Saturday, December 10, 2011

New Discovery: Eww Yaboo - Yeah, What?

Get past the band name, and the title... get into this music, because it's a pretty arresting combination of punk and glam with some real sheen on some of the guitar sounds. First couple songs, "Make It Fast" and "I'm Not Afraid" are pretty aggressive and I will say that the guitar sounds remind me of Nirvana. The third cut "Don't Change Yr Mind" builds a little more slowly, and "So Many of the Kids" is, quite frankly, a masterpiece, showing that, while they're good at the sub-3:00 punk raver, they have the ability to sustain the energy over 4:15 if they want to.

Here's a video of that song in live performance - not the highest quality video, but I like the energy and you can hear a good recording of the song at the bandcamp link below.

If these guys have some more of this in them, I hope they'll put out a whole album soon.

Friday, December 9, 2011

New Videos: Wake the President; Tennis: Withered Hand

Wake the President offers this new video for "In Youth There Is Pleasure", one of the fine songs on their October 31 release, Zumutung!. The song will be available as a single the first week of January 2012.

Of course, if you'd read my review, you know that I think you all should have the album already.

Tennis has published a video for Deep in the Woods, which is the B-side to their new single Origins.

This is the video for "Real Snow", the new holiday song by Withered Hand, who is the Edinburgh-based Dan Willson.

The tune is released by Fence Records, which is a music collective in Scotland. They are offering a deal on their website by which a subscription for limited editions 7" releases by Fence artists with earn a Christmas card with a CD of "Real Snow". Check out the Fence Records link below to see if you like the artists in the collective.

Withered Hand
Fence Records

The Soul Corner - Fontella Bass - "Rescue Me"

Fontella Bass, from St. Louis, had a few R&B hits, but certainly none as memorable as her 1965 smash "Rescue Me".

Here's the recorded version featuring session drummer Maurice White (who later went on to form Earth, Wind and Fire) and a then unknown young singer, Minnie Ripperton, on backing vocals:

We like this song so much we'll also give you a live TV version where Ms. Bass looks a bit nervous yet fabulously stylish - especially that fine hat that you Soul Corner ladies out there should emulate and start wearing today.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

REVIEW: The Bats - Free All the Monsters

Bear with me here. In MASH, Robert Altman's wonderful 1970 anti-Vietnam War movie told as a Korean War movie, our protagonists are ordered to fly from the front to Japan to perform an operation on the son of a congressman. In memorable cinematic fashion, Hawkeye and Trapper John roll into town in golf clothes, carrying clubs and announce that they are the 'pros from Dover'. In a few scenes, they turn the the established order upside down, save lives (including a son of a Japanese prostitute whom they treat in the US military hospital), defeat "the Man", and drop memorable one-liners. And we cheer them on the entire way, because they are highly skilled, smart, and honest at their core. So, here we are at the end of a year of good music and our hero, Rocksteady74, is ordering the albums for his year end list. Unexpectedly, the musical equivalent of the 'pros from Dover' roll into town in the form of The Bats' Free All the Monsters. And because the album is highly skilled, smart, and honest at its core, Rocksteady74 reorders his list.

It is only fair at this point to admit that I do have a soft spot for The Bats. Whenever I've played the musical geek "desert island albums" game, the New Zealand foursome's debut full-length album, Daddy's Highway, is on my list. But such high esteem carries a danger as well, because it isn't easy for a band to live up to a masterpiece created a quarter of a century closer to the apex of youthful confidence and creative energy. Fortunately, The Bats seem unburdened by the expectations of fans and the weight of their own history, and continue to earn their high esteem by turning out the highest quality music. Consider what is perhaps my favorite track from this album, the driving "In the Subway" --

The sound of The Bats is distinctive and engaging, if not overly complicated. The guitars provide a delightful jangle over warm lower-register chords, and the rhythm section is first class. The band is so tight that it all sounds effortless. The melodies are memorable. The tone of the songs are immediate and, while not usually dark, they can be plaintive, winsome or hinting at discontent. But the group does well with optimistic sentiments as well. The title track pointedly addresses letting go of fears: "Free All the Monsters" --

As a bit of background for those who aren't familiar with The Bats, the group was formed in 1982 in Christchurch, NZ. The members then, as now, are: Former bassist for the Clean, Robert Scott, who is a guitarist, vocalist and primary songwriter; Former Toy Love bassist Paul Kean; Singer, guitarist and sometimes songwriter Kaye Woodward; and Drummer Malcolm Grant. In 29 years, the group has released eight albums, but the members also have taken time to pursue other projects (e.g. reunions of the Clean, Minisap (who released a very good album a couple of years ago), solo work). Their original label was New Zealand's Flying Nun Records, and after releasing albums on a few other labels, The Bats and Flying Nun Records are reunited.

For me, the remarkable thing about The Bats is that at a time when other groups of their vintage are selling compilations and staring at the walls for inspiration, The Bats are on a six-year creative spurt that has produced 2005's At the National Grid, 2009's The Guilty Office, the new Free All the Monsters. I think that this album is the best of the three. And thus, the question arises, is it as good as Daddy's Highway? The answer is, perhaps not, but I'm not sure. I haven't had enough time with this album to be certain, and that uncertainty alone is a major endorsement in my mind. The first nine songs of the album comprise a definitive musical essay in indie pop, and "In the Subway", "Free All the Monsters", "Spacejunk" and "Long Halls" are good enough to improve any album in any band's discography. This is an album I can confidently recommend not just because it is a great album now, but because it is an album you will enjoy in a decade--probably along with the just-then released 11th album from The Bats.


"Long Halls"

Flying Nun Records

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