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Listed: Comets on Fire

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Every Friday, Dusted Magazine publishes a series of music-related lists determined by our favorite artists. This week: Ethan Miller of Northern California's solar anthropologists Comets on Fire.

Listed: Comets on Fire

Comets on Fire used to be a garage band. They released a kick-ass 500 copy limited edition 12" two years ago that meshed punk, psych and an overactive echoplex. The record is long sold-out, and deservedly so, and now stands as a relic of a band done gone. The Comets on Fire left the garage and took to the heavens on last year's Field Recordings From the Sun, a drastic departure in every sense of the word. With the help of The Fucking Champs' Tim Green and a few illegal substances, the Comets recorded a freak-out maelstrom for the ages - or at least the high-school dropouts of Northern California. Field Recordings saw release on Ba Da Bing! Records and Julian Cope immediately lost his mind (click here for proof). Vocalist/guitarist Ethan Miller offers up a random selection of sounds (and one substance) currently claiming high-priority in Comets HQ.

1. Otis Redding - Love Man (Rhino) - Two days ago I found a copy of this record for three bucks at my local haunt. It was one of those Japanese jobs that’s got no spine and the cover is basically just paper with a photocopied looking rendition of the artwork and Japanese characters all over the front and back. I live in an old Victorian shit hole right on the levee of the San Lorenzo River, it leans to and fro like some Dr. Seuss shack. Every board and hallway and wall is tilting and sagging in different directions. Anyhow on the West side of the house is my little record room, a closet that hangs off the side of the house on the second story. My girlfriend keeps saying she thinks the floor is going to cave in as the room is now filled from top to bottom with what must be hundreds of pounds of records. The bulb burnt out in there last night and I had just a single candle going. You see, I basically have to crawl into the closet and then sit mostly encircled by the records with my knees under my chin and headphones on. I was drunk on beer and threw on my new Otis Redding album. Fuck man. This album is the one that you want to represent the human race if you could only get a few things into the capsule. The album brought joy, laughter, and an almost violent surge of energy into me. This album is the sound of fucking with the windows of your apartment open in hard times. Fucking to warm up the bedroom in an apartment with no heat in the winter, fucking at 4:15am on a Tuesday night to wake up the downstairs neighbors and remind them to fuck, fucking in July on the first floor in the living room with the front door to give the birds something to sing to. I mean in this country sex as a personal statement, as a powerful force with which to help propel you through life at a greater spiritual height is not promoted. Quite the opposite I think. It is made in the most hideous ways to be a heinous act, a thing to be hidden, controlled and spoken of only in hushed tones beneath a huge and hovering phantasm of guilt. I don’t think people realize how much we suffer because of sexual taboo. At least I see it as a destructive force, American sexual taboo. The other day I watched Pasolini’s film DeCameron for the first time. It was so beautiful and incredible it stuck at the front of my mind for days and is still there like a shining light. The idea that joy could be spread like fire through sex and absolute physical appreciation of another person. And not just some free love bullshit or everyone running around like predatory sexual hyenas, but sexual love with your wife or girlfriend or boyfriend or the person who works beside you who seems lonely and all of it free of shame. I mean Pasolini was a freaky deaky mother fucker and his picture has corpses, people covered in shit, decapitations, fucking nuns and god knows what other kinds of treats that I can’t even recall right now but through all of that the unclothed bodies, the fucking and the love of each other is absolutely unashamed like a giant “fuck you” to the hard decaying world. Love Man. Unashamed. Pasolini. Otis Redding. Weapons against darkness, self doubt, shame and regret.

2. Ry Cooder - “Rally Round the Flag” - This song is from the album Boomer’s Song. I don’t know all that much about Ry Cooder or how many good records he has. I hear he has a few and I love this one and his shit off of the Performance soundtrack. Specifically this song “Rally Round the flag” which is a faithful rendition of the traditional civil war battle anthem. This album came out in 1973 so I assume that a part of this song’s placement on this album is in conversation with the Vietnam war. There is a power and sadness and truly complex depth in Cooder’s rendition of this song that brings tears to my eyes and a hole in my stomach in relation to the sickening state of affairs that our insane leaders are currently engaging our country (and the world) in. There are a hundred angles that you could take to interpret the message or tone of this version and upon most listenings I have found they all mix into a tiny war of their own that cannot be separated into neat political fragments or comforting and simple anti-war sentiment but rush out at once like a punch in the gut. A feeling or a meaning far beyond the boundaries of intellectual politics or stereotypical pro or anti-war rhetoric. I sat in the record room last night 'bout 3 in the morning and played this after the Love Man album, and though I was drunk, was wracked with a short but forceful burst of tears.

3. The Major Stars - Distant Effects (Squealer) - Now, anyone that knows that Comets are going to be playing a handful of shows with the Major Stars this summer on the East Coast may consider this to be shameless promotion, a butter up, a hand job or whatever putting them on my top ten list but I don’t give a damn. I’ve loved the Major Stars for two or three years now and gigs or none that doesn’t change the fact that the Major Stars are one of the few GREAT American Rock bands that exist right now, utilizing the most beautiful aspects of the “rock genre” to their full potential and far beyond. The other great American rock band I’d say is Neil Young Crazy Horse. All of the Major Stars albums are good, some great, not a bad one in the bunch but Distant Effects is their finest record yet. The Major Stars have a sound that walks the path created by the spine of the rock of yesterday but while listening to them you are projected into a strange new place and feeling that is at once ecstatic, heavenly, violent and disorienting. The Major Stars aren’t making much money as a rock band, aren’t on MTV, aren’t youthful scenester pretty kids recycling Television, Billy Childish or 1979 NYC just about to blow up and be rulers of Volkswagen commercials for a week. They are people who love and cherish the music they make and you can hear it in the jams and feel it in the sweat and blood that flies off em when they fucking absolutely unleash their live show. As the distorted, blurry monster called “History” erodes forward with its one leprosy ridden half sewn shut eyeball peering backward through the ashes of all the shit bands it propagated it will lurch and fix its gaze on the Major Stars and behold a bold transmission of honesty, fire, savagery and phosphoretic magnificence. And that beam will illuminate someone else’s rock and roll era.

4. Zeppelin Bootleg records - Paste-ee covers. Ben Chasny has been giving me bootleg Led Zeppelin records lately (for letting him borrow my 4-track so that he can complete his last five releases). These things are awesome. Somehow getting bootlegs of bands that hated to be bootlegged makes them all the better. But there is something about listening to the most grotesque, glass skyscraper mysticism drenched, bombastic, amphetamine-orgasmed, Viking ships, Mordor, fair maiden jiving, hard rock band of all time on hand held cassette representation...stoned or beer buzz, its a groovy ride. The audiences are there right next to the recorder making comments about the volume, the band’s outfits, the killer chicks in the next row...I haven’t always been able to love the Zepp but the last year or so has been a great year for em in my heart and mind. The last Comets / Six Organs West Coast tour we had to take Ben Chasny’s little Blue Toyota car as well as our fucked van and I pulled out the four signs cassette only at certain winding mountain roads moments and that fucker went to work on getting us through. Next week we are driving down to LA to play some gigs with our friend Steve Krakow from Chicago. Houses of the Holy.

5. The Grateful Dead - American Beauty (Warner) - I’m listening to this album as I write this. Now, don’t give up on me, just hold on a second. I know damn well not everyone can hang with The Dead. Especially if you just got your new Les Rallizes cdr in the mail or some ass grinding free jazz record that sounds like a nightmare chainsaw of horns tearing the asshole out through the mouth of every hippie record ever made. Let me put this record into perspective and suggest a method of listening to it. First off, this is one of the all time great driving records, so take it to the road. You and your woman or your fella in the pickup. And you slide him or her over onto the middle seat, legs off to the side of the stick shift, throw your arm around em, roll down the window so the dog can get its head out there and let go with some singin with/to him/her. This is not a jam record; its strength lies in the movement of its songs. They groove fast and beautiful and couldn’t give a fuck and capture the sound of road weariness turned to fourth-wind drug-induced hyper-awareness of the dark land outside sliding by in blur merged details under a boney full white moon that shone the way. Not home, just onward into the night. This record feels like Cocoa Puffs. Zaps your mind and releases your body. If you don’t like or don’t get the Dead I suggest you try them at the PCH or Highway 1 and Cocoa Puffs. Here’s what you do: Take your car, or borrow a car and grab your best love and hit the winding coastal highway around LA and Santa Barbara or Highway One between San Francisco and Monterey. You take it up to a pretty good speed, middle of the night, full moon, palm trees and Eucalyptus waving, ocean with the moonlight rolling on it slamming up against the side of the cliffs your riding. Get your love in the middle with arms wrapped around you, dog out the window with tongue out, you take your pot pipe and load it full of some of the meanest purple crystal ridden marijuana buds you ever saw, sprinkle a real generous pinch of good powder cocaine on top of the bud, toke away nice and slow and crank American Beauty. Be sure once you initially hit the pipe and melt the blow onto the grass to turn it side ways. I can’t remember why...

6. Guinness - Right now Guinness is an agreeable and important part of the listening process for me as far as music goes. I’ve lived in England three different times in my life where Guinness was everywhere and until I went out to Boston last October I had only had a single Guinness in my life. That lone Guinness was bought for me in a pub in Soho, London by two great friends of mine, Ian Gradek and Benny Wright. The pub was called The Best Little Horse House in Soho. That was almost seven years ago. Then In Boston at the Terrastock festival on one Sunday morning Ron and Erica from Surefire and Ed Hardy, Chasny and a few more friends of theirs bought me a rainy afternoon full of Guinness in a little Irish pub in Cambridge. Goddamn I haven’t been able to put the shit down since then. One night last month I sat on the porch of a local coffee shop in the evening awaiting a Six Organs acoustic set and I drank down one pint after another. It was raining hard and I was under an awning but still getting a bit of rain. The Guinness was from off the tap and tasted just like black milk and ancient honey and the feeling of the shit going down made me laugh out loud. No shit. The other night I drank 8 pints of Guinness while listening to a Marble Sheep Shinjuku Loft Sessions bootleg my friend Nick had sent me from LA. It is rumored that Fahey once drank 27 pints of Guinness.

7. Exuma - First album, Exuma II, Snake, Do Wah Nanny - These are all incredible albums. I guess they were supposed to be kind of popular folk voodoo albums that would capitalize on the success of Dr. John’s first album from a marketing angle but they are really heavy jams for pop folk records (or any other kind of record for that matter). There’s a fucking seance on half of a side of the second album for Christ sake. In these troubled and strange times I have been searching for a way to think about and understand the changes that are happening to my country and the looming events that are coming and upon us (partially because of my country’s President and his shitty bros). Well, the before mentioned Ry Cooder jam has been serving and I also find that at the heart of the jams in the early Exuma records there is a powerful exploration of Western sugar-coated blood thirst and the kinds of sacrifices that are made to create, maintain and advance “Western civilization” or “civilized society." Also that these sacrifices made by the pioneers of “civilization” are too horrible for the “civilized” world to know of or have to live with as they are easing into the rewards and comfort of “civilization”. I have also been reading Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy which is also a perfect book to wander through in these moments as the war bugles blow and the slaughter begins. A thoroughly researched novel on the mid 1800’s American scalp trade and follows a small group of slayers and blood loving scalpers through the West of the United States as they kill everything. This book reads like a horrific gore drenched science fiction because real American History is so grotesque that one either runs from it wishing they’d never asked or comprehends it as the fiction of a writer with a sick and pornographically perverse and violent mind. Exuma said in "Fire In the Hole" from the second album: “You can’t build a nation off of blood shed and expect the blood not to stain the land” ...To this, Bush would probably say “Exactly my point! Now lets get that fucking Saddam!!! So, fuck. what can you do...Let me say that the Exuma albums are also a really great time to listen to while drinking beer with house guests. Bells, the clacking and rattling of bones, crying, hissing, screaming at heaven and hell and Exuma’s extraordinary and ominous voice commanding the raising of the dead out of their soft fresh grave of black soil and Palm leaves. And all that in the first fucking 45 seconds of the first song. Exuma, the Obeah Man. Here’s an interesting question: If Father Yod were still alive could he possibly be the target of Bush's Homeland Security/War on Terror investigations? Freaky beard, olive skin, gang of women, robes and freaky digs, seen hanging around caves, chanting, mystical symbols...

8*. - For number eight I have to put Chris Corsano’s top ten list from Dusted on here because he had a lot of shit I’ve been listening to in the last few weeks and months too that has really moved me, and would he not have had his list up on here my list would have looked a lot cooler. For instance Skip James. Fuck. And I thought this was the best moment in his top ten list so I’ll just throw in his quote right here: “I know a lotta sweaty blues collectors would snort at the choice of '60s rediscovery-era James over his 30's material, but fuck'em.”---Fuck yeah. Also Trad Gras Och Stenar. Cant remember which one he named but Mors Mors has been my freaky deaky for the last three weeks or so. But beyond that Corsano’s list just looks like you could sit down and set all ten items out and listen to them one after the other and just have your ass-brained mind ripped out like a monkey in an exotic evil-but-genius doctor’s aggressive experiment on pleasure and pain nerve points in the cerebellum. Or Cerebrum or whatever.

9. Nick Drake - Bryter Layter (Hannibal) - I still live in a small town about an hour and a half from the city where all my band mates live (except Chasny), so twice a week I have to commute to the city to jam with Comets. Usually my drives home are somewhere between 11 at night and one or two in the morning. This is what you call serious alone time to gather the thoughts of the week. This record has been a mainstay in my car’s cd player as I drive from our jam space at the foot of Portrero Hill down on 3rd. st. in San Francisco. Up Caesar Chavez to drop off Ben F. and Utrillo at the 24th st. Bart Station on Mission st. Back down Army st., right onto the highways and freeways just after the gas station, onto the 101 without getting over, off after ¼ of a mile onto the 280 south, the horns, noir piano and sad, strong voice thundering off my wind shield courting the cities lights as they disintegrate as a force and the lights of warehouses and industrial buildings give over to small identical looking houses. Those too become more sporadic next to the lights of the airport and a few dark planes with tiny blinking lights over head. Pretty soon its just hills, a few random satellites and stars above head. This is the kind of album that guides you while you're tearing ass out of the city in the middle of the night. This record sounds to me like the soundtrack to a Raymond Chandler novel with a true prophet hired to write and sing the songs but instead of prophecizing he just writes some great fucking tunes. And for once, the damnation of being a prophet is set aside by the satisfaction of creating sounds and songs that lend themselves to people’s smiles that they share only with themselves while they are alone.

10. A few favorite brain shredding mean ass guitar solos or guitar oriented jams that I’ve been grooving on the last few weeks/months:

Monoshock - “Crypto-Zoological Disaster” from Walk To The Fire - A sub-fi skull shuttering eyeball fuck of jagged, treble frozen stiletto guitar solos. Each wah-screaming guitar a charicature of a giant hypodermic needle with earpiercing frequency dripping from its tip coming right for the center of your forehead. All that on a boiling molten lava bed of psychotic obsessive loveletters written in blood, sperm and LSD to the Stooges, The Stones and the...uh...Saints.

Frumious Bandersnatch - Golden Sons of Libra (The Studio Outtakes) - A Bay Area band (66-69) who only released a 3 song ep while together that I’d never heard of until my birthday at the beginning of March when Utrillo gave this record to me describing it as “The poorman’s Quicksilver”. The connection being the beautiful hyper tremolo guitar playing and a broke dick but savage and slightly mangled version of the “west coast sound”. Being a fan of all things Cippolina I ate this shit up because they add pretty killer tunes into the mix, experimental recording treats, and crank the Cippolina rip up to super fuzz levels. This is still Haight/Ashbury summer of love style but a darker, meaner, harder, faster version, with foreshadowing of the prog to come and frankly, better choruses than Quicksilver could muster most of the time. Great for when mixing beer and grass aggressively.

Bert Jansch and his buddies Renbourn, Jack Orion - Stepping Stones lp - “The Waggoner’s Lad”, “Black Water Side”, “The Gardener” — fucking anything from these records. These mother fuckers for fast bending steel acoustic strings, invigorated blues glory solos over winter white water creek folk and blue grass sounding jams. Even the mellowest parts of Bert’s songs are like most other sorry sons of bitch’s best solos. His right hand snapped and popped those strings so damn hard the hippies could hear it three canyons down at Bron-Y-Aur and thunk they done sold their souls to the devil.

Kaneko Jutok - “Longing For the Ray” from Endless Ruins. This isn’t the loudest record of all time, but it does sound like Kaneko may have his Marshall stacks up louder than anyone else ever had em on a record. And not just the tubes glowing white and blue but standing about an inch from his wall of speaker cabinets the whole recording. That’s not to say that this album is comprised of the abyssal near atonal noise of Kousokuya. Endless Ruins is truly a staggering and beautifully composed and arranged record. The songs are haunting and folky ballads from dark and hollow dreams so rich in emotion you don’t know whether to strain to remember them or strain to forget once awoken by the morning light. “Longing For the Ray”---the solo can only be described as Colonel Kurtz; hands tied, ripped on Mescaline in the jungle attempting to play the “Like a Hurricane” solo with his teeth. Truly beautiful, fucking astounding and the high pitched screech of Kaneko’s guitar constantly howling on top of the actual shit he’s playing because he’s got the fucking face of his guitar up against the wall of speakers while he’s soloing at top volume. If you listen to this jam on headphones and the shit don’t knock the fillings loose from your mouth then baby, you got fake teeth.

By Dusted Magazine

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