Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Album Review: Jarvis Cocker – Further Complications

To me, there is but one voice that marries the slink of super sexy seduction with droll, wry realism. That voice, my loves, belongs to Jarvis Cocker, the lanky and exceedingly droll frontman for the divine band Pulp, one of the best of the Britpop bunch, the band that made you drink and dance and screw while Blur and Oasis were waging war in the charts with their Wonderwalls and their Country Houses. Having steered Pulp for over two decades, Cocker took advantage of a lengthy lull in Pulp relations and released a rather excellent solo record, succinctly titled Jarvis. Full of the razor-sharp, sarcastic pragmatism that made Pulp so great, Jarvis was a wonderful listen (particularly the glorious songs “Black Magic” and “Tonite”). And so with the news of a second solo record, I was rather pleased and excited to see what Jarvis had to offer up the second time around.

Further Complications begins with the snappy little title track, a rollicking romp through the banalities and tribulations of modernity. As you might expect, Jarvis and his voice are the star attractions, the combination of his lyrics and that voice always proving to be a winning one. “Angela” is a dancefloor gem, not quite up to par with “Common People” or “Disco 2000” of the heydays of Pulp, but pretty fine nonetheless with its handclaps and fuzzy riffs. “I wanna love you/whilst we both still have flesh upon our bones,” Jarvis offers in his dry, no-frills delivery, “before we both become extinct,” touching upon a few of his favorite themes, sex and aging and death. But as ever, Cocker makes his dark, brooding frankness ever so appealing with the overflowing bounty of his wit and that knack for clever, engaging lyrics.

“If every relationship is a two-way street/I have been screwing in the back whilst you drive”, comes the sardonic line in “I Never Said I Was Deep”, one of the best of the best on Further Complications. It’s not exactly breaking news, but I’ll just go ahead and reiterate the fact that nobody does cynical self-deprecation better than Mister Cocker. “Hold Still” shows off Cocker’s penchant for the sexy sidle of 70s-influenced lounge, and it’s not hard to imagine Jarvis holding one of those thin microphones while swaying around a plush set on some retro pop music program, bright lights reflecting in those thick specs that have become his trademark over the years as he come hithers for the folks at home.

It was initially a bit hard for me to let go of the Jarvis from Pulp thing, given how smitten I was for that wonderful band. However, given this second solo recording, the ties are easily cut. Further Complications is a great record, and leaves no doubt as to who’s behind it. Be it in Pulp or on his own, Jarvis Cocker is a force to be reckoned with. And I think it’s a fairly safe thing to say that anything he touches will be pretty bloody fantastic.

mp3: Further Complications (Jarvis Cocker from Further Complications)

100 Shows of 2010 - #56: A Place To Bury Strangers @ Rittenhouse Square, 8/25/10

I went to Philly’s Rittenhouse Square expecting nothing more than my second fantastic A Place To Bury Strangers gig. I left town a little shorter of hearing and pretty convinced that I’d just experienced the best gig of the year thus far (and that’s even taking into account the small group of juvenile delinquents intent on moshing). But those three boys of APTBS seemed hell-bent for leather on making this one seriously killer show, and succeed they did.

MINI RECAP: A Place To Bury Strangers = Deafeningly Diabolical! Overall score: A+.

Sure, driving to Philly the night before one has to be at work around 7:30 in the morning might, on the surface, seem like not such a good idea. But missing A Place To Bury Strangers for the second time this year was too unacceptable a notion for me, so up to Philadelphialand went I, with my bestie Laura, my most favorite of show companions. We strolled to the park and nabbed spots right near the stage in the middle of the greenery just in time, as the band was already setting up and testing the sonic barriers of the Square. Initially I wasn’t sure how the chaotic, intense sound of APTBS would translate to the open air, but when it was all said and done I felt silly for ever questioning.

I’m pretty sure this band could sound amazing just about anywhere you asked them to play. Taking the stage right as the sun had said farewell for the night, the trio pounced on their instruments and proceeded to tear their set apart for nearly an hour. It was a riotous set, nearly sixty minutes of blistering, beautiful aural ferocity. Think this band is fierce on record? You ain’t heard nothin’, my friends, til you’ve seen ‘em live. It was raw and powerful and violent and absolutely breathtaking. They chose four of my favorite songs from their gorgeous, must-own record Exploding Head (“I Lived My Life to Stand in The Shadow of Your Heart”, “In Your Heart”, “Deadbeat”, and my uberfave “Ego Death”), along with a bevy of first album tracks to boot. Each and every song was given the same careful attention to destruction, the band seemingly overtaken with a maniacal force driving them every onwards in their demolition. Every stake was raised, and they all delivered time and time again.

Singer and guitarist (and Virginia boy) Oliver Ackermann was particularly possessed, at times prone to a slightly deranged glint in his eyes just before he launched into a thrashing near-ruination of his guitar. Jerking around the stage almost as if in fits, he and his compatriots blew me away minute after minute. To quote a friend of mine, it was as if they had bellies full of hell. The guitar was searing, the vocals sneered menacingly, the bass inspired with its brutality, and the drums pounded without mercy. This was a band on the edge, and it was magnificent.

It all ended with a nearly incomprehensible wall of noise, as the boys turned things up to 11 and made with the never-ending waves of distortion that barraged the crowd for quite a while. I made the mistake of de-ear plugging a little too soon, and a few days later my hearing is still not quite right. The one real fly in the ointment? The smoke, which had been so effective when I had seen the band many moons ago at DC9, didn’t quite work as well in the great urban outdoors. But when a lackluster smoke machine is the biggest issue, you know it’s been a goddam good set. I felt the earth literally move more than once, and that can’t all be chalked up to my spot right near one of the speakers.

I’ve never been so happy to be experiencing some hearing loss. Ok, so there’s a few more months left in 2010, and plenty more shows where this one came from. But as of right now, this is it, folks. Show of the year thus far. No doubt about it.

mp3: Ego Death (A Place To Bury Strangers from Exploding Head)

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Album Review: Gringo Star – All Y’all

Ever wondered what might happen if you took four dudes with a serious love of the British Invasion and stuck ‘em smack dab in the capital of the Dirty South? Well, you can stop wondering and get yourself a copy of this here record if you wanna know, ladies and gents. Gringo Star has taken their cues from the cream of the British crop and given the skinny pantsuits and bowl cuts the Atlanta treatment, the end result of which is an album of tail feather-shakers and other fine musical treats.

It begins with the oh-so Kinks-ian jangle of title track “All Y’all,” full of vim, vigor, and cracklingly good guitars (think “All Day & All Of The Night” with a drawl). Gringo Star proves early on that next to nobody can shimmy and shake their way around a studio quite like they can. “Ask Me Why” is among the exhibits I submit to the jury for confirmation of said opinion. You can feel the sass from here, my friends. “You don’t even know what you done”, sing they, as the guitars wail sultrily away. “Come On Now” is just the cutest thing, sweet like those old ditties used to be, but with an ever-present undercurrent of naughtiness lurking just under the bounce. Much like those rapscallion Rod Stewart-led Faces, I wonder if perhaps the adage “good boys when they’re asleep” also applies to los Gringos.

“TransMission” offers a dreamy swirl of a breather from the madcap danceability of the songs before it. And yes, the Gringos also do near-ballads very well. But they’re undoubtedly at their best when gettin’ down, as in the dirty little “Holding On To Hate” and its scorching little guitar riffs. It’s a big bastard of a song, and it’s damn fine. “Don’t Go” calls to mind The Hollies (circa “Bus Stop”), with the jauntiness of the instrumentation and the synchronized vocal acrobatics. Hell’s bells, the whole dang record is sizzlin’.

The record has been out for a little while now, but it still sounds as fresh as a daisy if you ask me. Now, loving the Brit Invasion as much as I do, I might have been slightly inclined to love Gringo Star anyway. But I ask you, friends, does it really get better than a band that tends to sound like an early Kinks/Sam The Sham & The Pharaohs/Zombies/Herman’s Hermits hybrid? I’m gonna go ahead and say no, it most certainly does not. So in closing, friends, all y’all really need to give All Y’all a listen or several.

mp3: All Y’all (Gringo Star from All Y’all)

100 Shows of 2010 - #55: Thieving Irons @ DC9, 8/23/10

It’s rather amusing that of all the t-shirts in my closet, the Pela shirt is the one I ended up wearing today. You see, friends, this here #55 show involves ¼ of Pela, pets emeritus of LET. After the band’s demise, guitarist Nate Martinez (otherwise known as one of my most favorite people around) couldn’t shake the itch, and continued work on stuff he’d had floating around in his head. The result was an album’s worth of awesome, also known as This Midnight Hum (which you should definitely buy). And to properly welcome the record into the world, Nate and his conglomeration of rad cohorts got themselves down to DC for their first ever live show. And what a show it was. Thieving Irons has definitely adapted the Pela tradition of great music, great live performances, and just being plain ole great.

MINI RECAP: Thieving Irons = First-time Charmers! Overall score: A.

Lee Hazelwood was soundtracking the soundcheck, so I knew that obviously good things were to come. It didn’t take long to prove me right. Starting with “Ashes On The Riverbank”, which reminded me how much I’d missed Nate’s deft guitar playing and ever-so likeable stage presence. I didn’t expect the comparison that began to form in my mind during this first song, but Nate’s voice kinda sorta reminded me of The Boss, minus the Jersey and a lot of the gravel. But the earnestness, the emotion, that’s the crux. So Boss Junior he shall be. The songs, with their scope and composition, dove into E Street Band territory here and there. It all felt rather special, I must say.

“I Can Hear a Pin Drop” was next, another fine musical display that really showed off Nate’s songwriting chops (a particular favorite: “I am a coward in my own skin”). The goodness lasted for the entire set, the songs given added weight and depth by the multi-awesome Mike Brown, who took turns on banjo, guitar, lap steel, and the occasional note on the keys. The ethereal shimmer of the steel, for instance, added even more of a dream-like quality to the sensational “Wave’s Gonna Break”. Nate’s voice proved endearingly vulnerable during several songs, but this one in particular. “On The Horizon” featured one of my favorite lines by just about anyone in “It’s too cold to shiver,” and it was during this song that I noted that this could very well be on of those shows I gloat about having been present at years from now.

“Pale Blue Dots” for some reason conjured up Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game”, though less obviously hormonal. To me, it was the sound of sultry nights, fire escapes, and hazy rings surrounding a muggy moon. It was during “Babylon Is Burning” that I realized my foot hadn’t stopped tapping all night, and that was the set’s tenth song. And it should be noted that while a shout-out from the stage doesn’t automatically guarantee a good review, it sure doesn’t hurt. “These Shaking Walls” and “Tow The Line” finished up the show, and both were splendid.

It’s a good thing I didn’t envision doing anything other than totally loving the Thieving Irons live experience. I hereby decree that Thieving Irons should be recommended listening as a part of your musical diet, and that seeing this band live will do wonders for your soul. Come on in, y’all, the bandwagon’s fine. Pull up a seat right here next to me.

mp3: Ashes On The Riverbank (Thieving Irons from This Midnight Hum)

Saturday, August 28, 2010

The Good Ship Rediscovery: Mclusky - Mcluskyism

We all forget about the older stuff from time to time, in our quest to stay up to speed with the latest and greatest. But one should always respect their elders. So don’t forget about them, y’hear?

Of all the bands I’ve ever loved like fury and lost, Mclusky is one of the ones I miss the most. Ok, so they’re not really all that “old”, but they’ve been defunct for a little while now so I’m throwing ‘em into the Rediscovery circus. Sure, Andy Falkous is busy these days with the phenomenal Future Of The Left, but it’s not quite the same. Mclusky was a really special band to me. It was a perfect storm of savagery, each of the three members bring their own special brand of spitfire to the band to create a truly severe, raging sound. Falkous was the driving force with his teeth-baring voice, the kind that could peel paint with its vitriol and the kind of voice that just screams spittle, not to mention that whole Frank Black comparison thing. Coupled with his sawtooth, razor-sharp guitar, Falkous in Mclusky was unstoppable. Bassist Jon Chapple brought an unbalanced, unstable fire, with backing vocals as bratty as the day is long to compliment the fearsome snarl of Falco. And then there were the drums. Mat Harding, original drummer for Mclusky, not only got his kicks beating the living daylights out of his poor drums, but was also responsible for my love of drummers. The first song I ever heard was called “Lightsabre Cocksucking Blues”, and it just got better from there.

Mcluskyism, the 3-disc retrospective of the band’s repertoire, is a great little compendium of the Mclusky sound and perfect for a neophyte. You of course should already own the band’s full-length records, covered by the A-sides on the first disc. However, the B-sides disc has a wealth of gems, filthy and furious and fantastic. The C-sides disc is all live, all the time, and gives just a hint of the intense hellfire rage of the Mclusky live experience. I was lucky enough to see the band three times, and I can definitely tell you that this band was one of the best I’ve ever seen in the flesh. In person and on record, they had It.

Mclusky, may they rest in peace, had bite. Lots and lots of bite. Their songs were searingly clever, shatteringly loud, and incandescently killer. And I miss them like crazy.

mp3: whiteliberalonwhiteliberalaction (Mclusky from Mcluskyism)

mp3: No Covers (Mclusky from Mcluskyism)

mp3: The Salt Water Solution (Mclusky from Mcluskyism)

100 Shows of 2010 - #54: Admiral Radley/Hooray For Earth @ DC9, 8/21/10

It’s a blue moon rare kinda thing when you get both of us Terribles in one room at one time, my little darlings. Given our mad crazy constantly conflicting schedules it had been many a month since we got together, and as you probably already noticed, Chris and I joined forces for what I’d call easily one of the best shows of the year. Put together an emerging band from the Big Apple and a supergroup of sorts and you’ve got a recipe for one heck of a night. And that’s exactly what it was.

MINI RECAP: Admiral Radley = California Love! Hooray For Earth = NYC Love! Overall score: A.

Hooray For Earth was up first. I was so very happy to see them, because I had managed to miss the vast majority of their set a couple months back. They sounded totally different than what I remembered, and I could have sworn they lost a few band members in the interlude between the last show and this one. And if that’s the case, it was a change for the better. Or it could just be my horrible memory. Either way, I was totally impressed with HFE, their live set more torn and frayed than they are on record, a little bit Pavement and a little bit shoegaze and a little bit dreampop (or, as I wrote in my notes, think of it like that kinda spacey vibe of Steve Miller meets synth meets the Jesus & Mary Chain). Their songs proved rather punchy and rather enjoyable, and I just can’t resist a band that successfully juxtaposes totally chaotic guitar distortion and bouncy, bubbly basslines. Apart from the vocals being a little muddy, their set was totally great. And I can’t not give a shoutout to the drummer for drumming with one hand and banging the tambourine with the other. Now that, friends, is skill. Definitely watch this space, because I really dig me some Hooray For Earth.

Up next was the awesome of Admiral Radley. And let me just go ahead and get my bad pun out of the way, but you really can’t spell Radley without rad. Think of it, won’t you? You take two members of the fantastic Earlimart and fuse them to two members of the equally fantastic Grandaddy. It’s a surefire formula for success if ever there was one. I loved them immediately, their sound pulling from both bands but not as such that it seemed like a crutch. The guitar play reminded me of the Grandaddy record The Sophtware Slump a whole lot, and the sound was very bouncy and atmospheric. The projections flanking the band on either side of natural and cosmic elements totally fit their overall vibe. “How come you’re so far away back there and I’m up here like Bono,” a cheeky Aaron Espinoza asked Jason Lyttle, causing ripples of giggles throughout the crowd. Their banter was even great. At one point Espinoza adapted the lyrics to fit his frame of mind, singing, “I forgot the words/but it doesn’t matter now/cuz I’m all fucked up on beer/I’m fucked up on beer”. It was, hands down, the best drunk lyric forgettal recovery ever. They might heart California, but I heart me some Admiral Radley.

And that was all she wrote. It was a doozy of a dandy show, and not even the late start or late finish could put a damper on the displays of musical prowess. If you’re not already smitten with both of these bands, I suggest you give it some serious consideration.

mp3: Surrounded By Your Friends (Hooray For Earth from Momo)

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Wish You Were Here #1: Hammer No More The Fingers

Hammer No More The Fingers has rapidly become one of my favoritest new bands. I love their raw, rambunctious energy and their sound that's been compared by many to the glory days of 90s college radio rock. Not to mention that these three dudes are three of my favorite North Carolinians of all time. They'll be playing the Churchkey Records showcase at BiMA Friday night, and I'll be there with bells on.

mp3: Shutterbug (Hammer No More The Fingers from Looking for Bruce)

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Untitled Interview #50 – Whispering Beard Edition: Starring Travis Talbert (Frontier Folk Nebraska)

Hot diggity dog, y’all. This weekend marks the happening of a very, very special festival, and while I’ll be in Baltimore I highly recommend that if you can you make your way down to the wilds of Kentucky (Thorn Hill farm in Morning View, to be exact, which is a paltry 23 miles from Cincinnati!), for the best-named festival around: Whispering Beard. There’s gonna be more awesomeness than you can shake a stick at out there this year, so get your skates on. And your beards, of course.

I owe my affection for Frontier Folk Nebraska to WOXY (man alive, I miss that station). Something about the so very pretty grounded, glorious, earthy twang the band makes soothed my soul as I sat at my desk in a very, very soulless office job. And I suspect this is a band that is even better, somehow, live than on record. Lead axeman Travis Talbert took time out from preparing for the Beard to answer some questions, scroll on down and take a peek. And if you’re headed to the Beard, bring the boys some hats, just in case they forget theirs.

Les Enfants Terribles: How are you getting to Whispering Beard: plane, train, or automobile?
Travis Talbert: Automobile for sure. We travel in a 1999 Ford F-150, the Whispering Beard Festival is located in Morning View, KY, which is only about a half hour from our hometown of Covington, KY.

LET: Inevitably, you will forget to pack:
TT: I'd have to say we'll forget to pack a hat. This is a band that has taken good shots at being a band that wears hats, but we always forget them after a show or two.

LET: Band you're most looking forward to seeing at the festival?
TT: Without a doubt this one goes to the legendary Mr. Guy Clark. We just want to figure out a way to get him to sit and talk to us, tell stories, but that's a real long shot. It would be great though. Mike did some chatting with Peter Rowan last year, so hopefully that tradition carries on.

LET: You've played the Beard before. What do you dig most about it?
TT: We absolutely love the guys that put this festival on. They're real people, and by far some of the most genuine guys we've run into. Not just in music, but in general. They're great dudes and they've never hesitated to help us out. We can't say enough good things about them.

LET: What's the first thing you plan on doing upon arrival at the festival site?
TT: Parking and unloading, and for myself, I may go find whoever has the gallon jug backstage for some refreshments.

LET: What was the first festival you ever attended, either as a musician or member of the general public?
TT: The first one I ever attended was probably the Cincinnati Blues Festival on Sawyer Point on the Ohio River. Went with my dad, can't remember who played honestly, but a few years later some friends and I saw Bobby Rush. Lots of big butts on his stage. Awesome show.

LET: Favorite thing about festivals?
TT: I love festivals for the community feel. You get to play outside, see a bunch of other bands, and hopefully hang out and just talk about music all day. There's a feeling of ease that you don't have in a bar. And a bit of the unknown. The first WBFF threw a crazy storm on us just a few minutes before our set. We waited it out, and we still talk about how that night was one of our favorite moments playing ever.

mp3: Ballad of a Dead Man (Frontier Folk Nebraska live in the WOXY Lounge)

[photo by Roman Titus]

The Untitled Interview #49 – Whispering Beard Edition: Starring Paleface & Mo

Hot diggity dog, y’all. This weekend marks the happening of a very, very special festival, and while I’ll be in Baltimore I highly recommend that if you can you make your way down to the wilds of Kentucky (Thorn Hill farm in Morning View, to be exact, which is a paltry 23 miles from Cincinnati!), for the best-named festival around: Whispering Beard. There’s gonna be more awesomeness than you can shake a stick at out there this year, so get your skates on. And your beards, of course.

North Carolina transplants Paleface & Mo were ever so kind enough to answer some of my festivalian questions, which you can find below. Do so while listening to their salty, twangy fantasticness, These two will also be touring after the festival, so there’s a wide variety of opportunity in which to take in their divine noise. For example, October 7th at Iota, local friends. See you there.

Les Enfants Terribles: How are you getting to Whispering Beard: plane, train, or automobile?
Paleface & Mo: Wheels!

LET: Inevitably, you will forget to pack:
PF&M:Things we've left behind in the past include phone chargers, toothbrushes and toothpaste...but we're getting better...so hopefully not again...

LET: Who will you be sharing a stage with on the day?
PF&M:Those Darlins, Trampled by Turtles, Rumpke Mountain Boys.

LET: Band you're most looking forward to seeing at the festival?
PF&M:We're only going to be able to hang out at the festival on Friday, so we're looking fwd to checking out the bands that will be sharing stage with us that day.

LET: What's the first thing you plan on doing upon arrival in the countryside?
PF&M:Walk around and stretch them legs!

LET: What was the first festival you ever attended, either as a musician or member of the general public?
PF: I think it was Lollapalooza '96–a band that was covering one of my songs put me on the guest list.
M: The first festivals that we played together as a band were almost two years ago...Not sure which came first: Pickathon, Bristol Rhythm and Roots Reunion, Shakori Hills, Riverbend, and Floyd Fest.

LET: Favorite thing about festivals?
PF&M: Meeting lots of peeps and getting to check out new music, specially when the festival has several stages.

[photo by Matthew Lapiska]

Myspace or Yours #3: Bethesda

We Metro area folks are quite familiar with Bethesda. Well, at least as it pertains to that certain part of the Maryland burbs with the heaps of fancy houses and miles of winding roads and, perhaps best of all, a killer bowling alley. It just so happens that now there’s another Bethesda to make yourself acquainted with, and I promise this one’s even better.

Hailing from Ohio, and born out of “snow laden” frustration, Bethesda the band makes music that is full of gentle lulls and folksy familiarity. One could very easily call them homespun, salt of the earth, and down home, but there’s more to them that that. There’s the sound of sunshiney days captured in summer and remembered during long, cruel mid-winter nights, the glow that warms you as your breath comes fast and white against those stark, starry skies.

Something about Shanna Delaney’s voice is earthily ethereal, as warm and rich as the day is long. And really, I never thought anyone would ever be able to make lines from “Row Row Row Your Boat” sound good, but hot damn, Bethesda proved me wrong. “The Boat Waltz” is entrancing, and more than a little mystical. Of course, I kinda sorta feel that way about the band in general.

mp3: Burn These Ships (Bethesda from Love In a Time of Tra La La)

[photo by Nick Brewer]

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Album Review: The Jim Jones Revue – The Jim Jones Revue

Goodness gracious, great balls of fire indeed. Riddle me this, friends, how does a band from Blighty manage to channel the spirits of rock’s crucial dawning era so convincingly that listening to this here record might challenge anybody as to when it was made? How can they capture the exact firecracker tinkling of the piano, the rough, jagged polish of the guitar, and most of all, the soulful, guttural, holy howl so needed to inspire legions of fans into riotous abandon? I might not have an answer to any of that, but what I can tell you is that The Jim Jones Revue should probably become one of your favorite new/new favorite bands immediately, if not sooner.

This self-titled release has been around for a little while, but just now are we Yanks lucky enough to be able to get our mitts on it. And trust me, you’ll want to get a hold of this one. It’s like having Jerry Lee Lewis wiggling around at the keys, Little Richard running rampant with the mic, and the best axemen and rhythm section you can possibly imagine carrying the rest of the load. The rock just does not stop on this record. Does. Not. Stop. The band goes gangbusters from start to finish, and I can only imagine the holy hell of a live show they must put on (hey y'all, come on down to the D of C).

The songs on The Jim Jones Revue are short-ish, sweet, and sinfully splendid. And maybe just sinful. The most obvious reference here is 50s revivalism, and I can’t think of a soul who does it better than these gents. “Princess & The Frog” and “Hey Hey Hey Hey” are two of the best, purest rock songs you might could hear all dang year, choc full of hard-working piano and reverend-ready vocals. They do deviate slightly on occasion, “Another Daze” for instance sounds a little like the Fogerty-led CCR dragged kicking and screaming through the grime of Iggy's Motor City. And oh my, what a glorious racket that turned out to be. “Make It Hot” has shades of Skynyrd, in the roadhouse meets the stage kinda way, which endears the band to my little heart even more. “Cement Mixer” also dips its toe into the 60s waters, with a swirling organ and fuzz creeping in around the gritty edges.

Basically, my brothers and sisters, this here is a record you need to own. Amen.

mp3: Hey Hey Hey Hey (The Jim Jones Revue from The Jim Jones Revue)

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Album Review: Detox Retox – Movement EP

This is one of those times when I could go on and on about how I love this band for their name alone. Detox Retox. It’s oh so clever, no? Just imagine the concept of detoxing only to retox yourself into an overindulged state once again. I’m sure the concept is anything but foreign to many of us, come to think of it. Seeing or saying Detox Retox always makes me smile. Fortunately, it’s not just the band’s name that makes this gal happy. Oh no. It’s their music, too. And lucky us, the band has just recently released the ever so excellent Movement EP, their second to date. And in this case, it’s perfectly alright to overindulge.

Movement is definitely an apt name for such an EP. The sounds are constantly in flux, these are songs that couldn’t ever be accused of sitting still. Frenetic and pulsating with energy, these six songs are representative of quite a little band on the rise in this part of the world. The main ingredients to this little party are the feisty, pretty darn sassy vocals courtesy of Michael Parker, skillfully shredded guitars clawed with equal aplomb by Parker and Nate Frey, and the plucky as all get out Double K rhythm section (comprised of Kevin Glass on bass and Kabir Khanna on drums).

And a party it is, folks. Detox Retox has the breakneck ferocity of a DC punk band tempered by ridiculously cheeky (and even more ridiculously catchy) dancefloor grooves, making them equal parts grit and glam. For those of you who’ve ever felt compelled to cut some rug while having your eardrums assaulted by waves of blinding noise, well, this could just be the band of your dreams. With a song called “Sleep Around” I can’t help but love them, really. One of my highest of high DC band recommendations.

mp3: Caroline (Detox Retox from the Movement EP)

Happy Birthday, Kenny

When I think of Kenny Rogers, there are a few things that spring instantly to mind. The first, of course, being his luxurious, snowy white coif and equally awesome beard. Next, naturally, is the line, "you gotta know when to hold 'em/know when to fold 'em/know when to walk away/and know when to run," from "The Gambler". Butterfly collars are the final image in my mind when I call up mental images of Kenny. Oh, and those of us that are fans of The Big Lebowski, well, there's a dream sequence involving a Valkyrie, a mile high rack of bowling shoes, and a cracked-out Busby Berkeley-esque gaggle of bowling pin headdress clad ladies soundtracked by an unexpectedly trippy Kenny & The First Edition song. Oh yeah, and then there's Men Who Look Like Kenny Rogers...

And why am I rambling about Kenny Rogers, you might be wondering? Well friends, it's the man, the myth, the legend's birthday, that's why. I'll be throwing some Kenny on the turntable later, you just wait. I hope you'll join me in wishing all the best to the one, the only, Mister Kenny Rogers.

mp3: Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In) (Kenny Rogers & The First Edition from The Big Lebowski OST)

Friday, August 20, 2010

Newsflash: BiMA Fest 2010!

So, it just so happens that we two sometimes (often) get so busy covering all the fun stuff in our neck of the woods that we sometimes (often) forget about our fabulous neighbors to the north. No, not Canada. I'm talkin' 'bout Charm City, baby, otherwise known as Baltimore.

There's a whole lot of righteous stuff going on up in Balto these days, which we DC folks can shamefully tend to forget, not least of which is the 2010, brand spankin' new edition of the Baltimore Independent Music & Arts Festival (aka BiMA). I'm super psyched because I've been in festival withdrawl this year, and the convenience of it all makes me feel very spoiled indeed. Not only will BiMA be celebrating some of the best that Baltimore has to offer in terms of music and other arty happenings, but they've pulled in some excellent out-of-towners to boot (for example, I'll be hitting the Churchkey Records showcase for damn sure). Check out the schedule here (and remember kids, as life is forever changing, so too could the schedule), and don't make any plans for next weekend (that'll be August 26th-28th, to be exact). Expect, of course, a detailed commentary by yours truly, since I'll be to-ing and fro-ing all weekend long.

Be there or be square, y'all!

mp3: Streets of Baltimore (Gram Parsons from GP)

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

100 Shows of 2010 - #53: The Deadmen @ Rock’n’Roll Hotel, 8/14/10

There are times, though relatively few and far between, when I see a show that makes me really, really glad to be alive and present in that particular time and place. Oh sure, I’m a pretty lucky gal and I go to a bunch of good shows, heck a lot of them probably even qualify as great, but the ones that really, really stand out don’t come along too often. I’m talking about those shows that you feel from your head to your toes, from your head to your heart, and of course, in your soul. The special shows. I had the privilege of one such show, ringing in the fourth birthday of the Rock’n’Roll Hotel to the beautiful, beautiful sounds of DC’s latest band to make me swoon, otherwise known as The Deadmen.

MINI RECAP: The Deadmen = Tremendous Troubadours! Overall score: A.

Going into the show, I was already a big fan of the singing and the songwriting done by Justin Jones. I have often opined that Jones possesses one of the purest, soul-heavy voices I’ve ever heard, and so was fairly confident that anything he had a hand in would be good as gold. As often happens, I was right. As all and sundry swilled cheap PBR tallboys (making me almost miss Richmond) and munched birthday cupcakes, the foursome took control of the stage, leaving their hearts and souls and sweat in an all-out blitz of beauty.

Their sound was lush, at times throwing off hints of The Band (well-constructed, intensely layered songs – just don’t ask me which one gets to be Robbie Robertson), Bruce Springsteen (down home, homespun, Americana drenched songs with bite), The Byrds (dashes of sunshine with elaborate licks), and just about any country slash blues slash folk great you can think of. There was an impressive polish to their performance, though they managed to lock in the appealing grit that one might expect from a band from around these parts. The shared vocals of Jones with Josh Read of Revival proved a great pairing, each one bringing a particular fire to his respective songs.

They were nearly done with first song “Sons and Dogs” when I wrote in my notes that “I think I just found me another favorite DC band.” The wallop of guitars and shades of bluesy folk were like a flame to me, and I felt rooted to the spot as the boys played on. I found “Angels” particularly noteworthy, with the harmonica and Justin’s heart-wrenching, force of nature voice, it was hard to resist. “This freedom don’t satisfy me,” Jones sang wryly in the excellent “Money”, a feisty little song that further exhibited just how special this band can be. Their sound, especially given the short time they’ve been together, was at times majestic. “Old Stone Bridge”, for instance, was undeniable, ever so lively and catchy as all get out. They didn’t let up once (well, ok, so the singing of “Happy Birthday” to the club and to Justin was a little sub-par, but that’s the worst I can say about the whole night). And covering “Casey Jones” was a stroke of genius, that song just fit them to a T.

I expected a whole lot from this band, and they gave me even more than I had hoped for. All I can say, really, is that this band is knocking on the door, my friends. They’ve shivered my timbers, and they’re just getting started. I can’t recommend them to you enough. I’m gonna be damned cranky until they get some music released, I can tell you that. DC friends, consider yourselves lucky to be here now for this band. I sure do. Consider yourselves warned: The Deadmen is on the way.

Monday, August 16, 2010

100 Shows of 2010 - #52: Young Galaxy @ Black Cat, 8/12/10

Pretty lights and a fog machine and fabulous glitter oh my! Given those three elements, I was already very favorably inclined towards really liking those visiting Montrealians Young Galaxy. Thankfully, when they started to play, I was sent into throes of joy, because this here band is pretty darn good at making live music. They were so good that not even the ridiculousness of the DC parking Gestapo could dampen my evening (though it was a good effort, you bloody meanies).

MINI RECAP: Young Galaxy = Glitter Ball Glorious! Overall score: B+.

I do so love bands that seem to have several personalities, and based on the set Young Galaxy knocked out, they’ve got quite a few. We were given anything and everything in this set, from gloriously loud washes of noise to more structured, synthy and almost glammy pop to darker moments of slight melancholia. At times it got straight up dramatic, with the white lights shining down on Stephen Ramsay as he throttled his guitar and thrashed his way all over the place. And then, there was their endearingly silly banter (such as the dedication of "Swing Your Heartache" to the crowd, because we smelled "the best of any of the cities we've been in," which, evidently, is musky) to take things down a notch.

I was all sorts of impressed for most of the band’s set. “Destroyer” sounded impeccable, slightly tongue-in-cheek and tiptoeing along the fringes of musical bombast. At such moments the band reminded me a lot of stellastarr*, with all those big chords and the big, sweeping vocals. Not only did the band as a whole impress the heck out of me, but so too does Catherine McCandless and her big ole siren song of a voice. Not only can this girl rock an asymmetical haircut, but she can sing circles around most ladies. With that commanding presence of hers and the strength of her voice, I was hooked. Also serving to reel me in was their seriously sensational cover of the Cure's "Primary". It was the perfect song for them to cover. Serious bonus points on that, and perhaps even Mr. Robert Smith himself would have approved.

It was all very serious, and yet all very good fun. And who doesn’t like fun on a Thursday night, eh? Moving from balladland to infectious synth-laden hooks, Young Galaxy showed this girl quite a good time, and they’ll almost positively do the very same for you. There’s only one way to find out, friends.

mp3: Queen Drum (Young Galaxy from Invisible Republic)

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Myspace or Yours #2: Ryan McCracken

I do so love it when someone really, truly enchanting comes my way through the sea of tripe that inhabits Myspace. Y’all will know exactly what I’m talking about, I suspect, when I say that there are rare moments when you come across a voice that totally captures your attention, totally takes you by surprise. As soon as I opened my friend request from Buffalo’s Ryan McCracken, I had this sensation of being utterly enraptured and completely beguiled. It wasn’t just my usual affinity for the lone wolf singer-songwriter, though I do admit my fondness for that very appealing pairing of a boy and his guitar. No, with Ryan it was different.

His voice is pretty darned incredible. It’s uniquely expressive, rich and warm, full of honeyed tones and heavy with theatrics. It’s seductive, off-putting, haunting, and amusing, and frequently all of the above at once. At times his guitar seems basic, though when he plugs in the songs taken on a singular beauty. But the guitar, be it acoustic or electric, is secondary, because with Ryan the voice is the real instrument here. It’s my opinion that Mr. McCracken is in possession of something very, very special indeed. I fully expect him to get better and better (and hopefully one of these days get his tour on, to include a stop in the greater Washington area).

Bottom line is that you might just want to check Ryan out. Oh, and bands, take note. You will absolutely get bonus points for making tying your music with a bow. Little details, with music and with mailings, go a long way.

mp3: Archers/On Guard (Ryan McCracken from Alive at Staples 5/20/2010)

mp3: Type A New York Neurotic (Ryan McCracken from Hey You 2)

Album Review: The Strange Boys – Be Brave

I’ve thought about this quite a bit, and after much consideration I think my favorite thing about The Strange Boys could very well be their brattitude. Cuz let’s face it, y’all, there’s something really kinda bratty about the way they make music. It’s not just that they’re all pretty dang good at what they’re doing. It’s almost as though they play in a way that almost mocks how good they are, as if they’re scoffing at what they’re doing. And then there’s Ryan Sambol and that little rapscallion of a voice of his. Scratchy and nasal and almost jeering at times, Sambol’s voice anchors the perfectly-produced grit and grime and retro-worship that runs rampant all over Be Brave. And I tell you what, brothers and sisters, this band can be as bratty as they wanna be if they keep making music this good.

I’m writing about this record on a Sunday afternoon, and it seems a pretty dangum perfect Sunday afternoon record. It’s not too jarring (save, of course, for Sambol’s pleasantly vexing voice), its’ rhythms are on the subtle side, and it would make a perfect soundtrack to a pitcher of mimosas and some good conversation among hungover friends. Then again, it’d probably sound just as good on any other day of the week, so don’t feel like you have to reserve Be Brave for brunch alone.

As you might expect, Be Brave definitely takes all sorts of cues from all sorts of places. You’ve got the strident, plucky guitar found both in 1950s rockers and rollers and those lovable 60s Brit Invasion types playing hide and seek all over the record. A dissonant sax makes an appearance in (super awesome) title track “Be Brave”, and somehow makes perfect sense. “Friday In Paris” sounds a whole lot like The Kinks and The Small Faces, with just a hint of front porch country thrown in for good measure, and that’s a whole lotta alright with me. I go nuts for that irrepressible jangle of “Night Might” and the near-howl of Sambol’s vocals and it’s rapidly becoming my favorite track on the record. They’ve twisted and manipulated various elements to come up with their own delightful sound, and what a dandy little noise it is. Is it too soon to already be lookin forward to their next album? Cuz I am.

mp3: Be Brave (The Strange Boys from Be Brave)
(Link removed by request...TWICE! Hey kids, don't look at us)

Thursday, August 12, 2010

100 Shows of 2010 - #51: Beach Fossils @ Black Cat, 8/8/10

Ok, I know I have the tendency to get a little excited about some of these here shows I go to. But my level of anticipation for Beach Fossils was off the charts. After all, their amazing, incredible, glorious self-titled record is easily one of the best LPs of this here annum, and I was pretty sure that their live show would also be pretty dang good. And I tell you what, lights of my life, when you bring together a standing, dancing drummer, a sailor (or perhaps pilot) hat, and a baby pink guitar, the end result can be nothing but good times. No lie. I have Beach Fossils’ Black Cat show as proof.

MINI RECAP: Beach Fossils = Sunshinily Sensational! Overall score: A.

I’m tempted to go as far as calling them the best of the year thus far, but I’ll stop just short of that for fear of being too hasty and say without question Beach Fossils put on one of the top 5 sets I’ve been privy to so far in 2010. These dudes are awesome beyond their years, and the way they come together on a stage is truly a splendid thing to behold. Starting off with album opener “Sometimes”, the band began to work their magic, casting a golden web of noise dreamily across the room. They immediately proved even better live than on record, and that in itself is a feat. I probably would have been sated after just one song, but happily the band kept going. “Vacation” was next, sounding ever so slightly unhinged, as if perhaps there was a slight danger of the band veering off the rails at any minute. “You people need to move around more,” the band urged, and several of the persons near the stage obliged, though none got down quite as much as that sassy drummer.

“Lazy Day”, one of the exquisitely summer-perfect Beach Fossils songs, languidly jangling along and leaving the memorable summer slacker mantra “lazy today/lazy tonight/and later on” behind. The perfection continued with “Golden Age”, fuzzy and fun and straight up fantastic. As they stormed through “Youth”, I closed my eyes and imagined the whole shebang transplanted to someone’s backyard, lit by a thousand Christmas lights and dancing under an inky summer sky. It was a breathtaking moment in a set pretty much full of them.

They closed with my favorite two songs from the record, “Daydream” and “Twelve Roses”. The smile I had been wearing most of the night got a whole lot bigger as the band sharply but sweetly strummed and shimmied their way through two of the best damn songs you’ll hear back to back. It was just one of those sets, those rare and special times when the band is at their best. And I feel like the cat who got all the goddam canaries for having been there to see it.

As my friend Carolyn noted, Beach Fossils is truly great 99 degree music. I’d say there’s really none better.

mp3: Twelve Roses (Beach Fossils from Beach Fossils)

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

100 Shows of 2010 - #50: The Loom @ The Red & The Black, 8/7/10

I was so very excited for this show that The Loom got their very own honorary day, so needless to say my expectations for the performance by this troupe of Brooklynites were a wee bit high. And isn’t it always the best feeling when your expectations are first met, and then shatteringly exceeded? The halfway point of my slightly insane gig odyssey was reached with a proverbial bang, darlins, and The Loom sure did prove worthy of a honorary day. Heck, they maybe should get an honorary week.

MINI RECAP: The Loom = Harrowingly Handsome! Overall score: A.

As you know, friends, I’m a little nerdy from time to time. In this instance, my geekery was given form by my listening to The Loom for nearly the entire week leading up to their Saturday evening show. This repetition both whetted by appetite and made me just a little impatient, so it was quite the double-edged sword. Finally, the happy evening was upon me. A rather hearty little group of folks (lucky souls all) was present for the show, and I doubt any one of them left disappointed.

Certain bands have IT when they step onstage, and The Loom is one such band. All six of them seem to possess supernaturally serious talent, with the power to draw one in and utterly captivate you. Be it the forceful drive of “The Middle Distance” or the country smoke of “Helen” or the winsome memory of “A Song of Faint Praise” or the sprightly flight of “The Curtain Calls”, there’s a little something special for everyone. Everything just fell into place during their set, and they sounded absolutely glorious. I left the Red & The Black convinced that though I didn’t think I could adore them more, lo and behold it somehow happened.

The Loom
absolutely has been one of the best live bands I’ve had the pleasure of seeing this year, and if you don’t a) go see them live and b) agree with this sentiment, well, I just don’t know what to say about that. I find it pretty much impossible not to love this band, and hopefully you’ll soon be in agreement.

mp3: Helen (The Loom from the forthcoming Teeth)

Monday, August 9, 2010

100 Shows of 2010 - #49: Chad America’s Birthday Bash @ Black Cat, 8/3/10

Should you ever find yourself at the Black Cat on an evening when Mister Chad America is behind the bar, well, you’re in for a treat. Not only is he one of the best drink slingers in town, but he’s also one hell of a dude. Oh, and a purveyor of perhaps the best beard in all of DC. So naturally, when it came time for Chad’s annual birthday throwdown, I had to go and pay my respects to the birthday boy, as well as take in the live entertainment that was so happily put together for all and sundry, in the form of (Stop Worrying And) Love The Bomb (who, sadly, I missed), The Electricutions, and The Drains. O, what fun it all was.

MINI RECAP: The Electricutions = Kablam! The Drains = Kapow! Overall score: B+.

My friend Rusty, who just so happens to be in my 2nd favorite of favorite DC bands (otherwise known as Suns of Guns) is a mighty talented dude, and has recently started moonlighting in another band, The Drains. He warned me that the band might not be “in my wheelhouse,” but anything that’s painfully loud and heavily influenced by painfully loud Brits is definitely good in my book. There was a great deal of snarling and posturing going on while The Drains were performing, and I had to love them for not only their wall of noise but their wall of attitude as well. And really, what gal doesn’t love the romantic balladry, nay poetry, of a song with the lyric, “I wanna fuck you tonight”? Ok, so perhaps not exactly chivalrous, but I like dudes who cut to the chase. I was really impressed overall with The Drains, for only their second show they’re already turning out to be formidable little upstarts. And we so love that around these parts.

The Electricutions was next, and while I knew nothing about them beforehand, I left knowing that this is one heck of a loud band. According to their Myspace, they play “early style Punk Rock/Garage/Rock and Roll” that’s “lyrically influenced by Woody Guthrie, Phil Ochs, and other protest singers.” I’d go along with that, for sure. They were thrashingly fierce, and the dueling guitars just slayed it again and again and again. I totally fell for their teeth-bared style, totally aggressive and totally enthralling. I found my mind comparing them on occasion to my much-missed Coachwhips, but a lot darker and with less of the jangly abruptness. But the grit and grime was there, oh yes. The Electricutions were more controlled chaos than The Drains, and didn’t quite threaten to self-destruct right there onstage. But man alive, they wished Chad well with one doozy of a noisefest.

All in all, it was a great night to celebrate the birthday of a great guy.

mp3: Happy Birthday (Loretta Lynn from Honky Tonk Girl)

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Meet The State Department

Holy mid 1980s, y'all. The State Department, part of the cream of the current DC crop, sounds distinctly retro Brit at heart, and ain't that the way to this girl's heart? Well, that and a bottomless amaretto sour. But I digress. They don't forget their roots, either, adding in some spiky guitar and super loud drums to give sonic shout-outs to DC. All of which means, my little darlings, that The State Department is probably really a band you probably really should be listening to and loving.

Comprised of four local gentlemen and citing influences as varied as Neil Diamond, William Shatner, and the beloved Happy Mondays, The State Department is hereby decreed as one to keep one's eye on. I love them most of all for that sound thouroughly soaked in the magical Molotov cocktail of the British school: the threatening glowering jangle of A Certain Ratio and Gang of Four, the clever jauntiness of Orange Juice and Josef K, and lyrical witticisims not too far removed from first album Blur. Oh, and they cover "Waiting for My Man", and Velvet Underground covers are pretty much the bee's knees. Put it all together and you've got one heck of a dandy little sound. It's music geared towards having a good time, and who doesn't like having a good time?

In closing, well, just go forth and add a little State Department to your life. You'll be ever so glad you did.

mp3: Bon Vivant (The State Department from The State Department EP)

[photo by Sam Goldstein]

August 7: Loom Day

It's been a long, long time since I've decreed an honorary day around these parts. But I figure it's about time for another, and The Loom now joins Dead Confederate and The Black Angels as bands upon which I've given a day here at LET.

By sheer happy chance, The Loom's show tonight at The Red & The Black, with Little Bigheart, Strand of Oaks, and The Idiomatics, (y'all come on down, y'hear?) has managed to become my 50th show of the 100 Shows of 2010 extravaganza. And if that's not cause for celebration, well, I just don't know what is.

If you're not yet familiar with The Loom, now's the perfect time to make amends. Brooklyn's finest makes gorgeous, glorious and honest epic folk, with a little bit of mountainous country hither and yon, that is both haunting and uplifting. I'm not quite sure how I'm going to tear myself away from listening to their record in order to go and see them live, but where there's a will there'll be a way. So folks, come on feel The Loom. I'm pretty sure you'll be pleased as punch that you did.

mp3: Helen (The Loom from the forthcoming Teeth)

[photo by Sarahana Shrethsa]

Happy Birthday, Andy

Well kiddos, yours truly is pretty crankypants this morning. I'd like to once again reiterate that if you are a band/label/PR person who does not like us having a song of yours on our site, PLEASE EMAIL US TO REMOVE IT. Nobody wins when you don't go to us first, and it only makes us very unhappy to get grumpy notices from our hosting site and makes us not want to write things anymore. So then, let's all be nice to one another in future, shall we?

Stepping off my soapbox, it's time to wish a very Happy Birthday to the spirit of one of pop culture's most important and iconic figures. His birthday was actually yesterday, but I'm pretty sure Andy Warhol would be ok with my being late to the party. Warhol's shadow still looms large to this day, and I can tell you I just about got goosebumps standing in the presence of his Three Elvises at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts last weekend. Not only powerful as an artist, Warhol was powerful in life. Love him or hate him, he still stands as one of the biggest personalities this country has ever produced. And hey, I'm sure many of us sure do love the band he spent a lot of time with over the years. So to celebrate Andy, here's a little Velvet Underground to start off your day.

mp3: There She Goes Again (The Velvet Underground from The Velvet Underground & Nico)

Thursday, August 5, 2010

100 Shows of 2010 - #48: Interpol/Twin Tigers/The Postelles @ The National, 7/29/10

It was a dark and stormy night...literally. The heavens had clouded and opened and unleashed a whale of a storm front all up and down the East Coast, meaning nothing but trouble. Power outages, downed trees, and ponding streets greeted me on my arrival in Richmond, but thankfully the lights were still on at The National. It might have ended a whole lot later than planned, but this show with its pretty fine triple bill made the long distance drive well worth it. Once it got going, that is.

MINI RECAP: Interpol = Spooky! Twin Tigers = Mysterious! The Postelles = Kooksy! Overall Score: B+

The foursome of The Postelles was first to swagger onto the giant expanse of The National's stage, an hour late. Even before they started to play, they reminded me a whole lot of The Kooks - lots of skinny skinny jeans and pointy toes and even a couple of jaunty hats. Their sound, too, was rather Kooks-esque, frenzied yet polished poppy overtones to their indie racket, which I found somewhat entertaining but not quite captivating. The drummer won me over, though, sassy as he was back behind his drum kit. Truth be told, I'm not all that sure I would have stuck them on a bill with Interpol, they struck me as just a wee bit too safe. But perhaps, should I ever see them in a small club when I'm not impatiently waiting for other bands to play, perhaps I'll change my tune.

Next up was Twin Tigers, whom I was most excited to see, since it would be for the very first time. Sprung from that deep, deep well that is the Athens scene, I fell instantly and utterly in love with the band, even before they played a note. Why, you might wonder? Well, friends, they ambled onstage to "Runnin' With The Devil", and the campness of Van Halen just seemed perfect at that moment. Hence, my love for them. Musically, I couldn't have loved them much more. Their knack of lulling one into a false sense of security before exploding into a beautifully crushing wall of noise was incredible. I found their hybrid of crunchy, swirly, heavy heavy neopsych meets shoegaze meets sweet sweet indie nigh on irresistable. Also fantastic was the ferocity with which they attacked each and every song, a savagery that was downright sexy. They would repeatedly build a dreamy, delicate haze only to plunge unmercifully into beefy bass and gritty guitars and murderous drums. Stunning. The Twin Tigers presence onstage is magnetic, powerful, and they play their instruments masterfully. They might have been even better than I had hoped they'd be, dodgy sound and all. Their last song too quickly followed their first, and I hated to see them go. A great, great set, and I can't wait to see them again.

We waited and waited and waited and waited for Interpol. Around 11, we were informed that the band had been stuck in Newark for hours (poor lambs) trying to get a flight to Richmond. They were en route, and should be with us around midnight. After what seemed like an eternity, the much-thinned out crowd let out a gigantic roar, welcoming Interpol to the stage. They sure know how to make an entrance. I hadn't realized how good it would feel to see them again after so many years. Right away it was (almost) just like old times, the band decked out in their finest black, the sensational lighting, and of course, the music. There were two glaring issues to the set, which was otherwise pretty fantastic. Issue 1: The absence of Carlos D. Issue 2: Not so great sound. The lead guitar was WAY too loud the entire set, and it was more than a little distracting. But the songs, o the songs...

"Evil" was a triumph, with the crowd singing along and a kaleidoscopic effect to the lights to mimic the crashing crescendo of the song's end. "Say Hello To The Angels" was a little too fast, a little too frenectic, but after the day they'd had a little discombobulation was well understandable. "Narc" was simply glorious, "PDA" was one of my favorites of the set (which is appropriate, since it's one of my favorite Interpol songs). "Slow Hands" was another joy, lit by dizzying orange lights. After the set, which was split between the comfortable beauty of the old and the equally lovely new material, the crowd screamed for an encore. And the band obliged, delivering two of its' finest performances of the evening in "Hands Away" and "C'mere", the former hauntingly reminding me of how the stark glory of their sonic landscapes made me fall in love with them in the first place. A fine rendition of "Not Even Jail" completed the first encore, and after lustily demanding more the crowd was sated with one more song, the loud and choppy and jerky and sweeping "Stella Was a Diver and She's Always Down". And the it was all over, and I was sad.

Overall, despite the delays and the rampant sound issues, it was a mighty enjoyable evening. Twin Tigers battered my brain with their sensational rambling landscapes, and Interpol was, well, Interpol. I'd of course rather have seen them at the 9:30 Club, and Carlos D sure did leave one heck of a big void, but I was oh so happy to see them again. It had been too damn long. A girl needs her fix, after all.

mp3: PDA (Interpol from Turn On The Bright Lights)

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

100 Shows of 2010 - #47: Hammer No More The Fingers @ Velvet Lounge, 7/26/10

The other half of my doubleheader evening had me ever so very excited, ladies and gents. Sure, I was already crushing on Hammer No More The Fingers because of that delightfully clever name of theirs, but their Carolina Rock und Roll gets me pretty amped up on its own. And let's face it, to see a band that is oh so close to blowing up at such a teensy little venue like my old haunt the Velvet Lounge, well, it doesn't get much better than that. The band was great. They huffed and they puffed and they nearly blew the dang roof off.

MINI RECAP: Hammer No More The Fingers = Terrific Tarheels! Overall Score: A-

Immediately likeable, the trio set the tone for their set with new song "Atlas Of An Eye", a smashing wat to begin. The song was cute, jaunty, more than a little bouncy, and just a smidge mischievious, which is really just the way I like it. Second song "Steam" showed off very kicky drum action, as hammered out by Jeff Hammer, and got a little sassypants. Around this time I started thinking to myself that Hammer No More The Fingers kinda sorta remind me of two rather fanfuckingtastic bands - The Joggers and Crystal Skulls. Something about all the driving rhythms and the cheeky overtones, which definitely puts Hammer No More The Fingers in pretty fine company as far as I'm concerned. Duncan Hammer's bass (and moustache) was out of control good on "Vodka Grasshopper", and guitarist Joe Hammer really started to get into the song, throwing out a lively little thrash hither and thither.

As much as I like them on record, by the middle of their set I was convinced that to see Hammer No More The Fingers live is really the way to love them. They have fun, they make the kids have fun, it's a real win-win situation. "Leroy", yet another fabulous new song, had quite a jolly good beat and a good bit of swagger. I loved the off-kilter intro to "Thunder'n'Rain", which was a rather fiesty little gem, very Joggers-esque but with a lot less sonic sneering. "Fuck Dave, he's out to get me," Duncan proclaimed in "It's About Caring", a very punchy little number rife with guitar intricacies. After the languid laze of the intro, the nifty guitar play and solid percussion took hold of "Fingernails", and then, sadly, 'twas the end of the line. "The Agency" was a great way to go out, as those three little stars jingle jangled their way through one last fantastic song.

They played a total trampy tease of a set, in that all but one song was new new new, and probably might just maybe end up on the next HNMTF record. Despite the overwhelming newness, it was one heck of a set. Those boys are pretty much straight up rock, and I can't urge you enough to get yourself acquainted with them as soon as you possibly can, y'all.

mp3: Radiation (Hammer No More The Fingers from Looking For Bruce)

Monday, August 2, 2010

Album Review: The Black Hollies – Softly Towards The Light

If there’s one thing I love, it’s bands that have a serious affinity for their forefathers. The bands that you know without a doubt were weaned on Ogden and his flaking nut, Lola, and the Carousel. Last year I lucked upon one such band, The Black Hollies, and have developed a host of warm fuzzies for their take on the early 60s British Invasion melodies and catchy as hell pop nuggets created by all of those “The” bands the bowl-cutted, mod-suited kids used to go wild for. No corner was cut, no trick left untried. Though instead of sounding like a mere cover band, The Black Hollies stand as an example of just how to spread your retro love.

Softly Towards The Light grabs you straight away. “Run With Me Run” has enough jangle to make The Kinks and The Hollies and even The Zombies proud, and retains that recording quality that makes those old records so very appealing. “Gloomy Monday Morning” is another gem, taking their retro jingling and adding some funky grooves for an irresistible romp. “Everything’s Fine” throws some psychedelic swirls into the mix as the song gently ambles along, serving as a breather from the near breakneck pace of the preceding songs.

“Lead Me To Your Fire” is a Roman Candle of a song, furious tambourine and slick vocals urging the feet to get on the floor for some rug cutting. And as with all the songs on Softly Towards The Light, the guitar is worthy of a mention for that sharp, perfectly-played sound, present here in one heck of a solo midway through the song. “Can’t Stop These Tears (From Falling)” shows a band wearing their sensitive dude heart on their sleeve, along with showing off a slinky overall sound. “Don’t Be Afraid To Ask” closes things down nicely, giving you more jingle for your jangle than you could shake your Mary Quant boot or your skinny tie at. “Don’t forget to get the last laugh before you leave,” quoth the band as “She’s A Rainbow” style keys are tinkled, and they certainly do just that.

When it comes to Invasion revivalism, The Black Hollies have their finger on the pulse. If you haven’t worked up a dancefloor-worthy sweat by the time this record is over, you obviously haven’t been listening.

mp3: Lead Me To Your Fire (The Black Hollies from Softly Towards The Light)

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Album Review: Ceremony – Rocket Fire

Before even having heard Ceremony’s Rocket Fire in its entirety, I proclaimed them to be The Best Band in Virginia, based solely on the amazing sucker punch of a performance they gave back at the U Street Music Hall in June. Now, having finally heard said record in all its sensationally searing glory, I’m solidly sticking to my guns. With that being said, friends, I’d like you to meet Ceremony. They’re from Fredericksburg, they’re nouveau gaze in its finest of fine fettle, and they’re going to do nothing short of fry your little brains.

Rocket Fire is the sweat equity of two Fredericksburgers, Paul Baker and John Fedowitz. The noise these two make as Ceremony is both beautiful and terrifying, full of snarling ferocity as well as dazzling rays of sweetness and light. Rocket Fire could be straight outta 1981, but in the way that only the most modern and on-point music can be. It will quite possibly make you yen for My Bloody Valentine, but also make you hanker for Ceremony themselves. “Stars Fall”, the album opener, exhibits both elements of Ceremony, the sugary sweetness and the liquefying oblivion. Crunching, jagged guitar cuts through the fabulous fuzz and the kick of the drum machine, while honeyed vocals offer respite from the attack of the instrumentation.

Even better things await the further you wade into the intense mess of sound that is Rocket Fire. “Breaking Up” is simply blistering, fierce layers of fuzz creating a blinding backdrop for lovelorn vocals. “Marianne” is another favorite, scorching guitar and still more fuzzery playing off the lovesickness of the lyrics. “You’re killing my soul, Marianne,” goes the lament, while the wall of noise undulates every which way. “Silhouette” has rapidly turned into quite possibly my favorite of favorites on Rocket Fire, darkly sinister as it is and with that fantastic rapid fire drum machine action. The heady, scathing swirl of the guitar and bass also add to the intense appeal of said song (and, to a greater extent, said record).

At this point in time, I’d say that if this here record doesn’t end up on my Best of 2010 list, hell might possibly have turned into the Arctic. And if you don’t make it a point to add this record to your collection, well, I fear there might not be any hope for you, ladies and gents.

mp3: Breaking Up (Ceremony from Rocket Fire)

mp3: Silhouette (Ceremony from Rocket Fire)