Saturday, May 15, 2010

In Defense Of Beach House...

So this post was inspired by a great tweet from GW in DC, grumping about not 'getting' certain new music. I caught it on a long drive, and filed it away, laughing because pretty much 3/4 of what i listen to doesn't pass muster w/my peers, and that's ok, I'm totally used to it. His other case in point, (Sleigh Bells), i totally agree with, and just file under 'Of Montreal' in terms of ambition overstepping execution.

But it stuck with me, and now i'll spit it out, not that Beach House need any defending, (let alone from me...).

The dream pop duo from Baltimore has truly come into their own this year, backing up the haunting 'Teen Dream' with extensive touring.

The quick, tongue in cheek answers that jumped to mind were:
1) drug music for people who don't do drugs anymore
2) best white 'boudoir' album since Roxy Music's 'Avalon'
3) very definition of 'grower', a song cycle in an age weighted against the very existence of albums with melodies like tentacles...

I was wary before its release, heralded by a wave of internet it the 'Animal Collective' response, but anything paraded as the record of the year before it's released, or two weeks into the new year, is just not cool.
After buying it, i dug the first few listens, but didn't really connect until catching it on the back leg of my commute, sick and feverish and shivering through a long drive home. Cranked up to the point of pain, it was like being immersed in a giant bath of Benadryl...
And with all the good stuff that's come out this year, I still find myself going back to it, now almost halfway through the year...simply put, it fits my definition of a great record, which has nothing to do with genre, speed, beat, or really anything...It just Makes Things Better.

(thx to Gordon in DC for putting up w/me...)

Friday, May 14, 2010

Taking Flight With The Besnard Lakes...


So for some reason, I had never, in all my time on this coast, darkened the doorstep of Doug Weston's inimitable Troubador, in West Hollywood. First time for everything, and parking shenanigans aside, it was certainly memorable.

The occasion was the west coast swing of Montreal's own The Besnard Lakes, touring their latest record 'The Besnard Lakes Are The Roaring Night', a followup as aptly named as the previous 'The Besnard Lakes Are The Dark Horse'. They certainly were, and the difference between the two is palpable.

While '...Dark Horse' made a fine case for the Lakes as The overlooked Canadian band of the moment, 'Roaring Night' at once deepens the craft of the songs with delicately interlocked suites of songs, but strips and tightens the individual arrangements to great effect. Throw in the prevailing espionage concept lyrically, and it's already on my year end short list of records.

As good as the record is, I was unprepared for the absolute lift off of the songs live, with the ultimate end being somewhere between Sigur Ros and My Bloody Valentine. They feared not the noise, channeling it as surely as any other instrument. They were loose and fun onstage, holding together 'And You Lied To Me' through unsoliticed crowd participation, and dusting away the dour image one might take away from their records by inserting a touch of hair metal legends 'Honeymoon Suite' into the top of their encore.

('Chicago Train' above...fog machine: check!)

The most memorable shows, i've noticed over the years, have a downright religious patina...After the show, even with my day pushing the 24 hour mark, i was still totally wired. No greater praise can i give.

(incandescent version of 'Glass Printer' below)

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Tear Down The Wall, Indeed...

So, not to churn up any more badly needed publicity for Roger Water's 'newest' endeavor...(recreating The Wall in concert sans Pink Floyd), but i would be remiss if i didn't at least mention this interesting intersection of art & commerce.

Mr. Waters, when last we saw him, was bringing his vision of Dark Side of the Moon to the masses at Coachella, and since this marks 30 years since the epic NY/LA only performances of The Wall, it was certainly time to do it again, with the added benefit of new technology, promising much more in the way of entertainment.

So far, so good...until an ill-fated location choice by a promotional street team engaged to plug his project. The work is a collection of anti.war murals strategically placed around town, (featuring a quote from Ike, no less), one of which happened to end up on the wall of Solutions in LA, better known as the mural on the cover of Elliot Smith's Figure 8...sigh. Since Smith's demise, the wall has become a memorial, LA's take on Pere Lachaise, as it were...

And the crap, (thanks to the LA Weekly), proceeded to hit the fan. Aside from the sensationalized slant of the Weekly, it is a damn shame that the wall has been maligned for years, having been repainted upwards of ten times. Water's team's wheat paste concoction certainly doesn't measure up to the random tagging, but it was a sad oversight.

Waters was kind enough to provide a rebuttal in the LA Times, viewable here, in which he claimed ignorance of both Smith and the memorial, and on his own website, pledged to remove it immediately. His disingenious attempt at spin notwithstanding, (we'll never know if Elliot would have approved of that message, will we?!), a quick response was nice to see, especially from someone who could have easily hid behind PR machinery, and let, what was essentially a local story, blow over.

The amount of control Waters did or didn't have over marketing actions will continue to be debated, but the 'Wall' Waters has built between himself and his fans over the last 30 years, as well as between him and his former band is perhaps the saddest thing of all. Resorting to a Banksy style street art campaign may be someone's fine idea of promotion, but it smacks of the same thinking that has driven labels into their current ditch, and ironically, the biggest noise the campaign might hope to make has only come from its placement fiasco.

A thought for Mr. Waters, both personally and professionally...take a little time to approach the Smith catalogue, pick out three or four songs, do an online covers EP to benefit war vet's charity, and kick back the songwriting royalties to the Smith family...serious win/win. Surely one poet of alienation would recognize another...Nothing to lose but the studio time, quite frankly, and a nice reminder that Water's greatest work was really about Everyman, coping...

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Broken Social Scene live...

Music Box at the Fonda Theater
03 May, 2010

Broken Social Scene hit the stage at precisely 10pm, Toronto's conquering heroes returning to the Music Box at the Fonda Theater.

They immediately tore into 'World Sick', and set the pace for the whole show, drawing heavily from their latest album, 'Forgiveness Rock Record' (out today on Arts & Crafts). As co-founder Kevin Drew noted, "That's why we're here..."

The gregarious Drew served as host for the night, explaining bassist Brendan Canning's pastier than normal complexion on a bout with the flu. Canning stuck with it, and thanked the crowd for breaking his fever.

Featuring a daunting front line of guitars, additional keyboards, and a recurring horn section, they filled the stage and ripped through 'Texico Bitches', (video below), brought up a fan from the audience to hang out during an impassioned 'Forced To Love', and woke the crowd up hard by sliding in "Cause=Time" from 'You Forgot It In People'. The band dialed back the crunch to feature Lisa Lobsinger on "All In All", then segued back to the high energy.

All told, a welcome return to action by the Canadian collective, and here's hoping that they continue their winning ways...

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Nude Dragons?!

No silly...that would be Soundgarden. The subject was reunions, apparently, and this one is shaping up to be quite the little noisemaker. Somewhere around the turn of the year, word went up on Soundgarden's website that they were back in business, with news to come. Yonder round the middle of April, i got a heads up that they were doing a warmup in Seattle...unfortunately i was in Indio at the time (preoccupied, you might say).

With many thanks to the band and their cohorts, they've made some footage of 'Beyond The Wheel' available from that show. (Filmed and edited by Kevin Shuss, recorded by John Burton, mixed by Adam Kasper)

I was hoping that they might pull it together for Coachella, but that didn't happen. They would have fit in well on Saturday night. Looks like the Bonnaroo Festival in Tennessee drew the lucky straw this year...Our friend TC in Milwaukee will be attending, so we'll lean on her to be our roving reporter...

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Return of the Prodigal Sons...

Pavement, Fox Theater, Pomona CA, 15 April 2010

As a warmup to their North American return to active duty at Coachella, Pavement added this warmup show at the stately Fox Theater in Pomona on the thursday before the action began. Anticipation ran high, and few were disappointed as Pavement steamrollered through a 2 hour plus show that managed to touch every nook and cranny of their catalogue.

It was a delirously loose show, with Malkmus holding his cards close to his chest and driving the proceedings forward...Guitarist Scott 'Spiral Stairs' Kannberg anchored the proceedings from across the stage...Mark Ibold, fresh from holding down the bass chair in Sonic Youth layed it down in the middle with drummer(s) Steve West and Bob Nastanovich rounding out the list. Westie was his usual Keith Moon-esque presence, and Mr. Nastanovich, having put his day job on hold, rotated through drumming, supplemental noise making, barked vocal asides, and dervishing his way across the stage...He is, in the live setting, the band's ringmaster of doom and chaos concscience.

The songs, good god, they ended up with 31 songs by the time the night ended. 3 tunes in, i gave up trying to keep a set list; it was just a barrage. So I'm stuck more w/impressions than a blow by blow account, but hopefully there's enough footage to give you a taste of the Pavement live experience...starting with a ragged but right version of 'Trigger Cut' from Slanted And Enchanted (below), complete with a bonus false start...

Spiral Stairs takes control with 'Date W/IKEA' from Brighten The Corners.

Finally, one of the emotional highlights of the night was a touching rendition of 'Here', also
from Slanted And Enchanted.

The band seemed genuinely touched by the response at the end of the night, and it was a relief, in the wake of so many half asses reunions, to note that they were probably sharper now than in their prime, and certainly playing to a lot more people. Credit must be given to Matador, who's done an amazing job of keeping the flame flickering for years with reverent treatment of their back catalogue.

The night was opened up by The Middle East, a young Australian band that turned in a slow burning set. They also had an early afternoon slot on Coachella sunday.

Pavement will be working it's way through a victory leg across the USA this summer, culminating in 4 way sold out Central Park Summerstage dates, and a final West Coast appearance at the end of September, with Sonic Youth and No Age at the Hollywood Bowl.

Below are some YouTube links of more of the show...(big shout to Hillelaron for the vids)
'Summer Babe'
'Conduit For Sale'
'Starlings Of The Slipstream'
'Range Life'
show opener 'Silence Kit'