Author Archives: Doug Elliott

Film Review: I’m Keith Hernandez

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Each Autumn, as the MLB season season enters its stretch run towards the World Series, baseball fans and cable buffs alike are treated to an endless stream of old playoff reruns and classic baseball films. This year, budding filmmaker Rob Perri attempts to enter that singular forum with a bang as he unleashes I’m Keith Hernandez, an 18-minute masterpiece that cleverly mixes archival television footage (and a bit of racy film history) featuring the greatest defensive first-baseman ever, Keith Hernandez.

Think Heavy Metal Parking Lot meets TV Carnage at Shea Stadium, or one of those Sports Illustrated give-away videos mixed with channel 99. Complete with vintage 80′s editing techniques, a straight-faced, professional voice-over and a soundtrack of the times, I’m Keith Hernandez has the look and feel of an uplifting This Week In Baseball special from 1989. Perri uses this familiar format to paint a sensational, partly fictional account of Hernandez’ days as a drug-fueled, lady-slaying hit machine with the Cardinals and Mets. And then there’s the mustache.

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Sword Heaven’s Entrance

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MP3: Town Hag by Sword Heaven

It is difficult to separate Entrance, Sword Heaven’s new long-player on Load Records and first internationally distributed release, from their infamous, sensory-pounding live show. Despite a number of solid releases on various labels in a variety of formats over the last four years, Sword Heaven are a live spectacle first and foremost, and Columbus’ finest curators of what the glossy magazines might call noise. Witness just one of their sets – drummer Aaron Hibbs’ neo-pagan ritualistic introductory procession, contact mic tied around his throat like a noose, eyes popping as he pounds not sticks but mallets on a simplistic kit, Mark Van Fleet’s sheet metal concoctions, PVC-flute as a Viking horn, scratching and screaming at the audience until veins appear in his neck – and you’ll not only “get it”, but you’ll wonder how they could possibly get “it” properly to tape. Impossible.

Enter Entrance, a distillation of the group’s finest ideas since they permanently trimmed the line-up from four down to its two core members. Four songs, thirty-three minutes, recorded on four and eight track tapes inside Columbus’ downtown communal art-space, Skylab. The record will go a long way in solidifying Sword Heaven as recording artists to couple with the duo’s performance track record (not to mention the two member’s other performance outlets – Hibbs as a record-vying hula man, Van Fleet as a traveling gallery owner and curator). I’ll just come out and say it: Entrance sounds leaps and bounds better than anything they’ve previously released. Load Records, the legendary Providence, RI noise label home to some of the last decade’s best experimental records, agreed to release a Sword Heaven album before ever watching them play.

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Jay Reatard Kicks Off Tour in Columbus, Signs to Major?

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Modern punk icon Jay Reatard seems to route every one of his tours through Columbus, whether it be with his now-defunct Lost Sounds project or any one of the current offshoots he comes up with on a monthly basis. Lately he’s been playing under his own name, supporting the finest LP he’s been a part of to date, Blood Visions (In the Red, 2006). Fresh off a globe-spanning Summer tour that ended here in Columbus at Skully’s, Reatard is set to kick off a Fall run at Cafe Bourbon St. next Thursday, with locals the Feelers and Night of Pleasure. Click on the donewaiting forum thread for some hilarious local insight. Check his myspace for all of the dates.

In other (non) news, there’s still no confirmation to the rumor of Reatard signing to a major. Word is a bidding war has ensued between Matador, Universal and Capitol, and from what I’ve been hearing one of the majors has won the prize. If true it will be one of the more interesting stories to follow over the next year. I just want to see how they’re going to market a guy named Reatard to the Best Buy patrons in Idaho.

Columbus Discount Turns 4

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Let’s cut straight to the chase: Columbus Discount Records owns Columbus, most of Ohio and a good portion of the Midwest. In four lightning-fast years, Adam and BJ and Josh – we all know them on a first-name basis now, right? – have become our region’s most notable independent producer of underground punk/rock. This past year has been their most successful to date, beginning with a trip down to SXSW and continuing with a batch of seven-inch releases nearly selling-out before their release dates. Now, with a new, gigantic recording studio in Olde Town East set to open next month, along with a steady schedule of releases set for the Fall and Spring ’08 (including CDR’s first non-Columbus act!), Columbus Discount seem determined for world-domination with colored vinyl as their weapon.

This weekend, in what is quickly becoming a late-Summer tradition here in Columbus, CDR will be throwing themselves a birthday bash of epicly drunken proportions. At Carabar Friday night you have the return of long-time Mike Rep collaborator Tommy Jay, whose Tall Tales of Trauma album will be lovingly reissued by CDR this Fall. Later in the night you can catch one of Columbus’ most unpredictable groups, Deathly Fighter, who’ve recently spent a weekend recording at the original CDR facility.

Saturday brings us back to Columbus Discount’s home turf of Washington Beach with a cookout in the afternoon at the CDR homestead (everyone’s invited, seriously) and a strong batch of Columbus mainstays to play at Bourbon St., capped off with a one-two throw-down of the constantly marginalized Unholy 2 and psychedelic-noni supergroup El Jesus de Magico. Both shows and the cookout, along with any black eyes and scraped knees, are FREE. Play safe.

Lee Hazlewood R.I.P.

hwood-burger.jpgLee Hazlewood was the ultimate dude’s dude. Uncompromising, stylish, a ladies-man and a loner, he was one of the last cowboys and one of the first beatniks. Poised with a nasally baritone full of wit and darkness but firstly an ingenious songwriter, Hazlewood was the man behind not only some of the greatest American pop hits of the last fifty years, but also some of its strangest and unlikely concept albums. When I learned of his passing this past weekend after a long bout with cancer I became deeply saddened and was instantly taken back to the memories I’ve had with Lee’s songs as the soundtrack.

If I were to create my own personal list of the greatest songs ever, Lee Hazlewood would make it twice in the top ten. “These Boots are Made For Walking” has been a favorite since childhood and has only gotten better with a proper understanding of Hazlewood’s life. The fact that he, a thick-mustached, reefer-smoking loner wrote the song with Frank Sinatra’s daughter in mind (not to mention that he infamously asked that she sing it “like a 16-year old girl who fucks truck drivers”) made it just perfect. It was his only #1 hit. “Some Velvet Morning”, though, is Hazlewood’s true masterpiece and probably my favorite song in the history of pop music, a psychedelic anti-pop duet (again with Sinatra), drenched in his trademark echo and woozy from the Man vs. Phaedra dialogue, that somehow managed to reach #26 in the Hot 100 back in early ’68.

Despite these brief moments of success and a slew of other minor hits, Hazlewood managed to stay well below the radar throughout his career.

By the 90′s Hazlewood had gained a whole new cult following thanks in part to Sonic Youth drummer Steve Shelley, who began reissuing Lee’s records on his Smells Like imprint. At least that’s when my friends and I (and surely countless others) really began digging into the mysterious world of records like Cowboy In Sweden, an album recorded while he left the U.S. for Europe so that his son could avoid the draft, and Requiem for an Almost Lady, where Hazlewood introduces each song with a brief glimpse of its theme. Each and every record he did had its own unique charm and no-bullshit attitude. Not bad for an Oklahoman boy (b. 1929) who considered retiring from music in 1964.

Hazlewood was the original psychedelic cowboy. His music and spirit will undoubtedly continue to affect those who look a little left-of-center for inspiration. R.I.P. Lee.

Dinosaur Jr. “Beyond”

dino250.jpgIt all happened so quickly. Rumors of the least-likely reunion in underground rock history soon turned into a confirmed one-off show, then into a full-blown tour and eventually news of new material and then – gasp! – enough material to fill a record. And now we have Beyond, the first LP from the original Dinosaur trio since 1988′s Bug, the work of a group with nothing left to prove and even less to lose.
I’m happy to report that the tiny little hang-ups you could bring to Beyond – tarnishing a pristine legend, monetary motivations – quickly fly out the window with the bombastically catchy opener and lead single “Almost Ready”. Lou, J., and Murph sound as crisp and important as ever, just not as immediately visceral as on their SST classics. Gone are the sheets of eardrum-shattering guitar and jagged, post-hardcore-on-acid writing, in its place a batch of direct rock tunes played with veteran maturity and sung with more heart than any band half their age. Strangely, the sound and look of Dinosaur Jr. sticks out more today than it did 20 years ago, awesomely retro album art and old-school shoes included.

It’s not surprising that the quality of writing throughout Beyond is so consistent, as Mascis has really never released any bad material. Since Lou Barlow’s departure he and Murph have soldiered on through numerous good to great albums, the last of which, Masics’ More Light, containing some of his freshest ideas since Green Mind, the first post-Barlow LP and last truly great Dinosaur Jr. album. What really blows me away here are Barlow’s two contributions, the throbbing and writhing “Back To Your Heart” and the tense, climactic “Lightning Bulb” (check Murph’s work here, too, and tell me he’s not the most underrated drummer of the past quarter-century). Both songs are absolute stunners, without a doubt the two best songs he’s done in over 10 years and quite possibly Beyond‘s highest points. Lou’s two are worth the price of admission alone, but it’s clear that he and J. each brought their a-game to the court.

At nearly 50 minutes, Beyond could benefit from a little trimming (I’d have made “This Is All I Came To Do” a B-side), and by the sound of it, you’d probably be safe to say that Mascis is still writing some of the bass parts. The trio doesn’t gel on all levels as it once did and there’s also a distinct lack of arranging besides the core of each song. But these are all minor quibbles that should in no way betray old fans nor detract new ones from joining the club. And really, who wants to hear 40-something men acting like they’re 20? That’s lame. Beyond is a success on all levels and proof that not all reunions are done with green in mind.

MP3: Almost Ready
Video: Been There All The Time
Buy: Amazon.com