Sunday, August 31, 2008

Killer Mike - I Pledge Allegiance To The Grind II

If you are a casual hip-hop consumer, you probably have heard of Killer Mike through his past affiliation with the Outkast camp. Not content to languish with the other Dungeon Family weed carriers, he cultivated a rabid following in the Dirty Dirty and used that buzz to broker himself a deal with Outkast's (mostly Big Boi) Purple Ribbon imprint. His hustle was strong and his rhymes were tight: Killer Mike seemed poised to make big moves on a national level. 

Purple Ribbon seems to be the textbook example of how vanity imprints seem to be a great idea, but can really be a death sentence for up and coming artists. Case in point would be Purple Ribbon flagship signees Bubba Sparxxx and Killer Mike, two killer MCs and artists who have really pushed the envelope when it comes to hip-hop. Sparxxx hit with "Ms. New Booty" and Killer Mike managed to corral his Outkast bosses into his first hit single "Akshon", but both artists soon started grumbling about the Purple Ribbon release schedule and promotion budgets, with Killer Mike falling out most prominently with Big Boi.

This fall-out prompted the usual ridiculous spate of shit-talking, mostly from Big Boi's coterie of weed carriers and ancillary dick riders. To his credit, Killer Mike has established himself in the Bumpy Knuckles paradigm, wherein it's all about number one and you don't deal with underlings. He has stayed clear of the shit-talking, preferring to deal with the chatter when it's in his face and then let his fists do the talking. While he has had occasion to lay the smack down on a big-mouthed underling or two in recent years, Mike has always been forthright in the fact that his beef was with Big Boi, not with anyone else. It appears that both parties have been able to speak face to face and call a truce, a reconciliation allegedly fostered at the behest of Boi's young son Cross. 

While that seems a little too storybook for A-town, this mending of ties seems to bode well for the release of a major label-driven Killer Mike release as alleged at the Sony site here, but in the label limbo Mike has thrown his formidable business mind into his independent releases. His first I Pledge Allegiance To The Grind release sold a ridiculous amount. It did more than keep the lights on, it practically bought Mike the electric company. Volume II is out on SMC Recordings, an prosperous indie label from the Bay Area that trying to expanding their focus and make big moves on a national level, recently releasing the last two Pastor Troy records and even rolling the dice on a new CNN release. Snatching up one of the heaviest hitters on the Atlanta independent scene seems to be a logical addition to the formidable SMC roster.

Killer Mike has always been a thinking man's rapper, and while he's not above using a screwed and chopped loop and teaming up with Shawty Lo for the crunkified "2 Sides", he's at his strongest when he's dropping reality on tracks like "Can You Buy That?" or teaming with Ice Cube on "Pressure". Cube and the aforementioned Freddie Foxxx seem to be the forefathers that Mike is aligning himself with. All are artists that have realized that if you have your business right, you can say whatever the fuck you want. Rather than using that freedom to indulge in horrorcore Fangoria-isms or misogynistic sex rap, Killer Mike is playing the Chuck D/David Banner card and calling out names; skewering the government, the complacent and the shit-talkers while calling for a revolution not today, but yesterday.

You can buy I Pledge Allegiance To The Grind II on Itunes and here via quaintly named Independent As Fuck group. Revel in your Independent as fuckitude there and check the links below.

R
the eighteenth letter

for added fun, check out the counter that says
Bring Killer Mike To New York and note that
while there are many solicitations for KM to 
come to NY, none seem to be from from actual 
New Yorkers. Not sure what that means.


Saturday, August 30, 2008

Dean Wareham - Black Postcards

Took the day off from the asylum yesterday and went to Philly to see Sonic Youth and The Hold Steady at TLA. Thanks to the lovely Sarah Flynn and Derek Evers from Tripwire for hooking up the guest list as well as Dana Erickson at 230Publicity for making in happen with Converse. Look for reviews here and on Tripwire soon. I took Jersey Transit to the SEPTA and was of a mind to travel light, but bad weather necessitated a bag, which facilitated a hard cover book that happened to be Black Postcards, the rock and roll memoir of Mr. Dean Wareham of Galaxie 500 and Luna fame, currently getting in touch with his inner Lee Hazlewood in the succinctly monikered Dean and Britta band.

Galaxie 500 were/are one of those bands that I filed under the category of 'bands who I liked the girls that liked'. I got familiar with the records as needed to get familiar with the ladies, but they never really did much at all for me. Back then, my girl Kjirsti was known to take a hallucinogen or two and go on Galaxie 500 benders, but even a shared tab or two never really solidified the band for me. My slo-core go-to has always been Codeine or the mighty American Music Club, if you consider them compatriots.

I first heard Wareham's first post-Galaxie project Luna on a CMJ comp in the early 90s. I liked it ok, plus my girlfriend at the time had bought it for me, establishing it as the first of the "albums I did it a lot to". I'll let you know when the second record presents itself. Lunapark opened with Slide, as I recall, which began and ended the Luna mystique for me. Slash Your Tires I remember as being pretty decent as well, but they always seemed like a New England Red House Painters to me (see BWILTGTL caveat and add 'poor man's AMC for good measure). I saw Luna six or seven times, never of my own volition, and always found them to be nice sounding but staggeringly boring. It was cool to see what amp or pedal Dean was using, but I rapidly lost interest after that. Despite this asshole's lack of signing on, Luna always seemed to do well for themselves, especially overseas. When Caroline at Maine Road said she had Black Postcards, I figured it was worth flipping through, if only to have a reason for keeping the MP3s around.

Reading Black Postcards, Wareham seems a decent enough guy, in that overly dramatic New England art school guy sort of way. It keeps the book-reading ladies and heavy black spectacle set buying the records (and now books), I guess, but I always enjoy a Kramer anecdote and it reinforced my impression that Damon and Naomi were/are pretty boring rich kids. I guess it is only right to point out that Wareham is a rich kid, too. It's always interesting to hear about starving artists that live on Bleecker St, but Wareham is candidly self-deprecating in elucidating his faults and his role in causing fucked-up situations in his personal life. None of them seem to go far beyond various transgressions of the "what happens on the road, stays on the road" variety, but those who have less progressive views of fidelity might take greater exception.

Wareham is an engaging writer, and Black Postcards is a pretty quick read. It's an interesting take on the usual band stuff, covering infidelity, publishing arguments and the like. He's pretty candid about life as a semi-successful band, admitting chasing an advance or two and rushing out a half-baked record every once in a while to keep the lights on. He seems to love his son very much and have some regret for scuttling the ship that was his marriage. He also seems genuine in his affection for Britta, for whatever that's worth. I enjoyed Black Postacrds, but am glad I didn't pay for it. It hasn't fostered any desire to revisit the old Galaxie or Luna material, but Wareham seems like he'll do ok without this asshole's endorsement. If you wanna buy Black Postcards or the digipak reissue of the D&B record L'Aventura that's dropping on 9/2, you can pay some Wareham alimony here. More Wareham links are below.


R

Friday, August 29, 2008

LaGrecia - On Parallels

LaGrecia broke up before they really got off the ground but, in doing the math, it's really not so much of a surprise. You may remember one Jason Shevchuk from his time fronting Kid Dynamite, or maybe Bound if you want to take it all the way back. You may also remember that Jason "decided to go back to school" and left KD pretty much high and dry, then "got back into music" when Fat Wreck offered him a deal for his medio-core None More Black project. With None More Black, Shevchuk pursued an ambitious plan: to have every able-bodied man, woman or child that could be drafted into the fold play in the band, ideally for as short a time as possible. After achieving their goal of becoming the LA Guns of the post-hardcore set, they too found themselves "on hiatus" while Shevchuk pursued his OnGuard solo project and then, most pertinently for today, our heroes LaGrecia.

While None More Black was a total snooze-fest, LaGrecia fires on all cylinders. Of all the material that Shevchuk has released post Kid Dynamite, Lagrecia is definitely the best of the lot. Hands down. It's a three piece, my favorite format, with Sal Dellaquila and Dana Berkowitz (Red Spaerows) filling out the rhythm section nicely. Save for the silly Zeppelin riff jock that opens the record, pretty much every song contained in On Parallels is catchy as hell. It doesn't hurt that Berkowitz plays her ass off all over the record either. The record sounds like a band, and a good one. Maybe even one that should be around today.

Buuuut. There was the small matter of two of the three members "saving money on the road" and "sharing a bed". Evidently the demise of that ill-fated (and incidentally the only relationship land mine that I've yet to jump on with both feet) dalliance also led to the end of the band. Judging by the responses from the other members of the band post-breakup, it's pretty obvious Dana used that powerful kick drum foot of hers to kick somebody to the curb.

Cue someone's decision to "pursue a career in broadcast" and the untimely end of LaGrecia. While Dana and Sal were none too pleased, I suspect that Virgil at Suburban Home none too that chuffed to find himself in the position Grey Flight found themselves in with The Cardinal Sin. It's never a good look to have money tied up in an independent project that you can't promote with a tour. Or to bail before you release a record someone else paid for. It's not the first time it's happened to a band/label, but if my female readers (ha!) will excuse my parlance, that sure seems like a Grade A bitch move on Shevchuk's part. Nobody wants to tour in the van with someone who dumped them, but a couple good faith weeks on the road seems like a mutually beneficial way to part ways for all parties involved.

To add insult to injury, a month or so after "hanging out for a weekend" with the ex-None More Black guys Shevchuk had NMB back in full swing, and conveniently still under contract with Fat Wreck. One can only assume there is a record coming. If it is boring as the last None More Bland record, we can only hope that it grinds into slow obscurity and makes this record sell that much more.

Help Virgil and the rest of Suburban Home out and pick up a copy of the record here. And yes, silly goose, they have it on vinyl

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Get Bent - demo

One of the biggest disappointments of last year (and believe me, there were a shit-ton) was the break-up of Potboiler mere months after their relocating down to NYC. I got the heads up from Dave Bierling a couple months ago that there was a new band with some of the ex-Potboiler and Down In The Dumps dudes called Get Bent. Dave and the rest of the Potboiler dudes fostered a little bit of a renaissance in JS-NYC headquarters when it came to the local DIY scene, so while I was well gutted at the Potboiler dissolution, I could take (very) small consolation in the fact that there were a bunch of new bands on my radar, even if Dave wasn't in them. The Izzy Alcantara Potboiler record was top-notch and I really enjoyed the brown bag Down In The Dumps CD-R, so all in all I was pretty intrigued as to how the new band would sound. It arrived in the post about a day later and wonderfully enough, it kicks a whole lot of ass.

I was neck-deep in the mid 90s Midwest rock scene. My old band Musclecar played a fair amount of shows with a lot of those bands and I have made a killing recently divesting myself of hundreds of releases from Giants Chair, Boys Life and bands of that ilk. Even with my vow to pare down to a single wall of records, there are certain bands like Braid and Kill Creek whose catalog I'm holding on to. Get Bent are cut from the same mid-western cloth as Bob Nanna and the boys, with clean interweaving guitars and strident vocals that are dead ringers for the best of that era. Now that the whole 'hot topic emo' thing has almost kinda sorta gone by the wayside (or more accurately - South to Mexico), it's nice to hear a band bring back the sound without the pretense. There are only five songs, but there's really no way that you won't play this four or five times back to back the first, if not every, time you throw this bad boy on. It really is that good. I really need to get off my lazy ass and see one of their shows.

You can buy their stuff from them here using PayPal. I believe they'll be at The Fest this year so buy some stuff and give the guys some gas money already.

R

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Clawjob - Manifest Destiny


I heard from Mike Gintz of Clawjob about reviewing this cd after I reviewed The Serious Genuises record last month. The bands are friends and Mike was charmingly self-deprecating, plus it's not like the ol' inbox is clogged with bands dying for me to spout off about their stuff. He described the record as 'a concept record about 19th century life and people shitting all over each other (metaphorically, of course)' which I sort of hoped was a joke, despite my secret masochistic desire to hear a bastard offspring of GG Allin and Henry Steele Commager.

Manifest Destiny arrived in the mail and my heart sank when I discovered that they were a two piece band. You may remember that I hate virtually all two piece bands that don't have Doo Rag or Dos in their titles. Clawjob are from Allston and feature Gintz with one Nick Burgess. There are a lot of colleges up Boston way and, for my money, a lot of people who are too smart for their own good and yet not nearly as smart as they think they are. It's not entirely a bad thing, unless maybe you decide to ply your trade via concept records about history and suck at it; but then again if you drop 100k or so to go to Hampshire you can get a degree behind such ridiculousness, so maybe I'm the asshole here. Herein lies my dilemma: I have stated my case previously as to why there is no way in hell I wouldn't be dropping blogospheric doo-doo all over this EP, yet Clawjob have bored their way into my head and I can't stop listening to the fucking thing. Sigh.

Manifest Destiny is pretty much as described in their e-mail, but for once I will quote non-ironically from a band's hype engine: 'Manifest Destiny is a concept EP exploring life in the 1800s through the medium of relentlessly awesome rock music'. Rarely have truer words been spoken. Clawjob are nothing less but relentlessly awesome throughout this record. You want songs about ether frolics? Right here. A spot-on story song about Kentucky grifter Asbury Harpening? Check. Witty encapsulation of the speculation of what post-Industrial Revolution America might be. Oh yes! And it contains one of my favorite lines this side of the new Lord Finesse archive 12"s. To wit: there's a better type of living in our future, and it's full of nicer stuff.

Clawjob is a band that knows who they are and how they want to present themselves. They have a pretty great website, make their own videos and do their own package design when they are not being smarty-pants rock guys. It makes it that much easier to release concept records about space and expansionist America, I suppose. I know that they play live, but I'm not sure how that manifests itself. Manifest Destiny is some pretty serious ear candy in addition to being well-written. I hope that it isn't disappointing live, as I'm really jonesing to check these guys out. Somebody sign them and Edu-Core metal gods Bloodhag up for a tour, for chrissakes!

Should you be intrigued, Clawjob are streaming Manifest Destiny for free here and would be more than pleased to sell you one here

Check out their website and Myspace for more band history and stuff about their earlier concept record about space. Links are below. Good times, even if they are a two-piece.

R

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

David Banner - The Greatest Story Ever Told

David Banner came on my radar a couple years ago on the Like A Pimp single with L'il Flip. It was, as the kids say, a banger, and brought a fair amount of shine to Banner. His first record was called Mississippi, The Album. It sold respectably, but the second record was rushed out, as was a screwed and chopped version. Neither sold all that well, but Banner was stepping up his production game behind the scenes and things seemed pretty promising.

Then Katrina hit. While New Orleans took it's fair share, Banner's home state of Mississippi was hit just as hard. Perhaps even more so, as there wasn't a singular event for the media to latch on to. Banner dropped out of the public eye for a bit but worked tirelessly to shine a light on the plight of Mississippi post-Katrina and appeared in front of Congress to testify about African American Media Stereotypes when he wasn't castigating Al Sharpton or Jesse Jackson.

He also managed to put a record together. In the early part of the year, word started trickling out about the new release and the title was to be The Greatest Story Ever Told. Everyone loves an allusion, but arguably none more than Saigon, who had claimed to be naming his Atlantic debut the very same title. Granted, Sai-Gitty had been claiming that for years but the record never appeared, so it looks like our boy DB is trumping the Yardfather on this one.

But what about the music? Banner is claiming that The Greatest Story Ever Told is the best hip-hop record in the last three years. The first single 9mm (or Speaker, for those with more delicate sensibilities) with Akon and Snoop did well and the second single Get Like Me is blowing up, so we'll see how the buying public feel about that statement. I'd say it's the best Banner record yet. It's pretty strong, but get back to me about that whole 'best' thing. I'm tempted to disagree, but can't come up with a better record that isn't a reissue. While I sort that out, check out the David Banner website here. More links below.

R

David Banner web portal
DB online social networking mechanism

Monday, August 25, 2008

Vilent Lovers Club: Live @ PassOut Records 8.23.8

Eric had mentioned the rock band he plays guitar for was playing an afternoon show at PassOut. It seemed like a decent enough way to spend an afternoon, plus the charming Mrs. Eric was rumored to be in attendance, so I made another trip across the water to see Vilent Lovers Club play some garage rock and maybe have a beer or three.

Vilent Lovers Club has Odie from The Baseball Furies on acoustic and vocals with a rhythm section I'm not familiar with. Eric plays electric and the band brings a sort of Brooklyn Reigning Sound vibe, without so much of an emphasis on the soul and Memphis end of things.

PassOut seems to be quite the bastion of the underground rock scene in Brooklyn. There are rumored to be three rehearsal rooms below the record store as well as regular recording projects. It attracts a motley crew of Brooklyn locals and old-school Coney Island High/Continental transplants. Evidently there have been regular afternoon shows on the weekends that draw pretty well. Given the older crowd, it's a wonder that they don't know how to drink clandestinely. That's proving to be more and more of an issue and threatens to be a big problem for all parties involved.

Rock being rock, the planned seven o'clock start time was moved to 6:30, then ended up being closer to 8:15 after various bands hijacked slots and whatnot. After a little bit of tuning, VLC proceeded to rip up the place with a short set that got a lot of attention from aging rockers and record collectors alike. There are recordings on the MySpace and they have a full length out on Big-Neck that should pop up on JS in the coming weeks. Check the links below.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Some Things I Heard Today: Weekend Playlist

In case you were wondering what I've
been abusing my earholes with this
weekend, I offer you this list, as if you
really give a shit. Here's a dirty dozen:


The Hold Steady - Almost Killed Me reissue
now with six bonus tracks and the video for 'The Swish'

Clawjob - Manifest Destiny
read about it later on this week

Remy Ma - Shesus Khrist

The Randy Newman Songbook - Vol. I

Pete Townshend - White City: A Novel

Sally Timms - Cowboy Sally's Twilight Laments For Lost Buckaroos

David Banner - The Greatest Story Ever Told
read about it later on this week

Banner Pilot - Resignation Day

Off With Their Heads - From The Bottom

Killer Mike - I Pledge Allegiance To The Grind II
read about it later on this week

Silkworm - You Are Dignified

Tiltwheel - Battle Hymns For The Recluse Youth reissue
Razorcake re-release on 12" with CD. Yowza !




Vagina Panther: Live @ Trash Bar 8.22.8

Christian was after me to come out to this show. In addition to being a good buddy, he plays with Bowery Boy Blue and is known to have a pretty good ear. His boy Trent, who used to play with Xtian in Canadian powerhouse Jonestown Punch back in the 80s, was behind the kit for Vagina Panther and I hadn't seen either of them in forever, so out to Brooklyn on a Friday night I went.  I had been to Trash a couple times, but it is not high on my list of places to be on a Friday night, but I think we all know my ambivalence with the lands across the East River.

Luckily (for whom, I'm not sure) I didn't get lost or too irritated on the ride out. I ran into Christian in short order and set to catching up with him and getting the low-down on Vagina Panther. VP are a five piece, with female lead vocals. Melding the guitars of The Stooges to the vocals of Lush, they put out quite a pleasant wall of sound. It really wasn't what I expected, but it was far from bad. They rock, but Vagina Panther could use a little more of a stage show. I'm not sure whether they should push the vagina or the panther end of the equation, but they seem like obvious places to start.

Now don't get me wrong, Dead June holds her own as the frontwoman for Vagina Panther. It's fortunate, as the rest of the boys spent most of the set with their back to the audience. Initially, I thought it was a Swiz homage, but finally have reconciled it to the fact that Trent must look really good with his shirt off. Trent's formidable sexual aura aside, they tore through seven or eight tracks in short order and got a pretty good response from the room. I'd like to see them again.

VP are currently recording for a full-length with Grammy Award winning producer Mario McNulty. No word about a label, but I'm figuring on a self-release, at least initially. There are four recordings up on the MySpace to pique your interest in the meantime. Check the webpage and MySpace for more live dates and a time frame for the release of the recordings. 

R

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Batillus: Live @ Ace Of Clubs 8.21.8

Battilus is a new metal franchise from NYC. Nothing too complicated or overwrought, just three pieces, no vocals and a whole lot of signal processing. They lean toward the doomier end of the spectrum, and are slower than I expected, but the first three or four shows have been pretty top-notch.

And loud. Many tubes and speakers are being called into action in the Batillus live show and much air is being moved. They aren't Sunn))) or Boris, but they are cut from the same cloth. These days, it seems like a lot of bands are jumping on the 'loud for loud's sake' bandwagon. It makes a lot of sense if you're a shitty band: deafen everybody in the room and then tell them how great you were. Provided you've put on a decent enough show to keep up the illusion, all you have to do is call the cops about the noise and start the hype machine.

Batillus are defying convention in that regard and deferring on the side of chops. Local guitar phenom Greg Peterson handles six-string duties while the rhythm franchise of Stabenau and Summers pound the hell out of their respective instruments. Ace Of Clubs (formerly ACME Underground) is not exactly Carnegie Hall when it comes to acoustics and sound reinforcement professionals. It's always an eye-opener when you have a three piece band without vocals and the mix is muddy. Or in this case, with nonexistent bass. Such are the pitfalls of the first band of five. Luckily they, and the rapidly filling room, persevered to give us six songs from what I assume will be their first recording. 

They recorded a couple weekends ago at Black Box Studio in Massachusetts with A.J. Peters and I'm told things went well.  I would venture that we will see some MP3 goodness up on the page soon and a recording not so far after that. Keep checking the MySpace.

R

Friday, August 22, 2008

Happy Birthday Craig Finn!!

So the ears are blown out from a long half-hour with Battilus last night at Ace Of Clubs. Suffice to say that they were as crushing as usual. Look for a review tomorrow. In the meantime, tip a drink back for Craig-ums as he makes it through another year.

Tickets go on sale today for the Hold Steady and Drive By Truckers co-headlining tour. Snap 'em up, but I bet they are gone already. See you there!

R

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Randy Newman - Harps and Angels

Randy Newman has left elephant-sized footprints in the pantheon of American music for close to 40 years. It seems to be the family industry. The Newman family has been heavy hitters in the film scoring world since the inception of the genre, collectively composing music for hundreds, if not thousands of movies.

Randy flirted with that world as early as 1971, writing for Norman Lear, but the success of his solo material kept him from the stage and screen until the 80s when he scored the film Ragtime and co-wrote much of the material for The Three Amigos. He released solo albums concurrently with his scoring fare, but they have taken a back burner to film in recent years. The shift in priorities seems to have worked well for him, as Newman has composed for many Pixar releases, even winning an Oscar in 2001 for his theme song to Monsters Inc. Lately, he has expanded his theatrical scope to the stage, adapting Faust (the Goethe one) into a musical and released an an amazing solo piano retrospective of his work called The Randy Newman Songbook, Vol. 1.

For fans that haven't been bitten by the theater or soundtrack bug, the solo retrospective only heightened the anticipation for a new solo record. Bad Love was released way back in 1999 and while the theatrical vagaries are entertaining, I'd like a bit of the raw uncut. It would appear that the Newman family might look down on the simplicity of pop-oriented music. In the most recent issue of Mojo, Randy shares a great anecdote about his Uncle Lionel considering Burt Bacharach's work to be rehashed third oboe parts. I'm not 100% sure what that even means, but I know snark when I see it, and that is one of the best snarky comments ever. Evidently, when you have eleven Academy Award nominations, there is no need to hold your tongue. I sure wouldn't.

Harps and Angels (Nonesuch) splits the difference between the two, pairing stripped down piano songs with more orchestrally-driven pieces. Newman is not a man to hold his tongue, especially when he can jam it right through his cheek. Tunes like Laugh And Be Happy or A Few Words In Defense Of Our Country hearken back to classically acerbic Newman fare like Political Science. A Few Words was released in MP3 form late in 2007 and got a fair bit of attention, even if most of the preaching was to the converted. I don't see Newman crossing over this late in his career, but his songs are starting to be recognized by the younger generation. Dave Bazan of Pedro The Lion has been covering Political Science in recent years and the sentiments hold just as true thirty years down the line, so maybe we'll get lucky.

While it keeps the lights on at the Newman house, it would be a shame to have one of America's finest songwriters confined to a world of Pixar adaptations. Newman has fought Epstein-Barr and spinal issues in recent years and these harbingers of mortality seem to have prompted a broader scope in the material on Harps And Angels. I personally enjoy the more New Orleans inflected stuff like Only A Girl, but the closing Feels Like Home reinterprets the song from in a solo arrangement that will break your heart at twenty paces. It holds its own with classic Newman fare like Marie or Real Emotional Girl and makes me want to hear more of his soundtrack work untarted up with string parts and the like. Here's hoping that Volume 2 of the Newman Songbook comes soon. In the meantime, pick up Harps And Angels here or on I-tunes and check the links below.

R

Official Randy Newman website
Interview and album stream
Nonesuch Records

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Ribbons - Surprise Attacks

Ribbons are from the borough of Brooklyn. In recent years, that hasn't been a cause for much celebration from this asshole, but they do up the 'Heath Band' factor a bit. Said Heath helps the band out and (I believe) hooked the kids up with the production team of Josh Loar and Anna Ehl to engineer Surprise Attacks. Good ears plus good band and good recording normally make for good records. The planets seem to have aligned to make this the case once more.

I have very little (read: none) affection for the bumper crop of new-school deconstructionist combos that have sprung up in the White Stripes' snail trail. Do the math: Matt and Kim are truly excrable, as are Mates Of State, and Black Keys need a bass player. White Stripes get minor props for allowing a woman with Down's Syndrome to get behind the kit, but none of these combos lend any credence to the idea that less is more. Ribbons continue the the recessive trend by plying their trade in the form of the trendy guitar/drums duo, but have the good taste to arrange their songs properly so as not to stink up the joint.

As it revolves around job duties on the good ship Ribbons, Sam Roudman handles the traps while Jenny Logan slings strings and sings. I hear a lot of Siouxsie in the vocals and a general Joy Division vibe all-around on Surprise Attacks. The female vocals are a nice change of pace, and do well in keeping silly Ian Curtis vocals out of the fray. Thanks to the pagan gods for that! The higher register is infinitely more pleasant, and more practically saves them from being eaten up by Roudman and his relentless pummelling of the drum kit. Pummel is by no means an understatement. I'm not sure what that drum kit did to Sam, but rest assured that it's paying the price.

While he beats the ever living hell out of that kit all over Surprise Attacks, the drums are never obtrusive. Logan does a great job of filling up the extra space with alternately atmospheric and jagged guitar and actual singing. She gets points for neither screeching and howling nor going all American Idol on the mike. It would be nice if other **ahem** vocalists (of either gender) would jump on that bandwagon.

Surprise Attacks is hooky without being poppy and interesting without being pretentious. That's a remarkable eventuality in this day and age, especially in a band coming from NYC. There are MP3s here and you can download the record from Amazon, Napster and I would venture I-tunes. I got a hard copy of Surprise Attacks through Team Ribbons and I can only assume you can buy it at shows. Luckily for your ear and eye holes, they play this Friday (8/22) at Hank's Saloon and Monday (8/25) at ex-galapagos. Both shows are in Brooklyn. Check the link below for more info.

xo
R

Ribbons MySpace

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Rodriguez - Cold Fact

We live in an ironic world. I got my copy of Cold Fact a while ago from Ever. Judging by the cover, I thought this was going to be another one of the new crop of High School Musical indie bands who had appropriated old clip art. Luckily for me, I was wrong.

Looking at the elaborate packaging and leafing through the expansive booklet, it seems like we have a bona-fide lost classic. Evidently Rodriguez released Cold Fact in March of 1970 to a warm response that soon cooled. He played the odd date in Australia, where he had a larger than normal following, but eventually went into local politics in Detroit and got a philosophy degree.

David Holmes included the opening track "Sugar Man" in one of his recent DJ releases and catapulted Rodriguez back into the spotlight in the same way Beth Orton did for Terry Callier. Cold Fact is a record that resonates with the VietNam and Civil Right era. Rodriguez shines a light on the injustices of society in the same way his contemporaries Curtis Mayfield and Marvin Gaye did. Rodriguez is of Mexican descent, but sings in a world-weary everyman tone. It's a very 70s sounding record, but that is by no means a negative. There a real Season Of The Witch vibe throughout, with the odd Cream or Sabbath-y turn or pastoral acoustic moment.

Listening to the issues Rodriguez was trying to foster a change in, it appears that not too much has changed since 1970. Maybe it's the cyclical nature of things, but Cold Fact is just as relevant today as it was almost 40 years ago, if not more so. The dated strings can be a little much, as is the interpolation of America The Beautiful (with children's choir, no less) on Gommorah (A Nursery Rhyme), but as reissue records go, Cold Fact is worth seeking out. You can pre-order it here from Light In The Attic.

R



Monday, August 18, 2008

Skillz - Million Dollar Backpack

Maybe you remember Skillz from back in the day. He dropped "The Nod Factor" on Atlantic in '96 and got a fair bit of shine for it. As was the custom, he was known as Mad Skillz in that era. He repped for VA then and now, hence his debut being called "From Where??!". Teddy Riley brought some shine to The Old Dominion with his New Jack Swing (and odd hackneyed attempts at rhyming), but MC-wise Skillz laid the groundwork for up and comers like The Clipse back when Timbaland and Pharrel were still in Y'all So Stupid.

A fickle public and an generally unhealthy hip-hop scene kept Skillz from blowing up as big as he should have, but he has maintained a comfortable living by ghostwriting a ton of material for Puff Daddy and Jermaine Dupri, among scads of others. His stature as a writer was such that he actually released "Ghostwriter" in 2005 where he threatened to call out all the people hadn't paid him for his services. It was a ballsy move, but it sure got the checkbooks out and doesn't seem to have burned any bridges permanently.

Deals with Rawkus and OkayPlayer are behind him and Skillz has secured a joint deal with Koch for his Big Kidz label. Million Dollar Backpack is the first release. It's a good record. Skillz definitely has a chip on his shoulder, as any MC worth his mike would in this day and age, but it comes off a little old and cranky. (I'll pause so we can all enjoy the irony of my making that statement). If he had come with wack rhymes, you could relegate him to the has-been pile, but the ghostwriting keeps him current enough that he can actually sneak a tune with real MCing on to the charts.

You can judge a rap album by it's guest stars and the number of them. Too many and you can almost guarantee the featured artist has fallen off. Skillz uses his guest slots prudently. He has pretty good taste in backpacker MCs, drafting Freeway, Black Thought, Talib Kweli and Common into play for singles and mix tape fodder, but flying solo for the lion's share of the tracks. Black Thought kills his verse, as per usual, asserting himself as the Jordan (or Kool G. Rap at the very least!) of the game. Fuck Jay-Z! He's a hell of a businessman and tactician. Keeping the Roots under wraps at Def Jam and quashing their shine was a brilliant move from the king of the ROC but Kamal is pretty untouchable in this day and age. Skillz keeps his MC card compliant, revisiting his infamous Kay Slay freestyle from years past on Sick and bodying all competitors in the process. There are too many tracks (like all the singles) that are a little cross-over for my tastes, but as hip-hop records go in this day and age, Million Dollar Backpack is top-notch. Buy it on I-tunes or check the links below.

R

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Bottomless Pit - Congress EP

Ok, kids:

Sorry for the lack of posting yesterday and the half-posting earlier. Wedding yesterday took me out of the game and I screwed up the scheduled post for today. Here's my real two cents on the whole thing:

Bottomless Pit hail from Chicago and are a band I really wish were not around. Not that they aren't absolutely great, but were it not for the tragic death of drummer Mike Dahlquist a couple years ago, we would still have Silkworm to enjoy (as well Mike's grins). Both are missed greatly by many. Look out for the upcoming documentary Couldn't You Wait coming out (hopefully) by the end of the year.

Of course, the demise of Silkworm fostered the rise of Bottomless Pit, featuring Andy and Tim from Silkworm with Chicago luminaries from .22 and Seam. Ex-Seam drummer Chris Manfrin really shines on the tracks here. His push and pull combined with the frequency range covered by the triple threat of bass, baritone and electric guitars makes for a big sound and four great songs on Congress. Andy and Tim will never be accused of being Sam and Dave, but the stark driving sonority of their tracks fits the vocals perfectly. I believe that it was recorded at Electrical by Heather Whinna, but that's just a guess. (and a wrong one!, Jon Solomon points out that it is Greg Norman, and adds that Mr. Norman's contact info is etched into the vinyl)

If you're a sucker for tangibility, Congress is available here on 12" vinyl (45rpm) that comes with a CD of the tracks for convenience sake. You new-school kids can digital download through Comedy Minus One here or check the links below.

R

Friday, August 15, 2008

Bowery Boy Blue - Stalk That Myth


Bowery Boy Blue is a local band helmed by Indiana ex-pat Zeb Gould. You may know him from his old Bloomington band Three On The Tree, or perhaps from his work in and around NYC with Sandusky or Stereofan. Regardless of the project, his high tenor vocal and dexterous guitar playing bring whatever song he's involved with to the next level. Stalk That Myth comes on the heels of the (mostly) instrumental release All The Morningbirds.
ATM struck fear in the hearts of acoustic players around town, but the two tracks with vocals showed Gould to be a bona-fide bit of double-trouble.

Gould's musical foil (and wife - sorry ladies) is Megan Gould. Her violin and backing vocals have been a staple of Gould projects for some time now, establishing her as the Gillian Welch to his David Rawlings, and she also arranged the strings on Stalk That Myth. Her sympathetic arrangements bolster the songs wonderfully without being obtrusive or obfuscating the quiet beauty of the vocals. It's cliched to drop the Neil Young comparison, but the comparatively spartan arrangements and high lonesome vocals really do bring the great Canadian's CSNY and Harvest work to mind.

Lest you think that this is some slavish homage to another time, rest assured that Gould and the rest of Bowery Boy Blue are a forward thinking lot. Stalk That Myth was tracked at Chicago's Electrical Audio by up-and-coming producer Steve Albini and engineered by long-term cohort (and BBB co-guitarist) Sam Crawford. The end result is a warm, yet spartan, indie rock vibe ala Silkworm or Low.

The duality of the old and the new is reinforced by the tracks that bookend Stalk That Myth. The opening Great Dead Town mates minimalist backing with Gould's hushed voice. It sets the hook nicely and sucks you in for a half-hour or so of myth stalking before reprising as the closing Dead Great Town in an expanded Magnolia Electric full-band arrangement. Songs are songs, and the test of good ones is their ability to be played pretty much any way, whether it be solo or with expanded instrumentation. Stalk That Myth shows Gould to be a performer who knows his craft and his talent. Nothing is overwrought or needlessly tarted up, just well-written and recorded. It's a simple philosophy that more artists would do well to embrace.

Bowery Boy Blue play tomorrow night at Union Hall in Brooklyn with Beau Jennings as well as the Soft Drugs, who feature TW Walsh in their ranks. Buy Stalk That Myth here or check out the links below.

Bowery Boy Blue web portal
Bowery Boy Blue social networking interface
Zeb Gould web portal
Zeb Gould social networking interface
Space Photo Records

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Rancid, Sick Of It All and Bloodclot - Live @ Irving Plaza 8.13


Things have come a long way in NYC for Rancid. Fifteen years ago they were the darlings of the squatter set. Twelve years ago they went major label and all the punks were calling them sell-outs and giving Lars beatdowns onstage at Coney Island High. Now they have their own label and are selling out five nights at Irving without a record out. I hear it's coming out soon on Hellcat, but it's nice to see the gents having staying power above and beyond the Warped Tour set.

This was the first night of the run and arguably the most NYHC of the shows, with John Joseph and his band of old hardcore dudes playing under the Bloodclot moniker and the mighty Sick Of It All starting things off. I missed all but the last song of Bloodclot, but rest assured it sounded like JJ on the mike. If you haven't picked up a copy of John's book Evolution Of A Cro-Magnon, you really need to. I picked it up initially because JJ's a great guy, but was really shocked at how well-done it is. It's not all stories about him beefing with Harley or Cappo (although Parris is savaged fairly consistently) but some touching stories about his fucked-up childhood as well as a comprehensive recollection of his wayward days raising Hell on the L.E.S. As you might expect, no punches are pulled, but he's as hard on himself as he is anybody else in the book. Evolution really is a well-done work from a real New Yorker that has been there. Buy a copy here or check the links at the bottom.

No book for them as yet, but the Alleyway Crew are still kicking ass and taking names as they approach their 25th year. Lou's back seems to be holding up fine and the boys are kicking a hell of a lot of ass for a bunch of old guys from Queens. I could make snarky comments about Craig's hair or the fact that Armand looks more and more like Vinnie Paul every year, but I think I'm above that now. That said, Armand is pulverizing the kit these days, I'm beginning to think that Pete spends so much time in the air from the residual drumkit seismic tremors. It was their typical opening set: some new stuff, a Wall Of Death, Scratch The Surface. Good times, plus some kid had come all the way from Russia to see them and Louie gave a nice little shout out. Good set, great guys. If you're still dying to get a piece of the Core, I hear Lou will be appearing with the Madball and the Murphy's Law during their sets later on in the week. All you old guys rest up now!

Rancid came out pretty quickly after SOIA to a bunch of excited youngsters and sweaty exhausted old dudes. Everybody on the team looks healthy post-divorces and cancer scares and the kid from The Used who's playing drums for them now seems to be upping the enthusiasm level a whole bunch. He really seems to be excited to be in the Rancid and I'm pleased to find that even I can't begrudge a kid being stoked to join his favorite band. He does look uncannily like a Matt Freeman mini-me, but I'm sure that just makes for a tighter rhythm section. And DAMN if Freeman isn't killing it. Not like anyone is surprised, but his solo on 999 was even more terrifying than normal. It was a very And Out Comes The Wolves-centric set for what I saw, but everything they played was eaten up the rabid youth. I'd leave the Op Ivy songs out of the set, or at least trot Jesse out on the regular, but that's just me. They are well done (and their songs, for chrissakes) but I'm beginning to think more and more of the young people think that Knowledge is a Green Day cover. Sigh!

I'm as surprised as anyone that I was at a Rancid show in 2008, but it was a pretty damn good time. Thanks to E Warz for the company. Alleyway are just great. They really make me proud to be a New Yorker. Rancid are a good time, but someone either needs to make Tim play that damn guitar or hold it away from the monitors. My ears are still fucking ringing. Rancid are at Irving through Sunday. It's way sold out, but they seem to be doing a brisk business out front, so try your luck.

Rancid web presence
Rancid MySpace
Hellcat Records

Sick Of It All web presence
Sick Of It All MySpace
Abacus Records

Bloodclot web presence
Bloodclot MySpace

The Evolution Of A Cro-Magnon book

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

lacketherof - your anchor

For the uninitiated, Lackthereof is a side-project from Danny Seim of Rose City's Menomena. Menomena one of those bands that are on my radar as being a 'Heath Band', those being bands that are from the, for lack of better nomenclature: "Pitchfork friendly" circuit. Not that I value Pitchfork much, save for their dancehall column, but compared to most people I know who recommend me stuff, Heath's putting up A-Rod numbers. I still don't remember having heard Menomena, but after listening to Your Anchor I'm going to try a little harder to make it happen.

Let's start with the knee-jerk stuff: with that Bedknobs and Broomsticks logo, the name lackthereof and a title like your anchor, was I so wrong to think I was about to hear the worst bed-wetting Deep Elm Emo Diaries cast-off band ever? I will argue to the contrary. Frankly, it was only the Barsuk name that put it any higher than it was on the ol' review pile. When I finally got around to throwing it on, I was a little bit shocked to hear something considerably more sophisticated than songs about acne and premature ejaculation.

Lackthereof is actually yet another of the bedroom-pop gems coming from the Northwestern music scene. That crew breeds Brian Wilson home recording types like wildfire and it seems that Seim is a card-carrying member of their ranks. As often happens with that set, the entirety of your anchor was recorded and mixed in the Seim basement. It's really a testament to how home recording is turning the recording industry upside down. I haven't seen any Mix magazine reviews of his space or anything, but you can bet it's no Electric Lady down there under the floorboards. Despite that, this record sounds amazing, especially on headphones.

Seim isn't new to this. He's been at this since '98, recording CD-Rs and passing them out to friends even before Menomena came to be. The project was primarily studio-bound but has become a little more active in recent years. I'm interested to see how (if) they pull it off live. your anchor has an odd 70s vibe to me, but that may be the AM radio ambience that permeates most of the tracks. There's a melody in the intro that cribbed from some 70s song and it's been driving me crazy for days as to what it's from. I'm going to argue J.D. Souther's Her Town Too, but don't hold me to it. For an assumably digital recording, there is a whole lot of warmth and clarity to your anchor. It suits the warm but not especially sunny music and shows Seim as a pretty talented engineer. If the drummer is this good of a songwriter, Heath may be on to something here. As labels today go, Barsuk's ears continue to be among the best out there. Looks like another good acquisition; with the right shine, Lackethereof could be their Postal Service.

The records been out since late last month. You can buy it here, or check out the links below.

R



Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Banner Pilot - Resignation Day

It's always a happy day on my end of Rivington St. when Banner Pilot drops a new record into my hands. My neighbors may feel differently, but I sense I'll be able to wear them down soon enough. At this point, there may be an insurrection if I play another Lifter Puller song for their pleasure.

I had ordered Resignation Day through Nate as a pre-order back in June, with the implication that I'd be getting it early and with a t-shirt. Punk rock being punk rock, I only got it yesterday, which is before the release date (actual release date: 8/12), but I gotta say I'd like a wee bit more for my pre-order dollar. The t-shirt is nice, though.

Oh yeah, and the record's pretty fucking top-notch, too. The EP got lots of play around Chez Rivington (at least someone does) and still gets a lot of bike time. If I've dropped you sprinting up the West Side, chances are these gents had something to do with it.

Maybe you remember that Nate used to play with Ryan from Off With Their Heads in Rivethead (and played in previous versions of OWTH). If you liked Rivethead and currently like OWTH, Banner Pilot are a no-brainer for you. They are cut from the same beer-soaked punk rock cloth as their aforementioned compatriots from the Twin Cities. On Resignation Day Banner Pilot treat your ears like a basement show at the Alamo and have their way with them.

Don't worry, you won't complain and there will be a lot less clean-up.There is absolutely no new ground being broken on Resignation Day, but if you like your the punk rock in the power trio format ala Jawbreaker/Larry Arms/Alkaline Trio, you won't be disappointed in the slightest. Stuff like Cut Bait and Baltimore Knot will have you pumping your fist in the air and shouting along wherever you are. I've done it in the house, at the store and on the bike in the last twenty-four hours and people really seem to receiving it well. It would be a lot easier for me to assimilate into common society if the gents would actually come East, but I'm more than willing to be 'that guy' and sing along in inappropriate places until the boys come through NYC. I smell a short and/or disappointing late-night G0-Kart showcase at CMJ in my Fall. The record's on sale at the GoKart site here. Buy it suckas, and see them on tour West of the Mississippi starting tomorrow through the end of the month. Links below.

R

Banner Pilot MySpace

Banner Pilot web presence
Go Kart Records

Monday, August 11, 2008

Rocks Off Live with Lucero and Justin Townes Earle


Rocks Off Cruises are a good time, by and large. Provided the weather holds up, that is, and this cruise had to take place on a Sunday where we were to be beset by summer thunderstorms. Doing the math, it was a Lucero show, so some beers were probably going to be in order. Did I want to do that on an empty stomach, or was that going to prove messy and ill-advised? These are the conundrums I wrestle with in my old age.

Of course, if I didn't get on the damn boat, that would eliminate the lion's share of the indecision. I had opted to have the ticket mailed to me so that I might A: get something for the stupid 'service fee' and B: because, yes, I collect the stubs. Are you really shocked? All obsessive-compulsion aside, it helps if you actually receive the ticket and by Saturday morning I had not. Good times. Cue a couple hours of phone and internet deal-brokering and by early afternoon, I finally managed to get the ticket switched to will call.

I budgeted some extra time for audible calling, but arrived at The Temptress to find that I actually was on the will-call list. Luckily I brought a book, as things were a little slow to get under way, but by 7:30 Justin Townes Earle and his backing duo took the mikes. The drummerless combo featured Justin on guitar, with a mandolinist and bassist who was later revealed to be JTE's lady friend. Who says the apples don't fall far from the tree? It is also very important to point out the uncanny resemblance young Mr. Earle has to Steve-O from Jackass. That is a cruel hand to be dealt, but luckily Earle is pretty talented, playing skillful fingerstyle guitar and working his way through a set that featured covers by Blind Blake, Blind Lemon Jefferson and The Replacements. Original material was pretty scant, but the three or four that were readily identifiable as such were pretty solid, reminiscent of Robert Earl Keen's less frat-boy friendly fare. His new record on Bloodshot is called The Good Life and they've also re-released his first tour demo. Check out the links below.

Justin's got a charming aw-shucks personae that shows his 25 years, but there's something in his grin that tells me there's some hell-raising in him. He reminds me a lot of a slicker Will T. Massey. There are rock and bluegrass bands in his younger days, but I see him taking a more David Rawlings route as he nears the end of his twenties. There are a lot of possibilities, but we can rest assured that we're going to hear a lot from Justin Townes Earle in the future.

The time between sets showed that there were a hell of a lot of the regular Hold Steady kids out for the show. Shout-outs to the lovely Heidi Vanderlee, Jersey Ben, Joelle from Chicago and the rest of the kids. This package has been out with Glossary for the last couple of weeks and while their steel guy sat in with Lucero for the set, they were conspicuous in their absence. It would have been nice to triple that shit up, as I hear Glossary are really tearing it up live lately. Sightlines aren't so great on these shows, even for big dorky guys, unless you're upstairs. Ben isn't the tallest gent, so this was a show that was heard more than seen. Not seeing the band is one thing, but I could have done with a whole lot less of the frat boys hugging and high-fiving their way through the set. With all due respect to actual gay people, it's really kinda homo. Guys, find a circle jerk and take it there, it gets kinda fucking old playing romper room with you all night.

When you take in the Lucero and you're not drinking at competition level, it's important to see them before they get too far into the whiskey. It's a slippery slope: two drinks in and Ben's great, but after four it's all downhill. I guess Rocks Off has a curfew, because it was all rock and very little talk once the fearsome foursome tread the boards. Set-wise, it was pretty much business as usual with a couple of new songs that leaned more towards the guitar rock of the That Much Further West era, but that may very well just have been for lack of a keyboard guy. Lucero don't have too many bad songs. At this point it's about gauging which songs will elicit the biggest douchebag response. The set ran maybe an hour and a half. No Little Brother or Little Silver Heart or any really old stuff (unless you count the Jawbreaker cover), but the boys were in good form. The 250+ shows a year that they've been doing for the last ten years certainly help, I'm sure.

The cat is out of the bag about the DBT/Hold Steady shows, but I had heard rumblings about Lucero factoring into the equation as well. Be interesting to see if that comes to fruition. Had it not been for the good crowd, I would have been a little salty about the $30 ticket, but it ended up being a good show with some great people. Lucero are recording for a new one, but check out Rebels, Rogues and Sworn Brothers if you haven't already. Justin Townes Earle has his first record out on Bloodshot as of March. I haven't listened to it as yet, but it definitely seems like it's going to move a lot closer to the the top of the pile. Look for a review in the next couple weeks. Links below.

R

Sunday, August 10, 2008

The Serious Geniuses - You Can Steal the Riffs, But You Can't Steal The Talent


You've got to give these kids points for their moxy, if nothing else. They definitely are coming out swinging, or talking, really. There's not a huge amount of genius, per se, on You Can Steal The Riffs, But You Can't Steal The Talent, but golly if there isn't a whole lot of irony, especially when one looks at the boldface Archers Of Loaf rip-off that is Echo Made. The track Station is more of a Small jock, but rest assured that the Early 90s North Carolina scene is well represented in these kids MP3 collections. 

The record is ok, but the bastardization of Archers Of Loaf and Taking Back Sunday is a little grating for me. I was a big fan of the first TBS record, but it was obvious they wouldn't be able to pull it off live (and that maybe the lead singer was kind of a douche). You Can is the 2008 version of Taking Back Sunday's debut Tell All Your Friends, without being so heavy on the ProTools tweaking and auto-tune. There are some moments, like on the closing Unique, where they show glimmers of being their own band, but at this point they are a little transparent in the influences department. They are doing a fair bit of touring and will be at The Fest this year. Rolling in with a name like that, they better be bringing their A game in the Fall. Provided the modest ones survive the trip, I'm interested to see what the next record will sound like after a little more time on the road. They have a split 7" with the horribly named Jean Claude Jam Band out on Kiss Of Death, but I'm not sure when this record is actually going to be released, but I'll keep you posted. It will be on Kiss Of Death, although there's no mention of it on the KOD website currently. It appears that you maybe can buy it at the shows, if you are so inclined. Check the links below. 

Lucero tonight with Townes Earle on a boat in a thunderstorm.  
This could be unpleasant.
Review tomorrow.

R


Saturday, August 9, 2008

Monikers - Wake Up

It's always a good day when a package from the good folk of Southern Lovin' arrives. This time around it's the new records from The Serious Geniuses, Lagrecia and most pertinently for today: the Monikers. They are on Kiss Of Death and hail from the charming little village of Orlando in the Sunshine State. 

Despite their Southern roots, the Monikers play the East Bay influenced punk rock that makes guys like me do the happy dance all around my apartment. The sound, vocally and rockingly, is pretty heavily indebted to 'lost my voice, hope I didn't break it' era Jawbreaker with a(n) (Erik) Funk edge to it. The D4 influence pops up more than once or twice in the twenty-six minutes that is Wake Up, but you'd be hard pressed to complain. The thing fucking rocks. 

Monikers have garnered themselves a little bit of a buzz out the gate for having Ryan from Discount in the band. It's a relief to find that he's gone the way of Todd Rockhill and not morphed into a vampire of London like some other Discount bandmates we could mention. Obligatory snarky digressions aside, Monikers are harder and faster than Discount, but maybe even hookier.  They are definitely the kind of band you want to see at a house show with a beer in your hand.

Wake Up comes out on 9/9 on Kiss Of Death, but check out the KOD website here for the split with Banner Pilot to tide you over in the interim.  If for some bizarre reason you need reassurance, it's pretty great. Of course, anything with Banner Pilot is a good thing, but rest assured that both parties more than hold their own. Monikers will be in New Brunswick on September 30th with the Ergs, but there are suspicious holes in the schedule that lead me to believe they'll be tearing up the greater Metropolitan area, too.  I'll keep you in the loop.

R


Friday, August 8, 2008

Julie Ocean - long gone and nearly there

Julie Ocean sent me their record through Burning Angel a couple months ago. It wasn't the normal kind of record I'd get through that crew, and I'm not even sure whether the review ever got posted, but I really dug them. Much like Blondie, Julie Ocean is a band, although JO is without the confusion of having any females in their fold. As incestuous as DC and it’s auxiliary bands can be, I never really thought we’d see an amalgamation of Swiz and Velocity Girl members, much less a union facilitated by Peter Cortner from Dag Nasty, but it’s here and I'm not arguing.

Julie Ocean take their name from the Undertones song and definitely have an UK sensibility about them. Luckily (for me at least) these gents are old enough that their touchstones are older than Oasis. I don't think I can stomach another American band wallowing in affected Gallagher-isms. long gone and nearly there is chock full of hooks and guitars like Teenage Fanclub and GbV having a mutual backslapping session at Mac McCaughan's place. I’m not sure who's taking the leads on this record, but both parties get props for being tasty as hell, driving and chiming with equal power, but never resorting to full-on wankery.

As anglo-philic as the chiming guitars and sunny harmonies are here, Julie Ocean definitely tip their hats to their indie rock pasts, especially on Looking At Me/Looking At You where the boys bring some stateside pride through a little Husker Du homage. It's a great song that closes the record nicely and leaves you wanting for more. There are about a million other bands who could take the hint on that. While the whole record clocks in under a half-hour, there is not a bad song in the ten that comprise long gone and nearly there. I’m not sure whether the title is meant to be taken literally, but it’s certainly apt for Julie Ocean. Whatever has kept these gents from the scene had given them time to write ten of the best guitar-driven pop songs that I've heard in a long time.

Julie Ocean are out on the road next month with Magnetic Morning. It's great for them and they certainly deserve the slot, but I really don't want to have to run the double gauntlet of bitter old Swervedriver fans and new school Interpol trendoids, in Brooklyn, no less. My personal issues aside, they are at Southpaw on 10/21 with MM and Springhouse, which I'm pretty sure is Jack Rabid from The Big Takeover's band. Should be a good night, or at the very least a reason to go home early. The records $10 postage paid from Transit of Venus. If I master simple computer skills, you may be able to buy it by clicking here, if not, check the links below.

R

www.transitofvenusmusic.com

www.myspace.com/julieoceandc


Thursday, August 7, 2008

This Will Destroy You


Texas is a weird place. But not necessarily a bad place, regardless of what knee-jerk rich-kid college politicos might lead you to believe. It’s bigger, and consequently so are the egos and companion prick-ery, but go to LA for a long weekend and tell me which one you prefer. Getting back to the whole big thing, lots of things are bigger in Texas: LBJ’s cock, Brahma bulls, and, of course, the rock. This Will Destroy You is not the big rock from Texas that ZZ Top is, moreso the wide-open grandeur that is Explosions In The Sky, but they leave a Texas-sized impression with their eponymous debut.

I’m sure both parties are getting tired of the comparisons, but when you have the unlikely success that Explosions have, one party better be grateful that somebody cares after eight years and the other should be damn happy that the door was held open for them. Not that there’s any beef between the two and with Explosions going on extended hiatus, I suspect a torch may very be passed.

The last two years have been prosperous ones for Team TWDY. Their dazzlingly cinematic sound has been used in a host of documentary works and even popped up in a Pentagon briefing video. How’s that for placement? It’s not Friday Night Lights, but it certainly gets the tongues wagging. All the talking is in danger of overshadowing the music, which really is wonderful. And beautiful, too. TWDY use dynamics and space masterfully. It’s obvious that there is someone, if not all of them, in the franchise that is familiar with composition and scoring.

Magic Bullet sure have scored with this one. They have always been known for working with innovative artists, but this is definitely a record that I can see bringing a lot more people toward their catalog. This Will Destroy You have geared up for some serious road work behind their first full-length. and I can’t think that it’s not going to bear fruit for them. For once it seems to be happening for the good guys. This Will Destroy You is not for everyone, but in an ideal world it would be.

This Will Destroy You will be on tour with Lymbyc System in September. Check them out in Brooklyn on 9/15 at Union Hall and 9/16 in Manhattan at the Knit. Tix are $8 in advance.

www.myspace.com/thiswilldestroyyou
www.magicbulletrecords.com

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

The Tim Version - Decline Of The Southern Gentleman

All is not Gainesville in the No Idea world, even if it may seem so a lot of the time. Var and Co. rep G-town to the fullest and luckily for us, it's not in an irritating 'Go Gators' sort of way. First a zine, then a label, and now purveyors of one of the best music fests ever, No Idea is making all the right moves. Hell, The Fest is rapidly even deposing SXSW as the go-to in my festival travel schedule and I’m no fan of shows in Florida. At all. Call it a Yankee thing. The Tim Version is from Tampa, but I’d break my FLA rock moratorium to go to their town, too.

The Tim Version sound a lot like their Gainesville brethren in Hot Water Music, but truth be told both bands (and a lot of the No Idea roster) owe a huge debt to the U.K. majesty that is Leatherface. Sunderland’s own Frankie Stubbs and his compatriots have combined Husker Du and Motorhead for some time now and while they may have flown below most people's radar on this side of the pond, their sound certainly has not gone unnoticed by Florida’s punk cognoscenti. The Tim Version boys even dare to up the ante and add some Replacements to the mix, which is never a bad move in my book. Decline Of The Southern Gentleman is more Sorry, Ma than Tim, but the band is named after the ‘Tim Version’ of Mats classic Can’t Hardly Wait, so I think we can call safely call them fully Mats compliant.

And pretty fucking great, to boot. The Mats influence is there: not only in the drunken guitar bends and loose arrangements, but also in the great songs and raw energy. This is not an overdub record: this is four guys, five or six cheap beers in, playing the fuck out of great punk rock songs with big ol’ hooks. Decline is a twelve-pack of hits and much like beers at the Tim Version rehearsal space, they pass quickly in a little over a half hour. Believe me, when it‘s done, you’ll want more.

No Idea has persevered from its humble beginnings to become the high water mark for punk labels today. They have weathered the loss of Hot Water Music like a champ and continue to expand their roster of great bands, most recently with Off With Their Heads, but with a host of other up and comers as well. Decline Of The Southern Gentleman is notable for being one hell of a great punk record in general and a great No Idea record in particular. It’s only short-coming might be that Team Tim have just released a comp of all their older, hard to find material called Still Have The Nerve To Call Themselves A Band on A.D.D. In it’s wake, Decline comes off a little weaker, but in the same way that The Thing is weaker than The Hulk. Either way, The Tim Version pack a hell of a punch.

www.myspace.com/thetimversion
www.noidearecords.com
http://home.earthlink.net/~timversion

Off With Their Heads - From The Bottom

I got into Off With Their Heads around the same time I fell for the Hold Steady and Banner Pilot. Not sure how, although it's probably even money on the Nate Ganglehoff/Rivethead/D4 connection. Either way, I played the shit out of the Hospitals EP. There are few better ways to get some shit off your chest in an empty apartment than to crank that puppy and shout along. My neighbors may beg to differ.

Ryan from OWTH is as DIY as he is crazy (which is probably as big as an understatement as the fact that I date crazy ladies). He lives at Alamo House in Minneapolis where he and the roommates do a lot of house shows. Maybe house shows are more fun in the Midwest, but in NYC it can get a little terrifying. Case in point would be the show in Bushwick with The Ergs, Four Letter Word, The Arrivals and Off With Their Heads. Not that it wasn't a blast, but the prospect of seeing another show in a firetrap messenger house is not something I look forward to. That said, it was a lot better than standing around in the backyard of Sealab 187 and being pelted by garbage or waiting around crappy Greenpoint bars for three or four hours to not see them play. I do so love punk scheduling.

Not that I was smart enough to learn anything from the experience, as I bought a ticket to Insubordination Fest seconds after I found that Ryan and the boys would be playing. It was rumored that they would have copies of their new release for No Idea with them and I, for one, was not going to miss snagging a copy. As Insubordination Fest got closer, more and more info about the new record came down the pike: old stuff was going to be re-recorded, there weren't going to be more than one or two new tracks, blah, blah, blah. As I have moved past my vinyl era, it worked for me. I'm way beyond working too hard to get stuff I'm just going to digitize anyway. In doing some digging, most of the re-records were precipitated by the last Fall's infamous OWTH tour of Japan with Yoshi from Snuffy Smile. After Ryan and Yoshi butted heads and the shit-slinging started, Ryan vowed (and I believe this is a pretty exact quote) that he would 'rather be face-fucked sideways than have those songs be available exclusively through Snuffy Smile'. Such eloquence!

Rehashed or not, From The Bottom is a rager from note one to note last. If the boys were redoing crappy songs to fill things out it would be one thing, but if you are going to save me some cash and give me a gang of great songs for $7, I am there with bells on. From The Bottom ain't long, but it sure is great, especially the re-record of For The Four. That itself is worth the price of admission. You're not going to hear any of the tracks here at your next positive affirmation meeting, but if you fall on the more cynical and/or nihilistic end of things, you'll be shouting every word.

R

www.myspace.com/offwiththeirheads
www.noidearecords.com

Monday, August 4, 2008

Hiram Bullock (1955-2008)


As a young bass-playing dork and big fan of the NBC era of Late Night With David Letterman, I pretty much always checked in to try and steal riffs or whatever from Will Lee. Around the same time, I started getting into music magazines and was able to put the pieces together as to why Late Night's band was called The World's Most Dangerous Band. Granted it was in the early 80s and the cats (save for Paul, perhaps) were not especially well known outside the session scene, but when you have a four-piece band with Steve Jordan on drums, Will Lee on bass and Paul on keys, you better not slouch on the six-string spot. And slack they did not. Every time the Late Night intro cut to the studio and panned to the right, Hiram Bullock was there, barefoot and in cut-off sleeves with battered Strat in hand, straight killing it from stage right.

Hiram had played with Will in the 24th Street Band prior to working with the Brecker Bros and was pretty well known as hot shit at the University Of Miami, where he came up with heavy hitters like Jaco Pastorius and Pat Metheny, as well as Will Lee and WMDB adjunct David Sanborn. He hit the session scene hard and did a lot towards ushering in the Strat with PAFs era. The battered sunburst Strat became as associated with Hiram as Blackie was with Clapton and even was honored with a signature model in it's later years.

After leaving Late Night in 1983 (I started to treat it like a job and was forgetting to show up, he remembered) he continued to play on a gang of session and sideman gigs while trying to get his own band off the ground. He was well-recieved overseas and did much more work in the Far East than the States, but would pop up around town with various incarnations of the band. In recent years, he quit a lot of the vices that he was known for and ended up putting on a lot of weight, but still kicked a healthy amount of posterior regardless of his girth. There was a lot more movie work as he grew older, including an appearance in Under Siege, but in recent years rumors of his being ill started to trickle out. After Michael Brecker's passing, word came out that Hiram was fighting cancer. He confirmed it in a post on his web page in March and downplayed his illness in typical fashion, remarking that he needed to lose weight anyway and that his treatments would help. Ominously, he also mentioned that he had lost his ability to taste.

This past Friday, Dave and Paul took a moment to remember the guy who had been such a huge part of the show in it's early years. It was only a couple minutes, but taking into account that Hiram had left the show almost twenty-five years previously, it was a pretty classy move on their part. There was a memorial service on 8/4 and his family asks that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to nature and animal conservation organizations.

Thanks for the good times , Hiram!

R

www.hirambullock.com

www.worldwildlife.org
www.greatbear.org