It’s May again for the 25th time in a world where there’s a Drag City roaming the earth. May once again – all of a sudden and yet surprising no one. So here we are and you are there; a place for everything and everyone in their place. We’ve gotten things done in “2014,” as always – but we’re still waiting, always waiting somehow. Waiting still for that day called tomorrow, and it never comes. Fool-like, we wait to see if it’ll arrive – and like sensible people, or perhaps desperate people, we seek ways of using our time, our hearts and minds. This is the only way to get to tomorrow, by clawing through the guts of what’s out there today! Even though it brings us no closer really, it feels like movement – and thus deluded, We The People find ourselves thus also refreshed. This is, of course, where your 25 year-old budski Drag City comes in. What to do while waiting? You heard it here first! Put on another record, friend. Seems simple, but there IS of course a metaphysical chicken-egg bit going down in this transaction that you might not be aware of, and it goes a little something like this: while you wait for that egg called ‘tomorrow’ to drop, blissfully unaware that the day it finally does, you’ll be one and done and outta here, why not just enjoy the chicken (‘today’) for what it is? Then the eggs pour forth, everything is new again, another fresh freakin’ egg. WOW. Meditate on that, ye capitalist! Note also that in this analogy, Drag City should be considered both the chicken AND the egg. Something for you to recall the next time you get all philoWHATical as well as the next time you’re in the good ol’ record shoppery.
While we’re working at dispensing advice/evidence, here’s another solid tip for you while trying to stop the world so you can get off and get straight too. The next time you go about planning your suicide-murder pact, just remember: timing is everything. When the life you take first is your own, how will you claim the final piece of your puzzle? Flip the script, kids – put somebody else first for a change.
THE ASCENT OF DRAG CITY: FROM APE(RIL) TO MA(Y)N
Last month, whoo! It seems so long ago to us. That’s because we’ve been rife with plans and potentials, number-crunching the days away while playing LOUD the new tunes that will spell victory for all thems who-um listen in the flaming, quaking, hurricaning days ahead. Once you’re up to your knees in the crumbled remains of everything you owned, who then would need to keep track of yesterday’s triumphs? Guess, fuckers – your Goddam scribe, for one. And the bean-counters upstairs too – because someone here in the safety of our multi-leveled Ivory Bunker™ has to pay out on all these records sold. So then, just one month ago today (give or take a week): April was rocked with the third and final archival release from a band called Death, whose obscurity in their actual existence in the 1970s has been matched only by their exploding popularity here in the 2010s. It’s mainly down to the 1975 recordings that were collected in 2009 as For the Whole World to See. Containing their only actually-released single, “Politicians In My Eyes” b/w “Keep On Knocking,” For the Whole World to See is a steaming, rock-solid blast of proto-punk from teenaged African-American brothers who wanted to rock so hard in the Dee-troit way that they stumbled onto the formative grounds of punk rock. Judging from the sales of this album, people are accepting it as an essential tome of early punk (or else there’s someone out there with a perverse desire to crowd the landfill with freshly purchased Death vinyl! – conspiracies-R-Us ed.). Death III visits the years immediately following those now-hallowed recordings, finding the Hackney brothers sharpening the corners of the spiritual-mental-physical triangle (devised for them as a logo and template by elder brother and guiding light David), equal parts rock and awe, with moments of dreamy spirituality exalting the all-high in the land beyond Death. The next step for the brothers was The Fourth Movement, a more devoutly Christian iteration of Death, with rock sitting next to the deep grooving of reggae in raggedly recorded and self-released form. More on this later, gang – but meantime, the third collection of Death tracks is a powerful collection, rivaling For the Whole World to See for full-bodied rocking performances. And now that’s it’s done, we offer to the true fans of Death (and their parents, as an Xmas gift suggestion): the Death LP slipcase! Hot-green and emblazoned with a high-contrast image of the band in their prime, this box will encase all three of the Death albums with freak-vibes to the fore.
Also in April was the Purling Hiss LP called Dizzy Polizzy. Four albums in (and about to be five! – spoiler a-blurtin’ ed.), there’s definitely a blind-men-and-the-elephant consensus about who this Hiss is anyway. Some hear the super-fuzzed blowouts of their self-titled record or Hissteria and say, this is Purling Hiss! Some hear the streamlined low-fi pop of the “Lounge Lizards” EP and dub THAT the Hiss. Those who got on board with last year’s Water On Mars hear the thick grunch and solid-gold songs on there and draw a glittering picture of rocque classique (done street-style in Chuck Taylors, naturally!). Meanwhile, Dizzy Polizzy recalls some of the early song-flights of Mike Pollizze (hence the title, hyah!) from old cassette tapes and sears them onto vinyl. The exp-ear-ience has a lot in common with Public Service Announcement; featuring a diverse sound ranging from thick to then, with all the colors flying on the unfurling Hiss flag. With the next new phases and stages for Purling Hiss currently in the wings, it’s a nice time to visit the wellspring and taste of the headwaters from those young and innocent days. Reminisce with the Hiss! Dizzy Polizzy is out then. And now too!
Spinkled atop this sweet April sundae of vintage sounds comprised thus far of sweet Death-cream and Hiss sauce, we pulled a couple Red Krayola titles from the vaults for the vinyl solution – including one that goes so far back, the ‘K’ was a ‘C’! Coconut Hotel’s the name, and unissued post-freeform freakouts circa ’67 is the game. Also in the mix: Hazel, the supercharged 90s Krayola in full flight. And finally, there was and is Singles, the eponymous career-spanning 45 sides comp – for the first time ever on long-playing LPs! The Krayola truly brought the nuts to our iced-cream concoction, but the cherry on top was delivered by Black Bananas’ “Physical Emotions” single. In anticipation of their swiftly impending Electric Brick Wall release, this maraschino of a track was issued to start tongues a-lappin’, which of course it does with synthy precision and Jennifer’s rock-droog frontwomaning. Both sides of the platter do the banging, with a Hot Chip remix of “TV Trouble” on the reverse. EBW is gonna bring a lot more rock to the party, but kicking it off with some groove is the right move. Wall come back now, ya hear?
And in a word (or 800), that’s April for ya – next, what’s up for now!
THEMES LIKE THOMETHING NEW
Coming from the dark side of the globe, Oren Ambarchi, Stephen O’Malley and Randall Dunn have brought a judiciously light touch to what might elsewise appear to be another journey to the center of the heavy with their new double-LP Shade Themes From Kairos. Instead, following on O’Malley’s Ensemble Pearl project of last year, time-tested gravi-tools are being used once again to find new textures that shine brightly next to those previously established. For instance, instead of engaging in a battle royale of droning, window-rattling guitar tones from the get-go (which, duh! ain’t on the list of things that are a problem! - no life ‘til metal ed.), A, O’M & D find other ways to raze the roof. Starting with space bleeps ‘n swoops into the racketing of tinny tribal drum beats, Oren, Stephen and Randall ease their way into some nicely hypnotic shit, possessed of smoother textures, particularly in the lower registers, thanks to a variety of analog synths. Even when Oren and Stephen dial up the guitars and rhythmic disruption intensifies, touches of vibes, crotales, shruti box, acoustic guitar and mellotron (yes!) keep the space expanding continuously throughout the record. So much the better! Paths not previously traversed are generally the best, even if it requires hacking through some overgrowth – and throughout Shade Themes From Kairos, a fine variety of scythes are wielded to allow our auditory warriors passage, in the process achieving a fully engrossing voyage through strangely seductive terrains. But listen, if you’re gonna take this home and dim the lights and light the candles and do whatever and play the record, YES, we’re with you – but just be sure you’ve got it set to 45rpm for the first disc. It’ll sound good at 33 too – but 45 duplicates the speed of the original performance. And you know what? Turn the lights back up so you can enjoy the artwork, since Shade Themes From Kairos is carefully and exquisitely packaged.
THUS ALWAYS TO TY RANTS
Injustice is served! When the nature of the artist’s music is the primary element that we, as vampires who live off an artists blood-song, are meant to be responding to, it kind of sucks (hey!) to hear others of our kind - our brethren, in essence - define this output in terms of pointless shit like brevity and frequency. As if the length of a jam somehow informs its quality, or the amount of times an artist makes expression informs any(every) thing they do! This last example is surely a way for commentators to “understand” Ty Segall, by making his tendency to voluminous output a part of who he is. But who is he? We’ve been working with him for a couple of years, and we can’t claim to know! All we can do is take the records we’re offered, and play, enjoy and grow. The fact that it is May and we’re talking about a Ty single and not a Segall album has appeared in the meantime doesn’t make anything better or less awesome or anything. In fact, it makes the “Feel” 7” record that much more fun! For his first new thing since last August’s Sleeper, Ty’s got a raging rocker with an extended drum jam backed with “The Fakir,” a new heavy-lidded acoustic number – and lyrically, both songs expound on fanatic spiritual visions that move the listener into full-on “deeper you go, higher you fly” mode. Smashing stuff, we love it. But what's next, Ty?
In April, the Royal Trux reissue campaign reached their penultimate release, the year 2000’s “The Radio-Video EP” – and in doing so, touched upon what we think is the essence of Royal Trux – their absolute devotion to doing whatever the fuck, and the hallucinogenic malleability with which they achieved fuck-dom. It’s not even really arguable that over the course of ten albums, they never made the same record twice; instead they delighted in the mastering of new goals every time out. This is also true of their three EPs (four, if you count the two singles that were compiled as “Dogs of Love” but since Drag City didn’t release that one, it’s only semi-canonical – that said, it would fit in the argument!); the Vertical 2x7”, “Three Song EP” and “The Radio-Video EP” share only a madness that is informed by their brevity, but the expressions of each are distinct, and since we’re talking about “The Radio-Video EP,” it goes like this: three dance beat-driven tunes that sound as if they’re based off dusty soul samples complete with r’n’b diva vocal refrains in between the outrageous verbal claims and clamor of Neil and Jennifer, ranging from all sorts of basketball commentary cut-up on “The Inside Game,” to Neil’s sweet trailer-park toaster-boasting and Jennifer’s truly off-putting growling on “On My Mind.” Mixed in between come a freak-flag Victory Chimp free-jam and poetry and a track of sped-up electronic pulsebeat. It all falls together perfectly – and all these years later, these are some of the best Royal Trux moments, filled with malice, humor and rock and roll - as you know, the BEST cornerstones for any entertainment anywhere.
ELECTRIC IS THE NEW BANANAS
Funny we mention Royal Trux, as the next set of releases contains both factors of the Trux equation. First up is the new album pouring forth to us from the land of the black helicopters, from the coastal sprawl south of the city of Angels themselves, from Black Bananas. Electric Brick Wall intensifies the effect of their 2012 debut with more beats, more vocals, more guitars, more layers strung out in fully ADD-mode, shit-tight but somehow sloppin' a little over the edge of the glass. This is new pop music, totally in command of the freak-scene it’s presenting. Preview listeners are already jamming the "Physical Emotions" 7" in clubs everywhere, with the rich synths and setting-sunshine beats promising a night full of good times. The rest of Electric Brick Wall takes them even farther, mixing altern-radio anthems with cock-rock and hyper-hop, but always pushing beyond where anyone's been before and filling their tracks with MUCH stuff. This is why nobody ever talks about how much Jennifer sounds like Betty Davis, because there's too much else going on (with both Jennifer AND the music!) to notice. Black Bananas manage to embody a multitude of classic rock and funk advances without ever resorting to slavish retro-posturing or musical taxidermy of any kind - because the sound in their head has fused all that old shit into something that's still too new to really evaluate. All we can think is, short and sweet; thick and crunchy, always to the max. It's like all the satellites are fuzzy and all the weapons are pointed back at us! So clearly: don't think - come June 24th, just buy Electric Brick Wall.
IF YOU VALUE YOUR HEX
Meanwhile, Neil Michael Hagerty's back in the Hex house! The Howling Hex have long been understood to be an extension of NMH's relentless imaginings of America's "New Border Sound," which is of course, a genre of one. Since 2003, there have been a solid stream of Howling Hex albums, sweeping the corners of the New Border Sound, getting further and further afield of the pop world while continuing to charm in their own completely alien record - but it's been eleven records since Neil's name accompanied The Howling Hex into the world. That changes with their big 10" extended single, "Fool's Watch" b/w "Lord Gloves," set for release this June. In addition to Neil's name on the label, the music genre is listed for the first time as well - which is funny, since after all the cumbias and rancheras that The Howling Hex have pumped out over the past five years, the tracks on this 10" step manage to mash up the sound with more dissonance then they have done - waves of extra guitars, a Luke the Drifter-style recitation, vocal choruses laden with harmonies, synthetic-sounding handclaps and so on! Perhaps the presence of Neil Michael Hagerty, but who knows? Mystery is one of the strong points of The Howling Hex. Regardless, these two tracks are nice long dance-jams suitable for flipping and sure to appeal to those who like to keep their rhythms and guitars many and varied and those who like to sing along with songs they don't know the words to. This vinyl-only release has been hand-packaged with loving concern, so get ready!
WE'RE GONNA HAVE GOOD FUN...
...that's right, when Pusswhip Banggang comes to town! The television sensation rock and roll band are celebrating the release of their latest single with a tour of the Deep South whose signature dish is celebrated in their latest single, "Jambalaya!" Not only is the song a deep, deluxe, richly flavored ode to the Creole classic -- an appreciation that only Pusswhip Banggang can make -- it is also one of the most extensively packaged single-song releases in history! We wouldn't be selling it mailorder for $38 just to get rich you know (and even that wouldn't do it - accounts lamentable ed.)! These records are for fans only - no speculators, please! "Jambalaya" was made to be enjoyed - so if that's your bag, dig deep into those pockets and get ready, you son of a gun!
Also on the June date is a 7" single on GOD? by Chicago's ZATH, whose 7" debut on Captcha back in 2012 served notice of a new bunch of young masters of metal riffage on the local scene. They continue that tradition with two new songs, "Black Goat Razor," and "Pain Reaper." It says a lot that on a heavy and hard-rocking date featuring Black Bananas and Neil Michael Hagerty and the Howling Hex (not to mention Pusswhip Banggang!), ZATH more than hold their own. GOD? says buy it!
JULYS WE TELL OURSELVES
Gotcher summer plans yet? Cool - hope you live to see 'em through! Not trying to be morbid, gang (FAIL! - mood ring ed.), but fate's a little trickier than just booking passage and making it happen. Like, we're about to be writing to you about July now, but there's no telling what's really gonna be going down when that rolls around. Fuck's sake, we might not even make it to the end of the paragraph! Our chest's tight and the room is swimming....but then, we ARE listening to the test press of White Fence's For The Recently Found Innocent. So sweet. Makes us powerfully happy and sad just to hear it over and over again - but then, we're a fan from way back, used to loving the corrosion between Tim Presley's delicately crafted tunes and the slash-and-paste psychedelic enclosure of their home-recorded sound. One of their great albums is already inside the Drag City fence, their self-titled debut, as reissued by GOD? - and now we get to usher in the next phase, as White Fence takes wing in more of a studio fashion than previously known. And know what else? It makes them White Fencier than ever before! More of a living breathing sound, and real drums throughout! Yet still Tim's songs achieve their trippy aims while rolling over the stoned for a fresh face on it. Man. So good!
July's gonna be great, even if we're not here personally to see it through - you just can't deny a month with new White Fence and Neil Hamburger songs in it. Oh, didn't we mention? The long-awaited (yeah, right! - sales-number savvy ed.) new album from Neil Hamburger is set to drop on July 22nd. First of Dismay, it's called - God knows why - and it's a collection of Neil's latest routines as well as a few more great songs featuring the "Too Good for Neil Hamburger" band featured on 2008's Sings Country Winners and the subsequent Western Music and Variety DVD. This time out, Neil and the boys cover the classic "Mama Tried," as well as a handful of originals, such as "Endless Roll," in which Neil vents spleen about his least-favorite brand of trash bag, and "Nickel Candy," where Neil pines for the good old days, and money too. Fun stuff - and for the first time ever, a new Neil Hamburger album will be available on Drag City in cassette format!
Since July might find you on a beach somewhere or conversely, in a tightly-sealed air-conditioned room, we always like to put something really DEEP on the schedule, something that will accompany exotic and hermetic experiences alike. Last year, it was Andy Kaufman and Bitchin Bajas. This year, thanks to the (chaotic) good guys at Yoga Records, it's Matthew Young's Recurring Dreams. We've already done a Young reissue with Yoga, the Traveler's Advisory LP - but that's more of a New Age-with-vocals album and is actually the sequel to this, Matthew Young's first album. Here's it's all about a nocturne of synths - perfect for hot July nights when the moon shines all silvery-bright. It's gonna be great putting this (back) into the world's bloodstream.
And if that weren't enough, we're gonna have ANOTHER single from GOD? (you can't keep a good GOD? down, you can only hope to contain him!) - this time, a 7"EP from Chicago's very own Running. These boys are so gnarly and wasted, yet so focused and totes powerful in their attack, and so funny to boot. It's always great to party with Running, and this single ends far too soon, but you know...we'll take it!
BACK GRUBBS (RECORDS ENHANCE THE BOOK PUBLISHING LANDSCAPE)
Whoops, we almost forgot - back in May, our friends at Blue Chopsticks reissued the first Belfi/Grubbs/Pilia record, Onrushing Cloud on the CD format. It had originally come out on LP only, limited edition, and that sold out. Then when their second record Dust & Mirrors dropped in February, it was on LP and CD, so it made sense to do the first album over again on CD and now they've both made it to both formats, and so the world is symmetrical again, except that some of our right breasts are a little droopy and some of us only have one earring, so whatever. You know, we've been working with Blue Chopsticks head David Grubbs for most of the time we've been doing Drag City and we've done lots of records with him involved. Whether under his own name, Gastr del Sol, Bastro, Squirrel Bait or with Stephen Prina, The Red Krayola, Edith Frost, King Kong, Bonnie 'Prince Billy or his many projects on Blue Chopsticks, it's always a distinct pleasure hearing from David again. Lately we've enjoyed hearing him in printed form, as his book Records Ruin the Landscape - John Cage, the Sixties and Sound Recording has been spending time in the office latrine with us (what? that's where we get our reading done!). The book's a compelling page-turner of an academic examination of the avant-garde scene in both recording and performance mode, and the intrinsic differences between the two. David brings his lifelong love and fascination with this music to the text and the feeling is palpable. It's not just us sticking up for our boy either - reviews in The Wire, The New Yorker, Pitchfork and the Chicago Reader have all affirmed the positive contribution this book has made in the very different landscape of today. Very awesome! Meanwhile, David's gone on the road to promote the book with readings all over the place, check it out! Hey, David - bust out your guitar and play something from your own extensive catalog - - those records won't ruin the landscape in the shops with a show or two along the road....
Oh my God, Dead Rider have so many shows coming up - entertainment lovers of North America are SO lucky. This summer and through into the fall, some of the best, most tightest and funly awesome shows to happen this year are happening everywhere - as Dead Rider continue their Chills On Glass tour all around America, with four trips o'er the border into Canada. That's so amazing, and we only hope that somebody on the other side of the pond gets wind of this amazing booking opportunity too. Meanwhile, Europeans of all stripes will have to try and satisfy themselves with New Bums, Ty Segall, Mick Turner, Neil Hamburger, Alasdair Roberts, Laetitia Sadier, Bill Callahan and Mike Donovan. And I daresay, they will.
And so will we, wherever we are - and you will too. Don't let anybody fuck with you - just keep playing the Drag City card.
Drag City Inc.