The Drag City Newsletter, April 20 2010

posted April 20th, 2010


What’s up?!? Back in action for the second time in less than a month, your Drag City scribe is gonna keep it simple for you. We’re a record company, which means we make phonograph records, compact discs and digital downloads for around a couple dozen artists and thirty or so different records per annum. However, as a company that makes things, we’re forever dabbling – we’ve made books, magazines, DVDs, posters, a coin (!) and sometimes just a t-shirt. Actually, we’d done a lot more than that over the years – we’ve created print advertisements, greeting cards, promotional video clips, concert tours, and so on. See kids, when your proclivity is to make things, you shouldn’t have to limit yourselves!


Yep, we’re coo-coo for record shops! You say you can fit all your music in a little box the size of a cigarette pack? We’d be much more impressed if you could fit it all into a box the size of a house. The more room it takes up, the merrier we all seem to become. Sure, we like to have music on our pod, and lots of “content” in our ’pooter as well, but it just doesn’t really raise the roof-beams the way a room filled with records, cassettes, 8-tracks, reel-to-reels and sure, even that digital pioneer turned pariah, the good ol’ compact disc do. We don’t have to leave our house to bring the music into our lives via satellite, but you know, we could use the exercise! And who knows who we might see down at the olde record shoppe? Here’s a flash from Saturday, which was dubbed “Record Store Day” around the world:

If you ask us, every day’s a good to day to rifle through the bins! And we have twelve or so record store days per year. We call ’em new release dates around the office here – read on, we’ve got a new one happening right about now.


Okay, so record stores are cool – but not every town has ’em, and some of you country-types are so way out there, you don’t even have a feed store nearby. Too bad you can’t digitally “share” a mouthful of food! Well, give it a couple of years…meanwhile, for all of you who live beyond the pale of our American way of Consumerism that we offer Drag City in mail order form! We’re your Great Store in the Sky – just look to the satellite and you’ll see us beaming down to you, ready to forward tangible slices of entertainment to your doorstep.

Perhaps you read our news bulletin about a brand-new weekly program we’re putting into place that allows mail order customers the exclusive right to buy one of our classics titles at a viciously cut rate. See, we did some investigating and discovered that people like to pay less for things in general, and music in particular. While we can’t sell our catalog for the price most feel it’s worth (nothing, sob!), we can offer selected titles for forty percent off for a limited time. The whole shebang kicks off this week with Bonnie ’Prince’ Billy’s Lie Down In the Light – watch this site every Monday for a new old title!


When it’s A Book of Songs For Anne Marie by Baby Dee, silly! Cause that “Book”s a record, and that record is for sale now! Plus, unlike books, you can’t take a record and rack it up on your portable digital device – oh, wait. You could do that first, couldn’t you? Well, even if you that’s what you end up doing (and secretly, we hope every bike messenger with ear buds that we see on the street is in fact, listening to Baby Dee, that would be super amazingly fucked and cool), it’s a far greater reductive loss for you on account of the lovely photos of Dee and lyrics included with the LP/CD versions of A Book of Songs For Anne Marie. These are all-new recordings that feature Dee in a torchy-feely mood, singing blue tunes (as in blue moods, not blue mouth!) with gentle clouds of string and woodwind backing her. You’ll strike up a four-hanky alarm for this one, it’s so touching and sad. She wrote the songs for Anne Marie, but in a pinch, you’ll do.


Unless we’ve drastically overestimated our audience’s median age, that is! That was your dad, right? The punk rocker? Inventing the mosh pit back in ‘79 in Louisville to the sounds of gender-bending punkers like The Endtables? Okay, now that we’re clear on that, The Endtables were certainly inspirational back then, but also barely palatable and only briefly available to entertain – their lifespan didn’t reach two years, and back then, that made them a local band with nothing but a self-released single to their name. They were led by a visionary type named Steve Rigot, whose transgender fashion sense was second only to his towering stature. Plus, he had a bleat that built on early David Thomas but an ax all of his own to grind! If you had a list of everyone who saw them and dug it, you’d have a list of a lot of people who ended up trying to change the world through music in the Louisville music scene of the 80s-90s. Their hearts raced as they listened to The Endtables race through their repertoire of early-punk classics; crushing, yet danceable tunes with names like “They’re Guilty,” “Process of Elimination,” “White Glove Test,” and a handful of others. Now your heart can race too, as you listen to the vinyl EP or get the whole story on the enhanced CD. For the historian and proto-crusty alike, The Endtables are back to claim their inches in the annals of punk. Grab ’em before they’re gone again.


As we’ve said here often in the past, good things come in small packages (we’re talking about records, perv!) and now it’s Monotonix’s turn to prove it. Previously the proud papas of a six-song EP (“Body Language”) and an eight-song LP (Where Were You When It Happened?), they’re dialing it all the way back with their new single “Never Died Before.” This time, it’s two songs on two sides, both recorded at Electrical Audio with Steve Albini, whose mix favors the thrashier side of Monotonix. Recorded fast and issued faster, “Never Died Before,” is a tribute to DIY values – a photocopied wraparound cover houses the quick-boil tunes. You can grab this mini-slice at the shows – there’s still plenty of them. Or what about trying a record store? We hear they’re kinda fly…


Also brand new are a couple more sonic trips from those fellows of eternal night over at Streamline. Truly, the sun’s never shone on the sounds they put out – and if you play your cards right, it never will, either! The subliminal sonics of Andres Krause are relaxative, to say the least – you hear the earth move in the forests of sound and unsound on his new Move Ground LP. Or you can choose language, and listen to the words fall apart as Christoph Heemann deconstructs Lee Renaldo’s recitation of “Bloomington Indiana…”, then flip the disc and hear Heemann and Jim O’Rourke work a little bit more space into the mix with “Autumn.” Like the space cowboys they are, Streamline rides again!


Seekers! Freakers! And other questing earthmen! Are you stiff from the lack of metals in your diet? Are strange and exotic vistas foreign to you? Do your ears ring from a lack of ringing? Then get Ranga. No, not the Balian witch-goddess, the music made by the men inspired by her reign of terror. Specifically, we’re talking about Ben “Six Organs of Admittance” Chasny, Sir Richard “Sun City Girls” Bishop and Chris “Forget it, I’ve played with everyone” Corsano. Yeah, that’s right – Chasny, Rick Bishop and Corsano have a band. And it’s not simply about tearing our collective head off – although they do that early and often on their debut album, False Flag. With what these three know about dynamics you could fill an Olympic-sized mass grave, and so at least half of the album attends to the deep matters of creating beauty, only then to have it shredded (beautifully, of course). These fuckers are serious – before May is out, they’re gonna be rocking down ancient roads, stretching their mythic arms and clutching their mystic necks and pounding their plastic heads for audiences all across the UK, with selected continental dates. And when they’re done, they’ll tour some more! They’ve got big plans, and at this early date, nothing appears to be able to stop them. The bell never tolls – for Rangda.


Please join us in bellowing a hearty Drag City hulloa to CAVE, the newest of the new names on the Drag City intercom! These young men are a Chicago band with surging, cruising jams laced together with synths and more in what can only be regarded as prog-psych from the now. In the near future, the CAVE 12”EP “Pure Moods” will be ready for your platter, and CAVE themselves won’t be far behind; their North American “Pure Moods, Y’all!” tour will begin in early June.


So, what have we got going for May? Twin-guitar free jams from Rangda and new-wave psych from the mouth of CAVE. Geez, I guess we’re a gnarly bunch here at Drag City. Oh, but then there’s our other side. No wait, our other other side. The soft and gooey side of Drag City where light sounds rule us, and we shed a tear for every sweet sentiment that flits forth from our electrostatic speakers. It’s that part of us that is loving introducing you to the sounds of Elisa Randazzo. Elisa’s a west-coast child of songwriters who wrote doo-wop, garage and smooth soul music over the course of their careers. Elisa’s inherited their talents, though her day-job and meal ticket is as clothing designer. If you’ve worn or admired her “Dusty of California” and “Cameo” lines, you may have a bit of an idea about her music – elaborate design, immaculate construction, a retro vibe but with a fresh conception…this is the look and the sound of Elisa’s music, which was previously showcased in the band Fairechild, a group formed around Elisa and her now-ex-husband. After he split, she channeled the sense of lost-ness into new songs, several of which feature British folk-rock legend Bridget St. John and all of which were co-written with a new collaborator, Aaron Robinson. There’s a hit off the record on the site right now – and we think you’ll agree with our casual dubbing of the sound as “Fairport Mac.” Threaded with folk and 70s California rock sounds, Bruises and Butterflies is a deep and beautiful singer songwriter listen. Come May 18th, get your Bruises from Drag City! It’s the least we can do.


Stay soft with us for a minute here. We’ve been having a bit of fun with reissues lately, there’s no denying it. We love those good old sounds from back in the day when they really knew how to make records. Like 1983. Wait a minute. Did anything actually sound good in 1983? No, not unless you work at Secretly Canadian! Those Springsteen-loving fools! Actually, we’ve got this album from Jeff Eubank that’s casting 1983 in a fresh new light. It’s called A Street Called Straight, heard it of it? Of course you have, you record collecting nerd, you! Yoga Records has been tootling the horn for Jeff Eubank and a number of other great old crate-dive classics for several years now – but when we heard that Jeff Eubank still had jackets to fill from back in the day, we set out to rekindle a dream. Come May 18, A Street Called Straight will live again in the format it was originally meant to spin in. What’s it sound like? Oh, you know, a child of the 70s, lost in the 80s but living out his west-coast soft-pop fantasies with a completeness not even the superstars of that former era were capable of summoning by ‘83. Hmm, perhaps we’d ought to try out some other sounds from that wretched year. Hͼsker Dͼ? What do they sound like? While we’re checking it out, you get straight. A Street Called Straight, that is.


The problem with the world nowadays is that it’s entirely too safe! Given that we’re only human and given the extraordinary means at our disposal to fuck things up, it’s really a miracle that the view out your window doesn’t resemble 28 Days Later. What’s holding us back? Can the rule of law really be that effective? Or are people just lazy? While you’re pondering these questions, consider a new film from one of movie-doms most unfettered minds, Harmony Korine. His latest is a little stain called Trash Humpers and it’s coming to your town soon. Trash Humpers is a semi-hallucinatory vision of the secret lives of dirty old peeping toms roaming the dark backstreets of the rural American landscape. Heavy on provocative imagery and seemingly improvised dialogue, Trash Humpers finds a narrative somewhere in between blurry lines – shot and cut on video, it feels like a found object, a tape that plays to increasing disquiet in the listener.

Of course, 50% of this movie’s audience will find it inutterably hilarious. The world may be too safe today, but it certainly isn’t for the lack of sick fucks. Trash Humpers - check the schedule on the site here – it’s probably coming in your town soon. And oh – coming in June is the Original Sound Track for Trash Humpers on 7” vinyl and well, 5” CD.


Actually, it’s Neil Young who’s getting Bert Jansch to open for him, but that wouldn’t make a good headline at all – YOUNG GETS JANSCH AGAIN? What does that even mean? The good news is, nothing needs to mean anything – because the man who once called Bert Jansch “the Hendrix of the acoustic guitar” (because back in ‘67, Bert developed a homemade wah-wah pedal for his acoustic guitar) (psych!) has arranged for Bert to open several weeks of dates for him the American South in late May and early June! For Jansch fans, this is your opportunity to see Bert in enormous venues playing for audiences who don’t quite know who he is! This is also your chance to stick it to that awful Neil Young who wants to impeach the president, what’s his problem? It’s a rare folk-n-roll two-fer. So represent, people.


Jeez it’s been forever since Joanna Newsom hit the road! Oh, right, it’s only been a few weeks. Well, we’ve been busy for the past few weeks so…one thing that’s undeniable is that it’s been a couple of years at least since she had a proper tour of Europe! Now that Have One On Me has sunk into the rhythms of the earth and made it’s eternal impact there, she’s coming over to ye olde world for the month of May. Lots of nice old venues over there, the combined age of which is several millennia all told. A couple festivals too…nothing you’ve ever heard of, just some shite called ATP and whatever else offered up the proper dosh…

But Joanna’s not the only one abroad! There’s also Scout Niblett – she’s got European dates in May too, followed by a pretty solid bunch of UK dates, then France. Rangda’s all man, but they’re in the UK in March too. And Alasdair Roberts’ll be opening some dates for Joanna. And Sic Alps are back over there. And Bachelorette, and Baby Dee…and Monotonix! Et tu, Bonny Billy and The Cairo Gang? Fuck, the Drag City world’s gonna tip right off its axis, everyone’s over on the other side this spring! Hopefully they’re done shaking their ashes over there – we’ve got some flights booked this spring.

Speaking of that, we’ve gotta shake a little ass-feather ourselves. Gonna fly now – but keep checking in, the news and sales are breaking on a semi-weekly basis around here, I swear…


Rian Murphy

Drag City Inc.