California Sounds: A thrilling new punk song from No Age and rescued recordings of Tim Buckley at the Troubadour
No Age, “Soft Collar Fad” (Drag City). The first song from the stellar L.A. punk band’s first studio album in four years rips into its riffs like a pitbull into a rib-eye.
Over the past decade the duo, Dean Spunt (drums) and Randy Randall (guitars), have helped redefine L.A. punk for a new century, adding its own distinctive washes of noise and melody into a mess of hardcore distortion. “Soft Collar Fad” is as unyielding and aggro as anything the two have done.
Loud, fast punk rock that suggests “New Day Rising”-era Husker Du but without sounding the least bit retro, the track confirms that there’s still progress to be made in hardcore, still non-dumb avenues to explore, still ways to weave in memorable melodies without sacrificing energy or commodifying the dissent.
After a run with lauded Seattle indie Sub Pop, No Age will release the album from which the song is taken, “Snares Like a Haircut,” in early January. It will arrive through the expertly curated Chicago imprint Drag City, current home to L.A.-based artists including Ty Segall, Wand and Joanna Newsom.
Tim Buckley, “Greetings From West Hollywood” and “Venice Mating Call” (Manifesto). In early September 1969, the dynamic singer and songwriter Buckley played three nights at the Troubadour in West Hollywood. A tireless explorer influenced more by Nina Simone than Bob Dylan, he was accompanied during the gigs by himself and musicians playing a Fender Rhodes electric organ, electric and acoustic guitars, bass, drums and congas.
Reissue producers Bill Inglot and Pat Thomas recently unearthed a bounty of tapes from those three nights in September, some of which already had been mined for an earlier concert recording, “Live at the Troubadour 1969.”
The results of their effort can be found on “Greetings From West Hollywood” and “Venice Mating Call,” which come out Oct. 13. The two new releases, the former available on LP and the latter on compact disc, present wondrously remastered, previously un-issued versions from those Troubadour nights.
Those who have seen shows at the historic West Hollywood venue can envision the scene: a bushy-headed, brown-eyed handsome man standing before an intimate crowd of a few hundred who are so close he can look into their eyes.
At the time, the octave-leaping vocal acrobat, who was born on the East Coast but moved to Bell Gardens with his family as a pre-teen, was label mates with artists including the Doors, Love and Iggy Pop’s band the Stooges. Buckley, however, was on a whole other trip, mixing free-form jazz into his folk-inspired songs to give them a wild elasticity.
Earlier in ’69 he’d released “Happy Sad,” his highest-charting album, and would issue “Blue Afternoon” in November. The shows found him massaging those songs, stretching them out through vocal and instrumental improvisation.
Most profound are the twin versions of “Chase the Blues Away.” As captured on different nights, the song appears on “Greetings From West Hollywood” and “Venice Mating Call” and is as sensual an invitation as you’ll hear.
Elsewhere, Buckley introduces the titular instrumental “Venice Mating Call” with a knowing laugh before adding, “All we are saying is give smack a chance.” Unfortunately, the quip was a portent: A half decade later Buckley would be dead at 28 after overdosing on heroin.
For tips, records, snapshots and stories on Los Angeles music culture, follow Randall Roberts on Twitter and Instagram: @liledit. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
It's a date
Get our L.A. Goes Out newsletter, with the week's best events, to help you explore and experience our city.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.