Category Archives: New Releases

THE MISSION – For Ever More: Live at London’s Shepherd’s Bush Empire

Album: For Ever More: Live at London's Shepherd's Bush Empire

Artist: The Mission

Label: Cherry Red

Release Date: March 30, 2018

Cherry Red Records

BY JONATHAN LEVITT

Back in high school, I fell hard for The Mission’s Children LP. So, one day I see in the El Paso Times that Robert Plant is coming to town and the opener would be The Mission UK as they are known in the US. I promptly purchased my ticket and then found out that the show would be rescheduled because the “Tall Cool One” had taken ill. It was a few weeks later that Plant ended up playing in the UTEP special events center. So, there I was waiting for The Mission to take the stage, and probably was the only one in the crowd who knew who they were. The lights dim, and the opening act takes the stage. Soon enough they launch into “Crimson and Clover”  – odd for a Mission cover, but then again, it wasn’t the Mission playing it. It was Joan Jett and the Blackhearts. Apparently, The Mission went on to tour elsewhere and Joan Jett was brought in as a replacement. I was absolutely devastated and slipped back in my seat and watched Joan Jett’s set and a few songs from Plant’s band and then took off. It was a real letdown.

 

Seeing the Mission in concert has eluded me ever since. That is until now… well, sort of. Cherry Red, those crafty purveyors of bands you almost forgot existed, have released a 5-CD boxset of the Mission performing their seminal albums over the course of 4 nights at London’s vaunted Shepherd’s Bush Empire venue. I wasn’t sure how I’d react to hearing these albums performed by the band in 2008 or some 22 years after The First Chapter hit record store shelves. Thankfully the band opted for a mostly straight reading of their musical canon instead of infusing it with a lameness that many of their later records showed (Cue Masque for proof of that). Actually, there is one terribly embarrassing moment on the Children disc where Hussey and crew turn “Tower of Strength” into a Dead Can Dance sample-infused, hokey dance number. Thankfully this going rogue tendency by Hussey is mostly kept in check.

One reason this set, save for a few egregious missteps, is so compelling is that original guitarist Simon Hinkler with his Moorish atmospherics returned to play this string of dates with the band. Each one of the shows is really well done. Wayne Hussey’s voice is in fine form and doesn’t sound as if it has aged a day. In fact, there’s a modesty about the way the band present themselves in these concerts, which lets the music shine and allows the listener to beam themselves back in time to when they first heard these songs. I also really like the fact that on the Carved in Sand disc the band decided to play several B-sides from the album’s singles like “Mr. Pleasant” and “Bird of Passage”. The fifth CD is marked as being recorded the same night as the Carved in Sand show, which means the band played 30 songs on the final night; that’s dedication for you. Hussey even managed to draft into service a few musician pals to make appearances, including Miles Hunt whose band The Wonder Stuff toured with The Mish on their Carved in Sand tour. If you’re a die-hard Mission fan this set is well worth picking up since it’s the band’s most vital music. Cherry Red also gives some heft to the boxset with some killer liner notes written by goth rock journalist Natasha Scharf. As for me, while it’s sad that I never saw them live, this boxset has proven to be the next best thing.

DOWNLOAD: “Beyond the Pale” “Heaven on Earth” “Black Mountain Mist” “Severina” “Wishing Well”

SUSS – Ghost Box

Album: Ghost Box

Artist: Suss

Label: self-released

Release Date: April 06, 2018

https://suss.bandcamp.com/releases

BY JOHN SCHACHT

It’s 800 miles and 12 hours from Wichita to Laredo, a straight shot down I-35 through the big sky plains of Kansas and Oklahoma, through north Texas ranchland and the scrub-brush south of San Antonio.

We don’t know for sure whether that’s the route SUSS had in mind for their excellent instrumental debut LP, Ghost Box, but the seven song titles — among them, “Wichita,” “Laredo” and “Canyonlands (Return to Wichita)” — certainly suggest as much. Far more important than mere place names, though, is this New York City-based quintet’s ability to conjure those places psychically for us in a sublime 35-minute joyride that hints equally at Ennio Morricone, Brian Eno, and Paris, Texas Ry Cooder.

SUSS features Grammy-nominated multi-instrumentalist and cowpunk pioneer Bob Holmes on mandolin and guitar, guitarist/keyboardist Pat Irwin, pedal steel player Jonathan Gregg, synth looper Gary Leib, and William Garrett, architect of the “high lonesome” quality in the album’s mixing stage. Together they’ve created a suite of songs that drift into and out of each other much as the hours blend together on a cross-country jaunt. Set primarily to languid but hypnotic tempos, and accented with drifting pedal steel lines and droning synth whorls, this is music to accompany the hum of car wheels over concrete, warm wind riffling through open windows, the patter of rainsqualls on windshields.

Over the heart-beat pulse of opener “Wichita,” for instance, Gregg’s pedal steel advances and recedes like the headlights of opposite-lane traffic. “Late Night Call,” with its acoustic strums and disembodied whistling, recalls the desert noir instrumentals of early Calexico as much as it does Sergio Leone. Over the five-and-a-half-minutes of “Big Sky,” surges of fuzzy e-bow counterpoint the crystalline lines of pedal steel until a baritone guitar figure manifests like a butte on the horizon. “Gunfighter” adds a surreal quality with snippets of TV dialogue looped over the oscillating synth textures, a slightly sinister tableau onto which they add harmonica bursts reminiscent of Laughing Stock-era Talk Talk.

If that last comparison initially reads like a stretch, you’re over-thinking it. The common denominator between this band’s stated admiration for Eno and Boards of Canada and this LP’s high-lonesome forebears is plain: creating an enveloping atmosphere where the imagination is free to take its own voyage. For connoisseurs of instrumental landscape sculpting, SUSS has created a concise masterwork of the form.

DOWNLOAD: “Wichita,” “Big Sky,” “Rain,” “Laredo”

 

ANTON BARBEAU – Natural Causes

Album: Natural Causes

Artist: Anton Barbeau

Label: Beehive

Release Date: April 06, 2018

antonbarbeau.com

BY LEE ZIMMERMAN

 

Anton Barbeau has made his name in power pop circles for quite some time now, but sadly, it seems the wider world is simply too slow to catch on. One can only hope that assessment will change with the release of Natural Causes, his exceptional new album and one that finds him pulling out all the stops. Exceptional melodies and an exuberant attitude elevates these grooves and provides them their shimmer. Applying a hint of psychedelia and some tangled philosophy (check out “It’s the Coffee That Makes the Man Go Mad,” a treatise on caffeine versus recreational drugs of the standard variety), Barbeau offers up another varied and vibrant effort, one that’s occasionally woozy but consistently appealing all the same.

Those that gravitate towards songs of a more cosmic variety will find plenty to entice as well. The big and bold opener “Magazine Street” offers initial indication, with other entries such as “Disambiguation” and “Mumble Something” providing assertive backup. The loping “Down Around the Radio” and the chamber pop approach of “Just Passing By” find common ground in their ‘60s sensibilities, further confirmation of the fact that Barbeau is a paisley pop rocker with a prime pedigree and both the talent and mindset to match.

DOWNLOAD: “It’s the Coffee That Makes the Man Go Mad,” “Disambiguation,” “Just Passing By”

 

 

 

BOB BRADSHAW – American Echoes

Album: American Echoes

Artist: Bob Bradshaw

Label: Fluke

Release Date: October 20, 2017

https://www.bobbradshaw.net/

The Upshot: Attempting to categorize Bob Bradshaw and his 7th release would prove a complete disservice, as he’s one of those rare artists who’s bound to represent something different to anybody who happens to hear him. Folk? Americana? Blues? Roots-rock? Country? All of that. And none of that.

 BY ERIC THOM

 In the ‘not what you expected’ department, Bob Bradshaw delivers an eyebrow-raiser on American Echoes – 12 tasty originals defying traditional categorization. While the disc’s peculiar cover art might suggest a New Age outing as the inside sleeve conjures the Old West, you’d be hard-pressed to connect either image to the music found inside. American Echoes is, instead, a fully realized collection of masterful songs and fully fleshed-out arrangements that feature an impressive cast of like-minded musicians. Admittedly, it may take some time for these songs to glue themselves to your brain because there’s so much going on, both musically and lyrically – but they will, eventually proving irresistible. Like wet puppies in a rainstorm. It’s Bradshaw’s vocals that hit you first. His is not an immediately likeable voice – but herein lies its charm and appeal as you come to know him. A mongrel of sorts – you swear you’ve heard this voice before. Darden Smith? Richard Shindell? Think more of a non-alcoholic Robert Earl Keen – a warm, laidback tone with all its rough edges worn off. A disparate collection of songs, each sounds unlike the one before it. The hooks are subtle, but they’re there – the type which sink their roots deeper and deeper with continued listening. So Bradshaw is hard to peg. Why do you need to? An honest singer-songwriter of poetic proportions, he seems both blessed and cursed with a world-weary outlook and a voice to match. His music is more beautiful than it is cool, a throwback to the ‘60s in some ways. Born in Cork, Ireland, Bradshaw’s time spent in America (Boston) has paid off in his ability to chronicle the good, the bad and the ugly – many of the characters in these songs read like entries from a diary. Mix in the lessons he’s learned from Berklee and it’s quite understandable why Bradshaw dances to a different drummer. He’s a skilled storyteller, painting elaborate pictures as an observer more than he is the subject of each song, arousing our interest as he chronicles each vignette. He’s been there – as have we all. Kicking off with “Exotic Dancers Wanted”, you’re instantly engulfed by warm, acoustic bass and gentle piano as a full tapestry of acoustic and electric guitar joins Britt Connors and Annie Lynch’s lush backup vocals. Bradshaw mirrors an intersection of Keen to John Prine, possessed of all the confidence in the world, owning the end result. Likewise, “Meet Me” presents a beguiling invitation which leans on Connors’ background vocal as Andrew Stern turns in a tasty, country-dipped solo on electric guitar, all set against the burbling keys of James Rohr’s electric piano. You might pay special attention to the drums and percussion work of Mike Connors, who repeatedly brings much more to the party than a mere beat. A comparably darker “Call It What You Will” is buoyed by Rohr’s delicate touch on piano, lifted further by keyboardist/ co-writer Scoop McGuire. Britt Connors’ mournful vocal support helps darken the clouds behind this stormy relationship despite McGuire’s odd choice of synth. Cue the more upbeat, ”The Assumptions We Make”, driven by the strumming of Bradshaw’s acoustic guitar, challenged by the electric guitar and resonator work of co-writer, Andy Santospago and abetted by Stern. Rohr’s B3 provides real body to the mix over the rhythm section of Ed Lucie and Mike Connors. Next, audition the downright peculiar, almost angular, “Workin’ On My Protest Song”, which features the dynamic, exploratory, spidery guitar of Andrew Stern and the soft, combined hush of backup singers Connors and Lynch. As Mike Connors provides a powerful foundation of soothing percussion in African proportions, the chorus breaks to reveal one of this disc’s true highlights. The addition of Chad Manning’s fiddle to “A Bird Never Flew On Just One Wing” provides a country feel as Bradshaw’s vocal preens, Keen-like, over Stern’s tough guitar sound and Connors’ fat backbeat. Suddenly, Bradshaw rocks out with a guitar-driven “Weight of the World” which, more Beatles than Petty, more Mellencamp than Seger, commands a charm of its own for the trucker in all of us. Co-writer/lead guitarist Andrew Stern is clearly off his leash and this pounding power ballad offers a distinctive wake-up call – right down to its cowbell – marking the album’s halfway point. Alternately, “Stella” proves an intoxicating love song in the form of a waltz, bathed in Rohr’s B3, Stern’s soothing electric guitar with Rohr doubling up on accordion. “My Double And I” features the sparring, double guitars of Stern and Santospago, offering up wah-wah and lead accompaniment, built around an odd, jazz-fueled swing beat. The more melancholy “Material For The Blues” celebrates the invisible bruises of the heart, reinforced by Manning’s country fiddle and Annie Lynch’s ghosted vocal support. Tale special note of Andy Santospago’s seductive baritone guitar break. “O Brother” incorporates a slide guitar technique (Stern) that could’ve fallen from George Harrison’s trickbag, yet this device, together with Bradshaw’s bent lyrics, succeeds in conjuring a doomed, too-casual relationship between two strangers championing distinctly opposite needs. The Celtic-edged “Old Soldiers” erupts like American bedrock – all fiddle, banjo and military snare, adding meat to the old adage that, for those who make the ultimate sacrifice, will live forever.

Bob Bradshaw is clearly a different breed of singer-songwriter who has spent a lifetime honing his craft – invested as he is in each and every song. Lovers. Losers. Dreamers and derelicts collide with the hopeful and the helpless. They’re all lovingly depicted here in their stark beauty, wrapped in a readily-identifiable reality – as observed in exacting detail by a writer with the power to see in from the outside, while experiencing life from both sides to be able to tell their tales so convincingly.

 

WATCH VIDEO:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PCvX4cKDojY

 

 

DIRTY SIDEWALKS – Bring Down the House Lights LP

Album: Bring Down the House Lights LP

Artist: Dirty Sidewalks

Label: No-Count

Release Date: January 12, 2018

www.facebook.com/nocountrecords/

The Upshot: Classic, anthemic shoegaze with a contemporary twist, and more vocal hooks per capita than a box set of Beach Boys ‘n’ Beatles.

BY FRED MILLS

Swervedriver. Ride. Chapterhouse. Jesus & Mary Chain. If none of those classic outfits twang your heartstrings, move along citizen, nothing to see here. But for all the smart people in the room, here, folks, is your new favorite band: Seattle’s Dirty Sidewalks, brothers Erik and Evan Foster on guitars and drum programming, plus “the other Evan” (O’Neil) on bass, debuting with a 12-song smorgasbord of fuzz ‘n’ drones, classic ‘80s anthemism and ‘60s Brit Invasion vocal harmonies, and no shortage of just plain kickass.

If Erick and Evan’s names sound familiar, that’s because you know their surf/garage combo, the Boss Martians. (Evan is also a contemporary member of NW garage legends the Sonics, just in case you need an additional CV reference.) But this is a whole ‘nuther thang, a veritable gobsmack of a record (on CD and vinyl) that does indeed pay homage to the aforementioned UK shoegazers but also updates the file to stake out turf that is utterly and undeniably theirs. It kicks off with some telltale backward-tape squiggles then launches into the manifesto-like “Rock & Roll (Saved My Life),” a thrumming, shimmering slice of JAMC pop revisionism that’ll have you swiveling your tailfeather in perfect synch with the shaker percussion. And the thrills subsequently pile up: the brief (2-min.), anthemic “Never Wanted to Be Love”; druggy, echo-drenched stomper “Euphoria”; experimental, samples-punctuated Black Holes, essentially an instrumental but with soaring Beach Boys-like wordless vocal harmonies. Oh, and for all the Oasis fans in the house, don’t miss “2nd Song,” which is more Noel Gallagher grand guitar symphony than Liam Gallagher vocal yowl/sneer, a guaranteed crowd pleaser.

That the Dirty Sidewalks use a James Dean-on-motorcycle as their band logo also speaks volumes. Get yer motor runnin’, punk.

Consumer note: In addition to Bring Down the House Lights being available on heavy vinyl, download card included, the band’s debut 45, “It’s Getting Better,” is apparently available on wax as well, in both super-limited white and very-limited black iterations. Act now before the word gets out on this gifted band.

DOWNLOAD: “Rock & Roll (Saved My Life),” “Euphoria,” “2nd Song”

NICOLAS MASSON QUARTET – Travelers

Album: Travelers

Artist: Nicoloas Masson Quartet

Label: ECM

Release Date: February 16, 2018

http://ecmrecords.com

BY MICHAEL TOLAND

 

Nicolas Masson has been all over ECM Records’ recent works – not as musician, but as photographer of many of their distinctive album covers. For his first ECM album under his own name (after two LPs with the trio Third Reel), the Swiss reedsman renames his longtime band Parallels and gives it airily arranged and classically-informed compositions to stimulate improvisation without chaos energy. Whether blowing tenor sax, soprano or clarinet, Masson prefers a stark tone and clean lines, encouraging his musicians to leave as much space as he does in the tracks. In that sense, pianist Collin Vallon is his perfect foil, as he lays down a chordal foundation, rather than running up and down his keyboard. Masson’s veteran compadre/bassist Patrice Moret, who also plays in Vallon’s trio, often finds himself up front when it’s time for solos – a status that suits his particularly melodic style. Drummer Lionel Friedli, meanwhile, keeps to the background, letting his cymbals drive the music subtly and letting the beat percolate without boiling over. Whether essaying enigmatic melodics in “Philae” and “Almost Forty” or exploring the arrangements’ well-lit corners in “Blurred” and “Jura,” the Masson Quartet stays elegant, channeling its passion into the right notes at the right time in the right way.

 

DOWNLOAD: “Philae,” “Almost Forty,” “Blurred”

 

TREES SPEAK – Trees Speak (2LP)

Album: Trees Speak

Artist: Trees Speak

Label: Cinedelic / Forced Exposure

Release Date: December 07, 2018

www.facebook.com/treesspeakmusic/ / www.forcedexposure.com/Artists/TREES.SPEAK.html

The Upshot: A kosmiche, psychedelic, improvisational slab of genius, spread across four beautiful clear vinyl sides, announces the arrival of a visionary new outfit from the Old Pueblo.

BY FRED MILLS

Trees Speak, hailing from Tucson, Arizona, is visual artist Daniel Martin Diaz’s musical persona, formerly of Blind Divine and Crystal Radio, and here joined by Michael Glidewell (Black Sun Ensemble), Gabriel Sullivan (XIXA, Giant Sand), Connor Gallaher (Myrrors, Cobra Family Picnic), Damian Diaz (Human Error), and Julius Schlosburg (Jeron White Acoustic Trio). They consider themselves more of a “sound laboratory”—crafting long, live-in-studio improvisations, then editing them in the studio, adding effects, and more—along the lines of early Can, than a straight-up rock band.*

Although that’s not to even remotely suggest that these cats won’t rock the fuck out, because like the Krautrock greats of yore, Trees Speak can shift instantly from a luminous, ambient electronic shimmer to a pounding, pulsing, powering wall of sound. Trees Speak, released this past December on the Cinedelic label, home to numerous electronic and experimental Italian artists (including several film soundtrackers—Ennio Morricone’s Eat It is among the label’s catalog), and distributed in the U.S. by Forced Exposure, is the group’s debut, and to these ears, at least, it is utterly unlike anything that the Old Pueblo had produced to date.

Side A is highly instructive. The ominous “Soul Machine” kicks things off on a heady Neu!-esque motorik note before yielding to a percussion segue leading the listener directly into throbbing, electronics-splattered drone territory, “Black Butterfly” and “Atomic Heart.” This in turn gradually turns into a series of restful, melodic passages via harmonium and nylon string guitar—although “restful” may be a misnomer, or at least misleading, since there are also some abrupt glitchy effects as well as some strange background vocal samples. The side concludes with the track “Trees Speak,” which synthesizes all of the foregoing into another moment of motorik magnificence—the key here being the use of repetition for both texture and dynamics, whether within the context of a minimalist or a full-arrangement composition.

One could similarly describe the other three sides, but it wouldn’t really do the music here justice. If the core elements of Krautrock appeal to you, along with the notion that genuinely transcendent psychedelia always is rooted in the improvisational aesthetic, then you won’t be able to resist this remarkable debut. I found myself playing certain tracks over and over—the aforementioned “Atomic Heart,” side B’s lengthy, aptly-titled “Spirit Oscillator” (which sounds uncannily like Can’s classic “Mother Sky” in places), the sizzling/searing uneasy listening of “Unconscious Through Control.” A single synapse-snapping composition, “Shadow Circuit,” takes up the entirety of sides C and D, split into Pt. 1 and Pt. 2, recalling at times fellow Tucson bands The Myrrors and Black Sun Ensemble in all their mystic, lunar-worshiping, Lower Sonoran glory; during the song, heady bursts of kosmiche guitar dart hither and yonder as if they were desert creatures engaged in their nocturnal hunts, only to be frightened back into their burrows by predatory rapid-fire percussion and zooming electronics—and then the cycle begins all over.

There’s a palpable sense of time standing still while Trees Speak performs, like standing on the floor of a rock venue, the lights turned off with only red LED lights on amplifiers for illumination, and simply letting the music wash over you. I realize that these tunes are the product of post-performance editing and tinkering, but they were also originally created live over a five-day period (at Sacred Machine Studio and Dust & Stone Studio in Tucson), and to their credit, the musicians retained that live feel for the finished product.

For you vinyl fans out there, the photo above should be all the motivation you need to scoop this up while it’s available: 2LP, 180-gm. clear vinyl in a gatefold sleeve, plus a 12” double-sided print, five 5” postcards, and two stickers. An artistic beauty, courtesy Diaz. And only 250 copies were pressed, so don’t sit ‘cos if you do, you won’t be able to spin.

————

* I usually refrain from quoting a band’s press info at length, but in this case I think it’s wholly appropriate to let them state their musical manifesto directly. It’s spoken like true Tucsonans: “Our intention is to create music with an unrehearsed minimalist approach performing simple beats, riffs, and sequences that take one inward. We attempt create a sonic environment to set one’s mind free and to become aware of the nuances of tone, melody, and structure. We organize our recording equipment with the same approach, in a transparent manner. Our recorded performances are never rehearsed. Our belief is that a brilliant rehearsal is a lost opportunity to capture a magical moment. We are chasing the mystery of music and tone. We let the musical performance sculpt its own destiny and create imperfect perfection. Our tool of creation is the anxiety one feels when they are unrehearsed or prepared for a performance. We believe this approach brings us closer to the authentic self. The result is genuine music without an agenda that captures the unfiltered spirit.”

Live band photo by Allan Robert Sturm, via the band’s Facebook page.

 

DOWNLOAD: “Shadow Circuit (Pt.1),” “Spirit Oscillator,” “Soul Machine”

 

MUDHONEY — L.i.E.

Album: L.i.E.

Artist: Mudhoney

Label: Sub Pop

Release Date: January 19, 2018

https://www.subpop.com

BY JENNIFER KELLY

The set starts in a monstrous wall of feedback, a fuzzed out roar that parts, like primordial swamp for the fuzz-clustered, two guitar crocodilian riff of “Fuzz Gun,” a form of guitar mayhem first plotted before Nirvana broke, before grunge became a fashion statement, when it seemed like the primitive stomp and psychedelia skree of Mudhoney might become, if not the next big thing, something bigger and more lucrative than the journeyman hard rock outfit they eventually turned into. That cut, and the one that follows is “Get into Yours,” from the 1989 S-T, are a quarter-century old when we hear them now, somewhere in Eastern Europe, but they sound just as relevant, just as hard and blunt and distended with volume as they must have when Mark Arm and Steve Turner first thought of them.

 

Mudhoney’s new live set, L.i.E. (Sub Pop), collected from a 2016 tour, is bluntly, ferociously coherent, though it spans three decades, seven albums and one Roxy Music cover.

 

The set list leans a bit on 2013’s Vanishing Point, then and now, the band’s most recent full-length (though a new one is coming in 2018), with an extended, pedal-fucked, guitar-spiraling, through-the-rabbit-hole treatment of “The Final Course,” followed by the slyer, more compact boogie of “What to Do with the Neutral” (“What to do with the neutral/It’s not an easy problem,” sings Arm, who has demonstrably spent more time on extremes). The post-millennial Mudhoney albums have an air of comfortable free-ness, of settling in with what the band has, of getting over undue expectations, and their loose, humorous bluster colors this live performance. But they make perfect sense in conjunction with older material — the explosive vamp of “Judgment Rage Retribution and Thyme” from 1995’s My Brother the Cow, the viscous chug of 2009’s Piece of Cake’s “Suck You Dry.”

 

You might think that covering Roxy Music is an odd choice, but “Editions of You,” is one of Ferry’s rougher, more rocking outings. Mudhoney gets at the twisted, clanging guitar line, pumping it up with pummeling drums, and obliterating any vestigial crooning in a barrage of Arm’s frantic shout-ranting. It sounds, in the end, like Mudhoney. It’s followed by the best cut on the disc, the long, fever-blistered rampage of “Broken Hands,” which encapsulates blues-like dirge and psychedelic freakery in its slow-moving, drum-rattling procession.

 

Which sounds completely different but also like Mudhoney, always what it is, always morphing, and always, always, always a monster live band.

 

Incidentally, Mudhoney and Sub Pop made an intriguing move with the album by not releasing it on CD, just vinyl and digital. And then they paid further tribute to vinyl collectors (Such as moi. — Blurt Wax Ed.) by also pressing up a special European-only, limited-to-500-copies version pressed on clear vinyl and boasting different gatefold artwork from the standard US pressing, it’s on 180gm CLEAR VINYL. And initial copies came with a 7” Bonus single. (“Touch Me I’m Sick” b/w “Where the Flavor Is”). Nice touch, gents.

DOWNLOAD: “Judgment Rage Retribution and Thyme,” “Broken Hands”

 

 

FLAMIN’ GROOVIES – Fantastic Plastic

Album: Fantastic Plastic

Artist: Flamin' Groovies

Label: Sonic Kick

Release Date: September 22, 2017

www.facebook.com/TheFlaminGroovies

 The Upshot: Cyril, Chris, & Co. hit the ignition button and blast off in a spectacular return to form.

BY BARRY ST. VITUS

With the state of decay that rock ‘n’ roll has composted into over the last several years, it’s important to have a touchstone like the Flamin’ Groovies to reboot our brains and remind us what it’s really all about. Since the original lineup formed in ’66, their lineups over the years have seen more changes than Drumpf’s White Power House staff appointments, but, have remained pretty true to their original sound through it all. This point in time finds them still creatively brilliant in both writing and playing. Although ex-Charlatan/Groovie Michael Wilhelm and band co-founder Roy Loney weren’t involved in this latest resurrection, original bassist George Alexander makes the scene on most of the tunes, drummer Victor Penalosa and former member Chris Wilson co-writes about half the numbers with Cyril Jordan, after a 38-year separation. This partnership is where the ignition hits the combustible and blast-off is achieved, and is pretty damned spectacular. Their touring lineup includes bassist Chris von Sneidern and Tony (son of Soupy) Sales on drums. After Jordan and Wilson rekindled their friendship in

2013, they started slowly recording tunes at a Sausalito studio, slowly piecing together an album over a 3-year period.

Having been a fan since Sneakers was released in ‘68, I was blown away from the first couple of tunes, and greatly impressed by this latest incarnation. Through the decades, their musical

choices have always been a bit out of sync with the current time period, making them not exactly appealing to the hippies of the late ‘60’s, with songs that sounded like they were lifted from artists of the previous decade, in a period of folk-rock and psychedelia. Plastic Fantastic stays true to their vision, belting out tunes that cover ground remindful of British Invasion bands, classic rock, power-pop, Mod and Freakbeat. There’s even a tasty instrumental thrown in. I can’t let the great cover by Jordan go by without a nod. Jordan drew Mickey Mouse comics at Disney in the ‘80’s, and had hoped to get famous Mad magazine Jack Davis draw a cover for some future project. Davis agreed, but passed away before it came to fruition. Putting rapidograph to paper, he came up with this very serviceable homage to Davis’s 1959 cover for Monster Rally.

The album kicks off with a ballsy, bluesy, Stones-flavored smack-down, “What The Hell’s Going On.” It’s a clear shot across the bow, letting you know that they aren’t screwing around. It also makes for a pretty good anthem for 2017.  “The End Of The World” couldn’t sound more Groovies-infused (think “Shake Some Action”) if they had a gun pointed at their head and were forced to clone their signature sound. They dig into the Beau Brummels’ catalog and juice up their classic Mod-ish number “Don’t Talk To Strangers,” really capturing the atmosphere of that time period. Their Flamingo-era flavored “Let Me Rock” shakes things up old-school style and belongs on juke boxes in soda shops everywhere. This is not the ’71 version, but a fresh update. Rock on, indeed!

“She Loves You” and “I Want You Bad” revisit the jangle of “Shake Some Action” and “You Tore Me Down” to lovely effect, making it not much of a stretch for them both to have come from that era. Early Beatles-sound shines through (ala “Long Tall Sally”/”Matchbox”/”Slow Down”) on “Crazy Macy,” thanks to a pounding Jerry Lee beat. This was a single released by the band about a year ago as a tasty appetizer for the upcoming album. “Lonely Hearts,” as the title evokes, is a broody ballad about separation, love lost and hope of reconciliation. “Just Like A Hurricane” rolls in a lot like Ferry’s “Let’s Stick Together” but with throbbing guitars and wah-wah instead of a horn section.

It sounds like all voices are joining in on “Fallen Star,” which locomotes and chugs right along like a freight train, with some fine guitar riffs, fading out with some Byrdsian guitar chimes. I’m endlessly disappointed that bands don’t do more instrumentals, but the band shines through here with “I’d Rather Spend My time With You,” which is about one step removed from a surf number, with a sprinkling of “ahhhs.” Drummer Prairie Prince joins in on drums, along with bass parts laid down by noted producer-archivist Alec Palao. A Byrdsy beginning kicks off “Cryin’ Shame,” a very ‘60’s sound, accompanied with nice harmonies on the chorus parts.

It has to be noted, that even with a pretty amazing catalog on the shelves from decades back, Fantastic Plastic might just be their finest effort. This is the music that stirs your loins and flies in your face like the sweet bird of youth come home to roost. Fingers crossed that this isn’t their Final Vinyl.

DOWNLOAD: “What the Hell’s Going On,“ “End

JAKOB BRO – Returnings

Album: Returnings

Artist: Jakob Bro

Label: ECM

Release Date: March 23, 2018

http://ecmrecords.com

BY MICHAEL TOLAND

By now, guitarist Jakob Bro is a veteran of the Scandinavian jazz scene. For Returnings, however, he and his stalwart bassist Thomas Morgan call upon the talents of musicians who’ve been plying their trade in Northern Europe for even longer: drummer Jon Christensen and trumpeter/composer Palle Mikkelborg.

No high velocity fusioneer, Bro puts his watery tone to the service of tunes that take their time getting where they’re going. As a rhythm section, Morgan and Christensen walk around the beat more than alongside it – the drummer in particular plays without much care for keeping the pulse. Riding Christensen’s amorphous groove, “Lyskaster” and “Song For Nicolai” saunter forward, not so much relaxed as unconcerned. This approach well suits Bro and especially Mikkelborg, who prefers a sonorous tone and likes to make each note count, rather than engage in pyrotechnics.

Though ostensibly the leader, the Danish six-string master gives his guests plenty of space, often more interested in providing backgrounds over which Mikkelborg and Morgan solo than opportunities for himself. Besides highlighting Bro’s generosity, it makes the times when he does step out, as on Mikkelborg’s purposefully meandering composition “View,” extra special. Other highlights include the title track, an atmospheric Bro-Mikkelborg co-write that sounds like Miles Davis if he did In a Silent Way for ECM, and “Hamsun,” a duet between Bro and Morgan that doesn’t need its high-profile guests to stand out.

Bro has long proven himself a master of his main instrument – with Returnings he shows that he’s come into his own as a bandleader as well.

DOWNLOAD: “View,” “Returnings,” “Hamsun”