Dex Romweber has carved an entire career from mining archival influences, a mash up of surf, country, rockabilly and R&B circa the late ‘50s and early ‘60s. Indeed, he and his sister Sara — who backs up her multi-tasking brother on drums and percussion – show a single-minded determination that draws from the same musical wellspring as those early predecessors.
Anyone cynical (and foolish) enough to dismiss the Duo merely as mimics will find Images 13 offering plenty of fodder for them to chew on, especially when it comes to the cantankerous croon Romweber puts forward on the hell-bent “Roll On,” the pleading refrains of “Baby I Know What It’s Like To Be Alone” and the somewhat sobering “I Don’t Want To Listen.” However, when he abandons that premeditated posturing and opts instead for instrumental offerings like the surf-sounding “Blackout!” and the reverb rumble “Prelude In G Minor,” it’s clear that he aims for authenticity.
Still, if familiarity breeds contempt, it’s likely it will be assuaged by the inclusion of the album’s sole cover, a take on the Who’s relatively obscure “So Sad About Us.” Not surprisingly, it stands apart from the rest of set, thanks to its infusion of classic mod angst and anxiety. Romweber makes no effort to tamper with the original template, and both song and spirit resonate emphatically.
Ultimately, those who appreciate Romweber’s retro regimen will obviously enjoy Images 13 the most. Likewise, anyone who admires earnest intent alone will find it both a solid and satisfying effort.
DOWNLOAD: “So Sad About Us,” “Baby I Know What It’s Like To Be Alone”
Once known as Reading Rainbow until the kiddie series they were named after objected, this Philly band has transitioned gracefully to their updated moniker, now releasing its second album under their new name.
Like last year’s Yeah Right, they’ve managed to meld indie rock aggression (think Sonic Youth) with shoegaze’s sweet noise (think MBV) though here they lean more towards the former now.Thankfully, they have the tunes to back it up, maintaining already high standards here.From the barn-burning opener “Time & Place” to the high-speed but melodic “Start Again” and churning, dreamy tracks like “Out of Line” and “So You Know,” this almost never lets up. And even if most of the lyrics are disjointed, alienated fragments (just like shoegaze), singer/guitarists Rob Garcia and Sarah Everton have the riffs and tunes to put the songs across, melding those boy/girl voices just right. Another secret is guest drummer Robi Gonzalez, who propels the songs just enough.
Again like shoegaze, they have a tough time putting across the feedback jangle and sweet melodies in the right balance but on record, they get it just right, providing one half hour of utter listening pleasure. And if they decide to start turning out story-songs, they could start making music of ye gods.
While most major label A&R folks and music press have all stopped checking back in on the Athens, GA music scene since sometime in the early ‘90s, the community there is just as strong as when it was churning out bands like Pylon and R.E.M.
Need proof? Just listen to the first couple of tracks off of Ruby Kendrick’s (aka Ruby the Rabbitfoot) sophomore effort, New As Dew. With a voice almost reminiscent of everyone from Jenny Lewis (especially on the second track, “The Shelf”) to Margo Timmins, and songs that quiet and beautiful, the record manages to sound both vaguely familiar but wholly original.
The stellar songwriting is punctuated by Kendrick’s crystal clear vocals and whisper quite instrumentation. Raised in a household of hippies in Southern Georgia (hence the slightly cringe-worthy band name), Kendrick seems to sing with all the abandon of a kid who grew up without a lot of judgment or strict rules.
New As Dew is the latest record on the barely two-year old Normaltown Records, an imprint of the fantastic New West label.
New Bums reside in a world where acoustic guitars pluck out gentle melodies to accompany whispery vocals. The voices sound sweet but the words don’t necessarily follow suit. They tell tales of hanging with killers, of a girlfriend who might work for the Fuzz, or offer an introduction to a branch of the armed forces, which might be metaphorical rather than literal.Since these songs are all delivered in fairly sweet, high voices with occasional harmonies, it’s hard not be charmed by them.
Ben Chasny (Six Organs of Admittance, Comets on Fire) and Donovan Quinn (Skygreen Leopards) make up New Burns. Aside from the occasional metronomic drum beat, some keyboard flourishes or the high lonesome touch of an electric slide, Voices In a RentedRoom consists largely of the two of them and their acoustic strings.Nothing strays beyond the mid-tempo department, and some songs don’t even qualify for that descriptor. The album’s strength comes from the way it’s shaped: each song is distinct from the previous one. A “Knocking on Heaven’s Door” riff is followed by some finger picking, or the main guitar has an expansive sound that fills the speakers. The album might sound spare, but it’s always moving.
On top of that, Chasny and Quinn evoke the sounds of the album title, specifically the voices heard between, roughly, 2 a.m. and check out time. The action occurs in the early part of those hours. Then as the sun comes, amid empty bottles and cigarette butts and the hope that the head won’t hurt too much, the words and chords get committed to paper. Maybe they were trying to evoke Leonard Cohen’s SongsFrom a Room but they came up with something sweeter (albeit noir-ish) in the process.
Live at Cincinnati’s Taft Theater/The Ballroom on Feb. 26: Alejandro Escoveo and Susan Voelz, plus opening act Peter Buck and his band. This was not the tour to reminence over “South Central Rain”; instead it was one to Dust the Broom and get The House Rockin. Amps rarely went below twelve and efx peddles set at “deep muddy.” Motive for this tour seemed simple: stomp the house, leave ’em smilin,’ and have a great time doin’ it.
The legendary Cali garage band is still serving up the sounds, and on February 23 we were on hand to witness the group deliver a full tribute to 1966, the year they broke big. Pictured above, L-R: Bob Gonzalez (original SOS member – bass), Don Baskin (original SOS member – lead singer, sax, guitar), Joan Chiasera (violin), Tom Muller (keyboard), Kenn Ellner (Count V lead singer, harmonica) Patrick Hennessy (drums), Jim Sawyers (original SOS member, guitar)
BY JUD COST
Who could resist an entire evening of the best rock/pop songs, circa 1966, played superbly by a band that topped the charts, themselves, in that same era? Let’s face it, one day these songs as performed by the originals will be gone as surely as vaudeville in the ’20s, big band in the ’30s or bebop in the ’40s. Rest assured, as long as a certain San Jose combo draws breath, these hallowed melodies are in the best possible hands—as played by the Syndicate Of Sound.
Little Lou’s BBQ is buzzing tonight for this rare live appearance by the garage-rock combo that put San Jose on the map in 1966 with its Top Ten national hit “Little Girl.” The snarling tune was their passport to the big time that helped snag appearances on Dick Clark’s “Where The Action Is” and national tours headlined by no less than the Beach Boys, James Brown and the Yardbirds. While still cherishing those hi-octane gigs, bassist Bob Gonzalez, who co-founded the band along with vocalist Don Baskin, is excited to be playing Little Lou’s BBQ, a strip-mall eatery in Campbell, CA, only a few miles from San Jose’s Camden neighborhood where the two grew up. “The Syndicate played its first live show at the St. Frances Cabrini center, not far from here, in 1964,” Gonzalez reveals.
As the PA strikes up the exhilarating theme from the Route 66 TV show, Baskin (above) and Gonzalez (below) along with veteran guitarist Jim Sawyers, drummer Pat Hennessy and “new boy” Tom Muller on assorted keyboards—all togged out like undertakers in threads they borrowed from the Modern Jazz Quartet—plug in and belt out a savage version of the Bobby Troup chestnut “Route 66.” If you still didn’t get it, tonight is subtitled “1966” and will showcase, in addition to the band’s own great stuff, gems from the Byrds, Sir Douglas Quintet, the Knickerbockers, Question Mark & the Mysterians, the Seeds and Sam the Sham & the Pharaohs, all part of a small army of equally hirsute teenage legends from those halcyon days.
If that weren’t enough, the boys have another treat in store tonight. Inspired by hugely satisfying recent tours by Ray Davies, Paul McCartney, Roger McGuinn and John Sebastian, where they spun vintage anecdotes to flesh out their career-defining songs, Baskin intends to follow suit, popping the lid off the San Jose scene of long ago with a handful of choice yarns.
The Syndicate’s rollicking rundown of Wilson Pickett’s “Land Of A Thousand Dances” wallpapers the room with that exciting sound from 50 years ago. It lights a fire under Marcy and Dana from the Jensen School of Performing Arts in Milpitas, attired in mini-dresses and go-go boots and ready to frug, watusi, monkey and swim until the cows come home.
Then, just as quickly as it started, it seems the evening might be over as electric power on the bandstand is extinguished. Longtime Syndicate soundman Bob Cooper and Lou’s BBQ owner Lance Wagner bolt out the front door as though they’ve spotted a weirdo outside with weapons of mass destruction. “It was just a circuit-breaker blow-out,” Cooper explains as he returns to his sound board, mission accomplished. Hennessy, a little arm weary from carrying the load while the electric instruments sat there limp, was only too happy to end what Frank Zappa used to lovingly describe as a “drum sola.”
Before jumping back into the fire, Baskin tells the story of a house the Syndicate used to rent as a party pad. “It was on McGlincey Lane. We’d go there just to relax with a few friends, and it was called the Beaver Lodge,” he says smugly. He insists it had nothing to do with the Beaver Patrol, a Boy Scouts-like organization whose members included Donald Duck’s nephews, Huey, Louie and Dewey. Every once in a while, the Campbell police department would smuggle an operative inside the place just to monitor the situation, adds Baskin. “The house was demolished sometime after we abandoned it,” he smirks. “And here’s a song we used to play a lot in the Beaver Lodge.”
Sam the Sham’s “Wooly Bully” starts the room spinning out of control with Baskin’s tenor sax honking like the bastard son of King Curtis and Arnett Cobb. “I think I jumped the curb there,” Baskin apologizes afterwards. “This is the song we played a lot at the Beaver Lodge.” Ian Whitcomb’s explosive “You Turn Me On” finds the singer panting like a hyper-ventilating Serge Gainsbourg.
The Syndicate pays tribute to Hollywood’s Sunset Strip scene next with the Seeds’ mega-hit “You’re Pushin’ Too Hard.” “Run For Your Life,” a highlight from the Beatles Rubber Soul LP, sounds terrific. I was never lucky enough to see the Fab Four in person, but they couldn’t have played it much better than this.
And then things got even better. The unexpected show-stopper of the evening (which began at a codger-friendly 5:00 pm), was “As Tears Go By,” a song Mick Jagger and Keith Richards composed for Andrew Loog Oldham’s newest discovery, vocalist Marianne Faithfull. Muller’s dazzling harpsichord intro is something the Stones might have employed in Faithfull’s version, which became her first big hit. Just when it appeared things couldn’t get any sweeter, Joan Chiasera steps forward with a brilliant, classically trained violin solo that brings down the house—a real lump-in-the-throat moment.
Comic relief comes in the form of Baskin’s Arthur Lee story. Blessed with one of the loveliest voices in the history of rock—he admitted he loved the haunting vocal sound of Johnny Mathis—Arthur could also have his erratic moments. He once phoned me at 4:00 in the morning to do a magazine interview, then told me he used to walk up and down Sunset Strip with one shoe on and one shoe off, just so people would notice him. Baskin recalls the day he saw Arthur at the opening of a new Ralph’s supermarket in Hollywood, wielding a cattle-prod. “He was dressed only in a see-through raincoat and a jockstrap, and he was ‘moo’-ing like a cow,” recalls Baskin. The LAPD wasted no time returning the great man to his barn.
Immediately, the level-headed Kenn Ellner (above) appears, the frontman of another famed San Jose rock outfit, Count Five, for a robust cameo of his band’s smash, “Psychotic Reaction.” Dressed in a fire-engine red shirt, he’s also wearing one of the five original doomsday black (lined in blood red) Count Dracula capes his band once wore onstage. “We bought them at Victoria’s Costumes on San Carlos Ave.,” he’d told me earlier. Ellner’s raw vocals and blistering harmonica brings just the right touch of psychosis to the reaction in question. Ellner stays onboard for a scintillating take of “Baby Please Don’t Go,” made famous by Van Morrison’s original Irish band, Them. An ancient Ready Steady Go video of Them flickers behind on the wall as Sawyers’ razor-sharp electric guitar sounds like it could peel the skin from a rattlesnake.
Muller’s bar-room piano, flopping on somebody’s new-mown lawn, introduces the Lovin’ Spoonful’s classic nap-time testament, “Daydream.” Then Sawyers summons up a grinding, sitar-like sound from his guitar for a trippy look back at Donovan’s psychedelic anthem “Sunshine Superman.”
The old yarn-spinner returns to describe taking the red-eye from San Jose to play a gig in Detroit. They were booked into a local motel with absolutely no cars in the parking lot. But when they awoke from a nap, the place was buzzing with “residents” who stuck around for only about 15 minutes, or so. Levi Stubbs, lead singer for the 4 Tops, was down at the office (turned out, he owned the joint) and was happy to give them the VIP tour of Motown headquarters, the next day. “He also told us ‘Little Girl’ had been number one in Detroit for the past three weeks,” says Baskin. “It’s only recently I’ve realized the song I wrote when we returned home, ‘Keep It Up,’ had something of a Motown feel. Too bad they couldn’t have given it that special 4 Tops treatment they brought to the Left Banke’s ‘Walk Away Renee,'” he sighs.
Doing a cannonball into the Tex-Mex hot tub, the band grinds out the Sir Douglas Quintet’s “She’s About A Mover,” with Muller’s nod to Augie Meyers’ signature Vox Continental organ doing most of the heavy lifting. “Lies” by New York’s Knickerbockers is the song that sounded so good to many radio DJs back in the day, they ID’ed it on-air as the Beatles recording under an assumed name.
With the finish line in sight, Gonzalez and Baskin thank a pair of vital cogs in their machinery: Larry Ray, their very first guitar player; local “make it happen” guy Dan Orloff and especially Gary Thompson, the man who produced “Little Girl” for them. “Gary had enough faith in us to book us into the best recording studio in San Francisco,” says Gonzalez.
Baskin’s final anecdote of this glorious evening found the band arriving late in Baltimore without their amps. “We thought we’d borrow the three amps of the opening act, the Cyrkle, a band Brian Epstein had just signed to a management deal,” recalls Baskin. “They agreed to loan us the amps for a thousand dollars each.” An unidentified pair from the Syndicate entourage was so incensed at the very idea, they burrowed their way underneath the Cyrkle’s drum throne, carrying a pair of borrowed mop handles. “All their drummer could hear,” laughs Baskin, “was, ‘The morning sun (BAM) is shining (BAM) like a red (BAM) rubber ball.’ He got completely out of sync and messed the whole thing up.”
And then, in all of its talk-singing, circle of fifths glory, here it comes, the Syndicate of Sound’s major opus, “Little Girl.” What more can be said of a true garage-rock cornerstone! Baskin snarls and laughs derisively in all the right places; Gonzalez’ booming bass pushes the singer, yes, like a cattle prod; if there were any justice, Sawyers should be mentioned among the bay area’s best rock guitarists; Muller’s keyboards are an essential new addition; and Hennessy’s drums bring thunder yet retain the military-like precision the music requires.
A blazing “Shotgun” glances back at Baskin and Gonzalez’ R&B roots, planted by their pre-Syndicate combo the Pharaohs. Then a rip-snorting version of what may be the Byrds’ best song, “I’ll Feel A Whole Lot Better,” penned by Gene Clark, gives Sawyers the chance to display his slippery-fingered 12-string prowess. Sprinkle a little “Shakin’ All Over” confetti on the folks as they prepare to head for the exits, and that brings one very memorable night to a mighty conclusion.
The verdict is just in: This was not only the very best I’ve ever seen the Syndicate Of Sound play over the past 25 years, it was the most fun I’ve had listening to music since I don’t remember when. As Steve Allen, the finest late-night TV host ever, once wrote in the lyrics to a hit song, “This could be the start of something big.”
I’ve really liked what I’ve heard by this Brisbane, Australia bunch who last year released the terrific GO EASY (also on Fire Records after full-lengths on Not Not Fun and Bedroom Suck). Honestly, this is what I was hoping the new Surf City record would be but that was a real letdown (after their superb debut). This group includes the Spencer siblings (Daniel on vocals/drums, Sarah on synth/vocals and Luke on bass and more power to ‘em that they can be in a band together and not kill each other) who along with guitarist Luke Walsh have been turning heads at every turn.
I hadn’t heard much of their real early stuff but apparently it was much noisier and less song oriented. They haven’t turned into Fountains of Wayne (who I really liked, by the way) but the songs seem a bit more gussied up. Opening cut “Back to the Flood” is one of the songs of the year (and the year is only 64 days old!) while “Falling Down the Stairs” kicks it sideways like the best songs by The Clean. “Bell Tower” slows it down and creeps it up (same with “Violet Delivery”) and “Baby Closes the Door” is equal parts squealing noise and hip-shaking off-kilter/color pop. Oh, and don’t forget the nearly nine minute “Bulldozer Love” but it ambles instead of rambles and the repetitious choogle of “Even the Score.”
Only 8 songs here so they don’t wear out their welcome and know how to keep the fans wanting more. I want more.
DOWNLOAD: “Back to the Flood,” “Falling Down the Stairs,” “Baby Closes the Door,” “Even the Score”
No, not an artifact from the Canadian national park of the same name, but rather an obscure group of Austin-based noiseniks who channel the spirits of the Butthole Surfers, Chrome and Einstürzende Neubauten. Call it industrial space-skronk, with cortex-bruising “tunes” like the distorted, droning, sludgy “Diary of a Pig Keeper’s Wife,” the whirling, pleasurably repetitive “Stork” and pounding psychedelic jam “Vamos A Martar Santana.” (Yes, this is a band that sketches out its song titles in between bong hits, as evidenced by the preceding along with “Cop Boner,” “Man Without a Body” and “A Secret History of Belgian Dog Owners.”) Feedback, distortion, heavily phased electronics and random stereo panning, plus gargantuan drumming and barely-audible vocals are the order of the day here, which invariably means Quttinirpaaq would be more of a live “experience” to behold than chilling out back at the crib with the stereo cranked to 9 ½. But don’t let that dissuade you.
Let’s Hang Out is the group’s second release in less than a year; No Visitors appeared back in June. And while there’s not a whole lot of info out there on Quttinirpaaq (much less instructions on how to pronounce the name), either. Still, with a keen ear for the musically transgressive and an even keener eye for the record collector – the limited-to-300-copies LP is pressed on clear vinyl with blood-red splatters throughout – the band has got yours truly’s vote for a must-own left-field delight.
DOWNLOAD: No, don’t. It’s a vinyl thing, ya get me?
Being a Dead Head is kind of like being a wine connoisseur- those in the know speak of certain years as ‘vintage’ and even pair it down further to speak about certain months that were prime.For any jam band haters, not even the most sought-after and loved shows by the band (say, the Cornell ’77 show or the Live Dead dates) will change their mind but for the cognoscenti, it’s always fun to mull through each cycle of ‘new’ releases to see if your favorite or someone else’s favorite has been transformed into a nicely mastered copy out on the market.
In the long-standing ‘Dick’s Picks’ series (named for archivist Dick Latvala), this particular late ’77 date on their home turf (Winterland, San Fran) has been considered one of their classics.Having it now out again (it was originally released in 1998) is a nice addition to the band’s ongoing archives, especially since almost all of their historic work was done in front of stoned fans. The 12/29/77 date (along with bonus material from the next time) had been well-regarded for a while and having it in a 3-CD box w/booklet is more than enough to get you through an evening’s toke session, which is the point, right?
While is it a ‘good’ date that deserves the kudos, it’s not ‘great’ Dead or ‘classic’ Dead per se. The line-up here (with the Godchaux siblings on vocals and keyboards) kicks things off into high gear with a lively take on “Jack Straw” featuring the always nimble Mr. Garcia, but then they soon settle into too-mellow territory for too much of the rest of the first disc until they remember that they’re a rock band when they bounce through Merle Haggard’s “Mama Tried,” Chuck Berry’s “Promised Land” and their own “New Minglewood Blues.”On the second disc, they cover a lot of the same territory heard on ‘72’s self-titled live album (akathe ‘Skull and Roses’ album), which includes “Bertha,” “Playing in the Band” and “Not Fade Away” (along with what even the fans called ‘a piss break’ in the form of the drum solos). Disc 3 features some highlights from their then-recent album Terrapin Station but that’s upended by the superior live creations on 2009’s To Terrapin: Hartford ‘77, which was recorded about seven months before this album.
Jam band fans- you probably won’t be too sorry for having this in your collection but there’s other archive gems you need in your collection first.Also from that time and also recently released (in 2013) is the eye-popping and fantastic 14-CD, 5-complete shows box set May 1977 which is well worth the C-note investment in it as well as another 2013 archive gem, Sunshine Daydream culled from a legendary ’72 benefit show for Ken Kesey (that’s not even mentioning the beloved Winterland ’77 box set which comes from the same venue several months earlier).It’s a whole weekend of listening but you’ll get a contact high that’ll last you a few months at least.
Like a lot of bands from the 1960s and ‘70s that had many hit singles their hits have been packaged and repackaged so many times it’s hard to keep up. The Grass Roots are no exception. The history of the band is a bit dodgy as several passed through their ranks and many of the bands hit songs were written by other folks. On top of that, many of the songs were written by Phillip Gary Schlein and Steven Barry Lipkin (you probably know them as P.F. Sloan and Steve Barri). Sloan and Barri were writing songs for ABC and were cranking out hit singles for many artists including folks like Jan and Dean and Bruce and Terry (Sloan later gained fame as the writer for “Eve of Destruction” though it was sung by Barry McGuire: L.A. punks The Dickies later did a terrific cover of it as well).
The Grass Roots were another one of the band that the hitmakers were writing for (side note: Arthur Lee’s pre-Love band was called The Grass Roots but had to change it due to these guys existing). Originally called The Bedouins, this particular group of individuals moved down from San Francisco and for a while they were the house band at famed L.A. club The Trip. Eventually some or all of the members got homesick and high-tailed it back to the Bay Area so a search for a new Grass Roots was on. One came in an L.A. band called the 13th Floor. The band eventually became a real band and began writing their own songs but you can read all about that in Ed Osborne’s extensive liner notes. (You don’t want me to tell the whole story, do you?). It does mention that the closest the band had to a career-long member was late vocalist/bassist Rob Grill (the “classic” lineup of the band also included guitarists Creed Bratton and Warren Entner and drummer Rick Coonce.
This 24-song disc has all the hits and more. Some of the songs, that I’d heard on the radio countless times as a kid in the ‘70s, were ones that I forgot (or didn’t realize) that the Grass Roots even did). Here’s the list:” “Midnight Confessions,” “”Temptation Eyes,” “Where Were You When I needed You,” “Bella Linda,” “Lovin’ Things,” “I’d Wait a Million Years,” “Baby Hold On” and plenty more (don’t want to spoil all the surprises). [Er, let’s not forget the group’s hands-down greatest song, “Let’s Live For Today,” which not only sold more than two million copies in 1967 but was much later semi-famously covered by a pre-dB’s/Let’s Active North Carolina combo called Sneakers and, even more semi-famously, The Lords of the New Church. -Power Pop Ed.]
Just listening to this brought back a lot of good memories. The Grass Roots were a good band and these are good songs. Honestly, I don’t care who wrote ‘em, they’re here on this silver disc for all of us to enjoy so go enjoy it (in mono, no less).
DOWNLOAD: “Midnight Confessions,” “Temptation Eyes,” “Where Were You When I Needed You,” “Bella Linda,” “Lovin’ Things,” “I’d Wait a Million Years”
A Blurt Boot Video Exclusive: Simon Bonney & Bronwyn Adams (Live NYC) 5/14/2019 WARSAW
Filmed by Jonathan Levitt. Check out Bonney's latest record "Past, Present, Future" http://smarturl.it/SimonBonney
A Blurt Boot Exclusive: Psychedelic Furs "Only You and I" (Live Costa Mesa CA 7-19-18
Tribute: Tony Kinman (R.I.P.) and Rank And File - Video from "Long Gone Dead"
Blurt Audio Exclusive: Thin White Rope "The Fish Song" (from 2018 remaster of The Ruby Sea