The Cutout Bin

A collection of discarded or otherwise forgotten music.

-My fileserver is free, and you get what you pay for... so try rightclicking the mp3s and selecting "save link target as". You may have to do it more than once.

-Please see post #1 "Begin the begin" (3/24/06) for the raison d'etre for this blog. If you object to your music being posted here, email me and I will remove it.

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Repo Man's got all night, every night...

Friday, June 22, 2007


Sunday, December 10, 2006

The Cutout Bin Sells Out

In the spirit of the holiday season (which appears to be spending as much money as possible), The Cutout Bin has set up an Amazon Associates store (see links section to your left). It's essentially about providing an easy way to purchase CDs featured here that are still in print, as well as a few personal recommendations for music related books and DVDs that no connoisseur's collection (you are a connoisseur, right?) would be complete without. They make great gifts, too- it's almost Christmas! Buy, buy, buy!!!!

What do I get out of this, you ask? A princely 4% kickback towards an Amazon gift certificate! I'll be quitting my job in no time!

The Cutout Bin Amazon Store

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Kevin Salem update

Obviously, Kevin Salem heard my plea (see this post) and is responding by planning a pair of new releases for 2007- an "Odds & Sods" type collection called Box Of Words as well as a new studio album. You can read all about it on his spiffy new website-

Friday, December 08, 2006

Steve Wynn

I was fortunate enough to see Steve Wynn playing in a small barbecue restaurant last weekend- doubly fortunate to see him in such a small venue, and because he was only playing a pair of oneoff dates, not a full tour. It'd been ten years since Wynn last played in the area, and he didn't disappoint- he and his band blew the walls out of the place, storming through songs running the gamut of his 24 year career.

Steve Wynn is a little beyond the scope of this blog, which mainly concerns itself with hopelessly obscure regional acts, most of whom have long since broken up. Since 1982, Wynn has released something like 17 studio albums with various bands, the most famous of which was the Dream Syndicate. I'm making an exception because of something he said from the stage- he'd run into someone at the show who told him they'd been a big fan of the Dream Syndicate, but didn't know he was still playing. So, I'm harnessing the miniscule power of my little corner of the web to help get the word out.

The Dream Syndicate started in LA in 1982 as a band equally inspired by the Velvet Underground and punk rock. By the time the band split in 1989, the only original members were guitarist/vocalist/main songwriter Wynn and drummer Dennis Duck. The intervening years had seen the band's sound shift from skeletal, psychedelic noir to sweeping guitar rock in the best Crazy Horse tradition. Given that they recorded during the '80s (when it was almost impossible to make a good sounding rock record), the band's recorded legacy is mixed. Their best studio albums are the first (The Days Of Wine & Roses) and the last (Ghost Stories), although the live album Live At Rajis remains the definitive document. At all costs, avoid the horribly overproduced Medicine Show, the good songs from which are presented in significantly better form on Rajis.

I first became aware of the Dream Syndicate during my freshman year of college, when a friend pulled the just-released Ghost Stories out of the rack at the college radio station and informed me that they had opened for REM, and were great (good thing the station didn't have a copy of Medicine Show). After one listen, I had to concur with his analysis.

After the demise of the band, Wynn decided to re-invent himself in singer-songwriter mode, and made a few albums in that style through the early '90s. I'm not a fan of that genre, so I more or less lost track of him. The exception during this period was the band Gutterball, a side project involving Wynn and members of the Long Ryders, the Silos, and House of Freaks. 1993's Gutterball sounds like a bunch of friends jamming on each others songs over a boozy long weekend, which is essentially what it was. 1995's Weasel sounds a bit more professional (at least until the last track), but the casual "guitar band" approach of both records plays to Wynn's strengths. Both CDs are highly recommended.

In 1996, Wynn recorded Melting In The Dark backed by the Boston band Come (in the final document of their original lineup). The result was a whirlwind of noirish guitar rock, a tour de force for both parties. Wynn had successfully returned to loud rock while moving past the legacy of the Dream Syndicate. I saw him on tour for this record with drummer Linda Pitmon, guitarist Rich Gilbert and bassist Armistead Wellford- it was my first time seeing Wynn, and they absolutely blew me away.

This being my blog, I'm going to make a pretty serious detour here and talk about Rich Gilbert. I first saw him with his band the Zulus (featuring future Sugar drummer Malcolm Travis) in the early '90s- it was in a small club with about 20 people, but the Zulus hit the stage like a bomb. Gilbert doesn't play guitar like anyone you've ever seen- he's less about conventional notes and chords, and more about pulling completely new sounds out of the instrument- the only points of reference I can think of are Richard Lloyd mixed with Jimi Hendrix. He's managed to completely reinvent rock guitar playing, and it's a crime he isn't world famous. Sadly, I never got their album (Gilbert specifically mentioned having distribution problems with their label when I talked to him after the show) so I won't be able to feature the Zulus here. Gilbert currently plays with Frank Black and the Catholics, whose first two albums (the self-titled debut and Pistolero)are slices of garage rock well worth owning. OK, sorry- back to Steve Wynn:

1997's impressive Sweetness And Light featured the same band I'd seen the previous year (Pitmon's been playing with Wynn ever since), but by 2001 Gilbert had left and Come guitarist Chris Brokaw joined for Here Come The Miracles, a sprawling 2CD set recorded in Tuscon, AZ. Miracles displays all of Wynn's different styles in a way that makes a coherent whole- melodic pop to garage freakout and everything in between. Thus inspired, Wynn recorded his next two albums (Static Transmission and ...tick...tick...tick) in the same Tuscon studio as part of what he somewhat jokingly refers to as his "desert trilogy". The albums all have a similar feel, but Wynn's writing keeps them from getting samey.

Since 2003, Wynn's live band (the Miracle Three) has consisted of Pitmon, guitarist Jason Victor and bass player Dave DeCastro (who debuted on Miracles two years previously). They play his songs with fire and skill, breathing fresh life into the old Dream Syndicate songs that by now could be just as stale as the Stones playing "Satisfaction" for the 800 billionth time. This far into a fine 24 year career, it seems that Steve Wynn is just now hitting his stride.

Lester Young from Gutterball
Stare It Down from Melting In The Dark
Click here to buy "Melting In The Dark" from Amazon
Sustain from Here Come The Miracles
Bruises from ...tick...tick...tick
Click here to buy "...tick...tick...tick" from Amazon

Wynn was one of the first musicians to grasp the importance of the internet, and his website continues to be one of the best-
Steve Wynn Web

Friday, November 24, 2006

Mother / Menthol

Colin Koteles: Drums
Joel Spencer: Bass, vocals
Balthazar deLey: Vocals, guitar

Hometown: Champaign / Chicago

I don't usually like to deface my belongings with stickers. Therefore, when I do afix one to something I own, it says something about the depths of my approval for the thing represented. Since childhood, I can only remember making the following exceptions to my dislike of stickers-

1. A "Kerry '04" sticker on my car during the '04 campaign season.
2. A Maple Leaf Legacy Project window decal I acquired in Ypres, Belgium that resides on my vehicle still.
3. A Zapruder Point sticker on the inside lid of my work toolkit.
4. A Mother sticker I put on my leather jacket in college.

Mother was formed in 1991 when then Hum bassist deLey decided he wanted to lead his own band and play guitar. They soon began playing around the midwest, and inevitably followed their Champaign brethren (Poster Children, Hum, Honcho Overload, etc) down the mysterious pipeline that connected Champaign and Athens, Ohio where I saw them several times (the night my band opened for Mother and God & Texas ranks as the highlight of my musical "career"). Their music is perhaps best described by deLey in a 1995 interview with Rational Alternative Digital:

"It tends to be a high minded, very loud, mildly pornographic rock that's basically aimed at sort of well-read, literate type people who've been obviously drinking. I think that about spells it out."

They sounded like a sped-up, postpunk ZZ Top and were absolutely flawless live- the first time I saw them, their first song stopped me mid-sentence and I stood captivated throughout the rest of their set. They were able to graft literary, even poetic lyrics onto unironic, unpretentious amped-up boogie rock in a way few others could even conceive of, much less pull off.

They released a crappy sounding 7" before heading to the legendary Ardent studios in Memphis to blast out "Gold Record" in three days before Christmas 1993 (and a single day later for mixing). The results are mixed- the performances are naturally excellent but the sound, especially the drums, suffers from the haste in which the record was made (the guitars sound great, though). For bands on a limited budget, there's always the trade-off of spending more time in a cheap studio, or less time in an expensive one. Mother had gone the budget route for their 7" with less than stellar results (both songs were re-recorded at Ardent for the CD), so it's natural that they'd want to try the other route- this isn't a criticism of the band, just an observation of the perils and pitfalls of indie rock.

Ultimately, "Gold Record" was good enough (along with constant touring) to snag the band a deal with Capitol records. At this point it was discovered that Mother was a common band name, so for legal reasons the group changed their name to Menthol. The self-titled "Menthol" CD came out in 1995, the year the band moved to Chicago. The album finds Menthol refining and expanding on their style- hooky guitar rock with wordy lyrics that demand repeated listenings to begin deciphering. While it lacks some of the bracing immediacy of "Gold Record", "Menthol" makes up for it with improved sound and more diverse arrangements. "Menthol" wasn't just one of the best records of 1995, it's better than most of the records released since.

The group continued to tour extensively, but eventually finished a followup album in 1998. Capitol balked when they heard it, and eventually dropped Menthol. The band spent the next four years fighting to get their record back, and eventually issued a re-recorded version of the album, "Danger: Rock Science!" in 2002 (thanks in large part to Engine Studios manager John Humphrey, formerly of God & Texas- see the "mysterious pipeline" comment above).

In 2003 I came across a copy of the CD, which I didn't even know was out, in a used CD store. It'd been eight years since I'd seen anything about Menthol, and I'd assumed they'd broken up. I was elated- I ran to the register, paid, and immediately ran out to my car and put the disc on. I wasn't even remotely prepared for the sounds that came out of my speakers. I ejected the disc, assuming there'd been a mistake and the wrong CD had been placed in the jewel case. No mistake- Menthol had taken a serious detour.

"Danger: Rock Science!" sounds like Devo or Gary Neuman outtakes- it's absolutely nothing like anything Menthol had done before, and even deLey's singing is unrecognisable. It's almost like a parody of early '80s synth "new wave" music, except that a parody would be funny. The extreme overemphasis on annoying, gimmicky production tricks takes the focus away from the songs, which is usually a sign of deficient songwriting, a malady Menthol had not previously suffered from.

Let me make something clear- I'm not upset at Menthol for changing their style (I've always defended an artist's right to follow their muse, even if I don't like it- something I call the "Neil Young Rule"), I'm pissed off they made an unlistenable sonic abortion out of what could have been another collection of superior rock tunes. Like the synthpop it attempts to recreate, "Danger: Rock Science!" is as valueless and disposable as tinsel- all flash, no substance, so in that respect I suppose they succeeded completely.

Menthol have a website, which doesn't seem to have been updated much in the last year. There is a link to a 2005 Chicago radio broadcast though, which reveals the band playing material from "Danger: Rock Science!" in a manner similar to the Cars- still synth heavy, but not half as annoying as the album. Through this it's possible to tell that there were, in fact, good songs on that album buried under all the trash.

On the broadcast, deLey mentions the band were then (11/05) working on a new EP, and there are mp3s of new material on the website (only one of which seems to work- "Bavarian Girl"), but to my knowledge no further Menthol releases have surfaced. "Bavarian Girl" is ambient, shoegazery pop unlike any of their previous work, but unlike "Danger: Rock Science!" it doesn't drown in bad production cliches- it actually sounds pretty cool. I look forward to hearing any future music from Menthol, whenever and whatever it may be.

Southern Bells
From "Gold Record", 1994
Still in print! Click here to order

U.S.A. Capable
Stress Is Best
From "Menthol", 1995
(out of print)

Sunday, October 15, 2006

God And Texas

Mick Brennan- Drums
John Humphrey- Guitar, Vocal
Chris Farmer- Bass (1990-1992)
Matt Fields- Bass (1992-1994)

Hometown- Athens Ohio (1989-1992), Chicago Illinois (1992-1994)

I first ran across God And Texas in the spring of 1990, playing outdoors one afternoon at some sort of university sponsored event in Athens. They had just self-released a 3 song 7" EP that had been compared to Husker Du and Black Flag, and I was curious to hear them. Unfortunately, the band (at that time with John's brother Pat on bass) seemed to have engaged in some recreational pharmaceuticals and were utterly unable to make anything resembling music- I remember John beating on his guitar and screaming unintelligibly while Mick flailed away at his drumkit (which was falling apart anyway) with utter indifference to what John was doing. Pat struck the occasional note on his bass, but spent most of his time doing interpretive dance and making evil faces at the crowd.

It was amusing, but I left after about 10 minutes. I kept hearing good things about them though, so I picked up the 7" (which I later learned was recorded in the basement of an apartment building on a 4-track)- it was raw and primitive, but underneath the crud you could hear there were actual songs and riffs. 1991's "Industry Standard" LP (this time recorded after hours in a comic book store by Royal Crescent Mob soundman Montie Temple, and with Chris Farmer on bass) showed the band sounding like later Black Flag- a mix of punk and metal that sometimes bogged down in plodding riffage, but contained enough great moments ("Grist For The Mill", "Shit House", "Mood For Self Indulgence") to be worthwhile.

God And Texas toured relentlessly (often accompanied by soundman Lowell Jacobs) and by 1991 had met Chicago producer Brad Wood, who would produce the remainder of God And Texas' output. Trivia: Wood later achieved notoriety for producing and playing on Liz Phair's "Exile In Guyville". "History, Volume One" was a giant leap forward for the band, both sonically and in terms of songwriting and playing. Any past hints of instrumental sloppiness are gone and the songs are succinct. Some of the tracks are lengthy and there are enough layered guitars to sink a battleship, but there isn't a wasted second and the fat has been trimmed. A lean, mean, fire-breathing dragon of an album, easily God And Texas' best (as a bonus, the CD includes the track "1066" and the entire "Industry Standard" album).

Their next album "Criminal Element" was released just before the band relocated to Chicago with bassist Matt Fields. This time they tightened up a little too much, and the end result sounds a bit like prototype math rock ala Helmet. Not a bad record, but the claustrophobic songs wind up grating on my nerves long before the record's over.

For "Double Shot" God And Texas made a radical shift towards... I don't really know what you'd call it. Jazz? Lounge? Whatever it is, "Double Shot" adds a dollop of John Spencer Blues Explosion to the band's hard rock along with sax player Steve Golub. The result is a unique hybrid that goes off in all kinds of unexpected directions, but somehow it all works.

The band broke up in 1994. John played in Cash Money (later Cash Audio), and is now a recording studio manager in Chicago. Matt has played with several Chicago area bands including Those Bastard Souls (a sort of Chicago area supergroup). God And Texas was recently voted "Not Crap" by a margin of 75% in a round of "Crap/Not Crap" on Electrical Audio's messageboard.

Grist For The Mill.mp3 from "Industry Standard", 1991
Join Or Die.mp3 from "History, Volume 1", 1992
Red Room.mp3 from "Double Shot", 1994

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Truth Is Where You Find It

Last night, I turned on the premiere of "Studio 60", a new comedy show. It looked like it might be smart and funny, and it had an interesting cast so I figured what the hell. In the first five minutes, the (obviously Lorne Michaels inspired) character played by Judd Hirsch hijacks his own (obviously SNL inspired) lame sketch comedy show, and announces to a live audience (in an obviously Network inspired rant):

"Ah, it’s not going to be a very good show tonight and I think you should change the channel. Change the channel. Right, right now. Turn off the TV ok?... We’re all being lobotomized by this country’s most influential industry. It’s just throwing in the towel on any endeavor to do anything that doesn’t include the courting of 12 year old boys. Not even the smart 12 year olds, the stupid ones, the idiots. Which there are plenty, thanks in no small measure to this network. So why don’t you just, change the channel, turn off the TV. Do it right now, go ahead... There is a struggle between art and commerce. Well there has always been a struggle between art and commerce. Now, I’m telling you, art is getting its ass kicked... People are having contests to see how much they can be like Donald Trump. We’re eating worms for money. Who wants to screw my sister! Guys are getting killed in a war that’s got theme music and a logo. That remote in your hand is a crack pipe. Oh yea, every once in a while we pretend to be appalled in some way. Pornographers, its not even good pornography, it’s just this side of snuff films. And friends, that’s what’s next because that’s all that’s left. And the two things that make them scared gutless are the FCC and every psycho religious cult that gets positively horny at the very mention at a boycott. These are the people that they’re afraid of. It’s prissy, feckless, off the charts, greed-filled whorehouse of a network. And you are watching this thoroughly unpatriotic..."

It was thrilling. It was inspiring. The character was absolutely right- TV is a wasteland of lame bullshit*. So, I stopped watching and went off to find something productive to do.

*Rescue Me, The Shield, and The Wire excepted


Mojo Magazine: Let's talk about your solo carreer.
Robert Plant: What can I say? Will 'sorry' do?

OK, so I've been really slack about the ol' blog lately. Anyone still bothering to check this, you have my thanks as well as a promise to post new content soon.