No, this isn’t a flyer for a must-see event coming up on Valentine’s Day, but rather a not-so-subtle reminder of a show I was unfortunately unable to attend. Swami John Reis & The Blind Shake released Modern Surf Classics in February of ’15, to great acclaim, and it ended up being their only collaboration to date. Shameful, these facts as I type them. I was, however, fortunate enough to catch this surf-punk-luau team’s Santa Ana show a few months later, which, obviously, like with all things John Reis-related, turned out to be an absolute riot. If you can stomach parting with the Hamilton in your pocket, and you aren’t one of the fortunate ones to already own this album, do yourself a favor and seek it out. High-energy surf, with lighting guitars, and classic Swami snarl. This album is damn near perfect.
Procrastination has always been one of my strong suits. Next week, that will be neither here nor there. Presented here “today” is the handwritten insert, well, the copy of a handwritten insert to Drive Like Jehu’s 1994 math rock monument, Yank Crime. Like with most releases involving Swami John Reis (Rocket from the Crypt, Hot Snakes, Pitchfork, The Night Marchers, etc.), the lyrics to each song are painfully scrolled out in almost picture-perfect illegibility. While this gives a false sense of personal touch, it does weave together the incoherent and brilliant works of the mad genius that is Mr. Reis, and his merry band of mischief-seeking, and equally talented thugs. Yank Crime would be the 2nd of two albums that Jehu would release, and if you don’t already own it, make sure your used copy, if that’s your thing, contains this insert. If not, save the photo and print it out. You’re welcome.
Modern Surf Classics by Swami John Reis & The Blind Shake is both a presumptuous title, and spot effin’ on. (Insert broken record comment here), anything John Reis puts out is an unquestionable classic. This incarnation of instrumental grandiose surf rock was classic in the minds of the artists, classic during this album’s recording, classic upon its release, and classic some near 9 months later. The closing hymn is my fav (Sets of Fire), but the album as a whole breeds water-loving twang-rock with plenty of energy to spare. Summer may be over (finally), but with Modern Surf Classics, the waves are always honest.
Live in the greater Los Angeles area? Feel the need to fill your vacant void with the soothing sounds of modern surf-rock from the master of audible orgasms? Then you, my friend, should checkout Alex’s Bar this Valentine’s Day, with the bombastic barometer of Swami John Reis & the Blind Shake. As the flier says: “Wine and dine your special someone with a special chicken wing and craft beer pairing.” Really, this day of single awareness, what more could you possible ask for?
Gearing up for my double date at the end of the month with San Diego’s finest, Rocket from the Crypt, tonight’s gem is 2008’s debut from The Night Marchers, See You in Magic. Arguably the most pop-oriented of anything offered by Mr. John Reis (save, maybe for Rocket from the Crypt’s 1998 major label killer, RFTC) SYiM is lover’s garage rock on two pots of coffee, with that sweet aroma of genius-Reis-guitar, perfect for wiping the worried sleep from your morning eyes, and great for that little get-me-the-hell-out-of-the-office-if-only-in-my-ears, afternoon pick-me-up.
There was a time when the only Hot Snakes I listened to was 2000’s Automatic Midnight. 2002’s Suicide Invoice came and went, and so did 2004’s Audit in Progress, their last “proper” studio album. Fast forward to 2014 when I got my grubby mitts on a few Hot Snakes tickets (Alex’s Bar, Long Beach, CA). And during my homework / listening prep, I absolutely fell in love with Audit in Progress, specifically the first four tracks, Brainstrust, Hi-Lites, Retrofit, and Kreative Kontrol. Rocket from the Crypt (another John Reis outfit) holds the candle to the best one-two opener for any album with 1995’s Scream, Dracula, Scream!, but Audit in Progress may be the crowned king of an album with the best one-two-three-four track opener. Automatic Midnight was outstanding, but Audit in Progress is downright spectacular. Seek it out if you haven’t already.
P.S. RFTC at Alex’s Bar (back to back nights) later this month…
Oh, the Beatnuts… seminal late 90’s hip hop badassery that, without question, kicked the living shit out of everyone with this 1997’s single featuring Big Punisher & Cuban Link titled, Off the Books. When your non-hip hop enjoying SO storms into the room early in the morning, quite excitedly I may add, and asks, “What is this? I like it!,” you know you’re either spinning something John Reis related, or The Beatnuts.
Tuesday morning bombastic bass is perfect for everyone within earshot, and no beat bouncing, wall vibrating, domestic disturbance flirting tracks kills quite like Off the Books. Do yourself a favor and check it out.
So, after 19-years, the universe is one, once again. It wasn’t without the help from organ queen, Dr. Carol Williams, and Pinback alumni, Rob Crow, that Drive Like Jehu was able to reload their one-off reunited arsenal of post-hardcore wizardry. The venue, San Diego’s Spreckels Pipe Organ Pavilion at Balboa Park, was serene and picturesque, while the crowd, aging warriors with golden ears and eager offspring were many, and ecstatic.
Please excuse the lateness of today’s post. It was for a legitimate, and vinyl related cause, I assure you. Here’s the skinny: So yesterday, on our way back from our 6th year at Comic-Con (in San Diego), my vinyl collecting doppelganger and I hit up Lou’s Records in Encinitas, CA. We’d read a few reviews and decided to check it out. We were less than impressed with the selection, as it was really kind of picked through. Apparently Lou’s is a famous little joint. My doppelganger informed me that Pearl Jam used to play there, but I didn’t pay it much mind, since I don’t care for PJ and/or much that comes from this guy’s face. So, after only about five minutes, and upon quick realization that all the grooves we were looking for could not be found, we decided to bounce. On our swift escape, something caught my eye. It was… a clear vinyl version of Pitchfork’s first EP, Saturn Outhouse. Limited to only 100 copies on clear vinyl, this little 7” also happens to be hand numbered. This copy reads: 6/100.
So, like the intelligent and forward thinking chap that I am, I passed it up. I left it there, got back into the car, and headed back to Los Angeles. Late last night, an itch started, and it wouldn’t let up no matter how much I attempted to ignore it. I began searching for any info on this clear vinyl release on the inter-webs, but couldn’t find much of anything on it. The black vinyl version can be found just about anywhere, including amongst the 45s in my collection, but I’d never heard of this version, and since it was the first ANYTHING released by Rocket from the Crypt mastermind, John Reis, I’d felt I’d made a HUGE mistake by not picking it up.
Fast-forward to this morning. After reading a thoughtful post about this clear vinyl release, I started to feel bad for this guy. He’d been hunting all over for this particular record, up to and including contacting the band, and he ended up finding one for a hefty $250. I thought, hmmm. It took this poor guy 18 years to track this record down… and I know where I can get one for a cool $25. So I called Lou’s to make sure they still had it, hopped in my rocket ship and drove an hour and a half to Encinitas. I just got back (traffic was a bastard on the northbound 405), so, yeah. Today’s post is late. But look at what I have!!!
Before breaking Lou Brock’s coveted career Major League stolen base record of 938, a very young Rickey Henderson had to steal his first base. Before The Beatles could release the immeasurable Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, they had to play backup to Tony Sheridan. All legacies have a beginning, and before the Hot Snakes, the Obits, Drive Like Jehu, the Sultans, The Night Marchers and the crème de la crème, Rocket from the Crypt, before modern day rock ‘n’ roll emerged from the heavens and established itself as “the majestic sound from the Gods,” there was Pitchfork.
Rick Froberg, meet John Reis. Get through your handshakes and your pleasant introductions quickly, because over the next 25 years you’ve got four singles, one EP and seven albums to write, record, produce and release under the heading of three different bands: Pitchfork, Drive Like Jehu and Hot Snakes. Get busy boys… the world is waiting.
The first recorded ANYTHING by both Froberg and Reis (their musical rookie card), Saturn Outhouse contains the same melodic, in your face, sky-high level of energy found in Drive Like Jehu and Hot Snakes, and like those bands, sees Froberg on vocals and Reis on lead guitar. It’s evident, as seen from Reis’ more recent work, how much he is influenced by mid-60’s obscure garage rock, but Saturn Outhouse sounds more like an Ian MacKaye-headed Fugazi than anything released by the Seeds.
To the causal listener, Pitchfork can easily, and understandably, be confused for Drive Like Jehu, and vise versa. The two bands have striking similarities (scratching vocals by Froberg, piercing guitar by Reis, melodic, drawn-out landscapes), but the difference lies in the level of maturity exuded by both Froberg and Reis between Pitchfork’s demise (1990) and the birth of Drive Like Jehu (later in 1990). I haven’t matured that much in 33 years, and these guys crossed that mark in their early twenties! Quiet simply put, Froberg and Reis were adolescents, yes, but they were also music legends in the making.
Containing the tracks, Thin Ice, Goat and Sinking, this little necessity of music history can be had for a surprisingly cheap amount. Starting at only $6.54 over at Discogs, this gem can, and should, be sought after by any, and every fan of the majestic, modern day rock ‘n’ roll sound.