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Month: June 2006

From the Vinyl Stack: Betty Davis

From the Vinyl Stack: Can

There are a few bands that you’ll find it impossible to search online. There’s the Who, the Doors, the Cars, and Spoon, to name a few. However, there’s one late ‘60s-early ‘70s German rock band that tops that list.
Can, the German rockers who formed in 1968, are the definitive band of the krautrock genre. The band was composed completely of German members (Holger Czukay, Michael Karoli, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Irmin Schmidt, and Jaki Liebezeit), with the only exception being African-American vocalist Malcolm Mooney.
On top of being a huge voice in the krautrock genre, Can were also one of the definitive originators of jamming. On their 1969 debut album Monster Movie, the band released a track entitled “You Doo Right.” The song was a 20 minute excerpt of a 6 hour jam (which allegedly only stopped after the amplifiers started smoking).
Mooney left the band after the release of the 1970 album Soundtracks. After a nervous breakdown, he returned to America. Only later would he briefly reunite with the original Can line-up to record the album Rite Time. In 1998, Mooney released his first solo album, only to be followed by an album released in 2003 along with David Tyack.
The band replaced Mooney with Japanese singer Kenji “Damo” Suzuki in 1970, who actually recorded a few songs on Soundtracks alongside a soon-to-be-gone Mooney. However, after the albums Tago Mago, Ege Bamyasi, and Future Days, Suzuki also left the band. His reason? To become a Jehovah’s Witness.
The later days of Can, although not very successful, saw original members Karoli and Schmidt sharing duties as lead vocalist. Also, former members of the band Traffic (another band name that is nearly impossible to Google) Anthony Reebop Kwaku Baah and Rosco Gee joined up for the 1977 album Saw Delight. However, after a couple of albums that were shunned by members of the band themselves, the band broke up in 1979.
Although all of the surviving members of Can are still working on solo projects and collaborating (Michael Karoli died in 2001 after fighting cancer), the real story is the inspiration that Can left for many bands. Can inspired such artists as the Buzzcocks, Sonic Youth, and even Brian Eno.
Although Can’s lyrics weren’t exactly the most coherent thing to listen to (as proved in the band’s “Little Star of Bethlehem”), Can is undeniably one of the greatest classic progressive indie bands of all time.

-Evan Minsker



I have two main causes: illegal downloading and censorship. I can always be counted on to condemn illegal downloading and be fired up when I hear of censoring. Illegal downloading hurts struggling artists- it’s a direct attack on their label’s money, which leads to them being cut from said label. But censorship, which seems much more direct than downloading, is actually a much more vile, insidious, indirect disease that must be combated.

This train of thought was kicked off by the recent refusal of British media outlets to play Fightstar’s video for “Paint Your Target”. If you haven’t read about the controversy, you can get fully briefed here. The short of it is that the video shows kids playing war on a playground, but real bullets and rockets are coming out of their hands. There is no blood, there are no weapons, there is no death. There aren’t even injuries. It is merely a digital representation of what kids are already playing in their minds on playgrounds all over the world. There is nothing offensive in the video, other than the fact that Fightstar has very clearly pointed out that we live in a violent society. In fact, I would go so far as to say that they spear the current world order. It’s really quite a brilliant video- probably my favorite since the mind-bending video for Brand New’s “Sic Transit Gloria…Glory Fades”.

But the powers that be don’t like it. They think it encourages school violence. And while they have a valid point, the context in which they are presenting it (modern TV and Movies) completely ruins any credibility that the argument would have.

Yes, showing kids actually shooting at each other is a little bit of a shock. But these aren’t hyper-militaristic kids- these are normal kids. Why are they playing war at all? We get so caught up in the details of real bullets and rockets that we don’t even realize that kids have to get the ideas for war from somewhere before they can play war. Whether they read it in a book, saw it on tv, heard it on the news, learned it in school, or saw it in a newspaper, they learned it from somewhere. The urge to shoot guns at each other is not born in humans. Kill each other, maybe. But with guns? Guns are an outside source. I think we should be concerned that kids already know so much about war –and that’s what Fightstar is trying to say.

If our kids already know about war, then the fact that Fightstar depicts war should not be an issue. The fact that they are depicting kids doing the war at school should be the issue, then? No, it should not be. If you walk onto a school playground at recess, you will find boys playing war. It’s an inevitable part of life. Whether they be playing Cowboys and Indians or actually shooting at each other, war has become a part of our life. Setting the video at school is merely being truthful to the situation. War is a part of being a modern human being, and that’s not a good thing. That’s what Fightstar is trying to say.

So if it’s not the fact that kids are shooting each other, and it’s not the fact that the thing is set at school, it must be the fact that it’s an anti-government piece, protesting the war in Iraq. It’s not that, though- as the approval rating for Prime Minister Tony Blair has dropped to 26% due to the war in Iraq (according to this recent San Francisco Chronicle Article). Members of the British media have also been vocal dissenters to the war in Iraq- so an anti-war video would play into their hands. It’s not that.

Basically, it’s ignorance that’s censoring this. Kids can see much, much worse violence done by kids on their Saturday morning cartoon shows, with weapons, blood, and death. Prime-time TV is enough to give anyone enough information to shoot up their office, school, or other place of employment. And movies seem to glorify killing and other fighting as much as possible. Are they not worthy of censor? Are they not more worthy, even?

I really don’t understand why Fightstar is getting the boot. This satire is brilliantly pulled off, and it needs to be seen. It has an extremely important message for our culture, and yet it is being silenced for no good reason. I don’t see the point.

-Stephen Carradini

Butros Butros-Lexington Sessions

butrosbutrosBand Name: Butros Butros

Album Name: Lexington Sessions

Best Element: Funky rhythms; contrasts between clean and electric guitars

Genre: Hillbilly Rock’n’Roll


Label Name: n/a

Band E-mail:

Named after a former U.N. secretary general, Butros Butros take pride in their roots and convey their love of the good old-fashioned countryside with their EP Lexington Sessions.

The EP kicks off with “The Duke Boys (Saved the Day)”. Guitarists Peanut, Cornbread, and the Sheriff kick things into gear with a head bopping lick while bassist Snuffy keeps the song flowing with a springy bass beat. Questioning when and how the Dukes of Hazzard are going to save the day, Butros Butros fly into a fun and fast solo.

Proving they know how to get the crowd involved, however, the song breaks down into a wild “Yee-haw” before crashing into a full bass and guitar chord ending.

“Red Dirt Clay” gives on the image of driving down the highway, car top down, wind in ones hair and not a care in the world. Clean guitar harmonies and solid bottom end lead into country-themed vocals. Rooster lays down some tight drum fills in this track, though the song itself remains extremely laid back and peaceful.

The catchiest music of the EP is found on the third track “Press Here for Free Chili”. Though the lyrics are mildly absurd and corny, the music carries them and combines for a cool song. A heavy chord progression interlude leads into a clean guitar solo that borrows from Santana’s sound, followed by a dueling soloist whose sound is much more distorted. The contrasting guitar solos add for diversity within the song. That very diversity is intensified even more when Snuffy embarks on a stomping bass solo with a third guitar’s melody to cap off the instrumentation before ending on a funk riff.

Fred Savage and Cary Elwes fans around the world can unite in joy for the final track of the EP, rightfully titled “Inigo Montoya”. Regurgitating the famous movie line from The Princess Bride, Butros Butros sings “Inigo Montoya, you killed my father, prepare to die.” Feeding off an “Oye Como Va” vibe, the song builds off a sweet jazz riff and is sure to get the crowd participating at a live show with its repetitive choruses. The album goes out with a bang, ending after a crazy solo break between Peanut, the Sheriff, and Cornbread.

Though working hard to promote themselves and playing heavily in the Washington D.C. area, Butros Butros probably won’t see the Billboard Top 20 any time soon. Their dedication and music library of over 100 covers and originals, however, proves their worth in music history. The Lexington Sessions EP makes for great listening and has its moments of catchy funk beats. There’s great contrast between the clean and distorted guitars, solid percussion work by Rooster, fast moving bass lines to fill out the sound pyramid, and good harmonization in the vocals.

The lyrics themselves are mediocre at best, but despite their lack of depth, are catchy. And, let’s face it, catchy works.

My recommendation is to check out a Butros Butros show; I doubt you’ll be disappointed.

-Erik Williams

Bogart-The Love LP

Band Name: Bogart
Album Name: The Love LP
Best Element: The small instrumental portions hidden throughout
Genre: Indie Rock
Label Name: Generic Equivalent Records
Band E-mail:

When I was first handed Bogart’s album, I had hopes of some great new experimental or quirky music- mostly because of the artsy collage on the album cover featuring people with their eyes cut out. What I received wasn’t far from what I was wishing for. Bogart’s junior attempt The Love LP sounds as if it will simply be just another album overloaded with teen angst and songs to feel depressed to, but in actuality it is completely different.

The album opens with “Power Marketing”, which resounds with a, well, powerful melody. Ben Bogart’s vocals are extremely promising, until the chorus comes around and background vocals are introduced, making it sound as if the two members singing are not exactly on the same page. But, luckily for us, Bogart’s best quality is its ability to redeem itself after a few small quirks. The following track “Love” is proof. A few power chords into the song, a cowbell chimes in to the beat, reminding me of Will Ferrel’s classic “More Cowbell” SNL skit.

In any case, if a band is able to successfully incorporate a cowbell, recorder, or kazoo into their music, then that band is definitely worth a listen. As promised, Ben Bogart redeems himself in the vocal department by delivering a beautiful performance towards the end of “Love”. After another few tracks, the listener hits the bright spot, “Carcrash,” which has by far the catchiest melody and best lyrics in the entire album. This track is a pivotal turning point. Almost all of the songs occurring after “Carcrash” show a more experimental side of the band. “When Yr. Blue” is just a simple, upbeat ditty that is quickly contrasted by the downtrodden instrumental “Someone Still Loves You Sally Mathias” that sounds akin to something that Air would produce. “You Can’t Stop Christmas it Creeps” ends in an amazing instrumental section with some great guitar layering. I wonder what Bogart was thinking when they recorded “For Our Mothers”- the final sixteen minute track is filled with ambient noise, repeating robotic chants, about thirty seconds of music that sounds like it came straight out of a Lord of the Rings movie, and finally ends in another little ditty with a guitar and keyboard combination that sounds like it came out of a Clap Your Hands Say Yeah! album.

In the end, Bogart shows that they can embrace all sorts of effects in their music, whether it be a lo-fi ditty, ambient noise, or straightforward guitar chords. This is an album that needs repeated listening before the full effect can be felt and all the little quirks can be connected to see a bigger, deeper album.

-Mark Pranger