May 30, 2008
So is anyone sort of dangerously excited for the free Wire show tonight? Like, "no way that a band of advancing years who are more concerned with actually moving forward as artists then playing into a young generation's collective living-in-the-70s music fetishism could possibly live up to the expectation, and are thus bracing for supreme disappointment"-level excited?
Setting the ludicrously dangerously high:
Wire - "A Question of Degree"
(Live @ Rockpalast, 1979)
Wire - "Blessed State"
(Live @ Rockpalast, 1979)
Wire - "Blessed State"
(Live on Rockapalast, German Television, 1979)
They can only hope for such an enthusiastic crowd tonight...
Wire - "Glad All Over" (live @ the Roxy, London, April 1st, 1977)
Wire- "TV" (live @ the Roxy, April 2nd, 1977)
Wire- "I am the Fly" (live @ CBGBs 1978)
May 29, 2008
Numerology: Alot 49
In a cavern, in a canyon,
Excavating for a mine,
Dwelt a miner, forty-niner,
And his daughter Clementine.
About a century before the Joe Montana era, “My Darling Clementine” made “forty-niner” a household word. Alas, “Clementine” lacks a 49 in its title, but “The Days of ’49,” also rooted in the California Gold Rush, is a traditional folk song that has been covered by a long line of guitar-wielding troubadours, from singer-songwriter/real-life cowboy Jules Verne Allen to a guy who changed his name to Dylan. The song recounts “a few hard cases,” men who met their fate “in the days of old/when we dug out the gold/in the days of ‘49.” Dylan’s version comes from his much-maligned Self Portrait (1970)—a double LP that included inferior versions of his own songs and seemingly tongue-in-cheek Paul Simon and Gordon Lightfoot covers—and which was widely interpreted as a flip of the bird to his audience. (An audience, we would later learn in Chronicles Vol. 1,, that to Dylan circa 1970 was represented by the most rabid, garbage-sifting, house-invading element.) In spite of Greil Marcus’s notorious pan of the record—which began, “What is this shit?”—Self Portrait is neither an outrage nor a misunderstood classic. Call it a grab bag with an unusually low ratio of hits to misses for a guy like Dylan. “Days of 49” is clearly one of the hits. Originally a lilting folk number, the song in Dylan’s hands becomes a rocking cowboy song, presaging the rustic direction Dylan would take, both musically and sartorially, in the decade to come. (“Days of 49” is also the name of a song by the Blue Aeroplanes, which lacks the spoken vocals of Gerard Langley, much to its detriment.) It should also be noted that State Route 49, which passes through many a historic California mining town, inspired songs by Big Joe Williams and Howlin’ Wolf, both called “Highway 49.” Wolf’s is undoubtedly the greatest song ever written about a woman named Melvina. (It’s pronounced mel-VEYE-na, by the way.)
“49 Bye-Byes,’ the Stephen Stills-penned closer on Crosby, Stills & Nash’s self-titled debut record, sports plenty of the trio’s trademark harmony vocals, but it would take a hardcore CSN freak with a pronounced contrary streak to champion it. Certainly the weakest of the four songs Stills contributed to the first record, “49 Bye-Byes” comes up wanting next to the record’s many indelible melodies. But you can forgive S for a bit of self-indulgence: While C and N were solely lending their golden throats to the enterprise, Stills was doing the lion’s share, playing every instrument but drums, contributing four tunes, and singing his ass off. As on virtually every song he’s ever recorded, “49 Bye-Byes” finds Stills—who would soon embrace a look based entirely on jeans and sports jerseys—singing about his “lay-day.” But Stills’ line of seduction falls short of his best. Let’s face it: “Steady girl, be my world” is no “Love the one you’re with.”
Nick Nicely remains obscure, even in a world where technology has ensured that the obscure are faring much better than they used to. In 1982, Nicely released a pair of singles and disappeared, leaving people like XTC’s Andy Partridge in awe. The guy sure knew how to pick his psychedelic onions: “49 Cigars” is a close cousin of “Tomorrow Never Knows” until it breaks into a middle eight that bears a striking verisimilitude to Barrett-era Pink Floyd. “49 Cigars” is a swirling, lysergic delight that, unlike most if not all others of its ilk, was recorded in one take.
“49 Second Romance,” (1980) a minimalist, “dark-wave” dance track by German synth duo P1E, sounds like a Teutonic Joy Division without a bassist or anything vital to say. Compare the relative poetry of JD’s “Dance, dance, dance, dance, dance to the radio” to P1E’s “You, you, you like to dance” to see what I mean. I still find the song faintly, weirdly irresistible—especially the intro, which combines the best elements of Peter Schilling’s “Major Tom” and the Sweet’s “Fox on the Run,” and vocalist Ute Droste’s gift for making boredom palpable.
In a usage that one has to applaud for its stubborn mathematical sense, even as one decries the singer’s excessive reasonableness, “Forty-Nine, Fifty-One” by Hank Locklin employs 49 specifically because it alone signifies the amount of effort one man is willing to accept from his woman and still have things be hunky-dory.
“If you’ll admit that you’ve been wrong/I’ll take half the blame
If you say half the fault was yours/Than I will do the same
We really need each other after all is said and done
If you’ll try forty-nine percent than I’ll try fifty-one”
Of course, by the time the kicker comes around—“If you try forty-eight percent/than I’ll try fifty-two”—you begin to suspect that old Hank is headed down a slippery slope. Locklin is still active; at 91, he’s the oldest member of the Grand Ole Opry, and he also maintains an active fan club in Norway, home of the electronica practitioners Royksopp. If that segue struck you as both abrupt and arbitrary, let me assure you that it’s not arbitrary: Royksopp’s “49 Percent,”—the second single from the follow-up to rightly celebrated Melody A.M. (2001)—features a refrain that makes a mockery of the hopefulness in Hank Locklin’s equation:
“49 percent/one percent less than half/and less than half ain’t really much of nothing.”
I could forgive the song’s defeatism if I could get past its generic dance feel, which pales next to the warmth and quirky textures of the first record; once it gets going, it just doesn’t have anyplace special to go. Sadly, what Hank Locklin accomplished in less than two minutes was, in this case, a lesson lost on the Tromsø-based duo, whose name means, among other things, “mushroom cloud.”
A mushroom cloud of toxicity hangs over much of the early work of Cleveland’s Pere Ubu. “49 Guitars and One Girl,” from New Picnic Time (1979), is abrasive in the extreme, a caustic collision of demented chicken vocals and several (though definitely not 49) jabbing guitars. David Thomas’s sputtered “Don’t panic, don’t panic” does little to reduce the tension, nor does the debauched laughter at the end, which is way creepier than the fadeouts of “I Am the Walrus” and Sabbath’s “Am I Going Insane.” Cubed.
“49th Parallel” by Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel makes no reference to the 49th parallel, which separates the U.S. from Canada. Instead, the song reflects Harley’s desire “to drift away to a land of my own.” That sentiment, coupled with a Little Feat-style funk groove, place the song squarely in 1975, the year in which Harley recorded his signature hit, “Make Me Smile (Come Up and See Me”). “49th Parallel” is nowhere near as memorable as that.
In The Crying of Lot 49—a paradigm of postmodernism (i.e., a book I don’t really understand) by Thomas Pynchon—cultural references and historical digressions abound. The heroine of this short novel, Oedipa Maas (one of many characters whose contrivance of a name has to be ignored in order to get caught up in the story) must discover how she fits into the mysterious death and life of her ex, one Pierce Inverarity. It’s not giving away a major plot point to mention that Lot 49 refers to a set of rare postage stamps up for auction. At times like this, I breathe a sigh of relief that I am a musico-numero-obsessionist, and not a literary critic. My sole obligation is to report that at least three bands have called themselves Lot 49; the addressee on a letter to Radiohead’s merchandising arm is W.A.S.T.E., an acronymic reference to the slogan of the book’s Tristero organization; and that Yo La Tengo got cute with “Crying of Lot G.” Most appropriate for our purposes, a jangly blast by the oddball English musician known as the Jazz Butcher is called simply “Lot 49.” In its unforced shagginess and deadpan glee, this is a song that speaks to a less fettered time in the world of indie music. These days the climate is more nurturing toward a certain studied D.I.Y. aesthetic, in the spirit of Final Fantasy. In a dictionary of the near future, the definition of “precious” will include a picture of a small dog clad in renaissance garb and a recording of “49 MP” by Final Fantasy (from the 2007 release, He Poos Clouds, a title that supports my snideness).
The stellar 1988 Creation sampler called Doing it For the Kids, from whence “Lot 49” came, is a fine compendium of songs from that era, including two that define “haunting”: My Bloody Valentine’s “Cigarette in Your Bed,” and “House of Love’s “Christine.” (In a dictionary of the near future, the definition of “precious” will include a picture of a small dog clad in Renaissance garb and a recording of “Many Lives 49 MP” by Owen Pallett aka Final Fantasy. Sufjan Stevens is James Hetfield next to this guy.
Last week, as I was considering the merits of “Funk #48" by the James Gang, I had no choice but to discuss the band’s radio rock staple “Funk #49” (1970), which, indisputably, is the definitive 49 song. If the number of precocious kids and adults attempting to master this song on YouTube is any proof, “Funk #49” has had a lasting impact far in excess of position no. 73 on the Billboard chart, its zenith as a single.
It’s hard to remember that there’s a middle section, with jungle noises and mucho cowbell, that sounds like it was flown in from a Kool & the Gang song. What you remember is the force of that guitar lick and how it meshes perfectly with the limber bass line and the, yes, seriously funky drumming. You remember lines like, “Sleep all day/out all night/I know where you’re going.” On paper, it sounds like a warning against self-abuse, but when Joe Walsh delivers those lines in his crooked croon, above that hot-asphalt riff, it feels more like a tribute to the very things the song ostensibly advocates against. Yet, deep in my heart, I’m sure the people cranking “Funk #49” at all-night parties in the’70s were too busy shaking their hip-hugger encased booties to feel scolded.
*In a Pynchonian turn of events, Graham Nash recently collaborated with a ha, Norway’s biggest musical export of the rock era until Royksopp.
Numerology is our pal Dave's ill advised quest to find the definitive song for every number from one to a hundred. It's starting to creep everybody out.
Previously: No. 1, 2-4, 5-7, 7 (counterpoint), 8, 9, 10/11, 12/13. 13 (counterpoint), 14/15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26/27, 28 , 29 , 30, 30 (counterpoint), 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46 , 47, 48
May 28, 2008
Video: Tickley Feather - "Fancy Walking"
Previously: The Girls of Spring
A Quick One, While I'm Away
Been a bit scarce for a while due to pressing outside of blog concerns and various happenings, and will be more demanding of your attention soon. Here's a wee morsel that's appeal is pretty obvious without my explication.
I think the name and the bloody diaper record cover prejudiced me towards this Memphan to this point. This nuanced-yet-muscly Flying Nun Records replicant, out as part of his new 7" series for Matador, is real, real good. Ponder for yourselves, and we'll discuss soon.
May 27, 2008
Video" Ponytail - "Celebrate the Body Electric (It Came From An Angel)" *Live*
May 26, 2008
Denver/Boulder: Shows this week | 5.26 - 6.1
[Death Cab for Cutie]
Monday, May 26
Ill Distortion @ Larimer Lounge
Nightwish @ Ogden Theater
The Old Haunts @ Hi-Dive
Tuesday, May 27
Catherine @ Marquis Theater
The Dresden Dolls @ Ogden Theater
The Presets @ Larimer Lounge
Wednesday, May 28
The Breeders @ Ogden Theater
Casiotone For The Painfullly Alone @ Hi-Dive
Death Cab For Cutie @ Red Rocks Ampitheatre
Dubconscious @ Fox Theatre
Heeler @ Larimer Lounge
The Queers @ Marquis Theater
Thursday, May 29
Chamcha @ Larimer Lounge
Demon Funkies CD Release Party @ Bluebird Theater
Joan Of Arc @ Hi-Dive
The Jonbenet @ Marquis Theater
The Kooks @ Ogden Theater
Matt Costa @ Fox Theatre
Potcheen Folk Band/Reed Foehl @ Walnut Room
Tiger Army @ Gothic Theatre
Friday, May 30
Animo CD Release Party @ Gothic Theatre
Homeslice @ Walnut Room
Hot IQs @ Hi-Dive
Marion Meadows @ Soiled Dove
The New Deal @ Fox Theatre
Sleeper Horse @ Marquis Theater
Sofo CD Release Party @ Bluebird Theater
Wetlands @ Larimer Lounge
Saturday, May 31
George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic @ Fillmore Auditorium
Grand Archives @ Hi-Dive
Jennifer Lane @ Soiled Dove
Newton Faulkner/Griffin House @ Fox Theatre
Paper Bird @ Boulder Theater
Pela @ Larimer Lounge
White Rabbits @ Bluebird Theater
Sunday, June 1
Fissure Mystic @ Larimer Lounge
Schedule appears courtesy of Mystik Spiral.
May 23, 2008
Video: Hercules & Love Affair (Live @ Studio B, Brooklyn)
This is what Hercules & Love Affair looks like performing live. It's Friday, time to revel in whatever personal confusion this may result in...
M.I.A, Live @ Fillmore, Denver 05.17.08
[Photos by Merry Swankster]
M.I.A.'s fiery political persuasions are threaded into every fiber of her being. This is after all, an artist whose debut full length was teased by a mixtape called Piracy Funds Terrorism. Her second album Kala (our consensus runner up to best album of 2007), was as accidental in its globetrotting outcome as it was charged with a loose narrative of being barred from America by paranoid officials. Though never all that angry, Kala's first track, and Fillmore show opener "Bamboo Banger", does find a tenacious and unshakable "M.I.A. coming back with power power".
The unintended consequence of her access denial yielded an exotic effort fostered by global collaborators when planned sessions with Timbaland got sidetracked - an eventual associate that ended limited to one song, arguably the weakest track on Kala - as well as further fueling, and actually justifying M.I.A.'s distrust of officialdom. That Timbaland song was regulated to the tail end of the album and unsurprisingly not where it belongs as a b-side due to the hundreds of thousands of dollars it conceivably cost in producer fees.
However, the biggest difference between the political comportment of M.I.A.'s lyrics and her performance conduct, is she never underestimates what her audience's motivations are. Which, I can safely say from experience, is to throw down heavy to her voracious body of beats. The energetic and colorful Fillmore crowd didn't care about her Tamil Tiger father, or bother thinking intellectually on the true meaning of "Paper Planes"'s gunshot chorus. When music is this unconventionally irresistible, the presented package is enough to sweep you into her patented brand of revolutionary rhythm.
In other words, the jadedness, idealism, or third world realities don't matter a lick when a show is this much fun. Easily the most fun I've had at a show in Denver this year, hands down. Looking at the faces of the people on stage dancing with their hero (of the night) and nobody can disagree. It was truly an unstoppable display of people power. Much to the dismay of Fillmore security and the Denver police for sure. For the record it didn't look nearly as sketchy as whatever went down at Coachella, but regardless I'm pretty sure M.I.A. could care less about ruffling the feathers of venue staff more interested in a neat, tightly controlled show.
That's something I've been slow to realize myself and something that for M.I.A. seems like an impossibility, risk assessment be damned. Revolution in its truest sense may not always be practical, required, or prudent, but if the aspects of stripping control from the administers of order is the principle undercurrent fueling the fun of even small scale chaos, then that is the least she can bring to the table. Or in this case, the stage. It was pure craziness. And it was awesome.
Bonus points go to M.I.A. for the crowd baiting creative twist to the oft-heard comments from artists suffering the effects of Denver's elevation. "Denver Colorado! Every performer that plays here is out of breath. So we'll have to try that much harder! Is that ok?"
May 21, 2008
Flight of the Conchords, Live @ Ellie Caulkins Opera House, Denver 05.15.08
[Photos by Merry Swankster]
As much as hiding anonymously amidst crowds at shows speaks to the part of me that will never be satiated with couch anchored, passive entertainment, too much of anything can get old. Even creatures that thrive under the proverbial rock of dingy clubs deserve a reprieve, and if they exist in the trappings of high society, then so be it. Or, as in the case of Flight of the Conchords playing a show at the Denver Opera house, an excuse for the booze saturated riffraff to take over places that are a) not meant for the jeans and tee shirt crowd, b) not obvious locales for them, and most tellingly c) way too classy. Thank you Flight of the Conchords. Your musical comedy allowed for at least one night away from our usual Colfax and South Broadway haunts and gave us the chance to comfortably plop into the plush chairs of the gorgeous Ellie Caulkins Opera House.
I am a fan of the HBO show in which I, and I'm guessing most people were, first introduced to Flight of the Conchords. The post-ironic musical comedy of a fictitious band whose innocent exploits trying to make it in New York City speak perfectly to a generation whose adherence to satirical comedy has been refined by the likes of Jon Stewart and The Office. FOTC's flavor of parody is quite different from past masters of the genre. Weird Al Yankovic this is not. FOTC excel in the ways they harness cliches of different genre artists and ludicrously take them to their logical end by playing out the norms of such behavior. But unlike the Weird Als of the world, they don't get silly with it. Because silly is really not that funny. Anyone can do silly. Actually looking (and sounding) like you're serious makes it that much funnier. From the way they unapologetically "break it down" in R&B numbers, or when they self-consciously admit to the ambivalence of their rap lyrics, the group is brilliant in form and effort, much to the delight of both their television fans, and the Denver faithful who showered the duo with a rapturous reception.
Sample lyrics from "Hiphop-potamus vs. Rhymenocerous":
My rhymes are so potent that in this small segment
I made all the lady listeners pregnant
Yeah that's right, sometimes my lyrics are sexist
But you lovely bitches know, should know
I'm trying to correct this
Truth be told I had no idea what to expect from Flight of the Conchords in a live setting. I also never once doubted that it - whatever "it" would ultimately be - would fail on any level. Surely the two gentlemen from New Zealand have proven themselves enough that HBO would give them a show. I just didn't have a clue how the gratifying tangles of mishaps making it as a foreign band in America would translate to the stage. As it turns out, their world of musical lampooning needs little help from the gritty sets of the TV show. Flight of the Conchords' live show was simply two men - Jemaine Clement and Bret McKenzie, their instruments - mostly guitars, and stools to sit on. A table between the two held patch cables, mixers, tiny keyboards, some of the novelty kind, and other assorted gadgetry.
I'm chuckling at calling it a show, and not for any derogatory reason, but mostly because the word 'show' conjures a production, or an exhibition. My mac's trusty built-in dictionary officially supplements that definition of show with the following: "a spectacle or display of something, typically an impressive one."
Yep, still laughing. Any way you slice it, FOTC's show was neither a spectacle or a display. Though it was indeed an atypical and impressive performance as anything else you'll see this year, be it comedic or other. Two guys and their instruments calmly playing folksy songs satirizing just about every musical genre that exists. The consistent frenzied joy of the sold out opera house ate it up, this writer included. Keeping to the expectations of the TV show's characters' celebrated unflappability, neither member of FOTC ever once appeared to be trying very hard either.
Effortless banter took about equal time as the songs during the performance, alternating the show between conversation and songs at a steady clip. Chitchat often extending into long, hilarious musings on wherever the ramblings lead to. Intelligently dumb, or clever as the pundits say, but always quick-witted in flow. Clement and McKenzie's gifts of improvisational comedy were apparent as they kept a steady pace and refused to slow down regardless of however thin the random associations they bounced off each other got. So good they would literally lose themselves in the spun tales they wove.
One of the more notable examples was an extended bit that began with a poke at naive rock and roll activism. Unadorned in clarification to any specific cause until Bret volunteered, "Basically anything Bono's into."
The circumlocutory, though always coherent, stream that followed never got too specific on exactly which of Bono's many causes was most important to the group until they drifted into dangerously trite territory - "save the whales!" True to form, they nailed the punch-line by extending it for what seemed like forever. The mere fact we all continued laughing at all the ridiculousness seemed to only encourage more cackles from the audience. Like a collective astonishment towards a joke that wouldn't end. "When you save the whale, what do you do with it?" asked Bret.
"Put it back" answered Jemaine in his unmistakably deep, brassy deadpan. "They can't call 911," he continued, "and if they did...[whale noises]."
Imagine wailing, err.. whale sounds for a good minute. Like a free-form vocal jam. The interpretation of a panicked whale calling emergency services continued until FOTC acknowledged the audience still in the room. Bret admitted to falling victim to the amazing acoustics of Ellie Caulkins. "Sorry about that, it sounds really realistic in here."
Fitting metaphor for how Flight of the Conchords, in all their fakery, espoused more genuineness than all the Hip Hop posturing, empty meaning Diva "love you's", and wonky caring of an entire world of Chris Martins armed with imposed sensitivity could ever accomplish.
[Classing it up at the opera house]
Retrohump: Formative Adolescent
Weezer - Undone (The Sweater Song) - Live, 1994
*Inspired by last week's Retrohump post by Randall. Below you'll read about buying tickets at Ticketmaster outlets, attending shows at NYC venues that no longer exist, and mentions of two bands with impossible monikers in the Google era.
Weezer was my first true rock concert impression. That's if I don't count getting dragged to a Yes concert at Jones Beach with with some of my dad's younger (re: cool) coworkers. I usually don't bring it up when the question of "name the first band you saw live" comes up because I had no idea what was going on and remember very little. My only recollection was that in fact it was a rock concert, there were cool lights, and afterwards I had a newfound determination to see a show of my own choosing. That show would end up being Weezer's opening slot for Live on November 19th, 1994 at the now defunct Manhattan venue called 'the Academy'.
I remember buying tickets at the local Ticketmaster outlet for about $16 after convincing my friends to come see these bands they never heard of. Though both Weezer and Live were enjoying some sporadic radio play at the time, it was a stretch for anyone to buy into my pitch. This was before "Buddy Holly" made its big splash so I only had the mention of "The Sweater Song" for ammo. I'm sure the biggest selling point was the novelty of going to a show in the City more than anything else anyway. It was a pretty big deal seeing that we were only 15 years old. That said, my parents drove us to the show. Total. Badasses.
Current site of the (demolished?) Academy: Map.
Some Yes to tie things together...after the jump.
Yes - "Owner of a Lonely Heart" - Live, 1994 - Brazilian TV program
May 20, 2008
"Highly Suspicious" highly suspicious
I've been at a loss explaining the new My Morning Jacket record, Evil Urges, to friends. Literally lost. I waver between liking it, hating it, then really loving it, and then...well you can guess what comes next. As a whole, I'm left entirely confused how the band, any band, comes to terms with selecting songs for album cohesion and ends up with the not-at-all metaphorical mixed bag that is Evil Urges.
It doesn't take long to get into wtf territory. By track three Jim James' falsetto takes a seductive back-alley turn into Prince-like androgynous inflection while encountering Michael Jackson's Thriller-era demonic laughing. However, unbeknownst to anyone, least of all My Morning Jacket fans, we were actually transplanted to a 1970s theatrical score of monster porn.
May 19, 2008
Monolith festival artist additions
Band of the moment, DFA's Hercules & Love Affair has just been announced as the latest addition to the increasingly awesome Monolith festival. Hercules... joins the previously announced motley crew of TV on the Radio, Sharon Jones, Justice, Vampire Weekend, A Place to Bury Strangers and more for a weekend of stair climbing and high elevation music.
Atmosphere, Foals, Does it Offend You, Yeah?, Port O’Brien, Pomegranates, Colour Revolt, KaiserCartel, Candy Coated Killahz, Jukebox the Ghost, American Bang, The Chain Gang of 1974, Joshua Novak, Erin Ivey, The Wheel, Paper Bird, Noah Harris, Lynsey Smith, Scratch Track, David Moore, LoveLikeFire, and Dave Beegle.
Numerology: 48, Ours
4:48 a.m. – the time most suicides are purported to take place. Said to be the time of night when people suffering from mental disorders report feeling very clear and cold, while those outside perceive them to be in their deepest delirium.
Sarah Kane’s 4.48 Psychosis, what one theater critic called a 75-minute suicide note, was not performed in the playwright’s lifetime. Kane’s suicide in Feb. ’99 ensured that. The lyrics of the Tindersticks song “4:48 Psychosis” come straight from the play—which has no characters and no stage directions—and the song fulfills its promise of a truly bad trip. It begins with the question—What do you offer?—and the recitation of a somehow ominous-sounding sequence of random numbers, before a swirling, “Venus in Furs”-grade drone—replete with viola shrieks—kicks in, and Stuart Staples duskily intones Kane’s bleak words:
At 4:48/When sanity visits
For one hour and twelve minutes I am in my right mind
When it has passed I shall be gone again
But take heart: Hours, not death, are the primary concern of the vast majority of 48 songs—the winning track included—and for that we can all be grateful. Three 6 Mafia (“48 Hours to Respond”), Ladyhawk (“48 Hours”)—a Vancouver band that likens its sound to “cashmere underwear,” and the prolific guitar shredder known to the world as Buckethead (“48 Hours to Go”) have all mined the 48-hour angle. Toss in Magda—the Polish-born, American-raised, Berlin-based DJ, whose “48 Hour Crack in Your Bass” features a bass line so thick and pulchritudinous you can practically smell pancakes—along with the demented blues stomp of “Letnik 48” by Slovenian rock-scene stalwart, Tomaz Domicelj, and you have the potential for a mix-tape that will perplex all of your friends.
I realize that’s a lot to take in, so let’s take a deep breath and imagine a time before 48 came to be viewed principally as the sum of the hours contained in two days. Yes, Virginia, there was a time when 48 had a far different connotation. (Indeed, you are correct in pointing out that 48 the atomic number of cadmium—but that’s not it.) For most of the first half of the 20th century, 48 signified the number of states in the U.S.A. When you referred to “the 48,” people assumed you meant it in the same sense as this line from “Let’s Get Away From it All,” the pop standard Sinatra made famous:
We’ll travel ‘round from town to town/We'll visit ev’ry state,
And I’ll repeat, “I love you, sweet”/In all the forty-eight.
The great musical iconoclast Spike Jones, who added gargling, whistles, and a large dose of nuttiness to his versions of pop standards and classical works, recorded a surprisingly unfunny number called “Forty-Eight Reasons Why.” (Not to be confused with “48 Reasons” by first-wave oi band Red London). The Jones song lays out 48 reasons to heed the call of Uncle Sam (one state = one reason) and ends with a caffeinated recitation of state names, amid bugle riffs and the sound of marching feet. It sounds heavy-handed and forced, no doubt, but so ingrained at the time was the concept of “the 48” that America’s favorite red-haired puppet, Howdy Doody, sported 48 patriotic freckles on his lacquered wooden cheeks. The Gourds, roots rockers from Austin, TX, recently revisited this connotation in “Lower 48” and managed to avoid sounding jingoistic; amazing what a minor key and lyrics like “Married my cousin up in Arkansas/Married two more when I got to Utah” will do for you.
A more poetic treatment comes from celebrated guitarist John Renbourn, whose “Forty-Eight” features bells, primitive percussion, and a bluesy workout, bracketed by a sublime conversation between guitar and glockenspiel. “48 Hour Drive (Boston)” by Baltic Fleet, is a slowly unfolding flower, very much like Sigur Ros but without anything identifiably Icelandic (e.g., words sung in Icelandic). But if that sounds too meditative, try “Bomba ‘48” by the ska-punk Texas outfit known as Los Skarnales. Or if for some reason you want to see what happens when a brainy, willfully obtuse brother-sister team writes a song that inadvertently makes the simplicity and lack of pretension of Los Skarnales seem like the very essence of all that is good in the world, check out “Forty-Eight Twenty-Three Twenty-Second Street” by Fiery Furnaces. And if you are in the mood to ponder whether Sunny Day Real Estate was a great, seminal band or merely a decent one that traded in the soft-loud/soft-loud structure and temper-tantrum vocals associated with the grunge aesthetic—check out “48” from “the pink album.”
The James Gang’s “Funk #48” features the same kind of crunchy Joe Walsh guitar licks that make “Funk #49,” which followed a year later, so recognizable. “Funk #49” is clearly the superior song—stronger melody, more interesting vocal flavor—but “48” is no slouch. The band has an intuitive grasp of the looseness : tightness ratio that makes a rock trio such an ideal vehicle to deliver the goods. In the wake of the Who, Jimi Hendrix Experience and Cream, the power trio was a popular formation. The James Gang—whom Pete Townshend himself recruited to open up for the Who on a 1970 British tour, were one of the best. What they lacked in pinup quality they made up for in talent (but you know how far that will get you in rock.) The worst thing about the boom in power trios was that it helped usher in an era of exceedingly bland rock-band names: West, Bruce & Laing; Beck, Bogert Appice—suddenly it was cool to sound like a law firm. You even had power duos (see: Whitford-St. Holmes). Finally, the point became to choose the most boring name you could possibly think of. What else could explain the success of Hamilton, Joe Frank & Reynolds? Even the post-Graham Nash Hollies couldn’t resist calling a late-period LP Clarke, Hicks, Sylvester, Calvert and Elliot (1977). At that point, with the British Invasion a hazy memory and five years since “He Aint Heavy (He’s My Brother”), I guess the Hollies were just looking to see if anything would stick—be it a couple of disco tracks or what looks on paper to be a nakedly bad move: an attempt at hard rock, called “48 Hour Parole.” (See? There was a point to that digression.) If that sounds like a good idea to you, it’s available on Amazon, for a handsome sum. Convince me it’s an overlooked gem and you’ll be handsomely rewarded.
Suzi Quatro - "48 Crash"
By 1973, as the power trio rebellion was being quelled by an army of singer-songwriters in patched denims, the English glam scene took flight, and so did the career of Suzi Quatro. With “Can the Can,” her second single, she hit no. 1 on the British charts, and came through with a few more strong singles penned by the ace songwriting team of Chinn/Chapman. One of them was “48 Crash,” a song about reaching the age of 48 and feeling shitty about it, which went to no. 3. While the youth of today might know her solely for her six-episode stint as Leather Tuscadero on Happy Days, Quatro enjoyed years of success in the UK and Australia before finally breaking through in the U.S with “Stumblin’ In,” a peak moment in sunshine pop from 1978. A few more UK chartings followed, but that was the extent of her success in her native land. Before you weep for Suzi, consider that she has sold more than 45 million records in her lifetime, and more records in Australia than the Beatles. What that says about the land Down Under I’ll leave to Men at Work to write a song about. Whether the Detroit native was a proto-riot grrl I will leave to the historians. But all things being equal, if “48 Crash” achieved the high camp of the Runaways’ “Cherry Bomb,” it just might be sitting on top of this list.
Instead, we have “48 Hours” by the Clash, a song that was excised, along with two others, from the U.S. release of the band’s self-titled debut. The move pissed off the Clash, but I have to think we Americans won out—I mean, “Complete Control” alone is worth the three that got cut, to say nothing of “Hammersmith Palais” and “I Fought the Law,” which we also got. So I admit it: “48 Hours” is not an essential Clash song. Does that mean that even a non-essential Clash song beats the songs gathered here, including Suzi Quatro, in a walk? My answer is a Joe Strummer-snarled “fuck yeh!” The record that introduced the Clash was rife with elbow-throwing lyrics—fun didn’t seem to rate high on their list. But “48 Hours” comes off as a rare celebration of pleasure by a band for whom anger and boredom were the critical emotions of their explosive infancy. It’s gruff and tight: two verses, two choruses, and a skronky guitar break—that’s it. Leave it to the Clash to do “48 Hours” in a minute and a half.
Numerology is our pal Dave's ill advised quest to find the definitive song for every number from one to a hundred. It's starting to creep everybody out.
Previously: No. 1, 2-4, 5-7, 7 (counterpoint), 8, 9, 10/11, 12/13. 13 (counterpoint), 14/15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26/27, 28 , 29 , 30, 30 (counterpoint), 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46 , 47
Denver/Boulder: Shows this week | 5.19 - 5.25
[Take two - makeup show after 1/15/08 cancellation]
Monday, May 19
DJ Scooter @ Larimer Lounge
Rilo Kiley/The Spinto Band @ Ogden Theater
Teitur @ Soiled Dove
Tuesday, May 20
BigTime Entertainment Show @ Hi-Dive
The Birdwatchers @ Larimer Lounge
Sea Wolf/Bela Karoli/Hello Kavita @ Bluebird Theater
Set Your Goals @ Marquis Theater
Thrice @ Ogden Theater
Wednesday, May 21
The Cure @ Red Rocks Ampitheatre
Disaffected @ Larimer Lounge
Donna Jean & The Tricksters @ Fox Theatre
Jakob Dylan @ Boulder Theater (e-Town)
Someone Still loves You Boris Yeltsin @ Hi-Dive
Stanton Moore Trio @ Bluebird Theater
Thursday, May 22
Brett Dennen/Mason Jennings @ Ogden Theater
Broomstock Preview Party @ Marquis Theater
Dirtbombs @ Larimer Lounge
Identity Pusher @ Gothic Theatre
Pleistocene CD Release @ Hi-Dive
Stanton Moore Trio @ Fox Theatre
Tokyo Police Club @ Bluebird Theater
Friday, May 23
Kinetix/Rob Drabkin @ Bluebird Theater
Langhorne Slim @ Hi-Dive
Marcia Ball @ Boulder Theater
Mike Ness @ Gothic Theatre
The Photo Atlas @ Walnut Room
Spring Creek Bluegrass @ Fox Theatre
Swervedriver @ Marquis Theater
UmConscious @ Soiled Dove
Workhorse @ Larimer Lounge
Saturday, May 24
Angie Stevens DVD Release Party @ Walnut Room
Harvest the Murdered @ Bluebird Theater
Jeremy Enigk/Damien Jurado @ Fox Theatre
Khale @ Hi-Dive
The Life There Is @ Larimer Lounge
Mike Ness @ Gothic Theatre
Nightmare Of You @ Marquis Theater
Sunday, May 25
The Build Up @ Larimer Lounge
Johanna Kunin @ Hi-Dive
Only Thunder @ Bluebird Theater
Tally Hall @ The Falcon
Tribute To the Godfather Of Soul @ Ogden Theater
Schedule appears courtesy of Mystik Spiral.
May 16, 2008
C'mon Feel the (Free) Noise!
June 21st, 2008 Noon
Gen Art Pulse
AFTER THE JUMP IS ORGANIZED BY:
themusicslut . batteringroom . disconap . earfarm . ryspace . irockiroll . merryswankster . softcommunication . musicisart . sitdownstandup . watercoolergossip . bumpershine . themodernage . productshopnyc . subinev . punkphoto . poptartssucktoasted . stereoactivenyc . jinners
For press opportunities such as interviews with the organizers or bands, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
For sponsorship and all other requests, contact producer Jennifer Kellas: email@example.com
M.I.A. comments on Coachella set mishap
[M.I.A. scratching her head @ Coachella]
Last week I wrote that M.I.A.'s Coachella set was marred once the crowd got the invite to come on stage. In today's Denver Post, M.I.A. explains what went down in the preview piece for tomorrow's show at the Fillmore.
"Cops on both sides kind of shut us down," M.I.A. said recently from her tour bus, referring to a late-April show at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in which 50 eager fans rushed the stage (at M.I.A.'s request) to dance with their idol.
"People were like fainting and climbing up the scaffolding so they could see," she continued. "The security was beating people up and fights were breaking out in the tent. It just seemed like a big soupy, steamy mess." (Link)
The special Merry Swankster Devil's advocate division says: Huh? Beating people up? Cops? Maybe next time you don't bring people up on the stage if things can get sketchy. Unless you want to ruin the show on purpose.
May 15, 2008
On My Way to Interview the Long Blondes...
...but more on that next week. For now, I give you a couple recent videos from the band's British peers, who slot in neatly against the electro leaning of their newly released album "Couples".
Ladytron - "Ghosts"
Late of the Pier - "Space and the Woods"
These floppy haired young ne'er-do-wells got a brief close up in this space previously as well.
NYT: Kanye West's ego, "approximately equal" to the size of the universe
An attempt to introduce this with something clever would be foolish.
"There is a new yardstick for the size of the universe. It is approximately equal to the size of Kanye West’s ego."
Jon Pareles is not exactly mincing words with that opening sentence. More from his review of Tuesday's Kanye West show at MSG (link):
Mr. West’s set was the most daring arena spectacle hip-hop has yet produced, and in some ways the best, even as it jettisoned standard hip-hop expectations. The rhymes, the beats and the narcissism were there; the block-party spirit and sense of community were not. Until the encore Mr. West had no human company on the arena stage.
The spectacle is framed as a sci-fi space odyssey, with Mr. West as a lone explorer whose starship crashes on an unknown planet. He’s stranded in a landscape of colored lights, billowing smoke — probably enough dry ice to cool Death Valley — and gorgeous, panoramic video images of clouds, galaxies, fireworks and cosmic eruptions. He converses with his computerized ship, named Jane, and with shooting stars. He raps with barely a respite, and bounds around the stage: striding, hunching, pumping his fist, falling to his knees, grinding against the stage, flailing, shouting his rhymes. It is a show of stamina and lonely self-determination that takes on its own obsessive momentum, like a Samuel Beckett scene staged by Robert Wilson and George Lucas.
May 14, 2008
Retrohump: Adolescent Nonsense
Right now I'm drinking Coco Loto: Coconut Juice with Pineapple and boy is it disgusting.
Let's start today's retro romp with one from an "obscure punk-rock band" from Philadelphia, PA, (home of a one Y. Korngold).
Dead Milkmen - "Punk Rock Girl"
This next one comes from the 'Mats 1987 album Pleased to Meet Me, a title that spawned a million and one bad introduction jokes.
The Replacements - "Alex Chilton"
I like to say things like "Weezer's Blue Album was one of the most influential albums of my life," which is meaningless not just because it's syntactically incorrect, but because I have about as much musical talent as a potato.
Weezer - "Say it Ain't So"
Here's another one that got some pretty decent play during the early days of 120 Minutes. That's a pretty eerie electric violin there, probably the best in rock since U2's "Sunday Bloody Sunday*."
Camper Van Beethoven - "Pictures of Matchstick Men"
Here's the original by Status Quo, released in 1968. The swirling guitar right around the 1:15 mark is pretty killer!
Status Quo - "Pictures of Matchstick Men"
* That claim included absolutely zero research for authenticity.
May 13, 2008
After the Jump Tickets Now on Sale!
You'll be hearing quite a bit about the ins and outs of this year's After the Jump Fest in the days to come, but a quick word of alert is in order at the moment.
HEALTH - "Glitter Pills"
(live on Pitchfork.tv's Don't Look Down)
Tickets for the benefit portion of June 21st's all-day, all-night proceedings at the Music Hall of Williamsburg are now on-sale. Proceeds from the reasonable $10 dollar ticket price will go towards underfunded city school music programs, and the line-up is pretty stellar. So far we can tell you that it'll feature...
...and there will be a bit more to add in due time for the night bill, and loads more to dissect in regard to the free daytime festivities. Watch this space.
Some initial convincing:
Video: the Kills - "Last Day of Magic"
One of the enduring two-piece's poppiest songs to date gets a tense and brutal video treatment that makes domestic violence seem like doomed romance (whether that's a responsible idea or not).
Previously: Bleak Girls Club
May 12, 2008
The Girls of Spring
Sonic Youth's Kim Gordon, Pussy Galore's Julie Cafritz, and the Boredom's Yoshimi P-We return as the world's most terrifyingly intimidating female super-group, Free Kitten. Where Pavement bassist Mark Ibold previously filled the band's token male indie-rock luminary role, we now have J. Mascis bashing the hell out of a drum kit (and kicking the proceedings off with a righteous sneeze). A nasty grumble of a guitar line is the ingredient that'll shake your guts, but Cafritz adds even more bad vibes as the featured screaming banshee. "Survival of the fittest is a cruel cruel hoax" she drolly intones. I doubt these sisters in badassery would have any natural predators under any alternative laws of the jungle that she might propose.
We know switch our attention to downtown cool of an entirely more aloof quality. Fetching tomboy Lissy Trullie is already a bit of a renowned fashion plate, chanteuse, scenester, and (we can only assume) incorrigible heartbreaker in advance of her debut EP. Its title track is a perfectly nonchalant cool breeze of a song, with slightly chugging guitars and low-key studio affects getting out of the way to let her nicotine saturated voice fill most of its empty space. It's deep but slight, and if you weren't graced with the above visual, you might assume it was coming from an adrogyne on the other side of the chromosome divide. If there's a nit to pick, it's that the song doesn't feel weighty enough to sustain itself after the lofty bridge at the two-minute mark. Brevity could have been another quill with which to smite hapless passers-by. But at the risk of being slightly condescending, a look at the above photo should clue you in on how much advice she needs to take from me in order to be successful.
This track, from Philadelphia single mom Annie Sachs' home-recorded debut has been floating around the internet for a minute, but it's too hypnotic to allow it to pass by unremarked. The song's various elements are pasted over each other like scissored bits in a stylish collage. The beat isn't guiding the wandering-in-a-fog vocal melodies, though it accidentally keeps time for the idle piano circles that seem piped in by loudspeaker from a far away warehouse. Its spare and pretty rather than forced, though. A would-be happy accident that was probably much more deliberate than it initially seems.
Ponytail might have been a math rock boys club if not for the completely bonkers vocal styling of improbably wee front-gal Molly Sigel. This track is the racing heart of the Baltimore band's forthcoming Ice Cream Spiritual, spending seven minutes alternately sprinting away from hornets or stealing a few winks in the shade. Sigel's lungs are a living, wailing instrument of destruction, adding texture but not concrete meaning. She gives 100% conviction to screeches and purrs both, highlighting the reckless fun in the speeding guitar lines. Instrumental pyrotechnics that could have been a wonk too far are instead thrillingly alive and neon-colored.
P.S. I'm not sure if this kitty has offcially cleared the bag yet, but New Yorkers will be able to see these guys for free at this summer's After the Jump Festival!
Video: Portishead - "The Rip"
Denver/Boulder: Shows this week | 5.12 - 5.18
[Flight of the Conchords]
Monday, May 12
DJ Scooter @ Larimer Lounge
Fall From Grace @ Marquis Theater
The Mary Onettes @ Hi-Dive
Nylon Music Tour @ Gothic Theatre
Tuesday, May 13
Dead Meadow @ Larimer Lounge
Rocco Deluca @ Walnut Room
Subtle/Achille Lauro @ Bluebird Theater
Wednesday, May 14
An Evening With Asylum Street Spankers @ Walnut Room
Boulder Acoustic Society @ Fox Theatre
Frontside Five @ Bluebird Theater
Heart Start Hero @ Larimer Lounge
Thursday, May 15
Flight of the Conchords @ Caulkins Opera House
The Bellrays @ Larimer Lounge
Big Time Entertainment Show @ Hi-Dive
Emarosa @ Marquis Theater
Jackson Boone & The Lovers Jive @ Fox Theatre
Was (Not Was) @ Gothic Theatre
Friday, May 16
As Blood Runs Black @ Marquis Theater
Dark Lotus @ Gothic Theatre
Jen Korte And The Loss @ Walnut Room
Latch @ Hi-Dive
Margot And The Nuclear So And Sos @ Larimer Lounge
Shwerver @ Bluebird Theater
Super 400 @ Boulder Theater
Saturday, May 17
Atmosphere @ Ogden Theater
Blue Scholars @ Gothic Theatre
Brian Regan @ Paramount Theatre
Cloud Cult @ Larimer Lounge
Insane Clown Posse @ Red Rocks Ampitheatre
M.I.A. @ Fillmore Auditorium
Rob Drabkin @ Soiled Dove
Stand By Your Band III @ Hi-Dive
Tapes'n Tapes @ Bluebird Theater
Vitamins @ Walnut Room
Sunday, May 18
Boulder Acoustic Society @ Fox Theatre
Cloud Cult @ Larimer Lounge
Collective Soul @ Boulder Theater
CPC Gangbangs @ Hi-Dive
The Insomniacs @ Walnut Room
The Mars Volta @ Fillmore Auditorium
Schedule appears courtesy of Mystik Spiral.
May 09, 2008
Coachella 2008: Sunday (Day 3)
[This and all photos by Merry Swankster]
Sunday was the lightest lineup at this year's Coachella. The third and final installment of the fest saw sparse crowds and half filled venues all day long. For a substantial part of the day our group was at a loss on what bands to see. I don't remember that ever happening before, though it allowed time to check out the festival's extensive art installations without the accompanying guilt of skipping acts. The paltry schedule was magnified when our mid day penciled in selection did not show up. I was looking forward to seeing The Field, but immigration issues barred them from entering the country.
While the day still provided plenty of heavyweight entertainment from the likes of My Morning Jacket, Roger Waters and Justice, the consensus opinion of Merry Swankster's extended posse was disappointment. Without doubt the weakest single day crowd in at least five years for the festival so we obviously weren't alone with those thoughts. It gave the impression of a failed festival, something I'm sure the festival organizers will be eager to turn around in the coming years given the established prestige and past successes of Coachella. Expectations baby, they're a bitch. And the high expectations at Coachella are easy to take for granted. I look forward to complaining about making tough choices rather than feeling confused on why there is nobody interesting to see.
Final day summary after the jump...
The young, soulful Duffy has a bigger voice than her fair complexion and blond hair would lead you to believe and the British press is gaga over another Amy Winehouse type performer on their hands. However unfair the comparisons to Winehouse, they are somewhat valid given Duffy's similar throwback singing style and approach. Unlike Winehouse, Duffy is far less interesting with little engrossing material besides the hit "Mercy" currently tearing up the UK charts.
Not The Field
[Disappointed Field fans decide to take in the rocking silence of the Shade]
"The Field will not be making it today. They were denied entrance into our fine nation by the US government." Then the disemboweled voice from the P.A. bantered back and forth with a second voice about the full name of the next band, the unfortunately named 'Does it Offend You, Yeah'.
My Morning Jacket
My Morning Jacket is a band prone to caricature. Writers looking for adjective injections can ensure covering of bases with any combination of the following: Bourbon, Kentucky, beards, roots rock, Allman Brothers, etc. Too often with critical parlance, the devilish details are glossed over for the obvious hits in the obvious storyline. Not that My Morning Jacket's talents are in doubt or anything, just that it seems rare to read anything substantive on the band besides the overt observations of geography and facial grooming. See what I just did there? I hit all the check boxes associated with My Morning Jacket in a circuitous way.
My Morning Jacket's sunset show on the main stage was a highlight on many levels. For starters it was far more energetic a performance than anyone else on Sunday and the new material sounded great. Really great. MMJ showed continued range and is clearly evolving with more adventurous sounds. The erroneously simplistic narrative of MMJ being the only hippie band that hipsters can get behind is being shattered as they become less of a roots band, or whatever sub-genre we create for them, and simply settle into their role as Grade A 'Rock and Roll' band. My Morning Jacket is clearly inspired by ambition to moving their art forward. To the surprise of nobody, they are inching towards greater heights as an incredibly cohesive unit and well on their way to becoming one of America's best. They may have already gotten there.
[M. Ward joins MMJ]
Sons and Daughters
The meager Sunday crowds were most evident at the tent venues. Sons and Daughters embodied this unfortunate truth better (worse?) than others. Too bad for those skipping out. They missed the excellent angular dance-rock these Scottish gals and lads do so well.
Middle aged skewing couples with psychedelic Pink Floyd tees were a noteworthy minority in the sea of young fashionable hipsters taking in day three's festivities. If there was a distinct segment of festival attendees that made the trip to Indio for one act only, it was the Roger Waters crowd. Nothing really disparaging about it, it just was. No shortage of deer in headlight looks from the older folks with every neon heavy, American Apparel donning gaggle of kids that passed by. Made the already fabulous people watching at Coachella that much better.
Roger Waters appearance was a great bang for the buck considering his own concert ticket prices command upwards of $150. Two full sets and two plus hours of music didn't hurt either. Kicking things off with a route snaking through Pink Floyd classics as well as his solo material, monster hits from The Wall, Animals, and Wish You Where Here, were all touched. One thing about Roger Waters solo material that strikes anyone familiar with Pink Floyd is the similarity in paranoid, New World Order themes and song structures of classic Floyd. Shouldn't be surprising given Waters role in Pink Floyd, but since his own stuff is not as well known, a notable observation. His solo stuff sounds just like Pink Floyd would, much more so than the sham, sans-Waters Pink Floyd offering of 1994's The Division Bell.
Daft Punk lite gave people the party they wanted for a proper Coachella send off. It was enough to ignore our barking dogs for just a little longer.
When Pavement ruined Lollapalooza
Pavement - "Slow Century" DVD - West Virginia, Lollapalooza 1994
Waxing about Malkmus reminded me of being too young and dumb to check out Pavement play Lollapalooza in 1994 and led me to this nugget of hilarity from the band's "Slow Century" DVD (Matador). It then got me thinking about how radically different things are these days at music festivals. Its a complete 180. Pavement was routinely ignored (my 15 y/o self - guilty) during their stint as headliner in '94, to the point where things got a bit ugly in West Virginia. Safe to say leaving the stage to a chorus of boos, flying mud, and reciprocating with flipped birds and dropping trout is not ideal.
So what's changed since? Fourteen years later and the festival circuit in America is as healthy as ever. The model certainly changed, traveling festivals replaced by anchored regional events. But at what point do things unwittingly revert to a facsimile of Lollapalooza's original failed model? Tons of bands do the "festival circuit" and exclusivity of acts is getting harder and harder for festival promoters in such a crowded market. Survival of the fittest? Could be a dangerous way to weed out the losers, considering it's tantamount to cannibalization. Geography will come into play in a big way for some organizers. Pitchfork, Lollapalooza, and Coachella have distinct advantages being in or near Chicago and Los Angeles, respectively. Only time will tell, but the music industry as a whole doesn't exactly have the best record with success these days. Now I'm getting bummed out.
Coachella 2008: Saturday (Day 2)
[This and all photos by Merry Swankster]
Continued coverage of the Coachella Music & Arts Festival.
Previously: Coachella Day 1
Full rundown after the jump...
Bonde do Role
Call me old fashioned all you want but I don't dig on Bonde do Role's gig. Splicing hit riffs from familiar 70s, 80s, 90s (and today!) and injecting them with heavy bass sounds of Brazilian baile funk and laying raps over them is not my cup of tea in the middle of the afternoon under a tent in the desert. I don't understand Portuguese either so it all sounds like a mess of indecipherable yapping. Maybe it works in sweaty, subterranean, strobe bathed clubs. Maybe. I can capitulate to "Marina Gasolina" and nothing more. Consider me unconverted.
Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks
For an indie rock god Stephen Malkmus sure didn't attract much of a flock. Something about the ease in which we got up front for Malkmus & the Jicks felt wrong. So close that my ears are still ringing. Easily the loudest set of the weekend for us. Literally deafening. Funny considering this was the closest thing to a jamband all weekend. Malkmus looked like a cross between an urban beekeeper and a grandpa, no matter - he's still cooler than all of us will ever be.
Malkmus personified the uber-cool brand of Northwestern slacker. Detached irreverence permeating everything he says or does. It's as if at any moment he might leave the stage remembering that laundry needs folding. At least you can count on getting a joke on his way out. Like the one he told his Jicks, "You guys are pretty good. I'm glad I get to front this shit." Or when he started singing the chorus of Soundgarden's "Black Hole Sun" saying (I'm paraphrasing), "If we had that song we'd be playing over there (points to the main stage)."
[Light crowd for the Jicks]
Annie Clark, aka St. Vincent, said she "got here by plane" and launched into "Dig a Pony" from the Beatles' classic Let It Be. (Beatles covers were popular all weekend. The Breeders did "Happiness is a Warm Gun" and Prince provided the purple treatment on "Come Together") All alone on stage, Clark lightly strummed her red electric guitar providing a genuinely special moment. Her talents as a performer clearly enhanced when stripped down and vulnerable. The lady can hold her own with an ax to-boot.
Hot Chip did what they do best. Whipping the crowd into a frenzy with escalating, progressive dance rock. It's been brilliant for some time now and the improbable nerds can throw down like few others. My thoughts on the single song highlight of the entire weekend has already been made clear.
Something was wrong with the Islands gear while they setting up. Islands, issues? You don't say? Whatever it was ate a good 30 minutes into what is typically Coachella's precision engineered schedule. At this festival, the trains all run on time. It's a nice reliability that helps the overall experience as a festival goer. Obviously troubleshooting the snag was not happening expeditiously because an official roadie looking guy signaled to Islands to get on with it. Which they finally did to the bending of notes in the intro of "Vertigo (If It's a Crime)" from the new Arm's Way.
We stayed through the alloted time for Islands thinking they would be cut off with a hard stop for the good of the schedule, and plus I had to run over to the main stage for at least some of Kraftwerk before M.I.A. came on. While I was running back to the tent area for M.I.A. I noticed Islands was still playing. I'm glad they didn't get shooed off without completing a full set. Lord knows Islands doesn't need any more negative experiences while touring.
["Where There's a Will, There's a Whalebone" featuring Busdriver]
Running across the Coachella grounds in the direction of a huge projection screen framing four moored gentlemen standing stiffly behind laptop platforms is rather peculiar. Something almost hypnotic about it. Germans are funny.
While I sprinted back to the tents for M.I.A., "Computer Love" was playing. For the record I did not overhear anyone say, "hey it's that Coldplay song".
It was a mess of people for M.I.A., packed to the gills (and rafters)! Unfortunately the huge crowd did not get the best of M.I.A. Too much build up in between songs with little to show in delivered goods. M.I.A.'s set fell victim to the pitfalls of a hip hop show. The kind that is more memorable for what doesn't happen rather than actual performances. In other words if she could just do without the instances amounting to dead air foolishness and repeated shout outs of "are you ready" and actually play songs. Novel concept, no?
The crowd was amped leading up to M.I.A. getting on stage. Once she arrived she was never able to fully harness the boundless energy the audience so desperately wanted to share with her. Disappointing in many ways. I recall the "Paper Planes" gunshots going off the entire time. Our love for the pop-pop-pop gunshot sample has been well documented, though that doesn't mean it should be looped continuously.
The final vibe-killer was when she (someone?) invited throngs from the front rows up on the stage. It seemed to rattle M.I.A. in the while it took to provide room on the stage for her to do her thing rather than ignite careless abandon in what was shaping up to be a flat performance. I'm curious on what Maya's impression of the show was. I hope she is asked about it in a future interview.
I sneaked into the nearby Mohave tent post-M.I.A. to catch about five minutes of Animal Collective before I had to meet up with some friends. Just enough to snap these pictures and provide zero amounts of commentary on the actual show. Sorry folks. Our attempts at omnipresence failed.
"When they asked me to come work this place, I told them I don't work, but I'll come to play music. I came to play...I came to party...,but under one condition, I get to choose the music. Is that allright with ya'll? In the spirit of that, you in the coolest place on earth...right now!" - Prince
Prince had many roles at Coachella. Emcee, guitar virtuoso, master of the medley, cover fiend ("Creep", "Come Together", Sarah McLachlan's "The Arms of an Angel"), and was determined to play all night. No joke. Exhausted, we headed back to the car around 1 am to the sounds of "Let's Go Crazy".
Coachella's best individual song performance was by Hot Chip
Hot Chip - "Over and Over" - Live @ Coachella 4.26.2008
And this was it. (Another angle)
May 08, 2008
Art Rock: Mike Keirstead's "The Jam Part I: A History"
Have you ever wondered what would have happened if 19th century French Neo-Impressionist painter Georges-Pierre Seurat listened to Jimi Hendrix on repeat for years on end? Of course you have… who hasn’t? At first I thought the result of this experiment would look exactly like this…
"man, you ever think the world is just made up of small colored dots?"
But it has come to my attention that is has been scientifically suggested that:
As this sound mathematical equation shows, Seurat + Axis: Bold of Love = Canadian artist Michael Keirstead’s magnum opus, The Jam Part I: A History.
While it took Seurat two years to dot his way through his 10ft wide painting Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte , it took Keirstead five years to complete the 113 stippled portraits in his 8ft work. Keirstead used the meticulous technique of stippling in which the artist uses small dots to create the effect of shading instead of using lines or blotches of paint. The delicate and painstaking process proves the gravity in which Keirstead viewed his work.
The musicians that are touching have collaborated while the head size and placement of each musician is a result of Keirstead’s own personal musical cannon of rock n’ roll lineage. It has been rumored that the original work of art was purchased by one of the Beatles. Though I'm not completely sure which Beatle's estate owns this work the fact that John's head is three times the size of McCartney's may narrow it down a bit. The good news for Pete Best and the rest of us is that you don't have to be a Beatle to own this piece of art since a newly established Philadelphia marketing group is now selling the poster.
Video: Love Is All - "Give It Back" (New Song)
Aside from a few clear riffs, there's nothing conclusive about this video, posted to You Tube by Love Is All's powerful pixie singer Josephine Olausson. This grainy, far-off footage depicts an airing of "Give It Back," a tune slated for A Hundred Things Keep Me Up At Night, the band's increasingly anticipated sophomore record. We can only hope that hometown shows such as this will keep the band sharp and wily as they depart cozy Gothenburg, Sweden next month for a quick east coast jog.
Coachella 2008: Friday (Day 1)
Day 1 at the 2008 Coachella Music and Arts festival was a classic Coachella cocktail of young tenderfoots sipping success, old(er) stalwarts tickling fans with new material amongst sprinklings of vintage hits, and established indie bigs proving that swagger best complements talents when the latter is in abundance. Referring specifically to the Raconteurs who were so scarily good it was enough to hasten the rush back to practice garages and basements for the impossibly hyped newbies still in development.
Also operating on all cylinders was the completely different funk and soul phenomenon that was Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings. Ms. Jones and company brought the house, or in this case tent, down with such a flawless execution of the word "Show" one can ever hope for. If you ever walked away from a concert feeling like your live music dollar did not provide the best anticipated return in entertainment dividends, Sharon Jones was the exact opposite of that.
Click through to see highlights of Friday at Coachella.
[All photos by Merry Swankster unless noted]
Every year there seems to be a time slot for a super buzzed about band at the Outdoor, not quite main, stage. Past alumni include Arcade Fire and Bloc Party. These well educated gentlemen from New York City drew a huge crowd. Time will tell if Vampire Weekend are hanging with the aforementioned names in the future. The set was solid, bright and notable for a new song I can only describe as sounding like beach appropriate electro, if such a thing were to exist. I guess its fans would make for a terrible beach volleyball team, but the after-party would be dope. Hats off to their continued success. Easy to forget Vampire Weekend barely existed as a band early last year.
Sometimes it takes a startup like Vampire Weekend to realize how further along some of the more established acts can be. The coveted sunset slot was owned by these melodramatic rockers. Magical things occur when the sun sets in Indio. Shadows get longer, mountains turn into silhouettes in the distant, rugged horizon, and the nightlife of Coachella fully awakens into an exploding orgy of fire and color. An oasis of light that is equal parts mesmerizing spectacle and a feast for the senses. Add the National's gorgeous arrangements (reinforced by horns) and the lovely heartbreak prominent in Matt Berninger's voice and things start getting transcendental.
I've been slow to warm up to the new Raconteurs record. I can't say the same is true for their blazingly hot live show. Let's just say it is very evident that the Nashville boys are well rehearsed and fully gelled. Jack White is poised to officially kick everyone's ass with the effortless way dude displays his talents. Be it on guitar, behind keys, or screwing around with different microphones, even with his back to the audience he is causing all kinds of trouble. And by trouble I mean holy crap the Raconteurs got so much better as a band, and they were pretty good already! This band might just be the best traditional rock and roll band in America right now. Even the biggest detractors of straight forward rock can appreciate a good old fashioned drubbing from rock gods.
85% of the people in attendance for the jumpsuit donning Datarock will tell you they were their favorite performance of the weekend. This is an occasion where "best" and "favorite" is mutually exclusive. Not to say the Norwegian dance punks were not good, but the set was clearly highlighted by intense fun exuded by the boundless energy emanating from the stage. Nobody was more excited to play Coachella than these guys, and they did their best to ensnare the crowd into their enthusiasm.
Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings
Female James Brown. Relentless energy and a sick motivation to leave it all on the stage. Sharon Jones was amazing.
All I seem to remember about the Black Lips is how each member of the band looks like a character from Dazed & Confused type movies from the 1970s. Like a stage full of parody.
Late night cruising through the dance tent was like a walk through a nightclub when you don't really feel like being at one. You know the music sounds great and most people are cutting up the rug but you just can't get into it and attempts to merge into the dancing masses feels forced. Norman Cook was spinning up a storm for the still up for it crowd as we headed towards the car.
Datarock @ Coachella - "(I've Had) The Time Of My Life" (Dirty Dancing)
Datarock - "(I've Had) The Time Of My Life" (Dirty Dancing) - Live @ Coachella 4.25.2008
I think they call this karaoke.
Vampire Weekend @ Coachella - "Blake's Got a New Face"
Vampire Weekend -"Blake's Got a New Face" - Live @ Coachella 4.25.08
With a new camera in hand forays into live video documentation may be more frequent on ms.com. I learned still photography is doable while recording video, though not without adding an 80s style effect into the finished product. Still, decent enough.
Prior to this performance Ezra Koenig encouraged the crowd to make up the words in the chorus. For example: Blake's out of toothpaste, etc. I can't make out any of the much funnier ad-libs, but trust me, they were there.
Vampire Weekend's entire set sounded crisp and punchy. Perfect for an afternoon in the bright sun. Enjoy.
May 07, 2008
Retrohump: Finding LiLiPUT (Not so swiftly)
LiLiPUT - "Die Matrosen"
I'd long patrolled the You Tube wilderness in search of proof that LiLiPUT (or Kleenex if you're not a lawyer-type) was made up of actual flesh and blood girls, and not mythical post-punk sprites. To this day, that search remains a fruitless one. The embedded slice of awesome you see above comes courtesy of Pitchfork.tv. I had assumed that the utility of the new music video mecca would be mainly curatorial, dumping lots of good stuff in one place for convenient idle browsing. But if they are going to start packing their archives with footage that can't be conjured up by the anonymous uploaders of the world-at-large, it may take on greater significance yet.
The clip, for the Swiss misses' 1980 single "Die Matrosen" is a groovy little travelogue of the girls' traipsing around Germany with what appear to be their fellas (though the androgynous haircuts of the era are making gender proclamations sort of difficult). Nothing too momentous occurs--a bit of rest stop tomfoolery, a few bored celebrity imitations in the back seat to pass the time. (Man, whoever Willi Milowitsch is, he's gotta be steamed by that portrayal.) But as a endearingly human portrait of musicians whose work was so intoxicatingly alien, it's got charm to spare.
May 06, 2008
Interview: Parsing This New Puritan
When Jack Barnett and his then teenage band mates in These New Puritans first caught our ear back in November of '06, there wasn't much to go on but a few cryptic podcasts and the ring of mangled synths. In the intervening months, the twitchy Brits have spanned all corners of their home isle, provided a stark soundtrack for the high fashion runway, released their debut album Beat Pyramid on the estimable Domino label, and conquered South by Southwest's dog-and-pony show clad in gladiator's steel. As his band now prepares to bring their own stomp-and-grumble review through the US on their first proper tour this June, we stole a few minutes of young Jack's valuable time. Our digitally transmitted discourse below...
Jeff Klingman: How long have you and your twin brother George been making music together?
Jack Barnett: Ages. Since we were really young. He played on my songs.
JK: Why do you think British brothers seem to form bands at a greater rate than Americans?
JB: I don't know -- it's weird -- it's the same as how Dutch brothers seem to become footballers - the De Boer Brothers, the Krol Brothers, the Mühren Brothers.
JK: Was SXSW your first trip to the US ever?
JK: Are you looking forward to playing proper gigs here after the big public relations orgy of Austin?
JB: Yeah. Austin was fun though. Different.
JK: I apologize in advance for this, but what's your favorite number, and what does it mean?
JB: Ha! I like 5, 7, 12, 15, 19, 25, 27, 29, 33, 333, 555, 1222, 1987 .... I don't know what they mean.
JK: Why did "Navigate, Navigate" work for you as a stand-alone piece, but not as a track on the album? Why parcels its bits up among other songs?
JB: Well, "Navigate, Navigate" was just a collection of musical themes that I'd been thinking up for a while and I like to re-use themes - obviously that's something that's been done in music for ever....classical music anyway. and also because I was writing the album at the same time as I was writing "Navigate..." for Hedi*, and they were just musical ideas that were close at hand at the time. So it's more that the ideas were running parallel for two different releases.
JK: Repetition of song fragments across multiple songs seems to be a theme on the album. Does the context of the individual songs change the meaning of the repeated bits? Or did you just intend it to be a refrain?
JB: It's a refrain - I'm planning to have refrains that span multiple albums as well.
JK: Do you consider your music as continuing the tradition of 70's post-punk groups to whom you're compared, or as a specific expression of the here and now?
JB: Erm, i think there was a bit of that when we first started, but Beat Pyramid drains that away from our music quite a lot. I think old punks try to claim every piece of post-1976 music as their own. Like on TV there's always stuff about how "the Velvet Underground invented everything" or "the Sex Pistols invented everything"... it's quite boring. Clearly Aphex Twin invented everything.
These New Puritans - "Swords of Truth"
JK: Are you more interested in rhythm than melody?
JB: Yes, most songs begin with the beats.
JK: I'd read that you've done a bit of production work for the London band Sunni-Geini. Do you see the role of a producer as completely distinct from that of a band?
JB: Yeah, I've been working with them - Mohammed Durayd and Marie Quest. they're more of a collective than a band.
I think TNPS' music is really production-based and is becoming so more and more. I always thought i'd be a producer, not a band-person. There are some brilliant producers in the Ivory Coast at the moment with whom we should collaborate.
JK: What can you tell me about the Experimental Circle Club?
JB: That's a club run by some of our friends including Ciaran O'Shea who's done artwork for Def-Jam and helped out with some of our early podcasts. They play noise and beats at their club which is in a hotel in Southend near the sea-side.
Jack Barnett @ the Experimental Circle Club
JK: Do you imagine your work with TNPS moving in a more improvisational direction?
JB: No. We're not really improvisers. It's got to be worked out.
JK: What do you like most about chain-mail?
photo by Lee Hopper
* Designer Hedi Slimane, who commissioned the band's music for the Dior Homme Show 2007.
May 05, 2008
Denver/Boulder: Shows this week | 5.05 - 5.11
[actual dead Prez.]
Monday, May 5
The Cops @ Hi-Dive
DJ Scooter @ Larimer Lounge
Kate Nash @ Fox Theatre
Tuesday, May 6
Dead Prez @ Fox Theatre
Efterklang/Slaraffenland @ Larimer Lounge
Emmure @ Marquis Theater
Run Run Run @ Hi-Dive
The Tamburitzans Of Duquesne @ Boulder Theater
Wednesday, May 7
Dusty Rhodes And The River Band @ Larimer Lounge
Eisley @ Fox Theatre
Lyrics Born @ Marquis Theater
Pennywise @ Fillmore Auditorium
VHS Or Beta @ Bluebird Theater
Thursday, May 8
Bandemonium Tour 2008 @ Gothic Theatre
Fiance @ Hi-Dive
Hot Tuna @ Fox Theatre
The Liar Dies @ Larimer Lounge
Phil Lesh & Friends @ Fillmore Auditorium
South @ Marquis Theater
Friday, May 9
A Twisted Conspiracy @ Boulder Theater
American Music Club/Bela Karoli/Hello Kavita @ Larimer Lounge
Animosity @ Marquis Theater
Crusher Bound Cadillac @ Gothic Theatre
Kathleen Edwards @ Fox Theatre
Laura Veirs/Liam Finn @ Walnut Room
The Little Ones @ Hi-Dive
Mary Louise Lee Band @ Soiled Dove
Murder By Death @ Bluebird Theater
Phil Lesh & Friends @ Fillmore Auditorium
Saturday, May 10
Augustana/David Ford @ Gothic Theatre
Conspirator @ Ogden Theater
Electric Hot Tuna @ Paramount Theatre
Film School @ Hi-Dive
Hearts Like Lions @ Larimer Lounge
Lazyface @ Soiled Dove
Marco Benevento @ Boulder Theater
Sugarland @ Red Rocks Ampitheatre
Tiny Television @ Walnut Room
Yo Majesty/Does It Offend You,Yeah? @ Bluebird Theater
Z-Trip @ Fox Theatre
Sunday, May 11
Cruxvae @ Larimer Lounge
Foolish Things @ Gothic Theatre
Subnoize Souljaz @ Marquis Theater
Themes @ Hi-Dive
Schedule appears courtesy of Mystik Spiral.
Video: Stereolab - "Three Women"
Via Pitchfork.tv, the new video for Stereolab's spring-appropriate comeback single. I will silently await the YouTube mash-up matching the song's breezy charms to nervous images from the excellent Robert Altman film of the same name. For now, you get blocky retro animation that's as perfectly matched as you'd expect from a veteran band with such a comprehensively conceived aesthetic.
May 04, 2008
Video: Deerhunter - "Winter Never Stops"
The latest from the Deerhunter blog is notable both for being the first widely available glimpse of a track from the forthcoming Microcastle, as well as the first footage of the band's new guitarist, Whitney, in action. The mysterious new member, whose last name has yet to be mentioned, sits in on an acoustic run through of "Winter Never Stops" with Bradford Cox and Lockett Pundt this weekend in Marietta, GA. While I'm not claiming the mental dexterity to perfectly remember this track from the new record's live debut last month (especially in an altered acoustic form), its melodic emphasis seems plausibly familiar.
May 02, 2008
Numerology: Twilley's Moony For 47, "47 Moons" For Us
Finding a 47 song—one that I could believe in—was turning out to be a tough task. “PO Box 9847,” the Monkees’ version of “Want Ads,” was not eligible, although it was surpassingly stupid and catchy. Mark Kozalek of Red House Painters was certainly eligible for “Metropol 47,” a sincere and heartfelt, if lugubrious, love song, in which he sings about his desire to kiss his beloved’s “sweet koala face,” but I am much more fond of his AC/DC covers (even though they sound pretty much like this) on that same Rock ‘n’ Roll Singer EP (2000). The rollicking “47th Street Boogie” by legendary blues pianist Memphis Slim and his hero, Roosevelt Sykes, displays charms a-plenty, as it extols the virtues of New York’s 47th Street—a place where, it assures us, you’ll meet the hepcats and the fly chicks, as well as get your solid kicks. And while the song’s main lyric, in which Slim pleads, “Don’t talk me to death/Babe, I ain’t ready to die,” feels at odds with the song’s celebration of hedonism, I’ll take the 47th Street of Memphis Slim and Roosevelt Sykes any day over the place that Duane Peters sings about in “47th Street,” with his skate-punk band, Die Hunns. Peters, the inventor of such skateboard moves as “the fakie hang-up” and “the loop of death,” brays a chorus of “I’ll bury you at 47th Street” like a feral wolf, but apparently that’s par for the course for the prolific Peters, who also records with U.S Bombs and the Exploding Fuckdolls.
Feeling a bit desperate, I dug around in my vinyl collection, and turned up something promising, off an out-of-print record from 1977, and that discovery led me to an even better one. Funny thing was, both songs were by Dwight Twilley.
Now, I’ve been mining number songs for over a year now, actively searching for connections, sometimes stretching and pulling muscles in the process. Usually it entails sifting through a slew of vintage anecdotes about songs and artists, but this one—no. 47—was different. The question I wanted to answer wasn’t answerable through the usual channels. It was really up to me to find out why Dwight Twilley wrote two songs featuring the no. 47 in their titles.
So I called him, at his home in Tulsa, a week ago, and he was kind enough to explain it all to me.
“I think it's a sexy number. You know, when you just say it, the way it rolls off the tongue. It has great syllables.”
It sure does. In fact, “Rock and Roll ’47” (the second track off Twilley’s excellent yet ill-fated 1977 sophomore effort) captures what a man sounds like when he is truly enamored of a number. Dwight sings it like this: “Forty-seh HEH-HEH Heh-eh-vunn,” echoing Buddy Holly’s “A weh-aheh-aheh-ell” intro to “Rave On,” But from a lyrical standpoint, the inclusion of the number seems arbitrary. I mean, it’s hard to know what to make of a line like, "Heard a song, baby, yesterday/Saw a man understand/That he plays what he says—47."
So is that it? Now that we know how much the man digs the 15th prime number for its mouthfeel, should we simply conclude that the number was included solely for its syllabic usefulness? We should not, because that’s not the whole story.
“That came from the musician's union in Los Angeles, which used to be called, and maybe it still is, local union number 47.” [It still is.]
But wait. How, or why, does this tough, twitchy little song end up with a title containing an oblique reference to the L.A. musicians’ union in its title?
“Because, well, that was kind of the point of it. Like, this was just another rock ‘n’ roll song. It could have been 46, it could have been 45, could have had a name or not had a name. Coulda been a bit more up-tempo or slower, but it’s just another rock ‘n’ roll song.”
Dwight Twilley - "Girls"
When Dwight Twilley first began making records, the “just another rock ‘n’ roll song” aesthetic still had legs. Rock was, after all, a familiar idiom, and, even though it had been turned into something complicated by a lot of progressive outfits, people like Dwight Twilley were more interested in mining rock ‘n’ roll for its primal pleasures. When he got his first record deal in 1976 (with the notoriously badly managed Shelter Records, whom his label mate and early collaborator, Tom Petty, successfully sued), it was during the brief mid-‘70s heyday of power-pop, when bands like the pre-Budokan Cheap Trick, the Raspberries, Badfinger and Big Star wrote catchy, Beatles-influenced songs featuring tight harmonies and sharp guitars. Most of them were about girls. With its choppy chords, heavenly harmonies and badass swagger, “I’m on Fire,” Dwight’s first single, (no. 16 on the Billboard chart in April 1975) typifies the genre as well as anything. One thing that distinguishes Twilley’s early records is the glorious vocal interplay between him and drummer Phil Seymour, with whom Twilley cofounded his first outfit, the Dwight Twilley Band. Another trademark was Twilley’s fondness for the rockabilly “slapback echo” effect, which gave his vocals more than a touch of Sun Studios-era Elvis, amid the ringing, stinging chords. You can hear these vocal characteristics on “Rock and Roll ’47,” a strutting number with a section in the song’s brief break that sounds a bit like John Lennon’s upper-register keening at the end of “Hey Jude.”
But the stunning title track from 47 Moons, Dwight’s 2005 album on the digital-only label DMGI, is another thing entirely. It’s a song most definitely made by a grownup, with sumptuous Spectorian production (the song was lovingly engineered by Dwight’s wife, Jan), an indelible minor-key melody, a gorgeous guitar excursion courtesy of longtime Twilley guitarist, Bill Pitcock IV, and a palpable sense longing and melancholy that puts one in mind of the Righteous Brothers.
“I think I had to drive somewhere, [I was] driving at night, and I tuned into one of those late-night radio shows, you know, where they talk about UFOs and zombies and stuff. This particular show they had a scientist on—a real specialist—and so it wasn’t so much fiction, but scientific oriented. And he just happened to matter-of-factly point out that Jupiter had 47 moons, which immediately caught my attention. And it kind of begged the question, it’s kinda like: Doesn’t seem fair; we only have one. And obviously, with the word forty-seven, it was just a natural for me. And because of having the other song—it was just another rock song called 47—I felt compelled to write this song. So I spent a considerable amount of time working on it, because I got real serious about it, and then, coincidentally, about a week later I had finished the song, or I thought I had finished the song, and I open up the newspaper here in Tulsa, through the science section, and there’s a big headline that says: More Moons Discovered Around Jupiter. So I had to go back and add another verse: I sing, I believe, “They thought that there were forty-one/They’ll find a thousand before they’re done.” Like, there just keeps being more and more moons around Jupiter.”
--But that totally finishes the song.
“Yeah,” he says, “in a way it does.”
He doesn’t sound completely convinced. In Dwight’s mind, having to add the final verse to accommodate new scientific findings was something he had to deal with. But to me, the curveball that forced him to add that verse is icing on the cake. It takes a fan to see it as a masterstroke, the part where the camera pulls back and hints at a future, rendering the song into a powerful, poignant meditation on time and space, and the endless cycle of change. And when it’s done, what began as a lullaby and swelled to an anthem finally, blissfully, floats off into the ether, where both heavenly bodies and heavenly songs reside.
Numerology is our pal Dave's ill advised quest to find the definitive song for every number from one to a hundred. It's starting to creep everybody out.
Previously: No. 1, 2-4, 5-7, 7 (counterpoint), 8, 9, 10/11, 12/13. 13 (counterpoint), 14/15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26/27, 28 , 29 , 30, 30 (counterpoint), 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46
May 01, 2008
A Brief Moment in New Viking Time...
As Times New Viking's Rip It Off sits very high on the list of things I've enjoyed this year, I was chuffed to be given the chance to investigate the roots of their noise-battered pop songs directly. That was my inappropriately lofty plan, anyway. Of the ten or so stout questions I sent into the darkness with the goal of taming TNV's peculiar appeal, only these six staggered back, bloody-nosed; the rest were never seen nor heard from again. From the omissions, I think it's safe to say that the band is sick of discussing what us plebes may perceive as "noisy" or "off-putting." But, I suppose if this terse Q & A isn't a marvel of investigative journalism, the silver lining is that, as a fan, the band emerges from my close encounter with mystique still firmly intact.
Though the responses were returned in an unmarked brown paper wrapper with no discernible differentiation between respondents, forensic analysts have theorized that the the first few snappy retorts came from drummer Adam Elliott and the latter half from the slightly more zen keyboardist Beth Murphy. Due to the ambiguity, it's all just labeled TNV...
Jeff Klingman: I appreciate the high doses of smart ass wordplay in your song titles and even your band name. Do you think underground rock has lost a bit of its wit somewhere along the line?
Times New Viking: Who fucking pays attention to lyrics anymore? Not enough people and definitely not enough blogs. There is more to talk about nowadays then girls and sniffin' glue. I miss fanzines, they kept a watchful eye on all that stuff.
JK: Do you think it's a natural progression for initially noisy bands to mellow out with age? Is it admirable or even possible to soldier on with youthful defiance for a decade or more?
TNV: We aren't old yet, hopefully we fade out just right.
JK: In the lyrics to "Love Your Daughters" getting high only made you nervous, but by "(My Head)" you're desperate for drug money. Have you moved on to a better class of substance, or is this strictly an accrued tolerance issue?
TNV: Just because getting high makes me nervous doesn't mean I don't like it. Some people get off on being nervous.
JK: Sophie's Choice - Ohio rock history edition: Devo or Pere Ubu?
TNV: Shit that is hard! I will judge on who was most punk rock. I liked how Devo were just normal looking dudes off stage and they didn't try to look or sound "punk", that is really punk right there. But Dave Thomas hung out with Lester Bangs so i guess they [Ubu] win.
JK: You're playing the Whitney Museum's Wordless Music series later this summer. Do you have expectations as to what a "complementary classical program" to your music might sound like?
TNV: Hopefully it is akin to Cage's silent piece, get the audience all bored and restless so we sound way more awesome.
JK: What are your feelings on the internet's relation to music in general? Did it mean more when lo-fi 7" records were passed from one intensely interested fan to another? Does the ability to reach so many more people online entirely trump that sort of quaint and intimate relationship?
TNV: We are strong proponents of dissemination yet we still have a quaint audience, internet or no internet, that is just the nature of our band. The only thing I have against the internet's relation to music is the sound quality of the songs. Our stuff is wet with treble already!
A treble-slick rendition of the swoon-inducing "Drop-Out" below...
Times New Viking - "Drop-Out"
(live @ Sound Exchange Records, Houston, TX, 03.16.2008 via)
Previously Filed Under Interview:
- Where Nick Thorburn's Head is At
- I Talked With Bradford Cox About the "Eternal Drone"
- I Talked to Liars About Britpop
- Romy Hoffman, MC, Macromantics
- Sounds from a Distant Past-an interview with Mike "Rep" Hummel from Mike Rep and the Quotas