Thursday, February 28, 2008

A few things.

The Bad
The Verve: No L.A. dates, thanks to Coachella.
Constantines: No west coast dates, period.

The Good
Finally, a new Black Keys record!
(at the Wiltern 4/1 with Jay Reatard)
And a new Oh Sees record!
(at the Smell 3/8 with Clipd Beaks, the Mae Shi and Old Time Relijun)

The Buzzcocks (sorry, nothing ugly to report for now)
Live dates for the lucky bastards in Europe.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Help Capillary Action! (read to the end)

Sit on my virtual lap while I tell you a story.

There are overachievers roaming about. They're few and far between given the general population size, but they're around. Occasionally there'll be one or two at work, putting in overtime even when unnecessary and uncalled for. More often than not, you meet them during your school years, the kids whose grades are far more impressive than yours, that kid whose hand is always raised, or – in some cases – the guy who heads back to the empty classroom to record an album during available windows of free space.

See, Jon Pfeffer and I are nearly the same age, but there's an important difference between us. While he was away at college, he was piecing together a mathalicious, (mostly) instrumental rock album in the classrooms of Oberlin. What was I doing in college? Struggling to get a “B+” in Beginning Classical Guitar, freezing my ass off in a basement radio station and playing Pfeffer's goddamned record. Yeah, Jon, I like them apples just fine.

That first effort was Fragments, and yes, it was rather all over the place, with mixed reviews to boot, but it was a promising start from the musician who would now serve as the core of a project called Capillary Action. The record was fairly easy to dissect in parts – a soothing flow of guitar here or there, a heavier bossa nova rhythm leading into “Mid-Coital Seizure,” which, though more spastic and noisy than other tracks on the record, was actually quite structured. And that's the thing about Capillary Action; there actually is a strangely coherent structure to these oddly placed combinations. Which, hell, when you're barely of age – not a bad accomplishment!

Three years and a few lineup additions later, Capillary Action came out with a sophomore album on its own Pangaea Recordings, and this time around, Pfeffer not only got over his fear of singing (turns out he's a crooner!), but manned up a bit and showed off his affinity for free jazz. There's tighter musicianship here, on So Embarrassing, and though the pacing of each song is still quite frantic and chock full of timing changes, there's also more assertiveness, more confidence, and in whole a greater experimental vibe that seems more intentional this time around. It's experimental rock because of the genres it combines at once, not because of the way it was edited from a greater set of recorded music.

That said, I originally wrote this yesterday evening so that I could promote the massive tour that Capillary Action is/was currently on with Pwrfl Power. However, this is a band with incredible bad luck; after having their van broken into and equipment stolen while on tour with Joe Lally last fall, they've run into another setback mere months later. Last night, they wrote on the band's blog that their van rolled over during a snowy drive on what appears to be the trip from Toronto to Detroit. According to the post, the van's been lost, Pfeffer wound up in the hospital with a concussion and possibly serious head injuries, and the rest of the band got stuck in a hotel, unsure of how to transport its equipment, let alone proceed with the bulk of this tour.

So. Rather than promote those tour dates, for now I'll suggest throwing these guys a bone and buying their newest record. It's probably safe to say that they could use the assistance at this point, and it would offer you, music fan, a more permanent trade than a concert ticket would have offered. Though, admittedly, they sound great live when they've not been driving across snowy roads. Real shame. Much luck to them.
Capillary Action - Elevator Fuck
Capillary Action - Pocket Protection is Essential
Purchase So Embarrassing (or any Capillary Action record) via MySpace.

Update (Mar 1): Got a response from Jon; the band is healthy and gear is safe, but the van is totaled and the band has no insurance. If you would like to support them, please, please buy their records.
New update - Tour is on from the Mar 5 (Portland) date forward. Support their west coast dates if you can.

Friday, February 22, 2008


You know whose birthdays would have taken place today? Steve Irwin and George Washington. And yesterday? Nina Simone. Cheers!

Jim Carroll - People Who Died
Nina Simone - Lilac Wine

Monday, February 18, 2008

Rocket from the Crypt - R.I.P.

I imagine most of us would give a limb of some sort to have the drive and energy of John Reis; from the time I was born, the singer-guitarist has been weaving in and out of a string of bands – ranging from teen effort Conservative Itch to the brand new Night Marchers, who are releasing a record in late March – and has consistently dabbled in rockabilly or punk while epitomizing rock 'n' roll as it was meant to be.

Outlasting well-known projects Drive Like Jehu and Hot Snakes, and overlapping with Sultans, a band on Reis' own Swami Records, Rocket From the Crypt spent nearly two decades creating rock 'n' roll that would somehow mesh with the original '90s wave of Dischord-style hardcore and emo. But mere months after the demise of Hot Snakes, RFTC would end its run on Halloween 2005 with an official funeral, a final concert to celebrate the band's death.

R.I.P. captures this last performance at San Diego's Westin Hotel with a CD/DVD combo that is necessary as a complete set. The DVD reveals Reis as he's carried to stage on a bloody stretcher, rising to position in Screamin' Jay Hawkins gear while the band plays an instrumental version of “I Put a Spell on You.” The concert on DVD is extended significantly from its audio counterpart, and largely shot through a voyeuristic peephole view, making it feel as though to watch is to intrude on an exclusive event.

Reis is aggressive and commanding, coincidentally shoving a fan offstage during “Get Down,” though it is on the audio CD where we hear his banter, i.e. reminding the audience that the stage isn't a lost-and-found, or better yet, claiming prior to “Boychucker” that RFTC invented rock 'n' roll. Smarmy, sure, but the band lives up to Reis' claim by tossing out a massive psychobilly-style frenzy of guitar and sax immediately thereafter.

The sound here is excellent for a live record, and no moment is wasted, seeing as the band didn't exactly have many downers to offer. There's a great sing-along moment at the intro of “Used” that almost captures the dedicated fan base we see on the DVD portion of the concert. What doesn't show up on audio, regrettably, are Reis' spiffy black 'do and wild tusks.

Rocket From the Crypt - French Guy
Rocket From the Crypt - Don't Darlene
Pre-order R.I.P.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Black Lips/Pierced Arrows/Terrible Twos @ El Rey, Valentine's Day 2008

What a fuckin' time. Valentine's Day '08 didn't bring much love, save for a few awkward gropes (alright, a few elbow jabs to the head) and a bearded drunk fuck slurring in my ear, "So, where's yer valentine?" But a brilliant triple-bill of garage punk at the El Rey made for a grand distraction, and made a fresh Terrible Twos fan of me.

A horribly misleading audience, this one, painfully still during a raucous set of man-punk by opener Terrible Twos. Even, to a slightly lesser extent, during a supporting set by Pierced Arrows, whose Fred and Toody Cole have carried over from old great garage band Dead Moon and appeased a few of us with “Dead Moon Night.” The Mister and Missus, interestingly enough, don't look much different from one another and essentially look like the male and female equivalents of one being after forty-odd years of love.

Sadly, though, even after two incredible (praise-worthy) sets, it wasn't until Black Lips started up that our crowd actually revealed itself to be one of the most vicious and energetic that any recent Black Lips show has seen in Los Angeles. Seconds in, we were swaying and stomping every which way, getting plenty covered by beers sloshing from multiple hands at once. It wasn't much a show for friendly indie kids, helping each other up and apologizing for space constraints; no, we shoved, we elbowed, we watched loads of kids steal a moment on stage before fighting off security, often for a hug with Cole Alexander. Those of us off to the side argued with those same guards over remaining within the packed boundary of the black line surrounding the main floor. That goddamned black line.

The vibe of the night was much more Halloween than Valentine's Day, save for a neon heart resting inside Joe Bradley's bass drum – lighting remained dark and dim, and even the Lips' recent, milder numbers were kept rough. They included a few goodies in their set, a cover of the King Khan and BBQ Show's “Too Much in Love” as well as one of garage classic “Wild Man,” which Alexander dedicated to his grandpa.

The band itself was milder than usual, though, particularly compared to its fans, offering up no broken bottles, none of those infamous antics or bodily displays which, as of late, have been discussed in print more than they have been seen firsthand. But they were good sports about returning the beach ball that managed its way around, at least until bassist Jared Swilley killed it by foot, and guitarist Ian St. Pe's still got his grill. And of course, they remain the rare band that's capable of making L.A. move.

Chris Campbell of Terrible Twos

Fred Cole of Pierced Arrows

Toody Cole of Pierced Arrows

Ian and his grill!

Jared and his fabulous 'stache

Joe and...Joe
Purchase The Black Lips (2003)

Listen to Terrible Twos
Listen to Pierced Arrows

P.S. On a side note, it's damn near impossible to take photos at a Black Lips show. Pardon the lack of good shots.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Q: What's being released this Tuesday by the most elegant band in the Pacific Northwest?

A: This. You can sample the A-side here. You can buy it here. And you can see them at venues like this on dates like May 4 while awaiting the release of their new record, Villainaire.

Also recommended:
This highly overlooked EP from 2006.

Rufus Wainwright at the Wiltern, February 12, 2008.

He began the “Ta” to his “Da” (the tour-concluding show at New York’s Radio City Music Hall that would occur two days later) in a fabulously gawdy suit, coated in striped patches and haphazardly-placed brooches. His band followed suit (har har), and altogether complemented a giant American flag backdrop – black and white with brooch “stars” that represented all that is respectively wrong and right with America.

Save for intermission but including encores, Rufus Wainwright performed for two-and-a-half hours, using that necessary break for a costume change into lederhosen; musical efforts, meanwhile, began with the lush, like the frustrated “Going to a Town,” and concluded with an encore that saw a white robed-solo performance of “Poses” lead into the diva himself breaking into lipstick ‘n heels Judy gear, lip-synching to “Get Happy” while his backing band literally tumbled over one another in choreographed fun.

There’d been a prior Judy Garland tribute, of course, the pairing of “A Foggy Day” and “If Love Were All,” which Wainwright called the “best song ever written about the perils of celebrity.” His banter was top notch and expectedly risqué, even eliciting a few groans after “Matinee Idol,” at mention of a recently-deceased Heath Ledger. As with both Ledger and “Matinee Idol” subject River Phoenix, he noted, “Once they play the gay boy they die.” Groan.

But Wainwright’s campy humor and style are matched by a flawless voice, and the real highlights of the night were the fairly solemn “Leaving for Paris,” written for but not included in Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge, and an unplugged cover of John McCormack’s “Macushla,” during which his voice carried beautifully even without the assistance of a microphone.

At a time when Britney and Amy are plagued by media and addiction, Rufus Wainwright is, quite frankly, the most reliable diva we’ve got.

Opener Bernadette Colomine (minus the Tour de France!)

Rufus Wainwright - Matinee Idol

Saturday, February 9, 2008

The Kooks! (Troubadour, Los Angeles, 2.7.08)

This sold-out show at the Troubadour was somewhat of a love fest, the rare occasion when friendships were made, and all sorts of “nice meeting you”s could be heard swirling about the audience. In truth, though, it's impossible to watch a band like the Kooks and not wear a big cheesy grin, or get the sudden desire to approach other people with similar looks of bliss.

Prior to the Kooks' headlining set, for which recently departed bassist Max Rafferty and his stunned face were replaced by a boyish Dan Logan (of fellow Brighton band Cat the Dog), bay area pop group the Morning Benders played to a nearly-full house. Their rhythm section was surprisingly bluesy for a band that plays mostly standard indie pop; guitarist Joe Ferrell also managed to stay organized despite having an array of five pedals to choose from, and looked fabulously ghoulish while hunched over his Rhodes. The Morning Benders will fit beautifully in a lineup with Kelley Stoltz at Noise Pop this year.

But oh, those Kooks. They tested out some of the upcoming Konk, including uncharacteristically danceable track “Do You Wanna (Make Love to Me),” which prompted several female fans up front to respond in the affirmative. Drummer Paul Garred, ever the British reggae fan, donned an English Beat shirt and offered up his best Steward Copeland impression on (my personal favorite) “Time Awaits,” while lead guitarist Hugh Harris, unlike Luke Pritchard, did not manage to ruin any guitar strings.

As for Pritchard, he's an odd personality, the hippie who relishes fame, prancing about with his acoustic guitar like he's concluding Harold and Maude atop a grassy hill. His voice still cracks all over the place, but that's why girls adore him. And yes, a healthy number of screams stemmed from the crowd's female fans; it was also that crop of girls who made sure to get a hand on any leg or arm available while he walked about the monitors. He didn't seem to mind, though when the girl next to me yelled for his attention as he tried to lead a song, he looked over with a confused “'ello?” and accepted the follow-up “I love you!” with a quiet humility. Such is the day in the life of a heartthrob, aye?

Somehow, the group actually managed an energy peak at set's end, following Pritchard's solo encore performances of “Seaside” and “Jackie Big Tits” with a full-band, electric version of “Sofa Song.” It wasn't until this encore, additionally, that whispers started up in the air, and fingers began going up, due to the sudden realization that Courtney Love had been sitting up on the balcony, also watching this band that the rest of us were...ah...kooky for.

The Kooks - Time Awaits
A teaser before you pre-order Konk.
Watch Luke Kook woo the ladies. Here and here.

Friday, February 8, 2008

You know what sucks about L.A.?

Speaking of cities not lacking in entertainment options, if you're lucky enough to live in New York a month from now, this looks to be the ultimate concert of the year (well, for those of us who massively adore British pseudo-punks of the '80s, in any case).

But! On the subject of aging British rock icons, Carbon/Silicon is returning to the US for a tour this spring, and they, unlike Mr. Bragg, will not be skipping over Los Angeles.

Between this and an abundance of taco trucks, L.A. isn't so bad.

The Henry Clay People rocked off many socks during their first night of a month-long residency at the Echo last Monday. See 'em if you haven't! The upcoming Monday will be an all-covers night, and if they aren't temporarily replaced by a foursome of Ronald Reagans, they may perhaps use the opportunity to do a full night of Op Ivy covers. And...erm...if you don't like covers, there'll be a couple of additional nights to see them this month.

The Henry Clay People - Working Part Time
Pre-order the "Working Part Time" 7-inch.
Stream more new songs and check their (LA-friendly) tour schedule on MySpace.

P.S. There are in fact two more band members. However, thanks to the limitations of technology and talent, the photos published on this site only represent a fraction of the failed efforts that don't make the cut. In other words, apologies to bassist Noah Green and drummer Eric Scott for the lack of visual representation here - there will certainly be a next time. Sigh.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Cowboy Junkies - Trinity Revisited (buy this, it's purdy)

Since its 1988 release, not much off The Trinity Session has been attended to in the mainstream, save for its cover of the Velvet Underground's “Sweet Jane.” Real shame, too – the record on the whole was a gorgeous collection, a slow and bluesy group of songs that captured the essence of old-fashioned country and folk but masked tradition under Margo Timmins' deep, sultry croon for an update that would hold up even decades later.

Nearly twenty years post-Trinity, the group would return to the Church of the Holy Trinity in Toronto to – as they put it – celebrate but not necessarily recreate the entirety of The Trinity Session. A double-disc set that includes a DVD with both the CD's live performance and an additional documentary on the new recording session, Trinity Revisited shows us a gracefully aged group.

Pierre and Francois Lamoureux's documentary is admittedly a bit bland and contains too much setup footage; additionally, as the band sits about the round table reminiscing over wine, few unexpected facts arise, save for its revealing that the original album had been recorded for under $1000 and despite success churned out little pay for the group. Or that the record had been recorded in one take, the band surrounding only a single mic.

It is, however, beautifully filmed, with dim lighting and slow, easy camera movement that mimics the format of MTV Unplugged or VH1 Storytellers. And its best moments lie in the awkward footage of the album's guests – we see a very dull Natalie Merchant looking stiff and uncomfortable, Vic Chesnutt adding an eerily nervous energy to “Blue Moon Revisited,” and Ryan Adams reading a Star magazine during Chesnutt's rehearsal only to later dork out over the addition of a new guitar vibrato.

But it is, of course, these odd guest appearances that keep Trinity Revisited from becoming an exact replica of The Trinity Session, and though they prevent the new record from being as simultaneously sexy and haunting as the original, this anniversary celebration demonstrates the Junkies' prior ability to form a perfectly timeless album, and if anything will encourage others to discover or revisit a recent classic.

Cowboy Junkies - Misguided Angel (2008)
Pre-order Trinity Revisited
Purchase The Trinity Session