Chicano Batman: Paradise Now

The political is personal and poetic for Chicano Batman

As far as psychedelic alt-Latino bands with major dollops of soul go, Los Angeles’ Chicano Batman is the sleekest—not solely for its sound or for its sophisticated socio-political rhetoric, but also for its bespoke, sartorial dress sense. Nearly 10 years since its start, the raging, dynamic quartet—driven by Bardo Martinez’s lead vocals, poetic texts and organ/guitar mix—focuses more than ever on its ministerial lyrical edge on the new Freedom Is Free (ATO).

“To be honest with you, the band came together on the idea of creating a unique brand of music,” says bassist/singer Eduardo Arenas. “We all went to college. Some of us have master’s degrees, and some of us have had careers before jumping on the Chicano Batman bullet train. Our band name is a social-political one. As persons in the band, we have synonymous ideologies about our vision of this country and our capitalistic/militaristic (dis)position in this world.” Chicano Batman lyrics haven’t always reflected that socio-serious voice, as a lot of its songs over a handful of albums and EPs speak about love, which often is a stronger political tool than anything else.

“But we’re in 2017 now,” says Arenas. “Police killings of unarmed citizens are at an all-time high. An ignorant narcissist who lost the majority vote has become the new president of this country.”

Martinez goes on to mention how “Arrow To The Sun” (“Flecha Al Sol”) is a verbatim rendition of a children’s book with the same title that surrealistically imagines a young boy in search of his father who happens to be the sun. “My lyrical approach was in first person, i.e. becoming the protagonist of the story, and since the book provides simplistic yet extremely rich imagery, writing the lyrics was easy,” says Martinez.

Yet, Arenas sounds proudest of Martinez when he goes for the throat on dismantling the establishment of the right and the left to come up with something that lacerates between the eyes. “Bardo contributed most of the compositions, and you can just hear how his lyricism evolved throughout the years to wind up here,” says Arenas. “The messages are coming through much clearer now. This will be important as we enter into a new era with a new president. Shit, I don’t even want to say his name. There’s only so much we can take. Our new album opens up that conversation as we become more explicit about our ideologies. If not now, then when?”

—A.D. Amorosi

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From The Desk Of Jason Falkner And R. Stevie Moore: My Vintage Hi-Fi Setup

Ever since his departure from Jellyfish at the peak of the band’s brief early-’90s run, Jason Falkner has relished his role as a self-made power-pop iconoclast. R. Stevie Moore’s championing of the DIY recording aesthetic stretches all the way back to the late ’60s, gaining underground momentum during the following decade’s punk explosion. Unlike Falkner, Moore has never been much for restraint, recording more than 400 albums. As one might surmise, new collaboration Make It Be casts Falkner as the editor/ringmaster of Moore’s wonky sonic circus—and the results should connect with fans of the former’s innate craftsmanship and the latter’s rampant eclecticism. Falkner and Moore will be guest editing all week.

Falkner: Consists of a 1973 McIntosh MA-6200 integrated amplifier, 1977 Thorens Td 126 turntable and early-’70s JBL Jubal speakers. I spend more time listening to vinyl than just about anything else, and this fairly high-end vintage system sounds so damn good! I’ve been through countless other components in my decade plus of hunting, and with this combo I’ve stumbled upon sonic nirvana. Unlike so many, I never stopped buying vinyl, so my collection is pretty intense … full of curated rarities. It’s a happy maker

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Essential New Music: The Jigsaw Seen’s “For The Discriminating Completist”

Mom always said, “Honesty’s the best policy.” So, up front, I’ve known Dennis Davison and Jonathan Lea, impassioned vocalist and throbbing guitarist for L.A.’s Jigsaw Seen, for more than 25 years. But that changes nothing. When joined by bassist Tom Currier and drummer Teddy Freese, Jigsaw has assembled the most daring rock ’n’ roll seen in La La Land since the heyday of the Byrds and Arthur Lee’s Love—no mean feat. For example, who else would lead the parade with a Tony Bennett chestnut, “The Best Is Yet To Come,” by applying a fresh coat of DayGlo paint that even the venerated nonagenarian and his recent jazzbo chum Lady Gaga would admire? A dedicated Jigsaw follower may have heard different versions of these tracks (minus the odd sitar) as singles, but their appearance all in one place is like squeezing through those scary “laundry rollers” to get into the local fun house. Bonus: The CD’s cover sports a brilliant illustration of Charlie McCarthy, the only ventriloquist’s dummy brave enough to swap film wisecracks with W. C. Fields.

—Jud Cost

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Record Store Day 10

A highly selective look at what yesterday’s 10th anniversary Record Store Day had to offer

Like drunks recalling their teen frat antics or Asbury Park-ers remembering every Bruce sighting, everybody in the label and the vinyl record biz has a Record Store Day start story: the decisions as to what studio and/or live rarities to make available, what color its stock would, what thickness all it would come in, what new tunes to pull out, and who would rep the damned thing. (This year. St. Vincent was the RSD hostess-with-the-most-est with its honoree being, ugh, Elton John.) Luckily, within all that informational folderol, no one has forgotten about the music (maaaaaaaaan), as it not only has remained the focus of RSD, but it holiest reason—find something great and impossible-to-get after April 22, keep it at 180 mg and make it in swirly red and white-toned vinyl. Here’s a purely subjective, highly selective list of some of the most fascinating RSD vinyl-only opportunities.

Bob Seger System “2+2=?” seven-inch, yellow (Third Man)
There’s a lot of reasons to love this frizzy garage-rocking first single from Bob Seger. First, it’s groovy growling Bob before he went epic and smooth. Secondly, this single was one of the first manufactured at Third Man’s new pressing plant in Detroit, Seger’s hometown. Lastly, it’s salty Seger singing for a cause: anti-Vietnam protest with lyrics like, “It’s true I am a young man, but I’m old enough to kill/I don’t want to kill nobody.”

Moondog Moondog LP, white vinyl (Columbia)
The most exquisitely odd of avant-garderners, Moondog—“the Viking of Sixth Avenue” as he was known in minimalist circles—recorded this stirring, subtle symphonic 1969 album with the producer behind the horny Chicago (James William Guercio). Its tones are majestic and the songs dedicated to bop master Charlie Parker led the charge for that jazz saxophonist’s revival.

The War On Drugs “Thinking Of A Place” 12-inch single (Atlantic)
Philadelphia’s slow burning indie act has been MIA since 2014’s epic Lost In The Dream, and this new song is both stunningly ghostly and contagiously melodic.

Patti Smith “Hey Joe” (Version)/”Piss Factory” seven-inch (Rhino)
Patti Smith was still Downtown NYC’s headiest poetess in 1974 rather than the pre-punk rocker she would become known as months after this single’s release. Along with borrowing its ire from guitarist Roy Buchanan’s take (and not that of Hendrix), Smith’s “Hey Joe” is famous (and dated, but happily) by spoken text regarding heiress-turned-Symbionese Liberation Army pawn Patty Hearst’s indoctrination into the cause. Whoa.

The Bevis Frond Triptych two-LP, white vinyl (Fire America)
The lost and lovely lo-fi psychedelic sound of Nick Saloman’s Frond is welcome here, especially the grand eloquent “Tangerine Infringement Beak”—a nearly 20 minutes-long monster. Weirdly enough, they also do a version of “Hey Joe.” Must be the water.

Various Artists Ciao! Manhattan soundtrack LP (Light In The Attic)
Rather than be a sonic paean to everything silver, Velvet(y) and Warhol-ian, the never-before-released musical portrait behind the ugly 1973 docudrama tale of socialite-gone-to-seed Edie Sedgwick features a whole lot of prairie-dog country (John Philips) as well as Moog compositions by Factory regular Gino Piserchio and glammy ragtime-rock songs (“Citizen Kane”) by Kim Fowley. This LITA gatefold package is an appropriately wonky soundtrack for a magnetically weird film.

Marianne Faithfull Rich Kids Blues LP, silver (Demon)
Now, here’s a silver vinyl album that would’ve made Andy and Edie proud: a spare 1972-recorded set of Faithfull’s flatlined vocal readings of Dylan, Tim Hardin, Phil Ochs and Sandy Denny folkers.

Mayer Hawthorne Party Of One EP, luminescent aquamarine vinyl (BMG/Vagrant)
The suavely soulful and fluidly funky Mayer Hawthorne’s debut digital gets an aptly oceanic-colored first physical release.

Sinn Sisamouth And Ros Serey Sothea “Sinn Sisamouth And Ros Serey Sothea” seven-inch (Dust-To-Digital)
The rarely heard sound of ’50s and ’60s Cambodian crooner Sinn Sisamouth and Ros Serey Sothea is the lilting pop predecessors to all that Dengue Fever possess.

Various Artists Where The Pyramid Meets The Eye: A Tribute To Roky Erickson double-LP (Sire)
One of the first and best tribute albums to a well-deserving artist, this long-out-of-print project from 1990 (put together by legendary promo man Bill Bentley) features ZZ Top, Butthole Surfers, Bongwater and a still vital R.E.M. capturing Roky Erickson’s scary love songs to demons, aliens and assorted lost souls.

Johnny Cash The Johnny Cash Children’s Album LP (Columbia)
The Man In Black gets child-like (hardly) and giddy (not at all) while doing rough-and-tumble country covers of Sesame Street classic “Nasty Dan,” Cash’s own “I Got A Boy (And His Name Is John)” (written about Cash’s only son, John Carter Cash) and frumpy Elvis hit “Old Shep,”

Ken Kesey The Acid Test LP (Jackpot)
How is this not on some amazingly colored trippy vinyl? Timothy Leary’s best buddy/test subject released this privately in 1966 and was meant to recreate a live acid test. Way dated psychedelic stuff, but fun nonetheless.

Hollie Cook “Superstar” seven-inch (Merge)
Esoteric British soul/reggae crooner Hollie Cook debuts her raw, top-ranking balladry not only with a blissed-out cover of the Carpenters’ “Superstar,” but with a spooky dub version of the same song as its b-side. Welcome to America.

Iggy Pop Post Pop Depression: Live At The Royal Albert Hall three-LP (Loma Vista)
Together with Queens Of The Stone Age, the creaky-but-caterwauling Iggy Pop played the Berlin-era-inspired new album along with the best of his morose, synth-punkish works co-created with David Bowie. Amazing collection and sterling, scrufy sound.

George Carlin Jammin’ In New York LP (Comedy Dynamics)
Just for laughs (literally), the late lover of words gets a first vinyl release for his HBO special of the same name (from 1992) and presciently teases currently popular notions such as climate change in a bit called “The Planet Is Fine.”

Slick Rick The Great Adventures Of … album, book and seven-inch (Get Down)
The rap overlord of the la-di-da-di drops his 1988 debut here with an 18-page illustrated kid’s sleepy time novella, a CD (WTF!?) of his jittery 1988 debut and a picture sleeve single of the lullabye-est hip-hop jam of the era.

Sex Pistols “Anarchy In The UK” five seven-inch singles, boxed (Rhino)
Four original U.K. 45s and one U.S. replicas of the original 1977 releases showcase “Anarchy In The UK”, “God Save The Queen,” “Pretty Vacant (U.K. version),” “Pretty Vacant (U.S. version)” and “Holidays In The Sun.” Yes, you have these, but any chance to fly the Union Jack in cute in this Johnny Rotten’s anniversary season.

Thelonious Monk Les Liaisons Dangereuses double-LP (Sam/Saga)
This is the year that jazz came to RSD in a big way, and nothing is better than hearing the mood-swinging genius of the piano’s never-released soundtrack (his only shot at film scoring to boot) for Roger Vadim’s 1960 French film of the same name. This collection is gorgeously executed sonically (Thelonious Monk’s stalwart saxophonist Charlie Rouse smolders across these trembling tracks), and the box is crammed tight with never-before-seen photographs and memorabilia from the recording sessions.

Spoon “Hot Thoughts” 12-inch single (Matador)
The newly resurging soupy Spoon offers up the best song from its new album along with two previously unavailable tracks: “Hot Thoughts (Dave Sitek Remix)” and a swooning cover of Elvis Presley’s “Love Letters.”

The Beatles “Strawberry Fields Forever”/”Penny Lane” seven-inch (Capitol)
Just as it did back in 1967, a single of “Strawberry Fields Forever” and “Penny Lane”—complete with a picture sleeve featuring a Nehru jacket, walrus mustachioed-era Fab Four‚preceded the release of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

Sun Ra Arkestra Janus LP, yellow/black vinyl(ORG)
Rare and studiously skronky studio and live material from the toast of Germantown, Pa., is always welcome, but this time out Sun Ra’s space-jazz from between 1963 and 1970 comes in sunburst-and-black-swirled vinyl—just like the sound.

Lillie Mae Forever And Then Some LP, clear with white wisps (Third Man)
Not only has Jack White produced the famously nicotine-stained sound of Nashville-based singer/songwriter Lillie Mae. He’s turned the country howler’s debut disc appropriately smoke-colored for RSD.

Motörhead Clean Your Clock two-LP picture disc (USD)
Recorded in Germany 2015, the late Lemmy is the picturesque star of this package, funny leather hat and literal and figurative warts and all.

David Bowie Cracked Actor (Live In Los Angeles ’74) three-LP (Rhino)
Not to be confused with the 1974 BBC doc of the same name, this riveting live recording comes from the same time and tour that yielded Bowie’s ragged blue-eyed-soul David Live from the Tower Theatre in MAGNET’s hometown of Philadelphia. Only this double package bests the Philly package pound-for-pound in funky chic as it included the Philly Dogs crew (e.g. Luther Vandross) and stunning bass-pumped sound quality (Bowie’s mics dropped off at the Tower). Plus, these L.A. dates happily included a mesmeric take on “John, I’m Only Dancing (Again),” which Philly missed out on, and he doesn’t look like a zombie on this cover. Rhino also released the ultra-rare Hunky Dory-era promo album BOWPROMO for RSD, a white-label joint from 1972 with different mixes of famed tracks like “Oh, You Pretty Things” and album outtake “Bombers”/“Andy Warhol Intro.”

The Cars Live At The Agora, 1978 two-LP (Rhino)
The band often accused of ushering in the sleekest forms of danceable, hit-making new wave, this rough live release shows Ric Ocasek and Co. on the Suicide-influenced tip of its towering sound. Very grouchy.

Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band Hammersmith Odeon London ’75 four-LP (Columbia)
If we’re talking live albums, this boxed set is the wooly mammoth lost weekend for Boss vinyl fanatics: his and his crew’s first concert appearance outside of America with Born To Run freshly in their rear-view mirror. This package was released on CD, but the crispness of Bruce’s “Detroit Medley” (“Devil With A Blue Dress On,” “See See Rider,” “Good Golly Miss Molly,” “Jenny Take A Ride”) and the bliss of “Rosalita” paired with the Latin-swinging “Come A Little Bit Closer” and “Theme From Shaft” by Isaac Hayes plus the smoky jazz of “Kitty’s Back” with Van Morrison’s “Moondance”? Too much.

—A.D. Amorosi

Photos after the jump.

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From The Desk Of Jesca Hoop: Hummus

The first thing you notice about singer/songwriter Jesca Hoop’s seventh full-length is how spare it sounds, each song assembled only from two or three instrumental elements and Hoop’s warm-yet-adaptive, shape-shifting voice. Then you stop hearing that sparseness, so rich does the album sound. Somewhere near a half-hour into its 40-minute running time, it hits you again, and you start wondering how the hell Memories Are Now can sound so expansive, considering its skeletal arrangements. Hoop will be guest editing all week. Read our feature.

Hoop: There is a place in Philadelphia called Dizengoff that serves the loveliest hummus, fresh pita and beer. That’s all they serve, really. After a long walk around the city, it’s the perfect place to stop to refresh !!

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Essential New Music: Horse Thief’s “Trials And Truths”

In the ’70s, a crafty pair of neuro-linguistic programmers borrowed the idea of “stacking realities” from hypnotherapist Milton Erickson. That concept is where the therapist layers multiple suggestions on top of one another when telling a single story; by linking together so many disparate ideas, the subjects’ defenses are disarmed by confusion, ultimately sending them into deeper trance states. Such subtle trance inductions can also be found on Trials And Truths. Led by sonic architect Cameron Neal, Horse Thief stacks tasty little psychedelic realities high and wide, until suddenly, infectious melodies are deep under your skin. These Oklahoma guys are smart, stylish and endorsed by the Flaming Lips. Aided and abetted by empathic producer Thom Monahan, Horse Thief is a dynamic purveyor of hook and harmony-laden psych rock. Magical tracks like “Another Youth,” “Drowsy” and “Little One” should turn you into a believer.

—Mitch Myers

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Normal History Vol. 422: The Art Of David Lester

Every Saturday, we’ll be posting a new illustration by David Lester. The Mecca Normal guitarist is visually documenting people, places and events from his band’s 33-year run, with text by vocalist Jean Smith.

Every now and then, an unmistakable arc positions itself from the song in question to a more recent song. In this case, “Smile Baby” calling out street harassment 30 years ago connects to “Anguish / Misogyny,” an unreleased song I wrote about the sense that not much has changed.

“There’s a desperation. Tell me you don’t feel it.
This hopelessness coming down, coming down.
These times demand a reprieve from the anguish.
These times like no other before us. Like no other to follow.

In the anguish of uncompleted missions, disappointment and futility.
I knew you then and I know you still.
The anguish of nothing being resolved. It didn’t get resolved at all.
And I call this anguish—misogyny.

We hide the anguish not too well at all—not too well at all.
Why should we hide the anguish of misogyny.
The disappointment of all that’s unresolved.

All those times we thought there was a future built on words and actions
swept away.

I call the violence, malicious behavior, anger and misogyny
that rules the streets, rules the days and rules the nights—misogyny.
l call this lack of empathy my personal anguish.
Your violence and aggression—this misogyny.

The perpetration of aggression against all women.
I call our failure and disappointment—anguish.
I’m electrified, repulsed and angry at all that’s unresolved.
I call our failure—this misogyny.
For all the time we put into everything we ever tried to do,
to accomplish, to resolve, to make better, to happen.
We failed.

I call it a hidden anguish—this misogyny.
Anguish I share with you—misogyny.

“Smile Baby” from the album Calico Kills The Cat (K, 1989) (download):

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From The Desk Of Jesca Hoop: BMW 02

The first thing you notice about singer/songwriter Jesca Hoop’s seventh full-length is how spare it sounds, each song assembled only from two or three instrumental elements and Hoop’s warm-yet-adaptive, shape-shifting voice. Then you stop hearing that sparseness, so rich does the album sound. Somewhere near a half-hour into its 40-minute running time, it hits you again, and you start wondering how the hell Memories Are Now can sound so expansive, considering its skeletal arrangements. Hoop will be guest editing all week. Read our feature.

Hoop: This is just the best little kick-ass classic car. I would have it in white or brown with inside-out seams. I’m basically disenchanted with modern cars. They all look like sneakers. Boo. This little Beamer zooms around has got that reliable BMW engine and it’s just well charming as hell without being fussy.

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Essential New Music: Hand Habits’ “Wildly Idle (Humble Before The Void)”

Idler than it is wild (if a touch over-modest in its humility), Meg Duffy’s warmly intimate debut stakes out her tent in the familiar, fertile pastures of 21st-century dream folk, somewhere in between Real Estate’s crystalline suburban shimmer and Grouper’s hazy somnolence. You could plot out the album’s 13 tracks along that spectrum—the sun-dappled, nonchalantly catchy “Actress” at one end, perhaps; the trio of brief, atmospheric sound-collage interstitials (labeled “scenes”) at the other—but much of its charm comes in the conflation of those two (not particularly distant) poles. It’s not the songs or the sounds that stand out so much as what happens when they all wash together and vibe. So while Duffy’s precise picking and hushed, languorous alto are key players, it’s her living-room production sense—a liberal hand with the reverb, a generous approach to layering parts and sounds—that makes Wildly Idle cozy, sleepy, rainy-day music par excellence.

—K. Ross Hoffman

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From The Desk Of Jesca Hoop: Coconut Yogurt

The first thing you notice about singer/songwriter Jesca Hoop’s seventh full-length is how spare it sounds, each song assembled only from two or three instrumental elements and Hoop’s warm-yet-adaptive, shape-shifting voice. Then you stop hearing that sparseness, so rich does the album sound. Somewhere near a half-hour into its 40-minute running time, it hits you again, and you start wondering how the hell Memories Are Now can sound so expansive, considering its skeletal arrangements. Hoop will be guest editing all week. Read our feature.

Hoop: This is new to me. I don’t mean coconut-flavored cow’s milk yogurt, I mean cultured coconut. It beautifully sour and naturally sweet, and the texture as you can imagine is silky fatty and divine. It can be used in many different ways savory or sweet. I like it to use it in soups to replace sour cream.

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