Monthly Archives: April 2015


Album: Panorama City

Artist: Double Naught Spy Car + Stew

Label: Tight Natural Productions

Release Date: March 03, 2015

Double Naught 3-1


Improvisation is usually the purview of jazz. (Jam band guitar wank doesn’t count. No, not even the Grateful Dead.) Clearly, Double Naught Spy Car didn’t get the memo. Session dudes by day, the members get to blow off some seat-of-the-pants steam in DNSC, keeping their instrumental and arrangement instincts sharp. For Panorama City, the band invited singer/songwriter Stew, erstwhile leader of the Negro Problem and creator of the fabulous Broadway stage show Passing Strange, to join in the fun.

Recorded about ten years ago with a grant from the American Composers Forum, Panorama City puts the five musicians in a room without a net – no pre-production, rehearsals or second takes (though Stew has since copped to going in armed with a few scattered lyrics already written). Fear not, however – this isn’t free jazz nuttiness. The band’s years as studio musicians give them the ability to impose structure on the fly, which ain’t a bad thing, and Stew has always displayed both a willingness and an ability to ride the winds whichever way they blow. Thus the quintet comes up with songs that are identifiably blues (“Bumpin’ Morton Subotnick”), roots rock (“Blue Dust”), early 70s Miles Davis (“Bodhi Tree Mama”), an emulation of Daniel Lanois-style atmospherics (“Blowoff Therapy”) and straight-up rock & roll (“President”). There’s even a surprisingly pretty ballad called “Batgirl.”

None of this is to say that DNSC + Stew worry about accessibility – nearly every path taken sounds like it was walked by worshippers of Captain Beefheart and Frank Zappa. But improv freaks expecting a collection of free-form dissonance and barely organized chaos may be shocked at how disciplined, listenable and ultimately musical Panorama City is.

DOWNLOAD: “Blue Dust,” “Bodhi Tree Mama,” “Blowoff Therapy”


USELESS EATERS – Singles 2011-2014

Album: Singles 2011-2014

Artist: Useless Eaters

Label: Slovenly

Release Date: April 14, 2015

Useless Eaters 4-14


I think I have a single by these guys around here somewhere….and I really like it but never bothered to delve deeper into their catalog. Judging by this comp they apparently have a ton of singles out there – at least one on Tic Tac Totally – and this 13-song CD collected ‘em all. For some reason I had these guys pegged as a Memphis band and they are from there but now based in San Francisco and I’m told by a reliable source that the band is made up of humans and not robots (not sure I believe that though).

Ok, I should say human (not plural) as this is the masterwork of one Seth Sutton who does it all on here (save from a little bit of help from, who else, Ty Segall) and this guy ought to be damn proud of himself. Most of these songs rip, kick and tear in the best possible way (think Jay Reatard or The Spits). My personal favorites are “Dope Clones,” “The Moves,” “American Cars,” “I Hate the Kids” (which is totally over the top) and the choppy “Linear Movement.” You can’t afford the 7”ers (and won’t be able to find ‘em anyway) but this is affordable, I mean, even you can wrangle together $10, right?

DOWNLOAD: “Dope Clones,” “The Moves,” “American Cars,” “I Hate the Kids”

DAVE RAVE & THE GOVERNORS – Sweet American Music

Album: Sweet American Music

Artist: Dave Rave & the Governors

Label: Raebeat

Release Date: January 20, 2015

Dave Rave 1-20


Make no mistake — Dave Desroches, AKA Dave Rave, is a bonafide, no holds barred rock ‘n’ roll enthusiast whose unswerving devotion to the form takes it cue from the great rockers who preceded him — the Stones, the Faces, Badfinger, the Raspberries and legions of power pop auteurs who established the form he now follows. Not that he’s a raver come lately; his own career dates back to the ‘70s and bands like Teenage Head, the Shakers and the Dave Rae Conspiracy, as well as session work by and for Daniel Lanois, Andrew Loog Oldham and Alex Chilton.

A born and bred Canadian, he’s unabashed in his musical enthusiasm, which makes #

Sweet American Music a tribute to generations of devotees past and recent. There’s plenty that’s familiar due to the format alone, and on songs such as “Sweet American Music,” “Trapped” and “Night School” Rave and his band maximize every hook and every refrain they can exercise and exploit to the fullest. Toss in some Brit pop here and a bit of psychedelia there and the result is a veritable pastiche of maximum R&R. It’s hard not to like it, because in truth there’s nothing not to enjoy.

DOWNLOAD: “Sweet American Music,” “Trapped,” “Night School”

CAMOUFLAGE — Greyscale

Album: Greyscale

Artist: Camouflage

Label: Bureau B

Release Date: March 31, 2015

Camouflage 3-31


If Camouflage sounds like a retro synth pop band, it’s because it is. Founded in late 1980s Germany, the band took shape in Germany during the era of Depeche Mode and New Order. Early singles “The Great Commandment” and “Love is a Shield” encapsulated the age’s machine-tooled romanticism, with gleaming synth lines, gate-reverbed drums and the alienated reserve of android love poetry. A few detours intervened — a flirtation with real instruments, an attempt at an opera, major label disappointments, key members leaving and returning , a box set —but the band has remained more or less intact to the present day.

The lead off track, “Shine” does not sound so very different from the music of the band’s heyday, with its ping-ponging electro percussion, its sharp-focus drumming, its remote but celebratory chorus. A heady hedonism lights these plasticine grooves in strobe-flashing bursts, a kind of Happy Mondays-ish joy filtered through synthetic washes of tone. Of course, much has happened between 1987 and now, the style that Camouflage pursues has gone in and out of fashion several times. When practiced now, new wave synth pop always seems to carry a layer of irony that is not really present here. So, even the best tracks, the shambolic “Dancing” and darker shaded “Misery” have a time-capsule quality, as if they’d been waiting all his time, preserved in hair gel, for us to dig them up again.

The ballads are a little weak, hampered by a certain English-as-a-second-language obvious-ness and limp melodies, not-going-anywhere-in-particular melodies. Both “In the Cloud” and the Peter Heppner-assisted “Count on Me” meander and bog down in new romantic hazes of inexact feeling. Still, if you miss the 1980s and feel like none of the latter-day synth-wavers are getting it quite right, Camouflage is your jam.

DOWNLOAD: “Dancing,” “Shine”



CITY OF SHIPS – Ultraluminal

Album: Ultraluminal

Artist: City of Ships

Label: Translation Loss

Release Date: April 21, 2015



The membership of City of Ships may be divided by two cities (Austin and Brooklyn), but the trio is united in its purpose: to re-energize ‘90s guitar rock. Not the post-grunge thuggery that passed for radio rock in 1997, mind you, but the postpunk-influenced heavy rock proffered by the likes of Quicksand, Chavez, Jawbox and other gangs of ex-hardcore kids trying to balance tunefulness and dissonance.

“Private Party,” “Hardwired” and “Metadata Blues” pit Eric Jernigan’s grunge-soaked guitars and gritty vocal melodies over Eric Soelzer’s hyperactive kit-bashing and the occasional teeth-gritting roar. Vocal harmonies sweeten clashing guitar melodies on “Illawarra Escarpment,” while “Mile High” divebombs the singing with pounding chords and rhythm. “Preeminence” is the kind of singalong air guitar anthem that reminds you why rock radio felt revitalized for a brief moment in the early ‘90s.

Folks who never cottoned to this strain of guitar rock won’t be swayed by the like of City of Ships, alas. But fans will be happy to hear that it’s alive and well and in good hands.

DOWNLOAD: “Preeminence,” “Private Party,” “Mile High”


Album: A Forest of Arms

Artist: Great Lake Swimmers

Label: Nettwerk

Release Date: April 21, 2015

GLS 4-21


The sixth full album from Tony Dekker and crew is an ambitious affair that might set you back on your heels, if you’re at all familiar with the Canadian outfit. With past releases you pretty much knew what to expect from their music, a comfortable, rustically crafted, sparse, “Americana” sound, replete with banjo and fiddle, with Tony’s vocals floating as light as a oil-slick rainbow on water. They create a place where folk-rock meets country and bluegrass, and converge into a soothing, atmospheric lushness. I can still recall a moment in the third season of WEEDS that made hairs stand up on my neck, where Nancy, now enslaved by a vicious drug dealer, is forced to go on an uphill jog with him, when he is suddenly stuck down by a heart attack upon reaching the summit. His second in command steps in and finishes him off by smothering him, and then the GLS tune, “Your Rocky Spine” comes up chillingly.

Much of their music is hauntingly beautiful, and on A Forest of Arms, they’ve raised the ante by incorporating a string orchestra and chorus, in parts. to fortify their usual guitars, piano, and occasional pedal steel They also seem to have a fondness for recording live in eccentric locales, like a remote island, or in this case, a large cavern outside of Toronto. Two other studios are utilized through the recording process, one being Chalet Studios on 40 acres in a pastoral setting. They are great champions of environmental issues, so that’s an ongoing theme in a lot of the music on the album.

Their previous album, New Wild Everywhere was dotted with baroque string arrangements, to great effect, and even more so throughout this offering.

“Something Like A Storm” gets the album off to a rousing start with full string accompaniment, a lusty backbeat and some merry la-la-la’s. “Zero In the City” is very representative of pure, GLS sound that runs through most of their albums, tuneful and endearing. Dekker’s lyrics are, often as not, powerful prose, not always dependent on rhyming, leaving a lot to interpretation, not unlike some of Dylan’s nonsensical lyrics. “Shaking All Over” flies aloft on soaring strings, the song seems to be cautionary advice to someone on the edge, from someone not too sure of their own footing….

 “Yeah set me on fire and watch me fly

You can feel how I burn, you can see how I try

You’re my number one puncher, my number one fist

You’re my heaven and my heartbeat, my one true bliss

So let me down on the floor, I can’t take any more

Of the snakes against angels, and stairways to heaven

And more different faces than a couple of dice

I’m shaking all over and I can’t control it

 Every day could be your last

Hurry darling, hurry fast

Time won’t slow for anyone

Out on the tracks at a quarter to one.”

One of the more upbeat numbers, “One More Charge At the Red Cape,” showcases the band at their best, with an energy that draws you in. You can hear Miranda Mulholland’s violin ripping rosin over the background strings. Also upbeat, is “I Must Have someone Else’s Blues,” a more straight-ahead country-rock entry, not too unlike something fellow Canuck’s The Sadies might do, albeit with some happy, whistling dwarves.

Then, there are several slow and moody songs like “I Was A Wayward Pastel Bay,” “The Great Bear,’ and the baroque strings of “Don’t Leave Me Hanging,” that lend a calming peacefulness to the album. “A Jukebox In A Desert of Snow” is more of an indie-rock addition, with a flourish of Gypsy violin rippling throughout. “With Every Departure,” heavily draped in strings and banjo, Dekker’s vocals, accompanied with echoey harmonies, lend an airiness that brings to mind both Buffalo Springfields’ “Expecting To Fly” and Simon & Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Trouble Water.”

The album ends with a rather clever twist, as the last song, “Expecting You,” is a slower version, with slightly different lyrics, than the opening song, “Something Like A Storm.,” and, with the la-la-la’s intact. Maybe they were torn on which version to use, and decided to offer up both, as both work nicely.

While not much new ground is broken on A Forest of Arms, and it fails to surpass 2012’s excellent New Wild Everywhere, something can be said for the additional polish the music gets from heavy string embellishment and rather refined production values.

DOWNLOAD: “One More Charge At the Red Cape,” “I Must Have Someone Else’s Blues,” and “Shaking All Over.“ (Close runners-up –“I Was A Wayward Pastel Bay,” and ”With Every Departure.”)

Manic Street Preachers 4/20/15, Washington DC

Dates: April 20, 2015

Location: 9:30 Club, Washington DC



On Monday, April 20, a British rock trio that’s little known in the U.S. made its Washington, D.C. debut at the 9:30 Club. That’s so not unusual, except that this band was the Manic Street Preachers, who formed in 1986 and released their first single in 1988 — and still haven’t been properly introduced to the American audience.

Even stranger was that the first two-thirds of the 95-minute show was devoted to the entirety of The Holy Bible, an album that’s been hailed as a masterpiece in Britain but which caused barely a ripple in the U.S. The 1994 album recently got a deluxe 20th-anniversary reissue that includes the remastered album on heavyweight vinyl, a 40-page book, and four CDs (with the usual outtakes, alternate versions, and live tracks). Meanwhile, the band’s fine 2014 album, Futurology, is available to American consumers only as an import.

The band’s failure to connect with stateside listeners is partly a matter of happenstance. Twice, the Manics cancelled a major U.S. tour because of a significant loss: In 1995, guitarist-lyricist Richey Edwards disappeared. (He’s presumed a suicide, but his body still hasn’t been found). Then in 2001, singer-guitarist James Dean Bradfield’s mother died. I interviewed Bradfield before that planned jaunt, but didn’t write up our conversation because the tour never happened.

“Sometimes it felt like it was never going to happen,” Wire said from the stage at the 9:30 Club, addressing a crowd that could sing whole verses of Manics songs without prompting. “We’ve never played Washington before. I’m fucking glad we came!”

Although they didn’t make it to D.C., the Manics have done some U.S. dates. (The last were in 2009, around the time of an album with a characteristically cheery name, Journal for Plague Lovers.) They even went out as an opening act for Oasis in 1996, an experience Bradfield told me was great fun.

“It was nice to see another band falling apart in front of our eyes instead of have it happening to us for once,” he recalled in 2001. “I thought Oasis was brilliant. There was so much tension within their band at that time and onstage every night and it just made them so much more exciting. So I really enjoyed that tour in a funny way.”

The Manics began as scrappy neo-glam-punkers, widely hated in Britain for their debts to the Clash and their brazen boastfulness — and for being Welsh. (“There was a romanticism attached to being Irish and Scottish, but there was a bitterness attached to being Welsh which just didn’t seem to wash away,” said Bradfield in 2001 of the initial hostility to his band.) But their reputation has blossomed to the point where almost no one objected to the title of their 2011 singles collection: National Treasures. It charted in Britain, Ireland, Spain, and Japan, but wasn’t released in the U.S.

The Manics’ low profile in the U.S. doesn’t reflect just the relatively little time the group has spent on the road here. There’s also a conceptual problem or two. The band’s populist-rock sound combines the Clash and Guns N’ Roses, but is short on hooks. This may result from the way the band composes: Lyrics, whether by Edwards or bassist Nicky Wire, come first. The melodies composed by Bradfield and drummer/multi-instrumentalist Sean Moore are secondary — and often sound that way.

Also, there’s nothing populist about the lyrics, at least not to Americans who didn’t grow up in the British tradition of working-class leftism. While the tormented Edwards’s favorite subject was self-loathing, Wire’s preoccupations include the Spanish Civil War, the Soviet Union, modernist poets and painters, and American violence and hypocrisy. Among the wordy Holy Bible tunes for which Wire wrote lyrics is “Ifwhiteamericatoldthetruthforonedayitsworldwouldfallapart.”

In that 2001 interview, Bradfield attributed the band’s politics to growing up in south Wales’s coal-mining region, an area in economic decline for decades after World War II, and convulsed by the Thatcher-sparked 1984 miner’s strike.

“We were politicized in a very natural way, and in that I mean that we were just taught to be aware of the politics in and around our daily lives,” he said. “We were taught to think about things that affected our lives. I suppose the actual urge to escape in our songs was not there. We didn’t want any kind of escapism in the songs. We actually wanted to have some kind of discourse in the songs.”

Love songs? One of the band’s catchiest, from 2007’s Send Away the Tigers, is called “Your Love Alone is Not Enough.” The title reportedly comes from a suicide note.

Cardigan Nina Persson dueted with Bradfield on “Your Love Alone is Not Enough,” and guest vocalists are common on later Manics albums: Cate LeBon, Georgia Ruth, German actress Nina Hoss, Scritti Politti’s Green Gartside, and others sing on Futurology. Its predecessor, the acoustic-guitar-based Rewind the Film, featured the voices of LeBon, Lucy Rose, and ex-Pulp member Richard Hawley. The group has always used samples, beginning with its 1992 debut, Generation Terrorists. It gradually added keyboards, synths, horns, strings, and more, forging a modern-rock sound that might even be termed accessible.

At the 9:30 Club, though, The Holy Bible‘s 13 songs were as stark and guitar-oriented as ever. The trio didn’t bring along a second guitarist (as it sometimes has) to expand its sound. Perhaps that’s because Bradfield played all the guitars on the album, the last record made while the band was officially a quartet. Edwards attended recording sessions, but reportedly didn’t participate much.

“It’s well documented that Richey was not a musical person really,” Bradfield told me in 2001. “He didn’t really care for playing guitar. He couldn’t really play guitar.”

“I took a good solo and he took a good picture. And he wrote brilliant lyrics. He was like the mouthpiece of the band, the lyricist, and he looked absolutely fucking cool.”

At the 9:30 Club, the Manics went into The Holy Bible‘s opener, “Yes,” without a word. They skipped some of the album’s sampled intros, and at one point Bradfield briefly forgot what song came next. Otherwise, they played the album with the all urgency and earnestness of the recorded version. Wire, who towers over the other band members, bounced exuberantly around the stage, but Bradfield didn’t loosen up until the band got to the seven-song set that followed the Bible reading.

As with most Manics albums, only a few songs stood out, notably “Revol,” “Faster,” and “P.C.P.” The action was more in Bradfield’s guitar playing, which switched often between post-punk rhythm and arena-rock lead, than in the melodies delivered by his high tenor (and only occasionally supported by Wire’s voice on shout-along choruses). The slower numbers, as is characteristic of the group, were anthemic in way that was more often stiff than stirring.

The post-Bible set featured only one song from relatively sprightly Futurology, “Walk Me to the Bridge.” Most of the others came from the ’90s — and from albums that were actually released in the U.S., even if few people noticed. They included “Motorcycle Emptiness” and “You Love Us,” from Generation Terrorists, and three songs from 1996’s Everything Must Go and This is My Truth Tell Me Yours, the two albums that represent the peak of the Manics’ British popularity: “A Design for Life,” “You Stole the Sun From My Heart,” and “If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next.” (The Holy Bible was not a commercial success on release, but became a steady-selling cult hit.)

At the 9:30 show, one audience member hoisted a Welsh flag, and another threw a green-red-and-white hat to Wire. No one was checking passports, but it’s quite possible that the crowd was heavy on U.K. expats. It’s unlikely that this short tour — six dates in the U.S. and one in Canada — presages an American breakthrough for the Manics or a stateside discovery of The Holy Bible.

In fact, if this article piques anyone’s curiosity, I’d suggest checking out Futurology instead. It’s always impressive when a 29-year-old band’s latest album is one of its best. Interestingly, among the many guest stars is Super Furry Animals keyboardist Cian Ciaran, and the made-partially-in-Berlin disc’s eclectic internationalism’s suggest SFA’s later work.

When the Manics first strutted their way into the pages of the British music press, one of the attention-getting brags was that they would make one spectacular album and then disappear. Instead, they became craftsmen who have refined and expanded their music and outlasted most of their peers — all without cracking the world’s largest pop market.

He had planned for band to be “the fiery phoenix definitely,” Bradfield said in 2001. “I wanted to release a record as good as Never Mind the Bollocks, and for it to be perfect, a crystal moment in time, never to be topped. But fortunately we weren’t good enough to do that.”











The Soft Moon + Noveller 4/21/15, Denver

Dates: April 21, 2015

Location: Marquis Theatre, Denver CO



Sometimes going out on a Tuesday night is tough. It’s the beginning of the work week and us oldsods would rather be home. I was told by friends that this show at Denver’s Marquis Theatre would be worth it so not only did I go, but I showed up enough to catch the 2nd band, Noveller. Not really a band but one woman, Sarah Lipstate (above), who hails from NYC and plays an electric guitar with a ton of fx pedals (looped and occasionally use a violin bow on the guitar). She played about a half hour and eeked out some truly intriguing sounds out of her instrument. The crowd certainly appreciated it giving her a bigger round of applause with each song. It takes guts for anyone to get up there armed with only a guitar but Lipstate looked like the true pro that she is. Pure passion.

Soft Moon

The Soft Moon leader Luis Vasquez stated to the crowd early in the set, “Sorry for the low energy but we all have the flu.” Umm…pardon me sir but I see no lack of energy, you guys rock. Again, if there was a lack of energy I certainly didn’t notice it. I have never seen this NYC bunch before but I’ve liked what little I’ve heard from their three records and am a big fan of their label, Captured Tracks, as well. Vasquez and his two cohorts, one on drums and the other playing bass and, on occasion, keyboard tore through a righteous set of art-damaged, pulsing tunes. I kept reading that they were influenced by Joy Division and while I did herar that I also heard some Killing Joke, Big Black and Cabaret Voltaire (among others) in the mix. At times beautiful and other times punishing, but one thing the set was not was boring. A good chunk of the set was from the recently released Deeper but they tossed in a few older cuts as well. From said new record we heard “Black,’ “Wasting,” “Try” and “Wrong” among others.

These guys have a workmanlike approach to it all. On one hand they want the crowd to be entertained, but on the other, they have a job to do and don’t want anything or anyone to stand in their way. The way it should be.


James McMurtry 4/14/15, Raleigh NC

Dates: April 14,

Location: Southland Ballroom, Raleigh NC



For the James McMurtry concert at Raleigh’s Southland Ballroom, Max Gomez opened the show.  He’s a fingerpicking folksinger with Neal Diamond good looks and aw-shucks charm.  He played mostly originals with a few covers thrown in, notably John hartford’s “In Tall Buildings.”




This was the first time I’d seen James McMurtry with a band.  All other times he was solo and acoustic. With Daren Hess on drums, Cornbread on the bass guitar and Tim Holt on accordion, mandolin and electric guitar, it was a whole new dimension to what I’m accustomed to.  These are the same guys he’s played with every Wednesday night at The Continental Club in Austin so to say they were tight would be an understatement.  Lots of cool layers – both musically and vocally.  Great stuff!.  Touring on the back of a new album he naturally played a good amount from “Complicated Game” but also threw in old favorites like “Too Long in the Wasteland,” “No More Buffalo” and “Choctaw Bingo” when he was joined onstage by Hoop Dancer Beth Lavander.







All in all a great night – and thanks to Southland and promoter Marianne Taylor for bringing him to town!

Replacements 4/19/15, Denver

Dates: April 19, 2015

Location: The Fillmore, Denver CO



Who would have thunk that the Replacements would still be playing reunion gigs after the three Riot Fest gigs they played in 2013 (including a late Saturday night in Byers, Colorado that I attended). Well, here they were on a Sunday night in Denver at the Fillmore (the only show on this tour that apparently wasn’t sold out, or so I’m told). They came ready, willing and able. The “Back By Unpopular Demand” tour. Bring it.

The openers were four punks from Wyoming called Teenage Bottlerocket who have apparently been on the scene for number of years, the perennial openers, I’m told.They played some hyper-speed punk with some sticky melodies and one song toward the end I heard of medley go from Van Halens’ “Panama” into The Ramones “Blitzkrieg Bop.” They have a new record out called Tales from Wyoming.

Paul Westerberg and company (company being original Replacement Tommy Stinson on bass along with David Minehan on guitar and punk rock session guy Josh Freese on drums). I heard one of my least favorite songs of all time by Iron Butterfly, over the loud speakers as the ‘mats were getting ready to come on and they finally sauntered on stage a little after 9 PM. Though Westerberg still mumbles things, the guy has apparently been sober for several years (decades).

They opened with “I’m In Trouble” and from there kicked right into “Kissin’ in Action” and then right into “Little Mascara.’ This wasn’t a “Hey, we’re gonna unveil some new material for you” kinda set – although they did perform a somewhat ramshackle “new” song called “Whole Foods Blues” that they had officially unveiled a few nights earlier in Chicago.” No, they knew what the crowd wanted and they delivered. Speaking of which, plenty was brought from 1985’s Tim including ‘Waitress in the Sky,” “On the Bus” and Bastards of Young” while they also dipped into their classic, 1984’s Let it Be with “I Will Dare” and “Sixteen Blue” and “Seen Your Video.”

Westerberg walked off stage during the final “Never Mind”, letting the band finish out the set but then came back out for two acoustic encores, “Skyway” and “If Only You Were Lonely.” The rest of the band then came back out and finished out the encores with “Left of the Dial” and ending with, of course, “Alex Chilton.’

The band thanked the crowd and ambled off stage, knowing they gave the crowd what they wanted. I’m sure first-timers left satisfied and us geezers surely did as well (getting the final word from my group of friends). Though it’s nice to dream and wish you were seeing the same bunch who would cut sets short due to drunkenness and wear dresses (RIP- Bob Stinson) this Replacement mach whatever are sober and (mostly) direct and sounded great.