Monthly Archives: March 2015

John B. Moore: Victor Krummenacher

Victor bw

He’s the de facto MVP of the Camper Van Beethoven/Monks Of Doom/Cracker collective and a multitasker in his own right. His new solo album kicks ass, too. Any questions?

BY JOHN B. MOORE

Victor Krummenacher has the best of both worlds. For the past two decades he’s been churning out his solo records, a beautiful mix of folk and Americana, while still finding time to record and tour with Camper Van Beethoven — the beloved, three-decades-running college rock band — as well as its offshoots like Cracker and Monks of Doom. Oh, and with what few hours remain in each day, he works as Art Director for Wired magazine, the bible for the tech industry.

On the eve of the release of his latest solo album, Hard to See Trouble Coming, Krummenacher was kind enough to spend a little time talking about the new record, balancing his schedule and what’s next for his other bands.

BLURT: You’ve been pretty busy the past few years. Between the two new Camper Van Beethoven albums and your gig at Wired, you somehow found time to write and record a new solo album. Was it tough to prioritize? Did the solo album get pushed to the backburner at times?

KRUMMENACHER: It’s always a huge struggle to prioritize my life, and I’m usually too busy. But I process the world around me musically and that’s just what I do. I’m also adroit at keeping a lot of plates spinning and keeping at least a little forward motion. The solo work is always a priority for me… it’s like soul work. But I had a great co-captain of the project: Bruce Kaphan, who has really been both a great friend and super helpful to keeping things balanced and helping me stay focused on the decisions that have to be made to get the album done.

Hard to See Trouble Coming has a different sound than some of your other solo stuff. Where did the inspiration for this sound come from?

The sound really just is a distillation of all the things that I’ve been influenced by over the year. I am, really, at the core a folk musician. But I have wide tastes, and the musicians I work with are both competent and have diverse tastes as well. So nothing is a curve ball. If a song is very bluesy, we know how to play blues. We have folk chops, jazz chops, rock chops, soul chops… a lot to choose from. And I’m not afraid to let these guys throw me suggestions on arrangement and approach and try it and work from there. And after doing a lot of records, I usually have a clear idea of how to execute a song and a good idea of when to pull the plug on an approach or go for it.

Obviously most people associate you as a bass player, but you played a lot of guitar on this record. Why now and not on previous releases?

I did often play rhythm guitar, but I didn’t put a lot of time into the lead guitar work because I was very interested in recording as live as I could. So I would bring in other guitarists to cover those bases, and maybe the last three solo albums I did were done basically live in the studio. But I’ve worked hard on both fingerpicking and lead work over the years and I felt that in order to really coalesce the vision I had for the songs, it would be best if I took on the lead work. I picked up the bass when I was a teenager and could play it almost immediately. It took a really long time for me to figure out to play the guitar by contrast, and I’ve spent a lot of time working with great guitarists. So I finally took ownership and it worked out very well.

It’s been 20 years since your first solo album (1995’s Out In the Heat) yet you still play with other bands. There are many musicians who want to keep that spotlight on themselves once they go out on their own. What keeps you playing in other bands still?

Camper has a big legacy that’s very important both to the guys in the band and the audience. For all our infighting over the years, I think we are also very loyal and dedicated to one another. There’s a lot of beauty there and deep relationships, so I’d rather not let it go, especially after 30-plus years. But sometimes I can’t make Camber Van Beethoven gigs, and I have to prioritize other things in my life. Very hard to balance, but I like it. That said, honestly, my favorite gigs these days are the small ones where I’m playing an acoustic guitar and telling stories. They’re so much easier to pull off. But yes, I still often play with Camper, Cracker, and we are working on a new Monks of Doom album with David Immerglück of the Counting Crows. I love playing music.

Camper is still putting out new music and labels like Omnivore are re-releasing your older stuff. Did you have any idea the band would still have an impact three decades later?

In 1995 I thought we were as dead as we could be, but strangely we’ve had a good run these last few years. When we started writing again a few years ago, I was really pleased with the music we were coming up with… it was fertile and strong and organic. And I’m really proud of the work in retrospect. Camper is a wholly unique, unusual enterprise and it’s nice to see us get some due. We never cashed in, we never played it “right” business wise… but we made great music and we have a great, dedicated fan base.

From Camper’s early punk beginnings to a lot of the Americana, folk and blues of some of your solo records, your influences seem to be pretty wide-ranging. Are there any new bands or musicians you really like?

I am, unfortunately, becoming one of those cranky old dudes. I listen to a lot of blues, jazz, classical. Occasionally some old rock and roll… I still find new albums I love, but often they’re created by people who’ve been at it for a while. I spend a lot of time listening to Jack Bruce, the Faces, Ronnie Lane, etc. of Bruce’s and Ian McLagan’s deaths…. I love that stuff. Recent stuff I did enjoy was the D’Angelo record, oddly, Spoon’s recent album, Robert Plant’s last single – didn’t love the album but thought the single was good. The Basement Tapes reissue was great. And Peter Hammill’s album with Gary Lucas, Other World [reviewed HERE at Blurt]

What’s next for you in 2015?

Work this album, mostly, and get the Monks of Doom album out. Basically, I imagine much of the year when I have time I’ll be going someplace with my Martin and a couple of musicians, singing some songs and telling some stories.

Tim Hinely: The Singles Scene X

blurt singles 8

File under “rock with guitars.” LOTS of guitars. Oh, and lots of colored wax, to boot. Vinyl? Yeah, we’ve had a few… Above: Hulaboy

BY TIM HINELY

You did it…you people dared me. You never thought I’d turn it up to 11, did you (on the 10th singles column, no less)? Every other column I’d reviewed 10 singles and this time I upped it to 11. And then the editor upped it even more with a couple of picks of his own. You people know better than to dare me. (Or us.) If you say I can’t or won’t do it, trust me, I will. This column is for every one of you (and you all owe me dinner, by the way).

***

blurt single 1

Arts & Leisure

“Weekend” b/w “Over You” (9 out of 10 stars)

(Test Pattern Records) www.testpatternrecords.com

I loved this band’s full-length (former members of Baby Grand, woot woot!) and now here’s two more songs to scratch that pop itch that rarely gets scratched these days. “Weekend” is damn near perfect, all cooing and sighing while “Over You” adds a little bit more grit to the proceedings, but not too much. Buy, Buy BUY.

 

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Boyracer

“Pete Shelley” plus 3 (8 out of 10 stars)

(Emotional Response) www.emotional-response-recs.bandcamp.com

Just when you think that Stew and Jen have retired Boyracer for good they come roaring back with 4 more songs that were recorded in locales such as Arizona, Sweden and the UK. This 7” starts off with a song called “Pete Shelley” (you can never go wrong with that name) and ends with the Jen-written “Jump” (not a Van Halen cover, you freaks) and two more cuts that are worthy of your time. Don’t pull a hamstring listening.

 

Feedtime 45

feedtime

“Flatiron” b/w “Stick Up Jack” (10)

Sub Pop (www.subpop.com)

I’m not trying to trump any of Dr. Hinely’s “8” and “9” star ratings by deploying an unheard-of “10” here—the record’s genuinely that awesome. It’s everything a classic single should be: blazingly powerful and straight to the point, boasting irresistible hooks and both sides clocking in at under 2 ½ minutes. Indeed, the legendary Australian skronk/blues trio is unleashing its first new studio material in two decades, having gotten back together in 2012 to promote their Aberrant Years retrospective. With a slide-guit-powered A-side that is pure f-time blooze-punk (like they walked out the door and then walked right back), and a 1-chord locomotive raveup for the B-side, the single’s a no-brainer to be on year-end best-of lists. And it’s only friggin’ February! Time for an album, lads. Download code included. —Fred Mills

 

Print

Deaf Wish

“St. Vincents” plus 3 (8)

(Sub Pop) www.subpop.com

Apparently this Australian quartet’s first album (they have three) was recorded in one day, and released three days later in a vomit bag (and you thought you were punk rawk). I hadn’t heard a note of their music but the four songs are like a punch in the face that you keep asking for. My pick to click is the first tune, ‘St. Vincent’s” but all four are righteous. File under: rock with guitars. Lots of guitars.

 

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Hard Left

“Skinheads Home for Christmas” b/w “Yesterdays Hero” (8)

(Future Perfect Records)

This seems to be that perfect melding of The Ramones, Skrewdriver (minus the racist lyrics), Sham, 69 and the Bay City Rollers. Gravelly-voiced doesn’t even being to describe the singer while the guitars are whispering sweet nothings in my ears. Both songs are ace. Yeah, ace so the red vinyl isn’t the only reason to get this….DAMMIT, IT’S GOOD.

 

Hulaboy

“Kids Under Stars” plus 2 (7)

(Emotional Response) www.emotional-response-recs.bandcamp.com

Back before Stew Boyracer became a husband, dad and a ranch hand he used to record every waking second (no, really). In addition to Boyracer he had another project going, Hulaboy (with his pal Eric from the band Hula Hoop), that had some singles and comp tracks. Good to see he’s revived that band with three more tunes. “Kids Under Stars” is roaring and ferocious while the two songs on the flip were slower, darker and had some cool keyboards. Purrrrrfect purple vinyl. (photo is at the top of the page)

 

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The Improbables

“Bad Vibrations” b/w “Giving You a Key” (9)

(Hidden Volume (www.hiddenvolume.com

Had not heard of the label before but with this release and others, seems like it’ll be a force to be reckoned with. Anywho, these two songs would be requested over and over again if this trio played your next frat party. Or house party. Or whatever. Vocalist/bassist Dave makes all the girls swoon (but drummer Jeremy gets ’em in the door in the first place). I/we need a full-length from this band. Terrific stuff and yes, boo boo blue vinyl.

 

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P.R.O.B.L.E.M.S.

“Hit and Run” b/w “45 Minutes” (7)

(Doomtown Sounds) www.problemspdx.com

When you look like these guys do and hang out in graveyards you’re inevitably going to get Black Sabbath comparisons. These guys do sound a little like Ozzy’s old band, being played at 45, that is. “Hit and Run” is what these guys do for a living so you’d better stay on the sidewalk while the flipside, “45 Minutes”, kicks it up a notch. And forget Sabbath, this is more Dead Boys/Electric Frankenstein kinda rawk. Red vinyl.

 

Quitty & the Don’ts

“Running out of Time” b/w “(She’s Gonna) Break Your Heart” (8)

(Hidden Volume) www.hiddenvolume.com

I dunno a dern thing about this band but I like the name and after playing it I wanna hear more. Two near-perfect slices of pure ‘60s garage pop from the Hidden Volume label (see Improbables review above) complete with tambourine and melodies to die for. Think Dave Clark 5 here people and for those of us who are colored-vinyl freaks the red on here looked righteous. These guys need to record again and again.

 

Modest Mouse

Modest Mouse

“Lampshades On Fire” b/w “Coyotes” (6)

Epic (www.epicrecords.com)

Given that MM has delayed their new Strangers to Ourselves album again—as of this writing it was slated for March 17—this single will have to do for hungry fans. It’s technically a freebie that indie record stores received to use as giveaways for customers who purchased the full length (or, now, who preorder it). But it’s probably easy to find for sale, and the two tracks, along with teaser tune “The Best Room,” are also already available at iTunes. Whattaya get? A weird kind of polka-fueled punk rock ditty on one side, a luminous waltz-time pop nugget on the other, neither of which is exactly essential listening but still hold up to repeated spins. We’ll have to wait for the full album to see if Isaac Brock’s mojo is still intact, though. —Fred Mills

 

The Safe Distance

“A Bigger Splash” plus 3 (5)

(Emotional Response) www.emotional-response-recs.bandcamp.com

The Safe Distance is Stew (as if this guy wasn’t in enough bands, see Boyracer, Hulaboy and Hard Left on this page) plus Crayola and David. Like the latest Boyracer 7”, record in the US of A, Australia and England (they’re got lots of frequent flyer miles). This is all over the map and reminded me of someone switching between AM radio stations (plus some college radio throw in there, too). Like if “Boris the Spider’ was written by the guy from the Monochrome Set. Rude red vinyl.

 

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Sick Thoughts

“Beat on Beat” b/w “Fun While It Lasts” (7)

(Goner Records) www.goner-records.com

This band hails from Baltimore and its members were probably extras on The Wire. Only two songs on this here big-hole, black vinyl 7” but both are winners, that is if you think The Germs “Forming” 7” is one of the greatest pieces of wax ever. I do. Lyrics to “Beat on Beat” go like this, “Eyes together, hands together, heads together beat on beat.” Yeah!

 

Hard Left/ Bad Daddies (SPLIT)

Hard Left Side- “Stay True’ and “It’s Not You” b/w Bad Daddies side- “War,” “Festering Brine” and “We Never Will” (9)

(Emotional Response) www.emotional-response-recs.bandcamp.com

Hard Left are making an impression and taking a stand. You read my review up above and these two songs, “Stay True” and “It’s Not You” are no different. Join the Hard Left Barmy Army or be lonely forever. Bad Daddies, who I’d never heard of before, crank out three gold-plated nuggets of sped-up punk complete with Poly Styrene-ish vocals and a layer of some of the sweetest fuzz around. This particular blue vinyl looked almost good enough to eat (I’m hungry).

***

Tim “45 Adapter” Hinely spins backwards when he reviews Australian records, but don’t let that throw you off balance. Check out his most excellent rock mag Dagger at www.daggerzine as well as his 9th installment of The Singles Scene (here at BLURT), or the 8th (here ) or the 7th (here), the 6th (here) and the 5th (here).

Tim Hinely: The Singles Scene IX

THE SINGLES SCENE IX - Blurt's Indie 45 Roundup

“You’ve come a long way baby”: while we rightfully applaud Title IX and all the advances that the fairer sex has made, when you’re talking the IX installment of our indie singles column, those six words are what come to mind…

BY TIM HINELY

You people have given me a new lease on life. Yes, YOU. I asked and you people spoke. You let me know you were tired, tired of all of the hype bands. Flaming Lips (saw ‘em in ’87), Arcade Fire (saw them when they were good), Miley Cyrus (who?). You said you wanted the real deal and that with my column, you got it. The folks with their Charles Dickens clothing riding tall bicycles while growing their beards and eating chutney, they can stay on the other side of the room. We’ll be over here living our lives (and playing records). Seem like a plan? [Yep! -Strategy Ed.]

 

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The Chills

“Molten Gold” b/w “Pink Frost” (9 out of 10 stars)

(Fire Records) www.firerecords.com

Ok, so I’m a little biased as I think Chills’ leader Martin Phillipps is one of the world’s greatest living songwriters (you know I’m right). He’s been laying low these past several years but with these new recordings and some recent gigs in the U) it seems like the volcano is ready to blow (in the best way possible). “Molten Gold” is a lovely, bouncy tune while the flip redoes one of the band’s greatest moments. As good as the original? Nah but still pretty damn good.

 

Close Lobstes

Close Lobsters

Kunstwerk in Spacetime EP (8)

(Shelflife) www.shelflife.com

Wait, the Close Lobsters are back? Oh hell yes! I loved this UK band back in the day (one of the original C86 bands) and here they are, back with two new songs, their first new ones since ’89. The A-side, “Now Time”, is dreamy, even a bit spacey, but the magic continues. Meanwhile, the flip, “New York City in Space” is mid-tempo and janglier. All this and very thick, reddish vinyl. I’m all in. Shelflife’s winning streak continues.

 

Deniz Tek 45

Deniz Tek

“Crossroads” b/w “Oh Well” (9)

(Career) www.careerrecords.com

No, not that “Crossroads,” although l’il Robby Johnson would still approve; instead, it’s an original from the Radio Birdman geetarzan, and a smokin’ slab of straight up garage slop it be. But yes, that “Oh Well”—specifically, the hi-nrg raveup Pt. 1 of the Peter Green/Fleetwood Mac classic, and I’d reckon that it puts to shame pretty much every other version of you’ve heard over the years with the exception of the original. Pressed on lurid purple wax, and hats off to the Career label (co-helmed by Tek and his buddy Ron Sanchez, of Donovan’s Brain) for their subtle appropriation of the old Atlantic Records promo logo for their label art. (—Fred Mills)

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Ghetto Ghouls

“Plastic Violence” b/w “Things” (9)

(12XU) www.12xu.net

Look, everyone’s busy these day and no one has a lot of time. The Ghetto Ghouls understand that, which is why they offer up two short cuts on their latest 7”. “Plastic Violence” rumbles and grumbles for a few minutes (maybe) while “Things” has a drummer who’s breaking cymbals all over the place. I normally compare a band like this to a more famous band but I got nothin’: these guys are pretty damn unique.

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Gingerlys

“Jumprope” +3 (8)

(Shelflife) www.shelf.ife.com

In this column am I reviewing either the fairest of pop of the most slogged-out, gut-bucket noise? Pretty much… but hey, it’s my column and I can do what I want. This fairly new NYC bunch might remind you initially of Pains of Being Pure at Heart which is fine by me. The songs are all “pure ear candy” (as President Obama said). If they were around in the 90’s they’d been the cream of the crop of indie pop and even now, in 2014, I’d say the same. Four songs, no filler.

 

Peter Buck 45

Peter Buck

Opium Drivel EP (8)

(Mississippi) www.mississippirecords.com

Following up his latest solo album (as well as last year’s Planet Of The Apes single, which we reviewed back in Dr. Hinely’s “Singles Scene VI” report), that-guy-who-useta-be-in-some-famous-band teams up, once again, with Scott McCaughey and several partners-in-crime for a 4-songer. Just the pounding Charlie Pickett & the Eggs cover alone (“If This Is Love…”) is worth the price of admission, but you also don’t wanna miss the fuzz-garagey “Portrait Of A Sorry Man” for the series of inside-joke lyrical bon mots (among them: “I’m sorry I invented indie rock… the whole thing started out so well, how was I to know?”). A pair of uncharacteristic acoustic aces on the flip, notably the strummy/jangly “Welcome to the Party,” join the aforementioned joker and king, giving Mr. Buck a pretty strong hand in this game. (—FM)

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The Moles

“Beauty Queen of Watts” b/w “Chills” (8)

(Fire Records) www.firerecords.com

First new Moles material in over two decades has Australian Richard Davies (though he’s been living in Massachusetts for several years now) joining forces with a band called Free Time (w/members of Real Estate and Scott & Charlene’s Wedding). The a-side is a 2-minute-plus gem, all pristine jangle, while the flip, “Chills,” is a tribute to legendary New Zealand band The Chills (see above) and is nearly as good. And a new album due out later this year. Huzzah!

 

scupper 7

Scupper!

“Scene of the Crime” +3 (9)

(Blue Cheese Toothpaste) www.scupper.bandcamp.com

This is Mr. Mike Janson who was formerly in Matador Records heroes the Lynnfield Pioneers. I thought he fell off the face of the earth. OK, so maybe he did, but he re-emerged in Brooklyn (where all indie rockers go to eat pie) and has this new terrific combo. “Scene of the Crime” spits n’ snarls (whistles, too) while “Barf in the Tube” upchucks enough melody for all of us. On the flip both “No Dime” and “Beehive” get to the finish line before you. Fans of Connections (or simply good music) will dig this.

 

Timmy Vulgar

Timmy Vulgar

Easter EP (6)

(Terror Trash Records) www.timmyvulgar.blogspot.com

Is that a drawing of Will Oldham on the cover? This is a few guys in the bedroom (Vulgar of Human Eye/Clone Defects/Timmy’s Organism fame), playing the banjo, drunk off their asses. No song titles, magic marker scrawl on the label (it just says Timmy 45). I tried to play the flip but no songs on there; great, so Timmy is fuckin’ with us! I know one thing from all of this, Timmy wants whiskey and well, I’ll bring him some damn whiskey—you crazy, I’m not saying no to that lunatic. Hiccup.

 

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Xetas

“The Silence” b/w “The Knife” (8)

(12XU) www.12xu.net

There’s a couple of things you’ll learn from this record. The band is a trio from Austin, TX (and Little Steven thinks trios are worthless… dumbass) and no synthesizers were used in the making of the record—and I’ve gotta put another mouse trap out tonight ‘cos we’ve got them in the house. “The Silence” uses drill-bit guitar to drive the point home while “The Knife” reminded me of the best Marked Men songs. I’ll be waiting on the front steps of the 12XU office for their forthcoming LP (can someone bring me some saltines, please?)

Sellwoods 45

The Sellwoods

“Palm Reader” b/w “Devil’s Dagger” (7)

(self-released) www.facebook.com/TheSellwoods

Following up last year’s stylin’ EP, this Portland, OR, ‘60s garage-worshiping trio—Blind Baron, Viking and The Baroness on guitar, bass and drums respectively—goes all-instro for a change, serving up a pair of primal-gunk tunes so lunkheadedly perfect you’d swear the bandmembers were the unholy spawn of the Sonics, the Kingsmen and Link Wray. “Palm Reader” in particular is a sprawling melange of fuzz/tremolo and busted-cone bass, and that Keith Moon-worthy drumming isn’t necessarily gonna save anybody in the group from a life sentence breaking rocks. (—FM)

 

Freak Motif 45

Freak Motif

“Killin’ Me” b/w “Killin’ Me (instrumental)” (6)

(Kept) www.kept-records.com

The latest in Kept’s so-far-unblemished series of funk-centric wax finds eight-piece Canadian combo Freak Motif getting’ gritty with a slice of JB’s-inspired fonk, heavy on the trancelike groove while a blazing horn section takes everything to the bank. Or the bridge, if you insist. The instro version of “Killin’ Me” has swagger a-plenty, but when guest vocalist Lady C takes the mic on the A-side things get saucier and sexier by the bar. Hell yeah. (—FM)

***

Tim “45 Adapter” Hinely spins backwards when he reviews Australian records, but don’t let that throw you off balance. Check out his most excellent rock mag Dagger at www.daggerzine as well as his 8th installment of The Singles Scene (here at BLURT, or the 7th (here), the 6th (here) and the 5th (here).

 

Uncle Blurt: Records? We Don’t Need No Steenkin’ Records!

Albums

Hard wax makes a 52% increase, notches 6% of all album receipts, and officially becomes the trend du jour of hipsters across the land.

By Uncle Blurt

Everybody around here knows that yer ol’ Uncle is kinda nutty for vinyl, having grown up with it; I can report in all candor that I have never owned an MP3 player of any sort and that while I do download occasionally, it is almost always live recordings and bootlegs. So it cheered my greying grey matter to learn that Nielsen SoundScan data for 2014 arrived earlier this week, and amidst all the hoo-hah over the seventy billion copies of 1989 that Taylor Swift sold plus accompanying media over-scrutiny of Sam Smith (who?), the Frozen soundtrack and Pharrell Williams’ best-selling song “Sappy,” er, I mean “Happy,” that vinyl records topped the 9.2 million mark in U.S. sales, which represents a 52% increase over last year.

According to the Wall Street Journal, that in turn represents 6% of total album sales. That may not seem like a whopping amount, but placed in the immediate context of shifting consumer habits and the gradual return of indie record stores to the national retail mix, it’s huge.

Vinyl

This doesn’t necessarily mean that vinyl will ever regain its prominence, sales-wise, that it enjoyed back in the ‘70s and ‘80s (think: Frampton Comes Alive, Saturday Night Fever and Thriller). Nor does it suggest, as some cynics would have it, that we’re currently in a vinyl bubble of sorts; vinyl never really went away, even at the height of MP3 and earbud mania, it just went underground, and out of all those teens who have just discovered vinyl, thereby making it the hipster trend du jour, we’re guaranteed that a hefty percentage will continue to prize vinyl long after a lot of their peers have moved on to, I dunno, collecting old Betamax tapes or something.

Meanwhile, good news for streaming services such as Spotify and bad news for retailers in the download business: downloads dropped a little, from 1.26 billion hits in 2013 to 1.1 billion in 2014, while streaming jumped even more than vinyl, from 106 billion individual track streams in 2013 to a whopping 164 billion in 2014 — a 54% surge. Buh-bye, shitty-sounding li’l compressed MP3s.

Pono

My predictions:

1. The convenience and portability of streaming is going to ensure that it’s here to stay and will probably continue to rise. What this means for the iPod and higher-end digital players like Neil Young’s much-heralded Pono player (pictured above) I don’t know. But you haven’t heard much about Pono lately, now, have you? Other than the news that it will finally hit stores next week, and that the Pono Store has officially launched for folks who want to pay an arm and a leg for a digital download. (Ever notice how much “pono” looks like “porno” if you are skimming the text on a website?)

The only people regularly talking about digital players are audiophile magazines and websites catering to those who are willing to plop down a thousand clams or more for a player that provides truly hi-res digital audio quality. It actually may be too early to get into a conversation about that new $1,119.00 digital iteration of Sony’s Walkman ZX2 (pictured below) just announced this week. I will say, though, that I still own a Walkman pro, the same cassette deck that I used to bootleg concerts with back in the day, so I am willing to entertain offers from people looking to get on the Walkman bandwagon and grab a genuine museum piece…)

Sony-Walkman-NW-ZX2

2. Vinyl sales – accompanied by audio gear sales, especially turntables, ‘cos ya gotta have the hardware to play the software – will continue to rise for a spell, eventually plateau, then settle in as a comfortable, attractive and, yes, profitable music format and delivery systems. We’ll also see more and more cool gimmicks like colored vinyl and shaped picture discs just like in the late ‘70s, all aimed at the collector geeks and hardcore fans out there, along with more and more reissues of classic wax and maybe even the mainstreaming of deluxe – and way expensive – vinyl box sets.

3. I will continue to geek out on vinyl. Hell, just yesterday I freaked out at the news of that colored vinyl, limited-to-500 copies, of Guided By Voices’ Bee Thousand. I pre-ordered my copy just as the door was slamming shut and the damn thing was sold out. Whew…

Postscript: you can toss all those CDs now, kids. Nobody’s gonna want them in a few years, not even you – in fact, a lot of music stores have already stopped taking them in trade. See below for the pile of unloved promos we have accumulated over the past couple of years: it’s a photo of our back office (known otherwise as “the dumpster”).

CDs

 

John B. Moore: Tim Booth of James

James 1

Since their return in 2007, the British art-rockers-formerly-alterna-rockers have rekindled the creative spark that made them so beloved in the early ‘90s. “We’re wanting to look forward and play music that is as good if not better than anything we have done before,” explains frontman Tim Booth.

BY JOHN B. MOORE

With more than three decades of music on their resume, you wouldn’t blame Manchester’s James for taking the well-trafficked reunion tour route, alongside so many of their peers. Their biggest single in this country, “Laid,” from the 1993 album of the same name, was practically on the syllabus of every college-aged kid in the early ‘90s, so they’ve earned the right to hit up the summer festival circuit, offering up a greatest hits playlist show after show.

Funny thing is, the band, having already weathered a tough six-year break up beginning in 2001, has no intention off simply looking back. Since their critically-praised 2008 album, Hey Ma, the band has proved to be remarkably relevant, turning out some of their best music… well, ever.

Their latest, La Petite Mort, covers some heartbreaking topics – in particular the deaths of singer Tim Booth’s mother, as well as a close friend – but contrasts them beautifully with music that is borderline celebratory. Over the years, this feat has become a hallmark of the band: taking deep lyrics and pairing them with an enthusiastic backdrop.

Fresh off a tour in the UK, Booth was kind enough to get on the phone recently and talk through the new record, the band’s break up and reunion and growing older in an industry geared towards the young.

BLURT: I appreciate you taking the time to talk to me. I know doing interviews are not the reason anyone gives for starting a band.

TIM BOOTH: It’s been quite interesting being interviewed on this record because the questions have been deep. I haven’t felt much like a politician on a campaign because the topics are so emotionally pregnant. It’s been really quite good to talk about this stuff.

 

That’s an interesting place to start. One of the things that struck me about this album, lyrically you talk about some very serious issues here. Death is brought up in a number of these songs, but it’s not necessarily a sad album. Was there a conscious decision to make it a little more optimistic?

There were two things. One was my mother’s death at 91, surrounded by loved ones. She wanted to go earlier, she had been in a care home in Yorkshire and she kind of died in my arms and it was really beautiful; it was an ecstatic experience. I’ve never heard anyone describe death like that before and it was a shock to me. I didn’t think that was possible, such a beautiful passing. And secondly, I had the death of a friend, one of the people I loved most in the world and it was almost the complete opposite. This person dies younger and had an illness they had kept from me and I didn’t get there in time to say goodbye and it was devastating. I had two polar experiences and I think many people experience that second extreme rather than the first.

Another thing that happened, James naturally works against lyrics. We do that as an impulse, we’re not here to depress folks and very much our impulse was to celebrate life. We like these kind of paradoxical contrasts of uplifting music and heavy lyrical matter. I think that’s basically what happened, having the experience of death that was really beautiful and the natural change inclination to put two different ideas together.

Did you ever catch yourself, on this record in particular, thinking you might be sharing too much of what you just went through?

In writing (the lyrics) I never think about it and I know other people do sometimes get embarrassed about my candor, but I don’t even think about it when I’m writing because I have a duty to write the best lyric I can possible write and the more truthful I am the more it seems to touch people who love the music. And if it embarrasses people who can’t handle that level of directness and emotion then they’re not the right people for this music. In the end, I’m writing for the people who need to be written to. We had so many people write in response to these lyrics about the loss of their parent, their loved ones, their children, then you feel like you’re doing something that’s important – voicing things that don’t often get voiced. So no, I don’t often think about it.

 

You and the other members in the band have certainly earned the right to tour under the albums and songs you have recorded over the past few decades. Is it important that you continue to write new music?

Yes, we’re not a heritage band in that we’re not really looking back. We’re wanting to look forward and play music that is as good if not better than anything we have done before. Because of our age there’s a glass ceiling on us so it’s harder to get a hit. In England it’s a closed shop unless your music attracts 16-to-25-year-olds. It’s an ageist glass ceiling which I see as no better than a sexist or racist glass ceiling.

Our feeling is that we’re looking forward all the time. When we got together it was never to play the old hits. We’ve got like 17 hits, so we can bury them or change them up, fuck around with them. “Sit Down” is the biggest hit for us in this country (the UK) and we won’t be playing it on this tour. We took it out for a year or so, so it will be fresh again and we can reinvigorate it. Springsteen is the one I think who has done it really nobly. Wrecking Ball was really a fantastic record and he keeps moving forward. There’s a belief that with aging you can’t be vital. Vitality is not a prerequisite of youth.

James 2

The band split up in 2001. What was it that made it possible for the band to reunite and work on new music?

I left the band in 2001 and we absolutely swore we would never play together again. It wasn’t really healthy for us all psychologically. We got very dysfunctional towards the late ‘90s though we actually started to heal some of the wounds on Pleased to Meet You (the band’s 2001 album). I felt like we should go out on a really great record and I was so scared of us falling back to where we were psychologically in the late ‘90s and it just wasn’t healthy; there was a lot of addictions and it was difficult to communicate and we came back really because everyone had cleaned up and everyone had six years to reevaluate what we were and we all knew we still had some good music in us.

To me, the biggest issue was could we change as a family. When you’ve been together 32 years the band is a family, it’s more than most people’s fucking marriage… We came together and we had changed. We all love each other and love what we do passionately. This is an amazing band and it’s a real joyful band to be in right now.

 

Having been together more than three decades, what has changed about the band in terms of how you get together to write music?

In many ways it’s the same. We’ve done it in different groups of people, but the methodology is the same. But the fact is, no one really writes a song and brings it into James. We get into a room and improvise with each other. That improvisation is our philosophy; our belief in creating things in the moment, unconsciously.

It’s the way of tapping into a creativity… there’s something about in that magic that’s uncontrollable and I mean that in the most positive way. The unconscious mind is where the great source of creativity lives.

Tim Hinely: For The Love Of Zines #3

Zines 3

This is what the world looked like before Al Gore invented the Internet, punks. And it was a more vibrant, exuberantly tactile world, too. Our resident fanzine expert weighs in.

BY TIM “DAGGER” HINELY

Print is still alive and well and here’s some rags to prove it! Just a handful of offerings for this winter, but they will leave ink stains on your fingers quite nicely.

 

THE BIG TAKEOVER (#75) I’ve already been using the phrase, “Jack Rabid’s long-running zine” for what seems like decades. Well, here in its 34th year Jack and his staff continue to crank out interviews, articles and reviews of the best indie rock/pop and punk out there. this issue has The Raveonettes (cover stars) plus other interviews with The Drums, The Muffs The Bevis Frond, part 2 of both the Dum Dum Girls and Penetration interviews plus many others. Also review and smaller profiles on other bands. 136 pages. www.bigtakeover.com

 

DENVOID: PUNKER TALES AND BEYOND (#1- Music writings by Dan Allen) Longtime Denver musician Dan Allen (he was most recently in the Sonic Archers and has done some solo stuff as well) put together this digest-sized book/zine. It starts off with some early show reviews of Misfits and Black Flag gigs then on through the years (it’s not in chronological order) with reviews of gigs far and wide: San Francisco, Seattle, Santa Fe, Buffalo, NY (mid-90’s). He saw Crime and the City Solution in the late ‘80s in Denver (grrrr….jealous!). Lots o’ good stuff here. Plenty of Denver gigs that I missed (about 4-5 years before I got here like Dressy Bessy, The Fluid, X, The Breeders, Daniel Johnson, New York Dolls, etc. etc.). You may dive in. Danallen662000@yahoo.com

 

DYNAMITE HEMORRHAGE (#2) After doing the great zine Superdope many years ago and then laying low for several years (thought he was active in the blog scene) San Franciscan Jay Hinman returned last year with a dynamite (!!!) new zine and here is issue #2 of said zine. In this issue Jay does a terrific interview/ retrospective on New Zealander Bill Direen. In addition there interviews w/ Crypt Records maniac Tim Warren plus Memphis band Nots, Honey Radar and a piece on ‘70s Jamaican dub. There’s article on punk 45s, plenty of reviews and more. Don’t miss this one. www.dynamitehemorrhage.com

 

ZISK (#25) “The baseball magazine for people who hate baseball magazines” continues on with its 25th issue! Mike and Steve, also behind the great (though much more sporadic) Go Metric zine, continue to bust out issues of Zisk two times per year. In this ish is Top 10 lists (my favorite, I love lists!), plus The Cincy Cycle and article by yours truly on John “The Hammer” Milner. More stuff on Wrigley, the Waldwick Batboy Trials, book reviews and more. Go on. www.ziskmagazine.com

 

Tim “Dagger” Hinely flunked both WordPress and Photoshop while attending Denver’s University of Hard Knocks but don’t let that prevent you from checking out his most excellent rock mag Dagger at www.daggerzine

 

Previously: For The Love Of Zines (Pt. 1)

For The Love Of Zines (Pt.2)