NOTE: MUSIC LINK REMOVED PURSUANT TO DMCA ENFORCEMENT ACTION.
Friday, May 21, 2010
NOTE: MUSIC LINK REMOVED PURSUANT TO DMCA ENFORCEMENT ACTION.
Tuesday, May 18, 2010
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):
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
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
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
Monday, May 10, 2010
Murder City Devils
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
The Tallest Man on Earth
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.
Saturday, May 8, 2010
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 , 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
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
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