Thursday, July 29, 2010

Charles the Osprey - 'Consider'

Charles the Osprey is too intricate to be such a joke band, but their origins suggest otherwise. The two-piece came together because guitarist Rafael Ohli and drummer Derek Lancioni felt like messing around in the studio. The cover art for new album Consider features a giant bird – probably an osprey, possibly named Charles or Charley or Chuck or perhaps Jebediah – fighting soldiers in riot gear. Soldiers who play rock ‘n’ roll! The group’s unofficial third member, James Barbour, is tasked with generating song and album titles, and he’s actually credited as such in the liner notes. Distinguishing between songs is kind of pointless, but here are a few song titles for a laugh: “Conversations With the Deacon, Vol I,” “The Frontal Lobe A-Go-Go,” “Lovercraft! Smile!”. At first, the band seems nonchalant.

Yet the music asks to be taken more seriously than that. The liner notes mention that the songs really were performed by just Ohli and Lancioni. The guitars really are guitars (It’s like a Rage Against the Machine record!). With the exception of “Conversations With the Pope I-III,” the band can perform these songs identically live. Which is impressive given how quickly and frequently they shift dynamics. Ohli seemingly drops every guitar trick he knows into the songs. Sometimes he goes for an angular Dave Pajo maneuver only to switch into more of a shimmering Dave Knudson sound. Lancioni for his part keeps time and rocks hard when appropriate. I imagine Barbour is somewhere on the sidelines cheering and/or fist-pumping.

Consider probably won’t convert many to the world of math-rock, and any criticisms of the genre are certainly pertinent to the band. Charles the Osprey rarely sticks to a groove. The songs are constantly shifting, like liquid, and while they’re impressive to me as a musician, they don’t always entertain me as a listener. Granted, that means the songs aren’t too self-indulgent in terms of length, but by fluctuating the dynamics so frequently, it creates a sort of musical ADD. And to be honest, after a while it all blurs together.

But that doesn’t completely discredit the album or the band behind it. Charles the Osprey is good at what they do, and as far as larks go, Consider is of surprisingly high quality.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

New Set of Bruises - 'New Set of Bruises'

Get past the mallcore-esque name, and New Set of Bruise’s eponymous debut EP reveals a budding knack for gravel-voiced, beer-soaked punk rock in the vein of Leatherface and Lost City Angels. It’s not a perfect EP, but the six songs contained within are so close to being awesome that New Set of Bruises is a band to watch.

Here’s what the band does well: They rock hard. Frontman Nij Lynk has throaty ‘n’ ripped set of pipes that lend his songs a gritty weight, and everyone so often he pulls out a nice chorus. Producer Dave Waite did a good job mixing the tracks. The levels are consistently even, you can pick out everything but the band still sounds live. Yeah, it doesn’t exactly pop, but given how many engineers fuck things up by either muddling or sterilizing a band, it’s amazing how much a steady production job stands out.

Where the EP fails is in the details. Each song is decent, but they’re also interchangeable. “Uniform” could be “Day Destroying Me” could be “Hindsight.” And they’re all around the same length. Shit, “Steer” and “Tempting Fate (again)” are exactly the same length down to the second (4:06). How the fuck do you do that? These songs would probably benefit from shaving off a minute or so.

Taken as is, New Set of Bruises is just OK. But the band behind it might have a Sink or Swim or Fuel For the Hate Game in them, and that is something worth waiting for.

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart - 'Say No to Love'

On their new seven-inch, the Pains of Being Pure at Heart continue to progress away from the early My Bloody Valentine fuzz of their self-titled debut. On these two new songs, the group sounds much more cleanly produced than ever before, now recalling the Cure, Psychedelic Furs and Modern English. Basically, they’re still indebted to the ’80s, only this time they’re a bit more on the John Hughes side.

“Say No to Love” is a little jarring upon the first listen. Frontman Kip Berman sounds markedly different from previous recordings, a bit deeper, but the song is still pretty cute. With music this chipper, “cute” is the only word needed, even if the chorus is the title. B-side “Lost Saint” is a little bit slower, which is the real departure for the band. It savors the mood more.

Given that it’s just a seven-inch, it’s hard to say if Say No to Love marks the Pains’ new sound or not. As produced, the songs wouldn’t have fit on Pains or Higher Than the Stars. Whether or not this is the point where the Pains start to get slicker and duller won’t be revealed until LP #2.

Vinyl Vednesday 7/28/2010

[Vinyl Vednesday is a weekly feature about three favorite vinyl finds. It’s not meant to be a dick-measuring contest, but it usually turns out that way. This week's installment comes from editor and Left of the Dial writer Nathan Quincey Adams. E-mail with your own big finds!]

: Cap'n Jazz's Analphabetapolothology (originally released on CD in 1998, re-issued on vinyl in 2009 to coincide with the band's reunion shows) on black, Archers of Loaf's Harnessed in Slums single (1995) on black, and the Old 97's Wreck Your Life...and Then Some (2009) on black.

Place of Purchase:
All records were all purchased at the 2010 Pitchfork Festival. Cap'n Jazz came from the Polyvinyl Records merch table, Old 97's from some chummy dude at the Bloodshot booth and AoL came from a big dusty pile of punk records from some Chicago record store that happened to have a table there. Shouts out to the guy who bullshitted with me for 10 minutes about punk music before giving me a sweet discount on Buttsweat and Tears.

Thoughts: The Archers of Loaf released four untouchable records, and Harnessed in Slums is one of them. Now, yes, it's true that this single only has two songs, the title track and b-side "Telepathic Traffic," so getting this one totally right isn't such an accomplishment. That being said, shut up. "Harnessed in Slums" is a ripping shit-kicker of early '90s guitar fuzz, landing somewhere between Built to Spill and Sonic Youth, with enough panache to serve as the missing link between '80s hardcore and Alice in Chains. "Telepathic Traffic" is a little more plodding, more indicative of the slowdown the band would eventually undertake on Vee Vee and All The Nation's Airports, but still packed with more than enough post-grunge rock to blow the wax out of your eardrums. Of all the lost causes cast aside by history, the Archers of Loaf are most deserving of some limelight.

Wreck Your Life...And Then Some packages everything the Old 97's recorded for Bloodshot records into one convenient, sexy double-vinyl package. Truth be told, the b-sides and demos are largely the stuff of super-fans and hyper-freaks: rough cuts of classics like "W.I.F.E" and "Cryin' Drunk" are fun as a means to hear the band in its larval stages, but not really the stuff of legend. Not that it matters too much, as Wreck Your Life still holds up as the 97's last statement of pure country. "Victoria," "Doreen" and 'Goin', Goin', Gone" still belong in the band's pantheon of great songs, while lesser tracks like "Old Familiar Steam" and "The Other Shoe" fill out some on wax. The record comes with extensive liner notes and photographs of the band, circa 1995, further cementing its cult status. People looking to get into the Old 97's (and really, if you like pop music at all, you should) would be better suited with the band's masterwork, 1998's Wreck Your Life, or its most recent success, 2008's Blame it on Gravity, but once the addiction kicks in, this is one for the collection.

"So now, less than five years later, you can go up on a steep hill in Las Vegas and look West, and with the right kind of eyes you can almost see the high-water mark — that place where the wave finally broke and rolled back."

-Hunter S. Thompson, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

I understand why people don't love Cap'n Jazz as much as the bands the group would help create. American Football and Owen emote more effectively and make for better decompression. The Promise Ring rocked a little harder and was more instantly assessable. You can't really sing along to Cap'n Jazz, which, as much as audio-whores refuse to admit, is a big reason a lot of us listen to music in the first place. Still, I firmly believe that Cap'n Jazz represents a high water mark not only for punk in all its genres but for rock and roll in general.

Analphabetapolothology represents the promise and experience of a very specific kind of youth. There is no sex in this record, no violence, no outward feeling of regression or rebellion or self-loathing. It has none of the extreme feelings that are the hallmark of puberty. Instead, it represents the cold winter nights driving with friends, when everything seems possible and everyone feels invincible. Tracks like "Oh Messy Life" and "Que Suerte!" explode with a force that cannot be replicated outside of that very young, very safe place of adolescent manifest destiny, when you are finally big enough to start exploring the world, still small enough not to feel its boundaries.

I don't want to get all dramatical. This is a great release. It features a massive collection of pictures and fliers, as well as all-new liner notes from lead singer Tim Kinsella. The vinyl collection isn't as massive as the CD release from 1998, but most of the tracks left off are inferior demos and audio-experiments for the extreme collectors. Haters gonna hate, but the facts remain: Sometime nearly 20 years ago, a bunch of kids caught lightening in a bottle in such a way that no one has been able to replicate it since. Twenty years later, this record still has the power to surprise, to take breaths away, to remind those willing to listen that we were all young, brave and excited, once.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Interview: Venice is Sinking

Indie act Venice is Sinking continues to evolve on their top notch effort, Sand & Lines. Frontman Daniel Lawson took the time to chat with Joe Pelone during a very awkward phone conversation. Topics included vinyl (good!), the music industry (bad!), and their recent stint at SXSW (urine-free!).

How soon were these songs ready after AZAR?

It was kind of strange, because there was definitely some overlap. We were approached by [Georgia Theatre owner] Wilmot Greene while still recording AZAR. We didn’t take him all that seriously. He approached us later and had everything set up. At that point we were still mixing. Some of the songs [on Sand & Lines] are older than AZAR. A couple are some of the first songs we played as a band that just didn’t fit on our other records. We chose covers that we were playing live and thought we could do something interesting job with. It’s a lot of country stuff. A lot of the older songs too--“Sidelights,” “Lucky Lady”--were kind of in that vein. And I think that’s why they didn’t sit well on our other records.

When we finished it, it felt different compared to our other records. But we did exactly what we set out to do. It took a little while for me to warm up to it. All the flaws are there for everybody to hear!

What prompted the decision to record live without overdubs directly to ¼” tape? Do you think it opened new avenues to your songwriting?

The whole idea was Wilmot Greene’s. I know he liked the Cowboy Junkies’ Trinity Sessions record. He wanted to document the way our band sounded in that room. It was really all him. We liked the idea of making a live record. AZAR took us like a year and labored over every little overdub. We hardly ever played anything on that album live as a band. We were excited by the idea of making a record in a week and actually being done.

He just wanted to make a record the way people used to make records. He didn’t want it to be put into a computer in any way.

We kind of knew when we were writing some of the songs that it was gonna just be us live and that was kinda scary.

BTS: Venice Is Sinking Takeaway Show from BLVD Magazine on Vimeo.

Could you see yourself sticking to live recording? Are there any techniques you’re dying to try?

I don’t know. I think we definitely learned a lot from doing it this way. Whether or not we’d do it the same way… probably not. I like the idea of putting ideas straight to tape. We also had a pretty extensive rehearsal leading up to the theater. It was kind of nice to go into a recording process and be comfortable with the songs for a change!

Who would you say were the strongest influences on this batch of songs?

Galaxie 500 has been a big influence.

You do a sweet cover of Dolly Parton’s “Jolene” here.

The response to covering a song that well known has been mixed. We were worried about bringing something new to the table. Our old bass player… he’s a big metalhead. He kind of always stood out in our band. He didn’t bring a whole lot of ideas, but when he did, we all listened to him. He suggested we do the song this way, with a waltz time signature and slowed way down.

You recorded the album at the Georgia Theatre, which was later damaged in a fire. When did you decide to donate proceeds from Sand & Lines to rebuilding the theater, and how are things coming along?

Last time I talk to Wil, he showed me the final construction drawings they were planning and he got good news from investors to start in a couple weeks. Demolition should be starting soon. The goal is to have it done by 2011.

You’re going vinyl-/digital-only for this album. Do you see yourself ever returning to CD? Is the era of the compact disc… over?! Will AZAR and Sorry About the Flowers see a vinyl release?

We’ve talked about it with the label. Vinyl’s not really as cheap as it used to be, so I don’t know if it’ll happen. We definitely want to move away from CDs, but it’s hard because a lot of press people prefer to have a physical copy and it’s just too expensive to mail people vinyl. We did a limited CD run just so journalists could hear it. It’s hard to make that decision, and it’s all so expensive. To get a record to sound good on vinyl you have to do a whole separate mastering process, which a lot of people don’t even bother with! So a band will end up putting their album out on vinyl because it is the best sounding format and it will sound terrible because they mastered it for CD/Digital only!

You recently played a bunch of shows for SXSW. How many did you end up playing? How was the reaction?

Six in three days. The year before we didn’t have that many, and we were there a lot longer. This year I felt like we were just constantly moving amps and moving to different sides of town. But before it was a lot more fun. We got to see bands we wouldn’t see otherwise.

It’s hard to gauge [responses]. We’re not able to tour very much. We all have day jobs or are in grad school. We don’t get to go very far. It’s nice to play for people who have maybe written about you but can only see you in Texas.

Can we expect a full tour?

There’s talk of it. This summer’s been kind of crazy. We all thought we were gonna go out for a week or two, but I think we’re going to stick to regionally playing this summer. It’s hard for us to get out

What can we expect from Venice is Sinking in the future? Is LP #4 already in the can?

No, but we have started writing it. That’s part of why we’re not big on touring this year. We’re all really at a point where we’re excited for new stuff. We’re not exactly sick of the old stuff, but we’re definitely ready to start new stuff. We’ve already got three or four songs started. At one point we wanted to do all the songs in reggaeton. But it’s so limiting! I think one thing we want is for the next record to be more rhythmic.

You mean like a remix album?

One guy actually did remix one of our songs for a BBC1 radio program. That was interesting.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

The Holy Mess - 'Benefit Sesh'

Latterman, the Loved Ones and the Menzingers. Those are the three comparisons the Holy Mess warrant on their new seven-inch, Benefit Sesh, and if that doesn’t get you stoked on their music, congrats, you’re a dick. Get out of my face. This seven-inch’s lone flaw is that it’s only two songs long, which is a heck of a tease.

“Goodbye 3713 (Must’ve Been a Good One)” is an interesting song about drinking, with an infectious chorus about an alcoholic narrator who is pushing away all of his loved ones. Basically, it’s a really good song about someone who is probably really bad at living. It’s the better of the two tracks, although “A Soulful Punk Tune About a Working Class Dreamer” is still mighty fine.

Those who follow through on the vinyl’s attached digital download coupon will receive a bonus track, “I Think Corduroy is Making a Comeback,” another catchy number to help tide listeners over until the Holy Mess gets their shit together and records a full-length.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Flogging Molly - 'Live at the Greek Theatre'

At this point, do we really need another live release from Flogging Molly? I don’t mean to dump on their latest album, Live at the Greek Theatre, as it features plenty of my favorite Molly tunes, but it seems a bit superfluous. While Molly’s studio catalogue is so far a nearly perfect series of Pogues-tinged Irish folk punk, Live doesn’t cover any new territory. Yeah, it sounds like the crowd is having a great time, but after Alive Behind the Green Door, Whiskey on a Sunday and Complete Control Sessions, I’d rather just have a batch of new songs. I mean, frontman Dave King even recycles stage banter from Whiskey on a Sunday.

That’s not to say that Live at the Greek Theatre is bad, though. Any record that can count “Requiem For a Dying Song” and “Devil’s Dance Floor” among its tracks is clearly a good thing. The recording quality is quite good too. Grammy winner Ryan Hewitt mixed the album (Granted, his Grammy was for Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Stadium Arcadium, but still…), and it sounds incredibly crisp. The 5,000+ crowd is present and enthusiastic but never overwhelms the songs and the band likewise sounds much better and closer than such a large venue would indicate.

The song selection is decent, picking all the high energy hits from the group’s four albums. Given its budgeted price, this DVD/two CD set makes for a serviceable greatest hits package for newbies, even though they’d be better off just buying Swagger. Yeah, some of the best of the best are missing (No “Within a Mile of Home?” That song is got-damn epic! And, uh, I like “Laura.” Just putting that out there), but that brings back the point that, ultimately, fans could be listening to their favorite studio albums instead. So yeah, Flogging Molly is one of the best live acts out there, and their discography is great too. But for now, the former needs to stop filling the latter.

Viny Vednesday 7/21/2010

[Vinyl Vednesday is a weekly feature about three favorite vinyl finds. It’s not meant to be a dick-measuring contest, but it usually turns out that way. E-mail with your own big finds!]

Records: Big Black’s Songs About Fucking (1987) on black, The Glove’s Blue Sunshine (1983) on clear blue, and The Promise Ring’s 30° Everywhere (1996) on white.

Place of Purchase: Big Black and The Glove both came from Siren Records. TPR was an eBay find.

Thoughts: Sometimes I wonder why I listen to Big Black. I mean, I love frontman Steve Albini for his production work, but man is this a hateful album. I’d call it misogynistic if Albini’s goal hadn’t been to just spew as much hate, directed both inward and out, as possible. Yeah, the songs get poitical at times, like on “Colombian Necktie,” but the tune that sticks with me the most is “Bad Penny,” a self-lacerating number about being a shitbag. It packs these baiting lines: “I think I fucked your girlfriend once / Maybe twice / I don’t remember.” That shit’s raw.

On the opposite side of that spectrum is The Glove’s Blue Sunshine. Robert Smith and Steven Severin were both insanely prolific in their respective bands The Cure and Siouxsie and The Banshees. Smith even worked with The Banshees on and off during the ’80s (and helped them craft their big hit, a cover of The Beatles’ “Dear Prudence”). The duo also collaborated on this one-off album that’s very much in keeping with The Top and Hy├Žna, which is to say it’s super drugged out and blissful pop music. One of the things I always loved about Smith is that no matter how many drugs he consumed, his music never became so psychedelic as to be unintelligible. He still conveyed whatever emotion he needed lyrically and musically (Nihilism on Pornography, euphoria on Blue Sunshine). Smith wasn’t allowed to sing more than a couple of songs on the record due to contractual obligations, but Jeanette Landray fills in nicely with a voice reminiscent of Siouxsie herself.

30° Everywhere captures The Promise Ring before they were, ya know, the fucking Promise Ring. What I mean is that the production is a little too grainy and the hooks aren’t as big and awesome as what frontman and lead songwriter Davey von Bohlen would craft just a year later on Nothing Feels Good. But it’s still a solid indie rock collection (or emo, if you must). Besides, how catchy is “Red Paint?”

Monday, July 19, 2010

Black Tusk - 'Taste the Sin'

The first words from the first song on Black Tusk’s new album Taste the Sin are “Time is coming / Heed the sound / Rip your face off / Thrash around.” That right there should let er’rybody know that they’re in store for a metal album, and one of the best released so far this year. Well, that and the album is called Taste the Sin. There are only so many genres that could pull off a title like that.

Hailing from Savannah, Ga., the power trio sounds very much like their sludge metal neighbors Baroness and Kylesa, and in describing Black Tusk’s sound, it is perhaps best to explain what they don’t sound like. They don’t pursue more expansive territory like Baroness. These songs do not have mellow sections and the band does not jam out (Although there is a sweet tribal drumming section on “Unleash the Warth)”. But their audio assault doesn’t have quite as many nuances as Kylesa’s. There are no female back-up vocals/screams to diversify the vox and there is only one drummer. What this means is that Taste the Sin is a very straightforward, very kick-ass metal record.

At just 34 minutes in length, Taste the Sin is filler-free, delivering 10 tracks that bash and thrash and grind. “Embrace the Madness,” which features the lyrics quoted above, opens the album. It takes about 10 seconds to kick into high energy. It’s striking how important every member is – everyone sings, everyone plays an instrument. The drums force the song along. Savannah metal needs a thick bottom, and Black Tusk delivers that as well. Being a metal band, Black Tusk has guitar on lockdown.

After “Embrace the Madness,” the group expertly tears through a series of skull-crackers. The record isn’t exactly the most original document ever created, nor does it aspire to be as such. So while the lyrics aren’t the greatest, the intensity is more than enough. There’s a certain beauty in such no-frills rock, in such meaty riffs and booming drums.

Scion A/V Video: Black Tusk - Red Eyes, Black Skies from Scion A/V on Vimeo.

Get Laid - 'Pretty Weathered'

Allston, Mass. act Get Laid slings thrash punk all over the place with Pretty Weathered. Boasting six songs split evenly on 10-inch clear red wax, it’s one of the better EPs released this year. Frontwoman Shannon Stiches is a force, recalling Fahrenheit 451’s Armando Bordas just as much as she does Bikini Kill’s Kathleen Hanna. The rest of the band is just as frenetic, punching through hardcore ‘n’ crust moves. Fans of any band featuring Stza Crack ever will be down with this stuff.

Weathered opens with the punishing assault of “Yours Truly.” “FU Barbarian” gets a little more thrash metal, alternating between chugging and finger-tapping guitars before ripping out a breakdown. “Triage” opens with a drum part which the band builds on; I could see this one being extended live to great effect. The flipside contains three more fast jams. This gang of guys (and a gal) might get depressing lyrically (lines like “Alcohol will help me numb the pain” and “I better not gamble on myself” leap through the jumbled roar), but the music rocks too hard.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

School of Seven Bells - 'Disconnect From Desire' editor Nate Adams and I have this debate every so often: When the members of your favorite bands start new bands, do you love those bands as much because they’re legitimately good or because you’re too stupidly loyal? I would generally argue for the former (I play Jets to Brazil just as much as Jawbreaker; The Kills’ Midnight Boom is as good as Discount’s Half Fiction, albeit different) while Nate, ever the pessimist, would argue the latter, holding up as evidence every post-Bear vs. Shark band ever.

I mention this because I’m not sure if it’s even worth mentioning that School of Seven Bells guitarist Benjamin Curtis used to be in Secret Machines, an epically spacey rock band whom I adore. You can tell Curtis was in both groups because Bells also has a knack for ambient music, just in a completely different way. Secret Machines sound like a cross between Led Zeppelin and Autolux. On their new album Disconnect From Desire, School of Seven Bells sounds like Ladytron channeling My Bloody Valentine. Or maybe it’s the other way around.

My point is this: I bought the band’s debut, Alpinisms, specifically because Curtis was in Secret Machines. That was an act of residual devotion, and the album was pretty good too, chock full of haunting dance jams. But that record occasionally got too muddled. Before Desire came out, I liked Bells because of the Machines connection. But with this sophomore album, I finally view the band as a separate, supreme entity.

Plenty of Alpinism’s elements are still present. Twin sisters Alejandra and Claudia Deheza still deliver beautiful, ethereal harmonies. The music is still otherworldly yet danceable. It’s just that this time the beats are more at the forefront. Songs like “Heart is Strange” and “Dust Devil” have an ’80s pop bent reminiscent of 4AD’s back catalog. This makes the songs a lot more immediate, and should certainly satisfy fans waiting for another Witching Hour. If I can make another MBV reference, imagine if an album had 10 tracks just like “Soon.”

Fifty minutes of music might test some listeners’ patience – I feel like shoegaze’s heir apparent is lo-fi acts like Dum Dum Girls, who favor shorter song structures. But Desire flows seamlessly from track to track. The songs do occasionally blur together, but there are enough successes – the Loveless-channeling love song “I L U,” the dance epidemic that is “Heart is Strange,” the gentle comedown of “The Wait” – that make Disconnect From Desire the best School of Seven Bells album yet.

Religious as Fuck / American Cheeseburger - split

The first thing that will grab folks’ attention about the Religious as Fuck/American Cheeseburger split is the cover, specifically the RAF side – it’s all furries! So cute and/or sexually deviant! The music contained within is not cute, however. Both bands rip through 10 songs apiece for the price of one album, providing listeners with a deal in stereo. Given just how much these bands sound alike, though, some people might not even notice that this is a split.

RAF goes first with 10 thrash/hardcore tunes in the vein of Assholeparade and Brain Handle. Topics include organized religion, the system and jerks, and how much those things suck. The songs blur together into a skull-crushing assault, which I hear is popular with the kids. This shit is raw. Just to put these songs into perspective, you get 10 tracks on one side of a 12-inch vinyl set to 45 rpm. That’s the same number of tracks as Get Happy!! at 1.36 the speed.

American Cheeseburger comes out the winner, though, if only because the band sprinkles some Southern humor in between audio attacks. Also, their songs sound like a jet engine if you stand a room or two away from the record player. The band covers much of the same territory lyrically as RAF, although they get points for being more direct. For example, here are all of the words to “I.V.O.W.”: “War isn’t working / Peace isn’t working / Welcome to hell / We’re all gonna die.” Now that’s a tasty burger.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

regarding journalism.

I interviewed experimental woodwind folkie Julian Lynch for as a favor to my buddy Sam Fran Scavuzzo. And by "favor," I mean he offered to pay me to write for him. Check it out here. It was a blast to research; Lynch is a really cool dude and people should check out his music.

Vinyl Vednesday 7/14/2010

[Vinyl Vednesday is a weekly feature about three favorite vinyl finds. It’s not meant to be a dick-measuring contest, but it usually turns out that way. E-mail with your own big finds!]

Records: Pat Benatar’s In the Heat of the Night (1979) on black, Generation X’s Generation X (1978) on black, and Pretenders’ Pretenders (1980) on black.

Place of Purchase: I purchased my entire Benatar collection for a quarter at a defunct thrift store in East Norriton, Pa., while my (still incomplete) Generation X collection hails from Repo Records in Philadelphia. I’m not sure, but I think Pretenders came from either Siren Records or the Philadelphia Record Exchange.

Thoughts: While it’s often a fruitless hassle, digging for vinyl at thrift stores can be the most rewarding place to search, if only because of the cheap prices. Yeah, the quality isn’t always good, there’s usually a metric shit-ton of Christmas LPs to dig through, and my finds are generally limited to big names, but every so often the searching pays off. Such was the case when I decided to buy three Pat Benatar albums for $0.25. In the Heat of the Night, Benatar’s first album, remains my favorite. Benatar has a huge voice, but she was never skilled as a lyricist, as her weird sci-fi contribution “My Clone Sleeps Alone” attests. Ah, but she kicks ass on Geoff Gill and Clint Wade’s “Heartbreaker.” Benatar’s voice is suited for a lot of different styles, as the hard rock of “Heartbreaker” segues into the pop rock of “I Need a Lover.” The ambient “We Live For Love” is a guilty pleasure of mine, even though I know that I would love it just as much if someone like M83 dropped an identical song.

Generation X was an impulse buy, and a drunk one at that. My girlfriend and I stumbled into Repo one night, blitzed and not quite ready to drive. Within minutes I had about $100 worth of records stacked by the register. While I was waiting for Michelle to check out, I racked up another $80, this time including Generation X. I knew of the band thanks to frontman Billy Idol (His hit “Dancing With Myself” was originally on the last Gen-X album) and had read complimentary things about this pop-punk act. Also I was drunk. The record veers more towards the pop spectrum than The Sex Pistols ever did, thankfully. In fact, it opens with a cover of John Lennon’s “Gimme Some Truth.” While some of the songs are a little pandering (Although “One Hundred Punks” is a better up the punx anthem than anything The Casualties ever did), it’s still an excellent slab of pop-punk.

No offense, but Pretenders remains the best album Chrissie Hynde ever made. The track listing includes “Precious,” “Tattoed Love Boys” and “Brass in Pocket.” C’mon! Those songs are the greatest! The playing is fantastic, but it’s Hynde’s pissy indifference that sells it. When she sings “Baby I’m precious / Fuck off” on “Precious,” I believe her, but then she’s all types of vulnerable in trying to pick up a customer at the restaurant she works at on “Brass in Pocket.” This one is super catchy and emotional and just generally well-made.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Vinyl Vednesday 7/7/2010

[Vinyl Vednesday is a weekly feature about three favorite vinyl finds. It’s not meant to be a dick-measuring contest, but it usually turns out that way. Since today is 7/7, clearly I have to write about seven-inches today. It’s just proper etiquette. E-mail with your own big finds!]

Records: The Menzingers’ Hold On Dodge (2009) on brown, Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust” single (1980) on black, and YACHT’s Don’t Put Out (2009) on black.

Place of Purchase: Dodge came from, a punk merch site that I kind of hate because they don’t return your money when they run out of stuff. They just give you store credit. Queen was inherited from the Ferris record collection after my grandmother’s house got sold. Don’t Put Out was purchased directly from YACHT. They put out some interesting bootlegs from time to time.

Thoughts: While I was a huge fan of A Lesson in the Abuse of Information Technology, I actually didn’t get around to buying Hold On Dodge until a few months ago. It’s every bit as anthemic as the group’s other Clash/Billy Bragg rockers; its only crime is being too dang short. Otherwise, this one’s perfect – instantly memorable, super catchy, wickedly rocking. I’ve been big upping the Menzingers this year, and Dodge came into my life just as I was starting to overplay Chamberlain Waits.

Everybody knows “Another One Bites the Dust,” but how many people know its B-side, “Don’t Try Suicide?” Taken from Queen’s The Game, it’s a pretty awesome pro-life jam. Frontman Freddy Mercury informs the listener not to try suicide because:

1. You’re gonna hate it.

2. Nobody gives a damn.

I think some people commit suicide specifically because nobody cares about them, but maybe Mercury is on to something: Don’t be such wieners, clinically depressed people! Go listen to “Princes of the Universe!” Like Queen says, “Blow your brains out? / Don’t do that! / Yeah!”

I got into YACHT specifically because of this bootleg collection of covers of songs from Ladies and Gentleman, The Fabulous Stains. The film itself is a little made-for-TV-ish in terms of drama, but it gets the music right, accurately portraying punk and reggae at the time while also prefiguring riot grrrl and grunge by almost a decade. YACHT, being a disco/techno act masterminded by Jona Bechtolt, keeps the lyrics but ditches the music for something that’s a lot groovier but no less nihilistic. “Waste of Time” and “Professionals,” the two signature songs from the film, are presented here with delicious indifference from vocalist Claire Evans. “Waste of Time” also gets an extended remix, because why not?

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Laura Stevenson and The Cans - 'Holy Ghost!'

When I think of Orgcore, I think of beards and things that are at least tangentially related to Hot Water Music (like beards!). I don’t think of pretty female-fronted indie tunes in the vein of Laura Veirs and a folksier Lemuria. Yet that’s what I received on Holy Ghost!, a seven-inch from Org-approved indie folk act Laura Stevenson and the Cans.

Holy Ghost! offers three tunes for consideration. Opener “Mouthbreather” starts off modestly, just softly strummed guitar while Stevenson asks the eponymous mouthbreather to, uh, “breathe deeper.” It’s all very soft and warm, but the song gradually builds into a big ol’ fireworks display, complete with horns, drums and one heck of a set of lungs from Stevenson. She can belt it out when needed. “Holy Ghost!” is a comedown by comparison, perhaps intentionally.

“Gathering and Leaping,” the lone B-side track, opens with experimental feedback before settling into more country-ish territory, complete with accordion and violin. It’s charming and peppy. The same could be said for the seven-inch overall.