September 16, 2014

That Was The Show That Was: Cymbals Eat Guitars with Bob Mould | Paradise Rock Club | 12 Sept.

Joseph D'Agostino of Cymbals Eat Guitars, Sept. 12, 2014, photo by Dillon Riley

We recognize the ridiculousness inherent in reviewing a show where Hüsker Dü-er and Sugar daddy Bob Mould performed, but in which he is not the star of said review, but bear with us. NYC indie rock troupe Cymbals Eat Guitars, who opened for the aforementioned Mr. Mould Friday night at Boston's legendary Paradise Rock Club, are out touring what may very well be their masterpiece, and stood to gain more than the legendary headliner if things went well. Cymbals Eat Guitars' recent third LP is simply titled Lose, and it is a dense, emotional and raw collection. That they're able to promote said record playing shows with a punk icon whose music pretty much set the curve for dense, emotional and raw music is a nifty bit of serendipity. And we're glad to report that Cymbals Eat Guitars were well-received by a crowd that included a substantial contingent of older folks more than likely inclined to consider the night's opener an afterthought, if they considered the opener at all. Happily, we counted plenty of older dudes visibly connecting with and even head-banging excitedly for the younger act.

Cymbals Eat Guitars' set unsurprisingly drew heavily from Lose, with a vital, anthemic reading of early single "Warning" setting the tone for the rest of the foursome's stage time. As noted in the press surrounding the new record, Lose represents no small mount of catharsis for fronter Joseph D'Agostino, a songwriter who played things closer to the vest on the band's earlier records. Despite the shorter time slot, D'Agostino managed to wade pretty deep into the album's emotional whorl, with album highlights "Jackson" and "XR" memorializing in part the sudden loss of a dear friend and former collaborator earlier this century. Cymbals Eat Guitars wisely ended with the record's centerpiece, the eight-minute tour de force "Laramie." The tune touts a slow build-up and concludes with a excoriating noise section during which D'Agostino wrung out notes up the fretboard from behind his head. The old punx liked that a lot. Lose was issued Aug. 26 by Barsuk Records and is available for purchase right here.

"Bob Mould still has it," I texted to a friend as I walked out of the Paradise late Friday night -- and why shouldn't he? With the exception of when he took some time away for important things like pro wrestling and dance music, the man has routinely released impressive rock 'n' roll record after impressive rock 'n' roll record, including his most recent set Beauty & Ruin. And all of that since the dissolution of his second genre-defining group, the aforementioned Sugar. Mould's set Friday was book-ended by two undisputed Hüsker Dü classics in "Flip Your Wig" and "Chartered Trips," respectively, and the meat in the middle served as a mini-"Our Band Could Be Your Life," dipping into the Hüsker and Sugar songbooks heavily, as well as Mould's impressive (and steadily growing) solo repertoire. Mould is backed by one of the best rhythm sections in punk rock, with Superchunk/Mountain Goats' John Wurster on drums and Split Single-guy Jason Narducy on bass, and together the trio impressively recreated the classic SST squall of sound that Mould helped define three decades ago with utterly classic records such as Zen Arcade and the more refined New Day Rising. The obligatory mosh pit materialized in the crowd early on, and it seems safe to assume the multi-generational melee included more than a few who had been there to thrash the first time around. Beauty & Ruin was released by Merge Records June 3 and is available for purchase right here. -- Dillon Riley

Cymbals Eat Guitars: Internerds | Facebook | Soundcloud

Bob Mould: Internerds | Facebook

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Review: Bob Mould -- Silver Age/ Sugar -- Reissues
Rock Over Boston: Superchunk | Versus | Royale | 9.22.2010
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September 15, 2014

Video Premiere: Hoax Hunters' Fiery Fireball "Erase"

Last month Senior Writer Edward Charlton made a strong case in these electronic pages here that Hoax Hunters' multidimensional fireball "Erase" was the Richmond post-hardcore trio's most compelling composition to date. Here's the whole quote: "The standout track -- which apparently features "homemade electric dulcitar" from a guest player -- combines an experimental sound-collage introduction, a quick-burning hardcore song, and an extended, searing coda (which talks the listener down from the intensity of the previous numbers) to create what is perhaps Hoax Hunters' most compelling composition to date. The chorus' dynamic, shout-along chant channels both the rage and joy that these guys bring to their music. "You. Can. Not. Erase," Sykes proclaims -- the final declaration that the hard work and values of those within a scene will live on, again and again."

Presenting the tune live would seem to present myriad challenges given the collaged opening minute and distinct movements, but we think the video above is proof of a challenge met. Doubled-down upon, even, as instead of the recorded version's opening minute of ambient noise and feedback, fronter P.J. Sykes and band -- here abetted by a gentlemen named Dave Watkins -- open the tune with more than two minutes of feedback, coaxed by hands hammering the backs of guitar necks. Then, after delivering a passionate, fiery iteration of the tune, Hoax Hunters return it from whence it came, ashes to ashes, a conflagration of feedback hungrily devouring the song, until all that is left is Mr. Sykes and his guitar hanging off the front of his amplifier like an astronaut hopelessly clinging to the exterior of her spacecraft. It's quite a video. The performance was filmed at the release show for Hoax Hunters' debut LP Comfort & Safety, which was held Aug. 8 at Gallery 5 in Richmond, VA. The trio recently performed at Raleigh's Hopscotch Festival, and its next show is Sept. 28 in Richmond with The Awesome Few. Comfort & Safety can be purchased from the also Raleigh-based label Negative Fun right here. New music is apparently already in the offing.

September 14, 2014

Review: Cookies | Music For Touching

We spent more time than most in the first decade of this century watching Ben Sterling bend like a hinge over electronics in darkened rock clubs, the rhythm of the music and his duties on guitar for the visionary indie trio Mobius Band pulling him up while his obligations to punch pads on a sampler pulled him down. When the trio disbanded at the end of the oughts, we were more than a little disappointed, but that feeling was eventually ameliorated by a stream of 10" EPs that Mr. Sterling issued under the mildly ludicrous Cookies moniker starting in 2010. Finally, after life got in the way for a while, after Sterling patiently wrote and re-wrote the songs that would comprise it, Cookies issued last week the debut LP Music For Touching. It is a striking and rich collection of brilliantly conceived electropop, and proof positive that there are few songwriters -- at any sales level -- as smart as Ben Sterling.

It may surprise some that the set takes more cues from Prince or The Gap Band than the post-punk and post-rock that informed much of Mobius Band's work. Of course, given the four Cookies 10" records, those who claim surprise just haven't been paying attention. That aside, one need look no further than Mobius Band's swan song Heaven -- as well as certain of the cover tunes on the informal Valentine's Day EPs the trio still gives away for free -- for evidence of Sterling's affinity for more groovy and relatively conventional sounds. But it is a mistake to think that, just because Sterling's tastes have gravitated toward more traditional (or at least more traditionally listened-to) sounds and structures, that he has abandoned his marked yen for experimentation. The beautiful, languid rumination "The Dream" which closes Music For Touching illustrates that Sterling instead uses the latter to inform the former. The song works a slow R&B vamp, features some gloriously liquid guitar soloing, and lays both over minimal, clattering electronic rhythm tracks that gently remind of Sterling's bona fides as a former Ghostly Records signee. Maybe Sterling's aesthetic has always fed a conventional/experiemental duality, but it has never before been so purely expressed than on Music For Touching.

While the collection closes by fading into reverie, it pops open on the front end like a can of tennis balls. Staccato hand-claps and a foregrounded bleep establish a head-bobbing groove over which Sterling and vocalist Melissa Metrick coo from within the optimistic halo of young love gone right in "1,000 Breakfasts With You." That song claps itself out and is warmly met ("Hello. It's nice to see you.") by a robot voice introducing Music For Touching's second preview single, "Go Back." That joinder is the first of many snappy sequencing choices, the best of which may be where the primary descending three-note melody of the deliriously catchy "July 17" abuts the ascending three-note bumping bass line that drives the next tune, the funky -- and we do not use that word lightly -- standout "Crybaby." But it isn't just the sequencing of Music For Touching that makes it shine so bright; it's not even just the songwriting. During the four years it took to germinate the record, Sterling selected very arresting sounds, from the kalimba that provides the hypnotic counter-melody entering with the first chorus of "Spill Of Sugar," to the neon-dripping synth stabs and mind-scrambling baritone sax solo in the aforementioned "Crybaby," to the thick, Beatles-implying piano chords underpinning the title track.

We like to think of Mr. Sterling as the next generation's Daryl Hall -- "next generation" because he is that far ahead of the pack in terms of style -- but akin to Mr. Hall in his appreciation for substance, which is to say, actually substantial pop and, yes, even soul. As an aside, it's interesting to think how Sterling's arc as a songwriter roughly traces the rise of the music crit viewpoint known as poptimism, which rise itself tracks recent critical acceptance of music marked by glossy (even unrealistic) production and a distinct contemporary R&B influence. Clicky Clicky itself does not embrace the poptimist perspective ("rockism" forever! get off my lawn, youths! -- Ed.), and it will never aspire to be "in touch with the taste of average music fans." We expect Sterling would bristle at a reference to his music as poptimist, if only because, really, what makes music less fun than yoking it to some fairly bullshit intellectual name-calling. What we will say is that, while poptimism strains to make excuses for contemporary pop music, Sterling's only concern for pop or music is to make it smarter. While the above-linked article posits that poptimism stands in opposition to adventurousness, Sterling clearly carries with him that same sense of adventure that first manifested itself in the earliest Mobius Band music. Indeed, that adventurousness is even more intensified as a result of Sterling's sole responsibility for writing and producing all of Music For Touching. And it is what makes us such ardent fans of the musical places Sterling takes us. We are very eager to hear what comes next.

Music For Touching is available now as a very attractive 12" vinyl LP and digital download, both of which can be ordered via the act's Bandcamp outpost here. The vinyl edition comes with a "newspaper of companion images by Emily Keegan titled "Tools For Touching." Cookies fête the release of Music For Touching with a show at Baby's All Right in Brooklyn Tuesday; the night also features performances by Superhuman Happiness and The Great Void. Boston-area fans should set aside the evening of Sept. 24, as Cookies will be making a very rare area appearance at Cafe 939 in Boston's Back Bay neighborhood. The Boston date is part of a short strand of shows Cookies will embark upon with tourmates Dawn Of Midi Sept. 22 that swirl through the mid-Atlantic and Northeast. Full dates are below.

Cookies: Bandcamp | Facebook | Interzizzles | Soundcloud

09.22 -- Washington, DC -- The Black Cat
09.24 -- Boston, MA -- Cafe 939
09.25 -- Portland, ME -- Space Cafe
09.26 -- Burlington, VT -- Signal Kitchen
09.28 -- Hamden, CT -- The Space
09.29 -- Philadelphia, PA -- Johnny Brenda's

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September 11, 2014

From The Banford File: Boston Calling In Pictures

You there. Yes, you, discerning indie rock fan. Was our five-part, wall-to-wall coverage of this past weekend's Boston Calling festival just not immersive enough for you? Well, while going over our archived notes from the weekend, we stumbled upon this neat-o photo set from shadowy freelance operative Quinn Banford. You will find therein evidence of good rock music being played, and good rock music being heard. And we think you will agree the photos of Lorde and Spoon in particular really sizzle. It seems essential to share Mr. Banford's work with you. Banford, on special assignment to Clicky Clicky yet again, had this to say about his experience in the field at the festival:
"Carrying around a camera felt a bit odd at times, especially with the flowing amounts of beers waving in the air. The poor camera had no rain coat and the lightning storm was another form of "wet" that it wasn't ready to take on. But my good lad Nick the Nikon had bold plans, and he got those pictures. He pulled through."

Previous Coverage:
Replacements Deliver Blazing Set, Spoon and The War On Drugs Also Highlight Final Day Of Boston Calling
Rain Delay Dampens Boston Calling Day Two, But The Hold Steady, Sky Ferreira And Lorde Still Shine Brightly
Classic Neutral Milk Hotel Lineup Electrifies Night One Of Boston Calling Festival
Boston Calling This Weekend: Five Key Sets To Catch By Bands That Are Not The Replacements
Boston Calling This Weekend: The Replacements Return To Boston For First Show In 23 Years

September 10, 2014

Replacements Deliver Blazing Set, Spoon and The War On Drugs Also Highlight Final Day Of Boston Calling

The Replacements, Boston Calling festival, Sept. 7, 2014, photo by Dillon Riley

[PHOTO: Dillon Riley] Here it was, Sunday, the day we waited for with bated breath, the final day of this fall's Boston Calling music festival. The day we saw one of the greatest rock acts ever, The Replacements, return to our fair city for its first area show in more than two decades, along with noteworthy bands who channel in one form or another the legendary act's influences. A friend we encountered Sunday on Boston's City Hall Plaza noted the presence of a much older crowd than previous days, and we laughed nervously in agreement, wondering what that said about us, our mindset, and our own inherent age/mortality. Such concerns were assuaged -- at least temporarily -- by the incredibly vital sets of rock 'n' roll we saw; here are the highlights. -- Dillon Riley
The War On Drugs (3PM, Blue Stage)

We noted in our preview last week The War On Drugs' recent breakthrough with the release of its latest record Lost In The Dream. So it's somewhat sad to report that the general excitement surrounding the band out among the broader indiedom wasn't reflected in the Boston crowd's reaction to the Philadelphia act's midday set. Indeed, festival-goers seemed a little less than enthused, which is a shame, because Adam Granduciel and his cohort laid on the grooves nice and thick. There was a propulsive chug to some of the new record's sleepier numbers, including the title track. For his part, Mr. Granduciel employed some nimble fretwork on punchier tunes such as the album's early single "Red Eyes." A reference to the dearly departed rock radio broadcaster 104.1 WBCN fell on deaf ears to boot, prompting Granduciel to deadpan something to the effect of "Y'all should get out more." We wholeheartedly concur.

Spoon (7PM, Blue Stage)

In case you need reminding, Spoon has a lot of good songs. A lot of them. And they played quite a few of them in a challenging time slot early Sunday evening (when many minds were likely drifting ahead to the next hour's highly touted Replacements appearance). But Austin's favorite sons acquitted themselves with aplomb, however, and it was nice to see the act retains a youthful energy whilst still being able to showcase the major progression it has undertaken over the last two decades. The band's bold opening salvo was a nervy take on "Small Stakes" off 2002's critically adored Kill The Moonlight before slipping into a few hot tracks back-to-back off their latest offering They Want My Soul. No complaints here, as the new record bursts with massive hooky rock-and-roll without abandoning the experimental nature of certain of Spoon's work. A heartfelt mid-set shout-out to the beloved 'Mats, who were figuratively on deck, was well-received, too, and provided a candid and true moment of real meets real.

The Replacements (8:15PM, Red Stage)

"Yes, we are this close for the goddamn Replacements," is what we kept saying to ourselves as we hung over the barrier by the right side of the stage Sunday night. And the Minneapolis-spawned act's fiery set was everything we thought it would be, and possibly more. No, Billie Joe didn't show, and couches be damned, the recently hobbled fronter Paul Westerberg made it through the whole hit-spangled, 20ish-song set without any back issues... though he did pour salt and pepper on his guitar. The set came off like all those legendary 'Mats sets we've only read about in Our Band Could Be Your Life, all manic energy and hilariously flubbed choruses. Sure, Westerberg forgot an entire verse of "Androgynous," big deal -- the crowd knew all the words and was happy to fill in the blanks. The band snuck offstage for all of about 30 seconds before returning to run through a brilliant take on Pleased To Meet Me's "Alex Chilton," a towering love letter to the legendary and iconoclastic former Big Star co-fronter (the song was explosively delivered again Tuesday night on late night television). Turns out Nas and The Roots had sent Paul, Tommy, Dave and Josh back out for the quick encore (likely sacrificing some of their own stage time in doing so, it should be pointed out). So thanks to the festival closers for letting the boys play, and thank you boys for taking the piss out of the final chorus on "I Will Dare." The laughs helped chase away the tears of joy.
And that about wraps it up for Boston Calling 2014. On a personal note: what an amazing, scary, tiring and emotionally trying weekend. We believe Saturday's final run of Spoon into The Replacements into Nas + The Roots' headlining set may have been the best show-going experience of our year thus far, and you better believe we've seen some shit. Until next time...

Previous Coverage:
Rain Delay Dampens Boston Calling Day Two, But The Hold Steady, Sky Ferreira And Lorde Still Shine Brightly
Classic Neutral Milk Hotel Lineup Electrifies Night One Of Boston Calling Festival
Boston Calling This Weekend: Five Key Sets To Catch By Bands That Are Not The Replacements
Boston Calling This Weekend: The Replacements Return To Boston For First Show In 23 Years

September 7, 2014

Rain Delay Dampens Boston Calling Day Two, But The Hold Steady, Sky Ferreira And Lorde Still Shine Brightly

The Hold Steady, Boston Calling festival, Sept. 6, 2014, photo by Dillon Riley

[PHOTO: Dillon Riley] As some of our more observant readers know, we had the good fortunate to wait out most yesterday's three-hour rain delay of Day Two of the Boston Calling festival from the relative safety of the VIP section of City Hall Plaza. Between some intense bouts of beach ball keep-up and sorta-frightening lighting strikes, we made some new friends and chatted about The Hold Steady, among other things. We were among the first hundreds back inside around 9PM post-delay, which afforded us the opportunity to be thoroughly impressed with New Zealand pop wunderkind Lorde's performance. It goes without saying that we're grateful to the Boston Calling staff for being accommodating and making sure we didn't get turned into Sizzlean via lightning blast last evening. Here's the best of what we heard and saw Saturday. -- Dillon Riley
Sky Ferreira (3:05 p.m. Blue Stage)

Hype and tempest/teapot-scaled controversies aside, one thing was made clear during Sky Ferreira's mid-afternoon set: she's got a hell of a voice. Surrounded by a trio of grizzly dudes whose day jobs are more than likely far removed from the glittery, girl group-indebted synth-stomp of Night Time, My Time, Ms. Ferreira presented a commanding presence on stage. While the music itself -- driven by thudding synth bass and high-hat driven beats -- is easy enough to swallow, it does little to hide the fact that Ferreira is really the show. And, as such, it grew easier and easier to see why her (pop) star has steadily grown over the last few years. Certain technical issues broke the rhythm of her set, but even so watching her shout to the sound crew from behind big black sunglasses seemed consistent with its overall vibe. "Everything Is Embarrassing" inspired dancing among the assembled masses.

The Hold Steady (5:00 p.m. Blue Stage)

The Hold Steady were our key picks for Saturday's festivities, and we're very happy to report that they did rock most steadfastly. Our scrawled notes excitedly shout from the page something to the effect of Craig Finn being the consummate indie rock frontman. Much like, say, Guided By Voices' Robert Pollard, Mr. Finn pulls plenty of rock star stage moves, as they have been handed down generation to generation from Elvis to Iggy and so on. This included plenty of nerdy off-mic ad-libbing and over-animated expressions to go along with Finn's prowling, strutting and mic stand twirls. The Hold Steady tour with two additional guitar players these days that trade lead and rhythm duties, which render Finn's guitar-based contributions (or more accurately, lack thereof) all the more comical. Songs in which he elects to sling on the ol' axe were seemingly chosen at random, but, hey, we aren't roadies, so what do we know? When minded at all, his guitar would typically only receive attention for a verse or two before Finn shoved it aside to make with the dancing. The Hold Steady's set itself was a briskly paced tour de force of rock 'n' roll, and drew tunes from nearly its entire catalog. It was a crowd-pleaser to be sure, cramming in 14 songs in just about an hour.

Previous Coverage:
Classic Neutral Milk Hotel Lineup Electrifies Night One Of Boston Calling Festival
Boston Calling This Weekend: Five Key Sets To Catch By Bands That Are Not The Replacements
Boston Calling This Weekend: The Replacements Return To Boston For First Show In 23 Years

September 6, 2014

Classic Neutral Milk Hotel Lineup Electrifies Night One Of Boston Calling Festival

Neutral Milk Hotel, Boston Calling festival, Sept. 5, 2014, photo by Dillon Riley

[PHOTO: Dillon Riley] Being huge fans of the Elephant 6 collective mainstay's brief (but life-affirming) oeuvre, we were understandably psyched to catch Neutral Milk Hotel assume the Boston Calling stage Friday night prior to The National's headlining set for the first night of this fall's iteration of the Boston Calling festival. Lo and behold, the act did not disappoint. Fronter/cult figure Jeff Mangum appeared on stage first, an electrified acoustic guitar in hand, sparking uproarious applause. He then dipped into a solemn strum. As his piece gained footing and favor, the fellow members of the classic Neutral Milk Hotel lineup bounded on stage behind him. Then, with the five supporting characters behind Mr. Mangum, the unit broke into a glorious rendition of CC eternal fave "Holland, 1945."

From there, the hits did not let up, with the band gracing the crowd with nearly all of the In The Aeroplane Over The Sea, as well as a number of additional choice cuts from their debut LP On Avery Island. A particularly vibrant take on the On Avery Island standout (and supposedly Galaxie 500-baiting) "Naomi" proved to be one of our favorite parts of a moving and extremely fulfilling set. The self-titled song suites from the aforementioned Aeroplane drew some of the biggest cheers and sing-alongs from the crowd, but on the whole the massive swell of energy among the assembled masses incited by Mangum's mere presence onstage rarely abated, if at all, throughout Neutral Milk Hotel's electrifying performance. In a brilliant piece of showmanship, NMH's set ended just as it had begun, with Mangum standing alone, bellowing his heart out with distorted guitar strums clipping just like the records. "Two-Headed Boy Pt. 2", the final tune he played, was a fitting end to the story arc of Aeroplane as well as to the band's set this night. We're not sure where Mangum intends to take the band from here, but we certainly like the Boston Calling stage provided him with some decent closure, should that be what he's looking for. -- Dillon Riley

Neutral Milk Hotel: Internerds | Wikipedia