Two years ago, while playing records on a rooftop in LA with Patrick McCarthy (Light In The Attic Records), a track by David Sylvian sparked the following mix. It’s now autumn of 2016 and here we are. McCarthy, on the set, below…

When I set out to work on this mix I had a very different roadmap in mind then where I ended up. I wanted to have some ebb and flow, quiet and loud, bangers and bummers. Moodymann can sit side by side with Gigi Masin, right? …actually how great would that collaboration be? Anyway, here’s a fire to warm yourself by.

Build A Fire – A Mixtape


Way soulful strut from Detroit Rock City. I’ve had this nugget on in the background since March, and (other than the music) know nothing about the band. I’ve made a point to keep it that way as sometimes it’s nice to try and retain some of the mystery/enigma. I think. Note: this not the sixties group by the same name.

The Wrong Numbers :: I Found A Love (Pickett)


Following a stint in the Glass Menagerie, Willie “Loco” Alexander did time in the Velvet Underground after the exit of Sterling Morrison in 1971. But this isn’t about the Velvets, this is about Alexander’s crystalline slice of new-wave balladry, “Gin”, off the 1980 lp, Solo Loco. Revel in all its breathy/stormy glory, below.

Willie “Loco” Alexander :: Gin

(In October of 2008 we flipped the script on our Sevens column with Politiko, focusing solely on political songs until the general election. It’s now 2016…and we’re back.)

4048272132_64db351612_zIn the spring of 1985, fresh off his landslide re-election to the presidency, Ronald Reagan planned out a visit to a West German military cemetery with then-Chancellor Helmut Kohl. For Reagan, this was a chance to show appreciation for Kohl’s continued support in the placement of nuclear missiles in his country as the Cold War had pushed on. It was near the 40th anniversary of V-E Day, and since Reagan was already going to be in West Germany for a G7 summit, Kohl felt it would make for a good way to begin to show the reconciliation of the two countries. Kohl suggested a visit to the Kolmeshöhe Cemetery in nearby Bitburg as well as a visit to a concentration camp.

What Reagan’s aides initially missed in planning out the visit was that the cemetery included the graves of 49 members of the Waffen-SS, the armed wing of the paramilitary inside Nazi Germany. As a result, a furor erupted ahead of time about Reagan’s visit, especially since he initially planned to pass on visiting the concentration camp. Reagan tried to help his cause by stating in his defense that a good number of the SS soldiers were drafted against their will. “They were victims, just as surely as the victims in the concentration camps.” This comparison didn’t go over well with those already angry about the visit.

This entire situation even got to a group of musicians not known for expressing their political opinions in their work. The Ramones had just released their eighth studio album the previous fall, 1984’s Too Tough To Die, but even so, decided to record a song to be released as a single. The result was “Bonzo Goes to Bitburg.” Penned by Joey Ramone, Dee Dee Ramone and Jean Beauvoir, the song took aim at the specific incident of Reagan’s visit to Bitburg, but also of some of the broader themes of his presidency.

The title, of course, references one of Reagan’s more famous vehicles during his time as an actor: Bedtime for Bonzo. Bonzo was Reagan’s co-star chimpanzee, but here their identities get commingled while also playing on the title of another later Bonzo film, Bonzo Goes to College. In an August 1986 article in Spin, Joey Ramone was quoted about the Bitburg incident. “We had watched Reagan going to visit the SS cemetery on TV and were disgusted. We’re all good Americans, but Reagan’s thing was like forgive and forget. How can you forget six million people being gassed and roasted?”

Joey was himself Jewish and that couldn’t help but inform his perspective on the matter. Reagan did, by the time of the visit, agree to actually go to the concentration camp as well, though it was a little late to ward off some of the criticism as more than half the members of the Senate and House of Representatives had signed letters either asking Reagan to cancel his visit or for Kohl to rescind the invitation.

The single was released in June of 1985, a really quick turn-around for the band, but their record label only ended up releasing it in the U.K. and not the U.S. It did find a place on the Ramones’ next album, 1986’s Animal Boy, but with a slightly different title. Guitarist Johnny Ramone, a fairly staunch conservative, didn’t love the criticism of President Reagan and pushed successfully to have the song’s title changed to “My Brain Is Hanging Upside Down (Bonzo Goes to Bitburg)” for the album release. The song ended up having a pretty long life for the band, appearing on the gold certified, 1988 best-of compilation Ramones Mania (where its title reverted to “Bonzo Goes to Bitburg”) and the 1991 live album Loco Live (where the title again changed to “My Brain is Hanging Upside Down”).

In the years following Reagan’s death, it’s been typical to see his legacy white-washed a bit and held up as an example of premiere presidency, but the 80s were a high time for government criticism – this wasn’t even the only song about the Bitburg incident released by a fairly major artist – and though it remains pretty much the only explicitly political song in the Ramones’ catalogue, if you compiled a collection of the era’s Reagan-critical songs, this one would definitely belong near the top. words / j neas

Ramones :: Bonzo Goes To Bitburg

You can’t choose your blues, but you might as well own them.

heart-like-a-leveeWhen you’ve been around the block a few decades you begin to notice life is a series of concurrent rhythms and as you build speed to accelerate to the next path, often blindly, you may be met with a series of new challenges. Joy, guilt, ecstasy and self-loathing all bundle in the bottom of your gut as you prepare for the next unknown turn. Michael Taylor, Hiss Golden Messenger, met those obstacles face-to-face when a series of dead-end jobs were finally laid to rest, the tour van was gassed and tearful family goodbyes became harder – can one work to live, not live to work? To make matters more challenging in January 2015, as a powerful snowstorm blanketed the East Coast, Taylor found himself shuttered in a Washington, D.C. hotel room with a stash of stark black-and-white portraits of life in a coal-mining camp in Eastern Kentucky in 1972. Commissioned by Duke University to write a song cycle inspired by William Gedney’s photography he began to see an emotional crossover between his struggling artist-cum-family man dance and the workingman’s ‘plight’. Crossing that existential bridge, Taylor began writing against the photos with his own experiences in mind, and as the muse revealed herself, Heart Like A Levee was born.

As an album, Heart Like A Levee deals with themes of leaving and returning, trust, guilt and honesty with a rich southern soul that is equally as pummeling and raw as it joyous and uplifting (“Tell Her I’m Just Dancing”). As the songs unfold Taylor’s attempt to make a simultaneously happy and solemn album is brought to life by his musical kin – Bradley Cook on bass, Phil Cook on piano, Matt McCaughan (Bon Iver) on drums, Tift Merritt and Alexandra Sauser-Monnig on backing vocals, along with Matt Douglas and Michael Lewis on horns. As a whole they strip away and strengthen the emotions that both trouble and lift us each day (“Say It Like You Mean It”). A taut 45 minutes, the lp builds and weaves as the message becomes heavier and the band’s eternal beat grooves, unwavering – an aural friend who will grow with you, not against you. words / d norsen

Hiss Golden Messenger :: Say It Like You Mean It

The album is out today via Merge Records. The deluxe version includes an additional intimate album, Vestapol, of eight songs that were composed during the same period of time.


Our weekly two hour show on SIRIUS/XMU, channel 35, can be heard twice every Friday – Noon EST with an encore broadcast at Midnight EST.

SIRIUS 451: Jean Michel Bernard – Générique Stephane ++ Trailer Trash Tracys – Candy Girl (demo version) ++ Omni – Wire ++ The Vaselines – Son of A Gun ++ Ty Segall – Caesar ++ Indian Wars – If You Want Me ++ Parquet Courts – Paraphrased ++ Les Olivensteins – Fier De Ne Rien Faire ++ The Bellys – Chow Chow ++ Zig Zags – Wastin’ My Time ++ Wire – After Midnight ++ White Fence – Growing Faith ++ John Cale – Cable Hogue ++ Willie Loco Alexander – Gin ++ Apache Sun – Club Noir ++ Sam Evians – Sleep Easy ++ Mndsgn – Yawn ++ Daniel Patrick Quinn – Channelkirk and Surrounding Area ++ Mariah – Shinzo No Tobira ++ James Pants – Spaces ++ Gary Numan – M.E. ++ The Soft Moon – Total Decay ++ Gary Numan – Metal ++ Deerhunter – Ad Astrad (AD edit) ++ Moodymann – Remember ++ Daughn Gibson – Bad Guys ++ Willis Earl Beal – Flying So Low ++ Cass McCombs – Bum Bum Bum ++ Chris Cohen – Torrey Pine ++ Lightmyth – Across The Universe ++ Lower Dens – I Get Nervous (Aquarium Drunkard Session) ++ Lower Dens – To Die In La (Aquarium Drunkard Session) ++ Lower Dens – Electric Current (Aquarium Drunkard Session) ++ Lower Dens – Quo Vadis (Aquarium Drunkard Session) ++ Lower Dens – Tea Lights (Aquarium Drunkard Session) ++ Amen Dunes – Spirits Are Parted

*You can listen, for free, online with the SIRIUS three day trial — just submit an email address and they will send you a password.


In his review of Nathan Bowles’ latest LP Whole and Cloven for Aquarium Drunkard, writer Tyler Wilcox asks: “Is banjo futurism a thing? Probably not, but if it was Nathan Bowles would be leading the charge.”

Wilcox makes an excellent point. Like his previous solo records have demonstrated — in addition his work with the Black Twig Pickers, Pelt, Steve Gunn, and the late, great Jack Rose — Bowles approaches traditional music with an adventurist spirit. Whole & Cloven, released by the sturdy folks at Paradise of Bachelors, takes his elemental clawhammer banjo approach and expands it outward, exploring dynamic minimalism and driving boogie. It’s centerpiece, the 11-minute “I Miss My Dog” wordlessly conveys an emotional journey. By the time it’s done, you’re not only missing your own dog, but Bowles’ too.

Recently, AD called up Bowles while he was on tour through Virginia with singer/songwriter Jake Xerxes Fussell. Below, our discussion, edited and condensed for clarity.

Nathan Bowles :: Gadarene Fugue

Aquarium Drunkard: Whole & Cloven is your first record since moving from Virginia to North Carolina, right? 

Nathan Bowles: That’s correct, yeah. All of Nansemond was written and developed in Blacksburg. Now that I think about it, the songs on Whole & Cloven were pretty much written in Blacksburg too, and I recorded it last November before moving.

AD: What inspired that move?

Nathan Bowles: I have a fair amount of musical friends in Durham. I always liked the feel of the area…it’s got a lot of variety culturally, musically.

AD: Did Nansemond feel specifically tied to the setting of Virginia?

Nathan Bowles: Yeah. All of those songs were inspired by thinking back on childhood and how the place where I grew up had changed a lot geographically.


Following the release of last year’s
Pat Thomas & Kwashibu Area Band, Strut Records returns with Coming Home, a career retrospective compilation for the Ghanaian highlife master and ” Golden Voice Of Africa”, spanning his late ‘60s big band highlife recordings to the “burger highlife” movement of the early ‘80s. As such, we asked the collection’s compiler, Duncan Brooker, to spin some of his favorite records of the era. Brooker’s notes, below.

This mix started with Pat Thomas at its core, featuring three tracks from my latest Strut compilation, Coming Home. I wanted to showcase some of the sounds that were happening across Ghana during the early to mid 70’s, selecting music that features some of Pat’s friends and associates, as well as some of the other contemporary highlife groups of the era. I included everything from guitar bands to the post-big band collectives that were around during this time. There are some of the more well known bands from this period, like The Boom Talents and then there is the more bluesier guitar highlife sound, like the F. Micah’s Band track, which was just as popular domestically at that time. Guitar highlife remained popular throughout this period and remained so after the demise of the larger highlife bands – guitar groups were a more manageable size and format.

Sip on this narcoleptic soul brew – Junior Parker’s psychedelic molasses rendition of the Beatles “Tomorrow Never Knows.” One of three Beatles covers found on his 1971 LP, Love ain’t Nothin’ But A Business GoinOn, Parker died of a brain tumor the year of its release just shy of his fortieth birthday.

Junior Parker :: Tomorrow Never Knows