The Skeleton Key: August comes in hot with a new Dead Milkmen 7″, a Manikineter premiere, a Billie Holiday book club, and so much more!
Happiness is fleeting, especially these days. I mean, let’s be honest, it feels downright impossible right now to be happy. I’m not one to push positivity – I might not be a pessimist though I’m far from a hippie – but it does feel important to focus on whatever good we can pin down during the never-ending doldrums of 2020.
Everything might be a raging dumpster fire but the 76ers won this week (and I don’t feel guilty supporting the NBA versus, say, the MLB), it’s my birthday in a week, and most importantly the Dead Milkmen just announced a brand new 7” record! The last thing the band released, 2017’s Welcome to the End of the World, was absolutely one of the best things they’ve done in decades and I have high hopes for this new one. Plus one of the tracks on the 7” is a cover of the extremely timely – and extremely fun – “(We Don’t Need This) Fascist Groove Thang” by Heaven 17 that the Milkmen have been playing live since the 2016 election. Also it’s a benefit for Girls Rock Philly! How can you go wrong?
If you’re a fan of the band but haven’t been watching their Big Questions with the Dead Milkmen series on YouTube you should probably fix that cause it’s great. In addition to that Joe Jack has been doing regular shows on his Instagram and on the 9th Rodney Anonymous will be the guest on Space Couch, “a show wherein luminaries are interviewed from space over the internet.” Sounds delightful!
Something else announced recently is that Mütter Museum benefit comp that This & That Tapes hinted at back when I spoke to label head Joe Carlough back in March. Remember March? That was only five months ago, believe it or not. Anyway, ten years ago when I got to write about the awesome tapes and zines that Carlough and his wife Katie Haegele release there was a very exciting detail that I wasn’t allowed to include: the compilation would include an updated version of the classic Murder City Devils song about the museum of medical oddities.
Cat’s out of the bag and you can now listen to the track done up all spooky and lo-fi by lead singer Spencer Moody with Ben Chisholm (Chelsea Wolfe). And this time around he even pronounces ‘Mütter’ correctly!
Speaking of things I’m writing, watch this space for an interview later this week catching up with Pierce and GG from Soul Glo about what it’s like to be a bicycle courier during a pandemic. They also gave me some details about an upcoming release from the four piece hardcore band, which is very exciting. No, they’re not on the new Tony Hawk Pro Skater soundtrack – the only local on that is Screaming Females – though let’s be real that would be pretty sick.
I feel like there should be a regular section of this column called POLITICAL INVOLVEMENT SMALL & LARGE but really it’s our responsibility to keep up the pressure. If you haven’t yet signed the National Independent Venue Association’s letter to Congress urging them to support the Stage Our Stages Act and the RESTART Act, please do so. You can read more about that here and send a letter to your reps over on the NIVA site. While you’re at it also send your councilperson and the mayor a message about the threat by developers to the John Coltrane mural in Strawberry Mansion cause that’s some garbage.
Let’s keep up the do-gooder angle for a bit longer and talk about an upcoming fundraiser: on the 8thChris’ Jazz Cafe is hosting the Peter Bernstein Quartet doing a tribute to legendary Philly guitarist Pat Martino. This will be a benefit for Martino, who has been dealing with some pretty bad health issues over the past couple years. The show will be streaming via the cafe’s website.
Although the physical branches of the Philadelphia Free Library have been shut down these past few months that hasn’t put a damper on their expansive programming. This month they are doing a book discussion via Zoom for Wishing on the Moon: The Life and Times of Billie Holiday by Donald Clarke. That’s on the 20th which gives you more than enough time to read the book! More details and a link to the free audiobook version of the biography on the library’s website.
There’s a bunch of new music that came out over the past couple weeks. Well, some of it is new, some of it just hasn’t been on the internet before. I don’t think everything needs to be streaming but as someone who loves to share music with others it certainly helps when something is online, especially these days. With that in mind: Philadelphia, please reacquaint yourself with Red Devil, one of the most fun and interesting bands to come out of the aughts.
Red Devil never really fit into any boxes, which is probably why they were super popular in West Philly and … not so much anywhere else. In hindsight, let’s just say they were ahead of their time. Their mix of Nomeansno prog-punk guitar solos – the band is even named after a song by the Canadian cult favorites – with heavy metal grooves, absolutely pounding percussion, and a vocalist who could have been a choral soloist was absolutely perfect.
If you want to contextualize it even more, here’s a quick resume: bassist Colin Smith was in a multitude of punk and metal bands over the years but might be best known as a member of stoner greats Serpent Throne; singer Eleanor Buffam started off in The Abreacts, a peace punk band from West Chester in the early 90s, and was also in Lesser Known Neutrinos, “chamberpunk” trio Chasing Arethusa, and more; drummer Doc Kulp was a core member first of Kettle Rebellion and then of Mischief Brew and is now in Sheena and Thee Nosebleeds; guitarist Jon Foy was also in Kettle Rebellion but is probably a bit more famous for directing the Sundance award-winning Resurrect Dead, the documentary about Toynbee Tiles.
Also gracing us with new music this week – and this is brand new brand new, not something from 2007 – is Manikineter. The industrial rap project from Carl Kavorkian is putting out a new album soon and was kind enough to give us a taste. What I appreciate about Manikineter and really everything Kavorkian has done over the years is that underneath the heavy, distorted percussion, underneath all the screamed vocals, you’ll find some incredibly catchy beats. Like, impossible to ignore, fist pumping catchy. Check out this Alex Smith interview with Kevorkian and listen to the song below:
It’s August and that means it’s time for the annual Philadelphia Folk Festival. While it’s shifted online this year, that doesn’t mean it’s any less exciting. In fact to compensate for not being able to be out there on the farm in Schwenksville the Folksong Society has included a TON of archival footage going back deep into the history of the festival with the price of admission.
Even if the lineup of the 59th Folk Fest was for some reason a total dud, it would still be worth getting a ticket for all those archives. But really, despite everything going on in the world, this year’s festival is actually amazing, at least in part to them being able to have performers from literally around the globe. It’s certainly not the same as watching bands play under the hot sun but it’s a lot better than just canceling the whole thing, which honestly would have been a viable option especially after the COVID-related deaths of longtime host Gene Shay and folk hero John Prine, who was supposed to headline this year.
I’m very excited for Billy Bragg, Los Lobos, and Richard Thompson but really who isn’t? Those three are just the tip of the iceberg on a festival lineup that goes so obnoxiously deep. Check the full list out on the website and if anything strikes your fancy – and something definitely will – consider buying a ticket, even just for one day. Sure watching bands on your laptop or TV is a lot less exciting than seeing them in the flesh but just supporting this festival and these musicians a little bit will allow it to continue well into the future.
I have a couple more things to get to, mostly some more Bandcamp recommendations, especially since the site announced that Friday would be another one where they waive their fees. Let’s start with Foxycontin, since this video for their song “Junk Passion” just premiered a couple days ago.
With a pedigree that includes Electric Love Muffin and Krhissy you know this has to be good and This Time You’re On Your Own, the band’s new one on Sister Raygun, does not disappoint. It’s toe-tapping power pop at its finest and a perfect summer record so get it while its hot. Also, check out that Nick Lowe cover!
Also released this week is the new one from George Korein and the Spleen. While this might be George’s third album of 2020, he manages to make each of his records sound different from each other while also very much existing within a similar sonic context. In the case of The Touch Tendril he’s collaborated with Colin Marston – they were both in Infidel?/Castro! back in the day and Marston is also a member of Behold… The Arctopus, Dysrhythmia, Krallice – to put together a five track, 20 minute long synth-heavy ambient pop album. It’s really lovely stuff. The third track “Terrariums in Mind” has DM Hotep from the Arkestra on guitar and Alex Vallejo on vocals and is definitely my favorite of the bunch.
Before guitarist Mark Feehan was in Taiwan Housing Project he lived in Miami and played in a million awesome noisy and weird punk bands. During quarantine he’s been steadily adding to his online archives going back more than three decades. Check out his Bandcamp for tracks from Harry Pussy, Drug Czars, and others. The latest on the page is a bunch of live tracks from Trash Monkeys, his band with Bill Orcutt that started in 1985.
The final release on my list is not for everyone but if you’re into harsh noise, broken and circuit-bent instruments, experimental music, and other loud nonsense then you owe it to yourself to check out the recent collection of songs by Ecology: HomeStones. You can never go wrong with a Mariah Carey cover, that’s for sure. This is from the same person who did the absolutely wonderful “basement-fidelity surf” band called Twentyagon more than a decade ago.
Alright! That is it for this column. Like I said at the beginning of this, it’s my birthday on the 11th and while I can’t do much I’d love for all of you to tune in to my next radio show on WKDU. You can find out more over here. And as always, hit me up with any tips at @talkofthetizzy! See y’all in a couple weeks.