Wednesday, January 24, 2007

you will never be alone as long as you can make it home

Every now and again here at The Rally, we get emails from bands, labels and publishers, trying to get themselves and their latest charges featured on the blog - you may scoff, but judging by the emails this is some prime real estate you're looking at right now. A favourite was the email offering me tickets to a showcase gig at the South By Southwest festival - unfortunately they wouldn't stretch to airfare and accommodation but it doesn't hurt to ask...

Not many of these bands have inspired me to write about them, but last week I got an unassuming email from The Swimmers of Philadelphia, asking if I wanted to download a copy of their unreleased album, "Fighting Trees". Well, why not...

The Swimmers - It's Time They Knew

The Swimmers - Home

I think it's a great album - bits of Summerteeth-era-Wilco, Beach Boys, The Shins and Arcade Fire in there - frontman Steve Yutzy-Burkey has a touch of the Jason Lytle's about him, too. Man, I don't know about you, but every now and then I just need me some grade-A, pounding, anthemic American indie-repeato-rock and this more than fits the bill. What do you think?

The album will hopefully be out sometime in the Spring - no date as yet, but until then visit their MySpace and befriend them. They have some US dates planned over the next month, too, if you're out that way.

I'm hoping that Marc-o gets a chance to hear these 'cos I think he'd love 'em - especially the needly Juno lead bit on "Home".

One of the reasons I'm posting these is to celebrate the latest addition to the ever expanding legion of Johnny Domino fans - we're giving birth to 'em one at a time! Big love to Marc-o and Claire xxx

Visit - The Swimmers website
Visit - The Swimmers MySpace

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

lost soldiers of "alternative" music

Back in the gold rush days of the early 90s alternative music scene, my brother and I used to have a handy catch-all put down for bands who were big on the local scene and had some “management interest”, possibly even a hint of the mythical “showcase gig”. After a short while this would invariably come to naught. We referred to such bands as a “major-label tax-loss”.

Is it any wonder that bad things happen to us? That’s karma, my friend…

This was the time when college-rock bands from nowheresvilles everywhere could unwittingly find themselves being signed up by a huge multinational record label and having to pay off a huge advance for the rest of their natural lives (see Steve Albini’s classic rant The Problem with Music)

This seems to have been the story for Tripmaster Monkey. Now, I know absolutely nothing about this band, and the interweb doesn’t yield much by the way of search results. The only reason I own their first album at all is because when I was at University there were stalls selling cheap CDs every Wednesday. “Goodbye Race” was about 2-3 quid and had a kind-of Trumans Water-lite hand-scrawled CD cover (with written notations and doodles). Looked a bit “Slanted & Enchanted”, so whatever, I’ll bite. The album even had the ultimate early 90s cred-badge - the track that the band recorded themselves (keeping their lo-fi roots, no?).

I played bits of it once and shoved it in a cupboard.

A couple of weeks ago, 10 years plus after the fact, I dug it out again while looking for something different to listen to. Maybe it’s to do with being older but I was filled with empathy for The Monkeys and played it through three times, a feat I have bettered whilst writing this.

Tripmaster Monkey - Albert's Twisted Memory Bank

Is this what’s called “emo”? There are big obvious crunching chords and big sing-along choruses – the tunes are a bit predictable but a cliché is only a good idea repeated, yes? And loud guitars are one of the reasons why (in the broadest possible sense) we’re all here, right? So let’s get off our high horses. Hey, it worked for Guided By Voices, didn’t it?

Tripmaster Monkey - Pecola

On listening again I saw what I perceived to be their struggle; that of the local band, playing gigs for their mates so they can get into bars, always drawing a good crowd of people telling them how cool they are. Perhaps they self-release something – an EP maybe? - and tour to promote it. Enter the A&R man, wafting a cheque book in their face – “where do I sign?!”

They get to go to Fort Apache – “Hey, Pixies/Dinosaur/etc recorded here! Does it get any better?” – and record an album. They tour, they do some press, they produce their second album themselves… they don’t recoup, they get dropped.

Tripmaster Monkey - Depravation Test

But let’s not pass the hat – maybe I watch too many TV Movies. And anyway, I bet they had a blast. They got to go to Fort Apache – Hey, Pixies/Dinosaur/etc recorded there! Could it get any better?

They recorded at least one pretty bloody good album (even if it took me 10 years to realise…). They toured, they did some press. So what if they didn’t recoup and got dropped? What a trip. And what a cool story to tell in the pub!

Tripmaster Monkey, I salute you!

Buy - Tripmaster Monkey “Goodbye Race”
Visit - Tripmaster Monkey MySpace (fan page)


Hey, I think Boyscout would probably have entered the category you mention in your I loved those London gigs on a week lucky children indeed!

Im from Iowa, USA, and used to see/play with Tripmaster Monkey alot. Great guys, put out a couple albums on Sire, then split to form other bands(Chrash, Tenki). Funny you mention GBV, because the last show we played together, the singer Chris and I sang GBV songs drunk on a roof. Really cool to stumble on this post, funny how this music sounds like something you'd hear today. Thanks.

hey, anonymous commenter, thanks for stopping by - that's what struck me when i played the album recently, it sounds really 'now'. glad the monkeys were good guys - there's information on both the bands mentioned at
marc-o - i don't know what you mean...

i remember playing tripmaster monkey when i was a DJ in college. memories! xo c

Anonymous (2)
Steve, thanks for the salty salute. some facts are different but you got the gist of the story correct. It was a fantastic ride and a great story now. truth be known Goodbye Race was my least favorite. Check out Practice Changes or Faster Than Dwight. We were on Che'in the U.K. We did a 8 day trip through London and Wales in the early 90's. Legendary performance at the "Garage" and so so at Camden Palace. Regardless we are still doing it. Still in love with it. Check out thanks for the memories Christian Burnout 

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

i *heart* le jazz hot

What better way to start off the New Year than with a good solid blast of what is technically called skronk or skwee-bo. Mmm-mm, time for some abstract punky-jazz shit to blow that dust out of your ears! This sounds like a merry-go-round for psychotic e-numbered-up asbo's.

Acoustic Ladyland - New Me

This is off the last new album I got in 2006, Acoustic Ladyland's latest, Skinny Grin. Is it jazz or is it hardcore punk? Whatever, I think they've been listening to some John Zorn/Naked City - which is no bad thing, obviously. After listening to this, I feel like my third eye has been squeegeed quite clean.

Check Pete Wareham's glorious sax burbles at 0.42 and 0.46, followed by a full on step-on-a-duck moment at 0.52 during the slow grinder section. His playing then gradually mutates into the sound of a fat man on a space-hopper swallowing a duck-call. The spirit of Chick Corea at the Filmore West circa 1971 appears during the rabid distorted Rhodes solo at 1.30, which leads into the race for the finish. Says all it needs to say in 2.22.

As this is the second track, there is a danger that the album peaks a little early but it's well worth checking out. Some great drumming as always when Seb "Hair Bear Bunch" Roachford is involved - I managed to see him in his Polar Bear guise last year which was fantastic. Tour again soon, please!

Buy - Skinny Grin
Visit - Acoustic Ladyland

Thursday, January 04, 2007

music from other sources

Things have obviously gotten a wee bit quiet over the festive period. Normal service will resume soon (i.e. - the one-man group blog of the past couple of months...!) so until then here are a few places to get you free music fix (other than the plentiful links in the sidebar which you should be checking out anyway).

A friend of mine recently sent me a link to the great Daytrotter site. This features writing, illustrations as well as exclusive sessions from bands, recorded live in their very own studio. They're not very keen on people deep-linking to files (who is?) or re-hosting the files themselves but you should be visiting the site yourself, really.

Here are links to a few of my favourite sessions and they're all belters:

Langhorne Slim...

Bonnie Prince Billy...

Hockey Night...

and Nina Nastasia.

Very nice I'm sure you'll all agree.

If you want something a bit more arsequaking, I was chuffed to find that the mighty Butthole Surfers have made all of their classic Double Live semi-official bootleg available to download here.

We borrowed this off of a mate years ago and it's particularly good to hear The One I Love and Psychedelic Jam again after all these years.

Happy huntin'!