Monthly Archives: July 2013

WIRE – Change Becomes Us

Album: Change Becomes Us

Artist: Wire

Label: Pink Flag

Release Date: March 26, 2013

Wire

www.pinkflag.com

BY JASON GROSS

If Ray Davies and Muddy Waters can cannibalize their own catalogs, then why not these post-punk pioneers, who’ve gladly done it before anyway?  Based on ‘ideas from 1979/1980… sketches for live performances,’ this semi-new batch of songs navigates between their 80’s reunion-era, new-age (not new wave) existential dread and the ramalama rush of their early work and some of the best of their recent 2000’s reunion era material.  Now a quartet again with the addition of guitarist Matt Sims, the vocals get traded off as usual between Colin Newman’s yelps and calm warble and Graham Lewis’ ghostly croon.  Since the original material came from a transitional period for them (going from art-punks to full blown art-rockers), the end result is doubly schizo, sometimes working in spite of itself, as heard on “Adore The Island” which goes back and forth between airy calm and revved up rock in alternately sections, as if the group can’t decisively make up its mind about its direction after the departure of original guitarist/conceptualist Bruce Gilbert. Some of their 80’s-style material also works in a pretty way (“Re-invent Your Second Wheel,” “BW Silence,” “Time Lock Fog”) but not so that you’re convinced that their collective hearts are in it. Even some of the more up-tempo material (“Stealth of a Stork”) sounds kind of like retreads of <Pink Flag> or 2003’s <Send>, which is good for their old fans in a way but better served by the original source material. Only towards the end (the German shout-a-long “Eels Sang,” the maddening churning “Attractive Space,” the mildly stomping “As We Go”) do they sound comfortable in their new/old skin as the enigmatic rockers that they are.  Hopefully this uncertainty means that their next phase is on the way.

DOWNLOAD: “Eels Sang,” “Love Bends” JASON GROSS

The Oblivians 7/13-14/13 Chicago

Dates: June 13 & 14, 2013

Location: Empty Bottle & West Fest, Chicago IL

Oblivians 7-13 by Marty Perez

Getting’ OBLIVIATED, Memphis style, at the Windy City’s Empty Bottle and the West Fest this past weekend. Don’t forget to read our Oblivians interview elsewhere on the BLURT site, too. Yowsa!

 Text by Allison Lukens / Photos by Marty Perez

 There was no shortage of steamy gunk-punk bands during the mid ‘90s, but The Oblivians rocked that scene like no other. The trio’s two Chicago shows (one on Saturday night at The Empty Bottle and Sunday night at West Fest) delivered the familiar, raunchy Oblivians sound while flaunting the burnin’ hot tunes on Desperation, their latest record from In The Red Records.

The Obvilians

The Obvilians

The Obvilians

On Saturday, the Empty Bottle packed with true fans from youngsters to silver-haired rockers, and the trio took the stage with rapturous applause as they cranked out feverish versions of “No Reason to Live,” “Strong Come On,” “Mad Lover,” “Blew My Cool,” “She’s a Hole,” and “Sunday You Need Love.” They also jammed on many of the highlights from the new platter, including “Loving Cup,” “I’ll Be Gone,” “Woke Up in a Police Car,” “Call the Police,” and “Fire Detector.” These new originals (and the zydeco cover) had contagiously catchy hooks that earned the audience’s love just as much as the ‘90s classics. Everyone knew all the words to the oldies like “Bad Man,” and it felt like everyone in the room completely absorbed the collective energies of Jack, Greg, and Eric. For me, an Empty Bottle virgin at my first Oblivians show, the experience was met with no disappointment. I didn’t really know what to expect beside what I have heard from the albums, but in all honesty you can’t really grasp the Oblivians until you experience them in their element, a dark dank rock pub.

 Oblivians 7-14 by Marty Perez

Obvilians

Obvilians

Obvilians

Sunday’s West Fest show initially did not seem like it could top the previous night’s show. The disconnection of festival barriers and an exhausted crowd did not quite rev the band up at first. However, the crowd started shouting song requests and just gave the band hell, so the ass-kicking commenced from both the audience and the band. This crowd wanted the most they could get out of the band, and those boys sure gave it to ‘em. It seemed like there were more insane classics than the previous night, which suited the increasingly antsy crowd. The entire weekend just wouldn’t have been complete without the encore (never thought I’d say this but thank God for loud drunk people who called the trio back onstage). Greg said something along the lines of “a lot of my songs are cautionary tales about how NOT to live your life,” and the Oblivians erupted into an ass-pounding “Pill Popper,” a single that summarizes the frantic Memphis blues-punk-garage-garbage that this band, and only this band, can bring to the table.

One rockin’ chick I briefly met at West Fest summed up the weekend better than anyone else could have: “We been OBLIVIATED!!!”

 

CRIME & THE CITY SOLUTION – American Twilight

Album: American Twilight

Artist: Crime & the City Solution

Label: Mute

Release Date: March 26, 2013

Crime

(Mute)

www.mute.com

BY MICHAEL TOLAND

Here’s one resurrection no one saw coming. Two decades after shuttering the band and almost that long since his most recent solo album, singer/songwriter Simon Bonney brings his much-loved cult band Crime & the City Solution back from the grave. Boasting an impressive lineup that includes original members Alexander Hacke (guitar) and Bronwyn Adams (violin) and new guys David Eugene Edwards (16 Horsepower, Woven Hand), Matthew Smith (Outrageous Cherry, the Volbeats), Jim White (the Dirty Three), Troy Gregory (the Witches, Prong) and visual artist (and Hacke spouse) Danielle di Picciotto, Bonney whisks Crime into the new millennium with not only a tour and a best-of, but also American Twilight, a brand new studio LP.

The original, London version of Crime specialized in noise-ridden postpunk, while the subsequent Berlin-based incarnation toned down (but didn’t eliminate) the dissonance in favor of gothic, ambitious art rock – all of which earned Crime not-entirely-unfair comparisons to Bonney’s countrymen Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds. The singer’s subsequent solo career featured his personalized version of what’s now called Americana, garnering critical acclaim but little else. The current version of Crime, based out of Bonney’s adopted home of Detroit, incorporates elements of all his prior visions, adding new wrinkles to keep Crime evolving. Distorted shards of guitar serve as punctuation, even backdrops, rather than drivers, letting keyboards and violin provide the textures in which Bonney immerses his still-potent vocals. The band creates a simmering atmosphere of impending explosion that’s both beautiful and foreboding, like watch rainclouds gather at twilight, lightning occasionally streaking across the sky.

While Crime has always been able to conjure a hypnotic sonic spell, it’s sometimes suffered from a penchant for sound over songs. Not here, though – American Twilight contains the most consistently cogent songwriting of the band’s career. Writhing with melody, the alternately celebratory and uneasy “Goddess” and the declarative “My Love Takes Me There” open the album with twin blasts of accessibility, suitable for triple-A airplay without compromising the band’s essential spirit. After those eye-openers, Bonney brings an expatriate’s eye to social commentary on the darkly wafting “Riven Man” and the droning rock of the title track. “The Colonel” continues the band’s tradition of disturbing narrative epics, while “Domina” essays Bonney’s ghost town balladry. “Streets of West Memphis” ends the album on an elegiac note, Bonney and Adams asserting “Here comes the rain!” in the face of doom.

That attitude, in fact, informs the entire record. Night may be threatening to fall sooner than anticipated, and chaos may linger on the edge of one’s vision, but love is not dead and hope survives. Bonney’s comfort with life’s dark side comes as much from his belief that justice and heart will prevail as from a sense of quiet optimism. His band responds with music that supports, contrasts and, ultimately, empathizes with his work in such a way as to fully realize his vision. Practically vibrating with the will to realize its ambition, Crime & the City Solution finally produces its masterpiece.

DOWNLOAD: “Goddess,” “ American Twilight,” “The Colonel”

 

THE MELODIC – On My Way EP

Album: On My Way EP

Artist: The Melodic

Label: Anti-

Release Date: June 25, 2013

Melodic

www.anti.com

BY JOHN B. MOORE

Afro folk has apparently made its way to the UK… or at least to the South London neighborhood of the kids in The Melodic.

Their four-song debut EP, On My Way, is crammed with instruments like a Charango, a Melodica and Kora (and I readily admit I have no idea what two of those three things are, let alone sound like). But the results are interesting enough, bringing to mind everyone from Rhythm of the Saints-era Paul Simon to Belle and Sebastian.

Though it’s difficult to tell too much from band with only four, short songs to their name, what little is here serves as a nice tease for whatever’s next.   

DOWNLOAD: “Roots” 

BLACK PUS – All My Relations

Album: All My Relations

Artist: Black Pus

Label: Thrill Jockey

Release Date: March 12, 2013

Black Pus

www.thrilljockey.com

BY  JENNIFER KELLY

Ever thought you’d want a lyric sheet for a Lightning Bolt offshoot?  Here in Black Pus, Lightning Bolt drummer Brian Chippendale superimposes blur-speed, free-jazz percussion on a molten tar of low-end synth, then layers it over with some surprisingly melodic  vocals. It’s both immediately recognizable  and a dramatic departure from his work with the RI noise band, pitched somewhere between the intricate chaos of, say, Flaherty-Corsano, and the modal punk anthemry of Parts & Labor. The vocals are so striking – and so heavily altered – that you kind of wish you could hear the words. No luck, though, Chippendale sings to make rhythm, to add texture, to hint at song-structure, but through a tin-can-phone-cord of distortion, so that only phrases jump out from time to time.

Though pummellingly dense, All My Relations  is a true solo project. Chippendale drums like he’s two people, rattling out a rhythmic phrase on one part of the kit, then answering it in kind from another. He also manages, through the kick drum, to trigger loops and samples, using a drum mounted oscillator that produces a thick, viscous low-end sound, somewhere between a bass, a synthesizer and a mortally wounded cookie monster.

Melody arcs out of this primal soup of conflicting sounds in the form of Chippendale’s mic-altered singing. “Fly on the Wall” works especially well in this regard, its foundation a head-battering, cymbal slashing, manically propulsive bit of noise abrasion, its vocal a reverbed beacon of new wave tunefulness. Later, “Hear No Evil” is not just anthemic but nearly operatic, an interleaved chorale of wordless singing. It reminds me a lot of Oneida’s splintered shape singing, its rhythm-battered, overamped music box reveries.

Lightning Bolt has always leavened sonic assault with a sense of fun, and so, too, Black Pus has moments of surprisingly buoyancy. The single, “1,000 Years” applies a particularly light touch to auditory mayhem, its upbeat thwacking rhythms, its rollicking roil of bass-like sounds, its cartoon squiggles of high-end synths, all hinting at a kind of optimism.  “All Out of Sorts” too, starts in friction and turmoil and ends in a screaming, white-out, noise ecstasy, a kind of overloaded bliss and chaos.

None of these songs (well maybe “Hear No Evil”) will really shock long-term Lightning Bolt fans – but they do depart in interesting ways from the main project. It’s as if Chippendale battered apart the tough shell of frantic noise punk and found a pinata’s worth of tunefulness inside, a nice reward for all that violence.

DOWNLOAD: “Fly on the Wall” “1,000 Years” “Hear No Evil”

Dave Alvin & The Guilty Men + Big Sandy & The Fly Rite Boys 7/12/13, Denver

Dates: June 12, 2013

Location: The Soiled Dove, Denver CO

Dave Alvin 1

At the delightfully-named Colorado venue The Soiled Dove, two of roots-rock’s most revered artists delivered the goods.

BY TIM HINELY

This venue, one I had not been to before, was most excellent (also being fairly close to my house was a big plus too)! It’s in the basement of a local restaurant/bar chain called The Tavern here in Denver. Not where I would expect Dave Alvin to be playing (the restaurant is a bit on the yuppie side) but The Soiled Dove does seem to book a lot of Americana acts, so there you go.

Big Sandy

Glad I got there early enough to catch at least part of Big Sandy’s set. This Southern California institution has been charming crowds for years. It had been at least a decade, maybe more, since the last time I saw him/them. They did not disappoint. The band is sort of a mix ‘tween country, folk, swing, rockabilly and a touch of surf as well. They have a stand-up bassist, a powerhouse drummer and a hot-shit lead guitarist. Up front is Mr. Sandy himself, dressed to the nines in a suit, strummin’ the acoustic guitar and crooning like he’s the Latino Frank Sinatra. The band puts on a helluva show and if you have never seen them and have an opportunity, by all means do not blow it.

Other than the one Blasters reunion gig I caught in the early 2000’s in Portland I had never seen Mr. Dave Alvin before. He has a boatload of solo records out and this tour was with his band the Guilty Men (though the drummer was a female). The crowd was packed, anxious and ready (and ranged from folks in their early twenties to some couple I saw who looked like they were in their seventies). The bassist looked a bit like Ronnie Dawson (RIP), and the lead guitarist, who had pedals a plenty, coulda been Willie Nelson’s son (the drummer? She was cute as a button).

Speaking of dressed to the nines, there was Mr. Alvin. These days never without his bandana round his neck or his cowboy hat. He played a bunch of tunes from his latest record Eleven Eleven (released in 2011 on Yep Roc) and told a buncha neat stories in between songs. Opening with the terrific “Harlan County Line” and then launching into stories like the story about Johnny Ace (“Johnny Ace is Dead”), or the song about his father, originally from Indiana (“Gary, Indiana 1959”) or the one about his recently departed friend (“Black Rose of Texas”) or the one about his brother, Phil (singer for The Blasters, “What’s Up with Your Brother”).  He had a million of them, all worth hearing. Alvin is a musician’s musician and a true performer as well and the band was spot on and definitely gave this audience its money’s worth. The welcome mat is always out in Denver for you, Dave. Come back soon!

(Photos courtesy the artists’ Facebook pages)

 

 

BOB SCHNEIDER – Burden of Proof

Album: Burden of Proof

Artist: Bob Schneider

Label: Kirtland

Release Date: June 11, 2013

Bob Schneider

www.kirtlandrecords.com

 BY JOHN B. MOORE

 A funny thing happened when most stopped paying attention to Bob Schneider: he went on to put out the best albums of his career.

 The Austin-based musician has released about a dozen solo records to date, including 2001’s Lonelyland for Universal, which led to major radio play, world tours and proclamations of being the “Next Big Thing”. But long after the label abandoned him and moved on to shinier objects, Schneider found a new supporter in Dallas-based indie Kirtland, home to fellow Texans The Toadies. It’s with Kirtland that he put out the stellar Lovely Creatures in 2009 and now the equally impressive Burden of Proof.

 Starting out on a melancholy note with the dark “Digging For Icicles,” the album eventually takes a slightly more optimistic, if cautious, tone throughout, but never quite goes full speed. Lyrically, Schneider is at his best on this one, particularly on the beautiful “Wish the Wind Would Blow Me” or the oddly charming “The Effect”.  

 Not unlike his fellow Texas scene mates, Schneider  draw as much from rock and country as he does from the standard singer/songwriter genre. Here’s to second chances. 

 DOWNLOAD: “Wish the Wind Would Blow Me,” “Swimming in the Sea” and “The Effect”

THE CANNANES – Small Batch

Album: Small Batch

Artist: Cannanes

Label: Lamingtone/Exro FM

Release Date: March 19, 2013

Cannanes

www.exro.fm

BY TIM HINELY

This long-running Aussie bunch, led by the husband/wife team of Stephen “Hairy” O’Neill and Frances Gibson, have been releasing charming indie pop for decades now though mostly flying under the radar. Here they return with 6 songs for their first (small) batch of songs in many years. Seeing a new record by this band is akin to seeing an old friend who’s been out of your life for a while only to return with a box of Russell Stovers.

Opening cut “Bumper” is pure classic Cannanes with that unmistakable bounce they’ve know for while “Crawler” is slower, eerier and even prettier. “Basics” seems to be a slight electronic experiment and definitely not the band at their best while “Molecule”, also of the electronic variety works a bit better (again, still not his band’s forte).  Of the final two cuts “Tiny Compartment” is a dreamy pop tune and cd-ending “Zone” they once again crank up the beats but add some funk and it works!

Not the band’s best, but with a .500 batting average here, a welcome return.

DOWNLOAD: “Bumper,” “Tiny Compartment,” “Zone”

HARPER SIMON – Division Street

Album: Division Street

Artist: Harper Simon

Label: Tulsi

Release Date: March 26, 2013

Harper Simon

www.tulsirecords.com

BY LEE ZIMMERMAN

Admittedly, it’s difficult to be the offspring of a world-renowned icon. Expectation runs rampant. So it was probably a wise strategy that found Paul Simon’s son Harper avoiding comparisons entirely and opting instead for the rabid rock ‘n’ roll that dominates this sophomore set.

Truth be told, Simon also skirts his own image; where his eponymous debut emphasized the lowered gaze his dad brings to bear, Division Street finds a more common bond with the abrasive attitude fostered during his tenure with punk posers Menlo Park. Still, it’s not a wholesale reversal; even the more strident songs – “Veterans Parade,” “Bonnie Brae,” “Dixie Cleopatra” and “Nothing Gets Through” – feature Simon’s vocals in withdrawal mode — hushed, reserved and all but buried in the mix. Happily however, as the set progresses, Simon seems to shore up his resolve. “Eternal Questions” is both upbeat and effusive, “99” is as perky as it is propulsive, and “Breathe Out Love” sounds nimble and noteworthy.  Likewise, those that expect the younger Simon to be a chip off the old rock may find some consolation in “Just Like St. Teresa,” a rare acoustic ramble that reaffirms the gene pool and would likely find the senior Simon offering paternal approval as well.

DOWNLOAD: “Just Like St. Teresa,” “99,” “Eternal Questions”

THE JAMES HUNTER SIX – Minute By Minute

Album: Minute By Minute

Artist: James Hunter Six

Label: Go/Fantasy

Release Date: February 26, 2013

James Hunter

http://www.concordmusicgroup.com/labels/Fantasy/

 BY HAL BIENSTOCK

 When James Hunter released his first solo album in 2006, he seemed to have perfect timing, putting out a retro-soul album right as Amy Winehouse was taking the sound worldwide. Seven years later, Winehouse is a symbol of lost potential, while Hunter is releasing some of the best music of his career.

 Produced by Daptone Records co-founder (and Winehouse engineer) Gabriel Roth, Minute By Minute crackles with energy from the first chords of opener “Chicken Switch.” Like many retro-soul musicians, Hunter isn’t breaking much new ground, but he has mastered the difficult art of writing simple songs that sound like they’ve been around forever. You could stage a carnival game in which you blindfold someone and ask them to guess the year of the danceable “One Way Love” or closing ballad “If I Only Knew,” and you’d wind up printing money.

 At the age of 50, Hunter has seen it all, from performing alongside Van Morrison and Aretha Franklin to busking in the subways. He came out the other side with a hard-won wisdom, emotion and sense of craft that, like soul music, never goes out of style.

 DOWNLOAD: “One Way Love” “If I Only Knew”