Pluck the Police
Pity poor Gordon Sumner. Roundly reviled for his love of the lute, the artist forever known as Sting has finally deigned to give the people what they want: the songs he sang with the Police, in the style he sang them with the Police. Both Stereogum and Idolator made the same Spinal Tap "jazz odyssey" joke to describe the new arrangement of "Roxanne" that Sting unsuccessfully proposed to his Police mates.
It takes a big man to set aside your artistic pride and resurrect the popular ditties you performed thirty years ago. It takes a bigger man to refuse to do so. David Thomas, old Papa Ubu, is that bigger man. Even when he reunited with the surviving members of Rocket from the Tombs, even when they rerecorded the songs that brought fame to Pere Ubu (and to the Dead Boys), David Thomas refused to sing them the way he sang them thirty years ago.
You might as well ask David Thomas to sing like a conventional rock frontman. You certainly can't expect him to sing like Stiv Bators did. Ever the Pere-Punk, he doesn't even sing the full chorus to "What Love Is", but my five year old son and I agree that it still rocks.
If you can't afford tickets to the Police reunion, you might do just as well to check out a younger trio of lads with similar chops: the familiar reedy voice, the reggae chords and riddims, the busy drum fills. The Jai Alai Savant mix these ingredients into something new on their forthcoming album, Flight of the Bass Delegate. Tiny Mix Tapes fills in the details, in a Mad Libs stylee.
The Jai Alai Savant: Diary of the Mass Trappist
Rocket from the Tombs (2004): What Love Is
Case and Hux
I recently heard about a new online music magazine worth reading called Blue Railroad. The site's editor, Paul Zollo, has posted a number of excellent interviews with songwriters that were originally published in print magazines and in Zollo's book, Songwriters on Songwriting. I particularly enjoyed the Leonard Cohen interview, which provides insights into his writing methods. New columns written by Peter Case and Parthenon Huxley, among other performers, are another promising feature of Blue Railroad.
Peter Case is a singer-songwriter perhaps best known for the classic power pop song "A Million Miles Away", which he wrote and performed with his band, the Plimsouls. Until I read the LA punk memoir We Got the Neutron Bomb, I didn't realize that Case had been a regular on that scene. Since the Plimsouls, Case has released enough solo material to fill a three disc tribute to his work, A Case for Case.
Parthenon Huxley also composed a power pop classic, "Buddha Buddha", which he released as a single under the name Rick Rock. He has several solo albums released under his current stage name (which combines the old world with the brave new one), as well as with his band P.Hux. He currently fronts the Orchestra, which is essentially ELO minus Jeff Lynne, and his debut column for Blue Railroad is a lengthy but engaging account of the Orchestra's tour of the former Soviet Union.
The P.Hux album Deluxe is one of my personal power pop favorites. Today's song is from a band called VeG, another Huxley-led trio that made one self-titled album. Huxley let loose with more guitar solos on this record, and Meteor Sky is my favorite VeG track. Buy some P.Hux here.
Like a Rollerboogie MF
Atlanta Rollergirls are back! The new season starts tomorrow (2/18). That's SUNDAY, SUNDAY, SUNDAY! Toxic Shocks vs. Denim Demons! Derby bouts are every third Sunday, except when they aren't. Everything you need to know can be found here.
Lots of new faces on the derby teams. Several of my favorite Rollergirls have retired. Where are you tonight, Lola Lixxx?
Soul Coughing: Houston
Blogs Are Like Buses (Another One Will Be Here in a Minute)
Bad news for music bloggers: Post-Punk Junk is no more. Bret got shut down by his hosting service. His blog was one of my inspirations. Bret promises to resurface with another site in the next few months.
Berkeley Place also got shut down (by Blogger?), but Ethan has happily set up shop again on Wordpress.
The Merry Muses of Caledonia, my favorite Scottish music blog, is on its last legs. Ryan is now writing for Stylus magazine, and Underneathica wishes him well.
More happiness: Simon has resumed posting on his great British blog Spoilt Victorian Child!
Happier still: my friends at Eat More Records in Lawrenceville are having a huge sale this month: 25% off all new import CDs, LPs, DVDs and 45s; 25% off all used CDs, LPs, DVDs and 45s; and 10% off all new CDs and LPs (in stock only, not special orders). All through the 28th of February!
I heard this song today for the first time in a long time, and was reminded of what a great post-punk guitar rave-up it is. And it's Scottish (not crap)! Discord by the Fire Engines (click link to buy Teenage Codex Premonition).
The endless array of tribute albums continues unabated with Endless Highway, wherein the timeless music of the Band is subjected to the tepid stylings of Jack Johnson, Bruce Hornsby, Gomez, and Dreck Cab for the Clueless. I was pleased to see the very worthy Atlanta singer Lizz Wright paired on "Whispering Pines" with Jakob Dylan (whose participation was, I suppose, inevitable). But I'll betcha dollars to donuts that the producers asked Norah Jones to do it first.
The song choices, too, are predictable. This isn't the Band that I choose to remember. Save your money for Rock of Ages or The Basement Tapes. What I loved about the Band was their voices, their musicality, and the way they could swing as a live band. I recently watched Festival Express in order to see the footage of the Band, and they did not disappoint: their cover of "Slipping and Sliding" was especially special. (And the footage of a very drunk Rick Danko on the train was amusing.)
Three things about Festival Express surprised me. First, Buddy Guy's guitar playing was incendiary. Second, I actually enjoyed the Grateful Dead (whose lineup at the time was keyboard-free and included Pigpen on vocals and harp). Most surprising of all was seeing members of the Dead cast in an anti-anti-establishment role. Gatecrashers at the concerts became violent, and one policeman suffered a severe head injury. "He's got a metal plate in his head now. Was that worth the $14 (ticket price)?" Bob Weir demanded of a woman on the train who sympathized with the fans' belief that they shouldn't have to pay for "their" music (not entirely unlike the goddam kids of today!)
Back to the Band. Yazoo Street Scandal pretty much sums up their greatness for me: a hardscrabble tale sung (nay, hollered) by Levon, with Garth's percolating organ, Robbie's stabbing leads, and the impossible elasticity of Danko's bass darting around Levon's polyrhythmic snare.
A beautiful version of Whispering Pines was recorded a few years back by the Pine Valley Cosmonauts, with Atlanta expatriate Kelly Hogan.
Living Legends: They Live Among Us
Roky Erickson performed a successful series of live shows this past year, with more to come in 2007. Not only will Roky and his band the Explosives play at Coachella this year, they will also be at the Noise Pop festival on March 7 in SF, and at the Ponderosa Stomp on May 2 in New Orleans.
Here's a great Austin Chronicle article about Roky's present life, and his relationship with his brother Sumner, who is Roky's guardian. Being the occasionally obsessive music nerd that I am, I created a list on eMusic of all the Roky Erickson covers available there (only a few of which appeared on Where the Pyramid Meets the Eye, a fine tribute album).
One of my favorite stories about Roky is when he was asked about the Sex Pistols. Roky said he liked them, and that his favorite Pistols song was called "Hot Cars". The Angry Samoans imagined what "Hot Cars" might have sounded like, and recorded a "cover" of it for their classic first EP, Inside My Brain.
Here's another great article about Atlanta's own Colonel Bruce Hampton (Ret.), who has led such bands as the Aquarium Rescue Unit, the Fiji Mariners, the Arkansas Travelers, and the Hampton Grease Band (creators of one of the worst-selling albums ever). A documentary film entitled "Basically Frightened" has been made about Col. Hampton.
I used to go to those weekly 89 cent shows at the Little 5 Points Pub (as mentioned in the article) all those years ago. The article omits mention of Dr. Dan Matrazzo, the fine keyboard player who accompanied Col. Bruce on those weekly gigs. I remember they sold Stroh's Dark on draft for a dollar. I once shared a flight with a guy who worked for the brewery, and I asked him why their dark beer wasn't available in bottles. He said they just added molasses to the kegs. So much for my refined taste in beer.
Bruce Hampton's current live band, the Quark Alliance, will perform on Saturday, February 24 at Tree Sound recording studio in Norcross. Buy yourself some Bruce music and merch here.
The Spades (1965): We Sell Soul
Bruce Hampton (1984): Fixin' to Die