The name Eric Bachmann is well-known to indie-rock devotees, but not because it has graced the covers of records that often. Chiefly known as a member of Archers of Loaf and the main force behind Crooked Fingers, Bachmann only just released the third album under his own name earlier this year. This latest self-titled album has been met well critically, and following a full-band tour earlier this year, Bachmann is about to set off on a series of living room concerts in support of it. We caught up with Bachmann via phone to discuss the new album, the potential end of the Crooked Fingers name, how one promotes a tour like this, and how giving a 46 year-old-man some dignity is a good thing.
Aquarium Drunkard: The new album has been out since March. How has the response been thus far?
Eric Bachmann: I think, relatively speaking, it’s done well. It’s had a good response. It hasn’t done as well as, say, Kanye West does or anything. [laughs] But I feel good about how it’s going. My world isn’t going to change or anything. I did a bunch of touring in April, May and June and that all went really well. And I’m going to start doing these living room shows, which is a new thing for me, and I have other things happening this year for me. But as much as I’m happy it went well, I’m always kind of moving forward. I haven’t forgotten about it or anything, but I’ve just kind of let it go.
Calm the dog days of summer with this, the sixth installment of the Maison Dufrene collection. Weaving in and out of gnarled roots and aged forests, the following selections dig deep into Appalachia, re-imagining some old country favorites, while dusting off a few hippie treasures and rusty backwoods gems. words / p dufrene
Rob Sheffield’s On Bowiebegins plainly: “Planet Earth is a lot bluer without David Bowie, the greatest rock star who ever fell to this or any other world.” I read those words early Wednesday morning and turned them over in my head a few times, preparing myself for a book that more or less held that sustained, mournful note: sad and undeniable. If anyone’s qualified to write en elegiac book on Bowie’s passing, I figure, it’s Sheffield, whose writing about music, and the way it weaves through our lives, is touching and tremendous. (Look no further than his essential books Love is a Mixtape and Talking to Girls About Duran Duran for proof.)
But On Bowie, written in a flurry the month following Bowie’s passing just days after the release of his final album, the Kendrick Lamar-inspired jazz rock odyssey Blackstar and the Starman’s 69th birthday, isn’t that book. It’s not a quiet eulogy at all. Instead, it finds Sheffield dwelling in all the worlds Bowie created, a crackling, hilarious, and deeply loving meditation on Bowie in all his Bowieness, zooming in on each character he inhabited and reflecting on how generously he treated his fans, in part because they provided him with his primary artistic mandate: offering them a Bowie lens to see themselves through. “I mean, if I’ve been at all responsible for people finding more characters in themselves than they originally thought they had, then I’m pleased, because that’s something I feel very strongly about,” Sheffield quotes Bowie saying in the BBC’s Cracked Actor documentary.
Sheffield calls the book a love letter, but also a travelog, and so he goes looking for Bowie and finds him in all sorts of fascinating places: on Dinah Shore’s variety show, in the themes of Kanye West and Future’s records, in Berlin, in the feminine/masculine and nebulous alien genders in between, in science fiction landscapes, in the groove and far out of it, in the back of cabs, in the air at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace outside of Joshua Tree. He pulls not just from Bowie’s acknowledged classics, but from B-sides and Earthling and Hours, shrugging off dated guitar tones and cutting to the thriving, vibrant art just beneath the production. Sheffield writes direct from the heart and with obsessive knowledge, citing the archives and his own lifetime of Bowie-centric experiences.
I tore through the book with ease. It was impossible to put down, because Sheffield’s voice feels like that of a friend you never get sick of listening to. You’re not reading his book, you’re sharing drinks at a bar, and he’s got the attention of everyone at the table and oh wait, he’s up for karaoke, hang on. I didn’t want On Bowie to end and it reads like Sheffield doesn’t either. But that’s where Sheffield finds the most beauty — in those perfect moments that frequent David Bowie songs, moments too pure to last beyond the impact they make in our heads and hearts. Writing about “Where Are We Now,” from The Next Day, he cites “Heroes,” a song “about respecting a temporary moment of human fellowship and resisting the temptation to make it fraudulent by pretending it can or should last forever.” words / j woodbury
Growing up an hour from Athens, GA, in Atlanta in the 80s/90s, Pylon were akin to something like the home team. Sometime around 1991, via R.E.M.’s regular endorsement, I picked up a cassette copy of Pylon’s Hits, and that was it. Twenty five years later I placed their song “Cool” in a Lexus commercial. Time flies.
And now they are back, in an archival sense, courtesy of Chunklet Records. July 25th sees the release of PYLON LIVE, a twenty track double vinyl album described by the label as “recorded on the band’s home turf at the culmination of their powers”. I’ll bite.
In anticipation of the release, we asked Pylon’s Vanessa Briscoe Hay and Michael Lachowski to take us on a sonic journey through their time in Athens, relaying some of their favorite local artists, and stories, of the era. Vanessa and Michael, in their own words, below. A fascinating read/listen.
B-52’s :: Dance This Mess Around – I can remember the first time that I heard the B-52’s at the Last Resort and this was one of the original songs that they performed. The song starts out with Cindy Wilson sadly cooing about a lost love. She then completely loses it on the phrase “why don’t you dance with me, I’m not no limburger?” at the end of the first verse alluding to her feelings of poor self esteem at the loss of this whoever he was. The guitar,keys and drums go into a little bit of overdrive and Fred exhorts us to “dance this mess around.” He is closely followed by Kate who in the coolest of voices advises that “Everybody goes to parties, they dance this mess around.” It’s difficult to describe how happy they made us all feel in that room and how much fun it was attempting to do all 16 dances. It was wild and uninhited. It definitely made us all feel a whole lot better!
Squalls :: Cindy – The original lineup of the Squalls started out drinking, playing bridge together and jamming out in the sticks beyond Athens. Big Al Walsh, the original bassist, humorously suggested that they call themselves the Squalls after the sound had started coalescing a little. Their sprightly pop sound was driven by two bright sounding guitars, bass, percussion and drums. Their sounds were influenced by the Loving Spoonful crossed with the Grateful Dead. Everyone in this band could sing and it was not uncommon to see them switch instruments during the set. Bob Hay,the chief songwriter and arranger, was inspired to write this song after seeing the B-52s for the first time. At some point, much later, he realized that he had gotten the names of the two women in the band confused and that his ode to Cindy Wilson was actually supposed to be to Kate Pierson. I’m glad he was confused, because “on the beach it was wet and windy-I want to be with Cindy” sounds great and I can’t imagine it any other way.
R.E.M. :: Driver 8 – I can see the power lines going up and down next to the railroad tracks and feel the heated roar of the train engine listening to this song. I have always loved trains and I still feel like a child while waiting for one to pass by. I look at the cars and imagine where they came from and where they are going. I don’t know who wrote the poetry for these particular lyrics, but Michael Stipe’s yearning delivery does them justice. They are visual and heartfelt like those a cowboy might compose. The bass line combined with the low register guitar is a powerful and direct combination driven along by the drums. You hear this tune and it can’t be anyone else but R.E.M. I have a lot of favorite songs by them and this is one of my very favorites. Film by Jim Herbert.
Love Tractor :: Fun to Be Happy – Love Tractor was formed by original members Mike Richmond, Mark Cline and Armistead Wellford along with rotating drummers Kit Swartz (Side Effects) and Bill Berry (R.E.M.) sometime in the spring of 1980 during the flowering of the Athens,GA music scene. They started out purely as a instrumental band, and gradually added vocals as time went on. Bill went on to be with R.E.M. full time and Andrew Carter then became the full time drummer. Anyway, their debut record was all instrumental and that is how I remember them best. Layers of guitar come and go playing a theme and the song develops right before your ears while the bass and drums continue relentlessly delivering an infectious beat that you can dance to. A little bit surf, a little bit of this and that while the youth of Athens danced. You have to listen to more than one song once you get started on a Love Tractor binge. Maybe their cover of Neon Lights would make a nice gateway too if you are not familiar with them.
Side Effects :: April 5,1980 – is a famous date around Athens because that is the night an unnamed R.E.M. debuted at a birthday party for Kathleen O’Brien. Two other also played that night: Men in Trees and the Side Effects. To enter, you were directed to crawl through a hole in the wall of the apartments in the front of the Church and suddenly you were in a abandoned, falling down sanctuary with a lot of other people. The stage was where the pulpit would have been. The keg was out back in some weeds. A balloon floated here and there. The Side Effects consisted of Kit Swartz (guitar/vocals) , Paul Butchart (drums) and Jimmy Ellison (bass). They played an extremely fun and danceable set. I had wandered up to the rafters by the time REM played. Looking down, I noticed some girls who had formed a fake punk rock sorority (de fi u’s). They screamed and ran to the front of the stage and began dancing like they were on Hullabaloo. Amazing, really amazing! If I ever felt like Alice in Wonderland, it was that night. Unfortunately (to me anyway) the perfectly fine and wonderful ep that the Side Effects ended up recording was not representative of the mass dance hysteria they were capable of inducing. So I am providing a link to a short documentary about them. They were only together for 2 years and the bassist Jimmy Ellison died a year later.
Swimming Pool Q’s :: Little Misfit – The Swimming Pool Qs were among the first generation of Georgia new wave/punk bands and originally included Jeff Calder, Bob Elsey, Anne Richmond Boston and Robert Schmid. They were later joined by drummer Bill Burton. Randy Bewley, the guitarist for Pylon insisted I come and see them the first time that they performed in Athens at the Last Resort sometime in 1979. They were colorful, poppy and funny and we had a great time. Later on, the Swimming Pool Q’s and Pylon were both on the Atlanta label DB Recs and both performed together occasionally. We all became good friends-especially Randy Bewley and Jeff Calder. There were was some connection there because both of them had spent their youth in Florida. Jeff has done a lot to help Pylon out of the goodness of his heart with the reissues of Gyrate Plus and Chomp More on DFA and now Pylon Live on Chunklet. From 1982 here is one side of a single that they released on DB Recs. Little Misfit. Now available again on The Deep End which has been reissued.
Limbo District :: Carnival, Limbo District – A 12-minute film by Jim Herbert featuring four songs: “Those Devil Eyes”, “A la maison”, “Rhythm Forward”, and “Daydreaming” is the only current recording that we have of this experimental band from Athens,GA. Craig Woodall,Jerry Ayers, Marguerita Bilbao, Dominique Amet, Tim Lacy,Kelly Crow and Davey Stevenson.They broke up before releasing any recorded material and most moved away to New York,Paris and Spain. Talented photographer and writer Davey was the brother of Gordon Stevenson, a filmmaker and artist who was married to Muriel, Exene Cervanka’s sister. Muriel sadly was killed in an accident, both Gordon and Davey later died from Aids. Dominique returned to France and everyone lost track of her. She is reported to have passed away too. I can hear the influences of African polyrhythms, circus music and musique concrete,which was combined with the visual influence of filmmakers like Fellini’s La Strada.
Current Rage :: Waikiki – I loved Current Rage because I wanted to, because Randy’s brother Chris who I was close to was the frontman, and because their songs were their own and I liked those too. I’m not sure what their influences were but it wasn’t Pylon-esque, it was more surf rock and fun and punk — as evidenced by their “hit,” Waikiki. That was a single before it appeared on Seven Songs. I had a lot of fun with them when we hung out and I took their photos for something at least once.
Is/Ought Gap :: Artsy Peace and Love – Less than two minutes long, this song packs in a whole lot of “Athens” from the era. Brian Cook’s impish nimble goofy vocals are on perfect display in this song, along with the casually perky garagey instrumentation of guitar, bass and drums. So sweet — and only recently released; their seven song CD Lucky 7 was recorded long ago (with help from Vic Varney of the Method Actors) and released in 2014!
Vietman :: Was It Long Ago? – I’m choosing this band as much as choosing a track, I don’t remember song to song anyway. I remember the energy, the sound, the form. I loved Vietnam, they were from Atlanta, we played on a bill once: Vietnam, Pylon, Public Image Limited. From this track you can hear their post-punk that was still punk, I love that nice long strung out continuum, Stan’s half-screaming vocals that aren’t as annoying as that form usually is, Lee’s lovely bass. Seeing these images of them is awesome for me to watch, being reminded of Drew and Sue in the band and the look of all of them.
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 440: Jean Michel Bernard – Générique Stephane ++ Yellow Fever – Katcatcher ++ The Raincoats – Lola ++ Ultimate Painting – Bills ++ Omni – Afterlife ++ Art School Jocks – Nina ++ Thurston Moore – Ono Soul ++ Suicide – Dream Baby Dream ++ Ty Segall – The Slider
++ Lou Reed – Perfect Day (demo) ++ Mac DeMarco – Rock And Roll Night Club ++ Alan Vega – Jukebox Babe ++ Calvin Love – Missions ++ The Gories – Ghostwriter (Suicide cover) ++ Wipers – Over The Edge ++ Omni – Identity Crisis (Aquarium Drunkard Session) ++ The Fall – New Face In Hell ++ Nots – Entertain Me ++ Allah-Las – Strange Heat ++ The Strange Boys – Should Have Shot Paul (AD edit) ++ The Zombies – Sticks And Stones ++ Whitney – Red Moon ++ Thee Oh Sees – The Sun Goes All Around ++ Lantern – Bleed Me Dry ++ Parquet Courts – Berlin Got Blurry ++ Canarios – Trying So Hard ++ Screaming Lord Sutch – Flashing Lights ++ Bob Azzam & His Orchestra – The Last Time ++ Alex Chilton – Jumpin’ Jack Flash ++ Ghetto Cross – Dog Years ++ Ought – New Calm, Pt. 2 ++ The Fall – Totally Wired ++ David Nance – Pure Evil ++ Wire – French Film Blurred ++ Silver Apples – Lovefingers ++ Jonathan Rado – Seven Horses ++ Joy Division – Atrocity Exhibition ++ Dungen – Fredag ++ Shark Move – Evil War
*You can listen, for free, online with the SIRIUS three day trial — just submit an email address and they will send you a password.
It’s hard not to slip into ridiculous hyperbole when it comes to 75 Dollar Bill. Best band in New York City? Best band in the USA? Best band in the universe? Whatever conclusion you come to personally, you’re gonna love the instrumental duo of guitarist Che Chen and percussionist Rick Brown. They’ve definitely nailed down a thrillingly original sound, centered around Chen’s specially designed quarter-tone guitar — something about his tone cuts right to the quick, with North African riffs blending into juke-joint boogies into more avant territory. Brown’s impressively minimalist setup (he mostly plays a wooden crate) is a perfect fit, adding a hypnotic thump to the mix. The whole thing is a little hard to describe, but trust me on this: 75 Dollar Bill is amazing.
On the band’s latest release, Wood / Metal / Plastic / Pattern / Rhythm / Rock, the group expand the lineup — baritone saxes, droning violas and contrabass — and deliver their most powerful music yet. Things feel a bit more composed and fleshed out as opposed to the improvised feel of some of their earlier recordings, but it works just fine: four mindbending tracks, each one a delight. The opener is called “Earth Saw,” and yeah, it sounds as if Brown and Chen are slicing through tectonic plates. “Cummins Falls” rides a mutated Bo Diddley beat to the heavens. The closer, the almost 15-minute “I’m Not Trying To Wake Up” is especially great, coming on like a reimagined “Marquee Moon,” all whiplash guitar lines and swelling crescendos. It’s the kind of song that stands up to any hyperbole you’ll want to throw its way. words / t wilcox
Four decades since the dawn of seminal post-punk bands Wire, Television, Pylon, Social Climbers, B-52s and Devo, that stripped down, raw minimalism remains a vastly rich mine – with no group currently striking more gold than Atlanta’s OMNI, via their debut lp, Deluxe. Made up of Carnivores’ Philip Frobos and Billy Mitchell, with Frankie Broyles of Deerhunter, we previously featured the trio’s lead single “Wire,” and now return for closer inspection.
On album opener “Afterlife” and the aforementioned “Wire,” OMNI light a fuse of angular melodies, pulsing guitars, and solemn vocals delivered through a conversational lens. On “Wire,” Frobos takes us on a whirlwind tour of love in fast-forward. “Lets share / champagne in the sand,” he sings, recalling a surreal and seductive fever dream. “White shirt / black dress / in the desert / Couldn’t tell you, I’m on hour / 24.” “Afterlife” takes on an odd, matter-of-fact perspective on death and what may come next – some kind of surreal Albert Brooks irony, only more ambiguous. “I’ve been a lot more steady / now that I know my death / I’ve been messing with what I wear / a formal look in death.”
Shrouded in reverb, “Jungle Jenny,” with its fetching hook, crashing cymbals and gothic theatrical aura, is infectious and triumphant; a song that feels vaguely forlorn and yet somehow invigorating. The track itself is a triumph – bearing a rich, deep well of sonic and literary gems. A modern-day paragon of the infinite possibilities, and rewards, of the post-punk form. words / c depasquale
Welcome to the fifth episode of AD’s re-booted Transmissions podcast, our recurring series of in-depth conversations and unexpected sounds. As we did with our last episode, we’re halving the show, speaking with two disparate, enigmatic artists.
Up first, we sat down with singer/songwriter Damien Jurado. Starting off in the Seattle hardcore scene, Jurado evolved with moody albums like Rehearsals for Departure and Ghost of David, full of stark and heartbreaking vignettes. At the start of the current decade, however, Jurado took a turn, teaming with producer Richard Swift to create more vivid, psychedelic templates for his music, which turned toward the paranormal and spiritual. We spoke with Jurado about their latest collaboration, Visions of Us on the Land. We then spoke catch up with a true legend, famed soul man William Bell, author of essential songs like “Born Under a Bad Sign” and “You Don’t Miss Your Water (Until Your Well Runs Dry).” His latest, This Is Where I Live, finds him once again on Stax, the legendary label he helped established, and finds his voice and lyrics in fine shape. Alright, let’s get into this…
“Death and transformation are the coolest shit to write about. When you look at life from a mystical point of view, we’re all going through changes all the time.”
So said Sonny Smith when we interviewed him last year ahead of his Sonny & the Sunsets LP Talent Night at the Ashram. Smith returns with Moods Baby Moods, the latest record in the Sunsets’ canon. For over a decade now, Smith has been crafting his own sort of universe, influenced by neighbors orbiting it: Heidi Alexander’s Earth Girl Helen Brown, his collaborations with The Sandwitches, and his 100 Records project. It’s an exaggerated reflection of our existence — a kind of deadpan cynical vision of a not too distant future.
Sonically, he has explored and expanded upon his own brew of garage-inflected art-rock, adding forms of country, new wave and spaced-out proto-punk. Take Longtime Companion, an earnest record of forlorn country and Smith’s most genre-specific offering.
On Mood Baby Moods, those otherworldly sounds and influences – the musicians; Smith’s recurring cast of characters, strange freaks, rejects and aliens among them; the mysterious void explored — brilliantly coalesce into what might be Smith’s defining record and inarguably his funkiest.