Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Request Lines Are Now Open!

Last year, I turned the month of November over to you guys to pick which bands/artists you most wanted to see featured in our NW4NW posts.  All Request Month turned out to be a pretty popular idea, so I figured why not do it again this year?

Ta-da!

November will once again be "All Request Month" in the NW4NW series. Beginning next Monday, November 1, and continuing through Monday, December 1, I will be posting NW4NW entries about the artists YOU ask for! Please post your requests in the comments section below - tell me the artist you want to request, a specific song if you like, and a screen name I can use in the post to credit you for your suggestion.  Or, if you like, you can make your request over on our Facebook Fanpage, or on our TwitterPage.

So, I turn it over to you guys - for the month of November, New Wave for the New Week is in your hands! And, just as last year, if the response is as great, you won't be getting just one NW4NW entry per week - I'll post one every day if have to to meet the demand!

Below is a full list of every band/artist that has been featured since the NW4NW series began in March of '09, so that you can see if the band you want has already been featured.  Only one band has ever been repeated.

I'm looking forward to your requests, and will fill them on a first-come, first served basis. Ready? GO!

999 Joe "King" Carrasco The Rockats
A Tribe of Toffs Josie Cotton The Saints
The B-52's Killing Joke The Slits
Bad Brains Klark Kent Slow Children
Belfegore Lene Lovich Specimen
Blancmange Malcolm McLaren Split Enz
Blotto Marilyn The Stranglers
Bruce Woolley & the Camera Club Maurice & the Clich├ęs Strawberry Switchblade
Burning Sensations Medium Medium The Surf Punks
Catholic Girls The Members Swell Maps
Classix Nouveaux Mental As Anything Swingers
Cristina The Mo-Dettes The Teardrop Explodes
The dB's The Monochrome Set The Three O'Clock
Devo The Nails Throwing Muses
The Diodes New Musik Tom Waits
Divinyls Nick Cave Torch Song
EBN-OZN The Nits The Tubes
Flash & the Pan Oingo Boingo Tuxedomoon
Foetus Paul Collins/The Nerves UK Subs
Freur Pixies Undertones/Pogues
Fuzzbox Plasmatics Virgin Prunes
Holly & the Italians Plastic Bertrand Wall of Voodoo
Horizontal Brian Plastics (2) Willy DeVille/Mink DeVille
Human League Polyrock X
Icehouse Pressure Boys X-Ray Spex
Inca Babies Protex XTC
Insect Surfers Pylon X-Teens
The Jags The Quick Yello
Jim Carroll Rich Kids The Zeros


Monday, October 25, 2010

New Wave for the New Week #89

The first part of the 1980's saw two important musical movements happening in and around Germany, both of which were loud, sharp, coarse and minimalistic.  If you preferred your music on the noisy, heavily percussive side, there was the Industrial scene.  Bands like Einsturzende Neubauten, Test Dept., Laibach and Young Gods created an awesome racket banging on metal pipes, crashing cement blocks and using chainsaws as instruments.  For those who wished at least a semblance of melodic structure to be present, there was a subgenre that came to be referred to as Neue Deutsche Welle (often abbreviated as NDW; literally, "German New Wave").  NDW bands such as Deutsch Amerikanische Freundschaft (DAF), Der Plan and Xmal Deutschland rarely strayed from the minimalistic, percussion-based style of their Industrial counterparts, but they chose to stick with more traditional instruments - with a heavy reliance on the synthesizer.  However, while the New Romantics in the UK and the American Synthpop bands coaxed bright, sunny, plinky sounds from their electronic keyboards, the NDW bands found the darker, harsher side.

One of the best examples of the NDW sound was a trio from Dusseldorf who called themselves Belfegore.  Meikel Clauss, Charley T. Charles and Walter Jaeger released their self-produced and self-distributed debut album A Dog Is Born in 1983.  Though pressed in limited quantities, the album became a highly sought-after import in the UK.  The all-German lyrics in near-monotone and cold, impersonal synthesizer lines snaking through each track appealed greatly to the Goth scene; the music was heavy enough for the Punks to accept; the New Wave clubs were happy to program the music for its danceability.  Long out of print, the album is an NDW classic.

A pair of 7-inch EPs appeared soon after. Nacht In Sodom and In Roma continued in the same vein, although moving towards an even heavier, closer sound.  Jaeger was on his way out of the band, soon to be replaced by Raoul Walton, and Belfegore caught the ear of Elektra Records, who signed them by year's end.

1984 saw the release of the band's only internationally distributed album, Belfegore.  Boasting a fuller, more polished sound and Clauss's best vocals yet (in English this time around!), the album is simply majestic.  Cuts like "Questions," "Comic With Rats Now," and "Wake Up With Sirens" are moody, trance-like and stunning, but the crown jewel here is the single "All That I Wanted," which became a fairly big underground hit and remains the song for which the band is best remembered.

None of Belfegore's material remains in print, and the world still awaits a proper CD reissue of either album.  In the meantime, both LPs and both EPs turn up with fair regularity on eBay (although if you want A Dog Is Born be prepared to shell out plenty!) and Belfegore can be had reasonably cheaply on Amazon.com as well.  All are recommended.

To give you a taste of Belfegore's sound, this week's clip is the video for "All That I Wanted." Enjoy!






Enhanced by Zemanta

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Goodbye, Ari

Ari UpCover of Ari Up
Sad news to report: Arianne Foster, better known as Ari Up, lead singer of The Slits, passed away yesterday at the all-too-young age of 48.

Ari was also step-daughter to Johnny Rotten, who, along with Ari's mother Nora, posted the following brief message on his website yesterday:

Arianna RIP


John and Nora have asked us to let everyone know that Nora's daughter Arianna (aka Ari-Up) died today (Wednesday, October 20th) after a serious illness. She will be sadly missed.

Everyone at JohnLydon.com and PiLofficial.Com would like to pass on their heartfelt condolences to John, Nora and family.

Rest in Peace.
The Slits were featured in the NW4NW series this past February; you can read more about Ari and her band there.   In her honor, here is the video for The Slits' "Instant Hit" (for some reason, mistitled as "So Tough" on this clip).

R.I.P. Ari.




Enhanced by Zemanta

Monday, October 18, 2010

New Wave for the New Week #88

As we head into the homestretch of 2010, I've already begun the process of compiling my list of the best records of the year.  I had to chuckle when I realized that one of the leading contenders for the top spot on my list of the finest records of 2010 was actually 30 years old!

Protex came together in Belfast in 1977 as part of the same Irish Punk scene that spawned Rudi, The X-Dreamysts. The Undertones and Stiff Little Fingers, among many others.  At first calling themselves Protex Blue (after the The Clash song), they went to the truncated version of the name early on.  In short order, they caught the attention of Polydor Records, and found themselves in the recording studio.

As was the case with many of the UK Punk bands of the time, Protex was essentially a singles band. Their first vinyl offering was 1978's "Don't Ring Me Up" b/w "Just Want (Your Attention)" & "Listening In." The band earned a spot supporting the then-touring Boomtown Rats on the strength of the single, and in January of 1979 found themselves in the States performing before an appreciative New York City crowd.

Their would go on to record three more singles, "I Can't Cope," "I Can Only Dream," and 1980's "A Place in Your Heart," which may have been the finest of the batch.  That year, they also recorded their first album, Strange Obsessions. It is here that the waters get murky: everyone agrees that both the band and the label were unhappy with  the first version of the album, and the official story says the project was shelved.  However, dyed-in-the-wool record collectors insist the album saw release in Holland, and as a result, Strange Obsessions has appeared on collectors' want-lists for years, becoming one of the "holy grails" of Punk/New Wave vinyl.

Protex disbanded in 1981, officially leaving behind a legacy of four outstanding singles, and unofficially driving record collectors batty.  This year, the folks at Sing-Sing Records licensed the album tracks and Strange Obsessions finally saw the light of day.  Containing all of the officially released tracks found on their four singles, the album also includes a few tracks that appeared on various compilation albums and other tracks that were recorded but never released.  The sound is sharp, spiky and shimmering.  The Clash is an obvious influence, but so is the '60s British Invasion sound.  Protex played a poppy brand of Punk Rock not far removed from The Undertones, The Buzzcocks and Generation X.  Not a bad track can be found on the album, which suffers only from a somewhat trebly mix - I cannot recommend the album highly enough! (You can purchase the vinyl directly from the label using the link above, or download the album digitally at Amazon.com.)

This week's clips include Protex performing "A Place in Your Heart" before a New York City crowd on St. Patrick's Day, 1980, and an audio-only clip of their debut, "Don't Ring Me Up." Enjoy!





Monday, October 11, 2010

New Wave for the New Week #87

The Zeros only released three singles during their brief first life as part of the early West Coast Punk scene, but what incredible singles they were!

Formed in Chula Vista, CA, in 1976, The Zeros were Javier Escovedo on vocals and guitar, Robert Lopez on guitar, Hector Penalosa on bass and Baba Chenelle on drums, all of whom were still in high school when the band's first single hit the racks in 1977. "Don't Push Me Around" b/w "Wimp" was issued by Bomp! records, and The Zeros began playing the LA circuit with bands like The Germs, The Weirdos and The Plugz. Peter Case of The Nerves (and later, The Plimsouls) was an early supporter of the band and helped to promote their music.

The Zeros' brand of Punk Rock fell toward the skinny-tie mod/power-pop end of the spectrum. Escovedo had a natural talent for writing catchy songs, and despite their youth (or, more likely, because of it) they played with an assured energy and enthusiasm usually found in road-weary veterans of the club scene.

With a slight change in line-up (Penalosa replaced with Guy Lopez, Robert Lopez leaving and reducing the band to a trio), The Zeros released a second single in 1978. "Beat Your Heart Out" has become a true classic of the genre, having been covered by numerous bands including The Muffs and, most recently, Gorevette.

A third single, "Getting Nowhere Fast," followed, but - as often happens when high school bands grow up - The Zeros soon went their separate ways. They hardly faded into obscurity, however. Those three singles became highly sought-after artifacts of the first wave of LA-based Punk, and a decade after The Zeros disbanded, Bomp! compiled all three plus a number of unreleased tracks into one handy CD, Don't Push Me Around. Giving the world a sense of what a Zeros album might have been like back then, the CD is a blast from start to finish and captures the band's energy very well.

Continued nostalgia brought The Zeroes back together in the early/mid 1990's. This reunited version of the band recorded two albums: Right Now (1992) and Knocking Me Dead (1994). Both are well worth picking up. The Zeroes continue to play live shows before appreciative audiences to this day.

This week's clip was one I stumbled upon recently - footage of the band on local TV in San Diego just after the first single was released. They lip-sync both songs and then Javier gives an aw-shucks interview revealing that the band got the gig because Robert Lopez's father happened to be the floor manager. Hey, however you can get your music heard, right? It's fairly rare footage, and not the greatest quality, but the songs are excellent and well worth sharing. Enjoy!





Enhanced by Zemanta

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Almost Perfect...Again!



Back on March 30 of this year, as a part of my Countdown to Opening Day series of baseball lists, I discussed one of the rarest, most difficult feats of pitching prowess there is to accomplish in Major League Baseball: to have pitched, during the course of one's career, both a Perfect Game and at least one other No-Hitter.  It is so rare and difficult that it had only been done by six pitchers:  Cy Young, Addie Joss, Jim Bunning, Sandy Koufax, Randy Johnson and Mark Buehrle.

I did not expect that post to become obsolete so quickly, but there is now a need to add a seventh name to that list.  Last night, in the opening game of the National League Divisional Playoff Series, Philadelphia Phillies ace Roy Halladay threw a No-Hitter against the Cincinnati Reds, leading the Phils to a 4-0 victory and a 1 game to 0 lead in the best-of-five series.

On May 30, just two months after I posted that particular piece, Halladay took the mound against the Florida Marlins and retired 27 batters in a row to notch a Perfect Game.  Last night, he not only joined an extremely elite group of pitchers by accomplishing the incredible, he did it not simply within a career but within the same season - something no other pitcher on that short list had done!  He also became only the second pitcher in history to throw a No-Hitter in a post-season game (the other being Don Larsen, who threw a Perfect Game in Game 5 of the 1956 World Series for the New York Yankees against the Brooklyn Dodgers).

In fact, Halladay came within a hair's breadth of actually throwing a second Perfect Game last night! The only mar on the performance was a fifth-inning walk of Jay Bruce - other than that, Halladay was perfect.

There would have been only one more thing I wish could have been in order to make the game perfect: if only the great Harry Kalas were still with us to have called it.  TBS's announcers are as bland as dry toast, and when they had the chance to speak to Halladay immediately after the game, the interviewer's take on it was, "Well, that was an interesting way to start off a post-season."  Um, how about "historic"? "Astounding"? "Incredible"? Nope, to TBS, it was simply "interesting."  Kalas would have brought out all of the drama and emotion of the moment in a way this broadcast team could never even imagine.

But who am I to complain? I saw history last night, and the Phils are starting off their march back to the World Series with a bang!  Congrats, Roy...and let's go Phillies!


Enhanced by Zemanta

Monday, October 4, 2010

New Wave for the New Week #86

Put The Specials, R.E.M. and Oingo Boingo in a sonic blender, and the result you get might not be all that different from the sextet known as The Pressure Boys.

Energetically bursting out of Chapel Hill, NC, in the early 1980s, The Pressure Boys began life as a band of high school classmates who fumbled their way through covers of Madness and Specials songs at parties in and around Chapel Hill.  As their musicianship improved, they began widening their scope of musical influences.  Bringing aspects of bands like XTC and the aforementioned Oingo Boingo into the mix, The Pressure Boys soon created a unique sound that was slightly off-kilter, but nonetheless peppy and enjoyable.

They soon came to the attention of the noted southern-alternative-music production team of Mitch Easter and Don Dixon, who produced their first release, Jump! Jump! Jump!, in 1983.  The record's lead cut, "Tina Goes To The Supermarket," encapsulated everything that made the band so popular at home: the somewhat syncopated take on the basic ska beat, the frenetic pace, the audible fun the band was having.  That sonic recipe, given the Easter/Dixon stamp of approval, helped The Pressure Boys break out of the local Chapel Hill scene and land on college radio playlists everywhere.

The following year saw the release of the four-song Rangledoon ep, which included their most ambitious outing to date, "Where The Cowboys Went." Turning the ska down a notch and upping the southern charm, "Cowboys" was clearly a stab at college radio stardom.  Sounding a bit like Green On Red's goofier siblings, "Cowboys" is an excellent song that caught the ear of a major label: Epic Records included the cut on their 1985 compilation Epic Presents: The Unsigned, a collection of (as the title describes) bands that had not yet signed with a major label.

Unfortunately, Epic passed on signing the band, and it was back to the drawing board. 1987 saw the release of Krandlebanum Monumentus, the band's most polished vinyl release. Boasting a sparkling new re-recording of "Tina Goes To The Supermarket," and promoted by a video clip for "Around The World" that got the band introduced to the MTV's 120 Minutes crowd, the record is highly recommended. 

That would turn out to be the last anyone heard of The Pressure Boys until a retrospective CD, The Incomplete Recordings: 1981-1988, appeared in 2008 in conjunction with the band reuniting for a couple of live shows to benefit research for a cure for cystic fibrosis. Containing all of the band's essential material from "Where The Cowboys Went" to "Around The World" (including the re-recording of "Tina Goes To The Supermarket"), it's an excellent starting point for those new to the band.  The CD, like all of The Pressure Boys' releases, has fallen out of print, but can be had as an mp3 download from Amazon.com.

Here are two clips for this week's NW4NW entry: first up, the very DIY video for "Where The Cowboys Went;" following that is the band performing a live rendition of "Tina Goes To The Supermarket." Enjoy!







Enhanced by Zemanta

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Fighting the Demons Again

"I sit up all night and think of evil things to do
And I've got something very special planned for you..."
-Stiv Bators, "Evil Boy" 

I'm about to take you to a very dark place.  I'm going to attempt to describe to you a facet of my personality that I don't care for very much; a version of me that I don't like showing to the world, but which, in certain given circumstances, flashes to the surface like a buoy being forcibly held under water and suddenly released. It's the part of me that drives people away, that sometimes scares people.  That sometimes scares me.

Nothing Is True

Monday night, I was thisclose to bringing this blog to an end, cutting my Twitter and Facebook ties, and retreating back into the hermit-like state I have fought for these past several years to escape from.  My obsessive, anxious demons sat on my shoulder all night like egging me on, double-dog-daring me to do it. "You don't owe anyone anything," the wheedling voice in my head told me, "and besides, none of them give a damn about you anyway..."

In a matter of moments that night, I went from the elation of watching my beloved Phillies clinch their fourth consecutive National League Eastern Division Championship to the depths of an OCD-fueled depression, over a broken link.  There are a number of outlets through which I advertise each new blog post, and whether it be Twitter or Facebook or wherever, I dutifully link to the newest post.  Mondays, of course, are NW4NW days, and I am grateful that so many folks have told me how they enjoy those posts and look forward to them. So yesterday, after publishing this week's installment, I posted links in all the usual places.

My workdays have been extra busy recently, so I did not have the opportunity throughout the day to check my stats to see how much traffic was coming in.  I usually repost the links in the afternoon to catch the crowd who isn't around to see them in the early morning, and this I did yesterday as well.  Then I settled in to watch the game, having not checked blog stats at all.  After the game, I checked the posted link, and saw that it reported 0 clicks.  "Hmm, that can't be right..." I thought, so I clicked the link myself - and was promptly met with a "Page Cannot Be Found" error. The link that I had been advertising all day was a bad link!

Embarrassed, I corrected the link and prepared an apology post, and that's when it struck me: No one had informed me the link was bad.  Even on the Fanpage and the blog's Twitter site, there was nothing.  Had no one even bothered to try to read my post? I pulled up my stats for the day, and there, mockingly, sat a great big zero. I did the math: 100 people follow the TWIWGTS Twitter site. 1400 follow my personal Twitter account. There are 200 on the Fanpage, and 500 on my personal Facebook page. Over 100 follow through Networked Blogs.  I've never claimed a humongous readership, but out of all those people, not one bothered to try to read my newly advertised blog post? What the fuck?

Here It Goes Again

Now, most normal, well-adjusted people would consider this what it was: an anomaly.  I can look back now, with some hindsight, and say to myself, "Well duh! If the link was broken and someone tried to click it, it wouldn't show up in your stats because they never even got to the site!"  And, I know from previous feedback that many of you who read regularly do access the site mainly through those links I put out there. 

(Psst - this would be a great time for me to recommend subscribing using the email form at the upper left of this page so that you never miss a post and never have to worry about bad links. Go, do it now, I'll wait...OK, great, let's continue.)


Sure, that all makes perfect sense now, but I've talked here before about my OCD and my constant anxious paranoia that everyone is secretly trying to set me up for embarrassment, and how cunning those beasts are as foes.  They grab onto any tiny shred of anything that could be twisted to validate their existence in my brain and go immediately to work.  This wasn't a simple, explainable anomaly that was really my fault to begin with for posting an incorrect link. No sir, this was an affront on me personally! An obvious attack, and clear evidence that those lying liars never read my blog! They don't think I'm a good writer! They don't care about the things I write about!

Then, the obsessive part builds upon that:  "Not even your friends who say they read your blog actually read it. They're lying to you! And if they lie about that, then they must be lying about everything! They're not really your friends! This is important to you and to them it's all a big joke!"  I found myself considering shutting the blog down completely. After all, why should I write if no one wants to read it?  And if these people aren't really my friends, why do I interact with them? I ought to just cut all ties - then they can't lie to me anymore.  Do you see how the insane spiral builds?  My mind starts making larger and larger leaps in logic until the thoughts become irrational, and inside I journey from offended to saddened to - if the spiral is left to continue unabated - anger.

And, if anyone happens to be around me or interact with me while this process is happening, they are met with that part of my personality I mentioned earlier - the part of me that I hate. As fate would have it, one person did interact with me right then, through Twitter.  Luckily, my obsessive thought-spiral hadn't spun out of control yet, and after a few somewhat coarse, chopped exchanges, I apologized for being "in a mood" and logged off.  Had she shown up a few minutes later, however, she would likely have encountered Evil Bryan.

My Evil Twin

Evil Bryan is a very dark version of myself, a personification of those OCD/anxiety demons. When I'm in that state, I revert to the behavior of cornered animal being attacked because inside that is how I feel.  In that state I have no concern whatsoever for other people's feelings, whoever they may be - I will simply lash out at them, trying - wanting - to make them feel as bad and hurt as I feel inside at that moment.  Most of the time, that attack or lashing out takes the form of words - loud, vile, cutting words.  On rare occasions, the lashing out has been physical, documented as early as the second grade version of me who threw chairs around a classroom in a rage against a teacher.  To say it is not a pretty sight is putting it mildly.

It is not pleasant to feel that out of control, and there has never been a time when, after the storm has passed, I haven't felt immensely remorseful and apologetic. Over the years, I have learned to recognize when that side of me is surfacing, and have learned to remove myself from other people. It has the same effect as starving a fire of oxygen: the flame tries to continue, but quickly sputters out.  If Evil Bryan is starved of people to lash out at, he sputters away to nothing relatively quickly.

And so it was Monday night. I logged off of Twitter and Facebook and went to bed, and Evil Bryan never showed up. I got up the next morning thinking the storm had passed and all was well, and went about my work day.  Pretty soon I noticed a shadow looming over me.  It was a shadow I hadn't seen in a long time.

I Just Can't Be Happy Today

As it turns out, what I thought was the end of the storm was really just the eye of the hurricane. Something more was coming, I could feel it - I know the feeling all to well, as anyone who has dealt with depression on any level does: it's not sadness, it's not anger, it's not anything that can be easily described.  It's sort of a feeling that something is very wrong, coupled with a complete lack of ability to put a finger on what that wrong thing is, multiplied by the frustration of knowing that you are powerless to fix it because you can't even define it.  It's an awful, awful feeling, and I usually respond to it by pushing everyone away and closing myself up in my own private cave - and so it has been this week.

I was excited because a group of us had planned to get together to create a local writers' group on Wednesday.  I've been trying to get past some rough writers' block recently, and I'm lucky to be in a city populated with excellent writers. Some interaction with them my have been just the thing to get the words flowing again. 

I didn't go.  I hid behind my standard "I don't drive so I can't get there" excuse - even though rides were available had I asked.  Truth was, I didn't want to be around anyone. I'm catching myself hermiting; I'm watching myself push people away; I'm feeling myself fight to fend off the demons. 

Every Day I Write The Book

I actually started writing this on Tuesday - and have been rewriting, editing, and adding to it all week.  If these demons have any redeeming value, it is that they have helped to break the dam holding back the words. Now the question begs - are the words making any sense? I don't know. I know it helps.  I have gone back and forth in my mind all week whether to even post this piece. Finally, I have decided that I should; I must.  I'm not crying out for help here; I'm not looking for anyone to give me the answers (not that anyone could - this is a thoroughly inner battle).  But when I posted the last introspective piece, there were some folks who emailed me or spoke to me and thanked me for writing it and sharing it, because they fully understood it and were somewhat relieved to know that at least one other person out there experienced what they did - they weren't alone and they weren't "crazy."  I, too, find solace in that idea that somewhere out there, at least one or two of you are reading this rambling jumble of words and thoughts and feelings and saying to yourself, "I know that. I've been there."  Even if I never hear from you, I know you're there, and I'm not alone.

So I suppose this post is, in addition to being a bit of "physician heal thyself," my way of saying to those of you who I have been pushing away, I'm sorry. And also saying to those of you who understand, thank you for being there.  As for the rest of you, I beg your indulgence when I need to post such things as this - don't worry, we'll be back to our regular programming in no time.