Monthly Archives: November 2013

THE SHARP THINGS – The Truth is Like the Sun

Album: The Truth is Like the Sun

Artist: Sharp Things

Label: Dive

Release Date: November 26, 2013

Sharp Things 11-26


 The Truth is Like the Sun, the second in a planned four album series for Brooklyn-based chamber pop band The Sharp Things, is simply jaw-on-the-floor beautiful.

 Like the first record in their Dogs of Bushwick series, Green is Good; this one brings together a slew of different influences and manages to be pleasantly all over the map in tine. The first half of the record – starting with the album opener “Can’t Get Started” complete with a strong chorus of voices backed by piano and followed quickly by the sweet ballad “Lulubelle”- strikes a more wistful vibe, before the last half of the record moves to a more upbeat space.

 The Truth is Like the Sun boasts some of the best songs in the bands nearly 15 years together. “Flesh and Bone,” for example, sounds like a long lost track from the Pet Sounds sessions and lyrically, a song like “Talk to Me,” could go up against just about any Harry Nilsson song. With nearly a dozen current members, the layered vocals and instruments as varied as the Flugelhorn and Glockenspiel simply add to the group’s endless reservoir of charm. 

 DOWNLOAD: “Can’t Get Started,” “Lulubelle”… screw it, just buy the whole album.


TEMPERANCE LEAGUE – Rock and Roll Dreams

Album: Rock and Roll Dreams

Artist: Temperance League

Label: Like, Wow!

Release Date: September 10, 2013

Temperance League 9-6


 As good as Charlotte, NC, combo Temperance League’s 2012 eponymous debut was—and the Mitch Easter-helmed record was unquestionably one of that year’s unheralded gems from the Tarheel state, a-blaze with punk & garage-fueled anthems—the new Rock and Roll Dreams is so far beyond expectations that even longtime aficionados have been seen shaking their heads in disbelief. No less than stalwart BLURT contributors John Schacht and Jordan Lawrence have indicated as much. The former wrote in a recent interview with the band for this magazine, “[They] chronicle life in the trenches—the musical one and the workaday jobs familiar to so many musicians who trade dollars for shifts for the occasional week on the road. The band’s music roils and churns between the energy and passion you expect from young bucks trying to make their mark and the even greater urgency that the ticking clock infers.” Meanwhile the latter noted how “the songs erupt with passion and doubt… an album of conviction” in his October profile for

 I missed the group’s development period, being geographically distant, but upon obtaining that debut LP and then, a couple of months ago, finally seeing Temperance League live, I got it. This is one of the most convincing stage acts ever to surface in my home state, and the good news for you, dear consumers, is that the records hit the mark as well.

 On the new album, following the preface-styled title cut, a gospellish piano-fueled number that outlines vocalist/lyricist Bruce Hazel’s self-imposed challenge of how to grow older amid the rush of rock’s never-say-die ethos for musicians, Temperance League slams into a 12-string stomper, equal parts Byrdsian psych and Springsteenian anthemism and bearing the prophetic title “Unrelenting,” and from that part onward, the gloves are off.

 There’s “Now I Understand,” powered once again by Hazel’s gifted 12-string-wielder/songwriting foil Shawn Lynch, simultaneously defiant and vulnerable, with the stark chorus, “Are you still with me?/ Or are you waiting on someone else?”; the brawny, explosive “Lost,” veering from controlled disdain to unhinged vitriol, like a cross between Van Morrison and the Sex Pistols; and the kinetic, insistent “(That, You Can) Count On,” which not only generated an altogether memorable live-in-studio video not long ago but also hit the top of the official BLURT Spotify playlist around the same time. Yet it’s hard to select standout tracks on an album where each song stands out, the writing and arranging—not to mention the producing, courtesy Tarheel hero Mitch Easter—so confident and mature that it forecasts an eventual judgment of “timeless” on the part of fans and critics. The only thing stopping me from giving it a full 5-out-of-5 stars is that it seems unfair to raise expectations that high among potential fans who might be convinced to pick up the album on the strength of a lone review.

 But the Temperance League sets the bar mighty high. Once upon a time we would have called this “heartland rock,” a milieu populated by the Springsteens, the Mellencamps, the Segers and the Pettys, although nowadays that term is probably used pejoratively by the hipsters and ironists who make up the core concertgoing audience. (Springsteen, it should be noted, is an obvious influence upon Hazel, who bears no small resemblance to the Boss vocally as well.) My gut feeling, though, is that for those of us who value songcraft over style, and lyrical depth over catchphrase-slinging, we still get it. If, like Hazel, we rue the ticking of the clock and how it represents the gradual diminishment of our own rock ‘n’ roll dreams, well… this album, and this band, somehow has discovered the magic that can allow us to dream anew.

 DOWNLOAD: “(That, You Can) Count On,” “Unrelenting,” “Are You Still With Me”

GRAILS – Black Tar Prophecies 4, 5 & 6

Album: Black Tar Prophecies 4, 5 & 6

Artist: Grails

Label: Temporary Residence

Release Date: October 01, 2013

Grails 9-30


 Compiling tunes released on limited-edition 12-inch vinyl records and adding some new tunes, Grails makes a case for itself as more than just the thinking man’s doommonger on Black Tar Prophecies 4, 5 & 6. The Portland instrumental aggregation hops all over the instrumental landscape here, from the piano ‘n’ strings pastorality of “Up All Night” and “A Mansion Has Many Rooms” and the shimmering ECM acoustica of “Ice Station Zebra” to the enigmatic trip-hop of “Chariots” and the sampled tomfoolery of “I Want a New Drug” (not a Huey Lewis & the News cover, thankfully).

 The band hasn’t forgotten the acid-bathed doom that made its rep, however, as the rumbling melodiousness of “Self Hypnosis” and “Corridors of Power III” make plain. Despite being recorded at different times for separate purposes, the tracks still naturally sound like the product of one single creative hive mind, albeit one with extraordinary range. Black Tar Prophecies 4, 5 & 6 may not hew to a single impulse, but it’s a beautiful artistic self-portrait.

DOWNLOAD: “Self Hypnosis,” “Chariots,” “Ice Station Zebra”

OLD BABY – Love Hangover

Album: Love Handover

Artist: Old Baby

Label: Karatebody

Release Date: August 10, 2013

Old Baby 8-10


Louisville’s Old Baby sounds pretty much what you think it would sound given its pedigree of former Slint, Shipping News and Young Widows bandmembers: heavy, fractured, loud. But there’s some alchemical magic in the combination here that changes Old Baby into something else. Whether that change is all that compelling is another matter.  

The eight-song LP opens with a real grinder, “Into the Earth,” whose insistent and vibrant riff seems to be digging toward middle earth and recalls Pontiak more than the band’s forebears. The track picks up steam throughout, weaving guitar lines into the mix until they crescendo in a fine long jam. It’s a promising start, but a deceptive one.

Too many other tracks rumble around in the sludge too long, while others never go anywhere at all. After the slow, fuzzy intro of “Tired,” a lumbering tempo emerges, jagged guitar bursts crossing its bow. The song feels like Grinderman Nick Cave on Quaaludes, though, and winds up taking its title to heart much to the listener’s bored regret.

Similarly, “Magic Wave” begins promisingly, with vibes-like keys pinging over a thumping bass and guitar feedback. But it takes over half the six-plus-minute track to ignite into something urgent enough to care all that much about.  “Love Hungry” is meant to broil with lust, but the repetitive guitar line only leads to a fuck-pound rhythm and chorus, of sorts, featuring semi-orgasmic moans; “hot” is what it’s definitely not.

And that gets to the heart of this record’s problem – whether sludgy riffs and lumbering beats can convey the heat and passion of a love hunger or hangover. The jury says – not really.

DOWNLOAD: “Young” “Into the Earth” John Schacht

POETS OF RHYTHM – Anthology 1992-2003

Album: Anthology 1992-2003

Artist: Poets of Rhythm

Label: Daptone

Release Date: October 01, 2013

Poets of Rhythm 10-1


 If the notion of a German combo operating knee-deep in Parliament/Funkadelic, James Brown and Meters territory seems improbable, then consider how African bands—comparatively speaking, with far less direct access to those sounds than European musicians, who could just browse the import bins in their local stores—took all that and ran with it to great acclaim. It’s just that we rarely think of Germany, with its Krautrock, electronic and disco traditions, as a hotbed of steaming funk and soul.

 Introduce yourself, then, to the Poets of Rhythm, who as the title to this album suggests were extant for about a decade, operating under the Poets name as well as several pseudonyms, in the process winning over such fans as DJ Shadow, Keb Darge and Daptone’s Gabe Roth, not to mention scores of crate diggers all over the world. Anthology traces the group’s career chronologically, from a pair of 1992/93 singles issued on the Hotpie & Candy label (the perfectly-titled “Funky Train” and the unlikely-titled—for Germans—but ultimately steamyswampycool “South Carolina”) through several sides cut for Shadow’s Quannum Projects label (in particular, “Ham Gallery,” from the 2001 album Discern/Define, a jazz-funk instro workout that could’ve been a classic opening-concert vamp).

 At their best, the Poets displayed a deep, deep understanding of the sonic possibilities of hypnotic grooves married to sinewy guitars and jabbing horns, not to mention the vocal lessons of the mighty J.B. My suggestion? With the holiday season approaching, cue up track #8, “Santa’s Got A Bag Of Soul,” from ’94, and watch the asses around you start to shimmy and shake. Ain’t no getting around it: these dudes knew their stuff.

 DOWNLOAD: “South Carolina,” “Santa’s Got A Bag Of Soul,” “The Donkey,” “Discern/Define”

CHROME – Half Machine From the Sun: The Lost Tracks From ‘79-’80

Album: Half Machine From the Sun: The Lost Tracks From ‘79-’80

Artist: Chrome

Label: King of Spades

Release Date: November 12, 2013

Chrome 11-12


Psychedelic/punk/industrial/weirdo troop Chrome never got its due during its original late 70s/80s existence, despite having an almost Velvet Underground-style influence on all who heard it. Though guitarist Helios Creed flies the Chrome flag every few years, it still doesn’t attract anyone but the diehards. It’s for them that Half Machine From the Sun: The Lost Tracks From ‘79-’80, fueled by a PledgeMusic campaign, exists.

 As advertised, this double-length disk collects tracks from the period immediately following the classic Half Machine Lip Moves, as Creed and singer/drummer/synthesist Damon Edge explored the descent into space rock madness they’d perfected on that landmark LP. Most of the record contains prototypical Chrome, a la psychedelic cyberpunk tunes “”Sound and Light, “Looking For Your Door” and “SALT.” But there’s also a batch of sketches (mainly lacking lyrics and vocals) and experiments, like the startling synth-pop designs “Sugar Moog Pops” and “Charlie’s Little Problem” and the horny Chrome-plated postpunk of “Something Rhythmic (I Can’t Wait).”

 In the liner notes Creed openly wonders why these tunes were never finished and released. Given the high quality of what unfolds here, it’s a good question.

DOWNLOAD: “SALT,” “Something Rhythmic (I Can’t Wait),” “Sugar Moog Pops”

HUMBLE PIE – Performance Rockin’ the Fillmore: The Complete Recordings

Album: Performance Rockin’ the Fillmore: The Complete Recordings

Artist: Humble Pie

Label: Omnivore

Release Date: October 29, 2013

Humble Pie 10-29


 A 5-out-of-5-stars live album on par with the Who’s Live At Leeds, the Stones’ Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out! and the Allman Brothers’ At Fillmore East, Humble Pie’s 1971 album Performance Rockin’ The Fillmore has held up over the years, and not just because it was a key period artifact of the hard-rockin’ early ‘70s.

 Not only was the titular “performance”—featuring the twin-guitar assault of Steve Marriott and Peter Frampton, plus the brawny, ballsy rhythm section of drummer Jerry Shirley and bassist Greg Ridley; together they comprised a literal supergroup culled from the ranks of the Small Faces, Spooky Tooth and The Herd—an inspired one, recorded over the course of two days and four shows at NYC’s storied Fillmore East. As engineered and mixed by studio whiz Eddie Kramer, it was also a pristine sonic artifact that placed listeners at home right in the front row.

 You could almost feel the sweat being flung from Marriott and Frampton’s bobbing, shaking locks.

 Rockin’ The Fillmore is now a four-CD box boasting the entirety of the band’s NYC stand, both shows from both days. And while soaking in multiple versions of Willie Dixon’s swaggering “I’m Ready,” Dr. John’s voodoo epic “I Walk On Gilded Splinters” and Ashford & Simpson’s soulful “I Don’t Need No Doctor” might seem an exercise in redundancy for the casual consumer, the sheer gobsmacking electricity of these performances is profound indeed.

 Trivia tidbit: I had forgotten that Humble Pie was actually not the main attraction; at the top of the bill was singer/songwriter Lee Michaels, and there was also an opening act, the all-gal rockers Fanny. But from the audience response here you wouldn’t suspect anyone was there for the headliner. Another trivia tidbit: I never knew that Kramer’s original mixes were deemed “awful” by the Pie’s mogul manager Dee Anthony; liner notesman Tim Cohen explains that the audience noise had been mixed down, “and that omission had drained the recordings of the intense band/fan interaction.” So Kramer was duly instructed to remix the tapes, and the rest of history.

 Marriott in particular is captured in full flight on the album (“at the absolute zenith of his powers,” says Shirley in the notes), bawling and howling into the mic like a person possessed by the spirits of soul men long passed; on “I Don’t Need No Doctor” he turns in some of the best vocal performances of his entire career.  And he’s additionally heard unleashing primal guitar licks that perfectly counterbalance the more fluid, jazzy lines of Frampton. The entire band performs with an unbridled glee, clearly energized and intent on digging into the guts of these songs, something they give themselves ample time for in a track like “Gilded Splinters,” which runs for nearly a half hour on each disc and cruises the sonic stratosphere one moment, then furrows deep into the strata the next.

  Point of fact, yours truly was so spellbound by the original album that I made a point of making a pilgrimage to catch the band on the subsequent spring/summer ’72 U.S. tour (no doubt thousands of other hirsute young American teens were similarly smitten) with King Crimson. By that point Frampton had departed, en route to Frampton’s Camel and Comes Alive! Fame; he was replaced by one Clem Clempson, freshly drafted from the jazz-rock tilting Colosseum, who ably filled his fretboard-flying shoes. To this day the concert still ranks as one of the loudest I’ve ever witnessed, but it should be noted that Humble Pie was far from just another hirsute band of Brit boogie blokes. This was a group with some serious chops, absolutely fearless in concert and able to take the songs out to the very edge of extemporaneous experimentation, and beyond.

 Listening to the expanded Rockin’ The Fillmore now takes me back to that night. And like me, you won’t need no damn doctor after hearing it. You’ll be feeling just fine. That’s a promise.

 DOWNLOAD: “I Walk on Gilded Splinters” (5/29/71, second show), “Stone Cold Fever” (5/29 first show), “I Don’t Need No Doctor” (5/28 first show)

FLEETWOOD MAC – Fleetwood Mac: 1969-1972

Album: Fleetwood Mac: 1969-1972

Artist: Fleetwood Mac

Label: Rhino

Release Date: August 20, 2013

Fleetwood Mac LP 8-20


 If you’re looking at old school white boy blues while looking away (for the moment) from Eric Clapton, the late-‘60s/early-‘70s catalog of Britain’s Fleetwood Mac is a great place to start. Fleetwood Mac: 1969-1972 is Rhino’s 140-gram vinyl 4-LP album boxed set (with a 7-inch of “Oh Well – Pt. 1” b/w “Pt. 2”) dedicated to the Mac’s transition from dusted, gritty, blackened blues ensemble to something slightly whiter and lighter.

 We meet this Mac in 1969 with blues buster Peter Green at the height of his prowess despite his epic ingestion of hallucinogenic drugs. His physicalization of what psychedelia had to offer certainly cobalt-colored the blues of that year’s crafty Then Play On. After maintaining its rhythmic roots in Mick Fleetwood and John McVie (both of whom, with Green, were part of John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers) and recording the classics in Chicago with Otis Spann and Willie Dixon, Then Play On found its most recent additions—guitarist Danny Kirwan, slide guitarist Jeremy Spencer and un-credited keyboardist/vocalist Christine Perfect—abetting Green through rugged-yet-fussy blues jolts such as “Rattlesnake Shake” and “Fighting for Madge.”

 Their next album, the underrated dirty blues of Kiln House of 1970 (hear it here for yourself in a sparkling mix), highlighted the druggy slide stylings of Spencer and Kirwan’s fascination with American rock-n-boogie; by this point a fragile-of-mind Green had left the band. Then the next two recordings—Future Games of 1971 and Bare Trees from 1972—found Perfect (now McVie) and new guitarist/vocalist Bob Welch, mining the folksier, soulful side of rural blues (check out her shimmering “Spare Me a Little of Your Love”) and pickled, light pop courtesy Welch’s wifty “Sentimental Lady.” This march through the Mac, to most, sounded like a move away from the blues.  Yet, listen to the sad solace of “Bare Trees” and its mellow, moody song craft.  The rhythm section may have chilled and Welch, Kirwan and McVie may have played it softly, but tunes such as “Thoughts on a Grey Day” and “The Ghost” aren’t so very far from their bluesy roots. There was—at that point—just less bluster to go with the Mac’s mournful tones.

 Ain’t that some kind of blues?

 DOWNLOAD: “Oh Well,” “Bare Trees,” “Station Man”

KINGS OF CHAOS 11/18/13, Los Angeles, CA

Dates: November 18, 2013

Location: Avalon Hollywood




Everybody loves a good cause, but let’s be honest, when it comes to benefit concerts, it’s all about the bands and the music that makes most people come out in droves. Monday night (Nov. 18), former Guns N’ Roses drummer Matt Sorum helped orchestrate a one-night-only show at the Avalon Hollywood to benefit Ric O’Barry’s Dolphin Project.


In case you don’t remember, O’Barry starred in the 2009 Oscar winning documentary The Cove where he led a group of activists into a controversial cove in Taiji, Japan to expose the shocking slaughter of dolphins during the annual roundup and sale of dolphins to marine institutes. Hundreds of dolphins who weren’t sold into captivity were mercilessly killed; the scene was so graphic it turned the cove’s water blood red.


A new dolphin activist, Sorum went to Taiji to protest with O’Barry earlier this year and as a result, put together the concert featuring fellow ex-Gunners Slash and Duff McKagan, alongside rockers Corey Taylor of Slipknot/ Stone Sour; Glenn Hughes of Deep Purple, and Black Country Communion; former Billy Idol guitarist Steve Stevens; and actress turned rocker Juliette Lewis. Billed as the Kings of Chaos, Monday’s show marked the band’s only U.S. performance of the year.


Originally billed as Rock ‘N’ Roll Allstars, other Kings of Chaos members include Joe Elliott of Def Leppard; ex Gunner Gilby Clarke; and Sebastian Bach of Skid Row fame. These three weren’t on hand at the Dolphin Project show but there were enough former GNR members on hand to rile up the rowdy crowd.


“I’m thrilled to bring a bunch of heavyweights together for a fun night with fans,” Matt Sorum said. “The main thing is to keep creating awareness for the Dolphin Project and everyone involved.”


“This is a rehearsal for the big one,” said former Flipper trainer Rick O’Barry. “We plan on taking the show to Japan. We’ll add a few Japanese friends to our lineup and rock the socks off Tokyo. There isn’t a better way to bring Westerners and Japanese people together than rock and roll and the world should also know about the wonderful relationship between Japanese people and dolphins in the Tokyo Islands. Dolphins are respected and protected in this part of Japan. It’s the opposite of Taiji, but very few people know about it. This concert will hopefully change this by bringing positive, international media attention to what is right about Japan.”


If this show wasn’t the “big one,” it sure was big enough to delight fans. Singer Glenn Hughes kicked things off with Deep Purple classic rock staples “Highway Star” and “Smoke on the Water.”


Almost as if a tag team, Corey Taylor took over the mic next aptly taking on Billy Idol’s “Rebel Yell.” Things then really picked up as Slash sauntered onstage and the band, with Taylor filling in for W. Axl Rose, tore into “Mr Brownstone” and “It’s So Easy,” which laid waste to any notion that this is a band of karaoke fat cats. With Taylor on vocals, the ante was upped and I can see why these guys are itching to take this show on the road.


Juliette Lewis jumped aboard and channeled her inner Patti Smith on AC/DC’s “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap.” I’ll give Lewis credit; she has manic energy and struts around like a cross between Mick Jagger and Patti Smith in need of sedation. Bummer she only did the one song as I would have liked to have seen her mesh more with the veteran fellas.


Glenn Hughes returned as the band got their Led Zep groove on with “Communication Breakdown” followed by “Immigrant Song” with Franky Perez delivering solid and powerful vocals.


Corey Taylor elevated the fun singing Velvet Revolver’s “Slither” (between Slipknot, Stone Sour, his one-man solo shows, not to mention good times with his Junk Beer Kidnap Band, Taylor, who was once even rumored to become the new Anthrax singer, should really team up with Slash, Sorum, Duff and Gilby Clarke because they can probably create a pretty powerful band).

During the encore, things got a little odd as a wandering and disheveled Billy Ray Cyrus jumped onstage as Franky Perez took on Queen’s “Tie Your Mother Down.” Then it became a free for all during the show’s closing number, Guns N’ Roses “Paradise City.”


Fans had a good time and the message of Dolphin Project to stop dolphin slaughter and exploitation around the world was stressed. Matt Sorum urged fans to boycott places such as Sea World and not to buy tickets to any dolphin show or swimming with dolphin attractions. The organization believes most captive dolphins are confined in miniscule tanks containing chemically treated artificial seawater, not to mention dolphins in tanks are severely restricted in using their highly developed sonar, which is one of the most damaging aspects of captivity.


Without having done too much but rock out and have a good time, it was nice to help out a worthy cause. If only everything could be that easy.



For more information, visit Dolphin Project, and Kings of Chaos.



Album: Mermaids

Artist: Michael Rank and Stag

Label: Louds Hymn

Release Date: October 01, 2013

Michael Rank 10-1


When Michael Rank put his long-running rock & roll band Snatches of Pink to rest, there was no question that he would continue making music. But what kind? 2012’s Kin, his first LP with his free-floating congregation Stag, was inconclusive, its brooding, boozy acoustoelectrica sounding so much like the great SOP album Bent With Pray that one wondered if he changed the name just avoid any previous negative associations. The follow-up In the Weeds was a more clear statement of purpose, dropping most of the electricity and embracing the country and folk sounds the North Carolina songwriter plays on his radio show.

 With Mermaids, his second album of 2013 and third with Stag, Rank fully hits his stride as a solo artist.

Still drawing on a deep well of heartbreak (nothing like a divorce to get the muse in gear, apparently), Rank pours out his emotions into eleven songs that draw you in with quiet confidence, rather than the brash volume of his former band. The drumless, barely accompanied “West,” “Stray” and “Bound to Me” force you to lean in close, drawing you into sharing confidences rather than hearing messages. Even the more rhythmically enhanced tunes like “Words of the Pilot (Part Two),” “Skin” and “Shot of Gold” keep the volume low and the mood intimate.

 All the better to let lines like “When I kiss her eyes/Yours is still the skin I’m tastin’” sneak up on you. Rank sounds particularly conflicted in these songs—still pissed at the ruin his lover left his heart, but keeping a torch burning at the same time. The sense of yearning in “Shot of Gold,” “Bound to Me” and “West” is damn near palpable; the complicated blend of passion and resentment coursing through the veins of these songs will burn right through your ribcage to get to your atria. The tunes never wallow in romantic pain, though. Stark arrangements and Rank’s matter-of-fact rasp shut the door on overweening self-pity before it steps across the threshold. Besides, the determined defiance of “Coming Hard” and tentative optimism of the title track prove that Rank is still a good distance from actual despair.

With both a well-earned confidence in his stylistic direction and an exceptionally strong set of songs, Rank puts Mermaids into a precious space occupied by art driven by lovestruck turmoil. It’s heartless and unfair to wish Rank continued personal struggles, but given the positive effect it has on his art, it’s sorely tempting.

DOWNLOAD: Mermaids“,” “Shot of Gold,” “Words of the Pilot (Part Two)”