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Desert Isand Disc Day 1H: Africa Addio, South Subdivision

Day 1H: Africa Addio, Round One

Day 1H Start

…and finally, the south subdivision:

#1 Shora, “The Never-Ending Exhale”
vs.
#16 JunkQueen, “Excuse Me”

photo credit: prog-archives.com

“Pretentious? Why would you think that?”

Swiss mathcoreans Shora have two speeds: introspective and tear-your-face-off. Their best tracks, of course, are those that combine the two, such as “The Never-Ending Exhale”, from their debut EP, 2000’s Shaping the Random. The track before it? A Ligeti cover. Tell me what there is about this band to not love. This four-minute track starts off with a minute of face-melting, then gives you two minutes of technical noodling, then a minute of face-melting technical noodling. YES. They’re up against Cleveland folk-rock-country legends JunkQueen, the final project Cathryn Beeks (whom you previously met in 8BallRack and will meet later as a solo artist) was in before relocating to SoCal. Unlike the other Beeks tracks in the competition, “Excuse Me” is a straight-up easy-listening piece, not quite soft rock—it’s got a guitar solo and everything—but it wouldn’t sound out of place on your local easy listening station. Now, you may be saying to yourself that this ain’t normal Goat fare, and you would in fact be correct, but man, Cathryn Beeks, in the words of fellow Cleveland pop maven Pepper McGowan, has “a voice with more balls than the dumpster at a spay and neuter clinic.” Which is about as perfect a description as anyone has ever come up with. Beeks’ gravelly alto carries every project she’s worked with, and when she is on—which is all the time—she is on. This is a tough one because the two acts are so different, so I did something I’ve been doing with increasing frequency, checking the rest of the bracket to see which of these things is less represented. Which, oddly, turned out to be math rock; JunkQueen head to the sidelines while Shora move on.

{Once again my music drives are not synced and I will have to upload this when I get to work on Monday…}

#8 Pink Floyd, “When the Tigers Broke Free”
vs.
#9 HotChaCha, “Ticket Away from Prague”

Cleveland art-punks HotChaCha, whose wonderful Ticket Away from Prague” was the first single from 2009’s The World’s Hardest-Working Telescope and the Violent Birth of Stars, had the misfortune to run into one of the world mightiest bands in Round One, Pink Floyd. Despite the Floyd’s monolithic favoritism here (with one of the film-only tracks from 1979’s The Wall; it would not be released in audio form until recent repressings of 1983’s The Final Cut), if you’re going up against a prog-rock giant, the best way to do it is to form an art-punk band. HotChaCha make wonderful, catchy music, generally upbeat, with slightly surreal lyrics and a kind of playfulness that’s infectious; they’re one of the region’s most popular bands for a reason. But still… you go up against Pink Floyd in the first round, you’re bound to fall. The mighty Floyd advance.

Live at the Luminus Theatre, 2009. Where the hell is the Luminus Theatre? I’ve only lived here 19 years, right?

#5 Albannach, “Claymores”
vs.
#12 Frank Zappa, “Goblin Girl”

Frank Zappa’s 1980 double-album You Are What You Is was my initial introduction to Zappa back in the day (aside from “Valley Girl”, of course; everyone had heard “Valley Girl” because it was in pretty heavy rotation even on Top 40 radio for a while there), and it’s still some of my favorite Zappa work, along with pieces of Joe’s Garage. But when I pulled it out recently for the first time in a while, I found it enjoyable, but I didn’t feel any real attachment to it the way I used to. Contrast that with Scottish pipe-and-drum outfit Albannach, who initially started out as a Clann an Drumma side-project but quickly came into their own. “Claymores”, from the 2006 eponymous debut album, is a lovely little thing about which I will be saying more when the band don’t find themselves getting a free ride.

#4 Fugazi, “Shut the Door”
vs.
#13 Patrick Droney, “Brighter Days”

New York City-based hard-rock guitarist Patrick Droney’s career got a couple of kicks in the pants from (a) part of his 2008 debut album The Other Side having been co-written by Breaking Benjamin’s Ben Burnley and (b) Droney being all of sixteen when it came out. “Brighter Days” is one of the album’s shining tracks, crunchy and soulful at the same time. But what can you do when you run into Fugazi other than bow and scrape? Washington, DC’s Fugazi are legends in the DIY scene, having arisen from the ashes of Minor Threat and Rites of Spring and proceeded to pump out album after album of pure-D post-hardcore goodness until they went on indefinite hiatus in 2003. And pretty much everything Fugazi ever put out is sterling, but when I want to listen to one Fugazi song, I always go to “Shut the Door”, the very first song of theirs I ever heard. It’s the final song on the original release of 1990’s Repeater, and it kind of loses some of its power on the re-release (which tacks on three songs); this is a great, great song to end an album with, full of fire and passion and despair and all the things music should be. It sails on through to Round Two.

Pretty sure that is not what the image was supposed to look like. I like it better than whatever the guy actually uploaded.

#6 Kirsty MacColl, “The Hardest Word”
vs.
#11 Aaron Martin, “Water Tongue”

Kirsty MacColl’s 1991 Electric Landlady is a very good album, though perhaps a touch overrated; there are a few pieces of it, however, that never quite worked for me, and I seem to have accidentally grabbed one of them. There’s a good deal of awkwardness in the phrasing and pronunciation of “The Hardest Word”’s chorus that had never really struck me before (seriously, you couldn’t have found a better way to fit the “goodbye” in there than what we got?). Which allows me to save my ranting about the brilliance of Aaron Martin for a later round; he gets a gimme here.

#3 Coil, “Slur”
vs.
#14 Hedningarna, “Räven”

One of the ten toughest matchups in Round One. British experimental rockers Coil were pretty much the only good thing to come from the ashes of Throbbing Gristle, and I seem to be the only person on the planet who found their output wildly inconsistent, but when they brought their A game to the table they wrote some of the best songs that came out of Britain between 1980 and 2004–”Heartworms”, “The Dreamer Is Still Asleep”, the entire Seasons cycle, “Ostia (The Death of Pasolini)”, the stuff with Judi Dench, and of course “Slur”, a compulsively danceable little number from 1986’s Horse Rotorvator featuring backing vocals by Marc Almond (Coil would cover “Tainted Love” a few years later; it became their biggest hit). They’re up against Swedish folk-rock heathens (no, seriously, the name means “The Heathens”, in the sense of “rebels”) Hedningarna, whose 1994 album Trä is one of the great Swedish folk-rock albums of all time (right up there with Garmarna’s Vittrad, released the same year). This was Hedningarna’s best lineup, at least for my money, with Tellu Paulasto’s fearsome vocal presence (she would depart in 1996). It’s Paulasto’s soaring choral vocals that really push this song into the stratosphere for me, but there’s not a note wrong anywhere; this is folk-rock at its absolute finest. This was a long, drawn-out battle, with these two tracks sitting side by side on my mp3 player for a couple of weeks and me going back and forth on which one should go on; both are very well-deserving, and both have the potential to make very deep runs. Eventually it was the vocals—and specifically, the variety in the vocals with the male-female interplay in “Räven”, that gave Hedningarna a victory by inches; Coil head for the sidelines.

Another fan-made vid… trust me on this one. NSFW unless you work in a morgue.

#7 Kiyoshi Mizutani, “Yabasume at Morou Shrine in Rain”
vs.
#10 Fonda, “The Lessons to Unlearn”

This one kept me going for a couple of weeks before I realized I was being silly. LA’s Fonda play very capable indie/alt-rock on 2001’s The Strange and the Familiar, whence this track, and I kept coming back to it over the space of a couple of weeks. Then I realized I needed to keep coming back to it because it simply wasn’t sticking in my head for any length of time, which is definitely not a quality I’m looking for in the best eighty minutes of music in my collection. You will be hearing a great deal about Kiyoshi Mizutani in coming weeks, but not for now, as he gets a free pass to Round Two.

#2 Nuclear Valdez, “Rising Sun”
vs.
#15 Firewater, “I Still Love You, Judas”

photo credit: last.fm

“We are totally not as pretentious as those dudes in Shora.”

What was it about CD-only bonus tracks that made them so attractive? I can’t believe bands actually sat down and looked at all the tracks they’d put together for an album and said “hey, this is the best, let’s make it a CD-only bonus track!” And yet so many CD-only bonus tracks are the best things on their albums. Case in point: “Rising Sun”, a bonus track from Miami ethno-rockers Nuclear Valdez’ 1989 debut album I Am I. That was a phenomenal piece of work from first to last, but “Rising Sun” had that little indefinable extra something, maybe a little extra reverb on the guitar line or just a little more plaintiveness in Froilan Sosa’s voice or… who knows? It’s up against “I Still Love You, Judas”, an equally-plaintive piece from New York City ethno-rockers Firewater, an ever-shifting collective formed by ex-Cop Shoot Cop vocalist Tod A. It comes from 1998’s The Ponzi Scheme, an album that often seems as if the band (which at the time included Tod’s Cop Shoot Cop bandmate David Ouimet, lending the album a distinctly…familiar….sound) were aiming pretty hard at being inaccessible and as radio-unfriendly as possible; “I Still Love You, Judas” is one of the few straight-ahead rock tracks on the disc, and it’s an absolute barrel of fun. When I originally saw this lineup, I was thinking it was going to go on easily, but when I actually sat down and listened to the two back to back, I was struck yet again by that ineffable something that makes “Rising Sun” such a piece of work. I still don’t know what it is, but it’s magic, and Nuclear Valdez, despite the RNG giving them such a high seeding, definitely spring an upset in this matchup.

{both mp32tube and tunestotube are being pains in the ass and HOW IS THIS SONG NOT ALREADY ON YOUTUBE?}

…and what a day it was, with the following emerging, bloodied but unbowed, ready to go back into the pit when asked to fight the following glorious battles:

EAST SUBDIVISION
#16 Steel Hook Prostheses, “Burning Out Their Eyes” vs. #9 Sofia Karlsson, “Spelar För Livet”
#12 The Replacements, “Red Red Wine” vs. #13 Poe, “Hey Pretty”
#6 Venom, “Possessed” vs. #3 The Clay People, “Shroud”
#7 Clan of Xymox, “Blind Hearts” vs. #2 Agua de Annique, “Beautiful One”

MIDWEST SUBDIVISION
#16 Axone, “Casus Belli” vs. #8 Clutch, “Ghost”
#12 Delain, “Babylon” vs. #4 Black Tusk, “Snake Charmer”
#11 Amaran, “As We Fly” vs. #3 Red House Painters, “Japanese to English”
#10 Accept, “London Leatherboys” vs. #2 Laura Shigihara, “Look Up at the Sky”

WEST SUBDIVISION
#1 The Mentors, “Sandwich of Love” vs. #9 Prick, “Communiqué”
#5 Machines of Loving Grace, “The Soft Collision” cs. #13 Muslimgauze, “Bhutto (Radio Rabbat Remix)”
#6 The Dream Academy, “The Love Parade” vs. #3 The Cure, “Shake Dog Shake”
#10 Del Amitri, “Food for Songs” vs. #2 The Scorpions, “Big City Nights”

SOUTH SUBDIVISION
#1 Shora, “The Never-Ending Exhale” vs. #8 Pink Floyd, “When the Tigers Broke Free”
#5 Albannach, “Claymores” vs. #4 Fugazi, “Shut the Door”
#11 Aaron Martin, “Water Tongue” vs. #14 Hedningarna, “Räven”
#7 Kiyoshi Mizutani, “Yabusame at Morou Shrine in Rain” vs. #2 Nuclear Valdez, “Rising Sun”

Two more divisions of Day One, and then things start getting really nasty…

Previous: Day 1H, West Subdivision
Next: Day 1I, East Subdivision

About Robert "Goat" Beveridge

Media critic (amateur, semi-pro, and for one brief shining moment in 2000 pro) since 1986. Guy behind noise/powerelectronics band XTerminal (after many small stints in jazz, rock, and metal bands). Known for being tactless but honest.

3 responses »

  1. Pingback: Desert Island Disc Day 1H: Africa Addio, West Subdivision | Popcorn for Breakfast

  2. Pingback: Desert Island Disc Day 1I: The Land of Rape and Honey, East Subdivision | Popcorn for Breakfast

  3. Pingback: Desert Island Disc Day 2H: Africa Addio, West/South Subdivisions | Popcorn for Breakfast

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