Cease practice based
on intellectual understanding,
Pursuing words and following after speech.
Learn the backward step that turns
Your light inward to illuminate within.
Body and mind of themselves will drop away
And your original face will be manifest.
So says the first place we recall seeing the phrase “original face” — the words of Eihei Dōgen, born in Kyoto, Japan in or around the year 1200. The world in which he lived cast him more a character in a Kurosawa film than the monk we may picture — something that led him to travel and study. The Japan of Dōgen’s time was ruled by a foolish aristocracy, willing to purchase prayers, and monasteries which fought one another with soldiers.
After studying in China Dōgen returned with revolutionary views which survive in the Sōtō school of Zen, and which are founded, in part, on the concept on nonduality, an idea expressed in the deceptively simple passage quoted above. The easiest approach to understand is to recognize and confront the comfort we find in familiar conflicts: Good and evil, dark and light, and ultimately self and other.
Before my role here at Hymie’s I spent many years as a dishwasher in a diner. It was during the time I first read Dōgen, and wrote my own mantra on the wall above the sink:
The dishes are clean, the dishes are dirty
It is all the same
You do not wash the dishes, the dishes wash you
To wash one dish is to wash all dishes.
While largely inspired by Dishwasher Pete‘s incredible fanzine my sudsy mantra was my own way of relating to what I had read. Totally unable to meditate (and still totally unable to sit still) menial work became my gateway to understanding nonduality. Perhaps for you it is building birdhouses, or whatever task allows you to remove yourself from yourself long enough to see yourself — one does not have to be a Buddhist to enjoy this feeling in the act of work.
How does this relate to this new local release, Original Face by Little Man? Are we taking some enormous leap, based simply on its title — are we also placing upon it the weight of everything one will feel when confronted with Dōgen’s often frustratingly obfuscated directions to the path to enlightenment.
I don’t know. At this point I simply concede I’m only a guy who in a record store who has no idea — If I were a better writer I would be working for Pitchfork and I would simply give this album some stars and compare it to Dinosaur Jr. End of story, please click again next week as our advertisers are counting on you.
Fortunately for its listeners, Original Face is also a solid rock and roll romp — fun enough that we can listen to it, talk about T Rex and deal with the heavy shit later. Its title track might be giving a nod towards sixties mod as readily as eight hundred year old Japanese poetry. You know, Small Faces, Little Man — all in the same jam. In the British scene the mod-est of the mods were a ‘face’ — what we might call a fancy lad, or a man about town (think “David Watts”). Hence the Small Faces, all (originally) men of literally small stature. Put Little Man’s lead singer and guitarists, Chris Pericelli, next to his behemoth bandmates and you’ll see the humor in the name.
“Flip You Over”
And underneath its glam-y veneer, Original Face feels like an extension of the fuzzy psych experiments that scene made before it collapsed into itself. “Face” feels like a metaphysical take on the Who’s “Disguises” (if it had been covered by Montrose) and the album’s opener, “Flip You Over,” has the jingle-jangle Brits met Buddy Holly charm that defined the ‘British invasion.’
The success of Original Face is how Pericelli’s lyrics stand in contract to their presentation. “Face” features metaphysical lyrics in what could have been a track from Aerosmith’s Get Your Wings — bassist Brian Herb and drummer Sean Gilchrist make this work. The next track (“The Builder”) shifts into heavy romp T Rex mode and the trio romps through one of the best retro rock performances the Twin Cities has produced in recent years. Of course Marc Bolan, Mick Ronson and all those other glam heroes cut their teeth in that mod scene — they had original faces just as you and I do.
For all its hints to heavy glam, like the sublime rhythm guitar accents in “The Builder,” this album is at heart clean cut pop. Original Face has the stark honesty of Big Star in its occasionally naive lyrics as much as in its inventive arrangements. It also has the hedonistic energy of Van Halen on its last song (“I Know Who You Are”) in spite of its burdensome heft.
“Flip You Over” captures nearly all these things: the Big Star-yness, the (we know its not cool anymore) Aerosmith-yness, the meditative, and something else…something newer, something closer to home…
Yep, On Original Face Little Man sounds like one of our favorite local bands, Story of the Sea. At times, Pericelli sounds so remarkably like Adam Prince it seems like our wish came true: Story of the Sea announced its breakup in January and all us fans wanted was a few more songs. Something to say ‘so long.’
Little Man teases us with that — Dōgen wrote that a foolish man sees himself as another, while the wise man sees others as himself. We spend so much time thinking about where an album came from, who it was influenced by, that we forget to enjoy it for what it is. Original Face is a riotously fun rock and roll album. It has air guitar qualities (if no one’s watching), and I’m probably going to know all the words by the time its released next Friday night. “I know who you are,” sings Pericelli. “Don’t have to look too far. Stay right here with me.” And that’s just what we’re gonna do.
Little Man will release their new album Original Face at the Amsterdam Bar on April 18th. Fury Things and Pink Mink will play opening sets. Details here.
Last week we passed the twentieth anniversary of Kurt Cobain’s suicide — The Twin Cities’ largest music blog ran a shockingly callous story about it, which set us to thinking a lot this past weekend about our dear friend who took his own life in the same way just a few weeks over six years ago. We can’t in good conscience link to the story, considering that a steady stream of clicks and comments (even if negative) are just what they’d like to provide for their advertisers. We’re sure you’ll find it if that’s what you want to read.
No one here is a particularly enthusiastic fan of Nirvana, but it seems a stretch for anyone writing about pop music to deny the enormous impact Cobain had in the short time he was a star. For better or worse the fingerprints of his music are more indelible than the author of this piece seems willing to concede, as is the memory of his death.
It was not the denial of a popular and influential band that set us to soul searching — after all each of us is entitled to their own opinion and that’s supposed to be the fun of the sort of pop music conversations we have around the record store. We were offended by the author’s malicious dismissal of Cobain, crippled by addiction and depression, as a “coward.”
Not so long ago we posted a track from Joe South’s last album, Midnight Rainbows. South meteoric career came to a screeching halt when his brother, Tommy, took his life in 1971. His final album struggles with the anguishes of loss and guilt with aching sincerity, ultimately silencing an otherwise extraordinary career.
It seems unlikely South’s sentiments would have an impact on a person so quick to dismiss the deceased as a “coward,” so we won’t offer to loan him our copy. Neither will we offer End the Rain, the album Brenda Weiler recorded in 2007 after losing her sister, Jennifer. It’s eleven songs are presented in the order in which they were written and performed with arresting intimacy — the result is a small encapsulation of the suffering of a survivor of suicide.
And its a funny thing how over time the grief in us, wracked as it may be with guilt, grows into compassion. There’s no absolutes in a subject so intimate, but the survivors left behind by suicide do not see their lost loved ones as cowards. We miss them and struggle with the feeling we could have done more. Our friend was sick, he felt he had become a burden, he had isolated himself and could not overcome his depression. Whether one could have saved them with something so simple as a phone call is never far from mind. Nor is the fact he was an extraordinary person — the type you will meet only a few of in your entire life.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s 2010 statistics (the most recent available) count more than 38,000 Americans took their own lives, making it the tenth leading cause of death — that is a person lost and a family grieving every 13.7 minutes. We believe, and we are not alone in this, that those deaths are entirely preventable. The first step is recognizing mental illness and addiction as the primary causes of such tragedies, and removing the stigma applied by persons like this author of this shameful piece of poor writing.
May he continue to be blessed by a life free from a grief such as ours, but may he also come to one day understand what its like to…
“Walk a Mile in my Shoes” by Joe South
We told you 2014 was going to be the year of Piñata Records, and it’s all starting to come together — Black Diet were the darlings of First Avenue’s “best new bands” showcase in January and once again two months later captivated the main room for the Star Tribune’s Vitamn “best new band” show, which confusingly was totally not the same thing. Black Diet has developed a loyal following, and we’re all looking forward to their album release show next week here at Hymie’s as part of our Record Store Day block party!
And the folks who would be our house band if we were a nightclub instead of a record store, Southside Desire, are mixing a new album right now, as are those wild garage rock revivalists, Narco States. Yep, you’re going to be hearing more and more about what we think is the best new label in the Twin Cities.
Saturday’s show at the Hexagon Bar will add a new group to the roster: Mystery Date, whose hardly-heard cassette release is being reissued by the Piñata gang as a 7-inch EP. It’s a good thing too, because rock and roll this good should be heard — we think it should be heard by everyone who has a radio and the windows down on a sunny day like this, everyone who’s hanging out in the back yard with some pals drinking a couple beers and goofing around, and everyone whose sitting in the basement digging through a crate of records that includes the New York Dolls, the Other Ones or Nick Lowe’s endlessly fun Pure Pop for Now People.
Mystery Date’s first single, “Dreaming in Black and White” (in stock at Hymie’s if you’re inclined), was a knockout power pop gem and this new EP is even better, if you ask us. “You And Your Sister” was recorded by Neil Weir in his (dare we say) legendary Old Blackberry Way studio, and its got just enough fuzz to feel fresh and enough tidy riffs to feel like a lost Titan Records track. These three songs are our favorite straight-ahead, fun rock and roll songs to come out of the local scene since that joyful Juvie single.
Mystery Date’s record release show for “You And Your Sister” is at the Hexagon Bar right here in the best neighborhood in Minneapolis on Saturday night — Also playing are Hot Rash, Teenage Moods and that irresistible band, Southside Desire.
Several months have passed. Although the emotional shock of her mother’s revelation was a severe one, Allison gradually recovered from it. She has gone to New York to make her way, if she can, as a writer.
Constance is now Mrs. Michael Rossi. This morning she is alone in her dress shop. A man in Navy uniform enters.
You are that man, Lieutenant John Adams.
Sound: Door closes behind you and Constance looks up.
Are you Mrs. Constance Rossi?
Yes, I am.
Do you employ a girl named Selena Cross?
Yes. Has anything happened to her?
I’m John Adams, Ma’am. Lieutenant, US Navy. I’m investigating the case of Seaman Lewis Cross, who’s been missing ever since last winter. I understand he was Selena Cross’s father.
They didn’t get along to well, did they?
Nobody got along well with Lucas Cross. He was shiftless and bad-tempered. A congenital drunk.
Did Selena ever talk to you about having any quarrels with him?
Do I have to answer these questions? Why don’t you ask Selena? I don’t like talking about her behind her back.
My partner is questioning her right now, ma’am, at her home.
So that’s why she didn’t come in this morning!
Yes ma’am. And you’re not talking about her behind her back. I told her I was coming to see you.
I see. Then let me tell you first that I’ve never known a sweeter, kinder girl than Selena.
She ever talk about having any fights with Lucas Cross?
Yes. She did.
Oh, many times.
Any particular time?
Well, I remember one morning when she came in all black and blue from the beating that brute had given her. I’ve always maintained that’s what brought on her illness.
She was operated on for an appendicitis soon after. And soon after that, Lucas Cross left town. Nobody here has seen him since.
From information we’ve collected — a driver who gave him a lift one night last winter — it appears he was coming back here on his last leave. But –
Excuse me. (Picks up phone) Hello? Yes, this is Mrs. Rossi … Who? Oh, yes. He’s here … It’s for you, Lieutenant.
Thank you … Hello? Oh, hello Paul … What? … She has? Good Lord! … I’ll be right over.
SOUND Hang up phone receiver
That was my partner. Selena Cross has just confessed to the murder of Lucas Cross.
Oh, no! Not Selena! Not Selena!
MUSIC Up and out
If you have enjoyed performing with Paullette Goddard in this scene from Peyton Place, we recommend you find a copy of Albert Brooks’ 1973 classic, Comedy Minus One, in which you must perform a classic routine with Mr. Brooks.
Folk singer Benny K will be performing here in the shop tonight at 5pm, along with Nate Houge, to celebrate the release of his new disc Four Years. We posted the title track and a couple videos on Monday (here). Also this week we tuned in to hear Benny on KFAI, visiting Pam without Boundaries…
We recorded this with the tuner in the shop, but cut the songs they were playing. You can hear the whole thing unedited on KFAI’s site here. This is the title song from Benny’s new EP that they’re talking about in the end.
“Four Years” by Benny K
The first of this month marks the 20th anniversary of Minneapolis’ collectively-run punk rock record store Extreme Noise. They are an awesome institution that we locals take for granted, which record collectors in other cities would love to have. The celebration was launched last night at the Triple Rock Social Club with an awesome show featuring a documentary about the 90s Minneapolis punk scene (When we Play for Real by Patti Rhodes) and sets by classic local hardcore bands including Code 13.
The big feature of tonight’s show is the Strike, a band we last remember seeing play around 2001. They are just one of eight bands on the bill, but their reunion is also exciting to some other folks, such as City Pages writer Zach McCormick, who came by last month to ask why we love this band so much. His story about the Strike ran in this week’s paper (online here). Zach must have seen our post on the Hymies blog about the first Strike album, A Conscience Left to Struggle with Pockets Full of Rust (which was three and a half years ago, here).
Yes, we are eager to sing along with “Kicking Ass for the Working Class” one more time, but the total bill of bands celebrating the anniversary of Extreme Noise is exciting: Dillinger Four, The Strike, Man Afraid, Threadbare, Dirt Poor, Scooby Don’t, Kung Fools and Bombsite.
It’s okay if you don’t remember them, but fun if you do. Maybe we were at some of the same shows in the 90s. Those couple bands in the middle are the ones we remember being especially awesome. Dirt Poor is the band that once appeared outside a Supersuckers show at the Uptown Bar in a UHaul and rocked until the generator burned out, which was just enough time for one song. That was just enough time to make them legendary as far as we’re concerned.
Scooby Don’t had only a handful of tracks scattered over several records, so they’re comparatively even more unknown today than the Strike. Scooby Don’t is best remembered for hosting bands from all over their country (with local band support, of course) in their basement, which was one of the best venues in the modern history of Minneapolis.
Two of their best songs were on a compilation LP put out by a resident of the Scooby Don’t House, Lantz, who at the time was playing drums (“jarums” on one record) for the Totallies. We’re Addicted to DayQuil! was not as famous as the No Slow, All Go! compilation featured in the City Pages article linked above, but we love it just as much.
“Powerlloyd” by Scooby Don’t
“Amanda Jones” by Scooby Don’t
Once again, Benny K has a CD release show here in the shop this evening at 5pm. Nate Houge will perform an opening set. You’ll still have plenty of time to get to the Triple Rock and sing along to “Kicking Ass for the Working Class” with us.