"If it sounds good, it is good," Duke Ellington

hang around, stick around...get your kicks!

*The Kicks Kalendar is on Hiatus*        *I am a DJ, I am What I Play*


*Rekurring*
*Patricia Barber--Most Mondays, Green Mill.
*Devil in a Woodpile--Every Tuesday, Hideout.
*Kelly Hogan and the Wooden Leg--Every Third Thursday, Hideout.


*Kurrent Releases*
*Graham Parker and the Figgs -- Songs of No Consequence   7.4/10
*Bobby Bare, Jr-- At the End of Your Leash   9.0/10
*Supplies Party !!! The Last Day of the Rest of Your Life   3.9/10
*Slingerland Ride   7.1/10
*Rex Hobart & the Misery Boys Empty House   9.3/10
*Alice Coltrane Translinear Light   8.7/10
*Muddy Waters Hard Again  (9.5), I’m Ready (10.0), King Bee (8.5)
*Welcome to Ashley We Will Find the Sun EP   7.1/10
*Herbie Hancock The Piano  & VSOP   8.2/10   6.5/10
*Whiskey is My Habit, Good Women is All I Crave: the Best of Leroy Carr    10/10
*The Beta Band Heroes to Zeroes    7/10
*The Clash London Calling: 25th Anniversary Legacy Edition   10/10
*The Hives Tyrannosaurus Hives   9.5/10
*Joao Gilberto Live in Tokyo   7.2/10
*Dr. John N'Awlinz: Dis, Dat, or D'udda   9.1/10
*Bobby Conn, a career retrospectacle.
*Gorge Trio open mouth, o wisp, Happy Birthday Newport! 50 Swinging Years 10/10, 7.6/10.


*Features Korner*
*Dance, MF. Dance!! Modern Kicks' very own Groove Ambassador reviews a Fatboy Slim show.
*Find out why Neal Pollack's Never Mind the Pollacks is the penultimate rock book.

*Kruelty Kiosk*
*Modern Kicks takes on pretty-boy folk something-or-other Josh Ritter
*Modern Kicks debunks! An ongoing gouge at the over-rated.


*Klassiks Korner*
    *1966*  The Yardbirds Roger the Engineer   9.5/10



*...That Was the Year That Was...*
*The Best Bang for Your Holiday Buck. The Greatest Albums (I Heard) This Year!
*Contributor David Shuey's Top 10 (and then some)
*The Blackstone Valley Sinners The Cold Hard Truth About Christmas (8.9/10). Plus a bonus top eleven list of holiday rock videos!!


                  *Contributor Guidelines*          *Kicks Kousins*        *Contact Me*

*Record Reviews*      *Editorials & Interviews*    *Arkives*

*Staff Pix*




            *Kicks Kalendar*


      ******Kicks Picks denoted by a whole battery of stars******


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      *Kurrent Kicks*


Peel Slowly and See

Heartfelt Chicago band, Peel, present a nice package to rip open and slowly digest.

 

Peel 6s and 7s

I am trying to peel your heart?

 

Nikola Dupkanic knows this band well.  Whether Dupkanic knew them before gaining their trust and creating a fine, mostly fair backstage documentary is made irrelevant by the skill used in handling not only the technical but emotional aspects of the new Peel 6s and 7s DVD.

 

The whole of the film makes the viewer feel a certain way.  Nikola was obviously a member of this (mostly) drunken backstage party.  With digital camera providing few disconcerting bumps in the visual field, the grainyness of the movie adds to the odd synthetic of home movie and bacchanalian revelry as the viewer follows the ins and outs as well as the ups and downs of four young, heartfelt men trying to make it in a band they love making music they love with people they love.  I know that sounds redundant, but that crucial aspect, the love, pops up more often—both directly and symbolically--in this film than anything else.

 

When the bassist, Aaron, feels compelled to leave the band before the recording of the Radio Space LP, it seems like it is not on bad terms.  The only hint is a deep, touching shot through a doorway of the musician packing his bags.  He speaks of love in perhaps the films best interview, all shot from below and in black and white, and almost comes to tears when explaining how he needs to be back by the ocean.

 

Aaron leaves the band.  But he does this via email.  Bob Rogan, singer, guitarist, and leader, and a man whose laid back style reminds one of a Wilson brother is extremely hurt that his old friend and schoolmate would do this.  Drama?  Sure.  A reality show?  Yeah, Sadie, the dog shits up the studio, to parallel that one show about a famous musician.  But 6s and 7s is filled with people you can relate to and care about.

 

Radio Space

And the music ain’t bad either...

 

A band that has gone through some dramatic changes, Peel has been analogized to the Pixies.  I guess that makes sense.  Tension defines the band, if the documentary is any indication, tension will live with the band forever, but I think that’s true with anything people put their hearts into.  Heartfelt artists are bound to be sensitive about their art no matter what.  Back to the Pixies thing, though, the bass lines have a Kim Deal solidness.  And it wouldn’t be a stretch to say that Bob Rogan’s vocals possess similarities to Frank Black’s.  But none of this is affectation.  This is where the comparison falls flat.  

 

Nice analogies abound, though.  The great cover art, a very low-fi looking affair replete with Space Invaders and a pair of Time Pilots knocks a visual clue that the music on Radio Space cements.  Like the Cars, beautiful analog-sounding keyboards not only color the tunes, but guide them as well—providing a one two punch of atmospherics and space-age propulsion.

 

The first track, “RadioE provides nice example with its inaugural voyage following a bit of the trail left just by Moon Safari.  No dogmatism though, as elements that define the band take over.  Bob Rogan’s distorted vox describe problems in connection which are not solved by song’s end as we witness John Clark’s keys eventually taking him back into orbit. 

 

“She’s A GhostEfollows, providing more of Peel’s fine mix of keys that speak (saying wee-oo-wee-oo in this case), solid backup vocals, and heartfelt vocals dealing with loss.  A sign of a good album, the sound remains consistent.  The breezy Es and 7sEprovides more space-age ear-tickling, with some nice VU black album guitar dynamics, and keeps the sound strong.  A sign of a band with growing confidence, subtle horns appear to lend a little muscle.  Harmonicas and Rhodes bass synth grooves (think “These EyesEminus the corn) also lend an earthy strength to the time-shifting “The BendE but the flutes that skirt around the album’s last tune bring it all back home.

 

Radio Space’s final cut, “I Know I Can WaitEis such a fine merge of form and content, it is really difficult to believe that it comes from a band that has only been together a bit over a year.  But on their new Radio Space LP, Peel manages to knock off a hell of a pretty single with its mix of Pink Floyd atmospherics, Black Francis vocals, and Chris Bielfeldt’s drumkit sensitivity adding precision to its stutter-stop pacing.  Peel is just beginning, with all the struggles and freshness one would expect—a band in flux, the sound is a bit rough, but rich with the excitement and promise that suggests.

  

6s and 7s 7.5/10.  Radio Space 8.2/10.  Peel is a Chicago-area band and plays locally often. Look for them Wednesday, January 5th at 9pm at Chicago's Double Door.  www.peelband.com for details.



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Jazz-styled Tunes from the Pure Beat to the Freak Beat

Alan Jacobson explores two new releases from miles-apart artists with similar aesthetics.

 

Jazz Appreciation

Yessir, the art form went mainstream, oh, about 7/1954.

 

Three discs.  Three gorgeous, beautiful, wonderful discs full of jazz.  Jazz: the real deal, played live, the way it should be heard.  Players play the tune, inspire each other to new heights in instant songwriting (improvisation).  Audience reacts with howls of joy.  Band picks up on this, impossibly elevates once more.  Repeats until collapse.

 

George Wein certainly disappointed his doctor father when in 1954 he decided to begin America’s first jazz festival—in fact, the first annual festival of its kind in the world.  Wein’s efforts in no small part helped to begin jazz’s elevation from the dingy bar to the hallowed amphitheaters and classrooms of University. 

 

Wein reflects, “Jazz is no longer a dirty wordE  And this brilliant set, featuring his glowing personal notes on all 27 fiery performances by the likes of Louis Armstrong, Willie “the LionESmith, Count Basie, Ben Webster, Billie, Dinah, Sarah, and Ella, Miles, Brubeck, Monk, Coltrane, Hancock, and even Muddy Waters and Mahalia Jackson (sadly lacking Ray Charles’s brilliant 1959 performances, but you can’t have everything, can you?) will certainly help the old fan and new alike to continue to appreciate not only the festival, but the art as well.      

 

Case in point: Duke Ellington’s “I was born in NewportE 1956 comeback for his big, huge, brilliant orchestra via Paul Gonsalves’s ridiculously inflammable yet unstoppable solo on “Diminuendo in BlueE  The crowd devours every note, simultaneously clamoring, nay screaming, for more.  Duke gazes on admiringly, comps with that lovely squeaky key style of his, grunts and moans in appreciation.  Newport is leveled.  Became Ellington’s biggest-selling record.  From notes by George Wein: “Duke really believed in me after that.  And it took Newport’s visibility to another levelE  See?  Jazz is give and take even down to the business level!  Long live the duke.

 

Throughout all fifty pages of the accompanying book, gorgeously complemented by (mostly) Don Hunstein’s reverent black and whites, the feel of jazz pervades.  Appreciation.  Expression.  Art.  Give and take.  Democracy.  America the way it should be.   In describing what perhaps jazz’s greatest bassist, Ron Carter, brought to jazz, Wein effuses, “No one brings as much love and sensitivityE  Perhaps no one short of George Wein.




Gorgeous Dissonance

Maddeningly enjoyable art rock?  Yep.

 

Like The Decline of Western Civilization, the Trout Mask Replica Years, the Gorge Trio’s new open mouth, o wisp (Skin Graft Records) teases a thick, jazzy ballast of avant-garde free music sensibilities through often no more than the basic equipment of rock: guitar, electronics, and drums.   


Dissonance and harmony provide the album’s balance--and chief tension.  Ed Rodriguez shoots a jagged ray off the end of his fretboard.  John Dieterich catches that power and shoots back.  Chad Popple keeps the rock afloat and colors the proceedings with a variety of percussive stabs.


The 22 song, 32 minute jamboree kicks off with a swinging toppling piano line which naturally and magnificently collides head-on into a unanimously skronking percussive blast that jags back and forth through the succinct conclusion of the well-staged “a comedy in sunE


Don’t get me wrong—the gorge trio is not messing around.  Far from their first barbeque and a respectable 3 albums into their career, the band includes members of Deerhoof, Sicbay, The Flying Luttenbachers, and were formerly known (minus one member) as the critically-acclaimed Colossamite.  So, while there are spastic moments of flow throughout, the Gorge boys are well-acquainted with ebb as well—offering plenty of room to stretch out and think during lulls, delicious moments of silence made all the more tender by the contrasting serration to come.


“the age of almost livingEsneaks up on the listener with the kind of seductively tentative pick-strumming that made us fall in love with the Edge in 1985, works into a funky organ vamp, and then simply fades at the end, having said what it needed to say in one of wisp’s longest tunes--a brief couple minutes, and typically jagged, violent, stabbing attempt at figuring things out--which more often than not works out brilliantly for The Gorge Trio.


 

open mouth, o wisp 7.6/10.  Happy Birthday Newport! 10/10.



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Ooh La La!

It’s Barber-a-go-go on her latest and around the country till our jazz piano duchess comes back to roost in Chicagoth.

 

Witty, sophisticated, intelligent.  These are all things jazz should be.  Urbane, hip, cool.  Yeah, go on.  Patricia Barber.  Yes!  Exactly that. 

 

Peggy Lee nailed the sultry, smoky, defiantly cerebral jazz female prototype about fifty years back.  Why have we had to wait so long for another just as intriguing and inspired?  The wait is over, for Chicago’s Patricia Barber has hit her stride.  On her latest, Live: A Fortnight in Paris, the cleverness of a Tom Waits collides head-on with Lee’s cool confidence and jazz chops.

 

Barber’s first live disc since 1999’s sensational Companion, Fortnight features some of the liveliest soloing and trading this side of her home label’s golden era.  Guitarist Neal Alger, bassist Mike Arnopol, drummer Eric Montzka, and of course our very own Miss Barber on keys and vocals absolutely kill in an effort to both inspire and one-up one another. 

 

Check out “CrashE an entirely musical and honest, if a bit dramatic, examination of falling into...perhaps it’s love.  Well, anyway.  The tune kicks in with a double-timed drum and keys battle, bass serving as something of a subtle mediation.  Guitar swerves about as the percussive instruments do battle.  The classic torch song, “LauraEfollows, with some of the most expressive ivories underscoring the affected huskiness of “she gave your very first KISS to you/that was Laura, but she’s only a dream.Eamp;nbsp; Cue dreamy music.  All right, dead-on.   Just following that is “PiecesE a complex deconstructive look back upon a failed relationship and perhaps the vocal companion to “CrashE  “All the pieces agree, the best piece went with youE brilliant stuff. 

 

Smartness can often lead to a self-awareness that is very difficult to swallow, but Barber’s sharp, yet sensitive delivery never veers anywhere towards the glib or the smarmy.  Bacharach’s “Call MeEand the excellently-chosen “WitchcraftE(whose 3 minute piano intro is worth the disc’s price alone) each hold so many easy avenues to unnecessary mockery—paths Barber is too damned good to lazily follow. 

 

The entirety of Live: A Fortnight in France operates from a level that only live jazz can: amazing musicians playing to their heights and feeding off one another, the crowd providing enthusiastic feedback (jazz is till HUGE in Europe even compared to a good town for it like Barber’s Chicago), the end product is absolutely stunning, inspiring to listen to and in addition to being mentally stimulating, also a hell of a lot of fun.  Look for more of the same as Live: A Fortnight in France comes out on Blue Note September 7th and Barber and her amazing band stir up the Park West on September 11th.

 

Patricia Barber Live: A Fortnight in France 9.1/10.  She will be appearing with full band at the Park West, Saturday, September 11th.       

 



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Jazz with A Limp Struts
Bloodshot’s country/jazz/pop queen, Kelly Hogan, supplies first-rate, sincere jazz at the Hideout every Thursday.
Alan Jacobson reports.

Kelly Hogan makes it all look easy. She continues to perfect her intimate and precise, yet bold and highly emotive take on jazz singing at The Hideout every Thursday. “Jazz with A LimpE is how they humbly describe it. I call Kelly Hogan and the Wooden Leg jazz with an obvious appreciation and adoration for what they’re doing. Each tune is chosen and then performed with such personality, respect, and joy that this regular gig is impossible to dismiss. An antidote to the modern torrent of self-consciously showy and/or arty jazz, the impossibly gifted quartet is rounded out by Scott Ligon on organ, Joel Paterson on guitar, and Kevin O’Donnell on sticks.

There’s a pretty big crowd in the back room of the Hideout on this particular Thursday. It should be three times the size. Scott Ligon begins the set with his take on Louis Prima’s “Banana Split for My BabyEand he rolls through the hammering organ and amusing lyrics of this novelty tune with respect and aplomb. As he later whips through Ray Charles’s scorching “I Want to KnowEwith his wicked organ providing juicy solos and comps equally well, the dead-on Paterson trading audio quips, and O’Donnell actively holding it all together, one can only feel—and something this expressive goes well beyond thought—that they are in for some seriously good music. Later, effortlessly exceptional versions of tunes by George Jones and Johnny Burnette would serve as a nice bonus for those who stuck around...and Joel Paterson’s take on Chet Atkins simply elicited screams.

The Wooden Leg makes it awfully hard to remember that they are just playing the bandleader to the stage. But Kelly Hogan’s magnetic presence and soulful delivery quickly creates in the band a higher level of musical delight and sophistication. Right away, she pulls off an effortless version of Barbara Lewis’s gorgeous doo-wop ballad, “Hello StrangerE As these superbly professional musicians provide rock-solid doo-wop backing, Hogan’s affectingly sultry soul howls coast above the music in such an adventurous manner as if to say that this is a woman who needs no warm up.

Kelly and her cats keep it cooking through local blues legend Oscar Brown, Jr’s “HazelsEHipsE As Hogan switches from the consummate professional to awed student for just a moment, she dances a bit, self-consciously pushes her hair behind her ears, and then again loses herself in the emotionally-charged delivery of this tune.

Indeed, ego can find no room on a stage filled with so much genuine love and talent. The instruments pull to the fore for a wild electric lap pedal-propelled version of Harry Babasin’s obscure West Coast Jazz classic, “La RositaE O’Donnell trades one of his brushes for some giant club which makes his snare sound like a tom-tom and beats with soulful precision, one moment solidly backing and the next propulsively comping the equally inspired Ligon and Paterson. Nothing in jazz is more fun to watch than a tight band...and this is a band that really loves to play together.

Kelly Hogan resumes her charming, inspired delivery with a pair of song poems. Robbie Fulks just played a tribute show and presented a documentary by filmmaker, Jamie Meltzer, on this folk art in the truest sense--where an average Joe or Jane would spot the ad, send their poems along with five bucks to a professional, and get a 45 sent to them in return. The particular tunes Hogan chose served not only as brief views into the souls of the common man, but also unsophisticatedly amusing signs of the times: “perhaps the world is a cubeEwas a nice line from “Ecstasy to FrenzyEand Hogan and Ligon’s duet on “Cloud NineEcompleted this tongue-in-chique tribute to the poetry of the little man, subtly poignant in that Kelly Hogan and the Wooden Leg--these genuine, inspired performers--will also probably never receive a shade of the recognition they deserve.

Driving home from the gig, I switched on the jazz station. “You’d be So Nice to Come Home toE Cole Porter’s croon classic usually given a respectful, wistful delivery by utter necessity was suffering a merciless, sadistic butchering from some Diana Krall-sounding self-consciously artful jazz singing woman. When the word “fireEreached its seventh syllable, I simply couldn’t take any more. My capacity for cheese had been ruined. I could not stomach this put-on after Hogan’s honesty and love..this shameless schmaltzy coquettishness over Hogan’s admiration, humility, and genuine, beautiful expression. This humble expression of what is good, lovely, and human in jazz and music; this antidote to what can so easily and so often be made so wrong is on display at the Hideout on 1354 W. Wabansia every Thursday. Consider me a regular.


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Glam's Sparkle Darkens: the Odd Politics of Bobby Conn. 

Bobby Conn plays the Bottom Lounge on Wednesday, September 22nd, and the Empty Bottle Saturday October 30th (also see him at Cambridge's Middle East (w/El Vez!) on 11/6 and in N'Orleans at The Spell Castor Lounge on 10/16).th.


How to describe Conn?  He inspires equal amounts of love and hate, but is just as hard to describe for his fans as he is for his detractors...in other words: just as hard for people to pin down as any sophisticated, intelligent, and now, perhaps, revolutionary artist of any pop era. 


A comparison to T. Rex is that rare combination of obvious and dead on, though Conn is an original with lyrics less inspired by incense than, say, an impending apocalypse.  He is an aging teenage messiah in denial, diminutive and communicative, who pulls off superbly imaginative and difficult guitar licks effortlessly. 


Which leads to the Prince (the good stuff, don’t worry) comparison: charisma, costumes, and presence, presence, presence, BABY, presence!  A man with vision, you can tell Conn knows where he’s taking you. 


He began this bizarre journey in a prog outfit called Conducent.  In 1994, he split off to begin in earnest as the self-described “Antichrist,Eknocking out an interesting yet somewhat off-puttingly abrasive record for Truckstop in 1997.  Then came his (locally) famous friendship with new uber-indiegodhead/ producer Jim O’Rourke and Bobby Conn’s masterpiece, 1998’s Rise Up!  which spotlights the Conn-ival with precision: outrageously glam distopiatic funk, navel-gazing rock star-isms, MC5/Panthers calls-to–action, and Monica BouBou’s electric violin jammed tightly against the four-octave freak’s soulful wailing.  It’s a carwreck, but one from which everyone not only survives, but gets it on, and lives very stylishly from there on in


2001’s The Golden Age is a fascinating album in that it conflates everything “ConnEto utterly cartoonish levels.  A fantastically ambitious, glam-symphonic, epic record and one of a kind Conn would not repeat on his next album.


Where have all the Dirty people gone?  Bobby Conn’s taken a step back and he’s pissed off at what he sees.  On The Homeland he’s still an illuminatus antichrist, yadda yadda yadda.  But he uses this character as a vehicle of outrage.  Teeming with all the self-hatred of an alcoholic experiencing a moment of clarity, his thinly-veiled whip-smart criticisms of the US of A**’s way of life and death these days are still set to similar glam, funk, and metal grooves. 


But the darkening and shifting of the scope to reality are plain.  Dubya’s America is skewered endlessly via attacks on homogeneity and imperialism, “God’s on our side/We know we’re right/Come to the light/Say goodbye to all your history/Come and join our familyE  The music is tighter and sharper than ever, with excellent production by John McEntire, one dude who knows how to use distortion.  The sheer variety and economy of the tunes has undeniably improved over prior releases. 


But while you’re doing the underoos and wife beater hop in your living room to the disco redux of “RelaxE the lyrics, “Relax, there’ll be no warning for the next attack/Relax, and there’s a discount on your income taxE may bring down the dance a bit.  Whether Conn has crippled an otherwise solid and ambitious step forward or made it a classic for the ages by contextualizing it so specifically...only time will tell.


So, I alluded to some car-crash partying somewhere’s back in there.  You’ve got to wonder, “How good is it, though?Eamp;nbsp; For Conn’s live shows, which we’ve got a pair of in early June...well, depends on if you like cartoonsEbout sexually ambiguous neo-glamrockers.  You see, way back when Conn began flying solo, he had already begun to collect notoriety and rabid cult celebrity for insane live shows featuring a variety of bizarre costumes, including a Priest getup and mud facials. 


The best show of theirs, was one I caught at The Fireside featuring the Gypsies dressed in true Let’s Get Physical-era Olivia Newton-John regalia.  The sound was huge, the songs were tight, and fun was had even by the most jaded of hipsteristas.  Even if you have heard Conn and hate him or the music didn’t really do much for you, his shows really must be seen to be believed.  His music and persona come off as a big, heart-ripped-bare homage to his heroes.  It is almost as if the audience is inside the bedroom mirror an adolescent Marc Bolan wannabe is performing intoEut Conn pulls it off with such style, grace, integrity, and musicality that we feel honored (and, yes, a bit embarrassed) to be there.

  

Bobby Conn plays the Bottom Lounge on Wednesday, September 22nd, and the Empty Bottle Saturday October 30th (also see him at Cambridge's Middle East (w/El Vez!) on 11/6 and in N'Orleans at The Spell Castor Lounge on 10/16).th, with Trans Am and Frequency in tow.

www.thrilljockey.com

The Tally:
s/t 6.3/10, Rise Up! 8.8/10, The Golden Age 8.5/10, The Homeland 7.5/10


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I Wanna Be a Neal Pollack!!

Amusing megalomania?  A stunning tour through rock history?  Whatever it is,Never Mind the Pollacks is just amazing.

 

Three quarters of the way through Never Mind the Pollacks (2003, HarperCollins), Paul St. Pierre, our amusingly pretentious rock critic narrator and window into the world of the legendary Neal Pollack, describes Pollack glaring at Patti Smith around 1977 in an effort to show he cares nothing for this woman he created, this famously promiscuous woman to whom he was just another peg upon which to “hang her fur coat of stardomE   This occurs after he’s laid Baez and taught Dylan to give a mean interview and right before Neal Pollack has finished inspiring and directing the New York punk scene.

 

Pollack takes every opportunity to show that he knows rock and roll history, and the best parts of it.  He also never fails to show chops like those merely hinted at above.  There is not a single wasted word, phrase, or idea in this magnificent book.  Highly recommended for fans of the hyper-clever, the historical dramas, and especially the rock—those who feel that an accurate trajectory of rock history begins with Sam PhillipsEdiscoveries, continues through Elvis and Dylan, hits upon the Velvets, Stooges, and MC5, and languishes in punk, while taking a few detours to coldcock Stipe, train Cobain, meet Bruce, fellow travelers like Lester Bangs, and a mythical bluesman named Clambone who figures very heavily in this rock and role tale, but not nearly as heavily as Mr. Pollack who lights a fire under all asses rock, from Sun to Seattle. 

 

After breezing through this confoundingly brilliant and singular book, I believe it’s safe for this thick-skinned rock critic to say with certainty that Never Mind the Pollacks is the best book ever written in the genre of quasi-biographical rock and roll historical drama.

 

Highly recommended primers for Pollack’s mighty rock knowledge: Please Kill Me, by Legs McNeil and Psychotic Reactions & Carburetor Dung, by Lester Bangs.




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