It was 44 years ago today…

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Well, 44 years and two months, April 23, 1973. Another birthday, another record album…from my cousins who I guess wanted to make sure my measly record collection at least contained the most iconic rock ‘n’ roll album of all-time. And so six years after everyone else, I’m sitting in my room listening to The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band for the first time on my little plastic phonograph, all but blinded by the bright red back cover as I try to follow the song lyrics.

sgt pepper side 1

Starting with the title track (completely new to me and in that fun/goofy Beatles vein a la “Yellow Submarine”), I’m off on a wild, no-space-between-songs journey – supposedly the first album ever made with no spaces between songs. A big applause-filled blast-off and suddenly it’s “With a Little Help from My Friends” – the “hit” that I’ve definitely heard before, most likely as a schmaltzy, television-variety-show rendition. “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” I recognize from a Muppets segment on Sesame Street. More new stuff follows, “Getting Better” and “Fixing a Hole,” both fine, optimistic tunes with perfect Beatles arrangements…then the melancholy “She’s Leaving Home,” which only a week or two before was a discussion subject in ninth-grade English class. And winding up side one, the magnificent “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!” – my immediate favorite with its unconventional circus calliope sounds.

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Side two brings on the rather lengthy “Within You, Without You” – with Indian instrumentation galore and without standard pop/rock fare…right into the jovial “When I’m Sixty-Four,” another fairly familiar tune from TV somewhere. “Lovely Rita” – never heard that one before but what a great piano solo…and dig that swirly psychedelic ending! A rooster signals the offbeat “Good Morning, Good Morning,” a barrage of barnyard animals transforms into the “Sgt. Pepper” reprise, and finally, the other lengthy one, “A Day in the Life.” What a story there…about car crashes, war films, daydreaming, and holes. And that crazy crescendo at the very end! Yikes!

Today these songs to me conjure up images and memories not of the proverbial 1967 Summer of Love, but of the equally-proverbial 1973 Summer of…what, Watergate? And lo and behold, here we are, on the 50th anniversary of the album’s actual, official appearance, poised to enter the (probably proverbial someday) 2017 Summer of…Trumpgate. Which brings us to a day in the life of President Tweet:

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Woke up, fell out of bed,
Dragged a comb across my head



Trump audience
It’s wonderful to be here
It’s certainly a thrill
You’re such a lovely audience



Trump nothing to say (


I’ve got nothing to say but it’s okay



Trump correct! (


And it really doesn’t matter if I’m wrong, I’m right




Trump friends (


Oh, I get by with a little help from my friends




Album images courtesy,,; Trump images courtesy,,,,

Lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

New music road trip!

family-road-trip ( the windows, wipe the oil, or whatever the Allman Brothers used to say… It’s time for the Schizomusica Summer Tour with stops at the hometowns of some noteworthy, newly- or soon-to-be-released music:

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Let’s start this journey off right here at home, with a band from my birthplace of Long Island, and with a real road trip theme song: “Traveler”! That song was already reviewed back in February, but now The Walk-A-Bout (notice the extra hyphen now) has brought-a-bout their 6-song mini-album, loaded with even more of Kevin Anderson’s sublime guitar stylings and Darren Sullivan’s hearty, heartfelt vocals. All held together with the rhythmic glue of bassist Mike Perrotta and drummer Drew Bertrand. Add to that the funky catchiness of “Broken Past” and “Shakin’ It Up,” the luxurious keyboard streaming through “Look at the Moon,” the majestic melodies and subtle percussion of “On the Bay,” the swaying rhythm and eerie sound effects (produced by a didgeridoo, an Australian wind instrument, played by Aussie guy Sullivan) of “Fortune Favors the Brave,” and you have one hell of an intense and enjoyable recording.

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Spinto band-niceandnicelydone (

Hoppin’ on down to exotic Wilmington, Delaware…say hello to the Spinto Band and a new expanded double vinyl LP (!) release of 2005’s Nice and Nicely Done, the group’s first album. This is high-energy, quirky pop at its finest, taking the 60s (Beatles and Beach Boys hooks and harmonies), 70s (10cc twists and turns, Sparks theatrics), and 80s (those disquieting vocals of The Cure’s Robert Smith), and tossing it all into the twenty-first-century meat grinder that extruded The Strokes, Franz Ferdinand, and The Killers, with a seasoning of cute instrumentation like kazoos and ukulele. Check out first single/video “Oh Mandy.” The “expanded” part of the new package is 12 previously-unreleased bonus tracks/b-sides, featuring exploratory stuff like “When Things Are Placid,” “My Special Car,” the brilliant “Tractor,” and the fun, funky “People I Know.” The Spinto band (band name courtesy singer/guitarist Nick Krill’s grandfather Roy Spinto) will be at Rough Trade NYC on July 29 – great band, great venue.

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Vanessa Collier ( stop, Clarksville, Maryland (by way of Boston’s Berklee College of Music)…here’s saxophonist Vanessa Collier. Vocalist and songwriter too (and keyboards and flute), her album Meeting My Shadow shows that off in eleven big, fat boilin’ pots of blues. Hot ‘n’ heavy numbers like “Dig A Little Deeper” and “Two Parts Sugar, One Part Lime” share the bill with slow-simmering soul (“You’re Gonna Make Me Cry”), hyper-gospel (“Up Above My Head, I Hear Music in the Air”), and haunting delta-blues (“Poisoned the Well,” “When It Don’t Come Easy”). Plus a cover of U2’s “When Love Comes To Town.” But of course…the original from 1988 featured Mr. B.B. King…and it’s the peak of the album, with Collier finally letting loose with that steaming sax.

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King James & the Special Men ( into the city of New Orleans…look, it’s King James & The Special Men with their debut Act Like You Know. Here’s a six-pack of 1950s-style southern R&B smothered in a spicy 2017 sauce: opener and theme-song “Special Man Boogie” chugs along with Latin-flavored percussion; slow-cookin’ blues rules on “Baby Girl” and “Tell Me (What You Want Me To Do)”; horns-a-plenty do the work on “Eat That Chicken”; and Bo Diddley comes crashing back to life on the 14-minute grand finale “9th Ward Blues.” And hosting the party is the hard-boiled voice of founder/singer/guitarist Jimmy Horn, a legend of sorts who bounced around the country as a kid from Utah to Illinois to Washington State to Pennsylvania, finally landing in New Orleans. Talk about a road trip…

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Slim Cessna ( out west to Denver, Colorado…behold “gothabilly” outfit Slim Cessna’s Auto Club. 2017 sees the re-release of their album Cipher, an explosion of alterna-Americana that takes the Wall of Voodoo sound (remember them?), injects it with some Jesus juice, and then hurls it off a crag high in the Colorado Rockies. Listen to “This Land Is Our Land Redux,” “Americadio,” “Children of the Lord,” or the zany “Magalina Hagalina Boom Boom,” and – if you were a new wave music fan in the early 80s – images of Wall of Voodoo vocalists Stan Ridgway and/or Andy Prieboy oughta go flying by. Other highlights include the glam-rock-infused “Red Pirate of the Prairie” and the jumpy folk-song-gone-haywire “Ladies in the Know.” Formed in 1992, Slim Cessna’s Auto Club (often acronym-ed SCAC) consists of Slim Cessna, Jay Munly, and an eclectic handful of other musicians who have come and gone through the years; Cipher was originally unleashed in 2008 on the Jello Biafra-founded label Alternative Tentacles.

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Heather Trost ( destination, the alluring Albuquerque, New Mexico…meet violinist/vocalist – and one half of American/Turkish/Balkan/indie/folk (what?) duo A Hawk and a HacksawHeather Trost. Her first full-length album Agistri (named after a Greek Island) is a collection of eight surreal song sculptures…Stereolab fans take note…heavy on the vintage synths…with a 60s-70s-psychedelic sensibility…and Trost’s mellifluous voice, sometimes proclaiming lyrical lines like “Watching the moon go up and down with the waves” and “Thunder clouds roll over the mesa” (“Agistri”), sometimes blending into the mix as an angelic instrument (“Abiququ,” “Plastic Flowers”), other times doing both (“Agina,” “Real Me_Real You”), and on one track, not there at all, letting the sonorous synthesizers shine through (“Bloodmoon”). And don’t miss the lovely rendition of Harry Nilsson’s “Me and My Arrow.” Drums and bass by Trost’s partner in A Hawk and a Hacksaw, Jeremy Barnes; guitar by Deerhoof’s John Dieterich.

Ok, what’s the best part of going away? Coming home!

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images courtesy,,,,,,,,

Sing loudly and carry a big shtick! Russell Wolinsky and Walter Lure

Max's-front-daytime (maxskansascity.orgOn May 25-27 the Bowery Electric hosted another rock ‘n’ roll extravaganza, this time a three-night “Max’s Kansas City Festival” – dedicated to the legendary NYC venue that existed from 1965 to 1981, and its equally legendary performers. On tap for night number one: a roster of acts, both new and old, two of which easily fall into the “legendary” category: The Sic F*cks and The Waldos. Starring two of the greatest punk rock front-men of all-time – two guys who not only know how to rock, but how to entertain. Performers who can make you dance one minute and laugh out loud the next: Russell Wolinsky, co-founder and lead singer of outrageous comic-punks The Sic F*cks, and Walter Lure, co-founder and guitarist of proto-punk band The Heartbreakers and, more recently, leader of The Waldos.

Russell 1         Walter 2The Sic F*cks (truly living up to their name at every performance, even now) were formed in 1977 by Bronx-born Wolinsky and sisters Eileen and Tish Bellomo – better known as Tish and Snooky and who had briefly been backup singers in Blondie. Recruiting a gaggle of guys who took stage names like Dick String, Bob Hopeless, Stink (the bassist – poking fun at Sting), and Harry Viderci (as in Italian for goodbye – haha), they were soon appearing regularly at Max’s and CBGB. Fun, tasteless numbers like “Insects Rule My World,” “Rock Or Die,” “Teenage Abortion,” “Spanish Bar Mitzvah,” and “Chop Up Your Mother” – coupled with wacky (to say the least) costumes and props (like Tish and Snooky’s coat hanger, plunger, and two-headed baby doll on “Teenage Abortion”) made their performances an evening to, uh, remember. And still do! A few of those songs even made it onto vinyl in 1982 on…ready?…Sozyamuda Records. Oy vey.

Russell 2

Meanwhile, Walter Lure formed The Heartbreakers with ex-New York Doll Johnny Thunders in 1975, and the band existed on and off (with numerous gigs at Max’s of course) until shortly before Thunders’ death in 1991. Lure and a few of the later Heartbreakers members re-named themselves The Waldos (after Walter’s occasional nickname), continued making noise in and around NYC, and in 1994 released an album, Rent Party. Nowadays the Waldos experience is bookended by Japanese axemen Ichiuji Takanori (aka EZ) on bass and Takto Nakai on guitar, drummer Joe Rizzo propelling everything along in the back…and master-of-ceremonies Mr. Lure providing off-the-cuff commentary between signature tunes “Damn Your Soul,” “Cry Baby,” “Sorry,” and Heartbreakers staples “One Track Mind,” “Chinese Rocks,” “Get Off the Phone,” “Let Go,” “Sad Vacation,” and “Too Much Junkie Business.”

Walter 1

And like some of the great entertainers of yore (Frankie S. anyone?), both Russell and Walter appear onstage in classy, if trashy, jacket-and-hat motifs (orange-ish jackets for both this evening), peppering their bands’ sets with corny jokes and hilarious anecdotes. Advice for lead singers everywhere: Sing loudly…and carry a big shtick!

Max’s photo courtesy
Videos courtesy YouTube/Alan Rand, YouTube/Nanchanger
Band photos by me


* Correction to the May 21 post:  the band in Vinyl was called the Nasty Bits (not the Naughty Bits).

Poems and punk (and Steely Dan drunk): The Kim Rancourt Experience!

What if Blue Oyster Cult’s bassist, Sonic Youth’s drummer, one of Captain Beefheart’s crew of guitarists, and a noted musician-archivist-producer all ganged up and made noise behind a singer? And what if the singer was once in that early 1990s NYC underground band with a name that sounds more like a line from a song than a band name, When People Were Shorter and Lived Near the Water? And what if they recorded an album of ten retro-punk-ish, definitively NYC underground creations? You would end up with plum plum, the new debut by Kim Rancourt.

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The aforementioned musician-archivist-producer (of Sonic Youth, Hole, Teenage Fanclub, Joan Jett, Nancy Sinatra, Alice Cooper, The Posies, The Dictators, etc., etc.), Don Fleming, assembled the band – Joe Bouchard, Steve Shelley and Gary Lucas – and, with frontman/lyricist Rancourt, has conjured up something schizomusical that sounds like Johnny Thunders reciting Zen poetry one minute, an off-kilter version of Steely Dan the next, and the best primitive, Stooges/Velvets-emulating garage band you ever heard just about every minute. And no, the band is not called the Kim Rancourt Experience. In fact, they’re not called anything (although on their Soundcloud page they’re named KimRancourtandtheDreamBand – ok, that fits).

Mr. Rancourt and friends get the party started in fine, whiney, Johnny Thunders style with “Walking the Trashline”…but with Johnny sitting cross-legged holding a flower and instructing, “The easy way can sometimes be the only way to see.” Somehow that works – the beats, the hippies, the punks… Then it’s off to a Stooges garage rehearsal and a song about circles and other shapes (“Circle’s Gotta Go”), and a dark brooder (gotta have at least one of those) entitled “Three Dimes” that features some dark, brooding guitarplay by Lucas and Fleming.

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Poppy drums are next, signaling the bouncy love song “Claudine” and a chorus that brings to mind…some lost Steely Dan number recorded at 4 a.m. while Fagen and Becker were, uh, under the influence. On “I Kissed Pat Place” Rancourt recalls his exploits involving the no wave artist/Bush Tetras guitarist, then it’s back to the poetry corner with the eerie, echoey “Hail” and the wild “Arkansas Is Burning” (everybody sing along: “Arkansas is burning, everybody’s fucking!”).

Now the best track on the album, the ten-minute masterpiece “She Got Hit.” Imagine a mashup of “Sister Ray,” “Roadrunner,” and “Down on the Street”, with basically one line of lyrics and more guitar-obatics than you can shake a fuzzbox at. “The Thing That Is” is not necessarily a scary movie title (on the order of “The Thing That Ate Cleveland” or something) but does start off with some frighteningly monstrous guitar sounds. The album concludes on a spiritual note with the relatively mellow “Leave Your Light On” and some Richard Hell-ish punk rock crooning.

Fans of the short-lived HBO series Vinyl (like me) should note that Don Fleming, along with Sonic Youth’s Lee Renaldo and most of the plum plum all-star lineup, were responsible for much of the punk music heard on the show – visualized as “The Naughty Bits” and featuring James Jagger, son of Mick.

Kim Rancourt and company will be appearing at Bowery Electric, NYC on May 22, at what’s being billed as the official record release party for plum plum…so I would imagine they will be playing all this stuff. Come on down!

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images courtesy,,

Wild precision and careful abandon – The Feelies take the stage

37 years ago The Feelies released their debut album Crazy Rhythms. 37 years later they still perform the last two tracks, “Raised Eyebrows” and “Crazy Rhythms,” with more infectious energy than the original recordings themselves. And they performed thirty-plus songs during their two stunning sets on May 12 at Rough Trade NYC in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, in much the same manner, with a simultaneous precision and abandon that’s been a Feelies hallmark for decades and across six albums.

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IMG_2140The Feelies are, and have been since 1985 or so, Glenn Mercer (guitar and lead vocals), Bill Million (guitar and backing vocals), Stanley Demeski (drums), Brenda Sauter (bass and backing vocals) and Dave Weckerman (percussion, backing vocals and assorted other musical toys). Lou Reed was a major influence; the band in turn has influenced many acts including R.E.M. (and The Feelies have opened for both). Tonight, though, the stage is all theirs as the band tears through stuff from their latest, In Between (including the Wire-esque noisefest “Been Replaced”), 2011’s Here Before (featuring the sublime backing vocals of “Should Be Gone”), 1986’s The Good Earth (pounding out the semi-hit “The High Road” like they own the place – ok, tonight they do), and…closing set number one, “Original Love” from Crazy Rhythms. Between songs the audience cries, “We love The Feelies!” And The Feelies love them back.

IMG_2146Visually the band is no GQ cover – three of the five, including leaders Mercer and Million, sport glasses and all five don the kind of outfit that would, well, certainly not turn heads on the streets of Williamsburg. Mercer and Million stare seriously into the space around their guitars, Sauter picks bass lines with cool intensity, Demeski holds down the impossibly rigorous rhythm with an easy-going expression that belies the fact that he’s drumming at, like, 150 beats per minute, and Weckerman – hunched and hidden behind Mercer – looks as if he’s about to explode at anybody who dares to interrupt his maraca-shaking.


After a brief break, The Feelies return for set number two, kicking off with “On and On” from Here Before, more from the new one, a handful from 1988’s Only Life, the amazing “Slipping (Into Something)” from The Good Earth, a couple from 1991’s Time For a Witness, and finally the one-two punch of “Raised Eyebrows” and “Crazy Rhythms.” An encore featuring first-ever single “Fa Cé-La” (also on Crazy Rhythms), then… Reports from other recent shows indicate more encores with fun cover tunes like the Stones’ “Paint It Black,” the Modern Lovers’ “Astral Plane,” Lou Reed’s “Can’t Stand It,” even “King’s Lead Hat” from Brian Eno’s Before and After Science! Unfortunately I’m out the door to beat the crowd as usual, so…missed those.

03286202372_2008.indd       Here Before (       In Between (

Hopefully The Feelies will be around for many more years of wild precision and careful abandon!


album cover images courtesy,,,

“Been Replaced” video courtesy YouTube/Keboy; “Should Be Gone” video from Jacob Burns Film Center courtesy YouTube/monty4921; 2012 Bell House videos courtesy YouTube/UnsteadyFreddie; 2013 Hoboken Art & Music Festival videos courtesy YouTube/Mickster6988240

band photos by me! (for a change)

Baseball season is upon us…as No Line North hits a line drive

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“And it’s a line drive down the first baseline!,” cries seasoned announcer Phil Rizzuto on a hot July afternoon in the Bronx in 1973. The star hitter of the time, probably Thurman Munson or Bobby Murcer, dashes towards the dusty base bag and the awaiting first baseman of the Detroit Tigers or the Baltimore Orioles or whatever team the venerable New York Yankees are taking on.

NoLineNorth-cover ( in April 2017, from New Haven, Connecticut, comes Jon Schlesinger with his song-sketching, woodshedding combo No Line North and their 5-track Dreams of Trees Part 1. Opener “Line Drive” recalls – in title – any given baseball moment like that one above, and recalls in sound the forward-moving drum dash and dazzling guitar layers of another venerable New York (well, New Jersey) team, The Feelies. The song stands on its own though, thanks to the added ingredient of violin…and during its seven-plus minutes seems to promise more of the same on the remainder of the record.

Those hopes are dashed, however, as “Butterflies” kicks in with a more…comfy rhythm, equally comfy violin, and singer Lys Guillorn’s comfy, Clapton-esque vocals and comfy lyrics about the sun rising, wind blowing, and butterflies floating. We’re talking country-rock now, ok. Then the waltzy “Sky & Sea” skips in – and there’s that violin again, swirling around with the guitars, bass, and voices. Heading down folk-pop street now, are we? Hold it right there, savvy (I don’t know where that phrase originated – not Phil Rizzuto as far as I know – but someone I knew in college always used to say it)…anyway, hold it right there because “Under The Sun” has begun, and it’s hoedown time! After that we’re all plum-tuckered-out so…enter closing track “Sugar Baby” with its ethereal vibraphone and Fleetwood Mac-ish feel.

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No Line North currently consists of Jon Schlesinger (vocals, guitar, banjo), John Gage (drums, vibraphone, percussion), Lys Guillorn (vocals), Mike Kiefer (drums), John Leonard (bass, guitar, vocals, percussion), and Brian Slattery (violin). They play “good music for the people” (according to the band’s website) and have released two albums so far on the Twin Lakes label: Closely Watched Trains in 2009 and Farther Out Beyond Today in 2014. Dreams of Trees Part 1 is the first half of their latest and is due out April 28.

And…holy cow, safe at first!

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images courtesy,,

Earthy rock for doin’ them chores – it’s Matt North!

Matt North – if you’ve never heard of him you’ve probably seen him. Not only is he a singer/songwriter/session drummer, he’s a TV and movie actor, having appeared in early-mid 2000’s episodes of Curb Your Enthusiasm, Angel, and Heroes, as well as the made-for-television movie Dirty Pictures with James Woods. He’s also done stand-up comedy. In 2017, though, it looks like he’s only in it for the music with the release of his debut album Above Ground Fools.


A concise little collection of ten songs that channel the Rolling Stones and other earthy rock while remaining firmly planted in their Nashville soil, Above Ground Fools (yeah, a play-on-words of “above ground pools”) is the kind of album that you put on and then go do something real blue-collar-y like re-finish furniture or change a light bulb or mow the lawn…wait, I guess you’d hafta really turn it up full-blast to hear it over a lawnmower. But anyway, that’s the gist of Michigan-born, Nashville-based North’s song-craft (yes, all songs written and produced by Matt North).

Greetings from Nashville, TennesseeOpening track “A Good Day In Nashville” (which naturally starts with – drums) will have you clappin’ and tappin’ while North describes the hijinks of his trashy next-door neighbor, his ex-musician electrician, chiropractor, lawyer, etc. over a country highway of organ chords and good ol’ slide guitar. “No Hard Feelings” continues in a slower, Stones-esque setting with plenty of meaty guitar and North’s wacky wordplay rhymes that at times approach rap, country-boy style.

Matt-North-Above-Ground-Fools-coverGraham Parker sort of comes to mind on “Seventeen Days,” as North relates another nasty Nashville-style saga; things slow down even more on the introspective news-anchor ode “Cronkite and Cosell”; and then it’s time for one of the high points, “Miss Communication,” with its endless supply of “-ation” lines, lovely Leon Russell-like breaks, and piles of wah-wah heaven. “I Sold It All” starts out promising but ends abruptly at 2:16 (the video keeps going with an amusing skit involving the guy in Quebec who North sells his drums to – and the guy’s annoyed girlfriend who steals the show by the way).

The pent-up anger and despair of “Murder Shows” explodes in a nice, ear-splitting debacle of distortion, then that country ‘n’ western swagger returns with “Jesus and Fireworks.” Mick Jagger meets Jonathan Richman (or something) on “Badgering The Witness,” and the album finishes up in fine country-punk style with the rollicking “Come Here Go Away.”

So grab that paint can or that hedge trimmer (or just a beer) and sing-a-long with Mr. Matt North!


images courtesy,,