Friday, November 26, 2010

They Passed This Way: Jim Morrison

"If only I could hear
the sound of the sparrows
and feel childhood pulling me back again"
 (Jim Morrison  1967)
As the son of a naval officer who would rise to the rank of Rear Admiral, James Douglas Morrison enjoyed an idyllic childhood.  Born in Melbourne, Florida on December 8th, 1943,  Jim was raised in the typical manner of military dependents.  It was his father's rank and service that brought him to the Land of Enchantment, which was not a normal destination for a career naval officer.  The Morrison family would live in Albuquerque, not once but twice. The family's first stay was from 1946 to 1948.  Following a brief post war assignment in Washington D.C., George Morrison was assigned as an instructor at the Naval Special Weapons Facility, located at Kirtland AFB.  The following year, 1947, would be memorable for the Morrison clan. Jim's sister Anne Robin was born in Albuquerque, then during a weekend outing to Santa Fe, the family came upon the aftermath of  a highway accident involving some Indians in a pick-up truck.  The scene would have a lasting effect on four year old Jim, the memory  would haunt him for the rest of his life.     Jim's father spoke of the incident years later: "We went by several Indians" George Morrison recalled "It did make an impression on him, He always thought about that crying Indian"   Although Jim described it as "Indians scattered all over the highway, bleeding to death" his sister offered her thoughts on the matter. "He enjoyed telling that story and exaggerating it, He said he saw a dead Indian by the side of the road, and I don't even know if that's true." As for the nonsense that the spirit of  a dying Indian passed onto Jim as they drove by, chalk that up as part of the Lizard King mystique
  In 1948 George Morrison received his orders and the family relocated to Los Altos, Ca. where Jim would begin his schooling.  More moves would follow, Washington D.C. (1951) Claremont,Ca. (1952) and then in 1955 back to Albuquerque. George Morrison now returned to the Naval Special Weapons Facility as  Commander.  The family took up residence at 8912 Candelaria NE, forever known as the "Morrison House".  Jim Morrison now 12 years old would attend both Monroe and Wilson Middle Schools.  Jim's stay in Albuquerque was normal and without incident, the family lived a quiet life in a quiet neighborhood.  After two years, the family left Albuquerque for good, moving to Alameda,Ca., In 1958 they moved again, this time to Alexandria,Va. where Jim graduated from high school.  Following a short stint at a junior college, Jim enrolled at Florida State Univ., where he was arrested in 1963 following a drunken prank. Having soured on the restrictive attitudes of the Florida panhandle, Jim transfered to UCLA in 1964,  where he earned his undergraduate degree at UCLA's film school.  He now pursued his love of film making, producing two films with his roommate. It seemed that Jim was destined for a career in movie making, until he met fellow film school student Ray Manzarek.  Their acquaintanceship would lead to the formation of The Doors in 1965.  The band's self-titled debut LP, released in January of 1967 was the beginning of the band's success.  The Doors would go on to become one of the most popular rock bands of all time. Jim Morrison would transcend rock music, becoming an icon for an entire generation.  His death in 1971 at the age of 27,  robbed the world of a rare and unique talent.  The Lizard King, he passed this way, we felt his presence, we shared his pain, the king is dead, long live the king. 
"Some call it heavenly in its brilliance"
Jim Morrison

Monday, November 22, 2010

Saddlesores

Carport Thunder Vol. One

Compilation albums are essentially time capsules, a grab bag of musical styles thrown together for promotional purposes or profit.  An aural snapshot of  a time or place that we look back on fondly (no matter how crappy it really may have been)  Ubik Sound, a label that was more co-op than corporate, released "Carport Thunder Vol. 1" in 1991.  Four of Albuquerque's up and coming bands recorded tracks for the album.   Individually, they were a mixed bag of alt-country rock, jangly folk pop, and frantic post-punk.  Collectively,  they produced a solid album bursting with high energy  American music.   Side One opens with The Ant Farmers and a tale of pick up trucks parked in the yard and the people who borrow them. The Ant Farmers  (Jon Little,vocals  Carl Petersen, vocals-guitar Darrell Sparks, bass & Bill Mudd, drums) effortlessly fused roots rock, alt-country twang and intelligent but slightly twisted lyrics.    Jon ambles in like a bad relative, he needs to drive "The Ford", "I've got the keys to start the thing in the yard", the rhythm section is steady as a heartbeat.  Jon adds "I promise not to wreck it, not take it far"  Carl skillfully jabs with his guitar, as  Jon exclaims "Oh No!..The Ford."  The highlight of any Ant Farmers song was always Carl's unpretentious wit and dry humor, oh hell!, maybe those dents will hammer out.    Sticking with the Ant Farmers; "Stick I Stand" tells an all too familiar story, "Like a stick I will stand, with a rose in my hand"  most of us have been there,  "All the words that I planned, sounded slow, sounded bland, no one else could understand"  fellas, Carl Petersen feels your pain.
The Gutterleaves were the least known of the four bands on this album.  However in Eric Johnson they had a talented musician who was well grounded in American musical tradition.  "Bargain" is a speedy rush of  San Francisco folk rock and strident 60's garage punk, slammed out in under two minutes, it's a lesson in  hipster philosophy 101,  "I look to see where I'm going"....."I look to see where I've always been"  .   Ah! San Francisco, be sure to wear, a cactus flower in your hair.   "At My Home"  is So-Cal cosmic cowpunk at it's very best.   The influence of Stan Ridgway & Wall of Voodoo is apparent. Like so many songs, it's set in a bar, Eric sings that "there's nothing here except this beer and I've got a friend waiting for me at my home." As this slow brooding piece of music unfolds, the singer realizes that the trick is knowing when it's time to go home, call him a cab, it's time.   A Murder of Crows was a vehicle for Junius Kerr to rage against...most anything.  The band was versatile switching from the stray cat strut of "Lonewolf Blues" to the  speedy angst of "I Hate My Guitar" a song that finds Junius actually raging against the machine.  Caleb Miles makes his presence felt, whether it's a ripping blues run, choppy rhythm riffs or slippery solos, he's the gear that turns the wheels. I don't think Caleb hated his guitar at all...it was a love affair...Caleb and his guitar.
The Saddlesores were an alt-country band, tougher and more talented than most bands branded with that label.  Cole Mitchell's easy drawl, powered by Keith Drummond's precise guitar playing and John Hastings appropriately low key drumming, resulted in music that was well conceived and entirely accessible. "Stop Me" gives a tip of the hat to Waylon Jennings & The Waylors, circa 1974.  Cole mournfully sings, "Stop me if this sounds familiar, stop me if you've heard this one before" he wouldn't stop if you asked him to, but coming from him it sounds completely genuine. The birthright of every country singer is the truck driving song.  It gets even better when the truck driver is your mother.  "Mama Had a Peterbuilt"  is the Saddlesores most popular song.   "It was a cold day, sometime in November" a tragic accident has taken Daddy's life "The day they brought what was left of daddy's big rig home." After an appropriate period of mourning, Mama throws off the chains of domestic life. "You see her almost every night hauling freight down ninety nine...Mama had her Peterbuilt just right" That's good for Mama, but those poor boys are gonna starve!   Side Two opens with the Saddlesore's "13 Steps", a dark cloud hangs overhead as Cole sings: "I was sitting down at Rusty's place I had a one too many shots, thinking about tomorrow and all the things that I ain't got." To make a long story short, he meets a girl at the bar takes her back to his motel room, winds up shooting her dead and now he faces; "thirteen steps to heaven and a six foot drop to hell"  gun safety it's no joke,  Any last words?  "The life i lead it ain't too plain, a gun's my only friend, instead of getting me out of trouble it only got me in" Amen!  
The Ant Farmer's contributions to this album were low key melodic gems, made more appealing by their dry humor and tunefulness.  This is especially apparent  on "Elvis Bird" a little ditty about Elvis Presley, your mother and their love child, it rocks along merrily, in contrast to the droll lyrics. Jon sings; "By all means you can't remember everything, run inside and tell your mother, you had an awful dream"  One night down at the end of lonely street "Elvis Presley and your mother had a thing, but the baby turned out bad and went to jail"  It's jailhouse rock for Junior, he's found a new place to dwell "In El Paso, in the prison, in his cell, hubba hubba, come on baby, don't be cruel" He ain't nothing but a hound dog, but his mother still loves him.  On "Fraidy Cat",  The Ant Farmers use  straight forward momentum and unaffectedly emotional singing to spin their yarn.  Jon starts out; "Not a joker, not a king, not a singer, I can sing, but I can't sing the song that you like" Jon's vocals are framed by Carl's melodic guitar playing "Not a sailor, not a saint, not a dreamer, I can dream, but I can't paint the picture that you like" Jon is accompanied by some delightful back-up vocals from Darrell and a call and response chorus with Carl. An intact sense of humor makes  the music, fun, joyous and timeless, allowing for repeated listens.
Eric Johnson, the primary creative force behind The Gutterleaves, was clearly influenced by the cowpunk bands  of the 1980's.   "Let's Take A Walk" a narrative mood piece, reflects Johnson's musical roots, while the lyrics betray his natural hippie nature.  "Let's take a walk, we can hold hands, skip a stone across the river into another land" it only makes sense, the original wave of  California cosmic cowboys were hippies at heart  "Let's pick a flower put it in your hair, lie on our backs in the grass breathing in fresh air" I'm not knocking it, the world would be a better place, if hippies ran it.  The Gutterleaves also eagerly explored a different, more roots oriented musical path. "Llano" is a predictable and corny  narrative about why cowboys shouldn't bone the rancher's daughter.  Stuart Dyson sings with gusto and bravado, "Where a man can be what he wants to be if he has the brains and the balls"  Dyson is now a well known political commentator for KOB-TV. He is known as a savvy observer of New Mexico's unsavory politicos, who seem to have balls to spare, but very little brains.
A Murder of Crows was best taken in two minute bursts of  chaotic fun.  The longer songs often left you waiting in vain for something comprehensible to catch your ear.  However on Carport Thunder they stick to the shorties, "99 Demons" is a blast furnace mix of rockabilly and 1960's folk rock, Junius sings like he's in the midst of a spazz attack;  "I got 99 demons in my head you know they're all after you" In the wretched life of a speed freak this passes for a love song;  "I  could show you something new, I could show my heart to you...say, come on baby"  "Rollin' On" is a rollicking little tune, west coast folk rock from the shadow of the Sandias.  "Brokedown, keeps on rolling, where there is no place to stop" the old ford pick-up is careening down Sandia Crest road "Bad brakes, gears are broken, rolling like a spinning top" When the songs hit their mark, Junius Kerr and A Murder of Crows get by on ease and charm, less so when they don't.  That same year they would release their eponymous debut album, it was an adequate if uncompelling effort.

Eric Johnson and Darrell Sparks

Monday, November 8, 2010

Brokencyde

Brokencyde

Brokencyde

First of all, these guys suck ass! there is no discernible quality in any of their music that would make a casual listener think otherwise.  Albucrazy screamo-crunkcore act BrokenCYDE (their spelling not mine) are an affront to musical taste.   Collectively they produce a morass crap fest of pig squeals (bree bree) and screams. They are finger flip posers pushing unconvincing bad boy attitudes, backed by beats jacked from any number of hyphy tracks. They try hard, they work hard (the pig in their videos is cool) but it's not genuine.   It's all pre-fab noise, that appeals to some and leaves others holding their nose like they just found someone had taken a steaming dump on the front seat of their car.   With that said, they are extremely popular, these motherfuckers have racked up some unreal numbers on You Tube.  I don't have sales numbers for Albuquerque based bands in front of me, but they've probably racked up more sales (digital and cd) than anyone this side of the The Shins.  So, why haven't you heard of them? maybe because their core audience starts at about 12 years old and peaks before they can legally buy those 40oz. bottles that they croak about. 
In the music business that's the life expectancy of a fruit fly.  While Brokencyde imagine themselves as having some connection to the No Cal Bay Area hyphy scene, they are in fact much closer in spirit and intelligence to those jackass juggalos that worship ICP. And not unlike those face painted morons (who claim they're peddling humor and irony)  the joke gets lost when the musicians start to believe their own bullshit.  Brokencyde was founded in Albuquerque by vocalists Se7en (David Gallegos) and Mikl (Michael Shea),  Phat J and Antz (Anthony Trujillo) joined later to round out the group.  Mikl provides "clean vocals" while Se7en (that spelling is so stupid) provides "screamed vocals" yes, that's right, he screams,croaks and squeals like a pig, all of which get real tiresome in a hurry.  They push some silly bullshit as to how they came up with the name (because their personal relationships were broken inside). The group released their first album " I'm Not a Fan, But the Kids Like It!" in 2009 on the Break Silence label,  they followed up with "Will Never Die" in 2010.
To say that the band is universally hated is an understatement, the band has been the subject of hoaxes, fake stories and death rumors. This includes a fake report that said the band members were being held on drug, rape and child porn charges in New Mexico. Not that these hollow heads let any of that bother them, despite their emo trappings, these lunkheads are not hyper sensitive, they've developed some thick skins. Brokencyde has been universally panned by critics, however I'm just a blogger, my humble opinion doesn't mean shit, let's see what the pros think;  Metal Edge magazine has called Brokencyde "fucking horrendous.","Thrash Magazine" has called them "a mockery to the world of music". Cracked.com contributor Michael Swaim said the band sounded like "a Slipknot-Cher duet" British commentator Warren Ellis calls Brokencyde's "FreaXXX" music video "a near-perfect snapshot of everything that’s shit about this point in the culture." The New Musical Express stated in a review of I'm Not a Fan, But the Kids Like It!, that "even if I caught Prince Harry and Gary Glitter adorned in Nazi regalia defecating through my grandmother’s letterbox I would still consider making them listen to this album too severe a punishment." I must say that's pretty harsh, but there's more; The online Urban Dictionary has gone so far as to tag Brokencyde as urban slang that defines:  "Music so bad, it has become the universal standard for bad music" they have also designated Brokencyde as meaning "the act of having a penis inserted in your ear", ouch! but wait! there's more, The Urban Dictionary describes Brokencyde as "The band that always wins the what is the worst shit-ass music ever created by man argument." not satisfied with that they also add; "Everyone thinks that they know horrible music, but upon subjugation to the "freaxx" youtube video, Brokencyde unanimously decides the debate."
The Urban Dictionary is still not done with these tea baggers; "Imagine four things plus one other thing from Albuquerque New Mexico, USA.. jacking each other off so hard skin has begun to tear.. throw in a few mindless word combos AND a few carefully selected samples from techno, pop, crunk lil jon shit, emo, screamo, fagboygirl, scenekid music.. subsequently record that shit.. play it to a record label, get signed.. and whaalaa! you have BROKENCYDE!" Damn, somebody get a water hose so we can get those Urban Dictionary fuckers off these boys.  By comparison you would have to say that I was nice, very nice indeed, nonetheless fuck off and die Brokencyde!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Ant Farmers


Formed by Carl Petersen and Jon Little in 1988, the Ant Farmers  went against the grain in order to pursue their unique style.  Petersen's knack for writing energetically quirky pop songs and his keen ear for melodies, gave the Farmers their signature sound.  By adding a little jangle in the guitars and some nice harmonies they developed a style that resembled no other band on the local scene.  Jon Little in an interview with Laura Marrich in the Weekly Alibi, talked about the public perception of the band "We were considered a little on the wimpy side."  Invariably when the media would mention the Ant Farmers, they were described as lo-fi, a music genre, born in response to the overly produced  music of the 1980's. Whether by design (Springsteen's Nebraska) organic (R.Stevie Moore & Daniel Johnston) or by economic necessity (most local bands) the lo-fi aesthetic became part of the American musical landscape.  However in 1988, in Albuquerque, with arena rock still popular and grunge just around the corner, this step back from technology  was not greeted with enthusiasm. Jon Little would touch on this in the interview with Laura Marrich "There were people that said we sounded like REM or Yo La Tengo, sort of the softer indie type vibe, which wasn't popular then as it is now."

 The original line-up for the band consisted of  Jon Little (vocals) Carl Petersen (guitarist
 & vocalist) Bill Mudd (drums) and Darrell Sparks (bass).  The Ant Farmers played an unrushed mix of rootsy folk-rock. Carl's songs offered wry commentary on the ordinary things that happen to ordinary people.  Jon Little sang with a dry, unadorned voice that underlined Carl's straightforward observations. The band's comfortable enthusiasm combined with an easy, direct appeal, quickly converted casual listeners into loyal fans. The Ant Farmers made their recording debut in 1990 with the release of "Trailer Park Music."  Recorded at Ubik Sound in Albuquerque, it was co-produced by The Farmers and Manny Rettinger.  The homespun catchy narratives on "Trailer Park Music" revealed the formula they would continue to follow;  jangly guitar pop, vocal harmonies and slightly twisted lyrics.  The album rang true, it was great to hear something as unforced and down to earth as "Trailer Park Music" come out of the local music scene. The following year Ubik sound released   "Carport Thunder  Vol. 1"  a compilation that featured four iconic local bands (The Ant Farmers, The Saddlesores, A Murder of Crows & The Gutterleaves)   The Farmer's contributions (The Ford, Stick I Stand, Elvis Bird & Fraidy Cat) were  recorded at Ubik Sound studio with Manny Rettinger at the controls. These studio tracks, showed the group progressing without veering from  their established sound. Soon after  "Carport Thunder Vol. 1" came out, Bill Mudd left the group and was replaced by Robert Hobbs.


Released in 1993,  "Yarn" finds the band picking the pace up a notch without straying from their signature sound.  Three years removed from their first album, the growth and maturity was evident.  "Yarn" contains some of Carl's best compositions, there's more depth and complexity present both in the music and content.  Released on compact disc,  the digital mix brings more clarity to the instruments and vocals, allowing the subtlety of both to stand out.  "Yarn" came out on the band's own independent label "Nipsey Records" recorded at Winfield Sound in Albuquerque with Don Whittemore co-producing with the band.  It would prove to be the band's only real attempt at commercial success. Two years would pass before the Ant Farmers released another album. "Beautician" came out in 1995, also on Nipsey Records and self described as: "recorded by us at home." The album was a radical departure from "Yarn" the informal live takes, a far cry from the more finished tracks on the previous album.  Once more Carl Petersen's songwriting skills took center stage, the songs on "Beautician" reached a level of maturity and progression beyond those on "Yarn."  With the musicians  playing in a natural and relaxed setting, the heart and soul of the band shines through. Somehow, the band seemed stuck in a holding pattern, buying time or perhaps just tired of the grind.  Bass player, Darrell Sparks was gone, having left to start his own group.  Paula Blanchard a veteran of the Albuquerque music scene was brought in to replace him.

After "Beautician" the band went through a period of instability. First Paula Blanchard left the band, she was replaced by Steve Siegrist, who was then replaced by Michael Henningsen (ex-Strawberry Zots).  However the biggest blow came in 1997 when Jon Little either left or was asked to leave.  In a 2008  press release for the Timbre Obscura podcast (that featured Jon's (Church Camp) and Carl's (Clampett Report) solo projects)  Jon explained that "he was booted out due to his increasingly erratic and unpredictable behavior." From the start Jon's antics drew attention, as Jon explained it to Laura Marrich  "Real palatable sound with just a psycho weirdo front man.....And it worked, because people would go; "Let's see what that Jon Little's gonna do next"  but now his deteriorating mental state was affecting the band's performances.  Jon's  subsequent departure would result in the Ant Farmers breaking up.  Carl Petersen and Robert Hobbs regrouped as  The Webelos,  although Jon remembered it differently "The Webelos were Carl Petersen (vocals,guitar), Eric Kennedy (bass, ex-Elephant) and Jon Little (drums, vocals)" he commented. The group reformed (minus Jon Little) when Michael Henningsen rejoined the band, they also went back to calling themselves The Ant Farmers. With Carl as lead singer, they continued to play around town until their break-up in 1999.  The band never released another album after "Beautician." 

Carl Petersen is now the general manager of the The Weekly Alibi an alternative newspaper in Albuquerque. He continues to compose and record music, much like the Duke City version of  R. Stevie Moore, just with better social skills. He posts his recordings on My Space Music as The Clampett Report or Reportero Clampini.  Jon Little is also still involved in music, he regained his mental health, survived a prison stint and now lives in El Paso,Tx.  He is an activist and an author, having published two poetry collections, "Dixie Deer" and "The Plural of Deer" He has posted a prodigious amount of music under a variety of names including Jon Forrest Little, Church Camp, Space Pants, Serenata Radio, The Before Photos and The Suicide Kit all on My Space Music.  Darrell Sparks, is now a member of the old timey acoustic band, The Rivet Gang, which also includes Eric Johnson (ex-Gutterleaves & Mumble, an old associate of The Ant Farmers). Darrell has also been involved with Selsun Blue and his brother Brett's gothic country duo, The Handsome Family.  Michael Henningsen, besides his work with The Farmers and The Strawberry Zots, is well known as a music writer for The Weekly Alibi.  He now plays with the David Kurtz Band. Paula Blanchard played with A Murder of Crows before she joined the Ant Farmers and upon leaving the band she hooked up with Eric McFadden in Liar and then went on to join Hazeldine.  In October of 2010, the Ant Farmers  reunited for a few concert appearances.  No word yet if any recordings will result from this reunion.



Carl Petersen (top picture)  Jon Forrest Little (on ATV)