Wednesday, December 7, 2011

RIP - Hubert Sumlin, guitar great

We must recognize the death earlier this week of the great blues guitarist Hubert Sumlin. Best known for his groundbreaking work as lead guitar player in Howlin' Wolf's band, Sumlin had a huge influence on nearly every great guitar player of the generation that followed him - Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Steve Kropper, Robbie Robertson, Jimmy Page, etc.
Sumlin was truly one of the principal architects of the guitar sound of not only modern electric Chicago blues, but R&B, funk and the best soul music.
Here's Hubert Sumlin playing on the 1956 Howlin' Wolf classic "Smokestack Lightnin":

Sumlin also did significant work with Willie Dixon including the lead guitar work on the classic "Spoonful":

Sumlin may be the greatest guitar player you'd never heard of until he died this week at the age of 80.

REVIEW: Dot Dash - Spark>Flame>Ember>Ash

Washington, DC's Dot Dash was only formed in 2010, but it has excellent bloodlines, as discussed below. More importantly, the foursome of Terry Banks, Hunter Bennett, Jim Crandall and Danny Ingram has a great sound--evoking Creation Records/Postcard Records/C86 jangle as well as the southern alternative guitar rock of the dB's and early REM. Evoking, but not imitating, as Dot Dash puts their own robust delivery on the post-punk genre, making songs that are fresh and immediate, grabbing the listener from the opening chords. And the proof is in Spark>Flame>Ember>Ash, their fine debut album which was released in November on Ottawa, Canada's The Beautiful Music label.

If you require a modern touchstone for Dot Dash it probably would be Army Navy. But rather than blather on trying to describe their sound, I'll let your listen to one of the album tracks here: "Tragedy Destiny" --
Tragedy Destiny - Dot Dash by thebeautifulmusic

Here is a live version of that song:

Terry Banks (guitar and vocals) and Hunter Bennett (bass) were in the beloved guitar pop group Julie Ocean (taking its name from and Undertones song). Terry also was in Tree Fort Angst and Saturday People, while Hunter also was with Weatherhead. Bill Crandall (guitar) was formerly in Modest Proposal (among others), and Danny Ingram (drums) formerly was in Swervedriver, Strange Boutique, Youth Brigade (among others). Given that background, it is no surprise that Dot Dash understands what they do well, and knows how to deliver it. There aren't any slow ballads or long jams. But while the band eschews diversity, they fully deliver on energy and swagger, with a live feel that suggests a real time, one or two take recording process. The album delivers fourteen songs in a bit over a half hour, and I think the songs are just the right length for this brand of guitar pop. My favorites are "That was Now, This is Then", "There and Back Again Lane", "No Reverie", "Alright, Alright" and the shadowy chugger "Dissolve". But the album is full of delightful songs and has no tracks that I would consider filler. Planning for skiing this weekend, I loaded the entire album into my skiing playlist on my iPod.

And here is the aforementioned "There and Back Again Lane" --
There And Back Again Lane - Dot Dash by thebeautifulmusic

The Beautiful Music (label)

Monday, December 5, 2011

REVIEW: Weekend - Red EP

Been on a bit of a noise pop binge lately, and along with the Chambermaids, part of the blame goes to Weekend, whose song "Hazel" (download available below) really caught my ear recently:

Giving the whole thing a listen, it's clear that "Hazel" is the most accessible song - opening track "Sweet Sixteen" is a bit more brooding, menacing and very slow building, with a lot of echos and guitar effects... a bit of a trip back to Bauhaus, maybe. But things pick up with "Hazel", and the rhythm section on "The One You Want" is downright peppy. The six-plus minute closer "Golfers" is hypnotic yet rocking, reminiscent of what I've always liked about Swervedriver.

For a brief, five-song EP there is a decent amount of sonic variety... but for the most part, it revolves around super-catchy fuzzy guitars. Weekend are well worth checking out, and I'm looking forward to a full-length sometime soon.

They're on Slumberland Records, a label you'll be familiar with via Rocksteady's earlier explorations of Terry Malts and Veronica Falls.

Weekend at Slumberland Records

Get to Know: Catwalk

Catwalk is a project started by Nick Hessler in Oxnard, California in 2005, when he was in junior high school. His demos led to the release of two singles on local label YAY! Records. The band has endured some line up changes, but not consists of Nick Hessler and Arin Fazio, and they are signed to Captured Tracks. The band is working on a debut LP, which they hope to release in Spring 2012.

The music is a brand of indie pop that manages to be very engaging, while maintaining a bit of mystery. Based on what I've heard, I think these guys are very good at what they do, and I'm very interested in hearing the album. Try a few tracks below--

"Please Don't Break Me"

"One By Words"


Twitter ( @catwalkgoespop )

Sunday, December 4, 2011

New Single from The Chambermaids - "Whirlpool"

Happy to hear from this Minneapolis noise pop foursome, with news of a new single on Guilt Ridden Pop, recorded at The Old Blackberry Way:

They continue to mine that terrific sound commonly described as "shoegaze", and bring back fond memories of Wire and Jesus & Mary Chain (to me, at least). Here's hoping they are making some progress toward a full album.

The Chambermaids Website

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Midnight World Pop Scout-33: The Mokkers; Tom Fool

The Mokkers are an all female garage band from Berlin. They have a five-track EP, The Mokkers out on Holy's Hit Records. Catch the infectious sound on this instrumental--

Actually, all the clips I have are of live performances. But I think that's a good thing when were talking about garage bands.

Here's one in English--

"Dead Pigeons", live--


Tom Fool is the solo project of Rick Webster, the vocalist for the recently disbanded Unkle Bob. The songs were written by Webster and Andy Gill of Gang of Four.
The Photograph EP

Twitter ( @TomFoolesq )

REVIEW: Gauntlet Hair – Gauntlet Hair

I know a thing or two about bad band names. In college I played in a band called In My Shrubbery. In high school I played in a ‘metal’ band with such an unintentionally bad name that, even though I had nothing to do with thinking it up, I’m still too embarrassed to divulge it here. Sometimes a band name becomes bad passively, simply through the incessant unfolding of human events. It was thus that my current band’s name, Jerry Sandusky’s Army, suddenly went from totally great to decidedly not great. We are trying to rename the band right now, and I have thrown out the idea of calling it Grim Carnes, as a nod to our death metal cover of “Bette Davis Eyes”, which is a crowd fave. You have to admit that’s a pretty great band name. Yeah, I think so too.

And then there are bands with names that are so randomly, yet cleverly, bad that they are actually awesome. At the top of this list is Gauntlet Hair, from Denver by way of Chicago. In October, this band with the awesomely bad name released an awesomely good self-titled debut. The band records as a twosome – Andy R. on vocals, guitars, bass and keyboards, and Craig Nice on drums and drum effects – and tours as a foursome. Forced to hybridize, I’d call them a cross of Wu Lyf and Abe Vigoda (both cool band names). That comparison might stem mainly from all three bands’ heavy use of delay pedals, creating that beautiful spacey, chiming guitar sound. Check it out on the brand new video for the second track, “Top Bunk”, featuring ze govanatah:

Gauntlet Hair - Top Bunk. from Neighborhood Watch on Vimeo.

The CD’s liner notes say the album was recorded in Andy’s grandmother’s basement. The acoustics of the production suggest Andy’s grandma lives above an airplane hangar. I mean that in the best way possible. Anyway, there’s really not anything close to a throwaway track on this album. Here’s the official video of the album opener, “Keep Time.” The last break in the song (at around the 3.00 mark of this video – where it looks like the bearded mime or goth hippie is about to get killed) is pretty close to musical brilliance.

As if they needed more of a seal of approval than plaudits from this blog, it’s worth noting that they’re signed to Dead Oceans, which is without question one of the best indie labels out there (Destroyer, Citay, Tallest Man on Earth, many more). And it’s worth noting that Dead Oceans is based in Bloomington, Indiana, the same town that gave us one of the best band names ever, John Wilkes Booze. Is this mere coincidence? If you said yes, consider that the mayor of Bloomington’s last name is “Kruzan”, which has exactly the same number of letters as the name “Oswald”. And Arnold Schwartzenegger, star of the video "Top Bunk", was married to a Kennedy. If that makes you nervous, and it should, you can just chill out and listen to this:

Gauntlet Hair's Dead Oceans page

Gauntlet Hair's very own band site which is not all that current (the sign of an in-demand touring band).

Gauntlet Hair on Facebook

Check out all the great bands at Dead Oceans

Get to Know: Radar Eyes

Many years ago I lived in Chicago, but I've spend much of the intervening years ignoring its music scene. I'm being roused from my neglect of late, because it seems that the city of big shoulders has a good indie label or two, and a number of interesting bands. One of those bands is psychedelic/garage outfit Radar Eyes. Radar Eyes consists of Anthony on guitar and vocals, Shelly on drums, Lucas on bass, Nathan on guitar and Russ on guitar and organ. They are releasing an LP on Chicago's HoZac Records early in 2012, but you can get a taste of their sound on this previously released single below. I think you'll understand why I'm expecting the LP to be a Rocksteady74 favorite next year.


Radar Eyes also released a two track 7", Miracle on HoZac Records last month. A site at which you can stream both tracks is here. You won't regret listening.


Friday, December 2, 2011

New Video from Wax Idols

As regular readers of this blog know, No Future from Wax Idols was one of my favorite albums this year. I you want to catch up on the review, it is here. But the reason for posting is to share this new video for album track "Gold Sneakers"--

WAX IDOLS - GOLD SNEAKERS from Hayden Shiebler on Vimeo.

HoZac Records

The Soul Corner - Ike and Tina Turner, "A Fool in Love" -

One of my all-time favorites, from 1960, "A Fool In Love", Tina Turner's very first record:

Here's a live performance from the Shindig! TV show in 1964, with Tina and the Ikettes dressed uncharacteristically conservatively, no doubt to please the uptight TV network dons: