Monthly Archives: April 2010

Taylor Hawkins and the Coattail Riders – Red Light Fever

January 01, 1970

(RCA)

 

www.rcarecords.com

 

There are very few drummers that can successfully make that
short walk from behind the drum riser to the front of the stage. Phil Collins
and Don Henley (briefly), regardless of whether or not you care for their music,
were able to sell millions when they put the sticks down. And Ringo Starr… well,
he got a free pass because he was a Beatle. But Dave Grohl is by far the most
successful. There are a slew of young Foo Fighter fans who likely have no idea
he drummed (and probably carried the equipment, drove the van and got last pick
of the groupies) for Nirvana.

 

It’s no big surprise then that Grohl’s Foo Fighter stickman
would take his turn at the mic. On Red
Light Feve
r, Taylor Hawkins’ sophomore release, the drummer turned frontman
sticks close to his influences, Queen, a little ELO, some Led Zeppelin and the
Foo Fighters naturally.

 

The record, a big improvement from his debut, starts off
strong with the Queen-worthy “Not Bad Luck” – complete with a “Bohemian
Rhapsody”-like chorus – and the I-swear-it-could have been a Foo Fighters track
“Your Shoes.” With some impressively gnarly guitar solos and Hawkins pleasantly
raspy vocals, the album has a very laidback sunny California
vibe, which is not exactly shocking considering Hawkins is a laidback sunny California guy.

 

The album loses momentum about half way in with some
paint-by-number rock ballads (like the unimpressive “Hell to Pay” and the
mediocre rocker “Sunshine”), but the early tracks are almost enough to save the
record.

 

Though Red Light Fever is ultimately a mixed bag, in the end Hawkins ends up a little more Dave
Grohl than Ringo Starr on the drummers as rock star scale.

 

 

Standout Tracks: “Not
Bad Luck,” “Your Shoes” and “It’s Over” JOHN B. MOORE

 

Jr. James & the Late Guitar – Draw Blood! Undead @ Stella Blue

January 01, 1970

(A-Tone Music)

 

www.atonemusic.com

 

Jr. James is a mainstay of the Asheville, NC,
indie-rock scene, and a bit of a maverick, too – as befits someone who, on his
MySpace page, lists as his core influences Blind Blake and William Blake. (Take
that, John McCain.) Said maverick spirit is on full display on Draw Blood!, recorded live a few years
ago at the Stella Blue venue, and featuring James joined by an all-star cast of
locals that includes Band of Horses members Tyler Ramsey and Bill Reynolds.

 

Things take a pronounced veer early in the set with James’
cover of “Crimson and Clover”; what’s initially a straightforward, garage-pop rendition
suddenly morphs, midsong, into “Dublin,” a kind of jamband take on an electric
Irish jig (Pogues and Horslips fans, take note), replete with a wah-wah solo
and what gets, for my money at least, the award for Best Use Of A Melodica In A
Psychedelic Irish Raveup. Several songs later the club’s knee deep in the blues
standard “I Just Want to Make Love to You,” but I can guarantee ya this ain’t
your mama’s Willie Dixon/Muddy Waters territory the band has ventured into, as
the revised songtitle, “I Just Want to Loop Beats With You,” none-too-subtly
telegraphs: powered by an insistent electro-pulse churn, a grunting/huffing
synth and yet more wah-wah guitar, the tune sounds like – spurious-yet-colorful
comparison alert! – DEVO fronted by Fred Schneider and covering Foghat.

 

Other fun bits of sonic folderol also go down over the
course of the set, including a slinky dub number, a passage inspired by
Thelonious Monk and a ramshackle snatch of “Werewolves of London” featuring
guest “aaaahh-OOOO” vocals from members of The Figgs, who happened to be in the
audience this night. Yet let us not overlook the original material here, as
it’s every bit as engrossing as the covers: “Brand New Rock” is a hi-nrg slide-guit
romp through classic cowpunk territory (think Jason & the Scorchers meet
The Clash); “American Dream” is a groove-laden, stream-of-consciousness slice
of psychedelic funk; and “Recognize” uses as its jumping-off point the bassline
and chord progression of the Only Ones’ “Another Girl, Another Planet” to serve
up a zinging, zooming powerpop anthem.

 

All in all, a brief (36 minutes) but memorable excursion
into rock ‘n’ eclectica, a place where some men fear to tread but where,
apparently, the good Mr. James and his cohorts feel utterly at home. Let’s sing
it together, kids: Aaahhh-OOOOO!

 

Standout Tracks: “Crimson
and Clover/Dublin.” “Recognize,” “American Dream” FRED MILLS

 

 

 

Mushroom – Naked, Stoned & Stabbed

January 01, 1970

(4 Zero/Royal Potato Family)

 

www.4zerorecords.com / www.royalpotatofamily.com

 

Mushroom is one of those acts that’s easy to put out of your
mind. Not because the band doesn’t make memorable music – it most certainly
does. But the San Francisco
collective takes a long time between albums, and in a constant deluge of
information demanding attention, that can hurt. But there’s an upside to this
musical method: when a new record comes along, it brings with it the pleasure
of rediscovery, that moment of “Oh yeah, I’d forgotten just how good these guys
really are.”

 

So it is with Naked,
Stoned & Stabbed
, the twelfth Mushroom album. Bandleader Pat Thomas and
his various cohorts continue their exploration of psychedelia in all its forms,
this time with an acid folk aesthetic. The band has played with these kinds of
acoustic-based motifs before, most significantly on the landmark Glazed Popems, but not so (and this is
almost a contradiction in terms) aggressively. The sounds of the psych folk of
the late 60s – both the British and American varieties – abounds here, filtered
through Mushroom’s own psylocibin jazz vision. In other words, don’t expect
this to sound like Fairport Convention – this is still improvisational
instrumental music, but with a distinct Martin guitars-on-LSD flavor and a
knowing sense of humor (as indicated by the ridiculous song titles). There’s
one actual vocal tune – “Singing a Song in the Morning” is a fun little tune,
but sticks out like Tom Cruise in Tropic
Thunder
.

 

Thomas knows that folk music isn’t confined only to white,
English-speaking cultures, folding rhythms and melodies from Indian and African
forms into the blend. The band also pays tribute to German electronic music
with “Under the Spell” – isn’t that Germany’s folk music, in a way? Naked, Stoned & Stabbed is no
exercise in hippy nostalgia, but a fresh take on old styles – much like the
rest of Mushroom’s marvelous, creative oeuvre.

 

Standout Tracks: “All
the Guitar Players Around Sean Smith Say He’s Got It Coming, But He Gets It
While He Can,” “Walking Barefoot in Babylon”
MICHAEL TOLAND

Standard Fare – The Noyelle Beat

January 01, 1970

(Bar/None)

 

www.bar-none.com

 

Call
it confessional post-punk. Standard Fare, a trio out of Sheffield UK,
matches twitchy jangle pop to defiantly cheerful rants on love gone awry. Emma
Kupa, who takes the mic on the majority of these tracks, has a perky, sharp
voice, full of gulps and hitches and sudden confidences. She’s bothered but not
broken by cross-Atlantic affairs, exes, friends in trouble and one near
dalliance with a minor. Charmingly self-absorbed, she gets off one of The Noyelle Beat‘s best lines when she
frets about climate change in “Philadelphia.”
“Global warming is getting me down,” she confides, but not for the reason you
think. “It’s making the sea between us wider and deeper.” She’s also in top
form on “Fifteen (Nothing Happened)”, a bubbly clash-and-batter ditty about
almost succumbing to the temptations of high schooler.

 

There’s
a sort of modern screwball comedy air to all this boy-and-girl friction, a
tension that takes form, sometimes, in Kupa and band mate Danny How’s dueling
vocals. How sings a few on his own, too, bringing a bit of C86 sweetness and
vulnerability to “Secret Little Sweetheart” and a harder-edged asymmetry to
“Edges and Corners.” The music behind it all is slapdash and charming, full of
scrubby scrambles of guitar and firecracker poppings of drums (that’s third
member Andy Beswick). Overall, it’s an album as jittery sweet as a double mocha
latte. There’s nothing monumental here, but you couldn’t ask for a better time.

 

 

Standout Tracks: “Fifteen”, “Philadelphia” “Secret
Little Sweetheart” JENNIFER KELLY

 

 

 

Jen Olive – Warm Robot

January 01, 1970

(Ape House)

www.ape.uk.net

 

Producer Andy Partridge has his branding all over this
sophomore set by Jen Olive, a relative neophyte who garners attention by having
him behind the boards. While Warm Robot doesn’t find Olive a surrogate in the strictest sense, there’s little doubt
that Partridge is the musical mastermind here, purveying the same lush, loping
arrangements and shimmering atmospherics that characterize his typical XTC
outing. And given that the fate of XTC remains in limbo, Warm Robot may be the closest substitute, at least for the time
being.

 

Not that Olive doesn’t make a particular impression all her
own; her overdubbed harmonies and ethereal ethos bringing to mind the quirky
precociousness of Kate Bush, a psychedelic sensibility that steers these songs in
and out of their melodic parameters. Yet given their swirling ambiguity, tracks
such as “Boulevard,” “Wire Wire,” and “All My Heads Meet” can’t quite match
their trippy glee with any real claim on accessibility. Even so, the beguiling
tone and textures of “So Funny” and “Franscrams!” have a hypnotic effect that proves
curiously mesmerizing regardless.

 

Ultimately, Warm Robot sources its appeal in an elusive ambience which makes it interesting,
intriguing and worthy of repeated listens. Those partial to Mr. Partridge will certainly
be delighted.

 

Standout
Tracks:
“So Funny,” “Franscrams!” LEE ZIMMERMAN

 

 Jen Olive gets in the Blurt Bully Pulpit to talk about working with Andy Partridge – go here to read her account.

Wesley Wolfe – Storage

January 01, 1970

(Odessa)

 

www.odessarecords.com

 

North Carolina
native Wesley Wolfe tends bar when he’s not writing these sparse but catchy pop
songs, and one suspects that his nightly window into human folly provides
plenty of song fodder. “We have different stories but we share the same scars,”
Wolfe sings over urgent, GbV strumming on opener “Only Ray of Sunshine,” adding
wearily that he knows, “how it feels to be let down/It happens so much that I
expect it now.”

 

Rather than completely wallow, though, Wolfe grabs for the
hope implicit in the song’s title, and that’s pretty much the blueprint for
these 10 songs: life’s biggest promises are mostly lies, but redemption comes
from going on with the damn thing anyway and taking joy from the quotidian,
because every new dawn represents a significant victory. Wolfe’s narrators are,
in the end, too smart for their own good, and share the same cynic’s dark view
as Joe Pernice’s over-thinkers (“In Primary Colors” actually sounds like
classic Pernice Brothers). Wolfe’s best songs carry the urgency implicit in the
desperate search for meaning amidst so much bullshit and disappointment. “Sorry
Only Counts the First Time” turns the Cure’s “Just Like Heaven” on its head,
opening with the memorable line “Everyday we choose coffee over suicide,” while
the staccato cello, glock and chugging rhythm of “Another Weed” couch Homeric
allusions in classic Stephen Merritt pop. 

 

A few songs slip past unremarkably, failing to catch fire,
and the cynicism eventually accumulates into a heaviness that makes you yearn
for a light-weight love song. But Wolfe is clearly a skilled wordsmith with some
compelling pop songs to match, suggesting a bright – if also dim, speaking from
a narrative viewpoint – future ahead of him.

 

Standout Tracks: “Sorry
Only Counts the First Time” “In Primary Colors” JOHN SCHACHT

 

 

A Certain Ratio – Force

January 01, 1970

(LTM)

 

www.ltmpub.freeserve.co.uk

 

This
is a reissue of the 5th record by the legendary Factory Records
band, originally released in 1986. It was touted as the band’s return to its
funk roots (jazz too), with some deep, jerky grooves, and while the record
eventually sank without a trace at the time it garnered some nice reviews from
the (notoriously fickle) U.K.
press. In addition to the 8 songs that appeared on the original record this
reissue adds 5 B-sides.

 

“Only
Together” opens things up nicely with some meaty bass and smooth vocals while
“Naked and White” makes good use of some horn players, and the nearly
instrumental single “Mickey Way”
was a “Low Rider” for the anorak set. Later on we’re treated to the pop gloss
of “And Then She Smiles” and bonus tracks like a remix of “Bootsy” (by Robert
Racic) and the brooding, driving “The Runner” which came via a rare Italian EP.
At times the songs (or parts of the songs) seemed a bit too smooth (think ABC)
but all things considered, for a sound this specific, the record has aged
really well. Look for more A.C.R reissues coming later this year from the LTM
label.

 

Standout
Tracks:
“Naked and White”, “Mickey
Way”, “The Runner” TIM HINELY

 

 

Frightened Rabbit – The Winter of Mixed Drinks

January 01, 1970

(Fatcat)

 

http://fat-cat.co.uk

 

The melancholy
Scots, who have a knack for making the most somber of words jump and dance off
the sheet, have returned with their 3rd LP, The Winter of Mixed Drinks. An equally impressive feat as their
last album Midnight Organ Fights, Winter not only introduces a new sound
but a new band member, Gordon Skene.

 

With this LP
more lush and orchestrated in sound, gone is the feeling that lead singer and
writer Scott Hutchinson sat in a dim room in a melancholy haze and hashed out
emotively raw gems such as Midnight’s “Backwards Walk.” But still ever present is Hutchinson’s great lyrics and raspy
voice that makes his words sincere. “Swim” and “The Wrestle” stand out for
their catchy riffs as “Foot Shooter” highlights how Hutchinson’s vocals
melodies can make a song. Winter is
yet another impressive release for the five gentlemen; let us hope that Hutchinson does not run
out of stories to tell anytime soon.

 

Standout Tracks: “Swim Until You Can’t See Land,” “Foot
Shooter” APRIL S. ENGRAM

 

Jakob Dylan – Women and Country

January 01, 1970

(Columbia)

 

www.columbiarecords.com

 

On his excellent second solo venture, Jakob Dylan continues
to travel down the old dirt road blazed by his famous father with a rustic and
rich collection of songs that pay homage to rural America. While many critics have
already clamored to compare Women and
Country
to papa Bob’s legendary Basement
Tapes
, the succinct clarity by which these eleven songs glisten in the calm
of the mountain lakes of one’s mind has more in common with the quieter moments
of the elder Dylan’s proper studio endeavor with The Band, 1974’s Planet Waves.

 

Reuniting with producer T Bone Burnett, who helmed the only
Wallflowers album worth owning (1996’s Bringing
Down the Horse
), Women finds
Jakob utilizing the skilled warmth of his producer’s expert studio band, led by
jazz guitarist Marc Ribot, fiddle player Dave Mansfield and lap-steel master
Greg Leisz, to exhibit a hushed sense of confidence and grace unmatched by
anything else he has ever done. The beauty of these songs is further enhanced
by the haunting backing vocals of alt-country queens Neko Case and Kelly Hogan,
who appear on eight of the eleven tracks. The duo’s pitch-perfect harmonies on
the quaint country ballad “We Don’t Live Here Anymore” and “Holy Rollers” prove
to be a complementary foil for Dylan’s raspy timbre.

 

The one song on Women
and Country
that will be sure to cut right through you, however, is a track
called “They’ve Trapped Us Boys.” It’s a stirring account of a group of miners
buried beneath the earth from an accident that scarily echoes the recent
tragedy in Montcoal, West Virginia, which took the lives of 29 men
and is considered to be the worst mining disaster since 1970. And though by
pure coincidence (the album was released the day after the tragedy on April 6),
it’s a song that actually packs enough of a topical wallop to finally cement
his place in the family craft once and for all.

 

Standout
Tracks:
“Nothing But The Whole Wide World”, “We Don’t Live Here
Anymore”, “Everybody’s Hurtin'” RON HART

 

 

Sonoi – Sonoi

January 01, 1970

(Low Transit)

 

www.lowtransit.com

 

This band’s deep Chicago
roots have already led to many local post-rock comparisons, but Sonoi’s
wide-ranging sound seems more influenced by acts like Television and Talk Talk
than Tortoise or Town & Country. Led by former Manishevitz members Adam
Busch (guitars/vocals) and Ryan Hembrey (bass/keys), and also including drummer
Pierce Doerr, Sonoi tilts away from that band’s art-pop inclinations toward a
more expansive, droning and modal jazz-inflected palette.

 

Opener “Red Ants” floats from out of the ether on a sinuous
guitar line, subtle tribal rhythms, and a coating of keyboards and electronic
effects, and Busch sings in a voice approximating Tom Verlaine’s pinched
delivery. The Television effect kicks up a notch on album highlight “Clouds,”
pulsing percussion splattered with brusque, angular guitar chords that expand
into intertwined, Verlaine-and-Richard Lloyd-like layers. Likewise, the
6-minute-plus “Angeline” uses a marching beat and organ wash-drone to weave a
spell accented by a welcome sax solo, while “Sherry Falls”
and “Cat & the Barbie” opt for more concise pop-inflected beats without
sacrificing Sonoi’s ear for great texturing or their fondness for building
grooves.

 

The spacious feel bears the stamp of producer (and Boxhead
Ensemble maestro) Michael Krassner. The second half of the record tilts more
experimental and, unfortunately, loses some focus without any pop songs to
break the rambling spells. Brief tracks like the under-a-minute jazzy
interludes “R Pryor 1” and “R Pryor 2,” and longer ones like the 11-minute
over-indulgence “Anchor Tattoo,” rely more on mood than structure, with only mixed
success. Still, those sins of commission don’t detract from what is an exciting
opening statement from a compelling new trio.

 

Standout
Tracks:
“Clouds” “Red Ants” JOHN SCHACHT