Sunday, May 26, 2013

Metz - Metz

Channeling the brutal rhythms of the Jesus Lizard and rendering the power-trio format to its very essence is always going to get an approving nod from your truly, but the point where I want to smack you across the face to take notice of the band Metz is almost immediately after the first listen of their self-titled debut.

Metz has spent the last five years stripping their best thirty minutes into this stunning release and it is of such head-nodding caliber that you may as well invest in a bottle of Excedrin on the way home from the record store.

And what a coincidence! The album begins with the driving “Headache,” which perfectly kicks things off with Hayden Menzies’ drumming, a man who hammers the skins like a dimwitted cousin of Dave Grohl-and that’s a compliment.

Menzies is usually joined at the hip with bassist Chris Slorach who is a one trick pony of quarter notes and piston simplicity-and that’s a compliment too.

But the band’s creative and chief noise monger is Alex Edkins who manages to sound like his destroying his larynx and his amplifier simultaneously. Nonstop. For a solid half-hour.

Metz is filled with dissonant guitars and cavestomp glee, causing Edkins to yell out “Woo!” like a punk rock Rick Flair during several songs. And while it may indeed be equal parts showboating and exasperation, it’s deserved. Metz shows a narrow focus and replicates the same formulas (jackhammer rhythms, dissonant note bends) throughout several songs, but the record builds up so much momentum that you can’t help but admire that this one, singular thing that Metz does, they do it very well.

Edkins doesn’t share Yow’s garbled rambles in his own vein-popping delivery. His is very précise and channeled, but as cathartic as his screaming is, Metz contains a very intentional pop element. It does little to minimize the very real power these three Toronto residents present on their full-bodied document, but it does wonders for repeated listens.

They could retire now and feel good about having their only recorded history be a worthy artifact. But let me be selfish for a moment and say, that I hope the band is able to pound the collective Jesus out of this thing on the road and still have something that’s at least half as good as this debut.

There’s a very clear indication that this band can take their path in any number of different directions. Whatever path happens to be, Metz will shine bright throughout their career and has the potential to inspire others to examine the fertile grounds of whiplashed post-punk rhythms and channeled dissonant aggression.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Television - Television

The reality is that Marquee Moon is such a perfect specimen, one of the most unquestionably brilliant debut albums in rock history, that anything in its wake is bound to pale in comparison.

And when you examine everything in Television’s wake, you’ll see that their first album was the culmination of the band’s years of woodshedding and cherry picking their way through only the best material.

The follow up, Adventure, compiles both the also-rans of their debut, but also with it the stench of a band splintering from all of the unmet expectations. It’s no wonder that guitarists Tom Verlaine and Richard Lloyd delivered better debut solo albums than Adventure, and it also created a bit of hesitation when it was announced in 1992 that Television would re-form after more than a decade of inactivity.

It was very clear that the band was taking advantage of the chaotic state of music left in Nevermind’s wake. Strange, as the New York quartet were miles away-literally and figuratively-from the essence of those NW Big Muffs who promoted substance over style.

Let’s not forget that Television had a very keen sense of style, and the band’s resulting entry in the land of grunge is a stylish reminder of NYC’s ability to slay with guitar tones devoid of distortion.

A quick spin of “Call Mr. Lee,” Television’s emphasis track upon release, shows an ageless volley between two guitar greats and the results make the entire record worth the price of admission.

The song is a nervy jem, but it’s the solos that make the entire song transcendent. Lloyd and Verlaine trade off Fender strangling riff in the record’s most “showy” moments, but your jaw will drop at the results as they are just as colorful at some of the best moments of the solo on the title track of their debut.

Elsewhere, the riffs are subtle yet complex. Tones seem to rue the day on Television, with “No Glamour For Willi” offering at least a half-dozen different tones throughout the course of five minutes. It’s like the fellas knew this reunion job would be brief, so they set a course to document every single guitar tone they conjured up during the proceedings.

It’s Verlaine-lead, so Television has the feel of a very inspired solo record, with maybe just a tad more strut during the set’s bolder moments (“Beauty Trip” and “In World”).

The ones that take the longest to get a grip on are the kool kat beat vibe that Verlaine dishes on such tracks as “Rhyme” and the Pere Ubu tribute, “Mars.” But the more you listen, the more you figure out that even at their most pretensious this band continues to sound like nobody else, and Television became a worthy distraction back in ’92.

Twenty years later-and still the band’s final statement-it’s worth another distraction. What reminded me was a visit to a record store and noticing that Television had been reissued on vinyl.

I resisted my impulse to purchase another copy, particularly since I hadn’t listened to Television since it was first release. I just knew that a song like “Call Mr. Lee” had to sound awesome through those warm analog vibrations.

So a few spins of the colder, digital kind were in order, and with each one, new patterns and tones emerged. The simple truth is that I became infatuated with Television’s beat cool and guitar heroics. 

The album has aged well, and while it may not have exactly serve what this record was intended to be-a sales bump from grunge’s strange ability to make a few hits-it did end the band on a better note than Adventure and it managed to make me miss Television a bit more when they signed off again.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Will Courtney - A Century Behind

Back in the 70’s, there was this franchise restaurant called The Ground Round. They’ve probably rubbed the idea out entirely and are now some kind of generic sports bar, but back in the day, The Ground Round was known as kind of a novel place to bring the wife and kids.

First, they were family friendly. They’d serve you popcorn and peanuts in the shell and they had some kind of old-timey vibe, reminiscent of an era of big-wheel bicycles and handlebar mustaches. Essentially, the joint was a place where Dad could enjoy a beer with his burger and his kids wouldn’t get yelled at for littering up the patch of land under the kid’s chairs with peanut shells.

They would also have entertainment on occasion and-at the risk of this review of Will Courtney’s debut solo effort A Century Behind turning into a research paper on the Ground Round business model from 40 years ago-on one particular night my family stopped in to a location. As we were led into the main dining area, we noticed that the diners were being serenaded by a man with an impressive mustache and an acoustic guitar, tucked on a small stage against the south wall of the restaurant.

If I correctly recall, the man played a Jim Croce song, but beyond that it was the experience rather than the music that I remember the most.

Will Courtney also has impressive facial hair, and this seven-song e.p. is fairly reminiscent  of the kind of demonstration tape that the talent agent of the Missouri-area Ground Round restaurants would receive when booking acts for their region.

That was unfair.

Mr. Courtney has much more talent than a Ground Round audition and we’re not talking about Jim Croce covers on A Century Behind, but the work of a man who has forwarded his mail to a bunch of different zip codes before landing just long enough to hit the record button for this set.

How he got here was through the attention of his last project-Brothers and Sisters-a literal family affair that caused a few heads to take notice. But with that project on hiatus, Will Courtney is attempting to parlay those prior kudos into a solo act, tacking a few bits of organic instrumentation into his campfire delivery and sepia tone tendencies.

The spare strategy works in his favor, with additional texture provided from a fine pedal steel and a spare upright piano.

But aside from these fine bits of primitive arrangements, there is little evidence that any of the surroundings that Courtney has called home these last few years have actually taken root within his music.

What’s left is a half-dozen forgettable fragments of found parts, or to put A Century Behind another way, it’s a collection of a carpetbagger who hasn’t figured out that it ain’t the ground you’re standing on that should be firing up the creative synopses, but the ground you’ve covered.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

The 2013 Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame Induction Ceremony

I don’t need to rehash the obvious: the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is a sham, devoid of credibility and of questionable character.

It’s one thing to bitch and complain about it on a blog, or even to publicly challenge the Hall like Eddie Trunk does at every opportunity, correctly questioning why the RRHOF continually ignores progressive and metal acts in their yearly inductions.

But it’s another thing when Quincy Motherfucking Jones publicly challenges the Hall, right on its stage and on the same night that he is being inducted.

If you’re pissed enough to completely tune out any marketing event that the Hall creates-like HBO’s 2013 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony-then you have more will than I. In my mind, it’s worth watching, if not for the live performances then at least for the speeches, some of which are surely bound to create a stir.

Quincy Jones doesn’t create “stirs,” he initiates changes. More to the point, are we about to see a shift in the Rock Hall’s future inductions based on Mr. Jones’ very clear points about honoring the vast number of pre-rock artists that our responsible for nearly every level of what the Hall is supposed to represent.

Will we now see some of these artists lining the hallowed halls of…wait…who the fuck cares?

Which is exactly the point Jones was trying to make. Instead of being this yearly masturbatory event, what if the Hall was actually attempting to support the recognition of how vital our indigenous music is to this nation.

The words of Quincy Jones, as was his induction speech by Oprah Winfrey, was the evening’s most poignant moment-and most important. It was a challenge to Jann Wenner to raise the bar beyond the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame™ brand name, and we’ll see if he heeds the very clear Mission Statement that Mr. Jones was suggesting.

Because when you take a long look at the path that the Hall is on, there will become a point where music loses its ability to touch those that may need it the most. Quincy recalled his own moment of clarity and how that moment was a life and death decision for him. The promotion of music should be a priority for the Hall, if only for the recognition of its own self-interest.

The HBO broadcast unfortunately showed us how much our heroes and stars have aged. Jones is frail, Harry Belafonte used a cane to approach the podium to help induct Public Enemy, and even Randy Newman suggested that the rock and roll stage was filled with artists of “gray hair and width.” It would have resonated better if he hadn’t brought his friend Don Henley on stage to sing the old-and-in-the-way anthem “I’m Dead (But I Don’t Know It).”

Hell, even Jackson Browne is beginning to show signs of aging.
But I guess being “indicted” as everyone kept referring to it throughout the evening as an aging contributor is better than being inducted after you’re dead, which was the case of two performers.

Out of those two posthumous entries-Albert King and Donna Summer-only Summer seemed like a charity case, with the disco diva’s induction coming only after not making the cut when she was still alive.

As much as I appreciate her talents and material, I still have a hard time accepting members of a genre that was once viewed as the antithesis of rock and roll. Admittedly, the over-the-top hyperbole of Steve Dahl’s “Disco Demolition Night” on a warm Chicago night in July of ’79 is a bad thermometer of actual evidence, you have to appreciate that Comiskey Park was overflowing with people (during a time when the White Sox couldn’t get more than 15,000 fans on a traditional evening) who clearly felt enough hatred towards disco music to disrupt a night of America’s pastime.

But in 2013, we now admit the genre’s most successful artist into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, while only one album-Bad Girls-qualifies as anything remotely similar to rock and roll.

To Quincy Jones’ point, I’m totally cool with cats like Count Basie getting inducted over Donna Summer. At least it’s justifiable.

“Albert King is the reason that guitarists break high E strings” is how John Mayer described the legendary guitarist Albert King, who finally got his induction. While I’m not a follower of Mayer’s music, I appreciated his history lesson during the induction speech and got a kick out of Gary Clark Jr’s performance of King’s material, even though the solo dual between him and Mayer ended up becoming an exercise of what not to do, particularly after you’ve seen that video footage of King and Stevie Ray Vaughn duking it out in a friendly spar of solos.

Mayer is spot-on in his assessment, as a guitar player of extremely limited skill, I can admit to housing a few extra E strings in the guitar case for this exact reason.

I can also admit that I’ve attempted to use the “Albert King tuning” on a few attempts, thinking that it would assist in bettering my guitar abilities as a player who plays a right-handed instrument with their left hand.

It made me sound worse.

To hear Albert King’s playing is to understand how powerful the instrument can be, as it turned a big, six-foot-four, two-hundred and sixty pound giant into an emotional bundle of bent notes and heart-wrenching solos. He is missed, and now he is recognized.

The Lou Adler induction was a hoot.

The Heart induction wasn’t.

While my feelings on disco run one way, I’m totally cool with rap artists being inducted. It is a genre that is a part of the same origin as rock and roll music and it has become a critical element in youth culture, often cross-pollinating with the genre to where the walls between them are paper-thin anyway.

I can remember the moment when I heard Public Enemy’s “Sophisticated Bitch” in college, and then, not more than a year later, I heard It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back and became frightened of them.

Not frightened in a bad way, but frightened in the same way that I saw punk music in my early teenage years. Music can reflect scary things, and not just in an Alice Cooper way. They can reflect things that don’t shed a very positive light on society, and we can ultimately become better people as a result of listening to their discord.

Public Enemy’s discord served as much as a wake up call to white America as it did in channeling the anger and frustration of African Americans. To hear Chuck D’s speech was special, but for me, the most awesome moment was hearing him utter, “Elvis was a hero to most, but he never meant shit to me!” on the same platform where Presley is ground zero of the genre that is rock and roll.

The progressive rock collective was granted its second entry, thanks to the tireless support of their fans and the fact that the band has now been around so long that you can help but admit, “Rush is pretty fucking awesome.”

Dave Grohl was right when he said that “Rush has always been cool” but there were moments when their material was certainly far from it. That’s no excuse for the fact that it should not have taken the Hall this long to acknowledge their influence.

Grohl and his wife Taylor Hawkins were the perfect fit for Rush’s speech, channeling the band’s penchant for humor and self-deprecation in a completely appropriate manner.

Rush then admitted that getting into the Hall was kind of a big deal for them with Neil Peart using his talents to pen a very heartfelt speech, while providing little explanation for why his nose was a completely different color than the rest of his face.

Meanwhile, Geddy Lee also failed to acknowledge why his nose was actually bigger than the rest of his face. He did correctly (and admirably) determine that it was the fans who were probably the biggest reason the band was even on the stage that evening.

And then guitarist Alex Lifeson gave what was probably seen as the most bizarre acceptance speech in Hall history, while anyone familiar with the band understands that humor is a big part of the trio’s longevity.
"Blah Blah Blah"
Lifeson gave a speech without even saying a word, removing language and replacing it with “blah blah blah” while acting out the emotions of the story of their journey into the Rock Hall that evening.

The Grohl-led Rush cover band (complete with 1975 era kimonos) was hilarious and the Rush suite of “Tom Sawyer” and “Spirit of the Radio” probably accounted for the closest thing that actually resembled “rocking” during the entire evening.

Rush’s induction was probably the most anticipated part of the evening, even the all star jam at the end of the evening (complete with more Flavor Flav vamping and an obligatory Tom Morello guitar solo-the dude seems to really gunning for Rage’s first year induction) seemed tepid compared to Rush’s by-the-numbers arena bombast.

The evening ended just like most other induction ceremonies: with a very tentative jam of everyone trying to make something transcendent in an impossible situation.

Regardless, at least Rush is in the dump and at least Q gave Wenner a much needed run over the coals. Whether or not he has the moral compass to actually heed those words is another matter, but one thing is for certain: Deep Fucking Purple better be in the place next year.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Grant Lee Phillips Live At The CSPS Hall

Photo by Charles Raianerastha Black
Grant Lee Phillips
Live at the CSPS Hall, Cedar Rapids, Iowa
Wednesday, May 16, 2013

A famous man once said, “You can tell a lot about a man by the shoes he wears.” The man who made that quote, the late Buster Brown, could probably tell by Grant Lee Phillips’ footwear that the man had traveled some miles in them.

He had a pair of well-worn boots, the kind that you’d expect from a journeymen-even ones like Mr. Phillips, an artist so good that you’d like him to be popular enough to make him just a bit more than a journeyman. This man deserves a new pair of boots, goddamn it, so make a point to show up as his gig the next time he’s in town.

It’s a pleasure.

Trust me. Grant Lee Phillips possesses the kind of talent that he’ll captivate you with only a song and an acoustic guitar. The dude’s aged wonderfully, and it isn’t until you’re right up on Grant Lee before you notice the day-old stubble’s a bit gray. It adds character, you see, but that childish twinkle in the corner of his eye is still there as is an infectious smile and an amiable personality.

I’m speaking from the perspective of the obligatory “meet and greet” after Wednesday night’s solo performance by Mr. Phillips’ at the C.S.P.S.Hall in the Bohemian District of Cedar Rapids. Grant Lee exchanged small talk with a few lingering fans after his performance, signing autographs and mentioning Iowa’s natural beauty as a means to dodge questions like “Why has it been nearly 20 years since Grant Lee Phillips’ last visit to the Hawkeye state.”

It worked, and the 80 minute long set certainly captured the hearts of the three dozen attendees who braved a beautiful spring evening to spend it with Mr. Phillips.

For the last visit, it was under the Grant Lee Buffalo moniker, and the gig was an opening slot for early supporters R.E.M.

The show on Wednesday night was an open night stop to Cedar Rapids, Iowa in support of a fan-funded release, Walking In The Green Corn. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that the title track for that release made its way into Grant Lee’s solo set that evening.

But even though most in attendance would only recognize the songs made during Grant Lee Buffalo brief flirtation with commercial notoriety, Mr. Phillips has the kind of creativity to ensure that you will always find a memorable song or two from his newer repertoire.

For one fan, it would be an infamous cover that he shouted at Grant Lee when he asked the audience during the encore. Hell, there were only 36 people-so it was understandably more of a living room vibe, which made the evening all the better.

The cover was “Age Of Consent,” and when Grant Lee protested that he didn’t even remember how to play the tune, the audience member shouted out instructions.

“Capo on 4!” yelled the man.

“What?” Grant Lee replied, explaining earlier that his hearing was shot after spending his entire life in front of a drummer.

Some people near the front translated the chord progressions, and Grant Lee obediently reached into his coat pocket for a capo. “Fourth fret?” he re-affirmed with the fan, and then he began considering the notes of the song’s chorus, tentatively singing “And you’re not the kind that needs to tell me/about the birds and bees.”

After one quick verse, Grant Lee acknowledged that it sounded an awful like one of his songs, and as if to prove the point, he suddenly reprised a quick verse of his “Walking In The Green Corn.”

He joked that all of his songs are just New Order knock-offs, and we all laughed because we knew it wasn’t true. Grant Lee Phillips was responsible for some of the most challenging music moments of the 90’s, and his talents continue unabated to this day.

A quick refresher is in order, and the intimacy of these solo offerings only amplify the emotional heaviness that seems to linger after the obligatory Mighty Joe Moon material and the lone Copperopolis track for the evening.

You won’t notice and won’t mind the unfamiliar songs. At all. They flow seamlessly in and out of the set and resonate just as deep as the more familiar tunes.

As I purchased Walking In The Green Corn after the show, I wanted my financial contribution to affirm the quality of Grant Lee’s newest works. But then I noticed his boots.

It was then that I hoped that the money I forked over for a cd would help contribute in some way, to some new footwear. A pair that is less about making sure Grant Lee Phillips arrives at his next destination in style, but rather to make sure that he stays committed to remain on this road for the long haul. 

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Eleventh Dream Day - New Moodio

El Moodio is where I dropped off from Eleventh Dream Day, a harsh sentence considering how fucking great Beet and Lived To Tell were/are. It was here that Atlantic Records took their little powerhouse of a band from Chicago and gave them the royal “fuck you” treatment, but not before giving them one final glimpse of hope.

That hope came in the form of “demonstrating” to the band that the major label did want to continue releasing their records. They did this by suggesting that the band go back and re-record the songs they just did with producer Brad Wood-this time with a better-known producer and in a bigger budgeted studio.

The subsequent record was called El Moodio and Atlantic Records celebrated the release of this record by promptly dropping them from the label.

Then someone on the internets was talking to someone else on the internets and one of them goes “I wonder whatever happened to that original version of El Moodio, the one that was cheaply recorded with Brad Wood one weekend in a rush.

And thus, New Moodio was born.

New Moodio is indeed blunter and a bit freer sounding than its more recognized brother, and by that feat alone should be worthy of at least a half-star improvement over it.

But the songs or the way they were recorded was never El/New Moodio’s downshift from Lived To Tell.

The issue was the departure of guitarist Baird Figi, who left the band after the initial supporting dates for L.T.T.

Quick side note: I met Figi very briefly before an Eleventh Dream Day show during the Beet tour. He looked miserable and he excused himself for wearing hearing protection while I interrogated him under the influence of psilocybin mushrooms. “The amps have just been killing my ears the last few weeks.” He explained.
A few minutes later, I found out why this band was so respected on stage, and I discovered the brutal force of the hearing-destroying capabilities of the Rizzo/Figi guitar exploits.

They are not found on New Moodio or its predecessor.  Instead of a good rock and roll band with an incredible dual-guitarist attack, Eleventh Dream Day turned into just another good rock and roll band.
Subsequent albums always suffered from this same ailment, and not to belabor the point, but Eleventh Dream Day’s twin guitar assault is the reason why people like me are still trying to get people like you to pay attention to them.

So if this nicely appointed re-issue of Eleventh Dream Day’s “lost album” gets you to pay attention for a moment-and then have you consider any one of their first three (and more superior) records, then New Moodio has made this discovery even better the second time around.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Eleventh Dream Day - Lived To Tell

Probably the most impressive thing about Eleventh Dream Day’s second album for Atlantic (third album, overall) is how little it did to remove itself from the raw passion of the previous record, Beet. It seems hard to believe that the major label was pleased with the sales results of Beet, in fact, you could even imagine the folks at the record label offering a more accessible vision, one that includes huge bags of sweeteners and infectious candy coatings.

Instead, Lived To Tell was recorded in a fucking tobacco barn, and you can almost hear the dusty floor stirring up from the ruckus that Janet Bean makes with her questionable timekeeping, never mind the air that’s getting pushed around from guitarist Baird Figi and Rick Rizzo.

Rizzo also serves as Eleventh Dream Day’s primary mouthpiece, with Bean herself providing some additional color with backing vocals.

From her noticeably rushed intro to album opener “Rose Of Jericho,” you’ll easily forgive her sloppy beginnings when you hear the twin cacophony that Figi and Rizzo unleashed upon their entrance to the song. With a nice dual fret-war underway, it becomes understandable why Bean wanted to get the rumble underway, tout de suite.

Looser and louder than its predecessor, Lived To Tell finds Figi branching out with some incredible slide guitar word that just pops out of the right channel.

Speaking of, the entire record is mixed with the guitars way out in front, Rizzo and Bean’s vocals struggle to be heard while Janet’s snare drum cuts through everything. What actually pushes the song forward alternates between her high-hat or her bass drum, causing the entire arrangement to sound like it could topple over in its own excitement at any moment. The band simply sound like they cannot wait to rock your fucking balls off.

And they do.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Eleventh Dream Day - Beet

By the time I had gotten around to learning about Eleventh Dream Day, they had already released a long-player on the same independent label that legendary Iowa band The Hollowmen had been a part of. I believe EDD stuff could be found in Amoeba Records mail order sheet that they tucked in the sleeve of The Hollowmen’s Pink Quartz Sunblasting release, but it wasn’t until I’d heard that Eleventh Dream Day had actually been signed to Atlantic records before I bothered to take a listen.

It was still somewhat rare for an underground rock band to be signed to a major label back then. The notoriety of the event got me wondering what I might be missed.

The closest reference point was an e.p. released by Amoeba featuring an atypical Neil Young cover that everyone seemed to note was Eleventh Dream Day’s primary influence.

But the e.p. also had a brutish rocker called “Go,” which sounded like strong potential, but certainly not of the commercial kind that Atlantic Records would surely be interested in.

From this brief introduction, a copy of their third full-length, Beet, came into the college radio station where I worked as the Program Director. The additional promotional copy of the record that came from Atlantic Records was promptly secured for my personal use, and it still bares the “Say It When You Play It!” sticker on the cover, encouraging radio station personal to mention the band name and record after each airplay.

Beet begins with the slow burning opener “Between Here and There” with nothing more than Janet Bean providing a tentative tom-tom gallop while guitarist Baird Figi butts heads with Rick Rizzo, Eleventh Dream Day’s other guitarist and lead vocalist. My Music Director recognized the song’s awesomeness and immediately added the track to our station’s playlist.

“You look past your prime,” Rizzo observes, adding that the years “Must weigh heavy daily on your mind.” It’s the result of a few years of being cooped up in an Econoline van, playing Midwestern dives to small crowds and even smaller paychecks.

By the chorus, the song unleashes, pairing Rizzo and Figi off each other and providing the second wind to get on the road again, “like the MC5 way,” suggesting that the band wouldn’t stop until the song is over.
“Testify,” Beet’s first single, is a concise moment of everything great about Eleventh Dream Day. It’s here that you begin to notice a pattern to Rizzo and Figi’s twin guitar attach. They don’t play with each other, per say, but more against each other. The guitar solo of “Testify” is a great example of this. It’s blistering, chaotic, a less sophisticated version of Tom Verlaine and Richard Lloyd if they cared less about the precision of their playing and more about the power of it.

Rizzo and Figi maintain that power throughout the entirety of Beet, including another go at the awesome “Go (Slight Return)" but no clues as to what exactly was the strange occurance from April 1, 1988. 

Nearly every song on Beet finds drummer Janet Bean trying to keep time with the controlled chaos of the guitar but the hoot is the very Exene-esque vocals she adds to Rizzo’s own blue-collar delivery, lending obvious nods to X without the L.A. melting pot.

This is a very Midwestern record, and without the guitar heroics that decorate it, Beet could easily blend into the woodwork of forgotten local favorites.

Instead, Beet became a forgotten regional favorite, with appreciative fans peppered across the world thanks to Atlantic Record’s enormous reach.

Too bad the company couldn’t deliver an enormous promotional reach for Beet, but realistically, would the band ever be the kind of draw that pulled from beyond the underground?

Stranger things have happened, and one of them-a band from Aberdeen, Washington-would singlehandedly change the entire landscape of rock music, enabling bands like Eleventh Dream Day to have a legitimate chance at having a few good years of financial stability.

That sea change was still a couple of years away, and not only was Beet’s marketing might nothing more than a quick fart of Atlantic Record’s promotional department, the cover itself was low-budget and understated.

As it stands, Beet became one of those magical bargain-bin finds for many and a document of “I told you so!” snarkiness for any early believers trying to convince you to take notice. Beet’s strength is in its own desire to convince you of exactly the same thing-and to grab your attention through hard, honest performances. They’re bundled with unique and grounded stories, each one of them compelling and delivered with honest intent.

But the real reason for Beet’s enduring legacy is the aforementioned guitar hijinks, which are worthy of slack-jawed awe and probably the biggest shame of the record’s poor name recognition.

Nearly a quarter-century later, Beet remains in print, a testament to its supporters, for sure, but more importantly it gives fans of blue collar rock music with some very expressive guitar explorations another opportunity to discover an overlooked gem.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

The Dodos Sign To Polyvinyl For A Case Of Beer And A '79 Firebird

Polyvinyl is following the new corporate strategy "Do More With Less" by signing another two member unit and hoping for another massive Japandroids-esque success.

Are they any good?

Do band members piss in the woods?


Polyvinyl Records adds The Dodos to their diverse roster that includes greats like Japandroids, Deerhoof, Of Montreal, STRFKR and more! The Dodos are Meric Long (vocals/guitar) and Logan Kroeber (drums) who have recently completed their 5th studio album to be released in 2013 with a world tour to follow.

he San Francisco act released their debut album Beware of the Maniacs in 2006. The band instantly received critical attention and soon after were signed. Three studio albums (Visiter, Time To Die and No Color) the Dodo's have become a beloved international success.

With endless support from NPR and non-comm radio stations across the country, their music having been used for commercials and television shows and collaborations with their contemporaries such as Neko Case, The Dodo's have built a well earned and loyal following for their thoughtful, emotionally honest sound. Now with their 5th studio album on the way and a new partnership with Polyvinyl they're sure to cement their status as indie rock mainstay's with a long career ahead of them.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Flaming Lips Scare Away Fans With 'The Terror'

Why so down, Wayne?
I've only heard a few samples of the new Flaming Lips, but so far, I've got to agree with Jim DeRogatis' assessment.

And it looks like the band is undertaking yet another tour of the planet's festivals, so it appears that there will be no retirement of the space ball anytime soon. Then again, I don't see anyone at a festival getting into The Terror very music, even while they're under the influence.

It's just not that good.

But don't let that stop you from absorbing their latest press release.

(Burbank) The Terror by The Flaming Lips,their thirteenth studio album is out now and amassing critical praise around the globe. The Terror was produced by long-time collaborator Dave Fridmann and The Flaming Lips at Tarbox Road Studios (Fredonia NY) and Pink Floor Studios (Oklahoma City).

The band will perform "Try to Explain" live on The Late Show with Jimmy Fallon on Wed May 15th. Check local NBC listing for details. LIPS Multi-instrumentalist Steven Drozd considers the music they've created on this album as; "a mood that might possibly suggest elements of Popol Vuh, Silver Apples, and Suicide." Wayne Coyne explains, "Why would we make this music that is The Terror - this bleak, disturbing record...? I don't really want to know the answer that I think is coming. Maybe this is the beginning of the answer."

Suffice to say The Terror is a bold and expressive journey that has evolved over The Lips' nearly 30-year tended garden of sonic delights that ebbs and flows with extraordinary splashes of light and shade, pleasure and pain, sadness and hope, and the knowledge that to expect the unexpected is half the fun of The Lips experience.

Track listing for The Terror:

Look...The Sun Is Rising
Be Free, A Way
Try To Explain
You Lust
The Terror
You Are Alone
Butterfly, How Long It Takes To Die
Turning Violent
Always There...In Our Hearts

Th Flaming Lips are currently on the road doing a handful of shows with The Black Keys and then heading out on their own around the world. More dates will be announced soon.

Tour Dates:

May 2 Atlanta, GA Aaron's Amphitheater at Lakewood w/ The Black Keys
May 3 Nashville, TN Bridgestone Arena w/ The Black Keys
May 4 Chattanooga, TN Track 29 w/ JEFF The Brotherhood
May 5 Memphis, TN Beale St. Music Festival
May 10 Napa, CA Bottle Rock Festival
May 15 The Late Show with Jimmy Fallon NYC
May 16 Montclair, NJ, USA The Wellmont Theatr
May 17 Prospect Park Brooklyn, NY - The Great Googa MoogaFfest
May 20 London, UK Roundhouse
May 21 London, UK Roundhouse
May 22 Brighton, UK Dome Concert Hall, Brighton Festival
May 24 Paris, France Villette Sonique Festival
May 25 Düdingen, Switzerland Bad Bonn Kilbi
June 14 Hultsfred, Sweden Hultsfred Festival
June 15 Aarhus, Denmark Northside Festival
July 11 Raleigh, NC Time Warner Cable Pavilion w/ The Black Keys
July 12 Simpsonville, SC Charter Amphit/Heritage Park w/ The Black Keys
July 13 Louisville, KY Forecastle Festival
July 31 Costa Mesa, CA Pacific Amphitheatre
Aug 1 Bud Light 50/50 "Music First" Las Vegas, NV
Sep 6 Isle Of Wight, UK Bestival

Tegan and Sara - The Con Demos

And further down the rabbit hole I go, taking my obsession with Tegan and Sara into new territories, and yes, that includes locating the Record Store Day exclusive Closer remix album on Ebay for a reasonable price (some were priced without consulting what fans were actually willing to pay) and, in the process, coming across a limited edition release for the demos to 2007’s The Con in a cardboard package released during some dates of the supporting tour.

Buy It Now Price? Too high to mention.

Which is when an MP3 version of the same package was noticed on a major retail site with a price point of below ten bones, which is much more reasonable given the disposable package of the physical version.
Personal obsessions and fandom aside, the real reason for my interest resides in the emotive power that Tegan and Sara created for The Con’s proper release. It’s an album where the dark themes are wonderfully painted with bright pop elements, giving the impression that the sisters were willing to counteract the lows of the subject matter with a very unique and vibrant blend of pop music
In short, The Con reveals much more on the surface than its pop overtones suggest, a trend that continues to this day.

But here on the The Con Demos came an opportunity to hear exactly how dark things were before Chris Walla got behind the boards to help sugarcoat the proceedings.

At least, that’s what I expected with the rough mixes, so imagine my surprise when I found out that Tegan and Sara were very much in control of the forays into pop and that what Walla ended up delivering is not too far away from the sister’s original intent.

Sure, The Con Demos are rougher, there’s lots of that dry distortion that artists end up with when plugging their instruments directly into the recording unit, and much of the content is built on the sister’s history with the acoustic guitar.

“Call It Off” and “Dark Come Soon” benefit from this bare bones treatment, while a few songs feature a bit more decorations, twisting the familiar songs with a new palate all together.

“Knife Going In” features a distinctive oriental blend against the acoustic backdrop and  “Back In Your Head” takes on a completely new feel with the basic track accentuated with a mournful tack piano.

Revelatory? In some places, yes. Is it worth your additional attention? Depends. If you’re like me and this  record has proven to be both a reliable companion as well as a surprising contender for one of the best records to be released during the Oughts, then the creative process as documented in The Con Demos will be nearly as essential as the finished results.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Motorhead - No Sleep "Til Hammersmith

The title hints at the band’s drug of choice during this very prolific and influential period, Motorhead could frequently sound like a fabled British steam engine train, barreling out of control into your inner ear canal. And the dude shoveling coal into the mouth of this motherfucker? Lemmy Kilmister, the man with the locomotive wheel wrist that also serves as the only thing keeping this thing glued to the tracks.

Kilmister is-how should I put it-a homely fellow. And if you can’t picture him shoveling coal into a train’s steam engine, then maybe you can picture him as the miserable lout digging the ore itself from beneath the ground, his daily ordeal a literal deathtrap.

His only dream of breaking free of his hell on Earth? Like Mick Jagger said-probably a dude that Lemmy would like to sucker punch, just on general principle-what can a poor boy do, except to sing for a rock and roll band.

I believe Kilmister appreciates his life, and he probably knows better than anyone else how things could have easily turned out pretty shitty if this rock and roll thing didn’t work out.

Which is why Lemmy doesn’t change the sound of Motorhead. Ever. If it’s ain’t broke, don’t fix it. And Lemmy Kilmister is smart enough to know that there’s not a goddamn thing wrong with his band.

So confident of his abilities, he walks his bass guitar up to a huge pair of Marshall stacks that were actually designed for instruments with six strings. Lemmy views the bass like a guitar as his pick axe, so he intentionally places audience directly in the path of his occupational hazard by turning all of the tone knobs to “bark” and the volume knob to “pain.” In Lemmy’s mind, your hearing loss is Motorhead’s equivalent to black lung disease.

You will have those who declare Ace Of Spades as the pinnacle of Motorhead’s entire catalog, but the reality is that the live No Sleep ‘Til Hammersmith holds up better and is a more clearer portrait of this band’s influence.

It’s a recording of the band’s classic line-up-and let’s not mince words here: we would not be talking about Motorhead or even Lemmy Kilmister if not for the output of this line-up. As much as Lemmy must be afforded with the moniker and as impressive as Motorhead's current line-up is-particularly their longevity-it all begins with some timeless material created by Kilmister/Clarke/Taylor.

I'm sure Kilmister knows this, just as I'm sure he's tired of the whole discussion. But really, the discussion ends here, with the filling-rattling projection captured on No Sleep 'Til Hammersmith.  The lack of color in the production is irrelevant, because the entire point of Motorhead-particularly with this set-is that they only set out to capture the primary colors of rock and roll anyway. To Lemmy, rock music was the original generation of stars, the ones where Chuck Berry is the Alpha and the Omega, the Every Brothers his angels, and Little Richard his water-parting Moses.

The power of those early performers are the reason why Lemmy gets on stage and barks the power of rock and roll music in his very unique and groundbreaking way. Meanwhile, the other bands that Motorhead was pegged with during this time of their career had just begun the process of testing the market for bigger audiences.

By the time No Sleep Til Hammersmith was released, metal was fast becoming another commodity of the record labels who were beginning to do everything to tidy up the bands of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal for mass consumption.

While others pursued a nice, soft-focused version of the band members specifically created for the large amounts of female audience members that suddenly became interested in the young attractions, Motorhead stuck to their original blueprint.

No Sleep Til Hammersmith is Motorhead’s finest document of their own “fuck off” rebellion. It’s a collection of every one of their notable highpoints and, more importantly, recorded in the setting that is the essential environment to actually hear one of the most important heavy metal bands since the genre was first tagged.

“Fast” Eddie Clarke sounds like he’d be capable of more than what the confines of this power trio could provide him (which may explain why he formed Fastway shortly after this set was recorded), but he knows the gig too well and his blues-inspired solos are peppers with gnarly feedback, gritty tones, and a general attitude which serves the band flawlessly.

Phil Taylor, on the other hand, keeps things going at a breakneck speed, leaning heavy on the hit-hat, snare and bass drums for emphasis and occasionally slopping together a fill which frequently find him missing a beat before returning to the comforts of his aforementioned focus. It’s flawed, it speeds up, in other words-it’s perfect.

Then there’s the commander, Lemmy, who introduces nearly each song with a dedication and who is blessed with an everyman’s mantra of “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Blessed with a limited vocal range and an even more limited amount of good looks, he became the frontman that any sap working a factory floor could relate too.

But it was through his narrow musical vision where Lemmy tapped an oil well of creative inspiration, striking a blend of early rock rebellion with speed...literally...all wonderfully captured on No Sleep ‘Til Hammersmith.