Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Miracle Legion Comes Back Quietly Through the Side Door

Summer 2011 sparked one of the most unlikely comebacks in college rock history. Miracle Legion's beloved off-shoot Polaris performed live for the first time ever* at a fan event for the Nickelodeon classic The Adventures of Pete and Pete in LA. Sticking mostly to the actual soundtrack from the show, many at the time assumed this was a one-off event, but the response propeled them to mount a series of well-received tours. In addition to the expected soundtrack songs, every show mixed in some extra treats for the more in-the-know fans. Seeing as how the band comprised 3/4 of the (1990-96) Miracle Legion lineup, classics like Madison Park, Storyteller, and Closer To The Wall were also put into the rotation. One would think after the years it took Mark Mulcahy, Dave McCaffery, and Scott Boutier to finally return the stage in the form of Polaris, that would be as far as it would ever go. Looking at their label, Mezzotint's, website (as of this writing), the only hint of any activity is the change of "Miracle Legion was" to "Miracle Legion is/was" in their bio, but over the past week a few blips have slipped out through social media.

The band's Facebook profile picture changed to newly enhanced cover art for 1996's long out-of-print Portrait of a Damaged Family, which is making its vinyl debut for this year's Record Store Day. This reissue comes 20 years after the original/only CD pressing, and no less than 12 years after this first was teased by Mezzotint's defunct As Far As We Know e-mail newsletter. Containing a strong, if not disparate, collage of tunes that would have fit right in on WART Radio (Madison Park) and re-recorded outtakes dating back to 1987 (Please), legitimate copies of this swan-song record have long eluded fans. This is due in part to the strange Science Sleuths style cases used being discontinued by the early 2000s, necessitating a redesign of the packaging, and in part to the decline in CD sales causing Mulcahy to question "how many people would actually buy a Miracle Legion CD". No further details of this reissue have developed, but one can expect it will remain readily available like every prior Mezzotint RSD release.

Now that Miracle Legion vinyl completeists will finally be able to exist, that leaves the matter of reunion shows. When I first saw Polaris live in 2014, I pretty much accepted the three of them, along with ace sideman Henning Ohlenbusch more or less filling in for Mr. Ray Neal, being the closest simulation of a Miracle Legion show to ever expect, but without much fanfare (or a single news outlet reporting), three UK dates were announced for Summer 2016. Days after, a lone US show was quietly posted (in Iowa of all places). Now, while I'm not above going all the way to the Midwest for a big-deal show by one of my favorite bands, I'm keeping my fingers crossed the next two weeks bring news of a full US tour. 

Miracle Legion have returned to the party quietly through the side door; here's hoping they make a stop in every room.

*Scott and Dave backed Mark at the 2005 Daffodil Festival in Merriden, CT but that doesn't count!

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Rock Dentistry Densetsu

I vaguely recall a school lesson about bread in ancient Egypt. By vaguely I mean the only part I recall I’d something about how they would make bread with rocks in it. I asked the teacher why they would do such a thing and she responded “poor dental hygiene”. You could imagine, if you had learned in school that bread was originally to include rocks in the dough, what a talking to that baker would get, for dentistry still had to occur before such reckless experimentation could be fiddled with. As such, one could make an argument that the conservative objections to rock and roll of the 1950s could have less root in pious moral panic, and more in concerns over the dentist bill.

To understand this first let us consider the experience of a trip to the beach. Walking past a boardwalk  t-shirt stand, you may see several teen idol licenses you are not familiar with and assume their names are just strange sayings. In the same fashion that I originally assumed One Direction was some kind of motivational fad buzz-phrase, some preacher or school principle must have first been horrified at the idea of “all the teens in town getting on the road to the Hell that is the pre-masticated buffet”. The zeal must have been enough to prevent the sheepish audience from understanding the intended figurative use of the word Hell as a caution against the inability to eat solid foods.

What was meant to discourage tooth loss inducing bread-numbness had instilled a religious vendetta in 1950's America against the kind of rock and roll that doesn’t necessitate dentures out of the box. That being said, the establishment would gradually accept rock and roll music and an observable turning point came when Brian Wilson declared he was “making real good bread” in The Beach Boys' 1964 hit “I Get Around”. This point of fact attests to the complete mis-attribution of his impact on rock and roll to that Pet Sounds/Smile hub-bub. It was indeed his straight talk to the self-deputized tooth cautioners that got us out of the days of grievances over “devil’s music” and in to the frontiers that would be the days of grievances over the youth being “just a bunch dopers that are allergic to haircuts”.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

311 Rocks On with Universal Pulse!

I had mixed expectations for 311's new record, Universal Pulse, after four years anticipation produced Uplifter in 2009, an album with some magnificent moments within a substate of reggae and hard-rocking instrumentals with the poppiest lyrics ever heard from the band. The most confusing factor was Get Down, a widely available bonus track that left me, a longtime fan who needs a second set of hands to count the shows I've seen, unsure as to if they could follow up with an album that would be nearly as good as that song alone. Universal Pulse proves 311 can.

Reuniting with Uplifter producer Bob Rock, 311 brings us their most concise studio effort since the 1992 cassette Hydroponic. Clocking in at 29:01, Universal Pulse wastes no time kicking into high gear. "Time Bomb" opens the record by saluting their "excitable crew" of fans. Following is "Wild Nights", which quickly dispenses a sharp rap attack from vocalist S.A. Martinez. The writing generally takes a more serious, story-telling tone than the predecessor. Bassist P-Nut makes his debut contributing lyrics on the opener and the first single, "Sunset In July", a funky reggae jam describing the joy experienced by the band on their Unity Tour dates every summer. "Rock On", a confrontation against self-destructive behavior reminiscent of the esoteric "Firewater", goes out with the closest thing to a straight heavy metal guitar break heard since Tim Mahoney joined the band.

 The official video visual for "Sunset In July"

One thing 311 has been consistent with since 2003's Evolver is roller-coaster finales. Universal Pulse closes with the imagery rich epic "And a Ways to Go". Nick Hexum and Martinez weave a depiction of the pursuit of higher comprehension with lines like, "they led me at last to a beautiful fire and it deepened in a way that I forgot I admired." Preparing for exit, P-Nut goes off on a wah saturated bass solo before the listener is bid farwell with the singers optimistic offering "come on yeah, it'll be alright and we're gonna take a ride; I don't know if we'll come back."

Digital collage artist Sonny Kay designed the cover, which I must say, is easily the trippiest art yet to grace a 311 disc. Kay has gained notoriety in the post-rock/math-rock scene as a designer for many bands, including The Mars Volta and Red Sparrowes, as well as former head of the now defunct Gold Standard Laboratories label.

The debut release from 311's eponymous label (licensed to ATO Records), Universal Pulse hits stores on CD and vinyl on Tuesday, July 19 but some retailers have already put it on shelves. Select independent stores will offer a lenticular (hologram) print of the cover art backed with a download code for an exclusive remix. Make the most of your summer and pick up Universal Pulse!

311 is currently on the road with their eighth annual Unity Tour, supported by Sublime with Rome. The tour climaxes with the first ever 311 Pow Wow Festival, a three day music festival in Live Oak, Florida where they will play four sets, including the premier live performance of their magnum opus, 1997's Transistor, in its entirety. Below are the remaing dates:

Lifestyles Community Pavilion
311, Sublime w/Rome, DJ Soulman & DJ Trichrome

7/19 OMAHA, NE
Red Sky Festival
TD Ameritrade Park
311, Sublime w/Rome, DJ Soulman & DJ Trichrome

PNC Bank Art Center
311, Sublime w/Rome, DJ Soulman & DJ Trichrome

Nikon at Jones Beach Amphitheatre
311, Sublime w/Rome, DJ Soulman & DJ Trichrome

7/23 BOSTON, MA (Mansfield, MA)
Comcast Center
311, Sublime w/Rome, DJ Soulman & DJ Trichrome

Bethel Woods Center for the Arts
311, Sublime w/Rome, DJ Soulman & DJ Trichrome

Festival Pier at Penn’s Landing
311, Sublime w/Rome, DJ Soulman & DJ Trichrome

Farm Bureau Live at VA Beach Amphitheatre
311, Sublime w/Rome, DJ Soulman & DJ Trichrome

7/29 WASHINGTON, DC (Bristow, VA)
Jiffy Lube Live (Nissan Pavilion)
311, Sublime w/Rome, DJ Soulman & DJ Trichrome

Aaron’s Amphitheatre at Lakewood
311, Sublime w/Rome, DJ Soulman & DJ Trichrome

Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre
311, Sublime w/Rome, DJ Soulman & DJ Trichrome

Time Warner Music Pavilion at Walnut Creek
311, Sublime w/Rome, DJ Soulman & DJ Trichrome

Suwannee Music Park, Live Oak, N. Florida
see festival site for complete information

L’Auberge Du Lac Casino
311, Sublime w/Rome, DJ Soulman & DJ Trichrome

Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion
311, Sublime w/Rome, DJ Soulman & DJ Trichrome

GEXA Energy Pavilion
311, Sublime w/Rome, DJ Soulman & DJ Trichrome

The Backyard
311, Sublime w/Rome, DJ Soulman & DJ Trichrome

8/16 DENVER, CO (Morrison, CO)
Red Rocks Amphitheatre
311, Sublime w/Rome, DJ Soulman & DJ Trichrome

Usana Amphitheatre
311, Sublime w/Rome, DJ Soulman & DJ Trichrome

Cricket Wireless Amphitheatre
311, Sublime w/Rome, DJ Soulman & DJ Trichrome

Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre
311, Sublime w/Rome, DJ Soulman & DJ Trichrome

Santa Barbara Bowl
311, Sublime w/Rome, Del Mar
Shoreline Amphitheatre at Mountain View
311, Sublime w/Rome, Del Mar

Cuthbert Amphitheater
311, Sublime w/Rome, Del Mar

Marymoor Amphitheatre
311, Sublime w/Rome, Del Mar

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Get the Party Started With Gak Deficiency!

This is the trippiest spoken word album you are likely to ever hear.

It was a Friday night, much like any other Friday night, when Gak Deficiency unveiled Socially Conscious Party Music, their debut full-length, on the world. Recorded over the course of two years in central Arizona and southeast Pennsylvania, Socially Conscious Party Music blends the calming ambiance of a hike through the forest with the chaotic riff-raff of a raging college party. This is the trippiest spoken word album you are likely to ever hear!

Upon displaying a physical copy of the disc I was asked if it was really party music. Well, it's real party combined with real music. Yes, in fact almost every track contains recordings from actual parties! Topics throughout the album include weighty issues such as the meaning of 2012 and the effects of overpopulation, as well as lighter subject matter such as where the best country to eat at an IHOP is and how irritating some people find Poke'mon. A massive collaboration of over 20 friends, Socially Conscious Party Music is ideal for when you don't know where the party's at! With sounds ranging from drum circles to distorted kalimba, this album is recommended for fans of Animal Collective's "Sung Tongs", Neutral Milk Hotel's embryonic collage "Invent Yourself A Shortcake", as well as anyone who remembers what it's like to go to college.

Gak Deficiency's core is made up of Ryan Burns and Tom Faix (tube dwellers), Jake Gioffrey (lawyer), Ryan Gillespie (yesman), Ethan Newmann (honorary caddy), and Colton Coburn-Wood (image to throw gak at). Burns and Faix previously performed together at a special appearance of the baseball/comedy group Chestnut Hill Renegers. Socially Conscious Party Music is Burns' first released recording. Faix self-released an exploratory EP, Postal Telegraph, last year to moderate success and has recently reissued it in digital form. Coburn-Wood is a dubstep DJ (performing under the moniker Colt 45) based in Boston.

Socially Conscious Party Music can be downloaded for free here.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Interview: Outsider Artist/Ex-Weezer Bassist Mikey Welsh

By Tom Faix

"Skim Milk Jollies" by Mikey Welsh
Outsider artist Mikey Welsh’s latest solo exhibition, “Skim Milk Jollies” opened Saturday at the Slingluff Gallery in the Fishtown district of Philadelphia. Entering the gallery one will become immersed by walls clad with abstract scenes and imaginative portraits surrounding. Particularly striking is Welsh’s manic technique and high volume of work which reflect his need to constantly paint.

Based in Burlington VT, Welsh is a self-taught painter who had considerable success in the music world as Weezer’s second bassist, as well as playing with Juliana Hatfield and the short-lived Boston outfit Kickovers before trading his bass in for paintbrushes. In April, he was featured as part of PBS’ Art Month. Welsh has contributed to action-sports culture by creating murals at skate-parks, as well as painting skate decks, and designing a line of snowboard equipment for Burton.

I caught up with Welsh at opening night to discuss accessibility in art collecting, as well as his recent nods back to the music business.

Square Cotton Candy: You offer your works of art for a lot lower of a price than many fine artists and I’m wondering is that in response to how prolific you are or is it in response to the economy, or is it just what you feel like doing?

Mikey Welsh: That’s a great question actually. I’m glad you asked that. I think it’s a couple of things. I think one of them that definitely plays into it is the prolific nature of how I work. I do a lot of painting every day, every week; I just crank ‘em out. I think that’s probably why you see so much energy, because they’re painted in a pretty manic fashion. Another really important component of what we’re talking about is I’m trying to take some of the exclusiveness of art collecting for people. Particularly, I particularly have a lot of younger fans from my music days with Weezer. They don’t have 2000, 3000 dollars to spend on a, you know, 22” by 15” painting so I sell it for 200 dollars, and I mean I’m not attached to these things like they’re my lifeline. I make them, I crank them out. That’s not to say that they’re not important to me, they don’t mean a lot to me. What is important to me and what I was just trying to say is making them accessible to people, like that’s important to me. I don’t like the snobbishness and exclusive nature of art buying and art collecting. That’s a really good question.

SCC: I appreciate that cause I mean a lot of artists out there themselves can’t afford to buy the art that’s influenced them themselves and it’s kinda strange how something even before it got to that point, something that might’ve been, even with Fluxus in the 60’s, some of the books they would make, art books they would make, maybe would be like three dollars, six dollars when they first sold them, and now they’re thousands of dollars and that’s never what they intended.

Welsh: Yeah, well I think that, um…I don’t know how to say it any clearer. I’ll just like reiterate what I said a second ago. Its’ just, you know, I want people to have my work. I think people either love my work or they hate it and, I don’t really…If they love it that’s great, if they hate it that doesn’t faze me at all. I don’t care, I’m not gonna stop making it. It’s important to me that people have it, if they want something that they really love that they can own it, you know, and take all of that snobbishness out, you know. That’s the fucking thing, you know, life’s too short man.

SCC: Another thing that I came upon recently was your artwork for the Twin Berlin.

Welsh: Yep.

SCC: It’s been a while since you left the music industry and I saw a little nod back to it. How did you become involved with making their cover for their debut album?

Welsh: You know in the last ten years since I left Weezer that I’ve been painting full-time, for one reason or another, you know, for the energy of my art or for my obvious connection to the music business through my bands, I’ve had a lot of bands ask me to their cover art for albums and I always have…When I have these emails come in I always have them send me the music to hear it, or send me a link so I can download it. I gotta know; I gotta know what it sounds like.

SCC: You gotta know what you’re representing.

Welsh: I‘ve had dozens of bands ask me to do their artwork for covers and stuff. I never heard anything that really floored me and Twin Berlin was another band that sent me an email, can you do our cover art, and sent it to me and I was like, you know what, they’re young, they’re good looking, they remind me of the Strokes a little bit, which is a good thing and they got good songs! But they’re reminiscent of things that are familiar to me but they craft really good songs, you know, and I was like, I can get behind this so I was just like yeah, and I just did it for them.

SCC: In the past few years a lot of archival Weezer recordings have started to surface of official releases, particularly revised arrangements of “Trampoline” and “Everyone” on Death to False Metal.

Welsh: Everyone is on an album?

SCC: Yeah.

Welsh: (Laughs)

Revised early Welsh era tracks appear on this divisive disc.
SCC: I was going to ask if you felt like the released versions were faithful representations of what you were a part of.

Welsh: To be perfectly honest, I haven’t heard, I didn’t know, god, what did Trampoline sound like? That’s, you’re going way back man. You’re going back like 12 years.

SCC: “Never seen you before but I know what you’re thinking” [hums the riff].

Welsh: (Laughs) I haven’t heard them but, you know what, I don’t, I, you know, the weezer boys played up in my neck of the woods up in Vermont last year and I ended up playing Hash Pipe with them, which was the opening song and they did songs that were early demos when I was in the band, like Dope Nose, which ended up on a record and my buddy Scott [Shriner] did all the vocals, Scott the bass player that replaced me, and it was fantastic. It sounded like the original so I’m sure, you know, knowing Rivers I’m sure he kept it true to its roots. I think with the situation where he’s taking old songs off of old demos and re-recording them or re-releasing them or whatever, he wants to sort of capture that moment in time you know, I don’t think he would fuck with it too much. And I’m sure he’s busy writing new stuff so I don’t know why he would bother, you know. It’s like me pulling out a painting from two years ago and re-painting it or re-working it or something. It’s like, you know what, that’s what I was feeling two years ago. Leave it alone, you know what I mean?

SCC: I find it that way as a musician myself. There are songs that I wrote a few years ago that never got realized as a full-band recording and I could go back and do that nowadays but the energy’s just not into it and I would want it to sound like I thought it back then but I’m not gonna go and change it up so much. I tried that and it didn’t work out too well, didn’t go too far with that.

Welsh: Right. I think, um, it’s sort of a random guess, but I would kind of assume he would want to keep old…those are old songs you’re talking about. It’s from ’99 probably? ’98? He would probably want to keep them pretty true to the original form cause it’s just a moment in time.

Skim Milk Jollies will be on display through the end of July at the Slingluff Gallery.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Bill Doss Talks New Olivia Tremor Control Recordings, Stephen Colbert, and File-Sharing

By Tom Faix.

Bill Doss and the gravity-modifying effects of the new music.
Photo by Bill Doss

2011 is turning out to be quite the eventful year for Bill Doss. In February he journeyed with fellow Elephant Six-ers on the Holiday Surprise tour, performing material from a wide array of projects, including The Olivia Tremor Control and Sunshine Fix. Come December he will be in England playing at a Jeff Mangum Curated All Tomorrow's Parties festival with OTC and The Apples In Stereo. Between now and then the focus will tune to the highly anticipated new OTC recordings. With 11 years passed since their last album and increased live activity, curiosity for the new music is growing rapidly in the fan community. To gain some clarity on what's to come, I had Doss answer a few questions about his recorded output, ranging from the new recordings to the early E6 cassettes.

Square Cotton Candy:  A few months ago North Term Reality came out on the AUX comp. Prior to that, it had been reported that there were at least two complete songs from the new OTC sessions.  At this point, what would a CD-R of session progress sound like?
Bill Doss: At this point, we have approximately 2 hours of music that we have been working on.  Some mixes are close to being finished and some are just begun while others are merely rough ideas that will be worked into something.  Beginning next week, we are going into Derek Almstead’s studio to begin the process of bouncing tracks to tape.  He has a ½ in tape machine and because we began a lot of these tracks on Protools, we’re gonna bounce the drums, bass, etc to that tape machine to warm them up/fuzz them out a bit.  It’s a tedious process but I’m actually quite excited about it as that will be when sounds start to take shape.  The sculpting will begin! 

SCC: Is there prospect of a seven-inch or something being ready around the time you go to England for All Tomorrow’s Parties later this year?

BD:  We do hope to have recordings out by the time we go to England later this year.  Whether that will be a 7” EP or a full length LP is anyone’s guess at this point.  We just have to keep adding ingredients into the sound stew and stir, stir, stir until it tastes like something that we’d want to hear, if we were listening to an album.  The outcome is unpredictable which is what makes recording fun.  You can go into the process with all sorts of ideas as to how you want a song to turn out, but with any luck, given that there are others in the band who will add their own textures and ideas, you’ll end up with something completely unexpected.  In the past, we have released preludes to our LPs (California Demise, Giant Day) and that may happen again  but with the way the music world is at this point in time, we’re looking at many different possibilities for releasing music.  What with the digital realm, the possibilities seem endless.

SCC: How did the Apples In Stereo song “Stephen, Stephen” come about?

BD: Well, you’d really have to ask Robert [Schneider] about that one but from what I understand, he and Max were playing croquet out in the back yard, when his dog, Simeon, got distracted and started barking at something off in the tree line.  Upon investigation, they saw a faint blue glow coming from deep within the forest.  They carefully made their way through the bramble and came upon some sort of egg/pod/capsule type object which bore some strange markings on it’s casing in the middle of which was a dial.  Before Robert could warn him away, Max, in a very excited and incautious way of a child, grabbed the dial and randomly turned it.  At this point, a strange and not very pleasing sound emanated from the pod as it opened to reveal what appeared to be a set of headphones with a note attached that simply read:  “Listen”.  So, Robert put on the headphones and what was coming through them was a tune, the likes of which Robert claims to have never heard.  He and Max immediately made tracks back to their house where Robert grabbed a guitar and tried to recall what he’d heard.  The result was “Stephen, Stephen”.   

At least, that’s the story I heard.

SCC:  I found it a bit unusual for a major TV personality to announce the musical guest with the preface “to celebrate the release of the Japanese picture-disc”. Do you think it is ironic that something as obscure as an import single was promoted at that level of exposure?

BD: I do find that a bit odd, but given Stephen’s overly-developed ego, I think it makes sense that he would want to promote anything that gives him praise.  Plus, that disc had just come out so it was perfect timing.

Synthetic Flying Machine's self-released 1993 cassette "Heaven Is For Kids"

is among the most sought after releases in the Elephant Six canon.

Cover by Synthetic Flying Machine.

SCC: There are a lot of sought after recordings and more esoteric releases under your belts. A few years ago Jeff [Mangum] told me that it was a complicated question as to whether they would ever be properly reissued. After recording more music and becoming further distanced from some of my old tapes I began to see more of his point. There must be a respectable amount of people out there who would buy, for example, a Synthetic Flying Machine record if it was pressed, but I can see a few reasons why it wouldn’t be done. Between the constant creation of new material distancing you from older recordings and the freedom of file-sharing, how do you feel about preparing reissues?

BD: You kinda answered your own question there.  It’s a bit tedious to go back to old recordings and immerse yourself in them long enough to create a proper release.  You have to make new mixes or masters and deal with artwork, etc.  It’s difficult when you wanna stay in the now and continue working on whatever is exciting you at the moment.  Those are things that excited you years ago.  And, as you mentioned, with file sharing what it is today, as soon as someone takes it upon themselves to upload your recordings to the internet, there is almost no reason to worry about releasing them anymore.  They are available and free to anyone with a computer. 

SCC: The series of OTC photos in which your faces are all painted different colors reminds me of the Miracle Legion album Surprise Surprise Surprise’s back cover.  Were those photos a nod to their influence?

BD: As I have never heard of this band, I looked them up when I read this question.  While I see that they also painted their faces, it seems to me that their intent was different than ours.  Their overall motif seems to be more zoological and we were more simply working with color and light to see what effect we could achieve.

SCC: Can you further describe Francisco from Major Organ and the Adding Machine beyond the character development of the lyric?

BD: This coming from the creator of the character himself:   ”Francisco is a well-intentioned but bumbling swashbuckler, a noble buffoon.”

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

News Brief: D-Town Native "Saunters" For Office

Downingtown, Pa. native Timothy Sadler yesterday announced that he will saunter for a position on the city council in Asheville, N.C.. He stands on a platform emphasizing boosting the local economy, providing healthier options for school meal programs, and improved recycling. Sadler's eschewing of the rat-race mentality so inherent in politics is summed up in his campaign motto, "politics as unusual." The political attitude adjustment manifest in the choice to saunter, as opposed to running, is to the best of this writer's knowledge, unprecedented.