Is there a band out there with an odder, more confusing career arc than that boasted by the Seattle band The Green Pajamas? Check it: they got together in 1984, had a little bit of buzz as a latecomer to the Paisley Underground, and then had their delicate psych-pop sound sort of get crushed by the waves of grunge coming from the Pacific Northwest. A few albums and singles circulated (I became a fan thanks to finding one at KCOU when I was a dj there), but the band seemed to be done by 1990.
Or not. They resurfaced with a new record in 1997, and a handful of stuff between 2000-2002. Nice. 2003 brought the amazing compilation of their best work, an altogether wonderful disc called “Through Glass Colored Roses” that I still listen to in heavy rotation. (Seriously, if you dig paisley pop with a baroque, minor-key beauty, stop reading this and go to Emusic and grab “Glass Colored Roses” and thank me later.) At this point, 20 years after they started, the Green PJ’s got downright freaking prolific. Between compilations of unreleased material, EP’s and albums of new material, and even a few themed, concept albums, it feels as if the band is rewarding loyal fans for years of patience of long waits between discs.
The gift and the curse of The Green Pajamas is that you pretty much know what you’re gonna get with one of their albums–the guitars are gonna jangle, the vocals are going to be gauzy and tuneful and harmony-laden, the lyrics are going to be oblique and occasionally edge into some very odd territory. Fair enough. There’s always a tendency when you hear a band that knows its way around songcraft and has a way with a melody to compare them to classicists of rock and pop from years ago, and so you can try to play “spot the ’60′s influence”, but that won’t get you far. At various times, the Pajamas sound like Fairport Convention (not just for the jangle, but check Eric Lichter’s Richard Thompson meets Dumptruck guitar lines) all electrified, sometimes they have a Byrdsy thing goin’ on…but whatever they’re doing, they’re doing it well.
And so there’s a new Green Pajamas album out. And the thing is, the damn record is great. I’ve been listening to all this “nu-folk”/freakfolk crap for a few months, and frankly, that whole genre is just an abyss of musical refrigerator fingerpaints. Jeff Kelly, Joe Ross, Laura Weller, and Eric Lichter of the Green Pajamas seem to effortlessly do the tuneful, folky, rustic, gorgeous guitar pop thing so well that they’ve rather carved out their own genre.
To steal back a phrase from the movie High Fidelity, I will now sell some copies of various Green Pajamas musics: (iTunes for you luddites who don’t know better, Emusic and Amazon’s download service for those of you who want the real folk blues in DRM-free mp3…)
“Death By Poisoning” (If Billy Corgan ever hears this song, he’ll kill himself. Someone email it to him.)
“Downslide” (Laura Weller takes lead vox on this song; absolutely stunning stuff)
“Lady Of Spain” (From the new disc, no accordions in sight…)
“Sandy” (You wanna know when you’ve found a great band? When they’re confident enough to bury a gem like “Sandy” as the 14th track on a 16-track disc)
“Peppermint Stick” (Little trip down memory lane with this older GP track)
….and when I get around to reviewing the surveillance camera archives from the front-door cam at my restaurant tomorrow, I’ll know who you are.
And you and I will both know that you befouled the bathroom hallway of my lovely restaurant because you couldn’t get there in time, you disgusting pig. There’s barely enough bleach in all the world to cover up the smell. We threw the mop and broom we used to clean it up into the dumpster. It was that bad.
(Personally, I think the culprit was the guy who told my host that a “baby” had had an accident back there. “Baby”? Yeah, maybe a baby hippo. That hallway looked like an incontinent Budweiser Clydesdale hitch had come through. Seriously, what the hell did you eat??)
I’ve got to hit the sack here, as I want to watch Obama’s speech in Berlin later this morning….
…but I wanted to share one thought that occurred to me today seeing some of the coverage of him in the Middle East and Afghanistan this week.
I’ll start by noting that Vladimir Putin, an ex-KGB head and current head of Russia, looks like the most badass Bond villain ever never to make it onto the silver screen:
Whenever I see pictures of our current President with President Putin, the image I get is that we’ve just sent someone from O Brother Where Art Thou to negotiate the international balance of power with Dr. Evil.
And so but I’ll mention that this is a picture from Obama’s trip to the Israel yesterday:
If I’m anticipating a new release here, that’s sort of like the kiss of death…previous past anticipations include some spectacularly lousy records by Fountains Of Wayne, Ted Leo & The Pharmacists, The New Pornographers, Grant Lee Phillips, and The Long Winters. I’ll never learn though, so here we go again.
August should see the first disc of new material since 2005 for Jeff Hanson. Who’s Jeff Hanson? As a teenager he was the member of a fondly-remembered Wisconsin emo/punk band called M.I.J. His first solo album was all-acoustic. His second, more fully-realized with a band, was one of my favorite discs of the year in ’05. Yes, he sings like a girl. He also sings in a way that should make any fan of Elliott Smith’s very happy. Here’s a Jeff Hanson song from 2005:
And here’s the first song to circulate from his upcoming disc, a tune called “If I Only Knew”. Record is due out the 19th.
Also in August, Prisonshake’s long-awaited double album followup to 1993′s (not a misprint) disc, The Roaring Third. As discussed elsewhere here, the new record is called Dirty Moons (yes it’s on Scat Records; I’ll quote Steve Scariano here, quoting Don Rickles: “Lady these are the jokes…”) Robert Griffin has reloaded the player on Prisonshake’s myspace page to give you the full-on glory of side one of the record, plus a two other songs as well.
Finally, after two years of silence causing me to think them defunct, word out of Manitoba is that September will bring a new Novillero album! These Winnipeg jets’ Aim Right For The Holes In Their Lives is maybe my favorite record of the last half-dozen years, so new music from them is great news.
Put this in the “now it can be told” department, but I harbor a secret and deep-seated adoration for fonts. I love the damn things, and the way they make a page look. I’ve actually based decisions on buying books around the typeface the print is set in.
Don’t look at me, I’m repulsive.
At any rate, as far as secret addictions go, addiction to True-Type fonts is fairly benign, but I suspect I’m not the only font geek in the world, and so tonight I’ve got a doozy for you, courtesy of Patrick at Popehat. A little back-story is necessary, I suppose: the fonts are provided by the H. P. Lovecraft Historical Society. Who is H. P. Lovecraft? Well, depending on your source, he’s either the great lost source of horror fiction as we know it today…or he’s weird-as-hell hack writer who wrote for pulps in the 1920′s. I loved Lovecraft when I was in high school, but revisiting his work a few years ago left me fairly cold–I just didn’t think his stuff held up for readers familiar with Hawthorne, Shelley, and Stoker, the authors to whom Lovecraft was clearly paying mimicking homage. Still, short stories like “The Rats In The Walls” and “Pickman’s Model” are excellently crafted genre fiction, and Michael Chabon’s a fan, so there you go.
Back to the fonts and the HPLHS. The latter group is a congregation of enthusiasts of Lovecraft’s work who have created one nifty silent film of Lovecraft’s best-known story, “The Call Of C’thulhu”, and have others in the works. In the course of making these films, they created some altogether amazing fonts for use in creating props–telegraphs, diary notes, newspaper articles, etc.–and have made these fonts available to the general public, via this page. They’ve made a number of them available free…and also put an entire huge body of work together for download for twenty bucks. I’m a geek, I splurged, but even if you get the freebies, these are some seriously bitchin’ typefaces.
My favorite free font is this great antique italic font. I love how subtly different it is from regular Roman fonts that we see every day:
I think my favorite font in the pay-pack is this one:
or this one:
One final, unrelated note on famous fonts: The “X” in the X-Files logo is the same typeface as Cheap Trick’s logo. Do with that information what you will.
Paul Westerberg’s latest album (?), entitled “49:00″ is available via Amazon.com right here as a direct mp3 download here:
“49:00 Of Your Life”
Get it today and it’ll run you 49 cents. There’s a catch, of course: You can only download it as one large, 43 minute mp3 file, sorta like they way we post mix-CD’s here at the ‘Narc.
On my second listen-through right now, and maybe this is the easy cost of admission speaking, but this sure sounds like the best thing Paulie’s done in a long time. I’d call it a great record, but that evokes images of “Let It Be” and “Tim”. Call it “great” in the way that the last two ‘Mats albums have become great over the passage of time (yeah, if you dismissed those two discs when they came out, go back and listen now…they sound pheee-nominal.)
Thanks to friend of the ‘Narc Jeff Green at 1Up for the tip on this!
Dunno if I’ve mentioned it on the blog here, but one of my favorite ways to spend an evening discovering music I’ve never heard of is to start going through the bands on my myspace friends list and clicking on the artists in their friends lists. You end up listening to a lot of derivative, crappy music…but every now and then you uncover a gem.
Last week while doing this, I noticed a friend icon on Steve’s myspace page that I hadn’t seen before, for a fellow named David Werner. The songs posted at Werner’s myspace page are pretty awful vinyl rips of a 1974 album he recorded…but even with all the pops and hiss, the songs themselves sound freaking great, which gets me thinking:
Who the hell is David Werner?
A little searching on the internet reveals that Werner was a fantastically talented California teenager with a flair for production and songwriting who put together an ace studio band and had a brief run at trying to be a Stateside answer to Ziggy Stardust…but things never took. Two albums in the early seventies, “Whizz Kid” (yes, after the Mott The Hoople song) and “Imagination Quota”, and one final stab at the brass ring in 1979 with a harder rocking self-titled album (with a song produced by Ian Hunter of Mott). After that he went into the production side of music, and penned a few hit songs for folks like Billy Idol and continues to do music production and songwriting in California to this day.
Here’s the thing. None of his albums are available on digital in any form–no CD reissues, nothing via digital download. Nada. This is a loss.
David Werner, you see, is freaking brilliant. His debut album, “Whizz Kid” especially, sounds like the record that Dan Bejar has been trying to write for Destroyer for the last five years. It also sounds like something Scott Miller of Loud Family/Game Theory fame listened to obsessively. It is a stunning slab of glam rock goodness, filled with Werner’s fey-Bowie-ish vocals, gospel backing vocals, Visconti-like strings, and plenty of skronking guitar when needed.
Vinyl only, though, and perhaps all out of print for over thirty years. Talk about forgotten. Luckily, searching the internet for David Werner info turned up a fantastic new blog: Vinyl Treasures. What Popcat, the author of the blog aims to do is find out of print, never before digitally available but otherwise worthwhile vinyl albums and rip them to mp3′s.
The first album popcat did? Yeah, David Werner’s “Whizz Kid”. Here’s the thing: I’m always real, real skeptical of homebrew vinyl rips to digital, because every one I’ve tried sounds awful, and I’ve even heard some studio music pros take a stab at it and fail. Imagine my surprise then when I listened to popcat’s effort with “Whizz Kid”: it not only sounds fantastic, it actually sounds as if the production and mix could’ve come from a 2008 album rather than a 1974 obscurity. You’re skeptical too? Hey, here’s some David Werner for you then, thanks to the magnificent efforts of popcat at vinyl treasures:
Hear what I’m talkin’ about now? David Werner had a fantastic sound (if “Whizz Kid” came out in 2008, hipsters in Brooklyn and Philly and Cleveland would be touting him as the antidote to rock hating dishmops like Conor Oberst), and popcat’s done him real justice with an incredible vinyl rip of his debut album.
To get the full thing, go back to that hotlink above and scroll down to the comments. Or, if you’re lazy, head here:
The archive is password protected under the password “popcat” (no quotes.) Enjoy!