Sunday, December 30, 2007

The Germs! The Adolescents! at the Key Club, 12.28.

At 15, I had a tiny crush on Eli Sammler. Rather, Shane West, the brooding actor who portrayed him on that guilty pleasure of a Friday night soap, Once and Again. Eight years later, I'm somewhat embarrassed to admit this, not because his mysterious gaze actually screamed “headshot material!” or because he was on a weekly drama – in fact, it would get much, much worse with A Walk to Remember – but because this actor would eventually attempt to shake off his work history with a new role fronting the reunited Germs in place of the late Darby Crash, who he portrays in What We Do is Secret. With “You're So Oi!” written on his back in mockery of the leather-and-spike-coated 16-year olds who'd come to shout along, it seemed odd that no one would mock him back for his equally “punk” black nail polish or, hell, his resume.

West mimicked the sloppy vocal styling of Crash surprisingly well, and had a grand time tossing a full meal over the audience (beer, water, Tostitos, cake chunks), but his poses capped off what seemed a giant photo-op of a reunion. Blowing sarcastic kisses and sneering that the fans before him looked “silly” in punk garb, it felt as though West was daring to tease and taunt us, the fans who weren't lucky enough to be fronting a famous punk band. Even Lorna Doom and Pat Smear stood together for a number of photo-friendly moments, and though far more entitled to such than West at this point, the sounds coming from their bass and guitar were nearly unrecognizable, with Doom's bass overpowering the once-clear treble of Smear's guitar, giving their songs a heavy masculinity that wasn't originally there.

What earned greater applause than the Germs themselves was the female fan who got on stage to steal the mic for “Caught in My Eye.” Garnering even greater enthusiasm were the Adolescents, whose set was wasted on a supporting slot – even with their collectively worn appearance and Tony Cadena's need for an inhaler mid-set, the O.C. group was tight, heavy and fierce enough to prompt fights. Unexpected but sweet, also, was how Cadena gave props to security (working their asses off on this night) for keeping crowdsurfers from wrecking the "$30 cords" and "$200, $300 monitors." It was, in fact, their ending with “Kids of the Black Hole” that caused a number of fans to plead for more, of which not much could be heard after the Germs finished up with “Lion's Share.”

P.S. Shane West is slightly redeemed for giving props to L.A. indie thrashers the Mae-Shi, who rocked their opening set and appeared to have as much of a vocal fan base as the Adolescents or the Germs. Not redeemed: the possibly-legal girls in stilettos who shoved their way to the side of the stage so they'd be there waiting when cute ol' Shane walked by.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

...and speaking of obligations...

Now that I've succeeded in making a hideous logo that resembles a pound sign...and compiled lists of records and songs that, while not even-numbered on their own, comprise a collective list of are my favorites of 2007.

13 Favorite Albums (nearly in order):

1. Celebration – The Modern Tribe
2. The Good, the Bad and the Queen
3. Animal Collective – Strawberry Jam
4. The Twilight Sad – Fourteen Autumns, Fifteen Winters
5. Les Savy Fav – Let's Stay Friends
6. Pissed Jeans – Hope for Men
7. Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings – 100 Days, 100 Nights
8. King Khan and His Shrines – What Is?!
9. Caribou - Andorra
10. Siouxsie – Mantaray
11. Battles - Mirrored
12. Marco Mahler – Design in Quick Rotation
13. Tom Brosseau – Grand Forks

A sad sort of list, isn't it? I listened to everything I'd anticipated and then some; I wound up disappointed by some of the anticipated records and pleasantly surprised by a few I'd never expected, but overall came out with a shockingly small list of favorites. A number of records made the Honorable Mentions list: Spoon, Frog Eyes, Shellac (best album art!), Holly Golightly and the Brokeoffs, Billy Childish and the Musicians of the British Empire, The Saints, Grinderman, Common, Elvis Perkins, Black Lips, Devendra Banhart, Times New Viking, Dizzee Rascal, Wiley (little known fact: I like grime), Antelope, Foetus, The Hives, Pharoahe Monch, Blonde Redhead, Eilen Jewell, Babyshambles, Thurston Moore, Fridge, Old Time Relijun, Mika Miko, M.I.A., The Oh Sees, PJ Harvey -- I liked you. I liked all of you. And I really wanted to put you on my favorites list but couldn't quite do it. Bettye Lavette, Panda Bear and Justice...I tried to like you, I really did. Candie Payne and Michael Yonkers...I never found copies of your respective debut and long-delayed album, but I'm sure I would have liked them. Beirut, Band of Horses, Department of Eagles, Dungen, Shocking Pinks, Deerhoof, Iron and Wine, Liars, The Books, Dinosaur Jr. and Radiohead...I never bothered to listen, and I'm sorry, but I'm sure I'll buy the albums one day.

Looking at others' lists, I realize there are tons and tons of albums that I didn't know about even by name, but hell, who has the time to listen to every album out there? So this is this, and that is that. Never mind that I didn't even touch the electronic genre!

And then there was that dreadful dilemma, the one where individual songs off an album wow you to pieces but you can't bear to put the whole album on the list. Hence the “favorite tracks” list, which looks rather bland when I stare at it.

27 Favorite Songs (alphabetical by artist, because I hate prioritizing):

Animal Collective – Fireworks
Battles – Atlas
Bjork – Declare Independence
Black Lips – I Saw a Ghost (Lean)
The Boonaraaas – Out of Sight
Britt Daniel – Bring it On Home to Me (Sam Cooke cover)
Cajun Dance Party - Amylase
Celebration – Hands Off My Gold
Colleen – Blue Sands
Elvis Perkins – While You Were Sleeping
Foetus – Mon Agonie Douce (J.G. Thirwell remix)
Frog Eyes – Stockades
Holly Golightly and the Brokeoffs – Devil Do
King Khan and His Shrines – Welfare Bread
Les Savy Fav – The Equestrian
Mark Sultan – Cursed World
The Muslims - Extinction
Pharoahe Monch – What It Is
Pharoahe Monch – Body Baby
Pissed Jeans – A Bad Wind
Sea Wolf – You're a Wolf
Siouxsie – Sea of Tranquility
Spoon – Don't Make Me a Target
The Wombats – Little Miss Pipe Dream
Tom Brosseau – Blue Part of the Windshield
Twilight Sad – And She Would Darken the Memory
The Walkmen – Red River

*On a side note, cursing the baby Jesus the other day apparently brought me to his attention, for when I awoke Christmas morning, baby Jesus had blessed me with a head cold. Goddamn you, baby Jesus.

Monday, December 24, 2007

"I don't want your crummy gifts," said Alvin.

Baked goods and KRTH's "38 hours of Christmas oldies" aside, I've been finding more and more each year that Christmas is about the most depressing holiday of the year. This is sort of a common fact - at least in bad, seasonal romantic comedies, anyway - but the fact hadn't quite hit me until returning to Los Angeles in a post-college, adult state last year, when it first became necessary to budget gifts below rent and acknowledge that parties (particularly of the office or reunion varieties) eventually become something to dread. These are the trivial things, though.

I don't like to talk much about my personal life here, but in a post of such downer material, I should note that my only close family nearby are my (divorced) parents, meaning that I've learned to embrace the Jewish deli on Christmas, and furthermore, that I'm an Atheist and as such have no need to celebrate the baby Jesus, however adorable he might have been in his manger. In any case, it's around this time of year that I come to wish I'd once adopted religion or some sort of strong identity; outside of Christmas, you've got Chanukah, almost comedic for the images it evokes of dreidels, prayers spoken with lots of hacking noises and gentiles who can't spell "yarmulke." You've got Kwanzaa, born out of pride and begun on a day that no one seems to remember. And the fasting period of Ramadan, when homeless people can laugh and point and say, "Ha! Get a taste of starvation now, suckers."

But Christmas, a designated Christian holiday, is what we non-religious folk resort to out of convenience, and out of a lack of faith, it becomes a day not associated with Jesus and thanks and family, but with obligations. You feel obligated to buy people crap because you're afraid they'll feel forgotten otherwise. You feel obligated to hold your tongue when you see the disappointment on a friend's face, because even though you racked your brain for the perfect gift and it turned out not to be what they wanted, you don't want to be the cause of a holiday fight. You feel obligated not to gag when your grandmother chews with a smacking sound, and not to feel hurt when your out-of-state grandparents send you the same generic card and check for the tenth year in a row, because you don't want to look overly sensitive in pointing out that your relatives don't care to know you. If we, the Atheists and agnostics of the world, enjoyed the holiday with the same spirit as those who celebrated a religious figure or intent, perhaps obligation wouldn't be such a burden. Goddamn you, baby Jesus.

In any case, it is because of my extreme dislike of Christmas that I've chosen to acknowledge not a religious holiday but something more interesting, for which I am far more thankful: the belated December birthdays of Woody Allen and Little Richard. Woody Allen, the man who made it hip to be neurotic and bespectacled (er...him and Rivers Cuomo), turned 72 on Dec. 1. Of no other filmmaker can I claim to have seen and enjoyed over twenty films, let alone seen that many and looked forward to the twenty that remained. Little Richard, meanwhile, turned 75 years old on Dec. 5, and from his influence on the music of the Beatles and the moustache of John Waters to his appearance on Full House (as Uncle Richard!), I'd say he's contributed to society on a much more agreeable level than that possibly-invented figure, J.H.C. So, to the suave Allen Konigsberg and fabulously flamboyant Richard Wayne Penniman, I salute you. Happy belated birthday!

Little Richard - She's Got It

And for you Christmas celebratin' suckers:
Canned Heat and the Chipmunks - The Chipmunk Song

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Peter Murphy's not dead.

Sweet Jesus. If this year wasn't enough to make the '80s Goths proud, what with the release of Siouxsie's brilliant solo album and the auctioning off of David Bowie's beautifully aging face, it appears next year will bring a new record from the great guilty pleasure that is Bauhaus. Full story at CMJ, and the tracklisting for Go Away White, due March 4 on Bauhaus Musik, will be as follows:

01. Too Much 21st Century
02. Adrenalin
03. Undone
04. International Bulletproof Talent
05. Endless Summer of the Damned
06. Saved
07. Mirror Remains
08. Black Stone Heart
09. Zikir
10. The Dog's of Vapour

Ahh! Exciting!

Bauhaus - St. Vitus Dance

Monday, December 17, 2007

Fuck the champagne, we want gin! (Les Savy Fav. El Rey Theater. December 15)

Saturday at the El Rey was a smash, but I wouldn't expect anything less from Les Savy Fav, one of this decade's best rock bands. I'd actually had a chance to get a lengthy interview from Harrison Haynes, Andrew Reuland and Seth Jabour, the group's drummer and guitarists, prior to the show (results will be at Campus Circle in a month or so), and Haynes had admitted that he liked not having much more than a loyal cult following because he didn't like the idea of playing venues much larger than the El Rey. Jabour mostly agreed, though reasoning that it wasn't just a larger venue size but a mainstream frat boy fan base that he'd hate Les Savy Fav to adopt. They like their fans, and they don't want to become Modest Mouse.

The show itself was a much needed party on Wilshire, with the venue sadly about half-full during great opening sets by We Barbarians and the Dodos, suddenly finding us packed by the time Tim Harrington poked his shiny dome out from the velvet curtain. I'd befriended a massive LSF fan next to me prior to the show's start, a girl who stood her ground at front and center only to faint and get hauled off near the end of the Dodos' supporting set. What she ended up missing was a chance to be selected as a toy soldier at the show's encore, a chance to get pulled on stage and draped over Tim Harrington (which happened during the first five minutes of the set), and a chance to get kissed on the mouth (which Harrington did to about four people, including the male friend of mine who later admitted that the boy kiss was “pretty good!”).

Nipples were caressed, water was spat and sprinkled, and the four musicians of Les Savy Fav (including silent trooper of a bassist Syd Butler) put on one of the finest, tightest performances this side of the recording studio. After a quick 45 minutes of our crowd shouting along the lyrics to great shit like “Scout's Honor” and “Yawn Yawn Yawn,” the group returned for a half-hour encore, with Harrington dressed as pantless Santa, offering his Christmas services to a timid audience member who sat all too excitedly on lap.

About five or six giant teddy bears were ripped apart, ass first, and tossed out to us only to get viciously decapitated. This, so each of us could claim a paw, head (or in my case, nose) to take home as a violently earned souvenir. Waves of cotton snow showered over us and created a layer on the floor by show's end. By the time we all left the venue, we were showing off our various bear parts to one another and watching some crazed fan run into the street at a red stoplight to shriek and wave around the head of a bear he'd captured. The next morning, Wilshire was comparably quiet, but some cotton stuffing could still be found as far as a block west of the theater. Les Savy Fav may very well be the sexiest band in the world.

Les Savy Fav - Scout's Honor
(from the fanfuckingtastic 3/5, released when Harrison Haynes and Andrew Reuland were merely credited as coyote handler and stunt man, respectively)

Also, purchase new record Let's Stay Friends to make up for the thousands who grabbed the leak instead.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

...and speaking of shows this week...

Cannot go without mentioning several more concert options for the week, which is already perking up to look "exciting" and "grand."

Squirrel Nut Zippers! tonight at the El Rey.
Eilen Jewell tonight at the Mint.
The Morning Benders...twice. Tomorrow at the Silverlake Lounge and Friday at the Echo. The others simply don't do flyers, but if you're curious about this third act, the Morning Benders are a folky pop group out o' the bay, quite similar to the Shins (thanks mostly to frontman Chris Chu's vocal pitch), and they haven't yet got an album out, as that's due in early 2008. They're darling as indie pop can be, and will be performing with local kids Let's Go Sailing on their Friday date. Oh! And they're offering a friggin' bargain of an EP package on their MySpace page. Go get 'er.

Hey ho, it's a show!

Marco Mahler is aye okaye!

These days, one should be reluctant to pay heed to a singer-songwriter whose one sheet makes reference to time spent in pre-gentrified Williamsburg – oh, the cred! – or finds its sole photo of the artist looking contemplative, scruffy, disheveled. If I had a dollar...

But Marco Mahler is a pleasant surprise who should be immediately plucked from the seemingly endless horde of stubbled and bearded folkies who keep threatening to hush the world. Last June, Mahler self-released the record Design in Quick Rotation, an effort so beautiful and simple that not much since David Thomas Broughton's 2005 record can comparably stand up to it. There sounds to be little here but a voice, a guitar and a beat barely louder than a footstep, save for the plugged-in guitar on “Think Tank” or additional light percussion on “Study Airports,” which do nothing to speed things up further. The simplicity is divine, as anything additional would damage the soothing nature of the record, and even Mahler's voice, semi-deep, semi-talky, is nearly unnoticeable under all that graceful picking (the latter of which is at its best on instrumentals like “Otmar Elmer” and “Go Crocodile”).

Mahler reportedly found lyrical influence in his wife's poetry, and his lyrics are certainly more poems than stories, somewhat primitive in sound with an adult's understanding. But lyrics aren't the strongest point here, and there's nothing lovelier, listening to Design in Quick Rotation, than hearing Mahler's fingers pluck strings in syncopation with all those faux-footsteps. One to consider for your Best of 2007 lists, particularly if you're a fan of Multi-Panel, Bert Jansch, the Books or David Thomas Broughton.

Fun Fact: For those who don't care much for interpretation, Mahler's also in the habit of mentioning food in nearly every song. He may be a poet but he's also a man.

Marco Mahler - Go Crocodile
Purchase Design in Quick Rotation
Be a cheapskate and listen to the album on MySpace.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

And speaking of Mick Jones...

Here's a shot of Mick Jones and his vampire teeth. Poor Mick Jones.

Carbon/Silicon at the Troubadour! Lordy!

Monday's Carbon/Silicon show was more heavy on the rock than anticipated (listen to some of the stuff off their website to gain a better understanding of this), and though certainly no Clash or Generation X, the Mick Jones-Tony James pairing is pulled off well when you've got a chance to see the differences in their mannerisms and styles. It was quite lucky that they managed a venue as tiny as the Troubadour, floor capacity 147, and while the show was sold out and rather packed with fans of all ages in black leather, it was also lucky that – save for one bastard who yelled out in inappropriate timing to “remember Joe Strummer” while Jones asked him nicely to quiet down – the audience was a polite bunch.

Mick Jones, to put it bluntly, comes off as a bit of a dandy; sort of a frail build, hunched shoulders, crows' feet around those permanently baggy eyes, delicate hand gestures to complement his speech. His teeth are dreadful and he's got white hair so high on his chest that it peeks up from under his shirt collar. He makes a cheap blue suit look even cheaper by pointing out that he's left in the pins, but somehow looks elegant and proper even when muttering up a storm of profanities under his breath and complaining about his irritating cuff links. Meanwhile, second guitarist Tony James (onetime London SS band mate and former Generation X bassist) has a thin crop of white hair all around his head, and sort of resembles a new age yoga instructor (though one that would get the ladies swooning, no doubt). He's the one in the band with the real looks, a smile like David Bowie's, pretty blue eyes, and a willingness to let his first couple of shirt buttons to go undone while he puckers and stands with his guitar over a bent knee. My mom dug him.

The band played a fairly short set, less than two hours and with no opener, plus they showed up late in the first place and stuck quite strictly to their set list, which contained no songs from either of their prior bands (and no, there were no Big Audio Dynamite requests). It was actually a refreshing change to see aging rock stars who didn't live in the past, instead opting to stick with what they'd started together in recent years. They're insisting with the music alone that they're not at all has-beens, and are a solid band in their own right, as Carbon/Silicon, which Jones pointed out as a solid 50/50 effort.

The show was also entertaining – Jones' voice hasn't changed a bit since his Clash days, and though he was a touch hard to hear during each song, except for the chorus of “What the Fuck?” during the band's encore, quite obviously, his nonsensical storytelling alone was worth the effort of admission. Stories ranged from “I was in Costa Rica and saw a yellow anteater” to “You know when you're on the moon looking back and you think, 'fuck?'” And then there was the one about being in another country with the Clash on tour and seeing all the food shops, somehow equating that to learning lots about other cultures. I dunno, he was an awkward speaker. But amusing nonetheless. And best of all, amid all the posing he and James did for what seemed every camera in the house, the two were smiling their asses off, showing themselves to be, quite possibly, the happiest band in the world.

Just added 12.12.07: Video clip! Video clip!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Hey ho, it's the Degenerate Art Ensemble!

Well, hey. The Degenerate Art Ensemble has a show at Redcat in Los Angeles, each night between tonight and December 2 (the Sunday performance is at 7pm, the others prior are at 8:30pm). If you're unfamiliar with this, and its multimedia project Cuckoo Crow, which began in 2006 and is the performance of choice this weekend, you can download loads of sample songs from any of their past eight albums, or learn more in depth about them by reading an interview I did last year with Joshua Kohl, their conductor.

Degenerate Art Ensemble - Smoking Baby

From The Bastress, 2005, which you can purchase here.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Foetus - Vein

Listening to some of J.G. Thirlwell's material from the earlier part of the last twenty-five years, I'd felt I'd summarized the general Foetus sound by considering it the imagined result of Mike Patton covering Bauhaus, perhaps, a somewhat now-dated approach to dark industrialism that was inventive and may have loosely stemmed from gothic-sounding rock and post-punk. Thirlwell was unafraid to write bold, crude lyrics with intimidating stories and humor that matched the dark, heavy music his words complemented. His voice and music alike were a harsh, acquired taste that matched the red and black artwork of his records, and it wouldn't have been unusual to find, in his songs, any combination of grinding or dissonance, forceful sleaze, and sounds of feedback colliding into a great wall of noise.

And then, in 2005, he released LOVE on Birdman Records, a label where one would typically find a combination of blues and garage rock artists and consider Foetus somehow out of place. But this Foetus record, while unmistakably the dark work of Thirlwell, found him a composer who'd evolved with age, trading some of his prior harshness for an odd elegance. LOVE was a creative album, and characteristically a bold, intimidating event, but unlike the past works of his I'd heard, this record was grand. Thirlwell's singing voice was still a touch harsh for something that topped sounds of orchestral arrangements and harpsichord notes (and I suppose that's where part of the Mike Patton reference comes in), but his voice had toned down so that he sounded like less of a villain in his own stories. And these new songs were actually beautiful, best compared – if anything – to work that might play soundtrack to a Tim Burton movie. I, Jack the Pumpkin King, approved of this magical affair, which deserved to be played from a lit stage in front of a dark velvet curtain.

Two years later, it seems I'm not the only one who found LOVE impressive, because now we've got a release called VEIN, which Birdman insists is not a version of LOVE remixed but re-imagined. This is, for the most part, the case, though there is a TRZTN of Services remix of “Thrush,” which features the original guest vocal by Jennifer Charles and has taken up a heavy beat in typical remix form. The remix still contains the build-up of the original, but shortened by nearly two minutes and placing vocal track and heavy beat at its start, the exciting progression of the song has been lost. There's also a surprisingly fluid overture of LOVE called “L'overture” by Jay Wasco, which actually occurs fourth on the album, and a suspenseful remix of “How to Vibrate” by the aforementioned Mike Patton. The Jason Forrest remix of “Not Adam” has been redone to the point of sounding like a genuine Jason Forrest track, with an added mix that could bounce across walls, and the Matmos track “Not in Yr Hands” [originally “Not in Your Hands” and found on the (not adam) EP] finds dramatic flair mostly replaced with an experiment in percussion.

There is also a bonus video by Sam Sohlberg here of “Time Marches On.” On LOVE, the song was a real event where piano impatiently ticked, strings spiraled downward, and percussion marched forward. Thirwell excels at making music sound like its message, and on this particular track, where every sound pushed forward, this was apparent. Sohlberg's video for “Time Marches On,” however, doesn't match the music by any means, and where one might expect to see a short movie of dark whirlpools, forward movement, or hell, Gotham City, there is instead a video fit for an adult cartoon or iPod commercial, with (presumably) Thirlwell in animated form, lipsticked, track suited-up, singing his own song and doing movements that mimic a solo dance of sorts. The animation is decent in its own right but too colorful and too hip (in the Brooklyn hipster sense) to fit the music of Foetus. This slot on the record might have been better filled by the End remix of the song, previously featured on the (not adam) EP, so authentically re-imagined that it retained nothing but the original's melody.

The real gem of VEIN, not surprisingly, is a version of “Mon Agonie Douce” which has been remixed by Thirlwell himself and truly does appear re-imagined, as though Thirlwell had contemplated composing “Mon Agonie Douce” in a couple of different ways and used this remix album as a method of testing out his alternate choice. LOVE on the whole was a haunting record where each song was like a tall shadow that hovered above, and whereas the original version of “Mon Agonie Douce” was a waltz fit for a carnival, blanketed by harpsichord and French lyrics that transformed in tone from soothing to bitter, here the lyrics are entirely removed, and we have much more of a dark but stereotypically-French tone, set by immediate percussion, dissonant piano, accordion and harp. The new version is like that of a full orchestra covering the original, only this cover is partially set over a whispered wind of la-la-las and remains perfectly fit for the soundtrack to a Burton nightmare.

Foetus – VEIN trailer from Birdman
Right now, if you purchase VEIN straight from Birdman, you'll get the (not adam) EP for free!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Hammer No More the Fingers - s/t

It's a touch disappointing to report that most available reviews on Hammer No More the Fingers have somewhat exhausted any crucial info available on the album's one sheet, refraining from expanding any further. According to the average HNMTF review and snatched from said one sheet, in brief:

Hammer No More the Fingers is a three-piece from North Carolina that began in 1994 as a group of 10-year olds playing original songs, save for an Archers of Loaf cover. Their current lineup was finalized in December 2006. They sound like Archers of Loaf and Superchunk.

That aside, it's with some irony that a band like this can sound refreshing, a throwback to mid-1990s alternative rock and yet a standout act at a time when “indie rock” is often afraid of appearing too informal or too rugged. It may be that mainstream pop has become one giant MySpace page, but on the alternate end of things, we're a politically correct bunch, we of the independent and rock worlds. Talent or no, I'm tired of looking at men in skinny jeans and bangs, even if it's the man's way of giving equal opportunity to femininity; I'm tired of songs with promising intros that make way for voices reaching near-Castrati territory; I'm tired of elegance and strings in rock, if only because the mask of aristocracy is now a cliché.

After predicting this past summer that bands like Pissed Jeans would eventually take over the independent rock scene and resurrect the manly '90s era that was grunge, I'm happy to say that HNMTF, while not nearly the epitome of crass masculinity, is a baby step back toward that direction. In truth, it is alternative-rock that recalls a time when “alternative” was a genre, much as “indie” is now. It's for fans of those bare-bones '90s groups like Superchunk, even indie rock purists who relished the birth of Pavement, and boasts an unpretentious, sparse style that could only come from a guitar-bass-drum trio of boys who'd picked up their instruments as 10-year olds, excited about recent album purchases.

Hammer No More the Fingers is neither sophisticated nor inventive, though they are also neither too dignified nor too boorish, for those who tire of extremes. All songs on this seven-track EP hover around “agreeable” in sound, avoiding downer moments and high climaxes alike. But where this detail gets interesting is with respect to the band's lyrics, which hop from sympathizing with the homeless (“Fall Down, Play Dead”) to narrating a mushroom addiction (“Mushrooms”). The latter in particular offers unexpected humor: “I got mushrooms[...]they're pretty fucking tasty[...]They grow and grow/like my consciousness of space and time.” Rather freshman year, no? In any case, the lyrical content is a kick because the music alongside it does nothing to convey what's being said – no song here sounds like its message, meaning you're left with a story to listen for and a catchy song that can sneak past any shallow ears which otherwise dread preachy messages or dumbed-down tales of youth. This breaks no new ground, and it doesn't particularly stick, but this average rock band leaves no room for irritating details, making average a strangely invigorating trait.

Hammer No More the Fingers – Bossman

Hammer No More the Fingers – Fall Down, Play Dead

Purchase Hammer No More the Fingers

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The King Khan and BBQ Show! At Spaceland, 11.15.07

As it turns out, the King Khan and BBQ Show is indeed a show in the finest sense of the word, or at least, the finest that a pair of costumed garage rockers can offer while crooning and downing White Russians in succession. The pair don't tour much, given King Khan's residency in Germany and the side projects that take up the time of both (in addition to a re-release of the King Khan and BBQ Show's eponymous album on In the Red this year, Mark Sultan released The Sultanic Verses and King Khan released the damn fine What Is?! with his Shrines). So it was a pleasure to see them, not to mention a joy to be among their frighteningly loyal cult followers at humble ol' Spaceland.

King Khan's glittery little dress somewhat clashed with the blue and silver curtains of Spaceland's backdrop like a costume at a junior high school dance. But it highlighted his crotch well, not to mention the ass he shook proudly (and would eventually bare, plumber-style, after getting his briefs torn by overzealous fans up front). Meanwhile, Sultan played his role as guitarist/drummer much in the style of Lawyer Dave, albeit with a getup that clashed equally with Spaceland's shiny curtains and Khan's shiny dress.

The interesting thing about the difference between the band's recordings and (this particular) performance was the chance to watch them sing; on record, where the band is heavy on the doo-wop and actually sings, one at a time, over paired-up, distorted guitars, it would seem that one man sings lead and the other harmonizes as back-up. Live, King Khan and BBQ revealed that they take turns singing lead, that their voices are thus quite similar, and that – at least on “Too Much in Love,” where King Khan attempted both lead and a shortened version of his back-up “bow bow bow” - they don't sing together that often and actually remain in very separate spaces when they play and sing. Their personalities were very separate as well, with Sultan serious and content in an invisible box that sort of protected him from being affected by anyone in the room, while King Khan was all too eager to lean into the crowd and play rock star, to share his guitar and himself, and dance for us.

Needless to say, this band's a fucking blast and a half.

The King Khan and BBQ Show - Shake Real Low
Purchase The King Khan and BBQ Show

Also of note: Opener Pleaseeasaur, a multi-media show like no talent show act you've ever seen.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Fur Free Friday!

Does anybody else read Harper's Bazaar these days? Granted, it's a 500-page fashion magazine that caters to stuffy broads and Olsen twins, and it's likely that most people reading music blogs tend not to overlap with the crowd that buys Proenza Schouler and $14,000 brooches. But if you, like me, find the mag a guilty pleasure and check it out each month to see just when those awful gold fabric and high-waisted pant trends are finally going out of style, you might also have found that Bazaar's big flaw is its constant gushing over fur. Yes, fur. Shirley MacLaine looked quite luxurious buried in that $11,000 mink coat in All in a Night's Work, and god only knows what my own father was thinking when he gave me a fox fur stole for my 13th birthday (“What, you can't wear it to a school dance?” he asked after seeing my shocked face.). But fucking hell, it's 2007, and after all sorts of high-profile animal rights protests, from naked celebrities to Alec Baldwin's eerie PETA promos, fur is still seen as a luxury of the fashion world. I don't know about you, but I can't look at a rabbit stole without thinking of little Nibbles, my childhood bunny friend and fellow gingersnap lover.

So, before I resort to more lame gushing over bunnies and their skins (ohhh, those soft, petable skins), here's news of an anti-fur protest that's happening on Friday, November 23. It's around Rodeo Drive, where you just might find someone purchasing a piece that came from this sort of place.
According to this website, 30 million animals around the world are killed for their pelts each year, and many skinned animals are left discarded in bloody piles.

Mink Holocaust = not funny.

Put on by Last Chance for Animals:
Fur-Free Friday
November 23, 2007 @ 11am-2pm
Meet at Beverly Gardens Park in Beverly Hills
(NE corner of Santa Monica Blvd. and Rodeo Dr.)
Signs will be provided.

Knights of the New Crusade - What Part of 'Thou Shalt Not Kill' Don't You Understand?
Purchase A Challenge to the Cowards of Christendom
Pissed Jeans - Caught Licking Leather
Purchase Hope for Men

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Jeffrey Lewis? Covering Crass??!

So, from CMJ comes this bizarrely thrilling news, that Jeffrey Lewis (who would make the most brilliant busker-cartoonist this world has ever seen if only given the chance at fame) is about to release a Crass cover album. This album will either be the most hilarious thing ever created or the most godawful thing ever created, depending on the adaptation. 12 Crass Songs is already out in the UK and Europe and will come out in the US on January 29 via Rough Trade/Beggars.


Crass - Punk is Dead (live, from Stations of the Crass)

...which will be the eleventh song off the upcoming covers album from the man below:

Sunday, November 4, 2007

The Pogues! On Halloween!

Last year, when the Pogues were set to perform in Los Angeles with scheduled opener Dirty Pretty Things, I'd leapt with anticipation and later kicked myself a bit for deciding at last minute to miss the show.

“What if they never come back?” I cried in thought.

But it would turn out that crossing the Atlantic isn't as rare a move as I'd feared, and the Pogues returned to Los Angeles on Halloween one year later for the first of two dates at the Wiltern Theater. This time, their set was opened by performances from William Elliott Whitmore, whose time on stage played like a front porch conversation, and Ted Leo and the Pharmacists, who – as Leo himself noted – had a difficult time sounding impressive knowing they'd be followed by a band like the Pogues.

The Pogues, of course, played a fantastic, vibrant set that lasted nearly two hours and was mostly comprised of tracks from crowd-pleasing albums Rum Sodomy and the Lash and If I Should Fall From Grace With God. A full stage, save for Phil Chevron, who is currently being treated for cancer, and a mostly-full house, save for the upper mezzanine, which was about a third full and contained only a couple of concert-goers dressed for Halloween. The real kicker of the event was Shane MacGowan, whose physical state has deteriorated to the point where the front man, belly and lungs respectively full of liquid and smoke, has become almost akin to a character – should you laugh at him or cry for him? His appearance is certainly in a sorry state, and for all the audience members snickering about his teeth, his limp or his inability to remain on stage for more than four songs in a row, he's looking like an ideal D.A.R.E. campaign these days.

MacGowan's weight gain was partially covered by a long coat in accordance with the night's costume, though from a distance it contributed well to his pirate-esque appearance; he waddled slowly and with a slight hunch, taking breaks from singing every few songs, and in Mark E. Smith fashion, every bit of banter between songs came out sounding like a hearty but unintelligible “ARRRR.” His sung words were easier to interpret than those spoken, though the lyrics were the words we might have already known to recognize, and even these were slurred by a gummy lisp. Judging by the look of his teeth even twenty years ago, it should be that his gums were topped with dentures by now, but going off the sound of his voice, this is not the case. I turned around to ask the guys behind me if they knew the deal with MacGowan's teeth, and word has it that he's got a single tooth left. The abundant gaps in his mouth, paired with his cigarette addiction, have led to a speaking voice that could just as well come from an eighty-year old Irish pirate, and it pains me to note this as further proof that the best musicians are usually the ones with the most troubling issues.

Purchase Rum Sodomy & the Lash
And then purchase If I Should Fall From Grace With God, because it's wonderful.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Halloween! Ah! Spooky!

Oh, and today's a holiday. Remember not to eat any apples from unfamiliar homes, and certainly remember not to say anything negative about the Great Pumpkin, for he will find you insincere and avoid visiting your pumpkin patch.

Halloween Mix:
3. Dead Moon - Walking on My Grave (re-added 1.31.08)
...or download the whole mix here ---> BOO.

Gwen's better half.

Well kids, it's finally happened. My celebrity crush since the 5th grade, Gavin Rossdale, turned 40 yesterday. 1995 was officially "a while ago." Ah well.

Bush - Synapse
Bush - Testosterone

Friday, October 26, 2007

Not music-related, but to spread the word...

From FEMA, via the Los Angeles Fire Department:

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is urging those who want to help the people of affected by the fires in California to make cash donations to nonprofit organizations that are active in disaster work. A list of national organizations involved in disasters can be found at and at the Network for Good’s Web site at

The Los Angeles County Operational Area will open three Local Assistance Centers for fire victims in coordination with the Governor's Office of Emergency Services. The local assistance centers will serve as one-stop sources for disaster relief services including information on how to replace records lost in the fires, file insurance claims and apply for assistance and housing. They will provide a single place for victims of the wildfires to get help in starting their recovery process.

The three Local Assistance Centers will open on Friday, October 26, 2007. The hours of operation for the centers are Monday through Friday from 8 A.M. to 7 P.M., Saturday from 8 A.M. to 4 P.M. and Sunday from 9 A.M. to 2 P.M. The hours and days are subject to change. Below are the locations of the Local Assistance Centers that will open on Friday, October 26, 2007:

George A. Caravalho Sports Complex
Activity Center-Canyon Rooms (A&B)
20880 Centre Pointe Parkway
Santa Clarita, CA 91350-2974

Castaic Regional Sports Complex
31230 Castaic Road
Castaic, CA 91384
(This center will open at 12 P.M. on Friday, October 26, 2007.)

Malibu Bluffs Park
24250 Pacific Coast Highway
Malibu, CA 90265

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announces that residents and business owners who sustained losses in the designated counties can begin applying for assistance by registering online at or by calling 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) OR 1-800-462-7585 (TTY) for the hearing and speech impaired. The toll-free telephone numbers for California will operate 24 hours Monday through Sunday.

Celebration - The Modern Tribe

The Daily Growl nailed it by calling it the one that “got away,” as Celebration's newest, released October 8, hasn't received nearly the amount of press it deserves since arriving. It's currently in the ranks as one of my favorites this year, most easily pigeonholed as a Yeah Yeah Yeahs/TV on the Radio hybrid in sound, which is appropriate considering the guest appearances from members of both bands.

Live, Celebration is what its name claims, a visually appealing show with full percussion taking center stage, battling vocalist Katrina Ford as she howls and prances in a way that would suggest a style influence in Karen O (though, as many critics have noted, it is the reverse. They've got similarly-shaped chins, in any case.). On record, here, the music is just as much of an event, with drums consistently up front – even taking up an exciting climax at the end of “Pony” – as well as guest sax and trumpet appearances (“Heartbreak,” “Hands off My Gold,” “In This Land”) and vocal spots from every goddamned member of TV on the Radio.

According to the press sheet at 4AD, Ford spent an early incarnation of Celebration attempting to sing like a man, and on The Modern Tribe it is apparent that she's experimented with this possibility, as she almost sounds like a woman imitating the style of Tunde Adebimpe, which actually makes for a really interesting result. She's got the grace of a female singer but sort of tests her voice to see what it can do and where it can go, rather than settling for the route that a lot of female singers take, which is to “sing sexy” and leave it at that. This method allows her voice to be an instrument that stands up well to the abundance of percussion on the record, played with iron hands by drummer David Bergander. At her most intense moments, though, like those on “Wildcats,” she bellows like Sinead O'Connor and lets herself fade into an all-out scream. Why so intense? She's celebrating, of course! Har har.

There's also praise to be had for multi-instrumentalist (and Ford's other half) Sean Antanaitis, who handles everything but the drums, which amounts to everything from organ to Moog pedal bass to Mellotron and Guitorgan. What's a guitorgan? Fuck if I know, but 4AD calls it an “electric guitar hand-modified so that it can produce sound through an analogue organ tone generator as well as through its conventional pick-ups.” So that's that. What's refreshing about Celebration, and much of this has to do with Antanaitis, is that even with his use of guitar and the guest appearances by guitarist Nick Zinner, Celebration is not a rock band with a guitar-bass-drums formula; the subtleties of layers provided by instruments like Mellotron and organ allow rhythm to step forward, and the band to sound influenced by those things less traditional in indie rock, like African percussion and carnivals. Topping this off with lyrics like Ford's, which frequently mention ideas of passion, freedom, and natural beauty, you've got a band and album both worthy of their titles.

Celebration - Pressure (this one's a beaut! and features Kyp Malone)
Purchase The Modern Tribe

Ah...if you've got nowhere to go because your house has burned down, the Tower Bar's the place to be.

The Muslims - Extinction
AM - Message to Her

The Tower Bar is at 4757 University Ave., San Diego, CA

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Next comes the part where a giant earthquake breaks us off and turns us into an island.

The former home of Suzanne Somers.

So, unless you've been completely ignoring the news as of late, in which case you're not on your computer, Southern California is transforming into Hell, though a bit sooner than most of us anticipated. The fires between Malibu and San Diego have caused thousands to relocate to Qualcomm Stadium, and Suzanne Somers to wonder where the hell she's going to find another mansion further inland. According to Yahoo! Maps I live approximately 23 miles from Malibu, where fires are rampant, and immediately after stepping outside I could smell the burning process, which has caused the blue sky to the north to fade to an unfortunate brownish-orange toward the south. It is significantly warmer today, and breathing is a touch more difficult. And this isn't anywhere near the fire!

But no bother, says Governor Schwarzenegger. The evacuated residents of Southern California “are very happy" to be having this giant, Katrina-style sleepover. More on that here.

Not a friggin' bargain!

A few months back I commented on the excellent exhibit of punk photography at the Shooting Gallery, which had included a collection of famous photographs with subjects ranging from Andy Warhol to Patti Smith to Iggy Pop. At present, the Shooting Gallery has a similar exhibit up called “The Outlaws” which collects works by two photographers, Stephanie Chernikowski and Fred McDarrah, and while some of said photography was initially published in places like the Village Voice and printed mostly during the 1960s and '70s, there's work from as early as 1959, from which there's a photograph of Jack Kerouac at a reading.

There are several famous New York portraits of a stoic Bob Dylan, as well as a grainy digital portrait of Henry Rollins (erm...not from the '60s or '70s); there are prints of William de Kooning, a pre-beard Jerry Garcia, John Lee Hooker, Willie Nelson and John Belushi sharing a joint, and Richard Hell looking suave. Unlike the recent punk photography exhibit at DRKRM*, where pictures of everyone from Patti Smith to the Germs to the Bags go for about $350, these shots range from $1,000 (digital prints) to $5,000 (vintage photographs). The exception, of course, being the pair of photos involving John and Yoko, drawing chalk outlines of each other against a wall in the name of the avant-garde, a hefty albeit (possibly?) worthwhile $10,000.

For we cheapskates who only look and admire, the exhibit remains for viewing until November 10. The Shooting Gallery is at 7403 Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood. Go or else!

*DRKRM is a printing studio and photo gallery, where the current exhibit through October 26 is called “Destroy All Music: The Masque and Beyond, 1977-1978.” If you were too young to witness any shows at the Masque in Los Angeles, this exhibit is highly enjoyable if you supplement it by reading We Got the Neutron Bomb, about the L.A. punk scene through the early '80s.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Holly Golightly and the Brokeoffs at the Echo!

Holly Golightly +

Lawyer Dave +

Foot-Friendly Drum Getup =

Holly Golightly and the Brokeoffs!

Holly Golightly's cult status in America seems to have become a more sizeable club only after the mainstream exposure earned from a guest spot, thanks to Billy Childish-arch nemesis Jack White (who penned liner notes to her 2003 album and brought her on for the closing number of Elephant). Holly spent the early part of the 1990s as a member of girl group Thee Headcoatees, under the watchful eye of garage god Childish, where neither she nor her band mates played the instruments with which they posed on their album covers. Well into her solo career, she now plays her own guitar and writes her own songs (save for the occasional Kinks cover, a few of which she did with the Headcoatees). But she's not the most spectacular guitarist – she mostly plays a somewhat limited rhythm guitar on her records – and has spent most of her solo career toning down the retro garage appeal of her past with smooth pop gems and country ballads, '60s-style, of course, which I imagine are her efforts at shaking off any reputation that songs like the Childish-penned “Come into My Mouth” might have provided.

What about her, then, is so brilliant? Holly Golightly is not the most talented singer, the most original songwriter or the most experienced musician. But she's massively appealing and addicting, the dry-humored woman you'd want as a best friend or secret crush, whether you're male or female, regardless of your musical preferences. Next to Billy Childish, she seemed to have a quiet presence – and hell, who wouldn't look insignificant next to Childish, let alone his moustache? But this year saw Holly pair up with Lawyer Dave, otherwise known as the Brokeoffs (beyond me how a single man becomes a plural object), who now forms one half of Holly Golightly and the Brokeoffs. Like Billy Childish, Holly Golightly's gone from British garage rocker to an imitator of traditional American folk, but unlike Billy Childish, American musician Dave has a somewhat dry, quiet, restricted sense of humor that allows Holly to snag the spotlight her loyal fans already imagine hanging over her.

On October 8, the pair made a tour stop in Los Angeles to show off the songs from their March album, You Can't Buy a Gun When You're Crying. The two actually make an ideal pair, both sharp and witty, playfully condescending toward British and American trends alike – as it turns out, Holly's not afraid to poke at British Goths with the same skepticism as the hideous Crocs and “orange skin” found around Los Angeles, though she excused the Goths if only because of the 23-hour-a-day darkness in England. 

They made ideal musical counterparts for one another: Holly doing all the lead vocals and rhythm guitar, with Dave a sort of one-man band, playing a set of kick drums in his socks and switching off between two guitars, one of which was a cheap replacement Epiphone, apparently bought at Guitar Center earlier in the day. “Devil Do” garnered the best response from the audience, occurring earlier in the set when energy was still high, and before Holly'd complained several times of the show's last minute scheduling changes, reminding us that we'd all be out at 10:00 and in bed before 11. She also treated us to a couple of songs from previous solo albums, her cover of “Black Night,” boosted by Dave's fantastic slide guitar, and “Won't Go Out,” which brought the audience's energy back up toward set's end. Sadly, the time restriction set by the Echo's Part-Time Punks dance fest meant no encore, and there was a wall of a crowd around the merch table, which held live bootlegs Holly and Dave had made of themselves to compensate for money lost on canceled tour dates. But we obsessed fans had finally gotten a glimpse of the Holly Golightly we so enthusiastically place on a pedestal.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Rupert Murdoch throws you a high-five.

More shitty news in the world of media ownership, brought to you by the FCC. Looky here.

Smashed Blocked!

Here's a find that unexpectedly sprang up this week; in fact, Smashed Blocked! by Marc Bolan and John's Children found me at the Amoeba help desk, engaging in such a dialogue:

“Is this the Marc Bolan?!”
“Yes, it's the Marc Bolan.”
“Is it any good?!”
“Eh, it's British garage rock-type stuff.” (Translation: No, it's not that great, but we're going to refrain from offering details because we count on spontaneity and would like your money very much.)

I imagine you'd find yourself engaging in the same dialogue if you were equally unfamiliar with Marc Bolan's brief musical history – given that he'd started Tyrannosarus Rex at such a young age, it would seem nearly unfathomable that he'd already have been in a band by his late teen years. Not the case, however, as Bolan was a late addition to the band John's Children, joining in 1967 as an initally acoustic guitarist who, according to singer Andy Ellison's liner notes, “was amazed at the incredible noise his [borrowed Gibson SG] could make.”

This rock quartet from the “tranquil Surrey hills” of England was, by Ellison's account, one of the loudest and freshest bands around at the time, also kicked off an opening slot on tour with the Who for getting the audiences too amped for the Who to follow as a decent headliner. Ellison says the show that officially got them kicked off involved getting booted from the venue by security and then police, after a set where Ellison destroyed pillows and Bolan thrashed his guitar with chains.

By today's standards, this collection of songs is nothing new, more representative of generic 1960s psychedelic rock, but if the stories recalled are true, then this certainly had to be a lively band for the time. As far as today's relevance goes, the history alongside the music makes it worthwhile. All band members are credited with songwriting, with Bolan listed as having written six of these seventeen songs; there are early versions of “Hot Rod Mama” and “Mustang Ford” which would later appear as reworked Tyrannosaurus Rex songs on My People Were Fair and Had Sky in Their Hair...But Now They're Content to Wear Stars on Their Brows. Unlike the later versions, which would feature acoustic guitar, bongos and Steve Tooks' Chinese gong, the recordings here are fully electric rock and roll songs, with Bolan and Ellison sharing vocal duties. “Hot Rod Mama” is one of four songs here recorded at a BBC session, just prior to Bolan's departure from the band.

To give you a decent idea of the humor you'll find in this band, there's a great bit in the liner notes referring to an interview by radio DJ Brian Matthew, who asked the band's manager Simon Napier-Bell at the BBC session, “Are the band on some kind of drugs?” The response in print: “As it happens we never experimented with drugs during any of our performances.” (Drug humor hasn't changed much in forty years, it seems.) John's Children existed prior to the arrival of Marc Bolan, so have a listen to the track “Strange Affair,” which was co-written by Ellison and manager Napier-Bell and does not feature Bolan's light, airy voice. It does, however, appear to be a predecessor to Cameron's phone call with Mr. Rooney in Ferris Bueller's Day Off.

Note: The lack of crisp sound is a result of the original recording, not your MP3.

Marc Bolan and John's Children - Strange Affair

Marc Bolan and John's Children - Mustang Ford

Marc Bolan and John's Children - Hot Rod Mama (BBC)

Purchase Smashed Blocked! by John's Children
Purchase My People Were Fair... by Tyrannosaurus Rex

Sunday, October 7, 2007

A Place to Be - A Celebration of Nick Drake

Friday evening found the Egyptian Theater's Nick Drake tribute, “A Place to Be,” quite packed. There was a Los Angeles premiere of A Skin Too Few, Jeroen Berkvens’s documentary on the songwriter, as well as a collection of video tributes, and perhaps most interestingly, a Q & A session with producer Joe Boyd, former friend Robin Frederick, and sister Gabrielle Drake.

The documentary itself was really visually beautiful to watch, actually, with lots of footage of the Drake home in England, large and elegant, surrounded by a lot of green, fairly isolated. There was footage of Cambridge, an equally beautiful campus where he apparently screwed around with his guitar and did a few drugs, and home movies of the Drake children playing at the beach when they were very small. One of the big themes of the film was of how no one seemed to know Nick Drake, and judging from the Q & A session afterward, it seemed even those closest to him were just as at a loss for what he was like as a person – his sister (the only living family member who now controls his work) would precede statements by acknowledging that every move she makes with his music on a commercial level is something she “thinks” he would or wouldn't approve of, though she never seemed 100% sure and said she tried to treat him as a living artist. And then there was friend Robin Frederick, who claimed that she and Drake would sit in her room and play folk songs to each other without talking when they were 18 or 19.

Frederick also sat down to a keyboard and dissected Nick Drake's songs, showing us the complexity of the chords in “River Man” and the child-adult relationship between verses in “Fly,” noting that in the latter, the sadness came when the adult won out, and in “River Man,” that chord choices made it so that the song was likely written first on piano and adapted for guitar. Her lessons seemed a bit too thought out, sort of like the way in which an English teacher requires a class to dissect a poem (can be worthwhile, but not for everyone). And just as Frederick kept pointing out that she herself is a songwriter, the strange thing about people not being able to say much about Nick Drake's personality is that I'm unsure of whether people who volunteer to speak about him actually have insight to offer, or whether they're milking their connection to a talent who can't deny them the right because he's not around. It's hard to say when the person spoken of can't confirm whether memories are accurate or not. Still, Frederick may very well have accurate memories of Drake, as she contributed to the liner notes of the 108-page booklet that will be included in an update on the Fruit Tree boxed set, which will be out on October 29 and will include a DVD of A Skin Too Few. What Gabrielle Drake expanded on, related to Nick's place as a songwriter, is that he wanted to send some sort of message out to people through his music, and sort of gave up after realizing that he had no more songs to write. The lyrics of "Hanging on a Star" were said to reflect his frustration with people close to him acknowledging his musical genius, while he was forced to move back home and had no money or fame to show for those brilliant songs. And supposedly he prematurely ended his only US tour because his pub shows found him frustrated at audience members who talked through his sets, impatient that he spent tons of time tuning his guitar and staying silent. As Gabrielle put it, he would re-tune his guitar for every song and "didn't have any jokes."

Pertaining to family, one of the highlights of the documentary is Gabrielle Drake's noting that Nick was highly influenced by their mother, Molly – she played a tape recording of their mother singing and playing piano, and it turns out that her music was just as gorgeous and dark as Nick's. Gabrielle said that while there are no more Nick Drake recordings to release on future posthumous albums, there are plans in the works to release recordings by Molly Drake, which will be absolutely fantastic.

Side note: It is extremely odd from a fan standpoint to wash your hands in the restroom next to Gabrielle Drake, thinking to yourself, hmm...Nick Drake's sister just used the toilets.

Nick Drake - Hanging on a Star

Nick Drake - River Man

Pre-order the Fruit Tree boxed set

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Musical things, musical things.

Gol-ly. On an unoffensive note, there are fantastic releases coming out all over the place this fall. Pitchfork just reported the new releases by Subtle, a remake/remix album based on last year's For Hero: For Fool called Yell & Ice (due October 23), as well as the third record in the band's official album trilogy, ExcitingARM, due in the near future. Fuck, I'm thrilled. As a teaser, Pitchfork posted a track from Yell & Ice which features brilliant TV on the Radio frontman Tunde Adebimpe, which you can hear here (here here!):

Subtle - Deathful

And sweet Jesus, the new and first solo record by Siouxsie Sioux (now just a diva-like Siouxsie) is great - not only does she still have a fantastic, wicked voice, but that voice gets better with age. Mantaray is out as of yesterday and available here, as are new records by Babyshambles (better than expected!) and Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings (as good as expected).


Monday, October 1, 2007

On the topic of former teen stars...

Oh Lord, it finally happened.
Also, for Los Angeles residents, Jenna Von Oy (formerly known as Six on the most excellent '90s show Blossom) is now a country singer. She is performing at the Derby tomorrow. You can find her on My Space, where she is friends with fellow actor-turned-mediocre-singer Marla Sokoloff (of Full House and The Practice fame).

Friday, September 28, 2007

He's gonna krack!

Okay, I know DUIs are never funny and can pose horrible threats to others, but this gave me a good laugh, if only because the man never makes it in the news for anything else, like his music.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Jamie T at the Troubadour (Los Angeles, 9.26.07)

It's a funny thing about Jamie T – on record he's got this sort of obnoxious vibe that would suggest closeted, long-term obsessions with grime and emo at once, and if his Los Angeles show on Wednesday was any indication, his audience doesn't do much to dispute this image. Bleach-blondes thrashed about to his more upbeat moments as though he fronted a genuine rock band; equally polished girls on the stage's opposite end flirted their way to a free beer from his guitarist. In truth, I felt rather frustrated at the Brit's recent album Panic Prevention because it felt like a novelty altogether, with an accent that finds cutesy appeal in grime culture but music that (with the exception of minimalist tracks on acoustic bass guitar) would have a lot of corporate pop radio appeal, if only it were shoved in that direction and heavily edited for profanity. And because his freshly gathered fan base was built on this rather bland album, it was more the fans than the artist that made the show feel a bit like a frat party. To make things more unfair for the artist, it wasn't initially obvious whether the show would be empty save for members of the press, as there were no more than fifty people present for opener Nu-tra* and professional cameras held by about twenty percent of the small audience. As it turned out, though, Jamie T's set felt less like a photo-op than that of Nu-tra, whose front man milked every opportunity to pose for a shot.

Jamie T actually performed as though he'd already grown bored with his recorded material, removing the synthetic aspect of his songs and only incorporating live instruments – provided by four-piece backing band the Pacemakers – so that he could play rock star. True, most rock stars aren't scrawny British boys who don plaid shirts, playing alongside band members who resemble Iggy Pop or sport acid-washed denim. But whereas Panic Prevention finds him focused on his rhymes and bland pop beats, his live show found Jamie working the crowd, weaving within and above it, leaving few still photo-ops and appearing to live out a recent punk fantasy. And he pulled it off quite well, though a full-band rendition of “Brand New Bass Guitar” sort of missed the point of the album original, a rough solo jaunt on an acoustic bass guitar. “Salvador” saw drums turned up and bass toned down, a complete reversal of its recorded counterpart, and lyrical downer “Sheila” garnered the biggest level of audience enthusiasm.

What was actually quite cool about the overall performance was that it ended on a stronger note than it began, the encore starting with a solo acoustic bass rendition of “A New England” and ending with the band passing homemade mix tapes to the majority of the audience, now deemed “friends” of the group. In all, I'm not sure Jamie T has a lot of long term potential, or whether even he is sure how to present himself as an artist, the style differences between album and performance considered. But he's quite decent at bringing intimacy to a venue, and his humility makes him likeable while his energy and drive make him a simple good time for the crowd lovingly known as "the kids."

*If you're wondering about Nu-tra, a preachy bunch in matching uniforms with a Devo-meets-Aquabats aesthetic, check out their My Space page here. What's not apparent from their page is that their front man's striving to be the next Jello Biafra. Check out a live show for his performance as Mr. Uno, a character in black robe and one-eyed Dubya mask who bellows like a monkey and forces the audience to acknowledge under oath that they're sheep. This coming from a band with a My Space page.

Purchase Panic Prevention