Yep, he’s heard it’s a good ‘un, and is making his way to the record store, a long way away. Leica M, 50mm APO-Summicron-Asph. Above the Yellowstone River. Mountain goat, in case you are wondering.
Keith Richards tells the story of how the hollow-sounding chords at the beginning of “Street Fighting Man” were recorded on a little cassette in a hotel room. We were beginning to get the feeling that if Tim Presley wrote such a masterpiece — he’s written others — he would have released that Room Service output, never bothering to go into the studio. Thank Heavens the Stones had the good sense to release the song in its sonic glory, tinny chords and all. And thank God that Ty Segall — maybe that’s redundant — persuaded Presley to go into a studio to create For The Recently Found Innocent, because this seventh White Fence is a beaut.
We knew what Presley could do, not just because his band Darker My Love released Tulip Frenzy’s #1 album in 2010, Alive As You Are. And in 2012, Presley and Segall collaborated on Hair, which qualified as no less than that year’s 2nd best album. And then, after we complained for what seems like ever that we wished Presley would get out of the bedroom and take his talents to a proper studio and record with a proper band, and straighten up and comb his hair etc. he closed out the year with a live masterpiece – White Fence’s Live In San Francisco, which made our Top Ten List(c). What a hootenanny that one is! Maybe the best punk rock record of the last five years! You could hear John Dwyer of Thee Oh Sees chortling at the knobs, as he recorded Presley in all his barrre chord and classicist glory. And now we can hear the impact of his friend Ty Segall, who plays drums and produces what is already apparent as the best batch of White Fence cookies to come out of the oven. Ever.
Whether he’s an introvert, or just likes the freedom of recording at home, the intervention by friends Dwyer and Segall to get Tim Presley to share with the world a better sounding version of the magic that takes place the moment he picks up a guitar is surely welcomed. We are done comparing Presley to Kurtz, gone up the river. On For The Recently Found Innocent he has brought his jangly guitar, his reverence for early Who and Kinks dynamics, his fondness for psychedelic chords, wispy vocals, the patchouli ambience… brought it all to a studio where Mr. Segall himself plays drums and turns up the Dolby hiss fighters rendering this ‘un nearly high fi!
If you think we’re enthusiastic about this, you’re right, and aside from dropping a big hint that you’ll hear more about this when it is time to lasso the best o’ 2014 into our little compendium, we should quit the writing about it and get back to nodding our heads. Tim Presley has recorded a proper studio album and White Fence can get the airing and do it is so solemnly owed.
Throughout this summer of triumphant European tours by both the Brian Jonestown Massacre and the Dandy Warhols, our Twitter feed has been stuffed with the retweets of avid fans overflowing with excitement over having just seen one band or the other.
On a given July morning, you might see this retweeted by Anton Newcombe (band leader and skillful social media tour director of BJM):
Or this tweet posted by The Dandy Warhols:
Given that alternate nights at this year’s Austin Psych Fest were headlined by the two bands — famous for their friendship, rivalry, their frenemy status — and that day by day, as we would see these alternating reports on how great their shows each were the night before — the Dandys in Dusseldorf, the BJM in Oslo (or wherever) — a few days ago, on a long plane flight, we were compelled to re-watch Dig!, Ondi Timoner’s 2004 film that chronicles seven years of the two bands each struggling up the greasy pole of rock music success. Based on what we know about the two bands from just the Summer of 2014 — sold out shows across Europe, Anton/Brian Jonestown Massacre playing no doubt great sets featuring songs from their magnificent new album, Revelation… the Dandys bringing big crowds to their feet by playing mostly songs from their back catalog… how would Dig! hold up? What would viewing it ten years after its release be like?
Well, it’s not surprising that it is still so fine, so amazingly entertaining, still sad (watching the Anton Newcombe of those days, um, not succeed), still compelling. It remains one of the handful of really excellent movies ever made about rock’n’roll. The master narrative, for those who haven’t seen it, is that the Brian Jonestown Massacre and the Dandy Warhols were, in the 1990s, trying to revolutionize the world of rock music, and not incidentally, become huge. Courtney Taylor and the Dandys both worshipped and were exasperated by the unrelenting, unfocused genius of Anton Newcombe, who no matter what else was going on — fistfights on stage, drug busts by Georgia sherifs, editions of the band imploding mid-tour — was capable of getting BJM to create album after album of important and meaningful music. And while the Dandys got the big record contract, not all was groupies and cocaine in their world; they were subject to the machinations of a suppurating record industry, ultimately making fine records that were poorly promoted, even as they found a big audience, particularly in Europe, for their live shows.
Though it is narrated by Courtney Taylor, the movie is really the story of Anton Newcombe. Dig! is a chronicle of a genius whose career flounders due to his peccadilloes, urges and addictions, his borderline behavior — even as we repeatedly come to understand how, of the two bands, it is the Brian Jonestown Massacre that is jacked into the live wire of real rock’n’roll. Even when Peter Holmstrom of the Dandys is bitching about something that Anton has done to alienate them, the last sentence in each soundbite is some variation of, “And yet their music is just always that much more brilliant than anything anyone else can do.” The movie ends with Antone not quite as a young and beautiful as he was in the early scenes, still flailing away at success, as the rival Dandys have settled into a niche of creative and commercial success. Even though by 2004, BJM had released three score songs that will live forever, even though our record collection is fat with their multiple great albums, there was no sense of whether they would ever make it, and particularly whether Anton would survive from all the different ways he beat his head against the wall.
Flash forward to this summer and both bands have “made it.” No, neither band sells millions of copies of their records. But both bands — BJM and Dandys — are killing it each night on stage, with big crowds and happy tweeters. Anton is broad of face, no longer handsome, but certainly healthy — his Twitter feed filled with shaky pictures of the sushi he’s eating, not lines of various powders — and he is back to putting out great records. The Dandys may no longer be changing their world through their new records, but they are certainly worth seeing, one of the best live bands working today. Both bands have adoring fans, and there is room for each to be the headline act in that alternative world in which alternative music — music that matters — still exists, record companies be damned.
It is a seemingly happy time for both bands. But what really is most delightful is that Anton Newcombe, the troubled genius of Dig!, today is sober, productive, and still every bit the innovator he was in the 1990s. Rock’n’roll does not have a wealth of happy stories. This is one.
When Nik Software was bought by Google, we worried there would be no more investment in new products from what we believe is the best of the Lightroom plug-ins. And in fact, since that purchase — and since the various plug-ins such as Silver Efex Pro and Viveza are no longer available a la carte, but must be purchased as “Google Nik Collection” — there have been no announced upgrades of the best individual products. Recently, though, they released Analog Efex Pro, which is clearly aimed at photographers that wish to get in on the Instagram fun, even as they use their DSLRs or other “good” cameras, not their iPhones, to take pictures.
We recently read an essay about how modern-day Leica photographers take little advantage of the great lenses and sharp processing inside the digital Ms, because they are too busy reducing their images through software to mimic the look of film from the 1960s. There may be something to this. And it may be wrong to do — using your brand new Porsche to travel the Go-Cart track. But then again, sometimes it’s quite fun. Well done, Nik.
It was through a retweet by Anton Newcombe that I discovered the Twitter feed of @Edward__Abbey, purporting to convey, if not actual quotes of the late environmentalist radical, then his sensibility a quarter century after his death. There are many such posthumous tweeters, from Richard Nixon to Oscar Wilde, and several are quite amusing. The Abbey feed, however, is a travesty.
Academic environmentalists are paid by the capitalist pigs to derevolutionize the struggle to liberate the planet.—
Edward Abbey (@Edward__Abbey) July 06, 2014
Edward Abbey was many things — an entertaining novelist, a crackling wit, the desert Southwest’s poet laureate, a fiercely radical opponent of unchecked growth and sprawl that led to environmental desecrations such as the Glen Canyon Dam. He was wrong and illiberal on many things, particularly in what today we would recognize as a racist opposition to immigrants from Mexico, which he couched in terms of trying to protect the Southwest from a population explosion, but which was ugly any way you slice it. But he was funny. And persuasive in his humor. What he wasn’t was a one-dimensional, self-parodic purveyor of the communist dialectic. You wouldn’t know that from this disgraceful feed.
The liberation of the earth will not be possible until the working-masses are liberated from the capitalist machine.—
Edward Abbey (@Edward__Abbey) July 06, 2014
We don’t know if many of the purported quotes in the feed are actually from Abbey. We’ve given Abbey close study over many years, and the quotes in the feed just don’t quite sound like him. They are close, but no cigar. They read like the product of a humorless teenager who knows enough about Abbey to echo some of what he wrote or said, but not enough to be able to convey the nuances. There is a notable absence of Abbey’s humor, which aside from his passion, was his most attractive quality. Whomever is behind the feed makes Abbey sound like the biggest bore on the campus quad, not the writer of Desert Solitaire or The Monkey Wrench Gang.
As is its practice, after following Abbey, this morning I received an email from Twitter with “Suggestions based on Edward Abbey.” The first suggestion was @Che__Guevara. Of course it was. What a reprehensible hijacking of one of America’s great treasures.