Audio Flashback: 1975

I got in trouble for posting my Get Out columns here on my blog on Fridays, a day before they hit the actual newspaper. Apparently they think if my articles leak early, nobody will buy the paper on Saturday, since that's all they really want a copy for anyway (AS IF). Fair enough, I can wait until Saturday mornings to post them here. Meanwhile, I had a new idea to fill the space on Fridays from now on. I'll pick a random year and highlight a couple of albums that came out that year that I love and discuss them a bit as well as post some songs using my totally neato imeem music player thingie. I'm pretty sure every year has had it's great moments in popular music. Let's go right for the meat of the matter and start with the wonderful, woozy mid-70's. David Bowie: Young Americans This is a bit of a transitional album for Mr. Jones, released after the glittery death of the Ziggy Stardust persona and before the art-cocaine madness of the Berlin era albums. Remarkably, it was the album that finally broke Bowie into the big BIG time in the US, with the title track and the John Lennon collaboration "Fame" becoming colossal hits. White boy soul was literally invented on this album and tracks like "Fascination" and "Right" predict the disco craze that would soon take over the world. David's voice is different here than on previous albums, deeper and careening melodramatically from high to low like an art-damaged lounge singer. He swoops and soars impressively on his heartbreaking cover of The Beatles' "Across the Universe", which I always thought was such an unusual choice for this album. Somehow, it fits. The presence of a very young Luther Vandross and a set of soul-sister backup singers injects some real fever into the recordings, making this one of Bowie's most "human" sounding records. The recent deluxe anniversary edition adds two brilliant studio outtakes to the original 8 tracks, as well as the disco-fried and very rare single "John I'm Only Dancing (Again)"

Kraftwerk: Radio-Activity Their previous album Autobahn was the one that perked up ears around the world with it's exclusive use of primitive synthesizers and Teutonic Beach Boys schtick. However, Radioactivity is the record that would serve as the brittle blueprint for the rest of their groundbreaking catalog of electronic pop. This album has a spooky, otherworldly quality with it's beeping geiger counters, hissing radio signals, reverberating synth effects and tinny machine percussion. Like all Kraftwerk albums, it has a theme and here it's "the miracle of radio". 1975 seems a little late to be tripping out about such notions, which lends the album a weird retro-futuristic quality, like some fusty artifact discovered in your crazy great-uncle's workshop. Florian, Ralf, Karl, and Wolfgang lay down some darned chilly soundscapes here with electronic music machines that were barely just invented - I can only imagine how foreign and freaky this music must have sounded to people when it came out. Even all these years later, it has still been known to cause extreme reactions.

Abba: Abba When this album came out, Abba were huge all over the globe, everywhere except the US, where this album reached a meager #174 on the Billboard charts. It saw the Swedish foursome making a blatant attempt to harden up their sound, and while Abba is not exactly known for it's hard rocking, tracks like "Hey, Hey Helen" and "Rock Me" are at least as hardcore as say, Elton John was at this point. "Mamma Mia" and "SOS" are now classics, although most people never make it beyond those songs' presence on Abba Gold. Out of all of the original albums, this has the most variety; they try out reggae on "Tropical Loveland" and torch polka on "I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do". Bjorn and Benny had already perfected their full-to-the-brim, high-gloss production methods and Anni-Frid and Agnetha harmonize like only they can, creating that unmistakable, irreproducible Abba sound we love so much. The CD reissue includes THE most insane Abba recording ever, "Medley: Pick a Bale of Cotton/On Top of Old Smokey/Midnight Special". It's never been explained to me why Abba would stitch together a slavery-era relic, a children's standard, and a current pop hit, but if anybody ever accused Abba of being humorless, this proves them way wrong. Aw, Lawdy!

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CDA Channel 19: "Perils for Pedestrians"

I just love Coeur d'Alene's local access cable channel 19, aka CDA-TV. It’s home to some of the most delightfully banal television available here and likely anywhere in the world. I don’t want to put down the fine folks who do programming on such a limited staff and budget; I honestly enjoy some of the things they show. The city council and planning and zoning meetings are always fun, full of those low-brow entertaining moments that could only occur on local cable access. I like the awkward moments when the camera lingers on the person who is NOT doing the speaking. I like the impossible mumbling of some council and board members who may be great at their jobs, but were certainly never meant to be public speakers.

Then there’s the fashion antics of our mayor Sandi Bloem, from her wild whipspray of salt and pepper hair, to her vintage Liz Claiborne (RIP) jacket collection, the gaudier the better. I truly thought she was a one of a kind until I tuned in to watch her host “CDA Now” and she really met her match in NIC president Pricilla Bell, who showed up with what looked like a peregrine falcon’s nest on her head and wearing a cast-off from Queen Elizabeth’s 1992 yard sale.

But the program that really wins the banality grand prize is “Perils for Pedestrians with John Z. Wetmore”. This isn’t even a local production – it must be something CDA-TV got free or really cheap just to fill in random gaps in the programming schedule. But if you’re into laughably mind-numbing TV like me, this show is a no-miss. “Perils for Pedestrians” is a very low-budget whirlwind trip through the wonderful and exciting world of sidewalk improvements in Louisville, Kentucky. Somehow, they managed to stretch this idea out over multiple episodes, each hosted by our intrepid and totally geeky host John Z. Wetmore. Wetmore goes from Louisville sidewalk to Louisville sidewalk interviewing various people who have a lot to say about Louisville sidewalks. That’s it in a nutshell, and the show is about as captivating as it sounds. Sometimes you wonder if the interviewees are in on the joke. They sometimes seem a little put off by John Z’s vulture-like stance, squinty-eyed with feigned interest, always holding the microphone at the same intrusive angle. If they try to inject some personality by making a joke, John Z. just glares blankly at them. You get the feeling this is just another gig for him and in reality he couldn't give a shit whether or not kids get plowed to death on dangerous Louisville sidewalks. The camera never moves, staying fixed in the same spot for the entire interview. I watched a woman carry on about how since they’d put in a new sidewalk in her neighborhood her whole life had changed, and she was nearly moved to tears just talking about it. Wetmore and another poor sot stood in pouring rain for 15 minutes discussing the deadly scourge of mud puddles on unimproved walkways. I’m not quite sure what the producers expect the viewer to take away from the show. “Gee, I’m all warm and fuzzy inside with sidewalk improvement love”.

“Perils for Pedestrians” runs several times a night, usually around 1am, 3:30am, and 5am on CDA Cable Channel 19.

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Random Photos: Kittyface x3

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Video: "Teenage Dirtbag" Trailer

Looks like the film "Teenage Dirtbag", which was directed by one-time Coeur d'Alene resident Rebecca Crosby and was filmed right here in town several summers ago, is finally about ready to see some kind of release, although I was unable to locate much info on the web. The trailer was posted last week on You Tube, and it looks like my kinda flick: a depressingly noir drama involving some awkward precocious teens and an abusive parent. The tagline goes like this: "A popular high school girl is harassed by a delinquent boy until they are placed in creative writing class together. Through written words, they create a bond, but tragically a bond that cannot withstand her social pressures or his brutal home life." It's based on a true story, something that apparently stuck with Crosby since she attended Coeur d'Alene High in the '80s, and it looks like most of the movie was filmed there. I definitely recognized a lot of the settings, just from the short preview alone. "Teenage Dirtbag" was reportedly a hit at this year's CDA Film Fest but not many people were able to attend. Let's hope it hits the Regal before too long...

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Photo: Winning Ironman Really Stinks!

Anyone really look at the photo of Ironman winner Victor Zyemtsev on the cover of this morning's CDA Press? It just needed a little cropping and voila! Much better. And people are offended with the idea of Black Rock presenting the 4th of July parade?



Incidental Findings: I Wrote This In 5th Period, It's Weird But To You

Ahhh, young love. So full of innocence, wonder, and fucking. It's a little sad the author thinks that's the way her boy shows his love to her. What ever happened to a little flowers and candy? The paper was tattered and threadbare and was tucked inside a wallet that someone found on the floor in the bathrooms at my work. Also in the wallet were 4 Silverwood tickets, a business card for a psychotherapist, and the kid's Post Falls high school ID, showing the owner to be approximately 16 (and the little bastard's already getting lucky). I tried unsuccesfully to locate the owner online and in the phone book, but I'm putting the love note back in and hoping he comes in looking for it. If not, who wants to join me for a day at Silverwood? Weeeeeee.... Click to enlarge:




Incidental Findings: Goals/Pros & Cons for Mega

New blog series alert: I'm always coming across odd ephemera stuck in a used book or underneath my car in a parking lot or drifting down the way like a paper tumbleweed. For some odd reason I keep a lot of these "found objects". It's a little odd I know, but there's actually a whole magazine devoted to the concept, Found Magazine. These bits and pieces are often beyond easy explanation and I love pondering their origin and back story. They evoke a search for hidden meaning. We can take a random peek into some stranger's life. My scanner went tits-up last winter and now-a-days you can't JUST buy a scanner, you have to get one as part of a multi-use printer/fax/scanner/copier kind of device. Well, my printer is just fine, thanks, so I've been keeping my eyes peeled at thrift stores for a new one. I hit the jackpot at St. Vinnies over the weekend with a $5 scanner coup. It was built for Windows98 but still works like a charm. So. Thanks to the Divine Saint of Thrift, I can start bringing you my collection of found whatsits.
This Express Check-Out envelope from Marriott's Villas in Newport Coast, California was given a second life as a notepad for what appears to be some kind of motivational/managerial meeting or conference call. I googled "BSEDM" and "Mega" but still couldn't figure it out. I love intra-corporation lingo. In this age of laptops and hand-held gimzos, its refreshing to know that someone out there still takes longhand notes at meetings, but could'nt he at least have found a nice legal pad or something? The use of the envelope smacks of last-minute desperation, and the doodles indicate a spacey disinterest. Perhaps the author was suffering a rough morning after a wild, late night in the hotel lounge with Todd and Mike S. picking up trampy California hos while the frumpy wifey-poos stayed home back in Idaho tending to their little brats and watching "America's Got Talent." Found on the floor at the Kootenai County Solid Waste Transfer Station (aka The Dump):




Rock On: The Rock Joint Is Ready To Rock Hayden

Curt Rivadeneira, Rock Joint Waiter, rocking out.
Last night, I had the pleasure of attending the private opening party for Hayden's new "ultralounge" the Rock Joint. The lovely Miss Erin and I were able to schmooze our way in via the Spokesman-Review, and Weenis came to talk the owners into giving her a job and to do a little promotion for Inkworld. I got to interview the owners and I'm currently halfway through writing the article for next week's Get Out! column, stay tuned for more details. In the meantime, I'll just say that they did a top-notch, class-A job of pulling the place together, from the over-the-top Osbournes-esque fixtures and velvet furniture to the impressive collection of rock memorabilia on the walls. The lounge was dimly lit to the point of blindness with muted red lighting and candles, perfect for us vampiric types. There was something oddly comforting about the Motley Crue concert being blasted on twenty flat-screen TV's. The secret VIP lounge has red velvet couches hidden by large plants: who knows what kind of decadence people will see fit to engage in back there. They truly spoiled us with a night of free Cosmopolitans and African Ambers and endless fabulous food. The "Vixen Veggie pizza" was the best veggie pizza I've ever had and the "Bon Jovi bread" was amazing with crunchy bits of roasted garlic and fresh herbs. The owners and staff felt like old friends, and our waiter Curt (pictured above) had us all in a tizzy of mad flirtation. Colleen commented that the place looked felt like her living room, complete with chains and coffins, and she was right on the money. The Rock Joint is going to be hot, especially since people seem sick to death of rap and hip-hop music, if the slow death of Mik-n-Mac's recently is any evidence. Folks, I think we have found ourselves a new haunt. Opening night is tonight, so break out your leather jacket and cans of Aqua Net and check it out.

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Wham Bam Thank You FAM Tour

Slideshow: FAM Tour of North Idaho
Last week I had the pleasure of accompanying a group of retirees who volunteer for the downtown Coeur d'Alene Museum Visitor Center on a FAM (Familiarization) Tour of Sandpoint, Coeur d'Alene and surrounding areas. The group also did the Silver Valley one day, but I had to sit that one out due to a severe case of the Zips Ick. We piled in a rented Omnibus and trekked off Northward to Sandpoint on the first day. Our first major stop of the day was for a tour of the amazingly gorgeous Panida theatre. Our hostess was the lovely Karen Bowers, who has been managing the place for twenty years. She had some great stories about the historic movie house, which now hosts live music and dance along with a great selection of under-the radar films in it's Global Cinema series. Intriguingly, there are random elements of Coeur d'Alene's long-gone but beloved Wilma theatre that live on at the Panida, including a ticket box, an art deco mirror and giant gold silk curtains. Karen took us up into the balcony, which is possibly the most comfortable place ever to watch a flick, with it's overstuffed red velvet love seats, and let us see the place from the performer's vantage point of the stage. Next up was a tour of Pend O'Reille winery, which was quite interesting, but we were a little miffed that nobody broke out some bottles for a tasting. The owner took in back and showed us the humongous wine-making vats and pungent barrels in cold storage. It wasn't much of a tour, but our tour guide was the owner himself, and he was chatty enough to make the experience recommendable. Next we zhoozhed across town to the Laughing Dog Brewery, located in a modern industrial building near the Bonner Mall. The main lobby consists of a gift shop and tap room, and unlike the Winery, these guys were eager to pour out the free samples. The Huckleberry brew was yumm-o, but the "Devil Dog" was the stuff, light and sweet and full of hoppiness. A few of these made the rather dry nature of the brewery tour a little more bearable. It was back to downtown for lunch at the Coldwater Creek wine bar. They were certainly super to make us such a fantastic lunch - gourmet panini sandwiches, potato corn chowder, and a delicious salad with feta cheese and candied pecans. However, they weren't shy about urging us to spend, spend, spend. Beer? Wine? Don't forget to go downstairs and shop your heart out. Unfortunately for them, no one really did, but they were still nice enough to hand us a gift bag on the way out the door consisting of one of their verbally entertaining catalogs, a coupon, and a little keychain with a silver ladies shoe. Yes, us male types were thrilled about that, needless to say. Our bus took us down to Sandpoint city beach, but it was pouring rain, so we didn't get out to investigate. Instead, we opted for the indoor fun of the Bonner County Museum, which is quaint and a little bizarre, like the best small-town museums always are. I love when they use mannequins for their random displays, their hollow eyes eternally gazing permanently out at dusty displays and fusty museum-goers. On of the most notable displays here was a giant display case full of dozens of handmade, miniature dresses, each representing America's First Ladies from Martha Washington up to Nancy Reagan, which is probably when the creator of this project went to the big sewing machine in the sky. Also fun was the random collection of old fashioned (and really frightening) medical machines and devices that actually resemble instruments of torture. The Bonner County museum ain't so huge, and even those with the stretchiest attention spans could see everything in the place within twenty minutes. It was ta-ta to Sandpoint and Silverwood here we come. Sadly, it was still pouring out which put a bit of a damper on the idea of riding one of the coasters. I was rather looking forward to seeing which of my senior citizen lady tour mates was going to be ballsy enough to ride the Timber Terror with me, but we ended up running out of time anyway. We did, however, get a chance to preview the new section of the water park a few days before it's official debut to the the public. Our hostess, Silverwood marketing diva and eyebrow queen Nancy DiGiammarco, pushed umbrellas in our hands and we followed her for what seemed like miles until we reached the new attractions. It was only two days from opening, and workers were scrambling around in the mud trying to get things ready. The new waterslides were pretty neat-o, and I wished I was 12 again so that I really could have gotten revved up about it. However, standing in a downpour with tired legs and cottonmouth with a bunch of soggy seniors was making me want to make a run back to the bus and wait it out. Thankfully, Nancy decided to pull us inside Lindy's Restaurant, an amazing place that makes you feel like you just stepped back in time to 1873. Wild Elizabethan furnishings and floral arrangements bigger than myself make for a very surreal, yet somehow relaxing atmosphere. Everyone was thrilled when we were presented with free Silverwood tickets and stuffed Pookie dolls (Garfield's friend). We exhaustedly piled back on the Omnibus and headed homeward for the day. Day Two was the day I missed, Kellogg and Wallace. Apparently, I picked the right day to miss because lunch was hosted that day by Silver Mountain, whose make-your-own-sandwich-on-a-stale-roll concept paled next to Tuesday's chi-chi fixings at Coldwater Creek and what was still yet to come on Thursday at the Coeur d'Alene Inn. Day three of the FAM tour took in Coeur d'Alene, Post Falls, and Hayden. We spent the first few hours just driving around town and everyone pitched in commentary, pointing out places of curiosity and reknown, as well as the many new construction projects going up everywhere. Many of my tour mates had a lot of interesting history to tell, and a lot of them were recent transplants who were unfamiliar with their new town, but I think everyone managed to learn some new things, so that was fun. We went all the way around Hayden Lake to get a look at the majestic Clark House, the headed back down to Triple Play, where we were able to stretch our legs and have a look around. Our tour guide Jennifer was, by some cosmic coincidence, Nancy the Silverwood diva's sister and guess what - same hypnotic eyebrows. Triple Play is a ton of fun and all, but it's darn muggy in there, so it was nice when we were led through the arier confines of the adjoining Holiday Inn Express. The rooms here were surprisingly nice, and some even have bunk-beds and video game consoles. We were again gifted with free tickets to Triple Play, which will be great to re-gift since I know I'll never use them myself. I wasn't overly excited about free lunch at the Coeur d'Alene Inn. Not that Mulligans is that bad or anything, but that's the only place my grandmother will go to eat, so I was bored with the menu. However, general manager Steve Wilson had a clever trick up his sleeve and had the Bonzai Bistro and Beachouse restaurants provide sushi rolls and fresh Crab claws as appetizers along with croissant sandwiches and pasta salad. Yes! Of course, I was delighted that some of the ladies in our group were squeamish about the sushi because that meant more for me. Everyone scarfed out on the buttery crab which, according to the chef, was some type of rare specimen usually available only on the east coast. As if we weren't spoiled enough, they topped us off with fresh brownies. We moaned as we waddled back to the bus and squeezed back int0 our seats. Our trek through Hagadonia continued at the CDA Resort itself, where we tripped out on the new carpeting which with it's wavy blue lines over white negative space creates an effect somewhere between dramamine and LSD when walked upon. Seriously, the ladies were complaining of dizziness and hallucinations. We were led into the recently remodeled Spa, which is indeed gorgeous and ripe with trickling water, meditation zones and good aromas. However, all the smell-good salts in the world couldn't cover up the stench of money that oozed from the Spa patrons who glared at our tour group with eyes that said "Who are you and why are you interrupting my $800 foot scrub; Don't you know my designer bath robe is worth more than your house?" There was a shower stall with 18 full-force jets from every direction head-to-toe, which in itself is enough to make even me consider a membership. Supposedly, the Resort was full so we didn't get to see any of the new-look suites. I got over that heartbeak real quick when i found out we were hopping one of the cruise boats for a voyage to the Resort golf course. I soon realized this was just a trap, a way for the Hagadrone tour hostess to continue pushing his various restaurants on us - she even brought menus from all the different places and carried on and on. I wasn't having it - I went outside on the deck in the rain and snapped photos of the off-limits beaches and private castles that now line the lake shore. At the golf course, we "toured" the pro shop and hung out for a while in the clubhouse lounge, reveling in the fact that it was likely the only time poor locals such as we would find ourselves in that very place. Actually, they were nice enough to send us off with gift bags, including a golf bag tag actually engraved with our name! Nice touch. Somehow, our exhausted group managed to survive one more adventure - a trip to the Cd'A Casino. Unfortunately, they didn't cough up any free gambling money for us, but we were given a full tour of the place, and I was able to see parts of the place I'd never seen. We filed into the "Presidential Suite" of the hotel, and when our hostess mentioned that Merge Haggard stayed there, several ladies in our group gasped with delight. I have to admit, it was a gorgeous room and included the hugest jet whirlpool bathtub I've seen, a full kitchen, seperate bedrooms and was semi-affordable ($250-ish). It would be a blast to get a few friends to pitch in and get the suite for a wild night of Casino action. Our tour guide left out nothing, and it was past 5 by the time we dragged our spent bodies back on the bus. For the ride home, our bus driver, a man who just sort of comes with the rental of the bus, decided to put on some music for the first time and much to the glee of myself and a few others, the music he picked was Abba Gold. "Turn it up, man!" we said and began singing along: "Knowing me, knowing you, uh-huh..." All in all, the FAM tour was really fun, and I got a chance to undertake all those touristy things that we lucky residents take for granted and never actually do. Plus, I learned how much local businesses really roll out the red carpet when they know you have the power of tourist recommendation. Free lunch, free swag, fun times - no complaints here! Thanks to Raechelle for making it happen, and thanks to all the folks who put in their time and energy to make the tour so neato.

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Record Review Floccipaucinihilipilification

The Mary Onettes: The Mary Onettes (Labrador) LISTEN HERE

Sweden’s Mary Onettes are not afraid to admit their love for the dark years of the early eighties, when ratty bangs hung over thickly black-lined eyes and all the cool kids wanted to be British and miserably filled with existential angst. The Mary Onettes website says the album “contains 10 great songs that reminds you of the great 80’s”, and although their English may be a bit broken, they do not lie. These boys want to stop the world and melt with you. They want to take on you. They’re lost in a forest, all alone. However, it’s done with a complete lack of irony or snark, and they’ve written a fantastic set of lush, memorable songs to wrap their mesh and lace around. With repeated listens, it rises above mere eighties pastiche and suddenly seems so here and now, so essential, so captivating, so important. “Void” is a devastatingly perfect pop song, stirring up emotions I hadn’t felt since 1987. “Pleasure Zone” and “The Laughter” lift the trademark glacial synth sound of The Cure’s Faith album, and “Lost” is totally Ringwald-worthy. Blame it on Abba, but there’s something intrinsically irresistible to me about pop singers with Swedish accents, and Philip Ekström’s voice is dreamy and soothing. I'm fully smitten with The Mary Onettes, it is no doubt the best debut album of 2007 so far. Rating 9/10

Paul Hartnoll: The Ideal Condition (ACP) LISTEN HERE He was half of groundbreaking British electro duo Orbital, who had a string of mostly brilliant albums in the ‘90’s. I’m honestly not too in love with this solo debut, it sounds like he’s trying to “pull a Moby.” In other words, it’s a mix of synthetic musical movie wallpaper with remotely classical influences and a mess of guest vocalists adding up to a semi-pleasant record which does nothing particularly groundbreaking. It tries to be a moody late-night classic, but doesn’t hold enough magic and falls mostly flat. Lead track “Haven’t We Met Before” sounds like the opening theme to a cheesy made-for-TV movie starring Teri Hatcher as a nun with a murderous secret. The Cure’s Robert Smith phones in his vocals for the single “Please”, continuing his run of lyrically limp guest turns on various mediocre techno tracks. If a cliche like “you know you got me” is the best hook he can come up with, no wonder we’ve had to wait so long for a new Cure album. To be fair, if it actually were a new Cure song, everyone would probably be rejoicing their return to electro-pop, and it's light years better than his guest yowl on Junior Jack's "Da Hype", the nadir of his entire career. Rating: 4/10

Ulrich Schnauss: Quicksand Memory EP (Domino) LISTEN HERE Wowee zowie, Captain Electricity! I always admired the earlier Ulrich Schnauss records, but never became too absorbed in them. The woozy, gauzy guitars and oceanic electronics were nice, but I kept waiting for something to really go off and it never did. On Quicksand Memory, his first release in nearly four years, Mr. Schnauss makes things go off with a brain-rattling bang. His main influence was always the opaque swirl of Cocteau Twins and My Bloody Valentine, but until now he never managed to be as massively titanic, or (in my opinion) as clever as those bands. Opening track “Look To The Sky” is as “pop-rock” as Ulrich Schnauss has ever been, with the usual cascading icy synths accompanied by the gorgeous squall of shoegazey feedback, a live drummer, and the whispery echo of a female vocalist. This song roars and soars its way through the air like nothing since Cocteau Twins’ classic Echoes in a Shallow Bay. “Medusa” is even noisier, building from some atonal bleeps into a full-on frenzy of guitar squalor and blurry vocals, bringing to mind the music of late great band Medicine. Cocteau Twins guitarist Robin Guthrie gives his nod of approval by giving the remix treatment to two older Schnauss tracks and the results are predictably Cocteau-riffic. This fantastic EP leaves me salivating for the full LP, which is unleashed June 25. Rating 8/10

Von Sudenfed: Tromatic Reflexxions (Domino) LISTEN HERE This record sounds like it must have been a gas to make. On paper, the collision of German electro-experimentalists Mouse on Mars and Fall head grouch Mark E. Smith might seem a little queer. In reality, the last few Mouse on Mars albums featured a singer who wanted to sound like Mark E. Smith, but he had nowhere near as much sneer and snatch. As well, Smith has never had a fear of dropping some electronics into the music of The Fall now and again. It seems both parties took the collaboration as an opportunity to step a bit outside of their comfort zones and create an oddball electronic pop record that’s additively weird and very cool. Take “Flooded” for example, wherein Smith announces “I’m the DJ! I am the disc! Jockey!” in his most classic rant voice, then mumbles something about another DJ showing up instead and yells “So I flooded the place!” Mouse on Mars’ Andi Toma and Jan St Werner create a rump-rattling backdrop of electro bass, machine groans, and general fucked-up noises that fly out of the speakers and bounce around the room. At times, Smith’s voice is treated like a wicked science experiment, his trademark repetitive outbursts, already nonsensical, reduced to silly non-sequitors and reverberated grumbles. These three guys have an incredibly bizarre sense of humor (“Chicken Yiyamas”? A lawnmower solo on “Jback Lois Lane”?) and they aren’t afraid to come across as loony maniacs if they feel like it. There are a few cuts where the schtick begins to wear a little thin, but overall Tromatic Refexxions is a real keeper. Rating 7/10

Johnette Napolitano: Scarred (Hybrid) LISTEN HERE

Concrete Blonde queen diva Johnette Napolitano has always dabbled a bit in the darkside of the human psyche, and on Scarred, her debut solo record, she does magic for the therapy industry by sending us on a harrowing trek though the mental murk of humanity. It’s a chronicle of her struggle to overcome the deep-seeded fear and anxiety that she’s just not good enough, not pretty enough, that she doesn’t belong. Scarred immediately takes flight, leading off with the scorching “Amazing.” Right away the listener realizes that Ms. N isn’t here to folk around, she’s looking to sear our face off with raw power and high drama. On “Scarred” her voice breaks with raw emotion, as if her nerves are about to shatter like glass, and a sinewy guitar riff comes pouring out like innards from an open wound. The gravelly recitation of her “Poem For The Native” recalls Tom Waits, and the vocoder and punk psychedelia of “My Diane” seems like something lifted from a favorite old Kate Bush album. A big conceptual and musical influence for her it seems is David Bowie in variety rock mode (The Man Who Sold the World, Lodger, Heathen). Scarred rocks harder than one might expect, even more than any Concrete Blonde album I can think of. The production is crisp and texturally varied - occasional synth loops and sound effects meander through effectively. However, the main star here is the Voice. Napolitano ranges from casually chatty to mad whisper to savage growl to soaring and operatic, sometimes in the course of the same song. She even manages to do a perfect Nico impression on her charming cover of the Velvet Underground’s “All Tomorrow’s Parties”. Rating 7.5/10

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