Four oddball picks for summer's sweltering days.
Myrmidons of Melodrama
After a long night of drinking with your feet in a kiddie pool, the only logical thing to do is make a giant egg breakfast to the tunes of the oft-overlooked '60s girl group the Shangri-Las. Comprised of two pairs of sisters from Queens-Marge and Mary Anne Ganser, and Mary and Betty Weiss-the Shangri-Las' songs chronicled the darker side of life to the melodies of bubblegum pop. Guided by the iconoclastic producer Shadow Morton, the combination of handclaps, voiceovers and melodrama turned the Shangri-Las into high queens of camp. With gravity-defying bouffants and knee-high boots, the Shangs' looked and sounded like a parent's worst nightmare. Bad lovers, runaways and dead bikers peopled their records, culminating in the masterpiece "Leader of the Pack." Though the song was their only smash hit, Myrmidons of Melodrama proves just how varied and interesting their catalog was. Songs such as "Give Him a Great Big Kiss" and "Out in the Streets" manage to feel as fresh and sassy as a June morning.
Razor Sharp/Epic Street
Ghostface Killah's second solo effort Supreme Clientele features an all-star lineup of producers and guests, and is a pleasing balance of slow jams and hip-hop bravado. RZA produced three songs, including the album's best-"Child's Play"-a laid-back anthem to childhood nostalgia and the dog days of school. Clientele also includes excellent productions by Carlos Bess ("Cherchez La Ghost"), displaying the siren-like quality of Madam Majestic's honey-laced voice, and "Apollo Kids," in which Hassan provides the perfect sonic canvas for Ghostface's words. His stream-of-consciousness rapping style has often been accused of being impossible to understand. "Catch me in the corner not speakin'/ Crushed out heavenly/ U.G. rock the sweet daddy long fox minks/ Chicken and broccoli, Wally's look stinky/ With his man straight from Raleigh Durham, he recognized Kojak." Though the words come flying like bullets, the sometimes nonsensical alliteration is what identifies Ghostface's trademark juicy flow, and Supreme Clientele's the perfect album to accompany an afternoon thunderstorm.
It's early evening and you're riding around the 'burbs lost and looking for the Krispy Kreme. Now's the time to pop 25 Suaves' 1938 into the stereo and rev your engine. Not quite punk, not quite metal and not quite garage, 25 Suaves are an irony-free duo that make a wailing wall of noise. The band's got a primo pedigree-Michigan by way of Providence and Japan. Pete Larson, aka Velocity Hopkins, has a rusty snarl of a voice with guitars to match. Larson's wife Fumi Kawasaki, aka DJ Party Girl, provides cymbal-heavy drumming that's tight and deafeningly loud. Released by Larson's Bulb Records in 2002, the nine-song album opens with "Party Disease," an homage to balls-out rocking with a killer guitar hook. "Saturday" showcases Larson's blues-laden voice, with some Zeppelin-like riffage. "DEA305" blends electronic burps and zings with agro instrumentals, whipping the conclusion of the album into a froth-mouthed frenzy. Although 1938 clocks in under 35 minutes, its relentless guitar-and-drums assault on the senses will leave you pumping your sweaty fist in the humid summer sky.
Suicide (First Album)
Even in New York's punk heyday, Suicide were the most hated band in town. Alan Vega's howlingly dissonant vocals and Martin Rev's distorted keyboards rambled, shocked and barely resembled the kind of musicality understood by the underground. Their nihilistic minimalism made them perfect ringmasters for what they saw as life's horrifying circus, and for anyone interested in groundbreaking moments in musical history, the reissue of their self-titled first album by Mute Records is a must-have. It's a two-disc affair with the second disc dedicated to live recordings at CBGB and a bootleg of the 1978 show in Belgium at which the audience nearly rioted. Even with the flashy additional material, the original album is the real treat. "Ghost Rider" slaps patriotic sentimentality in the face, while the delicate synth repetitions make "Cheree" one of the best punk contemporary love ballads ever written. And "Frankie Teardrop" achieves maximum spookiness with droning keyboards and bad acid trip shrieks. Even with the band's spare use of instruments, the layered delays form a lush aural experience and will be a comforting companion during the wee hours of a hot summer night when the beer's all gone and the person you want to kiss has gone home with someone else.
The Black Metal Dialogues
"In a perfect world, black metal would exist totally in the mind (as it does with me much of the time). We would hear the black sounds pouring through our brain as we sit in darkness (or maybe there could be a torch nearby). This is true black metal."
Actually, this is true bullshit-spun hilariously and hella satanically by New York writer/musician Dave Hill.
Since last November Hill's been posing as "Lance"-a 19-year-old self-professed "King of Black Metal" from Gary, Ind., who lives with his mom and fronts a band called Witch Taint. He's made the Taint's one and only track-the beyond-infernal "Necrodreamraper"-available at MySpace (www.myspace.com/witchtaint), and is even selling T-shirts that feature the kind of indecipherable logo you'd expect from a Gary, Ind.-based black metal band.
Hill's kept his friends (full disclosure: I'm one) in stitches by circulating "Lance's" email exchanges with a Norwegian black metal impresario named Mathias, who puts out records by a band named Mysticum that Lance derides as "total pussy metal."