September 28, 2002

Toothpaste 2000 "Catch-22"

For a brief moment, I thought that this Seattle trio was actually another wonderful Seattle pop band, the Fastbacks.
Having never heard anything by Toothpaste 2000 and happily having heard plenty of Fastbacks records in the past, I kept thinking--hoping--that the sadly-defunct purveyors (nay, inventors?) of indie-pop had regrouped with a brand-new name. Sadly, this was not the case, and I'm going to have to continue to live in a world without the Fastbacks. Still, the vocal interplay between Frank Bednash and Donna Esposito certainly recalls the greatest moments of Kurt Bloch, Lulu Gargiulo and Kim Warnick!

Really, though, Toothpaste 2000 have that retro-punk sound down. From the first note of "Walking Out The Door," Tp2K (as they're commonly known) kick up a wonderful blend of 60s mod/r&b rock, 70s power pop and 80s indie pop that never, ever once sounds dated. After digging around Catch 22, this Seattle trio's sixth album, some real jewels have been found. From the crunchy intro, to the bittersweet "There's Always Something Going On," the wonderfully mellow, touching "When I'm With You" and the full-on rock onslaught of "Crying In The Morning," these three really cover every possible style and variation of power-pop, and every one of their songs sounds nothing less than wonderful. Of course, with the sheer size of Catch-22, it would be very hard not to get a variety of styles and sounds.

About the only real complaint I have with Catch 22 is its size. While the entire album is great, at twenty-two songs, it's simply too much to take at one sitting. (That's a great pun on the length of the album in the title, by the way!) The intricate details are lost, and songs that might have been standouts had the album been smaller are simply lost amidst the bulk of material. Don't get me wrong; the songs are there, and the songs are great, it's just easy to get bogged down after twelve or thirteen songs. It wouldn't have hurt the record to have divided it into two albums, as, surprisingly, the resulting two albums would have been extremely strong--perhaps stronger individually.

Toothpaste 2000 is a power pop-punk treasure, and desipte its girth, Catch 22 is a great record, and it's great to know that some bands out there haven't made melody and attitude mutually exclusive. Methinks it's best to divide this album up in chunks, or, perhaps, set the CD-player on random mix, just so you don't overdose of too much sweetness. You could do much, much worse than Toothpaste 2000, and there's no way you could possibly go wrong with Catch 22. Just don't overindulge.

--Joseph Kyle

September 24, 2002

Arto Lindsay "Invoke"

As much fun as I’m having being an indie-rock fan in 2002, I still
occasionally wish that I was born a decade or two earlier so that I could observe firsthand the musical movements that inspired so many of the bands that I listen to today. Instead of having my skull metaphorically cracked open watching US Maple open for Pavement at Stubb’s in 1999, I could’ve watched No Wave pioneers DNA in some seedy Soho art gallery back in 1979. From what little I’ve heard from this criminally undocumented band, I could visualize front man Arto Lindsay yelping and strangling his guitar like a two-fingered banshee while Thurston Moore takes notes from the audience. Yes, Lindsay really does cast that large a shadow over the outer fringes of rock; even Blonde Redhead, who has only recently shaken off its reputation as a Sonic Youth tribute act, is named after a DNA song. Nostalgia for things that I was born too late to witness is quite futile, though, especially when elder statesmen like Lindsay continue to make challenging music to this day. If you compare A Taste of DNA with the solo material he’s made twenty years later, you’d be surprised how far his artistic restlessness has taken him, as well as how little of his past he’s actually left behind.

An undercurrent of dissonance runs through nearly every song on Invoke: the string scraping and pitch-shifted vocals of “Predigo,” the shortwave squeaks and insect noises on “You Decide,” the reversed junkyard percussion that overtakes “Clemency,” and the ring-modulated fret noises that close “Uma” are just a few examples that reveal themselves upon close listening. Although Arto’s noise fetish hasn’t completely disappeared, it is obvious that he’s an older, calmer guy now. His abrasive textures don’t slap you in the face; instead, they creep behind your back and tap you on your shoulder when you least expect it. With each album, Lindsay gets better and better at fusing Brazilian pop, contemporary R&B, and outré rock into an indescribable whole. This makes Invoke an easier listen than his previous (and equally brilliant) solo album, 1999’s Prize. It also helps that there’s not an off-key yelp to be found on these songs, for Arto’s current singing voice is soothing and stately enough to make David Grubbs sound like Tim Kinsella in comparison.

The first song, “Illuminated,” is a portrait of man with a one-track mind in which Arto sings in English over a neo-soul backdrop of muted keyboards, choppy guitar, and spare drum programming. A Brazilian-born man who moved to America as a teenager, Arto remains a gifted and concise lyricist whether he writes in English or in his native tongue. The lyrics of “Predigo” are the famous last words of a prophet who awaits an untimely death; they’re sung entirely in Portuguese, and it’s telling that the lyrics lose a bit of their impact when translated into English. “Ultra Privileged” is a kiss-off to a flamboyant, shallow woman. The clarinet interjections and jazzy drumming suggest what the Red Krayola would sound like if it wasn’t so hell-bent on self-sabotage. The album’s title track is as close to a pop song comes to becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy. Its lyrics could be used as a manifesto by any artist worth his or her salt:“I list your numerable and innumerable parts/All your limbs/Together in a simple motion.” When Arto sighs “I invoke” in the song’s chorus, a swooping, dramatic violin part enters, summoning the grandeur of an artist’s creation coming to life instantaneously.

The album’s one-two punch of “In the City That Reads” and “Delegada” outline the extremes of Lindsay’s sound. To be blunt, “City” is a complete mess; the percussion sounds like power tools drilling into the concrete, the guitars and keyboards play Morse code with each other, and weary chain-gang moans jump in and out of the mix. All of the instruments seem to operate independently of each other, occasionally exploding into some kind of marching-band fanfare. Needless to say, I LOVE THIS SONG! “Delegada,” on the other hand, is an acoustic ballad with Portuguese lyrics about a beautiful girl who’s far from a morning person. “Uma,” like “Illuminated,” exalts a unique person with an unshakable purpose. Two songs later, the protagonist of “Unseen” pleas for the return of a friend who has abandoned him as woozy violins weep and wander from one speaker to the other. That song’s despairing mood is instantly broken when album closer “Beija-me” begins. Listening to Arto sing about the sweetness and power of his lover’s kiss will make any red-blooded male want to grab the nearest pretty girl and start doing a tango…at least until the song takes an abrupt twenty-second funk detour.

Despite, or maybe because of, Arto’s refusal to stick to any one genre, mood, or language, Invoke remains a coherent and compelling listen from start to finish. It’s a shame that his Ani Difranco connection hasn’t resulted in wider exposure. It would be haughty to assume that a good review on a minuscule Web site would tip the scales that heavily in his favor, but somebody’s got to sing his praises. As unconventional as Invoke may be, I honestly feel that it would make a snug fit for any Adult Contemporary radio station’s play list. That’s wishful thinking at best, but you should take my advice and buy this CD anyway!

---Sean Padilla

September 21, 2002

Five Second Flat

Crunchy noisy indie-rock with a hint of math is something that usually puts me off. I'm not a 21-year old college student anymore, and I've lost my taste for a lot of those kinds of things. That doesn't mean that I dislike the music; if something's good, I'll enjoy it, regardless of sounds or styles. It's just that the ratio of good math-rock bands to bad is rather small. Maybe my dislike of "math rock" stems from some childhood issues. See, my father was a college math professor, math was my worst subject throughout school, maybe I subconsciously hate my father.....who knows?

Five Second Flat didn't strike me very much the first time I listened to it. Maybe through years of Touch and Go and My Pal God-related releses, I've become immune to such sounds, making things seem so "been there, done that" upon first listen. Of course, the fact that there's been a glut of not-very-interesting mathy-rocky bands didn't help either. After initially dismissing Five Second Flat, I felt like I was being unfair to simply lump them in to the pile'o'poo that indie-rock's produced. I'm glad I gave them a second listen. See, these guys have a resume of other excellent bands (kilowatthours, the fontaine troups), and I just felt wrong about dismissing them so early on.

Five Second Flat starts off with "Oe," which builds up with a nice little cymbal flush. Insert trademark herky-jerky guitars playing off of each other. Throw in some singing that's somewhere between muddy and screaming. Extend for several minutes, and you've got the formula. Follow it through "Too Cool for School" and "I'm My Own Smartest Guy In The World." Take an abrupt halt at "Lou Diamond Phillips." Why stop right there? Because it's a live track.

See, there's something about a live setting that transforms music such as this from merely bland experimentation and studio noodling, especially when the musicians have some damn fine chops. What sounded like angular riffing and complicated guitar parts in the studio transform into a new beast entirely when played live. Five Second Flat are probably a band that's better live than in the studio, and the factors and variables and random weirdness of a live show can really add an extra dimension. Maybe it's that they're trying to go for a live feel in the studio, or maybe it's because studio recording makes these raw songs a little less raw, but Five Second Flat is saved by that live cut. Imagine a maze on a piece of paper. Sure, you can go through it no problem. Now, imagine yourself actually IN the maze. Isn't so easy to navigate, is it? It's the third dimension that really brings out the power and intensity and complexities of a maze, and the same's to be said of a band. Kudos to Five Second Flat for recognizing this and including a live track. It won't cure any aversion you may have to math rock, but it won't be a total waste of your time, either.

(P.S.--Go to their website at to download some really awesome live numbers, including the one included on this record.)

--joseph kyle

September 16, 2002

I Am The World Trade Center "The Tight Connection"

I have a major bone of contention with I Am the World Trade Center. After that one day one year ago last week, everything "changed." Some shallow-minded people became so obsessed with the idea of not being "offensive" that any kind of mention of the World Trade Center should be censored. About the only justified self-censorship that happened was the Coup's decision to change their artwork--simply because it eerily LOOKED like what had just happened. Other forms--such as removing scenes that included the former twin towers, and let's not talk about the whole Anthrax thing--seemed absurd.

Then there was the case of I Am the World Trade Center. What to do about the name? Certainly, it would be understood why the twosome would have reservations about their name now. So, out of respect to the tragedy, they shortened their name to I Am The World. Okay, I could accept that. They did not tour, and released only one minor, obscure 7" under that name. Then, a few months after the band made what seemed to be ALL the newspapers, they changed the name BACK, and issued a statement of how keeping the name the same would be a testament to the former glory of the building.

Why does this bother me, though? Because it smacks of opportunism. Sure, with a name that included the former World Trade Center in it, the then-obsessed popular-culture eyes of the country would be watching this little band. Of course, changing the name would get them in all the papers, and it did. All those previous records--including loss leaders like vinyl--quickly sold out, I'm sure, driven by this perverse collector's attitude that, hey, this little band who did something...these releases will be worth money some day. Now that they actually released an album, they've got the little story that will most assuredly get them reviewed. I'll be fair to say that not being in their shoes in such an odd, tragic situation, maybe I'm missing something here--but as far as I see this issue, I can't let it go, because it seems like the tragedy of that fateful day last year seems to be the surefire angle a band needs to "make it big."

To be slightly fair to the band, it must have been a tough name to live with at the time. The world became obsessed, it seems, with this event and everything that the building used to be. My major contention, now that I think about it, is that the band's name change seems so...stupid. If you named your band in honor of something well BEFORE its destruction--and I do recall pre-9/11 discussion in interviews about their name being a tribute--then why change it? Okay, I can understand why they would change it...but to use the "we wanted to pay tribute to the former glory that was the World Trade Center" argument is not only short-sighted, but it also smells of something else...especially when the world is already altering the past in order to be less "offensive."

Let's set this argument aside, though. The Tight Connection...*sigh*. If only it could have been as grand as the buildings used to be, things might be different. "The Postcard" kicks off the album, and it's a rather good dance song. Not terribly original, mind you, but rather pleasant in a 90s techno meets 80s synth-pop kind of way. Too bad it goes downhill from there. "Big Star" follows, and it's okay, but from there...The Tight Connection turns into one big, indistinguishable record of synth-pop. Two covers, of the Stone Roses' "Shoot you Down" and Blondie's "Call Me," aren't bad, but they betray more about the band than they probably should, and instead of paying tribute, merely make the band seem even more derivative.

These arguments--they wouldn't be an issue if a., the record had been slated for release at least a month or two after that sad day, and b. the music wasn't so non-descript and downright boring. It's one of the longest less-than-40 minute records I've heard in a while. I've heard that they're a good band to see at a club, and maybe that's true--but The Tight Connection fails to make a connection. I just hope that the publicity that they generated from the saga of their name is worth it.

---Joseph Kyle

September 15, 2002

Will Johnson "murder of tides"

I'll say it right now, and I'll say it unapologetically. Will Johnson is one of Texas' best writers. Ever heard of him? I hope you have. He's made a ton of records with his band Centro-matic (literally) and he's currently expanded his writing into not only another band, South San Gabriel, but now, with Murder of Tides, he's even decided to go solo--and solo is indeed the word for Murder of Tides. If his m.o. is to be understood, Centro-matic is his rock band, South San Gabriel focuses on the mellower moments of Centro-matic (it's also the title of one of their albums), and the solo album is to be taken literally. Other than the assistance of Centro-matic buddy Scott Danbom, he's really solo here.

Reportedly, this was recorded on Matt Pence's front porch back in the hot, hazy summer of 2001. Even if it's not true, I'd belive it anyway, because Murder of Tides is an extremely quiet record. Hell, at times, you can even hear the crickets chrip and the birds sing and the twilight noises so common with this part of the state.These noises bookend the album rather nicely, creating the front porch feeling. Murder of Tides is an instrumental record that just happens to have vocals, and as such, is more a record of mood than content.

Not that you would mind, really. In fact, it's the little things that make this record really nice. It's folk-sounding, but it's a blues record--the blues being subject to what my pa said was one simple rule: "if you have to ask, you don't know. You feel the blues, and you know it when you hear it." Maybe it's due to my raising, but to me, this is the ultimate Saturday night record, where you're sitting on the porch, with corn liquor in hand, smokes in pocket, and the dog at your leg. If you aren't from East Texas, you wouldn't understand. Or maybe you would. It's a rural thing. God bless Will Johnson for gettin' in touch with this side of his muse.

--Joseph Kyle

Victory at Sea "The Good Night"

Q: What do you call someone who hangs around musicians?

A: A drummer.

Of course, the above is just one of many jokes that musicians make about drummers on a daily basis. Drummers are often portrayed as the redheaded stepchildren of rock bands. However, it must be acknowledged that many bands owe much of their worth to the quality of their drummers. Consider three examples from the world of independent rock. Sleater-Kinneyís ascendance into greatness began when Janet Weiss (whom I like to describe as ìKeith Moon with breastsî) replaced their mediocre original drummer. The Olive Group envisioned themselves as a younger, snappier version of the Sea and Cake, but the former bandís incompetent drummer ensured that its music would never approach the latter bandís brilliance. Last but not least, thereís Damon Che, formerly of Don Caballero and currently in Bellini; any band that this man donates his talents to is worth at least a cursory listen.

Victory at Seaís entire discography is a case study on how crucial drummers can be in a rock bandís sound. So far, theyíve recorded each of their albums with a different drummer, and although terse, tense rock has always remained their M.O., there are still minor differences between each album and its predecessors. Christina Files played on their 1999 debut, The Dark is Just the Night. She wasnít (and still isnít) the fastest or most technically accomplished drummer on the planet, but she knew exactly what to play at any given moment to maximize a songís emotional impact. Her rhythms dragged, but they were the perfect backdrop against front woman Mona Elliottís moping and moaning. After Christina left last year to work with Mary Timony, the band recorded Carousel with Fin Moore (whom I like to describe as ìJanet Weiss without breastsî). Finís playing was so speedy and limber that for the first time, one could actually mosh to the bandís songs.

When Carl left the band shortly after Carouselís release, I feared for the bandís future, as I couldnít imagine their material sounding nearly as good without him. Although the bandís third album, The Good Night, partially confirms my suspicions, it is still worth checking out. The press kit for this album states that their current drummer, Carl Eklof, ìhad arrived, emoting like original drummer Files but also pushing the envelope like Moore did.î To me, this sounds like a fancy way of saying that heís better than the former, but not quite as good as the latter; at the very least, that sums up my assessment of his playing. However, Eklof doesnít get much of a chance to make an impression, as most of the second half of this album is drum-less. Overall, this is Victory at Seaís most subdued collection of songs yet. This doesnít work entirely to their benefit, but it would be wise to mention the albumís positives first.

The Good Night starts off very strong. Although the focus remains on Monaís world-weary vocals, elliptical lyrics, and deliberate guitar strumming, the mix is tastefully augmented by violin, trumpet, and piano. I am happy to note that after recording this album, the band added a full-time violinist to its lineup. ìMary in June,î a paean to a bored, isolated friend, climaxes with a chorus in which Monaís voice and Taro Hatanakaís violin compete to see which instrument weep louder. Mona has become more courageous as a performer, reaching for notes that one wouldnít normally expect her husky voice to hit, and it adds a sense of drama to some of the songs that borders on camp. ìCanyonî is an extended metaphor about two people who keep shutting each other out of their lives. In ìOld Harbor,î Mona uses class disparity as an illustration of how rarely the grass ends up being greener on the other side. ìBorn and raised at the minimum cost,î she sings; ìPut us on a bus to a separate place/we found out itís the same fucked up place.î ìProper Timeî is a final goodbye to an old friend that sounds more stern than sad, and ìSunny Daysî critiques people who never notice trouble until it stares them in the face. All of the aforementioned songs rank as album highlights.

The second half of the record, however, could have seriously used Finís overplaying to spruce things up. "A Song for Brianî is nothing more than two chords and wistful small talk: ìItís nice to hear/youíre feeling better/youíre getting married/your brotherís fineÖî ìKellyís Landingî is a directionless instrumental that canít decide whether it wants to be a piano fugue or a field recording. Album closer ìFireflyî wastes an evocative vow of vengeance towards an ex-lover on a chord progression so basic that I keep waiting for someone to play ìChopsticksî on the piano before the song ends. Some songs on Carousel also suffered from an inability to tell the difference between spare and underwritten, but you could always let yourself be distracted by Finís endless soloing. Thereís no such relief to be found on The Good Night. Nonetheless, once Victory at Sea actually settle on a lineup, they can work on developing a more fleshed-out approach to songwriting, and as the best songs on all three of their albums indicate, the results should be uniformly stellar.

---Sean Padilla

Ooberman "Running Girl"

There's something really cool about Ooberman. From what I understand, they're a popular band in England, having received a lot of high praise from the masters of musical press over there. They've been making music for years, and have perfected their craft, much to the enjoyment of their growing fanbase. Of course, being a young, talented and popular British band can only mean they've never been heard of over here. Tragic, that. See, Ooberman are good. Really good. If this mini-album is any indication, then it may just be that Ooberman are secretly one of the most intelligent bands in England.

Running Girl starts off, appropriatly, with the title song. It's an interesting little number, with a neat little vocal trick that makes it oh-so-catchy. In fact, I think it's the great Radiohead song that they never wrote, or, more correctly, the hit they WOULD have written, had Thom Yorke developed some sense of social skills, and not decided to turn himself into a "serious artist" who decided not to make music that people would enjoy. Indeed, Ooberman are making serious music, but at least they're seemingly having a good time in the process.

After the initial blast of goodness, Running Girl makes a small slip by moving into "Flashing Lights at Sunset," a folksy number that puts a halt on the energy of "Running Girl." Luckily, it's the only acoustic folky number on the album, because it's a bit of a bore. While it's true that almost everything on Running Girl is folky, it's done in such an interesting way that it's not really a problem--becuase Running Girl is actually PROGRAMMED in an interesting way that makes the lesser songs seem not as weak. I'd even say that this is post-folk, building a new sound in this post-OK Computer world that we live in. At times, I felt a bit like I'm listening to a younger, hipper version of the Lilac Time, which isn't anywhere near being a bad thing.

Ooberman are post-jazz, post-rock, post-genre music for a mature generation. It's good to know that as I get older, that there are bands that are willing to eschew style and simply make good, enjoyable music that isn't aiming for any particular genre definition. Running Girl is the sound of a band creating and maturing in its own groove. More bands should practice what Ooberman are preaching. As this is an American version of a record that came out last year, there are two additional tracks added--"Dolphin Blue," a beautiful little number that deserved to be saved from obscurity, and a remix of "Running Girl" that sounds almost demo-like and isn't particularly interesting or rewarding. I'm glad they've taken the time to venture into America, and if Running Girl is any indication, theirs is a sound that'll be most welcome.

---Joseph Kyle

September 08, 2002

Spoon "Kill the Moonlight"

Expectations. They can kill a record. Spoon are a band who have, through a continual series of events, created expectations. From the excellence of their debut Telephono, the Spoon fan sat in expectation of their next big record. Luckily, they hit a grand slam with A Series of Sneaks. Then....nothing. After having some label issues, the loyal Spoon fan had to wait nearly three years for their follow-up, Girls Can Tell, which had already been in the can for a year and a half by the time it saw release.

Now, with a loving, supportive label, Spoon has something they've never really had: stability. This stability frees up the need to prove themselves. Their previous album, Girls Can Tell, was an excellent record, but in the face of the all-out abandon of their previous records, over time it grew more sedate and eventually stale. Not that the songs are bad, but it felt like Spoon was holding back its maturity. Of course, in the face of all of the label problems, such restraint is easily understood. Who could blame them for wanting to make a warm, mature record, especially considering all the crap they'd been through? Instead of the uncertainty of Girls Can Tell, Kill the Moonlight is a cool, unrestrained, and, damn it, PURE experience.

Kill the Moonlight starts off, however, on a rather weak note. The keyboard driven "Small Stakes"--which was up in mp3 form, as well as featured on the recent Merge Records sampler, Survive and Advance, Volume One--could easily pass for a Bob Pollard outtake. It's one of Spoon's weakest moments, but don't fear, for it's also Kill the Moonlight's weakest moment. And, my oh my, the record kicks in to hyperdrive afterwards! Your head will literally swim by the time you get to "Stay Don't Go" and "Johnathon Fisk," you'll realize that Kill the Moonlight is a shameless whore of a record--slutty and gritty and dirty--and something you'll totally want at your next party.

The big story with Spoon 2002 would be the fact that they've finally melded all of their past styles--from the raw moments of A Series of Sneaks to the slower, piano-driven moments of Girls Can Tell--into one cohesive, strong, powerhouse of a sound. Like A Series of Sneaks it's one helluva driving album, not stopping for one second to pause. From the piano-driven "The Way We Get By" to the human beatbox of "Stay Don't Go" and the mellow moments of "Don't Let it Get You Down" and the closing "Vittorio E," this is the Spoon you've always known and loved, except all grown up and gettin' rather naughty.

If it sounds like I'm rambling, you're right. I'm giddy with excitement. I've always felt that Britt and company had a really, really great record in them, and I've been proven right. Kill the Moonlight is a modern indie-rock jewel: it's clearly rooted in classic rock, yet it's not sticking around for the jaded hipsters to scream "irony!!". One of the few records where I just have to break down and say, honestly, that you'll only be doing yourself a great, grand favor by buying and jamming to it on your car radio.

---Joseph Kyle

September 05, 2002

Word association fun with Harper Lee's Keris Howard!

Harper Lee

A great name for an author ... a poor name for a band? Seemed like a good idea at the time, but the more people ask why "Harper Lee?" the more I think it was a daft choice. If we were ever to get famous we would probably get sued. That cools one's ambitions. Better though than "George Orwell" or "Charles Dickens", other possibilities that I was playing around with in 1999. Why authors? Because it makes us sound bookish and bright...though you may have noticed I only consider writers who appear regularly on the school curriculum. We have read books outside of school set texts - honest.


A great name for a Railway Children song...a poor name for a band? Well, it seemed appropriate at the time - a cynical attempt to get Matt and Clare at Sarah to play our demo...which worked. People say we still sound like Brighter - I'd hoped the new LP might break with the retrospective references to a band I killed off nearly 10 years ago. Listen to the lyrics...I'm much more unhappy now, and my voice has gone down an octave--I eventually had to give up trying to mimic the Sea Urchins. I also know more chords, well a couple more at least and the guitar parts don't soley feature the picking of a D shape ad-infinitum.

Bob Wratten

A lovely man, a great pal, a legend in his lifetime, the greatest lyricist of this generation, front man in one of the worse named bands ever--by which i mean Field Mice rather than Northern Picture Library-- though take your pick. One day, when people have finally ceased to express any interest at all in our maudlin whining, we've promised to try and find each other gainful employment, either with Bob as chief walker in my proposed dog exercising business, or with me serving tables in his Vegan restaurant on the Orkney Islands, dependent on which folds first.

Laura Bridge

My esteemed songwriting colleague, one of the few people to make me feel easy about my inability to hold down a barre chord (along with Bob Wratten), a raven haired beauty admired by both the boys and the girls, supporter of a thuggish football team and the belching, beer drinking Northern antidote to my burping, wine drinking, Southern ways.

Sarah Records

It was the best of times, it was the worst of of my most treasured possessions is the letter from Clare at Sarah saying they wanted to do a 7" - more important than any contract with Sony or EMI, a lined A4 pad scrawl saying we like your demo - we'd like to do a record. Seems silly now but it was such a great moment. i loved sarah, and what they stood for, the music and the politics. it all went a bit sour in the end but i was proud to have been a part of it (dab corner of eye with hankerchief)

Matinee Records

Jimmy Tassos - a wonderful man with an abundance of patience and dedication. His ability to remain calm as we continually fail to provide him with publicity photos or neglect to consider sleeve ideas until the record is ready to go to the pressing plant amazes me. his label looks and sounds a true labour of love - probably only a matter of time before he chucks us off.


Laura's "other band" - where she has fun and plays songs that make people smile ....currently have a great CD collection of their singles "five forty-fives" available on Track and Field ... Jill from the band played violin on Harper Lee's first LP and if we ever play live, we may call on Kicker to help out as I have no friends of my own to speak of.

September 04, 2002

The Screamer "The Screamer's Greatest Hits"

My god, do you like to laugh? Do you like to laugh at the stupidity of others? Do you like to laugh at the stupidity of others when those others are bested by someone who appears to be nothing more than a total ass, or who get angered when someone exposes them for the idiot as they are? Then, by god, go and buy The Screamer's Greatest Hits right now!

See, when I was younger, I really got into Teenbeat Records. I bought everything that had the label, be it CD's or seven inch singles or posters or box sets or rock glasses or coffee mugs or combs! Anyway, the label released a lot of weird tapes, and one of these tapes was called The Tube Bar. It was a guy crank calling a place called Tube Bar. What did it sound like? It's what Bart Simpson does to Moe every week. Exactly the same thing. In fact, several of the calls are exactly the same, except it's ten years prior to the show.

On the expanded CD version, there were three other tracks. One was a track of a guy musing about life and society, and it wasn't very interesting. Another track was called "Julie Gang Debs" and was an audio letter sent to Don and Erin Smith from a teenage girl who sounded cute and a little bit lonely after she read about their zine Teenage Gang Debs in Sassy. Interesting listening, to say the least.

The track that made this CD a little more than a curious novelty was a track called "The Screamer." It was poorly recorded, and the first time I listened to it, I didn't get it. The fidelity on the recording was terribly low, and I had to turn my CD player's volume to painful levels in order to hear it. It was worth it though, for those sixteen and a half minutes were funny as hell.

Well, I'm happy to say that Teenbeat has rescued this odd little collection of prank calls from the den of obscurity. And I'm happy to say that instead of sixteen minutes of lo-fidelity recordings, the label has remixed the recordings and loaded a CD full of more recordings. It's brilliant, I tell you. It's 72 minutes full of funny-as-hell and all-real calls made to talk radio programs. There are 85 calls on this CD, and I'll be honest, 85 calls is far from enough to satisfy MY desire to hear the Screamer.

The funniest thing about these calls is that many of these DJ's take things WAY too seriously. There's one guy who constantly talks about the FBI going after him. Some of the DJ's take the Screamer in with a good sense of humor; others take him very, very seriously and treat him as some sort of threat. I think these people didn't realize that if you treat him like he's bad, he's not going to go away. Fuelling the fire, ya know. Two hosts, Sally Jesse Rafael (the one about the 3 month old baby on birth control) and Beverly LeHay (about why gays should not be in the military, due to the fact that when he was in 'nam, his tentmate refused to fight because he was too busy listening to the soundtrack to the Broadway show Oklahoma!) are so dense as to not realize that they've just been pranked.

There are way, way too many calls to discuss in detail here, but I'm just going to say that the best calls are the ones that don't sound funny from the beginning, such as the carjacking call, the Jerry Springer call, and the Battlestar Galactica guy call. Really, you have got to hear this record. Unlike Roy T. Mercer and the Jerky Boys, these calls are REAL and they strike in such a stealthy manner, that you literally sit on edge listening to this record, simply because you really CANNOT guess what's going to come out of the guy's mouth.

The fact that the Screamer did this sort of thing for fourteen years really makes me hopefull that there will be a "Volume Two" of The Screamer's Greatest Hits some time soon. This is really one of the funniest records you will EVER hear. Laughter is the best medicine, and The Screamer's Greatest Hits is like a bottle of cough syrup for your soul. Not a moment is lost on a bum call, either. Get this and laugh!

--Joseph Kyle