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Best Of, Kind Of: Lemon Session’s Notables of 2017

End of the year lists are ridiculous. Being in this business for as long as I have (15 years), I’ve seen quite a few of these published, and except for the bands that are mentioned, few people give a crap. Yet some critics think they’re doing the Lord’s work and will crank out reams on every second of music they enjoyed that year. It’s even sillier when you take into account that they’ve usually written about the bands featured on their lists already, so they’re just repeating themselves while filling the Internet with more opinionated dreck — the last thing we needs.

Yet here I am adding more junk to the pile. But I heard a lot of killer tracks this year from some local groups and I haven’t had an opportunity to write about any of them. So this is less a “Best Of,” and more of a “Before You Go” post, which makes it a superior product. (Thank you for agreeing with me.)

Flamin' Groovies 'Fantastic Plastic'

Flamin’ Groovies — Fantastic Plastic

During San Francisco’s “Summer of Love,” when everyone was expanding their minds and doing the “funky sun grope,” the Flamin’ Groovies were shoving Chuck Berry riffs up hippie asses. Yet by the early ‘70s they were already considered “legendary,” and were shepherding fledgling punk bands like the Ramones and the Vibrators around Europe. In a way, they were the Johnny Appleseeds of punk rock.

Fifty years later, the Groovies’ catalog is practically rock n’ roll canon. Songs like “Shake Some Action,” “Teenage Head” and “Slow Death” are unfuckwithable. But this year, the band took a big risk and released a NEW album. Already reunited with Shake Some Action-era singer Chris Wilson, the Groovies wrote new songs and brought back some older ones for Fantastic Plastic. It’s as solid as an album can get from a band that already has a dozen releases under their belt. In short, it belongs right up there with 70s-era Groovies’ albums like Now or Jumpin’ in the Night.


Computer & FNU Clone

FNU Clone – Binary or Die / Computer – Internet

Jim Veil, the genius behind FNU Clone (formerly FNU Ronnies), is a walking riff factory, on par with guitar wizards like Tony Iommi. Not long ago, Jim bought a computer and it’s like it gave him super human recording powers. Whereas Saddle Up was lo-fi and brittle, Binary Or Die is all over the map, production-wise. Strange voices, space noises and other audio ephemera all dripped everywhere like a Pollock painting, and it makes for one of the most original sounding punk releases since.. well I don’t know when. The same could be said for Computer’s debut album, featuring Veil and John Laux of the uber experimental Slicing Grandpa. It’s a total headphone album — the production values alone would give Radiolab a run for their money. (Buy both now for $20 from Skrot Up. Paypal: jimzail(at)yahoo.com)


Street Eaters = 'The Envoy'

Street Eaters – The Envoy

When it comes to bass-and-drum combo, I have two priorities: distortion and grooves. Lightning Bolt, Big Business, GodHeadsilo — these are bands that exemplify the best of what a B&D combo can be, and the Street Eaters are on par with these titans of noise rock. Their sound is similar to GodHeadSilo’s but with much more emphasis on vocal harmonies and lyrics. The Envoy, a concept album based on the work of Sci-Fi novelist Ursula K. Le Guin, is full of fist-pumping rock jams embellished with a bouquet of glorious feedback. Those with developed noise palates will delight in the range of feedback used throughout the album (“Oooh, that’s a nice note of ’90s Nation of Ulysses feedback!”) It sat in my car stereo for weeks as it made for a great highway soundtrack as well as sent me on flashbacks to the days when I couldn’t just research music — I had to take a chance and let an album grow on me. This is an album you need to let breathe tho truly enjoy.


Nopes - 'Fun Limbo'

Nopes – Fun Limbo

Nopes make me excited about music. Their music is completely without pretension; they’re just writing songs they enjoy and letting loose when they play. Their references are all over the map, from Husker Du and the Dead Milkmen to Jesus Lizard and Pissed Jeans, and somehow it all just works. Personally, I think it blends together so well because they sincerely love what they do.


The World - 'First World Record'

The World – First World Record

When Trump won the presidency, there were a lot of comments to the affect of “at least music will get better.” Some didn’t appreciate that sentiment, but dare I say the World is evidence in support of that hypothesis. The World play that early ’80s dancey post-punk so pitch perfect they should bring back Danceteria just for them. They even come complete with leftist lyrics, though the World’s take on politics is a lot more light-hearted than their predecessors.

'Stop The Insanity'-era Susan Powter versus today's Dave Holmes

Susan Powter VS Dave Holmes of the Fallouts: the Recordings

This piece is a rewrite of an article I originally published back in 2009.

The Seattle garage rock scene is full of outsider heroes. There’s bunch of folks that didn’t get all the perks their rockstar friends received during the Grunge explosion, but left behind equally important music. People like Tom Price (U-Men, Gashuffer), Rob Vasquez (Night Kings, Right On) and James Burdyshaw (Cat Butt, Sinister Six) won’t get stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, but it’s hard to imagine the Seattle scene without them.

Another one of these Seattle rock demigods is Dave Holmes, guitarist for the Fallouts and the Wiretaps. Based on his work with both bands — Sleep by the Fallouts is must-own — Holmes deserves a permanent exhibit in the Experience Music Project (even though it’s become the Museum of Pop Culture). I caught a few of the Fallouts’ almost-random reunions in the 2000’s, and all of those shows were packed and sweaty. One woman even told me she moved to Seattle to be in the same town as the Fallouts.

Holmes is also notorious in Seattle for being the guy that used to prank Susan Powter — the “Stop the Insanity” infomercial lady — when she had a radio talk show in the ’90s. Holmes worked in the warehouse of Fantagraphics Comics with a bunch prank-loving goofballs. When her show came on, everyone stopped what they were doing and called the show, hoping to get Holmes on the air. If anyone got through, they hand the phone to Holmes, who’d improvise characters and situations like an obese man needing to brag about his little rascal or seriously conservative gentleman who like to spew right wing talking points at the outspoken leftist.

The warehouse workers also managed to set up a tape player and record his calls. After they collected an archive, a fellow co-worker compiled the best calls on a cassette with some goofy sound effects thrown in between. The tape was passed around to friends and gained some notoriety in some circles. When I began dating my now-wife in the early ’00s, she and her friends would drop lines from the calls like “fuggin’ tago” in their conversations.

Around 2009, I connected with Holmes on Myspace and asked him about the tapes. He said he first started calling into the Amy Alpine show, a locally-produced call-in show that was on just long enough for Holmes to record some amazing bits, like the one about “Whole Lotta Rosie.” But then Powter’s show replaced Alpine’s, so the fitness guru became Holmes’s prank-calling target/muse.

“We’d listen to her show, and I think what usually happened was that I would say to a guy that I worked with named Demian ‘I should call and say’… whatever I would end up saying. He would laugh and say, ‘You gotta do it.’ So I did it. We had a tape player there, so we’d usually record it… and then got back to kicking ass at work,” Holmes wrote.

Listening back to the calls, you can tell Powter went along with the jokes. At least most of them — some of WD’s calls were aggressively rejected. But she comes off as a good sport and it makes me wish I could hear her radio show today. It’s hard to find any stories on the radio show except for a New York Times piece from 1993, as much more attention was paid to her short-lived television show.

But Holmes’s reasons for calling in to her show didn’t include Powter’s affable nature.

“(I called in) because we’re both fitness gurus. Also because she happened to be on in the afternoon, she was a good straight-man, and it was really easy to get on her show,” Holmes said.

Below are Holmes’s calls, accompanied his descriptions of the characters he’s playing:

Phil Rudd Fan

One of the first characters Dave used in his calls was the “Phil Rudd fan.”

Dave: “A guy I worked with told me about Phil Rudd (drummer from AC/DC) getting drunk on Sidney Harbor (Harbour?) and accidentally maiming a leggy supermodel.”

Thadeus Jones

Dave: “I guess I figured since she was a fitness guru, that a heavy man might call and brag about his little rascal.”

WD

Dave: “A character that quoted Pastor Falwell without giving him credit.”

Fuggin’ Taco Guy

Dave: “The Fall-Outs used to live in a house together. In a closet, we found boxes of Keebler crackers. One was taco flavored (flavoured?). Somehow, from that came “fuggin’ taco” or “huggin’ tago”. 15 years later it ends up as a way for me to say the fuck word over and over again on Susan Powter’s radio show.”

The Rest

Some of my favorite calls didn’t have characters, just great premises like “Later U Lady” and “Git Freaky Wit U” (I have to write them like Prince because they’re THAT genius). Here’s the rest of the tape – just hit play!