- Black Mountain "In The Future" 2008 (Canada)
People are another of my favorite contemporary British bands and a top
heavy psych band of the modern day. Their style is rooted in
UK folk-rock (every article or review about them mentions Fairport Convention) but with a dose of heavy rock jammin' reminiscent of your Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, Jethro Tull
type bands (and perhaps most of all Wishbone Ash - because that band
was both folky and heavy/jammy). In other words, they are a VERY
British-sounding rock band! Steeple
was their first proper album and they've made two more solid follow-ups
to date (there's also a fourth album that collects up early pre-Steeple singles and demos).
- Wolf People "Steeple" 2010 (UK)
In Japanese rock news, Haru Nemuri
was supposed to be in America this week but of course her tour was
"postponed" due to the pandemic panic of 2020. At least we can console
ourselves with her next album which comes out this week.
Swedish band Dungen (which means something like "Grove" or "Meadow") is a vehicle for songwriter Gustav Ejstes and has been
one of the top psychedelic rock bands of the 21st century. Their style combines the classic sounds of flowerpower-era Beatles with Hendrixian guitars and the cosmic vibes of Pink Floyd. Ta Det Lugnt
("Take It Easy") was their fourth album and the first one to gain much
attention outside of Sweden (it even got them a gig on Conan O'Brien's
show - a notable feat since all their songs are in Swedish). After
releasing seven albums during the 2000's decade, they slowed down and
only released two albums in the 2010's decade, most recently
a vinyl-only instrumental soundtrack LP in 2016.
- Dungen "Ta Det Lugnt" 2004 (Sweden)
In Japanese music news, Haru Nemuri released a new single last week: "Riot"
is a song she's been performing in concert for over a year, so this one
was expected (turn on closed captioning for the English translation - a
typical Haru catharsis theme: "we're all going to die and God doesn't
care, but I will sing to remind you to enjoy life while you can.")
Along with the new song came news of her sophomore album: Lovetheism
(2020) will be released on March 20 to coincide with her first North
American mini-tour! (Unless that stupid virus prevents her from
also couldn't help but serve up another offering of Dempagumi.inc this week
(their next album comes out in April). Their breakout album World Wide Dempa
(2013) featured a pair of Top 10 hit singles which were self-referential pop mini-operas: "W.W.D." (in this clip, Eimi cracks up the rest of the band by imitating their voices doing a solo karaoke version of the song) and "W.W.D. II"
(the video depicts a future version of the group in the year 2020(!) where everybody but
Pinky! has been replaced, a bittersweet twist on the lyrics which are
about how they plan to stick together - ironically, they really have
replaced two members since then, thus can't perform this song
anymore as it prominently features the names of the departed members in the lyrics). The titular track of
their triple-CD(!) greatest hits album "WWD BEST"
(2016) was something of a sequel to those two songs. Here's a
sampling of the translated lyrics to give you a taste of their NERD POWER: "Exceptional,
nonstandard! Our special framework breaks the idol business
rules. DEMPA BIG BANG!! We'll light up the world and sing to tell
you how it shines. We're an awkward sextet. We broadcast
ever-extreme-super-duper DEMPA all over like crazy!! . . . DEMPA
Dempagumi has a "." and "inc" - don't fret the details, but keep that in
mind OK? Let's go with all our might! We haven't made enough of a
ruckus, not yet!"
people probably consider Talking Heads to have been a nerdy party band
(David Byrne's spastic dancing etc.) but they also had their dark side.
For starters, their first hit was a song about wanting to murder people
called "Psycho Killer." But their darkest moment is the third album,
the one with the menacing album cover and title: Fear Of Music!
Which is a very witty, maybe even downright ridiculous name for a
pop album! (If you're afraid of music, why are you creating or
listening to an
album of music?) Lyricist David Byrne always had a knack for funny
concepts like that (the song "Memories Can't Wait" from this album is
another good example - he's in a hurry to remember the
past?) Musically, Heads began as a stark "punk" band who were
really more like
the bleeding edge of the "new wave" that
followed immediately after punk. For one thing, they had a crisp rhythm
section (i.e., "funky") and avoided distorted and saturated guitar
sounds in favor of "sterile, brittle" guitars. Fear Of Music
was the transitional record away from that early style into the more
textural (and even funkier) sounds they'd unleash on their Afrobeat-inspired next album.
- Talking Heads "Fear Of Music" 1979 (USA)
been doing CAOTWs from the 21st century so far this year, but this week
for pledge drive we're going back to the 20th century - specifically,
those groovy 1990's! One of my favorite artists of that decade was the
band Stereolab, who disbanded in 2009. They were essentially a DIY
indie rock band, though their influences were more esoteric than your
typical rock group, drawing inspiration primarily from 1970's krautrock (pretty cool) and "easy listening"
artists of the 1960's (that's the unexpected part!) I feel that
the band was on a steady creative incline from their beginning around
1990 up until the end of that decade,
though by the 2000's they were pretty much treading water and
regurgitating their early styles (it didn't help that their second
vocalist Mary Hanson died in a tragic accident in 2002). Their
high water mark is probably Dots And Loops,
which was their most streamlined, futuristic recording and also became
their biggest seller. The group reunited in 2019 to tour the world
(they'll be back in Chicago this May) though there is no news about
them recording any new music (yet).
- Stereolab "Dots And Loops" 1997 (UK/France)
Today is Tony Iommi's 72nd birthday. His band Black Sabbath
not only invented heavy metal, their first three albums pretty much
perfected heavy metal. Only one band has truly taken the "heavy
doom/stoner" style further than Sabbath: a band called SLEEP.
However, Sleep has been notoriously unproductive, releasing just four
albums over the last 30 years. For about ten of those years (1999 to
2008) Sleep was broken up, and during their inactive decade bassist Al
Cisneros and drummer Chris Haikus formed an interesting bass-and-drums
duo called Om while guitarist Matt Pike started a more traditional
metal band called band High On Fire. Om released five albums (one more
than Sleep!) though seems to be on hiatus now that Sleep is an active
band again. Their best album was the last one, Advaitic Songs,
which adds strings and "ethnic folk music" instrumentation to the
standard Om blueprint of superheavy bass lines, plodding drums, and
Cisneros' unique approach to singing and lyrics (Om's songs, like
Sleep's, mostly seem to be biblical prophecies that involve smoking
lots of weed).
- Om "Advaitic Songs" 2012 (USA)
in Japanese pop news, otaku idols Dempagumi.inc delivered a big ol'
valentine to their fans last week: they released a brand new song and music video "Moshi Moshi Internet"
- if it seems pretty strange, maybe it's because this song was
written by a 16-year-old computer geek, and the video was directed by
another 17-year-old computer geek! (The bleeding edge of the future: it's probably the first song heard on the Kosmik Radiation
show that was written by someone born in the 21st century.) They also
announced the release date and title of their forthcoming sixth
album (translated into English, something like): Love Is The Cure That Will Save The Earth! Because Dempagumi.inc Is A Family (are they hippies or what?) Also, the two newest girls to join the band, Nemo and Perorin,
have started a side project called NemoPero and will soon release their debut single (UPDATE
A WEEK LATER: the NemoPero single has arrived and it kind of sucks,
video is a cheesecake cringefest - yet it got more views in a day than
the latest Dempagumi video got in a week; that's the power of cute
girls in bikinis I guess.) Perorin also recently made a guest appearance (on a much better song) with new hipster idol group Meme Tokyo (she's the one in the yellow egg dress).
Ranaldo turned 64 last week. As the "less famous" lead guitarist in
Sonic Youth, he was sometimes called the George Harrison of the band,
but maybe he was really more like their Jerry Garcia(?) Since Sonic Youth
broke up nearly a decade ago, Lee has not been as prolific as the
attention-seeking workaholic Thurston Moore, but Ranaldo's three solo
albums to date have shown a lot more musical growth. Thurston is
making exactly the kind of records you'd expect him to: heavy on
the long droney-clangy guitar jams. Kim Gordon the bassist
only got around to releasing her first solo record in 2019.
Steve Shelley the drummer has played on some of Lee's & Thurston's
records (including this week's CAOTW) and in their touring bands. It has been pretty interesting to
hear how these musicians' contributions to Sonic Youth are more easily
defined by their solo work - in particular it was always difficult to
tell who was doing what in Thurston and Lee's oceanic guitar jams
(sometimes also including Kim or "fifth Beatle" Jim O'Rourke on a third
guitar). Freed from his collaborators, it becomes pretty clear that Lee
is a Deadhead and Neil
fan who favors classic rock guitar jams more than the "avant garde"
styles of Kim and Thurston - which also means he writes catchier songs
than they do. Last Night On Earth is his best batch in terms of good old brain-frying psychedelic guitar rock, though his 2017 follow-up Electric Trim was also a very interesting "less rock, more experimental pop singer-songwriter" album.
- Lee Ranaldo & The Dust "Last Night On Earth" 2013 (USA)
Nakata will be 40 years old on February 6. He might be the most important
figure on the 21st century Japanese music scene. Though he doesn't
exclusively work with female artists, his greatest success has been
writing and producing records for ladies. He began his musical
career at age 17 by founding the duo Capsule with singer Toshiko
Koshijima; Capsule's music was created electronically (the DJ +
vocalist format) but was rooted in the neo-sixties pop sounds of the
90's "Shibuya-kei" scene led by Les Pizzicato Five,
which is still a distinct influence on his style - his tunes and
arrangements are "groovy baby"! Capsule has continued to record albums
sporadically, but in 2003 he also began to produce and write for an
idol trio from Hiroshima called Perfume. By 2008 he had turned them
into an electronic pop group to rival the mighty Kraftwerk,
and they have been the most popular group in the country for over a
decade, with every album going to #1 on the charts. Things
got even groovier still in
2011 when he met a weird teen "charisma model" who called herself Kyary Pamyu Pamyu.
Kyary became his greatest muse and has unleashed the best tunes and
productions of his career (so far). This week's CAOTW is the third of
Kyary's four albums released to date, all of which are classics in my
book! As Kyary became Japan's "it-girl" of the 2010's decade, Nakata
has become the most in-demand producer and songwriter in Japan as well
as one of that country's most internationally famous musicians.
- Kyary Pamyu Pamyu "Pika Pika Fantajin" 2014 (Japan)
are the videos for the recent Nakata hits played on the show this week
(most have English translation of the lyrics available through closed
captioning - he doesn't just write great melodies, his lyrics also
memorably capture the current technology-dominated zeitgeist):
band with an unpronounceable name is the primary vehicle for the
musician who calls herself "Yoshimi P-We", or just simply Yoshimi. For
almost a decade she was the primary drummer of Boredoms
(a group that often had multiple drummers), who were arguably Japan's
greatesst heavy underground psychedelic rock band of all time (at least
after their early years when they were more of a punk/noise band).
Yoshimi is also well known in the Western underground for her
collaborations, including the "indie rock supergroup" Free Kitten with
Kim Gordon (Sonic Youth) and Julia Cafritz (Pussy Galore). OOIOO's
music is pretty much unclassifiable, based on improvised layers of
percussion and chanted vocals (the group is all-female); there's also
bass and guitars in the mix (Yoshimi is the guitarist and lead singer
in this group rather than the drummer), but it's not what you'd call
"rock" music. OOIOO has released eight interesting albums since 1997,
with the most recent being released earlier this month. Gamel is
arguably their best to date, being a double album of epic free-flowing
- OOIOO "Gamel" 2014 (Japan)
series of classic albums from the last 20 years, this week I nominate
Ty Segall's weirdest album to date as his first induction into the
hall. Segall is an "indie famous" guitarist, singer and songwriter
who's appeared on a few "hip" late night talk shows but has only made
the US Top 50 album charts once so far. Emotional Mugger is within his usual style - heavy garage rock with sneery vocals (which remind me of a snottier Marc Bolan from T. Rex)
- but this album also has a creepy surrealist undertone which makes it
stand out in his discography. The cover's grainy black and white photo
of a plastic baby doll somehow seems perfect: people get emotional
about babies, but that's a fake baby, so it's "mugging your emotions?"
For the tour and video, Ty liked to mess around with a creepy plastic mask
that made him look like a big creepy baby. The tunes also feature some
pretty weird riffs and lyrics. I'm really not sure what it all "means"
but sometimes the music you can't figure out makes more of an
impression than that which is immediately understood.
- Ty Segall "Emotional Mugger" 2016 (USA)
month we'll be featuring all classic albums of the 21st century.
Earthling Society, from the city of Fleetwood on the northwestern coast
of England, released their debut album in 2005 and were one of the very
first records "from the Kosmik Radiation mailbag" to be played on the
show (in fact I am pretty sure the title of "The Kosmik Suite" from
their second album was inspired by this show!) They released another
ten or so albums over the years and broke up in 2018, though the two
constant members - singer/guitarist Fred Laird and drummer John Blacow
- debuted a fine new psychedelic music project in 2019 called Taras Bulba. Generally classified as a "space rock" band, ES definitely has shades of classic British space rockers like Pink Floyd and especially Hawkwind
(with the occasional foray into cosmic British folk music), but they
are not copyists and do not sound quite like any other band. My
favorite of their albums is their third Tears Of Andromeda, a proper kosmik trip of a double album where half the songs are more than 10 minutes long.
- Earthling Society "Tears Of Andromeda - Black Sails Against The Sky" 2007 (UK)
Also on the show this week: the first new tune from Haru Nemuri since 2018. She will be doing a short North American tour in the spring, including a Midwestern stop in Chicago! And Poppy released her third album
this week (also dying her hair back to its natural brown, thus
completing her transformation from creepy barbie space child to creepy
heavy metal witch).
Finally, we must also pay tribute on the passing of one of rock's most iconic drummers.
Kosmik Radiation top album from my best of the year list gains automatic entry into the
classic album hall of fame. The selection for 2019 is a fitting
conclusion to the decade just passed, seeing as John Dwyer's various
musical outfits - Oh Sees, formerly Thee Oh Sees, sometimes OCS,
and also his "solo project" Damaged Bug - have been consistently making
my best of the year lists for most of the history of this show. Face Stabber
is his 16th album to make one of my lists (easily topping any other
artist), but the first time he's had my #1 album. I think it's the best
(Thee) Oh Sees album yet: a couple years ago Dwyer revamped the band in
a jammier, proggier direction, which included the addition of a second
drummer. The evolution from their punkier garage band roots has reached
full flower on this album's central jams like the 21-minute "Henchlock"
- it's still a little punk/garage and they've always had a touch of
krautrock in their grooves, but now they're jazzy and frankly have
turned into the 21st century's leading San Francisco jam band.
- Oh Sees "Face Stabber" 2019 (USA)
More highlights of the year: my favorite new bands I discovered in 2019 are Australia's pastel surf-rock hippies The Babe Rainbow, whose album Today
created one of the most consistent and pleasant aural soundscapes of
the year, and (yes here we go again) the fabulous Japanese nerd girl
prog-pop band Dempagumi.inc - here's the baffling music video that introduced me to them (Mirin is wearing a stuffed pig in a bikini as a hat!)
As far as 20th century geezers, Meat Puppets nearly claimed the top spot this year with Dusty Notes, their best album in a quarter century and my favorite record of 2019 in terms of classic songwriting, while Kim Gordon finally released her debut solo album No Home Record eight years after Sonic Youth broke up - it sounds 100% like you'd expect a Kim Gordon album to sound (I mean that as a compliment!)