Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Brendan Kelly and Joe McMahon - Wasted Potential

This digital age we live in allows for a lot of releases that maybe should have stayed in the realm of one-off tapes passed amongst friends and prospective paramours. This split release pairs one Joe McMahon of RVA transplants Smoke and Fire with Mr. Brendan Kelly of The Lawrence Arms and adheres to the time-honored 'acoustic versions and some covers' format. It's ok, but far from anything that anyone should go out of their way to pick up.

Smoke and Fire were always kinda sorta ok for me. I had seen them at least once when they were Jericho and from Boston and definitely saw them on a couple of the last Fifth Hour Hero shows, but they never really caught on for me. McMahon fares the best here, revisiting a couple tracks and doing a Johnny Cash cover. Kelly sounds like he got shit-housed and dashed off the seven tracks in the time that it took to sing them. It's that attention to detail that has kept me out of Lawrence Arms shows in recent years. There's a fine line between being shit-housed and non giving a shit and I'm finding Kelly more and more over the line. Wasted Potential, indeed. That said, I'm sure that Kelly is not losing a moment of sleep over the lack of JS-NYC advocacy and truth be told, his blog Bad Sandwich Chronicles is one of the best on the interwebs. Here's hoping he musters up an appreciable level of enthusiasm for his next release. Superfans and stalkers can get Wasted Potential here from Red Scare or as, it is a co-release with Anchorless here from them.


Sunday, June 27, 2010

Joell Ortiz - Me, Myself & I

I guess it's ad revenue, or maybe there some cash exchange that I'm unaware of, but either way there are two things you should know: one: Joell Ortiz has a new mix tape out called Me, Myself & I and two, it's for free at DatPiff.com. I'm not sure how they give this shit away when it's better than most of the hip-hop available commercially in this day and age, but this baller on a budget isn't arguing. Most of the stuff here I've heard in various nooks and crannies of the interwebs, but there are a couple new freestyles and drops and it's nice to have them all in one place. 21 joints in just under an hour here and all pretty much bangers. The Roger That freestyle is a standout, as is the Suss One banger but there is very little on Me, Myself & I that anyone with ears could find fault in. Hear for yourself at DatPiff here.


Friday, June 25, 2010

Live: Off With Their Heads with Dear Landlord @ Knitting Factory 6.23.10

There was a time a couple three years ago when the prospect of an Off With Their Heads show was something that would make my month. Eight or ten shows in, their relentless touring schedule got me a little oversaturated and I found myself leaving before they played a couple times, owing to more desire to see their openers. Even the prospect of Dear Landlord as an opener had me one the fence unless there were going to be friends in tow. Then I got the surprisingly good new Epitaph record and figured I'd give the show a shot.

I rolled in as Dear Landlord was setting up. They were up in short order, opening with Motorcycle Helmet and prompting a small forest of fingerpointing. Any bastard union of Rivethead and The Copyrights is bound to be a good thing. I've been to a lot of Dear Landlord shows in the last couple years and they are rarely less than a good time. This night was no exception, everybody sounded great and the almost respectable crowd seemed to really enjoy them. Me, too.

So Off With Their Heads were up next. I tried to situate myself on Ryan's side failing to take into account that Ryan isn't playing guitar. I'm pretty sure recreational substances haven't precluded my realizing this beforehand, so I'd say this is a fairly new eventuality that has happened full-time in the wake of their signing to Epitaph. Ryan was in good spirits, joking off-mike with the crowd up front and openly soliciting coke for most of their maybe 35 minutes of set. The band was tight. Mostly new stuff, with a couple dips into earlier stuff but over in short order. Works for me. If history is any indication, OWTH will be playing three or four hundred shows behind In Desolation. You owe it to yourself to see them at least once. The band is tight as hell and Ryan's mercurial ways keep it interesting even if the set stays a little static. Keep tabs on the entertainment possibilities here.


Wednesday, June 23, 2010

BoDeans - Mr. Sad Clown

BoDeans were a pretty big part of my high school rock years. I saw the video for Only Love, assumably on the MTV and picked up Outside Looking In on vinyl. It's still a great record, as are the two releases that bookened it (Love and Hope and Sex and Dreams and Home). In my mind, some shark jumping occurred after the next record Black and White, but then the song Closer To Free was chosen as the theme song to the maudlin yet popular Party Of Five TV series and has proven to be an evergreen for Kurt Neumann and Sam Llanas.

Various live and solo releases came down the pike in the last couple of years, each featuring a decent song of two, but the general consensus was that Llanas and Neumann were best appreciated together. After a three year battle to extricate themselves from a Sony contract, the pair convened on and off in 2009 to record Mr. Sad Clown at Neumann's Texas studio. The duo recorded all the tracks themselves, then overdubbed a hired horn section. It works for the most part, but the main shortcoming of Mr. Sad Clown is that it overstays its welcome by easily five songs. This is a good hour-long record that would be a great 40 minute one. I'm still excited to hear that they are back on the road. Here's hoping they play Mercury sometime real soon. In the interim, you can get Mr. Sad Clown here at the official BoDeans web presence.


Monday, June 21, 2010

Nada Surf - IfIhadahifi

I always kind of liked Nada Surf, and I'm pretty sure one of my old bands played with them at Brownies back in the Popular days. Either way, I really hated that tune and its MTV ubiqity, but fell for Lucky when I reviewed it at Burning Angel. They had embraced a sort of NYC Big Star vibe I never though they had in them and consequently they saw a lot of late night play on the JS-NYC house system. Coming late to the Nada party meant that I have never really seen them live and in person, as they are playing the big rooms locally. What I have seen seems pretty decent, but it would appear I'm going to have to wait a bit longer, as the ominous 'influences and covers' record has come on the radar ifihadahifi isn't bad by a long shot, but it does beg the question why these records exist in the first place. They seem to have supplanted live records in this day as the contract fulfiller for bands on the move. I have no firsthand knowledge that this is the case in this instance, but I'll reserve the right to say I told you so down the line. You get a dozen covers for your consumer dollar here. None are particularly well known, save for the Depeche Mode cover (of Enjoy The Silence) and perhaps the short stab at the Moody Blues chestnut Question. The MB never did anything for me, and the Nada Surf nod does little except remind me that DP ripped off Joy Division pretty hard. The Spoon cover suffers the same fate, but the Dwight Twilley number was a pleasant surprise. All in all, ifihadahifi is a decent record and perhaps a harbinger of future encore material, but nothing that is going to set the world on fire. It is, however, better than anything by Monsters Of Folk, so shop accordingly.


Saturday, June 19, 2010

Blunt Mechanic - World Record

I was (and still am) a big Kind Of Like Spitting fan. I can't remember how I first came to hear Ben Barnett, but I fell for him pretty hard. He's prolific, as much to a fault as the next guy, but his high points are top fucking notch. Recent times have found Barnett as the musical director of the Seattle arm of the Paul Green School Of Rock, I'm pretty sure around the same time that he formally shuttered the KOLS franchise. I would have never seen that coming, but I've only met the guy a couple times and he seems to be getting high marks.

On the subject of highness, I guess the kids won't be too scarred in the wake of their MD helming a band called Blunt Mechanic. Barnett recorded all the instruments on World Record and went on to assemble a live band. Two of the BP live fold do double duty in Globes, a to the best of my knowledge formed out of said School Of Rock and were two of the larger proponents of Barnett and his mentorism. The recorded tracks will be familiar to the long time Barnett fan, touching equally on his KOLS roots, his past tenure in The Thermals and his continued obsession with Phil Ochs. It's no surprise that it's on Barsuk. You can get World Record as well as the promising looking tour EP over there via this handy link. Keep track of Blunt Mechanic's tour planning here. I don't envy getting pulled over in the middle of the night with that name.


Thursday, June 17, 2010

So Hideous My Love: Live at Lit Lounge 6.21.10

Hey Kids:

My band So Hideous My Love is playing Lit Lounge here in NYC on 6.21. For some reason we're not listed, but we're on first, around 9:30. It's our first show with our new vocalist and it's gonna be a good time.

Come hear.

Lit is at 93 Second Ave, between 5th and 6th Street. Isle of Manhattan.


Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Weakerthans review at PopMatters

Hey Kids:

My review of the new CD/DVD set by Winnipeg's own The Weakerthans is up at PopMatters. Feast your eyes here.

Thanks to Sarah Zupko at PopMatters.


Sunday, June 13, 2010

Live: Austin Lucas @ Bar Nine 6.9.10 late

There's an interesting phenomenon going on in music, where the youth of today are maintaining footholds in genres that were once considered far too disparate to attract the same fanbase, much less artists. Hank III comes quickest to mind, with his Damn Band/Assjack incarnations, but Austin Lucas deserves an equal amount of notoriety. His father Bob Lucas is a player of some renown in the bluegrass scene, and while Austin most often performs acoustically, he performs semi-regularly with Czech Republic/Oregon grind franchise Guided Cradle. No one with working ears would confuse the two, but the level of quality exuded in both units is conspicuous.

Austin has been performing these dates with the vocal help of Christina Wagner and multi-instrumentalist Brad Garrett. They were not the first acoustic franchise visit to Bar Nine, nor even the first acoustic act to play Bar Nine that night, but feedback proved to be a big issue for the early part of the set, prompting the trio to unplug and decamp to the floor after the first song. This was a good idea in theory, save for the fact that there was no PA and a decent size drinking (and talking) crowd, prompting a Jason Anderson-esque audience gather-around that was a little closer than I bargained for. No one else labored under such issues, save for a drunk dude who wanted to hear some Stones, and Austin was in his usual good voice, playing a couple new tunes along with a handful of old favorites and a cover of Give My Love To Rose. Wagner was a formidable vocal foil, with a decent voice and good range in addition to being somewhat easy on the eyes. I don't believe she has anything out, but she and Austin were selling a joint tour demo CD-R set to get label attention. She deserves it and I believe might be playing solo opening sets at some of the shows. Here's her Myspace. I'll get a review of the demos up in a bit. Austin has a new comp of his vinyl stuff out that you need called Collection on Suburban Home. You can get that here. While you're at it, stay up to date with all things Austin and Lucas here.


Friday, June 11, 2010

Live: This Will Destroy You @ Mercury Lounge 6.9.10 early

The Summer tour season always bodes well for those that live in Gotham City, as pretty much everyone comes through in some shape or form. This show came initially in conflict with the Austin Lucas dates in town, but the Fates made this a rare early show, and at Mercury Lounge to boot, so I posted up with Evan and Aaron.

I like TWDY ok. I had seen them at the old Knit last year and thought they were decent, but all too obviously playing a lane already covered more than adequately (and in not too terribly exciting fashion, frankly) by Explosions In The Sky. The fact that they are both from the same area does little to dispel this notion and begs the question why they haven't tried to put a different spin on things. Frankly, that is the first of many questions I have about the team, among them: Why does the other guitar dude always sit? and Is it really imperative that the drummer play to a click? They aren't that technical and the Strat guy certainly is no Derek Bailey. Whatever, I'm probably just a dick.

I don't expect that most of the crowd got as deep with their analysis, as it seemed 75% Texan ex-pat friends of the band who don't listen to (m)any other music from the genre. Safe money is on a disproportionately large per capita percentage of American Analog Set records being owned by the crowd. Crowd patriation aside, TWDY went over well, playing a handful of songs from their last couple releases and ending with the addition of a 100% extraneous violin player and a jam that featured at least one of the band members packing his gear for most of its duration. Worked for me, as it was over before 9 and my bike wasn't stolen at the end of the evening, allowing for me to ride uptown in a early Summer monsoon and see Austin Lucas with some degree of ease. Call that a win. This Will Destroy You may have some new release soon, but the sheer volume of photos of animals with dumb photoshopping and conspicuous iPaddery drove me from their web presence in short order. Venture yourself if you dare.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Off With Their Heads - In Desolation

Minneapolis has always been a north star for me when it comes to the rock music. The Holy Trinity of Mats, Soul Asylum and Husker Du still loom large in my sphere of musical influences. The mighty Dillinger 4 filled in the space before Sean Na Na, Banner Pilot, The Hold Steady and Off With Their Heads came around to share the weight of being America's finest punk scene.

The first Off With Their Heads EP, Hospitals, came around at a time where I was feeling kinda Ryan Young-ish my own self. At that time, having another crazy guy to scream along with was a good thing to have around the house and the troubled mind of the OWTH leader was just the ticket. Young's troubled existence made for an inconsistent musically, but always interesting, live show. As OWTH has been on tour for the last two years at least, they made up for it with sheer number of opportunities to see them. They dropped a full-length and singles comp on No Idea and have now jumped on the Epitaph roster for In Desolation.

I had been pretty bored with the last four or five Off With Their Heads shows that came through town, but listening to this little firecracker on my last couple of rides has got me buying a ticket for the show next week with Dear Landlord. Buying In Desolation gets you twelve shades of the artist going through his everyday nervous breakdowns and still living, for better or worse. Every one of these songs is so damn good that I can't think for the life of me they were playing any them at any of the live shows I'd seen before this dropped. Granted, I Just Want You To Know is reprised from The Measure split, but from the opening Drive to the closing Clear The Air you get a bumper crop of quality post-Weasel punk rock. Hopefully this marks the start of an Epitaph resurgence. At the very least, we may see Ryan and Dan Andriano burying the hatchet. Gauge the chances of both by going to the Epitaph site here and bagging a copy of In Desolation. Off With Their Heads are back on the road, check here to see dates for the first hundred or so shows. I'll see you locals at the Knit next week.


Monday, June 7, 2010

Do What You Want, Be What You Are: The Music of Daryl Hall & John Oates

In this world where box sets from bands that shouldn't have even seen a 7" are as prevalent as bad haircuts in Williamsburg, it's comforting to know that there is a Hall & Oates box set to be had. I have loved Hall and Oates since I was in late single digits and by the time I got my own tape recorder, there were many H&O tracks taped off the radio or TV that were in heavy rotation and they have been a perennial ever since, so when Do What You Want, Be What You Are: The Music of Daryl Hall & John Oates came down the promo pike, I was there with bells on.

Listening to the four discs in succession on a long bike ride, it was pretty staggering to be reminded how great a body of work Daryl Hall and John Oates have. I was aware that they are the best selling duo of all time, but a random laser drop through the tracks here drives the point home in spades. Regardless of decade, the songs were (and are) inimitably Hall & Oates. Some of them might have somewhat dated production (the early records and Big Bam Boom come quickest to mind) but there is always a hook and some pretty serious songcraft behind it. How many other artists can you name that have performed with The Temptations, had their songs covered by Lou Rawls before they were even big, charted 36 singles afterward and are doing their next record with Chromeo? Damn few, if any, I'd say. I'd say that last part might be a wee bit of a mis-step, but you can rest assured that there is no possible way that you can go wrong buying Do What You Want, Be What You Are: The Music of Daryl Hall & John Oates for yourself or any other Hall & Oates fan in your life. Buy it here and while you're enjoying, pour out a little liquor for T. Bone Wolk.


Saturday, June 5, 2010

Tracey Thorn - Love And Its Opposite

I like Tracey Thorn and Everything But The Girl for the most part. Her partner (both domestically and in EBTG) Ben Watt and she have made some beautiful music over the last 20 years. I enjoyed their middle post-Style Council/pre-Todd Terry blow-up period the most, especially the Acoustic record, a whole bunch. I've never really enjoyed the band that much live, which has worked out well for the JS-NYC and EBTG franchises, as Thorn and Watt's domestic duties have kept the live band on blocks in recent years.

I was pleased to find that Merge was releasing Love and It's Opposite stateside (it's on Watt's Strange Feeling label overseas). I haven't really been head over heels about most of the new Merge signings, but their signing of bands like American Music Club, Karl Hendricks Trio/Rock Band and Teenage fanclub displays the beauty and balance that Mac and Laura have cultivated over there. That said, Arcade Fire still kinda suck. Suffice to say they must be glad that Decemberists are around to distract the spotlight of horribility from shining directly on them, having seen their mercurial NPR/Pitchfork fanbase abandon them for some new mediocre band.

Love And Its Opposite is a body of songs unified by a theme of divorce. Worry not for the EBTG, as the songs aren't based on firsthand experience (or so they say). Thorn has gained somewhere between a different and an expanded fanbase since she and Watt have been increasing influenced by electronic music. There are a couple tracks that have a bit of that underpinning, but the record is pretty organic for the most part. There are a number of remixes in the works, most of which are due to be released on a Buzzin' Fly single. To offset such things, you can also grab yourself a bonus cd of demo tracks called The Berlin Demos. In the states, you can get the tracks digitally through Merge. Look out for a Ron Sexsmith cover on iTunes, too. When you are straight or gay, married or not, there is much to be said for Love And Its Opposite. Pick it up from Merge via this handy link and keep track of all things Thorny here.


Thursday, June 3, 2010

Mono with The Twilight Sad @ Bowery Ballroom 5.30.10

This show had just about dropped off my radar, but luckily it came up at rehearsal and I managed to snag a ticket. Long time sufferers of JS-NYC may remember my fondness for the discordant stylings of Aereogramme and Glasvegas (and Teenage Fanclub, The Jesus and Mary Chain and a gang of others). Combining that mood in The Twilight Sad with the soaring instrumental stylings of Mono is a fine way to spend a holiday Sunday night from where I'm sitting.

I wasn't mistaked. I got to the show in the middle of the the opening Twilight Sad number and was pretty pleased with their offering. Their quiet-loud thing gets a little transparent after a couple doses in a row, but it's a beautiful noise to behold. In other notes, there is an interesting tendency in the TS franchise to start acquiring the same haircut a couple of weeks into the tour. The prison cuts that they highlighted on their last visit, combined with their collective ghostly pallor smacked of alcoholic inspiration but I'm not sure what accounts for 3/4 of the band sporting the same Jonny Greenwood haircut. Maybe they got a deal, either way a great band that deserves much success.

Mono were up next. I found Brandon and Theresa stage right and got ready for the onslaught. These Mono shows were behind a new CD/DVD set from last year's shows with The Wordless Music Orchestra called Holy Ground: NYC Live, although they featured only conventional four piece lineup. Rather than dance too much about architecture here, suffice to say that Mono live is a pretty epic proposition. I'm pretty sure this is the set list

Ashes in the Snow / Burial at Sea / The Kidnapper Bell / Pure as Snow / Sabbath / Yearning / Follow the Map / Halcyon (Beautiful Days) / Everlasting Light

I've been slacking in getting this posted, so by this point anybody in the US has missed out on these shows. Forgive me, but that really is your loss, kids. Apologize to those that are geographically challenged. Keep track of future Mono dates here and Twilight Sad goings-on here. In the interim, consider buying the new Mono record here. Those that prefer their songs with vocals might also be interested in the new Twilight Sad single that you can get here. You're welcome.


Tuesday, June 1, 2010

RVIVR with Iron Chic @ Death By Audio 5.20.10

This show was up there with the Unlovables / House Boat / Dear Landlord / Copyrights show at Fontana's last year when it came to spiking the anticipation meter. You may remember that I had loved the Shorebirds record and lamented that they had never made it out East before imploding. The RVIVR 7"s and full-length were just as awesome, so I was looking forward to taking in a good number of the four local shows on this tour, especially as they were with local powerhouse Iron Chic.

I hit the bike and rolled into Death By Audio just as Slingshot Dakota were finishing. The room was full enough to make me paranoid that the perennial unnannounced lineup change had occurred, but it appears that it was merely SD and their remarkable local draw. The show proved a fine opportunity to assert myself as the weird old guy who shows up by himself and might be a narc. While I was at it, I made a sideline of seeing the hot bike girl I always think is gay at the shows, not being able to stop looking at her, then garnering the glares of the boyfriend I always forget she has. These things are comfortable in their familiarity.

Iron Chic were up next, seemingly hell-bent on knocking back as much cheap canned beer as possible before they went on. It didn't seem to hamper the proceedings that much, save for the interesting pawing of some dude in the front by the bear (ahem) ish frontguy. Either way, Iron Chic are pretty fucking great. A motley looking crew, but there's really nothing pretty about punk rock, is there? Not the longest set in the world, but a good one with a decent response from the kids up front.

RVIVR took the stage in short order, perhaps owing to a curfew? No arguments here. The crowd seemed to swell again and I found myself in the middle of a curious bunch of scruffy gay indie rock dudes. Not that it swayed me either way, but it was a pretty gay vibe throughout the evening, in the young and in your face sort of way. Meaning that there was open man to manual stimulation going on way to close to me, part and parcel with a gang of bike dykes sporting thrash caps and very much feeling the female 50% of the RVIVR franchise. While I'm dwelling on questionable fashion trends instead of music, let me say, Canino: cut the mullet, and let's move on.

RVIVR played kind of a short set, although they were pretty tight for the most part. The band was both grateful and surprised at the turnout and the response, although evidently not to the point where they had learned any encores. It's a bummer that they are so far away, as there were more than a couple songs I would have like to have heard. I was stupid enough to miss the Tomkins show the next day and not plan properly for the East Rockaway show that closed the proceedings. I continue to be plenty bummed about that. Don't make the mistake I did. Head over to the RVIVR and Rumbletowne web presences and support this awesome crew.