Friday, March 30, 2007

Brit Bits - A Kooks Re-Cap

Photo by Lina Lecaro, LA Weekly

I may not be much of a straight pop fan, but I’m a sucker for a Kook. And last week saw four of them, in fact, make a surprising return to Los Angeles for a US television debut on Jimmy Kimmel Live. With Coachella stealing potential L.A. tour dates from a number of bands this spring, Kooks included, the live appearance was an occasion to savor, both for me and the moderate mob of high school to college-aged girls crowded behind the stage barrier of the JKL studio lot.

Only a track and a half were aired on television that night, but the Brighton boys treated us to six songs – five expected hits, the cherry being “Na├»ve,” of course – and “Come On Down,” a song so new that, according to Luke Pritchard, no audience had heard it until this very Thursday evening. More admirer than critic when I’m in fangirl mode, I hadn’t noticed until this recent set just how differently each band member approaches live performance. As noted by the L.A. Weekly’s bit on the show this week, the set was rather loose, much in part to Pritchard, who’s grown accustomed to wagging a passionate finger at the subject and/or audience of his songs, all the while hopping about rather freely. Meanwhile, drummer Paul Garred plays most stylishly and occasionally with a smile, while Hugh Harris has got a look of focus and Max Rafferty a gaze of fright. Admittedly, Rafferty’s piercing blue eyes are even more haunting when sandwiched between Freddy-style sweater and hat, though his nerves may have been a bit on edge after suddenly remembering the sexual history he’d divulged on Loveline the night prior.

If you missed their live performance and haven’t snagged a ticket to any show on their sold-out US tour this April, fret not (or to a lesser degree, anyway), as the Kooks are planning on putting out a second album in a matter of time. Last fall, Pritchard informed the NME that the upcoming record would be “amazing,” given the collective rise in age and maturity since the first record’s songwriting process took place. After several months of touring, though, the follow-up was a claim that there’d be no pressure to meet expectations this time around, seeing as the group hadn’t expected such massive success so early on and have now earned “the right to make the next few records that [they] want to do.” Good for them. In addition to the new track they revealed to our audience last week, the Kooks have two acoustic songs temporarily up for preview on their website, “Belly Love” and “Do You Love Her”. More mature, absolutely, but with all the boys barely hovering around legal American drinking age, it’ll likely be a few years before they stop seeing the fun in an old-fashioned pop song.

Buried in the rubble: "She Moves in Her Own Way" from Jimmy Kimmel Live, March 22
The Kooks on
The Kooks on

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

The Fall - Reformation Post T.L.C. (ohhhhrrrggghhhghhh)

It may not be in best form to promote a review within a review, but if you dig around the internet for reviews on the Fall’s 2005 album, Fall Heads Roll, you might just run across a piece on, and if you run across that piece, you might just change your perspective on the Fall (or give a mouse a glass of milk – whatever fits next in the sequence). The posting isn’t the world’s most amazing review, nor would I agree with all of it as a Fall fan – especially the “fuck all you non-fans who just don’t get the band” mentality. You’re an opinionated animal, you like what you like. But what it grasps well is that the best bands are never without flaws; they dare to experiment and in turn have ups and downs, and they’re never going to settle for milking the formula of their first successful album.

After thirty years, the Fall’s still a great band because they have that oscillation in quality, arguably even a bad decade between good decades. But when they’re on, they’re really on, and in agreement with Eyeballkid, even the crap albums offer a shining moment or two. More importantly, the Fall’s an influential band with post-punk genre similarities to tons of other groups, but given the complete equation that adds up to their sound, you can’t accuse them of ripping anyone’s style, nor can you find another group capable of picking up where they left off. Front man Mark E. Smith would be the first to credit himself with this (in Smith’s words, the Fall can just as easily be “me and your grandma on bongos,” which accounts for the band name serving as an umbrella for an ever-changing lineup).

Smith’s rough English slur hasn’t changed much over the years, even when his backing musicians have. And now, after the disappearance of his Fall Heads Roll band mates whilst on tour last year, those backing musicians are Americans with other projects – most notably Darker My Love – and the group’s first American members to date. What has changed in Smith is his energy, as well as the unexpected polish that the group’s new members have brought to Reformation Post T.L.C. Save for its now-dated approach to new wave in the 80s, the Fall’s typically been consistent about it’s somewhat sparse sound, and those gaps, leaving room for rhythm to stand on a pedestal, are what’ve kept the Fall more or less in the post-punk range. Now, the group sounds much fuller, more complete, more modern and hip, and Smith sounds like a misfit in his own band. His voice hasn’t exactly changed, but he sounds worn, tired, like a parody of himself in earlier recordings.

His poorly harmonized, haphazard cover of Merle Haggard’s “White Line Fever” sums up the change well. Its new bounce follows alongside the older, square beats of “Fit and Working Again” or “How I Wrote ‘Elastic Man,’” and Smith’s wispy layer of voice, naturally, clashes with the merry hooks of guitar and backing vocalists. Smith’s never been one to care much for tight harmonies, but here he sounds to be going along with the rhythm, giving people what’s expected (if anything’s to be expected) without putting himself behind the voice. There used to be a dry humor behind that voice, even a silly bounce that was ironic but wasn’t. Now, he only comes off as bored, and “the wrinkles in my forehead show the miles I’ve put behind me” takes on meaning – funny thing, seeing as it’s the only line Smith doesn’t tire of and fade out on a whim.

A number of tracks, particularly the first three, place so much emphasis on dark, dissonant bass and keyboard riffs rolling together that the Fall’s usual playfulness is non-existent, even despite a purring tongue roll (“Fall Sound”). “Over! Over!” and “Insult Song” toy with the garbled growl Smith used on The Real New Fall LP’s “Mad Mock Goth” and “The Past,” but what they don’t quite convey is that much-needed laugh out loud moment that, say, “The Past” had. In other words, somehow stretching “melancholy” into an eight-syllable word, or snarling “your neck is growing ohhhrrrgrrgghhh.” On the whole, this record’s filler isn’t half as dreadful as some of the band’s past efforts (I’m sure Smith would rather forget Levitate’s “The Mummy,” as he’s yet to replicate “I was born 1,959 years ago[…]I don’t try to scare people[…]I’m a mummy!”). But the previous observations do apply, as does the lingering feeling that there is in fact filler with “The Wright Stuff” (sung by keyboardist and most recent Mrs. Smith, Elena Poulou), not to mention a cluttered “Das Boat” and repetitive “Systematic Abuse,” the pair of songs adding up to nineteen minutes.

But the best bands have ups and downs. And while Mark Edward Smith is someone who’d rather look forward than dwell on the past (allegedly why you won’t hear old favorites at a Fall concert), he and his ever-changing lineup have bounced back after past lulls. The Fall didn’t make a comeback with The Real New Fall LP; they’d never gone away and reunited in the first place. So Reformation Post T.L.C. is merely a misstep in a career that will undoubtedly continue for years, and with several experiments in lineup chemistry yet to be attempted.

Listen to "Fall Sound"
Pick up Reformation Post T.L.C. or 2005's Fall Heads Roll from Narnack Records.

Monday, March 26, 2007

SJ Esau - Wrong Faced Cat Feed Collapse

Sadly, I’d never had a chance to learn about Sam Wisternoff’s musical history until the release of Wrong Faced Cat Feed Collapse; the Bristol native’s work in True Funk Posse and The Pudding had somehow brushed past me, as had his 2005 remix album, Stop Touching My Cat. What I’ve learned in the catch-up process is that Wisternoff apparently retired from rapping at 12 years of age, already has a new album aimed at 2008, possesses very nice manners and answers e-mails in a timely fashion, and loves cats. Jesus, does he love cats.

As SJ Esau, Wisternoff’s got an odd highlight in “Cat Track (He Has No Balls),” the first full track on his Anticon debut. Music mimics words while the cat’s breathing and dreaming lead a lonely guitar. A minute in, that lurking guitar rises into a violent rush of violin and gets all Celtic on your ass, suddenly making the second verse, though just as mellow as the first, so much darker – not sure how they do things in Bristol, but here in California, “The cat, fully fulfilled, he’s got no balls” shouldn’t sound so grim and ominous. It’s best to say that there’s intentional humor here, as reading lyrics and following along with the music could lead to all sorts of batty ideas in this particular case. He inadvertently says “her whisker” in place of “the whisker.” Could there be a special girl kitty in Wisternoff’s life, or does he see the feline as an effeminate creature? A day could be spent on this song, but such an act would give meaning to the trivial. What’s not to be overlooked, though, is the creative musicianship.

“Geography” has got a “munch, munch, munch” introduction and then a fabulous buildup in its second half, the sort of drumming that occurs when hip hop’s performed with a live band and there’s a heavy thrash of cymbals, snares and toms in unison, only here it’s holding up a thick supply of brass, one family competing with the other. The album’s been getting Pavement comparisons, and while not quite in that territory, a couple of middle tracks have that generic late 1990s minimalism, though the record is too distinctly British to fall into any generic category (British music, especially pop, still seems to convey a distinct dreariness and, in turn, an accidental sense of national pride – this overturns a bit of the American “indie rock” quality of the record).

This is an album that Beirut, Travis or earlier VAST fans will likely love, and there’s so much buildup, so many layers, so many personalities filling the space below a trace of ambiguous humor. Sure, there are also the few untitled interludes wasting track space and preventing this record from being carelessly thrown on a 10”, and there’s the monotonous rhythm of “I Got a Bad,” less than two minutes and more an experiment with a hook that couldn’t be appropriately placed elsewhere. And yes, “Halfway up the Pathway,” which sounds as to be recorded over the telephone and has more in common with Jeffrey Lewis’ storytelling than the grey rain clouds that drift by on the concluding “Lazy Eye.” But aside from these minor missteps, there’s a small collection that simultaneously soothes and excites, churned out by an Englishman with a fascination for words and cats. He’s eager not to please but to fill the gaps between genres that more precise indie rockers are a little nervous to delve into, and while Wrong Faced Cat Feed Collapse likely won’t win over any new fans, it’s got a few goodies that loyal Anticon (or Wisternoff) fans should see fit for enjoyment.

SJ Esau - Cat Track (He Has No Balls) (from Wrong Faced Cat Feed Collapse)
SJ Esau - Wears the Control (from Wrong Faced Cat Feed Collapse)
SJ Esau and Why? - Note (from Stop Touching My Cat)

Thursday, March 22, 2007

The Weirdness is Here.

It would be beyond redundant at this point to mention that The Weirdness is the first Stooges album since Raw Power, that Mike Watt’s replaced the late Dave Alexander on bass, or that “the wah” is back. The facts are now stated. The Weirdness is no doubt a disappointment, and that’s to be expected with a comeback - several reunions from the last couple years will provide a pattern that fails to test this. What is interesting about the record, more than the record itself, unfortunately, is the approach that a lot of critics are taking with regard to it. For one, The Austinist offered a lot of unfortunate truth about the unmet expectations placed upon the band, and however cynical, articulated the disappointment factors well. And of course, there was the expected “let’s make a statement” nonsense that Pitchfork pulled with the 1/10 score it granted the album. Never mind that the review was delivered fairly reasonably and that the score itself was probably chosen by someone other than the writer; realistically, The Weirdness is a 5/10, nothing to cringe at but nothing to swoon over, and I say this as someone without the Influential Critic role to fill.

The first taste of The Weirdness came with single “My Idea of Fun,” a bland rocker that could technically be pulled off by any modern throwaway act. But it becomes a bit more interesting, a bit smarter, when you line up the song next to one with similar theme and opposing viewpoint, Stiff Little Fingers’ “Wasted Life” from 1979. In “my idea of fun is killing everyone,” Iggy’s got an inadvertent spin on “killing isn’t my idea of fun” from “Wasted Life” – there are only so many words, antonyms, and methods of disagreeing when you’re limited to the English language, aren’t there? But Iggy’s throwing out a sarcastic take on the war perspective, acting as American President ready for action, a contrast to Jake Burns as civilian out of favor. A young Burns led up to his line by growling “stuff their fucking armies” through his teeth, though, and when Iggy delivers his encompassing idea with “now is the season for war with no reason,” he fails to execute with urgency because, well, he can’t. But then Iggy yells “attention thrills/and then it kills/then make you king/then make you ill/til’ you’re alone/dead on your throne,” and then you start to wonder whether the song’s about Dubya or Elvis.

Meanwhile, there’s “Free and Freaky,” which will certainly play background to a US Army commercial or intro to a coming of age MTV movie in the next few years. Between this and “Greedy Awful People,” you’re reminded of the aging process – “Free and Freaky” could have been done up like a dirty psychedelic rush forty years ago, made by the MC5 or…ah…the Stooges. And “I’m thinking only baby about scoring your piece of ass” from “Greedy Awful People” doesn’t sound so sexy coming from a man nearly 60; if anything, it’d be either hilarious or horrifying were it directed evenly at a woman Iggy’s age. Never mind “my dick is a tree,” the already-infamous bit of “Trollin’” that’s perhaps become the most referenced line in criticism of The Weirdness.

But sound is so much more important than lyrical wit with the Stooges; here, Iggy sounds like himself as a Stooge, not himself as soloist Iggy Pop. Iggy Pop the soloist had a suave croon, like David Bowie’s delivery on “China Girl,” like aged Leonard Cohen meets Lux Interior. The title track here finds him singing like himself as soloist, more unfortunate bastard than sleazy, much like the voice he provided throughout The Idiot. But outside of this exception, he’s Iggy Stooge with a strain, attempting all the notes but lacking the necessary growl that Iggy Stooge sans strain had at 22. He’s raising his voice but incapable of getting in your face. All this topping off the Asheton guitar solos you’d anticipated but found lacking freedom and fluidity, instead choppy and restrained.

What works to the band’s advantage is their collaborative production with Steve Albini, who keeps filthy rock filthy. This isn’t the case of a raw punk band making its first big budget, clean and grand, chart-ready record; it’s a case of preserving the natural warmth that comes with a live performance, and this is what almost saves the record. At a live show, sound vibrates through speakers and creates an accidental (though often not-accidental) level of distortion that can’t be achieved through instruments alone. A record recorded in mono or on crappy equipment is special because it’s more natural sounding – closer to a live performance – than an album where sounds are tweaked here and there for perfect levels of clarity in stereo. And while the Stooges are better off than a small band with a minuscule budget or an old band forced to record in mono, The Weirdness does have that natural warmth that is expected to coat a Stooges record.

Ultimately, though, this record contains everything in the right place, no instrument dueling it out with another, Iggy unable to stretch his voice any further. Each band member carries his respective weight, but gets stingy when the option’s available to experiment outside of the basic chords/teenage lyrics formula that could work for a current band free of expectation. In one listen, The Weirdness is both an easy set to memorize and dull noise that quickly passes, and though entertaining to a degree, is only a worthy addition for its place in the Stooges’ history. Make friends with your local scalper and see the band live instead.

Give The Weirdness a go.

Or don't, and buy the double-disc edition of Fun House.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Exciting goings-on in the lovely land of musics.

Some things.

*Before it started taking on indie rock - Fiery Furnaces, Andrew Bird and We Are Wolves, for three - Fat Possum was home to many fantastic blues artists. As of now, they've re-released the vinyl version of R.L. Burnside's Come On In and have just started offering a vinyl version of Chulahoma, the excellent EP of Junior Kimbrough songs covered by the Black Keys. Both are extremely worthwhile and each is available here and here, respectively.

*MTV will be taping Total Request Live twice a week to air between Monday and Wednesday live broadcasts. How will this affect the Tuesday and Thursday countdowns? No more rushing home from school on Thursday with a last-minute Nelly Furtado or Fall Out Boy vote, 'cause it's already been decided. Shame.

*St. Patrick's Day found ENORMOUS East L.A. band Ollin covering the entirety of the Pogues' Rum, Sodomy and the Lash at Spaceland - an annual tradition for them at this point. Not only did the group outnumber the Pogues by approximately three members, and not only did the Spaceland audience show a rare enthusiasm for dancing, and not only does Ollin have an album coming out later this year (the buildup, oh, the buildup!), but Jon Wahl of Jon Wahl and the Amadans plays sax with them, as it turns out.

The Black Keys - Meet Me in the City (MP3)
R. L. Burnside - Been Mistreated (MP3)
Junior Kimbrough - My Mind is Ramblin' (MP3) ('cause hell, it's a great song)
Purchase or listen to clips of Sour Suite by Jon Wahl and the Amadans.

The Eternals - Heavy International

Last month, Eternals bassist Wayne Montana noted his indifference to current music while interviewing with Gapers Block. Rhetorically asking “how many more people are going to come out with a disco-punk beat?” he declared that bands are adamant about expressing themselves but come out expressing “something they’ve heard in 25 other bands.”

Montana’s no hypocrite, either; the Eternals sound as though they’ve pulled handfuls of influence from every possible location and no specific place at once. Once deeming their sound “rawar style,” they melt dub, electronic and synth pop into a pile of sound that can’t fully be compared to the work of anyone else (receiving adequate press). The group came into its own after the breakup of Trenchmouth (of which SNL's Fred Armisen was also a member), and taking up keyboards when original guitarist/former Trenchmouth band mate Chris De Zutter left the band to pursue school, the Eternals opted to experiment with an instrument fairly foreign to them, rather than replacing the lost guitarist.

Also getting word around is front man Damon Locks, who told the
Chicago Reader that it’s “hard to avoid being political” these days, though he also said he doesn’t “want to be sloganeering because if you give someone the answer, there’s nothing to think about anymore.” So the focus on third studio album Heavy International barely grazes social conflicts and remains largely on musical individuality, and for every two minutes of “Feed the Youth (Stage a Coup),” which doesn't state much beyond the initial message, there are six minutes of “Remove Ya,” a mess that experiments with sound effects over a Phantom of the Opera-style organ effect, embracing a bit too much of that unconventionality for which the band so aims. The big problem with the band’s relationships to non-conformity and instrumental experimentation is that you’re reminded of the pros and cons of dub as a genre, not to mention overloaded with everything added to keep Heavy International from being strictly labeled dub.

“Crime” is indulgent at nearly eight minutes, though lines like “Crime is contortion that is out of proportion and so cruel…” are clever when you’re, you know, in the mood for cleverness, and the steady drum rolls that keep it flowing are enough to set a rhythmic trance if you’re, again, in the mood. This isn’t going to be anyone’s trusty default record, and the fact is apparent regardless of which song you slip into. Opener “The Mix is So Bizarre” throws a brass riff with a wailing chorus of aye-aye-ayes, following a strangely merry “Lo-lo-lo-lo-lo-lookout” that Locks doesn’t deliver with any sort of key in mind. Likewise, tracks like “Patch of Blue” transform Locks’ voice into a nasal harmony much in the way that Doseone harmonizes with his own falsetto. As for the percussion that gives this group their signature sound (on Heavy International, anyway, seeing as they don’t really want a signature sound), the Eternals will cite early reggae/dub artists like Lee “Scratch” Perry as an influence, but the drumming on songs like “Beware the Swordbat” and the album’s title track is too generously executed and obviously rock-oriented to fit in with 60s reggae as much as, say, the roughness with which the Clash covered “Armagideon Time.” Not that there should be any appropriate comparison, though, because there truly isn’t. And the Eternals probably like it that way.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Greg Ashley - Painted Garden (another point for Birdman)

The difference between solo record Medicine Fuck Dream and a release by one of his bands, either the (late) Mirrors, the (very late) Strate Coats, or the Gris Gris, is that the weakness of Greg Ashley’s singing voice wasn’t too apparent until the solo record had arrived. His bands really were and are his projects, but without the protection of added instruments and distortion to give him leeway and a stronger foundation on which to set his voice, Ashley revealed a tone high and young, his usual feedback-weighted scream giving way to a voice that practically hovered above a cry.

Medicine Fuck Dream was a shy folk affair that floated by; the swirling guitars and shimmying drums behind his vocal freak-out on every other album were now gone. There was really only one standout pop song on the album, “Apple Pie and Genocide,” a stomp that made it onto Birdman’s label sampler (apparently they, too, thought this was the only standout). But there was a long, slow, old bluesy vibe throughout the album that balanced out Ashley’s signature stoner vibe – “I Said, ‘These Are Lonely Days’” featured a boyish falsetto closer to the moan of Elizabeth Cotten than any of Ashley’s (young 20-something) peers would attempt, just as “She” and “Legs Coca-Cola” had the Brian Jonestown Massacre-style drone that you might find on a Gris Gris record. Live, Ashley sits in a chair and hovers over his guitar for protection, building an invisible wall around him – even when doing the psych-rock thing with the Gris Gris. So Medicine Fuck Dream wasn’t far off in sound from what Ashley looks like in action, even if that sound didn’t show off his full potential.

Four years have passed since that first solo experiment, and Painted Garden picks up not where Medicine Fuck Dream left off, but where each of his projects left off, and then some. It’s inconsistent but easier to latch onto, is less of a sort of “bedroom project” and has a cleaner quality. It seems Ashley has been inspired by all sorts since the last Gris Gris record came out two years ago, and he’s been itching to try anything he can.

“Song From Limestone County,” the eight-plus minutes of slowly lurking, dramatic buildup that open the album, acts as the introductory announcement for what is to come. What does come is an immediate transition into “Won’t Be Long,” an old blues-style number with stoic vocals and a recurring, hypnotic riff that ensures the listener a chance to sink into its rhythm. It’s also the only song on the album that would easily fit in with Ashley’s old work on Medicine Fuck Dream; hereafter, we’re treated to a lush arrangement that could battle Martin Denny's "Quiet Village" (“Sailing with Bobby,” also a female duet), and a jazzy lounge tune (“Fisher King”), which is more “pop” than anything Ashley’s done before.

The dreamy and downer ballads – one and the same, depending on your life outlook – could easily mesh into any Mirrors or Gris Gris album. “Room 33” touches Mirrors territory while “Caroline and the Orange Tree” starts off with around two minutes of spaced-out feedback and neglects to build up into a rock adventure. How very Gris Gris! Meanwhile, “Medication #5” is just as lazy a ballad as it is a continuation of “Medication #4” from the Gris Gris’ For the Season. Ashley goes all over the place here, but he keeps things from getting boring with such a drastic mix-up, even if the scattered style format is a bit disorganized.

A worthwhile addition to the quickly-expanding Greg Ashley library. Now, if you’d have a listen to “Fisher King” and explain how, exactly, cocaine typically behaves…

Greg Ashley on MySpace (stream songs, etc.)
Buy Painted Garden via Birdman Records

A thought or three.

Some things I have learned in the last 24 hours:

1. Ian Svenonius talks with a lisp.

2. We've got some fucked-up laws in this country.

3. If Rolling Stone doesn't get any complaints for Fall Out Boy making it to another magazine cover last week, then surely they'll get complaints for the most recent cover, featuring a South Park version of Saddam Hussein hanging from a noose and being photographed via cell phone by Cartman. South Park always did have a knack for tactful social commentary.

Friday, March 9, 2007

A whole messa stuff.

Got to see Langhorne Slim and his lovely 2-piece backing band the War Eagles open the Monday night residency at Spaceland on Monday. If you've never had a chance to see Langhorne, he's one of the most genuinely exciting and energetic acts still limited to, you know, opening free shows at small venues. Even as a solo performer, his brand of accidental Appalachian folk-rock is made entertaining with his commandingly loud voice and mopey-boy humor.

I also believe I may have been standing next to his girlfriend, the muse and source of the "curly blonde hair" he loves and so has immortalized in song. She danced more enthusiastically than the others and knew every word. Aw.

Langhorne Slim - Sweet Olive Tree
Langhorne Slim - Restless
Langhorne Slim - In the Midnight

Track down Langhorne's V2 debut, the Engine EP, before his new full-length comes out.

...and if you're in New York on March 15, you can see Langhorne Slim open for...The Pogues?! Greatest show ever!

Speaking of fantastic live combinations, happening tonight at the lovely, dark, doubly lovely Echo in Echo Park is a show featuring The Nice Boys, The Time Flys, The Tyde and Japanese Motors. Extra exciting lineup, 50% Birdman Records-affiliated and at least 25% magically sloppy. If your residence doesn't fit into the "greater Los Angeles" category, you can see them on any of these dates.

Nice Boys Tour Remainder:

Mar 09 - Los Angeles CA @ The Echo w/ The Time Flys, The Tyde & Japanese Motors
Mar 10 - Tucson AZ @ The Vaudeville Cabaret w/ The Time Flys & The Birthday Suits
Mar 11 - Albuquerque NM @ The Launchpad w/ The Time Flys & The Ashes
Mar 12 - Ciudad Juarez Mexico @ The Line Bar w/ The Time Flys & Super Cobra
Mar 14 - Austin TX @ SXSW - Birdman Showcase

Mar 19 - Hollywood CA @ King King w/The Time Flys & Electric Shadows
Mar 20 - Glendale CA @ The Scene w/The Time Flys & Electric Shadows
Mar 21 - Oakland CA @ The Stork Club w/ The Time Flys & Electric Shadows
Mar 23 - Portland OR @ Dante's w/ The Time Flys & Electric Shadows
Mar 24 - Seattle WA @ The Comet w/ The Time Flys & Electric Shadows

If you wanna know what tonight's bands sound like, 'cause you're one of those people who won't pay to see the unfamiliar (you unadventurous bastard, you), check out Detailed Twang's bit on the Time Flys, the Nice Boys review I wrote for last year (below), or check out the opening bands at these lazy links.
The Nice Boys - s/t - 2006 (Available at Birdman's website)

One of the biggest disappointments of the year, as all sorts of music publications (and people) start rounding out their Best of 2006 lists, is that much of the material on Birdman Records will go overlooked because of how little publicity their records get. The Nice Boys certainly fall into this category, and the few who do mention their debut album – released in late August – will likely do so because of the names behind the music rather than the music itself.

The name that first comes to mind is Terry Six. The tall, shaggy-haired guitarist for Portland’s Exploding Hearts found a new project in the Nice Boys after the 2003 car accident that took the lives of the Hearts’ three other members. They had been a great power-pop band with classic punk attitude, and front man Adam Cox had a British-style sneer to complement his high, slightly nasal voice. But Terry Six was just as important as Cox because he led the group’s only record with guitar solos and sophistication that held together the otherwise gritty but youthful pop of each song.

The only survivor of his band, Six has since found a new identity in the Nice Boys, paying tribute to his former group by maintaining their spirit and classic ‘70s teenage rock appeal, even honoring a bit of the Hearts’ love of pink and yellow in the Nice Boys’ album art (which mimics XTC’s Oranges and Lemons just a touch). And while the band does contain four other members (Gabe Lageson, Colin Jarrell, Alan Mansfield and Brian Lelko, to note), it’s impossible to discuss the Nice Boys without mention of the Exploding Hearts, because had the Hearts survived, there would ultimately be no Nice Boys record.

To match the new identity of his music, Terry Six has grown out his hair. Once the most Ramones-esque member of the Exploding Hearts, he’s now as free to hide behind his long hair as his new mates. The appearance pairs well with the change in sound he’s undergone; while Six once stole the show as lead guitarist, he now fronts the Nice Boys with more subtlety than he exercises on guitar, and his voice (not to mention the background vocals of Lageson and Jarrell) are much more oafish and masculine than Cox’s tight, nagging sneer had been. But this band’s got what it takes to appeal to teen girls straight out of the 1970s – just as the Exploding Hearts had been a power pop band with punk tendencies, like the Undertones or Buzzcocks, the Nice Boys are a power pop band with classic rock and pop tendencies. Think Cheap Trick or a harder, slightly older Bay City Rollers. These guys could easily adapt to an arena, lights and all, but there’s absolutely no air of cockiness in their harmonies.

One of the best aspects of the record, which the Exploding Hearts had also grasped well, is the record’s sound quality, which could easily pass for being thirty years old. Terry Six harks from within a tin box while the rest of the band taunts him from outside. Regardless of the medium you’re using to listen to the Nice Boys’ record, it may as well be played off a piece of vinyl, because that’s what you’re going to hear whether you want it or not. Personally, I want it.

The album’s first few moments combine cowbell and dropped bottle caps, slinky vocals from Six and less restrained hollers from behind. "Teenage Nights" is the musical equivalent of Dazed and Confused, and would make just as solid a single as essentially any track on the Boys’ record. “Dugong Along” has got some handclaps and catchy drum rolls to match its sharp guitar riffs. And “Another Girl” is the record’s token ballad in the same sense that “I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend” is a token ballad for the Ramones. There’s nothing sappy here (except perhaps “Cheryl Ann,” which rocks some falsetto and an acoustic/electric power blend), but for the nostalgic rocker girl or the boy who hides a soft spot behind tough exterior and tight jeans, the Nice Boys have all sorts of lovin’ to offer.


The Tyde - Go Ask Yer Dad
The Nice Boys - Johnny Guitar

Monday, March 5, 2007

If Steve Albini could lower his carbon dioxide output, I'd have a witty equation here.

Activities in which to participate, provided you're up north.

In Seattle this month:

March 10
90.3 KEXP and presents Saturday Family Science
featuring An Inconvenient Truth Slide Show presentation for children 8-12 at Town Hall
Doors: 11AM and 1:30PM
Age: All Ages
*A 40 minute slide show based on the movie "An Inconvenient Truth" especially designed for children 8-12. Presented by Lisa Shimizu of KEXP and The Climate Project. Includes hands-on science experiments. A free copy of "The Low Carbon Diet" book for each family.
*Town Hall - 1119 8th Avenue (downstairs entrance on Seneca St.), Seattle, WA
(via KEXP)

In Chicago next month:

April 15
Shellac and the Stooges(!!) at Congress Theatre
*Unfortunately, every show on the Stooges' tour (including the Shellac pairing but save for the Denver show, natch) has sold out via presale alone. If you're online bright and early tomorrow, you can attempt snagging a ticket to the 9:30 Club in D.C. on April 5.

Friday, March 2, 2007

The next Pete Doherty?

Well, this bites a little. Apparently those visa issues the View were having related to the arrest of frontman Kyle Falconer a few months back. Now it's reported that Falconer was fined "£1,000 for possessing £150 of cocaine" and will make it nearly impossible for his band to get back to the states. Yesterday the NME reported a claim by his defense lawyer, that Falconer's cocaine was "handed" to him by "music industry insiders."

Fish? Does anyone else smell fish?

The US release of the View's debut album, Hats Off to the Buskers, has already been pushed back to May, and a rescheduled tour is being attempted to coincide with the rescheduled release.
*A note, April 9: The rescheduled tour has also been canceled. The View may never see the US again.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Svenonius is coming!

His little pink book, The Psychic Soviet, was released last July, but after skipping over the west coast on his summer book tour, Ian Svenonius is finally coming around.

If you're a fellow L.A. resident:
Tuesday March 13 @ 9:30pm
Ian Svenonius reads/presents from The Psychic Soviet
DJ'ing with Ian Svenonius (DJ Name Names) & Calvin Johnson (K Records/ Beat Happening/Dub Narcotic)
Mountain Bar, 473 Gin Ling Way, Chinatown.

The rest of the tour dates are available here and will be taking place in March.

Read an interview with Ian here and consider purchasing the book, which is filled with all sorts of far-out but sharp ideas on music, politics, and even eugenics! Hey!

If you're on the opposite end of the country, you can check out Weird War, Svenonius' group with former Make-Up bandmate Michelle Mae, at the Black Cat in Washington D.C. on Mar. 10. He's a smart writer but an excellent frontman. Of course, he's also now a talk show host. Such options.

The Make-Up - C'mon Let's Spawn (from the excellent album Save Yourself)

Georgie James and a mess of famous faces.

Last night's Spaceland adventure was unusually exciting; I'd been invited to see Georgie James, the newest project from former Q and Not U member John Davis, and in addition to the unexpectedly Mates of State-ish merry pop the band provided, I got to watch some randomly placed celebrities prance around. Har Mar Superstar supposedly did a DJ set, though I failed to spot him. Fabrizio Moretti, however, did provide a DJ set and - though quite the flirt and just as handsome in person - the man could certainly use a sandwich. Also in need of a roast beef fix was an extremely tiny Kirsten Dunst, frantically dancing near the DJ corner, feet away from Sia. Kelly Osbourne walked in looking quite dark and serious, as did Giovanni Ribisi, who looked around and then tried to hide near the back of the bar. He's also handsome in person, though he's still got those sleepy/stoner eyes. But enough of fame - you'll hear about it with a touch of well-articulated wit in the NME next month.

As for the show, keyboardist/vocalist Laura Burhenn pulled off the '60s mod look and pranced around her keys without giving off the slightest pretentious vibe. How nice! She and John Davis also serenaded the audience for a stripped down few minutes while their drummer figured out what to do about a kick pedal. Opener the Outline, a bunch of young boys from L.A., were a bit on the emo/alternative-circa-2000 side. Until they suddenly busted out the synth and turned dance-punk on us, anyway. Fantastic energy, though, and I got an eyeful of the drummer's boxers once he stood up and revealed he was pantless. They were striped, if you're curious.

P.S. Georgie James have a blog. How cute.

Georgie James - Grizzly Jive

And just because...Q and Not U for PetaTV.