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Rare and treasured 1977 LP by heavy teen rockers Midnight to be reissued by Drag City
07.02.2015
09:47 am

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Music

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Into The Night cover
 
In 1974, four teenage kids from the Chicago area formed the rock band Midnight. The boys, Dave Hill (organ, vocals), Frank Anastos (guitar), Scott Marquart (drums), and John Falstrom (bass), met while taking lessons at an area music store. Inspired by the rock titans of the day (including Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, Aerosmith, and Deep Purple), the group developed a raw, heavy sound. By 1975, they were performing at high schools and parties. Fast-forward a year, and they were gigging at colleges and clubs in and around Chicago, even though they were still in high school at the time. Mixed in with covers of tunes by their heroes, Midnight had started working original compositions into their live sets. In the fall of 1977, mere months after they graduated high school, they went in the studio to record the songs that would make up their lone LP.
 
Labor Day, 1976
Labor Day, 1976

While the songs on Into The Night show the influence of the groups they loved, the guys incorporated the styles of those bands in a way they could call their own—the heaviness of Sabbath, the metallic crunch and acoustic touches of Zeppelin, the organ rock of Deep Purple, and the swagger of Aerosmith. It’s all there, but woven into a sound that’s uniquely Midnight. Interestingly, there are moments when they bring to mind a more obscure outfit, Pentragram, one of the first American groups to show an obvious debt to Sabbath. I recently corresponded with bassist John Falstrom, and he told me that they didn’t know about Pentagram back in the day, so it’s just a case of heavy minds thinking alike.

Naturally, the songwriting has much to do with their distinctiveness, with Dave, Frank, and John all contributing. Lyrically, the ten tunes on Into The Night alternate between straightforward tales concerning girls and the band itself, and more out-there subject matter. John says that one his numbers, the brooding title track, is about “invisible vampires that would come and take you away with their claws and burn you at the stake to rid the world of all of its liars.” A song like Frank’s “Smoke My Cigarettes” may be more standard, lyrically, but rocks with a fire that can’t be extinguished. As for the arrangements, the band worked on them as a unit, cooking up tracks that were all about dynamics. The material is played on a pro level—one that belies their years—yet passionately executed. The actual recordings have a rough edge, resulting in an LP that sounds a whole lot more alive than the polished major label rock albums of the era.
 
1979
 
Dave Hill’s choice of organ was another element that made Midnight distinctive. Dave used a Vox, once favored by ‘60s garage rock bands, but its thin sound was out of vogue by the time the ‘70s were in full swing (imagine if Deep Purple had hired the “96 Tears” organist). Dave also sang lead and the group recorded four of his tunes for Into The Night. His mysterious “Auto-Kinetic Illusion” is among those in which the text is difficult to penetrate. It’s also the most dynamic track on the album, with many shifts in mood and tempo. A microcosm of the entire LP in four minutes; as the band moves between their quiet and heavy sides, the lyrics are clear-cut, metaphoric, and indecipherable. John: “The song evolved out of Dave staring at the dark sky at night for hours and images (illusions) would appear.” At times, the words seem to allude to death. Dave’s father was in a state of decline around the time “Auto-Kinetic Illusion” was written, which John believes influenced the content. Dave did not respond to Facebook messages asking for his input with this article.

The group self-released Into the Night, pressing up 500 copies for an early 1978 release, though they didn’t bother to promote it much. This was largely due to the fact that they were evolving as a unit at a fast clip—so much so, that they rarely played the material in a live setting. To the band, the songs that made up Into The Night were already old news.

Midnight called it quits in 1980. Frank and John still play in a band together, and they both teach music lessons at the same store where the boys of Midnight met all those years ago. At some point, collectors became aware of the greatness of their 1977 LP, and in 2012 a copy of Into The Night sold for 200 bucks.
 
1979
 
Thankfully, the good folks at Drag City (in conjunction with Galactic Zoo Disk) are re-releasing Into The Night at a much more affordable price on July 17th. In the meantime, check out audio clips and pre-order the LP.

Here’s “Auto-Kinetic Illusion”:
 

Posted by Bart Bealmear | Leave a comment
Donald Trump: ‘F*ck your Hair,’ the beer
07.02.2015
09:01 am

Topics:
Amusing
Current Events
Idiocracy
Stupid or Evil?

Tags:


 
Donald Trump’s anti-Mexican comments have made him few (no?) friends in America’s Hispanic community. In fact, I think it’s fair to say that other than a few Fox News-watching racist Republican trolls, his (unfounded) remarks seem low, vile and ridiculous to just about everyone. He’s a silly, grotesque man, full of himself and… he’s just a shithead. Fuck Donald Trump.

No… fuck his hair.

5 Rabbit Cerveceria is a Chicago-area microbrewery that had been supplying the signature beer for the ritzy Rebar in Chicago’s Trump Tower. The owners are Latino and have decided to sever ties with the loathsome billionaire. Now the Trump brew they had left over has been renamed “Chinga Tu Pelo”—which translates as “Fuck your hair”—in honor of the GOP Presidential and loudmouthed comb-over casualty.

5 Rabbit Cerveceria co-owner Andres Araya told WBEZ radio:

“We would be doing an injustice to the community we serve (and live in) by engaging in business with someone who does not accept our role in society and expresses a rhetoric of hate and ignorance towards us,” Araya wrote in a statement to WBEZ Monday.

“On a personal level, if I did, one of the things that scares me the most is sending the wrong message to my daughters. We are active members of this immigrant community and we need to stand up for ourselves, and more importantly, for those who do not have the voice or means to do so. The very foundation of the United States of America was built on acceptance and inclusion.  That is what drew us here, and that´s what why we feel so strongly about this.”

“As a company, an integral part of our vision reads that we are ‘not only based in, but also look to promote a strong and positive image of Latin America, its heritage and people.’

It would be hypocritical of us to sustain the relationship.”

Right on! Chinga that moron’s pelo!

The giant mattress company Serta yesterday announced that it too would be severing ties with the GOP’s lumbering, out of control Frankenstein monster. Recently NBC and Univision both dumped their ties with the toxic Trump brand.

This self-immolation—Trump’s moronic inferno—is spectacular to watch, but I DO hope the thick-fingered vulgarian makes it to the first Republican debate in August and beyond. Look at how much damage he’s done to himself in such a short time and just imagine what he can do for the GOP!

DONALD! DONALD! DONALD!

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
They have Nick Cave dolls now? I want one!
07.02.2015
08:12 am

Topics:
Art
Music

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L.A. based pop-artist Plasticgod has created a series of Nick Cave figures that he’ll be debuting at San Diego Comic-Con on July 9th. (Also debuting at Comic-Con: new Star Wars Stormtrooper figures. Different strokes for different geeks, right?) Each is based on a Cave song title. There’s the “Red Right Hand
 

 
Two slightly different designs for “Babe, You Turn Me On
 

 

 
Tupelo
 

 
More Nick Cave dolls after the jump…

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
Check out the Pink Mice, Lucifer’s Friend’s amazing classical-prog side project
07.02.2015
07:52 am

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Music

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If the early works of prog-metal eclecticists Lucifer’s Friend aren’t on your radar, you’re missing out. Their incredible self-titled debut sat comfortably between Sabbath, Purple, and Zeppelin, and easily equaled all three bands on the mohs scale, establishing norms that would eventually serve as an acknowledged influence on plenty of underground metal to follow, especially doom. (The horn parts on “Ride the Sky” also sparked a still unsettled debate over whether they or Zeppelin ripped off “Bali Ha’i” first…) Their second album, Where the Groupies Killed the Blues, spiked that sound with tricky, meandering, jazz-inspired passages, adding another layer of depth. It was pretty much all downhill from there—I’m Just a Rock ‘n’ Roll Singer was a disappointing stab at commercial hard rock that just sounds like better-Styx-meets-worse-Grand-Funk, and though they’d rebound with 1974’s Banquet, they never again reached their early heights. The predominately German band’s lone English member, singer John Lawton, bailed in the mid-‘70s to join swords-and-sorcery-rockers Uriah Heep, and the band continued with various lineups until 1982. A 1994 reunion under the name Lucifer’s Friend II wasn’t worth the trouble, and they released another reunion album, Awakening, earlier this year. I haven’t heard it, but the fact that keyboardist Peter Hecht isn’t on it doesn’t bode well. I could be wrong.
 

That’s Lawton on the left. You can disregard him for the rest of this post.
 

 
Contemporary to the band’s early, top-shelf work, Lucifer’s Friend minus Lawton had a lesser-known symphonic rock project called the Pink Mice, whose two albums, In Action and In Synthesizer Sound, are both worth digging for. Both albums are entirely comprised of rock versions of classical pieces, but unlike ELP’s tediously bombastic, showoffy take on that shopworn prog conceit, Pink Mice actually ROCK. Check out their update of Beethoven’s indelible “Für Elise” and “Moonlight Sonata.” Shit gets hectic about five and a half minutes in…
 

 
Here’s “Anita’s Dance, ” from Edvard Grieg’s music for Peer Gynt, act 4. Awesome, but even though a million other prog bands have done it, I wish they’d also recorded “Hall of the Mountain King” from act 2. You’d know it if you heard it.
 

 
More Pink Mice after the jump…

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
‘The world’s worst orchestra,’ featuring Brian Eno on clarinet
07.02.2015
06:34 am

Topics:
Music

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Do orchestral musicians really have to practice four to six hours a day? Yes and no. It’s true that groups like the Chicago Philharmonic expect their members to know “notes,” “chords” and “scales.” If you don’t, they won’t let you join, and they won’t even let you play along with them during their concerts. But not all classical musicians are such fucking snobs. If your body temperature is in the neighborhood of 98 degrees Fahrenheit, congratulations! You’ve just passed the audition. You’ve got all the chops you need to play in Gavin Bryarspeople’s orchestra, the Portsmouth Sinfonia.
 

 
Inactive since the 70s, the Sinfonia once welcomed musicians and non-musicians alike, though people of talent were expected to play instruments on which they were not proficient, and all members were expected to play the repertoire to the best of their abilities. The result was a special kind of cacophony: every familiar theme (Also sprach Zarathustra, the William Tell Overture, Beethoven’s Fifth), though played as ineptly as possible, was approached with respect and even care. You will instantly recognize every tune they attempt, and you will probably bust a gut.

The orchestra’s most famous member, Brian Eno, produced (and played clarinet on) the debut album Portsmouth Sinfonia Plays The Popular Classics. Eno also appeared on the live Hallelujah, a recording of the orchestra’s triumphant 1974 performance at the Royal Albert Hall, and the Sinfonia put in an appearance on Eno’s Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy), contributing the seasick strings to “Put A Straw Under Baby.” In this short clip from the Royal Albert Hall show, you can see Eno singing the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel’s Messiah (scroll down for more of this performance):
 

 
From the sleeve of Popular Classics, here are Eno’s reflections on the Portsmouth Sinfonia:

The Portsmouth Sinfonia usually claims a membership of about fifty – the number fluctuates. Within the orchestra is represented the full range of musical competence – some members playing difficult instruments for the first time, others, on the other hand, of concert standard. This tends to generate an extra-ordinary and unique musical situation where the inevitable errors must be considered as a crucial, if inadvertent, element of the music.

It is important to stress the main characteristic of the orchestra: that all members of the Sinfonia share the desire to play the pieces as accurately as possible. One supposes that the possibility of professional accuracy will forever elude us since there is a constant influx of new members and a continual desire to attempt more ambitious pieces from the realms of the popular classics.

My own involvement in the Sinfonia is on two levels – I am a non-musician in the sense of never having “studied music”, yet at the same time, I notice that many of the more significant contributions to rock music and, to a lesser extent, avant-garde music have been made by enthusiastic amateurs and dabblers. Their strength is that they are able to approach the task of music-making without previously acquired solutions and without a too firm concept of what is and what is not musically possible. Coupled with this, and consequent to it, is a current fascination with the role of ‘the accident’ in structured activities.

Legend has it that Beethoven, among other composers, enjoyed performances of his music by enthusiastic music-makers who may well have possessed a similar range of abilities to those of the members of the Sinfonia.

Whether he would have enjoyed our rendering of his Fifth Symphony is, of course, something we will never know.

Eno Sept. 1973


More from the Portsmouth Sinfonia, after the jump…

Posted by Oliver Hall | Leave a comment
Vexillophagy: Is it OK to eat the flag?
07.02.2015
06:31 am

Topics:
Food
U.S.A.!!!

Tags:


 
This Independence Day weekend will see families across America cracking some cold ones, lighting fireworks, and bar-b-queing outdoors. It’ll also see plenty of proud displays of the ol’ Red White and Blue.

The etiquette of flag display has changed dramatically over the past 50 years.

Activist Abbie Hoffman was famously arrested in 1968 for wearing a shirt that resembled the flag.
 

“I only regret that I have but one shirt to give for my country.” - Abbie Hoffman
 
By contrast, today no one seems to have any problem with selling or wearing adult footie pajamas emblazoned with the stars and stripes.
 

I got these bad boys right here.
 
Pretty much anything that’s mass-produceable by cheap foreign labor can be purchased with a flag on it. From dog capes, to thongs, to pillows, to door mats, to trash cans, it seems that Americans now enjoy a very relaxed standard of flag etiquette.

But one burning question remains: is it OK to eat the flag?

Specifically is it bad form to create foodstuffs in the image of Old Glory? And then eat them and presumably poop them out at a later time?

The Free-Times newspaper put the question to Mike Buss, flag expert and deputy director of Americanism at the American Legion. In Buss’ expert opinion:

We appreciate people celebrating their patriotism by putting images of the flag out for their celebrations! It’s not like they will string a rope up on that cake and run it up a flagpole.  At least, we hope no one will.

However, he adds, using an actual flag for a tablecloth or for any other function other than a flag is not something that the American Legion recommends or encourages. I suppose those door mats aren’t sanctioned either.

Here’s a gallery of flag inspired dishes, some of which look quite appetizing, if you’re into vexillophagy.
 

 

 

 

 
More patriotic foodstuffs after the jump…

Posted by Christopher Bickel | Leave a comment
Dangerous Finds: Obama is the new Reagan; Frozen flies having sex; Dutch city giving free money away
07.01.2015
06:27 pm

Topics:
Current Events

Tags:


 
Barack Obama is the new Ronald Reagan: “President Obama in many ways has helped start the same kind of political revolution that Reagan did,” Obama’s former campaign manager Jim Messina said. The change, he argued, has been “driven by demographic changes and driven by President Obama” himself. (POLITICO)

A Dutch city is giving money away to test the “basic income” theory: Basic income is an unconditional and regular payment meant to provide enough money to cover a person’s basic living cost. (Quartz)

Frozen fruit fly sex is as freaky as it looks: But it could reveal more about how life is made. (Popular Science)

Rand Paul Met Privately With Far Right Racist Rancher Cliven Bundy for 45 Minutes: A chip off the old block. Talk about the dumbest dog whistle the guy could possibly blow! (Little Green Footballs)

Donald Trump has some enthusiastic new admirers: White supremacists: “The Donald” may have lost millions in high profile contracts after major television networks cut ties with him over racist remarks about Mexicans. But he gained some new fans: the Nazis and other racists. (The Raw Story)

Vatican hosts anti capitalism activist Naomi Klein:  Author said the Pope’s manifesto should inspire those who use the Bible to defend human domination of nature and deny climate change to change their ways. (AP)

Why I’m leaving London: My family is moving to Los Angeles in two weeks. Many Londoners understand intuitively why we’re going. (bOING bOING)

The only person who really loves Chris Christie ... is Chris Christie: The New Jersey governor has finally made it official that he’s running for the Republican nomination ... or at least for conservatives’ speaking fees. Does anyone care? (Guardian)

Hottest day in July in London history: That they know of. Certainly it’s the hottest since they started keeping records. Yikes! (Standard)

The GOP Base Loves Trump: It sees itself in his foreign policy belligerence, anti-elite agitation, and raw bigotry. (Slate)

Celebrate “Canada Day” with BJ Snowden’s mighty number, “In Canada.”

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
‘Punk Elegies’: Riveting late 70’s punk memoir set in the City of Angel Dust
07.01.2015
12:52 pm

Topics:
Books
Punk

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MacDonell's Punk Elegies Cover Art a Go-Go
 
Memoir is a smooth sounding word that can often deliver either salacious insight or NPR-friendly whisper-soft introspection. In the hands of a writer like Allan MacDonell, you will get something that flirts with both approaches and yet ultimately is something entirely its own creation. Hence, you get a gem like Punk Elegies in your hot little hands. MacDonell, whose resume boasts writing for the seminal early punk zine, Slash to being a renaissance man/editor at Hustler, an experience that he documented in his excellent 2006 book, Prisoner of X: 20 Years in the Hole at Hustler.

While a number of books and films have been made about various players and aspects of the late 1970’s west coast punk scene, Punk Elegies stands out from the herd. There’s the obvious draw of having the writer/narrator being someone who was there and survived to tell the tale. That’s a given, but MacDonell’s approach, always intelligent, solidly articulate and ballsy enough to paint himself in the most unflattering colors, is the true sturm und drang to snag you and keep it fresh in your mind long after you finished the last page. Klaus Kinski once said that “Virtues can be faked. Depravity is real.” Mercifully for the author, MacDonell’s journey never quite gets to red-level-Kinski’s, but the quote still fits. Nobody comes off worse than the man himself.
 
Darby Crash on Slash cover
 
Punk Elegies also features key peeks into the short-lived but still legendary punk scene in Los Angeles in the late 1970’s. Artists ranging from X to The Screamers to The Go-Go’s to Black Randy & the Metrosquad and more all pop up throughout the tome. All of this adds up to a beautifully written book that is one part punk culture and all parts gut-throat memoir. Allan MacDonell was nice enough to agree to some questions regarding Punk Elegies.

How was it revisiting this part of your life for Punk Elegies? Was it pure reflection or part-exorcism?

First off, there’s not a lot of purity in anything I’ve done, but reflection is one of my great gifts, like it is with any self-loving, self-lacerating narcissist. Long stretches of pond-staring went into mapping out Punk Elegies. I tried to clarify, for myself, what I’d been up to with all this baffling behavior. Unfortunately, none of my demons were exorcised. They’ve all made themselves more at home.

What does LA feel like for you now? Is it still a vibrant hub of artists and misfits or more like a city of ghosts?

For me, L.A. now feels like it’s being overrun by a massive influx of real-estate refugees from Manhattan and Brooklyn. The hilarious rise in cost of housing, the absence of available parking, the increasingly ill-mannered gamesmanship on the locked traffic grid, these are a few surface indications of a deep metaphysical congestion in this city that has choked off the ghosts. I still like it here. They haven’t squeezed me out yet.

Have you gotten any feedback from anyone who was in your inner circle during the time period of Punk Elegies?

Most of the feedback I’ve received has come in the form of silence. Germs drummer Don Bolles, who plays a role in Punk Elegies, gave the book a video endorsement. I only had to pressure Don slightly. The original keyboard player for the Screamers left a nine-paragraph elegy of his own in the comments of a Punk Elegies playlist I put together for Decibel.

Are you still in touch with your first wife, Tommie, who is hugely prominent figure throughout the book?

I’m still in touch with practically no one who is depicted in this book. Inspirational kitten memes tell me there’s no point in wishing things were different, but sometimes I do.
 
Black Randy
 
There are a lot of great stories about Black Randy in Punk Elegies. It’s a safe statement to say that there really was no one like him back then or even now. In a just world, he would have all the cult appeal and fandom of, say Sid Vicious or Darby Crash. What is your take now on the legacy of Randy?

I do presume to speak through Black Randy a lot in Punk Elegies, but I wish he were around to answer this one himself. Somehow, I suspect he would object to being grouped with Sid Vicious and Darby Crash. I’m pretty sure he and Darby liked one another—Darby sang in the Metro Squad chorus at one of Randy’s live shows. But Randy operated in a separate category that included him and almost no one else. He had an acute disdain for herd mentality and smug groupthink and Halloween rebels and for self-proclaimed mavericks living out on the copy-and-paste cutting edge. In the decades since he’s been gone, it seems that fewer and fewer of these teachings of Randy are being passed down and honored. In that sense, it’s like his entire legacy is a vanishing ideal.

Continues after the jump…

Posted by Heather Drain | Leave a comment
Groovalicious Peter Max fashions from 1970
07.01.2015
11:20 am

Topics:
Art
Design
Fashion

Tags:


 
Of all the designers in the world, probably none are as exclusively associated with the late 1960s and early 1970s as Peter Max. His symmetrical, kaleidoscopic and highly colorful “Art Nouveau had a baby with Haight-Ashbury” approach was perfectly suited for the days of The Dick Cavett Show and Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In. Alas, trendiness giveth, and trendiness taketh away—while he has never really stopped working, his work will never not be associated with that era.

I stumbled onto this fantastic spread of Peter Max clothing that appeared in Seventeen magazine in April 1970, and they kind of blew my mind. I’m assuming that fashion-conscious people are aware of these already, but I had never seen them before. I have so many questions—were these clothes actually popular? Do they pop up in thrift stores ever, or are they just too expensive for that? Does anyone wear them today? Pics please!

You can click on any of the full-page spreads in this post to get a much closer view—trust me, it’s worth it.
 

 

 
More Max after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
‘God is dead’: Piss yourself funny ‘short versions’ of Republican Presidential announcements
07.01.2015
10:59 am

Topics:
Class War
Current Events
Politics

Tags:


 
For the past few weeks I have been emailing friends links to YouTube editing genius Vic Berger’s “trash compactor” cuts of Republican Presidential campaign announcement speeches. I have laughed myself senseless at these things. They get funnier with repeated viewings. He really knows how to highlight the absurdity of these events (like the Jeb Bush one with the guy beating his “Jeb! sticks”—what would you call ‘em?—behind the candidate. I found this screamingly funny in a Tim & Eric kinda way).

Hard to say which is the best. They’re all different and each one is a gem. Stay with the Donald Trump clip, I thought it took a little longer to ramp up than the others did, but once it gets going, Berger takes it someplace you probably won’t expect.
 

 

 
More after the jump…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
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