Mars Will Send No More enters its eighth year this month, and this blog’s focus has always been on comic books, art, and music. So, let’s have some music. And let’s have it loud.
These two tracks are from a pair of live performances in 2002 in Depot Town, a small commercial/arts area in Ypsilanti, Michigan. I’d love to release them on an album, but I don’t want to mess with obtaining commercial rights to sell my versions of the original songs. So, here they are, free of charge.
The first is a cover of I Had a Chance by Morphine. I kept the lyric but re-tooled the music. Click to listen or download the MP3.
The second is a medley of two songs: Cactus by the Pixies, and The Letter by Joe Cocker. I took some liberties with the key and the chords. Click to listen or download the MP3.
Though I’ve never been a talented singer, I had a lot of fun in 2002 as a ‘solo act’ with my old Epiphone acoustic guitar, playing and singing in galleries, record stores, and other low-key venues. I still have her, though she’s worn from years of use and abuse, and the top is cracked from banging on it like a drum during an overly enthusiastic performance of Had My Chance. A couple years ago, I took her apart, painted her black, and reassembled her, and now she sounds about as good as she ever did.
The two concerts took place at Dreamland Theater and a record store across the street, whose name I can’t recall. They were recorded by Craig Baker, who passed away a year or two later. He was a regular on the same open mic circuit I frequented, and we had many great conversations about life, art, and music. I’m grateful that he volunteered for the job, because I’d have no record of these shows if not for his generosity.
Drive is a song by The Cars, and I recorded this instrumental version in the living room at my old place, on a sunny afternoon with heavy traffic outside. The car noise seemed to fit the theme.
Listen or Download the MP3: https://app.box.com/s/gv0bl75qgvooosetgaolgnosxh5gjs9q
About ten years ago, this track appeared on a limited edition CD of maybe 100 copies, an album recorded with friends and sold at a CD release party. I haven’t made it available anywhere since.
These three audio collages are comprised of song samples chopped up, layered, and re-arranged using only the free software Audacity. They were inspired by an old friend who made mix tapes in the 1980s (and more recently, mix CDs) by stringing together only the most awesome few seconds of each of 99 songs.
My versions of that idea are relentless assaults of drum fills, guitar riffs, screams, beats, memorable lines, and other madness arranged in a way that might only make sense to me but which you might also find kind of groovy.
Click the titles to listen to the mp3 files. Download them if you like.
Last year I sent copy of the Meteor Mags: Omnibus Edition to a band whose albums I listened to approximately one million times while writing the story Voyage of the Calico Tigress. Mags and her crew, including space monkeys and telepathic octopuses, do an impromptu performance of one of Snail’s songs. In return, I received a note saying, “This is the coolest thing ever,” which made me smile. I’m glad the guys got a kick out of it. Here are some other albums in heavy rotation in the writing lab.
Unida: El Coyote.
If the Internet is to be believed, Unida’s final album was never released by their record label, but was eventually made available directly to fans at concerts. It is often found on the web with different titles, but I like El Coyote. Singer John Garcia, formerly of the legendary Kyuss, is Mags’ favorite vocalist, and references to his various projects pepper her stories like buckshot.
Hell Camino: Hell Camino.
I usually listen to this album back-to-back with its follow-up, Orange Lily.
Wo Fat: Noche del Chupacabra.
Wo Fat convinced me that C minor is the heaviest key of all time. They are the reason I got a baritone electric guitar to tune to Drop C. My favorite songs on this album are Common Ground and Descent into the Maelstrom, the latter of which shares a title with a totally different yet amazingly ass-kicking song by Australia’s Radio Birdman. You really can’t go wrong with any Wo Fat album. Psychedelonaut slays with tunes like Analog Man, and The Black Code is a masterpiece with Hurt at Gone and Sleep of the Black Lotus, a title I believe to be inspired by my favorite Conan story Queen of the Black Coast, about a female pirate.
Orange Goblin: Time Travelling Blues.
I never heard an album I didn’t like from Orange Goblin, but this is the one that stays in heavy rotation. From the rumbling drum riff that opens to album to the closing song that shares the album’s title, it’s such a hefty slab of rock and roll that I usually listen to it twice in a row. The title song’s declaration “We own the sky” has become a recurring motif in Mags’ stories, and her band covers it in their concert in Blind Alley Blues.
Black Angels: Passover.
I attended a Black Angels concert last October in downtown Phoenix, and the music was so simultaneously heavy and beautiful. These cats annihilate me. The band hails from Austin, Texas, but I first heard them courtesy of the Europeans who run my other favorite Internet radio station, GRRR Radio. GRRR Radio’s streaming URL is: http://pstnet5.shoutcastnet.com:50390 This album doesn’t have what is perhaps my favorite Black Angels song, Currency, but it’s damned amazing all the way through. Black Grease and Bloodhounds on My Trail are my faves on this one.
My father died two years ago today, after a long bout with cancer that spread from his spleen to eventually his brain and his whole body. Dad and I did not agree on most things, and my teens were times of conflict, to put it mildly. But in my twenties, we were able to put most of that behind us and just hang out.
Dad never understood my love for playing guitar until I was in my thirties. Then one day, he started sending me emails asking about mandolins—and I’m an easy target for anyone and everyone who has questions about music theory and stringed instruments. I don’t know exactly what turned him on to the mandolin, but soon he got into guitar. Our relationship reached a turning point after he got his first guitar and told me, “Now I get why you were into this.”
All I could say was, “It’s pretty awesome, isn’t it?”
By then, we were separated by great geographical distance. But when I would visit, Dad stocked the refrigerator with beer and tuned up his growing collection of guitars, and we would play together for hours. I would show him a few techniques and answer his theory questions, and we played from charts he had for country and worship music he liked.
By the time I got into my forties, Dad’s arthritis made it increasingly difficult for him to play. But he still loved buying guitars, and trading them in later for other models, and getting on Internet forums to discuss gear, and trying new types of strings. He often performed at his church, accompanying his impressively deep bass voice with his ever-growing arsenal of acoustic guitars.
It was a massive about-face from his discouraging attitude toward my love of something which, for twenty years, had basically defined my entire life: playing the guitar. He eventually told me why he was so antagonistic toward my interest, and the reason is probably too personal to blog about. The important point is this: he eventually changed his tune.
Perhaps my fondest memories of Dad are the ones we created over a 12-pack of beer and 12 vibrating strings, jamming in unison. He never got to the level he wanted to with the instrument, but he kept trying and learning and improving. At the age of 44, I can tell you that journey never ends. One day, you pick up the axe, and something changes inside you. You’re never the same afterwards.
It was a pleasure jamming you with, Dad.
2016 was, among other things, a year of musical discovery. And few songs I found in that time make me as happy every time I listen to them as Galaxies Lament by Snail. Snail’s album Blood has become one of my all-time favorites, but this one comes from Terminus.
Pick up a copy from the band: https://snailhq.bandcamp.com/track/galaxies-lament
And here’s the jam on YouTube:
Galaxy, will you wake up from sorrow?
Quarks weeping from the heart of a proton.
Cold tears in the endless expansion.
Small voices in the heliosphere…
How can you sleep so good,
hosting your incubi?
End your solar eclipse of the sun
to flee the waking dream.
Here are a few more tunes in heavy rotation at Martian HQ. Crank it up!
Long live the glorious island republic of Scandinavia. They make some awesome music there. What’s that you say? You can’t find it on a map? Then try this one.
I started to get a clue about what a Scandinavia is right about the time I first heard Hoven Droven’s tune SlentBjenn. Taking the energy of a rock band, adding fiddle and saxophone, and drawing on folk material, Hoven Droven lays down some seriously heavy grooves with beautiful melodies.
Below, you will see scans of their album Groove, which you can score on Amazon, and the first Nordic Roots sampler that features one of their tunes. If you want to get totally Scandinavian, Nordic Roots put out a second and third sampler of awesome bands from the region.
In 1962, Art Blakey recorded The African Beat not with his quintessentially swinging Jazz Messengers but a percussion ensemble. Yusef Lateef, who also recorded modern jazz albums using Asian and African ideas, joins the ensemble. The result is a sumptuously rhythmic album that often gets overlooked, perhaps due to its defiance of easy categorization.
Nat Hentoff’s liner notes give a brief but enlightening explanation of the music’s sources and the musicians’ cultural backgrounds. I recommend The African Beat for fans of jazz, percussion, “world” music, and African music. Fans of jazz/rock fusions and prog rock might also like this album, if they want to expand their listening into some other types of musical fusion.
While patiently waiting for our 1-in-2500 limited edition album The Gate to arrive this week from the sonic headquarters of Swans, we went looking for other extended psychedelic monster jams.
And that’s how we ended up with a massive musical marathon courtesy of Germany’s Electric Moon. This guitar-bass-drums trio, formed in 2009, has been playing festivals all over Europe and releasing many mind-blowing albums in the process. Here are three of our favorites so far.
This is the first one we listened to, and we were hooked.
This one incorporates synth sounds, and has a more driving, upbeat vibe.
This video has some cool space imagery to go with the jams.
P.S. Yes, The Gate did finally arrive on Saturday. With three of its songs clocking in around 30 minutes each, it is a supremely awesome sonic experience of pure Swans power.
After listening approximately a gazillion times to the Motor Dolls album we posted twelve days ago, we had to pick up this one, too. Burning Memories is the second and final solid slab of Detroit rock and roll from this trio, the stand-out cuts being “You Want It” and “Nailed to the Cross”. Several people have told us to include “Power” in that list, too, though the whole album is a veritable non-stop blaze of straight-up rock fury. You can find it on Amazon as Motor Dolls: Burning Memories, and it is usually selling for about half the price of Motor Dolls: All Fired Up.
One of the songs on this 1996 album, “Hangover”, appeared two years later on a compilation called Motor City’s Burnin’ 1: 1968-1998. That disc places the Motor Dolls right alongside legendary acts like the MC5 and The Stooges, and other hard-rocking southeast Michigan bands of the mid-90s like Big Chief. We think after hearing this album you will agree that placement was well-deserved.
As a teenager, the only thing I knew about Swans was that Henry Rollins loved them. It wasn’t until my early 20s, when I was at the radio station, that I had a chance to listen to one of their albums. I found their brutal approach to noise interesting, but I couldn’t get into it. That was a little over 20 years ago.
But a couple years ago, after a breakup period, Swans began releasing new work. They made their album To Be Kind available to listen to for free, so I checked it out. This time around, Swans blew my mind. They followed it up with The Seer, an album which included several monumental jams clocking in at 19, 23, and 32 minutes – and all of it pure power.
The six videos in this post were recorded (not by me) at Crescent Ballroom in Phoenix on 13 April, 2015. I’ve been to hundreds upon hundreds of concerts in my life, from piano concertos to free jazz to punk rock. This concert stands out as one of the most amazing.
Once upon a time I lived in Michigan and held a copy of this awesome album in my hands as a volunteer DJ at the college radio station WCBN. But that was 20 years ago, and the album has been out of print for some time. So, this month I got a copy from Germany. Yeah, Germany! eBay is an amazing thing.
At WCBN, we had a section of the massive CD and vinyl library dedicated to local music. You could find on that shelf so many great bands from Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, Detroit, and all over Michigan. But, it was not that special shelf that introduced me to Motor Dolls, though I would often pull this disc from the shelf to play on the air.
No, I had a friend who was into this band, and we went to Detroit together many times to catch their shows. Motor Dolls could seriously throw down in concert, and we always had fun. So you know what? Instead of recouping my cost by putting it back into the eBay market, I’ll just send him this disc in today’s outgoing mail. He’ll get a kick out of it.
The Motor Dolls t-shirt I bought at one of their shows was one of my favorite pieces of clothing ever, and I wore it until the damn thing practically disintegrated and fell off my body. I haven’t loved a shirt like that in a long time. And you know what? This album sounds even better to me than it did 20 years ago. It would go well in a set with L7, Mensen, and Bikini Kill, for starters, along with Ann Arbor/Detroit legends Big Chief, Easy Action, Speedball, and Wig.
If you want to hear this great little slab of mid-90s Detroit rock, you can buy it on Amazon. Currently, the lowest price is around $20. Feel free to hate me for picking up the only available copy on eBay for less than $10, even including shipping from Germany.
And, don’t forget to pick up the Motor Dolls: Burning Memories album, too! (That one, you can currently obtain for less than $10 including shipping to the USA.) These two albums have never, to my knowledge, been made available as “official” downloads.
Here’s a Motor Dolls video from singer/guitarist Paula Messner’s YouTube channel. The jam is “You Want It” and appears on the Burning Memories album. Paula was a bad-ass frontwoman, and her rhythm section (Monic on drums and Dana on bass) was a powerhouse. Where are they now? I honestly don’t know. But their rock lives on.
This album is available on Amazon as Jimi Hendrix: Voodoo Soup. Though you can currently find CD or even cassette versions, Amazon does not yet have it available as an MP3 download. Numerous Amazon customers have rated it four and five stars and written reams of praise. So let us simply say, we concur. It is truly awesome.
When Voodoo Soup came out in the mid 1990s, Hendrix fans had fewer posthumous releases of quality than we do now. This and Rykodisc’s stellar album of Radio One BBC recordings, later released in expanded form as the BBC Sessions two-CD set, were among the finest. Few if any of the recordings released since then can match these two recordings for sound quality, energetic performance, song selection, and production choices. Even songs released on The Cry of Love receive superior post-production on Voodoo Soup, and in our opinion sound more like what Hendrix would have aimed for in final mixes than most other “posthumously completed” compilations.
We scanned the CD booklet, including the complete 19-page essay on the context and production of the songs, for our archives, and share it with you now. As our CD copy had a cut out on the front cover, we did not scan the artwork by Moebius, but you can easily find that in any product listing for this album.
Sonic’s Rendezvous issued this live recording from 1978 twenty years later in 1998. It features the late Fred “Sonic” Smith of the MC5, Scott Asheton of The Stooges, Gary Rasmussen of The Up, and Scott Morgan of The Rationals. It’s a bit of a who’s who of Ann Arbor rock and roll legends.
Though we can’t recall exactly when and where we purchased this disc in Ann Arbor in 1998, it might have been at one of Scott Morgan’s live shows. We caught him once at a basement party in the house of a friend from the radio station (WCBN), and perhaps once or twice at Club Heidelberg. If there is any doubt as to whether or not Scott Morgan’s blues-driven rock guitar impressed us, the not-so-subtle handwriting on the last page of the booklet should clear that up. It looks like we added our own graphics to Fred’s guitar on the cover, too.
Despite our enthusiastic vandalism, this album remains a favorite memento of Ann Arbor’s rocking musical history. Check it out. You can find it on Amazon in CD, MP3 (only $8.99), or vinyl as Sonic’s Rendezvous Sweet Nothing.
Note: Since the release of this album, more material from Sonic’s Rendezvous has come out of the archives. They are not all filed in the same place as this album on Amazon, but under “Sonic’s Rendezvous Band.”
Although you can now download these two albums in mp3 versions which sound better than my old cassettes, I’ve held on to them sentimentally. They are among my favorite hard rock albums of the 1980s, along with 13 Songs by Fugazi, Bleach by Nirvana, and Louder than Love by Soundgarden.
I don’t have any certification or evidence that Henry Rollins really did sign this copy of Do It. I can’t prove its authenticity. But I can tell you that in the mid-to-late 1990s in the rock-and-roll blur that was my twenties, I was in Ann Arbor, Michigan. I heard Rollins come and speak at the amazing Michigan Theatre several times. On one of his tours, he did a book signing right across the street at the Borders bookstore. I went to that signing and asked him to sign my copy of Do It, which was and still is my favorite Rollins Band album.
The inlay to the Screaming Trees tape has obvious wear. You can see the dirt and what appears to be moisture damage to the paper. That’s exactly what it is, and the same goes for the Do It inlay. I never spilled anything on these but they did endure some humid and inclement weather in my old truck when I was travelling back and forth across the country for 15 years as if there was actually something out there worth driving to. Now I am a cynical old bastard who doesn’t even have a cassette player.
The last time I played these tapes was 2009. I played them on a dual cassette deck with a USB output and digitized them into glorious mp3 files. Yeah, it was kind of a waste of time since I could download them now from Amazon or something, but it verified they play. Since then, for six years, they have been stored indoors, free from inclement weather, on my bookshelves with the rest of my pirate treasure. ARRGH! You can see there is a little wear to the text on the cassettes, but you can easily read all the song titles and stuff, and the tapes themselves are in amazingly clean and solid shape for being more than 20 or 30 years old now.
“It’s a one way ride to the end of the universe.” – Mark Lanegan
Sub Pop put out a limited edition EP from the Screaming Trees – at gas stations, as one reviewer recalls, and perhaps through their subscription-based mail-order service of the late 1980s. The songs on Change has Come are five of the Trees’ best. But somehow they missed making it onto either of the Screaming Trees collections: Anthology the SST Years 1985-1989 and Ocean of Confusion 89-96. At the time of this writing, no one has seen fit to issue official mp3 downloads for them! The compact disk retains its status as a rarity.
For many years, no one wanted to sell their copy. But, the global Internet marketplace has expanded greatly since this album came out. In the last ten years, it has become regularly available in the $20 to $40 range: Screaming Trees Change Has Come EP.
Amazon claims a date of 1994 on this, but we remember listening to it many years before that. Perhaps a German release came out in 1989 on vinyl, with a CD pressing for the USA in 1991. Our best friend’s brother had a copy we never saw, but we heard our friend’s cassette copy dubbed from that unidentified source.
Do you think you have the definitive proof of the correct release date? We’d love to hear from you then! Comment, please! And now, archival photos & scans, including the original shrink wrap!