Monthly Archives: January 2019

Exclusive Video, Photos: Come 12/29/18, Brooklyn

Dates: December 29, 2018

Location: Union Pool, Brooklyn, NY

Live at Union Pool, the Brokaw-Zedek guitar summit continues to stun even after all these years. Below, watch the band do “Submerge.”

Video, Photos, & Text by Jonathan Levitt.

I was extremely lucky to have the chance to see Come play this last December here in NYC. I’ve been a fan since the mid 90s and never thought I’d have a chance to catch them live. Living in China for the past 20 years and the fact that they’d broken up kind of sealed the deal. But as fate would have it they reformed for two shows at Brooklyn’s Union Pool Club which is quite a cool place to catch a performance. The room was tiny and the lighting was awful, but the band played a killer set that veered through ground breaking LP Eleven Eleven, Don’t Ask Don’t Tell  as well as other songs from their canon. Chris Brokaw and Thalia Zedek both wring immense tragedy from their instruments. The combination of the two takes you to some incredibly dark places and is definitely not for the faint of heart. They were tight, bluesy and seemed immediately to hit their stride. I offer up to readers the song “Submerge” from the show.

I can only hope in the near future that this means more shows might be in the offing. It would be great to have them back in action.

 

 

 

 

 

 

King Tuff + Stonefield 1/15/19, Athens GA

Dates: January 15, 2019

Location: Georgia Theater, Athens, GA

The scene was the Georgia Theater, and the rock ‘n’ roll meme was kicking ass…

PHOTO GALLERY & TEXT BY jOHN BOYDSTON

King Tuff is on tour through February and you gotta look up the dates at this link (http://kingtuff.life/) and go – and I say that purely as fan who appreciates the work KT puts into his music and live shows.  As an artist Kyle Thomas has grown up, and never seems to have stopped working since we first heard his records in the earlier part of this decade.   I first heard “Bad Thing” on Sirius XM and Little Steven’s Underground Garage channel.   It’s a great starting point for his stuff – part hard T-Rex, part Joan Jett, part flat out balls to the wall garage rock.   Plus throw in some goofy moves and therein lies the fun and magic.   KT is touring in support of his latest release “The Other.”

Plus his band is Zoe Brecher on drums, Adrien Young on bass, and guitarist Nicole Lawrence- who, it has to be noted, adds a significant dimension to their live stuff, sometimes bringing a dual-guitar fuzz thrill ride.  The band rocks, and about every song feels like a showstopper.
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Stonefield opened, an all-sister band from Australia, holy crap are they good.  They’d fit right in at the Austin Psych Fest if that was still a thing.  Maybe Levitation will have them later this year, the event that replaced APF.   Amy Lee, Hannah, Sarah, and Holly Findlay, a band you should know.   They have done a few shows with KT, but openers vary.  Boise fans get a double-bill treat with King Tuff and Broncho on the same bill, there ya go Idaho.

FRANCES CONE – Late Riser

Album: Late Riser

Artist: Frances Cone

Label: Living Daylight Records/Thirty Tigers

Release Date: January 18, 2019

http://www.thirtytigers.com/

BY JOHN B. MOORE

Over the span of just 10 songs, Indie pop group Frances Cone manage to create a blissful soundscape whose beauty seems downright impossible given the current times we are living in. But damn they manage to pull it off impressively here.

“Late Riser” is technically the second record from the Nashville – by way of Brooklyn – band led by Christina Cone. But this album sounds like a rebirth of sorts with the addition of bassist and collaborator Andrew Doherty. Cone’s ethereal vocals soar over the complex soundscapes created by the band. Songs like the album opener “Wide Awake” and the remarkable “Failure” evoke early ‘90s groups like The Sundays and Innocent Mission, both which had similar abilities to take you completely out of your head, transfixed by sweeping melodies.

There are a couple of stumbles here, like on the somber “Easy Love,” but for the most part, Late Riser is crammed with stunning songs strong enough to make you forget what else is going on in the world – at least for 30 minutes or so.

Download: “Failure” and “Wide Awake”

THE BLANKZ- It’s a Breakdown 7”

Album: It's A Breakdown 7"

Artist: THE BLANKZ

Label: Slope

Release Date: January 04, 2019

www.sloperecords.com

BY JONATHAN LEVITT

As Clay Davis in the Wire says “SHEEEEEEEEEEEEEET”! This is one incredible slab ‘o’ wax from the packaging to the short sharp and shock songs. The Blankz are from Phoenix and if you haven’t heard of them, don’t pay that no mind because I’m here to tell y’all this right here is some impressive music coming out of the Southwest that you need to take heed of. Taking subtle cues from Social Distortion’s Mike Ness with a dash of Rocket from the Crypt, the band come out guns a blazing on the title track “It’s a Breakdown”.  With lyrics like “Hang myself or Hang around” you know they ain’t messing around. It’s a joyful slab of pop punk yet it has some interesting subtext lurking just beneath the surface. The organ is a welcome addition and works really well in giving the tune a retro and more sophisticated feel. “You’re Not My Friend Anymore” is a slightly weaker tune but still packs a punch and shows just how talented the band is and how they’ve mastered the pop-punk genre. The production is excellent on these two tunes and makes me look forward to a full record when that day comes. I must also mention the 3-D packaging the glasses, the sticker and the deluxe sleeve. Most LP’s these days don’t put in as much effort so kudos to label and band for giving us a deluxe collectible for my own vinyl porn collection.

DOWNLOAD: “It’s a Breakdown” “You’re Not My Friend Anymore”

 

FLORIAN WEBER – Lucent Waters

Album: Lucent Waves

Artist: FLORIAN WEBER

Label: ECM

Release Date: November 02, 2018

www.ecmrecords.com

BY MICHAEL TOLAND

When we last heard from German pianist Florian Weber, he had issued a lovely record called Alba as a duo with Karlheinz Stockhausen’s trumpeter son Markus. For Lucent Waters, his ECM debut as a bandleader, Weber connects with trumpeter Ralph Alessi, bassist Linda May Han Oh (both of whom he worked with in saxophonist/mentor Lee Konitz’s band) and drumming titan Nasheet Waits.

Weber is not a flamboyant player, preferring to meditatively explore his melodies, and he encourages his sidefolks to do the same. “Schimmelreiter” and “Melody of a Waterfall” shimmer under the glow of Alessi’s insistent lines and golden tones, supported by the leader’s sonorous chord work and the rhythmeers’ drifting foundation. Weber does take advantage of the presence of an engine room, however, letting Waits and Oh put a little fire into his step. The rhythm section pushes hard on “Fragile Cocoon” and “Time Horizon,” and though Weber is no McCoy Tyner, he does allow himself to wander more aggressively across the 88s in response. He’s at his best, though, on “Honestlee,” paying tribute to his, Oh and Alessi’s old boss with gorgeous melodics and a rhythmic kick that makes the track swirl.

Beautifully crafted and expertly performed, Lucent Waters perfectly displays Weber’s virtues as player, writer and leader.

DOWNLOAD: “Fragile Cocoon,” “Honestlee,” “Time Horizon”

 

SPAIN – Mandala Brush

Album: Mandela Brush

Artist: SPAIN

Label: Dangerbird

Release Date: September 28, 2018

http://dangerbirdrecords.com/

BY MICHAEL TOLAND

Of all the bands to appear the so-called slowcore movement, Spain is now one of the longest-lasting. No surprise, really, as Josh Haden has evolved into a forward-thinking bandleader with a vision that encompasses both the sanctity of songcraft and the openness of improvisation. Mandala Brush, the group’s seventh studio album, bears both of these ideas out.

Song-oriented tracks “Sugarkane” and “You Bring Me Up” continue his trend of adding a rootsy vibe to the band’s languid folk rock, but then genially disrupts the flow with a muscular guitar solo on the former and a gospel coda on the latter. “Holly” sounds like an ancient folk song pulled from the ether. But “Maya in the Summer” and “Tangerine” take a less structured tack, stretching comfortably out, letting the instrumentalists jam and having Haden float over the top with lyrics he might well have made up as he went along. By the end of the record, the appropriately titled “Amorphous” and the epic “God is Love” revel in improvisation and risk, becoming tone poems more than songs. “Folkstone, Kent,” meanwhile, splits the difference, putting jazzy trumpet and a psychedelic atmosphere in the middle of lovelorn lyrics that could have been found on a century-old manuscript.

Haden is, of course, the son of famed jazz bassist Charlie Haden, which has been a notable part of his biography since the band’s inception. But Mandala Brush is the first album on which he really brings his dad’s legacy to bear, and does it without losing the essence of songcraft that’s always made Spain stand out.

DOWNLOAD: “Folkstone, Kent,” “You Bring Me Up,” “Maya in the Summer”

 

RISE AGAINST – Career (Vinyl Box Set)

Album: Career

Artist: Rise Against

Label: Interscope/Ume

Release Date: November 20, 2018

www.interscope.com

BY JOHN B. MOORE

There aren’t a ton of punk rock bands outside of the greats from the late- ‘70s through early ‘80s, who are strong enough to justify a career-spanning vinyl box set. Chicago’s Rise Against though clearly have earned that distinction.

 

Raised in the indie punk scene – the band’s first two albums were released on the Fat Mike-helmed, Fat Wreck Chords – the band came about their experience the tried and true punk rock way: touring the country is a crappy van and sleeping on the floors of fans after shows. So, their jump to Geffen Records for their third effort, though it brought about some predictably, if relatively muted taunts of “Sell Out!” seemed like a natural fit for an impressive band looking for a bigger soap box to stand on.

 

Geffen, alongside UMe has collected the band’s first eight records (everything but 2018’s The Ghost Note Symphonies, Vol. 1) into one massive archival set. Each record is pressed on 180-gram vinyl and comes with a hard cover book of Rise Against’ s oral history and a slew of rare band photos. The set includes The Unraveling, Revolutions Per Minute, Siren Song Of The Counter Culture, The Sufferer & The Witness, Appeal To Reason, Endgame, The Black Market and Wolves.

 

Of all the albums in the collection, their 2001 debut, The Unraveling, is fittingly enough their most uneven. There’s a powerful rawness to the songs, but singer Tim McIlrath was still finding his voice (figuratively and literally) and relied more on screams rather than the measured vocals he would perfect on later albums. The guitars, as well, slathered in distortion, don’t leave much space for any other instrument to be heard. But the band quickly learned from those mistakes in time for 2003’s Revolutions Per Minute and it’s follow-up the next year, Siren Song Of The Counter Culture. The latter houses the song “Swing Away Life” which remains their most recognizable song and one of the best slow-tempo punk anthems of the 2000s. Both records are among the band’s best efforts with a more cohesive sound and powerful political lyrics that are clear enough to be heard this time around.

 

The Sufferer & The Witness, released in 2006 continued the streak of great, political punk rock, but they slipped slightly on the mediocre follow up, 2008’s Appeal To Reason. The last three entries in this collection, however – Endgame, The Black Market and last year’s Wolves – found the band back to in top form. Over the course of nearly two decades, Rise Against has slowly and methodically carved out a niche for writing savvy political anthems that move easily from modern punk folk to distorted rock, all while ignoring current music fads in favor of a formula that have managed to perfect. This gorgeous box set is the perfect acknowledgement of that dedication.

DOWNLOAD: Plenty to choose from….

BAD MOJOS – I Hope You OD

Album: I Hope You OD

Artist: Bad Mojos

Label: Bad Voodoo Rhythm Records

Release Date: December 21, 2018

 

https://voodoorhythm.bandcamp.com/

BY JOHN B. MOORE

Sounding like it was recorded at the bottom of the ocean, this 10-track, 20 minute-or-so collection of could be basement/pub anthems from Swiss punks Bad Mojo has all the feel of a late ‘70s, UK street punk album. Unfortunately, the vocals are so buried underneath layers of distortion and an incessant buzzing that seems wildly unnecessary in an age when even a bedroom recording can come across as clean as anything recorded in a studio circa 1970, that any attempt to make sense of what is being sung is just wasted time.

Musically, once you strip away the constant, buzz there seems to be a fun adherence here to classic punk rock, nods to everyone from Cock Sparrer to GG Allin, a favorite among the band. With the average song clocking in around a minute and a half, there is a real sense of smash and grab, get in and get out immediacy to each track.

There are hints of a solid punk rock album here. Unfortunately, the recording quality is so weak, we never really know for sure.

DOWNLOAD: Your guess is as good as mine.

 

JOHN WESLEY COLEMAN III – Cuckoo Bird Sings A Song

Album: Cuckoo Bird Sings A Song

Artist: John Wesley Coleman lll

Label: Goliad Media Records

Release Date: October 26, 2018

BY BARRY ST. VITUS

I suspect that even the most musically exposed fan or writer would slam into a hard adobe wall trying to come up with a clear description of Coleman’s musical style. It’s a rather frustrating and challenging thing to nail down.  His PRa gives a good shot at what it’s not…”John Wesley Coleman is not an outlaw, not Americana, barely a punker and not a garage rocker.” Suggesting then …”baroque power pop basement fringe.” Works for me. If that elicits a ‘meh’ from you, then know this, this latest drop is one of several he’s done since stepping away from 15 years with Austin’s notorious Golden Boys and doing shows with such notables as Roky Erickson, the Oblivians, L7, No Bunny, the Spider Bags and Ty Segal. That helps triangulate a bit on his own personal style and music, to some degree.

What truly makes Cuckoo Bird stand out, though, is who backed up this effort and produced it, Milwaukee’s own, JAILL, led by Vinnie Kircher, also the producer. This amounts to taking your rough diamond to the best gem cutter in the area to have it cut and polished. They totally get what he’s doing and give it wings to soar high.

The mood of the album leans a tad towards melancholy and wistfulness, but is far from being a downer. The flat-out creativeness of the band color the songs enough to distract from out-and- out sadness and lift the melodies. His voice leans towards lonely, country music singer territory, but has a warming, comforting feeling, that is emotionally embracing.

The album kicks off with “Kick It Again” a catchy little ditty that, like many of the numbers, sticks in your head.  There’s simple electric piano and guitar that brings to mind a No Bunny, ‘50’s rock ‘n’ roll –flavored tune. “Weird Old World” effectively uses synthesizer and weird effects that make for an unusual sound. There’s a ”Dear Prudence” kind of thing going on in “We Speak In Charades,” starting right with the keyboards. It’s the first of quite a few songs that uses repetitive lyrics to good effect.

They get sort of an oddball thing going on mixing up a background of chimes, synth and bongos on “Another Face In the Crowd,” that meanders along, eccentrically.  “Heaven” picks up the pace with its Farfisa organ and synth leading the way and is very typical of what Wes’s songs have generally sounded like in the past. It’s a contender for Best song in the collection.

His “All Over Now’ has a sultry mood to it as it glides along with a gooey Wurlitzer organ carrying it along, and his vocals going a bit Arthur Godfrey, if you get that reference. It’s rather nostalgic and one of the more interesting tunes here, again, thanks to the creative magic of JAILL. “Feel That Way” picks things up again and goes with the repetitive lyrics thing again, but pulls you right in, as it goes a little Samba by the end.

An interesting arrangement really adds props to “Baby I like Your Style,” which are pretty much all there is to the lyrics in this one. His thing with repetitive lyrics really build up a momentum on “Without Warning” and gets it rolling, making it another of the catchiest songs. “Beam With Us,” with its piano and subtle bongos rolls out like a ballad, which uses his voice to great effect. Finally, “Out The Window” really has the baroque thing happening with its strings underneath smoothing the way. This one really is wrapped in melancholy and gloom, accented with the cello behind it, while still remaining rather lovely.

I can hardly imagine anyone not liking this album, unless they are metal-heads or only into thrash, as Wes’s originality is a strong selling point, for one thing, and the impressive playing by the band really make it compelling listening. My only bone to pick might be that I would’ve enjoyed a couple more upbeat numbers in the mix to lift it out of it’s moodiness, but, all-in-all, this Cuckoo Bird sings some pretty good songs, feathering its nest with excellent playing and production.

DOWNLOAD: “Without Warning,“ “We Speak In Charades,” “Out The Window,” “Heaven

Smokescreens 8/30/18, Denver

Dates: August 30, 2018

Location: Hi Dive, Denver CO

Live at the Hi Dive, the band served up no jive!

BY TIM HINELY

I first got turned on to this LA band when someone told me to check out the fabulous tune “I Can’t Wait” on their Bandcamp page. I did and I’m glad I did. Totally great, clattering pop tune like an updated version of recent (current?) New Zealand band Surf City who are basically doing an updated version of The Clean. In other words, listen now!

Their debut full-length Used to Yesterday (Slumberland Records) has spent a lot of time in my cd player these past few months so had to jump at the chance to catch them in a live setting.

Got there and found out that they were playing second which was a-ok for my tired bones (caught a few songs by the headliner American Culture and wasn’t feelin’ it).

 

Guitarist/vocalist Corey Cunningham used to be in another Slumberland band Terry Malts (well worth checking out if you haven’t done so) while other guitarist Chris Rosi spent time in a band called Plateaus. Along with drummer Brice Bradley and a fill-in bassist (regular bassist Jenny Moffett could not make the tour) these four put on a fabulous show for the small-ish crowd that made it out to see them.

They opened with three songs off of their limited edition 12” that was released on Spain’s Meritorio Records including “Painted Mirror,” “Working” and the totally great (previously mentioned) “I Can’t Wait.” From there they played several tunes off of their Slumberland full-lenght including the righteous title track “The Lost Song,” “Falling Down” and the the song of the summer  “Waiting for Summer” (oh and “Jolly Jane” too). They ended the set with the great “Eneies” and called it a night. Again, if the Flying Nun Records scene of the 80’s was your bag then you’ll love Smokescreens.

Cunningham and Rosi are on to something here, the way their guitars tangle and then richochet off of each other, it’s like these two were meant to play together. On drums Bradley kept a steady beat and the bassist brought some cool energy to the band (and even sang lead on one tune) but it’s a shame so few people saw it. With songs this good, however, the people will come, it’ll just take some touring.