Wednesday, January 30, 2008


If I had any musical talent, this would be a shot at my rock fantasy come true. However, you are not me, so perhaps you can take up this amazing, amazing offer. Just don't butcher it.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

From the Jam! Hugh Cornwell! At the El Rey, Los Angeles, 1.26.08

It's an odd thing, the pairing of two acts, each embracing their former bands. On one hand, Hugh Cornwell filled nearly half of his opening set with Stranglers hits – now routine, though a bit of a shocker considering his years-long lack of contact with his former band mates – particularly prompting the largely-middle-aged audience to bounce and sing along with “Always the Sun.” But Cornwell's solo offerings don't hold up to the earliest Stranglers material, and sounded rather generic (the work of an aging rock star, frankly) between tracks like “Nice 'N Sleazy” and “Peaches.”

Even the latter lacked the sleazy gruffness they once had, as Cornwell's voice, though as smooth and handsome as he is even at 58, lacks its former bark. A man's gotta have bite when he says “lap me up,” right? But he sounded bored. And he couldn't be heard much over current bassist Caroline Campbell, an admittedly talented bass player who could nail the shit out of the “Nice 'N Sleazy” bass line, albeit while looking strangely out of place in girly punk garb. Poor volume levels meant we got a set's worth of bass and missed out on Cornwell's softened growl and underrated guitar playing. Shame that his solo acoustic tour didn't extend past the UK, even if his backing musicians were talented. If anything, it would have been wonderful to be able to better hear whether Cornwell's aged well or not.

Meanwhile, From the Jam – those being Bruce Foxton and Rick Buckler – completely rocked it with an expected parade of hits, mod suits and mullets in top shape to boot. They managed to close their encore with “A Town Called Malice,” nary a “Go Billy!” to be heard. Unlike Cornwell, they really seemed to relish the songs that made them popular as neo-mods, expelling consistent energy at all points. Foxton and new vocalist Russell Hastings (filling in for Paul Weller) made for a tight duet on the group's cover of the Kinks' “David Watts” as well. Now a four-piece, the group's also got Dave Moore contributing keys and second guitar, and after this, their first trip to the U.S. since 1982, will be releasing new material this year.

Bruce Foxton of the Jam (yes, went a bit hog wild with the Cornwell shots.)

Purchase Rattus Norvegicus
Purchase Dirty Dozen (Hugh Cornwell)
Purchase All Mod Cons (The Jam)

Residencies arrrr neat.

Hallo. Apologies for the lack of updates last week - while I was busy celebrating the fact that Blogger now functions in Hebrew, Arabic and Persian (Blogger: helping Israel and Palestine co-exist), musical announcements were being made. There will be many photos and reviews in the coming weeks. In the meantime, go support this band next month if you live in the Los Angeles area.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Goodtimes Goodtimes!

Solo act Goodtimes Goodtimes brought himself to my attention, and in fact turned out to be a quality singer-songwriter who is, somehow, still unsigned. That Francesco Cinelli is an Italian living in London is an odd fact, given that his voice and style epitomize American folk – there's a lot of Bob Dylan in him, even when you don't have a visual to go off, though Cinelli cites an influence in Italian folk singer Lucio Battisti (who, in his own right, looked to be quite a good time - look here and here for reference). According to his artist blog, though, he has “vague memories of my older brother giving me a tape of Highway 61 Revisited on the bus to school to listen to on my walkman, more than anything I think it was just a way for me to zip it and sit quietly on the way to school.”

In any case, Cinelli seems a charming sort of fellow, coming across in his writing and his personal correspondence as someone enthusiastic about music and the community around it. His record from last fall, Glue, is just as easy to market as a contemporary acoustic pop record as a nostalgic folk album, and his lyrics are simple and sweet, sure to please those fans of either category. Cinelli's best at his most simple, like with “Sea Shanty” and “Glue,” where his backing instruments don't overpower his '60s style picking and throaty croon. As for the name, the singer wrote and claimed that his writer's pseudonym is meant to distance the writer from the characters in song, so presumably, he hopes that you receive his music as a collection of fictional stories rather than personal anecdotes. Lovely all around, though he'd be even lovelier if he dropped the stage name (damn those good times!) and made use of the elegant title his mamma gave him.

Watch Goodtimes Goodtimes TV.
Listen to a large chunk of Glue on MySpace.
Purchase Glue from the Goodtimes Goodtimes website.

Goodtimes Goodtimes - Sea Shanty
Goodtimes Goodtimes - Desire
Goodtimes Goodtimes - Kids

January 18th
The Perseverance (9pm)
11 Shroton Street, Marleybone London NW1 6UG

January 19th
1001 Cafe (3PM)
1 Dray Walk, 91 Brick Lane, London. E1 6JE

January 20th
The Filthy MacNastys (8PM)
68 Amwell street, Angel. London EC1

January 20th
The Dog House (10PM)
293 Kennington Road, SE11

February 1st
The Windmill
22 Blenheim Gardens Brixton, SW2 5BZ

February 23st
The Living Room (9pm)
154 Ludlow St. New York, NY 10002

Sunday, January 13, 2008

The Terrordactyls - s/t

If there's anything to say about the state of Washington, it's that outside of Seattle, and perhaps Bill Gates' house, there's not much exciting culture in its western half to balance out abundances of bright grass, grey clouds, rainwater, seawater, and poorly-paved roads. Unless you're in Tacoma, in which case there's all of the above plus Hi-Voltage Records, one of the best record stores on the west coast. But drive up and down I-5 and you'll see a mild range of life, from the small shop up north selling seasonal tulips to a run-down smattering of houses down in Vancouver.

The musical method of Washington is sort of an audible representation of the state – even if “scene” usually comes to mean “Seattle” or “Olympia,” and thus literate liberals in thick glasses or a small cluster of indie rockers attempting to duke it out with a population of old conservatives living under Support Our Troops signs. But the Terrordactyls, while originally half-based in Baltimore, as word has it, met up on Vashon Island, a small community where your business is your neighbor's business.

Michael Cadiz and Tyrel Stendahl combine to epitomize the sound of the state, soft and sweet, a timid underdog team with a strangely melancholy tone underneath all that playful pop. For reference, consider the Shins – how fun and retro “Know Your Onion!” was when you first heard it, and how depressed you got when you realized how far James Mercer's eyes droop toward sad, miserable Hell. The Terrordactyls don't sound like the Shins, though; they sound like a musical adaptation of Michael Cera. The album's acoustic and of home-recorded quality, with sporadic toy piano and an appearance by Kimya Dawson on “Devices.” Dawson blends in perfectly with the boys, even having the decency to stop and make room for an instrumental chorus by paired-off kazoos.

The lyrics of “I Want to Cry” (“My heart is smaller/but my love for you is taller/than the sky scraping its head into tomorrow”) and “Sandcastles” (“The funnest game we ever play/is thinking of where we could run away/together further and further/every day”) perfectly match the ambiguous irony that's written all over the album. Is it sweet n' cute? Is it a sad bastard soundtrack? I can't listen to this stuff every day for the same reason I couldn't bear the idea of growing up in the Pacific Northwest – grey clouds and sunshine battling for attention until your Zoloft's run out, not to mention an unsatisfying lack of testosterone in both region and band – but this is an underdog you can't help but root for. Also, the hand-drawn, pop-up bulldozer of their inside cover is cause for the best album art since Shellac's Excellent Italian Greyhound. And hidden track “Baltimore” would make John Waters proud: “Everybody knows that you're a dirty fucking town [...] Oh, Baltimore, you make me smile.”

The Terrordactyls want you to have their self-titled album for free.
Download it for free.
Write them a thank-you note.
Then buy the album out of guilt.
Canada's best band finally has a 7" as of this Tuesday!

You can buy it here.

You can listen to both the A and B sides here. They are really fucking good.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

A Kook Konk. Ah, Christ - It's just a couple of shows.

Oh lawdy. Not-so-guilty pleasure the Kooks are coming back to the states and pulling a PJ Harvey next month, filling small venues with their kooky selves (ha! joke!) and testing out material from their new album, Konk, due April 15 via Astralwerks. I sure do hope they have another go at Loveline.

P.S. Aren't they a dreamy bunch of bastards?
Thursday, February 7th, 2008
The Troubadour
9081 Santa Monica Blvd.
West Hollywood, CA

Tuesday February 12th, 2008
Music Hall of Williamsburg
66 N 6th Street
Brooklyn, NY 11211

Friday, January 4, 2008

He fornicated and read the papers.
And died 48 years ago today.
Still handsome, Al!

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Battles - Tonto EP

Nearly 43 minutes, this EP. The Field's remix of “Tonto” is overworked into techno repetition, quickly wearing, losing the great musicianship of the original. The Four Tet remix alternately retains the rhythmic bass line that lies at the song's core, layering a more club-friendly beat underneath but allowing a few of the original's introductory keyboard notes to eventually seep through. Four Tet is successful in highlighting the most memorable aspects of the song being reworked, sneaking throughout snippets of every musician's offerings.

A live version of “Tonto” finds bassist Dave Konopka speeding things up to nearly one and a half times the song's recorded pace, and keyboard solos eagerly cheered on. The live version of “Leyendecker” is less climactic, though a remix by DJ Emz featuring an emcee performance by Joell Ortiz reworks the song nicely so that it sounds more sampled in entirety than remixed.

The real reason to nab this EP, though, is the included DVD that features videos for “Tonto” and “Atlas,” one of 2007's most exciting tracks, as well as a ten-minute doc on the making of “Tonto.” In the “Tonto” video, you become hyper-aware of the pace shared by lead guitar and crash cymbals, paired in syncopation with Konopka's bass and setting the rhythm for each of the camera's cuts. It eventually becomes a performance video, with poles and drops of white light surrounding the band and flashing in time with the rhythm of the bass and increasingly every other instrument. It's only after the sun rises over the band, the surrounding jagged rocks and lights, that you remember how Konopka's bass and John Stanier's tom have mimicked a sort of Native American chant. “Atlas” likewise finds the group surrounded by night stars, only this time in space and performing in a mirrored cube, exposing that a third of what sounds to be guitar is actually keyboard. Still pretty brilliant.

Battles (remixed by DJ Emz, featuring Joell Ortiz) - Leyendecker
Buy the Tonto EP (note: those who bought this CD also purchased Chubby Checker's Knock Down the Walls)