would have been self-described as incompetence by the band at the time. Maybe!

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I’m reeling; I’m drunk and triumphant

Foil – Reviver Gene (mp3)

From 1998′s Spread It All Around. By 1998 anyone who listened to “alternative rock” had their bullshit detector wound tight to flash NO NO NO if they were offered a UK guitar band who were “sort of grunge, but not really”. But this Scottish single deserved better (if not the rest of the album–I couldn’t get into it). The guitars sound like shoegazer guitars to me, only with too many notes in the main riff to blend in on a My Bloody Valentine record; singer Hugh Duggie has an initial twinkle-eyed cool that gives way to moments of Eddie Vedder snarl on low notes and little-kid glee on high notes, all without actually sounding versatile or anything. He’s just this guy, and for four minutes he is WINNING AT LIFE.

Which is the real reason this song is not plausibly marketable as grunge: it screams and grinds a little, but it kind of makes me want to hit a home run and then eat ice cream.

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all spiffed up and looking ideal

I think I first heard about the Balloon Man from Fluxblog a few years ago. Here’s all I can tell you: forty years ago, Bill Morrison had a ‘difficult’ stand-up comedy act involving balloon animals that was briefly successful, and in 1971 he recorded a bunch of one-minute “bio-vignettes” hoping to get them on radio. It didn’t happen, though in the years since he has spent a decade or two as a cult figure on California public access TV. The mp3 below is three of those vignettes strung together, and if you listen to it… well, I can’t promise that if you listen to it you’ll never be the same. But if you DON’T listen to it, then you’ll ALWAYS be the same, and who wants that?

Bill Morrison – Popped Blue Balloon Moods / Get A Balloon / Just Coats With Folks

The Mister Morrison Show on YouTube: 1 2

The CD’s page at CDBaby (out of stock right now)

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we’ve seen the things you do (repost)

The first time I posted this, the links didn’t work. Sorry! Try this.

While I liked other songs on Bluebird (Jagjaguwar, 2000), it was only “Bride” that made Sarah White’s name stay in my head long after she seemed to vanish from the indie world. Her voice sounds like a coffee-table puzzle in which seven different kinds of defeat interlock to form a surprisingly-shaped contentment, which is half of why I loved the song; the other half is the way the guitar acts as the main rhythmic element, constantly anticipating itself with the sound of fingers on strings.

So that was a long time ago, and I guess I burned the blueprint of that song into my brain thoroughly enough that the presence of drums on her newish album White Light (Antenna Farm, 2006) is a constant surprise. Every single whack of the snare drum sounds potentially deafening, like, man, I’m glad that guy is all the way in the corner, or else I’m pretty sure it would overwhelm Sarah White’s voice.

But as I said, “or else I’m pretty sure it would overwhelm her” is White’s specialty.

Sarah White – Bride
Sarah White & The Pearls – Spoken Word

MySpace | home page

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we’ve seen the things you do

While I liked other songs on Bluebird (Jagjaguwar, 2000), it was “Bride” that made Sarah White’s name stay in my head long after she seemed to vanish from the indie world. Her voice sounds like a coffee-table puzzle in which seven different kinds of defeat interlock to form a surprisingly-shaped contentment, which is half of why I loved the song; the other half is the way the guitar acts as the main rhythmic element, constantly anticipating itself with the sound of fingers on strings.

So that was a long time ago, and I guess I burned the blueprint of that song into my brain thoroughly enough that the presence of drums on her newish album White Light (Antenna Farm, 2006) is a constant surprise. Every single whack of the snare drum sounds potentially deafening, like, man, I’m glad that guy is all the way in the corner, or else I’m pretty sure it would overwhelm Sarah White’s voice.

But as I said, “or else I’m pretty sure it would overwhelm her” is White’s specialty as a singer.

Sarah White – Bride
Sarah White & The Pearls – Spoken Word

MySpace | home page

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met up with six sick tweakers and a seventh grade teacher

The Brokerdealer – “The Last Ones Up Become Lovers” (mp3)

Craig Finn of The Hold Steady, over a Kruder & Dorfmeister-esque backing track (actually provided by a Twin Cities producer named Matt Arnold). This was done around when Lifter Puller split up, and it still sounds weird today. When Finn is in a rock band, his characters seem to have little pockets of significance following them around: they may or may not be the star of the show, but the camera is always on them*. It’s that kind of obligatory attention from the listener that makes excess seem glamorous sometimes, and this song has none of it.

It helps that my drug of choice in high school was sleep deprivation. Despite the other chemicals Finn’s gang take in this song, the feeling it focuses on is the same one I remember from a lot of Saturday nights just staying awake, when around 4 AM your body temperature plummets and everything seems to be made of glass.

[From the first untitled Brokerdealer EP, recorded in 2000.]

* Which I think is why it’s so creepy when one of them really manages to take him/herself out of the picture. There’s a Hold Steady b-side called “Hot Fries” with the stanza “I went to your party and your party got clever / I put a milkcrate on my head and surrendered in the corner / Some borderline whore asked me how I’m liking California / I just cried”. It always freaks me out a little.

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i am the destroyer! i live in your fingers!

Frente – “The Destroyer”

This was the one good track on Shape, Frente’s 1996 follow-up to Labour Of Love. I believe that unlike its predecessor, this album’s songs didn’t have the benefit of many years accumulating and evolving on EPs and singles. This is one of those mistakes the music industry seems unable to keep from making over and over again. (For another example, the speed at which Lady Sovereign actually writes new material suggests that if her label makes her put out a second full album next year, it’ll be one song and 40 minutes of belching noises. But that doesn’t mean they won’t try.)

Frente trivia: They were actually the third group to cover “Bizarre Love Triangle” as an indiepop song with cute female vocals. They weren’t even the first in their country– Even As We Speak did a version in 1987. The middle one was by Devine & Statton, one of Alison Statton’s several post-Young Marble Giants projects.

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what’s my worst mistake? aww, I can’t decide

Adam Schmitt – “Waiting To Shine” (mp3)

From that school of power-pop that places a premium on ‘clean’ production. During the chorus, the guitar notes cut in and out so sharply it almost feels like Mirwais Ahmadzai’s brilliant, choppy production on Madonna’s Music. Almost. The lyrics don’t mean anything, but that’s not the point either.

This sort of music has a whole cult out there on the internet, waiting for those darn kids to get tired of rap and listen to ‘real music’ again. But (maybe I’m off base here) it seems to me like the deal is not that listeners used to be more sedate and thus appreciate power-pop better– it’s that sensitive guys with guitars like Schmitt, or Matthew Sweet, or Tommy Keene, used to rock MORE than their modern counterparts.

(Trying to confirm or deny this theory, I just looked up John Mayer’s Wikipedia page, from which I learned that he has a Stevie Ray Vaughan tattoo and is a synaesthete.)

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i am lost but you are not found, and i don’t like that

Baby Ray – “Sorry” (mp3)

This song is in 6 time, though even that feels like sleight of hand– the vocalist and band are running down different tracks often enough that I keep expecting to find a beat missing, but no, it goes along at a steady rhythm for the whole song. I think.

Similarly, the lyrics are straightforwardly bitter (I think), and yet the guy sounds conflicted. This band has always made me slightly uneasy.

[From 1998's Monkeypuzzle.]

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