Songs Lux'n'Ivy Taught Me

Monsters crampin yer style
V/A: Songs Lux & Ivy Taught Us [.zip]

This is a comp I think you toilet guppies would love the most. This blog has no genre specific profile, but I know some of you like music that's part of some social history or greater cultural context, while some of you like good time rock'n'roll, and some the escape of novelty music. Some of you like the bizarre, and there are those among you who can't get enough of the perverse. And then there's a bunch of you who just like the safe and plain quirky.

Of course, quirky music is only ever good despite being quirky. All the tracks on this collection are valid for some reason beyond wretched cutesiness. And they're not just pop culture references. This stuff isn't
novelty music. It's not fodder for your nostalgia, nor a target for your irony. This is by turns mean, fun, funny, nasty, clever, raunchy, sad, wilfully stupid, inadvertently profound and in every way evocative music. Often incompetently (or at least over-zealously) played, quite frequently silly and occasionally carefree, this is a decent playlist for parties, but the perfect palliative for bad days. When you no longer feel like waiting for the proverbial bus that may hit you tomorrow, touchy-feely singer/songwriter fare or uncompromising experimental music only helps digging a deeper hole. What you need is sex, fun and humour—which, incidentally, is what this comp is made of.

Before the retro stylings of Quentin Tarantino, and David Lynch even—around the time «Pope of Trash» John Waters was the most clever American filmmaker spreading the pulp/exploitation gospel—were the Cramps. Hell, I don't need to tell you about the Cramps. Suffice it to say, their core duo of Poison Ivy Rorschach and Lux Interior were avid collectors of '50s and '60s trash. Their impeccable bad taste has been documented on such compilations as Songs the Cramps Taught Us (volumes 1 to 5), the 14 volume(!) Lux & Ivy's Favorites series, Black Christmas, The Cramps' Jukebox, The Roots of the Cramps and the Bad Music for Bad People—Songs the Cramps Taught Us anthology. That's a whole lot of music, even considering the overlaps.

The bulk of the Cramps' influences is in inferior sound quality. If being cheaply recorded and produced in the 1950s and '60s weren't gritty enough, many of the songs are non-restored vinyl transfers of probably original pressings, all crackle and hiss. That is as it should be—rock'n'roll was never about polish (not until the 1980s, anyway)—but on the sizeable Lux & Ivy's Favorites and the Christmas album, the injured fidelity on most of the tracks is further insulted by a miserably low bit rate. So for the songs I liked, I went CD and mp3 hunting. Nothing here has a bit rate below 192 kbps.

In selecting from such a large pool of recordings I needed criteria: There's none of the tracks I already knew of, none of the artists I'd already heard of and no '60s garage rock (of which I'm far too obsessive a collector already). Thus I was left with material refreshing to this blog: Original '50s rock, the rockabilly that wasn't too naff (that country rhythm is embarrassing!), sci-fi/schlock horror Hallowe'en novelty songs, the kind of surf instrumentals that were precursors to speed metal, absurd (and sometimes unsettling) doo-wop, faux-ethnographical exotica, ol-R'n'B, and at least one blues number played by a preacher. Hundreds of songs were whittled down to an eclectic mix of 27 largely forgotten obscurities that don't deserve to be so.

There are delightful surprises at every turn. Pure joy of sound and energy. A lot of creativity and imagination, from a time before obese fame and fortune imbued most music with the spirit of narcissistic ambition and an unashamed selfishness that has little or nothing to do with the spontaneous, mystical energy once at the core of music, long since replaced by the brittle weaknesses inherent in the egos of whores more focused on photo shoots and hairdos than anything to do with sincerity, humility, beauty or truth, near killing the prehistoric impulse of soulful expression with not even money, just their own petty need for validation. Children fantasising alone in front of the mirror, destined one day to die empty idiots without insight, more stupid at the end than in the beginning, having learnt nothing from this life and only deserving pointless deaths. May the hurts of mainstream and «indie» artists alike feed our deepest pleasures evermore! Music is a contract between musician and listener, except that most performers don't even remotely mean with any kind of sincerity the emotions they manipulate in you, just so you'll fork over your cash (and adoration) for their product. You've been gypped, mate, but it wasn't always like this. Back when the financial, hedonistic and social rewards weren't flabby and obscene, it wasn't uncommon for musicians and songwriters to make music out of a genuine impulse. Which is one of the reasons the songs in this compilation work so well.

Not that this is worthwhile music because «they don't make music like they used to.» (There's always great contemporary stuff—even if you have to sift through the waste products of an entire industry that encourages the self-obsession of pretty and vacant dunces dribbling feelings about as relevant as their thoughts are insightful.) And this music isn't good because it reminds us of a time we're too young to even remember—that we can only fantasise about, imagining what the good old days must surely have been like, the music supposedly reflecting the innocent times we're foolish to even yearn for. There never were any «good old days». (Besides, if you listen a little more closely, you'll find this music is anything but innocent.) These songs are just good, period. Enjoy it already—and for all the right reasons: There
isn't a pretentious moment on the whole mp3 album. Just a journey through the weird and wonderful so wonderful you realise it's not really weird, after all.

So, take a quick dip in Rorschach and Interior's magical time capsule. Laugh, cry, dance, fuck. And if you like what you hear, enjoy this extra little comp I've uploaded just for you. Trust me, it's a doozy…


Desert Island Mixtape + Contest w/Prizes!

V/A: Desert Island Mixtape [.zip]

Recently, one of my superiors—best known for writing and singing songs for a kids' TV show that proved more popular with speed freak inmates in the capital's gaol than with the children of the nation—told me to compile a CD-R of the music most important to me. I don't know why. Presumably my mind and body for eight hours a day isn't enough; she wants my soul, too.

It was a ridiculous task. There are far too many excellent recordings in the world, all of them impossible to quantify or rate, to select a paltry 74 minutes' worth. In the end, a not very short shortlist had to be brutally whittled down to its bare essentials and, after a series of unhappy compromises, the entire thing was sequenced by hitting the «Random» button. (To reflect the unpredictability of day-to-day mood swings, y'unnerstand.)

Anyway, I thought I'd upload the compilation here because, well, though there's more music I'd recommend, there isn't music I'd recommend more. And this is a music blog.

Feel free to upload and email Toilet Guppies your compilation of absolutely unmissable essentials. Anyone who submits an mp3 album of their ultimate favourites (totalling no more than 100MB, please) shall receive a reading, consisting of a detailed analysis of their personality and predictions for the future, entirely for free. The person with the most moving/impressive/confounding/unsettling or unintentionally funny compilation shall win two tickets to see SWANS in Oslo, Norway on 6 May 2011.


Rare or Unreleased 49: Poverty in My Heart for the Marketing Exec

What kind of beast are the Black Angels? They stand for many things easy to despise: They promulgate shameless time warp nostalgia—in their case, idealisation of a one-dimensional, cartoonish idea of the '60s. (Songs even reference the Vietnam War, ferchrissakes.) Like good children of postmodernism, they appropriate the art and image of more famous or street credible artists of the past in order to further their own career. (The band name was derived from a song by the Velvet Underground, and they use an iconic image of Nico as their logo.) Their lyrics are often embarrassing—more like a sequence of rhymes than actual poetry, with little substance to indicate any of them are older than 13. Nico it ain't.

But despite their corny yet perfectly po-faced «turn on, tune in, drone out» psychedelia revival schtick (employing Native American imagery, presumably to automatically render the whole thing somehow «spiritual»), the Black Angels' first slew of self-produced EPs and albums combined primitive rhythms, scuzzy bass grooves, sultry tremolo guitars and tambourines like rattlesnakes, occasionally punctuated by neck hair-raising screams, making for eminently danceable rock'n'roll that made you gag for the sex and drugs to complete the equation. For all the bullshit image bullshit, the music was great. Devoid of silly little pop hooks, it had a slightly menacing, creeping underbelly feel, lurking beneath the rhythmically hypnotic swagger. It's so hard to find music to dance to that isn't yet another fucking celebration of this, that or the other, or just pacifying and diverting and completely irrelevant to any human emotion with grit. Live, the Black Angels made you want to grab whichever person was immediately next to you and fuck them up against the nearest wall. They had balls. (The band, I mean, not the person you may or may not have been fucking up against the wall. But with that soundtrack, who cares? Buy copies of Passover and Directions to See a Ghost and hear for yourself…)

For their third full-length, the Black Angels enlisted a producer. (The guy behind this.) The result—last autumn's Phosphene Dream—isn't as raw, is a bit more uneven, but at least it's more varied, expanding upon what could easily have become a formula.

There was a promotional push where you could pre-order the album. You got a couple of mp3s at once, then a little later the digital album as you waited for the CD in the post. After the release date, however, four other versions of Phosphene Dream were unveiled, each with its own set of bonus tracks—none of which came with the version purchased directly off the band's website. iTunes' edition featured two bonus tracks («Melanie's Melody», «Ronettes»), Amazon's another («My Boat Is Sinking»), ShockHound's yet another («At Night») and Napster—where you have to buy an additional subscription just for access—offered an additional two («Choose to Choose», «Raindance Song»). In all cases, the bonus mp3s were only made available if you bought the entire album. That's four copies of Phosphene Dream (not counting the regular edition perhaps already purchased in other record stores or on the band's website). If you have a US credit card, that is—most of these «exclusive»/«deluxe» versions aren't even available elsewhere.

It's a puzzling marketing ploy that's becoming more and more common among indie labels. The artist is exploited and the music lover fucked, just so that a few distributors may cash in—marginally. Worse than unethical—there are more important things in the news—it's stupid.

For the Black Angels, it was a continuation of an unfortunate trend that began with their sophomore album, which was similarly pushed before its release date with an offer any obsessive completist couldn't resist: pre-order it and you got an exclusive, limited edition EP. An EP that may currently be purchased through the group's website, just like any other CD. I'm looking forward to the episode of «Mad Men» where they invent the use of the words «exclusive» and «limited
edition» to move product. It would've been in the 1960s, judging from the Black Angels…

In any case, if you're miffed or feel gypped by the Black Angels' shifty record company Blue Horizon (which doesn't even have a website), here's a little something to cheer you up:


Mp3 Killed the Vinyl DJ 10: Free Tonetta!

Tonetta: «Get It Going» b/w «Mmm Mama!» 7" [.zip]

Are you on Facebook™? Well, so was Tonetta, until they banished him, simply for being himself (sometimes herself). The only thing he ever did was post clips from his YouTube channel. (YouTube also excommunicated him once, but they let him back in. It just wasn't the same without him.) The images aren't even explicit, and there's no malice in his words, so what Facebook's problem is, is anybody's guess. Like YouTube, the social networking site should welcome him back, if not for good taste, then for the sake of free speech (and all that). There's enough gentrification in the real world, we have to clean up our virtual world as well? What would the Internet be without porn? (That was a rhetorical question, but the answer is: «Still just a military communications network.»)

Naturally, we can't have this. So to sneak Tonetta back in—through the back door, as it were—Toilet Guppies has created a Facebook Page© for the Facebook™ Tonetta Appreciation Society. Like™ it now, then share your favourite Tonetta videos, stories, thoughts, feelings, downstairs tingles and/or musically inspired bowel movements with like-minded individuals!

«Who is Tonetta?» I hear you ask. He's the finest 60-something recording pervert currently operating out of Canada, that's who, and probably the most prolific degenerate allowed to operate on a website owned by Google. (At the time of writing, Tonetta's YouTube channel contains 161 music videos.) He dresses up in what is obviously his house, not in fancy dress or high fashion, but in seemingly random get-ups (he's more a Lord Dada than a Lady Gaga) and sings about stuff that would go down very well in a kindergarten—when he doesn't sing about stuff that would go down well in a gay bar. He's the man, he's the shit, he's the man shit! Some scholar is bound to label him an «outsider artist», so let's nip that one in the bud right now by saying once and for all that Tonetta is not crazy, is not clueless, is not unintentionally funny, is not coincidentally good, is not some idiot savant. Tonetta makes rock'n'roll for the child inside. He kicks arse, grinning. He's the song in your throat as you sing in the golden shower. He's the twinkle in yer daddy's eye while your daddy is getting his feet tickled by a feminist transsexual. Perhaps his record label put it best when they said, «Very little is known of Tonetta.» To quote the Mighty Boosh: «Some say he once read the mind of a pelican and then fainted.»

Tonetta has one album out, 777, vol. 1. Black Tent Press are taking pre-orders for Vol. 2 now. They're very gracious; even though the albums are in vinyl format, you get a CD version with each purchase.

The exception is this release—a 7" with two non-album tracks, «Get It Going» and the spectacular «Mmm Mama!»:
You erupt my volcano
You simmer me down
You do all the things from dreams
Right through to reality
But fear not. These 192 kbps mp3s enable you to listen to the above tracks as you sit among the deviants on public transport, Tonetta's lascivious drawl cuddling your piqued ears as you begin to sense the secrets of the other passengers fill the air…

Of course, Tonetta is still on MySpace.


Mp3 Killed the Vinyl DJ 9: Larkin Grimm

Larkin Grimm & Rosolina Mar: 7" double A-side [.zip]

I thought this blog would be inactive by now. The plan was to upload everything I had that was rare, then kill the blog dead, leave it to the scavengers of the Internet. Alas, it's 2011 and I'm on it again, still. Sorry. I've been lazy, I know… slow at uploading what remains of bona fide rarities on my computer.

These two obscure A-sides, for example. It's because they're in vinyl. I hate vinyl, and I hate transferring it, so I've been putting it off. It's all too technical and time-consuming. I've not bothered to restore the sound. If vinyl is so fucking great and superior in sound, one shouldn't have to restore it… But you can't take your record player and vinyl collection with you everywhere you go, so here are 192 kbps mp3s for your listening convenience, crackle and all: two songs performed by the venerable Larkin Grimm, backed for the occasion by Italian trio Rosolina Mar.

The first track, «Los Angeles», is a cover of an Old Time Relijun song. You've never heard Grimm this rock'n'roll. (Larkin goes electric!) The second is an alternate version of Grimm's own «Anger in Your Liver». The Rosolina Mar-backed rendition actually beats the album version on Grimm's Parplar (itself one of thee albums of the noughties). It's a good'un, Rosolina Mar's spacious Americana backing taking you on a road movie through your immune system, as Grimm diagnoses you: «Trouble in your heart / Worry in your spleen / Anger in your liver, darlin' / Metal in your lungs». Still, Grimm's confident, almost triumphant (and certainly gorgeous) singing makes you think you'll be all right…

The real gem, however, is the B-side, the only proper studio recording of one of Grimm's most accomplished compositions, «The Butcher». The reason I haven't included it here, is that I'm not in the habit of stealing food out of the mouths of starving babes—the very same recording is available on the various artists compilation Leaves of Life, proceeds of which go to the World Food Programme, available on CD or as mp3s, sold separately. Get it now, you freeloading downloader; as well as the aforementioned must from Grimm & Rosolina Mar, it's got contributions by Devendra Banhart, Marissa Nadler and one of the members of Fire On Fire, one of Young God Records' house bands (kind of), which features heavily on the aforementioned Parplar. Speaking of which, go buy that album, too.

When writing about anything pertaining to Larkin Grimm—one of the best things to happen to music since banging rocks together—I tend to gush transcendental. Forgive me if I can't be bothered this time. Just listen to the music already.


Free, New Music

Toilet Guppies is loathe to be the scurrying, little errand boy of record companies and marketing hipsters, but here are some free, legal downloads dropped by some of our favourite artists' record companies to promote hotly anticipated albums:

Both from Smoke Ring for My Halo, out on 8 March. These little tastes, as well as last year's «Square Shells» EP and «In My Time» single, indicate Kurt Vile is going the way of inconsequential Sonic Youth family values indie listening; here's hoping there are moments scratching deeper than the surface (as on all his previous, truly terrific albums). At least these tracks are a little dreamy, reminding us that there is such a thing as summer and that this winter business won't last forever. (While you wait, I strongly suggest you download early radio session versions of two of the tracks slated for release on Smoke Ring for My Halo—«Ghost Town» and personal favourite «Runner ups».

Oh, and don't forget Vile's former band's new digital EP, which comes highly recommended, with the record label already magnanimously distributing two of its tracks, entirely for free:

And then there's the family of Ak Ak:

From S/T II: The Cosmic Birth and Journey of Shinju TNT, out on 8 February. Pretty song. Akron/Family are a bit hit-or-miss these days, but at least they're a bearable and not least intelligent voice of positivity and innocence, for those days when you need a break from the loathing. And where else are you going to get that?

Don't believe the hype, but enjoy the music. Sweet, free music…