Saturday, August 23, 2008

The Walkmen at the Troubadour. Los Angeles. 8.22.08

The Walkmen are sort of a flawless lot, and even with a mish-mash of critical reviews in their recent history, I'd call them the rare group that does little wrong, if any. Say what you will about the inconsistency of A Hundred Miles Off, that You & Me is a proper return to form – the newest is among their best, true, but even A Hundred Miles Off was worth some excitement, offering some unexpected punk drumming, and some expected brass and beauty.

You & Me, in any case, is beautiful, and last night, at the second of the band's Troubadour performances, much of the record was put on display, only to blend seamlessly with the band's earlier (and mostly-mellow) efforts.

The Walkmen have so much to offer on record – crashing waltzes, a tinkling of piano that belongs in the grandest of music boxes, and of course, the juxtaposition of Hamilton Leithauser's strained croon with the quick rumbling of Matt Barrick's drums. They're a band to which, and with which, to fall in love, and were it not for the possibility of being slapped around by fellow concertgoers during a semi-hit like “The Rat,” their live performance would be the perfect setting for a drawn out slow dance to match that between Paul Maroon's Streamliner and Walter Martin's bass. “The Rat” as encore, of course, drew all sorts of sing-along action, and it's a fine song, but it hasn't got the driving aggression and tumbling pace of “Postcards from Tiny Islands,” or the delicate splendor of “The Blizzard of '96.”

It's difficult not to notice the aggressive smile on drummer Barrick, who resembles Seth Meyers when he's grinning and tackling his crash cymbal. Hamilton Leithauser's got the stance of a fighter crying up to the heavens, tightly pursing his lips and only breaking them to spit out his words. It's impossible not to closely watch Maroon, who holds his Gretsch like a guitar instructor, with a grace and coolness held up by steady posture, flawless from his pressed white shirt to his mangled, lumpy shoes. His guitar method – half of what makes this band – is both piercing and elegantly controlled, high on treble and reverb but with a magnificent attention to detail, combining beautifully with the Farfisa.

The group is stylish and dresses elegantly, but it's only when they're up close that you notice those worn shoes, the stain on the corduroy pants, the safety pins holding together a torn blazer sleeve. Leithauser's intensity shone most brightly in the sweat pouring off the backs of his hands, and he guzzled a couple of Amstel Lights until his breath could literally be detected as soon as he bent forward.

As for the musical goods – the new stuff fared fantastically; “Donde Esta La Playa” remained a gloomy dream of a track, “In the New Year” became less beautiful while screamed along to by select ladyfans, and “Postcards From Tiny Islands” sounded a touch off in the timing of Peter Bauer's guitar, though as one of my new Walkmen favorites, it remained nearly as climactic as I'd hoped it would. Perhaps the biggest surprise was “All Hands and the Cook,” with a prominent beat that doesn't show up on A Hundred Miles Off, rebelling against the recorded version which buried its drums under seemingly endless layers of organ and guitar. The Walkmen remain a band of pure magic.

The Walkmen - Everyone Who Pretended to Like Me is Gone

The Walkmen - Donde Esta La Playa

Purchase You & Me

Someone at the August 21 Troubadour show was nice and filmed Donde Esta La Playa.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

For Cheap or For Free

Hi ho! In the day of yester, the Henry Clay People posted a brand new track to their MySpace page for listening purposes, "You Can Be Timeless." Survey says: It's destined to be a neo-classic rock hit! The track is the first to pop from the loins of their upcoming record, For Cheap or For Free, due out on Aquarium Drunkard's Autumn Tone Records.

There'll be a release show Oct. 3 at shiny ol' Spaceland, though impatient fans can get their kicks at the Sunset Junction festival this weekend. The Henry Clay People go on at noon this Sunday, August 24, on the Bates Stage (which, on a side note, will be occupied by the Black Keys later that night). Support the hell out of this band!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Three cheers for the Pacific Northwest! (Part Two)

“...please dont just surf the net and add us as your friends on here. only ask to be our friends if you have heard and actually like our music or are our pals from some other realm.”

It sort of bums me out to see that in 2005, Biography of Ferns left the above note on their MySpace page, only to wind up with a measly 481 friends three years down the line. Maybe potential fans are turned off by their boldly announced distrust of the government (in Pastel Gothic's liner notes), or maybe they're insulted by the point in said notes at which the band writes: “If you exploit anyone, fuck you. There will be a day when you are destroyed, figuratively, or realistically through the ensuing isolation when your senseless power and money grab unravels and what you had considered an insular community reveals itself to be mere specters of human forms. Your materialism will bite you in the palpable ass.”

Who knows? All that's fit to declare is that Biography of Ferns won't be accepting a major label deal any time soon. They're very much a group of liberal idealists who could only come from a place like Seattle, the rare place where upholding one's political values rules over desire for success, and thus, fame isn't likely to expand beyond the local.

Pastel Gothic includes six tracks already released on Biography of Ferns' 2004 EP, Memory's Servant, and the record itself is meant to display how they'd spent their time between 2001 and 2006 (they've also got another full-length, 2001's Merchants of Sleep and Purpose, which does not bleed into Pastel Gothic). Tellous – home to many Degenerate Art Ensemble records – released this record twice, once in late 2007 and again in April of this year, though it's uncertain when they'll release these brand spankin' new songs the band's gone on record as saying it's got under its belt.

The overall sound here is sort of a minimal drums-guitar-bass deal, sort of a generic alternative-that-thinks-it's-punk rock sound. I'm tempted to imagine, out loud, that this is what the Dismemberment Plan would be if fronted by Cedric Bixler-Zavala. Except, you know, the Dismemberment Plan's well over and Cedric's rather busy, so Biography of Ferns have got Justin Hamacher instead. He's high in pitch, and throws in an occasional vibrato for a touch of class. The guitar on “Control Getsum” is uncomfortable, like the ominous jingle that occasionally appeared on Pee Wee's Playhouse, while “Build You Down” nicely rolls forward with a bit of stomp and “Stray Curse” is filler all the way through. This visit through the early 2000s is grating on first (and perhaps second) listen, but surely it's a grower, and the band's hopeful naiveté is, if nothing else, refreshing.

Biography of Ferns - The Charmer
Biography of Ferns - Build You Down
Purchase Pastel Gothic

Sunday, August 10, 2008

'cause no one likes a cheap jerk. (New Walkmen + Richard Swift)

This is Richard Swift:

These are the Walkmen:

(That Paul Maroon fellow's a handsome one, no?)

Richard Swift and the Walkmen are both generous parties. For a temporary amount of time, Secretly Canadian is giving away Swift's EP, Ground Trouble Jaw, released August 5. Yes, like a present.

You can patiently download the EP, song by song, here.

Perhaps even more generously, the new Walkmen album, You & Me, is being sold at Amie Street prior to its August 19 release date for $5.00 per digital copy. Why is this more generous than as if it were given away for free? All money earned from this early sale goes to the Memorial-Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Yes, the album is absolutely gorgeous, just like every other album the band has ever released (the pickiest of bastards might even say it's better than A Hundred Miles Off), and it is worth plenty more than those five measly bucks.

Purchase You & Me here.

If you're one of those people who hates paying for stuff, you can find four free Neil Hagerty covers by the Walkmen at Daytrotter. Listen to them while rotting in hell. Cheap, lonely hell.

And because neither artist will see a dime from these release methods, you ought to pay them a visit (and, erm, pay them) by checking them out as they tour together. Tour dates can be found on their
widget box thing.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Three cheers for the Pacific Northwest! (Part One)

Well, shit. The new Dead Science record, Villainaire, is set to come out in early September, and after releasing a gorgeous 7-inch last spring (Throne of Blood/The Duel of Iron Mike), the group's let a brand new track leak out. What's to say about "Make Mine Marvel?"

Holy Jesus. Between this and "Throne of Blood," the full-length's opener, Villainaire is shaping up to be the most pop record the band's released yet, but perhaps the most dramatic, interesting and creative as well. Quite an exciting time, all three minutes and thirty-six seconds of this one. It simply screams "Batman," if nothing else.

This band is so ridiculously dashing on the whole, I can't contain myself. Read more about what's to come by clicking the WOW. Katrina Ford and Craig Wedren apparently make guest appearances on the record.

The Dead Science - Make Mine Marvel

Hear a remix of "Make Mine Marvel" as well as "Throne of Blood" plus mo'

Fuck yeah!

This year the musical end of the Fest will be whittled down to a single day, rather than a full weekend, due to lack of funds - essentially, Fuck Yeah! Fest founder Sean Carlson racked up $15,000 worth of debt to bring the music to the kids, so to help him get out of his financial hole, not to mention have a grand time, support the music!

It's quite a trendy fest this time, and this year won't offer Langhorne Slim or Pissed Jeans, nor a reunion of now-kaput Boston band the Explosion, but there's a bit left to be had. Mika Miko alone is worth the entry fee!
(August 18 Edit - Lineup Has Become Longer!)

Day 1: Saturday, August 30th
No Age
Negative Approach
Matt & Kim
Fucked Up
Two Gallants
David Vandervelde
Glass Candy
High Places
Mika Miko
Trash Talk (Just Added)
The Strange Boys
Best Fwends
Abe Vigoda
Paint It Black
Crystal Antlers
David Dondero
War Tapes
Frank Farfield
Graham Forest
Tod Adrian Wisenbaker
Michael Runion
Brother Reade
Past Lives (ex Blood Brothers)
Mannequin Men
Underground Rail Road to Candyland
Off With Their Heads
Preacher & the Knife
Truimph of Lethargy (members of Murder City Devils - Hell Yes!!!)
60 Watt Kid
Witch Hats
Halloween Swim Team
+ many more bands TBA shortly.
Dublabd Soundsystem
Dennis Owens
Rusty Lazer (via New Orleans) will all be playing records between bands.

$18 & All Ages. Starts 3:00pm

The amazing Josh Fadem will be doing comedy along with Matt Braugner, Bob Odenkirk, Jonah Ray, Jeff Garlin(Curb Your Enthusiasm) and a half dozen other comics. There will be a taco eating contest. Milk chugging contest. A dance off. 25 artists will show their work. A kissing booth. Please wear a halloween costume. And the following day, August 31st, the LA Scavenger Hunt will be taking place.

This is what happened last year.