March 31, 2010

CLIKATAT IKATOWI - August 29+30 1995

Recorded live at Chicago's Fireside Bowl, this is Clikatat Ikatowi's most essential album, and may be the single best document of the San Diego-Gravity Records axis that spawned such kin as Heroin and Antioch Arrow.  In fact, guitarist Scott Bartoloni left that Heroin to join Clikatat Ikatowi.  The group served as a house band of sorts for The Ché Café, along with Antioch Arrow.  The analog video aesthetic the 90s is forever trapped in has made underground punk of the time look today as grainy and outdated as Edison's vitaphone.  Gravity bands, which sounded like total noise to most people anyway, have emerged on YouTube (here, here, here) as pure white cacophony within the meager limitations of built-in camera mics..  Here the recording is surprisingly balanced, though Mario Rubalcaba's (Rocket from the Crypt, Hot Snakes, Earthless) insane drumming tends to find its way front and center.  The frontman, C. Goldsby, remains obscure and has not been in any other bands as far as I know.  Director John Hughes saw Clikatat play in Chicago and loved them.  He had intentions to release their next album on his own label, but, sadly, he dropped dead walking down the street just 15 years after he had the chance. 

To the working classes...

March 11, 2010

Norma Desmond?

"No one leaves a star. That's what makes one a star."

March 9, 2010

ROBERT MITCHUM - Calypso Is Like So (1957)

"Isn't that awful? You sing your heart out and nobody... nobody ever listens."

Robert Mitchum is most popularly remembered as the Hollywood anti-hero and laconic "soul of film noir," and it was a persona he cultivated offscreen as well.  As a teen during the Great Depression, he lived the vagrant life of a rail rider, landing him in a Georgia chain gang at age 14.  He tried his hand at a number of jobs, including metal worker, prizefighter, ditch-digger, coal miner, and as a ghostwriter for Carroll Righter, "Astrologer to the Stars."  He also dabbled in community theater groups and wrote original songs and nightclub routines for his sister to perform.  Upon the birth of his first son, he tried settling down and worked as a jackhammer operator, but the stress of it caused him to temporarily go blind.  Looking for work, he began taking jobs as a movie extra. 

He developed his career in movies as a soldier and B-Western toughie for RKO Pictures.  With the success of Out of the Past (1947), he became an immediate star, but he maintained his illicit lifestyle, often walking up the Strip with a joint tucked behind each ear, despite the increased scrutiny of the press. In September of 1948, Mitchum was arrested with actress Lila Leeds in a sting operation for marijuana possession.  When asked by the booking officer what his occupation was, Mitchum said "former actor."  He assumed his career was over with. Mitchum's defiant attitude at his sentencing (seen right) has been cited by Lester Bangs as an early progenitor of punk rock ethos.

Instead of being ruined, Mitchum was released from jail to box office success.  His conviction was eventually overturned due to probable criminality on the part of law enforcement.  Leeds' career never recovered, limited to the autobiographical reefer exploitation film She Shoulda Said No! (1949). Mitchum had long been loosy-goosy by the time he signed on to John Huston's Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison (1957).  Huston and Mitchum spent a lot of man-time together on location in Trindad & Tobago.  During the film's production, Mitchum fell in love with Calypso music.  An excellent mimic, he made every effort to absorb the Trinidadian cadence and dialect.  Harry Belafonte had just released his own Calypso (1957) album, and eager to capitalize on a possible craze, Capital asked Mitchum to record his favorite Calypso standards as well as some compositions of his own. 

The result is a novelty record infinitely more interesting than anything Belafonte ever recorded.  If Mitchum's faux-Trinidadian accent seems a curious counter-distinction to his more serious persona, his approach to the material is anything but kitsch.  The banjo in "I Learn A Merengue, Mama" and the production in "Mama Looka Boo Boo" are examples of unusual arrangements in what makes for a surprisingly solid album.

Calypso Is Like So (1957)


When he appeared on "What's My Line" in 1965, nobody seemed aware that he was even a singer.  "I had made a couple of records," Mitchum said.  An incredulous woman asks, "Singing records?"

 Mitchum later released a compilation of songs called That Man, Robert Mitchum Sings (1967).