Thursday, March 31, 2011
So fate has decreed that I have been able to let the new Twilight Singers album ferment an appropriate time since its February release, and now, after a second round of listens, I can say confidently that this is one of those records that will be in my rotation ten or twenty years from now. Greg Dulli and I were born within 10 days of each other, which makes him old enough to be referred to as a national treasure. And dammit if he isn’t, having given us gems like “White Trash Party” which is in frequent rotation twenty years after it was released. Since that album, “Up in It”, he and his bands have produced at such a high artistic level that terrific albums like this new one get nothing near the exposure they deserve. I remember several years ago wondering why ‘Teenage Wristband’ wasn’t played every ten minutes on every Clear Channel station, and thinking that the obscurity of such a perfect pop song is Exhibit A of what’s wrong with the music industry.
‘Dynamite Steps’ ought to sell a million copies, or units, or whatever the hell they’re called. It won’t, though, because of the tyranny of high expectations. This album is not demonstrably better than ‘Powder Burns’ or ‘Blackberry Belle’, but that does not mean it is less than a supreme rock and roll triumph. It’s got everything we want in a Greg Dulli effort: sleek production that is nonetheless guitar-centric (with indulgent use of the wah-wah pedal, god bless them), menacingly suave yet somehow cantankerous vocals, and lyrics that are unapologetically seamy. In fact, this might be Dulli’s strongest vocal performance of his career. Despite that he struggles with pitch on the opener ‘Last Night in Town’, the rest of the album is pretty well flawless. Combine this with what Dulli himself said is the most band-centric recording approach he has taken in the Twilight Singers part of his career, and you have something that ought to be on anyone’s year end best-of list.
It’s hard to pick out highlights on a record that works so well as a whole. I’m partial to the loud stuff, and ‘Waves’ hits that spot for me while still having all the drama you expect from this band. Check out the video for ‘On the Corner’ to get a good feel for the overall vibe of the album – then go get the album and go see them live (they’re out there right now).
Wednesday, March 30, 2011
Tournamental: Forcing Art to Compete
Current matchup is GbV vs Lynyrd Skynyrd, and while I do favor GbV, I think these two ought to be facing one another a bit later in the competition...
From the explanatory post at the outset of the tournament in February 2011: "The tournament is primarily a great way to waste time, have fun arguments and watch old concert footage. Secondarily, it is about forcing pieces of art to compete with one another."
And here's the bracket.
Some of these, honestly, look like an NBA vs a high school team more than a 1-16 in the NCAA's. Prince vs of Montreal? But that's why they play the games!
First step: Let's eliminate Billy Joel. Whatever we disagree on, surely we can all agree on that...
Regardless, folks who are willing to check out new music will be richly rewarded for giving My Cousin, The Emperor a listen. If you're in the NYC area, they're doing a show in Brooklyn April 9.
Here's a video of them performing "I Cried For You" from 2009's A Long Way From Home:
Click here for a free download of "Nothing Left for Us to Find" from Volume 2:
FREE MP3 DOWNLOAD: My Cousin, The Emperor - "Nothing Left For Us to Find"
And you can stream and download all three records at their Bandcamp page, and learn more at their website or MySpace pages.
Bookmark their website, as they will likely be touring to support those EPs... and probably put on a great show. Not to mention, they aren't likely to get all upset and have you kicked out for requesting "Summer of 69".
Tuesday, March 29, 2011
We're kicking it off with SHe'S Hit. To my ears they seem to tend towards the garage band genre, but they've also been tagged with post punk and dirty surf. I'm not sure that I know what dirty surf is, but at first blush I strongly endorse the concept musically, if not environmentally. Formed in 2008, their name comes from a song by the Australian band Birthday Party. The members are David Wilson, Mike Hanson, Philip McLellan, Cammy Wilson and Fraser McFadzean. There are several "honorary" members, including Scott Paterson of Sons and Daughters and Jen Paley of Astral Planes. Drowned in Sound picked them as a band to watch. They also were picked to support Dead Weather in concert in 2010.
"Re:Peater" is their first single:
Shimmer Shimmer by She's Hit
You can hear a bit of The Jesus and Mary Chain and the Stooges in these guys, and I hope there are plans for an album in the near future.
Our next welcome jolt of energy is delivered by Fiction Faction, a Glasgow four man indie rock band that also incorporates electronic elements. Or, as they put it "keyboards on guitars that sound like guitars played on keyboards". The influential BBC DJ Vic Galloway has tipped them as a band to watch for this year, as have other UK publications and blogs.
I really like this tune -- "Malenky Lizards":
Malenky Lizards by Fiction Faction
And one of the things I really like about the band is that they don't feel wed to the folk rock conventions of many of their peers -- and that isn't on knock on their peers and what their peers are producing as readers of my posts can attest. In my view, the lads of Fiction Faction are modern post punk. The list their influences as Blur, Echo and the Bunnymen, Soft Cell, Pulp, The Cure and XTC.
"Count to Ten"
The members are Dave Richards, Paul Mclean, John Paul Dunne, and Graeme Ellis, and they released a single on 17 Seconds Records (whose founder operates a very nice blog called 17 Seconds) in January of this year.
Soundcloud (additional tracks)
Finally, a big dose of sexy energy and, for US fans, a bit of mystery, the unsigned Glasgow band Peter Parker.
I don't have any more videos for this pop group, but there are more songs on at the Myspace link below. There also doesn't seem to be much recorded material, but the band seems to gig actively in the UK.
Sunday, March 27, 2011
Hopefully the album Mohawk will be released soon, but here's a recent live performance that gives a good idea of their sound:
The Caulfield Sisters on American Laundromat Records
Caulfield Sisters Myspace
Credit where credit is due: I heard this on the KEXP Song of the Day podcast, where I have discovered a lot of really good music and which I highly recommend.
KEXP Song of the Day - Caulfield Sisters
Baseball provides much superior stories and context for rock'n'roll than other sports - colorful figures, terrific jargon, quirky unwritten rules, a rich history, bizarre mishaps, managers in uniform, and timeless statistical milestones (.300 hitter, 20 game winner, etc.). And no one tells better baseball stories than the Baseball Project, the alternative rock version of the Traveling Wilburys - highly skilled, experienced craftsmen on loan from their day jobs and having a ball - Steve Wynn (Dream Syndicate), Peter Buck and Scott McCaughey from R.E.M. and the Minus 5, and drummer Linda Pitmon (Miracle 3), with various all-star guests, including Craig Finn, Ben Gibbard, Robert Lloyd, Ira Kaplan and Steve Berlin.
Some songs here on the Baseball Project's second record center on an individual player: "Ichiro Goes to the Moon", "Pete Rose Way", "Here Lies Carl Mays", and "The Straw That Stirs the Drink" (a hilarious homage to Reggie Jackson, written in the first person and delivered perfectly matter-of-fact by Wynn, "There are superstars and then there's what I am"). Other songs here outline an aspect of the game or baseball culture ("Chin Music", "Fair Weather Fans").
One of the best songs here, "Panda and the Freak", a garage rock high-velocity fastball, touches both bases, starting with a celebration of the rich history of nicknames in the sport ("Goose, Bird, Penguin, Rooster, Vulture - and your bird can sing. And the greatest nickname of all time Death to Flying Things)", and then honoring in detail two current players on McCaughey's beloved San Francisco Giants. Seen here performed live last summer with pinch hitter guest Mike Mills from R.E.M.:
Fans of The Hold Steady (like say, me), especially those from Minnesota, will love Craig Finn's emotional ode to his beloved team "Don't Call Them Twinkies" ("The Minnesota Twins are making Minnesotans proud..... These are grown men, these are heroes, please don't call them Twinkies"). And for Mr. Minnesota out there, you get a double shot of your baseball love because Linda Pitmon grew up outside the Twin Cities, and in "Fair Weather Fans" she too passionately displays her undying loyalty to the Twinkies (oops, so sorry Mr. Finn, Tigers fan here and old habits die hard; "my bad!").
You can listen to "Please Don't Call Them Twinkies" inside this link: http://minnesota.publicradio.org/collections/special/columns/music_blog/archive/2010/09/dont_call_them.shtml
But the best story here is one I'd never heard. Did you know that Hall of Famer Bob Feller, the "Heater from Van Meter" himself, once threw a pitch that was fouled off and struck his own mother, and on Mother's Day no less?! More recently, the Twins' Denard Span ripped one into the stands and hit his mom (a Spring training game so at least not on Mother's Day, thank god). It's all true and now captured in song. Learn all about foul balls targeting in on loved ones in the wickedly funny cautionary tale "Look Out Mom".
Another bonus to this record - the fine explanatory liner notes for each song, as here where McCaughey recounts the Span incident and concludes "You figure, what are the chances? Hey, Richie Ashburn hit the same woman with foul balls twice in the same at bat. Heads up people!"
The song that may be the most biting and memorable is "Buckner's Bolero" where McCaughey painstakingly outlines every lapse in judgment by other Red Sox that preceded that fateful error in the 1986 Series (e.g. "If Jim Rice had twice taken an easy extra base....And Bob Stanley sure picked a bad time to uncork a wild pitch, and I'm sure he's still thinking that you could have blocked it, Rich.... If one play killed the Sox, can you please tell me which?"). McCaughey's sympathetic version of history paints Buckner as the ultimate scapegoat, whose solid 22-year career ("10,000 at bats and close to 3,000 hits") was obliterated by one routine, albeit historically untimely, fielding error. These lyrics are required reading for all you grudge-carrying Buckner haters out there: http://lyrics.wikia.com/The_Baseball_Project:Buckner
Here's an earlier live version of the Buckner song without the delicious spaghetti western/Latin drama (trumpet, pedal steel etc.) of the new recorded version:
Of course, being a diehard Detroit Tigers fan, I have an especially soft spot for the warm nostalgic lead track, Steve Wynn's "1976", a jangly ode to the great Mark Fidrych, sadly now deceased, but forever etched in our memories as the carefree pitcher who captured the nation in his magical rookie season, "Golden hair flowing down, on your knees grooming the pitcher's mound." I love the spirit and jangly sound of this one and have had this tune rattling around in my head for a week. Listen here:
As on their previous effort, the music and writing on Baseball Project 2 is so strong, that fans of The Dream Syndicate, R.E.M., the Hold Steady and smart guitar rock will find plenty to like here even if they don't care that much about baseball. It is a very good thing when you get an entire record of Steve Wynn, Peter Buck and Scott McCaughey going at it on guitars. But Volume 2: High and Inside is a baseball fan dream. The lyrics are remarkably well done, sure to warm any fan's heart with their detail and sharp wit.
Heads up people! The Baseball Project have outdone themselves. I find this a bit stronger overall than the debut record simply because the tunes are even better.
And by the way, with Opening Day upon us this week, I'm feeling, highly objectively of course, that despite Cabrera's off the field problems, Zumaya's most current injury, and a somewhat questionable starting rotation after Verlander and Scherzer, the Tigers could surprise people this year....and I've not lived in Michigan for 30+ years now, so, like Ms. Pitmon, "a fair weather fan is not what I am even though my zip code has changed."
Band web page, tour dates etc.: Baseball Project Page at Yep Roc Records
Official site: http://thebaseballproject.net/
Link at stevewynn.net
Soundcloud preview mix of album on Strut:
Sofrito: Tropical Discotheque mini-mix by DJ Hugo Mendez by Strut
A bit of backstory:
Robot Science is University of California at Berkeley student Charlie Yin. His sound is icy, dreamy electronic and dance.
Rootz Underground is a modern roots reggae band from Kingston Jamaica. But roots reggae really isn't a term that does them justice. There is a rock element, and a flair for showmanship that takes them beyond the perceptions of their base genre. Here is "In the Jungle" from their 2008 album Movement:
They have played SxSW in the past, and currently are touring in Europe.
And "Hammer" from the same album:
"Victims of the System"
Friday, March 25, 2011
Out of Control
Formed in Sydney (by way of Perth and Brisbane) in the early 80s, the members of Beasts of Bourbon are probably more famous for their other bands, including Cruel Sea and the Hoodoo Gurus, than this ass-kicking bar band. They have a great swamp vibe, and Tex Perkins is one of that small group of guys who was just born to be a rock and roll singer.
I Told You So
The Hate Inside
"I hate the dog, I hate my wife. I hate my two kids, and they hate me coz inside hate is all this family gives"
Let's Get Funky
This is a cover of the song written by country legend Leon Payne. Shows Tex's tender side.
Friday Old Stuff: The Jangle, Part 3: The Loft, The Weather Prophets, Biff Bang Pow, Felt, The Primitives, The Wolfhounds
The Loft was formed in 1980 with four members, including guitarist/vocalist Peter Astor and drummer Dave Morgan, and recorded for Alan McGee's Creation label. Plagued by deep interpersonal squabbles, the band broke up in 1985.
The Weather Prophets was formed in 1985 by Astor and Morgan after The Loft shut down. The original, but temporary, bassist was Alan McGee, who also was the founder and head of their label, Creation. Astor then added a permanent bassist and rhythm guitarist. The Weather Prophets had a short life span, but the compilation Blue Skies & Free Rides: The best of 1986-1989 is worth the coin you'd spend for it.
Biff Bang Pow has a connection with the above bands -- it was the band formed by Alan McGee of Creation and Dick Green. The band was formed in 1981 and disbanded in 1991.
Felt had a ten year run from 1979 to 1989. It was the project of Lawrence Haywood, who was a fan of Tom Verlaine and Television. If you like what you hear, try he compilation Stains on a Decade.
The Wolfhounds were an English group that recorded in the late '80s and 1990. While generally considered part of the C-86 scene, their music tended to be a bit darker and grittier.
Don had a car with a turntable in it that played 45s (!). And in the summer of 1970, his car was rocking one song, "I Bet You" by the Funkadelic. The song had been previously done by Parliament, Funkadelic leader George Clinton's prior (and subsequent) band. [Just heard from Bill who informs me the car was a late 1960s blue Chevrolet Impala convertible, which makes my fond memories all the more understandable].
But the new super funked up version of "I Bet You" redefined the song and accomplished the ultimate merger of funk and psychedelic rock'n'roll on Funkadelic's self-titled, now classic debut record. Eddie Hazel's fuzzed out lead guitar from here has been sampled many times, while the bass lines define funk itself.
Don would blast the song and take us somewhere fun like Putt Putt or to ride go carts, instructing us that this was the music we needed to be listening to, not the Monkees or the lightweight stuff our friends liked. Bill and I were smart enough to realize this was truly sound advice.
George Clinton of course, is still touring, and still tossing out great lines like one from here "You ain't gonna lose with the stuff I use" (appropriated by the Cramps' Lux Interior among others). Clinton is an underrated lyricist in my opinion (he gets help here from his main man Bootsy Collins), and the lyrically inclined among you should check out the words to "I Bet You", where nearly every line is a great one (my favorite - "You can't know what's going on when you're asleep, I bet ya!"): http://www.lyricsmania.com/i_bet_you_lyrics_funkadelic.html
And thanks to CKLW, the Canadian AM radio station across the river from Detroit with its powerhouse signal, this track became a regional hit single, which was surprising even then, but now seems downright impossible.
Enjoy your weekend:
Thursday, March 24, 2011
Video for "Bury Me In Smoke" from LaundroMatinee:
Here's their label website: Roaring Colonel Records
And here's their Bandcamp:
Wednesday, March 23, 2011
The music The Generationals wrote and recorded for Actor-Caster clearly falls in the guitar/indie pop category. However, the really refreshing thing about the album is the breadth of Joyner's and Widmer's vocabulary within that genre. This breadth is underscored by the first four songs of the album. "Ten-Twenty-Ten" begins the album on an upbeat pop note with the song propelled by a driving rhythm. The second track, "I Promise", is a jangly indie rocker. "Yours Forever" slows the pace down into dream pop territory. "You Say It Too" grabs the listener's attention with a catchy funk/soul groove that repeats for the duration of the song. The album continues with indie rock stompers, power pop and soul influences. And in order to record this variety of music, the duo relies on judicious use of drum machine, synths and horns in varying degrees. However, it all hangs together well, bound by consistency in writing and performance, and an overall sunny vibe. There is a lot going on in some of the songs in terms of instruments, changes of pace and various frills, and it is a credit to the band that it all adds to the final product rather than becoming distracting.
Stream the entire album Actor-Caster here:
It is too early to predict where this album will rate at the end of the year. However, I wouldn't be surprised to find this album of well crafted, varied and hook-filled indie pop on my year-end list.
Label Profile for Generationals
This sounds great.
Listen to new album on Voxhaul Broadcast's Bandcamp page.
And here's the video for "Rotten Apples" from their previous album of the same name:
Voxhaul Broadcast on MySpace
Voxhaul Broadcast Website
Monday, March 21, 2011
Also, he is a very active "Twitterer". He just finished a very busy week at SXSW, playing or sitting in for four shows, and it sounds like he had a great time.
He's one of the best songwriters we have currently. I'm not a big lyrics guy, but I'll invest the time and effort to check out Jason's, and of course I'd listen for the guitars alone. Really looking forward to this record...
Jason Isbell website (with links to Myspace, Twitter, Facebook, etc.)
Saturday, March 19, 2011
Collie Buddz is a Bermuda-based dancehall, socca and hip hop artist. This is his current album Playback
Here are two songs from a few years ago:
"She Gimme Love"
Artist website with free album download
Is psychedelic dub a genre? It should be, and this should define it. Here, Birmingham's GCorp takes Lee Perry's "Disco Devil", and remixes it with vocals from Lee Perry himself and the German act Dubble Standart. Very tasty indeed.
Tamaryn is a shoegaze/dream pop duo based in San Francisco. Vocalist Tamaryn was born in New Zealand. The other member of the band is guitarist Rex John Shelverton.
Friday, March 18, 2011
Seeing them made me think of when I bought 'Rum, Sodomy & the Lash' in the month after its release, having only read the reviews calling them an Irish 'punk' band. Playing it the first time was disappointing -- it didn't sound like the punk music I was listening to back then. Can you even play an accordion through a distortion pedal? It didn't take many spins, though, for the genius of that album to sink in. At some point back then I took some time to figure out what the deal was with this Shane MacGowan cat. I discovered, to my surprise, that he was not some woolly hibernian delivered to us from the Burren wilderness, but rather that he had been in a real punk band previously -- and a mighty damned good one at that. So check out the Nipple Erectors (later on they played simply as The Nips).
I'd heard a few tracks from the album in November 2010, the month of its release, and fully intended to follow up and listen to the entire thing. And I did--this week. How good is it? If I'd listened to the album in 2010 it would have made my top ten albums of the year. You know when sometimes you listen to an album and you hear a song that just makes you sit up and say "that's a really, really special song"? Well, that happened to me at least five times on God Bless Jim Kennedy. Moreover, those five special songs are surrounded by a whole album of good songs.
Let's discuss what the album sounds like, while you listen to the video for the final track, "I Own It":
If Phil had been playing it safe, the sound would have been either Postcard Records-era 80s indie pop, or, perhaps, slow-tempo singer songwriter pieces from an artist trying to remind his old fans that he had a voice. Well, God Bless Phil Wilson, because what we got instead is, to my ears, a joyous fusion of The Byrds and other 60s Los Angeles bands, and Big Star-like powerpop, with a more modern guitar pop finish. There are guitars, harmonies, some horns and a few well placed strings, a little flamenco guitar, and maybe a little hint of Roy Orbison. The album starts out strongly in the powerpop vein, has a strong middle and finishes with three songs (including the wonderful "Pop Song #23") that one reviewer termed the album's "Amen corner". As an instrument, Phil's voice isn't the instrument that his guitar is, but he is convincing and his bandmates provide excellent vocal support.
This is an band that is doing what it is capable of doing well, but it isn't playing it safe. Overall, I get the sense of joy -- upon listening, I'm convinced that this isn't a band that is saying "we need to get this done", but rather "wow, we get to do this".
My only regret in this review is that I don't have more album tracks to share with you. I highly recommend that you click on the Myspace link below and choose "Pop Song #32" to hear one of the 60s tinged highlights of the album. And while the format doesn't provide the audio quality necessary to truly appreciate the recorded product on the album, I've included a couple live versions of the album tracks for those interested.
"Three Days" (live)
"Up to London"
Phil Wilson Website
Phil Wilson Facebook
Phil Wilson Myspace
For those not familiar with Phil's career, his June Brides were an important part of the 80s guitar pop scene in the UK from 1984-1986. Their punky energy and jangly guitars planted a foot in each of the Josef K and Creation Records camps. They toured with The Smiths, The Jesus and Mary Chain, The Mekons, and the Wedding Present. One LP stood at the top of the charts for a good while. Teenage Fanclub, Franz Ferdinand, Manic Street Preachers and Belle and Sebastian all consider the June Brides to be an influence on their work.
June Brides "Just the Same"
But we already had our choice set for this week and it was way too good to delay. This live stripped down performance of "If You Want Me to Stay" by Sly Stone reflects what a truly amazing artist and arranger he was.
This song has long been a particular favorite of mine, its vocal especially. I discovered this version this week and it is truly fantastic:
Thursday, March 17, 2011
Them (Van Morrison with "Gloria"
The Undertones with "Teenage Kicks"
"Here Comes the Summer"
Stiff Little Fingers with "Alternative Ulster"
The Cranberries with "Dreams"
The Waterboys with "Fisherman's Blues". Yeah, Mike Scott's Scottish (and an all around good guy), but the band has Irish connections and has maintained them over the years, so we'll give them a slot.
The Irishness of The Pogues has been debated enough. They make the cut, and I don't have to defend it. Consider it a reminder to floss and brush even when you've been drinking.
Snow Patrol was formed in Glasgow where the members were attending school, but the original members were from Northern Ireland. This is a cover of the above Undertones song that was recorded for a John Peel memorial after he died a few years back. I think this is a good closer.
Monday, March 14, 2011
Music from the regions of the US that produce oil often has a "country" flavor to it. Here is a band from the oil regions of Scotland (Aberdeen, which is the home base for much of the North Sea oil production) that reflects a bit of that style as well. The band's name is Weather Barn. Weather Barn consist of brothers Steve and Matt Morris, Iain Dallas and Daryl Rankin. One blogger described their music as ranging from twee pop to southern boogie. However, the bottom line is that it has hooks, harmony, energy and lots of guitar. I think they could go far.
Their latest release, a three song affair called Boat Ride, was available on line at the end of February. There is a Band of Horses influence evident in some of their music, but they are capable of a more uptempo approach as well (check out "Cinnamon Hill" at the Soundcloud link following the embedded music).
Park Hands by Weather Barn
The Boat Ride (Out on iTunes 28th March 2011) by Weather Barn
Band page at Kittiwake Records
Danny McGuire records under the name Two Zebras. He self-describes the style as lo-fi powerpop, and I think he's got that right.
While the young Scot has been living in Canada, his distinctively hoarse voice retains its distinctive Glasgow accent. At this point, Danny is a one-man band. His plan is to move to Amsterdam so he can travel and perform in Europe. It is my understanding that the only available recordings are a double A-side released March 1 and containing the above "Dreams" and the following "Desperately Seeking Something", and a previously released Anecdotes EP.
Sometimes bands obviously using synthesizers get a bad rap, but I think that the flexibility in sound added by a synth should be embraced by the indie rock scene. Here is the interesting sound of Digital Jones -- live base, drums and horn, synthesizer and a female lead singer born to entertain.
The combination allows a small group to deliver a satisfyingly large sound in a club atmosphere.
Saturday, March 12, 2011
Midnight World Pop Scout-5: G-Corp and Big Youth, Don Letts/Dan Donovan, Kid British, The Surf Coasters
Traditionally, artists made music, and producers and engineers recorded it. Technology and tastes have stretched that dynamic. Now some artists create music with studio tools, or use studio tools to create music from other recordings. While this development has touched rock (for example, electro-rock, dub rock), nowhere is it more important that in dance music and reggae. In fact, the reggae producers have been doing it since the late '60s. Inevitably, they meet to joyous results.
This track takes "Waterhouse Rock" by great reggae DJ Big Youth, which is itself a version of the rocksteady "Rockfort Rock" with the tall guy toasting over the rhythm, and gives it the remix treatment via the UK's G-Corp (also known as "Groove Corporation" and "Groove Corp").
What's different than the original version as produced by King Tubby? Stripped and looped vocals, additional effects, and boosted bass and percussion.
G-Corp is an top notch remix outfit specializing in remixing and creating reggae and dub. I highly recommend that you check them out.
Remember the guy with the long dreads from Big Audio Dynamite? He also was the reggae DJ at The Roxy -- the club frequented by The Clash when they were starting out -- and later was the video historian for The Clash. His name is Don Letts. Among his career producing videos and directing at least one movie, he founded the Dub Cartel. In this cut, he and his sidekick Dan Donovan create a great dance floor number by taking Prince Alla's King Tubby produced "Dub Stone", with some added vocals borrowed from Pablo Moses' "One People". Give it about 20 seconds to really start the groove.
Kid British, a ska/indie pop band from Manchester. Their first album was titled It Was This Or Football. A single off of that LP was an update on "Our House" by Madness, titled "Our House is Dadless".
Websites: Kid British Myspace and Facebook
The Surf Coasters
I know that some of you were hoping that I'd bring some more stuff from Asia to follow up on last week's Moscow Olympics. Here are The Surf Coasters, a surf band from that well-known home of the laid back surf culture -- Japan.
Websites: Surf Coasters Official Website and Myspace
This album consists of 18 separate songs, only one of which is longer than 2:30. While he's great at putting together masterpieces like "Over the Neptune/Mesh Gear Fox" that combine shorter pieces into a cohesive song, Pollard excels at short but complete songs... when it's done, it's done. That's what we've got here.
The first song, "Mr. Fantastic Must Die" (video below), is a psych overdose that takes about a minute to complete...
Then we're hurtling immediately into a driving rock track, "Space City Kicks," with prog breaks--Bowie influences are well-represented here, and well-played. The third song is a real beauty: "Blowing Like a Sunspot", a pop gem with sweet vocals, melodic guitar and a nice chorus to finish. In the cleanup spot is "I Wanna Be Your Man in the Moon", which combines a Who-style bass line, punk backbeat, deep vocals, a sweet-sounding chorus and a great power-pop guitar solo, all in 2:15.
Then it gets real prog with "Sex She Said": sparse, simple lyrics and heavy instrumentation, chanted vocals, a little jarring. Then another pretty guitar/vocal track: "One More Touch," another prog changeup "Picture a Star", and then we get to the centerpiece, the best song on the record, for my money: "Something Strawberry". Bob's taken us from Roky Erickson to Bowie to Beefheart to a true Pollard classic (believe me, "Something Strawberry" will make the GbV/Pollard mixtape), and we are only halfway through the record. You can imagine what happens next (no, he doesn't fix the cable, he throws ten more songs out there).
If you've never listened to GbV or Robert Pollard before, go download the pop songs: "Something Strawberry", "One More Touch", and marvel at how a man could create hundreds of these, some in no longer than it takes to record a demo... but if you've never listened to GbV or Pollard before, I'd wonder what you are doing here. For Pollard fans, this is a must.
Website: Robert Pollard.net and Bob on Facebook
Friday, March 11, 2011
Friday Old Stuff: The Jangle, part 2: The Shop Assistants, Primal Scream, the Flatmates, the Pastels, Lloyd Cole and the Commotions, The Dentists
The Shop Assistants are criminally under appreciated. They combined some of the best elements of the noise pop of The Jesus and Mary Chain and the DIY of groups like the Pastels. Perhaps my favorite line from this song is when "I don't want to be friends with you" followed by "if you leave me, I'll scratch your eyes out". You've been warned!
Primal Scream, before they became the Primal Scream that most remember:
The Pastels. A Glasgow group influential in the DIY indie pop scene. They helped the venerated The Vaselines.
Lloyd Cole and the Commotions. Lloyd was English but formed the band while attending college in Scotland.
The Dentists. Just like getting the gas mask without the drill.
All the attention on R.E.M. at our blog this week led me to the great state of Georgia, which sent me straight to the soul source. Soul brother number 1.
Usually I just put up one song, but JB deserves more.
Some good live footage from 1971. If this doesn't help you head into the weekend with a better attitude, well friend, I can't help you:
No live footage here but this song knocks me out every time. I'm mad...I need some get back! One of my very favorite JB songs, love how he breaks it down, his ace band at their peak here:
Thursday, March 10, 2011
Listen, watch and enjoy!
Wednesday, March 9, 2011
The band has followed up its 2010 full length, Beach Fossils with a seven track What A Pleasure EP that I think reveals a tighter band with a cleaner delivery. But is still delivers the jangling guitar sound over a clean drum pattern and a bouncy bass line. From the new EP:
It isn't complicated music, but music need not be complicated to be evocative (Was Howlin' Wolf complicated? Did he evoke emotions?). In my view, the album's goal isn't to deliver a message, it is to create a mood. While arguably lo-fi, it isn't, despite the band's name, really surf music and it isn't trading on nostalgia. It is straightforward indie rock without gimmicks or pretense at anything else. And I think it will well serve you as one of the soundtracks for your life for a good while.
Beach Fossils Myspace
Beach Fossils Facebook
And I brought up Human Television above not just to support my thesis, but because I want to take this opportunity to create a few new new fans out of the millions of WYMA readers. The band started out in Florida, then moved to the Northeast, finally settling in New York and signing with Brooklyn label Gigantic Music. They released an EP entitled All Songs Written by: Human Television in 2004 and an LP entitled Look At Who You're Talking To in 2006.
"Mars Red Rust"
I'm not aware of an announcement that the band disbanded, although one of the guitarists set out on his own a few years ago. But there also hasn't been any new material in almost five years and Gigantic's website lists them as a band formerly signed to the label.
Human Television Myspace
Tuesday, March 8, 2011
Collapse Into Now, their 15th full release, manages to capture many of the elements that have made the band so beloved, without sounding like a throwback or safe journey on familiar ground. While the R.E.M. signature is stamped clearly on this effort -- pop melodies, big choruses, mysterious content, Michael Stipe’s distinctive vocals backed with prominent harmonies from Mike Mills, and Peter Buck’s chiming, infectious, signature guitar lines – the songs are so strong and varied that it sounds like they have something to prove. This is an experienced bunch that knows exactly what they are doing, and Collapse Into Now is a sophisticated effort, representing a great band furthering a significant legacy.
It being a varied collection of songs, more than some of the recent R.E.M. records that made more of a thematic or sonic single statement, we'll review them one by one in order. Since John and I bonded more than decade ago in no small part due to our mutual love of R.E.M.’s music, we thought it would be fitting and fun to celebrate our collaboration on John’s blog by each writing a little bit on each song. (Jim Desmond).
Trailer for making of the record here:
JD: R.E.M. is generally thought of as a pop band, but they have written some great rock anthems like “Finest Worksong”, “Orange Crush” and “What’s the Frequency Kenneth?". Add “Discoverer” to the list. This picks up where R.E.M.’s last record, the hard driving Accelerate, left off. Except that this song is as good or better than anything on Accelerate. And “discoverer” is a terrific word, evocative in meaning and appealing in sound. “Discoverer” is a reminder of what a unique and effective lyricist Michael Stipe is. Who can't relate to this line: "Just the slightest bit of finesse, might have made a little less mess." A great opening track.John: Yes, this is better than anything on Accelerate, and it certainly brings to mind those earlier songs that you mention. Their glam tendencies are well-represented on this disc, this being the first and probably best example.
“All the Best” –
JD: What a one two punch out of the box! This song is pure rock’n’roll, a joyride. Love Stipe’s staccato vocal and the driving guitars of Peter Buck and Scott McCaughey (longtime collaborator and de facto 5th member). One of the best rock songs of their career. Simply wow.John: To me, this song assumes a spot very high on the list of favorite R.E.M. songs, and I've only heard it three times! I think it's wonderful, and a terrific counterpoint to some of the more, uh, serious material on here...
JD: The record was partially recorded in Berlin, a city with a rich art and rock’n’roll recording history (Iggy Pop, Bowie, U2 etc.). This inspired mid-tempo song follows the 2 kickass rocker openers and changes things up perfectly, signaling a bold record not afraid to take some sharp turns. Beautiful acoustic guitar with strong electric bass lines, gorgeous melody, mysterious content. Then Buck throws his own curve with a noisy electric guitar bridge near the end. This one has grown on me tremendously since I first heard it, simply a terrific R.E.M. song.John: To me, songs like this, where the acoustic guitar dominates but is embellished by rock instrumentation, have been highlights of R.E.M. records since "We Walk" on Murmur and "Seven Chinese Brothers" on Reckoning: is it a ballad, a rock song, are they channeling Leonard Cohen, Lou Reed or Jimmy Webb? Answer is "yes".
Watch Video for Überlin
“Oh My Heart” –
JD: This song continues the subtle travelogue feel of this record. When we first met the protagonist of this song in its prequel “Houston” on Accelerate, she had been evacuated from her New Orleans home and relocated to Houston. Now she has come back to New Orleans, as has R.E.M. who also recorded much of this record in the Crescent City where they have worked before. “I came home to a city half erased.” A heartfelt, beautiful and tender song with a New Orleans feel to it (accordian etc.). It conveys a strong sense of place and captures the gravitational pull of home. “This place is the beat of my heart.”John: This song would not be the least bit out of place on Automatic For the People, and I mean that as a compliment... a very evocative and personal ballad that will elicit a reaction from everyone who hears it.
“It Happened Today” –
JD: R.E.M. has a knack for occasionally capturing lightning in a bottle, coming in from left field and taking a risk that pays off big time (“End of the World”, “Feeling Gravity’s Pull”). This song stops all lyrics half way through to repeat a huge vocal chorus chant (Stipe, Mills, guest Eddie Vedder and perhaps others) that builds, soars and knocks you out - a hymn, R.E.M.-style, irresistible and moving. It has a vaguely New Orleans marching band funeral march feel, with great drums lines by Bill Rieflin. It’s not clear what’s happening here. The lyrics are first person and the 2nd line tells us “This is a terrible thing.” Soon after, a death is perhaps suggested: “I have earned my wings.” Terminal illness, sudden death, suicide? In any event, the life in question is honored, celebrated with joyous feeling. Fantastically well executed and deeply affecting. And wow does this sound great played loud in a car.John: I don't get the sense that a death is suggested, but I'm just going on the overall feel of the song, which takes me back to some of my favorite R.E.M. songs throughout the years, in which you nearly overdose on gorgeous guitar lines and vocal harmonies. I almost see "earned my wings" as a reference to It's a Wonderful Life... so maybe it's an "almost death" that happened today. Either way, there's a celebratory feel to the song for sure...
“Everyday Is Yours To Win” -
JD: This record is smartly sequenced. That huge harmonic crescendo of “It Happened Today” leaves you exhilarated but emotionally spent, and thus a tough act to follow. They slow it way down with this almost lullaby. A fine composition, a bit reminiscent of “Everybody Hurts”, and a nice change of pace to the rockers and pop songs with huge harmonies that dominate this record.John: This has a real nice intro, reminiscent of VU songs like "Candy Says", but of course R.E.M. makes it their own with Stipe's vocals and trademark lyrical passages... just the way he sings "the road ahead of you" overcomes all the disclaimers throughout the song (the sardonic "if you buy that I've got a bridge for you" and "with the war and the wounds and the subterfuge") and leaves you with a sense that, yes, every day is yours to win. There's a real artistry to the way Michael Stipe sings and this song is a perfect example. Nice fuzzy guitar break about halfway through, too, with, of course, some pretty harmony vocals.
“Mine Smell Like Honey” –
JD: This song has every element I ever loved about R.E.M. -- fast and furious pace, killer chorus, Michael Stipe's voice, Mike Mills’ harmonies, Peter Buck’s distinctive guitar stylings. As an early reviewer once famously said about one of their first live tours: “like the Ramones pistol-whipping the Byrds.” Count me in for more of that. But I’m held back here (perhaps a sign of middle age fuddyduddyism?), finding “Mine smell like honey” to be anything but the lyrical hook that a great pop song demands. I’m not requiring anything profound mind you, just appealing, say for example: “Do you believe in magic?; California dreaming on such a winter’s day; If you believe they put a man on the moon; Ever fallen in love with someone you shouldn’t have fallen in love with?” This might have been one of my favorites on this record had they just gone with something like “Mine fly like airplane” or “Mine sound like Buzzcocks.” I want to hear Michael sing this one in Italian so I can quit my stupid bitching and just go with it.John: Well, I have no idea what he's singing about, but this song does sound great and I can see myself driving along singing made-up lyrics, just like I did way back when... "Dig a hole, dig it deeper and deeper", does that not remind you of "Jefferson I think we're lost"? Just one of those soaring choruses you can sing over and over while Mills and Buck seamlessly carry you home?
“Walk It Back” –
JD: Have we stated what a great singer Michael Stipe is? His voice is showing signs of age, but it is taking on more gravitas and character. Exhibit A: this mid-tempo, amazingly well sung song. An emotional dive into regret, reflection and forgiveness, with a perfect melody. I love everything about this song and keep hitting the repeat button every time it comes on. I could listen to this vocal all day long. And there's a really cool, high note, short vocal and keyboard harmony that sneaks in there too. An instant R.E.M. classic.John: Very pretty song, certainly because of the vocals but also in no small part due to the keyboards. R.E.M. have always been good at using piano well, not overdoing it... and sometimes putting the piano right on the beat, even in a ballad like this.
“Alligator Aviator Autopilot Antimatter” –
JD: Damn, does this one rock. Iggy Pop meets the B-52s. Great guest vocal by Canadian extreme artist Peaches who hits it out of the park. And what a guitar sound – Peter Buck is on fire, joined by Lenny Kaye whose crazed psychedelic guitar flourishes take this track over the top.John: I will echo what you said earlier and applaud R.E.M.'s sequencing on this record... we kind of needed a rocker at this point, didn't we? Of course, Iggy did once record with Kate [I stand corrected], so you've got a point of reference. Mashed potato, alligator, just having a little fun and throwing a little psychedelic dance music out there, right?
“That Someone is You” –
JD: Another fast rocker, flirty and fun. I love the idea of R.E.M. updating and channeling the Ramones and Buzzcocks. I'm always all in when they go big on the Mike Mills harmonies. And how can you not love a song that includes this rhyme: “Sharon Stone Casino, Scarface Al Pacino, ‘74 Torino.” Cue the go go dancers! But why is this song just a minute and a half long? I feel cheated.John: Of course, if you're channeling those two acts, you'd get past 1:44 and say "What the heck are we doing? This song is OVER!" And they did. I love the transition within the chorus and have always loved the way Stipe and Mills sing together.
“Me, Marlon Brando, Marlon Brando and I” –
JD: Mandolin, keyboards, a bit meditative, mysterious. I can tell this one is going to grow on me. Much less obvious than most of this record, and a solid song.John: This is a real pretty song with a nice country-rock feel, not so much in the mandolin (which is beautiful) but something else. Maybe a little bit of reverb on the acoustic guitar? Honestly, it reminds me a bit of "Wichita Lineman" and again, I mean that as an extreme compliment.
JD: I hate to end on a negative note, but this is the only song here that doesn’t work for me. It is so different and striking though that I suspect many people will disagree with me. Stipe delivers a rapid pace spoken word vocal through something that sounds like a megaphone with Patti Smith prominently helping out. The guitars are noisy, the sound discordant. It sounds a bit like “Country Feedback” which I like, and "E-Bow the Letter”, which I don’t (inexplicable since I like Patti Smith a lot). The album then closes with a cool brief reprise outro from “Discoverer” (listen closely and you can hear Eddie Vedder singing). In my perfect world, say I were the, er, man on the moon or king of birds, I'd have saved "Blue" for a later B side and ended the record with a 4 or 5 minute version of "That Someone is You". But this is a quibble in the grand scheme of a very special record from R.E.M.John: I swear, this didn't start out as "point/counterpoint" because JD and I agree on much more than we disagree on, but this song works for me. Maybe I'm a little more willing to follow on this strange tangent because I'm so happy with the fact that R.E.M. has just given us an album with 11 great new songs... if they want to take us out with a bit of Stipe/Patti Smith NYC street art, I'm going along. Nice of them to reward us with the outro, yes.
Website: R.E.M. HQ
Sunday, March 6, 2011
Here's a video for an untitled song from a session they did recently for LaundroMatinee, which looks like a cool website...
Here are their websites, looks like you can listen to songs on MySpace but their 2011 tour dates are up on Facebook, so check both out.
Website: Cloud Nothings on MySpace
Website: Cloud Nothings on Facebook
Saturday, March 5, 2011
The Louche FC is a Manchester, UK four-piece signed to SWAYS Records. The style is jangly indie noise pop and shoegaze with female vocals, almost like a combination of early 60s girl-group pop and Swervedriver with some Orange Juice jangle. Or, as some do, you can call it "Orbison Shoegaze". The song below is "Motorcycle Au Pair Boy". Check out the following Myspace link for two additional nice songs, especially "Back Bedroom Casualty". I hope that we get an album soon.
The Louche F.C - Motorcycle Au Pair Boy by sways
UPDATE: Here is a video for the above song, performed live in Manchester:
And another great song at a little slower pace:
Many of us were disappointed with the Moscow Olympics in 1980, but we now have a reason to celebrate the Moscow Olympics. This version is a promising shoegaze group from the Philippines. The guitars wash over the listener in chiming waves.
It is modern and it is German so, of course, it is electronic and time to dance! Here is DJ Y alias JY from Munich.
If you like his work, click on the link below and get busy downloading a bunch of his mashups.
DJ Y alias JY's downloadable mashups
We'll end with an acoustic version of "Heart Made of Stone" by Jamaica's Viceroys. The cut is from the wonderful 'inna de yard' series, which seeks to present reggae classics as composed in the yards of the ghetto residences.
Inna de yard website
Inna de yard Myspace