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Let'sGoEatTheFactory

Is rock and roll dead yet? It certainly gets redundant every few years. Stifled, choked, beaten and bludgeoned by over-done trends and endlessly revamped genres. But Robert Pollard gets it. He understands what makes rock music thrilling. I mean thrilling in the sense that you are listening to something that knocks you back on your ass; a song that contains a melody or a lyric that unhinges you, that reminds you why you started buying records in the first place.

Much has been made about Pollard reforming his seminal band, Guided By Voices so soon after he put them to bed. Of course, if you’re keeping track, this is the classic line-up version, and it’s been fifteen years since they recorded their last record as said line-up—the brilliant, Under The Bushes Under the Stars—and who cares really? Pollard and fellow band members Tobin Sprout, Mitch Mitchell, Kevin Fennell and Greg Demos would still make music even if they didn’t make any money, hell they did that for years before Bee Thousand captured the zeitgeist of the music world. For GBV it was about making short blasts of gloriously messy music that recalled everything from bubblegum pop to metal to British Invasion, ingeniously architected by Robert Pollard, a singer/songwriter with a seemingly bottomless well of creativity. Lennon, Dylan, Redding, Bowie, Pollard. Hyperbole? Not if you listen to one of the hundreds of songs penned by Pollard, like the recent No Steamboats from his other band, Boston Spaceships. That’s rock music. That’s thrilling.

Let’s Go Eat the Factory is the logical next step in that obsession to make music. And why wouldn’t it be? A new album was what every fan was hoping for after the announcement of the classic line-up reforming, and GBV have made good on it.

The club is open again.

Above is my poster for Let’s Go Eat the Factory. Check out my comic book ad for Boston Spaceships’ Let It Beard.

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LetItBeard

Robert Pollard generates musical obsessions. Compact, blistering, hook-laden, abstractly wonderful musical obsessions that recall the greatest of rock and roll pedigrees: The Beatles, The Who, David Bowie, R.E.M., Devo (but the sound, the unmistakeable sound, is all his own). I call them musical obsessions because those die-hard fans of Pollard’s original and recently reformed band, Guided By Voices, and every other side-project and solo work he has produced, inspires an obssevive, nearly fever-pitch devotion. Hundreds of songs to hunt down and collect and listen to, the next dozen or so always on the horizon. Keeping up is half the fun.

Pollard’s latest full-time band, The Boston Spaceships, which includes Chris Slusarenko (Guided By Voices) and John Moen (The Decemberists, Dharma Bums) have been quickly creating a catalog of memorable records. Their last album, Our Cubehouse Still Rocks, contained some of the best material Pollard has written in years and the upcoming double album, Let It Beard, promises to be even better.

Above is a comic book ad for a line of Magical Musical Beard Kits inspired by Let It Beard. How do they work? What do they sound like? Who knows…

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Yourna Byrd, wife of Jazz trumpeter Donald Byrd, photographed in 1960 by William Claxton.

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Purveyors of the sinister. Raconteurs of the strange. Crawling, twisting music that threatens to make its way into my nightmares, lying in wait for me each time I return. The Italian prog-rock band, Goblin made a name for themselves scoring many Italian movies, but it was Dario Argento’s Suspiria (1977) and George Romero’s international version of Dawn of the Dead, Zombi  (1978) that accounted for some of their most inspired work.

The soundtrack to Suspiria was as much a part of that film’s utter feeling of dread as Argento’s colorfully decadent visuals. It  is delirious and bizarre and wonderful and baffling and endlessly listenable. From the opening track, Suspiria—which sets the mood brilliantly—using music box chimes that underpin creepy vocals, a staccato rhythm section and period keyboard flourishes (John Carpenter had to be influenced musically by Goblin), Goblin lays the foundation for a score that is so linked to the film, that one cannot exist without the other. It’s King Crimson gone the way of Ennio Morricone, the wide variety of experimination within this one soundtrack is staggering. The track Blind Concert sounds as if it would fit in nicely with some Grindhouse gem, while Black Forest is haunted by early 70s Bowie. Sighs, in comparison is so brazen in its dissimilarity to the other material on the soundtrack, that I’m not sure what to make if of it; it’s lurid and infectious all at once.

The soundtrack to Zombi develops some of the same musical cues, but reaches even further into other genres than the latter album. The FilmWorks series by composer John Zorn comes to mind, with its sheer variety of genres and its willingness to take chances. The track Zombi is great 70’s chase music, almost clichéd decades later, the undercurrent of stinging keyboards and disturbed layered vocals elevates it beyond the standard. In comparison, Torte in Faccia with it’s Ragtime musical tropes, is so silly so deceptively out-of-place, one can only think of Zombies in fast motion, Keystone Cops style, bashing one another on the heads with brooms, while Zombi (Sexy) is smoky and seductive, music that lingers in the air as you drain a watered-down martini in some crummy 80s lounge. There is less of the creep and more of the camp with Zombi, but the experience is fascinating nonetheless.

Goblin creates ominous mood music to be sure, the stuff of dreams and nightmares.

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Djangology

Django

A faux-promo poster I did for jazz guitarist, Django Reinhardt’s album “Djangology”.

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