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

Rufus Wainwright plays host to the spirit of Judy - Hollywood Bowl, Los Angeles, September 23.

In pictures, Rufus Wainwright comes off as a dramatic performer, perhaps even a prima donna, who takes his art quite seriously. In a live setting, he is lively, witty and charismatic, a party host who knows how to work the proverbial room with his Hollywood jokes and animated expressions. He smiles when he sings an upbeat tune, even attempts to dance and kick, and humbles himself by following a scratchy note with the acknowledgement that “Judy did it so much better.”

Alongside the L.A. Philharmonic, who provided Sunday night's overture and musical background, Wainwright recreated the entirety of Judy at Carnegie Hall, the double-disc record recorded from Judy Garland's April 23, 1961 show at the New York venue. The record's liner notes claim 3,165 had been in attendance at the original gig, and with a nearly full Hollywood Bowl in tow (18,000 seats in all), it appears Rufus Wainwright far surpassed that original number with his own recreation.

Save for his distinct style of elegance, and the occasional forgotten line, his words were emphasized in the style of Judy, and he even remembered to narrow his eyes and shake a fist at that no-good Jeanette MacDonald on “San Francisco.” The percussion-heavy version of “Come Rain or Come Shine” recreated from Judy's version was a musical highlight as well. He dedicated a track to his newlywed sister Martha, who made her first surprise appearance of the night with an excellent, dramatic rendition of “Stormy Weather.” The pair's mother, Kate McGarrigle, was also hiding backstage and came out to play piano on a few numbers, including “Over the Rainbow,” for which Rufus sat on the floor of the stage, kindergarten-style.

Lorna Luft appeared toward show's end, donning a long hot pink number (Rufus gave his approval), and thanking Rufus for his celebration of her mother's legacy. The expected duet (“After You've Gone”) was sung, as was an encore solo performance, and Luft's pronunciation of the short “i” - even amid Vegas growls – showed her to be a bona fide Daughter of Judy. Debbie Reynolds was among the night's guests, and Rufus came down to give her a kiss, mimicking the part of the original show where Judy came down to kiss Rock Hudson. If only the rest of us, among those 18,000, had been so lucky.

*Side note: for better quality photos of Rufus' lovely velvet jacket and shiny smile, look to Pitchfork, who came out with some decent shots. But for a shot of Rufus in drag, from his encore performance of "Get Happy," get the idea here, or take a long hard squint at his legs in the photo included.

...and check out that Judy!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Miss Gorightry!

I try not to be lame to the point of posting an entire tour schedule, but the current Holly Golightly tour (for which visa issues prevented several dates two weeks ago from occurring) has gotten me thrilled, and hopefully it has you thrilled as well. Also, writing is delayed until I bother to develop recent accompanying photos. Anyway, Miss Golightly and the Brokeoffs released the lovely and ironically (though not-ironically) American-style You Can't Buy a Gun When You're Crying earlier this year, and now they are in support of it. Like those of her former freqent collaborator, Billy Childish, Holly's shows are nice 'n cheap, and shall surely offer few smiles but many merry smirks.

Buy 'er a drink or five:

26 aquarium, fargo, nd
27 jackpot saloon, lawrence, ks
28 the waiting room, omaha, ne
29 larimer lounge, denver, co

1 kilby court, salt lake city, ut
3 the fun house, seattle, wa
4 doug fir lounge, portland, or
6 bottom of the hill, san francisco, ca
8 echo, los angeles, ca
9 the casbah, san diego, ca
11 plush, tuscon, az
13 emos, austin, tx
15 the loft, dallas, tx
16 rudyards, houston, tx
17 one eyed jacks, new orleans, la
19 hi-tone cafe, memphis, tn
20 the end, nashville, tn
21 earl, atlanta, ga
22 tasty world, athens, ga
24 dc9, washington, dc
25 the khyber, philadelphia, pa
26 middle east, boston, ma
27 the mercury lounge, new york, ny
28 maxwells, Hoboken nj
29 union hall, Brooklyn, ny
30 gravity lounge, Charlottesville, va


1 local 506, chapel hill, NC
2 123 pleasant street, Morgantown wv
3 the dame, Lexington ky

Also, Amazon's just jumped on the bandwagon of offering 99 cent MP3 downloads, but I say "balls" to that and encourage you to keep buying full albums. Especially in the case of Damaged Goods artists, who are simply tops.

She's sure come a long way since singing with Thee Headcoatees:

Thee Headcoatees - My Boyfriend's Learning Karate
From Sisters of Suave

Holly Golightly - This Ship
From Truly She is None Other

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

I'll be darrrrrned (or, get hooked on Murder Mystery...har har harrr).

Today is/was Talk Like a Pirate Day, which meant one of two things: first, that you should have sent a thank-you letter to Keith Richards, and second, that you should have made the effort to include the letter “r” in conversation today. Talking like a pirate bears similarity to talking like a Swede, what with that harsh emphasis on the letter, only Swedes don't have hooks for hands. Except the amputees, of course.

Anyway, Murrrrrder Mystery (known on any other day as Murder Mystery) is a band out of New York whose publicist guarantees a “rumpshaking live show” and a “'rock or die' attitude.” Naturally, these sort of terms make me skeptical, and usually with good reason. In this particular case, the band doesn't offer much “rock or die” urgency, and as of yet, I've been unable to see their New York performances so I can't confirm whether their show is more “rumpshaking” than their debut album, which is less than such. But with every weed comes a blade or two of green grass, and so the band has a few upsides.

Getting beyond the terrible album title (Are You Ready for the Heartache Cause Here it Comes), the cliches within (inclusion of brother and sister, female-male harmonies), and song titles that far too intentionally aim to get the band talked about from a retro perspective (“Honey Come Home,” “Baby, You Can Write Me a Letter,” “What My Baby Said,” “In a Sentimental Mood”), the '50s rock and roll influence on Are You Ready is almost sort of charming. From the start, there's a background rhythm addition of piano, and a retro surf-rock vibe that goes into a slow doo-wop guitar on second track “In a Sentimental Mood.” Still, the slow retro-indie style gets a bit tired by the twelfth track, though by this time we've heard toned-down classic country (“Think of Me” and “Cold, Hard Workin' Man”) and the most happy-making of musical elements, the hand clap (“Baby, You Can Write Me a Letter”). Topping all this off is vocalist Jeremy Coleman, who brings to mind – of all singers – Kevin Griffin of Better Than Ezra, though what he does for the music is very much to the effect of Tony Lowe, meaning his safe, unvarying voice either makes Murder Mystery an easy, peaceful listen, or a grating delve into monotony. Not for everyone, but undoubtedly for lovers of easygoing pop.

Purchase Are You Ready for the Heartache Cause Here it Comes
Murder Mystery on MySpace

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

King Louie! and the Loose Diamonds

New Orleans native King Louie Bankston was, among other things, the whole of a one-man band, drummer for the Royal Pendletons and keyboardist/co-songwriter for an early phase of the Exploding Hearts. As of this year, he's already got a new project called Black Rose Band, who have a sold-out seven-inch on Contaminated Records and are aiming to release a full-length in the near future. While he was rushing to figure out the future of Black Rose Band, Bankston released a record this past June with the Loose Diamonds, Memphis Treet, on Portland's Empty Records.

The album itself actually is sort of a treat (pardon - treet) because of the little interesting bits that surround it; for one, it was partially recorded in the Mississippi studio of Jim Mathus – yes, of Squirrel Nut Zippers – who also contributed a bit of guitar to the album. Apparently it was finished with Mathus because the initial recording studio in use burned down and left the album masters untouched. And if you're an Exploding Hearts fan, you'll notice that third track “Gypsy Switch” sounds familiar. I wrote Louie Bankston and asked for a bit of enlightenment, to which he responded that “Gypsy Switch” was a song by (yet another of his old bands) 10-4 Backdoor. If you've got the final Exploding Hearts collection, last year's Shattered, you'll find that title track “Shattered” is a cover of “Gypsy Switch” borrowed by Adam Cox and altered to fit the sneering style of the Exploding Hearts' power pop. Meanwhile, Bankston's version is lax and bar-bluesy, and his gruff vocals are a clear focal point, whereas Terry Six's guitar had dominated the Hearts' cover.

Otherwise, Memphis Treet is an ultra-American, rootsy blues-rock album that reflects its physical history in Tennessee and Mississippi, and is a collaboration with musicians who've worked with Bankston in the past (drumming from Jack Oblivian, for whose Tearjerkers Bankston played drums, and additional guitar playing from Chad Booth, a former Kajun SS bandmate). My guess is that Jim Mathus played guitar on “Wheelbarrow Whiz,” an instrumental that's more jazzy than bluesy. I also wouldn't find it shocking if Bankston had used the phrase “doggone pity” prior to recording the tribute to loneliness that is “Montagne De l'Amour.” The album's back cover says to file under “Power Pop and Memphis Grease,” but it's more a generous heaping of the latter, and you'll likely dig this if you're into early rockabilly or blues rock. Give 'er a try!

Exploding Hearts - Shattered
King Louie and the Loose Diamonds - Gypsy Switch
King Louie and the Loose Diamonds - Untitled Lament
Purchase Memphis Treet

And see Louie's new project, Black Rose Band, if you're in the south this fall:

9.22 - The Green Room - Covington, LA
9.24 - Saturn Bar - New Orleans, LA
9.29 - Gonerfest 4 - Memphis, TN
10.13 - Circle Bar - New Orleans, LA

Friday, September 7, 2007

Black Lips - Good Bad Not Evil

Good Bad Not Evil is Black Lips' first studio album for glossy hipster label Vice Records and their fourth (studio album) altogether. Were the band famous for their albums and not the infamous live shows that their audience craved, this album might be a test for that audience, as the group's now dabbling outside of its usual bluesy garage bubble. Personally, I like living in that bubble, so the first few listens were in fact a slight test.

The humor mostly remains while a good portion of the sloppy DIY mentality is laid to rest. Highly distorted, cheap production has given way to complete clarity, meaning there are now audible voices and lyrics to consider, and for old fans who do live in the garage bubble, this is a bottom-heavy record with user-friendly assumed singles placed early on. Musically, opener "I Saw a Ghost (Lean)" is one of the more exciting tracks on the album, while "O Katrina!" - yes, inspired by the hurricane - is a live highlight for its harmonized wails and growls. But this recording of "O Katrina!" lacks some of the urgency of, say, any live rendition, as its chorus is sung rather than hollered, and “Veni Vidi Vici,” even with the “All y'all” choruses that perfectly match the grill on guitarist Ian St. Pe, is a straight up pop song that somehow doesn't belong.

On one hand, Black Lips no longer remain a generic garage rock band – this release isn't just another in an unvarying, reliable line, though there are fuzzy drum rolls (“I Saw a Ghost”), bluesy bass lines (“Lock and Key”), and '50s harmonies (“Bad Kids”) as expected. But for anyone who's followed their work with Bomp! and come to appreciate the rough, live quality of early albums, this release feels somewhat like a hipster's novelty record that's aware of its ironic appeal. There are a couple of songs inspired by real deaths; "Transcendental Light" is the most serious the band has been to date, while country ballad “How Do You Tell a Child that Someone Has Died” is as much of a downer on paper though ambiguously humorous in delivery. Is it novelty, or is it a desire to spill emotion with a fear of being openly emotional? The men of Black Lips aren't the teenagers they once were, and people are free to change, but it seems like they want to mature without letting down their fan base, so they're attempting to compromise by focusing more on lyrics but delivering like that "death is sad" bit is a quasi-joke.

In any case, Black Lips is a live band, and though this is definitely a transition that will suit a different audience than the band's ever had, it'll suit a larger audience, and it's nice to see that they're really getting noticed and have the option to experiment in the first place.

Black Lips - O Katrina!

Black Lips - Step Right Up

Purchase Good Bad Not Evil (available Sept. 11)

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

The Real Tuesday Weld - The London Book of the Dead

If you haven't had the chance, you ought to have a look at the brief autobiography posted to the website of Stephen Coates (The Real Tuesday Weld). If everything he says is true, he's a fascinating character with a vivid imagination and exciting history – a period experimenting with hallucinogens and cross dressing; a period of Buddhist cleansing in Spain; a musical background with at least three or four instruments learned. Coates also reveals here that I, Lucifer, his soundtrack to Glen Duncan's novel of the same name, came to be after the two men (and best friends) spent time as roommates, creating their works simultaneously. Who'd have thought?

The Real Tuesday Weld has a new record that strays a bit from previous works; 2004's I, Lucifer offered a lot of glamour, quirk and zing founded in French pop and Tin Pan Alley influences, likely owed to the idea of modeling music after “the way [he] heard music through the walls of the house [he] grew up in.” 2005 record The Return of the Clerkenwell Kid – this time not told from the Devil's perspective – was significantly mellower and saw the early European influences giving way to a touch of lazy Brazilian pop, as well as heavier reign to soft electronic beats that somewhat diluted the charm which previously separated Coates' music from other groups suffering from KCRW genericalness. But lyrically, it was a personal record undoubtedly influenced by the death of Coates' father, with songs like “Daisies” and “Anything But Love” examples of songs about death, disguised as songs about love.

Now the multi-instrumentalist has got a record called The London Book of the Dead, on Six Degrees Records (as with the others). Song, By Toad recently posted “Last Words” from the album, and my first reaction was along the lines of a “Christ, what is this Postal Service nonsense?” Artists who sample crackling records and mimic the music of yesteryear are no longer new (look for hip-hop in particular, where this is far from new), but the Real Tuesday Weld's appeal used to lie in the fact that Stephen Coates had a genuine affinity for all things old, no irony to speak of, and while he's dabbled with synthesized beats on previous records, “Last Words” has a feel that is very now, meaning that it fits right in with all the indie pop that came alongside and after the electronic pop trend of the last couple years. Synthesized beats take the human touch out of his music, and just as we vinyl purists like to claim that records sound warm and alive by contrast with CDs and digital files, those who prefer the energy of brass and wood might cringe at these damn beats.

But this is a personal preference from a semi-Luddite, and the majority of the new record is not so. “Kix,” the alternate angle to “I Get a Kick Out of You,” is classic Coates, what with the string arrangement and clarinet solo balancing a synthesized beat and dry wordplay, but then there's the lazy lounge and light Tom Waits influence in “I Loved London,” and the simple instrumental “Waltz for One,” which is as it sounds. There's the Middle Eastern influence that lies in “Ruth, Roses and Revolvers” and the beautiful, genuinely retro waltz that is “Bringing the Body Back Home.” On more upbeat tracks, Coates can whisper from a distance and sound like the con man who's trying to charm you before taking everything you've got, but in his ballads, he's got a really lovely croon that's all charm and no con. The record ends with a guest appearance from the Puppini Sisters, whose Andrews Sisters-meets-Be Good Tanyas harmonies perfectly match the balance between old and new on the closing number itself. A perfect ending to a record that's modern for Coates, but retains just enough influence toward the end to keep him consistent with himself.

The Real Tuesday Weld - Bringing the Body Back Home
The Real Tuesday Weld - I Loved London
Purchase The London Book of the Dead

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Sometimes you feel like a nut--

Big young garage rock fest at the Smell in downtown L.A. last night; female punkers Mika Miko played a fantastic and sweaty set as usual, prompting a healthy dance pit at the otherwise friendly and mellow venue. Much like this, minus the beach balls. If you haven't heard, Mika Miko's newest album 666 came out this summer (it's actually a 12" EP, so they say, but at thirteen tracks I call it an album, and I call it "available here"). Recorded on 6.06.06 and just as good as the sassy Germs-meets-Erase Errata ball of fun that was their first album.

Additionally! There were some fabulous openers worthy of mention - opening band A.M. will undoubtedly develop a decent local following for their DIY ethic and too-genuinely-sloppy-to-be-ironic rock sound. In addition to the LA Times article they proudly display on their website, which refers to them getting kicked out of an impromptu and unwanted set outside of last weekend's Fuck Yeah! Fest (at which they hadn't been scheduled to play), they've got a guitarist named Fonzie and a female drummer - Karin - who's actually quite nice and plays a pieced-together drum kit consisting of a snare, crash and ride cymbals, and a bass drum free of pedals propped up on its side. Last night's show saw them hollering in unison and one band member literally climbing up a wall pipe. I bought a copy of their first album, 1998, which is only available on cassette for five bucks, but within each cassette lies a password and link to a downloadable copy of the album. See link for purchase below...

The Muslims, meanwhile, who already seem off to a good start in their hometown of San Diego (and are nominated for Best New Artist via the San Diego Music Awards), are quite tight despite an approximate year-long existence, qualifying them as a damn good pop band and nothing more. The few articles and opinions on them mention the Velvet Underground - either to dispute or second a claim that one band rips off the other - but they're frankly not Lou Reed-cool enough to fall under that description. More like a band you'd find on a Crypt Records sampler, I s'pose. Anyhow, the only way to snag their music is to track 'em down for a free demo CD at one of their shows, or to visit their MySpace page and download all four tracks, which are free in said medium as well.

A.M. - Message to Her
A.M. - The Temptation of St. Anthony
Purchase cassette copy of 1998 here or at one of their shows; each cassette comes with a URL where you can download a digital copy of the album for CD burning purposes.
A.M. on MySpace

The Muslims - Extinction
The Muslims - Right and Wrong
The Muslims on MySpace

A.M. tour dates:
9.8 - The Smell (Los Angeles, CA)
9.29 - The Smell (Los Angeles, CA)

The Muslims tour dates:
10.8 - The Tube (Portland, OR)
10.9 - Le Voyeur (Olympia, WA)
10.12 - Vera Project (Seattle, WA)
10.13 - Edinburgh Castle (San Francisco, CA)
10.14 - The Echo (Los Angeles, CA)