The moniker is no misnomer, as finding MMM is perhaps the mystery. Abandoned web and social media sites, rare and random appearances, and a cloudy, Woody Allen subterfuged online bio all add to the challenge of tracking down Manhattan Murder Mystery. For years I had to rely on a free burned CD picked up from a show, and even now still have to wait months and sometimes years before a google hunt returns another piece of the puzzle.
Perhaps you are not meant to track them down but rather stumble across them (Here is your chance to stumble across them) That is exactly how they came into my life towards the end of a living in Los Angeles stint in my mid-twenties. Having lost faith in the LA music scene, stuck in a string of -less gigs (soulless, motionless, emotionless), MMM reignited faith in bands that are still willing to leave everything out on the stage and are not afraid to get messy, really messy in the process. MMM’s lead, whose name remains elusive, seems to regularly sport a military helmet for equal parts persona construction and protection from his stage destruction. When your equipment takes a deep, deep second place to the emotive rawness of the music, smashing things up a bit doesn’t seem to matter.
The music, both shows and available recordings, are bare bones and lo-fi by necessity most likely rather than by choice. Nevertheless, they seem to find a wonderful balance of raw edge with toe-tappiness to sustain a penetrating trance through the earbuds and a trance to spontaneous bodily eruption effect from the stage.
If you are lucky enough to stumble across them, you too can join in the hunt for MMM. I often dream up soundtracks to unwritten movies and always return to MMM to overlay scenes of dejected wandering only to suddenly finding you are in that moment exactly where you are supposed to be. That was my MMM story and serendipitous seems to be the story of Manhattan Murder Mystery.
I had the great pleasure of seeing Octa#grape for 8 days in a row on a recent tour. They are amazingly cool and supremely weird. The band is an unlikely group of skilled musicians from different musical planets that have assembled for a sound of wild, joyful, musical abandon. They’re music may not be available in stores at this point but you can get their music through bandcamp, or better yet, buy a disc from the boys when you see them at one of their frequent shows. The line up includes Glen and Ely from the Original Trumans Water lineup as well as the ever-present O (Fluf, Olivelawn), and new-to-San Diego transplant Jason Begin. Each member produces their own music outside the band and the chaos that is created will bring a smile to your face. They are just off of a US/Canada tour with Pinback and are heading back out again this Fall with Sebadoh. I dig it! Look for a video clip soon from their recent Pinback / Octa#grape tour dates.
I can without hesitation always name this record as my all time favorite. Period.
In high school I can remember discovering the great music in San diego’s local scene. I would stay up late at night and record the local music show on 91X. If I couldn’t quite stay up to hear the end of the show late at night I’d record it on a cassette and bring it to school the next day to discover the new bands that would become an obsession for me. So many of the bands from this era, the late 80s, don’t stand the test of time but certainly Pitchfork does.
The album came out after the band had already broken up so we are very lucky in a sense that it ever came out at all. I remember talking to John the guitarist about how much I loved the album and he said that they had recently ditched a slew of other songs that were going in a totally different direction so the album nearly came from a different angle. I can’t imagine what that would’ve sounded like but the songs that we ended up with are a serious milestone in San Diego’s cherished musical heritage. Even having listened to this album literally hundreds of times, I still enjoy listening to it regularly.
The line up had changed since its inception. Originally Pitchfork was a three piece (guitar/bass/drums) and had a faster, more chaotic sound. Don Ankrom the original bass player was a slapper so even though he was a fantastic player it may have date stamped the project a bit. He moved away and was replaced by Nick Frederick, who played much steadier and more straight ahead. Less wild and original but arguably more supportive. Joey Piro drums with a great energy. Slightly unpolished but with a powerful and creative approach. Guitarist John Reis played in a very energetic way, often contorting and wrenching the sounds from his guitar. The use of noise was musically interweaved with melody. John also sang originally but later Rick Froberg teamed up as their vocalist. All their official releases have Rick on vocals. Rick also is an amazing artist. He did all of their album art along with the art for many other San Diego bands over the years, as well as much of the illustration work for the local label Headhunter.
I often see brief mentions of Pitchfork as the roots of the musical tree that led to Drive Like Jehu, Rocket from the Crypt, Obits, Hot Snakes, Night Marchers and others. Even going all the way back to 1990, this group of songs flow together so well that if you are a fan of any of those bands, it’s a crime to not really dig into this stuff. You won’t regret it.
Sooooo… Everyone once in awhile my mind gets blown. Before you feel too sorry for me, let me assure you that the mind-blowing thing is something that I welcome. I can still function in my weird world with whatever pieces are left intact. Not a problem. The reason we write this music blog is to share things that we are excited about with others. The debut album from Sweden’s Goat is one of those albums. I’ve told a bunch of friends about ‘World Music’ and many of them already knew the level of badassness their music possessed. I’m happy to join this party, however late.
‘World Music’ sounds like something right out of 1970, although it came out in 2012. Reverby, distorted guitars and fuzzed out bass along with a loose drum groove like a primitive version of Can’s Jaki Liebezeit or John Densmore. Random keys, percussion or other instruments are added as well. Some songs have singing, while others are instrumental. It works both ways. The female vocalist has a roughness that is perfect for the music. It’s great singing but sort of off at the same time. The delivery is somewhere between singing and yelling. It works perfectly. The melodies sound like they are derived from some cult from the middle ages. There’s a “retro” aspect to the production and tones that harkens to the sound of the late 1960s and 70s, yet there’s an entrancing ancient, primitive element that draws you in. Very hypnotic and grooving. The repetition works in the music’s favor. A mystery surrounds the band as they claim to be from a small voodoo-worshipping village called Korpilombolo in Sweden and they perform live wearing masks. Now that’s a recipe for something interesting!
Here’s Goat’s ‘World Music’ full album for a listening preview.
Thunder, Lightning, Strike (2004) – Memphis Industries
Once a blogosphere sensation, The Go! Team has drifted slowly away from the collective listening conscience; however, their genre-bending sound continues to effectively move listeners forward. Infused with scores of movement and raucous ambient joy, Thunder, Lightning, Strike is a swagger filled, motivating flow of marching bands, 80’s TV action heroes, rap artifacts, double dutch chants, messy guitars, and rolling banjos.
Looking for albums that we would pass along to our friends, this album is high on my list of most-oft recommended. Pure infectious fun that harkens back to that free-wheeling explosion of home-engineered projects, releasing a whole new type of artist upon the scene. The music is a chance to get psyched-up about the sounds of our youth and rework it in a way to propel us into the future.