posted April 27th, 2012

Welcome back to the Drag City of doing things, viewing things and of course, screwing, bluing and tattooing things. It’s a big world and like us, you’ve been taking it in and dealing it out and you’re dehydrated, man! If you’re ready for another ear-draft of music-brew, you’ve come to the right place. This month’s episode of Q: Guess What? A: Drag Fuckin’ City! comes to you from the shores of the unsunny left bank(e) of gay Paree, where your correspondent is holding court in one of the famous cafes where Miller, Hemingway, Beckett and Burroughs once did their drinking and writing. That’s right — Max Miller, Horace Hemingway, Billy Beckett and Chauncey Burroughs once sat here where I currently type, beret in hand, cigarette holder poised to scratch that spot on my back that always itches when I’m about to say something brilliant. And given that this is only the start of this noos-letter, I imagine I’ll be scratching up a storm. But the point, dear readers both young and old, is that this month, we’re truly able to take in the epidemic effect of Drag City in places all around the world.

Yes, whether in a pub on Fleet Street or a salon high above the prostitute-ridden backstreets of Paris (thank God! where have all the street-walkers gone, Chicago? (north Cicero Avenue — local crime stats ed.), we present our card and are greeted with the look that can only mean: You mean? Drag City has sent a (man/woman/child) to us? And then out come the stories: O’Rourke was here in 1997, he broke five out of six strings but made us cry with the one remaining string and all his stupid jokes! When the Silver Jews played here a few years ago, David Berman saved a man from drowning — and then suggested a tip for his good deed! Bill Callahan mooned me in Thailand when I asked him for an autograph — he said he doesn’t go on vacation with me and slap the dick out of my mouth! The Fucking Champs ruined my birthday party! CAVE slept here — well, under the porch here, they seemed a little stinky at the time, so…! Royal Trux wouldn’t sleep here until we had the whole place fumigated! I gave Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy a lapdance — but only after he titillated me with an excrement-strewn striptease! Joanna Newsom flew over this part of the country — the whole town turned out to watch her private jet as it passed by! When will Ty Segall come back to Finland, he is the greatest living performer but his last record fucking sucked with its lack of Finnish content! Six Organs of Admittance — dude! And so on. We can’t go anywhere without being outed and then brought warmly back in (I don’t care if that’s what she said!) — and frankly, we’re sick of it. Our hands are sore from fist-punching your love-n-hating little faces! Get a life, you lousy fanboys and girls! Or better yet — get a couple-few of the new records from Drag City — they may just be better than anything we’ve EVER released! Ever.

New records? Glad you asked! Yeah, we’ve got a few. Well, actually, we have at least a dozen or so in varying range of completion, from mixed to mastered to fully arted up and ready to roll. Nothing however, is readier to roll than the record called Hair. It’s out in public officially this week, and digitally available to radio, too — but we dropped it a couple days early just so it could take part in this year’s acid test — RSD, in case you hadn’t heard of the new retail drug. You know, if everyone in record stores is running around like chickens with a new lease on life cut off, then we’re a-goin’ down to the henhouse too! And what better to bring to the party than a fast-n-durrty rock ‘n roll record with a fish’s-eye view of the world, loaded with multicolored (not to mention multicoloured, you Brits!) tracks with purple flashes all played and sung for you by two of today’s freakest talents? Yep, Hair grew out of Ty Segall and White Fence’s Tim Presley’s heads to help us blow the blue air right out of the sky and get down to whatever the yellow matter is ailing you. They’ve brought their good, bad and ugly vibrations out to ornament their batch of collaborative tunes and now they’re all out there, shaking like jelly on a jelly tree. It’s what they do, Ty and Tim, bringing the everyday miracle of their California days and nights into the lines of their song. West coast, y’all! They’ve got the hot weather down south and the cool breezes off the northern coasts. They’ve got a desert and mountains and all kinds of latitudes. They skate, they surf, they make movies and they make meth, just for a start. Fortunately, they make music too. The Cali way of life is definitely insinuated into the rock and the roll of Ty and Tim, who rocked themselves up in a room and didn’t come down until the metamusical porridge was just right. And now, Hair it is. We know we’ve used that before, but it really couldn’t be righter, so… seriously, this collab-flagration gives fans of both White Fence and Ty a choice of songs that never would have come otherwise — an oscillating alternate-history version of both sides of the coin. Given such currency, we’ll never stop flipping it — so grab some Hair in your own two hands and get permanently…waved? Fuck, extended metaphor bummer. Sorry, it doesn’t reflect on the album. The shit’s awesome.

We don’t know how to tell you this gang — but oops, Sic Alps done it agin’. This is a band that’s all about a song, a line, a lick and a riff. Their albums are demonstrations on what happens to you when these little elements are fused together to engineer a whole thing with all great stuff. Which is awesome, and we love Napa Asylum, but since then, the Alps have been siccing their razor wits on single songs, and their counterpart, other single songs. There’s been a string of singles featuring this minimalistical appeal, each one better than the previous and all of them different from each other. “Breadhead” had four quick songs, one of them a Wailers cover. “Battery Townsley” was two longer numbers, one acoustic-fronted and groovy the other grungy-rockin’. Lately, there’s been “Vedley” which brought AOC (Album Oriented Consciousness) into singles format, weaving together a whole LP’s worth of tunes into a double-sided 7” collage and one of the most compelling mini-journeys we’ve had in, oh, at least years. So right there, that’d be a trilogy, right? Three great singles that go great together. Plus good things, like death, come in threes. You might imagine that we’ve discussed this at the last DC shareholders meeting, right? The cigar-chompers coming down on poor, skinny little Sic Alps — “don’t come back until you have an album!” Well, sure we did. But then they played us a single and turned us onto Tronics all in one fluid action — and in the excitement that followed, we found ourselves with yet another Sic Alps single. The bad news is, there’s no mini-genius Sic Alps songs to be found on the new single called “Pangea Globe.” The good news is, that’s because the four songs on “Pangea Globe” are all Tronics classics, like “Shark Fucks,” and “My Baby’s In a Coma,” all of which bring back the vibe of the Tronics heyday (’79—’80) while also delivering in prime Sic Alps fashion (NOW!). Shit, it’s so good. Then they went and recorded a whole album like we told them too, but NOT like we told them to, and that’s another story of total amazement and expectations both defied and superseded that we’ll be telling you in another few months. Meantime, the Beyond the Alps European Tour 2012 is underway, so pack up some fresh underwear, get on your elephant and we’ll see you there!

The cycle of life is a bitch, kids — it really is. When you’re young, you’re taught all sorts of absolutes, the 2 + 2s of life. Then you grow up a little and suddenly, one and one don’t make two, one and one make one! You realize that the absolute of one is equaled by minus one and geez, it’s really empowering. You start thinking that you know it all again, the ambiguous ALL that there is to know, but you’re really not done growing and knowing yet. Today, we see that which we’ve called history, which we once recognized as a linear progression, as instead a circle, or set of concentric circles, superimposed over each other and connecting at odd intersects with moments of sudden recall in the future and/or trails of vapor in the past. Every moment is now, and you dig it. But you’re not done growing, and neither are we. Take for instance the strange case of Smog’s Forgotten Foundation. When we put this record out in 1992, it was a brave new world of sales for us on a brave new format — the first compact disc in the (three years and counting) history of Drag City. We made a few thousand of them and sat back, waiting for this new format to sell into all the places our 7”, 10” and 2xLP records seemingly couldn’t go. A few months later, our faces were red — while Smog had sold great on one hand, on the other hand, we were sleeping in a bed of unsold CDs! A bed not so firm as the fold-out sofa bed we had of unsold Vocokesh 12”EPs, we hasten to add. So anyway, ’92 turned to ’93 and we figured that we had a life partner in this sweet little CD. But then came the LP/CD/CS release called Julius Caesar, or as we pronounced it, Game Changer. Everything Smog began selling, even the “Burning Kingdom” lunchboxes! And by 1996, we were talking about a making an LP version of Forgotten Foundation since we didn’t have any more CDs to sell. It was hilarious! Hilariously unprofitable, that is. Do you know what the LP list price was back then? It was like we were trying to give them away! And we made a full-color inner-sleeve to represent for the additional chair paintings in the original artwork too! Whatever, we sold all the copies and since we’ve never stopped believing in LPs, we were never sorry we did it. In fact, ever since then, standard ‘round-the-urinal talk has regularly gone to: Hey — we gotta bring Forgotten Foundation again. Around 2005, we did just that — but this time, it was back on CD! They still sold semi-OK back in those days, and this time, we ordered conservatively. Well, semi-conservatively anyway — in 2005, you could still get away with bad guesses on CD! Christ, it seems like yesterday. Every day seems like yesterday these days. Not ‘cause we’re getting old…more like early onset Parkinson’s or something. Anyway, every time we bring back Forgotten Foundation, it always seems like a good thing — but it’s never felt like more of a good thing than now. Bill “Smog” Callahan is so far removed from the sound of his early records and the things he wrote songs about back then that this is truly like another artist altogether — one whose sound is strangely in tune with today’s digi-fuck’t home-recorder freaks. Bill’s sound back then was blunted and raw, but never lacking ambition and possessed of the vision to exploit limitations in the search for color and variety in his production sounds, such as they are. Plus, baby Bill was an aspirant axe-wielder of the electric circus, rolling out heady ebbs and flows of distortion, singing in falsetto, addressing the listener in a screamed and harshly-edited acapella and then turning around and dropping sweet-and-salty tunes like “Your Dress,” “I’m Smiling,” “This Insane Cop, “High School Freak”…ah! If only the dude who wrote these songs was still around! We could all sing along with him at the next show. But time passes, and people change, like we inferred at the beginning of this sweet little section or some other little section, back when we were younger than yesterday. You can never tell what’s going to happen. Except that you’re gonna die. But before then, make sure you save a slot on your holy record rack for Smog’s Forgotten Foundation. Even if he’s forgotten, you don’t have to.

While strolling through the Deutches Museum in Munich last week (we thought we could shortcut to our favorite bretzel-and-sauerbraten stand!), we came across an interesting visual demonstration piece that affirmed our longtime belief that when dropped, objects fall just with the same velocity in one era as another. This makes us excited to drop the archival recordings found on all four sides of The Thought Adjusters on the people of 2012. Since somewhere in the 1990s, the music of Father Yod, Yahowha13, and The Source Family, all of early-to-mid-70s vintage, has been eased back into the public consciousness, always with an eye toward not simply celebrating the amazing coming-together of humanity that was The Source Family, but also the continued teaching of Father’s learnings, with the benefit of humanity the ultimate goal. Never before has this been more evident than on the new double-album collection culled from deep within the hiss-encased tape archives of Isis Aquarian. Beneath the noise floor and around the instrumental sounds provided by Yahowha13 and many other members of The Source Family, Father teaches and preaches, bursting into spontaneous song in complete communion with the musicians. The songs are all extended head-jams, with thoughts and musical phrases unwinding without concern for time. This is a truly liberating experience, mentally and physically, as well as sonically. We can’t wait to experience the evolutions that occur when on May 22nd, when The Thought Adjusters hit the streets.

Natural History, that is! And that makes Dope Body the winners! Coming in May, their new album and Drag City debut is a pummel-horse destined to charge into and tear the fuck out the china shop that is your mind/life/relationship/study habits/gift-giving plan for the coming “holiday” season. If you’re anything like us, the sound of three kids rocking up a room plus another kid bellowing, boasting and whining like a beast in heat over under and around the other three plus one of those three being a guitarist with an incredible palette of sounds he’s painting over under and around the licks he’s got going on plus the other two guys rolling thunder both heavy and incredibly detailed is absolutely too much for you to bear not completely loving! And we do. We dug the shit out of Nupping from last year, but Natural History crowns it easily with a great batch of tunes that grind and grate before taking flight and finding hooks in the vocals and drums and guitar every which way. Natural History is a massive and powerfully physical rock experience and you’re stupid if you don’t check into it. Now, you might be stupid if you do too, but that’s not (entirely) our problem. Oh! And check these guys out on the road — whether they’re taking the stage or just playing on the floor right next to you, the brute sensuality of Dope Body is a show to behold. So behold! Natural History will be yours to own on May 22nd.

Nothing’s grimmer than a room full of funnymen, let me tell you. They’re all worried about their jokes, upset that they might not be as funny in the real world as they are in their very unreal mind — basically lost in a narcissistic mass of insecurity and self-pity. But once you get them (the ones Drag City didn't hire, that is!) alone and give them a keyboard — zing! You have a expert bunch of essayists, with wits running the gamut from drolly dry to ragingly wet. The comic essay is almost a lost art these days, particularly in old-fashioned print form (along with all other forms of writing that used to appear in print form! — Angry Old Ed.), so we take great pleasure in pointing a non-satiric finger at this summer’s first-and-possibly-only comic essay anthology, The Lowbrow Reader Reader. For the past decade or so, this mini-zine has brought together such diverse talents and Jay Ruttenberg and Shelley Berman and Lee Hazlewood and Mo’Nique and Neil Hagerty (never thought you’d see those names in a sentence together? It’s gonna be a long year, junior) on such comic (or at the very least, amusing) topics as the long-running CARtoons magazine, the comedy of Don Knotts and the antic genius of Adam Sandler. It’s a generous slice of comedic foie-gras and we’re pleased to be supplying it to the nations of aspirant funny observation-makers. Coming on May 22nd along with Dope Body and Father Yod and the Source Family!

As we said a long time ago, our production line is rife with finished, almost-finished and soon-to-be-finished records, and they come out once a month for the rest of time! We’ve faithfully inscribed a just-the-facts breakdown on the releases of this month and of May — but what about June? What about it? Do you really need to know? We just gave you six new releases to learn and sing — and given that one of them’s a fat book, you’ve got your (joyous) work cut out for you. Plus, we’re tripping down the Rhine right now! But okay, what the Hell — here’s your foretaste. They’ve made records for the likes of Holy Mountain and Siltbreeze — now, Blues Control comes to Drag City! Their new record is called Valley Tangents and it finds Blues Control finding new pathways and new ripples in their sound, inhabiting an entirely new kind of space than previously known. ALSO in June, take another journey into Drag City’s lo-fi hi-brow past…. with Early Times! And once you’re good and drunk on that sweet (and affordable! — Underpaid Newletter Ed.) whiskey, it’s time to give Early Times a spin! That second Early Times (no, you’re not seeing double. Yet.) is the title of the “new” Silver Jews record! New to Silver Jews legion (lesion?) of fans born in the late ‘90s, most likely, this record compiles the very first Silver Jews 7” record from 1992, Dime Map Of The Reef, and its hot-shit follow-up, 1993’s The Arizona Record 12” EP. Out of print for…TWENTY FUCKING YEARS?!? Wait. Really? We are old as shit! Jesus. I’m a little shaken up. One minute.

OK! Anyway, these records were for many at the time the penultimate in the “lo-fi” movement. Which was a “movement” in the same way the Great Depression was a “movement.” Notorious at the time for recording their songs solely onto the answering machines of friends, foes, heroes and villains of the time, the trio of David Berman, Steve Malkmus and Bob Nastanovich managed to create music that managed to transcend the entire notion of unlistenability, and carried a lyrical weight that was both literal and literally peerless at the time (and maybe even to this moment). An exciting time — and the records sold so well that the Joos were able to afford an actual recording studio! But all that stuff has been available since 1994 — no excuses, (fellow) 99%ers!

Also excitingly and historically lo-fi (that is, if you consider the work of S. Clay Wilson lo-fi!), is the new and three-years-in-the-making Galactic Zoo Dossier! Steve Krakow has taken a break from his inspiring winning streak curating the Galactic Zoo Disk reissue label (P&D’d by Drag City, natch!), and Issue #9 will feature a completely hand-drawn mix of psych-rock interviews (Arthur Brown! Rodriguez!), features (PsychedeliCanada! Kak?!), and another round of Damaged Guitar Gods & Astral Folk Maidens Trading Cards! And to soundtrack this ocular DMT — a CD of rare and unreleased trax from the likes of Mark Fry, Mainliner, etmutherfuckinc! Summer of Love 2012 officially begins with the tripper’s KoranGalactic Zoo Dossier, y’all!

Oh yeah…soon! That’s what rhymes with June. I thought it was like, the new orange or something…

Man, is the economy still tanking? Really? It seems like every day there’s another special new record store opening up. And we’re not talking just in Brooklyn, either. We’re talking Pilsen, Eagle Rock, Pimlico, the South Side — even down by the State Line Road, and lots of other places where selling music didn’t even exist back in the days when the big chains held down the Earth. How do the little guys do it now? Focus! They zero in the thing then love and then they buy and sell it. And we’re not talking jazz and blues or just simple metal, no — looking for records in today’s crops, you can get niched-out unless you know what you want and where to go! Obscure synthpunk and coolwave reissues on vinyl only! Indy New Age and DIY cassettes! International Psychedelic and Heavy Rock, no English speaking countries whatsoever! If you want it, chance are they’re selling them out of a closet somewhere — maybe in the newspaper stand on the corner. This is why bars and pubs are still happening around the world — it’s cheaper and easier to drink at home, but that old human contact is more readily found out in the world with all the humans! So go ahead, turn over that promising-looking rock — you might just find an enterprising young label who decided to cut out the middle man and the storefront tax and are hawking their merch direct to the public — just how bands sell merch at clubs they’re playing! Well why should they have all the good sales? Why don’t we all just go to the point of purchase, wherever it is, and start shoveling our shit into the mouths of people who don’t know better! Sure, times have changed. Formats have changed. Hairstyles have changed. But have they really? Really? We’re not that much different from those fly-by-night salesmen of the plains, with their longevity tonics and their vitality oils and what have you. And this summer, you might one of our shark-suited Drag City sales-shills rolling your way with a steamer trunk full of miracle music. Or an ice-cream cart. Or a mini-zeppelin provided our zeppelin pilot’s license comes through. The point is, it’s a brave new world of sales out there — if you’re brave and strong and stupid enough to make them - and one thing we’ve never been is not stupid (dumb is another issue entirely). Or brave and strong, come to think of it…Ultimately, it doesn’t really matter where we are, it’s what we’ve got, and as long as you pay your rates for the music, then we’re all doing great. So look for us on the funway, kids. The cotton candy spinning at the Drag City booth is the bossest, promise!

From a canoe in India with really great wi-fi,
Rian Murphy Drag City Inc.
April 2012