Rare or Unreleased 27: Girls Against Boys

I have a brother. Last time I posted a rare track by GvsB, he commented that he wanted more.

Well, when my brother wants more, he gets more. Forget about Sunday morning, here's to Saturday night!

Recorded live and broadcast on 'HFS' show Inside Dave's Garage, Girls Against Boys and Guided By Voices each got four tracks to prove their worth. Proceeds from the now out-of-print 1997 CD GvsB vs GBV—8 Rounds benefitted the Washington Free Clinic. Here are GvsB's songs—hear the band cracking up on the superhit that never was, «Kill the Sexplayer»:

  1. Learned It
  2. Vera Cruz
  3. Disco 666
  4. Kill the Sexplayer
Proper studio versions of tracks 2 and 3 appear on the band's last good album, House of GvsB (1996). Proper studio versions of tracks 1 and 4 appear on practically perfect classics Venus Luxure No. 1 Baby (1993) and Cruise Yourself (1995), respectively.

Girls Against Boys—a band that never got its due.


Mp3 Killed the Vinyl DJ 3: Devendra Banhart

  1. Untitled poem 2
  2. At the Hop (live)
  3. Little Monkey/Step in the Name of Love (live)
  4. The Good Red Road (live)
  5. Untitled poem 1

1 & 5—recited by Michael Gira—are from the limited edition vinyl-only double set of Rejoicing in the Hands of the Golden Empress and Niño rojo.

2 is the B-side of an out-of-print vinyl-only single for «At the Hop».

3 & 4 are from an out-of-print vinyl-only album split between Jana Hunter and Devendra Banhart. (The rest of Banhart's side—radio session takes of «In Golden Empress Hands», «At the Hop» and «We All Know»—can be retrieved here.)


Rare or Unreleased 26: Your Only Friend

The guy—probably middleaged, but looking older—was sleeping in the park, oblivious that the patch of sun had turned into cold shade. Every once in a while he'd make sounds intelligible only as plagued pleadings and aggressive recriminations as he half-woke and tossed a little.

How many tough breaks, how many faults and failures… how much resignation, quitting and bitter, spiteful self-destruction had accompanied him to this point, as he'd childishly sabotaged his own existence so that others couldn't take credit for any happiness, but rather be blamed for his misery?

Now he probably only has his drink, junk or prescription pills, all the people he once knew either dead, busy with marriages, children & careers—or as alone as he is, but separated from each other by irreperable, mutual betrayals (real or imagined). Wasted lives waiting to go, riding out the survival instinct…

As for your only true friend, there's always music. People come and go.


Mp3 Killed the Vinyl DJ 2: Entrance

Entrance: «See for Yourself» [mp3]

The one-man band is a much-maligned artist, dismissed as a novelty busker clown outfitted in a particularly laborious and obnoxious percussive apparatus. But when Entrance a.k.a. Guy Blakeslee strapped bells to his boot and plugged in his back-feeding guitar, saying, «I know it's loud, but that's just the way it's going to be,» I was almost sold. And one long and loud, haunted, high-pitched blues cover to blow your mind (and blow dry your hair) later, I was his bitch forever. Shudder to think what it would've been like if he were backed by a full band…

That was at London's Institute of Contemporary Arts, opening for Devendra Banhart. Poor Devendra. As if suffering from some sort of funky food poisoning on a foreign continent on your birthday wasn't bad enough, he had to go on after a desperately wailing Entrance had ripped our ears and minds apart with his assault on electricity.

That was in May 2004, and I thought we'd see plenty more of this kid. Alas, Blakeslee continues to be one of the most underappreciated singer-songwriters to appear in the '00s. His last album was self-released, and until very recently he was selling bootlegs of his own stuff(!) on MySpace.

Long before that, in 2002, Tiger Style Records came out with an Entrance/Papa M split 7". Entrance's side, «See for Yourself», sounds like an outtake from debut album The Kingdom of Heaven Must Be Taken by Storm, complete with what was then Blakeslee's signature raga flamenco blues stylings. Typically, Blakeslee's lyrics come from an empathic urge to say what people don't want as much as need to hear, his brand of brutal honesty devoid of the vitriol that so often betrays a songwriter's true, underlying bitterness. With «See for Yourself» Blakeslee doesn't mince words, opting instead to show some tough love:

Destined to find only disconnection
Constantly caught at an intersection
See for yourself past your own reflection
And if you're so wise, see a new direction

One hundred times a day you try
To slow down time as it passes by
And though you fail and wonder why
There's nothing you can do but close your eyes
Go back to your dreams for now
Go back to your dreams for now

This vinyl-only single has since gone out of print, but not to worry: Too good to rot on the rubbish heap of popular music history, here's an mp3 of it. Enjoy!


Rare or Unreleased 25: Skip Spence

Alexander Spence: «Land of the Sun» [mp3]

Summer's on the wane, but sun's still out today, so I thought I'd post an ode to the Great Giver of Life in the Sky.

One of the most psychedelic souls to have walked the musical universe must surely have been the late Alexander Lee «Skip» Spence, whose paranoid schizophrenia ensured that his psychedelia was neither feigned nor bland—which alone set it apart from most other expressions in that genre. It's probably also the reason that his remarkable solo output (after significant contributions as drummer for Jefferson Airplane and singer-guitarist in Moby Grape) was limited to one 1969 album, an (at the time) unreleased 1972 single, and this hopeful, but rejected submission for the X Files soundtrack, «Land of the Sun», recorded in 1996 with ex-Jefferson Airplane bassist Jack Casady.

«Land of the Sun» was issued in 2000 as a B-side on Sundazed Records' vinyl-only single «All My Life (I Love You)»—the forgettable glam rock tune Spence recorded back in 1972. But «Land of the Sun»—which Spence recorded at the age of 50, after 24 years of silence—is one of his best recordings. It would also prove his last, and the fact that the song takes stock of the singer's own life is made all the more poignant by his death only three years later. The rambling mumblings indicate the kind of life Spence must have led, emphasised by words that look back on a life without regret, and forward onto death without any fear. He'd had his fun in the land of the sun. What more can you ask?

Now go and buy a copy of Spence's infamous 1969 solo debut, Oar—one of the most human albums ever recorded, heartbreaking and inspirational all at once, and beyond hope. In a good way. That's psychedelia for you.


Rare or Unreleased 24: Devendra Banhart

In 2004, your trusty Toilet Guppies correspondent had the good fortune of living in the world metropolis second possibly only to New York City, London. In those days, Devendra Banhart was the hardest working bearded lady in showbiz and would stop by practically every other month to play intimate gigs at intimate venues (Bush Hall, Water Rats, the ICA), sometimes accompanied by Andy Cabic of Vetiver.

Banhart would perch on top of a table, assuming the lotus position, and mesmerise everyone with the vision that is the fleshy, elastic hole peering out through his beard, now e-nun-ci-a-ting, now squeezing words and melody out through clenched and baring teeth, variously exhausting the oral cavity's different acoustic possibilities with his trembling tenor. His almost absent-minded sense of melody and the ease with which his fingers would pick the strings of his guitar and slide confidently up and down its neck made his performance seem so effortless. He was a natural. Not since listening to Skip Spence's Oar for the first time had I heard something so other. Yes, I know, everyone's unique, but there are degrees of difference, and Banhart was so different that you knew that you could never, under any circumstances and in a thousand years, come up with what he just did. And you didn't know of anyone else who could, either. So that left him

I used to leave those gigs regretting I hadn't documented them. The companion albums he was promoting—Rejoicing in the Hands of the Golden Empress and Niño rojo—make up nothing short of a masterpiece, but to see and hear them unfold before your very eyes and ears is something else completely. And now, of course, Banhart tours big venues with his space reggae backing band, and his output, although still great, has moved on from that alien quality that grabbed everybody's attention in the first place and on to something equally beautiful, but less other, more subtle.

So I was delighted when I first found this, a documentation of what Banhart sounded like live and solo back then. I love it when an artist performs his songs differently than on his albums, and it's all here: Banhart's added, warbling «whoah-whoah-whoah»'ing on «The Body Breaks»; his suggestion that we now «have a glass of wine / Now let's have another... have another... have another... have another... have another glass of wine» (six glasses!) on «Will Is My Friend»; and his half a minute(!) of stuttering «V-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-[deep breath]-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-viva Las Vegas!» on the song that first endeared me to that most beautiful man known to Man («Poughkeepsie»). There's even an aching non-album gem, «In Golden Empress Hands», which the singer has referred to as «the first song after Rejoicing in the Hands and the last song before Niño rojo».

Without further ado, here he is, performing live on French radio station France Inter for one of their White Sessions, on 16 September 2004. Enjoy!

  1. Wake Up, Little Sparrow
  2. At the Hop
  3. Little Yellow Spider
  4. We All Know
  5. Will Is My Friend
  6. A Ribbon
  7. An Island
  8. It's a Sight to Behold
  9. The Body Breaks
  10. In Golden Empress Hands
  11. Poughkeepsie


Mp3 Killed the Vinyl DJ 1: Michigan Soul

The Northern summer had me forgetting it was summer at all, until suddenly the sun and warmth appeared again. The flame burns brightest before burning out, of course. Anyway, it seems only fitting to post some sunny music, after all that grim and bloody stuff Toilet Guppies has unleashed lately…

Earlier this year, on Tuesday 24 March, Uriel Jones—the last remaining Funk Brother—passed away at 74. The Motown house band in which he'd played drums had famously played on more number one hits than Elvis, the Beatles, Rolling Stones and Beach Boys combined. Not that that matters; their no-nonsense grooves surpassed that of the trucker in love with his dear ol' mama, the original boy band, the OAP rockers and those barber shop surfers, anyway.

This rarities comp isn't the best of the Funk Brothers, obviously, but it is the best of the Funk Brothers' stuff that has never been reissued on CD or mp3—the still unavailable tracks off of two 1971 albums, one by the Temptations, the other by the Undisputed Truth, both produced by visionary audio experimentalist, Norman Whitfield (who passed away in September last year).

In the documentary-as-tribute film, Standing in the Shadows of Motown, one of the Funk Brothers makes the contentious claim that it never mattered who sang on their backing tracks, so sure-fire stellar were they. An exaggeration, of course, but here both the singers of male vocal quintet the Temptations and mixed-gender trio the Undisputed Truth come off as somewhat dispensable. (Indeed, Motown and Whitfield would fire and hire singers at their whim, both bands going through almost unnoticeable line-up changes.) So in a sense, the stars here are the Funk Brothers, as well as arrangers Dave Van DePitte and Paul Riser—and maestro Norman Whitfield:

  1. It's Summer
  2. Ain't No Sunshine
  3. Ain't No Sun Since You've Been Gone
  4. You Got the Love I Need
  5. What It Is?
  6. California Soul
  7. Since I've Lost You
  8. Smooth Sailing from Now On
  9. Save My Love for a Rainy Day
  10. Like a Rolling Stone
(For the nerds:
1, 2, 5 & 8 from the Temptations'
Solid Rock.
3, 4, 6, 7, 9 & 10 from the Undisputed Truth's The Undisputed Truth.
All tracks 1971.)
Everybody needs somebody to hate, so no surprise that Whitfield—one of the writers of «Smiling Faces Sometimes» (only a paranoid song upon first glance) and «Papa Was a Rollin' Stone»—chose Bob Dylan's Schadenfreudian «Like a Rolling Stone» for the Undisputed Truth to record. The arrangement certainly misses the bite of the original, but it fleshes out the lyrics' sadistic (if somewhat sorrowful) glee with a sense of regret and paradoxical empathy, the song no longer an expression of loathing.

And for proof that the singers really weren't irrelevant—even when backed by the esteemed Funk Brothers—check out the Temptations' grooving along and playing off each other on the dreamy intro to their cover of Bill Withers' «Ain't No Sunshine».

Oh, and incidentally, Uriel Jones didn't even play on any of these two albums.


Rare or Unreleased 24: ¢$¢

Now here's a flashback from way back. I was going to post the B-sides from the two singles released to promote bottom-heavy punkyard rebels ¢op $hoot ¢op's last hurrah before disintegrating, 1994's Release. But while making sure the songs weren't commercially available, I was surprised to find that even mother album Release was out of print and unavailable on mp3. Which is a shame, really. So might as well post Release, too, in addition to singles «Any Day Now» and «Two at a Time».

Sure, it's a blast from the past, and ¢$¢'s swaggering, almost anthemic anti-authoritarian bitterness will always remind me of my teens, but this—their last and most even album—holds up surprisingly well, combining pretension with humour, defeat with defiance in a way you don't often see. And Tod A.'s effortless one-liners are classic. («Some people never learn, and I should know,» &c.) Besides, in these times, when trendy indie is so safely lodged in the Middle Of the Road, we could use a little metallic, juvenile punk.

So, here it is: Tom Waits arranging Einstürzende Neubauten as backing band for Henry Rollins! Or Ministry channeling the Sex Pistols. Or something:
¢op $hoot ¢op: Complete Release Sessions [.zip]
1. Transmission
2. Interference
3. It Only Hurts When I Breathe
4. Any Day Now
5. Last Legs
6. Suckerpunch
7. Turning Inside Out
8. Money-drunk
9. Slackjaw
10. Ambulance Song
11. Anonymous
12. The Queen of Shinbone Alley
13. Lullaby
14. Swimming in Circles
15. The Divorce
16. Two at a Time
17. New God
(1, 12 & 17 from «Any Day Now»
2-10 & 13-16 from
11 from «Two at a Time»)


Culture 101: Michael Gira (Pt. 2)

A while back, I posted an introduction to Michael Gira by way of rarities. Here's part two:

M. Gira: Rare Gira, vol. 2: 1994-2006—The Wound with No Healing or Cause [.zip]

1. M. Gira: «The Sex Machine» (live)
From The Somniloquist (2000)

This short story of Michael Gira's may help to explain why Larkin Grimm has referred to him as a «notorious pervert». Recorded live in 1994, during a spoken word tour to promote The Consumer (Gira's by now out-of-print collection of short stories), the author's own biographical introduction to this story gives a glimpse of the idiosyncratic lens through which Gira views things, wherein what is generally considered destructive, immoral or morbid in his eyes becomes positive, rapturous, beautiful. And rightly so.

One of the strengths of Gira's lyrics and prose is his ability to describe something, ecstatically, as if both from the outside and the inside, all at once. An individual really is isolated from the outside world, except in his own imagination, where he can pretend to interact with other minds, rather than just be beheld by them (just as he can only behold them). Gira's literature doesn't pretend to do this—except when the protagonist (usually the narrator) breaks through the barrier by opening the floodgates of violence.

Whenever we're confronted—as we usually are in music and literature—with thoughts, feelings and perspectives overly familiar to us, we easily forget just how unreal these thoughts, feelings and perspectives are. How they're figments of our imagination, naturally abstract and taunted by the truth we're unequipped to ever experience. But when Gira offers us his unique take on things, the sense of reverie is accentuated, even though his vision is no more unreal than those of others. It's just that he doesn't pretend to be anything other than a voyeur steeped in his own fantasies…

And they are delicious fantasies, because they're not about what we'd like to enjoy, but about what our nature dictates that we enjoy.

Oh, how I miss living in Amsterdam!

2. SWANS: «Surrogate Drones/Your Property» (live)
From Die Tür ist zu (1996)

«Your Property» first appeared on Cop in 1984, sung by Gira himself:
I give you money
You're superior
I don't exist
You control me
You're corrupt
You deform me
You own me
You own me
I worship your authority
I worship your authority
You're deformed
You're corrupt
You own me
You own me
This live version from 1995 is made all the more poignant by the fact that a woman—Gira's main co-conspirator in SWANS, Jarboe—sings it. And by that I mean she channels it, with an authority that's as thrilling as it is frightening, the drums towards the end like so many lashes of the screaming dominatrix's whip. People who claim Jarboe's influence «softened» SWANS don't know what they're on about.

3. SWANS: Title unknown, live

In 1997, after 15 years of kicking against the pricks under the moniker SWANS, Gira decided to disband the group. Not that it had been a band as such—the only permanent members were Gira and Jarboe—but the expectations surrounding the name became a bit of a hindrance, apparently. Gira's next project, The Body Lovers, continued where SWANS' final studio album, Soundtracks for the Blind, left off: experiments in sound almost cinematic, instead of «bludgeoning slabs of noise» or narrative songs.

In any case, 1997 saw SWANS embark on a final tour, during which they played this track. A new song, performed on the farewell tour and since then discarded, it would seem, I don't know the title of it. This particular recording was made in Trondheim, which I recall as the most
transcendental experience I've ever had at a concert. The volume was staggering, of course, and I hadn't slept much for days. I kept nodding off in my seat next to the soundboard, frequently waking up to the sound of the same chords, repeated again and again, only with slightly more intensity each time, for what seemed like ages. After a while, the chattering voice that tells you whether you're enjoying yourself or not, or monitors every little trivial piece of related information, fell completely silent, and I no longer recognised any of the songs. I wasn't aware of liking what I heard or not liking it, or even that there was anything to like or not. Sound, of which I wasn't really aware (at least not as an object of reflection), was a physical sensation that my body was seamlessly wrapped in. There was no music, nor a listener.

That wasn't this number. But this one is a gem, and it's a mystery that nothing ever came of it—it wasn't even included on the excellent live document of the tour, the SWANS Are Dead double CD, which, incidentally, comes highly recommended.

4. The Angels Of Light: «God's Servant»
From «Praise Your Name» 7" (1999)

After The Body Lovers album, Gira turned to narrative songs again, toning down the metal tendencies and refining the folk elements. «God's Servant» was recorded for the first record under new moniker The Angels Of Light, New Mother, but ended up as a B-side for album single «Praise Your Name».

Not that it's really B-side material. Melody, arrangement and not least lyrics are a highlight in Gira's career:
My body is an infinite number
Dissected by perceptions
Which are encroaching like pollutions
Infecting the nervous system
Of the world
It recalls an untitled prose fragment from 1990, which appeared in The World Of Skin's «Mystery of Faith» as a spoken outro (in German!), and later in modified form as a section of one of Gira's Consumer stories:
As I walked the earth was dense and resilient beneath me, with the consistency and feel of a corpse. I realized that with each step my feet pressed down on generation upon generation of my dead ancestors. Their bones, their rotted and transmuted flesh, had become the substance of the earth. In eating the food that had been taken from the ground, I ate their essence—the fertility that survived their decomposition. In this way, they lived through me and in me, as I would in turn live through another person's consumption of food, air, water. Even in breathing I breathed a mixture of the gases their bodies exuded in the process of decomposition, of re-assimilation into the biosphere. I breathed, ate, swallowed, and consumed their souls, everything interconnected, everything feeding on itself, searching, digesting, reiterating, cogitating, chewing, imagining, rejecting, killing, consuming, reproducing, twisting in on itself, dying, decomposing, and being reborn, in an infinite reflection of itself in an absolute absence of conscious perfection. In order to properly see it would be necessary to remove the sight from my eyes. When I had killed my sense of identity I would slip away and enter myself, comprising the entire world, of which I was an integral but unnecessary part.
Similarly, «God's Servant» contains a revery, at once destructive and mystical, of what it would be like to decompose, the part finally reunited with the whole, all recounted in the long, meticulous sentences that Gira has made his specialty:
I travel through space, unconscious
Protected inside your mouth
Floating like an acid vapor
Suspended above the dry land
Dissolving like an injection
Spilling through the crystal earth
Of your veins
Infecting the cold, blue waters
Of your eyes
(Get the A-side of this single here.)

5. Michael Gira with guests: «Waiting Beside Viragio» (live)
From Benefit CD—Jarboe Emergency Medical Fund (1999)

Jarboe had an accident during a trip to Israel, and the hospital bill required a fundraiser. Michael Gira and some of the musicians used in the Angels Of Light project played a gig at New York's Bowery Ballroom, further raising funds by selling a limited edition CD of the recording.

One of the songs performed was new composition «Waiting Beside
Viragio», later to be released as a demo remixed by Windsor For The Derby's Dan Matz on Matz's and Gira's collaborative effort, What We Did. That version is completely different, and this majestic live performance more than hints at what could have been.

(Get the studio version here.)

6. Michael Gira: «Beautiful One» (live)
From Benefit CD—Jarboe Emergency Medical Fund (1999)

A few of the new songs performed at the Jarboe benefit concert never appeared on subsequent Angels Of Light studio albums, the best of which was this tender song of regret. A song that would have fit in perfectly on the Angels Of Light's next record, break-up album How I Loved You.

7. Michael Gira: «Kosinsky»
From Solo Recordings at Home (2001)

A perpetually underappreciated artist, Gira needs to come up with schemes to finance his rather extravagant recordings under The Angels Of Light moniker. In 2001, he released a limited edition CD of home recordings, the proceeds of which would go to recording many of these
songs in the studio, with full band. Paradoxically, Gira has stated that these home recordings often contain an energy and an immediacy lost in the studio.

Inspired by the voyeurism of author Jerzy Kosinski, this song is a study in perving and peeping—at least, that's what those who claim they don't like to watch call it. But hardly anyone conveys the joy of seeing as well as Gira.

(Get the full-band studio version (featuring Devendra Banhart) here.)

8. Michael Gira: «Nations» (live)
From Living '02 (2002)

In later years, Gira has increasingly taken to performing solo live. These performances, stripped of the almost mind-altering decibel levels of SWANS, are often more intense (at least emotionally), Gira's unique ability to channel angels and demons as he spits and stomps a spectacle nothing short of hypnotic.

(Get the studio version of this song on the Angels Of Light's Everything Is Good Here/Please Come Home.)

9. The Angels Of Light: «On the Mountain (Looking Down)» (live)
From We Were Alive!!! (2002)

Another excellent song that never ended up on any official release, «On the Mountain» appeared on Solo Recordings at Home, Living '02—both as acoustic solo renditions—and on this, a live Angels Of Light album, again sold in a limited edition to make money for further studio recordings. After appearing on all these CDs meant to finance Angels Of Light albums, nothing came of the song.

Still, this live band version captures the mania and spitting rage Gira can conjure…. Here are some audiovisuals for you, from what I believe is the same gig as the above recording:

10. Michael Gira: «My Sister Said»
From I Am Singing to You from My Room (2004)

I Am Singing to You from My Room was another limited edition CD of home recordings released to help finance Angels Of Light studio recordings. A remnant of his earlier proclivity for vengeance, «My Sister Said» is a less personal (or at least less biographical) tale of revenge, sadder and more tender than previous revenge songs (which were hate songs, really). This isn't a hate song, but an outline of a tragedy:
Thinking, dreaming, of how certain behavior patterns might be passed from one generation to another, wondering where and if free choice enters into it—I spun out a tale with that in mind, and it grew naturally of its own volition. Hopefully, there's no editorial point of view implied here. It's just a song/story, for god's sake.
(Get the studio version, with Akron/Family as backing band, on The Angels Of Light Sing «Other People».)

11. The Angels Of Light: «Destroyer» (live on WNYC)
Since «disbanding» SWANS, Gira has diversified and begun releasing other artists on his Young God Records label (most famously Devendra Banhart). One of his discoveries was hyperactive hippie prog rockers Akron/Family, who started acting as Gira's backing band in the Angels Of Light—as on this song, evoking Kali as a principle of revenge in connection with the war in Iraq. This live recording, broadcast on WNYC's Spinning On Air, shows how the youthful bearded ones injected the Angels Of Light with a fresh, spiritual quality, as they sing harmony and bang that tambourine.

(Get the studio version here.)

12. Michael Gira: «Promise of Water»
From Songs for a Dog (2006)

2007 saw the release of We Are Him, an Angels Of Light album that occasionally seemed to point back towards a time when SWANS were releasing bleak and heavy albums full of virulent rage. Trying to get away from precisely that, with Akron/Family the Angels Of Light sometimes eschewed drums altogether; now Gira's speaking of reuniting SWANS, presumably for some orgiastic, ear-splitting excess.

This song, recorded solo especially for limited edition, vinyl-only release Songs for a Dog, illustrates why Gira doesn't need to rely on volume for intensity. If still in doubt, check out this video, where, rather fittingly, Gira performs the above song in a public toilet. (As the man himself says, «I play in a bathroom all the time, just not music.»):

(Get the full band version of this song on We Are Him.)

Ever since Kant and the Enlightenment (no, that's not a band, it's a philosopher and a scientific movement) the concept of «genius» has been linked to that of «originality». This has resulted—together with the development of democracy and increased socio-economic equality that have enabled more people to «realise» themselves—in an epidemic of mediocre or talentless people who want to be involved in something «creative», doing things no one's ever done before (often with good reason) and calling that «art». This because many don't understand that there's more to the unique vision crucial to genius than mere originality.

Michael Gira, for instance, is an innovator. He used to be a pioneer of industrial music, and kind of like Bob Dylan is credited with introducing poetry into rock'n'roll, Gira may be credited with being one of the first to introduce intense self-loathing and alienation into the genre (by far outdoing the punks' contrived and polemic alienation), thus spawning an army of angst-ridden adolescents writing embarrassingly exaggerated and self-indulgent lyrics in the 1990s (Nirvana, Nine Inch Nails, et al.—thanks a lot, Michael Gira!). But these grunge and alt. rock artistes naturally only misunderstood what SWANS were about, taking the noise and the awkward, heavy handed imagery and leaving the quest for transcendence. Blinded by the obvious attributes of his art, they lost sight of both the subtleties and the very core.

In any case, it's not Gira's innovations that qualify him as a genius. (Although that certainly contributes to his unique vision.) There's also his intensity of vision. It's uncompromising, unflinching and penetrating, which has enabled him to see (and convey) things, perspectives or angles no other artist who comes to mind has tried, let alone managed to do. This helps explain how he can be called a genius—as if that's terribly important—even now that his innovations and experiments seem less radical (on the face of it, at least).

You could even argue that he didn't actually qualify as a genius until he graduated from that tentative quest to attain something very few artists
seek, especially in popular music, namely truth. His vision wasn't lucid enough, as he used early SWANS to bludgeon us with his warped emotional state, unique but utterly fucked. It was, perhaps, more cathartic than edifying.

Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan and now Nick Cave are all generally touted as songwriting geniuses, but only occasionally can they be said to be tailing truth. Perhaps hampered by their skill and blinded by the beauty of their creations, their manipulative love songs (designed, no doubt, to win them some pussy) betrays an insincerity that is absent from Gira's work. Gira doesn't possess the same skill, as far as formal structure is concerned, as a Dylan. But he compensates for this by bringing to the table both a sincerity and a perspective all his own, both of which deal with issues and emotions Cohen, Dylan, Cave, et al. are rarely willing, able or interested in pursuing. Dylan, Cohen and Cave don't really convey unique perspectives; it is their eloquence that is unique. They fall within the romantic tradition of The Poet; Gira doesn't really fall within a tradition. He should've been a High Art gallery artiste (like a Viennese Aktionist or some transgressive performance artist), but he happens to be equipped with an acoustic guitar and words to infect your eyes instead.


Net Nuggets 15: Bradford Cox Rocks!

In addition to writing and recording standard CD releases for band Deerhunter and solo project Atlas Sound, Bradford Cox records mp3s at home or on tour to share on his blog, for free. 131 of them to date, to be exact. Now that's generosity for you.

The remarkable thing—in addition to the generosity—is the high quality of this large quantity. A multi-instrumentalist master of the bedroom overdub, Cox has grasped that studio high fidelity is merely a convention that has outlived its Realist origins, and so makes demos like already perfect pearls, casting them out there and leaving it up to you to be a swine or not.

This primer I've compiled collects recordings made from 2006 until sometime in 2008. Cox still posts an occasional demo on his blog, but his technical proficiency has improved by now to the point where they sound like studio recordings. So, this first instalment features earlier, rougher recordings, their scruffy sound conserving the raw energy of new ideas, before they're over-thought.

The comp below is just a dip in the ocean; 117 more mp3s of time-consuming downloading await you at http://www.deerhuntertheband.blogspot.com/. (Those with lives should just head on over to 4AD or Kranky Records and fork out handfuls of cash for some good old compact discs.)

  1. You're so Fine
    (from «Altitude Sickness»)
  2. Remembered By (remastered)
  3. How Do I Look?
    (from «The Brian Foote EP»)
  4. Fluorescent Grey
    Fluorescent Grey Demos & Out-takes)
  5. Dr. Glass
    Fluorescent Grey Demos & Out-takes)
  6. Activation
    (from «Orange Ohms Glow»)
  7. Headphones
    Stereogum Presents Enjoyed: A Tribute to Björk's Post)
  8. Only Love Can Break Your Heart (original mix)
  9. Children's Hospital (Screaming in the Face of Death #2)
    (from «Healing Music (for Madeline)»)
  10. Tired Congregation
  11. April 13 (MySpace edit)
  12. Calvary Scars...
  13. Oliver
  14. Monochromatic
  15. Dog Years
    (from «Ghetto Cross» 7")
  16. Acrylics
    How I Escaped the Prison of Fractals)
1-3, 6-11, 13-14 & 16 credited to Atlas Sound.
4-5 & 12 credited to Deerhunter.
15 credited to Ghetto Cross (Bradford Cox & Cole Alexander).