Saturday, July 28, 2007

Maximo Park w/ The Oohlas, Monsters Are Waiting on 7.27.07

I'd put off seeing Maximo Park the last couple of times they'd come to the US, so after hearing about their phenomenal live show from a number of people, it seemed only fair to give them a chance this time around. As with the aforementioned Nice Boys show, I suppose, the opening acts seemed an odd fit for the angular Britpoppers, both the Oohlas and Monsters Are Waiting offering very slinky, dark pop-rock that is distinctly Los Angeles as of late.

I was torn on the Oohlas for female vocalist/guitarist Olivia Stone, who appeared to be having a blast living out the rock star dream and smiled heartily when a girl in the audience yelled “That's the sickest dress I've ever seen!” It was nice to see a band fronted by someone who relished the attention, but she also had the rock frontwoman act down pat – pose, smile, hair flips, shake hips, etcetera. She also spat on stage in the name of rock 'n' roll, pointed out the fact in a cutesy voice, then hiked up her dress so we could see where her glittery tights ended and crotch began. In fact, at least two male photographers made sure to get crotch shots.

Supporting act and fellow L.A. natives Monsters Are Waiting admittedly put on a quality set, opened with the breathy “Ha Ha” and did a pretty spot-on Stone Roses cover; “I Wanna Be Adored” sounded quite tight, and Annalee Fery's limited voice actually followed the form of Ian Brown's distant, dreamy pleas quite decently. Fery also obliged to the bunny dance – it is what it sounds like – and stepped out for a quick bow or three after nearly every song. Most interesting of all to watch, though, was the special effect that allowed Fery to be projected in negative on the large screen behind the band. The live, negative images were sort of reminiscent of heat sensors, or what someone wearing a bit of green looks like disappearing slowly into a green screen. Or any music video from the 1960s, for that matter. However, Fery also donned fishnets and heels, which brings me to a major (Andy Rooney-style) gripe.

Major gripe being: women's stage outfits. Don't get me wrong, I'll readily admit that being a girl is fun, even if only because cleavage is awesome and skirts are comfortable. But why do so many women feel the need to flaunt it on stage? Sure, a performance is a prime time to show off your great legs and great dress, but for every Regine Chassagne, Kristin Hersh or Michelle Mae, a woman who simply performs as part of a band, there are about five women in lesser known bands who feel the need to pull off this sweetly seductive “watch me play cute in a minidress” act. PJ Harvey's performed in her bra before, but she's also written some brilliant songs and sings like a queen in command (no 50-foot jokes, please). Same with Beth Ditto – say what you will about the Gossip, whether you like them or not, but the woman can sing her ass off to back up that strut. I don't instantly take issue with women in short skirts, nor do I expect women to dress like men on stage, but when the “sexy chick in heels” look becomes a stronger memory than someone's musicianship, I question whether said sexy chick is directing the focus in an effort to compensate. For anything, really. While neither band in recorded form is necessarily my cup of tea, both the Oohlas and Monsters Are Waiting really do put on tight shows if music is the sole factor being measured. But their camera-ready frontwomen, using hair as props, make me wonder if there'll be any female rock icons in thirty years.

Still, it's wrong to dote on the negative, so to play the game of equal opportunity by turning a man into meat, it turns out that Paul Smith of Maximo Park is equally as fit as the night's female counterparts. I suppose it doesn't help that for a moment, he stood in front of my face and all but handed me the evening's second crotch view (way to put a cap on the review of a sexually charged show, eh?). That aside, it was apparent one song into the headliner's set that there are bands who cannot be fairly judged until seen live, and Maximo Park certainly falls under this category. Smith is all over the place, dramatically gesturing with hands and fists, jumping off the drummer's platform for every other song, running about like a hybrid of Pelle Almqvist and Malcolm McDowell (see Tyrannosaurus Hives-ready outfit and bowler hat, respectively). Impossibly energetic keyboardist Lukas Wooller nearly competes with him, doing keyboard jumping jacks and furiously pointing his finger under the umbrella of a new wave haircut.

It was also impressive to see how loyal and loving Maximo Park's fans are – the mostly-young audience (and the parents of a few) raised fists and fingers on cue alongside Smith and Wooller, proving one of the more thoroughly enthusiastic audiences to show up to a Los Angeles performance in recent days. The majority cheered for each moment that bassist Archis Tiku stepped forward and knew every word of every song, giving the greatest attention to “Apply Some Pressure” and “Our Velocity.” And to some of the other ladies up front, Smith was, in all fairness, a snazzily-dressed piece of man meat.

The Nice Boys have a Silver Lake adventure.

Gah. This week brought a couple of concert-related disappointments; Tuesday saw Midnite Snake's tour van break down, trapping them in Blythe, California, wherever that is, so they were forced to cancel their performance at the Smell. Meanwhile, Wednesday's dream pairing of the Nice Boys and the Saints became a 50% letdown after visa issues with the latter forced the Australians to cancel their American appearance(s). Honestly, does Chris Bailey look like a terrorist? There've been visa issues up the wazoo with foreign bands lately. But, to one-up the great Meatloaf, one out of three ain't bad, and after all my previous hype over these engagements, the least I can do at this point is offer kudos to the Nice Boys, who continue to deliver a flawlessly tight set.

I can't mention the Nice Boys without noting what preceded them, though. Opener the Amazements were a bit of a shocker; literally looking like 17-year olds who directly rolled from bed to stage (not in a Strokes haircut sort of way – they really looked puzzled under all that hair), the boys went onstage with confused facial expressions, then suddenly redeemed themselves by pulling these wicked surf/grunge/R&B bass lines and guitar solos from their asses. Their singer's a bit rough and put the cap on what sounded to be an early Nirvana influence, but the group as a whole sounded more technically proficient and heavy-hitting than their collectively young and frightened appearance initially let on. Toward set's end, their bass-playing frontboy started tossing his bass in the air in a badass rockunroll effort, but he couldn't catch it every time. Meanwhile, the drummer accidentally got his cymbal knocked over after not opening its tripod legs all the way. But there's hope for the lil' pups yet! Look out for the Amazements, they'll be great once they gain a bit of confidence and learn to catch.

Now, here's where things get frustrating. Where the Saints should have been, nine-piece Jail Weddings took over instead. I was already a little down about the Saints missing the show – it didn't help that the Spaceland DJ played a cover of “Do the Robot” by Sisely and the Safety Pin-Ups between sets, though she was massively nice and gave me a copy of the CD when I asked about the band. But Jail Weddings...a nine-piece including a suited saxophonist, two female singers spilling out of their respective dress and corset, and an awkward male singer who reminded me of an awkward temp I'd once known at an old job. Overall, the group seemed to be going for an early Hollywood, glamorous trash/trashy glamour vibe, and though initially amusing, they gave me my first “I just threw up in my mouth” moment when said awkward male singer thanked the Saints for canceling their performance. Things went downhill quite quickly, and the glamorous trash thing started making Spaceland look like a sad epitome of the L.A. dive bar.

Eventually, though, the clouds cleared and there were the Nice Boys, tight as ever and prompting only the happiest of violent dance on the floor. If you've never seen the Nice Boys, their intimidating appearance should be noted: save for drummer Alan Mansfield, the group is collectively tall, always donning the band uniform of long hair and stylish blazer, possessing HUGE HANDS and lining up all in a row at the front of the stage. They're like a wall, if walls were made of velvet, hair and guitars. Though I'd be wrong to try and interpret the feelings of other concert goers, I certainly felt a lot of love for the band on Wednesday night, and I realized that a lot of it had to do with vocalist/guitarist Terry Six; I sort of saw him as a minor legend for the first time – he really is a wonderful guitarist, and on a side note it's astonishing that a human being can fit into such skinny pants – but a great deal of the view stems from him being a former Exploding Heart. While the Exploding Hearts certainly weren't original or wildly famous, they found a niche and perfected it to the point of sounding like an authentic band out of the '70s, and to see Terry Six in person and know that he was once a part of something so perfect was kind of unfathomable. The Nice Boys aren't as...magical? the Exploding Hearts in this same respect, but as with the Hearts, they settled on a retro aesthetic and have become really professional, really tight, and I think they're close to being the power pop equivalent of what the Exploding Hearts were to punk pop.

Anyway, Jail Weddings didn't dance during the Nice Boys' set, but the drunk folks at the front of the floor did, and it's because of those good souls that the Nice Boys know their audience showed up for them and not accidentally for the Saints. Bless those kids, the drunks.

Sisely and the Safety Pin-Ups - Do the Robot!

P.S. Bass player Colin Jarrell shook my hand twice with his HUGE HAND and informed me that the Nice Boys will have a new single out on Birdman and/or Dirtnap in a few weeks, though no second album has yet been recorded. He seems quite nice and has a slight lisp. Also, have a listen to that cover of the Saints' “Do the Robot” by Sisely and the Safety Pin-Ups. They give special thanks to Phil Spector – if the girly cover doesn't make you weep a little, surely the band's poor timing of thanks will.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Fabienne the Fabulous! (sorry, couldn't resist...)

Ahhh! Several months after the release of albums by Holly Golightly (and the Brokeoffs) and Billy Childish (and the Musicians of the British Empire), Damaged Goods finally has new news to offer. French singer/London resident/Payless Shoes peddler Fabienne Delsol, former singer for the Bristols, will be releasing a new record on August 27 called Between You and Me. Additionally, she'll be putting out a 7" and download for "I'm Gonna Catch Me a Rat" on August 20, also via Damaged Goods.

Fabienne Delsol - Laisse Tomber Les Filles (sound familiar?)
Fabienne Delsol - I'm Gonna Haunt You

Stream tracks from Between You and Me on Fabienne Delsol's MySpace page.


In the world of the extremely unrelated...

According to Jack Rabid of The Big Takeover (the utterly fantastic American music magazine mentioned in a previous post which offers a slightly inferior online counterpart here), female R&B group Candy Hill was signed to a two-song deal with Universal/Republic not too long ago. Now, judging from their MySpace page, their deal was adjusted to include - ah - slightly more musical content, but is this a surefire sign that album deals with major labels will soon be a thing of the past? Jesus. (P.S. That track "Whatz Ya Phone Number" is some quality shit.)

Dischord/Adult Swim artist Fast Piece of Furniture is fucking fantastic and actually has long term potential. Have a listen and buy Adventures in Contentment via Dischord's website; one, because it's good, and two, because Dischord does not rip you off. Hey!

Friday, July 20, 2007


There'll be some lengthy text soon - many promises of this. However, today brings more brief and thrilling music news. It's a season of great tours, you know.

First and most importantly, July 25 will not see conflicting Los Angeles dates with the Saints at the Echo and the Nice Boys at Spaceland - July 25 will instead see the Saints and the Nice Boys playing together! In a generous move, the venue is keeping the ticket price a fantastic bargain at eight bucks, though the Saints are currently listed as an opener for the Nice Boys. Odd act placement, though both bands are fantastic and will make for a great pairing regardless of who gets placed where. If you can't make it on the 25th, the Nice Boys will be doing a second show at Pehrspace on July 26 (325 Glendale Blvd. in Echo Park). And if you need an alternate Saints date...well, they'll be at the Mercury Lounge in New York on July 29.

Who's going to be at the Viper Room on August 8? Yes, that's right...Hanson.

Jennifer Gentle, the fabulously loopy Italian(s) named for a line in my second favorite Pink Floyd song, are also on tour! The entire schedule can be found at Prefix Magazine, or alongside a few bits of musical madness on their My Space page. Their L.A. date will be at the 6th Street Warehouse (1269 E. 6th Street).

And, though not related directly to live concerts, the Mods and Rockers festival will be ending on August 1. Taking place at the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood, the weeks-long festival will have shown double and triple bills of great music-related films, some of which go highly recommended. Last week I had the chance to see a '60s London set that included very early footage of Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd in the studio and a look at the lovely dollybirds of London. Upcoming are films on Stax Records, Bob Dylan, and the Cleveland punk scene, among others. Full schedule here.

The Saints - Orstralia
The Saints - Do the Robot
The Nice Boys - All Our Good Times
Buy a ticket to see the Saints and the Nice Boys at Spaceland.

Pink Floyd - Lucifer Sam

Thursday, July 19, 2007

New things in the works.

So. This dreamy photo of the Constantines' Bryan Webb (which you can find alongside an interview between Webb and Nerd Litter here) is in celebration of the news that the Constantines will be recording a fourth album this August. May it be a welcome dose of MAN during this horribly long period of soft, androgynous vocals and folky pop. Nothing against folky pop, of course...

Q: Who else, ranked among musical greats, has a new album coming out?
A: Siouxsie Sioux! According to CMJ, Sioux will release a solo debut (yes, it's true!) on October 2 via Decca Recordings, and the record will be called Mantaray. She and the Banshees were obviously around for decades, but if you don't own any of their records and want to get a head start before the solo release, I will highly recommend Kaleidoscope, The Scream and Peepshow. Not only did the band make some great, dark post-punk, but it's really fantastic to listen to Peepshow right after The Scream and notice how much Siouxsie improved as a singer between 1978 and 1988 - she started off with a pretty punk sound and developed into a real singer with a gorgeous, dramatic voice. Good stuff, give 'em some listens.

Speaking of new albums in October, Celebration's got a new one coming up. It'll be called The Modern Tribe, out on 4AD, and apparently they're previewing new shit during their opening slot for TV on the Radio in Brooklyn (The McCarren Park Pool) on July 29. Is it just me or is Celebration everyone's opening act? I saw them do some great opening sets last year and the year prior, opening for Blood Brothers and TV on the Radio - they're really heavy on percussion and frontlady Katrina Ford's got a Karen O-ish way of perfoming, quite a fun time. Mysteriously, she's also got Karen O's weak chin. But she's a good leader nonetheless. Good god, someone give these kids a small headlining tour, for chrissake. Anyway, rants aside, new album. October.

Is M.I.A. a big deal anymore? I'm a bad judge of these things because I like guitars, personally, though I hear those Justice kids are a big hit these days. In any case, M.I.A. is scheduled to play a show at the Echoplex in Echo Park on July 30, provided there are no visa issues this time 'round. Only lousy catch? It's the same deal as with the Buzzcocks' upcoming show at Spaceland, where you've got to buy tickets at the door the night of the show. Criminy.

Also, if you're looking to financially support Minnie Driver, Good Will Hunting on DVD is a better investement than her new album.

Constantines - On to You
Constantines - Arizona
Siouxsie and the Banshees - Happy House
Celebration - New Skin (video)

No M.I.A. or Minnie Driver here. Sorry, M.I.A. and Minnie Driver.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Exciting magazine find #2: Issue No. 46 of The Big Takeover, circa 2000.

This magazine was a fantastic and informative find – major highlights include extensive interviews with Joe Strummer, Pete Shelley, Hugh Cornwell, Supergrass, and Jon Langford and Tom Greenhaigh of the Mekons, plus brief interviews with Lou Barlow and Billy Bragg. Quite a collection for a single issue! As it turns out, Hugh Cornwell has a degree in biochemistry, Pete Shelley hates talking about Howard DeVoto (who now goes by original name Howard Trafford), and Joe Strummer considered Dave Davies' guitar riff on “All Day and All of the Night” the “king of all riffs.” Danny Coffey of Supergrass once vomited on stage with his family watching, and Ric Menck of the Velvet Crush stated, after sharing a tour with Oasis, that Oasis were “really, really into themselves, which is what happens when you're using a lot of cocaine.”

There was also a review of an Elliott Smith concert from February 22, 2000, where the reviewer noted 2000 tickets sold in a single day, prior to the release of Figure 8, and described Smith by saying, “He'd be as charismatic as old play-doh and as charming as a full ash tray if this behavior wasn't so consistent with the quality of his voice and his writing.” This behavior referring to the way he “shuffles onto the stage like a roadie about to set up the mic, blushes, embarrassed, half-waves, sits down, head down, and starts picking at his acoustic like he's unwrapping a sandwich.” Outside of music itself, The Big Takeover features some great typos; the headline above a piece on “Trembling Blue Star's” almost serves as competition for the Billy Bragg piece that makes reference to “Jonhnny Marr.”

But of real interest, considering the year in which the magazine was published, were the editorials on technology and progress as related to the music industry. The conflicts of downloading and CD burning, or for that matter, the CD versus vinyl debate – progressive formatting and music sharing methods in general – seemed to be of utmost concern primarily once Napster appeared less than a decade ago. Editor Jack Rabid, declaring himself “not a Luddite,” discussed the pros and cons of the technological revolution in musical distribution as the third major period of change in music (the first being the mass sale of sheet music so that consumers could sing popular songs at home, the second being the invention of recording). In all fairness, there were pros to declare, his example being the burned CD-Rs of rare Glide tracks and a broadcast of a show he'd been to, which would have been impossible finds without CD burning as a distribution method.

But he also made reference to the cost of music manufacturing, noting that the cost of pressing vinyl is cheaper than the cost of pressing a CD, yet how album prices for public consumption quickly rose from approximately $8 to (chain-store favorite price) $17, leaving us to wonder where the hell all those profits go.* Sales aside, though, Rabid reminded us that CD distribution through cheap reproduction and home recordings is largely responsible for the downhill movement of music in general; he wrote that crude home recordings were all musicians were capable of at one point because minimal equipment was available, whereas easily accessible, cheap recording equipment offers the option for aspiring musicians to contribute to “mass mediocrity.” In turn, he said, this has led to a major “excess of independent music releases” despite a static demand for music, cheapening and devaluing the “once thrilling concept of the independent LP.” Mind you, this argument came before the invention of MySpace or, forgive me, music blogs, when – never mind the disposable pop that sells records and gets radio airplay – online networking as a way of cramming in new faces and sounds was yet to be even a mere idea. From the music journalist's perspective, Rabid was able to put his argument into concrete numbers, throwing out the average of 600 CDs each month that his publication received in 1999/2000, thanks to the ease of CD-R burners, leading to a high ratio of barely-capable unknowns that the publication's music reviewers could not possibly plow through given the limitations of time.

Rabid stated that once it was “practically impossible to make and sell an album without major label backing,” whereas in the year 2000, making an album was a “ho hum proposition, as easy to manufacture as it is to forget.” This “sad state of affairs,” he predicted, would worsen as soon as it took “no more than a modem, a mouse, a point, and a click to download a band's new LP.” I think it's safe to say that going beyond his fear, Rabid couldn't have predicted that high-speed and wireless internet would not only make this possible, but at an even faster rate than the modem-requiring process, making music distribution even more efficient. Rabid called this overall democratization of music a step in the DIY ethic, “perverted to the most extreme degree.” His comparison of DIY punk from the 1970s and 80s was different than this modern approach, he claimed, because there is a difference between “anyone can do it” and “anyone can try it.” His distinguishing factor stemmed from the fact that it was once hard to get an album made, and that early DIY punk was a great scene because bands “tried” rather than “did” - they attempted to create the best music possible, offer valuable statements, and build their own followings through live shows.

Through easy music distribution today (today meaning 2000, though this is an even more drastic truth with internet networking in 2007), DIY now means that “anyone can put out an LP, regardless of any demand existing for it.” And there is so much truth to this; how many times have you, reading these words, been curious about what would result, were you to outfit your computer with ProTools and a microphone? Also of note here was the question of CD burning as a substitute for buying, with Rabid asking, “When someone burns a CD-R copy of an LP for you, do you have it? Or do you want to go buy your own copy?” In this respect, it's sort of a shame that CDs, while cheap and disposable, are longer-lasting than cassettes, which really were the ideal medium for temporarily sharing.

What most strongly struck me, though, was Rabid's dread of purchasing or downloading through the internet because of what it would mean to communities of music lovers. Just as I'd mentioned in a prior post that I considered music valuable for the outside interests it might spark (related authors and subjects being my particular case), Rabid claimed that music has always had great social potential and gave people common subjects on which to relate. His examples being that Stiff Little Fingers could prompt a fan to want to learn more about politics in Belfast, or that the Dead Kennedys might find fans developing interests in Cambodia's social issues. Rabid was in favor of eliminating the major label as middle man because it gives the artist more freedom in creativity and funding, but said that relying on the internet for downloads would eliminate a lot of the human aspect of sharing music with other people – never mind the sharing of audio files, but the sharing of ideas that arise after having a listen. I think he's pretty much correct on all fronts.

Anyway, I'm sorry to have turned this into an Andy Rooney-style rant and regurgitation, devoid of any concrete thesis or organizational method, but I'd like to leave you with a final idea, written in another editorial called "Art Vs. Commerce" by Michael B. Ackerman, Esq. This is relevant seven years later, what with that recent possibility of the RIAA charging internet radio stations additional fees (you know, the one that caused several internet stations to hold a day of silence in protest). Ackerman noted that while the RIAA meant to collect money from internet stations because artists would otherwise not get their proper pay from airplay, “there isn't a clause in most artist recording contracts that requires that such a payment be shared with the artist,” meaning those fees might be as mysterious a cost as the rise in price of manufactured CDs sold in mainstream music stores. If anyone knows new details about the legal side of things, such as whether recording contracts now reflect modern technology, please do share!

*This inequality in manufacturing cost and selling price leave me pining for more Dischord ads in publications, said ads having featured $10 CDs and $8 LPs since the beginning of time. Sigh.

Stiff Little Fingers – White Noise

*Have a listen and discuss Belfast with fellow music lovers. Also, buy the absolutely brilliant Inflammable Material if you don't already own it. This time I'll leave out the Amazon link and tell you to go to a store. Go to a store.

We love the NME!

This young stud was six years old in 1986.

Everyone's got a vice or several, especially when it comes to shopping. My usual vices have always been records and books, and shopping for them occurs – and has long occurred – far more often than is reasonable. However, I've developed a new and slightly less expensive habit: old music magazines. Save for that $27 copy of Rolling Stone that was smothered in John Lennon circa January 1981, it turns out that a number of record shops around Los Angeles carry old issues of Mojo, NME, Spin, Q (and in one lucky case, a single issue of The Face) for anywhere from one to five bucks each.

Saturday I managed to dig up an NME from June 14, 1986, where Paolo Hewitt's cover feature topic was “Why British Black Music Doesn't Stand a Chance,” and the pages were printed on obscenely large sheets of newsprint, refreshingly devoid of Johnny Borrell. A 50p weekly not yet available in the US, there was a hell of a lot more text to be had than what's printed in the tiny spaces between photos in the hyper-glossy rainbow that is the current (and far more expensive) NME. Some memorable bits among the hype, snark, and now-traditional reader hate mail:

On “Square Dance Rap,” the first single of a pre-bum-loving Sir Mix-A-Lot: “Anthony Ray, a 23-year-old from Seattle fast becoming known on the hip-hop circuit as the computerized DJ [...] even Calamity Jane would be hard pressed to resist the gingham-swirling groove of his anything-but-square dance rap.” (It's really fucking hard to write about music without using cliches. I promise this much.)

John McCready, music reviewer...

...on the Pastels' “Truck, Train, Tractor”: “The B-side helps us to understand why The Velvet Underground were invented – so that groups that can't play fast enough, such as The Pastels, can sound like somebody.”

...on Madonna and Otto Von Wernherr's “Cosmic Climb”: “The celebrated Madonna will be most upset to discover that tapes made while she was blow-drying her armpits in the next room are now being packaged as Virgin product and sold on the back of brilliant moments like 'Holiday.'”

...on Wang Chung's “To Love and Die in LA”: “Unlikeable nonsense devoid of even the slightest charm and dedicated to the repulsive capital of glutinous consumerism.” (Nothing about L.A.'s changed, then?)

...on Peter Murphy's “Blue Heart”: “At least there was a laugh or two in the grossness of Bauhaus and their demonic daydream. A 'Blue Heart' is what happens when David Bowie meets Howard DeVoto. Nothing Special.”

...David Bowie, for that matter, is referred to as “the man with the most repulsive set of choppers in history” in a review of his “Underground.” Poor David Bowie.

Nick Coleman, in a review of George Clinton's recently released R&B Skeletons in the Closet, referred back to Some of My Best Jokes are Friends as “an embarrassing excess of nouveau-psychedelic backwards gobbledygook.” (How's that for rich word choice?)

Neil Taylor on “living corpse” Mick Jagger: “born with rock 'n' roll and making damn sure he's going to die with it!” To offer some context, Taylor was introducing energetic and enthusiastic new bands that “piss-poor A&R men” were neglecting to acknowledge, namely Stump, The Noseflutes, and The MacKenzies. It appears nothing happened – or lasted, if anything – in the US with these bands. Any updates on whether any of them got big in England?

Amidst all the angry reader mail published regarding the NME's constant praise for bands with redundant influences (again, history repeats itself), there appeared one letter from a reader suggesting that press be given to acts like Beat Poets, Tuesday Town and The Disco Students. 2007 verdict on these groups?

...but surely, the big news of the issue was the Monkees reunion tour, spanning 120 North American dates with Herman's Hermits, though sans Mike Nesmith, who was likely stuck at home fixing typos with white correction fluid. Er...actually, he was apparently busy with projects for his Pacific Arts Video company. Tomato, tomato.

And because no one goes to a record shop just to buy an NME from 1986, here's the music I feel obligated to share.

Sam Cooke – That's Heaven to Me
Attempt to purchase Gospel in My Soul here, 'cause it ain't on Amazon.

Elvis Perkins – It's Only Me
Purchase Ash Wednesday

The King Khan and BBQ Show – Too Much in Love
Purchase What's For Dinner?

Tyrannosaurus Rex – Woodland Bop
Purchase A Beard of Stars

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Cuddly bits.

It's a fun day in fluffy entertainment news.

First, one to be psyched about - an animated film featuring the voices of Iggy Pop and Catherine Deneuve is in the works. It's called Persepolis, and Iggy's gonna play an uncle. Never mind Iggy, though; once this comes out, we can take a poll on whether Persepolis ranks among Catherine Deneuve's best work (the list thus far is comprised of Repulsion, The Hunger and The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, The Hunger taking the cake for the sole fact that she plays lover to both David Bowie and Susan Sarandon after Bauhaus play and vampire bites are had). About that movie, though. Brief story at NME here.

Another one from NME that brings news both good and bad; Phillip Chevron of the Pogues has throat cancer at present (many positive wishes for him on this end), though the good news regarding the Pogues is that there'll be another brief US tour this fall. News of Chevron and tour dates are here.

In slightly happier news, the Wombats are finally coming! This is the most frighteningly adorable guilty pleasure of a band one could possibly have at the moment. Tour dates include not one, but THREE stops in Los Angeles - August 6 at the Roxy, August 7 at Cinespace, and August 8 at Spaceland. Complete schedule can be found at the band's website.

In even happier tour news, the ever-fantastic Buzzcocks are not only one of the headliners of this year's Sunset Junction festival, but will be headlining a show at Spaceland on August 17 (the Adored and Easy Image open). Spaceland tickets are only sold at the door for the night of the Buzzcocks show, but Sunset Junction tickets may be purchased here. Buzzcocks play on Sunday, August 19.

And finally, also in happy tour news territory, stoner-rock/pseudo-metal band Midnite Snake is FINALLY touring outside of Pennsylvania. Check the tour schedule at Birdman's website. Regarding L.A. dates, they'll be playing at the Smell on July 24, and though they're doing some dates with Night Wounds and Phantom Family Halo in various states east of here, there's no word yet on who will be sharing west coast dates.

The Wombats - Little Miss Pipe Dream
(No full length to buy, it appears, but via their website you'll eventually be able to buy these sweet ass cuddly stuffed wombat things, which might be better in the long term, since stuffed animals tend to outlast musical taste.)
Midnite Snake - Bigfoot '69
(Birdman's offering a really fucking great deal where you can buy both Midnite Snake's self-titled and Shaving the Angel for twenty bucks plus zero postage. How nice. They're my favorite label, so... support 'em)

Tuesday, July 10, 2007 you may properly get crunk.

So. While "ginormous" is busy getting recognition as the "big deal of a word" to be added to the upcoming edition of Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary (eleventh edition, out this fall), it also appears that "smackdown" and "crunk" have reserved spots as well. Hooray for the state of American English, indeed.

On an uplifting note, the new Caribou album is available for stream on the Merge Records website and is purely lovely, uberdrums still intact. Caribou will be touring this fall, the schedule for which you can find here; the band puts on a brilliant show with deafening, dueling drum kits - simply one of the best live shows around. New album Andorra will be out in the US on August 21, and in Europe on August 20 (European bastards always get the advantage).

Monday, July 9, 2007

Amanda Palmer and Henry Rollins @ Hammer Museum, July 7

On Saturday night I had the chance to see a Hammer Conversation between Amanda Palmer and Henry Rollins. For the sake of background info, the Hammer Conversations series is an ongoing program at the Hammer Museum that pairs famous people together for a spontaneous discussion (which happens to take place in front of microphones and a courtyard audience). As the museum puts it, the program pairs “creative thinkers from a range of disciplines for engaging, provocative discussions on culture, science, and the arts.” It's a really odd concept altogether because it's a great way for casual art fans to hear otherwise unattainable people talk in front of them, but the museum courtyard location sets things up to appear much more highbrow than what seems accurate – who'd have thought twenty-five years ago that a member of Black Flag would be asked to speak at a museum in a college town? Palmer and Rollins clarified that they had nothing planned and didn't know what the hell to talk about.

Bluntly put, the audience majority was there for Henry Rollins, who played excitable child to dry and restrained mother Amanda Palmer (one half of the Dresden Dolls). Rollins is massively neurotic, and if he's not, he tries to make himself appear that way. Supposedly he doesn't like physical affection but isn't afraid of germs; he hasn't dated in years and is a workaholic who can't fathom the idea of relaxing; he doesn't like to open up to people because he doesn't want others to gain information on him and leave him potentially vulnerable. The opposite of Palmer, and interestingly enough, Rollins claimed during the Q and A session at discussion's end that he doesn't regret having shared personal experiences in his earlier books because readers only tend to find value in what is personal and thoughtfully shared. Howard Hughes likes the anonymity of a crowd but fears individual personal time, it seems.

Things got a bit more worthwhile when the two debated about MTV, blogging and criticism, though, because they'd grown up in slightly different times and knew different experiences in terms of how music is presented. The 46-year old Rollins noted a hatred of what the music video has done to music, leaving no room to romanticize about the time when no one knew what their favorite musicians looked like.* He admitted to making videos in the past (anyone remember the one for “Liar” by the Rollins Band showing up on Beavis and Butthead?), but after mentioning one he'd shot that had been dumped by MTV, got across the point that it's essentially a waste to spend real money on videos because of whatever standards the station might have, or at this point, the lack of videos that are shown. The significantly younger Palmer, however, explained that she'd grown up with MTV, associating images with music automatically and in turn felt the need to incorporate visual performance into her live acts. That even without videos, watching MTV as a kid eventually led to a need for a visual association with music. However, she also mentioned that she considered herself a performer first, using music only as a medium, and that videos were only worthwhile when we had the creative ones like those put out by Peter Gabriel. She also said she hated the word “guesstimate,” but that's a sidenote.

In terms of criticism, though – Palmer spoke of an incident in which a critic once wrote a negative review of a Dresden Dolls album, after which the band went out of its way to get him to a show of theirs so that he could change his mind and write a positive review of their live act. Considering that there are musicians like Rollins, who expressed the “those who can't do critique” mentality, I was actually quite surprised that musicians care so strongly about the new press that's granted them. Surely it's more of an issue with new musicians because they're relying on the written word to get a name out, and some people actually do bother to choose their entertainment based on critics' scores (in which case readers need to trust their own tastes more frequently). But given the reason that people like Palmer and Rollins claimed to hate blogs so strongly – that anyone can be called a critic if they claim a space and toss out whatever snark they want instead of spending time on observation – I'm almost a bit sad that this sort of writing matters so strongly to them, or to anyone, for that matter. Just the same, if it seems hypocritical to have this viewpoint while expressing it on a blog, I'd like to note that my love-hate relationship with these things stems from the fact that they're best put to use for the sole purpose of getting word out and promoting music, not offering impressions of less literate Pitchfork writers and granting zero out of ten points to an album for the sake of making a statement. There's also the issue of whether artists' freedom to create should take priority over critics'/bloggers' right to an opinion, but that's a never-ending “the freedom to wave your arm ends where my nose begins” debate that will exist as long as computers.

Anyhow! All tangents and added thoughts aside, it was a lovely public chat, and it turns out that Henry Rollins is quite attractive for a grey-haired bloke nearly my dad's age (he'd undoubtedly hate that statement, as he'd also mentioned a frustration with music criticism that made a point of mentioning age comparisons.). All tangents and thoughts aside from this point on, then: if you live in Los Angeles, I'd highly advise seeing the next Hammer Conversation, which will be between artist Ann Hamilton and curator/writer Joan Simon on September 8 (7pm, free, 10899 Wilshire Blvd. at Westwood).

*On a side note, this same idea was either in Frank Kogan's Real Punks Don't Wear Black or the Rollins-supported The Psychic Soviet by Ian Svenonius. Can't remember which at the moment, but the basic concept is that MTV ruined music by revealing a musician to be either attractive or unattractive, leading to an eventual need for attractive musicians who can be seen in videos, therefore resulting in people who have a look first, a sound second. This is why pop stars can't sing but look identical to one another, and why “Video Killed the Radio Star” doesn't seem as cheesy a song after all.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Bryan Scary and the Shredding Tears

Here's one that was released officially in October 2006 on Black and Greene Records and got very slight attention, delayed at that (always one to follow the crowd, eh?). It's a simultaneously kitschy and sophisticated mess of glam pop, on one hand like listening to David Bowie cover “See Emily Play,” on the other like listening to “Evil Woman” over and over again (not everyone loves ELO like Steve Jones, I'm sure, though if this is your thing, The Shredding Tears is a big, flamboyant blast). Bryan Scary, a New Yorker with a bigger is better sound and feel, is one of those artists whose sound stimulates the imagination and brings to mind a complementary appearance. In your mind, he may be goth or glam, a master of puppets or a childlike imitation, a great grand rock star or a na├»ve 23-year old indie kid playing pretend in his living room. To me, he is all of these, and he aims to be bigger and better because he doesn't want to believe that there's a limit to what he can do with music, nor does he want to take part in the generation that aims to get mileage while setting its own creative limit.

In an interview with 3 Quarks Daily
, Scary noted that a lot of his favorite music is much older than he is, making him unable to imagine or recreate the complete experiences of older rock styles like prog or psych because he never got to witness the performance aspect of them. He said he listens to music “with the mindset of wanting to know about what was going on around it, historically,” and this said, it's clear from his resulting album that Scary really seems to have a fascination with the grand idea of performance that is more or less lacking from today's minimalist indie scene, where anyone with a guitar can be called a musician. The closest thing we've got right now to a bona fide rock star with a stage personality and mysterious vibe is perhaps Jack White, but even the White Stripes aren't big on putting on the gigantic, highly involved production of a show that I imagine happened thirty-five years ago (like Scary, I'm also under 25 and don't know the magic of a grand rock production). Bryan Scary seems to have the title of “rock star” in mind, and while we 20-somethings don't have a Marc Bolan, Freddie Mercury or David Bowie to play the role of larger-than-life star – as opposed to larger-than-life celebrity, of which there is an abundance – we can watch musicians like Scary and his Shredding Tears act out their fantasy of filling that role.

“The Up and Over Stairwell” bring to mind the Beatles' more theatrical moments or a more experimental version of “Killer Queen,” while the inviting “Operaland” also brings to mind Lennon-led late Beatles; “The Blood Club” has a sort of slinky feel to it that reminds me of a rock-opera “Minnie the Moocher,” for some reason. There's even a token “ballad” (“Desdemona's Leaving Town”) and a load of storytelling from the fabulous second person perspective. If there's anything awkward about Bryan Scary and the Shredding Tears, it's that Scary's voice tends to hover somewhere between Ted Leo and John Lennon in what varies from a high nasal wail to a gentle plea. But it works with the music, which is equally as dramatic, and begs to be let out in front of a red velvet curtain. May artists like this signal the end of bland indie pop.

Bryan Scary and the Shredding Tears - Misery Loves Company
Bryan Scary and the Shredding Tears - Desdemona's Leaving Town
Purchase The Shredding Tears

Bits of newsy things.

Undoubtedly, you've heard by now about the crazy promotion being done for the upcoming Simpsons movie, in which branches of mini-mart 7-11 around the country are being dolled up to look like Kwik-E-Marts. I finally had the chance to drive by one last night, at the corner of Venice and Sepulveda in Culver City, and yes, there happened to be a long line in front of the store. If you're curious as to where to find one, the Kwik-E-Mart whereabouts are listed here. Oh, entertainment industry, what power you hold.

In other news, insignificant in the greater scope of things...

Rumor has it that gracefully aging Australian punks the Saints will be at the Echo in Echo Park on July 25. A frustrating date placement, given that modern power-poppers the Nice Boys will be at Spaceland on the same evening. The Saints MAY be prepping a tour, as they have officially confirmed a July 29 show at the Mercury Lounge in New York.

The Slits are also returning to the US! Tour dates are listed at Prefixmag, and though there are only six dates thus far, one of those stops will be an August 3 performance at the El Rey in Los Angeles. There were many "what the hell?" moments when the reunited group made it to the Troubadour last fall (i.e. Ari Up swinging her helicopter dreads and wearing a neon swimsuit; Tessa Pollitt dressed like a mom in sweats; guitar straps being held by duct tape; the group being twice as big as its original lineup; Up reminding the crowd that the Slits were trendsetters); surely there'll be some memorable moments this time around. The Icarus Line opens.

Batty ol' girl Nellie McKay will be at Largo on July 12, promoting new album Obligatory Villages and no doubt sharing some words about the music industry. With a smile, of course.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

A dream come true for fans of television in 1992.

Q: What's Jon Lovitz doing when he's not holding down a weekly residency at West Hollywood's Laugh Factory?

A: He's hosting Thursday Night Live! At the San Manuel Indian Bingo and Casino. Also featuring Dana Carvey, David Spade, and Republican convert of the century Dennis Miller.

Monday, July 2, 2007

US Air Guitar - Los Angeles

Here're a few bits that I'm proud to present via Choir Croak Out Them Goodies - a photo gallery from the Los Angeles portion of the US Air Guitar Championships, which took place at the Key Club on Sunset Strip last Friday. Would you like to see what a time it was? Would you? Come on in and have a look!

The host for the evening was Bjorn Turoque, a "perennial runner-up," star of the movie Air Guitar Nation, and author of To Air is Human. He was not nearly as embarrassing to watch as I'd anticipated, and gave our crowd a warm-up by playing and singing. A double talent!

This was Meticulous, the only female contestant. Because air guitar is apparently a sport of equal opportunity, the judges allowed her to join the second round as a sixth-place finalist, though she also ranked sixth in the second round, sadly. She did quite a lot with her hair and tongue, and the judges seemed to dig her "20-second vagina solo."

With every contest that allows for costumes, there of course exists an Elvis impersonator. Bjorn asked this contestant if he'd been wearing a fat suit, but when Elvis unzipped his suit was to be found. Mean Bjorn.

In Los Angeles, if you're dressed like you're from the LBC and ignore laws about smoking in public clubs, you get booed after a round of air guitar.

One of two people donning leather and chains this evening. This guy's guns were real, though.

This is The Crusher. His arms gradually fell off over the course of the evening, though he won over the audience by throwing chains at them like roses and giving off an air of mystery by hiding his face until the end.

When you're donning a cheap cat suit and a lightning bolt on your face, you can not only get away with rocking out, children's-style, to "Big Rock Candy Mountain," but you can also get away with sweet moves, like sliding on a floor of glitter leftover from prior contestants. Sadly, ol' kitty cat didn't get enough points to move on to the second round.

I was rooting for the mime. His name was Poison the Will. Unfortunately, the judges weren't keen on him... the mime cursed God (this was a guess, of course), and challenged the judges as they complained that his finger picking wasn't intricate enough. However, the mime couldn't make a solid argument, so he didn't go on to the next round.

One guy wore a stringy yellow wig and some briefs that, to put it bluntly, showed off a massive piece of ambiguously real junk that was leaning to the right. Bjorn tapped it with his microphone, in fact. A picture of that guy would make this gallery more than R-rated, so to keep it kiddie-appropriate, here's the crotch of one of three guys who made it to the second round by wearing tight undies, The Next World Champion. He's got a PG-rated lower half, no?

Some contestants actually played their crotches. This is the Prince of Bel Air and his soccer calves. They/he didn't seem to mind being reduced to a piece of meat by Bjorn the MC, because such an outfit helped carry him to second place in both rounds of the competition. Prince of Bel Air was wearing Reebok Pumps.

Decent as he was, though, the Prince of Bel Air couldn't compete with three-time (now four-time) Los Angeles champion the Rockness Monster. This dude had a tattoo of Hawaii on his side and one of a solid square over his sternum. He brought out the first sixty seconds of "New Noise" by Refused, which, paired with an onstage somersault, made him an instant winner. In the second round, when everyone had to play to Quiet Riot's "Bang Your Head" (a song that only The Crusher seemed to know), Rockness managed to get around half of the technical part of playing by walking on the audience, Jesus-style. The judges accused him of being Iggy Pop, and of course, decided to send him to the US Finals. He is winner.

The most embarrassing part of the evening was when Bjorn invited anyone and everyone to get onstage for an air guitar rendition of "Freebird." If you've ever wanted to feel embarrassed for other people, watch approximately fifty people play air guitar in a concentrated space. I was too busy getting a crotch shot of the Prince of Bel Air at this point, so if you want to know what the group experience was like as a whole, check out this video.

The winner of each city's competition will go on to the US Finals at the Fillmore New York at Irving Plaza, August 16. Tickets can be bought here. The winner of that competition will go on to the Air Guitar World Championships in good ol' Finland this September, competing for the champion's title with the winner from fifteen other countries. Good God.