Pirate Cat Radio

Music Reviews

Blag Dahlia show at Pirate Cat Radio April 22, 2006

When I was a young drinker, I went to see the Dwarves open for L7 at the Kennel club in 1990. I was Djing at KFJC and the Sub Pop record Blood, Guts & Pussy was in heavy rotation.

The Dwarves took the stage, Blag with his long hair, and they fought with the crowd, slamming microphones on people’s heads in the front row and played a little under 15 minutes before destroying the whole stage. I looked on in the distance.

In the bathroom after their set a guy was sitting on the floor trying to regain his composure, blood gushing down the side of his head.

L7 was forgettable after seeing the Dwarves. For the next few years, every time the Dwarves played, whether at the Omni in Oakland or other dives around the Bay Area, I was there. I’ve seen Blag, the lead singer’s, penis more than anyone else I know, except of course for He Who Cannot Be Named, the guitar player and constant penis swinger of the band. They were notorious for playing naked and stage diving in the buck. Crazy ass mo-fos.

About five or six years ago I took my wife to see the Dwarves at the Independent….or was it the Justice League at the time? I can’t remember. While the violence and bottle throwing was minimal, Blag had shaved his head and the band rocked hard.

Now, Blag, still the leader of the Dwarves, is putting together camp counselor type songs, singing solo and playing his own acoustic guitar. He plays some Dwarves songs as well as new stuff he’s putting together.

Blag Dahlia, aka Blag Jesus, aka Blag the Ripper is playing Saturday, June 3rd at Café du Nord for a benefit for the West Memphis Three.

…..and that’s my intro and here’s the shit….

Blag played an acoustic set on my radio show on April 22nd. With a live studio audience, scotch, beer and cameras rolling, Blag busted out songs like “Bitch, I Love You”, “This Jihad” and “Saturday Night”. There were about 12 of us in the studio. It was an amazing intimate experience.

He brought his hot girlfriend from Italy and Terry Zwigoff’s wife who he went to school with….which was funny because I interviewed her husband last week. He was supposed to show up, but didn’t.

Blag, still punker than Satan, even if he’s a gay-ass-acoustic-guitar-folksinger, he sings about the ways of the pussy and fucking and everything you’d expect from the punk as all fuck Blag.

Don’t miss his show @ du Nord. And, I’ll have a few video clips uploaded with this review when I get to it.

Here’s a couple of photos of his performance at Pirate Cat Radio:

Blag tunes his guitar in the hallway outside of Pirate Cat Radio

Blag sings “Fuck so Good”

Blag humors my drunken blubbering, we hugged right after this photo was taken, I will never wash again.

Live studio audience member Sammy after 9 beers and the badest assed acoustic punk show he’s ever witnessed. Hail Satan.

For more information about the Dwarves go to www.thedwarves.com or click on the official Blood, Guts & Pussy girl below (who happens to have her poetry published in the anthology Chemical Lust edited by yours truly).

Big thanks to Jim for helping me with sound check, bringing microphones and keeping me from having my usual mental breakdown whenever I put something like this together.

BTW, Pirate Cat Radio IS THE ONLY place for bands to play, to get the respect they deserve, to not have some smooth talking DJ who doesn’t know who the hell you are, just so long as he can get all his commercial breaks in while he talks to you with notes that his ugly ass intern wrote up for him…..and he bows to the call of Cunt Channel so he can have health insurance and keep paying rent.

Some of us DJs at Pirate Cat are homeless and have no health insurance, but we’ll make sure you rock the San Francisco Bay Area as well as Los Angeles and piratecatradio.com webstream to give you the respect you deserve.

Playing live or doing an interview at Pirate Cat Radio should be the first thing on your agenda. Tell your pants-suit-wearing-cunt-publicist, before you go to Live 105 or whatever other sell-out crapola you have scheduled in San Francisco, return to your indie roots for one hour and get drunk with us, play our studio and you’ll still hit thousands of listeners…….it’s demographics, it’s mathematics, it’s, it’s, it’s the smart corporate decision.

Thanks to Blag for playing Pirate Cat…..I’ll have an mp3 of some of our interview linked here as well at a later time…..and video, i said video right? Give me a week or so to square that away.

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Revisiting a Classic: Cocteau Twins’ “Victorialand” LP (4AD) on the 20th Anniversary Of Its Release

Cocteau Twins debuted in 1983 out of Glasgow, Scotland and quickly became one of the most highly influential and innovative bands in the era’s post-punk movement. Setting them apart were their bold ventures into various new sounds and a uniquely creative approach to their music production; at first rendering them as dark and atmospheric, and later as lush and ethereal, moody and psychedelic. Moreover, their indecipherable lyrics, cryptic album cover art, and their notoriety for being press-shy only contributed to their air of mystery.
This year marks the 20th anniversary of their fourth release, “Victorialand” on 4AD, thus inspiring me to revisit this pivotal moment in the Twins’ career. The tone and mood for this album was decidedly more thematic: a consistent, more relaxed sound full of lush and haunting melodies without the use of percussion and a more subtle bass. Tracks such as “Lazy Calm” (the album’s opener) and “Fluffy Tufts” manage to convey just what their titles suggest. Even if you don’t know what a “tuft” is or how it could be “fluffy”, one can’t help but simply imagine it…and that is the magic of Cocteau Twins and the beauty of this record. The fluidity of the guitar on “Oomingmak” is like a steady, wave of what I call ‘emotional gradation’, to which vocalist Elizabeth Frasier’s oft-said “other-worldly” voice heavily contributes. The arrangements on “Feet-like Fins” and “How to Bring a Blush to the Snow” display their knack for being unconventional and abstract, all the while remaining beautiful. All eight tracks on this album convey a kind of melancholia that somehow seems inspiring and full of hope. 20 years doesn’t seem to have aged this album a bit.

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Dead Kennedys at the Fillmore – Money Uber Alles

Joel Selvin, Chronicle Senior Pop Music Critic

Like many bands on the reunion concert circuit these days, when the ’80s San Francisco punk rockers Dead Kennedys take the stage this weekend for the soldout Fab Mab show at the Fillmore Auditorium, the group will be missing one original member — in this case, its best known member, vocalist Jello Biafra.

But the Dead Kennedys without Jello Biafra would be like the Grateful Dead without Jerry Garcia. Wait a minute: They’ve done that, too.

Since the death of the first bandleader, musicians have continued to perform in bands without key members. As the rock ‘n’ roll generation moves into senior citizenship, this inevitability is taking a sharp increase. The announcement that the Cars would do a reunion tour this summer, as the New Cars, has prompted much comment.

Not only is lead vocalist and primary songsmith Ric Ocasek MIA from the tour, but the band will also make do without the service of bassist Benjamin Orr, the only other member to ever sing one the band’s hits (“Drive” and “Just What I Needed”). Orr died of cancer in 2000. In their place, the other two members — quick, name them — have drafted, of all people, Todd Rundgren, who typically made no bones about why he is taking the job.

“So now an opportunity has arisen for me to pay my bills, play to larger audiences, work with musicians I know and like, and ideally to have some fun for a year,” he wrote on his Web site.

Also paying their bills on the road this summer without the signature sound of the band’s original lead vocalists are the Doors — who were stopped from using that name by a lawsuit from the band’s drummer in an unexpected display of integrity — and Queen, who solved the problem of vocalist Freddie Mercury having died from AIDS in 1991 by simply appropriating the lead vocalist from another British rock group of the era, Paul Rodgers of Bad Company.

As the ranks of ’60s rockers thin, fans are being treated to such indignities as half a Who, a Four Tops with only two, an Allman Brother band, a Beach Boys without a Wilson. The Creedence Clearwater Revisited led by the drummer and bass player actually outdraws performances by the band’s original singer, songwriter and bandleader, John Fogerty. The other members of Journey have worked their way through a procession of Steve Perry impersonators.

The surviving members of INXS probably still have mortgages on their Italian villas, and it’s not their fault that vocalist Michael Hutchence’s 1997 death ended their careers prematurely, so they did that dumb reality TV show. Judas Priest replaced that band’s original vocalist with someone from a Judas Priest tribute band, before bringing the original guy back.

The surviving members of the Grateful Dead had the decency to retire the name with the death of the group’s centerpiece, guitarist Jerry Garcia, although after a few years of touring under the unwieldy name of the Other Ones, the musicians decided to reclaim at least a portion of the old name and call themselves the Dead. Just because Garcia went and died shouldn’t mean that the other guys in the band have to give up their not unsplendid livelihood, especially if there are still fans willing to pay to see them.

But the Kennedys is a somewhat different case. With its fiercely independent stance and resolute viewpoint, the band stood for something and mouthy Biafra was its fearless spokesman. Confronting censorship or political issues, he was always frank, pointed and slyly humorous. The other three members could easily be seen as semi-competent instrumental backing to his inspired agitprop ravings. But they won a lawsuit against Biafra in 2000 that has been a sore subject for Biafra since the day it began.

He issued a statement concerning the latest reunion concert. “These are the same greed-mongers who ran to corporate lawyers and sued me for over six years in a dispute sparked by my not wanting ‘Holiday in Cambodia’ sold into a Levi’s commercial,” Biafra wrote. “They now pimp Dead Kennedys in the same spirit as Mike Love suing Brian Wilson over and over again, then turning around and playing shows as the Beach Boys. They despise everything our band ever stood for.

” ‘Money Uber Alles’ is what all these bands used to stand against. Back in Mabuhay days, no one was more upfront about not selling out to Bill Graham than Dead Kennedys and Flipper, especially Will Shatter (RIP). (Another S.F. punk group also appearing in the Fillmore reunion show without a key member.) Now Bill Graham Presents has been swallowed and the name is being used as a front for Clear Channel, as nasty a corporate predator as Fox News and Wal-Mart.”

The Dead Kennedys issued a statement, too: “We’re sick of hearing the tired and baseless claim that the DK lawsuit was motivated by our desire to put music into a commercial. Our record label was stealing royalties from the band! Do we need anymore motivation than that? Are folks just suppose to lie down and let the school bully steal their lunch money? And have you noticed any Dead Kennedys’ music in any commercials lately? Or ever? News Flash: Jello uses rumors and misinformation to cover up his own wrongdoing!”

But to Biafra, this is not a simple betrayal by former associates, but nothing less than a global matter of corporate collusion and capitalistic greed. And that’s why Jello Biafra is still the real deal and, without him, the Dead Kennedys aren’t.

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Junkload and The Swillerz at Kimos April 1, 2006

The Swillerz were the first band to take the stage. Jim, the lead singer belted out the vocals as any punker, but on a couple of songs he surprised me with the range of a Mike Ness or Mark Lanegan type vox, before digging back into his bass and the band blasting their next punk rock chorus.

They were the first band on the bill at Kimo’s on April 1, 2006. At one point in the set, Jim, the lead singer ripped his guitar off his shoulder, during a song that sounded like the Pogues on speed, and ran right into the crowd starting a pit, then jumped back onstage and continued where he left off. It was brilliant.

I said hi to him after the show and he gave me a vacant ‘I’m too drunk to drive home and I might throw up on you’ stare.

Swill they will.

The next band was some moody, woe is me and aren’t we cute with our same haircuts crapola. They were from Atlanta I think and they seemed pretty young, so maybe they were just singing about puberty and their problems soaking their sheets with wet dreams or something. But, hey, they were sandwiched in between two rocking bands and I probably would’ve loved them if they played with Kenny G. I won’t mention their name because I’m being way too hard on them and I hate bitchy rock critics. So, moving on….

Junkload took the stage, and when I say took the stage, they commanded everyone’s attention. Their heavy sound reminds me of Helmet, Cows and an influence of just about every band that ever recorded for Amphetamine Reptile records in the early 90’s. They hit it hard and heavy. Picture going to see Helmet, but with a lead singer who actually knows how to perform. Get this, they don’t have a bass player. It’s just a guitarist and drummer. Some similarities to 400 Blows, I think these guys are going to continue to build an audience fast, so go see them while you can at the small clubs. They’re based in Los Angeles and play San Francisco once in a while.

The Swillerz: myspace.com/theswillers

Junkload: myspace.com/junkload

Swillerz photo taken by Jahmai Castillo

Junkload photo taken by Andrea Markle

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X – Make the Music Go Bang

X exploded out of Los Angeles’ legendary club The Masque in the late ’70s, the epicenter of the city’s thriving punk underground. X also ultimately proved to be one of the most influential American rock bands of their time. Fronted by Exene Cervenka and John Doe-who co-wrote their material-and anchored by Billy Zoom and D.J. Bonebrake, X reinvented punk with their literate and volatile sound. The band’s inspired individuality, however, obeyed no genre boundaries and fused rockabilly, country, metal, roots rock, and more into the mix. Their landmark 1980 debut, Los Angeles, kicked off an extraordinary career that’s spotlighted in this essential retrospective.

Casual fans and folks who want to get introduced to X should first get ‘Make The Music Go Bang’. That compilation serves up a 2-CD slice of some of their biggest songs and serves as a proper Greatest Hits package.

‘Beyond & Back’ is served better as a complimentary collection to ‘Make The Music Go Bang’ by delving further into the X catalog with rarities, outtakes, B-Sides, and alternate takes on some of their greatest songs.

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Wire – 154

Completing the transformation from abstract punks to art-rockers, 154 is Wire’s most impressive album. The virulance still remains, but with more depth and style than elsewhere. Ever-changing writing partnerships create a new level of tension, pulling the release in often-disparate directions. On the surface this creates a rather disjointed album, but the sheer quality of writing and performance soon banishes such thoughts for good.

Experimentation is still evident—most notably in the harrowing The Other Window that tells the story of a man travelling on a foreign train. From his window, he notices a dying horse fataly trapped in a barbed wire fence. The stressed instrumentation of the backing and out-of-time metronome drumbeat enhance the atmosphere building to the simple finale: ‘He turned away/What could he do/The other window had a nicer view’.

Wire’s keen sense of observation also appears within the amusing On Returning, emphasising the way British people sometimes travel overseas with a level of nonchalance and arrogance: ‘You’ll be sorry when the sun has roasted you to lobster red’; ‘On arriving with the third language tucked into your briefcase next to your toothbrush’.

The musical high-point arrives halfway through the album in the shape of A Mutual Friend. The arrangement is rather less contemporary than any of the other tracks, combining various guitars with cor anglais passage and evolving drum beats that range from delicate cymbal play to rampaging tom rolls.

The reissue also adds a four track EP with one piece from each member of Wire, and the cutting B-side Go Ahead, which probably says more about the situation with the band’s record label at the time than any other piece of prose. If you like Wire then you’ll adore 154 and although this is sometimes one of the most painfully disjointed albums you’re ever likely to hear it’s also one of the best.

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