Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Ty Segall on Thursday at Walter's

The title says it all. I know the show info is out there. This post isn't going to be incredibly insightful or novel, but I wanted to personally take the time to introduce you all to Segall's music if you haven't gotten the chance to listen. Segall, member of many bands, now a solo musician, has perfected the art of making 2-3 minute gritty garage rock tracks, much in the tradition of the late Jay Reatard sans the fake British accent.

Segall's ethic and recordings are an example of lo-fi done well. By that I mean: a) these songs would still be good even if they weren't bathed in an foggy sonic mist of fuzz and hisses b) they actually sound like they were recorded  with lo-fi techniques, not recorded in a multi-million dollar sound lab and piped into a plethora of plugins to give the veneer of lo-fi-ness. The music has a lot of integrity and is raw as hell. Sometimes the words are really hard to make out but the groove is never lost.
Cambridge-scene pastiches like "Fuzzy Cat" sound like they're being played off a dusty record from 30-40 years ago. The strange, child-like lyrics on this one only make it better, making it sound like Syd Barret was somehow involved.

Black Lips-inspired (forgive me if they're not but I sure hear some echoes!) Houston rockers Mikey and the Drags will be opening. Come early. They're good too. Thursday night at Walter's. Ten bucks.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Jandek on Corwood

I ordered five more Jandek albums recently: two classic studio albums from his reclusive period and three live albums. The more I listen, the more I get sucked into the mystery; the more I also realize that Jandek has a lot to say. My first plunge was an uncomfortable one. Listening to the music by myself at night gave me goosebumps. Now I'm a little more at ease when listening.

Before getting to album reviews I have to talk about the only Jandek documentary out there, "Jandek on Corwood". I bought it with the idea that it might shed light on the cryptic crooner but instead it consisted mostly of people talking out of their asses and implying that Jandek was a sociopath. It did include some useful parts, like some people who actually had phone and mail contact with Jandek. It also included some footage of an interview with the guy who had an actual phone interview with the representative. Also, the honorable Doctor Demento had some cameos, which I think is very appropriate given all he's done for outsider music.

However, the bulk of it was people speculating about Jandek and maligning his character by going on the assumption that the man is a looney-tune nutcase, something that I disagree with highly from what I've observed. I had the privilege of shaking his hand and thanking him for playing at Big Star Bar and he didn't scamper off into the shadows or try to bite me, something that the documentary would almost have you expect. He was nothing but kind. Just because someone creates unusual, arcane music does not mean that the person is psychotic. That also goes for his love of privacy. Maybe he has social anxiety, maybe he has another role in life such that he wants to keep the two separated. I know that I'm speculating too but only to prove that there are other possible explanations for his behavior. To jump to the most sensational theories will sell DVDs but I don't think it helps us understand Jandek any better.

The other irritating maxim put forward in the documentary is that without being reclusive Jandek would have no fans and no appeal. How unfair! I know his music is not for everyone but come on, that's a glib comment if I ever heard one. It was some lady who works in a record store. Whatever. Rant finished. There were parts of it I really liked but too many things pissed me off to give it an A. That and it was shot only a year or two before Jandek started making live appearances all over the world. I think that blows a pretty good size hole in the sociopath theory. It would have definitely changed the nature of the discussion.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Dwarr at Walter's

Black Bananas were outrageous, Magic Markers noisy and brash, but the whole of last night I was anticipating the arrival of the very last act, the elusive Duane Warr. Writing under the name Dwarr, Duane has played solo since the 80s but never toured until his first gig in Austin, Saturday night. After Bananas finished, Duane could be seen pacing around, sporting a big smile, clad in a pair of intensely elevated black leather boots. He had no roadies to help him so I assisted him in hoisting his giant Marshall cab onto the stage. 

Duane's vocals borrowed from bluesy the baritone of Ozzy Osbourne but left out the shrill highs. His voice never cracked once which is pretty remarkable given the intense concentration he also paid to his white hot lead guitar playing while singing. He melted every face in the room with energy to spare.

Although this is a solo project and most of the songs were written on a four track with nothing more than a session drummer, Duane did have help from two other younger musicians. Between each song, the muscular metal-head revealed himself to be a warm, avuncular, Southern gentleman, never missing an opportunity to tell us all background on a song's history or a personal story. I've read certain critics referring to Duane's style and content as antisocial but nothing could be further from the truth. He is probably one of the nicest performers I've ever had the pleasure to observe.

At this point, Dwarr's set list consists mostly of older material Duane wrote in the 80s and some stuff a little more recently but this tour isn't to promote anything brand new. Drag City did however, recently re-release his dramatic debut "Starting Over". The show's highlight was clearly a soulful and foreboding rendition of fan favorite "Gates of Hell" in which Warr reminds us all to keep on the straight and narrow. Who knows when or if he will tour again, given his history. I don't see why he wouldn't though, he's in better shape than I ever will be and has the pipes of someone half his age.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Duane Warr plays first dates ever

Dwarr (Duane Warr) is an enigmatic figure to say the least. Rumors float around the web about his turbulent past as a reformed drug user but I haven't discovered too much to back that up. Similarly to our city's beloved Jandek, he's been active for decades without performing a live date (or at least that's what I've come to understand from his publicists). Tonight at Houston's Walter's on Washington, Dwarr will be performing the second gig of his first tour ever.

"Starting Over" is his first record (recently re-released by Drag City) and it is a cornucopia (no Sabbath pun intended) of gloom/doom metal with very phased-out Ozzy-like vocals. The title track in particular reminds me of possibly one of my favorite Sabbath tunes, the jazzy, genteel, but also very baron and haunting "Planet Caravan" off "Paranoid". While plenty of metal performers are able to match the technical abilities of Sabbath's classic lineup there are almost none, save Warr, who can contemplate loneliness, darkness and desolation in a similar fashion. That and the guy's got serious guitar chops.You can get this re-released gem through Drag City. Be there tonight if you can. It will rock for sure.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

A Post-Punk DJ I Shall Be

My friend (and brilliant IDM artist) Pulse Rifle is setting up a weekly music showcase here in Houston and you are all invited. I will be DJing for the first time in my life but all I'll really be doing is playing a bunch of music I hope you've never heard and pray you're impressed by my selection.
I can promise that I will triumph over my music blogger tendencies and fight urges to play selections off of Pet Sounds or three hour Phillip Glass recordings.

The playlist I've compiled will be (surprised looks and spit-takes all around) composed mostly of post-punk songs each of which I hope has a strong enough dance component to distract people from dwelling on how self-indulgent my themed playlist really is. Here is the event page for any of you interested in coming out to our little soiree!