Crap, glory and twee

Mar 20, 2002 at 12:00 am

Paul K. and the Prayers
The Night We Cheated Death
FFV Recordings

Detroit-born Paul K. may truly be the last of the hardcore troubadours steadily penning a consistently profound and poetic body of work. It’s steeped in earnestness and inhabited by the ghosts of a thousand unsung drifters, fallen heroes and beatnik desperadoes who were all relentlessly hell-hounded by bad laws, Old Crow whiskey, hard luck, and the Holy Bible. Paul K. carries the torch for all these cats, and maybe even for you, too.

I recently saw Paul K. and the Prayers at a trendy Kentucky bar and was amazed to see them move the whole room with nothing but the sheer power of their collective musicianship and the 99-proof pathos of Paul’s songs. About 150 jaded garage, indie-rock and fad-drunk rich kids were visibly engaged, challenged, consoled, educated, and ultimately illuminated by these six old soldiers sitting on stools, dressed like roofers and bricklayers in a venue more accustomed to third-rate girl-bands, Velvet Underground rip-offs and predictable ’60s garage-rock covers. Stark, vivid confessionals like “The Lavender Door” and “Radiant & White” completely restored my faith in the lost art of gutsy storytelling.

The band had the ability to cajole the crowd of apathetic hipsters into somehow forgetting about where they were or who they were pretending to be.

After 15 sonically diverse albums and truckloads of praise, Paul K. doesn’t need the critical accolades. Thing is, he’s had zero success. I suspect he’s reconciled himself to the fact that he was sent here to be a healer of sorts, not a star.

I urge anyone who’s ever drank too much and woke up in the back seat of a stranger’s car, felt ghosts of angels and devils on their shoulders or had their heart really broken beyond repair to immediately seek out this self-released live CD. It’s medicine for misanthropes and make-believers.

See them live next time they return to Motown. You will walk away converted and inspired.

Write: Farnsley Recordings 3024 Ledgebrook Court, Louisville, KY 40241. Or visit to obtain the recordings.

Bebe Buell
Free To Rock
Instant Mayhem

In Bebe Buell’s best-selling autobiography, Rebel Heart, she unflinchingly reflects upon her often surreal and sometimes savage journey through the hearts and trousers of virtually every significant rock star — from Stiv to Steven — of the past 30 years. The tell-all is a stirring, laughter-provoking and tear-jerking ride through Buell’s wild times on the nonstop topless, rockandrollercoaster.

This Don Fleming (Sonic Youth / Gumball / Teenage Fan Club) produced disc is worth tracking down if not just for one tri-minute moment of near-greatness, “Normal Girl.” The tune sees Buell insisting that she’s just a normal girl ’cause she likes it “on her back when she’s laying in the sack.” Buell has always shown great taste in covers too, and this EP features a sterling rendition of the great, long-lost Motorcycle Boy classic, “Get Some.”

Also worth seeking out are her earlier, über-cult-favorite albums (Cover Girl, Retro-sexual) and a killer 7-inch still in print on Jeff Dahl’s Ultra Under label called “Gargoyle.” Remember, Bebe Buell is still sexy as all hell, and, best of all, she rocks like a motherfucker.

Black Moses
Emperor Deb
Lunasound Recording

This is everything that that millionaire accountant Jon Spencer pretends to be: Fucked-up but still cocksure, swaggering, soulful, funky, garagey, trippy, primitive, atmospheric modern rock influenced by black ’70s dance music and dinosaur-rock sexuality. Grand Funk Railroad meets the Stylistics in the Funhouse or something. Loud, wailing harmonicas, danceable drums, and the solid-gold, easy-action vox of Jim Jones — former lead singer of Thee Hypnotics! My favorite cut is the psychedelic ballad, “Strange Life.” Brilliant, original stuff for fans of the real rock ’n’ roll. Go here:

Joker Five Speed

These New Yorkers are the kind of die-hard party dudes that, with zero irony, sign “Respect The Rock” on all their correspondences. I suspect they still listen to Kiss and Cheap Trick and Appetite For Destruction daily. They’re clearly all in their 30s and I bet they still do blow on weekends, chase saline-enhanced blondes and, most likely, piss in ice machines at any given moment. When they throw the devil horns, we know they ain’t the cowboy-hatted, tongue-in-cheek, wannabe hipsters nostalgically mocking Ratt or Ronnie James Dio, while rockin’ out to Zeke or Supersuckers. Rather, they are celebrating unself-consciously a part of the culture they fully believe in. In fact, the guitar player might be listening to Deepest Purple on eight-track in his car right now. Joker Five Speed play commercial — yet heartfelt — all-American rock with nary a wink or a nod. Or, as they used to say in RIP magazine, “straight up/no chaser.” Visit, dudes.

The Holy Ghost
Broken Record
Clearly Records

This disc starts promisingly enough — emphasizing some Nirvana-derived, freeze-dried, guttural vocals and a punishing, world-class rhythm section in league with Three Colours Red or the Bellrays — but quickly dissipates into wounded caterwauling, dissonant guitars and brooding Afghan Whigs pretentiousness. Unless the next big thing is nostalgia for ’90s esoteric-alternative rock, these guys ain’t goin’ nowhere.

Laura Dawn
True Believer
Extasy Records International

Millions of misguided music consumerists work hour after wretched hour at degrading day-jobs only to pour a significant portion of the earnings into the coffers of unscrupulous studio-owning producer / would-be impresarios. Said homegrown Glen Ballards / Butch Vigs / Mutt Langes promptly use their outrageous hourly fees to then wine and dine a never-ending line of preening, tortured songstresses overeager to put their overtly precious diaries and personal to-do lists to pianos and hip-hop beats, a la Alanis Morrisette, Tori Amos and Fiona Apple.

Laura Dawn may be one such inky-eyed ingénue with Sheryl Crow ambitions and a slick producer who spills out the guilt-ridden, lovelorn confessions with a bio-ready checkered past, who’s savvily recognized how much mileage Liz Phair and Alanis got in the press from their prerequisite lyrical references to giving blow jobs. Dawn is a decent lyricist and able yarn-spinner but, but, unfortunately, there’s not much on this record that separates her from hundreds of social climbing drama queens-turned-eager-industry-beavers, and the two dozen already established sultry poetesses wrestling with issues of sexuality and alleged addictions and feminist self-empowerment.

Laura might be gutsier than many of these Prozac Nation fatalities currently crowding up the wings — the hemorrhaging, upper-middle-class female art-school angst ilk — which will work to her advantage in this era that’s more about PR and ambition than talent or integrity.

If strong-armed by the big, mean record-biz machine / corporate radio that rotates hourly misery into our consciousness, I’d say there are five potential hits contained on True Believer. All that’s lacking is Moby’s lawyer and Tommy Motola’s wedding band.

Various Artists
Pelado Records Presents Three Minute Heroes

Thirty-two of the coolest young groups that either sound like the Dead Boys but look like Mötley Crüe, or vice versa. If you’re a teenaged badass wearin’ creepers from Hot Topic, this is what you want blaring outta your beat-to-shit Plymouth this spring. Standout cuts include ones by Detroit’s own Trash Brats, the Confessions, Super-Bees, the Stiletto Boys, the Beatings, American Heartbreak, and the Pelado Records house band, Dimestore Haloes.

Fun Beat Surf
Magic Marker

Wussified light indie-pop garbage with clever geek rock fey boy/girl vocals and lyrics liberally sprinkled with references to alt-pop dork culture like “DIY Queen,” “I Kept The Beach Boys” and “Glitter & Twang.” The first song is entitled “Twee,” if that tells you anything. Sounds unerringly like all the dubious mixed-gender indie-pop bands from at least five years ago.

E-mail Dimitri Monroe at [email protected]