Check out Stephen Malkmus’ favorite album, the Groundhogs’ ‘Thank Christ for the Bomb’

One of my lifetime favorite thrift store record scores from the collection-enriching and bountiful years when vinyl was still misperceived as a “dead” format was Thank Christ for the Bomb, a 1970 LP by a lesser-known British psych/blues band called The Groundhogs. It probably cost me 50¢, tops, and I bought it for the title alone, wondering if it was a bitterly sardonic anti-war statement or if this was some terrifying jeremiad by apocalyptic Jesus freaks. When I listened to it, not only did it become clear it was the former, but I had to wonder why these guys weren’t being talked about in the same breath as Cream or Fleetwood Mac. I much prefer it to the early Mac stuff, actually—it avails itself of progressive ideas without being ostentatious, it’s bluesy without being a cliché storm of trite pentatonic licks, and every note played by every band member at every moment seems impeccably tasteful and perfect. Turns out I wasn’t alone in this esteem for the album—Pavement’s Steven Malkmus cited Thank Christ for the Bomb as his top desert island pick in the March, 1997 issue of Tower Records Pulse!

And, upon doing my post-blown-mind due diligence on the band, I found that at one time, they had been the object of some exceptionally high repute. During the mid-‘60s blues boom, they were chosen to serve as John Lee Hooker’s backing band, which was surely a huge honor, as the band had lifted its name from one of Hooker’s songs. In their own heyday as a trio, they released not just Thank Christ… but several albums, including the acclaimed Blues Obituary and Split, and toured supporting the Rolling Stones. (Again, how had I missed out on their existence?) They broke up in 1976, but have been intermittently resurrected, sometimes even by different original members. The band continues today as a quartet led by guitarist/singer Tony McPhee. Live footage of the original band seems difficult to come by, but there’s good footage from a 1974 performance here. (Embedding is disabled, otherwise, I’d, y’know, embed it.)

Here’s the entire Thank Christ for the Bomb album. It’s all impressive, but the title track is a killer.

Strange Town by The Groundhogs on Grooveshark


Darkness Is No Friend by The Groundhogs on Grooveshark


Soldier by The Groundhogs on Grooveshark


Thank Christ for the Bomb by The Groundhogs on Grooveshark


Ship on the Ocean by The Groundhogs on Grooveshark


Garden by The Groundhogs on Grooveshark


Status People by The Groundhogs on Grooveshark


Rich Man, Poor Man by The Groundhogs on Grooveshark


Eccentric Man by The Groundhogs on Grooveshark

And lastly, if you have trouble with Grooveshark embeds, here’s the entire LP uploaded by a YouTube user.


Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
Pavement’s Stephen Malkmus played bass in a punk band that opened for Black Flag and others
01:05 pm


Black Flag
Stephen Malkmus

Straw Dogs
Pavement was a pretty fast phenomenon in the early 90s, they seemed to come out of nowhere. Three pretty obscure EPs from 1989 to 1991, then their first full-length set, Slanted & Enchanted, incredibly hit #2 on the 1992 Pazz & Jop Critics Poll in the Village Voice, and they were off to the races.

But if you subscribe to Malcolm Gladwell’s theory of the work and practice that must pre-date artistic success of that kind—there’s no such thing as people who can do it right away—it might not be so surprising to hear that Stephen Malkmus, Pavement’s lead vocalist, songwriter, and guitarist, had been toiling away as a bassist in a punk band in his home town of Stockton as early as 1982. The band was called Straw Dogs (great name!) and they were the local openers when West Coast bands like Black Flag, DOA, and the Circle Jerks would come to town.
Straw Dogs
Earlier today Marc Maron dropped an hour-long interview with Malkmus on his WTF podcast, and in the interview, Malkmus discussed his unusual 5-string guitar tuning, his recent obsession with Edgar Allan Poe, and his days as one of the people who “wrote tunes” (his words) for Straw Dogs, a stint that occurred while he was still in high school. (He also discusses his early adoration for Creedence Clearwater Revival and DEVO.)

Here’s the interview snippet where he discusses Straw Dogs (lightly edited, jump to the 31st minute to hear this chunk):

Stephen Malkmus: I was in high school and there were some older dudes that were playing, and it seemed like they were having more fun than the sports guys. …

Marc Maron: What was the first stuff you played? How’d you learn to play?

SM: Eh, punk.

MM: Yeah? …

SM: And then I wrote tunes in the punk band. I was in a punk band.

MM: What were they called?

SM: Straw Dogs, ah, from the West Coast. Not—there’s a Boston one. Not that anyone’s gonna notice. They probably listen to your podcast, but….

MM: In the van.

SM: Yeah, we were a band in Stockton. We opened for some other groups, from back in the day.

MM: Oh yeah? Like who?

SM: Like um, I’m just gonna brag a little bit here, um, Circle Jerks, Black Flag ...

MM: All the LA punk bands?

SM: TSOL, Code of Honor, DOA ...

MM: Really.

SM: Some bands like that, yeah. Always the first on, for twenty bucks, but we did play.

MM: Were you like 20 years old?

SM: No, I was 16.

MM: Oh, so you’re the local guys, that you were just…. and punk was so sort of marginal anyway, so the scene was pretty small, I would probably imagine, at that time.

SM: Very small. There was a couple bands from Stockton. A very good one called the Authorities, they did one single. They were the only ones that got documented. We played in Sacramento, San Francisco, just that triangle, for like one year.

As I mentioned, it does help to explain why Malkmus could seem so very polished and assured even though he was a relatively new face in 1991: He’d already been doing this in some form for nine years or so.

Via Stereogum, I found “a Santa Barbara high school newspaper profile of Malkmus” in which his activities in Straw Dogs are confirmed. Malkmus was born in 1966, so he would have been sixteen (a junior, as mentioned in the article) in 1982, which lines up perfectly with the two posters on this page. The Black Flag gig happened on Friday, April 22, 1983, and the Circle Jerks gig happened on Thursday, April 19, 1984.
The Straw Dogs, by the way, are active, even if Malkmus isn’t doing anything with them, being busy with the Jicks and all. They have an active Facebook presence, on which Malkmus is listed as the bassist on the “About” page.

Sadly, there’s no extent recordings of early Straw Dogs, either live or studio—as Malkmus says, they went “undocumented.” So here’s a slab of early Pavement; in my opinion early Pavement is the best Pavement anyway.

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Cocorosie, Stephen Malkmus, Saul Williams and other indie all-stars performing in elevators

Netherlands Public Broadcasting digital channel 3VOOR12 for several years ran a segment called “(Behind) Closed Doors,” featuring homegrown and touring indie artists undertaking intimate performances in elevators. Here’s the amusing and clearly not entirely accurate Google translation from the Dutch language description on

Along with artists in a small space and sip what happens. Intimate one on one sessions behind closed doors. Began five years ago as a joke Gruff Rhys and now, nearly 300 sessions later promoted to gold format.

Any readers fluent in English and Dutch who can be more illuminating, I encourage you to please feel free to comment below at whatever length you see fit. I’d love to know more, myself, but I’ve been unable to find any significant trove of in-depth information in English.

The bulk of the videos available seem to date between 2005-2010, and, unsurprisingly given the circumstances, often feature stripped-down versions of a band’s material. While the offerings from the more twee likes of The Pains of Being Pure at Heart and Iron & Wine don’t exactly constitute eye-opening transformations, it’s neat to hear an ordinarily HUGE-sounding band like like We Were Promised Jetpacks forced to back off from the echo and bombast that typifies a lot of their work.

Cocorosie, I suppose, can’t help but be their usual idiosyncratic selves no matter where you have them play. This is wonderful:

To the surprise of exactly nobody who knows his work, Saul Williams refuses to stay confined.

Pavement/Jicks honcho Stephen Malkmus chose to record his segment a capella in a working elevator to amusing results.

Because I LOVED the confessional/TMI bad-love-and-worse-sex songs of Arab Strap, I have to include Malcom Middleton’s segment, though if you’re at work or in any public space where pottymouth will be frowned-upon, you might either plug in your earphones or just skip this video, as Middleton is abidingly fond of words like “fook” and “coont.”

Lastly, even though this one isn’t recorded in an elevator, thus blowing the entire point of this piece’s headline, I really want to share this acoustic performance by that great virtuoso of technical electric guitar playing Marnie Stern, whose Chronicles of Marnia was by far one of my favorite albums of 2013.

There’s a TON more of this and other great stuff to be had on 3VOOR12’s web site, from familiar names to obscure hopefuls. Should you choose to partake, I wish you an enjoyable dig.

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
‘Cinnamon and Lesbians’: New soft serve ice cream flavor named after Stephen Malkmus ditty
08:49 am


Stephen Malkmus
David Chang

Soft serve ice cream
David Chang, the culinary mastermind who created the Momofuku restaurant empire and elevated the stature of porkbelly buns in the hierarchy of tasty treats, has long been known as a Pavement junkie. He once named “Summer Babe” off of Slanted and Enchanted as his “ultimate side one, track one” (far be it for me to disagree!) and slotted Wowee Zowee in his top five Desert Island Discs (I’d go with Slanted, myself). When Pavement reunited in 2010, Chang flew down to Melbourne, Australia, so great was his excitement—he just couldn’t wait the extra six months it would take for the legendary indie-rock quintet to make it to New York City.
Cinnamon and Lesbians
So it’s only understandable to realize that Chang is probably royally geeking out this week, thanks to the announcement a couple of days ago that one branch of his Momofuku Milk Bar (not sure which) will be unveiling a special Stephen Malkmus soft serve ice cream flavor in the new year (January 7, to be exact) to coincide with the release of a new Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks long-player called Wig Out at Jagbags. The flavor is called “Cinnamon and Lesbians,” after the album’s 11th track—for which there is a video! (See below.) It will not be a permanent addition to the menu.

Adding to the general artistic firepower involved in this soft-serve concoction, the flyer above was designed by Gary Panter, a comix artist who created a terrific book called Jimbo’s Inferno, which featured his signature character Jimbo, whom many knowledgeable people regard as perhaps the inspiration for a character named Bart Simpson. He also worked on Pee-wee’s Playhouse and did The Screamers’ logo.
Wig Out at Jagbags
Here’s the video for “Cinnamon and Lesbians.” It’s highly reminiscent of the Pavement videos of yore, which is definitely a good thing, and feels like an absurdist version of a Portlandia episode—it’s hard to dislike any song in which the singer admits, “I’ve been tripping my face off since breakfast!”

via Brooklyn Vegan

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Pavement’s Stephen Malkmus covers Can’s krautrock classic ‘Ege Bamyasi’
11:15 am


Stephen Malkmus

Stephen Malkmus Ege Bamyasi
Stephen Malkmus has loved Can’s 1972 album Ege Bamyasi for a long, long time.  In 1992, before hardly anyone knew who Malkmus was, he told Simon Reynolds in Melody Maker, “All that German music is really important to us. . . . I played Can’s Ege Bamyasi album every night before I went to sleep for about three years.”

Last year was the 40th anniversary of the album’s release, so late last year Malkmus visited Week-End Fest in Can’s home town, Cologne, Germany, and covered the full album, backed by Cologne band Von Spar.

The album was relesed in a vinyl limited edition for Record Store Day. The charming cover was designed by David Shrigley.

About halfway through this video, Malkmus tackles a couple of questions about covering the album before being adorably attacked by his own daughter.

Here’s Malkmus doing Can’s “One More Night”:

Here’s his “Pinch” and “Soup”:


Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment