Thursday, December 31, 2009

Decade (top 25 ish)

Has it really been a year of these scattershot missives? Might as well take it out the same way we started, typing madly after a long days work with one eye open in the dead of night, waiting for the fireworks that will undoubtedly scare the bejesus out of the dog that snores next to me...

Everyone else is doing a Decade list, so what the hell...we like our lists here, yes we do...also pretty fond of those ellipses, i see...in a nutshell, albums that kept me going through the Miserable Years, as history surely will look back on at least eight of those years...

25) DIPLO/SANTOGOLD top ranking (2008)
24) RYAN ADAMS gold (2001)
23) THERMALS the body, the blood, the machine (2006)
22) DRESDEN DOLLS yes virginia (2006)
21) NEKO CASE fox confessor brings the flood (2006)

20) CAT POWER you are free (2003)
19) OKKERVIL RIVER black sheep boy (2005)
18) ARCTIC MONKEYS whatever people say i am, i'm not (2006)
17) SPOON ga ga ga ga ga (2007)
16) WILCO yankee hotel foxtrot (2002)
15) SLEATER KINNEY the woods (2005)
14) AT THE DRIVE IN relationship of command (2000)
13) SUFJAN STEVENS come on feel the illinoise! (2005)
12) FUGAZI the argument (2001)
11) PORTISHEAD third (2008)

10) ...AND YOU WILL KNOW US BY THE TRAIL OF DEAD source tags and codes (2002)
9) DANGERMOUSE the gray album
8) BROKEN SOCIAL SCENE you forgot it in people (2002)
7) WHITE STRIPES white blood cells (2001)
6) BLACKALICIOUS nia (2001)
5) RADIOHEAD kid a (2000)
4) GRANDADDY the sophtware slump (2000)
3) GILLIAN WELCH time the revelator (2001)
2) SUN KIL MOON ghosts of the great highway (2003)
1) PJ HARVEY stories from the city, stories from the sea (2000)

final thoughts...heavily weighted to the beginning of the decade, interestingly enough...make of it what you will...the main point is to tip albums you might not know, or inspire rediscovery...and let's call #26) YO LA TENGO i am not afraid of you and i will beat your ass

happy new year!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

top ten time...

Ah, finally cleaning up the files...here's the dreaded 'end of year list''...Fascinating year, and deep, lots of quality music...many oldsters-i so thought about having junior/senior lists, but what the hell...in all it's glory, here we go:

Honourable Mention: (VA) dark was the night, Joe Henry, Neko Case, Fanfarlo, Avett Brothers, Le Loup, Norah Jones, and Yeah Yeah Yeahs get the Honorable Mention...

As for the toppermost, it would be:

10 BROWNIES ourknife yourback
A spastic blast of good old rock and roll from the UK...In the wake of Coldplay, Snow Patrol, Kasabian, and for god sakes Muse, you really had to wonder what had got into the old chaps...was there really no life left in the form whatsoever? Here is your answer, everything great, rude, crude, and socially unacceptable in one neat little package...



9 YO LA TENGO popular songs
Still defiantly barking up their very own tree...this one's front.loaded with great songs, and then finishes with three long jams ranging from sublime to spiky. It could only be Yo La Tengo!








8 ANTLERS hospice
Happy surprise in the form of a desperately dire concept record...(see title). Actually uplifting, in that downbeat kind of way...









7 DINOSAUR, JR farm
Along with Mission of Burma, Dinosaur Jr has managed to pull off the rare reunion that transcends its original work. Their reunion album Beyond was a great return to form, but Farm ups the ante with an emphasis on tightness, and Mascis' amazing guitar work.







6 GIRLS girls
Buzz band with a crazed backstory and a Phil Spector/Jesus & Mary Chain fuzzball sound makes waves w/their debut...compulsively listenable...(& yet another show i missed this year, sigh...)









5 MOS DEF the ecstatic
A serious return to form; Mos hits it hard and doesn't quit, effectively cancelling out the 'WTF' that was 'True Magic, with a lean and muscular record. He's totally committed, riding over some jawdropping samples, culminating the whole trip with a Black Star reunion on key track, 'History'









4 SONIC YOUTH the eternal
Aging gracefully is such a rare thing (to paraphrase Ornette Coleman), and while their peers made marginal records, broke up, reformed for big $$$, Sonic Youth kept the bar raised...Some records were gauzier and less linear, some sharper and shorter, but they maintained a certain level, and never backed away...
Perhaps inspired by their trotting out of Daydream Nation for ATP shows and a move to Matador, this is a career record in terms of looking back across the landscape of their career and bringing all the different elements of noise back under one roof, while maintaining their cohesiveness.












3 GRIZZLY BEAR veckatimest
How to follow up Yellow House? Grizzly Bear chose ostensibly the harder road, the arrangements getting denser, the hype starting with internet leaks of early mixes, a summer tour slot opening for Radiohead, and a sense of having to lay all its cards on the table.
Veckatimest is a magnificent success, the very definition of a 'grower' record, one that seeps into your senses, and crawls under your skin.











2 MISSION OF BURMA the sound the speed the light
The latest salvo in the second wave of Burma is, like Sonic Youth's 'Eternal', at once a summation record of all the strands that made them great, and a statement of current purpose...Never have they rocked harder...each song building upon the previous with little let down. Perhaps no individual songs will match the Burma anthems of yore, this relentless disc as a whole could well be their finest album.











1 DIRTY PROJECTORS bitte orca Stunning from the first listen, still revealing months and months later, like a crystal held to light...Dirty Projectors come into their own.

Misc cleanup...still haven't heard Bat For Lashes new one...loved the first, and how did she not get the Mercury Prize?! Did they turn into the Grammy's when i wasn't looking? Also, just got new Trail of Dead, back in business in a big way. I think both of those would have tussled for a spot on this list if i had it together...



Forward Ho! in the 010, already can't wait for Spoon's new album, 'Transferences', as well as new records from Los Campesinos! , the Besnard Lakes, Shearwater, Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings, Midlake, and Shearwater. In the studio as we speak, (w/no reported release dates), are both Radiohead and Arcade Fire...



Saturday, December 19, 2009

Oh Morrissey...

When last we checked in with one Steven Patrick Morrissey, Spring was in the air, (along with the smell of burning flesh...the smell...of victory, etc).

Today's quick off topic quiz: After Bob Duvall's 'Napalm In The Morning' speech in Apocalypse Now, what is his very next, (and maybe the movie's finest), line?

Ah, sweet digression...but back to Morrissey. At Coachella in April, he came on strong, but ultimately fizzled out with an up and down set marked by his patented pronouncements/tantrums, (indeed, part of his charm...), so it was interesting to see where we were at presently. Most recent Moz notes were a spot of ill health, (stage collapse in Swindon), and being bottled in Liverpool, (left stage after two songs, see ya...), as well as a recent cancellation in California, (Indio-bad voice), so it was definitely w/baited breath that we awaited the man, the legend, for yet another go around, this time supporting 'Swords', a b side collection that he's already unloaded in the press about his label butchering.
The stage was, as they say, set.

Call it home field advantage, but the Mozzer ruled, from the opening get down on out...threw in enough Smiths tunes to keep the wolves at bay and the crowd churning, lost his shirt 10 minutes in, and never looked back. He was in control the whole ride, and in his own arch way, loving it. Last show of the tour and the band was ferociously tight. A pleasant reminder that when he's on form, there's really only one Morrissey.

(oh yeah, quiz answer: 'Someday this war's gonna end...')

Friday, December 18, 2009

new Mos Def...




zSHARE - 01 24 Hour Karate School.mp3

Brand new jam '24 Hour Karate School' has the Swiss Beatz touch, and lives up to the title...

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

J is for Jawbox reunion! (& late night notes...)

Yes indeed. Jawbox rehearsing for "Late Night".. first appear... on Twitpic

(thanks to 'brainofjaocohen' for rehearsal photo!)

4pm) Update from DC reminding me to (ack!) watch tv tonight. There's a concept. Nothing so far, not even my man Questo, has enticed me to brave the wilds of 'The Fallon Show', but tonight that must end. For the first time in a dozen years, the one and only Jawbox will reunite on the show...(the Q says, and i quote:
@questlove: 'so Jawbox reunites after a 12 year break. they treat their fans to an Hr soundcheck in our studio: they are kicking ass and taking names. )

Should get home in time to see this...yay Pacific Time...



12.20 am) headphones in, watching Conan O'Brien's mouth move...not hearing him. Bliss that soon will be interrupted. Full Disclosure: Got off the SNL boat about '78, thought Letterman's uptight morning gig was as dramatic as comedy could be, never did manage to transition to the post.Letterman generation, i.e. O'Brien, Stewart, etc. I was well off the tv train by then...I'm told Fallon was on SNL, but i only glimpsed it occasionaly, when Mr Walken would intersect with it, and i don't recall Mr Fallon, although i did wait on Molly Shannon once, who was perfectly delightful, and also, as the kids informed me...on Saturday Night Live. Interesting. So I'm in no position to judge Mr. Fallon; he has major goodwill points with me for providing a happy home for Questlove & the Roots as house band.

12.35am) at last...hip opening, & love to the Roots, and then...apparently i missed the constitutional amendment that made opening monologues mandatory on night shows...no matter how ill the fit. Nice suit though...I hope he blinks soon; I feel bad for him...
Hey, he read the NY Times today...drinking water is dirty...that would be a news flash...

12.43am) Monlogue over finally...show intro's reveal an excited and likeable Fallon...interesting. Hopefully over time they'll play with the structure & go with his strengths, which don't seem to be addressed by shoehorning him into this comedy format. At the risk of angering the talk show gods, it reminds me of Chevy Chase's ill.fated late night endeavor...i remember the same painful feeling watching his gig, of a man trying very hard, (as opposed to the Leno gig, which just makes me reach for shoes to hurl...), and just not breaking through, except for the one shining moment that i watched just to see Henry Rollins, figuring, no matter what, the big H will keep it hopping...
In one of those 'fall down the rabbit hole' moments, the conversation twists to them discussing 50's jazz...(huh?!)...both big fans, apparently. So off the path, and a welcome change from the endless promotional carousel that these interviews usual are. An actual human moment, go figure. Alas, poor Chevy...(to this day he won't address that show...) I've been scouring YouTube to try to find this, but so far to no avail...

12.59am) Rachel Maddow interview...entertaining. She confesses to wanting to pickpocket crowds gawking at the Rockefeller center Xmas tree...

1.07am) HP laptop add pimping Windows 7...i'm sorry, it makes me giggle.

1.08am) Disclaimer on Abilify ad is longer than the ad, and horrifyingly impressive.

1.11am) Maddow is mixing drinks (?!) Promising...

1.19am) Why don't they give more space to the Roots? (biased, i know...)

1.20am) Tom Ford hits the stage, pimping his transition from fashion design to film direction ('A Single Man', looks promising)...turns out Fallon is in one of his suits...Ah, synergy. (really is a nice suit, though). Ford doing an entertaining cliff notes bio...interesting cat.

1.31am) finally! Wow, they look great, ripping through 'Savory', intermittently more tender and more abrasive than the original. Totally look like they're having major fun (go kim!).
Is this a one off, or the beginning of a Reunion...hmm. I'll save the whole reunion thing for a later piece. Whichever way they go, what a thrill to see them back at it. Amazing band that never got it's proper due...
See for yourself...








endnote: J. Robbins shirt is a reference to his son Callum, who's suffering from Spinal Muscular Atrophy. For more info, go here...

mo' endnote: would have loved to have heard the Roots do a take on FF/66...imagine the tuba getdown! (this, of course, from the guy who was drooling for a collaboration between the Roots & Willie Nelson when they played back to back at Coachella a few years back...a man can dream)

finally, thanks to NBC for making available the non.aired songs online. Very nice...

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Long long way from Watergate...

Roving correspondent Mr. Heckman contributes this gem of a correction from the Washington Post:

correction


Thursday, December 3, 2009

A Nov. 26 article in the District edition of Local Living incorrectly said a Public Enemy song declared 9/11 a joke. The song refers to 911, the emergency phone number.


Hee hee, poor Ben Bradlee...this wouldn't have gone down on his watch. He had the Finger on the Pulse. Probably a good opening here for the ahistorical nature of Hip Hop as well, but i'm just too tired to come to grips with it.



Friday, December 4, 2009

And then it was December...


Funny how time slips away...deep in the holiday season, it's post as one can, and here, for your general amusement, is the one & only Buddy Rich, sweet talking his band as only he could...

On the other extreme, some hardy soul went to the trouble to cobble together stage chatter from various shows of the DC underground stalwarts, Fugazi. Ah sweet nostalgia...it always seemed like a weird dichotomy that a band capable of such prodigious noise & energy would willfully sabotage the pacing of their shows to keep a (relatively) violence free atmosphere, and it is missed. Also, while the music can come off as dour, a great sense of humor reveals itself onstage. All in all, a welcome blast from the past.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

P is for Pavement...

Sooner or later we had to tackle the elephant in the room that is: THE REUNION TOUR...how do you feel when your beloved gets it back together and hits the road...sometimes breathtaking, sometimes not so much. Are you just so overjoyed to get the chance you thought you missed, so you hold your nose while the band dashes towards it suitcases full of cash, or is it something else. Especially now that the college rock into 90's alt explosion crews are looking at their options...

So the one i've been waiting, hoping, and praying for is finally coming to pass. Ladies and gentlemen, the return of Pavement...First announced show was Summerstage in Central Park for September '10, which quickly turned into multiple shows when the first one sold out in 2 (two) minutes...(AKA, while i was debating pulling the trigger...)

Anyway, this was followed up pretty quickly by the announcement for them curating ATP (All Tomorrow's Parties, Minehead, England) next May. Woot!

Interesting part about this has been the concerted groundswell built up by Matador's impeccable trawling through the catalog, album by album...raising the bar for the deluxe reissue thing by throwing out great packages bursting at the seams with bonus tracks, (full discs worth) while maintaining that value for dollar thang...




Isn't it a weentzy bit early to start speculating about Coachella 2010? Hee hee...that was the ultimate decider for me, given the on/off again rumor mongering...Apparently, Offers have been tendered...we will see, we will see...


PS...as a bonus, Pitchfork TV is currently running the Pavement doc 'Slow Century' in all its glory...

Saturday, October 10, 2009

what is hip?

Once one gets over the sheer proliferation of music available on the internet, (developing avalanche instincts, as it were)...the logical response, aside from flight, is to set up a gatekeeper, or series thereof, where one can turn on a trusted tap when one feels the need to dabble in the new, or get an opinion on new from the old.

Along with the innate excitement of watching social media progress is the flip side...an abundantly exuberant blogosphere that seems intent of burn & churn, the building up and tearing down of new acts to quickly fill all that cyberspace. Almost to the point of resembling the tawdry English music weeklies...

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah and Vampire Weekend were two great examples of this...So far it seems only the Arctic Monkeys, and some would say Animal Collective, have had the musical goods to transcend this...making it to a third album relatively unscathed.

Today's object lesson is Grizzly Bear. 2007 saw the release of the much praised 'Yellow House', and with news that they were back in the studio working on a followup, the stage was set for the hype machine to reach full throttle...

Last year saw them secure a high profile opening gig for the east coast first leg of Radiohead's US run. They acquitted themselves well, and the buzz built, leading up to the leaking of tracks from the by now, highly awaited 'Veckatimest'. It was immediately acclaimed as on the best albums of 2009, even though it was: a) still 2008, and b) horrifying to the band, given the less than ideal sound quality of some of the leaked work.

Still, the machine rolled on. When the album was finally released it somehow cracked the US Top Ten, the tumult growing to dizzying heights, and having swallowed the giant lump of salt needed at this point, one actually listened to the finished product. And was quite pleased. It's a really good album, heavily layered in a baroque indie.pop style that reflects the sixties masters, but seems firmly of the moment. Beach Boys comparisons abounded given the ornate vocal layerings, but to me it seems most redolent of Love's 'Forever Changes', perfectly capturing that elusive melancholy...maybe not the year's finest, but surely a lock for the top 5 at this rate.

Rolling right along, the next stages of the process being Celebrity Interest, (Jay Z?!), in the band that generated more headlines, and then of course, Backlash...in a sweetly subversive move, news broke of the newest single, which featured a guest artist lending his pipes to a remix of 'While You Wait For The Others'...
(wait for it...)
Michael McDonald (Doobie Brothers, Steely Dan, solo, et al) was the voice of choice, and early fingers pointed the obvious crossover sellout potential inherent in the move, but once again, the proof is in the listening...what is dreadfully and absolutely Wrong on paper, once heard, is like chocolate and peanut butter...it just flows...

and that's where we'll leave our Grizzly Bear, ambling through that particular Hundred Acre Wood of the music blogosphere, living to ramble another day...

Monday, October 5, 2009

new paradigms...

Or, further dancing on the ashes of a dying industry...



Here's something different...Mr. Withers, who provided us with the link to the Surrealist Compliment Generator, is using an interesting model to bring his newest project to fruition...Hopefully it works, but, regardless, someone will take this concept and run with it. For more on this, and more eloquently than moi, try here... It's fascinating to see folks twist the new social media to their ends, from building and inflaming fanbases to skewed concepts of touring to actually funding projects.
Amanda F. Palmer is using her Twitter presence to galvanize a fanbase across different medias, culminating in a handy dandy IPhone app that consolidates music, her blog(s), videos, etc into a nifty little (free!) package that raises the bar on artist apps. Palmer is also fighting a pitched battle to get out of her contract with Roadrunner Records, using her media base to promote direct purchase of her DVD as the only means of her actually seeing money, rather than through traditional retail.

Both Palmer and Zoe Keating have used Twitter to promote what Palmer charmingly refers to as 'ninja gigs', fun little gigs in unexpected places with a minimum of overhead and publicity, banking hard on the word of mouth and innate weirdness of the gigs, from Palmer's formal dress at the beach ukelele gigs to Keating's performances at terminals in the San Francisco Airport.

On twitter, they are respectively: @trisloth, @zoecello, @amandapalmer

endnote: this just in, here's another approach from Chuck D, Flavor Flav, and the good folks at Public Enemy...

Sunday, October 4, 2009

it's alive...really...


Time, the avenger...as Chrissie Hynde said. Work has been overwhelming, but we'll get back to business very soon. Pissed off some very good shows lately, managed to miss the Fuck Yeah Festival...(all that the name entailed and more), missed the mighty Meat Puppets in LA...

File under Wahhh!

Interesting shows to come, though...Finally get to check both Yo La Tengo and Mission Of Burma off the list. Absolutely can't wait.

Stay tuned...

waj

Saturday, September 12, 2009

What is Surreal?


Ahhh, let us ponder that eternal question...My new favourite webpage: The Surrealist Compliment Generator...For instance, just now i got: 'THE SISTERS OF ST CATHODE ASK THAT YOU COVER YOURSELF IN FILAMENTS AND TAKE PAINS TO MAKE YOURSELF FULLY INCANDESCENT THIS EVENING'

I feel blessed, and quite frankly, it sure beats the hell out of fortune cookies and daily horoscopes...(thx to Gordon in D.C. for enlightenment...)

Sunday, September 6, 2009

...and so it begins



I always get a perverse thrill, and a collective duh when i announce this as my favorite Beatles song. Almost a guaranteed conversation ender w/a diehard fan, which is not necessarily a bad thing...

Who in the world could claim this song as a throwaway, requiring a trip to the deepest darkest corners of the catalogue to find? The Hauling of the Ashes, that generational event known as "Let's Put The Beatles Catalogue Out Again" is now upon us...arriving in stores this week as mammoth boxes of mono or stereo mixes, and individual cd's to beat the band. This is but an appetite whetter, so if they not be your particular cuppa, go to sleep for a week or two, and then we'll be back to the usual.

Amongst my peers, they are more myth than music, and the refreshing part of this round is the focus on the music...Early accounts are raves-i skipped the original cd releases, was torn between the lack of pops and skips and the downright crap stereo mix. Word is Capitol got it right this time...i'm looking forward to dipping in.

As for the cross merchandising in the form of a video game, I'll let the younger generation come to grips with that...If that's what it takes to indoctrinate a whole new generation, so be it. And rather than just being overwhelmed by the media myth, maybe they'll come away with a deeper appreciation of the nuts and bolts of the actual music...

As for me, their greatest accomplishment was exploding the possibilities of multi.track recording. It still blows my mind that Sgt Pepper was done on 4 tracks...

Enough for now; more to come...

Friday, August 14, 2009

R.I.P. Les Paul


A Giant walks among us no more...If nothing else, he put the lie to Fitzgerald's riff about American lives having no second act. Indeed, anyone who was multi.track recording in 1947 (!?), had an illustrious performing career (w/wife Mary Ford), not even considering the instrument that bore his name...what a life!

Tanya who's now in Milwaukee had a poignant twitter post (@tanyac) about driving by the sign that said 'Home of Les Paul' when she heard the news...

L.A. Times
has done their usual bang up job if you feel the need for a quick history lesson...

Lift your glasses to a life lived large...




Thursday, August 13, 2009

let us now praise...Joe Henry

Still don't feel like I've fully absorbed Joe Henry's last record, "Civilians", a late career masterpiece, when up comes a new work, "Blood From Stars". Thanks to the good folks @NPR, it's available here to listen before its release. Let this be the first of what's a promising crop of fall releases, most notably new platters from Yo La Tengo, Mission of Burma, and the Arctic Monkeys, among others.

Mr. Henry sprung into view two decades ago, with the Jayhawks as his backing band, no less! Subsequently he drifted into a more beat oriented singer songwriter drift, alienating his earlier Americana fans, but thrilling those more forgiving of stylistic quirkiness. Along the way he became a noted producer, bringing his unique sonic textures to boutique projects ranging from Bettye LaVette to Aimee Mann to Ani DiFranco. His own career never measured up to the critical hosannas ladled upon him, but it didn't seem to deter him from cranking out reliably odd pieces of work like "Scar" and "Fuse". Record labels had no idea what the hell to do with him, and he finally found truly kindred spirits in Anti, home of Tom Waits, among others.

Which pretty much brings us back to "Civilians", where his songwriting peaked, and the melodies coalesced with a more streamlined sound to make a flowing series of simple epics, if that makes any sense at all...it really has to be heard to be believed.

"Blood From Stars", at least after two listens, keeps the streak alive w/winning songs, but the soundscapes are back to the more challenging, pinned to a bedrock survey of American musics, the jazz, blues, country, and folk underpinnings providing the foundation. He still hasn't lost his taste for odd samples, garnering major points in my book for a brief snippet from Melvin Van Peebles iconic "Sweet Sweetback's BadAssssss Song". Bringing it all back home, indeed. Truly one of America's great hidden treasures, some consider him my generation's Dylan or Neil Young, but this tightly packed headphone masterpiece finds him peering towards the vistas of Ellington...

Friday, July 17, 2009

Twenty Years Later...

It's the return of Nick Cave to the printed page. Mr. Cave has been on quite a roll lately, moving through soundtrack work with Mick Harvey, putting together the Grinderman side project, and of course, leading the Bad Seeds. Always wondered if he'd follow up his 1989 novel, "And The Ass Saw The Angel", and finally that question can be answered.

"The Death of Bunny Munro" is his newest novel, looking to be out this fall, courtesy of the intrepid folks at Canongate, (a mating of author and publishing house that seems a rare perfect fit).

If you absolutely can't wait, Canongate has uploaded some videos to their YouTube page, giving you the added benefit of the author doing justice to his creation.

Nick Cave in any of his guises always makes for a fascinating trip, so buckle your seatbelts, here comes the bunny!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Sun Kil Moon @ El Rey, Los Angeles, May 2009


















(photo finishing by D. Willis)
Link
Another night in LA, down the Hollywood fwy and through Tinseltown, winding down Wilshire, en route to the El Rey Theater, (for the first time); the event: Sun Kil Moon. Not only the opportunity to make a big check off the list of ‘never seens’, but also the first of two different shows in different zip codes w/my old running dog Cameron, from the 129…

It’s his home base, and he's all set up waiting with a prime spot against the wall, and advice about the show's 'no camera' policy, which speaks to the lack of accompanying media. One of the abstract shots came out pretty fun, so that's above.

The band entered to a raucous reception, then swung right into 'Glenn Tipton', as much a mission statement as a song...The show was weighted heavily to Kozelek's 'Sun Kil Moon records, "Ghosts of the Great Highway", and last year's "April". After that table setter, he aired out the Red House Painters chestnut, "Make Like Paper", giving the band it's head, finding a noisy groove, and generally giving the lie to the misconception of his shows always being hushed, church.like affairs. No doubt, it moved into meditative moments during the string that ran from "Last Tide/Floating", through "Like The River", "Down Colorful Hill", "Heron Blue", and an incandescent "Moorestown".

The tide turned with the high point of the night; a roiling, absolutely relentless take on “River”, from the Red House Painters ‘Old Ramon’. The guitars locked in and the groove kept building on and on for over 12 minutes, and as Cameron noted: “These guys don’t let go”. Astute, and notable for him not having heard the song before. "Tonight In Bilboa" was given a tender reading, making way for a charge through "Pancho Villa", and closing the set with a luminous reading of "Duk Koo Kim".

They came out to open the encore w/a delicate rendition of "Unlit Hallway", then backed it up with the Modest Mouse cover, "Trucker's Atlas" to much audience acclaim. Kozelek's way with a cover is part of the legend at this juncture. Kozelek came out one more time, alone, and threw out a brand new song before finally taking his leave. A fitting end to a magical night.

Friday, July 10, 2009

The End...Kinda...Sorta...

Jane's Addiction
Nine Inch Nails
Street Sweeper Social Club
Santa Barbara County Bowl
May 2009

NIN/JA tour…
Looks like this the end?! Trent seems to be in a place to put things to rest, intimating on his website that this might be the last go round for Nine Inch Nails. Or this update from Bonnaroo...
Or this...



If that’s the case, he’s chosen the high road, rolling out on a summer tour, playing support for Jane’s Addiction’s latest comeback tour, (wherein they finally wrestle original bassist Eric Avery back into the fold). It’s payback for Jane’s carving out a slot for the then rookie band on the very first Lollapalooza tour. Sherman, set the wayback machine for 1991!






Coming off the last high gloss, super produced spectacle of a tour, it’s back to basics for NIN, and it shows. Trent’s relaxed to the point of buoyancy, as he trots the old warhorses on the track on more time, but with renewed vigor, and it really looks like the guy, (for once), is enjoying himself.
Trent proves to be the host with the most, assembling a fine lineup for a summer tour, then backing himself to the middle slot…Came in right after they hit the stage, unfortunately missing Street Sweeper Social Club, the new project from Tom Morello (Rage Against The Machine) and Boots Riley (The Coup).


Nine Inch Nails was a song or two into their set when we arrived, and from the get go it was on…Trent tore through the songs, very relaxed and unfussy, on a stripped down stage. Freed from the expectations of a big ticket tour, he appeared much more relaxed than last fall at the Forum, but no less in command.

The set was geared to the standards, with an evocative instrumental from ‘The Fragile’ thrown in as a curveball, and closing, of course, with ‘Hurt’ transforming the bowl into a sea of cell phones & cams…I miss lighters…If that was it, it was a hell of a way to go out…

Leery is the first word that comes to mind whenever I’m in the position to clock a ‘reunion’ gig. All doubts were swept away from the first notes, however, when Jane’s Addiction hit the stage. As individuals, they’ve ascended to almost cartoon character levels, (some more than others), but when the first languid notes of “Three Days” oozed out of the speakers, all doubts were vanquished…With Eric Avery back on board to complete the 'classic' lineup, they stuck heavily to "Nothing's Shocking" and "Ritual...", bring the songs back to life, and more often than not transcending the studio versions...Perry's rambles for the most part were upbeat, and didn't detract from the pacing...They closed the night with everyone up front for an acoustic version of "Jane Says", and everyone drifted down the hill in a happy haze...Don't know if they'll keep it together long enough to record anything new, but this was a wonderful snapshot of a moment in time, when Jane's Addiction showed they still had it...

Monday, July 6, 2009

Friday, July 3, 2009

the one place you thought you were safe...

For folks of a Certain Age, he was always there...from sitting on Diana Ross' knee to making a play for the remains of the Elephant Man...He most assuredly did it His Way.
We're still in the grip of a collective duh, seeking closure, our reactions ranging from from hysterical grief to enthusiastic memory pillaging at the highest dollar offered.
Too many words have been written by both the lovers and the haters, too much water under the bridge at this point to have any pretense of objectivity...


Black elvis (was a hero to most?)…last uniter in a demographically fractured world.
I prefer to remember underdog Michael, when the Jackson 5 magic had faded. He was not, as he came to will him self, the king of pop, but a gawky grown up member of a faded family faction…looking for validation. Against all odds, he and the Q subverted the cloud of the omnipotent disco beat, and came up with a stone cold, solid gold masterpiece for the ages, the one album whose lithe beats start the party from coast to coast, from now 'til the end of time.
Years later came World Domination, and then the Dark Side, (to which he donated the capital E in Eccentricity), but this was the moment of possibility...

He may have been a freak, but he was our freak...
Goodnight Sweet Prince...


Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Coachella 2009 finale...

Ah, the home stretch, at last. Threads of an overwhelming theme are becoming more clear, as we wait in the tent for hometown (almost) heroes X. Hard to believe it’s been 30 plus years since they burst out of Los Angeles, providing an American answer to the British answer to the original punk explosion. X was a signpost band in their time, heralding a fusion, if not fission, of Chuck Berry licks and ragged male/female country harmonies with the oomph of a punk rhythm section, creating a sound that helped kick fill in the gap between punk and hardcore…Being a few years before the ‘college rock’ indie scene of the mid ‘80’s, they are sometimes unjustly overlooked…but their championing of roots and punk music has left a mark…
They’ve been touring recently with a reunited original lineup, and let the diehards pick today’s setlist on their website, so you know it will be weighted hard towards the first four albums.

video

As their set progressed, it was just too good to leave, even having seen them countless times…X at their peak is a joy to behold. Another huge conflict ensued, missing the Kills entirely, (saw them last fall…great), and clipping the top of Paul Weller’s set on the outdoor stage.

We finally got down to see Mr. Weller, holding court with his particular brand of soul.heavy rock. He was in good form, passionate and in tune with his band, locked in with a set heavy on his lastest, but dipping into the Jam songbook for a rousing version of ‘Eton Rifles’…

Another highlight was the title track from ‘Wildwood’, heralding another fine Coachella sunset. He seemed to succumb to a touch of the Morrissey, complaining about the short set time...Is it an English thing? Surely these guys have played the festival circuit in the UK /Europe… Why would smelling barbeque or truncated sets be a great mystery?
Ah well, Weller certainly had the last laugh, bringing out former Smiths guitar hero Johnny Marr for a rough but right run through of ‘A Town Called Malice’, electrifying the outdoor stage audience. Interestingly, in all the post festival coverage, I found no mention of this…Truly fascinating, in that the Morrissey/Marr combine have allegedly left $5M on the table, refusing a Smiths reunion for the last few years…and up pops Mr. Marr at the end of the festival…cheeky.

Finally, the moment I was waiting for arrived…on the main stage, under the stars, louder than Hell could be, the one and only My Bloody Valentine…Now was the time when it became clear why they were handing out earplugs (insistently) at the gates of entry, earlier in the day.
I think I drooled sufficiently enough about last year’s comeback gig, certainly the finest show I saw all last year, so I’ll spare you for the most part, save to note semantic differences. As they’ve yet to put out an album since ‘Loveless’ in 1991, the set list was pretty similar…encompassing pretty much that and tracks from 1988’s ‘Isn’t Anything’, with a few treats thrown in…The big difference was the sound, clear as a bell (relative term), even amidst the feedback fireworks. The main stage allowed the sound to grow, and have more depth and clarity, as opposed to the concrete bunker that was the Santa Monica Civic Aud, where it was claustrophobic and overwhelming, (in a good way).
The band was given a hero’s welcome, and seemed to glow in the attention, culminating w/the de riguer noisebomb of ‘You Made Me Realize’, clocking in near the 20 minute mark, and scarring generations of festival goers…hee hee…

And for dessert, just to put a final exclamation point on the proceedings, Public Enemy presented, in it’s entirety, “A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back”...a wonderful bookend to their run through this classic at last year's Pitchfork Festival in July...
Although lacking the special love of original DJ/noise technician Terminator X, Chuck D & Flavor Flav were more than capable of holding down the fort, and it being the Flavor's 50th birthday, he took occasion to stage dive multiple times. All hail to the audience, who forgave the rookie for going in feet first with a running start, and still caught him. And loved him. Chuck was moved to observe after the first attempt, "Hey, give my boy back now..."
It did not in any way break up the flow of the proceedings...P.E. gave an airtight rendition of the songs, strengthening them in some cases, and turning over Terminator X's showcase to his successor, DJ Lord, who acquitted himself admirably.
Flavor, whom over the years has become an amazing cartoon character, fell back into place in the group where he won his fame, rousing the crowd with his spotlight, 'Cold Lampin' w/Flavor', dexterously working the rhymes and imposing his own unique dynamic shift on the group.
As always though, the show belonged to Chuck D. Chuck dropped a nugget of trivia at the top, observing that a mixing error in fact reversed the intended running order of sides one and two...and throughout the night, he was in fine bark, on point with observations about the beauty of our last election, but not to drop our guard, and to continue to think and question.


Dragging ourselves across that field one final time w/Flavor Flav's exhortations ringing in our ears, we joined the many streaming for the exits...P.E. turned out to be an intense and a perfect capper for a weekend stuffed to the brim w/memories...what's interesting to remember that as solid an operation as this is now, the roots are humble...promoter Goldenvoice literally put together to put on the shows that no one else would do...
If there was an overarching theme, it seemed to be 'look how far we've come, and from what'. 'Don't forget the past and look forward to the future'...

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Coachella 2009, day three-part one...

Day 3, or: bringing it all back home...
as we approach the fields, adrenaline starts to kick off the bleariness that’s all pervasive at this point…the last day at last…the ‘march of death’ factor is starting to kick in, but as soon as the first band kicks in, it will dissipate…

On paper, in terms of raw depth, this looked to be the best day of the festival, and it was with baited breath that we made that long walk across the grass to the tents to begin...









Back to the ‘tent strategy’, as temps once again soared into triple digits, starting off the day with Vivian Girls, Brooklyn based girl rockers who’ve apparently got a love ‘em or hate ‘em relationship with the general blogosphere, but out here, on purely musical terms, they’re a winner. Blasted through too many tunes to count in their 45 minute slot, short brutish tunes swelling w/energy. Had some issues with a drifting bass drum that refused to stay anchored, but the ladies kept rocking. Looking forward to their new record, they certainly captured the magic of the first on stage.









Had just missed seeing No Age a few months back, and was tickled to have a makeup
opportunity so soon. Two dudes who make one hell of a lot of noise, the tunes from their album ‘Nouns’ sprung to life onstage, and they backed it up by thrashing the life out of them, despite the heat. A wicked sense of humor was unveiled a few songs in, when in between songs, the drummer mewled, “I can’t stand the smell of burning flesh”, yet another tip of the hat to our man Morrissey. And if ever there was a seal of approval, standing right next to the stage the entire set, bobbing his head & grinning at the noise, was Mr. Bob Mould.
It felt like a passing of the torch…














Next up, the highest compliment I can pay Will Scheff and Okkervil River is that I was there baking at the main stage, pressed against a burning steel rail, transfixed for the entire set. The crowd wasn’t huge, but the band settled in, bashing out tunes from their most recent gambits, 'Stage Names' and 'Stand Ins', including a great version of "Plus Ones" (below), and Scheff's passion drew the crowd in slowly.

High point, ironically, was a slow song, usually a kiss of death in the heat, but ‘Girl In Port’ won the day, elevating the end with a great band jam and trumpet solo. Just a few songs in, my sunscreen evaporated, and I could feel the burn set in, but I did not move…By the end, a fairly sizable crowd had gathered, and it was one of the magical sets of the weekend.







Passed on Lupe Fiasco, having seen him before, took a gander @ Lykke Li, (great soundtrack for food break), and checked in w/Perry Farrell, apparently celebrating his birthday by doing Perry’s greatest hits with an electro rock band and stage dancers…It was total Perry; if you’re down, it was on…

Mid day food break is where we'll leave it...
When we come back, finally, the conclusion!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

aleks, we hardly knew ya...

Ah, as if we needed another lesson in embracing change...latest on the news front is that Aleks from Los Campesinos! has decided to pursue a higher path...returning to that which she calls her studies...

Good on her!
For us, not so much...

Just in case this got lost in the shuffle that was the day one Coachella recap, here it is again...

(Aleks would be brunette keyboard/vocals on the left)

Good news is: she's kicking out the jams on one last jaunt across the US, capped off with some time in sunny CA in august, so we'll get to do proper goodbyes!

Go Aleks!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Coachella 2009, day 2-part two

(ah sweet barrel cactus, holder of water, nemesis of the drunk...)

day 2, part two:
Riding high off the energy of AFP’s fantastic finish, it was on to the next infusion of Scottish goodness, the highly touted Glasvegas. When we got to the tent, there was an announcement that they cancelled;( someone was hospitalized...don't know the details, but i was really looking forward to them...) Better luck next time they're stateside, i guess...


And now, with the schedule suddenly clear & the sun on the downswing, it was time to camp at the outdoors stage...


The one and only Calexico, (go Tucson!), did a great job on the outdoor stage at sunset, really memorable, with a harder edge than their atmospheric records. One of the day's highlights was their amazing cover of the Minutemen's punk classic "Corona", reimagined for mariachi horns…brilliant and moving tribute to the late D. Boon, another founding father of what they once called 'college rock'. One only wonders what he would have made of this festival...
Like an audible recharging station, Calexico worked it's magic on the lawn full of sprawled bodies, their sonic bearings being perfect for this desert oasis. Sidenote: i first discovered Indio, CA as a pitstop on the endless I10 coming back to cali from Tucson, ironically. Never would have imagined at that time just how much i'd be back...

Next set was a little more problematic...Perhaps one of the more anticpated sets of the weekend, the Fleet Foxes came in riding a wave of good will on what was one of the best reviewed albums of last year, (that rarest of records that easily bridged generations of rock fans), but they were given a severe reality check in the festival setting. They fought the good fight against the Thievery Corp over on the main stage, but continually they found themselves on the wrong side of the old boom.bap, as it were...

Band of Horses
put up a stronger fight for the couple of songs i caught, their ringing sound cutting into the early evening…but like Leonard Cohen on Friday, the call was made to cut it short to get pole position for M.I.A.,(p.s. avoid this link if you suffer seizures...), a late addition to cover for Amy Winehouse on the main stage, and one with just as checkered a Coachella history. Her first appearance was tentative but revelatory...last year in the Sahara was apparently a drunken trainwreck...so it was hold your breath & let's see time...

MIA hit the stage full of energy, and got off to a flying start, despite intermittent air horn blasts from her friendly neighborhood dj. Things bogged down when she felt a pronouncement coming on, and any straying from the tunes caused the bottom to drop out of the energy level. She seems to have sunk a good chunk of her new found earnings back into the act...one of the finer stage sets seen all weekend, but that alone was not enough to save the proceedings. A schizophrenic mood settled over the crowd, which finally gave it up when she broke out 'Paper Planes', her unlikely summer hit that mined a Clash sample over gunshot samples, and managed to bring up a kajillion people on stage to do their thang, (which mostly consisted of cavorting drunkenly, at least those who weren't filming each others moment in the spotlight...)
The set staggered to a close, as did we...

After such a full rich day, when faced with the prospect of Las Vegas' own The Killers repping the main stage, it was time to pull what is lovingly referred to as 'The Coldplay Option'...(i.e. pulling the plug in order to ensure a non.packed shuttle back, and find oneself reclining in a hot tub counting stars as your peers crawled in...), as opposed to say, watching the Killers....

Forward ho, and live to fight another day...