October 31, 2008

Today's Hotness: Henry Clay People, Get Up Kids, Ryan Adams

The Henry Clay People
>> [Photo Credit: Scott Schultz] We downloaded a handful of tunes from Los Angeles indie rockers The Henry Clay People recently [probably via ExitFare] and every time one of said songs shuffles up we have to grab our IPod to identify who's rocking us. The quartet, fronted by the Siara brothers Joey and Andy, will release release next week its sophomore set For Cheap Or For Free on Aquarium Drunkard's Autumn Tone label. The record was recorded in a number of different studios around Los Angeles with folks including the very personable Dave Newton, he formerly of The Mighty Lemon Drops and he whose acquaintance we made while visiting The Hush Now's recording sessions in Charlestown, Mass. earlier this year. We see a lot of Pavement references made to The Henry Clay People's sound, but that doesn't quite get to the heart of it, as the latter act isn't nearly as cracked as the former. But The Henry Clay People are certainly very good, and apparently put on a dynamite and inebriated live show. So what's not to like? The act has a number of West Coast tour dates booked through next week, so if you are a left coaster, check out the list at The Henry Clay People MySpace dojo right here. Below are two tracks from the forthcoming set; "Working Part Time" was previously released as a single.

The Henry Clay People -- "Working Part Time" -- For Cheap Or For Free
The Henry Clay People -- "Something In The Water" -- For Cheap Or For Free
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[pre-order For Cheap Or For Free from Autumn Tone right here]

>> Here's something we did not know. Doghouse Records is reissuing The Get Up Kids' debut Four Minute Mile on vinyl. The set, which was originally released by the now defunct act in 1997, will be available on blue vinyl from December 9. This all according to a Pun Canoes item right here. We've got mixed feelings about the records the renowned Midwestern emo quintet released following Four Minute Mile. But in our humble opinion -- which we've offered previously here -- its caterwauling emo classic "The Last Place You Look" [live video here] is is one of the top jams of the late '90s, up there with all your "Misunderstood" and "Paranoid Android" and "You Talk Twice" and whatnot. You can pre-order The Get Up Kids reissue from Amazon.com right here for about 13 bucks.

>> We're no huge Ryan Adams fan, but we have loved all the big songs ("Let It Ride," "Come Pick Me Up," etc.) from the big records, as well as few choice Whiskeytown cuts. And so lately we've been listening to the new Adams jam "Cobwebs" a lot. It gives us goosebumps. Mr. Adams and his Cardinals performed the track as the web bonus to the Letterman show the other night, and we think this link will take you straight to the clip. Totally worth rocking it.

October 29, 2008

Today's Hotness: AC/DC, Benge, Up Up Down Down

>> When we were youths the arrival of MTV inside our teevees was pretty much the end-all, be-all. We watched so much MTV between the ages of 8 and 16 that it is surprising we did anything else. And one of our earliest memories of the network is the Friday Night Concert. Or maybe it was the Saturday Night Concert, because we recall on Friday it was the Friday Night Video Fights. Anyway, there were two exceptional concerts in those days that were played over and over again. A dazzling assault by AC/DC circa For Those About To Rock, We Salute You, and another great set by rocker Billy Squier. The first thing we did when we heard about MTV's new "Hulu for music videos" was check to see if either of those old concerts was there. And we're pretty sure the amazing live rendition of "Put The Finger On You" embedded above is taken from the performance that was aired as part of the MTV concert. Legendary hard rock quintet AC/DC, of course, just released its latest record Black Ice last week, and Billboard here broke the news last night that the new set will debut at No. 1 on Billboard's Top 200 today. Black Ice, which is being sold exclusively at Wal-Mart, scanned 784,000 copies in its first week. The band launched a tour to support the record in Wilkes-Barre, PA last night. We can't imagine any of the performances will come close the the awesome clip above.

>> According to this item at The Quietus, there is a new set from electronic music luminary Ben Edwards' Benge project. Twenty Systems features as many compositions, one for each year -- crafted with one synthesizer from the same year -- between 1968 and 1987. Its concept seems somewhat similar to Keith Fullerton Whitmans' Multiples, which featured titles including "Stereo Music for Acoustic Guitar, Buchla Music Box 100, Hewlett Packard Model 236 Oscillator, Electric Guitar and Computer - Part Two" and which we reviewed here for Junkmedia in 2005. Twenty Systems was released on Mr. Edwards' own Expanding Records. According to the Expanding web site, Twenty Systems "combines an audio CD of new music with a full colour 60-page book containing photos and diagrams of the electronic instruments used, along with a detailed history documenting the development of synthesisers between 1968 and 1988." The release has garnered props from electronic luminaries including Brian Eno and Scanner. Twenty Systems doesn't come cheap -- it's 15 pounds sterling from Smallfish.co.uk. Perhaps Forced Exposure will stock it sometime soon (along with the latest Oblong release, please). As we stated here at the beginning of the year, we are big fans of Benge's 2002 release Meme Tunes; the most recent Benge set prior to Twenty Systems was called I Am Nine and it was issued in 2004. Here is the wonderful dreamer "Eve's Escape Valve" from Meme Tunes.

Benge -- "Eve's Escape Valve" -- Meme Tunes
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[buy Benge music from Smallfish right here]

>> Despite announcing its break-up in July and playing its last show in August, awkwardly monikered post-emo superheroes Up Up Down Down Left Right Left Right B A Start have announced it will play a short set -- as Pearl Jam -- Friday night as part of a Halloween party in New Jersey. The party is at the band's studio in Haddon Heights, and more details, including the rest of the bill, are posted here at DinerState.com. Now listen to "Melanie Flury," which will make you wish the band were reuniting as itself. Sigh.

Up Up Down Down Left Right Left Right B A Start -- "Melanie Flury" -- Girls Names EP
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[buy Up Up Down Down records from the band here]

October 28, 2008

Clicky Clicky 200: Jon Brion's "I Believe She's Lying"

Jon Brion by Robert Gauthier, LA Times
[Photo Credit: Robert Gauthier/LA Times] Readers are likely familiar with L.A.-based Jon Brion because of his brilliant soundtrack work over the past decade, or his production work with big names like Fiona Apple and Spoon (Brion recorded "The Underdog" from the Texas quartet's brilliant Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga). The most interesting thing, to us anyway, about Jon Brion is that we had a couple opportunities to get on board with the formerly Boston-based songwriter and producer long before we picked up his solo set Meaningless at the short-lived Harvard Square location of Other Music about seven years ago. Whilst an undergrad in the early '90s, our compadre Mr. Obb emphatically recommended to our attention the work of Jellyfish, a combo that featured Mr. Brion along with whoa, wait a second, Jon Brion wasn't actually in Jellyfish, his future bandmate Jason Falkner was (Brion did, however, apparently play guitar on Jellyfish's Spilt Milk). OK, fast-forward to 1998 or so, and our co-worker Max recommended we check out The Grays, which featured Mssrs. Brion and Falkner. Even so, nothing from Jellyfish or The Grays fired our imagination.

However, we certainly found what we were looking for when we bought Meaningless. The set is packed with immaculately produced indie rock, and features clever and melodic pop numbers and ballads. The crown jewel is the up-tempo scramber "I Believe She Is Lying." According to Brion's liner notes, the lyrics were co-written with fellow Boston scenemaker Aimee Mann. Those circular words provide a sharp focal point for the tune, which rides a dizzying jungle breakbeat -- think Scooby Doo's legs spinning before he gets moving -- and brilliantly layers in vocoder backing vocals and harmonies over syncopated and arpeggiated guitars. The only other comment Brion offers in the liner notes is the short description "fear of commitment anthem." Which is sort of like calling Mount Rushmore an interesting hill. "I Believe She's Lying" is #90 on the Clicky Clicky 200, the countdown of our 200 most-listened-to favorites; read prior CC200 posts right here.

Jon Brion -- "I Believe She's Lying" -- Meaningless
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[buy Meaningless from CD Baby right here]

Jon Brion: Internets | MySpace | YouTube | Flickr

October 27, 2008

Today's Hotness: The Video Nasties, The Answering Machine

>> We truly have no idea what is going on with The Video Nasties' new track, but we like it. The young, London-based quintet has just released a video -- embedded above -- for the song, "Have You Seen My Albatross?," which apparently is the lead track to a forthcoming EP; a full-length release is planned for next year. The opening of "Albatross" is raucous overdriven punk, and then there is a romantic confessional bridge that reminds us of the J. Geils Band's 80's chart pop. And then the song ends. Abruptly. It's kind of brilliant. The Video Nasties most recent set was Oct. 2007's Karl Blau EP. We weren't crazy about the less poppy direction of that material as compared to the band's earlier singles and demos. But something about the darkness and slight dementia of "Albatross" has us intrigued once again. Perhaps the two-year-old band can blaze a surprising trail away from the very good synth-pop sound of its early days. We still think that old stuff is really hard to beat, however. Here is an old, delightfully Yachts-reminiscent demo, "Plus One."

The Video Nasties -- "Plus One" -- Southern Demos
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[buy Video Nasties music from Banquet Records UK right here]

>> So The Answering Machine has launched this new blog to detail its recording efforts, which began last Monday at a rural studio in North Yorkshire in England. The blog has all manner of details about the Manchester quartet's planned debut record and the music that will be on it. The set is titled Another City, Another Sorry, or at least that is its working title. The band has been recording all the basic tracks live, and will finish with overdubs. The Answering Machine in its first week in the studio recorded basic tracks for "It's Over, It's Over," "Lightbulbs," "Cliffer," and "Time." Fans will recognize many of those titles: "It's Over, It's Over" was a b-side to the dynamite "Silent Hotels" single released in 2007, "Lightbulbs" was also a single from last year, and "Time" was a demo the Strokes-idolizing foursome recorded with input from Tony Hoffer earlier this year that is now streaming at its MySpace casa.

>> Another new Johnny Foreigner track has surfaced over at YouTube. The phenomenal noise pop trio recently performed the track "This Trapeze Ball Thought Out" for London-based music publication The Fly in its courtyard somewheres. The sound quality isn't great, so what little we can tell is the track seems a bit forumulaic, with Kelly starting off the vocal and Alexei joining in after a bit while teasing harmonics out of an acoustic guitar. Kelly later drops a somewhat funky bass lick in the mix, but for the most part the recording doesn't show off the tune well. That said, it is notable that new material continues to slowly seep out from the band as it prepares to enter the studio next year to record the follow-up to this year's fireball full-length Waited Up Til It Was Light. Readers will recall we found last month a different new tune, "Ghost The Festivals," buried in the middle of this live set performed for Channel M based out of Manchester, England. And we think we sent this awesome YouTube clip for a new song whose title we do not yet know out on our Twitter feed a week or so ago. Perhaps our new motto should be "clicky clicky music: we watch all the Johnny Foreigner YouTubes so you don't have to." Anyhoo, Mr. Berrow said here earlier this month that the act will begin recording new material in February, and the band is expected to spend a significant amount of time touring the U.S. early next year as well.

October 24, 2008

From The Admin Cubicle: At Least There's Twitter...

Aloha readers. We've been sick this week. As a result, there's been a whole lotta nothin' here. And we're not in New York right now seeing Johnny Foreigner. And we're not up at Tufts seeing Ringo Deathstarr. All of which is a drag. But throughout our illness we have been sending a lot of updates out to our Twitter feed, so if you are not a follower, perhaps you should get with that. We'll be back Monday with items about The Video Nasties and The Answering Machine. And in the meantime we may get some pictures in from Stengelero about tonight's Johnny Foreigner set at Fontana's in New York that we're missing. We'll see.

October 22, 2008

Todays Hotness: Fields, Johnny Foreigner, Calories

Fields, 2008
>> There is finally news about new releases from Fields. The now-London-based quartet, whose "Brittlesticks" is one of our favorite songs, will release a single Dec. 1 for the track "Are You Ready Yet?" The tune will also feature on the band's sophomore full length Hollow Mountains, which will be released in March 2009 ( at least in the UK, and by Warners, so far as we know). The set was produced by band fronter Nick Peill and mixed by the one and only Chris Zane, who you will recall worked on the Human Television track we raved about here as well as the most recent and forthcoming sets from New York-based dream pop heroes Asobi Seksu. Fields mounts a small tour of the UK beginning in mid-November and lasting through the end of the month. You can check out all of the tour dates at the band's MySpace casa right here. We last wrote about Fields here in July when we were slipped the new track "Worst Love;" at the time we reported the record was to be released before year end, but apparently it's been pushed back. No word on what the b-side to "Are You Ready Yet?" will be, but we can already offer you a download of a version of the track courtesy of band reps RadarMaker.

Fields -- "Are You Ready Yet?" -- Preview MP3
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[buy Fields records from Newbury Comics right here]

>> Here is awesome full-screen live video of Johnny Foreigner performing their single "Eyes Wide Terrified" at the New Slang club night in England last month. We sadly realized yesterday that due to work commitments we're not going to be able to make it down to see the band's Friday evening set at CMJ, as had been our plan. On the upside, that means we will be able to see Ringo Deathstarr at Tufts that night. But the video linked supra does a good job of instilling that feeling that we're really missing out. Oh well. Johnny Foreigner is likely touring the U.S. a great deal next year, so hopefully they'll do it up like Frightened Rabbit, who seem to play Boston five times a year despite being from Selkirk, Scotland.

>> Birmingham, England-based indie trio Calories, which sprung from the ashes of the late, lamented indie rockers Distophia earlier this year, reports (in our MySpace comments, no less) that it has completed recording a debut full-length and it is slated for release in February 2009. A scouring of Calories' MySpace turns up this blog post that states the band recorded 10 songs at Northampton, England's The Lodge Studios last June. Two tracks, "A Bear A Bison" and "To Encounter A Deer," are streaming at said MySpace, but there is no information available currently about a label. We wouldn't be all that surprised if Big Scary Monsters was attached to the project, but then again BSM can't put out *every* record now, can it? How about some kickass old Distophia? This file is tagged "Ten Inch," but we've always been suspicious that that is a bad tag. Great song though.

Distophia -- "Ten Inch" -- MySpace Download
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October 21, 2008

That Was The Show That Was: Frightened Rabbit | Middle East

Andy and Scott of Frightened Rabbit
For the first time out of several that we've seen the band perform, Frightened Rabbit Sunday night appeared, well, a little frightened. And band fronter Scott Hutchison seemed almost willing to concede the performance a failure from the onset. What the Selkirk, Scotland-based quartet didn't count on was the fact that the young crowd was ready to love anything it did, even the occasionally tentative or forced. All was forgiven by the grateful crowd even before Mr. Hutchison began offering apologies. Which brings us to an adage of ours that we'll explain later: they can't all be flaming gong nights.

At issue Sunday night was the fact that the foursome, according to Mr. Hutchison, had too much to drink in New York the prior evening and accidentally left a substantial amount of its stage gear there, including guitar pedals, MIDI pedals, cables and we think the organ the band has been using recently to perform our favorite FR song, "The Twist." Much of the equipment apparently belonged to newest member Andy Monaghan, who (incidentally or coincidentally) was very hard to hear in the house mix from our perch several bodies back from the opposite side of the stage.

So, yeah, "flaming gong nights." That's a reference to what in our opinion is the greatest live performance clip ever filmed, namely Van Halen's 1981 Oakland show that climaxed with this amazing version of "Unchained." During the finale, drummer Alex Van Halen figuratively takes the show to 11 by standing up, grabbing a torch and lighting a giant gong on fire. We'll say that again: he stands up, grabs a torch, and lights a giant gong on fire. Then he smashes the hell out of the gong, sits down and smashes his crash cymbals, and it's complete mayhem. That, in our opinion, is the apex of live musical performance. Of course not every show can be bananas like that, and that is OK.

So while Frightened Rabbit did exhibit last night signs of being off their game -- despite having cobbled together a sufficient amount of stage gear from touring mates Spinto Band and The Swims -- it is hard to flop with such exceptional material. And so fans called out praise between songs as the lads tuned; young co-eds dreamily gazed at Mr. Hutchison and sang along to his solo ballad "Poke;" tousle-haired young men gesticulated their teenage angst toward the low ceiling while chanting out "you're the shit and I'm knee-deep in it" along with their hero. Truly the Frightened Rabbit phenomenon continues to propagate unchecked, and last night's stymied performance did nothing to derail it. Drummer Grant Hutchison put an exclamation point on the evening -- and the band's apparent frustrations -- as he bashed out the exultant, obliterating tattoo that ends the sublime shouter "Square 9" and closed out the show. Grant did so with such ferocity that we half-worried as he lurched up from his kit that he was heading to the fans in the front row to continue administering beatings. Which, in a way, is pretty damn close to a flaming gong.

We posted the remainder of Frightened Rabbit's tour dates here in the foot of the review of the band's new live record Liver! Lung! FR!, which is being released by Fat Cat today; the band returns to Boston in January. Below we've posted our admittedly fuzzy memory of last night's set list, and under that are a couple live MP3s being offered here by the web site of Glaswegian nightclub The Mill, where Frightened Rabbit played Sept. 25.

The Modern Leper
Fast Blood
Old, Old Fashioned
I Feel Better
Good Arms Versus Bad Arms
My Backwards Walk
The Greys
Square 9

Frightened Rabbit -- "The Modern Leper" -- Live At The Mill, Glasgow, Scotland
Frightened Rabbit -- "I Feel Better" -- Live At The Mill, Glasgow, Scotland
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[buy Frightened Rabbit music from Newbury Comics here, EMusic here]

Frightened Rabbit: Internets | MySpace | YouTube | Flickr

Selected Prior Frightened Rabbit coverage:
FR Live At TT The Bear's, July 2008
FR Live at the Middle East, March 2008
Review: Frightened Rabbit | The Midnight Organ Fight
FR Live at Great Scott, November 2007

October 20, 2008

YouTube Rodeo: Johnny Foreigner, Gareth "In The Bullring"

>> Were we planning to be at CMJ for more than just Friday night, our schedule would still largely echo Johnny Foreigner's slate of CMJ commitments listed below. But then again, we're funny that way. Also, the aforementioned, Birmingham, England-based noise pop superlatives have yet to embark on a full U.S. tour -- although at least one is planned for 2009 -- meaning that if American fans want to see Johnny Foreigner performing live, one has to make a bit of an effort. You'd think with all the non-stop touring the band would have little time -- or desire -- to hit the practice space, but fortunately for us not only did they practice recently, but also someone rolled tape while the band tore through a rendition of their old single "Sometimes In The Bullring" with Los Campesinos! fronter Gareth manning the mic. The results are awesome, and are viewable above. Look for our review of Johnny Foreigner's Friday set at Fontana's here on the blog next Monday.

10/22 -- Dennis Scheyer/Crystal Media Networks -- New York, NY
10/23 -- KEXP Radio Session @ Gibson Showroom -- New York, NY
10/23 -- Levi’s FADER Fort -- New York, NY
10/23 -- NME Club -- New York, NY
10/24 -- Fontana's -- New York, NY
10/25 -- Kanine UnCMJ@Public Assembly -- Brooklyn, NY
10/28 -- WXPN Radio Session -- Philadelphia, PA
10/28 -- WKDU Radio Session -- Philadelphia, PA

Today's Hotness: The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart

The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart -- Everything With You
>> In our opinion there is a classic Slumberland sound. It relies on big guitars, upbeat rhythms and twee-leaning lyrics. Leading examples include Lilys' terrifyingly good "Claire Hates Me," from the landmark record In The Presence Of Nothing, and just about any track from Rocketship's similarly amazing A Certain Smile, A Certain Sadness. You may now add to that list New York-based quartet The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart's delightful new single "Everything With You" b/w "The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart," which Slumberland released -- on blue vinyl, no less -- earlier this month. The A-side will feature on the year-old band's debut full-length, which the label intends to issue in January. The band will tour the U.K. with The Wedding Present in December; those dates are posted at the band's MySpace dojo right here. The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart have two CMJ-related appearances planned, including a Wednesday night show with the mighty Ringo Deathstarr, and we've listed the details below. Slumberland is offering a free download of "Everything With You," so do yourself a favor and start downloading. We can't wait to hear the full-length, but in the meantime you can stream four songs at the aforementioned MySpace.

The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart -- "Everything With You" -- "Everything With You" b/w "The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart"
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[buy "Everything With You" from Slumberland here]

10/22 -- Knitting Factory Tap Bar -- New York, NY
10/24 -- Cake Shop -- New York, NY

>> Scruffy Mancunian indie rockers The Answering Machine will not be playing at CMJ this week. Instead the quartet began Monday recording its debut full-length in "a residential studio in the middle of the English countryside." Which actually sounds like a wonderful way to spend the week, so we are a little jealous. The sessions will be produced by Dave Eringa, who has previously produced records for Manic Street Preachers, Idlewild, Kylie Minogue and -- what's this -- a 1996 set by a band called Lodestar. That can't possibly be the erstwhile Philly band formerly known as Rupert Speed, could it? We'll that would be amazing (sadly, we expect the Lodestar in question is these jokers). One of the last things we wrote about The Answering Machine (here, in April) was that it had tracked as many as 15 demos with remote input from L.A.-based producer Tony Hoffer. Which makes us wonder why the planned album sessions are not being helmed by Mr. Hoffer. Perhaps we'll meet the guys and gal from The Answering Machine one day and ask them. To date the foursome has issued three singles, "Oklahoma," "Silent Hotels" and "Lightbulbs," all of which are worth tracking down.

>> As we Twittered early Friday evening, pedigreed and D.C.-based power-pop phenoms The Julie Ocean have disbanded. In this Washington Post item the quartet -- which featured former members of hitmakers including Velocity Girl, Swiz and Glo-worm -- explained that singer and guitarist Jim Spellman, who is also a presenter for televison news concern CNN (you know the one -- he agreed to be tasered on live TV last year), was relocating to Denver for career-related reasons. The relatively new band only played 20 shows in its 15-month lifetime, but it also recorded the excellent full-length Long Gone And Nearly There, which is a contender for our year-end list. We reviewed the record here in April. The Julie Ocean recently canceled an East Coast tour due due to a death in one of the four members' families.

October 17, 2008

Today's Hotness: Psapp, This Town Needs Guns, Mobius Band

>> London-based electro-twee duo Psapp, best known for having its song used as the theme to the popular American hospital soap "Grey's Anatomy," has released a video for the first single from its forthcoming third fourth record (what's this 2004 record Northdown listed at Wikipedia? Ah, Japan-only). The single "The Monster Song" will be featured on The Camel's Back, which is to be released by Domino in the U.K. Oct. 27. Frankly, our initial assessment of the track wasn't totally favorable, but the more we listen the more we hear the hooks, and we've definitely come around. "The Monster Song" is built on looped drums, guitars, flutes and kazoo (well, we're not sure about the kazoo). Its animated video is fantastic and wonderful and is sort of about where cat food comes from (fans will recall that Psapp is obsessed with cats), so we've posted it above. The U.S. release of The Camel's Back was supposed to have transpired a week after the U.K. release, but Wikipedia says it is now tentatively slated for early 2009.

>> Oxford, England-based This Town Needs Guns reports that it has inked an agreement with Sargent House to release the angular emo foursome's new UK release Animals in the states. Sargent House, based in Los Angeles, will issue Animals domestically in early 2009, according to the band's blog. This Town Needs Guns plans a tour of the U.S. to support the release. Sargent House has previously released records by mathy brothers-in-arms Maps & Atlases, Russian Circles and former At The Drive-In guy Omar Rodriquez-Lopez. Big Scary Monsters was the label responsible for the UK release of Animals, which occurred this week.

>> Mobius Band has booked two U.S. live dates for later this month. The cyborg-rock trio will play Philadelphia's First Unitarian Church Oct. 29, and an undisclosed Boston University venue the following night. Both shows are with the hotly tipped Canadian indie rock act Tokyo Police Club. Fans may have heard that Tokyo Police Club recently taped segments for a forthcoming episode of "Desperate Housewives." That is profoundly weird. Anyway, one has to wonder whether Mobius Band will perform any new material, as its most recent set Heaven was issued a year ago and has been toured to death. We're heavy into Mobius Band both old and new. Here's the trio performing "Starts Off With A Bang" live at the Monolith Festival last year.

The Mobius Band -- "Starts Off With A Bang (Live)" -- Monolith Festival 2007
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[buy Mobius Band records from Newbury Comics right here]

October 16, 2008

Review: Frightened Rabbit | Liver! Lung! FR! [MP3s]

Frightened Rabbit -- Liver Lung FR"Good afternoon shoppers, and music fans, passers-by... We're Frightened Rabbit from Glasgow."

This is how band fronter Scott Hutchison opened last year's desperate, fire-and-brimstone-filled live release EMusic Sessions: Live At Urban Outfitters -- SXSW 2007. That short collection captured Frightened Rabbit performing when it was still a trio, but the differences between it and the largely acoustic Liver! Lung! FR!, to be released by Fat Cat next week, are more pronounced than the simple expansion in personnel. The band's The Midnight Organ Fight will likely begin appearing on blogger's year-end lists of favorite records any day now [we reviewed it here], but the new live collection may actually say more about the artistic development of the quartet and where it is in its career.

Studio albums -- at least the good ones -- beckon for scrutiny and decoding, but live records serve as even more conspicuous markers in the life of a band: "this is what we sounded like this night." Liver! Lung! FR! was recorded July 30 of this year at Glasgow's Captain's Rest in front of a hometown audience, and during the performance the quartet was joined by friends including labelmates The Twilight Sad's James Graham and fellow Glaswegian scene-maker Ross Clark. It is a warm, well-arranged and gentle performance among friends, a far cry from the gritty set the band delivered -- along with some hysterically bawdy banter -- the prior year in Texas amid the stream of faux-hipster commerce.

The contrast between the two live collections is perhaps no more apparent than when considering the versions of "The Modern Leper" performed during each set. On Liver! Lung! FR! the pounding arrangement and nihilistic lyrics are toned down and adorned with chimes, vocal harmonies, a keyboard part and additional guitar work. Mr. Hutchison practically coos the words. The proceedings do not begin to approach the levels of chaos and unhinged-ness of the EMusic version. The latter rendition is driven by Hutchison's gritty rhythm guitar and Billy Kennedy's piercing six-stringed accents, and then over-driven by Grant Hutchison's weapons-grade drumming. And while the obvious stylistic refinements and softer tone set the very nice new record apart from its live predecessor, the more nuanced sounds of Liver! Lung! FR! and The Midnight Organ Fight likely have helped pave the way for perhaps the most curious recent development in the band's career. Frightened Rabbit has been visiting us in our living room via the soundtracks of nearly every television program Mrs. Clicky Clicky watches (we just noticed our favorite track "The Twist" in a recent episode of "Chuck").

All that career progress hasn't just fallen in Frightened Rabbits' collective furry lap; instead, the band, which was just in Cambridge in early July, has been touring relentlessly. It returns yet again Sunday when it performs at The Middle East Rock Club. And a return engagement to the Boston market is already on the books . According to Bradley's Almanac -- and now, the venue's web site -- Frightened Rabbit will return to Boston's Great Scott in January. This probably says as much about the band's relentless courtship of the United States as it does us, but currently we see Frightened Rabbit more times in a year than we see our own dear mother. Frightened Rabbit began several more weeks of U.S. dates last night in Ohio, and we've posted the rest of the tour dates at the bottom of this item. Directly below we're posting an MP3 from each of the band's live records to underscore the contrast we've been talking about.

Frightened Rabbit -- "Old, Old Fashioned" -- Liver! Lung! FR!
Frightened Rabbit -- "Square 9" -- EMusic Sessions, Live At Urban Outfitters -- SXSW 2007
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[buy Frightened Rabbit music from Newbury Comics here, EMusic here]

Frightened Rabbit: Internets | MySpace | YouTube | Flickr

10/15 -- Music Saves -- Cleveland,OH
10/17 -- First Unitarian Church -- Philadelphia, PA
10/18 -- Music Hall Of Williamsburg -- Brooklyn, NY
10/19 -- Middle East -- Cambridge, MA
10/21 -- Lees Palace -- Toronto, ON
10/20 -- Petit Campus -- Montreal, QC
10/22 -- Skully's Music Diner -- Columbus, OH
10/23 -- Metro, Chicago -- IL
10/24 -- High Noon Saloon -- Madison, WI
10/25 -- 7th Street Entry -- Minneapolis, MN
10/28 -- Chop Suey -- Seattle, WA
10/29 -- Media Club -- Vancouver, BC
10/30 -- Holocene -- Portland, OR
11/01 -- Bottom Of The Hill -- San Francisco, CA
11/02 -- Bottom Of The Hill -- San Francisco, CA
11/03 -- Echoplex -- Los Angeles, CA
11/05 -- U31 -- San Diego, CA
11/06 -- Rhythm Room -- Phoenix, AZ
11/08 -- Haileys -- Denton, TX
11/09 -- Fun Fun Fun Fest -- Austin, TX

Selected Prior Frightened Rabbit coverage:
FR Live At TT The Bear's, July 2008
FR Live at the Middle East, March 2008
Review: Frightened Rabbit | The Midnight Organ Fight
FR Live at Great Scott, November 2007

October 13, 2008

That Was The Show That Was: The Notwist with Dosh At The Roxy

The Notwist, Roxy, Boston
As we've stated previously, we were fortunate to see The Notwist on the small stage at T.T. The Bear's in Cambridge, Mass. when the revered German indie rock act was supporting the U.S. release of its highly influential set Neon Golden five years ago. And while that show was special, that was due mostly to the quality of the material rather than the (almost comically) mild-mannered band's performance, which was faithful to the record but understated. Last night -- at Boston's substantially larger Roxy nightclub -- the show was special not only because of the exceptional music, drawn primarily from Neon Golden and The Notwist's recent quiet triumph The Devil, You + Me, but also because the spectacle of the band's live show has dramatically intensified. Our expectations were blown away, despite fronter Markus Acher's characteristically humble greeting "we are The Notwist, and this is our first song."

Besides some polite bowing and quiet thanks, stage banter was minimal, although Mr. Acher had a laugh at his own expense when he missed a cue beginning one of the new tracks. But last night the band was alternately mesmerizing and astonishing, depending on whether it was locking into a heavy, digitally augmented groove or blasting through a crescendo of guitars. The current touring incarnation of The Notwist includes the core trio of Acher, his brother Micha on bass and Wii-remote-wielding programming genius Martin Gretschmann augmented by a second guitarist and phenomenal drummer whose identities we could not suss out. The quintet opened with the relatively upbeat current single "Boneless" and didn't wait long to flex musical muscle by diving into a powerful, dub-inflected take on "This Room." "Pilot" and the title track to Neon Golden were given an electrifying reading, as were many of the tracks from the recently issued collection. The band obliged fan appreciation with a single encore that included "One With The Freaks" and the title track to The Devil, You And Me. Few fan favorites were left unplayed, although the ballad "Consequence" seemed noticably absent from the set.

Again, the performance last night vastly exceeded our expectations, and we strongly suggest readers scroll down to our earlier item and inspect the remaining tour dates. This is something you do not want to miss. Domino USA released The Devil, You And Me June 17. We're posting the lead promo track "Good Lies" below in the event you are just getting up to speed. We were completely unaware that Anticon loopmeister Michael Dosh would open last night's show, and even when he took the stage with a collaborator we weren't sure who we were seeing until we began to recognize the songs. Dosh's 2008 set Wolves And Wishes is kaleidoscopic and exceptional and well worth tracking down. As usual we took a lot of mediocre pictures of the performances last night, and you can inspect all of them right here.

The Notwist -- "Good Lies" -- The Devil, You + Me
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The Notwist: Internerds | MySpace | YouTube | Flickr

October 12, 2008

That Was The Show That Was: The Feelies At The Roxy

The Feelies, Roxy, Boston, 2008
We mention in these electronic pages fairly regularly that we turned on to many great bands during our early teenage years due to Spin Magazine's then-very-reliable assessments of the American underground. In March 2007 we wrote here:
"[w]e rhapsodize about this fairly regularly, but time was you could trust your glossy music magazines to make decent recommendations. And so it was that in 1988 or so Spin or some similar outfit gave The Feelies' Only Life a glowing review so we walked across our suburb to the indie store in the basement of a building on the other side of the train tracks and bought it. On cassette, no less. The band broke up three years later after releasing the excellent Time For A Witness. And then we didn't have The Feelies anymore."

Only Life is an odd place to start with the beloved, jittery New Jersey-based indie rock act, which formed in 1976. But we were simply too young during the band's earlier heyday. Even so, we loved those final two records, and delved into the earlier recordings only after arriving at WESU Middletown in 1994.

Last night at Boston's Roxy the band delivered an intense 70-minute set and two equally robust clutches of encores. It was the final performance of the small batch of dates the band has played since first reuniting over the summer after breaking up 17 years ago. The Feelies noticably hit their stride several songs into the evening when proffering "Deep Fascination" and "Higher Ground" back-to-back. Mercer's icy and over-driven leads sliced through the mix, and as the set wore on drummer Stanley Demeski's pounding grew increasingly louder and insistent. A crescendo of white noise mid-set brought down the house, Mercer's quiet demeanor was occasionally punctuated with caffienated pogoing, and the mysterious Bill Million bobbed and weaved as he coaxed chords and licks from his guitar while the songs cascaded by too fast to keep a mental list. Somewhere in there was what sounded like a brand-new song, and "Too Far Gone" and "Crazy Rhythms" were given mind-bending workouts. The encores drew heavily on the familiar cover tunes that The Feelies have been faithful to throughout its career, including The Rolling Stones' "Paint It Black," The Beatles' "She Said, She Said," The Modern Lovers' "I Wanna Sleep In Your Arms" and The Velvet Underground's "What Goes On." Those latter two acts are perhaps the most obvious precursors to The Feelies sound.

As we reported earlier this year, The Feelies -- or at least laconic and cigarette-shaped singer and guitarist Glenn Mercer -- are working on reissuing of its four records, including Crazy Rhythms (1980) and The Good Earth (1986), which are all out of print currently (curiously, Amazon claims to be able to sell you new copies of Only Life). These will apparently be released by Bar/None. A person we've spoken with who is in a pretty good position to know reports that The Feelies are uncertain about their ability to secure the rights for the final two records, which were originally issued on A&M; which was acquired by Polygram; which was acquired by Seagram's and merged into Universal and folded into the label group's existing Interscope-Geffen operations; according to Wikipedia. All of which apparently makes finding an attorney at Universal that can even figure out that the company owns the master recordings to Only Life and Time For A Witness sound impossible.

On a sidenote, more often than not we are one of the older fans at the rock shows we see nowadays. This was certainly not the case last night, as the adoring and vocal crowd at The Roxy was filled with the largest amalgamation of, ahem, mature hipsters we've ever seen in one place. Word on the street is The Feelies have been recording some of the recent spate of reunion shows, but there is no word now what might be done with them. According to this very good story in the Patriot Ledger, all five members of The Feelies are interested in recording new music, so with any luck the story of The Feelies in the 21st Century is only beginning to be written. The band currently has only one additional reunion date planned, a New Year's Eve gig with Hoboken-based indie legends in their own right Yo La Tengo.

The Feelies -- "Fa Ce La" -- Crazy Rhythms
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The Feelies: Internerds | MySpace | YouTube | Flickr

October 9, 2008

Reader Rewards: Win The New Notwist Single, Boston Tickets

The Notwist
[UPDATED: Congratulations to reader Chris for winning] Weilheim, Germany-based electropop superheroes The Notwist return to Boston for the first time in five-and-a-half years this weekend to promote the quartet's beautiful and sublime recent release The Devil, You And Me. And Domino Records wants you and a friend to go to the show for free (the show is 18+, sorry young'ns). And so do we. So we're having a little contest. To sweeten the deal, Domino is throwing in the brand new single for The Notwist's addictive strummer "Boneless," which was released Tuesday and features a remix by Animal Collective principle Panda Bear on the flip. So here's the deal: the first person to email us (our email address is linked in the righthand sidebar) with the phrase "Gloomy Planets" in the subject line wins the tickets AND the single. For realsies. It's that simple. Finding us at the show and buying us a beer is completely optional.

We saw The Notwist's 2003 set at T.T. The Bear's and found it remarkable how true the live set was to the recordings on the band's highly influential Neon Golden. Several tracks on The Devil, You And Me feature performances by the Andromeda Mega Express Orchestra, a 21-piece modern Classical ensemble also based in Germany, and we have to wonder how The Notwist will recreate their contributions Sunday at the Roxy. Although the live performance of "Consequence" we saw in 2003 could provide a clue: the band recreated the sound of the track rapidly slowing down like a stopped LP by actually playing an LP through the PA and stopping it. The Notwist's current North American tour begins Friday in Canada; we've posted the complete itinerary at the bottom of this item. The band will be two decades old sometime next year, which is sort of amazing. In our estimation The Devil, You And Me exudes -- to the extent such an understated band exudes anything -- the sound of maturity, and we feel like the recent fatherhood for Markus Acher colors the record a great deal: even the relatively rocking "Good Lies" sounds a bit like a lullabye. Anticon. founder Odd Nosdam remixed "Sleep" from The Devil, You And Me and we're posting it below to get you in the mood for the show Sunday.

The Notwist -- "Sleep (Odd Nosdam Remix)"
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The Notwist: Internerds | MySpace | YouTube | Flickr

10/10 -- Lee's Palace -- Toronto, ON
10/11 -- Le National -- Montreal, PQ
10/12 -- Roxy Theater -- Boston, MA
10/13 -- Webster Hall -- New York, NY
10/14 -- First Unitarian Church -- Philadelphia, PA
10/15 -- 9:30 Club -- Washington, D.C.
10/16 -- Beachland Ballroom -- Cleveland, OH
10/17 -- Logan Square Auditorium -- Chicago, IL
10/18 -- Turner Hall --Milwaukee, WI
10/20 -- Bluebird -- Denver, CO
10/21 -- In The Venue -- Salt Lake City, UT
10/22 -- Neumo's -- Seattle, WA
10/24 -- Commodore Ballroom -- Vancouver, BC
10/25 -- Berbati's Pan -- Portland, OR
10/27 -- Bimbo's -- San Francisco, CA
10/29 -- Henry Fonda Theater -- Los Angeles, CA

Related Coverage:
Today's Hotness: The Notwist, Mission Of Burma, Yah Mos Def
Review: Tied + Tickled Trio | Aelita [Streams]
Review: The Notwist | "On | Off The Record" DVD

October 8, 2008

A Dish Best Served Cold: The Clicky Clicky Interview With Ben Parker

Ben Parker of Superman Revenge Squad
As tempting as it is to view the songs of Ben Parker as heavily autobiographical, it is equally likely that he is making a pop reference even more obscure than those one can discern as the singer's words whiz by in a torrent. This Is My Own Personal Way Of Dealing With It All, the title to Mr. Parker's new collection from his latest project Superman Revenge Squad, would seem like a bald statement of purpose. And while it may be, the fact is the title is taken from an old Lou Reed interview. "The Angriest Dog In The World," one of the most affecting of the eleven recently recorded tracks, takes its title from a comic strip drawn by David Lynch. In another song Mr. Parker imagines he is Kevin Rowland of Dexy's Midnight Runners; in still another he pretends Will Oldham is singing directly to him. Clearly, Parker is a learned student of popular and underground culture.

And yet his music -- whether it is harrowingly urgent, morose and emotional or tongue-in-cheek and geeky -- transmits as deeply personal. Which is perhaps what first drew us into Parker's world two Augusts ago, after stumbling on to his prior duo Nosferatu D2 via the excellent blog Another Form Of Relief. In his songs, Parker can't escape social obligation, fan expectations or cultural homogenization -- although it is not for lack of imagination. In nearly every song on the Croydon, England-based songwriter's new collection he plots. The initial plan is to "write a song like Coldplay, we're gonna creep into the Top 40, we're gonna tour until we hate each other's guts." Another plan is to go to bed and somehow miraculously wake up as someone else. Elsewhere escape is revealed as a mirage: in "Women Hating Internet Pornography" Parker makes it as far as the tramway encircling his hometown, a ride that necessarily ends up right back where it began.

In still another scenario his narrator is the angriest dog in the world, tied up forever in the yard. This dog is hopeful, and dreams big -- in his small way. The dreams concern becoming the equal of his master; turning the tables on his master and tying him up for fifteen years; about biting his way through the lead some way, somehow. And this optimism is almost surprising, given the dark portraits Parker crafts. Of course, the music is not without its own humor, although it is humor of a particular stripe. For example, the final track on the new record, which can be bought directly from Parker at the Superman Revenge Squad MySpage garage right here, is titled "Joe Concedes Ultimate Defeat By Blowing His Face Skywards With A Shotgun." We wanted to learn more about This Is My Own Personal Way Of Dealing With It All and the man behind it, and happily Mr. Parker obliged us by answering our questions below.
We're continually fascinated to hear what our favorite musicians do for work. Based on your songs we'd guess you would make an excellent arts critic or record store employee. But what is that you actually do?

Well, I work 9-5 in an office for a publishing company, in a totally non-creative way. When I left university I thought I’d end up as a journalist or something. But I find it difficult being creative if it isn’t completely on my terms. And I did toy with the idea of working for a record shop for a long time, as I do spend a lot of my free time browsing records, but I thought it would just take the pleasure out of it all.

Have you always lived in Croydon? Can you describe it for a person whose never been there and has only experienced it through your music?

I was born in Croydon and lived there up until I went to university in York. I never thought I’d end up here again, but it’s cheaper than living in London and quite easy to escape into London if you want to. It’s okay, really, although it does generally only make the news because of people occasionally getting stabbed here. It’s just very suburban, and most of it could be anywhere in suburban Britain, with the same chains of shops, the same bored people wandering around and lots of parents swearing at their children. Certainly, on the surface it’s not very creative, but there is a small group of people that I know that are in bands that I can while away evenings talking about music and stuff to, and that play and watch each other in the venues. There’s an open mic night every Tuesday that I play occasionally, where I first played on my own, and where I can play new songs to a few supportive people. The music scene would maybe benefit from the town not being so near to London –- I know that as soon as I was into music I wouldn’t bother going to see local bands because I could go and see stuff in London; proper bands.

We're familiar with two of your prior bands thanks to Tempertwig and Nosferatu D2's music being available for free at Last.FM. I think Nosferatu D2's final gig was opening for Los Campesinos! Did Nosferatu D2 go out on a high note, so to speak, or were there other highlights? Was there a big moment for Tempertwig?

I think ND2 had stopped being fun by the time we played our last gig supporting Los Campesinos. And we always said we’d stop doing it if it stopped being fun. And I was starting to write some of the stuff that ended up as SRS songs and finding it easier to be productive and creative with this new stuff that Adam didn’t find so interesting to drum with. The great thing, for me, about ND2, was that it was always 50/50 with me and my brother so if one of us wasn’t happy with something it would never have worked. The highlights for me were always at smaller gigs when everything would just click and we’d be, I think, maybe quite briefly, pretty good and pretty intense. Obviously, SRS is a lot less intense live. I used to feel drained after ND2 gigs and all that shouting.

Pop stars sing to teens and pre-teens with hopes of a big payday. Your songs are often very critical of the pop music business (as well as the homegenization of consumer culture in general), and you certainly doesn't seem interested in compromising what you do for the sake of a commercial success. When you write songs do you ever consider who your audience is?

I always kind of imagine me listening to my music if I wasn’t me and make sure I’d like it. And then imagine, maybe wrongly, that if I like it then surely there must be other people that would like it too.

We're reluctant to embrace the term anti-folk, because, well, we struggle to relate those words with the meaning people seem to ascribe to them. They don't quite add up. Given the progression from Tempertwig (trio) to Nosferatu D2 (duo) to Superman Revenge Squad (solo) -- that steady reduction in personnel -- we'd argue that perhaps it is more apt to characterize your music as "anti-rock." That aside, why is it that you have chosen to be a solo performer? Why is voice and acoustic guitar the best vehicle for Ben Parker's songs now?

I dunno, a number of reasons really – firstly, I guess I might just be a control freak…. And I like the fact that people can actually hear my lyrics live now – previously I’d put quite a lot of effort into words that were hidden behind music at gigs. And I really like getting laughs when people hear the bits that are meant to be funny – it kind of gives me a very small taste of the satisfaction that a stand-up comedian might get maybe. I refused to use any guitar effects when we started ND2. It just seemed more "real" somehow, more raw. And this is like a continuation of that I suppose. I like music that’s stripped of production values and niceness but is still, at heart, pop music. The version of Burt Bacharach’s Make It Easy On Yourself, where he sings it in a not-terribly-strong voice just accompanied by a piano is great, for example.

Of course, you recently played a birthday show with a band, including your brother Adam, an exceptional drummer who played with you in your prior two projects. Have you ruled out ever being in a "full band" again?

I haven’t ruled it out. But, well, I keep thinking of Alisdair Roberts, who I love – he sounds nothing like me but I love his music – and he is much much better playing on his own than he is with a band. When I saw him last year he had a band and it was okay. Recently, I saw him on his own and I could have cried at points. I like the vulnerability. And the fact that I can muck up songs and make it look like I did it on purpose.

What inspired you to sing about the complicated power dynamic in "The Angriest Dog In The World?" The song reminds me of author Patricia Highsmith's "The Animal-Lover's Book Of Beastly Murder," which I recall was filled with short stories of murderous animals who turn on humans.

"The Angriest Dog In The World" was a David Lynch comic strip. I took the initial idea from there for about two lines, then I think it turned into something else – I don’t see it as being about a dog at all now, but about a certain type of dysfunctional relationship where the power rests with one person and the other person is stuck with this power dynamic and doesn’t know anything else anymore. It’s strange – some people find the song quite upsetting and sad, other people think it’s meant to be funny.

What about "This Is A Happy Song?" It seems like a bit of a piss-take poking fun at your reputation for being dour. It also seems like a way for you to acknowledge that you aren't terribly different from other people our age who once enjoyed pop hits like "Ice Ice Baby." The final line, of course doesn't seem like a piss-take at all: "I guess I'm learning to live with all this baggage that I've been living with so I thought I'd put it all in a song in a bid to forgive myself for all the things I never did." That lyric sounds like the thesis statement for the entire record.

A girl I work with commented that all my songs were depressing so I thought I’d try to write something happy for a change – originally the idea was to write something like Ian Dury’s "Reasons To Be Cheerful," like a big list of good things, but I got as far as Lambchop being on the telly and then ran out and by then the song had started to take shape and was self-consciously not-happy but quite gleefully not-happy. It took ages to come up with an ending and I played it unfinished for quite some time. But, yeah, the last few lines came quite spontaneously one night and I like them.

Would you say your music is realistic or fantastic? Your lyrics offer what strikes me as an extraordinarily honest representation of your own feelings and insights, as well as a strikingly realist consideration of how escapism works and doesn't work. Certainly there are elements of fantasy, in "Captain Non-Entity" and "Angriest Dog" for example, but often your lyrics are refreshingly open, blunt and even explanatory, as in Nosferatu D2's "A Footnote." Is this something you consciously strive for?

I think that most of the stuff I write is based on reality. It’s sometimes a really exaggerated reality, and it doesn’t always start off being about me, but there is generally always autobiography in there somewhere.

Even the album title This Is My Own Personal Way Of Dealing With It All, which is the first like from the stirring "I'm Gonna Go To Bed And When I Wake Up I'm Gonna Be Someone Else," seems refreshingly transparent. But is it? Is the title true? When we consider our favorite actors or musicians we all often wonder how much of what is communicated is real. Was writing these songs, or recording this album, a way of "dealing with it all?"

The title comes from an interview with Lou Reed that I’m paraphrasing because I can’t remember it exactly – but, basically, someone asked him why he writes stuff, created art, whatever, and he said something like "This is my own personal way of dealing with it all" – and at the time I was doing Tempertwig and I had a conversation with my brother where we talked about why we were doing this and I couldn’t really say why other than referring to what Lou said; I mean, we weren’t getting paid, not many people saw us play, we didn’t really drink, and I was pretty uptight at most of the gigs but I felt like it was something I had to do. And I’m still in the same position really!

What's next?

I’ll continue doing this until I don’t want to do it anymore. I’ve got about 30 completed songs that I’ve written so far, since I started doing this SRS stuff, and I keep writing more. I’ll record again when a bunch of songs seem to fit together again – possibly in a couple of months or so, as I have 11 that I think should work together. I love writing this stuff. When it dries up I’ll stop. I’ve always wanted to complete a novel. Maybe I’ll do that then...
Superman Revenge Squad -- "Idiot Food" -- This Is My Own Personal Way Of Dealing With It All
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Nosferatu D2 -- "A Footnote" -- Nosferatu D2
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Tempertwig -- "This Means Everything, This Don't Mean A Thing" -- Tempertwig
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Previous Ben Parker Coverage:
Logorrhea, Pathos and Superman Revenge Squad
Today's Hotness: Tempertwig, Naxos, Joy Division
Every Band I've Ever Loved Has Let Me Down Eventually

October 7, 2008

Today's Hotness: Ringo Deathstarr, The A-Sides, Johnny Foreigner

>> [Video Credit: Acid Marshmallow4] Performances by Austin-based shoegaze provocateurs Ringo Deathstarr along the U.S. East Coast heretofore have been rare. Happily, the quartet has posted a strand of dates to its MySpace dojo that bring it back to not only New York and Washington, D.C., but also the Boston area. Indeed, The Deathstarr will perform at Tufts' Oxfam Cafe Friday Oct. 24. Based on a video of the band performing last month at The Cake Shop in New York that we've posted atop this item, fans can expect loud, dense renderings of Deathstarr favorites old and new. The video contains an entire 40-minute set that culminates in a brain-warping maelstrom of feedback and distortion and echo. In among the mire fans will recognize tracks from Ringo Deathstarr's 2007 EP including "Some Kind Of Sad," "Swirly," "Sweet Girl" and "Down On You," as well as the new single "Summertime." Full tour dates are listed below. And even though we post it all the time, we can't help but offer once again the quiet, fuzzy and fever-dreamy demo for "Your Town"

Ringo Deathstarr -- "Your Town (Demo)"
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10/14 -- Emos -- Austin, Texas
10/15 -- Walter’s -- Houston, Texas
10/17 -- Rubber Gloves -- Denton, Texas
10/20 -- Drunken Unicorn -- Atlanta, Georgia
10/22 -- Knitting Factory Tap Bar -- New York, NY
10/24 -- Oxfam Cafe -- Medford, Massachusetts
10/25 -- Velvet Lounge -- Washington, D.C.

>> Philebrity broke the sad news here yesterday that The A-Sides have broken up. The erstwhile Philadelphia-based quintet (which itself acknowledged the dissolution with a MySpace status message last night) released two records; the second, Silver Storms, was released by Vagrant last August after the album floundered for quite a while in the wake of a prior failed label deal. Even bigger news is that A-Sides members Jon Barthmus and Patrick Marsceill have launched an electronic-oriented new project dubbed Sun Airway, whose first track "Waiting On You" is streaming at the link supra. The band is also giving it away at its web site, so we'll post "Waiting On You" below along with a few of our favorite A-Sides jams. We suppose you could deem the Sun Airway track "Dntel-ish," although the trademark swirling, sun-shiney melodies of The A-Sides persist within the new paradigm. We last wrote about The A-Sides here in April, when we reported that the band was slated to play three live dates before embarking on the recording of its third record. Sometime in the intervening four months things must have taken a different turn, but we're glad at least some of the band members are continuing on with music.

Sun Airway -- "Waiting On You"
The A-Sides -- "Sidewalk Chalk" -- Hello, Hello
The A-sides -- "Here Or There" -- Hello, Hello
The A-Sides -- "Sinking With The Ship" -- Silver Storms
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[buy A-Sides records at a good price from Newbury Comics right here]

>> So the Johnny Foreigner live video we posted last week apparently features what is the band's typical opening salvo on its current UK tour with labelmates Dananananaykroyd, that is, the three songs "Ghost The Festivals," "Henning's Favourite" and "Salt, Peppa and Spinderella." This is according to a nice informative interview posted here at the blog Sex As A Foreign Language. In the interview the band also talks about future recording plans, which according to fronter and guitarist Alexei Berrow could include an EP that would contain a re-imagined version of an unspecified track from the band's debut long-player Waited Up Til It Was Light and a bunch of new tracks. Such an EP would be "a bridge" between Waited and a sophomore set for which the Birmingham, England-based trio has already been writing new material. Says Mr. Berrow: "The plan at the moment is to go in [to the studio] in February to start on the next one. We’ve written about half of it already and it’s been going very well." In addition to recording, Johnny Foreigner expect to spend a substantial amount of time touring the U.S. in 2008, and will prime the pump with a handful of gigs and radio sessions later this month centered around Berrow's birthday the annual CMJ Confab. All those dates are listed at the band's MySpace tent right here.

October 6, 2008

Review: Crooked Fingers | Forfeit/Fortune [MP3]

Crooked Fingers -- Forfeit/FortuneNot long after we got up to speed with Crooked Fingers (at the time of the release of Bring On The Snakes in 2001), the band began to background the electronics and loops that made the music so interesting to us. So, while we had very nice things to say about Crooked Fingers' Red Devil Dawn here in 2003, the ensuing releases from the Eric Bachmann-led project did not capture our imagination with the same intensity. But a recent renaissance of Mr. Bachmann's Barry Black records at :: clicky clicky :: headquarters -- as well as this recent video of Bachmann reworking his Archers Of Loaf classic "Web In Front" into a folk strummer -- renewed our interest in his contemporary work. So it was with no small amount of anticipation that we approached Forfeit/Fortune, Bachmann's fifth record (sixth if you count the excellent Reservoir Songs EP) under the Crooked Fingers banner.

The set was recorded in chunks in various locations across America, including Denver, Nashville and Tucson, and Forfeit/Fortune is overlaid with what would seem to be a corresponding variety of styles. The wall of sound that comprises the verse of album opener "What Never Comes" is underpinned with saxophones and keys; the overall effect is reminiscent of David Bowie's '80s catalog. "Give And Be Taken" may be Bachmann's funkiest composition. Bachmann does not even sing on the track "Luisa's Bones," which is driven by a dry drum machine track recalling earlier Crooked Fingers material. The clear album highlight is the soaring closing track "Your Control," a spirited duet between Bachmann and regular touring compadre Neko Case whose lyrics provide the title to Forfeit/Fortune. Bachmann says the track "almost sounds like New Order," and we definitely hear therein echoes of classic New Order tracks like "Your Silent Face" or "Age Of Consent." Of course, with Bachmann and Case's Buckingham/Nicks vocal rejoinders layered over the proceedings the Mancunian flavor is altered considerably. Even so, the song's airy synth strings and upbeat tempo give it an affecting, optimistic tone that will cause many to hit the repeat button.

Forfeit/Fortune will be released to select indie retailers and digital outlets tomorrow by Bachmann and his management Constant Artists' new imprint Red Pig/Constant Artists. In July Bachmann discussed the economics behind the decision to self-release the set in this Billboard article; he bluntly sums up in his press materials "It's not like 17 years in... big retailers are going to start giving a shit about Crooked Fingers." The act's previous record, 2005's Dignity And Shame, was released by Merge. You can watch the trailer for a DVD that comes with the deluxe edition of Forfeit/Fortune right here; the deluxe edition also carries "extended" artwork. An MP3 of the klezmer-tinged promo track "Phony Revolutions" is posted below to download. Crooked Fingers are on tour now supporting Okkervil River, and the remaining five weeks of dates are listed at the bottom of this item.

Crooked Fingers -- "Phony Revolutions" -- Forfeit/Fortune
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[buy Forfeit/Fortune from Newbury Comics here]

Crooked Fingers: Internerds | MySpace | YouTube | Flickr

10/06 -- Webster Hall -- New York, New York
10/07 -- Webster Hall -- New York, New York
10/08 -- Pearl Street Nightclub -- Northampton, Massachusetts
10/09 -- Mr. Smalls Theatre -- Millvale, Pennsylvania
10/10 -- Tralf Music Hall -- Buffalo, New York
10/11 -- Les Saints -- Montreal, Quebec
10/12 -- Phoenix -- Toronto, Ontario
10/14 -- Metro -- Chicago, Illinois
10/16 -- Turf Club -- St. Paul, Minnesota
10/17 -- The Waiting Room -- Omaha, Nebraska
10/19 -- Bluebird Theater -- Denver, Colorado
11/06 -- Urban Lounge -- Salt Lake City, Utah
11/07 -- Neurolux -- Boise, Idaho
11/08 -- Chop Suey -- Seattle, Washington
11/09 -- Doug Fir Lounge -- Portland, Oregon
11/11 -- Great American Music Hall -- San Francisco, California
11/12 -- Troubadour -- Los Angeles, California
11/13 -- Casbah -- San Diego, California
11/14 -- Plush -- Tucson, Arizona