Saturday, March 3, 2012

"Don't Let Your Unattractiveness Make You Self-Conscious"

I remember watching an episode of the Munsters in which Herman said that to Marilyn (the "normal" daughter). At the time, my friend Mike acted like it was one of the funniest things he had ever heard.

Later that week, he was trying to introduce himself to a young lady at an establishment, when I guess she expressed her disinterest in a way that made him pull out his favorite Munsters line... and he got to wear what was left of her drink.

And what's more awesome than that? Well, maybe this Anacrusis cover of the Munsters theme...

Great New Songs! Future of the Left / High On Fire / PS I Love You

Man, what a week for tantalizing music announcements! I had to have seen ten things that made me go 'hells yeah' for one reason or another, but I've forgotten all but three of them, and before I forget those, I figured I'd better throw them up here.

Just so you know, we aspire to be more than merely an aggregator blog. We want to be what they call in managementspeak a "value add." This can be through incisive music analysis, or by throwing in a trenchant quote from Antonio Gramsci or Shirley Hemphill, or even a half-witty remark here or there.

I got none of that for you today, but in an attempt to justify my station among the rarefied echelon of music people above me on the blog masthead I have interspersed this post with pictures of Udo Dirkschneider. Udo is nearly as famous for his stature as he is for his leviathan vocal prowess. In the photo above, he is standing ten feet in front of the rest of his band. Below, he is whipping the crowd into a frenzy at a recent show at Madison Square Garden, or Hammersmith Odeon, or someplace.

I have written or said before, maybe even here, that Mclusky is one of my all-time favorite bands, and that Future of the Left is one of my favorite current bands. Andy Falkous is an artistic treasure in the tradition of Swift, or Wilde. When I try to think of a more modern counterpart, it's hard to ignore the recently departed Christopher Hitchens for that Falkonian blend of wit, culture and spleen. After all, it was Hitchens who said of Francois Mitterand, "One cannot eat enough, to vomit enough, at the mention of his name." And of the then-recently departed Jerry Falwell, "If he had been given an enema, he could have been buried in a matchbox." Falco, for his part, said Gareth Brown's mom is a ballpoint pen thief.

Here's Udo squeezing out a song with his current band, U.D.O.

Falkous's post-Mclusky project Future of the Left replaced its bassist and added a guitar after touring their excellent second LP, Travels With Myself and Another. Last year they released a very nice EP and now have announced that the next full length, The Plot Against Common Sense, will be released on 28 May through Xtra Mile Recordings. This week they posted the first video from the album, "Sheena is a T-shirt Salesman", over on NME. Check it out HERE.

Udo sometimes moonlights as a security guard. He doesn't need the money, he just likes authority.

High on Fire put out one of my favorite albums of 2010, and this week announced the follow-up, De Vermis Mysteriis, will be released on 3 April by eOne Music. Start saving your semoleons because that's less than 5 weeks. They also posted a bonecrunching song, "Fertile Green", over on Pitchfork. I might be able to embed it here, but there's a nice short writeup by Brandon Stosuy over there, and he's always good to read.

Seriously, the also-recently-departed Ronnie James Dio, at 5'4", towered over Udo. And yet comparing the two as vocalists, Ronnie James is the dwarfish one, and Udo is the titan. And I deeply love Ronnie James -- did you ever listen to Mob Rules (the album, not the band)? Hoo boy.

PS I Love You was a fantastically bad romantic comedy from 2007 starring Hillary Swank, and a fresh-off-300 Gerard Butler (what the hell were you thinking man?). Believe it or not, the film also had Lisa Kudrow, and was stillbad. This movie was so bad that one critic called it "more uneven than an emery board," and you know that critic had been saving that chestnut of a simile for the right moment for years.

Despite his Teutonic origins, Udo is not afraid to show the pensive, slightly crosseyed side of his personality.

It is only in that context that one's reaction to the band naming ability of Benjamin Nelson and Paul Saulnier, of Kingston, Ontario's PS I Love You, goes from, "what a stupid band name" to "what a freaking great band name!" Kingston may be famous for being the home of Carolina Hurricanes coach Kirk Muller andCarolina Hurricanes defenseman Bryan Allen, but it should be nearly equally proud of the awesome amount of beautiful noise this young duo have cranked out over the past couple of years. John posted a great song off their excellent 2010 album Meet Me at the Muster Station last January. A couple of days ago they posted a new song over on Pitchfork called "Sentimental Dishes", which will be on their new full-length, Death Dreams, out 8 May on Paper Bag Records. It's a fantastic song, and well worth the parsec it would take to get over to Pitchfork, if in fact parsec were a unit of time rather than of distance.

When Udo saw this photo, he yelled, "anatomisch korrekte!" and then headbutted his publicist in the sternum.

Friday, March 2, 2012

The Soul Corner - Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes (feat. Teddy Pendergrass)

We wrote last week about the 1970's Philadelphia soul sound, Philadelphia International Records and the Gamble-Huff team, which got us thinking about that era. I've always been and remain far more of Memphis soul and Motown guy. But let's give Philly its due.

Here's perhaps my favorite single from there, "The Love I Lost", by Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, with a truly spectacular lead vocal by the late Teddy Pendergrass, a Philly native son.

Davy Jones

Davy Jones, a member of the Monkees, died Wednesday of a heart attack near his home in Indiantown, Fla., just months after he, Peter Tork and Mickey Dolenz had completed a tour marking The Monkees’ 45th anniversary. He was 66. It is a case of you had to be there. When the Monkees first appeared in the fall of 1966, many heaped scorn upon them because they were “made for TV.” and did not play their own instruments or write their own songs. Soon they became everyone's guilty pleasure. Each Monday night for the next two years, people would tune into NBC to see the comical trials and tribulations of four young musicians who tooled around in a tricked-out car called the Monkeemobile. 

Jones, the onetime child star of the British musical stage, quickly became the group’s heartthrob. With his boyish good looks and endearing British accent augmented by a strong, Broadway-trained singing voice, it was a role he would play for the rest of his life. Born in Manchester, England, on Dec. 30, 1945, Jones had been a child star in his native country, appearing on television and stage, including a heralded role as “The Artful Dodger” in a London production of the play “Oliver.” When the show came to Broadway, he earned a Tony nomination at age 16 for the role, a success that brought him to the attention of Columbia Pictures/Screen Gems Television, which created “The Monkees.” At 5-feet-3 inches, he was by far the shortest member of the group — a fact often made light of on the show. But he also was its dreamboat, mirroring Paul McCartney’s role in the Beatles.

The Monkees used some of the best pop songwriters of the period. Neil Diamond, the Boyce-Hart partnership, Jack Keller, Gerry Goffin and Carole King, Harry Nilsson, Barry Mann, Cynthia Weil, and many other highly regarded writers had songs recorded by the Monkees. The cream of LA session artists – the Wrecking Crew – worked on the Monkee sessions. Dr. John, Leon Russell, Carol Kaye, James Burton, Glen Campbell, Hal Blaine and James Burton were just a few of the musicians who were the core of the Crew. Their chops graced recordings from the Beach Boys, the Byrds, Nancy Sinatra, Simon and Garfunkel and the Mamas and Papas.

In the final analysis, the Monkees were central to many pop classics. Here are three songs Davy sang lead on. The first is "Valleri" with a memorable opening lead and more by Glen Campbell:

"Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You" reached #2 on the pop charts.

The biggest hit he sang lead on was John Stewart's "Daydream Believer" which reached #1.

Rhino Records released a double disk of the Monkees' Greatest Hits. Buy it or burn it.

Get to Know: Sea Lions

To all the jangle pop fans that frequent these pages, I have an apology. It seems that I have been remiss in covering the debut LP from Oxnard's Sea Lions. The band released Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sea Lions But Were Afraid to Ask last fall on Slumberland Records, and I'm just mentioning it today. I'll give you a bit of background while you listen to this track from the album--

"I Should Be Sleeping"

Sea Lions were formed in 2007 by guitarist/vocalist Adrian Pillado. The remainder of the current line-up is Matthew Urango on guitar, Kyle Zufolo on bass, Katie Chavez on Tambourine, and Alex Forbes on drums. Apparently, in the early years the band experienced a bit of genre-hopping as Adrian worked out how he wanted to express himself musically. Where he has settled, and it is displayed to great effect on this album, is the C86 jangle sound. They do it well, and they do it sincerely. It is a sound of which I never tire, and the Sea Lions are a welcome and fresh addition to the stage. Look out for these guys, they are keepers.

To try more sounds from the band, here is a three-track album sampler from Slumberland Records:

Album page at Slumberland Records

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Gardens & Villa - Gardens & Villa - free download, upcoming tour info

Recently got a listen to Gardens & Villa's self-titled 2011 release, and I'm impressed. It's got elements of prog, new wave and funk, but lo-fi, with an acoustic base and falsetto vocals... it's pretty soulful and definitely a grower.

My interest was drawn by upcoming visit to Nashville (March 23 at High Watt - 18+ show), but they're touring all over, including SXSW. Tour info available at Secretly Canadian.

Here's the video for "Spacetime":

"Spacetime" by Gardens & Villa from Secretly Jag on Vimeo.

And here's a free download of "Black Hills".

Looks like a group of California kids making really cool music, working their way across the bottom half of the country this spring. Check 'em out if you can.

Gardens & Villa Website

Gardens & Villa Facebook

Gardens & Villa Twitter

REVIEW: We Have Band - Ternion

In Ternion, We Have Band brings us another twist on the synth pop template. Not quite cold wave or chill wave, but not the new wave dance outfit of their 2010 debut, I guess I'd call in melancholy wave. Don't misunderstand me--this album has plenty of hooks, great melodies and bursts of energy. But there seems to be a sadness and intensity that renders the album intimate and, perhaps, a bit unsettling. But unsettling can also heighten interest, so the entire experience may benefit from this approach. Here is the official video for the darkly dance-able "Where Are Your People?".

The band can slow things down, as well. And when they do, the raw emotion is palpable. Here is an acoustic version of album opener, "Shift" --
Here is a very cool acoustic version of album track "Shift" --

We Have Band can still push the new wave buttons superbly, as demonstrated by "Visionary", which could fit into the New Order catalog. And the following track, "Watertight", is melodic and upbeat.
"Visionary" has a distinct New Order vibe.


We Have Band is comprised of Thomas WP, Dede WP, and Darren Bancroft, and they are from the UK. Ternion was released on the Naive label this week. The LP and iTunes purchases include expanded material which is intended to be a deconstruction of the main album. The main album itself uses a prior album by The League Unlimited Orchestra as an inspiration and launching pad. Obviously, this is an ambitious, even risky, endeavor. There may be fans of the debut album unwilling to accept the additional depth offered here. But I think the risk was well taken. We Have Band has proved that they can be more than re-interpreters of fine dance grooves. They want to be known for more, and they've earned that chance.

Twitter ( @wehaveband )

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

REVIEW: Chuck Prophet, Temple Beautiful

My favorite song of 2012:

"Temple Beautiful" is the title track to Chuck Prophet's personal history in San Francisco. Songs include "Castro Halloween" and "Willie Mays is Up To Bat" and a host of other San Francisco memories. But most importantly, this CD rocks from start to finish, with equal parts glam and garage, pure unabashed rock'n'roll swagger that recalls Lou Reed's homages to NYC.

Dig the jangle'n'roll of "Castro Halloween":

Here's a video for "White Night, Big City" some twang'n'roll about the 1978 murders of Commissioner Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone:

Temple Beautiful, Prophet's 12th release, gets back to guitar basics and foregoes the tape loops and sampling that found their way into some of Prophet's previous, more experimental CDs. And make no mistake about it, Prophet's Fender Telecaster delivers.

Prophet gets bonus points for as a young gun being a member of the criminally underrated Green on Red, one of my favorite live bands ever.

Let's keep it simple here: Temple Beautiful is a great rock'n'roll record and you should go get it.

Artist web page:

Teledrome - Double Vision

No, I hadn't forgotten my pledge to cover 7" and EP recordings this year, but I was a little light in that area for a few weeks while I covered recent albums that I liked. Today, we're back in the realm of 7" releases. Specifically, the HoZac Records release of Double Vision by Teledrom. This 7" is five tracks of Joy Division like rhythms and baritone vocals embellished with icy, chillwave synths. Its not quite goth, not quite buzzsaw pop, but it creates a great groove right down the middle. Teledrome is the project of Calgary, Canada's Ryan Sadler, although I expect additional hands join in for live performances.

The songs on this album are well-crafted, with plenty of hooks to embellish the atmosphere. And Sadler understands that a good pop song gets your attention, makes its statement and finishes--the five tracks have a total run time of fewer than nine minutes. Here is track four, "Replacements" --

You can listen to additional tracks from Double Vision at the Bandcamp link below.

Teledrome page at HoZac Records

Monday, February 27, 2012

Sad Face - new EP Cheer Yourself Up Release Party in Seattle March 3, free download available

Sad Face is a Seattle band playing real good rock music that alternates between the moody sounds of, say, Low and the more rocking, rollicking pace of, say, The Pixies. It's all pretty heavy and very well-played. Those are good influences to be sure, and I'm not just throwing them out there. These guys are talented - they're getting some notice on KEXP (which is where I first heard them) and their notoriety is growing beyond their homebase in the Pacific Northwest. Back in November I got to hear and really enjoy their 2011 album Gosh Darn! - review here.

They've got a release show scheduled for March 3 at The High Dive in Seattle.

Free download of "Red Chair" from the EP here:

And here's a relatively recent video of a live performance of "Sapphire Noise" from Gosh Darn!

News: The World Record (also, The Parson Red Heads update)

The World Record, great name by the way, are a power pop band out of LA. Their debut record came out 6 years ago and they have finally finished a new record they are eager to release. However, there's a snag. You can read their creative request for assistance and hear their prior record (Guitars Forever) within this link:

I learned of this from WYMA favorites The Parson Red Heads, who are pals with the World Record and played on this new unreleased CD of theirs. I like the sound of The World Record, so here's hoping it all comes together for them.

Speaking of The Parson Red Heads, they were kind enough to ask me to stop by yesterday at the Portland studio where they were finishing their latest full length record, having banged out 15 songs in just 6 days under the watchful eye of producer Scott McCaughey (Minus 5, Baseball Project, Young Fresh Fellows, R.E.M.).
The Parsons are about to head out on a 3 week tour with Blitzen Trapper, including a few shows at SXSW in Austin in March, one as part of the much awaited Big Star show.
And the Parsons uncovered this new homemade video showing a Chinese ping-pong match over an old track of theirs "Days of My Youth". Pretty crazy:

We'll have plenty to say about the Parson Red Heads new release as it gets closer. In the meantime, they have a new limited edition 6 song EP Murmurations available March 1, details here:

For anyone late to this party, here's the feature story that appeared here in August 2011 about the Parsons Red Heads Yearling, which made my Best of 2011 year end list.

REVIEW: The Mallard - Yes On Blood

It is useful from time to time to reflect on why we do this. As a music fans, why do we write about music? Sure, there are the obvious financial and ancillary rewards incident to contributing award winning content [citation needed] to a blog read by thousands each day [statistics withheld on trade secrets grounds]. But the reasons go deeper than that. Quite simply, I continually find groups whose voices, in my opinion, deserve greater exposure. Since there is more music than any of us can find on our own, I want to give people a chance to hear what I hear. Today's ground zero for my mission is San Francisco's The Mallard. This trio plays their own brand of surfy, rootsy, tribal garage rock, and I get the feeling that they wouldn't change their approach to please anyone else (and three cheers for that!).

The Mallard has, at times, been Greer McGettrick's solo project, but it currently features Greer, Dylan Tidyman-Jones (drums) and Dylan Edrich (bass/guitar). They've featured on these pages last October and again this January. They are here again because they released their debut LP, Yes On Blood, last Tuesday on John Dwyer's (Thee Oh Sees) Castle Face Records. These former Fresno residents provide lots of guitar -- with plenty of feedback and delicious surf and 60s riffs -- a rubbery bass that isn't shy about leading the melody from time to time, and tribal drumming driving the train down the tracks. The female vocals sing verse and chorus, but sometimes just provide another percussive instrument. It is music that is fresh, unpredictable and utterly without artifice. Here is the delightfully (and in my case, accurately named) "I listen to Lyrics Last". If you were filming a '60s surf noir movie, this would be a must for your soundtrack.

My current favorite song on Yes On Blood is "Fog". It has an irresistible bass groove and showcases all that makes this band exciting. Greer has posted it so we can share it with you, and she generously made it available for download.

Take album track "Vines" for a spin. The beginning sounds like a Beat Happening song, but then transforms into a feedback drenched garage piece.

And for fun, here is a live version of another favorite of mine, "Mansion". It was filmed at the Columbia Theatre in Seattle in 2011.

From the '60s-spy-thriller "Intro" to the final note of the 11th track, Yes On Blood delivers one of the most captivating, expectation-warping musical rides you are going to find in this genre. I think that if 60s proto-punks (and Rocksteady74 favorites) The Monks, had envisioned having musical children, those children would be The Mallard. So, if you like surfy garage rock, this album should be the new number 1 on your shopping list. Number 2 on your list should be "don't forget to get number 1".

Castle Face Records

Sunday, February 26, 2012

New Pop/Punk Discovery: Sour Patch - Stagger And Fade - free download and new video

Sourpatch is a California band, playing catchy punk rock... their new album Stagger and Fade (their second in two years) is due out this week. It's just terrific, very reminiscent of vintage Sonic Youth but with a little more guitar feedback... I like the vocals, the guitars and especially the rhythm section. I like the way the drums and bass set the frenetic punk pace for this music.

Here's a new video - "Things You Say" from Stagger and Fade:

Tell me that doesn't kick some pop/punk ass. Here is a free download of first single "Cynthia Ann" - it's a good representation of their sound.

Check out more at their website.