Thanksgiving in Zaireeka

Thanksgiving-MessOh, no, Thanksgiving. Oh, no, Christmas. The holiday season circles, vulture-like, and descends.

And how are you? The Mrs. (she of the sculpted beauty and lo, yon cheekbones on high) and I are still smarting from a Thanksgiving in which we were outnumbered , young-person-to-human-wise, by over two to one, as we were visited by two of the Kelp nieces and nephews, Owen and Armenia, and their hench-persons, Martin and Lainey. Eventually, they were joined, in turn, by their friends Zoltan and Popsitina (that’s one of the problems with young people: they attract other young people). That meant that at one time, we had almost nine different people, all in Lovely Kelp Manor, trying to eat, at one time. Way too many -a bad idea; never happen again; hohoho.

Luckily, though, there was biscuits and bean dip for all, with plenty of Hi-C in festive holiday containers. Only eleven stalking days left til’ Santa and His Dwarves…a curdled howl of attempted joyfulness…reason ebbing slowly away….

Actually, one thing that we did do over the holidays with the chilluns (there are literally thousands of Kelp nieces and nephews -why, they’re littered all over the Barbary Coast -but most of them have been unable to locate us so far) was listen to the Flaming Lips’ “Zaireeka” CD (on Warner Bros.). As you may remember from a couple of columns ago, that’s the one that has four different CDs, and you’re supposed to listen to them all at once on four separate CD players. Previously, I had only established that listening to them one at a time was surprisingly interesting; this time, thanks to the efforts of my neighbor Denzel, we got to hear three out of four at once on some extra equipment he had been able to come up with, and again, I was very impressed.

For one thing, the very act of listening in this manner provokes a unique and interesting social experience; you’re immediately surprised at how unusual the simple act of listening to something with a bunch of other people feels -it’s something people don’t really do much anymore. Also, the inherent problems of mixing something for eight speakers that will inevitably not be in perfect sync are met ingeniously -the damn thing really works pretty well! Though there’s not all that much in the way of catchy tunes, in general, this is a most wonderful surprise, bracingly radical and disarmingly immediate -and trying to listen to them all at one time is a true adventure.

Other potential stocking stuffers: the new Replacements compilation “All for Nothing, Nothing for All” (Reprise) is about as close to flawless as it could be, divided into one CD of greatest hits and one of b-sides and rarities; both are delightful, the latter surprisingly so, with a lot less disposables than you’d expect. (I’ve found that a lot of times when someone issues a whole side of outtakes etc., you end up with the depressing feeling of agreeing with the record company that demurred about putting the stuff out in the first place -and noone wants to agree with a record company.) And a lot of this stuff is just as slobby and silly as you’d expect, but somehow, they always put it over. I’ve always missed this band, anyway -this set just makes it all the more wonderfully excruciating.

More energetic but rarely as soulful is Everclear’s “So Much for the Afterglow” (Capitol), which is catchy, calculated, poppy, and propulsive in the manner of a more hyper Smithereens; those who find this one too glossy may enjoy the ravings of Guitar Wolf on their new “Planet of the Wolves” (Matador) -especially those who dislike hi fidelity, seeking instead the all-out assault of the Japanese garage band unleashed. Guitar Wolf also appear on “Tokyo Trashville” (Au Go Go), another raver featuring insane Japanese garage bands recorded insanely in insane Japanese garages; the 5. 6. 7. 8’s “Ki-Kya Shout” is alone well worth the price of admission.

For an ancient American ancestor approach to the time-honored tradition of garage rock, you could do worse than Bobby Fuller, whose double CD “Shakedown” (Del-Fi) collects many early, self-produced efforts prior to the Texan’s hits with “I Fought the Law” and “Let Her Dance” (though there are two versions of the former included). It’s somewhat hit or miss, but the good stuff is great, and even the bad stuff has a great spirit to it. The packaging is absolutely inspired, capturing the look of a sixties plastic reel of Scotch recording tape right down to the handwriting in pen scratched out on the back with pieces of it ripped off. It looks so good, it provides the perfect context, which in turn actually makes the whole thing sound better.

On the local front, Borrowed Time has released a seven song CD called “Blend” (Spin One) on which the opening track “It Comes Apart” is a clear highpoint, featuring a perfect production and performance that makes the most of an OK commercial rock song; the rest was not much my cup of tea, being mainstream, MTV-for-the-nineties rock. Also, my friend Eric Carter, who (prior to his re-location in San Francisco) used to play in the band Tripp Lullaby with my other friend Eric Short (who is continuing with two of the other original members of Space Pussy as “Space Posse” -ah, but that’s another story), appears with the band Mumble & Peg on “Wondering in Volume” (Vaccination), another record that is ingeniously packaged. The music itself is rather meandering and oblique, containing interesting lyrics that are perhaps better read than sung; it’s a little arty, a little dour; not easy listening, but not abrasive, either -I may need more time with this one. Call 508 432 6675 for more info on Borrowed Time; write to Vaccination Records, P.O. Box 20931, Oakland, CA 94611 for more on Eric Carter.

That’s it for now; next week, further proof that the human brain is the most over-rated organ in existence…til’ then, happy impending Yule log….

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