Tuesday, September 2, 2014

INTERVIEW WITH IAN ANDERSON of JETHRO TULL


What can you talk about with someone who has been releasing music for 45 years? I have read two books on Ian Anderson and his band Jethro Tull, seen a couple documentaries, and have listened to all of his music over most of those 45 years. I make no apologies (as evident below) in being a long-time fan as I believe Jethro Tull was about my 4th or 5th concert I ever attended back in my high school days in the mid 1970s.

I have seen him in recent years and have very much enjoyed the concerts. I am certainly excited about the next one in DC at the Lincoln Theatre on Thursday, November 6th. See you there!

David Hintz: …I do want to warn you that I am an over 40-year fan of Jethro Tull and not a cranky music critic.

Ian Anderson: OK, fire away.

DH:  Alright, so let's get started with the new album, "Homo Erraticus", which might be one of my favorites among the many fine albums since "Roots to Branches" and beyond. But this one follows Thick as a Brick 2, which had brought back to life (fictional creation) Gerald Bostock. How did you decide to use Bostock in the writing of this album?

IA:  Only in as much as he is a writer's tool… he is a non de plume, an alter ego if you like who can express opinions that are not mine in a voice which is not mine, which allows me to get away from just telling you about me all the time which would become very very boring, very very quickly. So he is a useful tool and I think as a performer I have to perhaps behave a bit like an actor. I have to undertake character roles even though some of the things I may be saying are not my views. We assume sadly, in rock music, that when people say 'I' and 'me' or 'we' that they are talking about themselves. That surely does not apply to Quentin Tarantino when he writes a directs a movie and it didn't apply when Shakespeare wrote his works, it didn't apply with most of the great works of literature or even the lesser ones. So even Dan Brown who invents characters, or perhaps borrows them from somewhere else, I'm not sure… but whatever it is, you know in modern rock music we think it has to be heart on sleeve and for more than one reason I am not Alanis Morissette, I am someone who does not want to sing about me all the time or even very much of the time, since I think that is is a fairly small fraction of all the things I have ever written in which I am talking about my emotions. Most of those songs are from very early on in my career.

DH:  Yeah, and that makes sense. Most people start with 'coming of age' and contemporary themes when they are young. Now there are also quite a variety of musical styles on this album, even for you, which is generally par for the course. Are the arrangements worked out ahead of the time, and then fleshed out with the band? How did that work here?

IA:  Well the writing process started in the first part of January in 2013 when I started at 9:00 am on the first of January and spent the next two or three weeks working on the essential elements of the album. I polished them up a bit a couple of months later and then made some demos to send to the band along with all the lyrics and chord sheets and everything. So they had pretty much the parts that they could peruse over the coming months until we went into the studio to work on the rehearsals and the recording. And at that point, the basic structures and arrangements they have and have written (them) all out. We can play through most of the music, but without any of the real embellishment in terms of parts, so that becomes the most interesting bit about rehearsal--you let people come up with their ideas, listen to what they have, and here and there you might redirect them a little bit in terms of sound, in terms of musical polish, you have to make sure they works with everything else. When people come up with ideas in isolation, they might be quite good ideas, but they don't necessarily work, like what the bass player has might not work with the chords that the keyboard player has. You have got to be, in that period of rehearsal, fairly flexible and since the guys work with a lot of written music and a lot of scribbling, penciling, and rubbing out going on and hopefully after a day of working on a particular piece--of trying to get three or four minutes of real time music brought up to recording standard every day. Then when the recording begins, ideally it is the same kind of schedule where you can try to nail four minutes or so each day and work to keep on the actual fairly detailed schedule of recording in order to deliver an album when you said you would do it.

DH: OK

IA:  I suppose the fun part is working on the arrangements and the bit that is not fun and gets very serious is the bit where you are actually recording because you really do have to pay attention and concentrate with less time for joking around and frivolity when you are actually recording. The fun bit is the week before.




DH:  Now this album has a variety of songs since it covers the whole history of the planet pretty much. But I can also place some of the songs seemingly in different points in your career. For instance, the instrumental "Tripuduim ad Bellum" had some of that swinging London vibe that may have worked on your first album. Do you ever make connections with your back catalog as you work on these songs or is that more my job?

IA:  Well it is not so much a job, but I think it is there to the extent that it is there and is done fairly knowingly and carefully to do for the listener what for what Beethoven does to me if I listen to his symphonies and think, 'oh, wait a minute, I've kind of recognized that idea from somewhere else'. It's kind of nice when people go back and revisit some elements of their early work because they are like old friends dropping in for a cup of tea. So whether your favorite novelist will make references to earlier efforts, whether it is a character or subject material, it feels good as a recipient of that to be able to make those connections. And I think that the fans by and large would like to do that too, but by and large you have to be careful not to overdo it because at its worst, it could be self plagiarism. At its best, it is carefully calculated little snippets that help people join dots together. The one word that sums it up for me is continuity. I would like people including myself to be able to look at what I might be doing now or ten years ago and make some connections with something perhaps from 20 years ago or forty years ago--if that approach is judiciously applied.

DH:  Great. I also liked the Scottish roots I heard in 'Puer Ferox Adventus' with that chant vocal that reminded me some of Dick Gaughan among others.

IA: Well, it's also more of that early music thing when before there was harmony as we know it in the modern Western tradition. It was basically melody and sometimes melody against a drone. So in essence that is the nature of Celtic music,whether it is in Scotland or whether it is the music that came to us in Central Asia from what is well, from the period of five to seven thousand years ago in what now that enchanted land of Iraq, where are boys in boots have fairly recently vacated. But that is the heartland of that music that found its way into the ethnic forms of India and indeed, northwestern Europe. The bagpipes, if you like, from Brittany, northern France, Scotland and Ireland and of course the drone music of the instruments that formed the tradition of Indian classical music… So again, there are those definite connections. When I am writing something, I think I draw upon a lot of influences musically that may suit one piece and not another.

DH:  Sure.

IA: The rest of that music definitely owes something to the traditions of church music that I grew up with in Scotland. So there are elements of that going on and in other places, element of things that are perhaps much more jazzy, elements of things that are perhaps are more classically styled and in cases like 'The Engineer' or 'The Turnpike Inn', you know, these are things that are drawing more upon the traditions of British folk music of two hundred years ago rather than one thousand years ago.

DH:  You have rejected the term 'concept album' about some of your works, but of course this a song cycle I think it is fair to say, which creates a very different way of writing. Did all your songs go into this album or did you reject ideas that would not fit?

IA:  No, I really just wrote what I needed to write because the whole thing was sketched out at the end of day one when I had the introduction to the first piece 'Doggerland' and some idea of the title that was there and some of the essential music for the verse and course along with some lyrics were there at the end of day one. So day two was 'where do I go with this?' and writing down the bullet points as they were of the scenario of the unfolding album. So somewhere around the second of the third day it was written out, so it was just a question of sitting down and saying 'ok what's next, oh it's that bit, we'll see what I can do with idea' and it was pretty much written around a skeletal bullet point reference. In fact, what is written on the album cover--the little synopsis of the various pieces, that is almost exactly what I wrote at the beginning, day two, if you like, of where was going to go with each piece, what it was based on, and what were the lyrical points I was trying to make. To me it was fairly important that I keep that as it was written and I included it in the album artwork, not to be clever or pretentious, but that is my working process. That is how it came about. As indeed on the coffee table book version of the album, the deluxe package, limited edition, all the original versions of the demoes are included as well. They were actually recorded in a hotel room in Barbados using my laptop computer, a travel guitar, and working extremely quietly so as not to annoy the neighbors.

DH:  Interesting…

IA:  So sometimes I think the process of making a record like that is worthy of explaining because there are going to be a few, a tiny percentage of the people, who might listen to the music who are interested in how I came up with it. So for them as well as in a sense for me, as to remind myself of the process, it is quite good to have those ingredients as part of the way you present the music. It is not the important bit, but it is peripheral information that rounds it out into more of a worthwhile purchase for those that want more than just a CD in a jewel box.

DH:  Absolutely, for fans like myself who want to dig into it, I do that all the time.  Now you did not get to work with Steven Wilson on this album, but I think he has been a rather inspired choice for some of your remixes of older works and 'Thick as a Brick 2'. How did you two meet up?

IA:  Well, I read about him online really, as someone who was working on remixes of I think it was 'Court of the Crimson King', their first album I guess it was. So when EMI and I were talking about doing a remix and 5.1 surround mix box set of 'Aqualung', I suggested they get in touch with Steven Wilson. I figured if Robert Fripp had given his blessings to Steven Wilson to remix and rework that early iconic King Crimson album, then Steven must be a guy to consider doing it. So they approached him and he did a couple of demo mixes for me and with my approval, EMI engaged him to do the 'Aqualung 'album. I was in the studio at times and we worked on various aspects of it.  And then we went on to do the same with 'Thick as a Brick' and then he did the mixes of 'Thick as a Brick 2' and he subsequently has done 'Benefit' and the newly or about to be released 'A Passion Play' together with its unfinished predecessor, 'the Chateau d'Isaster Tapes'.

DH:  Ah, right.

IA:  And he just said yesterday… in fact I was doing a recording of questions and answers of all the bits and bobs of the 'Warchild' album. Steven, I believe is starting work next month on that. So it is a work in progress really, at some point I have said to him as well as the folks at Warner Brothers who of course have bought the EMI chunk that includes my work. At some point Steven will get too busy or get bored with it. There is an awful lot of work there for one person to be tackling all of that stuff. I can't see him doing this forever and it would seem like forever if you have got that far into the catalog, there is a lot more stuff that may not interest him. As a mixing engineer, it may not be something he's able to do because of course he is working for other people and most importantly working for himself and his career as a performing artist. I do have another person up my sleeve who I worked with on the 'Homo Erraticus' album, which is Jakko Jakszyk, who coincidentally and curiously is about to embark upon some tours with Robert Fripp and the original members of King Crimson who are going out to play the early King Crimson record catalog. Jakko is actually the guitarist and singer of the new King Crimson lineup. I suppose he is doing what Greg Lake did in his early days, playing and singing.

DH:  Yes, that is interesting (as I am ticketed to a local show). I am running a little long here, so before I close I want to thank-you personally as because of your music and bands like Horslips and a bit of Steeleye Span when they made it to the radio, was the music that got me back about 25 years ago to explore British folk deeply which I've gone to European folk, psychedelic folk, progressive folk,etc. So It's become my passion as I've tried to become more expert there. So thanks for opening this up to me with all the different ways you worked with folk music and rock music.

IA:  Oh, we try to keep it interesting and there's lots of elements of folk music in not only my part of the world, but elsewhere which is nice to draw upon.

DH:  It is, yes.

IA:  It is music of the people, you know music that is less formal and academic, speaking volumes to me both then and now. I cast my mind back to listening to Sonny Terry, Brownie McGhee, and J.B. Lenoir and a few other black American blues and folk-blues singers, acoustic blues performers were the people that got me into seriously thinking about making music myself. Surely this is folk music. We call it 'The Blues', but you know to me it is folk music, like when J.B. Lenoir is strumming his guitar and singing about Viet Nam and race riots in Alabama, that is absolutely as redolent as anything you might hear in English folk music about sexual tensions and issues that came up in historical times that are forever enshrined in traditional English folk music. Much of what I learned as a teenager from Black American blues very closely follows for me emotionally and in terms of subject material is very often quite close to the traditions of British folk music. I can't speak for other forms of folk music that I listen to since I don't speak their language. I don't speak Finnish, so as much as I love Varttina and other bands in Finland, I'm afraid I don't have the faintest Idea of what they are singing about.

DH:  Right.

IA:  Its the same thing when I listen to Indian music with some music I don't know what they are singing about, but it is the quality of the voice and the emotion and the melodic nature of it that is appealing. But whenever I encounter folk music sung in English in another part of the world, then I always think that there are a lot of parallels that can be drawn and obviously some that can't. And no one strangely… and we haven't heard about returning soldiers, male or female, returning from Iraq and the middle east, singing songs filled with the anguish and their own experiences. It is kind of weird that it seems to be like where people don't go. For me, had I been on a tour of duty in such a place, I would feel compelled to try and find a way to work in song. And if not in song, to write about it or make it something that was something that was other than a diary recounting of events--something where you could do something more artistic. But strangely I don't know, by and large maybe people don't have the skills or develop the skills or they just don't want to talk about it because it is too awful and too personal. I mean I meet some from time to time and am engaged in some aspects of consciousness raising for the returning  troops for your country as well as mine, in fact more so in your country. Of course, I have met lots of wounded and blinded and damaged vets that have returned from Iraq and Iran during recent years. Their tales are very harrowing and I can understand that they don't maybe want to talk about it too conspicuously, but in a way that is what music and other arts are there for--to allow you to get that stuff out rather than internalize it and perhaps destroy what remains of your life. Sometimes when can engage someone in that conversation you do sense some catharsis, maybe going through the experience of talking to a complete stranger, especially if it is one you can't see, such as damage involving deafness and blindness… You know it is very sobering and humbling when you hear what people have to say.

DH:  Right.

IA:  But I still remain surprised that in the contemporary music world, we don't hear people using those experiences making them the folk music of today. Because surely tales of battle, of death and destruction, and pointlessness of it, they are the very much the subject of folk music of the past. But somehow it doesn't seem to have made it into the folk music of the present, but you might have a better clue than I do.

DH:  Yes, you have given me sort of a challenge as I listen to you, in trying to listen more for this with what comes my way with newer folk music. And even the whole media coverage is more that way, too, to some extent.

IA:  It is rather like somewhere where people don't want to go… I mean geographically, they probably did not want to go, but they went there to serve their country as in some previous adventures, it is all been seemingly for naught especially with recent events in Iraq and Afghanistan.…

We chatted a few more minutes on this topic and I wanted to make sure that I mention that his show in Richmond, Virginia on October 5th at the National Theater is dedicated to veterans. All proceeds from this concert go to support programs helping veterans, first responders, and to raise global awareness to the global threat from Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs). There is even a dinner the night before, so this is certainly a show to consider for those in the Richmond vicinity.

Monday, September 1, 2014

RECORD REVIEWS - AUGUST 2014

ALMA CONSTRUCT "EP"
It is hard enough for me to get a handle on electronica, but I only have five songs here to learn what Alma Construct is about. They are mostly instrumental (until the final song) and are more interested in landscapes and thoughtful moods than in pop music or dance beats. They vary the thickness of their sound and do a nice job of fading in and out the various synthesizer washes to bring some drama to their music. If you like this sort of thing, it seems they do it well as there is some thoughtful moves here to work with. This band is actually a 19 year old man, so there is nothing if not significant upside.

IAN ANDERSON "HOMO ERRATICUS"
Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson seems to be on another wave of prolific writing and creativity. Following 2012's epic follow-up 'Thick as a Brick 2', he has continued with a theme oriented song cycle. He has brought back the fictional Gerald Bostock to 'write the lyrics' which cover the rather large cradle to the grave theme of humanity working across these fifteen songs. The music matches the breadth of these themes as not only will fans make many connections to previous Jethro Tull sounds, there are other classical and world elements embedded in the arrangements. There are the heavy moments in 'The Turnpike Inn' and the folkier elements of 'Puer Ferox Adventus'. Is this his best since 'Roots to Branches' (which I felt was brilliant)? It is hard to say as there have been a string of fine albums in between. Suffice it to say, that long-time Jethro Tull fans have little reason to be disappointed with the choices Ian Anderson is making in his songwriting and the execution of these fine albums in the 21st Century.

Come back tomorrow for my interview with Ian Anderson and then get your tickets for his Lincoln Theatre performance on November 6th.

Songs to try first:

Doggerland - Strong opener sets the tone for a panoply of sounds that you expect from a wide open Ian Anderson album.

Puer Ferox Adventus - Lovely seven minute song that weaves a classic folk rock tapestry.

Tripudium ad Bellum - Instrumental piece that reminds me of distant Tull and even a bit of Pentangle.

BEAR IN HEAVEN "TIME IS OVER ONE DAY OLD"
This is an intriguing combination of electronica, shoe gaze rock, dream pop, and maybe even a touch of post punk rock. Rather than a mess a conflicting tastes, Bear in Heaven manages this combination with a delicate touch and brings out the best of these styles. The ultimate effect is a dreamy environment with lighter pop moves and some post punk flashes in the beats or guitar. The vocals blend in but have enough force to take a lead role in most of the songs. It is all agreeable to the ear and is quite charming in the end.

Songs to try first:

Autumn - Opening cut successfully marries many styles and focuses int a unified theme for this band.

If I Were to Lie - Dreamy, but with a bite.

Memory Heart - Great vibe created by use of space and contrast.

FLASHLIGHTS "BUMMER SUMMER"

I suppose if you put shoe gaze music into a taffy pulling machine and set it to power pop, you may get something like 'Bummer Summer'. Flashlights have a thick fuzzy, shoegazey sound that they somehow stretch into catchy pop rockers that appeal to album listeners and certainly those that head to the clubs. OK, a simpler description is modern garage with punk-pop-rock style and plenty of energy. There is good heart in the vocals, although she knows how to pull back a bit for emphasis, which is a smart touch. Some songs work better than others, but the variety is nice and the gems stay with me, so I look forward to seeing this band live.

And I will be doing that when Flashlights and the very fine Paws open for Total Slacker at the DC9 on Monday, September 8th.

Songs to try first:

All Cats are Beautiful - They had me at the title, but the fuzzy shoe gaze pop was good, too.

Bottle Kids - Great Swell Maps rocking melody atop nimble drums and cool vocals carrying it along.

Islands - A nice quiet break amongst the rockers, with piano and vocals leading into a more contemplative mid tempo rock ballad of sorts.

PAUL KARAPIPERIS "ONE SIN IN SEVEN PARTS"
Straight blues is tough these days. It is all pretty good, but the form is rather rigid, so you better be at the top of the game or you are just one of many. So why not twist it around a bit and raise a few eyebrows? That is what Greek musician Paul Karapiperis has done with these seven sinful songs. Purists may want to condemn him to Hell for this sacrilege, but I was thrilled with the way he could add wildly psychedelic passages to standard blues runs and make it all sound so natural. The opener "Welcome Boy" is a wild journey through earth and space clocking in at nearly seven minutes. There are a lot of subtle shifts here and there with even some Spanish flair shown in some of the guitar moves. This a grounded psychedelic album with exciting twists and turns that should have any psychedelic music fan very interested.

LITERATURE "CHORUS"

Instantly I am reminded of the 3 O'Clock, or more accurately the name they first went under: Salvation Army (one guess as to why they changed it to The 3 O'Clock). The reasons are simple, not only do they capture that same spirited sense of popsike, but also the vocals are quite similar, only a tad lower on the register. The other key is the quick pace of these songs. The bass lines are fast with light but nimble drumming to match it. The guitars dance around letting the vocals create the dreamier psyche atmosphere. This style of music may be getting over played these days, but I don't think it has reached saturation point. With bright bands that tend to their craft like Philadelphia's Literature, there is still plenty of room for more pop music with that 1960s happy psychedelic vibe.

Literature plays at GWU this Sunday, September 7th.

Songs to try first:

The Girl, the Gold Watch, and Everything - Snappy cut gets things started with both feet running.

Court Date - Breezy style, still with plenty of pace.

Dance Shoes - Smooth harmonies over the top of underwater guitar moves. Fascinating sounds.

LOVE LINKS - "EXI"
Some times it is more impressive when I moderately enjoy a band in a genre where I am a tough sell than it is for a band to do well in my comfort zones. Love Links has a light electro-pop approach that I would easily dismiss no paper. Fortunately, Love Links has an approach and style that pulled me in and kept me with them for these ten short songs. The female vocals are soft and effective with light melodies punctuating the vocals, while metronomic rhythms drive it along with an intriguing contrast. I also like the jabbing fuzzy electric guitar which stands out in the space created here. This is a fun little album that hopefully will surprise many more.

MUSIC GO MUSIC "IMPRESSIONS"
This is about as straightforward a style of pop music as I've heard in a while. There are modern electronic touches, old style guitar solos and female vocals that are warm with just the right amount of power. I was all set to be a little negative with this release as I did not see how they could do anything beyond the basic structure of the first song. But then. lo and behold the magic worked in very confusing ways as this is just way too straight for me. But then I recall my guilty passion for songs like Giorgio Moroder's 'Call Me' and it made sense. This band hits all my pop buttons that are buried deep into some of early musical experiences. Just don't tell my friends how much I really like this music.

Songs to try first:

Inferno - This hook yanked me in with the uncontrollable force that is pop music

Part of Me - Dramatic vocal work makes this song move along to the crisp rhythm.

Tell Me How it Feels - This rocks to the point I feel I am hearing Richie Blackmore playing with Blondie.

MUTUAL BENEFIT "THE COWBOY'S PRAYER"
This five song EP is a decent enough document of Mutual Benefit's creative flair int he world of pop music. I would prefer something a little longer as their subtlety creates a slow build in my mind where it takes a lengthy listen to fully appreciate what they do. I did enjoy the more overt psychedelic touch they employed on 'Backwards Fireworks'. That is the the Mutual Benefit which interests me most. They offer a light but serious approach to pop music and are worth exploring if this is your beat.

Check out their live show at the Rock'n'Roll Hotel on Thursday, September 11th.

RIDDLE & THE STARS "THIS IS HAPPENING"
Although singer/songwriter Ben Riddle is Australian, the band is southern California all the way and it shows. Although both the USA and Australia have similarities with the more spacious western lands, so it is a fine musical marriage. They manage to find the common ground of expansive rural folk that is rooted to the historical roots of music more than one place. they waver between country and folk, and of course I prefer the folkier cuts. Nothing is particularly weak here, so this should be an album for all fans of those genres as well as those on a lookout for solid singer songwriters.

Songs to try first:

Hold Me - A memorable melody and arrangement stays with me well after this one ends.

The Sea - Lovely melody with harmonies and cool banjo/accordion arrangement with guitar and the rest.

This is Happening - Brisk drum work with a light touch reminds me that yes, this is fine folk rock and not too country for me.

SOJA "AMID THE NOISE AND HASTE"
DC band Soja has some smooth reggae working here in these thirteen songs. There are several guest stars to help shape some variant sounds which helps keep things fresh. But the core sounds are good and there is a soulful approach here that merges in classic should and R&B moves in a radio friendly blend (as we said back in the day). That may be a bit off-putting at times but the quality is there and the heart seems genuine enough. They succeed at getting you on the dance floor and may keep you on the toes with the shifts in vocals and style.

Songs to try first:

Your Song - featuring Damian Jr., Gong Marley with great vocal interplay.

Once Upon a Time - pop sensibility within reggae moves and dancehall horns.

She Still Loves Me - this one is on the pure side of reggae and the vibe is a welcome fulcrum.

SUN NECTAR "SHEEP LOVE & METAL GLOVES"
I saw Brian Trahan a while back with his band Farewell Republic. He alerted me to a new project he has undertaken with a set of fine musicians under the name Sun Nectar. This a seven song album with songs long enough and worked out thoughtfully enough, that it deserves the title of album. Initially, I thought that this would be a standard electro-pop record, but the complexities of the songs and talents of the musicians explode out quite quickly in an understated manner. 'This Monster' is an amazing song and could almost be math rock with some theoretical fuzzy math theorems at the core. The strings there and in other spots are striking. 'Shepherd, Shepherd' is also a highly effective song that reminds me of Fuchsia meeting the Decemberists. As exciting as the music is, there is a relaxed quality thanks to the easy going vocals and overall atmosphere. This is a sharp, intelligent record that does not lack emotion as it challenges listeners trying to fit it in to expected patterns. Pop music always will work at primitive levels, it is nice to see it work at advanced levels as well.

WISH "WISH"

Shoegazey psychedelic rock that at times reminds me of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and other times kicks it up a notch into Wooden Shjips territory. I like the space in the guitar sound and the metronomic rhythms rally pull me into what they are doing. They lack a little of the edge that may put this near my favorite album pile, but I wouldn't mind giving this a few more spins. This is a fine little record that may not overwhelm, but is able to sustain a comfortable atmosphere that should appeal to many a listener.

Songs to try first:

Slacker - I like the easy going pace and the vocals do rather live up or down to the song's title.

Frances in Space - Has a Hawkwind/Krautrock hypnotic rhythm allowing the guitarist to cut loose.

Unknowns - Relaxed psyche-rock in that BRMC manner.

XTINKSHUN "LETHAL ELITE"
This local release is a good fix for anyone's metal habit. I never get too far away from heavy loud riffage, although I would likely get bored if I tried to live a life of metal. But there are plenty of newer acts putting welcome additional spins on the genre as well as those that want to recapture the magic of early Black Sabbath. There is a little bit of both here. Just when these songs establish a catchy riff, the man behind this record (Luis Castellanos) tosses in something unexpected and creative. It does not get too overwhelming for the purists, but offers more for those of us that feel like we've 'heard it all'.

Songs to try first:

Lethal Elite - Thick metal with a nice Opethy break.

Drone War - Crunchy Sabbath riffs with a few tricky shifts.

Awake - Thoughtful shifts between quiet and loud with loads of dynamics

WILL Z. "12 VISIONS"
I was quite excited when I was approached with this album from Belgium's Will Z. He sent it as I was a fan of the amazing 1978 album Book of AM done by Gong's Daevid Allen and some communal musicians living on an island off of Spain. Will Z. worked with two of these musicians here. Sometimes projects like this sound better than the results, as maybe a fan of the music gets the people together but the core of the new work isn't as strong as the concept. Fortunately, here Will Z. has some lovely songs that are fully in the spirit of the Book of AM album and moves from psyche-meditative to what even becomes fairly catchy folk rock. There are some nice arrangements with different sounds, but plenty of space as well as this music works perfectly between Book of AM and Fit & Limo. There are more misses than hits with modern artists trying capture that magic psychedelic folk feeling from the sixties and seventies. This is a big hit and should have any fan of the genre giving full attention.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Perfect Pussy - Joanna Gruesome - Potty Mouth - Love of Everything -- Rock'n'Roll Hotel - Aug 30 2014

Love of Everything - This is one whimsical set from one whimsical guy from Chicago who plays guitar, bass, keyboard, electronics, and sings a lot with plenty of looping. There is a strong outsider quality with an airy detached sense of happiness within these slight songs. It is spacy at times with a sens of childhood wonder about it all. I can see people not loving this, but it is pretty hard not to like it. It is simple, but by design as the organization of these ideas was clear. You could feel the crowd enjoying it as they began to feel the vibe here. At 28 minutes, it was just right and an effective first course in a long evening of music.

Potty Mouth - These four women have carved a spot in my musical world where I enjoy keeping up with them and everything they do. They are from Northampton, MA and are composed of some Smith grads with a young singer guitarist in front handling most of the vocals with clarity and a subtle sneer akin to Penelope Houston's folkier style. But the band rocks from a garage style to a mid-tempo punk style with sharp post-punk pop moves in Burma-Du manner. They also have a controlled grinding style that reminds me of Mass's Proletariat from many decades ago. There recordings are as interesting, but they have the skills and style that work well on stage as well. I hope they keep this together as they are a full formed band with a sound that can work anytime, anywhere.
Joanna Gruesome - I finally get to catch this Cardiff band who made a highly enjoyable record a while back. Now here is the snotty punk vocals that are closer to Ari Up meets Poly Styrene. The twin guitar band cooks up a massive storm behind it all with highly energized, yet intricate riffs that remind me of New Model Army and some of the more thoughtful punk bands. The songs are always interesting and a few would be great power pop songs, although these are played as if they are completely out of control. But these sharp musicians know exactly what they are doing by giving all the energy and drive for the people that want to cut loose, while giving those in the back who want to lose themselves in quality music plenty to digest, as well. The crowd has nearly filled the room and are completely digging this band. I need to leave before the other co-headliner, but it has been a fine night of assertive and personal music tonight.

Quote of the Night:  And yet another from the musician on musician insult collection...

6. Boy George on Madonna
 “A vile, hideous human being with no redeeming qualities.”

Friday, August 29, 2014

PREVIEW OF UPCOMING ATTRACTIONS - Early September 2014

Lots of cool things happening around here, so here are some videos and audios of bands coming to town which I will be seeing or wishing I was there (as they never quite spread out enough)...

Cymbals Eat Guitars open for my old bud, Bob Mould at the 9:30 Club on Saturday, September 6th. It's an early show, so you can do much more on your Saturday night.


When planning your education, do you opt for Money or go for Literature? You have your choice on Sunday, September 7th when Money hits the DC9 and Literature heads to GWU.



Flashlights and Paws make for a great combo at the DC9 on Monday September 8th.


S. Carey comes to the Rock'n'Roll Hotel on Tuesday, September 9th. That's brother Stephen, not sister Shannon who plays in our excellent local band, Luray.


Mutual Benefit makes a swift DC return to the Rock'n'Roll Hotel on Thursday, September 11th.


Jann Klose arrives up close and personal with his excellent songs to Ebeneezer's Coffee House on Friday, September 12th.


Ty Seagall is hyped up quite a bit, but is worth every bit of it as he has both the inspiration and perspiration to offer reels of great music in his many projects. Catch him at the 9:30 Club on Monday, September 15th.


Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Frog Eyes - PS I Love You -- DC9 - Aug 25 2014

PS I Love You - It's Canada night at the DC9 with an east west connection. This Ontarian duo gets us started with a riveting 40+ minute set. Unlike many guitar-drums duo, there is no time spent wondering about what they might sound like if they had a bass player or keyboards or both. Instead, the drums lay it down and the guitarist/vocalist creates enough tuneful noise for three people. He does this by controlling bass sounds with his feet and having a strong guitar style that is full of thick noise and plenty of colorful fills and runs. It's like Dinosaur Jr. with less soloing or Husker Du and Christmas with that busy hard rocking attack at pop songs where a catchy hook is not lost amongst the noise. Vocally, he is similar to Pere Ubu's David Thomas with a strong but quirky voice that adds loads of personality to the songs. At one point he switched guitars which had a bass string on top  which he played with his right hand on the fretboard, while his right hand cut the intricate guitar parts below. Great work and no one (including a tough sale like me) should feel the need for any more band members needed. This music was thick and a lot of fun and the crowd went from interest to full born enthusiasm by set's end.
Frog Eyes - And from the far western realms of Canada comes this quirky quartet with guitar/vocals, keyboards, bass, and drums. The music is light, eclectic, with plenty of space for keyboard raindrops and guitars to rev up or scale down. The singer is very Bowiesque with a good range and intensity. In fact, as I wrote that note I was rather shocked that I don't see nearly as many Bowie styled singers as I did in the post punk years. That's actually a shame because we need more stylists that at least try to work this territory. And it was worked well tonight as these fascinating songs were quite lively and unique. This band is really hard to describe, but perhaps they are a slightly brighter Fall styled band? That's safe as the Fall were actually about nineteen different bands over the years. His stage patter was bizarre and disarming, but ultimately quite fun. He was so nutty and semi-sequitor at times that he made Robyn Hitchcock look like Walter Cronkite. The crowd was also digging this act and it was one of the more attentive and energized crowds I have seen this year. Thanks to everyone here from club to crowd to bands, this turned out to be a great evening.


Quote of the Night: More musician on musician insults here (great quotes from Frog Eyes tonight, but impossible to make sense of in a written column. You had to be there)....

7. Elton John on Madonna
“Anyone who lip-synchs in public on stage when you pay £75 to see them should be shot.”

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Bear in Heaven - Young Magic - Weeknight -- Rock'n'Roll Hotel - Aug 22 2014

Weeknight - Icy goth tones fill the club for the entirety of this 38 minute set. They had guitar and keyboards and constant male/female harmonies at work with their electronics in the background. The harmonies were a strong reminder of the Raveonettes and were the best part of it all. One cut reminded me quite a bit of a Dementia Precox song of my youth and this type of sound has certainly been around for quite some time. When they added some western twang to the urban feeling, I enjoyed the contrast. Otherwise it was a bit too steady and unchanging for me, taken as a whole. Still, there was some pleasant noise being shaped into songs going on here.

Young Magic - Even dreamier goth tones with dashes of psychedelia are present in this set. Live drums was a plus as the two in front worked a mix of keys, electronics, and some guitar. The vocals are female and take charge atop the electro pop moves and darker moments. Again, quite steady and decent enough, although the throbbing bass undercurrent was more annoying than pleasant for me. The band kept the spirit alive tonight, although with this style, it is rather subdued.

Bear in Heaven - This trio has more of a traditional approach with bass, guitar, and drums, although there are some electronics worked in from what I hear. Right away, the nimble bass work drives home a lovely song which is incredibly catchy, but flowing with depths of emotion that is quite moving. The second cut immediately shows more variation than I have heard all night as they go a more drifting psychedelic direction as if they were the grandchildren of Pink Floyd. They had a profound sense of slowly building intensities to exciting crescendos. This is a mature sound and the band has a great approach both to writing their songs and developing arrangements to make them something memorable. This is a class act and I hope they do well.

Quote of the Night - From the opening band plus a comment from the soundman working next to where I was...

Band: "Thank you all so much for coming out early tonight."
Sound: "Actually, it's late."

I chuckled as this was the third night in a row of the shows I've attended where bands have arrived late and either gotten no soundcheck or rushed soundchecks with the doors being delayed. There were some glitches at some of the shows, but the sound experts and the bands all worked together to correct things. Still, the bands can do a little better to make for a better show by managing their travel time better. It's tough, but hopefully this won't be a trend.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Spider Bags - Harness Flux -- DC9 - Aug 21 2014

Harness Flux - One guy gets up with guitar, microphone, and magical effects box and cuts loose. Loose is the key word, but in that positive way where the music is expansive and atmospheric, yet fully rocking in a spacey psychedelic style. I am hearing links to wild outsiders like Michael Yonkers, S.T. Mikael and even a bit of Bevis Frond. Although ultimately by the end of the set it sounded more like Spaceman 1. Although the garage psyche-rock sound is prominent, there are a lot of interesting twists and turns in this 36 minute set. And in my post-set research, I learn that I (and many more folks around here) have seen John M (Harness Flux) in the Cheniers, as well as some other bands. So he has proven long ago, he knows how to work a guitar and he did it again in this solo set tonight.
Spider Bags - This hot trio has expanded into a quartet to get that extra guitar heft in their live set. Fortunately, the new guitarist was ready for the pace of this intense act and didn't miss a beat. Not only do these guys rock hard and fast, but like the Ramones, they just bang out clusters of fierce little songs barely coming up for air or in need of tuning. But you don't want to just head bob yourself into the unrelenting rhythm, as there is a lot of detail to listen to in these songs. They take sort of a Lazy Cowgirls style, but even get more complex with moves that make me think of the Hellacopters, Weirdos, and even some guitar solos that would work on a great Radio Birdman cut. There are power pop hooks and they even twist into slower, rootsier songs toward the end, although they twist them in creative new directions. This band may have been born out of the garage, but the music is quite worldly with lots of exciting well written songs that will connect with large audiences. Get on board as I don't see how these guys can fail to connect to mass quantities of smart jaded rockers as well as the enthusiastic youth.

Quote of the Night - Back to the list of musician on musician insults. The last quote was Robert Smith bashing Morrisey. Now Morrisey takes aim...

8. Morrissey on Bob Geldof
 “Bob Geldof is a nauseating character. Band Aid was the most self-righteous platform ever in the history of popular music.”


Thursday, August 21, 2014

Jacco Gardner - Smoke Green -- DC9 - Aug 20 2014

Smoke Green - Second time around for me seeing this local psychedelic rock quartet. Their psyche jams successfully creates wide spaces within the volume of rock music coming forth. This music breathes. They lock in and jam hard and occasionally a song works its way through. They would fit nicely on a bill with Wooden Shjips and Kohoutek (the latter doing a DC show next week). The guitar work is fine and the rhythm section pounds away and adds some interesting funk textures at times. This is flexible psychedelic music that is easy to get into with plenty going on to make for strong sets that hold your interest. Always a pleasure.
Jacco Gardner - Speaking of pleasure, few bands make me feel as good as Nederland's Jacco Gardner (that's the country, not the town near Boulder, CO). These guys define popsike in the same manner that Temples do, and I hope they start getting some of that success headed their way, as their music is every bit as great. They have toured the US pretty hard thus far and it is evident with a fine core of fans filling at least half of the club tonight. Their sound is similar to that of a psyche folker like Mark Fry working with a sharp band like the Zombies. The harmonies are gorgeous and the relaxed easy going feeling in the songs has a pleasant narcotic effect. The little crazy jam at the end was the icing on this delicious cake. This is my third time for this band and I will be happy to see them every time they come through. Now if they take some time to get that next album ready, all the better.

Quick Obit of note -- The Dayton music scene lost another important person, and it is all the worse that he was one of the nicest guys I ever worked with. Chris 'Troy' Green died recently from liver cancer at way too young an age (mine). I met him and worked with him as the bassist of the highly underrated band, Dementia Precox.  He is the second member of that band to die, which still does not sit right with me. But of course I will remember all the good times we had and what a pleasure it was having him around. And I have the music. He is missed by all who knew him.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Miniature Tigers - The Griswolds - Great Good Fine Okay -- U Street Music Hall - Aug 14 2014

Great Good Fine Okay - We start the night with a multiple choice question. And after listening to a full set of this Brooklyn quartet, I choose 'D' - Okay. They play an overly bright soulful pop with plenty of electronic pulsations in the beat. It's heavy with keyboards, with bass and drums banging away too, although the electric guitar made a welcome appearance later in the set. They were competent enough, but there was not enough there for me to connect with as they did not really hit any of my areas of interest. I am not sure they transcended the levels of their chosen approach either, but I think the potential is there. I do have one nagging question... can three falsetto voices harmonize? Tune into this band and let me know your answer.

The Griswolds - This band comes all the way from Sydney, Australia, which reminds me that I just heard that Radio Birdman is back doing some Australian shows. While I knew there was no way the Griswolds would connect with me the same way Birdman did, I at least found a decent band here. There still is a little too slick of a pop sound for my liking, but the hooks were supplemented by youthful energy with good guitar work mixing with keyboards which burst forward impressively. These guys are really young as the drummer just turned 21, and they seem to be working pretty hard to make a name for themselves. I think they won over some of the crowd and they had several of their own fans there a well. While I may not return for their next DC show, I suspect they may be headlining and doing just fine without me.
Miniature Tigers - And finally a band hits the stage that takes the components and momentum of the first two bands and puts it together in a satisfying combination. The keyboard and vocal pop moves are here, but there is even more heft in the sound and some real jangle in the guitar work. The pop hooks are warm and inviting and the fat bass playing stands out in a positive way. I also like the vocal harmonies as there is a bit more subtlety and variation here than previously. It is a slick sound, but with enough warmth to make a broad appeal for many music fans. And it was a good crowd tonight that took up more than half the space, although they all pushed forward to really enjoy the bands. Summer shows do bring out the youth with a healthy influx of energy to a show. Miniature Tigers was up to the task of delivering them the goods.

Quote of the Night: With the Premier League ready to get under way, here's a line from Football365's Mediawatch column where they point out the rather odd things that the mainstream British Press comes up with...

Biblical Proportions
Writes Steven Howard in The Sun: 'FOR 13 long years Chelsea and Frank Lampard have been inseparable. Like Rodgers and Hammerstein, Cain and Abel, Marks and Spencer, one didn't operate without the other.'

Except when one killed the other.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Dana Buoy - Sun Cycle -- DC9 - Aug 12 2014

Sun Cycle - What I thought was going to be a nice little set of neo-psychedelic jams, slowly evolved into a more profound set of ethereal music. This local trio has some serious skills behind the jams, as well as some song structure that varies things up a bit over their 42 minute set. They remind me a lot of Motorpsycho in that regard, something that is not at all easy to do. The drum beats are interesting and have some jazziness and swing mixed into the rock forms. She can also sing while keeping a good beat, which is also impressive. The guitarist also sings while creating wave after wave of washed out psychedelic noise. The basslines occasionally stand out in magical ways, as it is fascinating to see how each instrument can subtly lead within the structure, focusing the listener's attention without stepping forward to do an obvious solo. This is a fairly new band that should be able to make a big name for themselves in our scene.
Dana Buoy - Although Dana Janssen may be primarily known as the drummer for Akron/Family, any fan will know that he has plenty of instrumental skills on guitar and more along with fine vocals that work their way into the great A/F music. Tonight, he focuses on guitar and vocals with a tight band behind him featuring a drummer and a bass player who also switches to keyboards. He has plenty of quirky rock songs with a touch of pop and loads of personality, that is of no surprise to me. One way he makes these songs so fun is the way he wraps his voice around the melody using a side range, while maintaining warmth. The guitar work also has some oddball moves that sound natural and almost expected. His band is solid and the set is crafted well to get heavier as it goes on as these guys can hit some thick high points along the way. Yet there are always twists and turns to keep things fresh and invigorating. His band mates all live in different parts of the country, so there is room for additional work in between Akron/Family projects. It is a pleasure that this project has yielded such positive results.

Quote of the Night - After a strong ovation from a heavy cut, the bass player chipped in... "They like to rock, Dana, they like to rock."

Monday, August 11, 2014

Twin Peaks - The Lemons - The Sea Life -- DC9 - Aug 10 2014

The Sea Life - A local twin-guitar quartet hits the stage to get things rolling tonight in a highly crowded DC9 with a young excitable bunch (and four of us that add nearly two and half centuries to the room). The band quickly emits frothy indie pop that the crowd can enjoy digesting. The one aspect that works for me is the one noodling guitar contrasting with the fuzzier one. It is a nice dynamic and the rhythmic section keeps things brisk and busy to fill out a likable and personal sound. There is briefly a touch of whimsy like the Akron/Family did so well and if they explored this further, they may be able to vary things more and add even more dynamics to their set. But this was quite fine as it was and the Sea Life got the night off to a hot start.

The Lemons - From Chicago this collective has to be the silliest band I have seen in decades. And that is a badge they would proudly wear as that pretty much is their point. Their child-like sense of fun is something you will not see too often at a rock club. This band makes the Dickies look like Wire or Jonathan Richman look like Morrisey. Their sound would go down well in between a Frankie and Annette beach movie marathon, although those films may be too highbrow. The jangly pop rock here is a pleasure to listen to and the band can certainly play it well enough. It is hard not to have a blast with this as they play a really short song "The Ice Cream Shop" and immediately say, "let's play it again!" and do so at least twice more. You may want to be careful not to eat too much ice cream with this band and get one of those freezer headaches, but if you relax and take in the sweet creamy flavors, the Lemons will be a wonderful treat for you.
Twin Peaks - Also from Chicago comes a much tougher quartet, although they have a lot of same sense of fun as the previous bands displayed tonight. The toughness is in the music starting with the drummer who pushes hard to keep the two guitars and bass alert to staying with the pace and volume. This is crafty rock music with a teaspoon of pop and a tablespoon of punk and lots of creative guitar solos and jangly chords. The songs are good with three different lead vocalists adding subtle shades to the powerful music. And indeed they were so hot, they were smoking... or at least their bass amp was and they had to switch a cabinet which slowed them down a tad, but not much. I sensed a casual Heartbreakers or a pop/punk Dead Boys vibe within the sound, but they had the youth and energy (oh, and lack of serious drug habits) to keep it all fresh and relevant to 2014. With Ice Age taking a bizarre left turn on their latest video, I may have a new favorite band that can take me back to the very early punk clubs of my memory, back when you had pop-rock-punk bands that were still finding the genre (or moving beyond). Good stuff and it went over well with a happy crowd tonight at the DC9.

Quote of the Night: We continue on with our musician on musician slams list...

9. Robert Smith on Morrissey
 “If Morrissey says not to eat meat, then I’ll eat meat — that’s how much I hate Morrissey.”

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Me and Karen - Black Hills - Honext Haloway - Chomp Chomp -- Rock'n'Roll Hotel - Aug 8 2014

Chomp Chomp - It is a guy and his laptop... First the positives: he did have a house light show going; the first cut had a really fun goofball sense of sugary pop to it that did invoke a smile; and the music was relatively competent all set. Still, it is watching a guy bob his head and shake his body to his laptop. I noted that a two handfuls of people were up bopping around a bit, but dozens more were clustered about in their own conversations, treating it as background music. While I rail about this if a folk (or even rock) act is going on, it is more understandable with music by computer. OK, enough of the ongoing editorial, it was fine for what it was, which was an effective warm-up in the early hours of a big night.

Honest Haloway - We continue with a local trio in this night of local acts. The guitarist switches to keyboards some while working electronics and synth with guitars that are treated heavily so that it is all smooth and consistent with their overall sound. That sound reminds me of the thicker side of New Order with decent pulsating pop moves and even better vocals here. Good rhythms, decent melodies, this is a likable band that I would be happy to see on a variety of bills. The crowd had built into a decent Friday night mass, raring to go, and Honest Haloway got them involved and excited. Always a pleasure when you get the vibe deep into a bill.

Black Hills - I don't have any record of seeing this band, but I have heard of them so it is high time to check out what these four guys can do. They have dual keyboards with guitar and drums. The ending impression I had with this band was how versatile they were with this set up. They pushed forward a unique focus on different instruments and sounds in the many varieties of songs they had. The vocals were smooth and classy and held it all together within their personality. At times it was rather light dream pop, while other times the guitar and drums galloped along pushing it into heavier rock territory. There were some songs that were utterly majestic in the same way a Dead Can Dance song can be transcendent. They don't quite hit that level of heaven (few do), but at least a couple songs had me saying 'wow'. More of that, please as I rather like soaring beyond the confines of the earth. Even the lesser cuts showed a class band at work, so this is a reminder of how much work I have to do to keep up with the local scene--and proof to everyone to catch these local showcases in between seeing your favorite touring bands.
Me and Karen - This is only the third show from this new duo, but their first as a trio as they have recruited a live drummer. The 'Me' is the guitarist from the band Oh So Peligroso, so it is no surprise to hear that it is his old drummer providing the fresh and invigorating beats that only (good) live drummers can give. There are plenty of electronics at work although often two guitars are employed, which is great for those of us that like a heavier sound. In fact, it got so heavy that there times I was reminded more of a blistering progressive band like Goblin more than that of an electronic pop rock band that may be their more convenient label. They have excellent vocals that help carve a distinct shape to their songs and mix up a lot of sounds to make it all come together. The crowd was still enjoying the music and were quite forgiving of the technical mishaps that slowed a few songs down. I am very forgiving as with just two of them in front of the drums, they were working hard to play a lot of instruments live while working the backing electronics. This was a fun set, quite raw with a band in its infancy, but tonight proved the materials are there them to succeed.

Quote of the Night: And we are down to our last ten in our continuing series of the nastiest musician on musician insults, courtesy of Tom Hawking...

10. Ian Brown on Bono
“He’s such a fake, isn’t he? When he did Live Aid, which made them a worldwide group … he looked out and [saw] that black girl in the middle of all them people, and she’s from Hackney or something, and he was like, ‘Here’s a great shot for me around the world to show I’m Mr Africa.’ It’s like colonialist times with a big white hat.”

Thursday, August 7, 2014

The Rose Buds - Jesse Marchant -- DC9 - Aug 6 2014

Jesse Marchant - I was expecting a fine singer songwriter set based on his upcoming album, and Mr. Marchant indeed delivered all of that tonight. It was a tad ragged early, but smoothed out well enough to the point you get relax and absorb yourself in his songs. I think one voice, one guitar generally works better on record but due to a highly attentive crowd and some subtle variant sounds that Marchant employed, the live set worked well. He switched routinely from electric guitar to acoustic, from finger picking to plectrum, and added a bit of kick drum and harmonica for a few of the songs. There were even some rock moments along with some cuts more psyche folk in direction. Jesse Marchant is a strong presence in the folk-rock crossover scene.
The Rose Buds - This North Carolina duo returns for the tenth time (they may have been rounding) to a very full DC9 tonight. The male female duo who handle lead vocals, guitar and keyboards are joined by a rhythm section and second guitar who create a variety of textures and tones for these fine pop rock songs to work their magic. They hint at shoegaze, but also can slow it down to intimate singer songwriter folk rock as well. I though the brisk throbbing rockers were the most fascinating as they reminded me quite a bit of the Feelies. They also have a Walkabouts feeling with a little less roots. The male vocals dominated and his voice with its warm range that hovers between Colin Meloy and Bob Theil takes the songs to an even higher level. Strong set tonight, small wonder they brought out so many people on a Wednesday night.

Quote of the Night - And one more from the list of musician on musician insults (and in honor of their forthcoming DC appearance)...

11. Richey Edwards on Slowdive
“We hate Slowdive more than we hate Hitler.”

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Boris - The Atlas Moth - Sub Rosa -- 9:30 Club - Aug 2 2014

Sub Rosa - This band looks like they have potential. There are three women on guitar, two violins, with all on vocals. Add a rhythm section and the sound potential looks fascinating. At the end of 29 minutes, the potential is still there, but not enough happened in between. It was doom laden the whole way with quiet chanting bits leading to louder bits with just the three rock instruments for a bit, then all five grinding away. The violins did add some great sound to the drone, but it just was not enough. There were enough people here that enjoy this premise and don't ask for anything more. I did enjoy the atmosphere for a time, but I can never fully get into bands that work for a sound, but have so little within.

The Atlas Moth - This Chicago quintet was just here at the DC9 in March, but seem quite happy to return on this tour and spread their music to an even bigger crowd tonight. They were a little slippery to get into early in the set, but by the end they finished with an intriguing blend of sounds that ranged from death metal to Kattatonia like prog-metal to droning songs and even something akin to experimental music working its way in. There were two or three guitars going most of the time with one guitarist switching to synthesizer and keyboards a few times, which really added some interesting twists. There were two or three songs which clearly displayed careful thought in the writing and arranging and showed off the bands skill at shaping atmosphere into a focused structure that was highly personal and inviting. This was a pleasure.
Boris - I have lost count of the times I have seen this fantastic Japanese trio. I did not take any notes as I just let their 80-minute set work its magic. Some of it is familiar with much of their wonderful new album on display as well. They ran the gamut from drone to fast metal, to psyche metal, with even a lighter pop song. I find it interesting, but not at all surprising that I see so many area musicians at a Boris show when they come to DC. They remain an absolutely brilliant live band that I will continue to make the effort to see every time they are nearby.

Quote of the Night - Another 'classic musician on musician insult' from Tom Hawking's list...

12. Mark “E” Everett on The Beatles
“John Lennon sings about peace because he’s a woman-beater. Hippies are so full of shit.”

Friday, August 1, 2014

Golden Looks - Teen Mom -- Rock'n'Roll Hotel - Jul 31 2014

Teen Mom - It is been a while since I've seen this local trio. They were always a little slippery for me to grab onto, although their sets always impressed. Tonight, some of those same challenges were there. I thought they started a little slow, especially with a laid back style between songs that made Jimmy Buffet look like a punk rocker. But then as the music flowed, their unique take on power pop music took over and created some real magic. They have some absolutely brilliant songs with at least one that could have been a radio hit if the era was right. Although I like the pacier cuts, they pull back well and offer some interesting variations, which require a bit more focus than most band's songs need. They had a nice long 47 minute set tonight that was well received and allowed a full showing of their song varieties. So this is still a band that perplexes me, but I am always happy to listen to, because the successful songs are so much better than most of what I hear.
Golden Looks - Fresh off of their album release, Golden Looks hits the stage to a small, but very enthusiastic crowd that was here for the music. They are fairly new around here, but not really as they come from bands, some of which, I have seen long ago. Also a trio, I can't tell whether they are playing with two guitars or if one if them is a six-string bass. The sound is fine with always enough bass, and they do switch instruments around with traditional basses. The drummer is doing double duty tonight, and this is his first show with this band. He is a real powerhouse, so he can probably drum for about anybody in town and help them sound good. The axe players are up to the task as they crank out some fine crisp, pacey, chirping pop-punk tunes. They both sing and have a female and male voice to work with. They harmonize a bit and probably should explore that further as they continue to write songs. They have a fresh, fun set of personalities, so it is hard not to enjoy their set, as the audience did.

Quote of the Night: Yet another 'classic' musician on musician insult. We're getting deep in the list, but still another dozen to come...

13. Rick James on Prince
“A little short ego-ed fucker who I had a feeling didn’t like people of his own race and wanted to be white and taller.”

Thursday, July 31, 2014

RECORD REVIEWS - JULY 2014

ALVVAYS "ALVVAYS"

It is always hard to knock such a pleasant pop rock album as this, so I won't… with explanation. The female vocals succeed as they dance around the melodies with conviction and innocence. The music is steady, dreamy in spots and firmly in a rock mode in others. It just does not quite have that grab you and never let go feeling to it, but rather sits comfortably aside. That may keep it from getting frequent relistens from me, but should still garner enough fans of this style that will happily come back for more and more. I am interested enough to keep my ears open for them either on tour or for future records.

Songs to try first:

Adult Diversion - The opening cut has a highly agreeable hook to dig into.

Party Police - Delicately plucked guitar intro moves into bright pop rocker.

Red Planet - Dreamy fade-out song with more of an electronica vibe.

BROTHER DEGE "SCORCHED EARTH POLICY"

Brother Dege has that sort of Denver sound which I am quite fond of--rustic rural dark and twisted Americana, with hefty rock moves within. These are mostly originals but there are two wild covers of Black Sabbath and Husker Du's 'Powerline', which are quite recognizable despite the strong instrumental changes. It is a grab bag of an album, with nine songs and ten additional demos and field recordings. Actually, the demos interested me more with better songs and singing and a fine psyche-folk vibe. The finished cuts have strong instrumental work, but the singing is a bit more erratic. But you will get all kinds of interesting music here to form your own opinion. Brother Dege has some rather intense visions and they occasionally work their magic in musical form.

Songs to try first:

Tower of Babel - With a banjo that sounds like a sitar and DEE style vocals, this one works well.

Supernaut - Yes, this is the Black Sabbath song done on banjo and acoustic guitar.

Jones for War - Listed as a demo, this sounds more complete than many of the other cuts.

EDJ "EDJ"

There is a rather nice style to this odd little pop record. The vocals stand away from the music, which mixes a light touch with odd melodic twists where everything is a wee bit off kilter, but not so that you would notice if you sat back and let the music flow. There is electronic pop present in many songs although it has that same straddling style of odd and comforting. Normally, this style is a challenge for me, but there was something oddly moving here. I am glad I heard these eleven songs carving out an oddly shaped corner in this world. And EDJ is Eric D. Johnson of the band Fruit Bats.

Songs to try first:

Odd Love - Odd indeed, as this has an edgy dreamy quality as it meanders down a familiar path with more jagged moves within.

Minor Miracles - The synth works some intriguing patterns around the piano, vocals, and drums.

Mostly Just Like Fantasies - Nice percussion including the rarely used steel drum.

FRENCH ADMIRALS "CLOSER THAN BROTHERS"

This new local band features some of the fine players from North of Canada. There are seven songs here on this short LP/long EP which gives just enough room for them to try out a few different ideas. There is brisk hook laden power pop followed by contemplative post-punk indie rock. They move around their style a bit, but never sound too radically different, which is a good way to explore interesting sonic terrain while retaining your personality. I particularly enjoyed the snappy Wire like guitars in "We Will Create our Own Reality", although the vocals are much more American (nothing too terribly French here). Although I need to note the serene sounds of the closer as it slightly clashes with ambient particles is a fine way to finish this interesting set of songs.

Sadly, I am booked, but you should head out to the Rock'n'Roll Hotel this Saturday night, August 2nd. It should be a fun night, as record release shows usually are.

GOLDEN LOOKS "GOLDEN LOOKS"


The opening cut of this local band's new album hits you in the face with some really oddball pop moves. It is a wake-up call, but you can quickly settle back and here and enjoy a wide variety of pop styles and pace. There is a little something for everyone. It won me over about half way through as there was enough evidence here to show me that this band worked out some interesting arrangements that challenged the norm and payed off with something that retained pop charm, while being edgy and personal. This is not easy to do in pop music. And although this is a new band, their musical roots are steeped in experience, which is none too surprising, given the quality here.

QUICKLY! Go see them tonight, Thursday, July 31st at the Rock'n'Roll Hotel.

Songs to try first:

Use Your Words - A crafty little pop tune here.

Rooftop - A quieter pop song that has a little indie folk within and lovely vocals out front.

Cosmopolitan - I can't tell if i love the smoothly flowing bass, the jagged guitar, or the crisp snare shots. OK, the vocals also work. Great tune.

HAPPYNESS "WEIRD LITTLE BIRTHDAY"

Is this slacker pop music? I think these kinds of bands have been around a while and I could try to name names, but this really is not an area of interest for me (OK, the press release says 'like Pavement meets Sparklehorse and Yo La Tengo' and that probably is pretty accurate as I have never delved much into those three bands, although I tried on two of them). I did enjoy the short little blast of garage rock that they called "Refrigerate Her". Plenty of people will take to this UK band. I am with those that like the oddball rockers more than the quirky folk or light indie styled songs.

Songs to try first:

Refrigerate Her - Really cool rocker clocking in at 1:18. Maybe another 20 minutes of this, and we'd have a winning album.

Anything I do is Alright - OK, here's where they stretch out their rock moves into something really cool.

Monkey in the City - The closer is low-key, but has a vibe that if you like it, you may like all 13 cuts.

KIVEL, MATT "DAYS OF BEING WILD"

Matt Kivel takes a laid back approach in delivering these songs. Clearly, there is method and thought behind this choice as this sort of delicate music with just the right amount of edge requires a specific vision. He has combined indie rock with dream pop in a way that subverts enough of the cliches of each to make this more listenable than I thought would have been possible. You may need to listen to all fourteen songs for the full effect to work. Otherwise it may sound a little slight and uncertain. But taken as a whole, he has crafted a soft and likable world for his songs and carefully placed instrumental interludes.

Songs to try first:

Underwater - An interesting merger of dream pop and indie rock.

Insignificance - Nice crunch in the guitar offsets the soft vocals and carries the tune along.

You and I Only - This is the catchiest song retaining the overall breezy style of the album.

JESSE MARCHANT "JESSE MARCHANT"


The singer songwriter genre is a tricky one. The defining traits seem to have more to do with the artist presenting his songs with more personal involvement than that of a band. The key for success is pretty much the same as any band, but the stakes seem higher. Not that Jesse Marchant has to worry about any of this. it does not take long into this album, before most listeners will realize they are listening to a major talent. He has the warmth of Josh Ritter with both the vocals and the songwriting, but he adds even more excitement with Tim Buckley style shifts such as on Buckley's classic 'Goodbye and Hell'o' (He's not up to 'Starsailor' yet, but give him time). Fans of Bill Callahan should also take to this, although the sound is different, the powerful atmosphere is quite similar. Suffice it to say, that Jesse Marchant is a strong voice in songwriting as well as a talent in the presentation of his songs.

I am sooo looking forward to Jesse Marchant's visit to the DC9, this Wednesday, August 6th

Songs to try first:

Words Underlined - The opener shows Marchant's ability to take control of a song with his strong vocal abilities.

In the Sand - Gutsy rock workout with unique structures and an amazing shift late on.

Snow Chicago - Dreamy organ behind acoustic guitars create the appropriate atmosphere.

ME AND KAREN "PINK GUILT"


We have a four song electronica EP from a local duo. While I can be a tough sell on electronic pop music, these two delivered great sounds and songs that fit comfortably in my world. They did it with attractive soaring female vocals on top of thick sounds that have both power in the synthesizers along with guitar parts that work the heavy side as well as the dreamy. It is not too surprising that there is fine guitar work here as the 'Me' in the title is Michael from one of my old favorites, Oh So Peligroso. This is a fun listen and the live set looks to have great potential as well.

Join me in seeing Me and Karen live an on stage at the Rock'n'Roll Hotel for a fun Friday night, August 8th.

MELTED TOYS "MELTED TOYS"
I was not so sure of this record at first. The vocals were dreamy with space and echo throughout, but the music was a bit of a mishmash between dream pop and indie rock in ways that did not always work. By album's end, it began to make a little more sense, at least in the songs that had a strong melody and some fascinating rhythms and counterpoint melodies. I am quite sure this is not at the top of my playlist, but it is worth further consideration and hints at a whiff of an intriguing live show where the contrasts may be played up in a more fascinating manner.

Songs to try first:

Horizons - This has a strong rhythmic pulsation undercutting the melody. A well honed edge.

Always - Dreamy vibe flows with just the right amount of strength.

Observations - Nice pop tune that rocks enough, too.

PEOPLE GET READY "PHYSIQUES"
Get ready indeed, as these ten songs bounce around the style room with the pace of a superball. It is all pop music for sure, but the guitars zig and zag in various patterns as lush textures sit beside sharply honed rock edges. Male and female vocals alternate or combine, percussion bounces around, and songs keep exploring different terrains and textures. It is all a bit much at times for me, but it is fun when something connects, which happened a few times. Heady pop music fans should check this out as this audacious band is calling out to you. Yes, you.

And why not head out to the DC9 this Friday August 1st to see this band live and in person?

Songs to try first:

Rainbow - Strange contrasts of cute airy vocals and buzz saw guitar runs.

Crueller - Dreamy vocals with jagged guitars and noisy counterpunches.

Sooooooooon - Punchy rhythms create yet another style shift for the band.

THE PROPER ORNAMENTS "WOODEN HEAD"
It's the 1960s all over again, for many bands that want to explore some of the familiar genres of that time. In this case it is pop music with the dreamy psychedelic overtones that the Zombies among others so successfully employed. The harmonies employed here remind me of that along with various psyche-folk bands of that era, such as the Folklords. This is all pretty good, but it gets a little 'samey' as it goes on. A bit more work on the details of the songs and variance of pace and volume may help. The vocal work is steady and occasionally hits heights worth going back to. They are on the right track and there are some lovely songs among the 14 on the is album.

Songs to try first:

Ruby - The acoustic guitar takes this into the psyche-folk realms and they do well there.

Now I Understand - A snappy beat punctuates the pop hooks and the brisk music and lush harmonies work very well together.

Always There - Guitar work conjures up that familiar desert landscape while the vocals stay lush and airy.

SKYGREEN LEOPARDS "FAMILY CRIMES"
If you don't like the proliferation of popsike bands coming on to the scene, then you may not want to spend time with this album. But for the rest of us who continue to welcome bands that combine the 1960s elements of catchy pop music with the psychedelic happenings of the time, then we say bring it on! Skygreen Leopards have all the right moves with stoned and dreamy vocals washing their way over lighter guitars, steady rhythms, and organ jabs. There are some serious Roger McGuinn guitar tones in many of the songs, which is always welcome to my ears. I am not sure the tunes are quite up to 'Temples standards', but they are warm and comforting. And they certainly will be on my replay stack for some time to come.

Songs to try first:

Love is a Shadow - Nice use of acoustic guitar and haunting farfisa organ set the tone for a great pop tune.

WWIII Style - Jabbing guitars and snares punctuate this smooth pop rocker with a lilting chorus.

Reno Wedding - Great garage guitar sounds as this rocks out a bit more than most of the cuts.

SEA WOLF "SONG SPELLS NO. 1: CEDARSMOKE"
Alex Brown Church is the man behind Sea Wolf. His music here is an intriguing blend of folk moves with dream pop and electronica ambiance. The vocals are highly personal with the right amount of anguish and introspection to not bludgeon the listener. The acoustic guitar work is striking with most of the sounds cottony and enveloping. Generally, I look to be transported out of my mood and into the artist's songs with deeper folk music and I was successfully pulled in early and often here. The other aspect which worked so well as the increased intensity and shift into pop rock as the album went on. This slow and steady build was that of a fine screenplay that fully satisfies in the end. This is smart music for peoples of all intelligence.

Songs to try first:

Rams Head - Fine combination of dream pop atmosphere with a deep personal folk tune.

Bavarian Porcelain - Flat out great song.

Visions - A somewhat epic closer that this album smartly built toward.

STARDEATH AND WHITE DWARVES "WASTOID"
This band that is not afraid to occasionally go heavy while shooting for catchy psychedelic pop songs. And better still, this band knows how to play with textures, volumes, and tempos while staying within a personal style. I almost wish for a bit more heaviness as they do it so well, but I can't fault them as their dreamy textures work well with the offsetting rhythms and sounds they cook up so as not to sound too settled. There are guest bands working with them on some songs, most notably the Flaming Lips (with Wayne Coyne producing, not much of a surprise), although there is not a clear discernible difference in those songs. This is a good modern psychedelic record that will definitely get more spins here.

Songs to try first:

The Chrome Children - The opener is an attractive cut with a powerfully throbbing backing.

Hate Me Tomorrow - Thick sludgy psyche with airy portions working alongside. Fascinating concoction.

Screaming - The Flaming Lips guest and help create a punchy, yet dreamy atmosphere.

JOE VALLINA "ON TV"
This six song EP will have you back in your time machine to some time around 1975 when music on the radio rocked in a pleasant, agreeable way. There are strong chords, clear melodies, clean expressive vocals, atop a sturdy rhythm section. It is a bit too mainstream for me most times, but the wailing lead guitar that even operates beneath the vocals at times, is what makes this interesting at times. Joe Vallina is local and he can likely 'bring it' in the clubs, although I have not tested that theory yet. Definitely for the fans of 1970s rock'n'roll.

WHITE FENCE "FOR THE RECENTLY FOUND INNOCENT"
Thankfully it was not a Freudian slip when I accidentally typed 'Shite Fence' as I started this review. Instead, White Fence works the modern psychedelic terrain with confidence and just enough good songs and songs to stand out from the crowd. And I knew all of this already, as this is not the first record of Tim Presley's I have heard under the moniker White Fence. He knows this style well and continues to prove it on his fifth White Fence album. The west coast guitar work is key with the Byrdsian/Love moves. HIs vocals are decent enough and the band rocks in a languid but efficient style. The really good songs will click with you instantly and all fourteen play through quite well. This isn't as monumental as Lover, but few bands hit those heights anyway. There is enough here for me to continually dig in while awaiting the next.

Songs to try first:

Sandra When the Earth Dies  - Has a Ray Davies gone wyrdpsyche vibe to it.

Wolf Gets Red Faced - Jangly guitar works off of intriguing leads, tapping percussion, and smooth vocals. Yum.

Fear - Not the John Cale song (or the 'fade to awful' LA band), but a lighter, jangled out psyche rocker that is quite moving.

WOMAN'S HOUR "CONVERSATIONS"
This is a rather pleasant pop band, that may be just a wee bit too blandly pleasant for my liking. The female vocals are nice and the music never threatens with anything more than competent delivery of textures for the melodic and dreamy vocal work. Although I use the word pleasant, clearly the vocals dig deep and evoke some thoughtful imagery. It all plays well, but does not really move me to listen much more. But if you like cool, yet emotive English music, this may well find a way into your collection.

YONATAN GAT "IBERIAN PASSAGE"
Normally I have pretty good idea of what I am going to write about a record half way through the first song. Sure, things change as I listen to it all, but the genre is often easy to spot. Here, Yonatan Gat has me mystified pretty well through all of the six songs. First off, it is recorded live and raw. It has the quality of a high end bootleg and thankfully there is enough quality to pick out most of the busy work this band is engaged in. It is mostly instrumental with thunderous percussion, keyboards, and guitars playing some sort of world jazz-rock with ethnic folk roots. In fact, he does cite jazz influences as well as rock and wanders between middle eastern and western styles. Fascinating and well worth exploring further.