2005 ISSUE #73
Bolan & T. Rex
Double DVD/Double CD
If there were any doubt about the status of Marc
Bolan as a certified rock-n-roll god, this incredible collection
from Sanctuary Records will surely put it to rest. Seeing and
listening to this intricately and lovingly packaged 2 DVD &
2 CD combo is purely revelation on the highest order; Marc Bolan
and his T. Rex were the personification of glam
music in the flesh.
The DVD collection is a a remastering and repackaging
of the classic T. Rex documentary Born To Boogie, which was produced
in the early 70s by Apple Films under the guidance of Ringo Starr.
It's part documentary, part concert film, and part conceptual
art, all-in-all a wild and wooly document of T. Rex's all too
brief time in the sun. It goes from the sublime rock strutting
of Marc Bolan onstage to the cheesy tripped-out wackiness of pointless
and abstract film vignettes (think Magical Mystery
Tour with a glam-rock edge), all without missing a beat.
As if that weren't enough, we are treated to two
full-length concert performances by the band at the Empire Pool,
Wembley in 1972, from which much of the documentary footage is
culled. In addition, there is a documentary about the restoration
of the film and the importance and influence of T. Rex in today's
music, featuring Bolan's son Rolan.
At times, the more abstract elements of the feature
film wear thin, as they belie the drugged-out environment in which
it was produced. Having said that, the concert footage and various
live performances are top notch, and sound incredible. The beauty
of it being that the music is raw and unpolished, with Bolan playing
his guitar with relaxed sloppiness and a swagger---back during
a time when rock-n-roll was still fresh and dangerous. He spends
most of his time playing to the audience, pouting and preening
as he rips out riffs effortlessly, all to the amusement of the
hyperventilating young crowd. In the film, he's a star, and he
The 2 CD set is simply an audio condensation of
the DVD material, with one disc serving as a soundtrack to the
film, and the other disc serving as a live album, featuring one
of the two concerts from the film. While it certainly lacks the
visual impact of the DVD set, the CDs are excellent in and of
themselves. The concert CD is especially good---and my only wish
would be that a third disc could be added for the other show.
Without question, this collection goes out of the
way to show us just how much of a superstar Mr. Bolan really was.
And it's good to be reminded of how much modern rock music owes
to him and the T. Rex legacy.
MISH MASH Mandate: Cosmic Dancer
Sanctuary Records Website
Born To Boogie Website
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New Music Reviews
33 1/3: Murmur
In their ever-growing 33 1/3 music series, Continuum Books
has ventured into the mysterious world of Southern Gothic with J.
Niimi's commentary on the R.E.M. 1983 debut album, Murmur.
by J. Niimi
144 page softcover book
Niimi's approach is fitting for such a landmark and mystical musical
masterpiece. Instead of just giving us the straight story of how
it came into being, Niimi gives us some new thoughts to chew on
about R.E.M. and the band's connections to Southern Gothic and "mystery
The first part of the book deals with the actual making of the
album in Charlotte, which Niimi provides with revealing insight
from producer Mitch Easter and engineer Don Dixon. What is most
striking about the story is that we are reminded that R.E.M. was
once a group of literal nobodies from Athens, Georgia who were creating
an album which was very different from anything else going on at
the time, and all on a shoestring. It puts a certain perspective
on the early days of independent rock music in general, in the context
of a band making music without expectations of superstardom or high
From there Niimi dissects and examines each song on the album individually,
almost note for note. It helps to have the album on hand during
this part of the book, as he goes into great detail about the sounds
and effects created for the record. Then, he sets off on a more
abstract journey, trying to decipher meanings hidden (or not hidden)
within the lyrics, along with a discussion of how the music of Murmur
fits into the concept of Southern Gothic.
While obviously lacking an overall focus, the book does a good
job of bringing the reader into the world of R.E.M. and the circumstances
surrounding their official full-length debut album which changed
the music world. A must-read for fans.
MISH MASH Mandate: Calling Out In Transit
Discover A Lovelier You
13 song CD
From the beginning strains of the first track on Discover
A Lovelier You, I could tell that this latest effort from
Joe Pernice was going to be a little bit different from his previous
releases. My first clue was a droning guitar which runs throughout
the aforementioned song, There Goes The Sun, heavily
reverbed to the hilt like on an old surf tune. Pernice has buried
the effect just under the surface, lending an anxious edge to an
otherwise laid-back & melancholy song. The result isn't immediate,
but it establishes a subtle and uneasy theme which seems to permeate
While Pernice has always been on the depressing side, there's a
bitterness which surfaces here that sort of takes over. Over his
career, Pernice seems to have drawn on the influences of either
the intricate songwriting of Brian Wilson or the angst of Morrissey,
and on this album it appears that The Smiths has won out in terms
of inspiration. With that having been said, this record doesn't
reach out and grab you, as much as absorb slowly under your skin.
MISH MASH Mandate: Joe Smith
Pernice Brothers Website
Big Fish Ensemble
Raze The Duds
45 songs on 2 CDs
Back in the early 90s, there was a thriving Atlanta music scene,
although you probably don't know much about it unless you were
there. As the eyes of the industry were focused intently on Seattle,
the bands of Atlanta and Athens were busy plugging away, doing
their own thing without a care of what was happening on the other
side of the country. Big Fish Ensemble, in the group's own way,
was probably one of the more important bands to surface during
this brief moment in time---even though they remained underground
for their entire career.
With a quirky sound that fell somewhere between Camper Van Beethoven
and The Talking Heads, they thumbed their noses at conventional
pop music and crafted their own unique and humorous niche. While
they released a handful of polished studio albums which were fabulous,
they also amassed a great deal of basement tapes, live tracks, and
demos---the "duds" of which are represented here, the
bastard children which didn't really make it to the official releases
for one reason or another.
As a longtime fan, I personally wouldn't call them duds (especially
with an early version of "Girl From Waycross", and a live
duet with The Indigo Girls on Nick Lowe's "What's So Funny
'Bout Peace Love And Understanding"), but I could see where
someone not already familiar with the band would be perplexed by
the lo-fi explorations like "El Triunfo" and the group's
infamous collaboration with Deacon Lunchbox on his poem "Hummingbird
Hotel". In other words, it might not be the best introduction
to the band from a newbie's standpoint---but it would be one heck
of a discovery.
MISH MASH Mandate: Dud Ranch
Big Fish Ensemble Website
4 song CD
Even though all the songs on this EP were written and performed
by one guy, Kevin Peroni, you'd swear it was a full band ripping
it out live in the studio. The songs are rock solid and and edgy,
delivered with a punch that you'd only expect from a tight-knit
group. Peroni laces his songs with big Brit-rock guitars and sensibility,
then pumps up the volume with old-fashioned American attitude. A
brilliant piece of work, and I can only hope he's working on a full-length
MISH MASH Mandate: Extended Play
New American Wing
16 Song CD
If you've ever wondered where jazz will be going in the 21st century,
perhaps the answer lies with New American Wing. This oddball little
trio does their best to take the remnants of musical deconstruction
and put them back together again. There are so many influences wound
up in here, it's hard to really get a handle on what the group is
trying to do---but it is a wonderful listening experience all the
While their approach is somewhat avant garde, they aren't afraid
to incorporate traditional melody in a meaningful way, relying on
bare-boned sounds to create their light, lyrical passages. In a
sense, they've taken the spirit of bebop and run it through the
filter of minimalism. Nothing is wasted, and the songs seem to float
along on a cushion of weighted air, just hanging above the surface.
Beautiful, and simple.
MISH MASH Mandate: The Shape Of Jazz To Come
New American Wing Website
Valley Of 1,000 Smokes
11 song CD
Imagine the best that 80s New Wave had to offer, put it in a blender
along with grunge and modern rock, and you might get something close
to The Oggs. This cheeky duet has a knack for taking a catchy pop
structure and adding an edge to it.
Perhaps the best example of this on the album is Alcohol, a song
which starts off with electronic percussion and a smooth bass groove,
underpining a melody straight out of the pop how-to instruction
book. The real fun comes when they pump up the guitars and take
it up another notch, combining the later angst lessons of grunge
and emo rock.
The best thing here is that even though they flirt with selling
out, they never quite make it all the way there, keeping you on
your toes from beginning to end.
MISH MASH Mandate: Oggilicious
The Oggs Website
12 song CD
Man, if you like your music rawer than rare steak, The Konks should
be on the top of your list of bands to check out, and I mean immediately.
To call this garage rock would be an understatement---as a matter
of fact, considering the sound quality, I would be surprised if
this album wasn't actually recorded in a garage.
The Konks bash out classic fuzzy guitar rock, using all three
chords, all two drums, and all the vocal volume lead screamer/drummer
"kurt" can muster. Strangely enough, they cover a mid-life Aerosmith tune, Let The Music Do The Talking, even though it only bears a slight resemblance to the original.
By the end of this one, you'll be exhausted
from shimmy-ing yourself into oblivion, that is, if you haven't
been hauled in by the police for disturbing the peace.
MISH MASH Mandate: King Konk
The Konks Website
Bomp! Records Website
© 2005 Mish Mash Music Reviews, All Rights Reserved