December 31, 2010

Michael Piantigini's Top 10s of 2010 | We Have Assumed Control

[Chart toppers Superchunk live at Royale, Boston, MA. 9/21/2010. Photo by Michael Piantigini. More here.]

Here it is, New Year's Eve, and I'm finally turning in my year-end list. TO MYSELF! As you may have read, El Jefe Jay Breitling will be on hiatus for a few months tending to undercover work for his secret, non-blogging identity and I'll be attempting keep up with the entire universe of music (or at least some subset thereof) for the duration. I appreciate Jay's trust that I won't turn this into some weirdo NFL coach-spouse fetish site (I won't).

Anywhos, my top 10 (Jay's is here). This has been a hell of a year for those of us who came of musical age in the 90's. My list is dominated by some great new albums by 90's heavyweights, many of whom happen to be on the Merge label. And it was hard not to be nostalgic when you find yourself standing up against the stage hanging on every "NOOOOOOO!" of "Slack Motherfucker" once again.

So here's my TOP 10 ALBUMS:
1. Superchunk - Majesty Shredding (Merge)
This album was an incredible gift. They never actually broke up, but the longer that gap between albums was, the more we got frighteningly used to a world without Superchunk. So, yeah, it's mere existence made it a contender. That it contained songs like the opening pair, "Digging For Something," and "My Gap Feels Weird," that would become instant Superchunk classics brought tears to the eyes and a spring in one's step.

2. Bettie Serveert - Pharmacy of Love (Second Motion)
As I said back in March, Pharmacy of Love rivals the Betties' 1992 debut Palomine for best of catalog honors. Driven by some especially energetic drumming, it's focused, direct, and rocking - and doesn't wander off on some of the tangents of their recent work.

3. Ted Leo and the Pharmacists - Brutalist Bricks (Matador)
Speaking of energetic - speaking of focused - speaking of rocking... The Brutalist Bricks IS Ted Leo and the Pharmacists finest front-to-back album yet. And let's all watch the great Tom Scharpling-directed video for "Bottled In Cork" again, shall we?

4. Versus - On The Ones And Threes (Merge)

In the near decade since Versus guitarist/vocalist Richard Baluyut disbanded the band and left New York for the San Francisco he only produced a single album (on Blackball in 2006, with his band Whysall Lane), as did bassist/vocalist Fontaine Toups (in 2004 on Teenbeat). Both have their moments, for sure, but On The Ones and Threes makes clear that the sum is greater than the parts (and near-original lineup drummer Ed Baluyut returns for good measure as well). And it's all here: the Richard/Fontaine harmonies, the the proto-indie chiming jangle, and distortion for miles. Soul-nourishing distortion.

5. Ty Segall - Melted (Goner)

I know nothing of how this San Fran garage-rocker makes records, but they certainly feel like they must just fall together. They're casual and comfortable, like slipping into your loafers or something (can we please make this a new hipster trend? OK, fine: let's say it's like throwing on your favorite hoodie). Melted is poppy 60's garage pop with one foot squarely on the distortion pedal that's as good at first listen as it is after 100.

6. Teenage Fanclub - Shadows (Merge)
It is all too easy to pine for the distortion (there's that word again) saturation of Bandwagonesque, but that was the grunge era, and hey, we've all grown in the 18 years since, right? Shadows has more than a couple of tracks that that future compilers will need to make room for on the next best-of, at least one of which ("When I Still Have Thee") is one of those inspirational Teenage Fanclub songs (like, say, "Ain't That Enough") that should have been a #1 hit on some fictional chart that mattered. These Scotsmen are multi-continental now (Norman Blake married and moved to Canada), so the recently long stretches between albums seem likely to slow even further, so treasure them while we can.

7. Bobby Bare, Jr. - A Storm - A Tree - My Mother's Head (Thirty Tigers)
Country scion Bobby Bare, Jr. has professed as much love for (and has covered) the Pixies and The Smiths as for any of the country music that underpins his style. His roots give him more heft than much of the alt-country pigeonhole he gets lumped in with - he pulls off riffing guitar orgies like "Swollen But Not The Same" equally as well as he does the old-fashioned murder ballad "One Of Us Has Got To Go." The latter co-written with his father and begins with a regretful sigh and ends with a mouthed gunshot that tips Bare's sense of humor. His last album, 2006's The Longest Meow, was recorded live in the studio (as his website puts it, "1 day 11 songs 11 people 11 hours"), but A Storm... feels a bit more studio crafted - many of the songs incorporating more synths, including for the bass parts (as in recent tours), but it seems to work more naturally for Bare than it did, say, for that last Steve Earle album.

8. The Parting Gifts - Strychnine Dandelions (In The Red)

The announcement for this collaboration with the The Ettes' Coco Hames (with Raconteur Patrick Keeler on drums) came as we were still anticipating Greg Cartwright's visit to Cambridge with his Reigning Sound, now we're hoping for a visit by the Parting Gifts too. This doesn't stray very far from either band's wheelhouse, but it's yet more great songwriting from Cartwright with performances by people who love music. Simple as that, really.

9. New Pornographers - Together (Merge)

There's a certain tightness to New Pornographer's songs that feels a little stiff to me when it isn't hitting right, but Together doesn't seem to have this problem. It still has the meticulous arrangements, of course, but also there's also a warmth and inspired vibe emanating from this one. (And it's soon to have its own Scharpling-directed video too).

10. Robert Plant - Band of Joy (Rounder)
Now here's an album that addresses something I've been complaining about. Why do yesteryear's mega-rock bands insist on having to have everything they do be so huge? Every Stones tour, for example, has to be a massive stadium production extravaganza or they just won't bother, ditto Roger Waters and/or Pink Floyd, etc., etc. The music isn't nearly as satisfying as the paycheck or the ego stroking that apparently comes with it. (I'm going to grant Paul McCartney an exemption to this complaint). The pressure was on Led Zeppelin frontman Robert Plant to jump into a massive tour after their successful 2007 one-off reunion, but he declined. Instead of trying to sing like he did 35 years ago, he's singing songs he's more interested in now (TWO Low covers?) like he sings now. It's more musically satisfying and a modest acceptance of the limitations and the judicious use of his voice.

1. Superchunk with Versus, 9/21/10, at Royale, Boston, MA
See above. The audience couldn't have been more ready for this show. We NEEDED it. In an interview somewhere earlier this year, one of the band said that it seemed like people were really rooting for them on this tour. It really felt that way, and they responded in kind. (My earlier coverage).

2. Yo La Tengo with Mission of Burma, 12/5/10, at Maxwell's in Hoboken, NJ
My New Year's resolution: try to spend every Hanukkah with Yo La Tengo in their home base. (My earlier coverage).

3. John Roderick, 8/20/10, at Montague Books, Montague, MA
Such a cool night in a cool setting in the middle of nowhere. With artisanal pencil sharpening. (My earlier coverage).

4. Bettie Serveert, 11/2/10, at TT the Bear's Place, Cambridge, MA
Finally, after an immigration delay, Bettie Serveert blew the roof off of TT's. (My earlier coverage).

5. Grant Hart, 1/11/10, at the Middle East, Cambridge, MA

Grant Hart returned to Cambridge in the beginning of the year with an excellent new album and an upbeat show! (My earlier coverage).

6. Come, 9/26/10 at TT the Bear's Place, Cambridge, MA

Original lineup tune up for the Matador 21 Vegas fest sounded like they never left. Mesmerizing. (My earlier coverage).

7. Reigning Sound, 6/18/10 at TT the Bear's Place, Cambridge, MA

Classic 50's and 60's rock and roll/soul/R&B songcraft without an ounce of bullshit: a Gretsch, plugged straight in, some great melodies, and one of those great rock voices. Three minute gems delivered with punk rock efficiency.

8. Feelies 3/19/10, at the Middle East, Cambridge, MA
Epic two-set night from the Feelies, who previewed tons of great stuff from their upcoming album.

9. Ted Leo and the Pharmacists with Obits and Screaming Females, 4/10/10 at the Paradise, Boston, MA
Ted Leo and the always explosive Pharmacists brought the punk rock spirit back to the Paradise. Can't not leave his shows with an adrenaline high. (My earlier coverage).

10. Wrens, 1/16/10, at the Middle East, Cambridge, MA
Still managing to ride the wave of of a seven year-old album. Their chaotic live shows have been good enough to carry them for this long, but it might be about time to get moving on that new record fellas. (My earlier coverage).

Happy New Year! See you in '11.
-Michael Piantigini

December 25, 2010

Jay Is Now On Hiatus Until Summer. Michael Is In Charge Like Baio. Send Him Rock Music.

So long and thanks for all the fish, for now
So we've mentioned it previously, but we have now arrived in the murky future and it's time to say goodbye for a while. The part of the "royal we" that is "Jay" has a day job that requires him to be traveling for business for the next five-seven months, basically off-line the entire time. Getting unplugged from the music, the scene and the blogosphere for so long is going to be very hard. But this too shall pass, and Jay will be back come summer. In the meantime, Michael is in charge and calling the shots. He's got complete autonomy, which hopefully means when we get back Clicky Clicky will not have been turned into a blog about... uhhhh... urban gardening? Tattooed librarians? Actually, both of those would actually be pretty awesome. Whatevs. We'll miss the blog, we'll miss you. While we're gone please go out and buy records and attend shows, so that there is some sort of music economy for Jay to return to. Don't forget the struggle. Don't forget the streets. Don't sell out.



December 11, 2010

Clicky Clicky's Top Albums Of 2010: Jay Edition

Clicky Clicky Music -- Jay's Top 10 Albums of 2010
What an amazing time for indie rock. Each year we take issue with proclamations that any given set of 365 days was better or worse than any other set of 365 days, but we were very excited by what we heard this year, and what we think we'll be hearing next year. Musical trends ignore the calendar, of course, but we feel like in 2011 a lot of music is going to be informed by sounds characteristic of our favorite bands of the early '90s. Just a hunch, and this isn't the place to make that argument, but we feel it. We're excited. For now, we'd like to celebrate the 10 best records of 2010, by our humble estimation.

Long-time readers will be familiar with our ground rules from lists in prior years; here it is in a nut shell. We look at our ITunes play counts, we see what was played most, and those are our picks. Simple. Some related comments: Arcade Fire does not make it into our list, and probably should, or at least would have come close. We didn't connect with Neon Bible, and as bracing as Funeral was, we felt like it was over-wrought in places. But The Suburbs, released (as we are sure you know) in 2010, really spoke to us; we connected with the themes of adulthood, distance and alienation. But we listened to the disc a lot in our car, and plays in the car aren't captured in our rankings. Sorry Arcade Fire. Other records that certainly should be heard include Bettie Serveert's Pharmacy Of Love, Joie De Vivre's The North End and Tears Run Rings' Distance, just to name a few. So what did make the proverbial grade? Read below, and avail yourself of the many streams scraped from Soundcloud.

1. Los Campesinos! -- Romance Is Boring -- Wichita/Arts+Crafts

Heavier, denser, and more focused than all prior efforts, Romance Is Boring -- to use a hackneyed phrase we hate -- finds Los Campesinos! at the peak of its powers. We've grappled with how to articulate the strengths of the Cardiff-based octet's record all year. It doesn't necessarily have Los Camp!'s catchiest jams -- indeed there are things that drive us crazy about the record (what is that grinding sound laced through the mix in the verses of "In Medias Res?" Why is it there? It reminds us of how a song on A Ghost Is Born was supposed to represent Tweedy's migraines). But the songwriting, composition and production is fully realized, impervious and whole. We really wonder where the band can go from Romance Is Boring, because the record is flawless. The musicianship of the players has wrongly taken a critical back seat to fronter Gareth Campesinos!'s personality and (at times comical, at times harrowing) lyrics; that is understandable, but if you mentally strip the words out of this set it is still gripping. That said, Gareth's performances here are amazing, and none more so than the cataclysmic album closer "Coda: A Burn Scar In The Shape Of The Sooner State," where the devastating and searing final lyric "I can't believe I chose the mountains every time you chose the sea" makes for the most crushing moments in recorded music in 2010.


Romance Is Boring by Los Campesinos!

2. Walter Schreifels -- An Open Letter To The Scene -- Dine Alone/Big Scary Monsters

As we quipped in a recent episode of CompCon, if you told us in 1990 that Walter Schreifels would release our favorite record of 2010, and that it would be a largely acoustic pop affair, we'd have thought you were crazy. But, of course, it is true. Mr. Schreifels has crafted what is perhaps the most listenable, catchy collection of the year. The fact that he is working in a sonic vernacular that to us seemed very unlikely (since we haven't really followed Schreifels' career closely since Quicksand) underscores the amazing songwriting and performance chops at his command. In fact, the more unlikely the scenario, it seems, the more convincingly Schreifels succeeds. A song about pop rapper Lil' Kim? Called "The Ballad Of Lil' Kim?" Ridiculous, right? Wrong -- somehow our hero turns out a scrappy, yearning and wistful pop classic. A song eulogizing hardcore like it was a person, called "An Open Letter To The Scene," with lyrics including "at the hardcore funeral I cried and cried?" Ridiculous, right? Wrong. This song is awesome. As is the rest of An Open Letter To The Scene. Schreifels returns with a new Rival Schools record in 2011, and the first single is great, to be sure. But it will be a very tall order for it to be as good as An Open Letter To The Scene, which is, in a word, superlative.


07 Arthur Lee's Lullaby by Dine Alone Records

3. Everyone Everywhere -- Everyone Everywhere -- Tiny Engines

We know what you're thinking. "Really? This unassuming, straightforward and sometimes a bit silly collection of pop-tinged hardcore?" To which our response is this: do not to make the mistake of underestimating the self-titled debut full-length from this Philly-based foursome. Everyone Everywhere is sneaky, just understated enough to not attract much attention, but the collection is perfectly paced, packed with hooks and Hoovers up all the right influences (The Promise Ring, Superchunk). In a way it's like those drinks that were just banned in the US that had booze and tons of caffeine. Everyone Everywhere wins with glorious guitars and big vocal melodies, which power both soaring choruses like that of "Raw Bar OBX 2002" and the dream-like reverie of "Obama House, Fukui Prefecture." It all adds up to something surprisingly irresistible.


Blown Up Grown Up by beartrappr

4. Calories -- Basic Nature -- Tough Love

Calories' hotly anticipated, but delayed sophomore set was certainly worth the wait. The perennially under-rated Birmingham, England-based power trio here delivers characteristically hooky, brawling post-punk anthems while expanding its sound to include additional textures and temperaments. "The Brink" clocks in at nearly seven minutes in length, challenging Calories' reputation for bluntness and brevity, and deconstructs into a motorik jam. Two pleasantly disorienting set pieces, "Basic Nature 1" and "Basic Nature 2," set off sections of Basic Nature and offer evidence that the trio can thrive outside its winning format for fist-banging shouters. Even so, the record's finest moments are not the singles or odd appendages, but rather the desperate quasi opener "You Could Be Honest" and the upbeat album cut "Even Stephens," which touts melody to spare, bludgeoning drumming and a brilliant sinewy lead guitar in the chorus. Basic Nature is all of your favorite things, only better.


Basic Nature by Calories

5. Johnny Foreigner -- You Thought You Saw A Shooting Star But Yr Eyes Were Blurred With Tears And That Lighthouse Can Be Pretty Deceiving With The Sky So Clear And Sea So Calm -- Alcopop!

While we predictably loved this EP from our first listen, the more we listen the more we feel like we under-estimated You Thought You Saw A Shooting Star But Yr Eyes Were Blurred With Tears And That Lighthouse Can Be Pretty Deceiving With The Sky So Clear And Sea So Calm. The more we listen, the more we hear the themes, the hurt and the desperation. Opener "The Wind And The Weathervanes" ends serenading, its final 90 seconds a stirring and beautiful coda of feedback and strings that almost makes you forget the stinging admission that the narrator's ex-lover was probably right. The coda butts against the thrashing opening of "Who Needs Comment Boxes When You've Got Knives," which at first seems like a ham-fisted bit of sequencing until one realizes the discord is entirely the point. Indeed, the achievement of You Thought You Saw... is how well it conveys the discomfort of being in one's own skin, stewing in one's own thoughts ("this is how he'll spend forever with you...," "I wish I had a part in this...") when the world seems to be moving on without you. There is solace in the goofy, beat-driven and D Plan-referencing half of "Elegy For Post Teenage Living (Parts 1 and 2)," and even deliverance in the cymbal crash and guitar crash of the verses and conclusion of the song's front half. Whether considered in parts or as a whole, the EP is further evidence that Johnny Foreigner is among the best bands working today.


6. The Henry Clay People -- Somewhere On The Golden Coast -- TBD

Ah, the thrill of the perfect pure rock record. Time was you could count on The Hold Steady to deliver the sort of goods delivered here, but while that act has begun experimenting out of its comfort zone (actually quite successfully: Heaven Is Whenever is a sleeper record full of charm), The Henry Clay People have stuck with its son-of-the-son-of-The Replacements sound and attitude. Somewhere On The Golden Coast is chock-a-block with rootsy, narrative shouters, melodic and self-deprecating odes to slackerdom. As we said in our review (link below), the People spread their wings a little wider here, going beyond the bar room for atmospheric, textures and feedback on the standout "A Temporary Fix." Of course, there are still plenty of rockers, including the driving winner "Your Famous Friends." You need this record, and having a back-up copy ain't a bad idea, either.


Somewhere on the Golden Coast by C3 Artist mgmt

7. Spoon -- Transference -- Merge

While the early warning was that this was a difficult record that the band created for its own satisfaction, the fact is Transference is characteristically strong. Perhaps, as we speculated on CompCon, the message was supposed to convey that Spoon's newest collection wasn't likely to win over news fans, wasn't likely to cross over into the more broadly embraced radio formats. At any rate, Spoon fans bought the record and have probably reached the same conclusion we have -- Transference is a taut, economical and flawless record of minimalist indie rock. Fronter Britt Daniel's lyrics are a bit more impressionistic, and there are some entrancing production flourishes (mostly just expertly applied delays and reverbs), but there are no missteps here, just great songs you can dance to or drink beer along with. Win.


Spoon -- "Out Go The Lights (Demo)" -- Bonus download.

8. Titus Andronicus -- The Monitor -- XL

We didn't review this record from Glen Rock, New Jersey's finest indie punk quintet. Frankly, we saw no reason to draft anything after reading our friend and former bandmate Jim's review (link below). So while we haven't spent much time thinking critically about this record, doing so would have missed the point. Titus Andronicus' music is visceral, pounding with a desperate energy and exalted angst. The fact that there is a U.S. Civil War theme draped around the collection, the fact that fronter Patrick Stickles coopts and spins Springsteen lyrics to his own ends, doesn't dispel the immediacy of the driving guitars or hollered vocals, or the emotional punch of a Boston/Jersey long-distance relationship collapsing -- one Fung Wah bus ride at a time -- like so many arranged dominoes. While chronicling a crippling break-up, The Monitor never broods, but instead revels in the anguish and pain, celebrates the strife, and all the while rocks right along the precipice of forcefully strummed, bluntly chorded chaos.


TITUS ANDRONICUS // A More Perfect Union

9. Distractions -- Distractions -- Plus Tapes/Infinite Best

This selection for the year-end list reminds us of that snarky t-shirt that proclaims "I Listen To Bands That Don't Even Exist Yet." That's because, as it turns out, our number nine selection is kinda sorta not out yet. The collection is a self-titled cassette put out by a Chicago-based outfit called Distractions. Said cassette version was serviced digitally to bloggers at the beginning of the summer to build hype for a pending reissue from Infinite Best. However, due to other stuff coming up, Distractions, remixed and remastered by Dev from Twin Sister and now titled Dark Green Sea, is not due for release until Jan. 18, 2011. We find it hard to believe that the cassette version can be improved upon, as it is perhaps the most specifically evocative set among the 10 we list here. Distractions just sounds like it was made by a Zombies-influenced pop band that has worked the same subterranean bar room in a seaside town for a decade. The tunes -- often awash in reverb, organ-led and paired with a deep baritone lead vocal -- just sound murky, even with the sunshiney melodies. Even if the lead track "All Night" was the only song on there, the record would be worth whatever anybody would charge for it. And that "anyone" at this point is Midheaven, the price is $13 for the LP, and you should just buy the thing now, because it is awesome. Pre-order Dark Green Sea at the link below.


10. Screaming Maldini -- And The Kookaburra EP -- Alcopop!

Note to indie labels that are not Alcopop!: keep an eye on Alcopop!, because the small label has two entries on our year-end list, which means it is doing something right, and you are probably doing something wrong. Screaming Maldini's And The Kookaburra, in case you didn't know, is the best pure pop record of 2010 -- well, EP, anyway, as the collection touts only five songs. Imagine, if you will, that Spandau Ballet was cryogenically frozen at the height of its popularity and then reborn today as a prog-pop entity with embarrassingly excellent songwriting skills: this is Screaming Maldini. And The Kookaburra's first three songs are brilliant, but the gentle, wistful penultimate track "I Know That You Know That I Would Wipe Away That Snowflake From Your Eye" is the winner of the lot, covering lover's rock territory with its spine-tingling chorus and then -- in typical Maldini fashion -- going widescreen and panoramic and diorama and maparium into a dizzying crescendo of horns and distorted guitar. It's the song that all pop will be measured against going forward. Screaming Maldini will release a new EP Dec. 18, and the act has also completed a new video that we wrote about here Saturday.


Screaming Maldini - The Albatross by fadedglamourblog

YouTube Rodeo: Screaming Maldini's "Restless Hearts And Silent Pioneers"

Sheffield-based Screaming Maldini continues to blow us away with their nearly unrivaled talent for songcraft. And the sextet -- here abetted by director Jimmy Guy -- makes clever videos to boot. Enjoy their latest holiday offering, embedded supra. "Restless Hearts And Silent Pioneers" is the title track to an EP the Maldini will release 18 December via one of our favorite labels these days, U.K.-based Alcopop! Records. Pre-order the physical article from Alcopop! right here; the collection will also be available through the usual digital music storefronts.

December 10, 2010

Footage: Johnny Foreigner's "Santa F*cking Claus"

santa fucking claus by johnny foreigner
Why not toss a pound the band's way for hosting fees for the track? You can PayPal to Johnny Foreigner's Hotmail account,

December 9, 2010

Rock Over Boston Over Hoboken: Yo La Tengo Hanukkah Residency

Peter Prescott at the 2010 Yo La Tengo Hanukkah Residency
[Peter Prescott sings the Volcano Suns' "Cover" at the night 5 of Yo La Tengo's 2010 Hannukah residency at Maxwell's in Hoboken, NJ 12/5/2010. Photo by Michael Piantigini. More here.]

It's sort of like when Boston sold out nine nights at the Centrum in the 80's, except Yo La Tengo does it every year (when they're not on tour, at least).

Every 25th of Kislev (I looked that up), they bogart the schedule of Maxwell's - their legendary Hoboken hometown home base club - to celebrate Hanukkah with an 8 night stand. The only Hanukkah actually visible is the old-school electric menorah sitting on bassist James McNew's formidable amplifier, but these shows are their own sort of revival. Over the years, they've developed their own tradition: the openers are always a surprise - never announced in advance (at least until the first person with a Twitter account arrives at the club), there's a comedian, a mix CD by one of the band or someone close, and the money goes to charity. Sounds good to me.

Watching the coverage of the shows leading up to our night (5) was excruciating - M Ward? Parting Gifts? Jeff Tweedy? SYL JOHNSON? How could they possibly top those?

Mission of Burma has been laying low of late, and they've apparently been writing songs. After opening with "Nu Disco," they tore through a half-dozen or so great new ones before settling into fun cover times: Cream's "NSU," Brian Eno's "7 Deadly Finns," Buzzcocks' "I Don't Mind," an amazing Wipers' "Youth of America," closing it out with a raging run through the Dils' "Class War." The dark, low-ceilinged Maxwell's recalled the smaller clubs that Burma haven't really had to play in their second life. Man does it work for them: Peter Prescott's now-mandatory sound baffle barely contained him, and the now leonine Roger Miller was animated and nearly wild, slashing through impossible chords.

There's not really any info on when we might hear that new Burma album, but I am now officially anticipating it eagerly.

How very clever of Yo La Tengo to provide a comedic palate cleanser, because Burma was hard to follow. It was even tougher for comedian Wyatt Cenac, I'd imagine. How do you get a crowd energized by punk rock and anticipating the headliner to pay attention to your talking? Luckily, the crowd was friendly and jubilant and Cenac mostly connected for his brief set.

I'll try not to gush too much about our hosts, but it ain't easy. Yo La Tengo have proven to be so versatile and reliable over the years and though it would be natural to worry how a band can maintain momentum through an 8 night stand, one needn't.

Yo La Tengo makes a point of keeping things interesting for themselves, as well as their fans; sometimes they're on the road telling stories and playing acoustic, sometimes they're live-soundtracking old undersea nature films, and sometimes they're just making noise (and, in the new year, they're apparently doing all that, plus acting and more). Sunday night's opening set demonstrated that versatility: after easing into things with landmark album I Can Hear The Heart Beating As One's gentle instrumental "Green Arrow," they wound up the buzz with "Evanescent Psychic Pez Drop" from a 1996 split single with Stereolab, leading to guitarist Ira Kaplan working up his first guitar freak-out of the night in "Flying Lesson (Hot Chicken #1)." Turning on a dime, the band instantly hushed the-now frenzied crowd with And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside-Out's confessional "The Crying of Lot G." The mood swing was breathtaking.

The rest of the set was just as varied, with the old and the new; the quiet ("Pablo and Andrea"), the poppy ("Sugarcube"), and the frenzied ("Mushroom Cloud of Hiss"). The band showed no signs of flagging energy, playing with as much intensity as I've ever seen them.

The night's Boston-based undercurrent continued at the top of the encore when the high bidder of an auction benefiting WFMU turned in a more than credible take on Jonathan Richman's "Astral Plane" with a Roger Miller-abetted Yo La Tengo's backing. How cool must that have been?

Swapping out one Burma for a pair, Bob Weston (who had been sitting in with Yo La Tengo all night doing the live sound collage-ing he does with Burma) strapped on a bass while Peter Prescott led his partial Volcano Suns lineup/Yo La Tengo mash-up through a version of the Suns' "Cover" that left me itching to see another full Suns reunion or maybe a reunion of the Prescott-fronted Kustomized.

The rest of Burma joined in for the last trio of covers capped off by Burma-associates Dredd Foole and the Din's "So Tough."

Yes, yet even more Boston. It was super nice of those Mets fans to be so welcoming of us Sox fans.

-Michael Piantigini

Don't miss Ira Kaplan's Hanukkah Diary.

Yo La Tengo: Internets | MySpace | Facebook | Twitter
Mission of Burma: Internets | MySpace
Wyatt Cenac: Internets | IMDB

December 4, 2010

Be Prepared: Yuck | Self-titled | 15 February

Yuck -- Yuck
You already know this is coming: we've been telling you for weeks and weeks. But, jeepers, our hopes are high. That's because Yuck, more so than just about any band since Johnny Foreigner, is musically about all the things that we are musically about. Which basically means they make flawless -- if somewhat anachronistic -- music, music that sounds like the best things the early '90s had to offer. Like Johnny Foreigner, Yuck has yet to make a musical mis-step -- not bad for a quartet (five, if you count guest vocalist/"part-time member" Llana Blumberg, sister of Daniel) that has been around fewer than two years. Yuck the album will be released in the U.S. by Fat Possum on Feb. 15, according to a recent email. Other new news? Yuck the band will return to America for a tour on the heels of a series of UK dates in February, which tour will lead up to a performance at the 2011 edition of the annual music confab SXSW in March. So if you were disappointed when the foursome cancelled its short strand of planned October 2010 dates, there is a chance to make up for lost time come spring, yeh? Here's the track list to Yuck, as well as some familiar Soundcloud embeds:

1. Get Away
2. The Wall
3. Shook Down
4. Holing Out
5. Suicide Policeman
6. Georgia
7. Suck
8. Stutter
9. Operation
10. Sunday
11. Rose Gives a Lily
12. Rubber

Suicide Policeman by Yuck

Rubber by Yuck