Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Halloween! Ah! Spooky!


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

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

Gwen's better half.

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

Bush - Synapse
Bush - Testosterone

Friday, October 26, 2007

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

From FEMA, via the Los Angeles Fire Department:

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

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

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

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

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

Malibu Bluffs Park
24250 Pacific Coast Highway
Malibu, CA 90265

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

Celebration - The Modern Tribe



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

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

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

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

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

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


The Muslims - Extinction
AM - Message to Her

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

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

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

The former home of Suzanne Somers.

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

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

Not a friggin' bargain!


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

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

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

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

Monday, October 22, 2007

Holly Golightly and the Brokeoffs at the Echo!

Holly Golightly +

Lawyer Dave +

Foot-Friendly Drum Getup =

Holly Golightly and the Brokeoffs!


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

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

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

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

Friday, October 19, 2007

Rupert Murdoch throws you a high-five.

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

Smashed Blocked!


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

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

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

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

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

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


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



Marc Bolan and John's Children - Strange Affair

Marc Bolan and John's Children - Mustang Ford

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

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

Sunday, October 7, 2007

A Place to Be - A Celebration of Nick Drake

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

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


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

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

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

Nick Drake - Hanging on a Star

Nick Drake - River Man

Pre-order the Fruit Tree boxed set

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Musical things, musical things.

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

Subtle - Deathful

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

Joy!

Monday, October 1, 2007

On the topic of former teen stars...

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