Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Releases of the Week: S.C.U.M & Feist

As we near the end of the busy late Summer/Fall indie release season, the number of great new releases on the horizon grows more and more sparse. This week, however, sees the release of a couple of gems.

The first is Again into Eyes, the debut full-length from arty London neo-post-punk outfit S.C.U.M (and yes, they are named after the infamous ms. Solanas' manifesto). The rekkid begs the question: Which is the best new-wave-psychedelic-shoegazing album of 2011? Again into Eyes or the Horrors' Skying? So far I'd say it's a toss-up for me, both rekkids are pretty damned fabulous. My one caveat is that whenever I look at S.C.U.M frontman Thomas Cohen, I want to hate them, but the rekkid is so good I can forgive the douche-a-matic sideburns.

The second release of the week is Feist's latest salvo Metals. I'm actually a little surprised at just how much I liked this rekkid on first listen. The music is moody, atmospheric, and magnificently composed and arranged. The use of horns and strings, the sense of musical space, and the use dynamic range of the sound are all quite masterful and delectable. This is a slightly darker and artier beast than her last (also delicious) rekkid, so I am afraid that the advertising agencies will have trouble finding a "1,2,3,4" here. That said, I highly recommend Metals to anyone with ears.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

A Few Words on the Pink Floyd Remasters

As with many geeks, Pink Floyd had a big influence on my life during my formative years. I still remember one day during my freshman year in high school, during a particularly useless assembly, when my friend slapped his headphones on my head and cued up "Interstellar Overdrive". By my mid-teens I was a huge fan with their complete catalogue in my collection. Over the years my love for them has ebbed considerably, and I can no longer listen to anything after Wish You Were Here (likely a by-product of no longer being a depressed teenager), and only regularly listen to the Syd Barrett era recordings. But I do still like having copies of the early rekkids around, and I've heard them enough times to know how they really ought to sound.

If you follow the new release lists and the music press, you know that the complete Pink Floyd catalogue was reissued in remastered editions this week, available as individual discs or in a massive box set. This is the third CD release for most of the albums, a couple have had more. The question you're asking yourself is: Is it worth it to upgrade from my old editions? I understand. Sometimes remasters can make such a sonic difference as to be completely revelatory, as with the recent Beatles reissues and the masterful reissue of the Stones' Exile on Main St, other times there can be little appreciable difference, or at least not enough to warrant the expense (I'm talking to you, Joy Division deluxe editions!) Here are my thoughts on the Pink Floyd reissue conundrum...

First off, if you are a fan and you still have the first CD editions from the 80s, get rid of those crusty old things post haste. CD technology has improved multifold over the years since they were pressed and the new editions will be a vast improvement.

Second, if you own the 2007 40th anniversary deluxe edition of The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, there is no need to upgrade, there will be little sonic difference, plus you already own the mono mix, which is my preferred mix of their first and (in my opinion) best rekkid and is not available in the new editions. Likewise, if you own the 2003 30th anniversary edition of The Dark Side of the Moon, there is little need to upgrade unless you want to pay for the 2 disc "Experience Edition" with vintage live material. But then you may want to hold out for the forthcoming 12 disc "Immersion Edition" in November. A 5 disc "Immersion Edition" of Wish You Were Here will also be available, but if you're that much of an obsessive, you probably don't need my advice.

Third (and this is where it gets tricky), if you own the 1995 editions, there are some things to consider before upgrading. I went out earlier in the week and picked up the new A Saucerful of Secrets and brought it home to do a side-by-side comparison with the 1995 edition. What I found that there was a moderate improvement in clarity but only a slight uptick in mastering volume. My advice is that, unless you are of a particularly audiophilic humor, you can probably stick with the 1995 editions and not be missing too terribly much. That said, the difference was just enough to send me off to the Electric Fetus and pick up the remasters of everything up through Obscured by Clouds.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Release of the Week 9/27/11

The release of the week is Dum Dum Girls' second rekkid, Only in Dreams. Retro reverbaliciousness. Watch the video. You'll see and hear what I mean.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

My New Fav'rit Rekkid.

Today was a big big new release day, especially for women in independent music. It saw the seemingly eternally awaited CD release of post-punk legends the Raincoats' second album Odyshape; Gravity the Seducer, the latest solid effort from electro-pop faves Ladytron; and Strange Mercy, the much anticipated and highly lauded third rekkid from art-pop specialists and indie press darlings St. Vincent. All of these are fine discs indeed, and St Vincent will likely end up fairly high on my year-end "best of..." list, but as far as I am concerned the day belongs to the self-titled debut from post-riot-grrrl super group Wild Flag. It may be the best rock album of the year and it is my new fav'rit rekkid.

Sometimes supergroups work, other times they can be pretty dismal. When I first heard about Wild Flag - a confluence of four women from several of my favorite bands of the nineties and oughts - I began to seriously get my hopes up that this could be one of the truly special supergroups ever assembled. Having  finally heard Wild Flag's debut in its entirety, I am delighted to say that they have met and exceeded those hopes.

For those who haven't heard, Wild Flag is Carrie Brownstein (Sleater-Kinney) on guitar and vocals, Mary Timony (Helium, M. Timony Band) on guitar and vocals, Rebecca Cole (the Minders) on keyboards and backing vocals, and Janet Weiss (Sleater-Kinney, Quasi, Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks) on drums and backing vocals. Each of these women is a force of nature in her own right, brought together they form less of a collaboration and more of a conflagration. While the sound is frequently similar to Sleater-Kinney with hints of Helium, this whole is greater than the sum of its parts. With its raw energy, loose attitude, and dueling guitars, the rekkid brings to mind a modern day combination of the Patti Smith Group in its heyday and Television. In fact, the call and response guitar lines and noodling six-string battles between Brownstein and Timony are the next best thing to Tom Verlaine and Richard Lloyd. There are huge rock hooks and vocal harmonies throughout, especially on singles "Romance"and "Glass Tambourine"; Brownstein whips out her very best Ric Ocasek "uh-oh uh-oh" on "Endless Talk"; meanwhile "Racehorse", the rekkid's penultimate track, is six and a half minutes of raw rock and roll energy, with Brownstein doing her level best to channel Patti Smith circa 1976 before the song bursts into a full on sonic freakout of wailing guitars and keys, punctuated by the positively thunderous drumming of Janet Weiss. It's big. It's loud. It'll wake you up, and it'll scare the hell out of the cat. Wild Flag, out today on the always fabulous Merge Records. You know you want it.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Remote Regions and the Releases of the Week.

As an avid and reasonably open-minded music collector, it would be irresponsible of me to be to provincial or Amero/Euro-centric in my listening habits. I am proud to have multiple artists from each of six of the seven continents represented in my collection. As soon as that great Antarctic shoe-gazing garage punk band rears up its greasy head, I assure you I will be all over it. That said, the two great new releases on this weeks slate come from two of the more remote regions of the planet. One from the desert trails of Saharan Africa, the other from Perth, on the distant West coast of Australia.

The first of my releases of the week is the latest offering from nomadic desert blues icons Tinariwen, entitled Tassili ("the campfire album").  If you are unaware of Tinariwen, I highly recommend you become acquainted with their work. They are a (now somewhat legendary) band of musicians of the nomadic Kel Tamashek people (otherwise known as Tuareg, though this name is not preferred, as it has negative connotations) of Saharan Africa, based around the Mali-Algeria border. Their sound is generally referred to as desert blues, and is a delicious and hypnotic melange of traditional North African and Kel Tamashek folk music and the pentatonic West African and Delta blues, and features magnificent, mesmerizing, wriggly guitar lines that suggest the rhythmic pulsing of the desert dunes themselves.

Whereas Tinariwen's previous outing Imidiwan : Companions had an expansive sound evoking a large communal gathering (in fact, it was almost recorded as such), filled with a backing chorus and layers of electric guitars; Tassili is, as its campfire subtext suggests, a much more intimate affair. The guitars are almost exclusively acoustic, and the atmosphere more that of a group of Kel Tamashek musicians enjoying tea and song at the end of the day. Nothing of the quality of guitar work is lost however, in fact, it may be even more present in an "unplugged" setting. Magnificently recorded and performed, with guest appearances by Kyp Malone and Tunde Adabimpe of TV on the Radio (two gentlemen I hold in the highest possible esteem) adding guitar and vocals to several tracks, Tassili is a work of atmospheric beauty and, as always, Tinariwen has a way of making me feel like I'm hearing the guitar for the first time all over again.

For the second big rekkid of the week we travel around the globe to Perth; Australia's most remote major city, tucked away on the continent's Southwest coast. Innerspeaker, the much-anticipated debut full-length from Tame Impala, is my kind of psychedelic rock. With apologies to the Dead/Phish-head set, I've always preferred the Anglo-Euro version of psychedelic rock: Less Americana-gone-jam-band thing and more spacey-trippy in song structure and production; more musical logic and direction in the trippy improvisations, less a  countrified rock song diverge into an endless jam. Tame Impala satisfies my psychedelic needs in a way that no other current band other than their Swedish brethren in space, Dungen, can.

Actually, when I first heard Innerspeaker, my immediate impression was that Tame Impala were essentially the Australian Dungen, or Dungen with lyrics in English. While the comparisons are very obviously there to be made (in certain instrumental passages, one would be hard pressed to distinguish the two), there are important differences. Whereas Dungen's sound is almost purely informed by the psych/kraut/prog sounds of 1967-1974 (which is no bad thing, as they have largely perfected that sound), Tame Impala welcome smatterings of the future, or at least the present into their sound, incorporating welcome traces (sometimes more than traces) of synth, shoe-gaze textures, and the occasional particle of chill-wave into their sound. The result is a spacey psychedelic epic of a rekkid. Which might just be My New Fav'rit Rekkid.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The New and the "New". AKA My New Fav'rit Rekkid

My pick for new release of the week is The War on Drugs' Slave Ambient,  a tasty slice of indie rock genre hybridization that has somehow managed to marry the otherwise disparate sounds of earnest American songwriting a la Bruce Springsteen with shoegazing, heavily effected psychedelia. The resulting rekkid is so surprisingly successful that has prompted the indie rock geeks at Under the Radar magazine to attempt to coin the term Boss-gaze to describe it. The album really is quite good and deserves a good attentive listen. However, what I really want to talk about is my "new" release of the week...

A while back I read a raving review in Mojo magazine of a rekkid called Burning Your House Down by the Jim Jones Revue which pushed many of my correct rock and roll buttons. I decided I needed to seek this rekkid out with all possible haste. That was, by the way, the October 2010 issue of Mojo. Since then I have been checking the stores and the release lists to absolutely no avail. While the album was a relatively easy find on the other side of the pond, it could not, it seemed, be had for blood or money in the US. I had just about given up on it when it finally showed up on the www.newmusictipsheet.com release list a few weeks back and, after nearly a year of UK availability, got its US release this week. Hence it is my "new" release of the week and my "New Fav'rit Rekkid".

I like to consider myself a seasoned connoisseur of the garage, garage-rock, garage-punk, trashe, whatever-you-want-to-call-it genre. In fact, in the mid to late nineties it became a bit of an obsession for me, almost to the exclusion of other music. Sonics and Seeds; Stooges and Saints; Squares and Soledad Brothers; I ate it all up and begged for more. I've gotten better since, and my tastes are more diverse than ever right now, but I still have a great love for the big noise. It seems that there hasn't been a tremendous amount of trashe to get excited about of late. The Redwalls don't do much for me, the Black Lips are good but always lead me to other things. I hadn't heard any new garage rock that truly satisfied my jones for the snotty, high-energy rawk drug to which I was once hopelessly addicted in some time. I am here to tell you that Burning Your House Down is the pure stuff.

Shrieking, driving, explosive, evil, blistering, ROCKANDFREAKINGROLLLLL! A prime 33 minute slab of pure, screaming, nasty-guitar-laden, pulsing-piano-peppered, filthy, blasphemous Devil's music good for all of your booty-shaking needs. Lines like "Stuck in the tomb of the unknown blues/ You know it's gonna take the shine off your shoes" sum up the situation quite nicely. As does this: It's like Jerry Lee Lewis and the Stooges had a filthy, snotty, screaming, obnoxious baby and I could not be happier to be its nanny for as long as they'll let me. Available now on, appropriately enough, Punk Rock Blues Records. Did I say "blistering" yet?

Monday, August 8, 2011


When you consume music like a voracious gourmand in an audio smorgasbord as I do, occasionally the rekkids you love can get lost in the shuffle and you temporarily forget how much you love them. When Yo La Tengo's ...And then Nothing Turned Itself Inside-Out came out in 2000 I was blown away by it's intimacy and swiftly proclaimed it a masterpiece. A decade, several Yo La Tengo rekkids, and several hundred other rekkids later, I found that it had fallen off of my radar. This morning something drew me to the "Y" section of the collection and I snapped it up almost randomly to throw in the player at work. It soon hit me what a truly magnificent and delicate masterpiece it really is.

For those of you who don't know, the rekkid is almost a concept piece. The concept being the love between Yo La Tengo's songwriting team of Georgia Hubley and Ira Kaplan, who happen to be about the cutest married couple in all of indie rock. Essentially, over the course of its 13 songs, the album tells you the story of their love with unabashed self-awareness. Lyrically, it plays out like a series of love letters. So much so that it's surprising that bassist/multi-instrumantalist James McNew doesn't feel like an interloper. Songs like "Last Days of Disco" are like shimmering fragile little jewels teetering on the brink of embarrassing self-consciousness without ever quite going over the edge. The cover of "You Can Have It All" (see and hear above) is one of the most charming milestones in the whole of indie rock history.

If you've never heard ...And then Nothing Turned Itself Inside-Out I highly recommend it. If you know it and haven't listened to it in a while, I recommend revisiting. You will be rewarded. It is notably lean on the big noise and Ira guitar freakouts that can be found on other fine Yo La Tengo rekkids, but I find it's mellow languor to be a thing of great beauty. The moral of this story is that great art does not have a shelf-life and there is great music from every era. Embrace the new but always remember to play the old favorites from time to time.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Loving Lykke Li

Just in case anyone out there hasn't seen this yet, or in case anyone wants it one more time, here is Lykke Li's delightful new video for "Jerome". When I saw this yesterday it gave me the final push I needed to go spend the big dollars on tickets for her November 13th show at Forced Attitude. With each successive listen, Lykke's latest platter Wounded Rhymes climbs closer and closer to the top of my best rekkids of 2011 list. I'm getting a bit obsessive. Just ask my co-workers. If'n you haven't already, check her out.

Friday, July 22, 2011


The slow summer release season drags on, but help is on the way. The Horrors' forthcoming rekkid (already available overseas) Skying is one of my most anticipated releases of the second half of 2011. We've been listening to it at work and I have to say it is quite delicious. The drain-pipe wearing skinny boys have added some color to both their wardrobe and their sound, mixing in bits of shoe-gazey psychedelia and a piquant blend of late-70s Bowie and some of the best aspects of Echo & the Bunnymen, Psychedelic Furs, and Simple Minds. But don't listen to me, check out the video and be mesmerized by all of the color shining through where once all was black and white. Due out August 9th on Xl.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

“I’m back, baby!” – B.B. Rodriguez

No posts for two months? If I thought anyone was actually reading this nonsense I’d be afraid they might think something had happened to me.

That said, the dog days and doldrums of Summer are full upon us like an animal. This town that people who have never been here assume is covered in ice 365 days a year is in the midst of a massive extended heat wave with 110+ degree heat indices and humidity levels more appropriate for Calcutta than Minneapolis. But while we are hot and wet, the release lists have – as is their Summertime wont – gone cold and dry. Seems like a perfect time to reflect on the last six months and work on a list. (Did I mention that I love lists? I’m pretty sure I did.) Hence…

The mid-year best albums of 2011!

What 2011 has lacked in true greatness (TVotR aside), it has made up for in quantity of output… So above-average, but such large portions! The list begins with a big big party in Brooklyn, winds its way through England, Wales, Sweden, Italy, New Zealand, Scotland, Canada, and Tha Funk Capital of the World before ending up in Manhattan. Hmmm… Brooklyn at the top, Manhattan at the bottom… Yes, that should suit the Williamsburg hipsters quite nicely.

1. TV on the Radio – Nine Types of Light (Interscope)
Fewer trips to the dance floor, more tugs at the heart and soul from the world’s premier art-rockers and one of the greatest bands working on this planet. At it’s heart is the haunting, banjo-inflected masterpiece that is “Killer Crane”.

2. Beastie Boys – Hot Sauce Committee Part Two (Capitol)
A truly triumphant return to form. After more than a decade of sparse mediocrity and a couple of scary years delay due to cancer, the most illenest b-boys put out a rekkid that is probably their best since “Ill Communication”, if not “Check Your Head”, and may be their most focused album to date.

3. Arctic Monkeys – Suck it and See (Domino)

The first time I listened to this album I was disappointed. It seemed too polished and accessible. The snotty aggression of their first two rekkids seemed to have been tempered, the post-punk meets desert grunge of the third rekkid gone. Repeated listenings have allowed this album to grow on me like milkweed. It is among my new fav’rit rekkids. Alex Turner’s bitingly witty lyrics have always been an upside. On the title track they are downright masterful, evoking Elvis Costello at his “Prince Charmless” best.

4. Wire – Red Barked Tree (Pink Flag)
Old guys… 2011 has been a year when numerous icons of British post-punk and new wave have suddenly released quality albums. Gag of Four, the Human League, Blancmange, even Duran Duran have put out good rekkids. None, however is better than this delicious slice of art-rock heaven from the original post-punk art rockers. Chiming, ringing guitars hold sway over the best set of songs these kids have produced in 20 years. God we’re old.

5. Gruff Rhys – Hotel Shampoo (Ovni)
If you’ve known me during the last 10 years, you know that I believe Super Furry Animals to be one of the three best bands on the planet. Knowing that, you probably know that the front man for SFA is Gruff Rhys. Gruff is an extremely good songwriter with a natural gift for wordplay (even though English is his second language), melody, and harmony that is almost unparalleled in this day and age. “Hotel Shampoo” is pure pop-psych deliciousness from a master.

6. Adele – 21 (XL)
I know, I know. You’re going to tell me about the hazards of over-exposure. I know, I know. “Rolling in the Deep” has been radically overplayed on pop radio. I know, I know, I know y’all need to understand that sometimes there are reasons for stuff like that. It’s just the rest of the world catching up to an artist who is actually talented, not just marketable. I’d still listen to Adele sing the phone book.

7. Lykke Li – Wounded Rhymes (Atlantic)
After her first album she could have attempted to ride her countrywomen’s coattails, tried to compete with Robyn and the like. Instead she went for a post-modern Phil Spector “wall of sound” art-pop rekkid which pleases the senses at nearly every turn.

8. Danger Mouse & Daniele Luppi present “Rome” starring Jack White & Norah Jones (Capitol)
My co-worker and I were trying to distill this atmospheric movie for the ears. The cleaned-up version goes something like this: It’s like listening to Serge Gainsbourg seducing Ennio Morricone while Sergio Leone watches. Spaghetti Western/ 60’s Euro-Art-house cinema soundtracks enhanced by solid, natural performances by White and Jones.

9. Dennis Coffey – s/t (Strut)
A 70’s soul/funk guitar-infused explosion from one of the great veterans of the business, Motown Funk Brother and guit-fiddler extraordinaire Dennis Coffey. Punctuated by guest vocals by Lisa Kekaula of the Bellrays, Paolo Nuttini, and a duet from Detroit legend Mick Collins (Gories, Blacktop, Screws, Dirtbombs, etc.) and the Detroit Cobras’ Rachel Nagy.

10. David Kilgour & the Heavy Eights – Left by Soft (Merge)
Kiwi jangle-pop legend and Clean front man David Kilgour puts out his best rekkid in a decade. The glorious, Velvet Underground-influenced deliciousness of the Dunedin sound goes on…

11. Booker T. Jones – The Road from Memphis (Anti)
12. The Kills – Blood Pressures (Domino)
13. Gang of Four – Content (Yep Roc)
14. Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears – Scandalous (Lost Highway)
15. Charlie Haden Quartet West – Sophisticated Ladies (Decca)
16. Bootsy Collins – Tha’ Funk Capital of the World (Mascot)
17. Wagon Christ – Toomorrow (Ninjatune)
18. Mike Watt – Hyphenated-Man (clenchedwrench)
19. The Pains of Being Pure at Heart – Belong (Slumberland)
20. P.J. Harvey – Let England Shake (Vagrant)
21. Jonny – s/t (Merge)
22. Devotchka – 100 Lovers (Anti)
23. Telekinesis – 12 Separate Straight Lines (Merge)
24. Robbie Robertson – Clairvoyant (429)
25. The Strokes – Angles (RCA)

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Super Furry Beastie Day, May 3rd, 2011.

This new release day is characterized not so much by quantity as it is quality, as it marks the American release of two of the best albums I've heard so far this year.

The first is the latest solo album by Super Furry Animals' front man Gruff Rhys. I've been talking up this rekkid for some time, as it was released in Europe back in February and has been in heavy rotation at my workplace for several months. As of today, Rhys' Hotel Shampoo is finally readily available in American stores. I could use this fact as a launching pad for a rant about the idiocy of the industry. But that'll have to wait, as I'm too filled with love today to go into that now.

As I intimated in my best of the first quarter of 2011 post, Hotel Shampoo represents a bit of a foray into mellow, MOR, Euro-pop for Gruff, but the psychedelic underpinnings of the Super Furries are definitely present, as are Gruff's masterful turns of phrase (both lyrical and melodic), and his great gifts for harmony and near perfect pastoral psych-pop arrangement. I give it my highest recommendation.

The second is the Beastie Boys' massively entertaining return to form Hot Sauce Committee Part Two. Following middling response to 2004's somewhat lackluster To the Five Boroughs and 2007's instrumental The Mix-Up, the Beasties began working on and hyping this project a few years back, and had been planning to have it ready some time ago, only to have everything delayed by MCA's (Adam Yauch) cancer diagnosis. The good news is that Yauch's cancer is currently in remission and Hot Sauce Committee Part Two is easily their best work in over a decade.

High energy, occasionally high camp; fusing hip-hop, funk, punk and more in that seamless way that is so delicious when the Beasties are on their game, this rekkid plays like an amalgam of their best prior work (it could almost be called Check Your Head Part Two), yet has a singular quality all its own. On the whole, one of the most impressive things about it for me is how cohesive it is. While playing about with different musical styles, every part of it feels like a natural part of the whole. Aiding in the creation of this unity are the outstanding production and mixing of the rekkid, including some of the most adventurous and consistently exciting use of reverb and echo effects this side of Lee "Scratch" Perry. (Prime examples of this can be found on the enormous "Nonstop Disco Powerpack" and, naturally, the dub reggae dominated "Don't Play No Game that I Can't Win" featuring guest vox by Santigold).

The Beastie Boys are indeed back and as good as ever. To my mind Hot Sauce Committee Part Two is their best since 1994's Ill Communication. Now if someone could somehow convince them to put out a rekkid more often than once every ice age...

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Unsung Song Heroes

"And I have always taken much more than I have given back/ and as a matter of fact I've given nothing up..."

David Lowery's masterpiece. Sparse and contemplative. The tortoise conquering the hare. Proof positive that playing slowly is at least as much of a talent as playing fast. From the first exchange of brushes on skins with languid string-bent guitar, to the closing rapid-fire, strum 'n strings crescendo, every detail of this song is perfect. Enjoy.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

My New Fav'rit Rekkid...

As much of the general public understand it, the pantheon of Guitar Gods is comprised mostly of the great blues and jazz guitarists, the great icons of the 60s like Clapton, Beck, Hendrix, Santana, and Zappa, the hairy Hercules' of the hard rock and heavy metal canon, and assorted Knopfler-esque or Steely Danny scions of tasteful virtuosity. While I am a big lover of many, if not all of those members of the guitar fraternity, I am also a huge supporter of the long and much unheralded history of the "Alt Guitar God". Those who work their wiry wriggly wranglings of the git-fiddle outside of the mainstream world of leather, denim, and spandex of Guitar Player magazine.

The Alt Guitar God, or Geek Guitar God has existed as long as the electric guitar itself. Before there was Jack White, Carrie Brownstien, and Dan Auerbach, there were Doug Martsch and Stephen Malkmus. before that there were Ira Kaplan, Thurston Moore, Lee Ranaldo, Marc Ribot, Mitch Easter etc. Before that there was Television. There were Geek Guitar Gods before Tom Verlaine and Richard Lloyd of Television, but for myself and many others, they seem to define the idea and have the greatest influence on those who followed.

Television only released two studio albums in their prime, 1977's much lauded masterpiece Marquee Moon and 1978's criminally mis-produced, though underrated Adventure, yet their influence is still heard on the airwaves today. Live at the Old Waldorf was allegedly given some sort of CD release a few years back that I somehow missed, and was given a delicious white vinyl double album release for Record Store Day, 2011*. For me, listening to it has been a delicious revelation.

The sound seems to be top notch soundboard recording quality of the day, with the only caveat being that the band's backing vocals are a bit low in the mix. The performance is stellar. The band, on its first (and only) headlining tour in support of Adventure, are in top form and obviously well-rehearsed. Lloyd does not solo much, but is on his game when he does. Verlaine's soloing is somehow both more focused and more adventurous than on the legendary The Blow-Up bootleg (in my opinion, his "Little Johnny Jewel" solo on this rekkid crushes the mythic Blow-Up solo). However, two things outside of the already established mastery of Messrs. Lloyd and Verlaine are what make this recording a revelation for me.

First of all, this recording reveals the true, taut-as-a-high-pitched-snare-drum power of Television's rhythm section. While the dual lead guitar thrust of Verlaine and Lloyd will always be the stars of Television, Live at the Old Waldorf reveals the significance of Fred Smith's bass and Billy Ficca's drums to their sound in a way that previous releases, studio, bootleg, or otherwise, hadn't quite emphasized.

Secondly, this recording reinforces my sense of "what might have been" about Adventure as well as Television as a band. In my mind, Adventure sits firmly along side the Clash's Give 'Em Enough Rope on the chart of greatest "what not to do with your second album" mistakes. The success of the Cars' debut album had Television and their management worrying that "here's a band that sounds like us, but more commercial", so Television and Elektra sought to clean up a sound that was perfect in its dirty form. The Clash, on the other hand, were saddled with a label that wanted to make their ducats off them by marketing them to America, and saddled them with a producer to make them more commercial. Both instances were huge mistakes. In the case of Television it was part of the end of the band. In the case of the Clash it preceded the greatest rock and roll album ever made.

What is true about both Give 'Em Enough Rope and Adventure is that the fault does not lie in the material. I have always insisted that Give 'Em Enough Rope was nearly flawless as far as its material, and featured several if the best Clash songs ever. I'd always felt similarly about Television's sophomore outing, but hadn't been fully convinced until I heard the songs from Adventure here, unfettered by "studio magic".  "The Dream's Dream", "Foxhole", "Careful", and "Ain't that Nothin'" all come to life in the "Live" setting. The guitars crunch rather than hum. The bass churns. The drums charge from the speakers in a way that they completely failed to do in the original mix or reissue. But the point is that the songs from Adventure on Live at the Old Waldorf belie the true adventure that Adventure might have been.

All that said, this rekkid borders on the transcendent. Set ye forth and find a copy.

* I'm not entirely sure this rekkid is readily available in LP or CD form, but if'n your ears is all you need, it is available on iTunes.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

A Heavy-Hearted New Release Day... RIP Poly Styrene and Phoebe Snow.

The day began ripe with promise on the new release front. Due out were the new Holly Golightly and the Brokeoffs, the Fat Possum reissue of T. Rex's Tanx, and perhaps most exciting, the long-awaited and much talked about solo rekkid from punk rock heroine/X-Ray Spex frontwoman Poly Styrene. The day's mood swung jarringly from anticipatory to tragic early this morning when news broke that Poly Styrene had just lost her battle with cancer at the all too early age of 53. Adding to that tragedy was the news a few hours later that iconic singer/songwriter Phoebe Snow had just passed away at age 60. On the whole, not a great day for the musical world. Though I must say (with a respectful irreverence that I hope is not too much too soon) that a pearly gates collaboration between Poly and Phoebe could be the most inspiringly odd duet of all time. Let's hope it's happening right now and it is delicious. Good night, sweet princesses. Taken too soon.

Monday, April 25, 2011

A Few Random Thoughts on Pixies, Arenas, Banjos, and Filth.

I went to see the Pixies on their "Doolittle" tour last night and have had a few thoughts kicking about my addled brain all day...

1) I am a bit of two minds on the whole play-a-fan-favorite-album-in-its-entirety concert concept. While I do love Doolittle dearly, and it was nice to know I was going to hear the whole thing and not just the "hits," there is a little something of spontaneity, anticipation, and surprise lacking. The upside of this being that I was able to say to myself "not my favorite bit, Ima hit the restroom."
It is also inevitable with this kind of tour that the band is going to have some degree of boredom with doing the same thing every night for weeks on end. While the Pixies acquitted themselves quite masterfully and energetically, there were a couple of moments when you could sense one or more band members thinking "oy, this one again." Though on the whole I do have to say that they rocked my face off, and their choice to highlight several b-sides before launching into the album, as well as their choice of songs for the encore ("Isla de Encanta", baby!) were quite inspired.

2) The Earth needs to open up underneath the Roy Wilkins Auditorium in St. Paul and swallow it whole. Preferably after napalm has been liberally applied to the men's room to prevent any of that nastiness from getting into the soil. That place is a blight on the Twin Cities' musical landscape on every level, most importantly and egregiously, on the acoustic level. A new mid-sized venue must be found for shows too big for First Avenue and too raucous for the State or the Orpheum.

3) The banjo sometimes gets characterized as "corny" or "hick." The film "Deliverance" does nothing to dispel this myth. The reality is that the banjo is a remarkably versatile instrument that can be at home in almost any musical setting. Used properly in the right setting it can be one of the most hauntingly beautiful sounds in all of music. The song "Killer Crane" from TV on the Radio's new album Nine Types of Light illustrates this point quite effectively. It gives me goosebumps every time I hear it.

4)The late, great Frank Zappa once said of the guitar: "From the very beginning when I used to hear those old solos on those old records I used to say, 'now here is an instrument that is capable of spewing forth true obscenity... Let's be realistic about this, the guitar can be the single most blasphemous device on the face of the Earth." Well kids, I'm here to tell y'all that Black Joe Lewis' guitar is positively filthy in the very very best way.

(Pictured above: Cheetah Chrome of the Dead Boys' guitar enshrined at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland. Now that guitar is filthy in more ways than one!)

Friday, April 22, 2011

Happy Birthday Charles!

Eighty-nine years ago today, artist, activist, master of the upright bass, one of the great composers of the 20th century, and personal hero of mine, Charles Mingus came into the world. Here is but a small sample of his genius. Happy birthday Charles.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Real gone way too soon...

RIP - Extremely sad to hear that Gerard Smith of TV on the Radio has lost his battle with lung cancer. He will be greatly missed. Much love to his friends, family, and bandmates.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Till the End of the Day...

There are a number of releases out today, not least significant of which is Gorillaz' new CD The Fall, recorded by the band with er... uh... assistance by Damon Albarn, mostly on an iPad during their tour in support of "Plastic Beach". The result being largely atmospheric, with little in the way of big pop songs, but still Gorillaz-riffic. A necessity for fans but not likely to set the airwaves ablaze, though there is one track featuring Bobby Womack, and well, to paraphrase Mos Def, BOBBY FREAKIN' WOMACK!

For me, this week's releases are all about reissues. Specifically, the twice delayed and much anticipated arrival on American shores and in American stores of the "Deluxe" editions of the first three Kinks albums, The Kinks, Kinda Kinks, and the utterly magnificent The Kink Kontroversy. As it is late and I must go soon, I have no time to properly address all three records (or even any one of them) in a manner that properly addresses their true enormity. But I will say that The Kink Kontroversy has long been my favorite Kinks rekkid. I know I'm in the minority on that, as most fans cite one of the more fleshed-out, "produced" albums that followed it. Nonetheless, I find Kontroversy to be one of the most perfect of all British invasion rock rekkids. From the opening stomp of "Milk Cow Blues", through the jittery deliciousness of "Gotta Get the First Plane Home", the klassik kinks rock of "Till the End of the Day", the Davies philosophical musings of "The World Keeps Going 'Round", the cheeky "I'm on an Island", the imperious shuffle of "It's Too Late", to the fatalistic, mod-tastic closer "You Can't Win" (I know I missed important tracks, but what can I do?) this rekkid has a bit of everything that defined the Kinks through their first recordings, and presages the more expansive sound to come. I see The Kink Kontroversy as a "bridge" in much the same way that the Beatles' Rubber Soul serves as a bridge between their more teen-friendly early output and the more adult and experimental music that followed. Though in the case of this album, I find that the bridge has as much to offer as the destinations on either side of it. It is presented here peoperly remastered in glorious mono with all the bonus tracks a true fetishist could need. You know you need it.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Record Store Day, 2011

As most of you know, today is Record Store Day, a day when music geeks around the world celebrate their favorite independent purveyors of addictive discs of vinyl and plastic by standing in line for hours waiting to spend entirely too much money. For me it is one of the holiest days on the calendar. The following is a little travelogue of my Record Store Day experience.

6:45 - End epic struggle with the snooze alarm and scrape self out of bed.

7:15 - With the help of my extraordinarily patient wife, I arrive at the Electric Fetus just in time to at least be on the East side of the building. I am number 56 in line. Both of these factors are a considerable improvement over last year, when I arrived after 8 and joined the line in front of the Wendy's around the block on Franklin and was saddled with number 136.

7:30 - The energetic pregnant woman immediately behind me in line decides to share her donuts with the people around her in line. Big ups to happy pregnant donut lady.

7:45 Happy pregnant donut lady: "Omigod I love you! I can't believe you brought a higlighter."
Beardy husband of happy pregnant donut lady: "You'd be surprised how often that comes in handy... right next to the Sharpie."

8:00 - Looking around I realize that if I had a license to sell PBR in this line I could make a fortune.

8:15 - Fetus employee comes around offering free coffee. Delightful.

8:30 - Gary Numan's "Replicas" on the iPod helping to pass the time.

8:45 - "Note to self: pocket cup."

9:00 - The Fetus finally opens and I soon find myself packed in with over 300 fellow geeks, thumbing through the CDs and waiting for my number to be called.

10:15 - My number is finally up. Three hours after arriving at the store, I am finally allowed into the "Record Store Day Excusives" area. Sadly, the rekkids with LCD Soundsystem covering Franz Ferdinand are long gone, as is the Kills 10" EP. Being thankful for the donut I received earlier and knowing that I'm already going to spend way too much money, I allow happy pregnant donut lady to take the last copy of the Flaming Lips box set.

10:30 - I ring up my purchases. RSD exclusive scores:
Beth Ditto 12" EP
Gorillaz "The Fall".
Grinderman "Evil" EP on clear red glitter vinyl. I am happy like a little girl.
Grinderman "Palaces of Montezuma" EP on brightly multi-colored vinyl.
Pink Floyd "London 1966/1967" on white Vinyl.
Television "Live at the Old Waldorf, San Francisco, 6/29/78" 2LP on white vinyl. I may weep.
V.A. "Sing for Your Meat: Guided by Voices Tribute" 2LP on multi-colored vinyl with download card. I got the last one in the store. I am a big wiener.
Duran Duran "Girl Panic!" 7" with remix by David Lynch. Totally 80s!
Deerhunter "Memory Boy" 7" on white vinyl.
Green Day/Husker Du "Don't Want to Know if You Are Lonely" split 7" on orange vinyl.
Velvet Underground "Foggy Notion/I Can't Stand It" 7".
Villagers/Charlotte Gainsbourg split 7".
Wild Flag 7" with download card.
I also picked up the new Mojo magazine and a few CDs. Total: $260! Aieee...

Noon - After running a couple of non-RSD-related errands, I arrive at Hymie's Vintage Records for phase 2 of my extravagant orgy of vinyl fetishism. I manage to get in and out spending under $60. Scores:
Sonic Youth "Whores Moaning (Oz '93 Tour Edition" on clear blue vinyl (RSD Exclusive!)
Hoodoo Gurus "Mars Needs Guitars".
Grace Jones "Potfolio".
Iggy Pop "The Idiot" on 180 gram vinyl.
Talking Heads "Making Flippy Floppy/Slippery People Remixes" 12" single.

I am home now, tired and poorer, but happy. Now I have much listening to be done. I gotta go...

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

First Quarter + Best of 2011 Thus Far... (revised)

TV on the Radio - "Nine Types of Light" (Interscope). File under: Latest bit of genius from five guys who are cooler than I ever have been or can ever hope to be. TVotR continue to impress me with nearly everything they do. Their latest is a more subdued and contemplative effort than its predecessor. It won't send you charging to the dance floor like 2008's "Dear Science", it is art-rock of the very highest order nonetheless.

Gruff Rhys -  "Hotel Shampoo" (Ovni). File under: Mellow, radio-friendly psych-pop Super Furry style. I suppose it is theoretically possible that Gruff will someday make a bad rekkid, but I'll believe it when I hear it.

Wire - "Red Barked Tree" (Pink Flag). File under: Is it 1979 again already?: Aging art-punks doing some of the best work of their careers Part 1. Lush guitar textures and arty literate lyrics abound.

Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears - "Scandalous" (Lost Highway). File under: Soul with garage rock sensibilities, or is it garage rock with soul sensibilities? A raging and sometimes downright nasty set of blistering rhythm and blues goodness. Think Sly meets Funkadelic and forms a supergroup with members of the MC5, Soledad Brothers, and Black Keys, combined with the dirty mind of Andre Williams and you're on the right track.

Adele - "21" (XL). File Under: People I would gladly listen to singing the phone book. A bit singer/songwritery in spots, but in its best moments (which are plentiful) it is supremely and sublimely soulful.

Lykke Li - "Wounded Rhymes" (Atlantic). File under: Swedish art-pop songstress meets Phil Spector in the Brill Building. 21st century pop sensibilities blended with "Wall of Sound" 60s girl group textures and melodies. Delicious.

The Kills - "Blood Pressures" (Domino). File under: Stomping mutant art/blues/punk monster. Alison Mosshart (aka VV) returns from a couple of years with the indie "supergroup" Dead Weather, and the Kills put out perhaps their best rekkid yet.

Gang of Four - "Content" (Yep Roc). File under: Is it 1979 again already?: Aging art-punks doing some of the best work of their careers Part 2. Biting, angular, nasal spikes of guitars and barked agitprop lyrics over vintage churning dance-punk rhythms.

Charlie Haden Quartet West - "Sophisticated Ladies" (Decca) File under: Great soundtrack to an imaginary Raymond Chandler film noir. Tasteful and atmospheric 30s/40s style classic jazz with delightful guest vocals by Melody Gardot, Norah Jones, Cassandra Wilson, Ruth Cameron, Renee Fleming, and Diana Krall.

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart - "Belong" (Slumberland). File under: Spiritual heirs to the My Bloody Valentine throne. Sophomore outing from spacey New Yorkers finds PoBPaH beefing up their shoe-gaze-a-licious sound with production and mixing help from Flood and Alan Moulder.

Mike Watt - "Hyphenated-Man" (ClenchedWrench). File under: Return of the master of the thunder broom. Watt returns to his minimalist punk-funk power trio roots with 30 slices (all but two are under 2 mintes long) of deliciousness in one tight little package. Perhaps his best since fIREHOSE's "Ragin' Full-On" perhaps even earlier.

Wagon Christ - "Toomorrow" (Ninja Tunes). File under: Goofy electro. It is well-established that my journeys into the Electronic section of the rekkid store are few and far-between, however, Luke Vibert's whacked-out sound collages never fail to entertain me in a big way.

Telekinesis - "12 Desperate Straight Lines" (Merge). File under: Sophomore slump, schlophomore slump: Michael Benjamin Lerner's second volume ups the edge slightly but maintains his charming college radio indie geek chic. Rapidly becoming indie-rock/power-pop darlings.

The Strokes - "Angles" (RCA). File under: New York hipsters return from time machine vacation to 1985. Everything about this rekkid, from the Cars influenced sound to the garish cover art to the wacky band photos, screams totally 80s in the best way. Their most fun rekkid since their debut.

See also: Asobi Seksu - "Fluorescence" (PolyVinyl). British Sea Power - "Valhalla Dancehall" (Rough Trade). The Feelies - "Here Before" (Bar None). P.J. Harvey - "Let England Shake" (Vagrant). The Idle Hands - "Life Is Beautiful EP" (The Pretty Kids Collective). Jonny - s/t (Merge). The Raveonettes - "Raven in the Grave" (Vice). The Rural Alberta Advantage - "Departing" (Saddle Creek).

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


This Saturday is Record Store Day aka the holiest day in my personal calendar. Get thee hence to thine rekkid purveyor of choice and scoop thee the RSD exclusives. Just make sure you're in line behind me.

First post... the post that hurts the most.

Big release day. 
With all due respect to personal faves Super Furry Animals/Gruff Rhys, Spoon, the Black Keys, and the Flaming Lips, I would find myself hard-pressed to argue with anyone telling me that TV on the Radio are the best band working today. Their new album "Nine Types of Light" came out today, and it is yet another in a series of art rock triumphs from five guys who are cooler than you or I can hope to be. I just love/hate them soooo much.
Also out today; the Feelies' first album in forever, appropriately titled "Here Before", begging the question "what have you kids been doing all these years?"; and for the twee/psych/indie-pop fans, Norman Blake of Teenage Fanclub and Euros Childs of Gorky's Zygotic Mynci have hooked up to form Jonny. Their self-titled debut is a tasty minimalist treat.
I also must give a shout out to Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears' "Scandalous", which is a masterful bit of nasty funk/soul (think Sly meets Mayfield in Funkadelic's backyard with a guest appearance by the MC5) recommended by an old friend.