Monday, July 30, 2012

Seizure Crypt - "You've Been Had!" CD Review (Crossover Thrash)

Seizure Crypt - 'You've Been Had!' CD Review (Crossover Thrash)My days of hanging out in clubs into the early hours of the morning are long past but it used to be a lot of fun to see five+ bands in a night because there were always one or more bands that I hadn’t heard previously who I ended up really liking. Queens-based Seizure Crypt would have been one of those bands and they have a boot-stomping, old-school hardcore sound that would have put them on the bill for many of those multi-band nights at L’Amour, CBGB and the Continental. Seizure Crypt cites playing over 100 self-booked shows and one of the biggest that I can remember was when the band opened for Sheer Terror at Webster Hall.

Seizure Crypt formed in 2004 and the band released their fourth full-length disc, You've Been Had!, earlier this summer. The music is high-energy crossover thrash (a band like Crumbsuckers is a good point of comparison) and the band blasts through twelve tracks in 26 minutes. Lyrically, the band has a healthy sense of self-awareness and humor and songs like “Bigger Than Politics” and “Seizure Crypt vs. The Devil” run the gamut between these two points.

In a recent interview, the band has said “We’re trying to bring fun back into heavy music and amuse ourselves in the process. While we are serious about our music, all the antics, costumes, and crazy ideas are just us letting loose and having fun. We really don’t think about projecting an image as much as turning shit upside down and sideways as often as we can.” The band’s bio adds that their live shows involve “costumes, combat and quite a bit of property destruction by the band's dueling vocalists”.

While Seizure Crypt isn’t breaking new ground musically, the band captures the raw energy of a live performance on the disc as it twists, turns and barrels like an out-of-control freight train that is always on the verge of derailing. The new disc was produced by Colin Marston (Krallice, Behold... The Arctopus) who does an excellent job of capturing both the musicality and ragged fury of the band. The dueling vocalists also gives the music an ‘edge’ as Tom has a straight-up punk/oi vocal style while Mike’s vocals are maniacal.

There is something sort of comforting and reassuring about an old-school hardcore album as you always know what you are getting (no Guns N’ Roses style “symphonic ballads” here) and, if you don’t like one song, the next one starts in a minute or two.

Seizure Crypt has said on their website that they are gearing up for some live shows but no dates have been announced yet.

Seizure Crypt

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Steve Katz - "Barricades" CD EP Review (Singer/Songwriter)

Steve Katz - 'Barricades' CD EP Review (Singer/Songwriter)
Belgium-to-NYC transplant Steve Katz is a traditional singer/songwriter whose strong vocals and rich, narrative lyrics falls somewhere between Cat Stevens (who Katz cites as an inspiration) and Damien Rice. Katz just released a five-track debut EP, “Barricades”, and he writes on the CD cover “Barricades can scare, challenge and stop us from achieving goals. They are everywhere and often invisible. I've gone through many barricades in my time—physical and emotional ones that stood between me and my goals. Had I failed to go through any of them, this cd would never have been made.

The disc starts with “Thrive” which is an upbeat roots-rock number which doesn’t let melodic, ringing guitars take away from Katz’s strong and clear vocals. The message of this song is one of hope and redemption and Katz describes the song as “an inspiring tale of being pulled from the depths of despair by a special person in our lives”. The second track, "Today I Saw Hope", follows with a similar message of hope and redemption but Katz changes gears musically. This song is an acoustic number with subtle backing vocals from Keren Tayar coming in to fill in the spaces. Katz states that this song “was inspired by volunteer work in a very poor area of Knoxville, TN, where two elderly African-American women feed thousands of hungry people every week”. The title track, “Barricades”, drifts too far into “adult contemporary” territory as the FM-lite music blunts the impact of Katz’s vocals but Katz redeems himself with “Fair”. This later track is a mellow rock number that complements Katz’s vocals with sustained guitar notes, soft drums and a mellow (almost jazz) bass line. The disc’s final track, “A Modern Tale”, is a melancholy breakup song where Katz reaches for some high falsetto notes while telling a richly descriptive tale of love gone astray.

Steve has a couple of local shows coming up:

August 8 - Freddy's, Brooklyn, NY - 10:30PM
August 9 - Gizzi's, 16 W. 8th St

The song isn't on the CD but it should give a good indication of what Katz sounds like live.

Steve Katz

Saturday, July 28, 2012

The Damn Choir: Chicago Folk-Pop Band Plays Late Show at Mercury Lounge on August 9th

The Damn Choir: Chicago Folk-Pop Band Plays Late Show at Mercury Lounge on August 9th
Chicago's The Damn Choir, who Venture Mag called an "introspective downbeat version of Mumford & Sons", is back in town for a late show at Mercury Lounge (supporting Stand) on August 9th. The Damn Choir are touring behind their second disc, You’re my Secret Called Fire, which was released this past May and the band made the most of Chicago’s long winter by filming a labor-intensive stop motion music video for their song “Noah”. This album continues where the band's debut, Faithful Fools, left off; with similar themes and vocalist/guitarist Gordon Roberston’s recognizable voice, but the fullness of a band whose members each contributed creatively in a big way.

Tickets are $12 in advance and $15 DOS. Doors are at 9:30PM which likely means that The Damn Choir will take the stage at 10PM (call the club to confirm).

The Damn Choir's use of guitar, cello, vocals and drums, along with Gordon Robertson's introspective lyrics, create songs that range from meandering and melancholic to pulsing and vengeful.

The Damn Choir began in January of 2009 on a freezing and fated night in Chicago. Gordon Robertson sat slumped at the bar, drowning his post-horrific-break-up dejected self in whiskey and happened to meet cellist Katy Myers. Although at first Myers rejected Robertson's musical advances, eventually she gave in and agreed to give him a chance.

Within weeks the two were musically inseparable and involved in an (arguably unhealthy) co-dependant friendship. After playing for months under the name, “Gordon and Katy,” the two recorded an album, “Faithful Fools,” re-named the band, and began the journey that would lead them to eventually recruiting Ryan Farnham on drums, Otis Duffy on electric guitar, Brandon Stein on bass, and Jack McClain on percussion.

The Damn Choir

Thursday, July 26, 2012

black bird white sky (BBWS): Electro-Rock Trio Announce "Remix" EP Release Party at Rockwood Music Hall on August 1st

Black Bird White Sky (BBWS): Electro-Rock Trio Announce "Remix" EP Release Party at Rockwood Music Hall on August 1st Black Bird White Sky (BBWS): Electro-Rock Trio Announce 'Remix' EP Release Party at Rockwood Music Hall on August 1st
black bird white sky released their debut full-length in September of last year and is following that up with the release of a new EP on July 31st called "The Remixes". Three of the tracks are remixes from the band's debut self-titled album -- remixed by the band's producer Nic Hard, who also produced The Bravery, The Kin, and Ghost Beach. The 4th track, "Emergency", is a new single.

black bird white sky is playing a (free) CD release show on Wednesday, August 1st, 8PM at Rockwood Music Hall (Stage 1).

New Jersey native Ronnie Shingelo formed black bird white sky in early 2011 originally as a 5-piece with a drummer and electric guitarist. After further collaboration with producer/engineer/mixer Nic Hard (The Bravery, The Kin, Church, Ghost Beach), Ronnie decided to pursue a more electronic sound and pared the group down to a trio, consisting of Ronnie (lead vox, guitar), Jenna Perry (synths), and Luke Wagman (maschine, beats). “It made a lot more sense to me as we performed more shows,” says Ronnie about this evolution. “Nic had some great ideas about remixing some of the songs off our first album, and after hearing them, I knew this was a much better fit for our sound.

Nic Hard drew on a lot of his own history as a club DJ in the downtown London underground scene infusing his techno and remixing expertise into the making of the Remix EP while allowing Ronnie’s overall style and vision to remain throughout. What resulted were remixes of “Before Sunrise” (which includes cameo guitar riff from Joel Hoekstra of 80s hard rock band Night Ranger), the dancier “Lay You Down”, and the moodier “I Saw Your Soul” – all from the band’s debut release. “Emergency” is the fourth and newest track that showcases Ronnie’s signature broad vocal range.

Far from a newbie on the indie music scene, Ronnie fronted two other electronic rock bands from Brooklyn: Silvercord, who shared stages with Kansas and Twisted Sister and opened for Bruce Springsteen at Giants Stadium, and SkinGod whose music was licensed to Guitar Centers throughout the country and got attention from ATO and RCA Record label reps. Ronnie broke off in 2010 to pursue his solo project and formed black bird white sky with 4 friends and fellow musicians that he met through the New York City indie music scene over the past decade. After bringing BBWS together in early 2011, Ronnie teamed up with Nic Hard and co-producer/engineer Jonathan Goldstein to create the band’s first album, which released in September 2011.

The band’s songs typically center on heavy subjects, such as addiction, fear of loss, and guilt while juxtaposed to upbeat melodies romance, love and longing and bouncy tempos that keep the album’s vibe from becoming tragic and dark. “Every song draws on something hidden deep inside me,” explains Ronnie about his music. “I’m a deeply emotional person, and I write from my gut. I’m hoping these songs will resonate with other people who have felt the same way I did at some point in their lives—and maybe even make them dance a little.

black bird white sky

Teachers' Sons - "Teachers' Sons" LP Review (Space Rock / Doom)

Teachers' Sons - 'Teachers' Sons' LP Review (Space Rock / Doom)
Brooklyn Teachers’ Sons are a doom /space rock band who just released their brilliant debut full-length LP as a limited-edition (ltd. to 200) colored vinyl pressing. In an era of digital downloads, you have to love a band that has the b*lls to release their first record on vinyl (there is a digital download card included for those without a turntable which includes the full album plus a digital-only bonus track).

There isn’t a lot of background information about Teachers’ Sons on the ‘net – the band’s Facebook page says: “The three members of Teachers' Sons are from small towns in West Tennessee and grew up together in the hidden fields therein. All sons of elementary school teachers, the three all took different routes in life to end up together in the "big city" creating music, more as a form of release and self-medication. Songs contain subject matter dealing with what goes inside the subconscious of the best and worst moments in the lives of those who have completely lost control of reality and themselves. Horrifying and uplifting (sometimes at the same time), the music is intended to leave the listener feeling a peaceful anxiety.

To further clarify the “doom” label mentioned above, this isn’t the crushing, epic doom of Sunn O))) but rather the organic, slow-burning and brooding doom of bands like Woods of Ypres crossed with the space rock of early Pink Floyd and Hawkwind. The disc starts off with a languid and hazy 60s psychedelic number, “The Chosen One”, which combines moody guitars with murmured hazy vocals and layered multi-part harmonies. While this may sound like a typical 60s psychedelia, it is rather unsettling – especially when the lyrics are talking about the ‘fire waiting for you’. Some of the other standout tracks are “Dim The Lights”, which is a blackened doom number that opens with a voice-over about a murder victim and builds up a creepy atmosphere in both the back- and foreground before coming to an abrupt end. “Admiral Benbow” is guitar driven and is somewhat reminiscent of The Devil’s Blood with its big 70’s stoner rock riffs. "Not Too Far Down the Road" and "Shootout at the Hills" fall back into space rock and both numbers have acoustic segments and feature multi-part harmonies. "The Cancer" goes a step further into Teachers’ Sons' desolate universe with a Sabbathish electric doom number which has an undercurrent of free-flowing psych/prog leads. The disc goes out with "The Beast", which is a space rock number with an aggressive undercurrent (reminiscent of early Pink Floyd) that features intertwined guitars, minimalist drums and reverb vocals .

While the last Woods of Ypres record that I reviewed offered some sense of redemption on its final track, Teachers’ Sons doesn’t stray far from the lonely and desolate landscape that they started with on the LP’s first track. The band’s Facebook page says “Teachers' Sons is a project that redefines the space-time continuum with emphasis on what happens in the regions of the subconscious that contain the repressions of uncontrolled actions.

Teachers' Sons

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Two Gallants Release "My Love Won't Wait" (Free Download) from Forthcoming CD, The Bloom and the Blight

Two Gallants Release My Love Won't Wait (Free Download) from Forthcoming CD, The Bloom and the Blight
Alternately explosive and restrained, the aptly titled The Bloom and the Blight is a meditation on past and present – melodic fury matched with the eloquent, confessional lyricism that has made Two Gallants an enduring favorite of both fans and critics. Capturing the sound of a new beginning, the duo’s ATO Records debut The Bloom and the Blight celebrates the band’s much anticipated reunion following a multi-year break. It is the work of Two Gallants, fully matured, the band fearlessly exploring new ground in search of a sound that defines a very personal catharsis.

We’ve both gone through some hard stuff personally, so this album has that element of the cathartic, of a release of tension,” explains Adam Stephens (guitar/vocals), “We had taken time off, and we did different things, played in different bands. And in doing those things, being apart and redefining ourselves in that way, we were able to come together with a fresh approach.

That approach includes everything from the distorted ferocity of “Halcyon Days” to the heart-wrenching acoustic ballad, “Sunday Souvenirs”. Songs like “Ride Away” boast all the prowling, anthemic strut of classic metal; while tracks like “Winter’s Youth” start sweet and sad, than shatter into huge and heavy choruses. The album’s first single, “Broken Eyes,” has already become a crowd favorite with its raw, aching harmonies and weeping harmonica.

Our past albums have been a lot more folk and blues-based, and I tried to move away from that to some extent,” Stephens says of the band’s fresh direction, “I wanted to find a rawness in the music and take us back where we’d come from, from punk rock and grunge in particular, to our childhood, in some ways.

Friends since they were five, the band grew up playing music together, from early teen-age house parties in their hometown of San Francisco, to multiple world tours. Throughout their extensive travels over the past 8 years – including recent tours through China and South Korea – Two Gallants have continued to evolve, both musically and personally.

The bands’ very first single, “Nothing to You” (from their 2004 debut The Throes), started off a string of cult classics that helped define their signature sound. The success of the sophomore album, What the Toll Tells (2006), delivered a few more singles, including “Steady Rollin’” and “Las Cruces Jail”. The wistful “Seems Like Home to Me” from "The Scenery of Farewell" EP (2007) and “Despite What You’ve Been Told” from 2007’s self-titled album, provide the framework of the bands development into The Bloom and the Blight.

This record is important for us – as a next step,” explains Tyson Vogel (drums/vocals), “It’s a passage into adulthood in a lot of ways. We had a hiatus of a few years, and each of us went through things that we had to go through. This record breaks the silence.” In many ways, The Bloom and the Blight reflects the separate journeys of the duo during these past years apart. We hear Vogel finding his own distinct musical voice on the guitar-driven track he penned for the record, “Decay”. “It’s about a fissure of self,” he says of the song, “how things you can’t control, can wound your heart.” And everywhere on The Bloom and the Blight is an urgent, emotional poignancy, a visceral undercurrent that stems, in part, from Stephens’ experience recovering from his injuries after a serious van accident. “I wasn’t able to play guitar or piano for about four months,” he remembers, “but I started writing songs for the record as soon as I was healthy enough.

Recorded by John Congleton (Explosions In The Sky, Modest Mouse, St. Vincent) at the legendary Fantasy Studios in Berkeley and Tiny Telephone in San Francisco, the sound of The Bloom and the Blight is nothing less than epic. The duo roars and sweeps, guitar and drums fusing into something larger than life. “He’s an artist in his own right,” Vogel says of Congleton, “he put his own emotional investment into the songs. And as a result, he took us to another level.

Indeed. The Bloom and the Blight is Two Gallants not only pushing themselves to that next level, but also exploring a multitude of new directions along the way. “We went on different paths these past years,” explains Vogel, “but I think we share a common feeling, a commitment to try to transcend what we’ve gone through…and build something stronger out of it.

Two Gallants

H5Work (Henry Veloso) - "Miles from OZ" CD Review

H5Work (Henry Veloso) - 'Miles from OZ' CD Review
Miles From OZ is the brainchild of Brooklyn producer Henry Veloso, who records under the name “H5Work”, and his new eleven track disc is an intriguing mix of 80’s dance pop, 90’s alt-rock and Latin swing. The foundation for all of Veloso’s music centers around a hip-shaking dance groove and Veloso credits fellow Brazilians Djavan, Caetano Veloso and João Bosco along with Stanley Clarke, Paul McCartney, Bernard Edwards and Donald Fagan with providing him inspiration.

The disc leads off with “Feel”, which is a big 80’s dance-pop number with a swinging beat (and without the overbearing 80’s production) and some Peter Frampton style vocoder vocals. Things slow down slightly on the next track, “Dream”, but Veloso mixes things up by bringing in some woodwinds and a female vocalist that sounds remarkably similar to Kay Hanley (Letters to Cleo). The stylistic changes continue with “Out of Reach” – a slow burning torch song – and “Chained” – a mid-tempo pop song that wraps together a 70’s funk bass line and beat, accordion and big female harmonies. Three alt-rock numbers punch up the mid-part of the disc - “Miles from OZ”, “Damaged Goods” and “Dead Presidents”. “Miles from Oz” uses aggressive instrumentation (predominately keys and drums) to build up a wall of noise, which falls back to some Trevor Rabin style guitar work. “Damaged Goods” has a pounding industrial dance beat and kiss-off lyrics. “Dead Presidents” backs off on the aggression and is a bluesy rock number with some harmonica, horns and jazzy guitar lines. The final three tracks end the disc on a “Latin” note. The tracks “Zona” and “Real Things” are big Latin-based dance numbers with popping drums and big horns and the final track, “Tramp Stamp”, is an instrumental jazz fusion number.

There isn’t a lot of detail about H5Work either online or with the press kit that got mailed out. Henry is cited “as a composer, arranger and session (live and studio) bassist/guitarist” so I have to assume this is a studio-only project. Miles From Oz makes for a good “drive time” disc and there is enough complexity and intricacy in music that the disc holds up to a more careful listen.

H5Work @ ReverbNation

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Allen Stone: Neo-Soul Singer Plays Exclusive "Live From T5" Show on Thursday, July 26th at Jet Blue's Terminal 5 at JFK

Allen Stone: Neo-Soul Singer Plays Exclusive 'Live From T5' Show on Thursday, July 26th at Jet Blue's Terminal 5 at JFK
JetBlue Airways is hosting an exclusive live performance by soul-singing sensation Allen Stone on Thursday, July 26, 2012 at 6 p.m. ET. Following a sold out performance in New York the night before, the musically inclined airline is once again providing a surprise performance that is sure to delight. JetBlue’s Live From T5 concert will be held post-security at Terminal 5 (T5) at John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) in New York and will be available to ticketed customers and contest winners as part of the airline’s ongoing focus on enhancing the customer experience.

The music-loving airline has partnered with and WFUV 90.7 FM for a local contest. Beginning July 17, fans can enter for a chance to win passes (winner plus a guest) to this exclusive, intimate concert by Allen Stone.

"Allen Stone’s powerhouse sound has brought him to the front row in the music industry,” said JetBlue Brand Coordinator Albert Hsieh. ”His energy, unwavering attitude and individuality are similar to JetBlue, a brand that truly values independence. JetBlue loves to break new ground and introduce quality artists to our customers. Those traveling through our terminal at JFK’s T5 will get a real treat as Allen Stone performs following his sold out show at the famed Bowery Ballroom the night before.

Allen Stone has been described as a pitch-perfect powerhouse and his socially conscious music has been likened to that of bona fide soul legends such as Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye and Donny Hathaway. However, this 25-year-old singer-songwriter from the tiny town of Chewelah, Washington simply classifies himself as “a hippie with soul.” Since the digital release of his self-titled album via his own stickystones label in October 2011, his shows have sold out from coast to coast, with performances on the ESPYs Countdown Show and Late Show with David Letterman. He will also be making his first major festival appearances at Outside Lands and the Life is good Festival and touring with Dave Matthews Band, Al Green and The Avett Brothers this summer. Stone’s album has appeared in the Top 10 of Billboard’s Heatseekers chart and the Top 5 of iTunes’ R&B/Soul charts. Stone’s first national television appearance – on Conan – came after the music booker saw a YouTube video of Allen performing “Unaware” in his mother’s living room. Esquire, CNN and Billboard named Stone as an artist to watch – all before he had the support of a record label.

About Live From T5
JetBlue's Live From T5 concert series debuted in 2009 and was developed in partnership with Superfly Marketing Group. It has since grown into a concert series that transforms the travel experience by producing live entertainment for customers traveling through JetBlue's state-of-the-art Terminal 5 at JFK. Live From T5 features artists from around the world, including many Grammy Award nominees and winners. Over the past three years the series has hosted performances by Kany Garcia, Ellie Goulding, Chris Isaak, Jason Derulo, Robyn, James Blunt, Taylor Swift, Raphael Saadiq, Sarah McLachlan and rock band Daughtry, among others. All Live From T5 concerts take place post-security in the terminal marketplace.

Allen Stone

Empty Orchestra - "One More Time, All Together Now..." CD Review

Empty Orchestra - 'One More Time, All Together Now...' CD Review
Flint, Michigan’s Empty Orchestra described their music on their Facebook page as "Screamin' Jay Hawkins f*cking Tom Petty in the bathroom at a Sixteen Horsepower concert.” To my ears, substituting Screamin’ Jay Hawkins with either Craig Finn or Jeffrey Lee Pierce would be more appropriate. Empty Orchestra is releasing their second full-length, One More Time, All Together Now, next month (out on Tomas Kalnoky’s Pentimento Music Company label) and the disc’s twelve tracks are working-class anthems of “hope and doubt and death and punchlines”.

Empty Orchestra came together in 2006, forming out of the remains of several different Michigan bands, as a casual recording project between songwriter/guitarist Stephen Wisniewski and some of his friends. The result of that experiment was the first Empty Orchestra EP, “Get Well Soon,” a weird collage of American roots music that would set the tone for things to come. Over the past few years, Empty Orchestra has toured extensively and has shared the stage with bands that have ranged from Murder By Death to Jeremy Enigk to Shooter Jennings.

Empty Orchestra’s new disc seems to garner frequent comparisons to The Hold Steady and there is some merit to this comparison as Wisniewski’s lyrics are highly narrative stories and, musically, the band utilizes prominent keyboards and anthemic choruses. This is just though a jumping off point for the band’s sound as there are equal elements of alt-country and roots rock so comparisons could also be made to bands like Uncle Tupelo, Sun Volt and Wilco. In a bit more “sane” quote than the one mentioned above, the band describes their songs as “rooted in the sometimes uncomfortable rubbing together of traditional musical forms like country, blues, punk, rock and roll, and others. In many ways, it’s folk music, meaning music that has a relationship to a community, and usually a relationship to struggle – it’s an impossibly messy and constantly changing tool for people to express joy and navigate pain, and of voicing outrage and celebration and solidarity.

The disc start with The Hold Steady-ish relationship song “Broken Record” (which provides a first view into Wisniewski’s turn of a phrase with lyrics like “You and I like an AM radio station / Talking late into the night”) which features nice guitar leads and an anthemic chorus. “The Ballad of Bulls Run” moves into the heart of the disc with a roots rock labor ballad, which was inspired by the 1936 sit-down strike in Flint, Michigan.. “A Wide Spot in the Road” follows in the roots vein but brings in female backing vocals and is slightly poppy (somewhat similar to Chicago’s Cobalt and the Hired Guns). “Trust Me” is a mid-tempo rocker that falls somewhere between Bruce Springsteen and the Gin Blossoms. “The Audience” is a real standout – it is a moody alt-rock number with a pulsing beat and innovative start/stop breaks. Tracks "You Should See the Other Guy", "Lo and Behold" and “Echo's Bones” are big, full-sounding rock numbers with a complex interplay of instruments, “bash it out” drums and exploding choruses. The band slows down with weary road tales on tracks "Black and Blue" and "We have Ways of Making You Talk" and goes out with track "Empire State Building", which starts with a slow-burning intro before building into a full rock number. This last track through never builds to the exuberance heard on some of the earlier rock numbers as there is an underlying current of melancholia and, ultimately, the wall of sound collapses to a syncopated drum outro.

Empty Orchestra is currently in the midst of an East Coast tour which stops at Big Snow Buffalo Lounge in Bushwick on Thursday, August 2nd. Full tour dates are below:

Wed - 7/25/2012: TBA, Atlanta, GA.
Thurs - 7/26/2012: TBA, Asheville / Charlotte, NC. With Shores.
Fri - 7/27/2012: The Cave, 452 1/2 W Franklin St, Chapel Hill, NC 27516. With Shores and Shit, That’s Ironical!
Sat - 7/28/2012: Strange Matter, 929 W. Grace St, Richmond, VA. With Shores and Red States
Sun - 7/29/2012: TBA, Washington DC. With Shores, PygmyLush.
Mon - 7/30/2012: The Level Room, 2102 Market St, Philadelphia, PA 19103‎. With Shores.
Tues - 7/31/2012: Squid Amps, Providence, RI. With Shores.
Wed - 8/1/2012: O’Briens, 3 Harvard Avenue, Boston, MA 02134. Doors 8pm. 21+. $6. With Shores, Grass is Green, and Perhaps.
Thurs - 8/2/2012: Big Snow Buffalo Lodge, 89 Varet St, Broklyn, NY 11206. With Shores.
Fri - 8/3/2012: Howlers, 4509 Liberty Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15224. With Shores.
Sat - 8/4/2012: Flint Local 432, Flint, MI 48503. With Shores.
Sun - 8/5/2012: Mulligans, Grand Rapids, MI. With Shores, Kite Party, and Glocca Morra.

Empty Orchestra

Monday, July 23, 2012

Alice Donut - "Freaks in Love: A Quarter Century in Underground Rock" DVD Review (MVD Visual)

Alice Donut - 'Freaks in Love: A Quarter Century in Underground Rock' DVD Review (MVD Visual)
Aquarius Records, who have a huge number of CD reviews posted on their site wrote “With the release of Freaks In Love, from weirdo New York noise rockers Alice Donut, we realized we had never reviewed a single Alice Donut record. Ever.” I sort of feel the same way as Freaks in Love is my first exposure to both Alice Donut and their music.

Freaks in Love is an in-depth documentary that looks at the 25-year career of New York City punk rock band Alice Donut. The documentary runs just over 90 minutes and the bonus features include nine live songs that that range from a 1987 performance at CBGB to footage from the band’s 2009 reunion show at Southpaw. Alice Donut recorded their early discs for Alternative Tentacles and Jello Biafra described the band’s music as “the missing link between R.E.M. and the Butthole Surfers”.

I’m not sure I agree with Jello’s description as there is nothing that sounds like R.E.M.’s “The One I Love” included on the movie soundtrack. In fact, Alice Donut’s free-form psychedelic punk and Tom Antona’s garbled vocals (along with lyrics about the “perversities, odd details, and petty humiliations of life”) sounds closer in spirit to mid-period Butthole Surfers (who seemed to drop their psychotic edge after Teresa Nervosa left the band). Alice Donut’s song “"The Son Of A Disgruntled Ex-Postal Worker Reflects On His Life While Getting Stoned In The Parking Lot Of A Winn Dixie Listening To Metallica"” says a lot about where the band’s headset is.

The film starts with interviews with current and former members about the band’s beginnings on the Lower East Side which is mixed with some live footage of the band’s first show at CBGB. The band’s story is a familiar DIY story where the members spent most of their life in the van building mini-markets in various cities around the globe. The band wears their “freak flag” proudly with the introduction of cross-dressing friend Chet Mazur, who both opened for Donut with spoken word performances and was the ‘cover model’ for Mule. While keeping their indie-cred, Donut built a strong following through progressively higher-profile tours with bands that included Blind Melon and the Meat Puppets. It seems that the pinnacle of the band’s popularity was when they played the main stage at Reading Festival (and Donut went on after Primus, who seemed hugely popular at the time).

Unlike the bands on VH1’s “Behind the Music”, there is a minimum of inner-band drama as the members all seem to get along and actually like being around each other. Ted and Dave left the band due to “pent up frustrations” but there seemed to be no bad blood between the members. Donut called it a day in 1996 to which Jello commented that the band “broke up before they sucked”. The band members all went off and took real jobs but slowly came back together in ’01 and Ted and Dave rejoined a few years later.

Given the pull of ‘real life’ (Tom and Sissi are married and have kids), Alice Donut is quasi-inactive but the band released their tenth disc, Ten Glorious Animals, in September 2009 and played a very limited set of tour dates in support of the disc.

Freaks in Love was directed by musicians/film makers David Koslowski (x-Liquor Bike and Skizz Cyzyk (x-Berserk) who give a ‘front-row’ view of what it was like for an indie band in the pre-Nirvana era to ‘get in the van’. In an interview with MUSICFILMWEB (MFW), Skizz was asked:

MFW: Why Alice Donut? As in, why as a movie subject?

Skizz Cyzyk: Considering I was already in the middle of another music doc (Icepick to the Moon, about Reverend Fred Lane) and another doc about antiwar protesters (Hit & Stay), the last thing I expected to do was jump into another project. But my co-director, David Koslowski, had moved to North Carolina, where he became friends with Tom [Antona] and Sissi [Schulmeister, Alice Donut’s bassist]. They mentioned wanting a doc made to coincide with the band’s 25th anniversary. David decided he wanted to make it, and he asked me to make it with him. Their story could be the story of a lot of bands, and that is a story that hasn’t been told much. Everyone knows about the bands who made it huge, but not everyone knows about the bands who worked really hard yet stayed beneath the surface. For that reason Alice Donut seemed like a good band to make a documentary about.

Alice Donut

Monday, July 16, 2012

"SpokAnarchy! Where Were You in '82" DVD Review (Carnage and Rouge)

'SpokAnarchy! Where Were You in '82' DVD Review
SpokAnarchy! is a fascinating documentary of the Reagan-era punk scene in Spokane, WA and the film uses vintage and current live performance and interview footage to tell the story of disaffected youth in a small, rurally isolated town. The story is one part “Our Band Could Be Your Life” and the locals’ resistance to the burgeoning punk scene seems straight out of the Dead Kennedys “Night of the Living Rednecks”. While many of the bands showcased in this movie aren’t household names, the fight to carve a new identity outside of the mainstream and the resultant DIY spirit within the Spokane community that kept the scene going should ring a familiar chord with anyone who was part of the pre-MTV scene in any city.

The story follows a familiar story arch – the scene starts small with the older art culture merging with the punks, the DIY culture takes hold and a number of bands come out of this scene that could have made it big if they had come up in a major market. Unfortunately, there is a climax to this arc as heroin arrives and leaves a trail of destruction in its wake and movie starts to wind down with the once unified scene collapsing under the weight of drugs, death and people moving away. The movie ends though ends on a positive and redemptive note with a 2009 “punk rock reunion” which show most of the “punk rock, new-wave and artistic weirdos” followed throughout the movie are still alive and (mostly) well and a number of them are still making music.

The movie tells the story of the rise and fall of the Spokane punk scene by combining period music videos, live performance clips and photos with current-day voice-overs narratives and interviews with the people who grew up in Spokane during this time and gives a ‘day-in-the-life’ view of teenagers ‘challenging the social and cultural norms of small-town America’. Viewers of the films are taken through the highs of warehouse parties and art spaces where music, drugs and sex flowed freely to the lows of fighting with the town council over their selective enforcement of arcane fire code laws and constantly having to worry about being beaten up for being different. Director Dave Halsell said: “The ‘scene’ gave me an early education and helped me see through the hypocrisy of mainstream living".

Band featured include new-wavers (think The Cars) Sweet Madness, art-rockers M’NA M’NA and the long-running socio-political hardcore band Vampire Lezbos. These bands probably aren’t known outside of Spokane but all of them would make a great addition to a KBD compilation. Motorcycle Boy front man Francois Haraldson played in a number of Spokane bands before moving to Los Angeles and he said in an interview: “When I was in Seattle nothing was happening. You couldve been the most brilliant person and nothing wouldve ever happened, and thats why people migrated down to Los Angeles. Not that it got much better for us down here but Seattle was dead. It was so dead.

Dave Halsell wrapped things up nicely by saying: “We really hope the film inspires others to do it yourself, think for yourself and do your own thing…If it can be done in Spokane, it can be done anywhere.


Sunday, July 15, 2012

Jen Schande: SF Post-Riot Grrrl Releases "19", a Concept Record Inspired by Michelle Tea's "Valencia"

DOWNLOAD: Jen Schande - "I Really Like Sonic Youth, and I Really Want to Have Sex With You"

Jen Schande: SF Post-Riot Grrrl Releases '19', a Concept Record Inspired by Michelle Tea's 'Valencia'
It’s been almost 10 years since Jen Schande first received critical acclaim with her split 7” with The Cribs. Since then, Jen has busied herself with her band Schande, played in former SF-based queer band Boyskout and has a transatlantic recording project This Is Thunder. Her long awaited solo debut full length may be her most ambitious project to date.

For 19: Songs For & Inspired By Valencia Chapter 19, Schande utilizes her full ownership of 1990’s indie rock – where mood, tone and angular guitars weave a narrative of attitude, wandering, wondering, lust and upheaval. Schande’s unwavering attention to musicianship and composition can be heard clearly as every note rings out in pure intention, belying an understanding between writer and subject matter.

In describing her album, Schande reveals, “There was something incredibly liberating about reading Tea’s work – I found her unyielding honesty with owning her experiences explosive. Drawing on my own memories and the ability to be submerged in freedom of expression, creating music in response to Chapter 19 was effortless and this record in many ways wrote itself. Consequently, the songs in part convey Michelle’s experiences, in part recall my own, and in many ways are a tribute to both the bridges and spaces between the two.

Valencia is now being reworked for the big screen and promises to be an exciting venture, with each chapter filmed by a different director and different casts. Among those involved with the film are Michelle Tea herself, Margaret Cho, Jill Soloway and many others. In addition to scoring Chapter 19, Schande also offers her talents for a song featured in Chapter 10. The film has already gained support by SF Magazine and Curve and is currently being shopped around for Summer 2012 film festivals.

Jen Schande

Moore and Sons - "Holdouts" CD Review

Moore and Sons - 'Holdouts' CD Review
Moore & Sons is the current project of Negative Approach drummer Chris “Opie” Moore and Moore released his eighth solo disc, Holdouts, earlier this year. The songs on this eleven track disc are predominately roots-rock/Americana numbers that are closer in spirit to Moore’s previous band Crossed Wire and bands like the Meat Puppets rather than the hardcore furry of Negative Approach. With the Sons, Moore plays guitars and sings and the Sons (which include Gary Langol, Adam Gold, Tom Gavin and Dennis Cronin) are all multi-instrumentalists and play a range of instruments that includes the expected pedal and lap steel, banjo and double bass along with the unexpected vibraphonette and brass.

Despite its Americana core, this isn’t a ‘typical’ singer/songwriter disc as the songs have twist and turn, both within and across the different songs, and the music has a noticeable edge. The nuances within the music are complemented by stellar production which gives the music an organic and live feel and brings out Moore’s lyrics and deadpan vocals.

(This is an older track but gives a good indication of what Moore's music sounds like)

“Concessions” starts off the disc and wraps moody and winding guitar lines that would make Tom Verlaine proud around a full band sound. These long sustained guitar notes build to a pinnacle which fall to an acoustic strum as the song winds down. “This Here's The Place” shifts gears completely and is frenetic and quirky – sort of like an offbeat version of The Pixies. “Trailin' Off” shifts gears yet again with ringing guitars and an 80’s college-rock vibe that falls somewhere between The Waterboys and the Meat Puppets. The next couple tracks fall more squarely into “Meat Puppets territory” with driving alt-country roots-rock with a bit of an edge to it. “Your Turn Now” & "Broken Spell" are hazy, 60’s pop-psychedelia numbers and later track brings in some minimalist horns. “Priority Mail” is an instrumental with prominent honky-tonk guitars which serves as the bridge to shift back into the disc’s core alt-country sound. “Pass on By” crosses ringing guitars with understated harmonies and a driving beat that reminds me of Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues”. “Count on Us” is an alt-rock number with jagged rhythms and slapped drums. The disc comes full circle on its final track, “Ideal Hideaway”, which starts slow but, on the back half of the song, builds up a wall of ringing guitars that come crashing down at the end.

Moore & Sons

Friday, July 13, 2012

FELA! on Broadway Theater Review - NYC '12

A spectacularly inspiring and triumphant tale of courage, passion and love, FELA! is based on the life of Fela Kuti, who created Afrobeat—a blend of jazz, funk and African rhythm and harmonies—and mixed these sensual eclectic rhythms with simple but powerful lyrics that openly assailed Nigeria’s corrupt and oppressive dictatorships. Featuring many of Fela Kuti’s most captivating songs performed by a combined cast of the original Broadway production and the Royal National Theatre production all under Bill T. Jones’s visionary staging, FELA! reveals Kuti’s life as an artist and human rights activist and celebrates his pioneering music in what has been hailed as one of the most exciting, exhilarating and vital stage experiences in recent memory.

This is now FELA!'s fourth year on Broadway but I hadn't seen the show until earlier this week. The energy of the show is simply electrifying and the 2-1/2 hours running time passes almost too quickly. This isn't your 'traditional' Broadway play where there is a rigid separation between the cast and the audience as Sahr Ngaujah (who plays Fela) set the tone for the evening by taking the stage to a driving afrobeat and asking the audience to help with some call and response vocals (say "yeah yeah") and Ngaujah followed this by regularly engaging with the audience throughout the course of the show.

The show starts at Fela's 1978 farewell concert at the Shrine nightclub in Lagos, Nigeria. The dance floor is an exploding mixture of color, sound and movement and, over the course of the musical, Ngaujah gets the audience up on their feet as well. The music and the rhythms are addictive and require the listener to get beyond the thrusting beats to hear Fela's political and government baiting lyrics.

The storyline shifts between the past and the present as Fela is still mentally and physically recovering from a government raid on his compound that resulted in the brutal death of his mother and he is seeking guidance from his mother (in the afterlife) whether she will bless his leaving Nigeria. According to Wikipedia: "In 1977, Fela and the Afrika '70 released the album Zombie, a scathing attack on Nigerian soldiers using the zombie metaphor to describe the methods of the Nigerian military. The album was a smash hit and infuriated the government, setting off a vicious attack against [Fela's commune], during which one thousand soldiers attacked the commune. Fela was severely beaten, and his elderly mother was thrown from a window, causing fatal injuries. The Kalakuta Republic was burned, and Fela's studio, instruments, and master tapes were destroyed. Fela claimed that he would have been killed had it not been for the intervention of a commanding officer as he was being beaten. Fela's response to the attack was to deliver his mother's coffin to the Dodan Barracks in Lagos, General Olusegun Obasanjo's residence, and to write two songs, "Coffin for Head of State" and "Unknown Soldier", referencing the official inquiry that claimed the commune had been destroyed by an unknown soldier."

Fela's life story comes out in short narratives between the song and the dance and he seems equally proud of his 200 arrests and his continual fight against the government as he is of his "bomber spliff". This is a musical tour de force and words really don't do full justice to the experience of being part of the audience and feeling the power and the passion of the music. Fela's music proves that music can be just as powerful a weapon as the soldiers' armaments.

FELA! is playing at the Al Hirschfield Theatre (302 West 45th Street, Times Square) through August 4th. As it was a full house when I saw the show last Wednesday, I would assume that tickets are going quickly.

FELA! on Broadway

Radio Fallout - "Vox E Tenebris" CD Review

Radio Fallout - 'Vox E Tenebris' CD Review
Austin, TX trio Radio Fallout are releasing their debut full length, Vox E Tenebris, next month and the forthcoming disc is an intriguing mix of guitar-based roots-rock (with shades of Tom Petty and the BoDeans) and 90’s (Nirvana-flavored) grunge. The band has been getting some buzz with shows at SXSW these last two years and this new disc should help push Radio Fallout into the public eye.

Most of Radio Fallout’s songs follow a Nirvana-style verse-chorus-verse structure. The disc opens with “I Want to be Alright”, where driving melodic guitar riffs and sing-along choruses hide that this is a breakup song. The energy builds on the next two songs – “Lux E Tenebris” and “Falling In” – and these are two of the disc’s strongest tracks. On these songs, Radio Fallout reach beyond the ‘traditional’ v-c-v pop song structure with some extremely tight interplay between the band members. “Lux E Tenebris” is driven by intertwined guitar riffs and melodic bass lines and builds up a tightly layered wall of sound before falling back to a clean guitar riff. “Falling In” is driven by the vocals and the instruments are downplayed in favor of big harmonies and even bigger anthemic vocal choruses. The band starts to shift gears with the Meat Puppets influenced “Heir” before going into the grungier half of the album.

The tracks “Hour of Darkness” and “Reeducation” are solid alt-rock/grunge numbers with tight melodies and chunky guitar riffs. The disc finishes out with “Status Quo” which is a moody alt-rock number with a good bit of build and a noisy outro. (Try listening to this track and not thinking about Nirvana’s “Polly”). The only track I didn’t care for was track “Summer Sun”, which is an alt-rock ballad – decent tempos though keep this song from completely s*cking.

The band has said that their goal for the new disc was to “write catchy songs with layered compositions where you can listen to song over and over and hear different melodic themes popping out”. On this note, Radio Fallout has succeeded masterfully. For anyone who wants more, the band’s second EP, "ETC" (2010), is available as a pay-what-you-will download and vocalist/guitarist Caleb Scates’ solo disc Lo-Fi Audio Circle provides an early look into what Radio Fallout was to become.

Radio Fallout

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Asia - "XXX" CD Review (Frontiers Records)

DOWNLOAD/STREAM: Asia - "Face on the Bridge" (Radio Edit)
(Note: Track hosted on

Asia - 'XXX' CD Review (Frontiers Records)
Two years ago, I reviewed Asia’s then current release, Omega, and my comment was “While the urgency/intensity and arena rock sound of the early releases is gone, this is a mature release that doesn’t detract from the band’s legacy and it should strike a chord with long-time Asia fans.” At the time of its release, John Wetton had compared Omega to Alpha and said that “musically and conceptually, the two albums share commonality.” With the release of XXX, Asia sounds re-engerized and this disc is the closest that the band has come to recreating the sound of their first album.

This disc is very much the Wetton/Downes show with the focal point of most of the songs being Geoff Downes’ piano and keyboard and John Wetton’s spot-on vocals. The music has a sense of urgency and immediacy that was missing from Omega and John Wetton hasn’t sounded this energized in years. Steve Howe’s guitar work is stellar when it surfaces from beneath Downes’ textured keys but…Carl Palmer’s contributions are fairly inconsequential. Seven of the disc’s nine tracks were written by Wetton/Downes, with Steve Howe sharing the writing credits on the remaining two songs. Most of the songs run close to or just over the five minute mark which gives them a chance to build and only one or two songs sag a bit when the band drifts too far into AOR territory.

The disc starts out strong with “Tomorrow the World” which opens with Downes on the piano and quickly builds up to the melodic and vocal hooks of the classic Asia sound. “Bury Me in Willow” is equally strong and includes the big melodic choruses which Asia is known for. “No Religion” (one of the numbers co-written by Howe) has a driving pace and more aggressive guitar work than typically found on an Asia album and Howe’s guitar work also shines on the other piece that he co-wrote – “Judas”. The disc’s first single “Face on the Bridge” leads in with Wetton’s bass work and features some of his strongest vocals and Wetton and the band’s strong vocal harmonies are also highlighted on “Al Gatto Nero”. The only dud on the album is “I Known How You Feel”, which isn’t horrid but sinks under its AOR weight.

The originally lineup of Asia seemed to run out of gas with their second album Alpha and collapsed shortly thereafter but XXX is a strong third release from the reunited band and shows that this lineup still has plenty of life left in them.


Lightouts: Brooklyn Electro-Rock Duo Post "The Big Picture" as a Free Download

DOWNLOAD: Lightouts - "The Big Picture"

Lightsouts: Brooklyn Electro-Rock Duo Post 'The Big Picture' as a Free Download
Earlier this month, Brooklyn eletro-rock duo Lightouts released their fifth single, "The Big Picture" and this will be band's last single before their debut album, Want, comes out later this year.

"The Big Picture" premiered on a few days ago and singer Greg Nelson described the song as "a fuzzed-out epic pop juggernaut about transcending doubt, circumstance and fate. 'Hearts can change, spells will break'". While I don't know about all that - Lightouts is the first band that I've heard in a long time whose music captures the melodies and urgent rhythms of post-punk bands like The Cure and New Order. Adding to the comparison to The Cure, Lightouts close the new three-track single with a cover of The Cure's "Push".

Below is the A-side to one of the band's earlier singles - "The Cure for Shyness".

Lightouts Bio (snippet):
It started with a want ad, plastered across the board of a post-industrial space near the Gowanus Canal. The request? Quite simple: “Robert Smith/Emily Haines, where are you?” The kind of thing you’d expect from a New Mexico native who studied the Cure’s bleak but beautiful hooks at a time when riff-raking guitar heroes were all the rage.

“People would always say, ‘Why would you want to play like Robert Smith?’” explains Lightouts founder Gavin Rhodes, last heard in the one-man band Honeypower. “‘Wouldn’t you rather learn how to shred instead?”

Not quite. More like become the instrument-swapping backbone of a fuzz-flecked band like the Jesus & Mary Chain. Enter Greg Nelson, the only sane person who answered Rhodes’ call. Luckily he was exactly what Lightouts needed: a seasoned member of the NYC music scene with the war stories to prove it (let’s just say Lady Gaga opened up for his band Luxe Pop at a Lower East Side club in 2007). More importantly, Nelson’s a natural at toeing the line between darkness and light, as exemplified by the sky-scraping choruses of “See Clear,” the sinewy melodies of “The Eloise Suite,” and the vapor trail verses of “Dress Shop.”


Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Win Tickets to FELA! on Broadway on Wednesday, July 18th at Al Hirschfeld Theatre (Times Square)

Win Tickets to FELA! on Broadway on Wednesday, July 18th at Al Hirschfeld Theatre (Times Square)
I've got five pairs of tickets to give away to the July 18th performance of FELA! on Broadway (which is at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre - 302 West 45th Street, Times Square). To enter - please send an email with subject "FELA! on Broadway" with your first and last name to Mike [dot] BrooklynRocks @ gmail [dot] com. Winners will be chosen at random on Monday morning, July 16th.

I went to the near sold-out show last night and the show completely exceeded expectations. (Review forthcoming...)

A spectacularly inspiring and triumphant tale of courage, passion and love, FELA! is based on the life of Fela Kuti, who created Afrobeat—a blend of jazz, funk and African rhythm and harmonies—and mixed these sensual eclectic rhythms with simple but powerful lyrics that openly assailed Nigeria’s corrupt and oppressive dictatorships. Featuring many of Fela Kuti’s most captivating songs performed by a combined cast of the original Broadway production and the Royal National Theatre production all under Bill T. Jones’s visionary staging, FELA! reveals Kuti’s life as an artist and human rights activist and celebrates his pioneering music in what has been hailed as one of the most exciting, exhilarating and vital stage experiences in recent memory.

FELA!, the joyous dance, theater, music spectacle, has thrilled audiences in three continents. The Tony Award® winner, directed and choreographed by Bill T. Jones explores the extravagant world of Afrobeat legend, Fela Kuti. FELA! comes to Chicago’s Oriental Theater following its sold-out run at London’s prestigious National Theatre where The Guardian’s Michael Billington exclaimed, “It breaks down conventional barriers between stage and auditorium and joins passion and politics. The dancing is ecstatic, the music lifts the spirits, and the stage is alive with movement.” After Ben Brantley of the New York Times raved, “There should be dancing in the streets!” Bill T. Jones earned a Tony Award® for Best Choreographer. He was also given the Astaire Award and received a 2010 Kennedy Center Honor along with Oprah Winfrey.


Madball - "Rebellion" CD EP Review (Black N Blue)

> Growing up I knew too many bands that were desperate to be signed to a major label (to steal a phrase from Steve Albini - they were “anxious to be led around by their nose rings”) and, of the bands I knew, I can’t think of one that “broke out” and actually made any money. With too many people waiting for life to happen to them, I’ve admired Freddy Madball for years for making things happen on his own – Madball has been making music on their own terms for almost 25 years, Black N Blue Productions has put on high-quality shows for the last couple years and now Freddy has branched out by releasing the new Madball EP on his new label - The Black N Blue.

This new 6-track EP, “Rebellion”, follows in the same vein as 2010’s Empire and the only real change is that drummer Jay Weinberg has been replaced by Mike Justian (x-Red Chord). For this outing, Madball is working once again with producer Erik Rutan and the new EP features four new tracks along with re-recordings of “Get Out” and “It’s My Life”, both of which were originally recorded for Madball’s 1989 debut “Ball of Destruction”.

The disc starts with "You Reap What Yow Sow" which has everything that you would expect from this classic NYHC band. The track opens with Hoya's rumbling bass and follows this with some crushing downtuned guitar riffs and fast breaks. Freddy ferociously spits out lyrics about someone who has never changed and never grew up, trading off call-and-response vocals on the chorus.

The other three new tracks follow in a similar vein. "The Beast" is about wrestling with anxiety attacks ("a beast I can't control"). Hoya's rumbling bass is again featured on "Rebellion" along with a killer mid-song breakdown and this song seems to be about standing up and taking charge. The last new song, "My Blood", is an anthemic riff-driven tribute to Freddy's son.

The two re-recorded songs, "Get Out" and "It's My Life", retain the fury of the original versions but sound immensely better. While some of this sonic improvement can be credited to producer Erik Rutan, one also has to keep in mind that Freddy has come a long way since 1989. Freddy was 12 at the time of the original recording and "Ball of Destruction" recorded in DIY fashion, live to two-track.


Monday, July 09, 2012

Cobalt & the Hired Guns: Chicago Pop-Punk Band Plays Union Hall on July 27th

DOWNLOAD: Cobalt & the Hired Guns - "Like You Like Me Like Me"

Cobalt & the Hired Guns: Chicago Pop-Punk Band Plays Union Hall on July 25th
It has been a couple years since Cobalt & the Hired Guns came through town. Last time through, they played a brilliant, sweaty show to a packed house at Union Hall and kept the crowd riveted with their mix of punk and Americana "working-man" songs.

After some lineup changes, Cobalt & the Hired Guns (CATHG) regrouped with a new album Everybody Wins! and are playing two local shows over the next few weeks. The first is at Union Hall on Friday, July 27th with Luff and Velah. Cover is $8 and CATHG are taking the stage at 7:30PM. The second show is at Bowery Electric on August 17th. CATHG are playing with Futurist, Xylofaux and BAM. Tickets are $8 in advance and $10 at the door.

Friends since they were just little buckaroos, the boys of Cobalt & the Hired Guns have always aspired to create an album to match their rambunctious live shows. It’s finally here! Their new record, Everybody Wins!, aims for the rafters with a cherry bomb explosion of poppy punk, barroom ballads, power pop, ska, horny rock and good humor. Following up 2008’s Jump the Fence – their first Carbon Neutral album- Everybody Wins! continues the tradition of the band’s commitment to art and environmentalism- and includes their fullest lineup of 20 different players (not all at the same time).

The repertoire for this five-to-twelve piece from Chicago has been described as Americana, Punky Pop, or just Good Ol’ Fashioned Rock n’ Roll. They’ve been compared to The Hold Steady, The Clash, Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band, The Fratellis, Frightened Rabbit, Backyard Tire Fire, and “Wilco on Xanax covering The Clash”.

I had the pleasure of spending some time with the band prior to their show at Union Hall in '09 and below is some footage of their acoustic pre-show performance.

Cobalt & the Hired Guns

Town Hall: NYC Indie-Folk Release Covers EP as Free Download / Acoustic Show at Ace Hotel on July 12th

Town Hall: NYC Indie-Folk Release Covers EP as Free Download / Acoustic Show at Ace Hotel on July 12th
Indie-folk band Town Hall has compiled all of the cover songs they recorded on the run-up to the release of their full-length debut, Roots & Bells, and released this new 5-track EP as a free download. Town Hall Plays the Classics, Vol. 1 contains unique re-interpretations of the following songs:

* Ja Rule and Ashanti – “Always On Time”
* Frankie Marvin – “Old Man Duff”
* Emmylou Harris, Alison Krauss and Gillian Welch – “Didn’t Leave Nobody but the Baby”
* R. Kelly – “Text Me”
* Jimmy Eat World – “The Middle”

In an interview with Moosick, Sefan Weiner (Vocals/Resonator Mandola) described this project as the “re-imagining songs as an attempt to bring in music from each of our influences (as well as music that is nostalgic for us) and give them the Town Hall treatment.

I’m not familiar with Ja Rule & Ashanti so, while I can’t make any comparisons to the original, Town Hall’s cover is a delicate, perfectly crafted indie-pop song. Frankie Marvin’s “Old Man Duff” is sung by Stefan and is a cover of a ‘stomping’ folk tune that the band found on an old 78 RPM record from 1931. “Didn’t Leave Nobody but the Baby” is an Americana track, with multi-part harmonies and the prominent use of a banjo adds to the song’s rustic charm. R. Kelly’s misogynous “Text Me” takes on new life and meaning with Phoebe Ryan taking lead vocals on Town Hall’s languid cover. The disc wraps up with Phoebe and Stefan trading-off vocals on a mellow reinterpretation of Jimmy Eat World’s emo chestnut “The Middle”.

Tour Hall’s Upcoming Shows
7/12 The Ace Hotel - New York, NY (acoustic)
7/13 Bushwick Walkabout Festival - Brooklyn, NY

Town Hall is:
Vocals/Omnichord: Phoebe Ryan
Vocals/Resonator Mandola: Stefan Weiner
Guitar: Jesse Kranzler

Town Hall

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Future of What - "Moonstruck" CD EP Review

After releasing a solo disc, Die Young (Autumn Tone Records), in 2010, Blair Gimma hooked up with Sam Axelrod (guitarist/vocalist of Chicago’s The Narrator) to form a new full-band project Future of What. The band released its debut EP "Moonstruck" on June 26th as a free download and this four-track/14-minute disc is blissful trip down the synth-driven, ethereal path that a of a number of 4AD bands (NME cited Chairlift as a reference point) have previously traveled.

Blair wrote the songs on "Moonstruck" over the course of 2011 and, home from her solo tour, found she wanted to play in a collaborative band setting. Quickly, one came together: Seth Waldstein had been playing drums with her since 2010; she met Sam Axelrod through mutual friends; and he knew Max Kotelchuck through his sister. The newly dubbed Future of What further fleshed out and arranged Blair's songs, and began rehearsing in January 2012. After playing their first show in February (opening for a sold out Mirah), the band recorded and mixed "Moonstruck" with Daniel Schlett (Here We Go Magic, Friends, DIIV) at Strange Weather studio in Brooklyn, NY over four days in March.

The disc starts out “Back to the City” which sets the tone for the rest of the disc. This song is a hazy and wistful shoegazer number on which Blair's airy, intimate vocals float over keyboard-driven melodies and the pulse of the drum beat. "I Wait For You" is a plaintive number with pulsing keys and vocals weaving in and out of the lush atmospheric sound. “White Light” comes close to Julee Cruise territory with its ethereal vocals, gauzy textures and moody keys. The EP winds up with the aching, dreamlike pulsing beat and shimmering keyboards of "Party in Heaven".

"Moonstruck" Track Listing:
Back To The City
I Wait For You
White Light
Party In Heaven

The band is still writing and recording in preparation for a forthcoming full-length. In a recent interview with the Village Voice’s “Sound of the City”, Sam Axelrod said “I feel like a full-length will be a bit more expansive. I feel the EP songs are a little similar to each other, as opposed to what the album would be. It'll be a little bit more shuffling the deck. More moods. More variety. It's tricky, when you're in a band and writing songs, every song sounds so different to you because you spend so much time with them.

Future of What

Saturday, July 07, 2012

New Rides of the Furious Swampriders CD Review

New Rides of the Furious Swampriders CD Review
The Perc Presents New Rides of the Furious Swampriders is the fourth volume in a series whose first volume dates back to 1990. The concept behind the original volume was a collection of songs that are “different, rusty, dusty and dirty with edges”. Jeffrey Lee Pierce contributed to the second volume and the liner notes in this new disc state that Pierce was “THE swamprider par excellence” for compilation masterminds Tom “The Perc” Rendecker and Strange Ways Records label boss Lothar Gatner. (This is important to note as a handful of tracks on this disc come from We Are Only Riders – The Jeffrey Lee Pierce Sessions Project.) After a twelve year silence, Rendecker (Gatner passed away in 2005) decided to round-up the swampriders for one more ride.

One of the comments about the We Are Only Riders project was that it was “all a bit Nick Cave, which is not a bad thing” and one could make a similar comment about this project as Cave and Pierce’s influences shine bright. Like the first volume, music on this new disc includes “acoustic guitars and synthesizers” and ranges from “folk, punk, rockabilly, krautrock and minimal beat”. The disc starts strong with the heavily Middle-Eastern influenced track “The Threshingfloor” (by Wovenhand – x-16 Horsepower) before going into Deborah Harry’s haunting rendition of Jeffrey Lee Pierce’s “Lucky Jim”. This track is from We Are Only Riders and includes Chris Stein and Nick Cave accompanying Pierce and Cypress Grove’s session work. The Raymen’s swamp-blues track “When Death’s Black Train is coming to Town” follows this and sounds heavily influenced by mid-period Nick Cave.

This is an eclectic disc and other tracks include M. Walking on the Water’s deconstruction of Depeche Mode’s “Enjoy the Silence” and The Dad Horse Experience’s dark, new wave oom-pah (complete with kazoo) track “Kingdom It Will Come”. 16 Horsepower’s cover of Rainer Ptacek’s “De-Railed” channels the spirit of the Gun Club and Lydia Lunch & Dave Alvin’s cover of Pierce’s “Walkin’ Down the Street (Doin’ My Thing)” is malevolent, dangerous and brilliant. Mixing things up, The Walkabouts’ “Soul Thief” is garage rock with a pumping beat and Velvetone w/ the Fat Honks song “The River” is straight-on funked-up soul. The disc closes with “Take You Home”, which is a previously unreleased indie-rock tune from Harry Payuta. Paytuta and his then band Vee Jays participated on the first Swampriders album in 1990 so this volume of the series completes the circle.

The Perc Presents New Rides of the Furious Swampriders Track List
1. Wovenhand – "The Threshingfloor"
2. Deborah Harry – "Lucky Jim"
3. The Raymen – "When Death’s Black Train Is Coming To Town"
4. M. Walking On The Water – "Enjoy The Silence"
5. The Dad Horse Experience – "Kingdom It Will Come"
6. Sixteen Horsepower – "De-Railed"
7. The Perc – "Sleeping Dog"
8. Lydia Lunch & Dave Alvin – "Walkin’ Down The Street (Doin’ my own Thing)"
9. Kirschbaum-Weisshoff-Trio - "Heartbreak Hotel"
10. The Walkabouts – "Soul Thief"
11. Velvetone w/The Fat Honks – "The River"
12. Golden Kanine – Law of probable Outcome"
13. Johnny Dowd – Constant Waiting"
14. Harry Payuta – Take You Home

The Furious Swmapriders Series