Hola, everyone. Back up and running here in Miltown. The recall of Governor Scott Walker is moving forward and we’ve presented more than a million signatures to the government accountability board. Of course, now we have Republicans in support of Walker crying foul and looking for phony signatures that aren’t there, and they’re also claiming this recall effort is nothing but union thugs who want their power back.
That is how desperate they are. They won’t address the real issues of the Walker power-grab: demolishing fifty years of bargaining rights, cutting the pay of public employees by an average of $3000, raising taxes on working and poor people while giving corporations tax breaks. Instead of discussing the wealth disparity and the corporate welfare that is choking so many states they would rather refer to teachers and social workers and custodians as “thugs.” They love to talk about the “union bosses” who have been getting rich for so long, but they see no evil and hear no evil when it comes to Wall St. parasites and corporate fat-cats.
They’re also accusing the recall organizers of taking money from out-of-state entities while at the same time Governor Walker is in Arizona commiserating with Governor Jan Brewer about how to bust unions in her state, and he’s raising money for his anti-recall effort. That glaring hypocrisy is emblematic of how Walker’s regime operates.
There are currently five former Walker aides who have been recently indicted for various crimes while working for him previously, and the governor himself is part of an ongoing investigation, but his peeps don’t want to talk about that either. Walker’s giving us the Sergeant Schultz excuse, claiming he knew nothing.
Governor Walker has bullied people and split the state in two while setting the tone for the nasty politics of name-calling. The anti-union language their side is using is akin to the kind of language the fascists used in the 1930s. When you’re on the side of smashing unions you’re also on the side of worker exploitation. You can’t have it both ways. Either you believe that working people deserve the legal rights to strike a balance in the work-world so they are not treated like animals or you don’t.
Our governor appears to be in the pocket of the Koch brothers and the Tea Party movement, and more than half the state is unhappy with their power-grab for that and other reasons. That is the reality of the recall here. Ignoring it won’t make it go away. Now, we just need a candidate to run against this guy, who can beat him. That’s all the soap-boxing for today. Let’s play some music.
England in 1819, Alma (Self-released)
England in 1819 is brothers Andrew and Dan Callaway and their father, Liam. The family’s musical roots stretch back at least as far as their grandfather, William, who was a traveling musician in rural Georgia in the 40s and 50s. The name comes from a political sonnet written by Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley. Andrew and Dan grew up in England when their father was teaching Air Force bands. Returning to the states to go to school they attended conservatories in Ohio (studying composition and French horn, respectively), and then they relocated to Baton Rouge. All of that peripatetic activity brought out some deeper emotional need that, apparently, only music can fill at this point in their lives. This is their second album as England in 1819, and although the minor key, piano-driven “Air That We Once Breathed” begins light and airy, it’s not lightweight at all, building to a heavy, voluminous final two minutes. “Blue Ribbon” offers some phlegm-assisted vocals that have a throwback quality, and it too builds itself into a rumbling giant, but, after all the dust settles, there is still an unsettling down-tempo dreariness that connects all the songs in some way or another. “Chaplin Speaks” points to their classical background, and delivers the dense orchestral portion of the show, and “Waterfall” is slow and catchy at the same time (hard to do), with a great melody line. In fact, there are several great ambling melody lines that raise the bar throughout this album. I can sense the urgency and the Anglo-angst in the repeating pattern of pushing the loudness factor up until it takes over a song. They save some of the best for last and bring it all home with a big finish on the seven-minute long “Alma.” This is a solid, slump-free, sophomore effort.
Eux Autres, Sun Is Sunk (Bon Mots)
Since their debut 7” single in 2003 Eux Autres (pronounced OOZ-OH-TRA) have experienced a slow burn for a career, but they are finally garnering the notoriety they deserve. The very compelling brother and sister team of Nicholas and Heather Larimer began as a duo and they released a couple albums, a few singles and an EP. In 2008 they enlisted drummer Yoshi Nakamoto (The Aislers Set) and they’ve been picking up speed ever since. The West Coast tour with Wild Flag probably didn’t hurt either. This six-song EP is a fine sampling of their excellent garage-pop. Almost too cool for school, they’re unassuming at first, but they grab you by the synapses right quick. Upon first landing, “Right Again” might seem too fluffy and innocuous, but by the second verse you’re disabused of that notion, even though I don’t know what the hell Heather is singing about. And then “Broken Record” slams the door on that silliness with an immediately sad few notes to open, and a lilting break-your-heart hook Nicholas delivers like he just rolled out of the rack. At times it sounds like Heather’s vocals might be double-tracked giving them an atmospheric quality, and “Home Tonight” rings like a bell when she sings, “I’m not coming home tonight/‘Til I can’t remember what was wrong with me.” It’s a pure, underground-pop moment like one rarely ever hears these days. (And why the hell can’t mainstream radio play this song, or something like it? Is there some cosmic force precluding it? Is there some dynamic at play that just won’t allow it? It’s a crime, I say, a crime. ) The last song, “Ring Out,” sounds chillingly like Miracle Legion for a few breathes at first, and then it finds it’s stronger voice and slams that damn door one more time, and it’s a fitting closer to this EP. This is a killer six-pack, and this band is a one-of-a-kind.
Rella The Woodcutter, The Golden Undertow (Boring Machines)
Rella is an Italian composer and musician who appears to be some kind of Superman, or at least a Renaissance man, of the underground/experimental Italian music scene. In addition to solo projects, he has been part of the underground band The Rotten Wine Company for years, but he has also been involved, to one degree or another, with numerous other projects of one bizarre type or another (Eternal Zio, Jooklo Duo). This album represents a more tame side, but that doesn’t mean it’s not without some uncomfortable-ness. It’s post-electro-psych-folk with a twist, and at a total time of 33:39 it’s quick in and quick out on most songs. The vocals are thin and reedy, but there’s also a trill in his voice that can’t be ignored, and the songs have a general sparseness that suggests an “I don’t-really-give-a-fuck” attitude. A tired Bonnie Prince Billy eating potato chips and drinking maple syrup with Bill Callahan on Sunday evening, and running all their vocals through a processor. Some of it is cool and trippy, like “Bonobo,” and other songs go off on a strange tangent, creating a borderless flow unlike most anything else you’ve ever heard of its ilk. The spare guitar and violin, along with the just slightly off-putting mood, renders the whole thing uncomfortable. It’s fucked-up enough to make you want to jump around the disc looking for something else, but after you take it out you find yourself going right back to it.
Brittany Shane, Loud Nights on A Short String (Painted Lady)
Wisconsinite by birth, Californian by choice, Texan by chance, this is the fifth album by singer/songwriter Brittany Shane, who now resides in Austin, and she’s keeping some good company on Loud Nights…, starting with the very well-liked and well-travelled Texas guitarist Scrappy Jud Newcomb, who also co-produced the album. She’s opened for Aimee Mann, Chris Isaak and Liz Phair and while she was living in San Francisco her third album was voted among the Top 20 Local CDs by the San Francisco Chronicle. Her songs are brighter than the more serious themes might suggest. It’s broadly accessible, if that’s not damning with faint praise, and pleasingly melodious on virtually every song. “Summer Calling” is Fleetwood Mac/Lindsay Buckingham-esque, and there are also some big hooks on “Fun Here,” “Come Around” and “Long Way Home,” but it’s the darker emotions that stand out in the end. The sonorous “Hazy Rose” is great; it’s the best song on the album. She sounds a little like Susanna Hoffs, maybe, kinda, sorta, but her vocals are actually the strongest when she pushes things off the edge of the paper, as she does with the breathiness of “Don’t Let Me.” More of that would work. She could definitely mine that dark side more as well. In the words of the immortal REO Speedwagon: “Keep pushin’…”
Traffic Sound, Virgin (Munster)
This is a re-issue of a 1969 Latin rock recording by a Lima, Peru band that started by playing covers of The Doors, Cream and Hendrix. That formula really paid off for them because they do an alchemist’s job of combining many of the sounds of their time, from psych-rock to all sorts of Latin influences, into a very fine batch of songs that don’t feel genre-fied, or even dated, at all. This album took off for them globally upon its original release, relatively speaking, and it was soon prominent and popular enough to be released in the U.S.. They also benefited briefly from the rise in commercial popularity of Santana, though they didn’t really sound at all like them. Traffic Sound disbanded in 1972, having contributed to the invention of rock en Espanol, as it came to be known in the decades that followed. This brief album is made up of eight stunningly good songs that run the gamut. The title track sounds like the demo of an early ballad by The Who, and “Tell the World I’m Alive” sounds like the precursor to the 90s Japanese psych-folk band Ghost. That’s how broadly this is planted. In an understated way, every passage of every song has something interesting and mechanically-inclined going on. Every track operates like a well-oiled machine, everything fits perfectly, and there isn’t a note out of place. Impeccable might the word I’m looking for, as if each song emerged from the womb fully-formed. A flat-out mini-masterpiece.