Friday, May 21, 2010

National Anthems


Well, it’s quite the brouhaha lately re: High Violet, new LP from The National. & truthfully, it’s a friendly enough album with much to recommend it. I particularly enjoy the front-center placement of the drums in the mix while other, undifferentiated textures roil deep & dark beneath. I like the formless distortion noise that sometimes hovers throughout, seeping into every crevice. I have no objection to the cool detachment of Matt Berninger’s baritone, whose lyrics veer from anguished to absurd (“I was carried to Ohio in a swarm of bees” say what??).

Picture dark wood panel, leather & dim lighting. Brandy. A cigar, maybe.

In the end though, I am just not loving it. Much as I would like to. I think my objection is that it’s all too comfortable, too clean, too undangerous. Shouldn’t something this insistently dark have a least some bit of menace about it? I’ve waited in vain for that here, but High Violet is more than anything else very very pretty. I want to pinch its cheeks.

NOTE: MUSIC LINK REMOVED PURSUANT TO DMCA ENFORCEMENT ACTION.

Natl-Lemonworld mp3

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

LCD: This Is Happening.


Jesus Christ Wow & words to that effect. This Is Happening is the rather apt title of LCD Soundsystem’s resplendent & dazzling new LP. Hear some here:

LCD-I Can Change mp3

LCD (& more specifically James Murphy) will continue to be accused now of being “merely” derivative & a novelty act, so let’s start there, yes? “You Wanted a Hit” is a novelty song, & likewise “Drunk Girls” at least arguably. Not incidentally, these are probably the least two interesting songs on the album, notwithstanding sundry fine aspects to recommend them. So. I will not object to their exclusion from this discussion for the sake of anyone offended by novelty songs, of which I am no great champion.

So, next. LCD = Derivative? Well, here is “Somebody’s Calling Me.”

LCD-Somebody's Calling Me mp3

Which I immediately sussed as signifying “Nightclubbing,” viz Iggy Pop, from The Idiot (1977):

IP-Nightclubbing mp3

Crazy right? & Hey, the whole album is replete with this kind of thing. Murphy’s songs quote freely & avidly from the best of the best of very late 1970s & very early 1980s new wave, synth pop, art funk, & pertinent antecedents thereof. e.g., Bowie, circa Heroes (1977); Prince, circa 1999 (1982); Talking Heads, circa Remain in Light (1980); Television; Joy Division; Mr. Pop supra; & cetera & cetera.

Many of the references jump right out at you; others reveal themselves gradually. The best parts of the LP, I will argue, are its rhythm grooves, protracted & sinuous & deep. Which tend to pose who’s-zooming-who-type of questions. i.e., is Murphy bastardizing seventies afropop? Or bastardizing later bastardizations of same by Caucasian-American rock stars? & does it even matter, since now you’re dancing?

So I guess the operative question is whether this music is somehow diminished by virtue of its being so nakedly derived from something(s) else. Like, is LCD just a crass little ripoff, devoid of its own ideas & inspiration? Is it just retro?

To be candid, I can’t seem to muster that much snark. Not in the face of what is such a clear & unreserved gesture of Love. Just listen: there is nothing ironic or snide to be found in these connotations of the earlier era. Murphy is not reveling in kitsch, he is no fucking Hipster. No way, that. He loves what he loves & he is unabashed about it. I’m finding his enthusiasm infectious.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Sleigh Bells, Treats. Beast & Beauty.


Finally now, & following all manner of buzz & anticipation, Sleigh Bells’ debut album Treats is currently working the room. You likely know the backstory already, but it’s thus: Derek Miller’s hardcore band Poison the Well (nice name, that) went defunct, leaving him stranded waiting tables & chatting up customers re: the new band he was scheming of. One of said customers turned out to be the comely Alexis Krauss, who promptly then ditched her school-teaching gig. More or less directly thereafter, there was Sleigh Bells.

The project was founded, first, on Miller’s loop samples & his noisy beats, mixed strident & loud & then escorted in by raunchy guitar distortion. The latter ingredient performed live & dicey; the former ensconced in a laptop or iPod or whatevs. You with me so far? Derek hits Play, then he thrashes guitar alongside. It’s raucous & crunchy & rude. It’s a fabulous & decadent mess, it’s really fucking loud. So far so good.

Ok, then add Krauss, whose singing is breathy, lively, girlish & gamine. She really ought not to fit Miller’s musical premise, right? Krauss is all winsome, while Miller’s all WHOMP. & yet. On reflection, I’m hearing a yin-slash-yang kind of deal here: the two elements, disparate & incongruous, they accent & emphasize each other. It’s the disparity that’s compelling. & all the more so live, where Krauss (sexy & vivacious) & Miller (hunched & hoodied) perform side by side.

Anyway, Sleigh Bells started out with a half dozen songs, clearly home-made affairs rough & raw, dispersed willy-nilly over the interwebs. The duo scored a gig at last year’s CMJ, then proceeded to garner the right sort of attention. There ensued some hype, albeit virally deployed. More high-profile gigs followed, further stoking the anticipation until voila! we now have in hand an actual Sleigh Bells LP. Dressed up now in big boy pants.

Treats is way fun, let me just say it right off the bat. Every bit of the percussive excess continues unabated, & that’s a very good thing. At the same time, access to a full-on recording studio has been a boon to the Bells: the textural landscape is now more varied, more contoured, more interesting. The earlier recordings had pointed in a number of different musical directions, & Treats continues to offer an assortment of flavors. There are distinct plunges into the Hardcore realm. Somewhat less expected are all the winking references to European disco & electronica. Anyway, it’s a big thrill ride w/hairpin turns.

Most of the earlier material gets reworked here to fit the new, beefier paradigm. By & large, I am prepared to go along w/all of that. Previously, “Ring Ring” was a song that got picked on a lot bc the Funkadelic sample is so unembellished. But jesus chill it’s a fucking demo, is what I wanted to say to all of that. Anyway, that song is much more fully fleshed out now, and appears here as “Rill Rill.” It’s as close to quiet as this album gets, yet thunder still rumbles.

On the other-other hand, “Beach Girls” was already a fully-formed piece w/its seagull atmospherics & its comic narration. That one is transformed here into “Kids,” which operates now as a full-on cover of the original, referring to & commenting on a song we already know. e.g., the singsong-spoken bits re sunburns & sunglasses are accelerated & multitracked now. w/the result that they’re scripted, ritualized, one step removed: a Greek chorus of 9-year-old girls, all giggles & screaming over Thump Thump Thump. Anyway, both versions provided below, the side-by-side being fascinating to me, & maybe so to you too.

NOTE: MUSIC LINKS REMOVED PURSUANT TO DMCA ENFORCEMENT ACTION.

SB-Beach Girls mp3

SB-Kids mp3

Summer is upon us, peoples. I anticipate Sleigh Bells as something we’ll be hearing an awful lot of in the hot months ahead.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Video: HF @ SXSW

Oyez! Courtesy of baeblemusic, comes now this sweet vid of Holy Fuck working their magic tricks at this year's South by Southwest fest. Fun stuff:


Watch the full concert at baeblemusic.com

Monday, May 10, 2010

(Guest Post!) Murder City Devils

Note: Today's itinerant Clatter correspondent is Clint, author of the excellent & always entertaining Fernetiquette.


Murder City Devils
Slim's
San Francisco, CA
May 7, 2010

I don’t go to shows that often anymore. Unlike this blog’s primary author, I’m not “plugged in” to the “scene”. HOWEVA, I am “friends” with Murder City Devils on “The Facebooks.” This normally means nothing, but a few months ago it meant that I was told exactly when and how to buy advance tickets to the Murder City Devils show this past Friday at Slim’s. At the time they were first available my work situation wasn’t sorted out; I wasn’t sure whether I could afford them.

Then I figured: “Shit dude, buy the tickets now. If you’re unemployed by the time the show rolls around, you can sell them to lazy hipsters for ALL THE MUNNIEZ IN THE WORLD.”

So I bought the tickets. Thank Fucking God, I bought the tickets. And I went to the show. Thank Fucking Satan, I went to the show.

How to explain the phenomenon of Murder City Devils to those who have never experienced them? Wikipedia lists them as a “garage punk band active between 1996 and 2001.” I would argue that this is selling them a bit short. Our Devils are less a “garage punk band” and more “the band from the best party you never went to.”

Murder City Devils are absolutely motherfucking brilliant. They’re like Gang of Four on speedballs or a club rock version of Minor Threat (with a keyboard player.) In short, they’re the perfect mix between dance rock and balls-to-the-wall punk, and by the time I’d joined the battalions of other hipsters / punks / cool kids who had discovered the visceral majesty of this particular Seattle sextet, they had already fucking broken up. Before last weekend, they had played all of one show in San Francisco in the last 9 years. Basically, I never thought I’d get a chance to catch MCD live.

In other words, I was kinda excited to see them. KINDA!

Since 95% of Murder City Devils’ songs are about getting fucked up drunk, the lady and I got fucked up drunk before the show. It was better that way, and we weren’t the only ones. For the record, they do serve Fernet at Slim’s, though I was wayyyy too drunk to remember what a shot cost.

The band is fronted by the slight, bespectacled Spencer Moody. Spencer Moody (or “Howlin’ Spencer Moody”, as he apparently prefers) is a tiny, bearded man with the lungs of a Viking. He is part vocalist, part force of nature. The first time you listen to MCD, you will probably think “Man, this band would be the biggest thing ever if their singer could actually, ya know… sing.” You will be forgiven for thinking this, even though you will be gloriously incorrect. Moody’s cheese-grater snarl is half of what gives this band its edge. His voice is what separates something pure and thrilling like Murder City Devils from those accessible but terribly average bands like The Killers or The Strokes.

The other thing that makes Murder City Devils truly special is the quality of its backbone. Coady Willis (Big Business, The Melvins, Dead Low Tide) is quite literally one of the best drummers alive. Every snare hit is like a gunshot. Every floor tom is like the rolling tide. The man is a goddamned machine. Hearing him on record is striking. Hearing him live is a religious experience.



Then… there’s the organist. MCD would be an awesome band without the keyboard player, but adding it makes them as close to perfect as you would ever want them to get. Which, frankly, is not very close at all.

Anyway, back to the show. I gotta say, I was too blasted to take too many notes. For the most part, they played the songs I expected them to play. I have a few minor quibbles. For example, they didn’t play “Left Hand Right Hand” or “Boom Swagger Boom.”

Outside of a few setlist issues, most had few complaints. The painted, black-clad crowd pulsed and writhed, whipped into an absolute frenzy by the band’s manic, controlled sexual energy. Half the kids were dancing, half the kids were moshing, half the kids were heavy petting in the corner. Everyone got drunk. Everyone got laid.

In short, it was everything you could ever want from a rock and roll show. Highest recommendation.

MCD-Rum to Whiskey mp3

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Tallest Man on Earth


The Tallest Man on Earth
The Independent
San Francisco, CA
May 9, 2010



What a charmer: The Tallest Man on Earth, in his skinny jeans & square jaw w/his wee elfish boots & his raspish voice. On record, The Tallest has been fairly compared to a young Robert-o Zimmerman, for obvious similarities of timbre, phrasing, inflection, verbosity.

On stage in person, the analogy does not hold. The Tallest hops into the room & then proceeds to take efficient ownership of it. He roams hither & yon, upstage & down, he eyeballs the audience, now grave now flirting now comic now tragic. He cracks little non-sequiturs & we laugh as if we're in on some joke we maybe don't quite get but Oh how we wish to. The Tallest is a seducer, you see. Within ninety seconds, substantial contingents of the audience are swooning.

It was really quite a magical thing. The Tallest performs alone & unadorned. There's no band, the stage is clean, it's just him & his 3 guitars. He plays through a little practice amp that's miked right into the PA. He's got a cushy chair to collapse into from time to time as the need arrives. Which it doesn't much, The Tallest is a firecracker he doesn't much pause he doesn't much rest.



The Tallest goes & goes. His music generally gets called Folk. It's a fair descriptor, but a wholly inadequate one. I mean, ok, it's a guy & his guitar & his songs are all poignance & poetry, all of that is true. Still. I am not aware of any Folk paradigm that would encompass the ragged, naked charisma of the Tallest. Or more significantly, the raw & (hello?) sexy charge that he elicits onstage. It's luxurious & it's often quiet, right, but what The Tallest brings is rock & roll I just don't know how else to say it. You can find familiar things in unfamiliar places, sometimes. What a delight is that.

The Tallest has a couple of albums out, now. They don't (can't, really) do justice to the allure of this guy working the room. The songs are truly great ones however, & you really ought to check them out. The Wild Hunt is the apt title of the current LP.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

los Campesinos!

Los Campesinos!
The Regency Ballroom
San Francisco, CA
May 7, 2010


I’ll be candid, I had some initial skepticism toward this band of seven or eight (it varies) players. What, w/the full-time violin & the glockenspiel, of all things. I mean, shit: such a thing could get a bit too proggy for a Friday night, right?

So I spent some time with Romance is Boring, the band’s current (& second) LP, & that did ease my concerns. It’s a sharp album: arresting, irreverent, darkly humorous. & while the playing exhibits finesse throughout, it just about never settles down into prettiness. Which would just be lazy. I appreciate that los Campesinos! are often rattling & roaring & (to tell you the truth) clattering. They went & hung that exclamation point at the end of their name &, by golly they do earn it.



So the album, I like. Friday night’s show, I fucking loved. Best concert I’ve seen in months. The audience was primed & ready, but there was no resting on laurels by this band. Los Campesinos! brought the goods, as if they had something to prove. Clear adherents to the more-is-more school of thought, the show was a rollick & a wallop, nonstop from start to finish.















There’s plenty of credit to share for that, but much of it does belong to lead singer (slash- glockenspielist, heh), Gareth (the band evidently eschews last names). Gareth is a disarming & delightful focal point onstage. & not only because he’s a thrillingly great bellower, but also for his herky-jerky stage moves. Explosive & spasmodic, all limbs akimbo, some might call it dancing I guess, whatevs. Gareth’s moves did inspire some decent moshing in the crowd there toward the end. Not to be undone, our man launched himself into the melee more than once. During the final encore, half the band followed, still playing on, patch cords trailing behind, utterly lost in the frolic in the crowd. Some might call that move punk rock, yo.




Strongly & unequivocally recommended, I must say. Hear some:

LC – We’ve Got Your Back (Documented Minor Emotional Breakdown #2) – mp3

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Punked?

Well, my idea here was to start with a few introductory comments about Punk, by way of warming up my main topic. Which was going to be something about elitism, cultural & otherwise.
Then the Punk part got to be an obstacle. Turns out it’s hard to mention Punk just in passing. There’s just a lot to be said. & there is the temptation also of wanting to try & enlighten, to preach even. Which I can’t/won’t do, I really should not lay claim to any expertise re: Punk. The only point I wanted to make is that, once, Punk was inter alia a rejection of rock-star elitism. Once, it was a nihilistic & maybe even (very briefly, & only potentially) a revolutionary act, to (e.g.) sculpt your hair w/glue, fill your clothes & face w/safety pins, wear shabby black leather, loud plaid & what-have-you. Punk was supposed to be Not Beautiful was what it was supposed to be. It was anarchic, chaotic, it was haphazard, subversive, Free. Punk was not supposed to just end up w/its own Micks Jagger, up on the pedestal while you’re eating cake.

Very quickly, as we know, all things Punk became codified. The anti-glamour just up & became the new glamour. The king is dead long live the king, right. Then, we had (have) arbiters of what is & is not Punk. In music in dress in attitude. Gestalt, whatever. This is inevitable, ours is a capitalist culture, & all cultural values are Market values ipso facto & vice versa. There is nothing, no challenge to the received Marketplace that the Marketplace cannot simply assimilate, commodify. Emasculate. Neutralize.



OK, so thirty-plus years on, we still have our Punk bands. It’s a fashion it’s a style it’s a genre it’s an affect. It’s got its rules, now well-established, & no shortage of people happy to live by them. Cheers. That’s not what I’ve been thinking about all week, though.

No, I’ve been thinking about that original anti-Elitist impulse. How it persists, & how it shows up in unexpected places.

Last month, I saw Yo La Tengo play concert # 3 of 3 at the Fillmore. Certainly not a Punk band by any recognized yardstick. But, talk about your anti-glamour: YLT looks like your schlumpy brother-in-law & your Aunt Doreen teamed up w/that nerdy guy next door to murder Ventures covers in the garage. i.e., on the available evidence, these are not rock stars, there is no pedestal. YLT exhibits no affect, no attitude at all. It’s just Ira, Georgia & James. It could be anybody up there. It could be your moms. It could be you.

& yet the You it could be is playing music of abject, screaming brilliance & beauty. Stylistically, just to start somewhere, YLT are everywhere on the map even with only their own songs, & then add in the seemingly-limitless range of covers this band can pull off. So there’s virtuosity there, yes. More important though (IMO), are the instances of transcendence. By which I mean that the mundane physicality/temporality of the room can almost seem to fall away. For fleeting instants, a sublime effacement, a communion. I don’t know. Maybe you were there & didn’t feel it the way I felt it. &, full disclosure, my agenda that night did comprise a not-insignificant alcohol intake. Nonetheless, as a general proposition I think we can agree that Great Art can take you outside of yourSelf. & I will posit that Yo La Tengo is a band that makes Great Art.

But they do it in a way that is unassuming. Humble. Inclusive. The opposite of Elitist. Late in the evening, Ira got a little gushy &, I guess by way of giving props to the lovely & historic venue, he expressed a hope that every member of the audience might one day “get an opportunity to play this place.” What an odd & unexpected thing to say. & how generous. We did this, I think he meant, & therefore you could, too. It’s an ideal that strikes me as very Punk. Also, universally human. & possibly, distinctively American.

Later still, things were winding down. Someone next to me on the floor was heard to shout, heartfelt & ebullient: “You changed my life!” up towards the stage. I thought about that, I’m still thinking. Does/Can anybody actually change anybody else’s life? YLT seem to be normal people, daily engaged in a transcendent endeavor. You &/or I can transcend, too. We can choose to accomplish things larger & greater than our apparent selves. Change your life or don’t, the burden is yours alone. & the glory.

YLT - We're An American Band mp3

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Broken Social Scene

Broken Social Scene
The Fillmore
San Francisco, CA
May 1, 2010

I say it with no malice, but Broken Social Scene: what a fucking bunch of hippies, all bearded & whatnot w/their everybody-in-the pool ethos. It’s just a big old par-tay, chez BSS. The band last night was never fewer than five warm bodies onstage, & often grew to 8 or 9. This was the first stop on what will be their lengthy summer tour. As did not go unmentioned.

I’m rather fond of BSS’s albums. In particular (& probably like most people), I love-love You Forget It In People, the 2002 breakout. The songs are weirdishly wonderful, yeah, &/but it’s the interstices that are laden with all manner of little sonic gems, constantly surprising. You maybe just note them as production flourishes, but what I hear are all these discrete little fifteen-second masterpieces everywhere. Focused textural excursions to points previously unknown. That is the organizing principal of this music, as far as I’m concerned. [cf, also: Bee Hives, 2004. More righteous shit, that.]

Anyway, last night’s concert by & large took a different approach, opting for less subtlety, less open space, more in the way of just rocking right the hell out. Densely. I don’t begrudge anybody that, what with a packed-full house & five guitars & two drum-kits all playing (mostly) at once onstage. & then sometimes horns, keyboards, electronics & more vocals on top of all of that. There’re not many non-extravagant places to even go from there, right?

At well over two hours, I did find the whole thing more than a little exhausting, although I’ve been told I have a low-ish exhilaration threshold. It just doesn’t take that much to get me high, right? Anyway, things did finally get good & loose & spacey & weird enough for me sometime after midnight & a good ten minutes into “Lover’s Spit,” the final encore number. That was a sweet & genuine thrill.

The new album is called Forgiveness Rock Record. It comes out in a couple of days, although you may have already heard it by now. Here’s something a little bit older:

BSS Shampoo Suicide mp3

Setlist:



Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Holy Fuck LP Latin

Just as a general proposition, I’m going to assert that the Best Thing about Holy Fuck is the pummeling: When the real drumming & the synthetic percussive-type noises reach a sort of critical mass, & then everything together all of a sudden is a blur. A raucous & forceful & ecstatic, pummeling blur. That’s the Best Thing.

Historically, the other Best Thing about Holy Fuck has been their sort of giddy freneticism, their madcap ethos. The songs have had a Rube-Goldbergy, slapdash quality to them &, not incidentally, a pervasive sense of humor. The Holy Fuck sound has been vigorous, lusty & hard, but nonetheless delightfully silly. While waiting on pins & needles for the new album, I went back & spent some time with their first, self-titled EP. I was noticing how, here & there amongst all the pointedly-cheesy synthesizing & the sweaty/brawny percussionizing (aka: the pummeling), you hear these effusive, mortal exhalations. A sigh, a pant, a whoot.

NOTE: MUSIC LINK REMOVED PURSUANT TO TO DMCA ENFORCEMENT ACTION

HF - Tone Bank Jungle mp3

That’s charming & amusing. It also serves as a neat little counterpoint to all the electronica, a reminder that this is human music albeit (I’ve said this before) all dressed up to sound machine-made. A ten-year-old boy in a robot suit, threatening world domination from inside the tinfoil & duct tape.

Anyway, the new album is called Latin, I have it now & you will soon too, probably. It’s not the kind of thing you want to miss. You’ll find, however, that Holy Fuck are now changing up the approach in a few different ways.

Importantly, the pummeling is alive & intact, so no worries there.

Absent now though are all those comic glimpses of the man behind the curtain –no gasps, no howls. Nor do we get the sudden veering from one trajectory to another –the quick, jerky starts & stutters. Instead, Latin exhibits a kind of ruthless efficiency, an almost-brutal pragmatism. Each of the songs here stakes out its territory within the first moments, cleanly & clearly. & then proceeds to just thrash boldly thrash thoroughly right through to the end. No hesitancy, no incongruous detours. There is still playfulness here, but more in the conception than in the execution.

Notably, there is also some dalliance with Disco (& other dance-beat variants) going on here. Which can play as arch & incongruous, but mostly only if you expect something different because you already know you’re hearing Holy Fuck. Otherwise, the simulation (irony assumed here to some negotiable extent) can get to be too accurate, & the juxtapositional aspect gets lost. So, there are missteps on Latin, if mostly minor ones. But hey: it’s an Experimental band taking risks. That’s the territory.

By now, you have almost definitely already heard the muscular meat & potatoes of the first single, “Latin America.” (& if not, just go here & get it now.) That song stands firmly on the shoulders of prior work & it’s satisfying & comfortable. If you know the band however, you’ll be more surprised by “Stay Lit,” for e.g., which is as close to like a power-ballad as this band is (probably) ever going to get. Which let's face it is a little weird. & in point of fact, a number of the pieces here just sound a lot more like, well, songs than any of Holy Fuck’s past work. So, while rhythm & texture remain the prime elements, you’re going to hear more melody, & you’re even going to hear some flirtation with vocals.

I will anticipate the obligatory objections to this album, at least to the extent it’s understood as taking a step toward “conventionality.” Whatever that even means anymore. I will confess to having bristled initially & more than once on first hearing this album. But, having spent some time now with Latin, most of it works. & what works, works very, very well.

I have not yet seen Holy Fuck play live, which I understand to be pretty much essential. Summer (& beyond) tour dates are planned. The San Francisco stop will be June 8 at the Independent. Here’s a taste from Latin:

NOTE: MUSIC LINK REMOVED PURSUANT TO TO DMCA ENFORCEMENT ACTION

HF - Positive Ghosts mp3

Friday, April 23, 2010

Grand Lake - Blood Sea Dream


Wow, several giant steps are being taken in a forwardly direction here by our locally-grown trio Grand Lake. The band’s first LP Blood Sea Dream is freshly set for release next month (& also constitutes the maiden voyage of brand-spanking-new label Hippies Are Dead Records). Excitement abounds, peoples.

Some months ago, I did predict great things ahead for this band &, not to be a dick about it, but it is indeed nice to have been proven correct. Blood Sea Dream is brimming with surprises, starting right off with the rather solemn-yet-sexy midtempo opener, “It Takes a Horse,” w/its doorslam percussion & its wistful-cryptic refrain of Please Talk Slow (evidently on account of) You Breathe Fire.

See, I would’ve expected more of a windup to open the album, something along the lines of “Louise,” title track from last year’s EP. But no, that’s actually Track 2 here, except but Wait, this here is “Louise” two-point-oh: punchier, more muscled, 40 seconds shorter, & several fewer degrees separated from perfect.

Not that anybody should get cozy in the frenetic, avant-bruit realm here. Turns out that Grand Lake are now offering up plenty more flavors than just the one. “Carpoforo” is all mannerist-mournful, for e.g., while last year’s “Black Cloud” remains a fuzzbox ghost tale dissonant & distraught. Meanwhile, “Our Divorce” is a jazzish waltz of all things, with actual violins. Along the way we get squealing wine glasses, we get more strings, we get (I think) a freaking glockenspiel. These are just not the ingredients you typically expect to find stirred into your distortion, your feedback, your lovely/strident sample-loops.

Maybe even more surprising, the actual songwriting here is genuinely polished to a glossy sheen. Hooks abound, positively reeking of Pop (uppercase), & yet the band’s Noisy (likewise) foundation –the first & favored flavor– persists throughout. Blood Sea Dream is layered, complex & evocative. It’s a butched-up affair throughout, notwithstanding its sashays into prettiness, now here now there. This is Pop music, but it’s Pop w/a hard-on. Let’s make that the pull-quote, guys!

The Grand Lake dance card looks to be filling up fast, with gigs around town & elsewhere. You might probably want to check right into that &, meanwhile, you can stream the entire album right now, right here.

& plus, hear:

GL - Louise mp.3

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

the XX - "Islands" vid

I continue to enjoy the XX. I put them down, I forget all about them, & then get re-thrilled whenever I hear them again. Watch the narrative that unfolds here via serial variations in the choreography. Nice!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

(Guest Post!) Sleigh Bells

Note: Sleigh Bells are currently touring, opening for Yeasayer. They stopped by the Fillmore SF on 4/17. Intrepid Clatter correspondents Eric & Kathy had it covered:

Sleigh Bells are a thrash metal dude and a hot hipster girl. They play seriously heavy low-end reverb with aggressive female vocals laid on top, using just a guitar and, I don’t know, a laptop?

I was asked to review this show after recently confiding to Clatter personnel that my favorite thing lately is noisy pop-punk with female vocals. This isn’t pop-punk (the geniuses at Pitchfork called it “discordant dancepop”), but in some ways that’s better; of the 4 songs on the Sleigh Bells Myspace page, I like the noisiest and most D&B heavy (“A/B Machines”, “Infinity Guitars”) best. [It does kind of bum me out though that one of those 4 songs ("Ring Ring") is either a joke song or a Funkadelic ripoff throwaway. Stereogum has a fifth song (Beach Girls"), but that's not my favorite either.] Derek Miller (the thrash metal guy) likes his bass as low and distorted as possible, and Alexis Krauss (the hot hipster girl) -- her singing is actually more like chanting. Before going to the show I was already predisposed to like them; they’re “a difficult listen,” and in just the right ways.

We arrived at the Fillmore at a little before 9:00. There was a technician in a red hoodie working on the center stage monitors, and a woman in a holstein-inspired tie-dyed bag standing off to stage right, massaging her own throat. My wife said: “That can’t be [Krauss]; that’s not a very rock star outfit.” Well, it was her, and soon enough the lights went down and she ran up on stage to join the red-hoodied dude, who pick up a guitar and turned out to be Miller.

They launched into “Infinity Guitars.” Now, before the show I hadn’t really heard Yeasayer (the headliner) and didn’t know what their fans would be like, but they seem like a polite bunch. Here they mostly just nodded along. It felt like Krauss was yelling at them, though, and I kinda liked that.

The second song was new, and Krauss said it would appear on their album in May. I didn’t catch the name. Two syllables, starts with maybe a T or a C? It contained the upbeat lyric, “Do your best today.” Hmmmm.

The third song was “A/B Machines.” You’ve been to their Myspace page, so you already know this, but this song is awesome. It actually got the crowd moving a little bit. And Miller is totally right about one thing: that deep, deep distorted bass cuts through everything. My notepad was vibrating, and so were my pants legs. On the fourth song (“Beach Girls”), Miller departed the stage and left it all to Krauss, who by then had thankfully removed her black-and-white bag.

The fifth song was another new one. It was a slow, sludgy, metal-inflected slog that ended with haunted house shrieking by Krauss. Then something happened: They started playing something, and I’m not sure whether it was a separate song or an ending to the metal slog or what, but it was a quick minute or two, distinctly more uptempo, and almost danceable. What was that? (Besides my favorite part of the show, I mean.)

Here is a picture:


Sorry that I don’t have anything better. My wife & I haven’t quite gotten the knack of taking concert photos. Still, here is another one:


Next came one more new song. It was hard to distinguish from the others, because these guys have a sound, you know? But it had a talky bit and more moans from Krauss, but here (unlike on “Beach Girls”), I felt as if they contributed something.

“Crown on the Ground” came last. This is the closest thing these guys have to a pop song. Some people in the crowd actually started pogo-ing. And really, the bass-heaviness went over the top here; you know how in movies when an Air Force test pilot is going faster than the speed of sound and the skin on his face ripples? Well, that’s how my skin felt with all the throbbing on this song. And now that I think about it, that’s actually a good thing.

Here’s a little snippet of video from that song.



Like I said: awesome. If Sleigh Bells would inject a little more pop into their other songs too, they would totally clinch their place as my favorite new band. So in all, that’s 4 old songs, 3 or 4 new songs. And some of the new ones were pretty good. The show didn’t confirm either the hype or the backlash; they’re just a band, right? And are you going to listen to their full album when it comes out? Of course you are.


Thursday, April 15, 2010

BATTLEHOOCH.


I think the time is pretty much Now, if you haven’t already, to make your acquaintance with BATTLEHOOCH. Yeah. Certainly not the first or only San Francisco band to insist on always shouting its name in the ALL CAPS mode. Yet, it’s an apparent point of honor for these here Hooochers that theirs is the Freakiest band in town. Hey, I can neither confirm nor deny & I’m not here to pick a fight on that. Without taking a position though, will you just look at these boys all mock-serious in their plaid pants & their ponchos.

OK, so the second LP by BATTLEHOOCH is set for release tomorrow 4/16, w/the clever & surprising title of BATTLEHOOCH. If you haven’t yet heard the band, the photo actually is a pretty decent prime indicator of their sound. In a curtains/carpetly way, right? What I mean is, much like the picture, the music is a raucously fun hodgepodge. It's boisterous it's a ballyhoo. Genre-wise, we're all over the map here from faux-jazz riffs to avant-surf to quasi-gypsy in a sort of a Gogol Bordellish vein. Just about every song is a protracted suite full of crazy twists & turns we're here we're there just hold on tight. The musicianship is sharp & canny, but --& this is key-- never self-important. Again, mock seriousness is the touchstone. Absent that pervasive sense of humor, this would just devolve & get all prog-rocky.

That is not the way of the Hooochers though, no no no. I'm going to go ahead & throw you a couple of downloads here but, seriously, go out & purchase yourself this delightful LP in its entirety. That is my forcefully-delivered recommendation. That, & also there are imminent record-release festivities that you may benefit from attending. Tomorrow night in Santa Cruz, then Saturday at Bottom of the Hill. Critical details found here. Couple of songs for you:

BH Only Baby Sharks mp3

BH Somersaults mp3

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Spoon, & cetera.

Spoon
Deerhunter
Micachu and the Shapes

The Fox Theater
Oakland, CA
April 14, 2010

Again I missed the first band, I’m sorry you (well, I) can’t have everything. So, Deerhunter & Spoon: is that like the dream team or what?

Anyway, I’ll be brief.

Most people are too polite to come right out & ask the question pointedly, but I can still read the thought bubbles floating over their heads. They wonder if, perhaps, I am starting to get a little too old for all of this going out to see bands at all hours of the night. & the succinct & appropriate response to that query, unspoken or otherwise, of course is Fuck No I Am Not. I will allow, however, that this whole getting up & going to work the next day is beginning to, uh, present some challenges. Moreover, the (hopefully prompt) writing of the Very Important blog entries is supposed to occur when exactly (?) well, There as they say is where the Rub is at. So brevity, yes, will turn out to be a hallmark of this post. The day's hours are finite.


Deerhunter: that’s just my favorite band all over again because (as one would hope) they came out & built up a Stonehenge fucking Monument of guitar distortion. I had never seen them play live before, & so it was a real treat to see the ensemble in action. I had seen Atlas Sound a couple of times, but Deerhunter is a real band it’s not just the Bradford Cox show (in spite of Mr. C.’s little crowd-surfing expedition toward the end; I never expected that). Every member is integral, musically speaking, & it’s all the goods. One nice surprise was bass player Josh Fauver at center stage, all earnest & spunky & bowing after every song. Whatta hunk I’m just saying. & “Nothing Ever Happened” did actually happen, thrillingly, for about fifteen minutes in the middle of the one-hour set. So Deerhunter was pretty great.



























Of course it really was Spoon’s audience there, though, & I did overhear some sporadic audience griping between sets about DH's set having gotten too “edgy,” among other silly descriptors. Whatev.

OK, so: Spoon. This was not my first time seeing Spoon. Spoon are just consummate pros, you know? Like, I am not sure by what metric anything actually constitutes a “hit” anymore in the Industry's current distribution modes. But let’s just say that Spoon have a lot of songs that you know really well. & let’s also save a step by just agreeing that Spoon really know how to crank the shit out of every one of those numbers. I love those guys. I love their capital-C Cool nonchalance. I love that they are like kung-fu masters of the Pop Hook. Wax on Wax the hell off, right?



I do have to go ahead & mention that there was some kind of constant, aggravating BUZZ noise in the PA throughout the entirety of Spoon’s set. Everybody just had to ignore it & hope for it to be resolved & cured but that never did happen. So I was not cool with that rather glaring technical difficulty. But I'm done talking about it now, thanks.


I took some notes, I had a decent set list going. But right now I’m at work & it’s out in the car. “Everything Hits at Once” was played, I can definitely tell you that bc it’s my favorite Spoon song & they don’t always play it. Let’s see, I remember “Cherry Bomb,” “Target,” “Camera,” "Evah," all that great stuff. Oh, Bradford came out & jammed with them for “Who Makes Your Money” from the new album, that was cool. Oh yeah, & they covered a Wolf Parade song, also pretty cool. The band was loose (it was mentioned a few times that this was the last stop on the tour), but they were On.

Spoon, they know what they’re doing & they do it very well.



Monday, April 12, 2010

Shine On.



The Diamond Sea
Sonic Youth
1995 (single)
2006 (Track 11, The Destroyed Room: B-Sides and Rarities)





You might want to settle in and pour yourself a beverage, this is the “alternate ending” version. Go ahead & press Play now, it takes a half an hour.


SY-the Diamond Sea mp3


0:00
It starts all YoingYoingYoingYoing, quietly. That’s the idling amp, it white-whispers a phase effect. It will be the guitar’s voice phasing, in a couple of seconds. Drumsticks click a 4-count, & we’re off.

I think it’s fair to say that Sonic Youth have pretty much always provoked controversy & they (maybe) always will. The naysayers tend to fall into one of two principal camps: (1) the reflexively-dismissive (SY= pretentious, mere noise, it’s too damn weird), and (2) the hipper-than-thou (SY= sell-outs, dinosaurs, it’s too damn conventional). The pendulum swings errantly.

For more years than I care to count, I have been listening actively to Sonic Youth. I continue to be challenged & surprised, mystified & thrilled by much of what I hear. I can say without much irony that, maybe, I never really heard any music before I began to learn how to hear Sonic Youth. I hope I’m still learning: how to hear music, how to ignore every ridiculous kind of hierarchy that people want to interpose between the music & my two ears.

Anyway, right here from 0:02 is where the one camp will be heard to complain about rock star tropes & conventionality & whatnot. Because, unlike much of what SY have done (& have historically been understood to “stand for”), this here is a song, with a clear chord structure. At least for the moment: tandem guitar solos introduce what is about to be a sung melody.

0:38 “Time takes its crazy toll,” sings Thurston in one of his typically “trippy” lyrics. The sung parts of the song follow an A/B structure: alternating back & forth between two distinct melodies. No chorus, no bridge. Here’s what he’s on about: mirrors, reflection, diamond, crystal. Is it a drug parable? Adolescent allegory? Tragic love tale? Who cares, honestly. Thurston’s lyrics often seem to consist of a handful of Groovy clichés (here, e.g., dressed in dreams, lonely storm, running wild, love, sand, blood) shaken in a bag, & then arranged strictly according to rhyme. I don’t actually have any objection to that approach. Anyway, three verses, then we move on.

2:25 A little interlude, & then, 2:42, again with the “rock star” solos. This was right around the time SY very suddenly shifted from esoteric art band to Lollapalooza headliner, hence the backlash. Anyway, notice the bass, accelerating tempo at 3:15 & evolving into a new motif, the first indication that what’s ahead will be a serial structure, a series of discrete sections that may/may not refer back to the ostensible “song.” It all starts to stretch out here.

By 4:26, that one guitar is getting pretty noisy. Increasingly-extraneous overtones, drifting afield of any melodic reference, evolving away from the “song,” but back toward what’s more commonly understood as SY territory. At 4:38 it’s the bass, again, that triggers a shift by actually standing pat, declining to make the chord change, & then it modulates sharp. The guitars both are more noisy still, there’s some feedback, shading & modeling the contours.

4:41 A brief plateau (albeit monolithic), then 5:06 one guitar steps out deliberately: four notes descending, almost doorbell-chime tones. The other guitar is howling. The four tones repeat. The snare drum heats up a little. Beginning at 6:19, I think that’s the classic SY drumstick-wedged-in-guitar-frets move: just hitting those strings, bridged so tight they ring like churchbells. Harmonic overtones y compris.

Can we digress a little? Forget about music for a moment? Remember when we talked about Jasper Johns? In 1954, he made that painting & called it “Flag.” It’s nothing but a flag &/or it isn’t a flag at all it’s a painting. “Of” a flag, maybe. Or maybe it isn’t a painting “of” anything. Because it doesn’t re-present in the way a conventional painting does. So it can only be understood as “depicting” a flag if it actually is a flag bc that’s all it is, except it isn’t: it’s a painting. It only sort of is a flag, but it also stands apart & sort of refers to “the” Flag. Remember that?

“Flag” is constructed of the irreducible, coded elements of “the” Flag (the stripes, the stars), but rendered rough, ostentatiously textured, made to operate both as (1) a sensory object and (2) a conceptual provocation.

What if there were art in a similar vein that, instead of connoting “flag,” connoted something like “rock music.” Something that only “sort of” actually is the thing it refers to, but also sort of stands apart & comments on it? Well. I submit that that’s Sonic Youth. The list of coded elements is longer & their relative irreducibility more varied. But I don’t understand SY to have ever set out to make actual Rock music in any sort of conventional way. SY makes art pieces that only sort of actually are Rock songs. But which also stand apart, sort of referring to, connoting (signifying!), Rock songs.

In the present example, I think “The Diamond Sea” actually refers back to itself, as a “song” when, at 6:52, there is a slow-ish reprise of the chords (!) of the song (remember the song?). It’s probably the least expected development at this point after several minutes of what might fairly be called a Space Jam (truth to power, sorry), but there we are. Easing back into the song, the melody, & then 7:12 Thurston is singing another verse. Just the one, though. & still just that little bit slower. We’ve been outside for awhile now, & we’re taking a brief look back in.

Then we move on again. 7:58 begins a lengthy, slow meander. Drifting, if inexorably. By 9:58 the two guitars are shimmering against each other in a sort of auditory moiré pattern. Sporadic taps on the cymbal, the drums seeming to have dropped out almost altogether some time back. When did that happen? Is this a little disorienting? At 12:24 undercurrents are modulating, there’s no real solid ground. Did you ever read about those scientists in the ‘60s, taking LSD in their laboratories & then trying to keep notes? I keep getting lost here, having to go back & start over. Because this intoxicates me.

At 13:34 we’re rousted, after a fashion, with a single high note, then some feedback that builds for a full minute. 14:36 were those the doorbell chimes again? In reverse this time? At 14:46 a glottal stop, & then 14:58 the drums thrash a little, along with some backwards sounds at the periphery. By 15:51 it’s chaos. It’s anchored, but it’s chaos. Notice the texture. At 16:33 notice the texture. At 17:18 the texture. (Shit, for that matter, you could go back & just notice the texture at 14:00, at 8:58, at 4:54, & (not the slightest bit incidentally) at 0:02.) Shifting again into another new phase at 17:42, every image freakishly elongated & in black & white every voice slow motion underwater, a burglar alarm three blocks over. It’s a terrible movie, it’s waking from a dream. I love this part. Notice the texture.


OK but, texture, what?? Well, we can’t hope to hear this the same way we hear normal music, that’s not what this is. In normal music, you listen, e.g., to the melody, the harmony, to the way the soloist both accommodates & challenges the chord changes, that sort of thing. It’s a specific kind of structural interplay that is largely absent here, bc it’s just not what makes this music interesting or satisfying. &/but is this music at all? Is it “just” that art stuff discussed supra? Is it “just” noise? Yes, yes, & yes. It is capital-A Art, theoretically deployed, call it bullshit if you must. It’s also a bunch of old, broken cast-off guitars, tuned all “wrong,” played loud & sloppy & fast. Sonic Youth is pretentious elitism ­& it’s anti-elitist Punk, capital-P no apologies. Naysayers on every side are one hundred percent correct &/but don’t have the first idea how to shut the fuck up & Just. Listen.

There is Music here, but it is mostly not to be found in the rudimentary melodies, the inscrutably-haphazard harmonies, the (often, virtually) perfunctory rhythms. That’s not the intended focus here, it’s just the scaffolding. Here, those are just the coded elements (i.e., the stripes, the stars), just enough to situate you & provoke you. So then what you listen to hear here are the rich (shit, the endless!) variations of texture. It’s not about pitch it’s about timbre. It’s about relative depth, it’s about dynamic. It’s about dissonant tunings at high volume making harmonics that vibrate in your chest. It’s all about the way the thing just feels on a tactile level. You can’t hear it if you don’t shut up & listen. But it’s there for you. It’s fundamentally hedonistic, it’s luxurious it’s sexy it’s gorgeous it’s delicious. It fucking rocks. We don’t have a settled vocabulary to discuss it. This is not what they teach at Berklee, at Eastman, at Julliard. You’re pretty much on your own here. But you got ears.



At 18:41 a whole new palette of sonic colors is introduced. Like if everything were suddenly backwards, played in reverse. It’s an element that’s been hinted-at earlier in the piece (e.g., at 14:58), & now becomes the primary motif. Reminds me of all the mirrors referred-to eighteen minutes ago in the lyric: reflecting back now, turned inside-out. Backwards cymbals crash, feedback feeds back backwards. A rhythmic structure starts emerging, oddly, until at 19:43 everything (again!) degenerates, seems again to burn. Bass “notes” (quote-unquote bc it’s pretty much all melting textures now, all flaming magma) modulating now flat. I’m hearing scattered references to earlier thematic segments, suggestions of a reprise. Then made explicit at 23:14, where the guitar solo of 3:00 is revisited & reinterpreted, briefly. There are only a couple of minutes left, I’m shutting up I’m hearing giants walking.

Early Sunday morning it rained ferocious in my city, but the dog needed walking & so duty called. We went outside in the wet cold. We trudged, bundled, up to the park & around the pond. It was barely light. I wore headphones & listened to “The Diamond Sea” w/volume high, hearing nothing from the real world & feeling underwater. So the world around was as if silent while inside, in my head, it was very, very loud. Like I was deep inside of something relentless & oblivious & unspeakably beautiful. Soundless, ducks landed skimming the water from the air, the dog barked also soundless, in the downpour in the near absence of sunlight everything somehow gleamed. & shined & shined.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

(Guest Post!) Method Actors


Ooooh. Guest post. Sexy.

I grew up in a suburb of Atlanta, sort of halfway between Atlanta and Athens, and I graduated from the University of Georgia in the late ‘90s.

Wait, the guest post is about Georgia? Yeah. Still a little sexy, I hope. … No? Yeah, that’s fair.

Anyhow, as a result of my geographic fate, growing up I was lucky enough to be exposed fairly regularly to a lot of the bands in the now classic ‘80s Athens scene. R.E.M. like everyone else, but I also absolutely LOVED Pylon in high school.* Watching the documentary Athens, GA - Inside/Out now makes me weirdly sentimental.

* By the way, it makes me really happy to see that fellow Atlantan and Clatter poster boy Bradford Cox is such an ardent supporter of Pylon.

I only knew the Method Actors, who interestingly started out as both Pylon’s management and opening band, by name. So reading that someone reissued a lot of their early stuff made me really curious. Okay, really excited. But then, I strangely possess a lot of Georgia music pride. Seriously, I run a lot, and yet there are exactly two bands on my “running mix” – OutKast and Mastodon.

This Is Still It didn’t even sort of disappoint. Consisting of just two dudes – guitar and drums – both singing these weird almost operatic-tinged vocals (don’t worry, nothing like Geddy Lee), it doesn’t seem like The Method Actors should work. But Vic Varney and David Gamble took a minimalist approach to create a very unique form of new wave. Their songs basically boil down to a bunch of spastic jangle guitar rock that seems to have little use for the tropes of much of the rock music that preceded it. Similar to Pylon, at times they almost seem like a danceable no wave band. Imagine if DNA was a little more interested in song structure, or, say, being tolerable to the masses.

If you ever thought The White Stripes were groundbreaking in the sounds they could wrest from just a guitar and a drum kit, well, I present to you The Method Actors. They managed to fill a LOT of space with very little. Hopefully This Is Still It will cause the music world to remember The Method Actors as more than just a footnote in the history of Pylon and the Athens scene (themselves too often just considered footnotes in the history of R.E.M.). The Method Actors were easily unique enough to be remembered in their own right.


Zach Cincotta is an entertainment and business attorney representing awesome bands, record labels, and other small businesses. You can contact him here and follow him on Twitter here.


Sunday, April 4, 2010

los Mumlers, dos.


Easter Sunday grew darker & colder all morning long until finally it pissed rain, all on into the night. It was cool with me, I was getting myself better acquainted with the Mumlers, & there was a little some vodka involved, too. Again, just like the last time (infra), the weather seemed somehow to fit the mood.

Now, I would not mean this to suggest that the Mumlers’ music is universally mournful. I mean, it’s not like it’s fucking morose or something. No. It’s warm & it’s welcoming without reservation. But there is, at bottom, a quite clear acquaintance with sorrow stirred into even the most upbeat of these songs. I mean, shit it’s the blues right? OK, I’m stating the obvious. But, Hear:






I’m happy to have stumbled onto the Mumlers last Tuesday night, just in from the rain. Their album, Don't Throw Me Away appears to be available all over, but I note that it's on some kind of short-term special (6 bucks) right now at iTunes. The songwriting is solid, the instrumentation is variegated & imaginative (clarinet! accordion!), & onstage these guys are immediately charming. The bonus to all of that was when the Mumlers turned out to be a local band (San Jose, that counts), which tends to yield opportunities to get out & see the Mumlers some more. For starters, I see shows coming up on May 7 at the Uptown in Oakland (for free), and May 26 at Bottom of the Hill.

If we’re lucky, maybe it will rain.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Color Your Life.



Twin Sister: their songs are pretty, they’re light, they’re very airy. &, but actually, No they're not. Because they can also be kind of angular & dark & dissonant, even. In fact Noisy enough, on at least one occasion, to have provoked actual controversy in my household. Oh, & but don’t forget bouncy. Frequently, they’re bouncy.

On the new EP, Color Your Life, Twin Sister’s songs continue to follow actual trajectories. They start out in one place, & then they go & they end up somewhere very much else. There’s really no predicting where they’re going to go along the way. &, actually, I’m not always immediately certain of where they’ve just been. So: Replay.

Earlier, I have said that Twin Sister makes (maybe deliberately) imperfect Pop. It occurs to me now that there is a fundamental, uh, inefficiency to these oddly-timbered & meandering songs. Which are therefore sort of the polar opposite of Pop. Ok, candidly: I’m not sure I understand yet what this music is or is trying to be. I’m not sure the band has a clear handle on that yet, either. To my ears, this music continues to teeter on the edge of coalescence. It hasn’t yet settled into whatever it’s going to be.

By way of a digressive (& admittedly oversimplified) analogy, I will cite to Talking Heads, circa 1977. From the perspective of the music they emulated (which was Funk), their efforts were clumsy, rudimentary, unsuccessful. Along the way though, they made something wholly fresh & genuinely thrilling. That's what I'm trying to get at when I say that the best feature of Twin Sister's version of Pop is that it's done sort of wrong.

At this point, I can’t always clearly discern where Twin Sister are coming from or where they’re going. But they’re evidently getting very busy, & I think they’re going to do some very interesting things. I’m on the edge of my seat.

In the meantime, Color Your Life is eccentric, surprising, fun, & (for now) free. For the next week or so, the download is gratis at the band’s website. But I can go ahead & start you off right here:

TS - Milk & Honey (mp3)

Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Mumlers

If, just hypothetically, one were going out to a show on a Tuesday night (a very stormy, rainy Tuesday night actually), & if there were three bands on the bill of the aforementioned show, then, Well. It might be reasonable for one to not be in such a hurry to get there, right, since the headliner won’t go on until like, what? Ten o’clock?

“One” in this particular instance being (hello?) Me, & “the headliner” here being Morning Benders, and “Tuesday” I’ll just go ahead & tell you was the night before last. & so anyway, I waited out the rain (& the hail, Jesus!) for a little while there before heading on out. Because (let’s face it) probably the first of 3 bands on the bill will be something to just endure while spending all your cash on beer, waiting for the show you came for to come on & get started already. (& I’m on my feet here, right?) I mean, probably you won’t miss anything good that early. Right?

I knew what I was doing, I took that risk.



I don’t know much of anything about this band called the Mumlers. I don’t know how long they had already played before I got there. I think I heard about 2 and one-half songs, something like that. But Wow I really wanted to hear some more of that. It was a Bluesy, countrified thing with lots of horns so –like a New Orleans sort of deal, I guess. The singer is a gangly youngster with a “bad” haircut (is homemade the new chic?), & a graveled, soulful voice sounding older than his fresh face looks. It wasn’t my usual thing. But I really should’ve gotten there on time, this time.

I’m going to have to check out this band the Mumlers. I’m going to start right here & here, & then I’m going to get back to you on this.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Good Morning.


The Morning Benders
The Independent
San Francisco, CA
March 30, 2010

If so inclined, one could find reasons to quibble. i.e., the set was barely an hour long, consisting essentially of the Big Echo album, w/song order shuffled. No encore either, it was pretty much wham-bam thx & goodnight.

Honestly though: it was a great show, & it was a good hour later before I even thought to get critical like that. The Morning Benders have quickly matured into a very sharp & very satisfying live band. Still centered around the original & efficient trio, they’re currently touring as a 5-piece. The new songs, so richly & lushly produced on the album, were fleshed out beautifully onstage. All of the playing was fresh, exuberant, totally fun.



Of course, this was something of a triumphant return: the album is a big hit (in indie terms), the tour has been selling out left & right, NY, LA, & SXSW all went well, Hey life is looking good for the Morning Benders. This hometown show was all sold out, & the mood appropriately festive.

As per my usual preference, I stood right up in front of the stage. That put me amidst all the girls, sighing & fawning all gaga for Chris Chu. What a heart-throb, what a dreamboat. Which ought not to suggest that Chris is just a pretty face, no way that. He is waifish & mignon, yes, but he’s also a man all in charge of his destiny. The sweetness is there but it’s plenty balanced; there were portions of actual ferocity. It’s a rock & roll band, after all.



























& I have commented before about Julian Harmon’s drumming, of which I am an unreserved fan. But I’m not certain I’ve ever been fully appreciative of Tim Or’s bass playing. Like every truly great bassist, Tim’s grapple against those unwieldy blocks of sound is undertaken w/grace, w/fluidity. He constantly does difficult things & he makes them all look inevitable.

The closing number was “Excuses,” accompanied by a string trio & members of both opening bands. I think I counted thirteen people on the Indy’s little stage. Nicely done, that.