It’s weird to think that Elliott Smith’s solo stuff started out as a home-recorded side project to his main gig, Heatmiser, who would sign to Virgin Records in 1995. Ultimately, the solo work would eclipse the band but you might not have predicted that at the time.
Smith and Neil Gust were college pals and after they graduated they moved back to Portland and formed Heatmiser with Smith’s high school buddy Tony Lash on drums and Brandt Peterson on bass. They demoed “dozens of songs” in 1992 and self-released six of them on a cassette titled “The Music of Heatmiser” that they sold at shows and local record shops. And now Third Man Records is reissuing The Music of Heatmiser “on vinyl and streaming for the first time, along with 23 demos, live tracks, rare versions and never before released songs.” With the announcement Third Man has dug up a live video of “Lowlife” from a 1993 show in Fort Collins, Colorado.
It’s fun to hear young Elliott Smith rocking out and hollering. It’s two minutes of grungy Pacific Northwest juvenilia but there’s still a poppy sense of melody underneath and the band kicks ass.
Kurt Cobain and Thurston Moore loved the Raincoats, which signaled to the world that they were real feminists. Nineties feminism was cool because it was less about power dynamics and more about personal agency. Like, if a precocious sophomore wanted to bang her English professor, we just trusted her judgment…even while acknowledging that the prof was creepy.
Way before the nineties, inspired by the Slits, Ana da Silva and Gina Birch formed the Raincoats in London in 1977 and released their debut album in 1979. Their sound was weirder and freakier than their British boy band contemporaries like the Damned and the Clash. John Lydon has said, “The Raincoats offered a completely different way of doing things, as did X-Ray Spex and all the books about punk have failed to realise that these women were involved for no other reason than that they were good and original.” It’s not surprising that “girl bands” have been overlooked, but it is a bummer that needs to be corrected.
And now Raincoats bassist Gina Birch is putting out an album on Third Man Records. “I Play My Bass Loud” is the second single.
Moody new acoustic jam with spooky Mellotron and a creepy video to match wherein a Western wear garbed White drags his coffin across the prairie to his grave. Best part of the video is that it’s monochromatic so you can’t see Jack’s ridiculous blue hair. Doowutchyalike, of course, but what would inspire a grown man to dye his hair that color? Where’s Meg when you need her? She never would’ve tolerated nonsense like that.
Lego-man hair aside, Jack White usually has pretty good taste. He’s built his entire empire on the fact with his various Third Man enterprises. From the record label, to the store front, to his design studio, to his return to the day job with upholstery, Jack White has put his three-headed stamp on some pretty cool shit.
So it’s a little odd to hear what sounds like every Guitar Center’s sales guy’s worst nightmare of a song belching out as the first single of a promised two-album run. This song has everything: Big riffs, squelchy tones, freaky tremolo and keyboard banks from 1996. [End: Stefan skit]
Just the same, I’m looking forward to hearing more from Detroit’s estranged son. With two albums boasting 23 track between them, there’s bound to be some gems in among the rough cuts.
Fear of the Dawn is due out on April 8, 2022 with Entering Heaven Alive following on July 22.
Directed by Gilbert Trejo. Single out now on Third Man.
They’re from Los Angeles but don’t hold that against them. You can’t help where you’re born.
Third Man describes the Cash and Skye origin story: “In 2017, two teenage high school lovebirds who bonded over a love of classic country and rock n roll decided to write and record their own songs for the fun of it.” They are Henri Cash of Starcrawler and Sophia Skye, daughter of the bass player in Rilo Kiley and this is their first single.
Cash says, “I feel like a lot of people in their early 20s try really hard to act ‘all grown up’ or too cool and it sucks. ‘No More Candy’ is about our love for candy and fun.”
It does suck when kids don’t appreciate their youth, but that’s not what this song is about. “No More Candy” is about being far away from the person you love.
My brain can’t process these feelings
My heart can’t even break a beat
This life’s been stung by a bag of bees
That’s keeping you from me.
Those may not be the most coherent lyrics but you feel what they mean.
Hey look it’s a new animated video for “Apple Blossom” to promote the upcoming White Stripes Greatest Hits collection. And why not?
Originally released twenty years ago on De Stijl, “Apple Blossom” is a fan favorite that was performed on all the White Stripes tours following its release. When the band made its television debut on Detroit’s “Backstage Pass” in 2000, they played “Apple Blossom” and not the album’s single, “Hello Operator.” Jack has even dusted it off for some of his solo shows.
I’m not the intended audience for a White Stripes hits comp, but I’m all for them reissuing stuff to appeal to a new generation of fans. I remember being 18 and getting some silly new Velvet Underground collection that totally opened the doors for my impending fanaticism.
So I’m never going to criticize a kid for starting with a “best of” or slam a label for issuing one.
And The White Stripes Greatest Hitstrack list looks pretty cool. At least it contains a somewhat rare b-side (“Jolene”)… Although in the streaming era can something that is already available for streaming be consider rare? Probably not. So while this collection could just as easily be built as a playlist, I’m sure a bunch of folks will pick it up on vinyl and have a great listening experience with it. Plus, I’m sure Third Man will include some trappings in the physical release that will make it fun to own. And if that drives some people to dig deeper into the catalog? Better for everybody.
Today marks the release of The Stooges Live at Goose Lake 1970, a release so unlikely it kinda boggles the mind. Not only are there very few live recordings of The Stooges, but this particular recording of this particular performance is so drenched in legend that to even suggest there was a clean documentation of it sounds like a tall tale.
I’ve been very lucky to be friends with and play in a bunch of bands with Joshua Rogers. We met in the early 90s and quickly established a musical kinship that took us through dalliances with glam, mod, garage rock, Americana and beyond. Early on we dubbed him “Gadget,” not just for his love of technology but for his impeccable timing as a drummer. It’s almost as if he were designed to be a drummer–programmed, as such.
If you knew Joshua well in those days you also knew his dad in some way. Jim Cassily loved Josh’s musical projects and loved facilitating them however he could. In addition to being a king storyteller, Jim was an inventor with a specific interest in how rhythm has residual benefits relating to motor skills, balance and lots of other stuff I don’t understand. The Interactive Metronome became a key piece of his technological legacy, something Joshua knew well as his dad would have him clap along with a metronome as part of his learning the drums.
And the stories he would tell…Our early bands spent time recording with Josh’s dad and that meant hours of exposure to the various tales he would weave throughout the process of setting up for a recording session. I was a natural skeptic in my youth and basically considered “adults” to be full of shit. Especially Boomers who took any opportunity to tell us how much better everything was in their day, so I was probably more dismissive to his storytelling than I had any right to be.
“Dad was such a legendary bullshitter that it was hard to sort of keep the stories straight,” Josh joked in a recent call where we caught up on this crazy adventure.
As a kid it was sometimes hard for Josh to discern fact from his dad’s colorful fiction. “Friends laughed at me because I told them he was a member of the Oak Ridge Boys.” This bit of fantasy was likely the result of Josh’s conflating some joke Jim may have told him about having sung with the Oak Ridge Boys and the fact that he could sing in the same register to hit the most famous part of their most famous hit, “Elvira.” When you’re a kid sometimes you miss the nuances of a joke.
There were also brushes with fame that would sometimes get jumbled up in the telling or retelling. “I thought he had dated Janis Joplin, but mom says no. He–like everyone else–thought she was scuzzy. He did work with her though, but I’m not sure to what capacity. And he did date Debbie Harry.”
“Mom jokes that he chose her over Debbie Harry. That’s what he would tell her.”
“Eventually, I started to take dad’s stories with a big hunk of salt.”
The Stooges’ performance at Goose Lake was pure rock and roll myth. It was the last show with the original line-up. Bassist Dave Alexander was summarily fired from the band by Iggy immediately after leaving the stage because he was so stoned or scared or whatever that he couldn’t play. At least, that’s how the story went.
But at what point does a story become history? Sometimes it’s just when it’s been told enough times by enough people and sometimes it’s when there’s some corroborating evidence. Such is the tale of how a box of tapes in a farmhouse basement in Michigan made its way to Nashville, via Chicago.
Directed by Brad Holland. From Dear Life, out now on Third Man.
Brendan Benson’s got a lot of cool gear in his home studio in Nashville. Which is a good thing during stay-at-home orders, right? Lots of fun toys to keep you busy.
The last time we checked in on Benson he was telling that it was good to be alive. And now he’s sharing a couple verses about people who are barely hanging on.
Some days, it comes over me
And I can barely breathe
All this fury pressing down on me
I don’t ever want to leave
It’s got me hanging on
To dear life
“There’s something about this record,” Benson says. “A friend of mine called it ‘life-affirming.’ I thought it was a joke at first but then realized, well, it’s about life and death for sure. I don’t know if that’s positive or optimistic or whatever, but that’s what’s going on with me.”
Directed by Ben Chappell. From Dear Life, due April 24 on Third Man.
Fresh off the heels of the third Raconteurs album, Brendan Benson is back with his seventh solo album. The first single sounds a little less rock than his previous stuff but that’s not so bad. There’s some deliberately noticeable autotune on the vocals that’s a little disconcerting at first but it works with the synth tones of the bass and programmed drums.
The video features rollerskating and dancing with a horse. And why not?
And I’ve been searching for that hunger
That I knew when I was younger
When I was never satisfied.
Now my body’s getting older
But my brain is aging slower
And I feel young inside.
This is a sentiment that a lot of middle-aged dudes can attest to. I’m about the same age as Benson and it’s weird to be in this spot where you look in the mirror and think, Who the hell is the old guy and how’d he get into my bathroom? Getting old sucks balls, no doubt about it, but as Benson suggests in the chorus, it’s certainly better than the alternative.
Brendan Benson writes his own “Tuesday’s Gone” while he and his fellow Raconteurs visit the House On The Rock in Spring Green, Wisconsin, which looks a lot cooler than Uranus, Missouri. Last spring we took a family road trip on what’s left of Route 66 from Chicago to the Grand Canyon and I had purchased a little guidebook to make sure we didn’t miss out on any of the cool stuff along the way. One of the spots was a place called Uranus, which had a fudge shop, and since one of my travel companions was a 12 year old boy, I figured we had to stop at least to get a “I love Uranus” t-shirt. They claimed, after all, that the best fudge comes from Uranus.
Guess what: Uranus stinks.
As soon as we got out of the car we were hit by a dank cloud of cigarette smoke. It was so disappointing. I went in thinking that there had been a town in Missouri that was called Uranus and some hilarious person decided to open a fudge shop there. Nope. There is no town named Uranus. The closest town is St. Robert. It’s just a tourist attraction that a former strip club operator started in 2002. That’s way less funny than doing it in a historical place with an unfortunate name. And it certainly doesn’t belong in a “things to do along Route 66” book. It was just gross. The idea that somebody developed a whole fake town just so his employees would have to greet their customers with “Thanks for picking Uranus!” is a little creepy.
I enjoy scatological humor as much as the next guy, even if the next guy is 12, but Uranus is a poorly executed shithole. Maybe that’s part of the joke. If so, that’s some next level meta action.
The House On The Rock, on the other hand, looks amazing.