Scribblers Music Review

Faust, Just Us

I think Faust is one of the most important bands of the 20th century—progressive but not indulgent, virtuosic yet still basic and earthy, experimental yet accessible, unpredictable yet trustworthy.

I was turned on to them in the late ‘70s when I asked the great avant-garde percussionist Chris Cutler, after an Art Bears concert in a chemistry lecture hall at Tufts University, what I should be listening. He wrote “Faust” and an address in Germany on a slip of paper and handed it to me. I found Faust So Far first (in the stacks at the college radio station) and never looked back.

Faust’s main moment was a brilliant four-album salvo in the early ‘70s, but they resurfaced 20 years later. They later splintered into two separate Fausts, both with founding members. One of these Fausts, led by Werner Diermaier and Jean-Herve Peron, has been rather prolific; the other, led by Hans Joachim Irmler, not so much. I’d say I prefer the Irmler variant, whose album Faust is Last is up there with the original band’s best work. But the Diermaier/Peron Faust has done seven decent albums to Irmler’s one great one, and has toured extensively. So they’re the ones really keeping the Faust flame alive.

And Just Us (spelled on the album cover thus: “j US t”) has the high concept, sheer bravado and clammering, clanging candor of vintage Faust. The album comes with a thesis. According to the official description of the record, “Founder members Jean-Hervé Peron and Zappi Diermaier have laid down twelve musical foundations, inviting the whole world to use them as a base on which to build their own music. The tracks presented by Peron and Diermaier are clearly, intrinsically typical of Faust in their own right, yet offer enough space for completely different works to develop. Which is exactly what they hope will happen.”

Yes, you could certainly sample these tracks, many of which are made up of repetitive beats, chords and machine noises. Or you could be suspicious of that come-on, as some critics have been. Personally, I’ve been too worshipful of Faust for too long to consider that I could have anything of substance to add to their music. I find the simplicity of Just Us ideal for breaking up all the melodic pop on my iPhone playlist. These are ear-opening pulses of neo-Futurist noodling, amalgams of quivering humanity and invasive industrial effects. I find it dark and compelling and imaginative and rhythmic and dreamy and evocative. It may be a lightweight effort for the oft-denser Faust. It may be like a great painter showing you their palette and asking you to consider it as conceptual art. But, hell, it’s got a good beat and I don’t dance and I like it.

Riverdale Book Review

One thing I love about Archie is the sales on their website. Scarcely a week goes by without a new 25% or 30% discount deal. This is a genuine incentive when one is debating getting one’s umpteenth Jughead-themed T-shirt.

Not only that, when the Kevin Keller comic and the Life With Archie magazine both got cancelled, I got notices in the mail saying that not only would my subscriptions to those titles be applied to other Archie comics, but that I could have further discounts on Archie website stuff.

Discounts are cool, but so is the Archie merchandise. I subscribe to all the regular Archie periodicals plus the online Archie Digital Comics service, but when it’s still hard to keep up with all the collections and repackagings and coffee table books, I head to Plus, realizes that at least a small part of its fanbase is not 12 years old, and maintains an “Archie’s Vault” page of older items still kicking around from other eras. I am now the proud owner of a set of colorful little metal tins emblazoned with images from Sabrina the Teenage Witch: The Animated Series, circa 2002.

Rock Gods #309: Adventures in Our Little Music Scene

The Cold Rods kept their cool Thursday at the Bullfinch, even when Stanky & Their Gags (who’d ended their “Evening With” set early at D’ollaire’s) wandered in shortly before cliosing time. Most of them anyway; they were short a bass and, uh, congos.

There was enough time for three punk jams, then a quiet after-hours party with the still-smokin’ S&TG. (When we say “still smokin’, you known what we mean.) It’s actually surprising how many songs these two disparate bands both knew.

The Cold Rods and Their Gang otherwise had little in common. There were the three local college chums who gig maybe seven times a year, and then there were the wizened hippie survivors.

Yet we forget how much garage punk can be found in psychedelia. Removed from the need for pyrotechnical virtuosic guitar solos, this was well-blended, slightly softened hard rock. There was cameraderie and an unwillingness to let the music end. So it didn’t. Until the whiskey ran out.

Tonight: Diane Long and Short at the Bullfinch, with songs from both their albums… Head Band Green at Hamilton’s. Stanky & Their Gags would be proud. The rest of us retch… DCWX and ten other bands (TBA) at D’ollaire’s, paying the rent…

For Our Connecticut Readers: Wood-B

One of the New Haven transformations of 2014—besides the new mayor, the new president of Yale, the new cosmetics store at the corner of York and Broadway—was the Woodland coffee shops turning into the B Natural.

I happened to be in the neighborhood when the old sign at the original Orange Street Woodland location went down and the new B sign went up.

I’ve been a Woodland regular since it first opened. I’ve written about both locations numerous times, and feared for their existence when other shops encroached on their turf. May they continue to thrive and be natural.



Scribblers Music Review

The Real Kids, Shake…Outta Control

I’ve been a big Real Kids fan since 1976, when I heard them on the Live at the Rat album (aka The Record That Changed My Life). But I still feel I came late to the party and haven’t bolstered my devotion nearly enough. I’ve heard all their records, including the alternate-takes albums and the nearly-Real Kids bands like the Taxi Boys or The Lowdowns, and the John Felice solo stuff and some bootlegs and such. But I’ve barely ever seen the band live.

My lack of commitment, despite my deep love of their songs, was driven home to me when I found out The Real Kids had regrouped and released a new album six months ago and I hadn’t even known about it. It took me a review in the new issue of Ugly Things to make me wise, and minutes later I’d downloaded Shake…Outta Control in all its glory.

Maybe I should ease up on myself. I’d given up looking for new Real Kids product long ago. John Felice had gone a few different directions and it didn’t seem like the Real Kids were necessarily one of them, outside of a reunion show or two.

The new line-up has founding Real Kid Felice plus longtime compatriot Billy Cole, who was The Taxi Boys’ bassist and became The Real Kids’ guitarist in the early ‘80s. (The original bassist, “Alpo” Paulino, died in 2006. Shake…Outta Control certainly sounds like a good old Real Kids album, and it actually sounds a lot better, production-wise, than a lot of Felice’s output in the ‘80s and ‘90s. This is a record where the sound is not connected to a trendy commercial style. It’s geared to The Real Kids, made to sound like the band sounded at their best.

Felice may not have slowed down much, but he’s slowed some of The Real Kids songs down, with mixed results. Of the self-covers on Shake…Outta Control, “Who Needs You” (the rousing, riffing Live at the Rat classic track that I’ve personally heard several thousand times over the years) is presented at about the same tempo as the already balladic “Common at Noon,” which in turn is reconstructed as a Country & Western song. “No Fun No More” is given a Rolling Stones-esque refinement. As for most of the other songs, it’s hard to tell what’s vintage and not—when they were written, whether they’re directly derivative of old stuff or newly wrought in the approved style. “That Girl Ain’t Right” sounds like a basement tape from 30 years ago. “All Night Boppin’” is in the spirit of The Real Kids’ live covers of roots-rockers. “Fly Into the Mystery” sounds like The Velvet Underground and mentions Route 128, two things which remind you that John Felice was a charter member of The Modern Lovers. “Got It Made” has the steadiness of “Needles and Pins” but the characteristic Real Kids whine. The two songs with “Shake” in their title present two familiar yet distinct sides of The Real Kids. “I Can’t Shake That Girl” has simple lyrics meant to ride the song’s tricky opening riff. “Shake…Outta Control,” the album’s title tune, starts with drum beat and harmonica, and while the lyrics at first sound as basic as “I Can’t Shake That Girl”’s, it’s one of those personal proclamations of passion, independence, insecurity and angst that Felice is such a master at. He makes the need to dance sound like an affliction.

This album shakes. It’s timeless. Reunion albums come in many varieties. This is very much in the “as if they never went away category.” This is a band with the word “Real” in their very name, and they still sound real.

Riverdale Book Review

My daughters and I have been floating candidates for Most Changed Supporting Character in Archie —characters that are so seldom used or so poorly defined that the writers and artists either forget what they ever looked like (or that they previously existed), or feel obliged to reinvent the character. I thought that Hermione Lodge, Veronica’s mother, is the most shifting character. (It amuses me that the current Afterlife With Archie storyline brands Hiram Lodge—Veronica’s dad and Hermione’s hubby—as a serial adulterer. They might as well have made him a man who marries a bunch of different-looking women named Hermione.) The girls proposed Nancy, Archie Comics’ first regular female African-American, who first appeared in 1976 (seven years after Valerie, the first female African-American in the Archie universe, joined The Pussycats). Nancy was the de facto girlfriend of Chuck Clayton, son of the Assistant sports coach at Riverdale High. Nancy’s look, tastes and style continue to change. She’s sporty. She’s studious. She’s hip. She’s nerdy. She rarely carries a story by herself. Still, Nancy’s in a slightly better position that Hermione Lodge, who sometimes drops off the face of the earth, with stories that have you believing Veronica Lodge is a motherless child.

Rock Gods #308: Adventures in Our Little Music Scene

The Candletops burned brightly Wednesday at Hamilton’s. They have glowing hat. Yet no gimmicks can distract from the smart, clear lyrics of lead singer Tammy Tammy.


I left you now

I’ll leave you then

You’ll never get it

Never did.

Ever was

Ever was

Ever was

We don’t fully understand it either but it sounds just great with power chords and keyboards.

Some Candletops songs are little more than TTam’s poems read aloud to a bass drone:

Admire the fire

Free the sea

Do not underes

-timate me.

Tonight: The Bougies bore the Bullfinch… Brass Ring Pillars at D’ollaire’s, only why?… Nothing at Hamilton’s (that we’re allowed into anyhow) but there is a new place in town to note: Lady Augusta’s, which is the closest thing to a speakeasy we’ve encountered in this day and age. No signage. No bar counter or table, just chairs. Admission by invitation only (though if you hang around the door long enough, you get an invitation). And bands are starting to infiltrate the place, including Fightin’ Men tonight. Fightin’ Men! You know Lady Augusta’s means business.

Boxing Songs

Boxing Day isn’t about boxing. It’s about putting things in boxes—post-Christmas gifts for the household staff.

1. Tim Vine, “Box Song.” “I used to have a box and I didn’t know what to do.”

2. The Lonely Island with Justin Timberlake, “Dick in a Box.” Won the Creative Arts Emmy for Outstanding Original Music and Lyrics.

3. Orchestral Manoevres in the Dark, “Pandora’s Box.” About Louise Brooks, who played Lulu the silent film classic Pandora’s Box in 1929 and later wrote the extraordinary memoir Lulu in Hollywood. “And all the stars you kissed/Could never ease the pain/And if the face has changed/The grace remains and you’re still the same.”

4. Pete Seeger, “Little Boxes.” Suburban sprawl anthem penned by Seeger’s pal Malvina Reynolds. A ‘60s protest song now recognized as the theme from Weeds.

5. The Archies, “You Know I Love You.” It was a cardboard record which you snipped off the back of a cereal box. A “full fidelity” EP, actually, with this song, “Archie’s Party,” “Nursery Rhymes” and the #1 hit “Jingle Jangle.”

6. Peter Frampton, “Show Me the Way.” Popularized the talk box.

7. The Who, “Squeeze Box.”

8. The Monkees, “P.O. Box 9847.”

9. Genesis, “The Musical Box.” From Nursery Cryme.

10. Muhammad Ali, “Black Superman.” OK, one boxing-as-sport song. This here’s the story of Cassius Clay.