Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Fabulous Gentlemen, the Ladies and Stains

Set your DVR's, music fans. Ladies and Gentlemen, the Fabulous Stains will be shown on January 30th at 2:30AM EST on TCM.

This 1981 film about a teenage female punk band (led by Diane Lane and Laura Dern) also features members of the Sex Pistols, the Clash, and the Tubes acting as members of the "Looters" and the "Metal Corpses". Black Randy and the Metrosquad also make an appearance. Fans of "Night Flight" may remember seeing this movie on cable in the 1980's, but it was unavailable on DVD until a few months ago.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

I Think Somebody Better Put Out the Big Light...

...'cause I can't stand to see you this way.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Meth Scab for Yerbouti

I was underwhelmed by the big indie records of 2008: Tivo on the Radio, MGGT, the Feet Floxes, and Vampire Wackness. Microcastle seemed too conventional, aside from the excellent Krautrock jam "Nothing Ever Happened". Even the new Walkmen album didn't do much for me (but I loved their Leonard Cohen cover session on Daytrotter).

With music blogs, part of the joy of discovery (and the joy of Disco:Very) is hearing about music that you never knew existed. I found some great music sites as I surfed the year-end lists. An online zine called Treble has a trove of music reviews that are more descriptive and less snarky than Pitchfork. The Quietus is another great online music zine with inventive feature articles. Paula hipped me to the Ye Wei Blog, written by Jason Gross of Perfect Sound Forever. One of the pseudonymous writers of Tiny Mix Tapes has a music blog called The Decibel Tolls. (My favorite TMT pseudonym is Mario Speedwagon.)

All of these sites published interesting lists of music from 2008 that went beyond the predictable choices. The Allmusic blog and AV Club staff lists were also intriguing. I only found out recently that some of the music critics from the late Harp Magazine are now writing online for Blurt, and their year-end lists make for good reading too.

The Oxford American is a print magazine of Southern literature that publishes a Southern Music Issue once a year. The Music Issue features articles about a wide variety of Southern musicians, and is accompanied by a CD (with songs ranging from indie rock and Americana to the earliest recorded folk, country, jazz and blues). 2008 is the 10th anniversary of the Oxford American's Southern Music Issue, and it includes a double CD! You can read a listing of the CD contents here.


Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Five Albums from 2008 That Weren't Released in the US

(Listed in descending order of excellence).

1) The Fall - Imperial Wax Solvent. Those who aren't fans of the Fall must get tired of hearing about how each new album is a return to form. I didn't care much for Fall Heads Roll (except for "Blindness"); and Reformation Post TLC was embarrassing. So maybe Narnack Records got tired of releasing substandard Fall albums, or perhaps Marquis Smith fired them. At any rate, Imperial Wax Solvent is the greatest thing since sliced bread, or at least since The Real New Fall LP. It's musically diverse, wickedly smart, and funny as hell. The Quietus ran a track-by-track review that speculated on what Mark was drinking during the recording of each song.

2) The Futureheads - This Is Not the World. Everyone liked the Futureheads' debut, but few fans were happy with the follow-up, News + Tributes. The band lost (or left) their label, and released this worthy comeback themselves. Everything great about the Futureheads is present here in spades. Buy (and listen to) the album online here.
If you are a Futureheads fan, I highly recommend the band Statues. I should have included their 2008 album New People Make Us Nervous on my Outliers list. Buy it here, here, or here.
3) Blood Red Shoes - Box of Secrets. Blood Red Shoes is a duo, with a female guitarist and a male drummer, and both of them sing. They list their inspirations as riot grrl, DC hardcore, and early Sub Pop; but I think their wonderful music wouldn't be out of place on a sampler of post-punk from the early 1980's. Watch them here.

4) You Am I - Dilettantes. I wrote about this one last month. YAI fans will find much to like here, but Dilettantes probably won't win the band any new fans. Find a cutout copy of Hi Fi Way, and meet me back here.

5) dEUS - Vantage Point. Like the Fall, dEUS has become Tom Barman plus your granny on bongos. The drummer is the only other original member. The two singles, "Slow" and "The Architect" (a catchy song about Buckminster Fuller), were the highlights of an otherwise unremarkable album. Some of it reminded me of Queens of the Stone Age, but Josh Homme and his granny make better albums than this one. If you want to know what made dEUS great, get Worst Case Scenario (their brilliant debut), or The Ideal Crash (the other dEUS album that never saw US release).


Monday, January 12, 2009

Lie to Your Children Using Syllogisms (It's Fun and Easy!)

Son (Age 7): Dad, is Mario real?

Dad: Well, Mario is a plumber, and plumbers are real. Therefore, Mario is real.

SA7: Awesome!

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Overlooked Outliers: Five More Albums from '08

Dark Captain Light Captain - Miracle Kicker. I first heard this on Rollo & Grady's Top 25 of 2008. The hushed, high-pitched harmonies and sparkling finger-picked guitars may bring Elliott Smith to mind, especially when the singer drops F-bombs on the song "Questions". Elliott Smith had a distinctive lyrical persona and a dark worldview that aren't as apparent here, but Dark Captain Light Captain have a real rhythm section that adds a miraculous kick to songs like "Speak" and "Jealous Enemies". Listen to songs from the album, and buy it here.

The Donkeys - Living on the Other Side. Craig Finn and John Darnielle recommended this album on Pitchfork's Best of 2008 Guest Lists. Listeners at eMusic compared the Donkeys to Television, the Jayhawks, and the Grateful Dead. Living on the Other Side is a laid-back, guitar-oriented album that you can play along to. Rather than fetishizing a sound from the late 60's (like Fleet Foxes and Blitzen Trapper), the Donkeys emphasize songcraft and a spirit of camaraderie. There are two free mp3's at the Dead Oceans website (where you can also buy the CD or LP). The Donkeys also did a Daytrotter session before this album.

Eddy Current Suppression Ring - Primary Colours. This sophomore album from an Australian quartet was released in the US on Goner Records, but the band has progressed beyond its garage rock roots. They play deceptively simple songs with interesting guitar parts and self-deprecating lyrics that are declaimed by a singer who (I swear) is the Antipodean equivalent of Mark E. Smith. An mp3 and video for the song "Which Way to Go", plus vinyl and CD versions of Primary Colours, are available at the Goner website.

The Gang - Zero Hits. The review on Treble piqued my curiosity. The guitars chug along like the Fall (circa the Brix/Scanlon years), while male and female singers chant indecipherable lyrics, like a low-fi Go Team. Most of the songs are short and speedy, with "Heaven's Happening" as the sprawling exception (it lopes along for almost nine minutes). I may not remember any of these songs a year from now, but a fleeting pleasure is still a pleasure. Sample a free track (or buy Zero Hits) at Absolutely Kosher.

Girl Loves Distortion - Earth Beings on Exhibit. This was a reader recommendation on Wired Magazine's late music blog, Listening Post. Girl Loves Distortion is a DC trio who play smart, angular songs with male/female harmonies and (yes) distorted guitars. You can stream the album online, or buy it through Dischord Records.


Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Five Underrated Albums from 2008

Colour Revolt - Plunder, Beg and Curse. A Flagpole critic called this one of the overlooked gems of 2008. I wrote about it here. It's not a perfect album -- I think they could have dropped "Elegant View" -- but the band has a lot of talent, intelligence, passion, and promise. As a Southern band, the Colour Revolt also has an element of the blues in their music, and Baptist hellfire in their lyrics. Critics tagged their influences as Surfer Rosa and Pablo Honey. I can hear the first two U2 albums in there too, and I mean that as a compliment. If you haven't heard the Colour Revolt, there's a free mp3 at Fat Possum.

The Duke Spirit - Neptune. I don't think there was a harder-working band this year. They toured the US three times this year, supporting BRMC, the Eagles of Death Metal, and Scars on Broadway (wha?) Leila Moss has a stunning voice. The band's range recalls everything from "As Tears Go By" and "Somebody to Love" to "Gimme Shelter" and JAMC. Neptune was in the top 5 of 2008 at Under the Radar magazine, and at the Intellectual House of Pancakes. There's a live studio session here.

Evangelista - Hello Voyager. Since the Geraldine Fibbers disbanded, Carla Bozulich has made experimental and improvisational music on her own and with Nels Cline, Simone Massaron, and others. After a solo album called Evangelista, Carla formed a band of the same name with members of A Silver Mt. Zion and Godspeed You Black Emperor. Carla is known for her brutal honesty as well as the rough-edged richness of her singing voice. The songs on Hello Voyager are both confrontational and celebratory, regretful and hopeful. A number of the writers at Tiny Mix Tapes put this album on their year-end lists, Xiu Xiu put it on a Pitchfork guest list, and Resonator liked it; but I didn't see it recommended elsewhere as highly as it should be. There are some live Evangelista songs (and videos) available on the WFMU blog. Carla's website has lots of free songs from all phases of her musical career.

Giant Sand - proVisions. Someone once said that there should be a legal limit on who can make records, and that Howe Gelb should be one of the few allowed to do so. He's a great lyricist, and an underrated guitarist. His weathered voice sounds best when complemented by a female singer. In the past, Howe has sung with Juliana Hatfield, Victoria Williams, Lisa Germano, various Bangles and Go-Go's, and Falling James (who isn't a woman, but often dresses like one). On proVisions, Howe is partnered with Isobel Campbell (except on one track with Neko Case). Howe is backed by a drummer and acoustic bassist whose sympathetic playing rivals that of Giant Sand's former rhythm section (which became Calexico.) Fans of the Sand can also buy a Provisional Supplement.

Wintersleep - Welcome to the Night Sky. This was actually released in November 2007, but I heard NOTHING about this band until their infectious single "Archaeologists" surprised me on the radio one morning. So maybe you haven't heard them either. The band was nominated for a Juno Award in their native Canada, and some of the members are Holy Fcck buddies. There are sonic similarities between Wintersleep's sound and Snow Patrol or the Arcade Fire; but I think that comparison does Wintersleep a disservice, as their music is more subtle and less arena-ready than either of those bands, but every bit as accomplished. You can listen to a live recording of Wintersleep here.


Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Indecision 2008

I am working on a list or two of my favorites from 2008, but there are a number of records that I still want to hear. I'll start by recommending MOST of an album. I really love five of the eight songs on Parts + Labor's Receivers. That's about 60%, but I can give that 60% a 100% endorsement. Isn't the album an arbitrary construct anyway?

Parts + Labor understand that melody and noise (like pleasure and pain) are not polar opposites. Harmony can bleed into dissonance, and discord can resolve into d'accord. "Satellites", the first track on Receivers, opens with a brief wash of ambient noise. An organ chord is answered by a squiggle of synth. Chord, squiggle, chord, squiggle. A drumbeat starts. Bass and guitar begin a steady pulse. A voice sings, "Sometimes I get the feeling that this really never was my home." At 1:40, the rhythm section locks into gear, and the song begins a propulsive drive. There's a key change at 2:48, followed by a chorus about rain and snow. Then the rhythm builds again. More rain and snow at 4:00. A brief lull follows, but at 4:27 the singer urgently cries, "See the satellites! See the satellites!" The song ascends like a rollercoaster to yet another peak at 5:00, as "our eyes roll back into our heads". The last two minutes are ecstatic, with drum rolls, voices and fireworks.

The drumbeat segues into the second song, "Nowheres Nigh", which is just as good as "Satellites". I'm not enamored of the three songs that follow. I want to like them, and I respect the band for trying different things. I guess you can't have ecstasy all the time. But ecstasy returns with the anthemic march of "Wedding in a Wasteland". "Prefix Free" reminds me of the Jai Alai Savant, and Receivers' ends on another high note with "Solemn Show World".

There is a gospel vibe to the churchlike organ and the massed choruses of these songs. Harmony and noise joyfully coexist within them, like the sacred and the profane. The songs remind me of Deep Purple's "Hush", as well as two other great songs from 1968 that were parodies of psychedelic rock, but were compelling rock songs in themselves, driven by organ riffs, insistent drumbeats, and transcendent choral voices.

Fugs: Crystal Liaison (I posted a live version of this song once. This is the version from the LP It Crawled into My Hand, Honest, which is OOP but was made available by my pal Nathan at Nothin Sez Somethin.)

Bonzo Dog Band: We Are Normal (I edited out the lengthy intro, but I love the part where a lady says, "They are nice people and I like their food." I also love the way the drummer goes WHACK WHACK WHACK WHACK WHACK WHACK every time the title is sung.)

Parts + Labor: Satellites (buy Receivers here.)