A band is only allowed one come-back album. I think that's a fair assertion... something everyone can agree on. Anything beyond that is no longer the valiant effort of the "band" - that being a solidified group of dedicated musicians - but really the privilege of a songwriter holding onto a name. Fortunately for Gang of Four, singer Jon King and guitarist Andy Gill have always been the clear core, and the torch is theirs to carry.In advance of their upcoming record, Content (due Jan. 25 through Yep Roc), the Gang (can I even say that?) have offered up a free EP featuring a re-recorded take of "Glass," from their agreed-upon classic debut Entertainment, along with two additional non-album tracks.
The necessity of a 3-song EP made up of one re-recording, one rehearsal demo, and one dance remix is entirely arguable. But it's free, so no harm there. Maybe I'm too classicist, but reviving a highlight from a landmark album for no particularly good reason (the original was "too busy" and "old-fashioned," according to Gill) seems gimmicky, especially 30 years later (!!) However, it's possible that revisiting that material in the studio primed the engine for the sessions that make up Content.High-fidelity aside, that could bode well for their proto-dance-punk perfection.
Download it for yourself here, and catch them at DC's 9:30 Club on February 9.
Black Cat, 1811 14th Street NW, Washington DC
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
I've been talking this show up for months now: two Philly bands coming from opposite ends of the rock spectrum playing together in DC at one of my favorite venues. Purling Hiss has a more in common with the MC5, while Vile's songwriting is plainly tied to the early Greenwich folk-poet scene, but they both collide in screeching walls of psychedelic fuzz. Let me just say that I walked into this one more sober than I wanted to be.
Purling Hiss doesn't fuck around. They play the kind of loud rock that makes me jerk my fist around and slur righteously about the divine kingdom. I use the word "loud" the way fans of Blank Dogs or Best Coast use "lo-fi." I think of it as a near-complete aesthetic decision, only one that's way more likely to boot the motherfucking gods from their mountaintops.
Mike Pollize's guitar screamed into high gear from the first moment of the set and didn't settle back to earth for another 40 some-odd minutes (who the fuck knows how long? I'd curled into a fetal position in front of the stage amps way too early on to tell, compliantly taking pulls from my thumb). The thick bass lines powered through Pollize's enumerable micro-solos, giving his madcap guitar jams the bedrock they deserved. He put enough whammy bar on the deeper, less perceptible riff to put a big grin on your face, and finally he finished the set on his knees picking down low in the dirtier regions of his fretboard, locating frequencies that were first unearthed by the Japanese psychedelic experimentalist of the sixties, 50s-rocker turned communist death cults like Les Rallize Denudes.
For anyone who sat through the entirety of Purling Hiss, Kurt Vile probably seemed like a banjo-picking hayseed. Ah, that's not really fair, but the distinction in noise quality was there. Vile pulled through with a solid set of the songs you're more likely to aurally comprehend from his albums. I find his recorded work thick at times and sonically hard to parse. To my mind, his trademark is his voice and singing rhythm. His lyrics actually express complete thoughts, which may possibly be what contributes most to his popularity (as an English major, I hafta admit it gets me, too). The sentiment of his lyrics latches pretty firmly to the contemporary 20-something Weltanschauung, post-Warhol, post-atomic bomb, post-people who gave a shit about either of those things. To give you an example, here's a short line from his song "Freak Train" out on his Childish Prodigy LP:
Fabrication is my best friend, but I ain't never been so insulted in my whole life.
Vile's choice for starting out his set was a 12-string, which lent a tranquil, easy-going quality to his skilled guitar work. He moved between a few other guitars during the set as he transitioned between louder, more distorted songs, and finally back to a beautiful closer, playing solo acoustic. If you can say anything about the man, versatility is one of his talents.
The best surprise for me was that Pollize continued on from his set to play backing guitar with the Violators. I wouldn't have guessed it was possible for him to sit comfortably in the background, but Pollize was probably treating it like a cool-down. And, shit, I'll say it, Vile is an amazing guitarist, too, and an attention-commanding frontman. You always get the sense that what he's saying (especially when you can't understand it) is absolutely true.
Overall, fantastic fucking show, reaffirming the fundamentals. I moved from bar to bar to couch afterwards, spit dripping from my lips from the strain of expressing my wonderment through what was left of my rock and roll lobotomy-cinched mind. Everyone I encountered got overtipped. And I do believe my light-bearing preachifying deserved some reciprocity.
A new cassette release is out from Baltimore's Secret Mountains with an LP to follow sometime in 2011. These guys specialize in drawn out jams. This track kicks off with a little space rock noise that finally comes down to earth with Kelly Laughlin's bleached out vocals. There are also a couple graceful transitions here where the band gears up or grinds down, giving the song the feel of a miniature mixtape.
Pick up the cassette from Friends Records. And if you have no idea what do with a tape anymore, you sweet, darling idiot, consider asking for one of these machines from one of your Black Friday-loving family members.
Came across this one a couple of weeks ago via Weekly Tape Deck. Yuck put out an EP earlier this year, and now I hear "Rubber" will be on their full length due out on Pharmacy Recording Company/Fat Possum in January 2011. This track features a nice, fuzzy wall of sound, and the video is best viewed in wide screen mode, possibly within range of your perverted uncle, or really any family member who hugs just a beat too long. I'd also recommend viewing it right before you sit down to eat.
The event of a new one-off collection of home recordings from Bradford Cox is assuring news that Deerhunter's staggering Halcyon Digest hasn't sidetracked his prolificacy, nor his generous anti-ego. Not that the 11 songs included on the Bedroom Databank, Vol. 1 - posted this week free of charge on the Deerhunter blog under his Atlas Sound moniker - are brimming with universal genius... but that's obviously not the point. This is a keep-the-wheels-spinning daydream transmitted over the internet, straight from the synapses in Cox's restless brain. The result is a mixed bag of skittering instrumentals (including an elevator-meets-earworm wordless take on Kurt Vile's "Freak Train") and campfire space-jams. These songs sound like they crept out of a pile of dirty laundry in the corner of Cox's bedroom. The perfect soundtrack to this evening's trip to the laundromat.
Footnote: Mr. Cox has delivered a second installment of his Bedroom Databank series, less than 24 hours following the previous collection. Again, beautifully scattershot and a perfect soundtrack for scrubbing the dust-turned-rust muck off the shelving units in my bedroom. Fuck spring cleaning; this is a clearinghouse to prepare for the deep-freeze. In keeping with my habitual superstition, I'll start boarding up my windows now in hopes that Cox will supply an appropriate soundtrack tomorrow...
Zoo has been putting in the leg work these days, having released one of my favorite records of the year with Flight. Actually, I can't believe I haven't talked about The Lead Riders hereyet, considering how I shot an old man full of it the other day while he pissed his bus seat. Anyway, thank you, Zoo Music, for fucking up one more bus seat in Suck City.
Give Sunny Skies a listen, and while you're doing so, imagine you live in a town with the sprawling highway infrastructure of LA and the heat of Las Vegas, but with neither the beach nor the casinos. This time I mean Houston, a leading candidate for the most godforsaken city in the south. That's how you go around the rock bend and come back to shoegaze. Remember: it's not the heat, it's the humidity.
Listen to two tracks from the new 7" right over here. We're expecting an LP from these guys in 2011 thanks to the hard working folks at Mexican Summer. And here's an old track I was able to dig up from their FLA split with Bad Life.
Beach Fossils Face It
Captured Tracks 7"
A new, cleaned up recording suits this band. They may sound a little more like label mates, Wild Nothing, but that shouldn't seem like a bad thing, or even somehow inappropriate to Dustin Payseur's upbringing. Looking at the facts, both bands (and I could lump some other bands in here, too) have adopted a late-eighties Brit-pop guitar rock, and they've melded that sound with an all-American beach bonfire vibe. But this isn't a west coast thing. Since both bands hail from lower Atlantic states, it's safe to say this music better captures the grassy strands and island-dotted shorelines of the east coast. And so both bands become (sort of) southeast counterparts to the scum rock/psych pop coming from America's left coast, the better-known, beach-ier coast. But if the choice is between Brooklyn bedroom artists transplanted from their native Southland or LA's highway-bound dumpster divers, give me the sons and daughters of General Sherman's scorched earth any day.
I liked them when they put out their debut LP earlier this year, and I like them more now.
Out this past week, these Canadian ladies kick up the motherfucking jams. The video feels like a meth-fueled Cassavetes film at first before things turn very Lord of the Flies. If I were a betting man, I'd expect to see a lot more from this band in 2011. God damn them if they don't make it to DC.
Here's some music for a cold, winter weekend. Caveat: I have no idea if it's cold since I haven't been out. Winter can suck it. This song's from the forthcoming Captured Tracks release, By the Hedge (Jan 12), thanks to the Brooklyn-by-way-of-Boston, strum-happy beams of light, MINKS. These guys eschew naiveté and infantilism in favor of straight-ahead gloom with a twist of Johnny Marr. Sway your hips to this shit. Twirl you mic cord like it's your flaccid penis...sweet Jesus, I should never be left home alone for this long of a stretch.
Post-script: judging from this band's Myspace url, these guys are practicing witches and should not be fucked with. Spells could be cast. Glyphs and smothered campfires could be found in the woods near your hometown. I have no idea what witches really do.
Stereolab are on a planet of their own. Some call it future-retroactive, some call it retro-futuristic... the point is that they fall squarely within modern-times more than any band I can think of. In their universe, songwriting is "a state of mind," as Stereolab mastermind Tim Gane is quoted as saying... "not a length of time." The longevity of this band doesn't prove his statement, but makes it clear that he knows Stereolab exist on a different plane than any of their peers.
As of today, my iTunes machine calculates that I have 286 songs by the group. That is a fucking mind-blowing, shit-load amount by a band that pays so much goddamn attention to every detail in every song. Not Music - Stereolab's "hiatus" record from the same sessions that produced 2008s Chemical Chords - only serves to compound my bewilderment. How is it possible to gather so many musicians in one room to follow such strange chord structures?? And with such precision? This is a real record played by real people, no mistake about it.
The initial result sounds like a snot-nosed toddler poking me in the side every 3 seconds; annoying at first, but after some time, I realize that the punk isn't gonna leave my side anytime soon, and before I know it, he's all I have. He walks with me, poking my belly at every intersection until I'm giggling at every odd chord change. And then, I'm convulsing in the crosswalk during rush-hour just because a vibraphone attack upsets my motorik gait. This is not music; this is a series of blind-sided sucker-punches that have been deliberately dropped onto Planet Earth by one of the most concise Martian bands of the past two decades. And somehow, the entire ensemble is in place to create a lush environment for the in-joke to sound sincere. As a fan, I'm in on it... and I want to share in the laughter.
This past week, Altered Zones posted an interview with the label founders of Not Not Fun Records. The label's most successful artist pick so far has been Ducktails, out on tour now with Deerhunter. I wish some of these younger labels coming up would sit down and put something more concrete down about their aesthetic, but what are you going to do? The best hint from these guys about what they're after--and I do think they're a label to watch--may be to check out the band Amanda Brown (co-founder/wife) plays in, LA Vampires.
B-T-Dubs, if I don't sound excited right now; it's because I just got back from the Grinderman show tonight where I watched Nick Cave dry-humping faces in the audience's front row, howling about getting his hand stuck in the cookie jar, while Warren Ellis leaped around and played the world's tiniest guitar; and all I have a taste for this second is music with some fucking testosterone.
Now you're not going to want to hear this track...but that's all I've GOT, motherfucker.
Glad to see these guys getting back to the studio some more. After 2008's Alight of the Night, I'd predicted great things from this Brooklyn group. When they fell off the map for the past year, I'd sort of lost hope of hearing their depressive jangle again. The hooks on the below track play out as simply and smoothly as those from their best songs. And I found moments in "Shake the Shackles" where Brad Hargett's voice hits a more honest, earnest note than I've heard from their recorded material in the past. The B side is a little tamer, but as a whole this 7" is still fun to flip. Expect to see their sophomore (but they feel so old already) release out on Slumberland in early 2011.
Let me straighten out what I'm after here in this series. I listen to everything I can get my hands on these days, and my attention span varies wildly in terms of what I'm able to devote to individual artists, albums, or songs. Whether I'm riding mass trans, driving my car, or playing a record in my apartment, the music often gets the sideways stare of a passerby on a poorly lit street. In this category of posts, I'd like to slow it down and dig into what attracts me about a certain artist by examining a single track from a new favorite album of mine. By necessity, I won't be offering any sort of rating system here; if I'm willing to rattle on about something for this long, you can assume I like it. Instead I'll be picking away at my own aesthetic, reducing it as if over a slow flame until I can say for certain what kept my attention for multiple listenings. I'm not writing a biography of a band or rewriting Pitchfork's review through my own lens. And I'm not expert enough to talk about any intention the band may have had on the production side. End disclaimer.
I don't believe Woodsist has yet to find a better fit for its catalog. Royal Baths sounds more natural on this Brooklyn-based label than even the title band, the Woods. But the gel stiffens for sure when it comes into contact with the Woods, or really, rather the Woods Family Creeps adumbration of the host band. Try their tracks "Family" or "Twisted Tongue" against anything on Litanies and your ears will surely latch onto the same root formula of folk music backed with the curved-spine of psychedelia as the intriguing deformity. Royal Baths take the psychedelic instincts of the borough band and head Manhattan-ward, coaxing the most memorable vibes out of the Warhol Factory scene, borrowing (not stealing, mind you) Cale's guitar, Maureen Tucker's percussion, and Iggy's lower key vocal styling (when he wasn't busy lacerating his chest with glass).
Not to play this geography bit too hard, but it's also interesting to consider Royal Baths in the context of their native San Francisco. While the scene out west these days is killing every prejudicial notion I've held for the land of Hollywood and fish tacos, I wouldn't have been so quick to point to their psych scene as the cause. Thee Oh Sees come as close as I can recollect to producing the near-monotonic pandemonium that you'll find buried in the less safe tracks on Litanies. While I wouldn't apply the same adjectives to the two bands, on "I Detest," Royal Baths reaches into the same expansive terrain.
From the thick baseline in the opening measures, you're quickly transported to the too dark backroom of a party where all of the drugs have ended up. It especially reminds me of the date night sequence from Haskell Wexler's ultra-cool flick Medium Cool where Zappa's Mothers of Invention expand minds by blowing away brain cells. Further to my point, the flatly resonating drumbeat carried methodically by drummer, Eden Birch (great name), rides in the background as if she were patiently absorbed by her own hallucination, unaware that there were other musicians in the room.
I find the open-ended suggestion behind the repeated "I detest" irresistible to contemplate. What does he detest? Others, himself? I'm sure he provides some answers in there that I just haven't cracked yet, but I prefer my interpretation that his scorn is simply untargeted. The ability to hate inwardly and outwardly in equal measure forms it's own kind of trance as the singer tries to hold his gaze long enough to certify his hatred. And so this becomes not the music of their other hometown hippie bands, but something else more in line with the deranged drug-stupor of the Manson Family.
So where's the pain? I'm the first to admit that what I look for in a good song is a twinge moment, either something inseparable from the whole or a momentary crucial stab. And I find it here in two places: at the minute forty-three mark when the bridge collides with the chorus and the guitar buzz revs louder, and in the call-and-response (Jeremy Cox and Jigmae Baer) teamwork. Where Baer's end provides a little more balance to Cox's voice on other songs from Litanies, his yelping on this track protrudes from the base of the singer's otherwise cool vibe like a caudal appendage (there: that's two spinal deformation references), and I love it.
Hell, I'm yelping and spitting right now like the pathetic Pomeranian that humps my leg in the fucking elevator every morning. I'm headed to work, and it's coming back in from taking the most satisfying shit of its little life. Good thing I've got Royal Baths to focus my spite.
I've never been convinced of the term "industrial music," especially in the context of the past decade. In fact, I guarantee that no self-effacing musician gives a shit about what sub- upon sub-genre is thrown on them these days. Certainly not Seattle's Grave Babies. Replace the image of efficient pistons and clanging metalworks with an acutely precise team of bone-crushers. In fact, replace it with an acutely precise team of cinema sound-engineers, replicating the bone-crushing sound by snapping a thousand celery stalks exactly in time. I've actually never heard a human bone break, so celery is all I got. This is a "goth" band dripping ceremonial worm-gut harmonies over fresh salad. And I fucking like it. Salad goth.
Everything in Philly is coming up pop these days, and Reading Rainbow are no exception. What a blissful, easy place it must be to live. Head over to 5 tunes to hear what the band considers essential to their own sound. It makes for great Friday listening if your office has three too many walls like mine. And just so we're clear, for those of you in the back who can't read the chalkboard, the site's gimmick relies on...fuck it, you're not that dumb. Follow the link for some great Middle East sounds.
I've really been in the mood for screeching guitars lately. And these guys bring it in a Jesus and Mary Chain sort of way (not exactly, though, to their credit). They make me want to go into work tomorrow and just bat my pencil all day. Maybe let them all roll off onto the floor one by one until my office is hip-deep with writing tools and nobody can get the door open to bother me. What a sweet, thorny hell that would be. Just like these songs.
//Sidenote: I'm really liking the way the Slumberland roster is shaping up lately. Over the summer it kind of felt like they were falling behind Mexican Summer, Woodsist, and others.//
Anyway, if you see it here, that means I'm buying it. It's the buy of the week, godammit. This is a great debut album. Get yourself one. And maybe instead of the pencil thing, I'll just gurgle my words all day until somebody slaps me.
Here's the recent video from the Frankie Rose project, which features ex-members of nearly every other girl garage group out there plus Crystal Stilts. For some reason I can get behind this band more easily than Best Coast. Only, I keep waiting for her to rip out the chainsaw and go to town. If you get bored watching people act bored to be in this music video, then just try to stick with this one long enough to get to the satisfying Carrie-style pig blood sequence. You got me why it looks like it tastes good. Hell, I'd say it's about time to try this trick at home kids. Find a girl you hate and ridicule her publicly. That's the message here.
Back from a long weekend in Austin where I narrowly missed paying the $50 to go to Fun Fun Fun Fest. It probably wouldn't have been worth the price of the wristband, though, since most of the bands played elsewhere in their off-hours. And I'd already caught most of the bands I wanted to see as they toured in Texas's general direction. This festival (like all of the rest hosted in the ATX) fails to properly flaunt the hometown heroes, so it's with some luck that a friend helped me stumble onto his favorite up-and-coming band, The Young. Pick it up at the nosebleed steep prices offered by Mexican Summer, an otherwise fantastic label. The songs only get crustier and more directionless than than the album's opener posted below. You can't catch this band playing FFFFest.
It's rare that I sift through the Electronic/New Age section of a record store (how are they clumped together anyway?), but this recent find at Red Onion Records & Books made a case to change my habits. Here's the premise: four distinguished judges must select the best electronic compositions from a pool of 129 unlabeled tapes representing composers from 15 countries. The results, seven in total, are contained in no particular order on this LP.
What this collection so beautifully exhibits is the common thread from classical composition to literally "computer music," while simultaneously setting itself apart from any recognizable form. Each of the seven pieces here demonstrate masters of composition grappling with music as technology. Like an equestrian attempting to ride an octopus, these men and women have little to guide them but the rules of nature. For instance, Joel Gressel's Points in Time utilizes the ratio-relationships within the 12 semitones of an octave and applies them to rhythm, resulting in a constant accelerating and decelerating rubber band of tones. Paul Lansky's Mild Und Leise is a stunning lesson in timbral change, like watching piranhas trapped under a thick sheet of ice. Slippery and distant, until the ice gives way.
Off of this year's release from the Baltimore band, here's the gorgeous video for "Tin Man." Dig the steel drum synths and singer Samuel Herring's subdued growl. I have to say these guys make me feel a lot better about living way the hell out in the Middle East (Coast). You can catch them this weekend at the Blackcat backstage where they've drawn a solid dance crowd in the past. I could even feel the temptation rising in me. Don't resist it. Give in. Submit yourself to Wham.