Monday, April 24, 2006

Plugged in & ready to fall

Last night saw the Alkaline Trio. I was sort of indifferent about going, figured it would just be something to do on a Sunday night, but I ended up having a really good time. They played the Goddamnit album in it’s entirety, Matt and Dan each did a few acoustic songs (which brought back memories of the in-store performance at Desirable Discs in Garden City from way back) then played for about another half hour after that. It was funny hearing all the cheering from the crowd when Matt was talking about all the great fans that had been with them for the last 10 years. When the average age of the people in the crowd 10 years ago would've been about, oh, 9 or 10. on to what I'm listening to...

The new Om album "Conference of the Birds" is quickly becoming my favorite of the year so far behind Current 93's "Black Ships Ate The Sky". (and as luck would have it, those 2 bands are appearing on a split 10" record to be released in May). It took a few listens for it to really click, but this is nothing short of a masterpiece. How Chris and Al can do so much with just drums and a bass is beyond me. It's like building a full sized Eiffel Tower with matchsticks and Elmer's glue. The opening "At Giza" is aptly named. It has a definite middle eastern influence to it. It sounds like the pyramids. It's gigantic, it's mysterious, there are secrets to it that can be revealed if you're willing to explore it. They're tapping into something ancient, timeless, that was here long before you and will be around long after your bones have turned to dust. The bass is utterly hypnotic, starting off soft and slow, lulling you deeper and deeper into its trance and the mantra-like vocals pull you further in. Then it just keeps building and building into a motherfucker of a crescendo about 13 minutes into it. If you're a believer, you can feel it starting down in the small of your back and slowly rising up your spine until it explodes out the top of your head, opening your third eye in the process. The release is almost orgasmic. Om is taking stoner metal to the astral plane, dudes. After that, it's "Flight of the Eagle", no teasing this time, just a thick, Sabbath worthy bass line and the drums anchoring it like the stones of a pyramid while the vocals chant and lock you into the trance created on the first track until you don't even notice that 17 minutes have passed. Lather, rinse, and repeat. This is metal for the mind and soul.

I'm not exactly sure what's going on with music writers at places like Entertainment Weekly and other mags of that caliber, but all the reviews of the new Yeah Yeah Yeahs "Show Your Bones" album I've read kept comparing it to the White Stripes/garage rock stuff. They couldn't be further from the truth. Sure a few songs have big, gnarly, dirty hooks (Fancy, Honey Bear) but it owes a lot more The Pretenders than the White Stripes. I have to say that my favorite on the album is the single, Gold Lion. Like any great pop single it burrows itself into your brain and you'll still be singing the "ooooh OOOOH" vocals hours after you last heard it while you're in line at the bank. Top to bottom it's an incredibly solid album and shows a lot of progress from Fever To Tell. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs clean up pretty good, the slicker production on Show Your Bones does a lot more for me than the post-punky/electro sound from Fever To Tell, and also shows that they can progress beyond a flavor-of-the-month trend and evolve into something else. Some other New York bands should take note. (I'm lookin' at you, Casablancas)

O.K. so I like a lot of what could be called "pussy music" (Belle & Sebastian, Elliot Smith, Iron & Wine, etc) but even I feel like a bit of a ponce listening to Keane. I mean sure it's well crafted pop songs with pianos and stuff, but come on lads, grow some balls. The Guillemots must've felt the same way. Their debut "From The Cliffs" is definitely worth a listen. They write really catchy tunes with piano (and horns and synths and great string arrangements) that don't make you feel like you're in a khakis commercial when you listen to them. "Trains To Brazil" is my favorite on the album, referencing mid-90's brit pop in the vein of Pulp.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

when you say ALRIGHT it makes me feel ALRIGHT!

OK so add this to the long list of reasons why I have a hard time leaving Detroit:
Even though we're at double the national unemployment rate and it really is just an ugly city that no one could love unless they were born here (seriously, have you ever been to San Francisco?), where else can you can go see the

The Hard Lessons play a free show on a Monday night and just completely annihilate the place? You know, I've always thought that The Who would've been the greatest power trio ever if Roger Daltrey had never been in the band. Sometimes, you just DON'T need a fourth member. Seeing the Hard Lessons tonight kinda made me feel like that's what it would've been like. And I'm talking early Who, where it was all proto-punk rock-n-roll energy mashed together with that raw mod/soul/driving your car into the pool of the Flint Holiday Inn on your 20th birthday thing they had going on in the beginning. Have you ever seen Quadrophenia? You know that part where Phil Daniels is wasted out of his mind on speed and booze and jumps off the balcony of the club that's playing northern soul while everyone there is going wild? That's what it felt like tonight, but imagine that moment stretched out for about 50 minutes straight. That was easily the best show I have seen in months. The Belmont is a small enough place, and seeing the Hard Lessons there just now was like watching a fireworks display in a studio apartment. Their timing is a bit off, they just missed the rest of the world caring about Detroit music by about 9 months or so, but if there's any justice in the world, some A & R guy will catch a set like the one they just played and sign them to a lucrative record deal You'd figure after 6 weeks on the road they would be tired out, but the performace tonight was like the burn of a straight shot of Everclear. Ugh, I'm out of lame metaphors, it's really almost pointless for me to write anymore about it, you kinda had to be there. All I'm saying is, catch this band the next time they're around. If it was a tenth as good as it was tonight you're in for a treat.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006


So, living in Detroit, it's easy to hate life in the months between November and April. The sun is replaced by a thick, low hanging layer of grey clouds, it's fucking cold, you're part of the 14% unemployment statistic, etc., etc., etc. And it's not helping much that I've been listening to lots and lots of drone/doom/sludge. I've basically been turning into Gollum (and we forgot the sound of trees, the softness of the wind...) Anyway, a little ray of sonic sunshine came to me in my e-mail the other day. The new Envelopes album is out as a reminder that winter pays for summer. Coming from Sweden, they know a thing or 2 about brutal winters. They combat that by making bright sunshine-y pop music. "Free Jazz" has sort of a late-era Talking Heads/Tom Tom Club vibe to it, lily-white funk rhythms with really cool spaced out keyboards. "Isabel & Leonard" and "Sister In Love" are reminiscent of classic Elephant 6 indie pop, bouncy, fuzzy, songs with sugary sweet melodies and fun/stupid lyrics that get stuck in your head for hours afterward. For those living in northern climates, this will remind you that soon you'll be riding your bike and eating sandwiches on the grass in the park and watching girls walk around in skirts and tank tops again. mp3s / videos here!

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

read up, there's a contest in this one!

I've got fuck all to do with myself this morning so I figure I will catch up on blogging. I'm about recovered from last night's Arab Strap show and the related festivities. It was a pretty good show, nothing mind blowing and they're actually a bit better on record than live, but it was still a good way to spend a Monday night. My only gripe was that they played "The Shy Retirer" with just an acoustic guitar and Aidan singing. I like it better the other way. Anyway I woke up with the slightest touch of a hangover that I knocked out with a strong cup of tea and "Gold", the new Franklin's Mint album. It's Phil Franklin's (from The Sunburned Hand Of The Man) new side project. It sounds nothing like Sunburned's frenzied, terrifying acid trip freak outs, it's more like the most soothing, laid back country/psych tinged folky rock you can imagine hearing. It's so good that a time machine should be invented so someone can go back in time and kill The Eagles when they first started and replace them with Franklin's Mint. It's seriously tied with Velvet Underground & Nico as my favorite album to hear after a rough night out. The acoustic guitars are tempered with organs, strings, a touch of fuzz, and just the right tempo drums to ease you into the day. It also comes in a beautifully silkscreened package in a limited edition pressing of 1,000, available at Eclipse Records .

On to the new Morrissey. Been listening to this one pretty much non-stop for the past week. I'm really not capable of giving a non-biased review of this as I'm pretty much queer for anything Smiths/Moz related. In short, I love it. After sort of a weak spell for awhile, "You Are The Quarry" found him back in top form, and the new "Ringleader Of The Tormentors" is even better. As is evident from the cover art (showing Steve The Nutter playing a violin, bedecked in a tux) there's a lot of strings on this album. He even got Ennio Morricone to write and arrange the string section on "Dear God Please Help Me", the song that probably has the most sexually explicit lyrics to appear in a Moz song. "Now I'm spreading your legs / with mine in between / dear God if I could, I would help you." However, still no mention on the gender of the leg spreadee, so the debate rages on.
One thing that I do have to bitch about politically (other than the requisite PETA plug in the liner notes) is the photo on the inner booklet of Steve sitting on a Vespa with the words SMASH BUSH spray painted on a wall behind him. The word BUSH seems suspiciously photoshopped, the wall behind it is considerably darker than the rest of the wall so the letters are a bit blurred, and the rearview mirror from the Vespa somewhat obscures the B so it's not easily read at first glance. If anything they should've photoshopped it to stand out more, to really get the point across. Maybe the label didn't want to alienate the Republican For Moz fanbase, but somehow I doubt that minority would care much. Don't underestimate the rabidness of the Morrissey disciples. Even the hardline right wing Morrissey fans (of which I'm sure there are, somewhere) are cheerily singing along to "If your God bestows protection upon you / and if the USA doesn't bomb you / I believe I will see you somewhere safe". It all comes down to the fact that underneath all the narcissism and militant neo-fascist vegetarianism, the dude is just a really great singer/lyricist and that transcends even the most mundane aspects of the baggage that comes along with it.

Here's a fun little game to play. Which of the following are real Morrissey song names, and which are phonies? see how many you can get right! e-mail ( me and I'll send you a mix tape if you get them all right, and no fair cheating with search engines and what not. If anyone is even reading this.

1. The World Is Full Of Crashing Bores
2. The Maitre d' Has Killed Any Chance I Had At True Happiness
3. Russian Hands, Roman Fingers
4. Pregnant For The Last Time
5. The Last Of The Famous International Playboys
6. I Will Lay My Dreams To Rest Next To You On A Bed Of Nails
7. Satan Rejected My Soul
8. No One Will Ever Fill Your Shoes
9. Won't Anyone Ever Take Me To Tea With The Queen?
10. Don't Make Fun Of Daddy's Voice