Monthly Archives: January 2017

MIKAEL TARIVERDIEV – The Irony Of Fate—Original Score

Album: The Irony Of Fate—Original Score

Artist: Mikael Tariverdiev

Label: self-released

Release Date: November 25, 2016


The Upshot: Prolific Russian composer taps into his country’s native melancholia on a reissue of one of his most popular film scores.


We all have a little Russian in us—and not just that little election-rigging shit Putin now, either. No, the other Russian. The melancholic romanticist who, usually after a vodka too many, swoons before visions of the endless Russian steppes, or weeps with equal fervor over the memories of 20 million war dead or one tragic love lost.

You sense that Mikael Tariverdiev knew this about us, a key reason he translates so well.  The prolific Russian composer taps into that native melancholia in this reissue of one of his most popular film scores, The Irony of Fate, and emerges with a universally appealing set. Coming on the heels of the 2015, three-LP retrospective, Film Music, this single vinyl slab—with sleeve notes by The Real Tuesday Weld’s (and Earth collaborator) Stephen Coates—serves as an easy entryway into the composer’s oeuvre. (Tariverdiev scored over 130 movies, wrote more than a hundred romances, ballets, operas and vocal cycles, and was basically very, very busy being creative while you were doing bong hits and watching The Simpsons.)

The Irony of Fate was the most popular of director Eldar Ryazanov’s 30 films, a clever 1975 romantic comedy-cum-satire that ridiculed Soviet bureaucracy (and its one-size-fits-all architecture) without crossing the line and earning him a trip to the Gulag. Viewing it has become a New Year’s rite-of-passage in Russia—the story riffs on a vodka-fueled New Year’s ritual—but its lasting impact is just as much due to the score of the Tbilisi-born Tariverdiev.

First-time listeners might be thrown by the opening “Overture,” an outlier which takes a classical motif and turns it into a carnival theme of Fellini-esque proportions. It returns with the coquettish, fully orchestrated waltz, “Expectation of the New Year,” but it’s a string of folk songs, played only with nylon-stringed guitar backing and usually in waltz-time, that elevate the music into the kind of lasting folk fare that belies its apparent simplicity. “Along My Street for Many Years,” “On Tikhoretskaya,” “I Like” and “I Ask the Mirror” feature the sultry vocals of Alla Pugatcheva, who became a star in her own right thanks in part to these performances, while Tariverdiev himself adds worthy male counterpoints to the soundtrack. The singer rolls his r’s with enough vigor to recall another guitar-only crooner, the Frenchman Georges Brassens, though Serge Gainsbourg is typically the name you hear when the composer invites comparisons. Either way, Tariverdiev is no slouch at the mic, and one of the songs from Irony of Fate, “I Asked the Ash Tree,” has the same national status in Russia that, say, “Over the Rainbow” or “Mrs. Robinson” has attained via U.S. cinematic history.

Non-Russian speakers obviously can’t engage with the songs as deeply as Tariverdiev’s native brothers and sisters. But only the heartless and imaginatively stunted will find the language barrier an actual obstruction, and it’s just as likely that the instrumentals will steal your heart anyway. The recurring melody in “Snow Over Leningrad,” built on romantic strings and upright bass, affords a foundation for vibes to fall like snow, and the accordion waltz, “The Third Stroitelnaya Street,” is one of several tracks that will have the listener drawing natural comparisons to the scores of Nino Rota and Michel Legrand.

The Irony of Fate is more than just set-pieces culled from a film Russians revisit every New Year’s Eve. The songs tell a story independent of what’s happening on the screen, and one that’s happened in plenty of places outside 1970s Mother Russia. That’s what makes Tariverdiev’s score so enduring and bittersweet—melancholia knows no borders.

DOWNLOAD: “Snow Over Leningrad,” “I Asked the Ash Tree,” “The Third Stroitelnaya Street,” “Along My Street for Many Years”



Album: Do Not Disturb

Artist: Van Der Graaf Generator

Label: Esoteric

Release Date: September 30, 2016


The Upshot: Hammill, Banton, and Evans ride again!


Van Der Graaf Generator were one of the more esoteric entries in the British prog rock sweepstakes of the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, a band whose erratic dynamic was steered by Peter Hammill’s melodramatic vocals and the lavish yet intricate accompaniment of bassist/keyboard player Hugh Banton and the ever-shifting rhythms of drummer Guy Evans. After various periods of disengagement and subsequent reunions, the core band is back with a new effort that proves as farsighted and ambitious as the early Van Der Graaf classics The Aerosol Grey Machine, Pawn Hearts, H to He and The Least We Can Do Is Wave To Each Other. Little wonder then that Do Not Disturb sounds so bizarre and belligerent at times and so elegiac and anthemic at others.

There are moments of sheer cacophony — the tangled tones of “Forever Falling” and “(Oh No! I Must Have Said) Yes” being prime examples — and even on the less tenacious tunes, the band prove that they’re not necessarily intended for the faint of heart. These are challenging tunes at best, imbued with ambition, intensity and decidedly dark designs. Contrary to its title, Do Not Disturb might prove disturbing to those whose tastes don’t necessarily allow for introspection of intrigue, but for those that miss the adventure and ambition British prog rock once had to offer, it’s well worth the risk.

DOWNLOAD: “Forever Falling,” “(Oh No! I Must Have Said) Yes”

VARIOUS ARTISTS: Svenska Shakers

Album: Svenska Shakers: R & B Shakers, Mod Grooves, Freakbeat and Psychpop from Sweden 1964-1968)

Artist: Various Artists

Label: Cherry Red/RPM

Release Date: November 04, 2016


The Upshot: Sweden in the ‘60s, who the hell knew?


That title is a mouthful but if you’re like me and thought that Swedish pop/rock started and ended with Abba (who I love) well, give this one a listen, 41 songs spread out over two discs and I can’t say I’ve heard of a single band on here, but I like most of this. Heck, look at that classic cover shot, five serious lookin’ dudes with capes. Here we’ve got some rockin’ combos like The Acts, Moonjacks, Tages, Darling, Bamboo, Mascots, The Cheers, Fools, Namelovers and and too many more.

You’ve got Annaabee-Nox doing “The Kids Are Alright” (no major departure from the original but still sounds great…on disc two the same band does “Always on My Mind”).  Moonjacks rockin’ up and out with “Come On,” Shakers doing “Hoochie Coochie Man” and Namelosers doing “Land of 1000 Dances” just to name a few. Wow—Sweden in the ‘60s, who the hell knew?! As it states proudly/boldly on the back cover, “Choice cuts from a period when Sweden’s world-class bands beat the musical imports at their own game.” The booklet has covers of singles and liner notes by Kieron Tyler. [Hey Kieron, how ya doin’? It’s been awhile. Greetings from NC! – Editor Mills]

Come on partner, I know you’ve got your own cape in the closet along with some glue-on sideburns, put ‘em on when no one’s home and freak out!

DOWNLOAD:  “The Kids Are Alright,” “Always on My Mind,” “Come On,” “Hoochie Coochie Man,” “Land of 1000 Dances”


Red Hot Chili Peppers 1/12/17, Memphis

Dates: January 12, 2017

Location: FedEx Forum, Memphis TN



On the eve of Friday the 13th, the Red Hot Chili Peppers brought The Getaway tour to the home of the Memphis Grizzlies at FedEx Forum in Memphis, Tn.

The Red Hot Chili Peppers have been grooving since 1983. They came together while they were still in high school and have been rocking ever since. The band have had ups and downs along the way, but the band has always found a way to keep going and make chart topping hits. The new album was released in 2016 and has also quickly climbed the charts. This album is opening the Peppers up to a new generation of fans, while reminding us long time fans why they have always been one of our favorite bands ever! The RHCP’s will also be co-headlining the 2017 Bonnaroo festival this June in Tennessee. Look for Blurt’s extensive coverage of the Peppers and all other acts from the farm.

The Red Hot Chili Peppers have always had a strong stage presence and they haven’t lost any energy over the years. At one point during the show Flea even did a hand stand and walked two thirds of the stage, that is impressive at any age little alone at 54 years young.

The show was a great mix of new and older music. My only wish is that the show could have been three to four hours long so that I could have relived more of the classics. There are just too many great songs to squeeze into a concert.

The Peppers have taken the light show to a whole new level. The entire length of the floor had the ceiling area covered with LED light tubes that could not only change color, but also being on metal cords. They could be lifted and lowered at will to make patterns such as a wave effects and patterns. This was the first time I’ve seen anything like this, but I suspect it won’t be the last!

Drummer Chad Smith was spotted in a local club on Beale Street sitting in and jamming with a local band the night before the concert. He must have had a good night in town because as the band came back out for the encore Chad was sporting a Memphis As Fu*k shirt.

The guys are headlining festivals and touring most of 2017, so make sure this is one show you don’t miss!

Text and Photos by: Mark Jackson / Instagram: @markjacksonphotography1  / Email:










GONG – Rejoice! I’m Dead

Album: Rejoice! I'm Dead

Artist: Gong

Label: Madfish

Release Date: September 16, 2016


The Upshot: Easily the beloved British prog band’s most accessible effort since the death of Daevid Allen.


With the death of Gong founder Daevid Allen there was every reason to expect that his band would give up the proverbial ghost. Nevertheless, the musical madness that became Gong’s psychedelic stamp over the years was in danger of dissolution long before, once they opted to make music outside the reign of creative conformity that’s mostly dictated the norms since their formative years nearly four decades ago.

Fortunately then, the band’s new album finds them freely dabbling in the eccentricity and experimentation that’s been their calling card from early on. Granted, it’s not as goofy and over the top as it was while under Allen’s oversight, but that freewheeling frenzy is obviously still apparent under the helm of his successors. Surprisingly, they sound like a more adventurous version of Yes, especially on tracks like “The Thing That Should Be,” “Rejoice!” and “Insert Yr Own Prophecy” where the massed vocal harmonies lend an effusive aura that propels the proceedings along.

As a result, Rejoice! I’m Dead is easily the band’s most accessible effort yet. There’s a sense of exuberance and exhilaration present in these grooves, a feeling that the possibilities are still unlimited, if not unhinged. Whether the new album will get them anywhere close to the mainstream remains to be seen. Most likely it won’t, but that doesn’t mean we can’t root for them all the same.

DOWNLOAD: “The Thing That Should Be,” “Rejoice!,” “Insert Yr Own Prophecy”

SUPER HI-FI / BENINGHOVE’S HANGMEN – Plays Nirvana / Zohove: Play Led Zeppelin (CASSETTE)

Album: Plays Nirvana / Zohove: Play Led Zeppelin


Label: Very Special Recordings

Release Date: December 02, 2016


The Upshot: Although Nirvana and Led Zep fans will never be accused of being particularly sophisticated or discriminating, a new pair of unusual tribute treatments put the lie to the maxim that tribute albums suck, one going the horns-and-heavy-rock route and the other taking a deep, dark, dub approach.


Die-hard Nirvana and Led Zeppelin fans, it must be said, will never be accused of being the most sophisticated or discriminating sort, uncritically lapping up any and every musical morsel and pop-culture doggerel put forth by their respective heroes. This is also why tribute albums for those two artists have been both plentiful and plenty flawed—because all one has to do is say, “I have a Nirvana/Led Zep cover that I’ve recorded!” and you’re guaranteed at least a momentary audience. As a veteran of concerts by both bands, however, not to mention having heard more than a few bootlegs by each, I would propose that covering them is an exercise in pointlessness; their songs are iconic, so indelibly imprinted upon the collective public imagination, that it would be impossible even to muster .001 percent of the original tunes’ creative mojo.

Into the ring now steps a pair of NYC groups: Super Hi-Fi, billed as “an underground supergroup whose members have backed up Beyoncé, Bill Frisell and others, tackling the Cobain legacy; and Beninghove’s Hangmen, which includes a couple of John Zorn alumni, aiming to wield anew the Hammer of the Gods. Doomed from the get-go, right?

Not so fast, Percy.


The Zep project takes a kind of heavy-rock-with-horns approach that’s the more straightforward of the two mini-albums, and while I can state honestly that I have never fantasized about hearing a New Orleans/Latin-flavored Zeppelin number, much less a sax-and-trombone interlude during “Kashmir,” these seven tracks generally deliver the goods. “Immigrant Song” in particular musters a degree of vigor that both Page and Plant could flick their Bics to. The Hangmen hold on to the in-your-face, balls-to-the-wall aesthetic that informed Zep even while probing sundry melodic and rhythmic nuances that often get overlooked by lesser mortals.


The eight songs comprising the Nirvana tribute, though, are just plain out there. I can state with equal honesty that even though I dearly love my dub records, I was a bit skeptical about listening to deep-dub treatments of Nirvana; but then, I have done my best over the years to avoid coming into contact with albums like that ghastly Dylan-done-reggae-style trib or pretty much anything by the Easy Star All-Stars (take “Dub Side of the Moon” or “Radiodread”—please). Here, though, against all odds, Super Hi-Fi creates something utterly unique from overly familiar material; in fact, only “Heart Shaped Box (9 Lives Dub)” bears enough resemblance to the original for the listener to make the connection right off the bat. Others, such as “Love Buzz (Doctor Sub RMX),” gradually emerge from these deep, rumbling/hissing clouds of riddim, while still others, like Polly (Prince Polo Dub),” would stymie even the staunchest Nirvana devotee. Super Hi-Fi—which also lists a trombone in its lineup—gets down low, real low, and rebuilds these tracks in their own heady, hypnotic vision, throwing in elements of Afro-beat as well, and as a result their album is perhaps the only truly original tribute treatment in memory.

In a rather whimsical yet salute-worthy twist, the Very Special label has released the two albums just on digital and cassette. Gimmick or not, it’s additional evidence that the people behind the projects set out to do something different on all levels, and that’s pretty damn cool.

DOWNLOAD: “When the Levee Breaks,” “Immigrant Song” / “Verse Chorus Verse,” “Love Buzz”


Album: American Band

Artist: Drive-By Truckers

Label: ATO

Release Date: September 30, 2016


The Upshot: Pure Truckers from start to finish, yet still an unsettling affair originally intended as a battle cry that ultimately became an epitaph.


One of 2016’s best albums—it landed on numerous top 10 lists among this publication’s writers, for example—American Band, nevertheless, has an oddly discomforting side to it that can’t be avoided. It’s the unintended/unforeseen byproduct of the recent presidential election. Released at the end of September in time to ensure its political statements were heard prior to November 8, the Drive-By Truckers’ 11th studio album may have been pitched as a battle cry, but it was clearly also intended to serve, ultimately, as a triumphant musical speech for the red, white, and true. Even the accompanying “Darkened Flags” tour (a nod at American Band song “Darkened Flags on the Cusp of Dawn”) was supposed to become a victory lap, commencing a mere week before the election.

And then the unthinkable happened. Or did it? Tea-leaf readers and outsider polling mavericks aside, the Truckers are born-and-bred Southerners, and both of their songwriters, guitarists Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley, have consistently chronicled the attitudes and actions of the white working class with whom they share roots. Did the band sense, subliminally or otherwise, what the mainstream media did not? Viewed that way, American Band, though revealing and righteous in its examination of the unsettling, frequently tragic, undertones of the country, could also be read as an epitaph.

The aforementioned song about flags, for example, offers the initially elegant, but now prophetic, phrase “The baggage that you take defines the things that you become”; while later, in “Ever South,” the lines “But despite our intentions, it pains me to report/ We keep swinging for the fences, coming up a little short” pop up like red warning flags stuck on a lawn whose grass has been painted blue. And a section of “What It Means,” which references both directly and obliquely the deaths of innocent young black men, was no doubt originally penned as an observation but now reads so bleakly as to be a capitulation to the dark forces that have overtaken our society: “It happened where you’re sitting, wherever that might be/ And it happened last weekend and it will happen again next week…They’ll spin it for the anchors on the television screen/ So we can shrug and let it happen without asking what it means.”

Musically, the album is a reassuring stew of tried-and-true DBT tropes, from twangy, Southern-friend roots rock and garagey, gunslinging raveups, to moody folk-rock meditations and sturdy, hookish anthemism. Hood and Cooley share songwriting and singing duties fairly equally, solid and complementary as ever. Yet even there, it seems that a sense of unease is holding the band back from really cutting loose like on some previous albums.

For vinyl lovers, initial copies of the LP come pressed on a visually pleasing dark magenta vinyl, and there’s a bonus picture sleeved 45 included of the track “Kinky Hypocrite,” a Cooley-penned honky-tonker that also appears on the CD and digital versions as a mid-album track. It seems a bit curious that it wouldn’t also be positioned as an end-of-record bonus track for those iterations, but in any event, the tune’s no throwaway.

DOWNLOAD: “Darkened Flags on the Cusp of Dawn,” “What It Means,” “Ever South”


JAMES JOHNSTON – The Starless Room

Album: The Starless Room

Artist: James Johnston

Label: Clouds Hill

Release Date: November 18, 2016


The Upshot: Deep, brooding and magical, the album s simply one of the finest artistic statements of 2016.


Gallon Drunk’s James Johnston has produced something timeless with his debut solo album The Starless Room, from Clouds Hill Records, based in Hamburg, Germany. The starkness of Johnston’s photo gracing the cover revealing nothing but the man himself, is a wonderful metaphor for the album as a whole. Here, he opens his heart and lets it flow like never before. This is a sweeping culmination of the musical moments we’ve heard punctuated throughout his career—which includes work with Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, Marianne Faithfull, Lydia Lunch, Faust, and, currently, PJ Harvey—as well as a fascinating new step into an artistic space that he’s finally ready to inhabit.

Like Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, or Mick Harvey with his amazing Serge Gainsbourg records, James Johnston has arrived at a level of song-smithery and musicianship that is every bit on par with those peers. Take, for example, the song “St. Martha’s” that I fell in love with on his record store debut from earlier this year. This is a tune that pays homage to the great ballads of 1950s America. Johnston, with his piano, a subtle string arrangement, and some very muted drums, lets the song build to a tour de force of longing and regret. Label founder and producer Johann Scheerer must also be commended, because here the music is given the perfect space to diffuse itself into our consciousness. Muted in some ways and shimmering in others, the musicianship on the record refrains from overburdening Johnston. I must say I’m also glad to hear strings that aren’t overly cloying, like they sometimes can be.

“Let it Fall,” coming near the end of the album, is delicate slow burn of a song. Here, the guitars, drums, and strings combine, providing an emotional buoyancy to Johnston’s forlorn lyrics. “When the Wolf Calls” is a haunting closer to the record that belongs in a David Lynch film; the piano is augmented with tendrils of strings creating a haunting nocturnal atmosphere that will stay with you far beyond the end of the song. Deep, brooding and magical, The Starless Room is simply one of the finest artistic statements of 2016. Bravo!

DOWNLOAD: “St. Martha’s,” “Starless Room,” “Dark Water,” “Let it Fall”


Go HERE to read our recent interview with Johnston, and HERE to listen to an exclusive live track.



Album: (various new releases)

Artist: S U R V I V E / Steve Moore / Magic Sword / Stratosphere

Label: Relapse / Size / Projekt

Release Date: December 02, 2016 /  /


The Upshot: Synthwave rules, natch.


As previously discussed, it’s been both strange and rewarding to see the rise once again of the kind of active instrumental synth rock that used to wash over the landscape in the wake of Tangerine Dream. Much of the artists creating it labored in near-obscurity for years before the axis shifted their way once again, including S U R V I V E. The quartet has toiled away in the shadows of Austin’s music scene since 2008 before suddenly being thrust into the spotlight when two of its members provided the soundtrack to the Netflix hit Stranger Things. While well-deserved, the success of that series has overshadowed the band’s big-league recording debut RR7349. The group’s second album flows like the score to an obscure 80s science fiction flick, the kind that thrived on VHS and is remembered more for the music than the visuals. The creamy “Dirt,” the hazy “Sorcerer” and the pulsing “Wardenclyffe” utilize gorgeous electronic tones and enigmatic atmospheres that encourage you to make up your own bizarre 80s filmic artifact. RR7349 deserves to be spun as often as Stranger Things.

Zombi has been at the forefront of the synthwave revival for years, and, as with S U R V I V E, one of its members has a side gig as a soundtrack composer. The Mind’s Eye is Steve Moore’s latest (though the film came out in 2015), following Cub earlier this year. As such, it’s much harder to divorce from the visuals it’s meant to accompany than his work with Zombi. That’s not to say he’s not a master of texture and movement – a tune like “The Shot” brings on the perfect atmosphere for the horror flick it supports, with just enough energy to keep from being wallpaper but not enough to distract from the action. Most of the pieces are under two minutes, so they die before they get old, though the closing “End Credits,” which encapsulates most of the ideas Moore put into the soundtrack, is a significant exception. Though not as compelling as Moore’s work with his main band, The Mind’s Eye still catches the ear.

Mysterious ensemble Magic Sword also produces a soundtrack with Legend EP, the group’s second release. But it’s for a comic, instead of a film, one revolving around a strange, powerful weapon and the Keeper charged with guarding it. Fortunately, having the pages turn in front of you isn’t necessary to enjoy the sounds of these three tracks. A steady electro-pulse and buzzing bass tones keep the rhythms percolating as synths and guitars exchange melodies with dramatic flourishes. On paper it sounds like progressive rock, and there is some of that ambience, though the sonics favor early videogame music just as much. Opener “Legend of the Keeper” sets the tone perfectly – if it grabs your ear, you’re all in.


The product of Belgian musician Ronald Mariën, Stratosphere goes back to the S U R V I V E model of scoring the imagination with Rise. Funny thing about the project’s third record, though – although it favors a shimmering, hazy sheen and lush washes over a steady pulse that keeps the clouds moving, there’s not a synthesizer anywhere on it. Instead Mariën uses a guitar, a bass and a shitload of pedals to create ringing, keyboard-like tones and sweeping soundscapes with a foot in ambient music and another in some sort of cosmic odyssey. Stratosphere is at its best when the songs move, a la the opening “Melancholy.” But even the more stationary objects, like “Desolation” and the appropriately named “Hypnotic,” cast a spell. Gorgeous and absorbing.

DOWNLOAD: “Dirt” (S U R V I V E), “End Credits” (Steve Moore), “Legend of the Keeper” (Magic Sword), “Melancholy” (Stratosphere)

EXTERMINATORS – Product of America

Album: Product of America

Artist: Exterminators

Label: Slope

Release Date: November 18, 2016


The Upshot: Potent, powerful, pulverizing punk delivered 40 years after the fact.


Phoenix punk bands were always a bit… different from their peers across the desert in L.A. While there was no shortage of anti-authoritarian ‘tude and a healthy appreciation for punks shock value, they were less image-conscious than the Sunset Strip crews and more than willing to fuck shit up just for the sake of fucking shit up, traits that persist to this day in the Arizona music scene. Call it the cowboy mentality.

And the Exterminators, though remarkably short-lived even by typical punk standards—the liner notes to Product of America (by Arizona-born Don Bolles, drummer for the Exterminators as well as numerous L.A. bands over the years, and author/journalist of no small repute) maintain the quartet played, at best, three or four shows before its members headed to the City of Angels seeking fortune and infamy with the likes of the Germs, Feederz, Bags, etc.

Yet this LP—pressed on seductive royal blue vinyl, no less—isn’t some long-lost archival recording of demos and now-rare singles, because according to Bolles, the Exterminators “never recorded anything,” at least not properly. (They taped a few rehearsals but that was it.) Instead, the 16 songs here, most of them clocking in at under a minute and a half, were recorded in the present by Bolles (drums), Johnny Macho (aka Dan Clark, vocals), Buzzy Murder (Doug Clark, guitar), and Cris Kirkwood (from the Meat Puppets of course, bass—the bassist back in the day was the late Rob Graves, later of Bags/45 Grave/Gun Club). And as a combined time capsule/legacy homage, those songs definitely pull their weight. Kirkwood offers up a no-frills production that’s as true to the material as possible.

Vocalist Macho has the perfect punk sneer, even four decades after the fact, and between the muscular Bolles-Kirkwood rhythm section and Murder’s bandsaw guitar riffage, you’d be hard pressed to do the blindfold test with the album and peg it as a present-day recording. From the tender sentiments and drillpress vibe of “I Don’t Give a Fuck” and the sizzling hardcore romp that is “Just Like Your Mom” to a beautifully brutal slice of Stooges nihilism, “Destruction Unit” and a ground-zero-punk workout titled “I Hate You” (whose songwriting credit is not one of the bandmembers, but “some kid from the neighborhood”), this is potent, powerful, pulverizing stuff. There’s also a freaky spoken-word closing number, an adaption of Samuel Beckett’s violent/erotic “Serena II” that finds Macho intoning gravely while Murder sculpts thick waves of distortion in the background. Who said punks aren’t sensitive?

DOWNLOAD: “Static Planet,” “Destruction Unit,” “I Don’t Give a Fuck”