I have a pretty damned short attention span. I’ve been working on it, though. I’ve even sat through an entire album once or twice. Pffffft! The album is such an archaic concept, isn’t it? C’mon, who has the time? I wanna hear about how hot it is; I want to hear about how you wanna take off all your clothes, and then I want to move on to hearing about how Eminem is cleaning out his closet. You know? Better still, this summer, I haven’t had to settle for Nelly’s bullshit and Mr. Mathers’ multimillionaire therapy session when I didn’t feel like it. There’s been waaay more than enough viable musical action distraction from artists, labels and superstars around the way here in the 313-248-810. I’m not going anywhere for the next five minutes or so. So sit tight and gather round while I tell you all about my summer vinyl vacation.
Tight Bros. From Way Back When/Inside Five Minutes
I know this has been available for a while, but it’s been sitting on my shelf waiting to be written about and burning a hole in my soles during “the hot months.” This is the third or fourth record in Makoto’s split-single subscription club, but I got mine off the shelf at Record Time. Other releases have featured Lovesick, Aloha, Sweep the Leg Johnny and Haymaker Riot. Anyhoo, anytime you’ve got five Midwestern white rocker-type guys taking on Edwin Starr, you should be suspicious. I was. But once I dropped the needle, I remembered that not every indie-rock/ska/punk band that chooses to cover a soul classic has to fuck it up entirely. Tight Bros. manages to inject a bit of its own aggression, a bit of a live party feeling and a bit of the original’s off-the-cuff vibe without making the whole thing sound like a cheeky gag.
Inside Five Minute’s B-side is a respectable stab at a bloozy stroll down malaise boulevard. I’m hearing Chris Cornell channeled through the Monkeywrench. That’s fine, but I already own the first Monkeywrench record, so in this case, Tight Bros. is the “value-added proposition” as they say. If you want more info, visit www.makotorecordings.com.
Bad Blood EP
This is the shit! I was trying to think of another way to say it, but… I’ve not had this off my turntable for more than a day since I bought it a month ago. Sure, sure, Jim Magas (or simply Magas, these days) might be a Chicago denizen. But believe you me, mister, he’s got Detroit roots. He used to rock Ann Arbor hard as a member of Couch and other mid-’90s noise boyz on Bulb Records. You might also have known him from his days in the No Wave-ish Lake of Dracula. Either way, Bad Blood is out on Detroit’s Ersatz Audio and Magas has found good company and (for this gig at least) has left the skronk ’n’ grind behind in favor of a basement bump ’n’ grind. A four-track 12-inch, Bad Blood is full of Magas’ sly, deadpan humor (see “Toys” and “Lovecompressor”), but more than that, it’s got the funk. Seriously. It is a man, his drum machine, some synths and lord knows what else he and Ersatz mainman Adam Lee Miller fired up when they recorded these tracks. Magas plows into the groove of “Lovecompressor” with bass runs and distorto sound swatches that take what could be an austere electro track and make it move with humanity. It’s DIY disco and Magas manages to keep the dance/brains balance just right. Hell, my 2-year-old son invented not one, but two, new dance moves while we were listening to this record on the hi-fi at the plush Zero Potential Manor. The future of the funk? Maybe, maybe not, but it’s in my system for good. For more info, visit www.ersatzaudio.com.
“Brandy and Xanax”
I can’t get this comparison out of my head, so I’m going to share it with you: Seems to me that esQuire is exactly what Chris Elliott’s Fancy Lad character would sound like if he were raised in Birmingham on coffeehouses, cell phones and fashionista privilege. That is, all adenoidal-fey affectation, boredom and “be-gone-with-you” attitude but with flat Midwestern inflection. Still, “Brandy and Xanax” has that certain “I don’t know what” (as the French say). Teleport yourself to the dorm room of the “cool guy” or the late, late Tuesday night “study session” your freshman year at a major state university and, well, you might just find yourself “dropping your No. 2s” if you know what I mean.
When he singsong-whispers the aside “I wish my father owned a modeling agency,” you could read it as esQuire’s snide side coming through in a soon-to-be-dated way (it’s a jab at Strokes front man Julian Casablancas’ daddy). But he’s just so wistful about it.
Where esQuire stumbles is in his rapid-fire articulation. It’s only good to be clever if people can hear you doing it. And when the people are hearing you rhyme “cover my bases” with “Samsonite makes all my suitcases” it is, indeed, a fine line between clever and stoopid. “I’m Too Good For This” doesn’t fare as well, lacking that special something that makes me get off my lazy ass to boogie-oogie. Still, it’s flip-hop, and esQuire’s Little Lord Funklaroy persona makes for good company. Just once, though, I’d like to hear him utter the words, “OK, suppose I finally got my shit together,” just to see if he is, indeed, MC 900 Foot Jesus in post-millennial hipster disguise. That’ll be my personal obsession. Don’t worry yourself over it, kids.
“A Tribute to the White Stripes”
Guided Missile Records
“Let’s Shake Hands b/w Look Me Over Closely”
What would a summer singles cavalcade be without the White Stripes. You know, in case you hadn’t heard (or read a copy of Mojo lately) Mr. Jack and Miss Meg have become quite a “thing.” Why, my 12-year-old cousin informed me recently that her friend Olivia intends to marry Jack. Now, I told her about the age difference and how it might not seem like a big deal now, but she wasn’t worried. Seems the Stripes have made such inroads into UK musicuture that they’ve been paid tribute to via the single, “Diff’rent Stripes” on Guided Missile Records. Rumors flinging around ye olde Internet seem to point toward members of the très chic Britpop outfit Pulp as the culprits of this particular tribute. The single is comprised of a Muzak-country rave-up of “Hotel Yorba,” a Casio-driven take on “Fell in Love With A Girl” and a dub version of “I Think I Smell a Rat.” Of the three, “Rat” actually transcends novelty, keeping all of the snideness of the original and stretching it out (sans vocals, of course), making space and otherwise bouncing echo-melodica sounds off the walls of the song.
The Diff’rent Stripes instrumental version of “Hotel Yorba” keeps the bounce bouncing to such an extent that you realize what those Muzak freaks were thinking in the first place when they started mangling pop tunes lo those many years ago. Familiar minus jagged edges plus a Lawrence Welk bounce equals a fun elevator ride.
And if you’re looking for the real thing, Detroit’s Italy Records (I’m assuming you’re familiar with Italy by now, but if you aren’t go to www.italyrecords.com for the poop) has seen fit to reissue the 45 that started the Whites down the “long way to the top” as AC/DC would have it.
“Let’s Shake Hands” finds Jack squealing, howling and moaning all over the riffs. Primal, primal, primal. “Look Me Over Closely,” on the other, er, hand, is a Marlene Dietrich cover sung as a DIY torch song. If you missed this record the first time, buy it now. Seriously. I think you might be able to pick up a copy at Stormy Records in Dearborn. Call ’em at 313-563-8525 and find out.
If I had more time and space, I was going to tell you all about the mHz “Action Figure,” EP on Ypsi’s Flying Bomb Records. It’s punk rock in the late-’70s/early-’80s tradition, all nervous and full of broken-string guitar science. But I didn’t have time. Visit flyingbomb.com for more info. And while you’re there, see if they have any copies of the Wildbunch’s “Danger! High Voltage!” EP too. It just might help you get through the gloomy days ahead.
I have to go study now. Keep in touch (oops, I mean KIT). Call me next summer; we’ll party!Chris Handyside is a freelance writer for Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected]