Saturday, June 28, 2008

I got more junk.


On a side note, it turns out there are a couple of interesting side projects floating around.

Craig Orzel, bass player of the Twilight Sad, has a project called Orzelda.

King Khan, all around bitchin' dude (and half of King Khan and BBQ Show/leader of King Khan and the Shrines), makes music with his seven-year old daughter. Together they are Saba Lou and Papa KK.

Friday, June 27, 2008

The Fratellis - Here We Stand

2006’s Costello Music quietly established the Fratellis as Glasgow’s meathead hit, though from this American’s point of view, it was actually a special sort of record that told cheeky stories of boys and girls, woven between all sorts of guitar texture and gibberish choruses.

Jon Fratelli's still a storyteller, and it's quite a funny thing to read through his lyrics and realize that half the songs begin with “Well” in preparation of what's to come (“Well the room was pink,” “Well once I was persuaded,” “Well let me tell you something”). But musically the band's sophomore effort feels like a bit of a slump until halfway through, only when it suddenly drops most of the arena-ready shtick that Costello Music pleasantly lacked.

There is inconsistency as well as variety; “Stragglers Moon” has a heavy twang, “Babydoll” and “Acid Jazz Singer” are welcome breaks from the flat, heavy guitar that mostly dominates here, and “Lupe Brown” is essentially mod arena rock. Not sure what to make of this variety, though it seems the setting makes the difference – on headphones, the record's quite tolerable, while on a car stereo it seems so much blander.

It’s closing piano build-up “Milk and Money” that wins on the whole, despite having nearly not made the cut, and shows a hint of where the Fratellis will hopefully be in time. This track is a bit less - dare I say? - mindless than other Fratellis songs, and speaking personally, I nearly forgot how disappointed I was in Here We Stand by the time I'd heard “Milk and Money” finish off.

The Fratellis - Milk and Money (stream only - it's another bleedin' Universal record)
Purchase Here We Stand

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Gavin Rossdale - Wanderlust

Fucking shit.

Gavin Rossdale once boasted higher fame than the woman listed in the lining of his solo debut, the very Gwen Rossdale who coaxed him out of the London clouds and into West Hollywood. Is this what Los Angeles creates, then? A tennis-playing friend of Brangelina who poses in unbuttoned shirts next to classic cars and open roads, spewing forth clich├ęs like “there may be rocks in the water but still the river flows,” or “everything will change but love remains?”

When did this dark, grungy, Ginsberg-loving guitarist melt into a rock balladeer fit for the VH1 of 1998?

For what it's worth, something resembling post-Bush project Institute might be found in tracks like “If You're Not with Us You Are Against Us” and “This is Happiness,” though Bush-era Gavin wouldn't have been caught dead leading a U2-style chorus or joining vocal forces with Katy Perry. And he certainly wouldn't have attempted to mimic Sting for the “worldly” sound of a song like “Future World.”

I can forgive a man who's grown out of abstract poetry and thrown a shit minute of preachy vocorder chant into the hidden track slot, but I can't forgive a man who, beneath an overproduced wall of guitar, sees sense in “hamburgers so that we stay alive/but happy meals mean something died.” My thirteen-year crush has ended.

Why bother posting MP3s? Universal's gonna tear the shit down. Have a limited listen instead.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Seun Kuti & Egypt 80. El Rey Theater. June 21.

A man once said that musicians and dancers respond differently to music, that rarely is one both a dancer and a musician. I think it was Jason Moss of Cherry Poppin' Daddies. That's not important. The relevance of the comment lies in how well it embodies American response to music. We're used to guitars, and our dances are often choreographed to some degree rather than a spontaneous, natural response. We're not quick to shed our inhibitions, and we're afraid to make vocal rhythms that don't say anything significant, or move as we'd like, so we're a culture of abundant musicians and few dancers. At least, in the indie, rock and pop worlds.

Nigerian brass, then, is a welcome break and a much-needed exception to the rule we've set in place. The youngest son of the late Fela Kuti, Seun Kuti inherited Dad's leadership role in Egypt 80 at fifteen years old; now in his mid-20s, he's already primed to be a lifelong bandleader – a bold speaker, blunt lyricist, presence that completely fills a stage. The El Rey was Egypt 80's second American stop on a tour promoting the freshly-released Many Things, and already Kuti was reminding us of our shortcomings. You're in Africa right now, don't be afraid to dance. This is Los Angeles, everyone has a cell phone. Wave it in the air. Were it not a sick reminder of how heavily we rely on our gadgets, it would have been strangely beautiful to see over a hundred glowing cell phones swaying in unison like lighters.

Our own identities aside, it was a privilege to share a room with Seun Kuti & Egypt 80. To watch Kuti dance is like watching footage of his father on stage, right down to his dancer's build and now-retro, high-waisted yellow pants. He can quiver with speed, flail and contort until every individual muscle is visibly dancing with him. His eyes are piercing and expressive, and his hands play a large part in his every move. Were he still alive, I doubt Fela would have instructed a crowd in booming Pidgin English to check them out at “MySpace dot com,” but Seun maintains a lot of Fela's style and big band tradition, even as an apparent hip hop fan and as someone nearly fifty years younger than the oldest member of his inherited band.

Prior to introducing Kuti, baritone saxophonist and emcee Showboy (Adedimeji Fagbemi) brought the group well up to standard in singing “Don't Give that Shit to Me,” a song whose “don't bring bullshit to Africa” chorus was one of many reminders that simplicity and peace are to be relished. This home pride would come out again in Kuti, who stated simply, “we hate fighting in Africa.”

Established on Saturday night was the idea of music as a communal activity; Kuti was leader, sure, but half the group – trumpet to gourd to quivering hips – got to stand front and center to play virtuoso for a bit. Even 72-year old keyboardist and former bandleader Baba Ani, hiding behind his keyboard and quietly donning pants patched with the outline of Africa, shot large smiles to the audience members who sent him loud doses of attention. The “Afrobeat Rules” t-shirts worn by half the band may have been a bit gimmicky, but groups like Egypt 80 could teach us indie brats a thing or two about music as a social tie.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

George Carlin has made a most excellent journey.

I have two memories of George Carlin, and both of them are from early childhood.

The first is from when I was approximately four or five, dragged to a family dinner at The Great Greek on Ventura Boulevard in Los Angeles. Celebrity sightings are oddly commonplace here, so for George and his posse to be sitting at the table next to ours on this occasion would not have been unusual. He smiled and waved at me in that "tee hee, what a nice little kid" sort of way, and I bashfully smiled and waved back. I had no idea who he was. It was only after watching him in Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure a couple of years later that I realized I'd interacted with Rufus from afar.

Which brings me to my second memory of George Carlin:

Saturday, June 21, 2008

O' come, all ye faithful...down to the pro-life pharmacy.

Robert Semler, DMC's head pharmacist and eventual 80-year old virgin.

If you've had a look at the Washington Post in the last week, you might have noticed a story on the DMC Pharmacy - “DMC” standing for “Divine Mercy Care.” A drugstore which will allow healthcare workers to exercise a “right of conscience” by not offering contraception (including condoms, birth control and Plan B emergency contraception), the DMC Pharmacy is a new “pro-life” pharmacy set to open this August. Where? Chantilly, Virginia, population 41,000.

The Post notes that the Pharmacy is an offshoot of Divine Mercy Care's Tepeyac Family Center, “an obstetrics-gynecology practice in Fairfax that offers 'natural family planning' instead of contraceptives, sterilization or abortion.” In other words, the practice is promoting the old-fashioned notion that women are meant to be baby-making machines. Welcome to the goddamned 1950s!

Unlike pharmacists and doctors in California, who are required to refer patients to pharmacists or doctors who will fulfill requests for birth control or abortions if they are morally opposed, members of Virginia's healthcare industry live under no such law and are legally allowed to let personal morals interfere. Pro-life pharmacists, says the Post, “believe that [contraception] can cause what amounts to an abortion and that the contraceptives promote promiscuity, divorce, the spread of sexually transmitted diseases and other societal woes.” Never mind that not every promiscuous individual chooses safety first, that condoms actually prevent disease, or that unwanted children resulting from lack of contraception can cause woes, marital or otherwise.

Worse than this view, perhaps, is that of Lloyd Duplantis, coincidentally quoted owner of Lloyd's Remedies in Louisiana: “After researching the science behind steroidal contraceptives, I decided they could hurt the woman and possibly hurt her unborn child. I decided to opt out.” Isn't the point of contraception to prevent that unborn child from forming in the first place? And won't a lack of it increase the odds that a woman will get pregnant and seek an abortion which - quite possibly - could harm her?

Looking into this further, I discovered the Arlington Catholic Herald, which makes reference to the Chairman of DMC's Board, Dr. John Bruchalski, as stating that “both patients and professionals” want to maintain their faith and conscience while involved in medical care. Pointing to Pope Benedict's recent blessing of the St. John Leonardi statue in St. Peter's Basilica (Leonardi being the patron saint of pharmacists, apparently), Bruchalski is quoted here in support of Catholicism's natural link to medicine: “Leonardi, a pharmacist by trade, was transformed by the power of the Gospel and discovered his priestly vocation by practicing charity toward the poor. St. John Leonardi will intercede for us before the throne of God. The timing of this dedication could not have been better for DMC Pharmacy. It is fitting that we launch a pro-life pharmacy now under his patronage.”

Speaking of pharmacists performing charity toward the poor in Leonardi's name by not providing birth control, an unrelated story on the satisfaction of California's Bay Area residents with present health care (poorly concluded, unfortunately) brought to light an unemployed mother of ten who is struggling to wean seven of those ten off health care provided by Medi-Cal. And then there are, financial concerns aside, plenty of people in this country - in California alone - who abuse the very children who could have been spared by having never been born in the first place, thanks to the use of the contraception which pro-life pharmacists are attempting to block.

Public Image, Ltd. - Religion II
Billy Bragg - Help Save the Youth of America
The (International) Noise Conspiracy - The Sin Crusade

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Bombadil - A Buzz, A Buzz

About six weeks ago, North Carolina pop band Bombadil released a fresh record – presumably to justify their time spent living together, from what I've been told, and to justify the American tour they've recently started, which is set to continue through the summer and finish up in Oregon this September. They've also got a new drummer, James Phillips – a UNC grad to balance out the remaining three Duke alums – to replace John Michalak, who played on A Buzz, A Buzz. This summer tour should bring many an opportunity to see how he fares.

Surprisingly, my favorite songs on this record are the ballads which remind me of Langhorne Slim, which, although a comparison, is actually a huge compliment – how many can truly and coincidentally write in the style of Langhorne? Besides, keyboardist Stuart Robinson has called Langhorne's drummer, Malachi DeLorenzo, a favorite, so I can't imagine this is too offensive a comparison. “Smile When You Kiss” and “One Two Three” offer sweet melodies, the former a soft skipping tune, the latter a kind visualization of small-town beauty, perfect for lazing about. “Three Saddest Words” is a love song of the same style, though with piano and drums bringing the pacing down to a dreary 2/2 mope.

In “Cavaliers Har Hum,” there's a faux-Scottish accent on the tongue of Daniel Michalak, which carries nicely a set of lyrics written like centuries-old poetry (“We shall vanquish our foes with the justice of the brave...O'er the river we must cross to the enemy side”). Hard to pull off, actually quite successful in execution, and balanced by a bit of call-and-response from the remaining group. Closing track “Get to Getting' On” is a brokenhearted country ballad that politely suggests said heartbreaker get the hell out of town. And “Rosetta Stone” has the biggest shot at getting Bombadil known among the indie circuit, I think.

If any hold a lesser appeal, “Julian of Norwich” lyrically has a nice story to it, but musically has a childlike march not unlike “Good King Wenceslas” that could certainly get a bit grating after one too many listens, while the title track sort of forgettably drifts by. On the whole, A Buzz, A Buzz isn't groundbreaking but is a rather nice effort from some young lads who're helping North Carolina re-establish its music scene.

Bombadil - One Two Three
Bombadil - Cavaliers Har Hum
Purchase A Buzz, A Buzz
Check their MySpace page for tour dates (in Los Angeles at Hotel Cafe on 8.12.08)

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Free and shameless label promotion. Also, a sift through MySpace.

It's time for another annual update on Damaged Goods! This season brings new word on Billy Childish, in particular and most notably, as he and his Musicians of the British Empire will be releasing their third record together, Thatcher's Children, on July 28. The label will be releasing the title track as single one week prior to the album.

This week, alternately, sees the It Came Out of the Wilderness EP by marvelous folk singer Pete Molinari; the release is a limited edition of 1000 7-inch records, and contains two previously-released tracks as well as one brand new acoustic number. Stream the whole thing on his website (enter and click "Music"), then buy the EP here.

Unrelated to the Damaged Goods label, The Supreme Genius of King Khan and the Shrines is streaming in full on MySpace.

Very much related to MySpace, however, it came time for a new session of poking and prodding around, and sure enough, I ran across a few interesting bits and pieces of music.

House That Jack Built (Liverpool) - Unsigned, "indie" in the generic sense of the word, but pleasant pop with nice vocals.

A Broken Robot (Liverpool) - Unsigned, basically a poor man's Wombats (and yes, I'm sure the Wombats are a poor man's somethingorother). It's sweet, though, that they claim "We will play anywhere/anytime for nothing more than a few petrol pennies."

Thin Man (San Diego) - Wonderfully generic, mindless garage rock. Fun! Party!!1!

Victor Deme (Burkina Faso - West Africa) - Perhaps my favorite of this bunch; apparently the guy's finally released a record after thirty years of making music. Really lovely folk sung in French.

Hugh Coltman (Hackney/Paris/London) - A folk singer with an elegant voice that's soft in a Chet Baker-sort-of-way. Except this isn't jazz. And he doesn't look much like a user. Apparently the former vocalist of the Hoax? Hell if I know.

Toby Dammit (Berlin/Tennessee) - A man with one hell of a musical history who really ought to collaborate with the Real Tuesday Weld.

I also learned that Vanessa Hudgens has more MySpace friends than Miley Cyrus by approximately 200,000, but that on her big tour this year, she's already playing a number of state and county fairs. How is this reasonable?

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Junk? I got some junk for ya!

Hello, all. There are some marvelous musical things taking place in the coming month or so, and I'd like to point a finger in the direction of each while I've got the space.

First, if you happen to live somewhere near Edinburgh (lucky bastards, you are), the above flyer applies to a launch party for Song, by Toad Records, new pet project of Mr. Toad (of course), author of the marvelous music blog of the same name. He'll cringe if you whinge (god help me if I ever use British English in proper context), so show up early enough to snag a free sampler, as the number available is apparently rather limited.

If you, like I, happen to reside in Los Angeles, there's a ridiculously wonderful opportunity to see some great free shows at the California Plaza, located downtown in an open space off the corner of Grand Avenue and 3rd Street. The summer schedule in full is located here, but highlights of my suggesting include Seun Kuti & Egypt 80 (June 20), who will be at the El Rey the next night, The Real Tuesday Weld (July 18), who otherwise never travels to these parts, and Waldemar Bastos (July 19) who's just really fucking good.

On a side note, as of yesterday, this is my perhaps my favorite homemade music video to hit YouTube:

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Briggs - Come All You Madmen

Based on their touring history and ambiguously-Irish feistiness, the Briggs could pass for a group of fierce Boston punks (and to be fair, the Los Angeles natives are joined here by Dropkick Murphy Ken Casey and Mighty Mighty Bosstone Dicky Barrett). It's near-impossible to find the band playing subject to a review that doesn't contain a term like “fist-pumping,” and based even on “Mad Men,” the rattle-and-stomp anthem of Come All You Madmen, it's safe to assume that any applicable adjective list has again narrowed.

There's a bit of inconsistency with the urgency of the music itself; “Not Alone,” “Ship of Fools” and “This Ship is Now Sinking” are musically dated by about ten years, though the call-and-response of “Until Someone Gets Hurt” likely translates well live, and “Molly” is actually a lovely ballad steeped in Irish tradition.

A touch corny but best of all, “This is L.A.” sums up the skin of Los Angeles, from the haze to Sunset Strip's “pay to play” venue policy, to the “10 (to the 5 to the 134),” in a united howl for home that'd make Agnostic Front proud. If only the Briggs weren't so predictably fitting for the Warped Tour.

The Briggs - Mad Men
The Briggs - Molly
Pre-order Come All You Madmen and get an autographed poster free!
Stream the whole friggin' album!

Monday, June 9, 2008

The Long Blondes at the Troubadour. Los Angeles. June 4, 2008.

The Long Blondes are small proof that the NME will piss hearts all over anyone who's not the Fratellis, and while some like their bands to wear the disguise of a big, fluffy fashion parade, the style's not exactly fit to withstand time.

I can't forgive guitarist Dorian Cox – or rather, his pants, a bulge-tastic second skin. Cox's mouth took on a bitter shape most of the night, perhaps due to the technical difficulties that kept up, or perhaps in wishing he'd chosen the next size up.

Frontdiva Kate Jackson's simply a star, meanwhile – she's rather good at being fabulous. Kate urged the adoring fans to buy her a drink, and someone bought Kate that drink. Why'd Kate get that drink? Because Kate's just that fabulous. She was also a bit shrill during “Separated by Motorways,” and seductive, sort of, on “Too Clever By Half.”

In frankness, the Long Blondes are the disco of the English indie world. Their style is danceable and glamorous now, but fuck if it won't look laughable twenty years from now. Live, their songs blended together in a sort of indistinguishable run of shiny, glittery glam, and no, they're no more memorable on record. But they're good for a single night of that thing called “a good time,” and on the last night of their U.S. tour, when drummer Mark Turvey played Darth Vader to stall time during an aforementioned technical mess, and Emma Chaplin and Reenie Hollis were overshadowed by their Debbie Harry counterpart, attractive girls and attracted boys danced, boozed and flirted their way through, knowing this one night stand was a much-needed shedding of inhibition.

Stream songs off new record Couples at MySpace.
Purchase it.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Yesterday's news, or, the post in which I reveal that I don't understand how people draw conclusions.

There are few of you who regularly read these pages/this screen, so I can't imagine there'll be much clarification, but yesterday's articles brought me to a slightly confused state. By no means am I a master of politics or gardening, but I can't, using the best of my ability to reason, figure out how to address the following. Please help.

1. In "Medicare Drug Coverage is Costing Seniors More" (LA Times)
Medicare rates are 16% higher for seniors than they were last year, blah blah, the next president's going to have a hell of a time getting rates down, blah blah, but here's the thing that appears to lack sense:

(Regarding presidential candidates' views on health care) "On the Republican side, presumptive presidential candidate John McCain supports giving Americans the right to import lower-cost medications from countries, such as Canada, where governments set prices."

That's wonderful, and quite considerate. But in importing medication from another country such as Canada, aren't we allowing our business to boost the Canadian economy rather than our own, when we could in fact require medication to come from within our own country and therefore keep the money at home? I understand that McCain wants us to use our tax credits toward purchasing our own private insurance plans, though I'm unsure of whether any industry (be it pharmaceutical, medical or insurance) would benefit from distribution of imported drugs. But if he supports the import of drugs sold at government-set prices, why can't we simply have a government that sets prices at home and buy medication domestically? Heaven forbid the government work for us.

2. The second article, which irked me far more, is related to the "humane" ways in which one can dispose of a pesky garden animal. This referring to squirrels, birds, gophers, rabbits, etc., which feed on fruits and vegetables in one's backyard and in turn are not scared off but "humanely" drowned, shot, beaten, and/or turned into stew. Understandably drawing quite a mixed response from readers (325 comments to date), the consensus is split between those who are appalled by the cruelty one is willing to place upon an animal for the sake of saving some lettuce, and those who make like Elmer Fudd and offer suggestions for the right shotgun to use.

In this New York Times article, people profiled include a man who "literally felt sick" when killing his first woodchuck but eventually "stopped at 19" kills, a woman who killed a porcupine with a sledgehammer, and a man who killed a raccoon for eating the koi from his business, a "two-and-a-half-acre ornamental fish and water lily farm."

Yes, many of us eat animals, and yes, at a time when groceries are expensive, it is a pain in the ass to think of the woodchuck that's eating your home-grown produce. But I'm willing to bet that the people eager to drown or shoot a garden-variety animal wouldn't do the same to a stray cat or dog, and moreover, I'm sickened that people don't consider the fact that small animals are merely trying to survive where there exist people, concrete, homes. We can go to the grocery store to buy produce. Squirrels cannot. Some of the commenters on this article argued that we're merely a larger part of the food chain and should be able to come to terms with our power and ability to kill smaller animals, that such occurs in nature. But the role those small animals play in the food chain is to pursue food that rests in backyard gardens. I'm a bit sickened that this idea isn't more widely considered and respected, and don't have it in me to figure out when living creatures like koi were determined to exist solely for aesthetically pleasing purposes, considering that animals like raccoons naturally know them as a food source.

Anyway, I don't mean for this post to turn into a Nicholas Fehn-style rant, but I don't know how to answer my own beef sometimes. Music tomorrow, then.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Fleet Foxes!

The obsession with hippie culture and ‘60s folk that’s been simmering over the last couple of years is peculiar and cultish, a bit Manson, no? Seattle’s Fleet Foxes are a blatant nod to the nature lovers of yesteryear, on one hand, yet barely-legal front man Robin Pecknold will defend, at any chance, his opposition to the ironic consumerism in hippie culture, and the fact that he – adorned with the face of Jesus – is no hippie. The band’s style is far too lumberjack for such a title, anyway.

Pecknold himself has a gorgeous voice, elegant on its own but suited to harmonize with his band mates, like on “White Winter Hymnal,” a neo-traditional effort suited to a…erm…white winter. His voice stands out as beautifully as the rhythmic lead guitar or tom drums on “Ragged Wood,” which is broken up into parts and at first marches steadily like the Constantines’ “Soon Enough” did three years ago.

“He Doesn’t Know Why” sees a baroque atmosphere created from tumbling drum rolls and piano steps, before ending on a thirty-second piano solo that could and should be its own stunning track, if only it were built upon.

This full-length debut is too complex, layered and musically representative of moods and winter visions to be passed off as trendy hippie fare. Pecknold revealed via his label that “We’ve succeeded for ourselves if we’ve made a song where every instrument is doing something interesting and melodic.” This standard in place, Fleet Foxes have more than succeeded.

Fleet Foxes - He Doesn't Know Why
Fleet Foxes - Your Protector
Purchase Fleet Foxes (starting today!)

Monday, June 2, 2008


If your family's too cheap to bury you in a respectable coffin, too scared to keep you in an urn on the mantel, and too squeamish to donate you for the Plastination process, you can always be cremated and kept in a Pringles can. Christ.