2006 ISSUE #80
(128kbps 15.8mb mp3 file)
Specially Packaged 5 CD Set
In 1956, an avid 78 record collector named Joe Bussard
started his own record company, Fonotone, in his parent's basement.
Sound a little unusual? You ain't heard nothin' yet: he was cutting
78s, which were considered obsolete even back then. A little more
eccentricity is added in the fact that he was recording virtual
nobodies for his label---just everyday folk musicians (including
himself) who would gather around a single microphone hanging from
the ceiling and perform their songs.
Bussard would then go on to cut the records one
at a time, identifying them with plain jane, type-written labels,
and sell them by mail-order for a whopping $1 each. Needless to
say, he didn't get famous or rich from this venture, but he was
able to share his love for music in the format he loved almost
as much as the music itself.
Fast forward 50 years to today, and you'll find
that Joe Bussard is a veritable superstar. At least, he is among
78 collectors. His collection of records is staggering, numbering
in the tens of thousands. When anyone is in search of a rare recording,
Bussard is one of the first people to go to. If he doesn't have
it, you're probably out of luck.
So it seems only fitting that the best way to honor
the ongoing legacy of Joe Bussard is to resurrect the songs from
his labor of love, the Fonotone label, which went silent in 1969.
And, in the true spirit of Bussard, this particular retrospective
lives by the advice of the old adage: if you're going to do something,
do it right.
Much like the man who owns an overwhelming record
collection, this release is a great example of overdoing it right.
Dust-To-Digital has done it again, topping their beautifully done
and Grammy nominated release, Goodbye, Babylon.
In the Fonotone over 131 songs are spanned across 5 CDs, and the
set includes a 160 page book, photo postcards, record label reproductions,
and a Fonotone metal bottle opener, all packed into a Fonotone
"cigar" box. It's obvious that just as much love and
care went into the making and presentation of this set as went
into the original recordings. The packaging alone is truly a work
So what about the music? Simply put, it will knock
your socks off. It's a wild and wooley mix of old-time country,
blues, gospel, and bluegrass, held over from an even earlier time.
This music is part of the lingering remnant of homegrown music
which was being played in the states early in the 20th Century.
In other words, it fits right in with the dusty old 78s that Bussard
has spent most of a lifetime collecting. The truth be told, he
was recording obsolete music on his obsolete equipment, and it
fits together perfectly as the ultimate anachronism. Now, the
ironic cycle continues as this forgotten music makes its way into
the digital age.
The Bussard sense of humor is evident in the made-up
names of his music groups (many of which he was a part of): the
Tennessee Mess Arounders, Back Alley Boys, Jolly Joe's Jug Band,
and Georgia Jokers. The songs range from takes on traditional
tunes to original dedications to JFK and John Glenn, all done
in a bare-boned, amateur style. The quality of sound and musicianship
runs the gamut, as we're given an honest look at what was recorded,
warts and all.
This is a testament to music at its most independent,
a recording studio and record label wrapped into one unit and
literally running out of a young man's basement. The legacy of
Joe Bussard's Fonotone reminds us that music can be much more
than a commodity or mere entertainment, that it has a life all
its own which we should cherish and never forget.
MISH MASH Mandate: Doin' The Mess Around
Are Fried b/w Summer
7" Vinyl Single
There's a guitar on side one of this single that
sounds like it came straight out of a b-movie horror flick. It's
a serrated and nasty surf guitar droning on and on in a downward
progression, as the band wails away like they're wielding a bloody
knife in the form of this six-string terror. Meanwhile, the vocals
are delivered in a purely "I-don't-care-about-melody"
attitude. This is gritty garage trash rock at it's pukey punk
finest, and The Frustrations play the game with furious intensity.
Side two is more of the same, beginning with a dissonant
guitar intro which soon falls into an grooving surf guitar assault.
This time the progression moves up, and the rhythm is a little
more upbeat. I dare say they took their Detroit roots and threw
a little Motown bassline into the mix just to make us scratch
our heads a little more. Be on the lookout for this one, and lock
your doors tonight.
MISH MASH Mandate: Beach Blanket Blood
X! Records Website
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New Music Reviews
Progressive rock meets the garage rock underground in this potent
release from trio Proton Proton. The music rips along with rhythmic
and melodic complexity, while singer Paul Fuster belts out his nasalized
vocals in an appropriately sneering fashion.
6 song CD
Add into the mix a bit of strange instrumentation in the form of
a toy piano and a guitar/bass hybrid called a gass, and you've got
another level of quirkiness to an album which is already unique
and on the edge. The band's prog roots come to life in the lack
of pop structure and the wild rhythm changes, as expertly shown
in the song Two Words, which speeds up and slows down seamlessly.
As this release is an EP, it never gets a chance to wear thin,
allowing every song to hit you like a sucker punch. Great stuff.
MISH MASH Mandate: Prototype
Proton Proton Website
10 song CD
Welcome back to 1985, boys and girls. Imagine, if you will, a mix
between The Talking Heads and The Cars, and you'll get a pretty
good idea of what The Pigs sound like. They're quirky, nerdy, and
they like their guitar pop served with a heavy dose of synthesizer.
You'd almost swear that lead singer Geoff Westen is the vocal love
child of David Byrne and Ric Ocasek, as he sounds like the perfect
genetic blend of both voices. The songwriting also lives up to this
pedigree, as Westen has obviously done his studies on 80s New Wave.
It would be easy to picture any of this being on either band's set
list 20 years ago.
I'm not saying this is purely a throwback, as the songs have a
freshness which makes them just as viable in this post-post-New
Wave era of music we find ourselves in today.
MISH MASH Mandate: Stop Making Sense
Disturbing Music Website
The Love Drunks
The Love Drunks
10 song CD
This is music on the edge of sanity. The Love Drunks take the
stereotypical garage rock sound and run it through the meat grinder.
Caught somewhere between Mitch Ryder and The Fall, they recklessly
ramble and careen through 10 songs in a rock-n-roll stupor.
Frontman Patrick A. sings like a man having a nervous breakdown
in the key of G, as the rest of the band seems to just be along
for the ride, trying not to fall off the wagon. The result is
an album which revels in its own absurdity and nonsense, knowing
full well it's nothing more than a vehicle for three chords and
primal screams with a backbeat. Sometimes, that's all you need.
MISH MASH Mandate: Intoxicating Brew
Alive Records Website
6 song CD
Cornet player Dan Clucas has assembled a team of jazz players together
to try and find "the here and now," a sense of place in
a confusing and lonely world. The approach is aptly avant garde,
blending together a dizzying mix of be-bop and deconstructed fusion,
creating a musical landscape which reflects the patchwork of ideas
and feelings which make up both our planetary existence and collective
It's a challenging listen, if only for the fact that they can
move from a smooth groove into abstract dissonance without missing
a beat, taking us along for the ride without pause or warning.
MISH MASH Mandate: Exile On Your Street
3 song CD
There's something to be said for heartfelt pop which is well done.
Cedarwell fits this bill like a glove, with their carefully crafted
pop songs gliding along in the air without effort.
These three songs effervese and seem to fade into the light as
soon as they leave the stereo speakers, leaving behind a pleasant
yet melancholy feeling. That's not to say that these guys are
lightweight, quite the contrary. They know what they're doing,
and they do it well. What they do is acoustic guitar pop with
a heart on its sleeve.
So pop this one in the car CD player or the iPod, take a long
ride, and wish really hard for spring while you're remembering
MISH MASH Mandate: Rivers Of Suggestion
First Impressions Of Earth
14 song CD
While they may be quite mainstream at this point, I thought it might
be interesting to catch up with The Strokes and their latest album.
Whether you'd like to admit it or not, they helped usher in the
latest wave of scruffy rock bands, staving off the inevitable death
of rock-n-roll, at least for the time being. For that, we should
be momentarily grateful.
First Impressions of Earth give thems a surprisingly fresh start.
The first thing that struck me was the fact that I could hear Mr.
Casablancas' voice clearly now, and the guy can actually sing. Remove
the layers of distortion, and he kind of sounds like Bono. Weird,
I know. Another difference is the attitude; instead of hungry teen
angst, now we have disillusionment and confusion, which is most
likely a by-product of their rise to fame. This adds a new depth
to their music, and it shows that they've allowed themselves to
grow musically---this doesn't sound like a band trying to churn
out the hits. It sounds like a band who wants to stick around.
MISH MASH Mandate: Stroke Me
The Strokes Website
Quarter Life Crisis
10 song CD
Arden Kaywin has a voice as smooth and sweet as her name would suggest,
rising and falling deftly over her spritely and sensitive pop. This
pianist/singer/songwriter wears her heart on her sleeve, showcasing
her songs of life's confusion and love's ache.
While there's not any new ground being broken here, Kaywin never
lets the album get stale. Her soul is into her work, and it shows
in the sheer honesty of the songs themselves. The amount of angst
is just right, wanting us to feel empathy but standing strong all
the same, without wallowing in self-pity.
MISH MASH Mandate: Heartbreaker
Arden Kaywin Records
- Various Artists
Hippocamp Ruins Pet Sounds
13 song CD
This is probably old news to most of you, but just in case you
haven't run across Hippocamp's twisted and slightly controversial
tribute to The Beach Boys' Pet Sounds, I highly
recommend that you follow the link below and download it as soon
- The compilation is a wild mash up of vocal tracks from the original
album jumbled together with a dance beats and samples in a dizzying
amount of styles. While the results are somewhat expectedly mixed,
a few of these tracks are downright amazing, including Kam's version
of Wouldn't It Be Nice and The Star Fighter Pilot's
take on That's Not Me. If you're a fan of Pet
Sounds (and who isn't), then you owe it to yourself to
see how it has been re-interpreted into the 21st Century.
MISH MASH Mandate: Good Reverberations
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