Thursday, May 29, 2008

A painfully long rant on a very old issue.

If you've not visited at any point, there's yet another 23-year old ladyblogger, one who runs the Cassettes & Chocolate Milk blog somewhat sporadically. El is quite a decent writer and actually posts some carefully thought-out ideas betwixt apologies for not posting more frequently, and today she's brought up the concept of what it is to be a female music fan who's forced to separate her musical appreciation from her sexual preferences as a woman.

El points out the now-cliche image of the screaming girl declaring her fandom as an example of why we associate the relationship between male musicians and female fans with pure attraction, little more. Where do you draw the line between being a girl and being a music fan, though? And how do you allow yourself to be sexually attracted to a male musician without appearing to appreciate the look more than the music? I feel dreadful admitting my sexual attraction to Syd Barrett, to Nick Drake, Bryan Webb, Tyondai Braxton, Doseone, Joe Strummer – because I genuinely love the music that all of these men create(d) and don't want to give the impression that my attraction influences my musical appreciation, when it's in fact the opposite case.

Coincidentally, in digging around for others' opinions on the topic I found this post from 2007, where Nancy Baym noted that her lust for male musicians followed her appreciation of their work. Just as one might lose interest in a physically attractive individual who opens his mouth and reveals that he's rude or incapable of intelligent conversation, there's a lot of power in art and it is undoubtable that attraction to the male musician is heightened by an appreciation for his art. And just as it's difficult to be attracted to someone whose work you don't support, it may very well be difficult to be attracted to a musician whose music you don't genuinely enjoy. Alternately, I've known a number of men who've been able to separate an attraction to female musicians from their musical tastes, who've declared an attraction to female musicians without caring for their music, and seeing as there are more conventionally attractive women than conventionally attractive men in music (speaking in ratios and numbers), it's interesting to note that the only men I've known to be attracted to unconventionally attractive women did so after establishing an appreciation of their music. Men, however, aren't often known as giddy fanboys or groupies.

What I'm getting at is that women may be frequently attracted to men in bands because music holds great power, and as Baym addresses, when music itself is an aphrodisiac, we may learn to confuse the creator with the work, training ourselves to find the creator sexy by association. As I've also mentioned to El of C&CM, women are rarely lead guitarists, and it tends to be the lead guitarist who is idolized as a musician...there are also many sloppy front men who are idolized by men and considered oddly sexy by women, and by contrast, female vocalists tend to be rather polished and, well, too pretty to be looked at for their singing talent alone. Few, few exceptions.

What's very interesting is when you go beyond the female music fan and look at the woman who's more deeply involved, to what is now a traditionally male level of love for music. One of the comments left under Baym's post was by a woman who claimed to feel as though she was taken more seriously in online music forums if she never revealed her gender; I've certainly found this to be the case in my own personal experience. And like Baym, I've often been the only woman at record stores entirely or almost entirely run by men. Female music nerds are hard to come by because women have become accustomed to the music world as a boys' club. You know what makes it difficult to geek out over music? It's not that we lack music knowledge – the music and its history are easy to learn. The problem is that it's difficult to go to a record store and strike up a conversation with a male shopper or employee about a shared love of music without sounding as though you're trying to hit on him. It's frustrating to talk to a man about music without seeing him attempt to show off and one-up you in his knowledge of the subject. But it's just not fun to keep your music to yourself. So you listen politely and give in, or you risk appearing rude by demonstrating that, yes, you do know quite a bit, in fact. Or, you avoid the record store altogether, as plenty of women do.

On the music journalism side of things, there are all sorts of adjectives one might use in music writing that blur the lines between attraction and pure description, and certainly I'm guilty of using words like “sexy,” applying them to music but acknowledging their application to the musician. Further, I've interviewed male musicians and found myself attracted to them physically, terrified to act on impulse for fear that my efforts as interviewer would cease to be taken seriously. In some cases, it really is near-impossible to be a music fan without forcing yourself to forget that you're female. Morgan Freeman said on 60 Minutes a couple of years back that a way to eliminate racism was to stop pointing out differences, and this has always been my philosophy toward gender, that women should stop pointing out their continued oppression and simply live so that respect as an equal would follow. However, it's difficult to do within an industry like music, where we're not only reminded that we're female, but where the only way to keep from drowning is to consciously mimic the boys.

So, what's the solution? Fuck if I know.

You should a shoooow.

The Henry Clay People - Children of Chin (live at the Echo, Feb. 4, 2008)
(Don't be a lazy ass, it takes three seconds to scroll down and click.)

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Clinic, Shearwater @ Troubadour. Los Angeles. May 20.


After two consecutive years at the Troubadour, it seems Clinic's fan base isn't getting any bigger, and though a larger core would be well-deserved, it's only fair, I suppose, that consistency on their part garners consistency on the part of their audience.

They're still hiding behind surgical masks, though if you look closely at their hairlines and face shapes, you can recall who's who if you'd caught a glimpse of them unmasked while they checked on their instruments pre-performance. This time, though, they'd grown bored with scrubs and opted for uniform Hawaiian shirts – you know, 'cause surgeons like to go on vacation, too.

Ade Blackburn's still got a paranoid, Yorkian, halfway-intelligible slur about him, but bassist Brian Campbell offered nary a beaming smile from under his mask this time around, thereby removing a certain warped element from the visual. The strange thing about Clinic is that while their records aren't terribly different from one another – songs vary, but overall moods and noise levels remain the same – watching the band live really brings out certain elements of their style. It's when they're on stage that one more easily notices how prominent a part the melodica holds (played by Blackburn), or how quick Jonathan Hartley actually is on guitar. They're an underrated bunch, that Clinic.

They played new record Do It! in its entirety, following the set with a bitty intermission and old favorites, the most well-received being “Walking With Thee” and rather “Jack the Ripper”-ish “Pet Eunuch,” off 2002's Walking With Thee. They were also surprisingly tame after a dramatic opening set by Shearwater, whose Jonathan Freiburg recently quit Okkervil River in order to pursue Shearwater full time, and whose drummer Thor Harris packs a mean punch on hammer dulcimer.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Dirty Pretty Things are finally releasing a new record!
It comes out June 30 on Vertigo Records.
It is called Romance at Short Notice.
The first single is available for preview on the band's MySpace page.
It is called "Tired of England."
See Dirty Pretty Things live if you are in the UK.

Foals, Maps & Atlases @ Troubadour. Los Angeles. May 24.

“Hello, we're Foals, it's lovely to see you.”

In their first visit to L.A., hipster-friendly Foals greeted us properly and sent us off with a twin tom beating; 22-year old front man Yannis Philippakis confessed to a sold-out Troubadour that the appearance they'd made on the Jimmy Kimmel Show earlier had been “weird,” and judging by his muttered thoughts and lack of eye contact, it seems said weirdness was possibly brought on by a lack of comfort with a wide spotlight.

Math rock's a bit late getting to England, more easily found in the states a few years ago and now coming from across the pond in the form of Foals; their record Antidotes is admittedly a fiercer and more detailed version of the British post-punk that's been flying around the last few years, as well. But Foals are phenomenal performers nonetheless primed to be huge. Live, it's wildly apparent that they resemble the overused Vampire Weekend/Battles hybrid with which they've been so frequently pigeonholed, blending those math rock intricacies with a danceable post-punk trance, but it's a wonderful formula to watch. Their sound transforms from clean and sparse to thick and heavy in an instant, and their energy is far more grand with a visual complement, it being so much easier to get lost in Jack Bevan's rhythms when you're watching the band lead you in a flexible bounce.

Philippakis himself has a sort of Rivers Cuomo-like look to him, tight lipped and hard to penetrate, and like fellow guitarist Jimmy Smith – who's lightning fast in the hand – carries his guitar high on his chest. He's a bit sexy, a bit fey, and despite his mumbles and downward gaze, had this distant way of going apeshit during “Two Steps Twice,” when he tossed off his guitar and fell into the crowd, nonchalantly getting up and stumbling through a sleepy dance after no one caught him, and paid no mind when he put his guitar back on and then tripped on stage. With a graceful coolness, later, he'd knock his microphone to the floor at a beat's notice.

He's an odd attention-getter in a band where every individual member is necessary and possesses such high musical talent, particularly given their youth; this front man-as-star positioning is in contrast with the night's opener, Chicago's Maps and Atlases, whose drummer, Chris Hainey – like a heavy-handed Stewart Copeland, fluidly waving his sticks from the ends – served as core. For the record, Maps and Atlases were a bit more “math” (god, what a terrible term) and equally as worthwhile a catch. The slight touch that Foals offered to deserve that headlining slot, though, was that their energy was far too bold for a venue like the Troubadour, which, I suppose, made the night that much more telling of what's to come.


Maps and Atlases:

Purchase Antidotes
Update 6.8.08: Someone posted the show's highlight on YouTube! Hurrah.

Kevin Schneider needs a new boot!

This is Kevin Schneider, touring keyboardist and bass player for Shearwater:
This is Kevin's right boot:

As you can see, Kevin needs a new boot. He claims that it was chewed by a dog, but it looks rather like someone's got a kickball addiction to 'fess up to. Regardless, you can help Kevin buy a new boot (or two) by seeing Shearwater on one of their remaining summer tour dates.

On an unrelated note, I learned via Heart on a Stick that Al Green's got a new record, Lay it Down, produced by ?uestlove. You should pay a visit to Heart on a Stick and download a really lovely duet between Green and Corinne Bailey Rae, "Take Your Time," prior to purchasing Lay it Down when it releases tomorrow. Judging from the stream samples on Amazon, this is one helluva throwback to old Al. Yum-o!

Monday, May 19, 2008

The Kooks + meaty sammiches + crabby waitresses = high five!

Q: Where will the Kooks be the night of Tuesday, May 20?

A: At Canter's Deli on Fairfax, playing for the town Jews!

This very moment, the Kooks are playing to a sold-out Wiltern Theater on Wilshire Blvd. If you're not at the Wiltern but would like to see the Kooks in Los Angeles tomorrow, you will apparently have several chances, provided you walk the streets or enjoy the occasional plate of stuffed cabbage.

From the press release: "To start their tour on a different note, The Kooks will be taking to the streets. The band will be hitting various undisclosed locations in LA next Tuesday May 20th to film a Sidewalk Sets session, playing acoustically to both fans and passer-bys. The day will culminate in an intimate acoustic show in the Kibitz Room at Canter’s Deli, located at 419 North Fairfax Avenue."

Word has it that this "intimate acoustic show" will take place at 9pm. Provided the boys don't get food poisoning from the lox, of course.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Jeremy Fisher, The Proclaimers - The El Rey, Los Angeles, May 16.

Befriending a fan up front who'd been following the Proclaimers this tour, I was told the band's new songs included “all-out rockers” and more of the political awareness for which the band's not so known. And judging by the audience, a combination of girls in their twenties and men in their forties, it should have seemed that loyal Proclaimers fans were in on a sort of secret punk edge possessed by the band – this is the same crowd you'll see at a Buzzcocks show, after all.

But there wasn't much all-out rocking, and there was no edge to be found. Not only did the pairing of Jeremy Fisher with the Proclaimers serve as family-friendly entertainment, the Proclaimers themselves were lacking in stage presence and crowd interaction, incredibly by-the-book and offering few smiles.

Opener Jeremy Fisher, who can't possibly not be the nicest guy imaginable, tried so very hard to make light of the empty space in the room but came off sounding uncomfortable and disappointed. The wholesome singer-songwriter has a Paul Simon-style croon, soft and slightly nasal, and spoke often enough to compensate for the Proclaimers' lack of interaction. But his performance felt, well, rather bible camp. So pure, predictably poppy, unoffensive – Christ, the guy's even got a song called “High School.”

“Scar That Never Heals” sounded a bit like a watered-down version of the Clash's “Car Jamming” and closing track “Left Behind” was reminiscent of Bright Eyes' “First Day of My Life." These were perhaps his best, but the whole set felt rather soulless overall.

The Proclaimers fared no better; there was no straying from their recordings, and even their covers were vanilla – their version of Wreckless Eric's “Whole Wide World” (on last year's Life With You) was delivered with the exact same energy as the swell 'n easy “King of the Road,” which filled one of four encore spaces.
To their credit, guitarist Zac Ware plays a lovely steel slide, and sure, there is something oddly amusing about a half-full venue suddenly coming to life so that 300 people can bob heads and sing along to “I'm Gonna Be” in unison. But the entire set, right down to “I'm Gonna Be” as finale, was predictable and showed a band that appears tired of its own songs.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Langhorne Slim and the War Eagles - The Trouabadour, Los Angeles, May 14.

Most apparent when he pranced about on his tippy toes, as Malachi threw down beats of pure punk rock during “Honey Pie,” was that Langhorne Slim is one of the most perfect performers around. His comedic timing is spot on, and he can switch up from a folk piece of love like “Sweet Olive Tree” to a rowdy rendition of “In the Midnight” at the drop of a hat (literally – the man's all over the place, and his hat falls quite often).

His voice carries well without a mic, as was made obvious during an intimate acoustic round of “Rebel Side of Heaven,” the second of three endings to a set that could have and should have gone on forever.

“Somebody say, 'yeah,'” he says? Shit, everybody said, “yeah.”

But most underrated about Langhorne – 'cause heaven knows he gets the credit he deserves – are his backing musicians, upright bassist Paul Defiglia and drummer Malachi DeLorenzo. DeLorenzo's the son of Violent Femmes drummer Victor DeLorenzo and – like Dad – is brimming with restrained punk energy from his excited eyes to the brushes in his hands. Defiglia's quieter, sure, but owns some masterfully quick fingers and serves as a fine complement to his restless counterparts, rounding Langhorne Slim and the War Eagles into a trio of flawless energy and style.

This is one of the best live acts around and only continues to improve with every tour. Never to be missed.

Langhorne Slim - My Future (never played live, sadly)
From The Electric Love Letter EP

Monday, May 12, 2008

Italians are nuts!

Jennifer Gentle has a new, limited edition EP!

It is called Evanescent Land.

You can buy one of 1000 copies here.

You can sample two songs from it and learn of European tour dates here.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Langhorne Slim and the War Eagles!

This record being the first official announcement of War Eagle additions Malachi DeLorenzo (drums) and Paul DeFiglia (upright bass), who’ve been touring with Langhorne the last couple of years, Langhorne Slim is also well-delayed, released more than a year after V2, sold last year, was expected to carry it.

These songs have been filling Langhorne’s live shows the last couple of years, and what doesn’t do the [Pennsylvanian] Appalachian-folk-punker any favors is to compare these recordings to those live sets. On stage, he lights up with a raucous energy, adding unbelievable fury to songs like “She’s Gone,” delivering the preachy “Diamond and Gold” with a snarl of frustration and urgency.

Here, there’s a tiny bit of filler mixed into a record otherwise quite fine but tame; a nicely re-worked version of “Restless” appears [previously on the Engine EP], while “Hello Sunshine” is a bit corny and feel-good. “Tipping Point” and “Oh Honey” capture his playful, prancing style while “Rebel Side of Heaven” is surprisingly forgettable. His EPs at this rate have been a little more worthwhile than his full albums, but that's not to say, by any means, that his albums aren't near-fantastic. At his caliber, Langhorne’s biggest competition is himself.

Langhorne Slim - She's Gone
Langhorne Slim - Tipping Point
Purchase Langhorne Slim
Then purchase the Electric Love Letter EP
And get an idea of his live energy here.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

We love the Scots!

The Twilight Sad have posted a new track to their MySpace page, "Here it Never Snowed. Afterwards it Did." This is to announce a NEW EP!

CMJ has the details on this EP, due on June 10 via FatCat.

And Insound is holding a program in which every digital album you buy through them allows a quarter to be donated to the band of your choice within their provided list. In good taste, the Twilight Sad is one of these bands which may receive your money, and not only will they receive that quarter per album, but you can choose to donate an additional amount if you so choose. The best part? This money goes to fund their touring expenses. So, the sooner you buy many, many copies of the Twilight Sad's sole full-length, the sooner they'll come to town.
Holy Jesus! I have nothing to add.

Except. Um.

The Dead Science. The Smell. Los Angeles. May 4.

There's a certain type of character, one who survives on few resources but frugally replicates the image of the bourgeoisie, dressing and speaking with impressive elegance but quietly returning to a humble life of have not when the night ends. The Dead Science embody this style of deception, they being a young Seattle trio of class who blend free jazz, brooding post-rock, grim tales and sighed crooning.

Already solid musicians when their debut emerged five years ago, the Dead Science have really come into their own, and this particular set demonstrated a fluid transition to heavier rock. On stage, they gave us a large taste of upcoming record Villainaire, for which bassist Jherek Bischoff will apparently opt more for bass guitar than his usual stand-up, and drummer Nick Tamburro will finally spread his metal sensibility to every spare bit of space.

What they most perfected on this night was their ability to branch off into a collective state of disarray – Bischoff dancing freely with his bass, Tamburro bringing his drums to a violent death, front man Sam Mickens acting as the cool center of it all – and suddenly break into a perfect, organized note of silence. They pleased us with “Drrrty Magneto” and gave us a harp-free go at new single “Throne of Blood.” Mickens seduced us with his falsetto purr and then turned on us with a snarl; his guitar followed suit. These musicians are so very different from one another, but together they grow more stunning each day.

The Dead Science - Throne of Blood
From the just-released 7" single and the upcoming Villainaire, out Sept. 2.

See them on tour.

Visit this spot to purchase any of their previous albums and sample a song from each (highly recommended: "White Train," from 2003's Submariner)

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Stiff Little Fingers, House of Blues Sunset Strip. May 2, 2008.

Yesterday evening brought a rare and much needed visit from Stiff Little Fingers to Los Angeles; aside from the dreadful location (House of Blues being on the Sunset Strip, where stilettos are plenty and parking averages to about $20), the occasion was actually a nearly perfect punk show. The crowd was one of the most respectful audiences I've experienced, a fair mixture of dolled-up girls, aging men (some with their kids) and high schoolers psyched to be wearing SLF shirts in front of SLF.

The band itself has actually aged quite well both in looks and sound; only half of the original lineup remains, core and front man Jake Burns, and bassist Ali McMordie, who'd returned after SLF experienced a 15-year stint with the Jam's Bruce Foxton. Steve Grantley, the band's fourth drummer since 1977, has an incredible fighting spirit in eyes and arms, and guitarist Ian McCallum, bringing balance, has the quietest presence and hides behind cap and pokerface.

Stiff Little Fingers are an incredible live band as much as they are recorded, and though there was certainly a preference for their earlier material on this night, as the audience actually picked up momentum and moved more as the night grew darker and material grew older, Burns offered the story behind nearly each song so as to demonstrate how relevant even the newer songs are to this day. Whether sharing that lyrics written for George Sr. during the original Gulf War were able to trickle down to a new Bush generation and new war, or revealing that “Tin Soldiers” was written with a particular man's story in mind, Burns made clear that these songs – from the '70s or the '90s – still rang true and important in the present.

Burns was also ridiculously humble, if not self-deprecating, and though applauded for mention of the 50th birthday he'd celebrated recently, he responded with a self-pitying, “That's right, not just fat, but old, too!” Sure, he's put on a few pounds, but he's still got a lot of youth in his face, and he's still got a lot of his signature growl, only now he's more selective about when to use it. He still also churns out a flawless guitar solo, currently using a beautiful pale yellow ESP lined in black and adorned with a Daffy Duck sticker. One of my personal music fantasies of not long ago, actually, was to have the chance to see SLF live if only to hear Burns play in person the solo that introduces their incredible cover of “Johnny Was.” Sure enough, this was made a reality through the first of two encores, and yes, it was every bit as fantastic as expected.

My eyes well up with pride at the idea that a band this brilliant exists or even existed at any point. You can hear that perfection in the opening note of “Alternative Ulster,” or the way Burns growls before the band kicks in on “78 RPM.” Thirty years after Inflammable Material, they've offered somewhat of a mixed bag of recorded material, musically, but when you watch them perform – fuck if they haven't still got it.

There's a new Stiff Little Fingers album in the works for this year. 2008 tour dates remain, including one Ireland date in June with Iggy Pop and the Kills (I envy you Irish bastards!).

And while on the topic of a band that sang of Belfast, this was in the news this morning.