Des Moines psychedelic noisemakers Rhonda Is A Dead Bitch recently put this video on the net for this new song “Laos,” title track from an upcoming EP. It’s a keyboardy pseudo-orchestral instrumental rather than the phasered guitar freakout you might have been expecting. Could make good horror movie theme music. Plus, kittens!

Rhonda Is A Dead Bitch have a release party for the (vinyl) Laos EP on Saturday, November 20 9:30 at Vaudeville Mews with Golden Veins and some yet-to-be-specified version of Distant Trains.

Hyper-prolific songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and all around awesome guy Samuel Locke Ward is branching out online beyond MySpace: he’s got a bloggy-blog over here where you will be able to keep up on his doings.

He also has this really great new album out called “Barely Regal Beagles” which I’ve been working on an article about, and he posted about said album on said new website here. It includes this video of the song “Will Be Heaven,” which I really like:

My work continues to be busy, so I haven’t been writing a lot here, but I do manage to find time to post various links of interest to the Centipede Farm Facebook page. I figured I should pop in here quick and talk about music things I’ve been to or done lately. Leah and I went to see The Black Keys at the Val Air with busted AC, the place was packed and probably 110 degrees. I looked like I’d been in some kind of sweat-filled dunk tank. They played wonderfully though. I’ve seen some bands tend to play their songs faster live than they sound on record; the Black Keys, at least that night, played things a little bit slower, which I think suited the atmosphere of the sweltering August night. It was pretty rock and roll.

I saw the diva of mom-glam Leslie Hall, with her band Leslie And The Ly’s, bring their celebration of all things snazzy to a rainy Tuesday morning at the Iowa State Fair. Considering the weather and the early hour, they drew a respectable crowd and really pulled out all the stops when it came to silly props and between-song skits. Hanging quilts, a giant cat, and a tractor called Glitter Plow. Grace plays drums, the only live instrument they use in the show, as everything else is on a laptop other than vocals, and I can’t stress enough the level of skill it takes to be able to stay on beat with something prerecorded like that. Grace kicks ass. They’ll be at something called Inglert in Iowa City on September 16.

We did two Why Make Clocks shows this past weekend, and there were actually people at them. Saturday night’s show was at Vaudeville Mews with Noah’s Ark With A Spaceship, a great band we previously met and played with in Omaha where they’re from. They make a loud raucous guitar-noise-pop sound that I’d place in the lineage of Swervedriver. They’re on Slumber Party Records where they’re labelmates with Thunder Power and Outlaw Con Bandana among others. We got to hang out with them some before and after the show as well, and they are a fun bunch of cats. Some variation on what used to be called The Chatty Cathys opened, a group of young fellows making a Pavementy kind of racket, and they were quite enjoyable. In between was another very youthful outfit (14 to 16 years old, I believe), The Seed Of Something, which involves Dan’s wife Kim’s son Jasper and is also currently sharing drummer Will Tarbox with Why Make Clocks while they look for another. They’re really good and we’d like to see them keep at it, so if you know a kid around Des Moines who plays drums well and likes driving indie rock sounds, get in touch.

The following night both Why Make Clocks and The Seed Of Something played a double-birthday-party show at Des Moines Social Club along with The Atudes, Christopher The Conquered, and Poison Control Center. The birthdays in [question]( were of our very own Dan, and of Pat from PCC, both of which were on Monday. Everyone put on a great show, though the sound in the Black Box Theater room of the DMSC was as usual a bit off. Friendly vibes abounded. PCC continue their “Never Ending Tour” tonight at The Slowdown in Omaha, and tomorrow night at The Lift in Dubuque , then a whole bunch of other places. I’d suggest checking the lengthy list of dates listed on their MySpace because chances are if you’re reading this, you’ll have an opportunity or two to see them in the next few months.

Finally, just last night, we did the second-ever show of the reunited Fetal Pig, opening up for the amazing Mahogany Frog from Winnipeg. MF first came to our attention when Why Make Clocks ended up playing with them at Big V’s in St. Paul. We liked them a lot and told them to get in touch if they ever thought of coming to play in Des Moines. They do mostly instrumental psychedelic prog-rock epics with lots of keyboards. It’s partly a recreation of prog circa ’72, but also very modern; I caught a lot about their set that I think fans of stuff like Battles would get into. Hell, anybody can get into stuff this good. While they were playing I kept thinking to myself they might be the best band in the universe.

Leah got me a bag of gummy centipedes!

Tonight: Ember Schrag, Pennyhawk, Ron Wax, and Nuclear Rodeo at Ames Progressive, 8pm.

I really like Kowloon Walled City, hopefully someday they can get off the west coast and head out here. Here’s a stream of a three-way split EP they’ve got coming out soon with a couple bands called Fight Amp and The Ladder Devils. For fans of heavy noise-rock and sludge.

Work has been crazy. In my previous post about Office Park I should have thought to also plug their Iowa City show with Ed Gray, another artist one one foot each in folk and the avant-garde. But it didn’t happen. Sorry. I can only be expected to keep just so on top of things.

Went up to see Ember Schrag play at Stomping Grounds in Ames last night though, and that was cool. I don’t ordinarily go for the coffee-house-folky thing but Ember’s version has some real dirt in it, and her voice is well above the norm. Plus she’s kind of a friend now, and if you don’t show up to see your friends play, who do you show up for? She did a couple Office Park songs, which was an interesting to hear them in the acoustic setting, and caused me to notice how she can pull off this Mazzy Star kind of vibe with her vocals, and then deftly shift gears out of it and kick in some firepower. It was cool to hang out with Bryan Day too, he’s a real trip. Stomping Grounds has Hoegaarden on tap, I couldn’t pass that up. Ember’s doing an epic two-and-a-half-month tour starting at Ames Progressive on September 1.

The whole thing kind of reminded me of how cool a town Ames can be and why I once tried not to leave it when I really should have. I’ve been a bit wary of embracing it since that experience, the first of my lost years, when I first attempted in earnest to pass as a university student. I was troubled then, and when I’ve gone up there in the past year or so to play with Why Make Clocks, the memory colored things for the worse when I looked around. That color finally seems to be fading. Also my car made the trip with less trouble than anticipated, so I think I should try arranging to play some Distant Trains shows up there.

Joel from Teddy Boys sent me some mp3s of a solo thing he’s working on which, if the ID tags on the files can be believed, is called Little Victories. He was telling me about how he’s been getting really into stuff like 60s girl-group pop and is going for this real pure pop thing. Which seems to mean that what you end up with is something akin to an Alex Chilton idea of pop. Sugary melodies, but not overly so. Songs where every section could have worked as a chorus. I think it sounds awesome, but I may have promised him more detailed feedback than that, so I’ll need to give it a few more spins.

I’ve got some interesting potential collaborations in the works, but I’m not going to talk about them until much later on.

Lincoln, Nebraska’s Ember Schrag and Bryan Day seem like an odd couple on paper. She’s a bluesy/folky singer-songwriter much of whose 2009 album A Cruel, Cruel Woman seems to me like it would fit comfortably on Iowa Public Radio’s playlists (the song “Iowa” could almost be taken as a blatant bid for just such airplay); he’s an avant-garde composer and improviser who plays a wide array of his own self-invented, piezo’d-up instruments and operates Public Eyesore Records. For an undisclosed period of time now, however, they have been collaborating both romantically and on the house-venue Clawfoot House. I met them when Ember had me come out to Lincoln to play a Songwriter Power Ranger gig and ended up catching a show at Clawfoot afterwards, and had wondered what it would sound like if they were to collaborate musically. Well, now I have some idea. Here’s a rough demo recording of a song called “Sutherland” by their project Office Park, that was posted to Facebook earlier today. Reminds me a bit of the Amen Dunes stuff I just listened to on the WFMU blog the other day. Very [nice]( Looking forward to hearing more. Lucky Lincolnites can hear more tomorrow night at Clawfoot House at 8pm, when Office Park plays there, along with Rock & Roll Combo + Brad Krieger, Jeff Thompson, and KAMAMA in “Experimental Issue #15.”

Latest tracks by Office Park

As the cassette tape format has waned, there have been periods of time in which I found myself cheaply acquiring music on cassette faster than I could digest it. I’ve begun a campaign of slowly unearthing these treasures, by periodically grabbing a tape out of my closet and bringing it along in my car for a few days — I drive a 1993 Buick Century that still has the factory tape deck, in good working order, I don’t yet own an iPod to hook up to the tape adapter, and the XM radio frequently doesn’t have anything going on that I feel like listening to.

So to begin this series, I dug up the 1987 SST Records album Get Lost (Don’t Lie) by These Immortal Souls. A pretty intriguing album, and knowing nothing about the band, I noticed the sort of “dark cabaret with noise” thing they seemed to be going for, and right away thought of Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds. Turns out, These Immortal Souls was headed up by Birthday Party guitarist Rowland S. Howard after the breakup of Birthday Party and subsequent breakup of Crime & The City Solution — the lineup is essentially the later C&CS lineup minus the lead singer — Rowland Howard, his brother Harold Howard on bass, and Epic Soundtracks on drums, — with the addition of Genevieve McGuckin on keyboards, and Rowland taking on the lead vocals. There’s an unsettling discoherence to the arrangements, though it could be the mix, which places McGuckin’s melodramatic grand piano right up front. Rowland’s laconic, off-key vocals take some getting used to, especially at several points when he goes for a lounge croon, as on the eponymous song “These Immortal Souls,” but it definitely suits the atmosphere of the music. Also, dude looked downright scary; check out this video for the band’s debut single and opening track of the album, “Marry Me (Lie! Lie!)” His lyrics are at least as frightening. This is some wonderfully dark stuff.

Anyway the album’s quite good, worth checking out if the Birthday Party lineage and that whole vibe interests you at all. I ran across a download of it courtesy of a blog called Michael Can’t Sleep.

Incidentally, These Immortal Souls cover a song (“Hey! Little Child”) by the recently-departed Alex Chilton on this album, and Rowland S. Howard himself died near the end of last year.

Maybe it’s just the dry, old-school-lo-fi production — lending it an unvarnished patina not entirely unlike the results I get on my cassette 8-track when I can be bothered to be fastidious and have access to halfway decent microphones — but in Teen Challenge, Lincoln, Nebraska’s Pharmacy Spirits have created an album to which listening feels like you’ve unearthed an unknown treasure. Specifically, it plays like a compilation of the entire, mostly 7″ discography released over three very intense years by some little-known 80s postpunk or 90’s emo band (geographically, and to a degree sonically appropriate, Friction comes to mind), that found no notice beyond a small underground following, but in their short life managed to very quickly transcend their nichey little genre to create something really special that probably meant an awful lot to a number of now widely-scattered people who at age 19 or so saw them in any of several basement shows, knew their songs backwards and forwards, once were fiercely devoted but now years later have all but forgotten, the band’s cassettes and records now stuffed along with other old keepsakes into boxes in corners of very different basements, or long since lost in the flux of chaotic young lives… but now you stumble across these songs languishing in some back corner of a record store, and knowing nothing of all this history you buy it on a whim, take it home and put on, and realize that you’ve stumbled onto a weighty little artifact indeed. If you were to somehow find those basement-show kids, no longer kids, settled down with families now, and play them that old record, sweet sad memories would come flooding back as if through past-life regression hypnosis. And yet for as much as the music of Pharmacy Spirits feels like it’s calling to you out of your mythic punk-rock past, not one note sounds dated, exactly. Indeed many of the sonic elements — yelpy vocals, angular guitars — tend to go over big with indie kids these days. Where Teen Challenge does feel like a period piece, it pulls the act off authentically enough, and with enough original touches, to seem like more than mere homage. They’ll be at Vaudeville Mews on August 29 with Gabe Cordova. Though I almost would prefer seeing them in a basement.

(Now Listening: Zoroaster — Matador)

So, yeah. Played a pretty decent first Distant Trains set to open up the show on a pretty typically sparsely-attended Wednesday night at the Mews. Went over better than I expected. Todd On Acid is definitely a character. S.E.R.F.’s set was a drunken, technically-plagued mess, but a cool sweeaty rock and roll mess, though I’m not sure they themselves appreciated it as such. Part of rock and roll is playing your songs right, but part of rock and roll is also getting a raucous party vibe going, and they definitely succeeded on the latter. Even when they’re off playing-wise, they’re still a really fun bunch of guys to have up on stage, and I think folks really enjoyed it.

The headliner and definite highlight was The Bassturd. I think he’s always had this show-business-parody angle to what he does, but a lot about his show has tightened up to the point of downright professional, his timing seamless, his array of lighting gadgets, a mix of christmas lights and various Spencer’s Gifts/truck-stop-souvenier material, has gotten impressive enough that he did his set with no stage lighting whatsoever, playing keyboard entirely by touch. Hits such as “Fucking U Down” (with amplified accordion, of course), “Dirty Dirty South,” and “Bling Ballz” were in the set along with Devo covers from his tribute CD The Important Sound Of Things Falling Apart. The audience was mostly established fans very familiar with his material, and he was successfully goaded into doing a bit of “David Geffen Is A Pedophile.” Dan was totally on and in his element, and it was a joy to see him play such a solid show and to hang out with him.

Last night’s show came about as the birthday wish of Kim Hutchison, noted artist and wife of Why Make Clocks frontman Dan Hutchison, that he reunite two of his old bands, the goofball punk of Going To Grandma’s and the bloody-minded prog-punk of Fetal Pig, both featuring brother Jeff Hutchison, and the former also including Jeff’s Blutiger Fluss bandmate Jim Duede. Neither band came with their original bassplayers, however; yours truly did the job for Fetal Pig, opening the evening, easily among the most challenging sets of music I’ve learned and played in my life, and following a second set of no-nonsense rock and roll from Squidboy, Why Make Clocks drummer Will Tarbox took up the bass guitar for Going To Grandma’s, his first performance ever on the instrument. I’d expected GTG to be a fun band, what I hadn’t expected was that they would also be so good. Well written songs with lots of vocal interplay and sing-along choruses.

It’s been intense, playing new and old material for the first time. All humid weather and good times with good people. A lot of folks at last night’s gig seem to think we should play these tunes more often. I’m up for it.

I’m gonna do it kind like the solo gigs I been doing since ’08 or so, with drum machine and looper, but playing bass instead of guitar, and playing it loud and slow and sludgy the way Distant Trains rolls. I could maybe use a bandmate though, for future performances. Maybe someone who plays both drums and spaced-out synthesizers.

The show is at Vaudeville Mews here in Des Moines this Wednesday at about 9:30 pm. The Bassturd is the evening’s headlining attraction, and deservedly so; if you have not seen The Bassturd yet, you really should. The man is a songwriting keyboarding rapping improvising accordioning juggernaut of hilarity, absurdity, and awesome. A past collaborator of The Bassturd is also on the bill, Des Moines O.G. songwriter Todd On Acid, and newfangled local psychobilly outfit S.E.R.F.. I’m not quite sure what the order is other than of course The Bassturd goes on last.

I would have posted this bit of news much earlier but shit has been hectic in Centipede Land. I moved from a rented split-foyer in southeast Des Moines to a cheaper and lower-maintenance apartment in West Des Moines and started a new job as a combination Ruby On Rails programmer and server admin and possible development team lead. It’s the kind of job that forces me to learn a bunch of new shit to keep up, which is the kind of job I like. I went to 80/35, which I’ve already written about. I worked out an apartment-friendly headphone-based practice setup for bass + drum machine. I bought a Stylophone, and that kept me kind of busy for a while. I’m reading about four books at one time. In the process of moving, I unloaded a lot of random, bulky, oddball possessions that I didn’t really have much of a use for any more, but I’ve still got a lot to go. Feel free to make me an offer on a Yamaha CP-30 electronic piano or an epic collection of pencil sharpeners, including a ton of those die-cast metal ones that look like old cars and appliances and shit. The collection of Pascal programming books didn’t sell as well as I had hoped, most ended up in the recycle bin. My Atari 2600 and large collection of cartridges and accessories will be going to the International Video Game Hall Of Fame being started in Ottumwa, Iowa, in hopes that they do in fact appreciate the significance of Chase The Chuckwagon.

Anyway I didn’t start Centipede Farm to be a personal blog, in fact I very expressly started it not to be a personal blog, but you know, I’m sure that’s all interesting shit, and it ties in in some ways with my musical projects. Another rad thing I’ve got going on is the Fetal Pig reunion, which also involves a reunion of yet another classic ’90s Des Moines band, Going To Grandma’s. It will also be happening at the Vaudeville Mews, this Friday, along with another classic Des Moines rock band that needs no reunion because they never went away, Squidboy. Learning Fetal Pig songs, which are these crazy complex riff-fests that sound like a cross between The Minutemen and King Crimson, has been an awesome mind-bending experience and one that I hope will influence my writing for Distant Trains. There is talk that since we’re getting the songs down pretty tight we should go down to Luke’s and record an album.

See you Wednesday and Friday

(Now listening: Sleepy Sun – Fever)