Tuesday, August 30, 2005

pure joy

It's a question of perception. If you watch telly and a reference is made to the eighties you will get archive footage of city traders in red braces sitting in wine bars braying into their brick sized mobile phones, greed is good wasn't it all superficial and shit? Well I'm here to tell you it wasn't...not musically anyway. The '80's was the last time major label bands had control over their music and image. Duran Duran, Spandau, Haircut 100 all looked ridiculous but because they chose to look ridiculous. Bands were able to develop and refine their sounds over a number of albums. Punk swept the boards clean and allowed art school chancers like Human League and Soft Cell to bring minimalist electronic music to the top of the charts. Songwriters with genuine and sometimes embarrasing passion like Weller and Kevin Rowlands could have number one singles.....yes there was still shit in the charts and the creative fires had burned out of the mainstream by the end of the decade (compare Simple Minds early 80's output with the bombast they peddled by the end) but for a time the charts were...great.

Which brings me round to this weeks post, they looked silly...check, they had a background in punk...check, they got THEIR music made on THEIR terms into the charts...check....THE TEARDROP EXPLODES. Both of these tracks are from their 'difficult' second album 'Wilder'. I think it is a psychedelic masterpiece, it unravelled the band and unhinged Julian Cope, his excellent book 'Head-On' tells the tales of drug addled madness of recording in Wales and a disastrous US tour. 'Tiny Children' is so naked in it's emotional honesty and simplicity, it reminds me a little of The Beatles 'Julia' in the way it connects to childhood. It's like a lullaby. This was a SINGLE!

The Teardrop Explodes- Tiny Children

The Teardrop Explodes- Passionate Friend

'Passionate Friend' was a hit but does anybody remember it?. 'Passionate Friend' finds Julian Cope gloriously and optimistically English in his vocals, where Ian Mac had studied cool, Julian was boundlessly enthusiastic. This tune sounds like The Turtles on happy pills with sitar guitars, trumpet fanfares and ba, ba, ba's. It is absolutely one of the most hook laden singles of all time and along with X.T.C.'s Senses Working Overtime goes to show that great guitar pop was alive and well in the 80's.

Buy The Teardrop Explodes- Wilder
Find out more about the Arch-Drude Cope here

Monday, August 29, 2005

can you hear me doctor wu?

I got into Minutemen fairly late in life, but I think they're a great example of how the US concept of punk can be way more interesting than it's UK counterpart. Just look at the SST roster from the early-mid 80s - Black Flag, Meat Puppets, Husker Du, Sonic Youth and Minutemen. All completely stylistically different but all punk in the real sense - doing it for themselves and embracing all aspects of a musical "alternative" to the mainstream. It was more about how you carried yourself than how you sounded and these artists shared a set of ideals and a way of working that bound them together more than a homogenous sound.

Minutemen - Viet Nam

Minutemen didn't sound punk and they certainly didn't look the part (see lead singer D.Boon above), but they were more punk than many other bands, living the DIY ethic in all aspects of their day-to-day dealings, releasing 12 records in five years both on SST and their own New Alliance label. They took the energy and idealism of punk and fused it with a more expansive musical vision and a committed political ideology - you can see that they took a lot of their cues from Talking Heads, Wire and the Pop Group.

Minutemen - One Reporter's Opinion

In 1984 they released "Double Nickels On The Dime", an amazing double album (45 songs) recorded over a pair of two-day sessions. It was in some ways the result of healthy competition between them and Husker Du, who'd just released "Zen Arcade". "Double Nickels..." takes in funk, punk, folk music, everything in between. There are also covers of songs by Van Halen and, here, Steely Dan.

Minutemen - Doctor Wu

D.Boon died in a motoring accident in December 1985.

Visit Minutemen
Visit Mike Watt's Hoot page
Read Mike Watt's "Spiels of a Minuteman"
Buy Double Nickels On The Dime

Sunday, August 28, 2005

rock school 1

Sebadoh- Weird

How to write a great dynamic rock song.

For a start I know very little about Sebadoh. I know they are an American band of the alternative variety and their singer is Lou Barlow....yes? To me this song is a masterclass in how to arrange a great sounding, dynamic rock song. Everything here sounds right. The distorted bass, the succinct drum fills, the layers of clean and fuzzy guitars and the way the vocals float over the whole melodic mess.

I love the way the tambourine motors the second verse and very economical solo section. The drop out sections and the build-up to the final instrumental verse. It's all there, the ingredients to make you punch the rewind button to hear it again and again. Pure joy.

Buy Sebadoh- The Sebadoh

Thursday, August 25, 2005

meat puppets 101

So Domino Rally has been going for 5 months now. And I'm the lucky person that gets to do the first Meat Puppets post! I don't think it'll be the last - Oxbow was even talking about a Meat Puppets week... To put it mildly they have been a massive influence on most of Johnny Domino.

One of my favourite bands of all time is the Velvet Underground - each of their albums is totally different from the previous one. And the Meat Puppets first three albums are possibly even more varied. They go from the "rabid-glove-puppets-ripping-apart-a-small-stuffed-animal" stylings of "In A Car" EP and the "Meat Puppets" LP (both recorded in 1981)...

Meat Puppets – Dolphin Field

... to the druggy not-quite-country of "Meat Puppets II" (recorded 1983). This is the album that includes the three tracks used in the Nirvana Unplugged set, but those versions stripped all the rough edges off and made them (psychological voyeurism aside) much less interesting recordings. "Split Myself In Two" is the opening track and it starts off like something from the first album before shifting into a hardcore hoedown. The chorus starts off like a traditional country tune - "Oh, Mary-Lou won't you tell me what to do..." - before it heads off somewhere altogether more interesting - "I've got a dollar on the corner and a laser in my shoe / If I don't get an answer gonna split myself in two...". This song has one of my favourite guitar solos EVER - it's punk meets country via the Grateful Dead.

Meat Puppets - Split Myself In Two

From here they progressed to the psychedelic masterpiece of "Up On The Sun" (recorded 1985). The title track is a beautiful song, Curt Kirkwood playing some new form of psychedelic funk guitar and the rhythm section of Cris Kirkwood and Derrick Bostrom one of the best ever recorded, after being raggedy-ass on their previous outings. The vocals might be sound a bit rough around the edges but they're truly soulful - the chorus gets me every time.

Meat Puppets - Up On The Sun

All three albums are wildly different from each other but still recognisably the same band. It's a real musical and artistic progression and, to be honest, I've never got much further into their career other than their stunning first three albums. But I'm sure Jim (our still-silent partner in Blogging) will show me the error of my ways at some point in the near future.

Visit Meat Puppets
Visit Meat Puppets live repository
Visit Curt Kirkwood
Buy Meat Puppets
Buy Meat Puppets II
Buy Up On The Sun - DO IT NOW!

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

who told you life is fair?

I have been flicking though my much neglected copy of tvbo Dean Friedman (a gift from co- workers when I left a job at a not very cool record shop), Some of it strikes me as really AWFUL, but there are songs on it that I suddenly just can’t stop listening to.

Sometimes, ‘route one’ is the best way to get the emotional message across. Dumb can be good. Picture the scene - our hero is alone in his flat in the middle of the afternoon, he lies there in four day old underwear with the curtains drawn. Numerous empty takeaway food and drink containers and snapshot photos litter the floor. She has gone and you could say he is taking it a little hard...

Dean Friedman - Woman of Mine

It’s amazing how the human spirit will eventually recover from what seem to be of the lowest of lows. Anything could trigger the upturn of mood; a phone call from a friend, a walk in the park, a cheese sandwich, the sound of an electric piano, a talking piece of furniture, anything!...

Dean Friedman - Rocking Chair

Friedman’s unmistakable voice gets to me in a good way. His song ideas are quirky (sometimes just weird an crap) so he was never really that successful in the great scheme of things. He was kind of weird looking too.

However a look at his web site reveals a guy who is still doing still doing interesting stuff - check out the flash animation “Four More Years’ and the comic story ‘Earl the Squirrel’. I might go ands see him when he tours later this year. He’s doing his own thing creatively, and he’s got an audience. Respect to the Friedman! He is a spiritual brother of the Domino.

The ‘very best of’ album I have is not currently available, but this cd has it all on

comments from the original post

Thursday, August 18, 2005

like a velvet glove cast in iron

The continuing story of April March and the genius that is Tim Hensley.

April March - Voodoo Doll

April March - Kooky

The vocals and lyrics are ace and April March is obviously a hip lady - but who's the creepy bloke she's duetting with on "Kooky"?

That's Tim Hensley, at that time going by the name Vic Hazelnut, who wrote and arranged the songs.

That was in 1992. At that time I was totally obsessed with Daniel Clowes amazing comic, 'Eightball'. Truth be told, I'm still obsessed with it. Great artwork, twisted stories - you probably know that this is where "Ghost World" started and Clowes co-wrote the screenplay for the film.

In the first 10 issues the main story was "Like A Velvet Glove Cast In Iron", the story of a guy called Clay who was looking for his wife. Along his travels, amongst other things, Clay joined a Manson-cult; was attacked and left for dead by the police; befriended the lovely Tina (above); looked after Laura, a dog without eyes, ears or a mouth who was fed by syringe. Eventually Clay stumbled across a 'gentleman's club' where he saw a snuff movie starring (ta-daahh!) his wife. It was hardly "Peanuts".

When the story finished, Clowes announced that he was selling the soundtrack album (for a comic...). And guess who was doing the creepy vocals?

Victor Banana - Slumber, Precious (from "Like A Velvet Glove Cast In Iron" OST)

Yep, Tim Hensley is Victor Banana. He uses the same band and April March even does some of the vocals on the album. Hensley is perfect for this - the hipster 50's style with a deranged edge, like a decomposing crooner that's been dug up.

At the time Ox and I were sending some early Johnny Domino demo tapes around and decided to send one to Jenkins Peabody, the label that had released the "Velvet Glove" soundtrack. We wrote this long letter saying what a genius we thought Hensley was, which made it quite embarrassing when he wrote back - Jenkins Peabody was his own label.

He was cool and said some nice things about our stuff, and, as we'd sent our latest demo, he returned the favour with his latest CD. Anagram fans will approve of the new moniker under which he released the incredible "Refrains" CD in 1995. I love the way that these songs use the sounds of Easy Listening and 50s and 60s pop while still creating something really "other". Lyrics about onions, teen runaways (why ARE the vocals on "Teen Hobo" like that?), shoulder pain; songs that sounds like Pixies-pastiches and inappropriate bursts of foul language, I will let you discover for yourself.

Neil Smythe - Onions Make Me Weep
Neil Smythe - Teen Hobo
Neil Smythe - I Wanna Be A Dummy
Neil Smythe - Peace, It's A Gasser
Neil Smythe - My Shoulder

Having said that, a quick glance at the Jenkins Peabody site shows that Tim is now going by the name TOM Hensley...

Buy "Refrains" by Neil Smythe from CDbaby.com
Visit April March
Visit Jenkins Peabody

from the 9 comments from the original post:

Well, I am very keen on this bizzare and original artist. The arrangements and playing on these tunes is just great. However, it could give you nightmares if you go to bed on it!

it's almost been a year since this post was made, but I've stumbled upon it several times in my victor banana/tim hensley/vic hazelnut/neil smythe hunt. I've seriously been looking for his music for YEARS. I'm 20 years old and read like a velvet glove cast in iron when I was 16. SHortly after, I found out about the soundtrack and I've been looking for a copy ever since. My search for that is finally over! I found a used copy of the cd version {though I'd prefer lp, I'm not going to get picky about this} on GEMM for $20 {$10 shipping because it's coming from australia}. I couldnt be happier!

But I still cant seem to find much else music by this guy. I've been able to find Refrains and the compilation "place of general happiness", with one track of his. I want to know more aboutthis mystery man! and dammit, I want more of his music!

thanks for making this great post, it's aided me in my hunt.

Oh my! VICTOR BANANA's got another amazing LP entitled "Split" on Splat-Co. Records from 1989. Perhaps marginally less twisted (although that's certainly debatable), it was a fave of Dr. Demento for a while - but don't let that stop you from finding it. Dan Clowes did all the artwork for that one, too. It's fairly hard to find - although it does pop up for cheap now and again around Southern California. Long live Jenkins Peabody! 

Wow, how wonderful to discover a tiny Victor Banana enclave -- great band, great songwriter! I'll just chime in to the folks here who appreciate same that Tim and Tom Hensley are in fact two different guys; Tom's Tim's dad and has a musical career of his own. It's a pity Tim no longer puts his unique genius out there for others to hear! 

fantastic to get some more comments here - thanks a lot!

anonymous - i had heard about the "Split" LP, but i haven't been able to find it online. thanks for the info - if anybody is planning a trip to Southern California anytime soon, PLEASE GET IN TOUCH!!

3gt - many thanks for the extra information about Tim and Tom. it is such a shame that Tim doesn't record any more.

maybe we could start a petition?

Not sure if anyone's still reading these comments . . . but I just now stumbled across a guy who's "trading" professionally-transferred CDRs of VICTOR BANANA's "Spilt" LP! Here's the link:


I've got the LP, but I'm tempted to get the CD too, if only to load onto my I-Pod.

anonymous - you are a LEGEND! i've already put in a request, so there may be another hensley related post coming soon. thanks for the tip-off! 

it's almost been a year since this post was made, but I've stumbled upon it several times in my victor banana/tim hensley/vic hazelnut/neil smythe hunt. I've seriously been looking for his music for YEARS. I'm 20 years old and read like a velvet glove cast in iron when I was 16. SHortly after, I found out about the soundtrack and I've been looking for a copy ever since. My search for that is finally over! I found a used copy of the cd version {though I'd prefer lp, I'm not going to get picky about this} on GEMM for $20 {$10 shipping because it's coming from australia}. I couldnt be happier!

But I still cant seem to find much else music by this guy. I've been able to find Refrains and the compilation "place of general happiness", with one track of his. I want to know more aboutthis mystery man! and dammit, I want more of his music!

thanks for making this great post, it's aided me in my hunt.

Farm Inmate
The truly obsessed may wish to know that Tim Hensley has recently uploaded TWO vintage Victor Banana videos on Youtube.com -- these are done by the SPLIT album band. One is a song not included on the SPLIT album. The video quality is excellent and weird, just as you'd expect. 

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

we're all bourgeois now

McCarthy- Red Sleeping Beauty 

It is 1988. I am on the dancefloor of The Sugarhouse, Lancaster University's Student Union nightclub. It is a Thursday night, Indie night...of course. There are three of us dancing to McCarthy, we are the only people dancing but we are 'in the know', we are 'cool'. We are the Crucial Three....bagsy I'm not Pete Wylie.

At university friendships are often forged through music. A common interest in non-metal guitar based music released on small labels defined my closest friendships at university. If that sounds shallow that's because we were! Brothers in Mozzer quiffs and DM's, footsoldiers in the Indie Wars of the late '80's. McCarthy really fitted the bill, they were obscure, they were political and they were....really ace. I cannot tell a lie, my younger brother introduced me to McCarthy, when I got back from my first term he had 'I am a wallet' their debut album. It's a real 'strawberry switchblade' if the vicious revolutionary lyrics took some time to digest you could always understand their sweet guitar pop and often delicate music.

McCarthy- Should The Bible Be Banned 

I saw McCarthy play live at Manchester Uni, they were brilliant, I knew all the songs and all the lyrics. I even wrote to their lead singer, Malcolm Eden asking if they could play in Lancaster naively believing that all they had to do was jump in their van and turn up to play at The Sugarhouse unannounced (these were the days when I still believed bands lived like The Monkees or The Beatles in 'Help').

Of course McCarthy did not trigger the fall of Western capitalism but they remind me of a time when ideas and music were important and most importantly a lot of fun.

Buy McCarthy- 'That's all very well but....'
McCarthy lyrics site

Monday, August 15, 2005

back to the future

Herbie Hancock - Rain Dance

Just look at that picture - a tribal rain dance in space. I think that says everything you need to know about this track!

There's a Doctor on synth (Dr. Patrick Gleeson, no less), sending stabs of noise over the top of a looped groove of synthesised tones and Herbie Hancock plays a bizarre solo on a ring modulated Rhodes piano. The mix of traditional jazz sounds and futuristic textures are what that picture is about - the future is now, yet the music still harks back to afro-funk rhythms on each track on the album.

The album sounds like it was recorded tomorrow, but it was recorded in 1973.

The Herbie Hancock sextet was known as the "Mwandishi" band because of the Swahili names each band member was given. They recorded two albums for Warner before releasing "Sextant" on Columbia in 1973. The music recorded is obviously influenced by the experiences many of the band members had working on Miles Davis' "Bitches Brew" sessions. "Bitches..." was miles' attempt to "get to the young kids" by incorporating elements of rock and funk to create a new type of jazz, and the members of the Mwandishi band tried to bend this for their own aims.

The Mwandishi band was legendarily unsuccessful in their day. Their tour of Europe in 1971 was renowned for the fact that the band never slept, travelling ludicrous distances to make a gig. They travelled together in a van with a PA system, drums, amplifiers and the keyboard rig (including a huge ARP synthesiser). There are tales of the band playing at festivals for 4 hours - and then starting the second song. Herbie Hancock complained that he noticed that his friends would play everybody else's records other than his.
"My intention at the time was to play music to be listened to with undivided attention; but how many people have the time to approach music that way?"

So Herbie Hancock released the incredible "Headhunters" album, ultra-funky and enormously successful.

Herbie Hancock is still going strong doing some great stuff, looking amazing for his age, still pushing himself to do something interesting. But for some reason the brief period of the Mwandishi band, from 1970 to 1973, gets short shrift, especially if you look at his biography.

Try to find the time to listen to this properly - it will repay your patience a thousand times!

Buy Sextant
Visit Herbie Hancock

Thursday, August 11, 2005

frank's firm favourites

Oh to be in the UK in the 80's. A time when you could turn on the telly and be entertained by a man fom the North playing a ukelele wearing a paper mache head. It was a simple time, a time of right and wrong, 'fantastic' or 'bobbins'.

Frank Sidebottom - Anarchy In The UK

Frank really gets to the heart of what Anarchy is here. Especially on the bit about his mum. Grrr!

Frank Sidebottom - Popular Medley

*adopts Jimmy Saville voice* - there may be a prize (of some sort, not thought it through yet) for the person who can correctly identify all of the songs in this medley. Artist and CORRECT song title, please - entries in the comment box.

Frank was great at medleys like this one from his "... salutes the magic of Freddie Mercury And Queen" single. No prizes for this, just enjoy Little Frank's guitar playing - magic.

Frank Sidebottom - Everybody (Loves to) Sing Queen

I don't trust people that don't like Queen, same as I think twice about having conversations with people that don't like The Beatles - like people that shave off their sideburns, I just don't understand them.

Visit this fantastic Frank Sidebottom site

Vist Frank's fantastic site

Monday, August 08, 2005

madness in his method

Double Seven by The Upsetters

This is a totally bonkers album. It is 1974 and Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry is experimenting with synthesisers (an ARP 2600 and a Mini Moog)and eating far too much K F C for his own good - as immortalised in the opening song. Check out frying sizzle at the start, along with some other seriously bizarre sounds he has thrown into this great track.

Kentucky Skank - The Upsetters
Another highlight for me is the following pop gem, ( originally done by the Chi-Lites, fact fans!) with a tight, soulful sound.

We Are Neighbours - David Isaacs

This morning on of our neighbours woke us up with Madonna’s ‘Papa Don’t Preach’ at 5 am. Maybe I should point my speakers out of my window and enter into the ‘sound clash’ spirit. I would probably choose this album to pump out in his direction across the neighbourhood. The bass would carry brilliantly and the freakish nature of the songs and production would be sufficiently irritating to drive my foe to distraction.

Alternatively, I could go round and beat him senseless with his shit record collection.

Stay tuned to see which option I plump for.

Buy Double Seven

Friday, August 05, 2005

all of them trimmings...

Ok. No tunes today, but as some of you asked for it here is the page of lyrics by Out To Lunch, who I used to illustrate the post from Monday. I hope they bring you as much joy as they have done to the members of Johnny Domino over the years.

Johnny Domino - New Pink Shirt
Johnny Domino - Forever In Blue Jeans (Neil Diamond cover)


Download The Best Of The Shithouse Masters
Visit Johnny Domino
Visit Artists Against Success

Monday, August 01, 2005

a group of two

Johnny Domino - New Pink Shirt
Johnny Domino - Forever In Blue Jeans (Neil Diamond cover)
Johnny Domino has just released a free download album called "The Best Of The Shithouse Masters" - these two tracks are taken from it. The album has 22 tracks; over 77 minutes of lo-fi pop and a couple of cheeky cover versions.

Download the whole thing here.

The Shithouse Masters is the name we give to the 100+ songs Johnny Domino recorded between 1993 and 1998. The 22 tracks available to download are what I think are the best songs from that period.

I love these recordings. I'm really proud of the songs and the quality of the sounds we managed to get out a humble 4-track cassette machine. The limitations imposed by only having 4 tracks to record on, the dodgy equipment we had and the fact that most of the time it was just Ox and myself made us really think about what was necessary to the songs - the way of working has really informed the way we record today, I think.

I'd love to know what people think of these songs.

By the way, the image above is taken from a fantastically bad book Oxbow bought for me called "Rock Talk" by Julian Colbeck. The next page in the book is a sheet of lyrics by Out To Lunch (permanent residents of the "where-are-they-now" file) - if you're really good (or if I get enough requests in the comments box), I'll post the page.

Download The Best Of The Shithouse Masters
Visit Johnny Domino
Visit Artists Against Success