September 30, 2009

YouTube Rodeo: Sunny Day Real Estate Perform "Seven" On Jimmy Fallon

As we've said elsewhere, we listened to Diary just about every day in 1994 after the set was released in May of that year.

September 29, 2009

Review: Velvets | Big Star | Feelies | Pixies

The Beatles weren’t the only trendsetters whose work reissued in September. Their legacy goes without saying, but there’s an influential underground that musicians and record geeks look to that has been –- until the internet, at least –- a sort of shared secret code. This month, there have been a few reissues of bands that represent the missing links between the Beatles and modern/indie/what-we-used-to-call-college rock.

The Velvet Underground practically pioneered the underground leaping from a springboard of some simpler '50s/'60s early pop song structure and launching themselves forward into the avant garde and sometimes backward into the primitive. “Heroin” came out the same year as Sgt. Pepper, and though it was weirder and less accessible than The Beatles's stuff, it has had an impact just as deep. The Velvets already have a comprehensive box set out there, 1995’s Peel Slowly and See, that contains all of their original albums plus singles, demos and live tracks. It is essential. Still, though, this new Sundazed box of reproduction 7” vinyl singles is awfully tempting.

Big Star were, I guess, what happened when you took '60s pop and gave it bigger amps and distortion pedals, and moved it to Memphis in the early '70s. Which is to say, big rockers and tearjerker ballads, all with amazing harmonies. Criminally under-appreciated in their time and suffering their share of turmoil (though not nearly as much as their British power pop brethren Badfinger), their influence has nonetheless been well-documented; Cheap Trick, REM, The Replacements, etc., etc., yadayada… Anyway, after a recent lackluster reissue of the two-fer of their first two albums (the same shoddy artwork, one non-essential bonus track, no thanks), the new box set Keep Your Eye On The Sky is a long time in coming and is finally a release worthy of their legacy. Rhino is really, really good at this reissue business and this set is packed with demos, alternate mixes, and a live disc, and sounds amazing and is simply a must-have.

The '80s gave us The Feelies, who took elements of all of the above, added a healthy dose of post-'70s druggy New York jitters and made it all uniquely their own. How lucky are we that they have recently reunited (their show at the Roxy last year was a highlight) and are (supposedly) working on new material? Like Big Star and so many other influential bands, The Feelies’ catalog was out of print for a long time surviving mostly in used vinyl racks (scarce in its own right) and through online traders. 1988’s Only Life, their third album, was quietly (and we think un-officially -- ed.) reissued last year on the Water label and is findable, but good luck finding any official online recognition of its existence.

So, finally, the band’s seminal 1980 debut, Crazy Rhythms and its follow-up, The Good Earth have been reissued by Bar None, with bonus tracks and everything. Though they are unlikely to be as scrutinized for their sound as the Beatles reissues, these albums have been re-mastered from “digital sources” as the original master tapes could not be located. I’m not entirely sure what that even means, and I have only heard mp3s (from official sources, deadbeats) so can’t comment on the CDs or the vinyl. They sound good to me -- they seem to have a bit more life than what’s been available. They’ve taken a novel approach to their bonus tracks: they want the albums to stand on their own, so the bonus tracks are not on the CD, but available by download with a provided code. According to the press release, they are only going to add a couple of the bonus tracks to the digital versions, so I’d say go with the physical formats. These cats are old school.

You are definitely advised to make sure you get all of the Crazy Rhythms extras simply to hear the demo of “Moscow Nights,” which is even more propulsive than the album version. The demo for “The Boy With The Perpetual Nervousness” has a bit of a darker vibe, though is no less manic. The original single version of “Fa cé-La” is rawer than on the album, and you can hear that the band have not missed a step with the pair of live tracks from DC's 9:30 Club from earlier this year that round out the set. There’s also a reverse bonus track of sorts: the album originally contained their cover of “Paint It, Black,” but it was added by the label without their consent, so they’ve left it off here.

The Good Earth
bonuses include another track from the 9:30, plus the non-album tracks from the 1986 EP No One Knows: their straightforward cover of the Beatles “She Said, She Said,” and their hyper cover of Neil Young’s “Sedan Delivery.”

Tickets are already on sale for The Feelies return to our fair city on November 22nd to open for Sonic Youth at the Wilbur. Hopefully, they’ll try out some new stuff –- singer and lead guitarist Glenn Mercer’s 2007 solo album Wheels In Motion and bassist Brenda Sauter’s 2006 Superbus album with her band Wild Carnation were both great records, so they collectively still have a lot to give.

Not having much more to give, apparently, are the Pixies. At the end of the '80s and into the '90s, the Pixies perfected the soft strum/screaming guitar dynamics (before Nirvana et al merged it with metal) combo with melody and wacko lyrics that influenced another few generations. Look, I LOVE the Pixies and have been a huge fan for a long time, and I was beyond excited to see the first round of reunion shows –- I saw a few of them. But they’re starting to wear out their welcome, aren’t they?

They tour for the money, and have not claimed otherwise, but this latest round of Doolittle shows and, especially this frivolous Minotaur box set is really pushing it. Seriously, guys -- $200 for four and a half albums? Or $500 for the super-duper version? Sure the CDs are gold, and that’s good because, well, I don’t know... Maybe you can recoup the price at Cash4Gold?

I’m happy that they too have been getting the attention and accolades that they richly deserve and were just starting to get when they broke up after touring with U2 in 1992, but if you’re going to keep this going, make a new record already. -- Michael Piantigini

The Feelies: Internerds | MySpace | YouTube | at Bar None Records
Glenn Mercer: MySpace | YouTube | at Pravda Records
Wild Carnation: Internerds | MySpace | YouTube
Big Star: Internerds | MySpace | YouTube | at Rhino
Velvet Underground: Internerds | MySpace | YouTube | at Sundazed
Pixies: Internerds | MySpace | 4AD | Facebook | Minoutaur

September 28, 2009

Review: Johnny Foreigner | Grace And The Bigger Picture [MP3]

And it starts like this: as much as Johnny Foreigner's towering 2008 debut Waited Up Til It Was Light [review here] was concerned with the band's beloved hometown, the British noise-pop trio's wholly remarkable follow-up is crisply refracted through the band's absence from it. And, of course, guitarist Alexei Berrow, bassist Kelly Southern and drummer Junior Elvis Washington Laidley's separation from Birmingham, England's people and places (but mostly people -- after all, there are some love songs here, yeh?) that a life lived via van requires. This theme is no surprise: for more than a year singer and guitarist Berrow has been quoted in interviews saying that Johnny Foreigner's sophomore record would be about touring in a series of endless arcs that keep the band routinely deracinated. The resulting music isn't as dark and dour (or, of course, as painfully traditional) as, say, Bob Seger's "Turn The Page," but that doesn't make the aches less real -- or the joy at all forced, for that matter. Grace And The Bigger Picture is pointedly heartfelt, jubilantly aggressive, road-weary and resigned all at once. The record is populated with wistful ideals of home ("we'll throw parties in the yard") and amazing letdowns ("all we have is miles and wires and all I am is calls tomorrow"), but there are also wonderfully carefree moments, as in the almost blindingly brief "Kingston Called, They Want Their Lost Youth Back."

In the months leading up to the release of Grace And The Bigger Picture it seemed the collection's likely focal points -- and obvious picks for beginning and ending tracks -- would be "Feels Like Summer" and "The Coast Was Always Clear," respectively. It turns out, however, that Grace And The Bigger Picture rotates on an axis that is the stunning "More Heart, Less Tongue," a ballad in the center slot of the running order that describes a frustrating long-distance relationship. The track, paired with its B. Fleischmann-esque echo "More Tongue, Less Heart," provides as neat a summary as can be had of the otherwise scrambling and raucous Grace And The Bigger Picture. We'd be shocked if "More Heart, Less Tongue" was not selected as a single from the set, although the track faces formidable competition from the amazing closer "The Coast Was Always Clear," the jangle-spazz winner "Dark Harbourzz," and even the re-recorded version of "Rhapsidy/This Trapeze Ball Thought Out," which now touts an irresistable drum 'n' bass low-end, a dazzling 8-bitty, weird delay on the guitar in the verse, and of course the new title "Every Cloakroom Ever." It is worth returning one's attention briefly to "The Coast Was Always Clear" to note that the goose-bump inducing denouement that buoys the lyrics "he's half asleep for you" may well be the band's finest recorded moment.

For a 16-song set (the hidden track at the end of the album this time around is, as Mr. Berrow promised, the wonderfully affecting, American Football-esque ballad "Close"), Grace And The Bigger Picture is breathlessly short. Listeners are not afforded a moment to relax prior to the calm commencement of track five, "I'llchoosemysideandshutup, alright." As with "Every Cloakroom Ever," "I'llchoosemysideandshutup, alright" begins as a ballad sung by Ms. Southern. This, of course, does not last, although the remaining section of the latter is delivered at such a velocity (consistent with its mate "Choose Yr Side And Shut Up!") that the entire thing serves mostly as a lively lead-in to the thoroughly exceptional "Criminals," which will be issued as a single in the U.K. 12 Oct. with the non-album b-sides "Things We Should Have Left On The Beach" and "Palace Fires."

Grace is painstakingly crafted, deeply layered, and hangs together as a collection more firmly than even its ambitious predecessor. The narratives sparkle like dizzying mosaics comprised of thousands of digital snapshots. Themes appear and re-appear, e.g. the clarion call "some summers!" in "Feels Like Summer" resurfaces in "The Coast Was Always Clear;" "More Heart, Less Tongue" is transmogrified into "More Tongue, Less Heart;" the breakdown to "Custom Scenes And The Parties That Make Them" even repurposes the breakdown from the band's break-out single "Eyes Wide Terrified;" and keen ears seem to hear the familiar cry of "Amateur! Historian! shouted in the closing moments of the squalling anthem "Dark Harbourzz." But even more impressive than the whole are the parts, as there is a remarkable compositional cleverness in certain of the songs that points to an ever sharpening songcraft among Berrow and company. This is no more apparent than within the almost linear, structure-flouting gem "Custom Scenes And The Parties That Make Them." We've read that a video was shot for the song, so it wouldn't surprise us if "Custom Scenes..." will also be selected as a single from Grace And The Bigger Picture. Best Before Records releases the record 26 Oct. in the U.K. Late word is that a special edition of the set will include a DVD of a live set recently filmed in London.

Johnny Foreigner -- "Feels Like Summer" -- Grace And The Bigger Picture
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[buy Johnny Foreigner music here]

Johnny Foreigner: Internerds | MySpace | YouTube | Flickr

September 23, 2009

Pants Yell! | Cafe 939, Boston | Sept. 26

Fresh from the disclosure that their next long-playing record will be released by the un-eff-with-ably awesome Slumberland Records, Cambridge, Mass.'s own twee pop superstars Pants Yell! make their first live appearance of the fall in Boston at Berklee's Cafe 939. Full details here. We finally saw the trio for the first time just this past January, when it supported Glaswegian indie rock goliaths Frightened Rabbit, and we've been looking out for another chance to catch them in action ever since. Slumberland Records, celebrating its 20th year of greatness in 2009, release Pants Yell!'s fourth album Received Pronunciation Nov. 10 on CD and LP (one or both formats apparently are packaged with Japanese obi strips -- um... awesome?). Pants Yell!'s most recent set, Alison Statton, was issued by Soft Abuse in late 2007. Here are a couple tracks freely available from various label sites.

Pants Yell! -- "Magenta And Green" -- Alison Statton
Pants Yell! -- "Your Feelings Don't Show" -- Recent Drama
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[buy Pants Yell! records right here and right here]

Pants Yell!: Internerds | MySpace | YouTube | Flickr

September 22, 2009

That Was The Show That Was: U2 | Gillette Stadium

[We are pleased to once again present to you the work of friend and former editor The Good Doctor. While he does not contribute often enough, The Good Doctor has previously graced these pages with reviews of a couple Yo La Tengo shows. More recently he called a lot of Ben Kweller fans homely here in February -- Ed.]

The guy talking about the big stadium rock show he went to last night has a lot in common with the guy talking about his trip abroad. No matter how much either one says he liked it, you’re bound to hear more about the parts that sucked. Trips abroad always involve a lot of bad airplane experiences and food poisoning, while tales of stadium rock shows are headlined by traffic jams and bad seats.

Irish commercial rock unit-shifters U2 filled well over half of the football field at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Mass. Sunday night with a metal sculpture that doubled as a stage and looked like a giant bug that had impaled itself on the Eiffel Tower. It’s unclear whether its comical size served only to provide spectacle or was conceived even a little bit to take up space in venues that a band like this must play to make money but are difficult to fill in this economy.

It’s a wonder to behold, 150 feet of steel supporting a 54-ton video screen assembled from nearly one million moving parts. The monstrosity takes four days to put together. They have three of these -- if I’m remembering the completely unverifiable press information I barely absorbed – so that they can keep the tour moving despite the glacial set-up schedule. So even if it’s there to displace sparser crowds where the pricier tickets are, who can fault a band willing to pour money and creativity onto the parts of the stadium where people won’t be standing? Is it a spider? Is it an octopus?

“We’ve got a spaceship,” Bono explained, finally taking the stage at approximately noon one week from now. The most time-consuming part of the set-up schedule is the very end, when the fans stand around waiting for the damn band to show up and start playing. The stadium vendors had long run out of beer, popcorn and mini-pizzas and had moved on to canned goods and pup tents. Everyone was already exhausted. Supporters Snow Patrol had begun the evening by threatening stadium patrons with a Bond-villain-like device that shot waves of boredom up and down the aisles. Most dodged the attack by keeping low and crawling toward lines of refugees hiding in the rest rooms. Others used pocket mirrors and whatever else was handy to fashion makeshift devices hoping to deflect the diabolically bland Irish cacophony.

But that was then. This was later, when Bono –- who is looking more and more like Robin Williams practically by the hour and also seems to have entered that stage of life when one starts to get shorter –- welcomed us to Spaceship 360.

"We’re not going anywhere without you," Bono called out, "Are you ready for the ride?"

“Hooray,” cheered the 90% of the audience whose sight lines weren’t blocked by the stage’s four colossally over-sized support beams.

“Screw you, Bono!” screamed the other ten percent.

And with that, on came the hits. Or at least a parade of album tracks that alternated between brand new (“Breathe,” “No Line on the Horizon,” “I’ll Go Crazy If I Don’t Go Crazy Tonight,” “Get on Your Boots”), recent (“Vertigo,” “Elevation,” “Stuck in a Song the Audience Can’t Get Out Of”) and arguably older (“I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For,” “The Unforgettable Fire,” “Where the Streets Have No Name”).

They stayed away from the real vintage stuff, your “I Will Follow”s and the like. I was also knocked out by versions of “New Years Day” and “Sunday Bloody Sunday” that sounded like effort had gone in to stripping them down to recreate the original album versions. Not to be polished and anti-septic, but crank the songs out with the same life they had just over 25 years ago.

The big surprise was how much new stuff rocked since I expected it to sound like Sting sitting in a bubble bath, but no. This was catchy, fast, crisp modern rock the way it really is supposed to be –- if you’re lucky enough to be near the PA. I’ve been assured that high up in the stadium it sounded like mud.

About a half-dozen people where I work went to this show and all of them had a long series of complaints. A band that plays in a football stadium –- U2, Bruce Springsteen, even The Beatles -– could never please anybody. Football stadiums are for football games not art exhibitions. At the end of a football game there is a clear winner and loser. At the end of an art exhibition held in a football stadium, everyone feels subconsciously compelled to pinpoint the winner and loser and inevitably they look within themselves and plan a trip abroad. -- The Good Doctor

September 21, 2009

Today's Hotness: The Cribs, The Couriers, The Stone Roses

>> It's been a long time since we've thrown together an odds n' sods post, mostly due to our increasing use of Twitter to deal with smaller news items. You should follow us at @clickyclicky, yeh?

>> We've never fully gotten behind West Yorkshire, England-based indie rock quartet The Cribs, perhaps because they've never had a domestic record deal? Maybe they have and we're just lazy? Whatever the reason, we've been reading raves in the UK-based blogs we follow, and then there was that business about Johnny Marr -- who is sort of famous, yeh? -- becoming a full-time member of the band. They've covered The Replacements and collaborated with Sonic Youth's Lee Ranaldo. All that piqued our interest. However, it took the freely available, firestorm of a track "We Were Aborted" to move us from "interested in the band" to "on Ebay to look for their new record." The track -- upbeat, guitar-heavy and with the sort of desperate and shouty vocals that draw us like a moth to a flame -- is a promo cut from the band's fourth full-length Ignore The Ignorant, which was released in the UK by Wichita Sept. 7. The new record entered the UK Top 10 last week, according to the quartet's web dojo, and the band is touring the U.K. to support the record release through mid-October. We think you'll dig the track, so here it is:

The Cribs -- "We Were Aborted" -- Ignore The Ignorant
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[buy Ignore The Ignorant and other Cribs releases from Banquet Records UK right here]

>> Compadre Jimmy Carl wrote us with a tip in recent weeks about a dynamite power pop track he'd heard on MIT's 88.1 WMBR-FM Cambridge by an outfit called The Couriers. This name was new to us, but it only took one listen to concur with Jimmy Carl's assessment. The New York-based quartet's "Time Away From Time" is an insanely catchy rocker that pushes a number of the right buttons, including piling every odd time signature one can think of next to each other while still delivering a lethally melodic attack. The band issued its debut --- and perhaps only -- record Stay These Couriers in 2005. How we missed this track for the last four years is something of a mystery to us, but people we can not be everywhere and hear everything! Which is why we dutifully distribute props to Jimmy Carl for bring The Couriers and their song to our attention. It is unclear whether the band is still a going concern, as the most recent show listed at its Internet Home Page was in December, and that show is referred to as a reunion show. Nevertheless, "Time Away From Time" rocks most steadfastly, it is available for free from the band, and we'll save you a trip and post it below.

The Couriers -- "Time Away From Time" -- Stay These Couriers
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[buy The Couriers' music from the band right here]

>> We are enjoying listening to the expanded reissue of The Stone Roses' epic self-titled debut, but we have a hard time adjusting to the running order not including "Elephant Stone." The song was on the U.S. version of the original release, but apparently not the original U.K. version. A demo of "Elephant Stone" is packaged with the second CD of the expanded reissue, but the absence of the proper version -- which the liners to the U.S. version tell us was produced by New Order's Peter Hook -- is hard for us to get used to.

>> Very alert readers may recall that when we first met The Hush Now the band was recording its sophomore set last summer. During the evening we sat in on the sessions, fronter Noel Kelly and his cohort were tracking a tune called "The Atheist." The track was noticeably absent from Constellations, The Hush Now's sophomore set that will finally be released next month (read our review here). Well, we caught up with Mr. Kelly after The Hush Now's set supporting The Beatings last weekend and asked him what happened to the track, and he said it will potentially be used as a b-side for a forthcoming single. The quintet's single "Hoping And Waiting," taken from Constellations, has already made some waves in the specialty radio charts.

September 17, 2009

And Then This Happened: Yo La Tengo | Wilbur | 9.16.09

Yo La Tengo with Yura Yura Teikoku at the Wilbur Theater, 9/16/09.
-Photos by Michael Piantigini

September 14, 2009

Be Prepared: Varsity Drag | Night Owls | Date TBD

VarsityDrag_ NightOwls
Cambridge, Mass.-based pop-punk stalwarts Varsity Drag have completed, delivered, announced the title, and dropped a bit-bit preview of their second full-length of new material Night Owls. Pics are posted at their Facebook page, and we're happy to snap up and re-post the front cover here for your inspection. Friend up the band if you want to peep the back art, which discloses the following track listing:

1. Animal
2. Night Owls
3. Richard's Gone
4. Galaxies
5. In This World
6. Hammer
7. Long Way Home
8. Morning
9. Post Script

The set was mixed/engineered by the inimitable Tom Hamilton, who helmed most if not all of the early Lemonheads records, depending on what your personal definitions of the words "all," "early" and "records" are. Night Owls will be issued in Europe next month on a date to be determined by Boss Tunage. Varsity Drag hopes the set will be available in some way shape or form to promote it during its upcoming UK tour, which runs from 3 Oct. through the 10th. They even go to Cardiff. A complete set of dates can be inspected at the band's MySpace dojo right here. Varsity Drag issued the live set Rock N' Roll Is Such A Hassle over the summer. Our own Michael Piantigini reviewed it right here. The debut For Crying Out Loud, originally issued by Boss Tunage in 2005, was recently reissued on f'ing glorious 10" vinyl.

Varsity Drag: Internerds | MySpace | YouTube | Flickr

Previous Varsity Drag Coverage:
Varsity Drag @ Cantab Lounge, March 2009
Varsity Drag @ O'Brien's, August 2008
Varsity Drag @ Cantab Lounge, February 2008
Free Range Music: Varsity Drag, May 2006

That Was The Show That Was: The Beatings, Hands And Knees

The Beatings, Great Scott, Sept. 12, 2009

The Beatings, fresh off a short but successful tour, dazzled the hometown crowd from Great Scott's small stage Saturday night, playing selections from its newly issued collection Late Season Kids with a degree of control and confidence that we rarely see on said stage. The platform was flanked by black-garbed Mssrs. Skalicky and Keiber, anchored by the pogoing bassist Erin Dalbec and dead-serious drummer Dennis Grabowsi, and new-ish utility player Greg Lyon was wedged in a corner behind a keyboard with a guitar slung over one shoulder and a mad scientist's furrowed brow. The Beatings performed with such passion and force we briefly considered simply posting video clips of air raids, bombings and tidal waves to get the point across.

Under a steady rain of camera flashes that belies that band's relatively low profile outside the City of Boston, the quintet launched into the same opening salvo it had deployed so effectively the prior Tuesday, when The Beatings opened their radio appearance on WMBR with the one-two punch of "Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained" and "Bury You." These potent tracks lead Late Season Kids, which we reviewed last month here. We were particularly gratified to hear the band decisively pound out the album highlight "All The Things You've Been Missing" in the middle of the set; also from the new record were "Youth Crimes" and "Parts-Per Notation," among others. The precise rendering of powerful dynamics during "Upstate Flashbacks," a remarkable track from the band's 2006 long-player Holding On To Hand Grenades that was also played at WMBR, was both riveting and spine-tingling. We are hopeful that last night's performance doesn't mark the end of the Late Season Kids album cycle, because we'll feel that we've missed out if we don't get more chances to see the band kill it with this material before entering suspended animation once more. Currently the fivesome have no additional gigs listed at its MySpace yert here.

Supporting act Hands And Knees, signed to The Beatings' own Midriff Records label, were charming and the quartet's skewed rockabilly proved particularly vibrant when performed live. The band issued its debut Et Tu, Fluffy? in April, and we look forward to the opportunity to see the act live again. Evening openers The Hush Now proved to be as resilient as ever, performing a stirring final number (all we could catch because of the joys of parking in Allston, was it "Thorns"? Our memory fails us) and indeed the entire set with a guitarist standing at the front of the stage who'd only signed on with the band in the last two or three weeks. We reviewed The Hush Now's sophomore set Constellations right here last month.

The Beatings -- "Bury You" -- Late Season Kids
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[buy Beatings records from Midriff right here]

The Beatings: Internerds | MySpace | YouTube | Flickr

Previous Beatings Coverage:

That Was The Show That Was: The Beatings | TT The Bear's
Year-End Wrap Party: Eight Records You Should Have Heard In 2006
The Beatings' Holding On To Hand Grenades review

September 10, 2009

Video for Johnny Foreigner's "Criminals" Is Here!

[UPDATE: This video has been exclusivized to another web site for the weekend. We'll get the embed back come Monday. Sorry for the interruption in your Clicky Clicky service Looks like the video is back already! Thanks Internets!! -- Ed.] “Criminals,” you may recall, has been annointed the second single from the forthcoming sophomore set Grace And The Bigger Picture by Birmingham, England-based indie titans Johnny Foreigner. There will be two b-sides appended when the single is released Oct. 12 (digital-only, sadly) through all the typical online storefronts (ITunes, 7Digital, et cetera and hopefully including EMusic for the U.S.). Anyway, those b-sides? They’re titled “Things We Should Have Left On The Beach” and “Palace Fires” respectively, which apparently “are super new notheardbefore songs recorded in our practice room and at kel and juns house by dom james. there’s also a lovely desktop wallpaper thing and a whole bag of love that isn’t exactly tangible, it just pours out of your screen and bathes you.” "Criminals" follows the release of the earlier single "Feels Like Summer" as a free download late last spring.

As far as pending full-length Grace And The Bigger Picture is concerned, the album art is complete, but not yet in the proverbial wild. A special edition of the set -- which will be issued by Best Before Records 26 Oct. -- will be packaged with a DVD of the band performing a live set that will be filmed in London this Saturday. So while pre-orders for the full-length can already be made through Banquet Records and HMV, we'd advise you to hold off so you can make sure you are ordering the expanded jawn with the live DVD, yeh? Are we up to speed on all things Johnny Foreigner? Probably not, but we'll get there.

September 9, 2009

Reader Rewards: Win A Beatles Lithograph From Clicky Clicky

The Beatles
Hearda The Beatles? The greatest rock (or pop, depending on how much of a music nerd you are) band ever? The band whose name seems to always precede the words "and The Stones" when you are talking about music with non-music nerds? Whose music we used to listen to through the ceiling of our bedroom as a child as our brother spun the records upstairs? Anyway, in case you live under a rock, The Beatles (well, EMI) are selling from today remixed/remastered boxed collections of all of their studio albums in mono and stereo sets, as well as remixed/remastered versions of the individual albums. If you've followed the message board chatter as our Senior Writer Mike Piantigini has, you know that there has been talk of the box sets selling with such velocity during pre-orders that they are hard to come by. A message at Sunday morning read: "Important Beatles "Stereo Box Set" Availability Message -- We have sold out of our initial allocation of Beatles stereo box sets, but we will be receiving more inventory after release date. Sign up to be notified as soon as more stereo box sets are available. If you have already pre-ordered your stereo box set, you will receive your order."

Anyhoozle, clearly we are NOT giving any box sets away. We don't even have them ourselves. But we are able to give away, through the largesse of the fine people at Cornerstone Promotions, a lithograph of the image posted above. It is not our favorite image of the band, but it's still cool to win, cool to feel the un-phony Beatlemania not having bitten the dust, and et cetera. Here's the deal: the first U.S. resident (sorry other people!) to email us at our address linked in the sidebar at right gets the litho. Plain and simple. We'll email the winner back, get your snail mail deets, and the folks at Cornerstone will ship the thing right to you. And then you can walk around with your head held high the rest of the day. [EDIT: We have a winner! Congrats to reader Deb!]

September 8, 2009

Review: Fleeting Joys | Occult Radiance [MP3]

We've been talking about it for more than a year, but the sophomore record from Fleeting Joys is finally here. The elephant in the room when discussing the superlative Northern California-based shoegaze duo is the similarity between its music and the most well-known and inflential portion of My Bloody Valentine's body of work. It bears mentioning and is a useful shorthand, but we expect Fleeting Joys' John Loring and Rorika grow weary of the obvious comparison (they list MBV first among their influences at MySpace) even as they are gratified by it. The aural similarity has led to some pretty silly behavior by seemingly well-intentioned fans. Those who take the time to scrutinize will find Fleeting Joys are more forthcoming with a melodic hook than Kevin Shields' legendary quartet, and while Fleeting Joys don't rush albums out, the duo has released two in the last few years, which is two more than Mr. Shields has released in about two decades. If you are a fan of painstakingly architected and beautifully realized guitar music that bends, pounds and pulses, Fleeting Joys have a lot to offer, particurly on this latest collection.

And of course, listeners who refuse to accept the easy comparison will find there's quite a few bands to which one can point. It's hard to say in which direction the influences may flow, but the crushing opener "The Angels Cannot See You Now" recalls fellow California-based psych-rockers The Warlocks. "Into Sun + Dark" hints at the beginning of Crooked Fingers' cover of Queen and David Bowie's "Under Pressure," but instead of shifting into a traditional rock/pop form "Into Sun + Dark" persists in glimmering, sparkling, drifting in on itself and burrowing under layers and layers of processed guitars. "Dearly Sedated" modulates the main riff of The Swirlies' "Park The Car By The Side of The Road" and adds menacing intensity with pounding, black sheets of sound.

We haven't heard anything about a single being released, but Fleeting Joys has a perfect a-side/b-side pairing in tracks two and three on the new set, the uptempo, pop-leaning strummer "You Are The Darkness" and "Cloudlike Mercury." Both are album highlights, particularly the former. Fleeting Joys released Occult Radiance domestically through its own Only Forever Recordings Aug. 27. Occult Radiance was released in Japan in January on Thomason Sounds with a different track listing and mix. The U.S. release has two additional songs, the aforementioned "The Angels Cannot See You Now" and "Dearly Sedated." The Japanese release is still something of a collector's item, however, as it contains "Closer To My World Without Pain," which is not on the domestic issue. Fleeting Joys debut Despondent Transponder was issued in 2006 and is now out of print. There's no proper freebie promo MP3 from Occult Radiance, but the band has graciously offered up the outtake "Golden Now." Check it out.

Fleeting Joys -- "Golden Now" -- Occult Radiance outtake
[right click and save as]
[buy Occult Radiance from the band here]

Fleeting Joys: Internerds | MySpace | YouTube | Flickr

September 7, 2009

Exclusive! Behind-The-Scenes of Johnny Foreigner's "Criminals"

The video about the video that everyone should be talking about later this week. [EDIT] We suppose we'd be remiss in our duties if we didn't also point out this.

YouTube Rodeo: Dinosaur Jr.'s "Been There All The Time" In Paris

From last night's show in Paris, supported by Johnny Foreigner, as shot by Parisian uber-cooler Vee. Thanks Vee!

September 4, 2009

Ringo Deathstarr "In Love" b/w "Summertime" Due 9/14

As we first reported here in February, and we guess technically as far back as August 2008 right here (we're attentive, yo). The Austin, TX-based shoegaze goliath's single will be available digitally and on vinyl as SVC024 from SVC Records. Pre-order or purchase from SVC right here, once they're set up to do that sort of thing (can't be long now, eh?). Ringo Deathstarr's self-titled EP was among our 10 favorite records of 2007, as you can see here. Readers may recall the EP was reissued on hot pink vinyl by Fan Death Records earlier this year.

September 2, 2009

Only The Greatest Concert Bill We've Run Across In Recent Memory

We're sitting on a whole mess of Johnny Foreigner news, too. We'll try to get that online in the next 24 hours. In the meantime, start pricing flights to Paris. Unless you are Parisian. In which case, you are the luckiest people on the planet come Sunday.

Prelude To The Beatleocalypse

We’re now just a week away from the Beatleocalypse and trust me, 9/9/09 may just end up the end of the world or the heralding of paradise on Earth if you follow any of the online forums discussing such matters. On one such den of iniquity (where I admittedly lurk. sigh), one of the key engineers in charge of remastering these Arcs of the Covenantses for the masses and smaller mass of obsessives actually posted and provided helpful corrections and calming words about the process and the source material. NOT GOOD ENOUGH. To paraphrase one response, “Are you sure they’re using the original original masters for Pepper? Are you sure? ‘Cause I heard they were lost…”

I won’t even get into the concerns over loudness. Or the count on the numbers of mono box sets left in the world. Or the great news that a collection of the oft-shoddily bootlegged Beatles Fan Club Christmas messages will finally be made available, but only locked deep within the Rock Band game.

How to calm my nerves then? Well, how about some Beatle tributes?

WAIT – DON’T CLICK AWAY YET! Look, I hate tributes. Especially Beatle tributes. Why? How can you win? Too close a cover, and what’s the point? Make it your own and you’re rolling the dice I’m not even going near that new Sgt. Pepper set that Cheap Trick put out last week (which seems to fall into the former category).

The solo stuff is even tougher. Remember Listen To What The Man Said: Popular Artists Pay Tribute to the Music of Paul McCartney? Didn’t think so – who thought that the world wanted to hear SR-71’s take on “My Brave Face?” (Side note: this set does, however, have one track worth seeking out: Sloan’s truly great cover of McCartney II’s “Waterfalls”).

Once in awhile, though, collections come through that have just the right spirit. Tom Scharpling, the host of the WFMU’s legendary “Best Show on WFMU,” a call-in show featuring the hilarious and strange characters of Superchunk (and usually several other bands) drummer Jon Wurster and whoever else calls in (who are sometimes even more strange), is known to regular listeners as an unabashed fan of McCartney (and Abba!) so it isn’t surprising that Tom: A Best Show on WFMU Tribute to Ram is a lovingly-curated tribute to McCartney’s second post-Beatles set.

The A&R on this is nearly perfect: the chamber-pop opener “Too Many People” goes to Aimee Mann; the demo-y solo track “Ram On” goes to Portastatic; the finely crafted “Dear Boy” could have been written by Death Cab For Cutie; the really strange one, Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey” goes to Dump, the rollicking “Smile Away” gets torn up by Hank IV, the other strange one, “Monkberry Moon Delight” is inhabited by Danielson, and the soaring “Back Seat of My Car” is knocked out of the park by Ted Leo.

This is so good and worth your time that it pains me to tell you that you blew it. This was available only as a premium to donors to WFMU’s annual pledge drive. That’ll teach you. Give ‘em some money next year – the show and the station in general are well worth it.

All is not lost, though. You can drown your sorrow of missing out on Tom by spending some time with Tribute To, a somber and absorbing tribute to George Harrison by My Morning Jacket’s Jim James (operating here under the name Yim Yames for some reason). It sounds every bit like it was recorded shortly after Harrison’s death in 2001, which it apparently was. These sparsely arranged takes really capture a certain spirit that almost feels closer to the heart of these songs than some of the original versions. This may not be surprising to Harrison fans – when All Things Must Pass was reissued in 2001, Harrison indicates in the liner notes that he was tempted to strip some of the songs back from Phil Spector’s bigger production values, and the bootlegs of demos from that era certainly portray a haunting quality that, for all of its greatness, the finished piece downplays.

So there you go. Next week, I’ll either be listening exclusively Beatles for the next 6 months, or trying to avoid it. I suppose it’ll depend on how the already simmering marketing blitz goes. -- Michael Piantigini

The Beatles: Internerds | MySpace | Vidya Games |
WFMU: Internerds
Best Show on WFMU: Streaming Archive | Internerds | Recaps | Scharpling and Wurster | MySpace
Yim Yames: Internerds | MySpace

September 1, 2009

September Surprise: Noise Addict's It Was Never About The Audience

What a pleasant surprise this is. Though I was an early and avid supporter, I started to lose track of Ben Lee after becoming increasingly disappointed in his music as he matured from the 13 year-old that was introduced to the US by no less than Thurston Moore’s Ecstatic Peace label in 1993 with his primitive cheap keyboard drum machines and guitars and obvious gift of melody and clever turns of phrase and into a more studied and serious singer-songwriter. That early notice was largely driven by the 1994 underground hit “I Wish I Was Him,” (from the Young and Jaded EP on Grand Royal) a back-handed tribute to Evan Dando that would have been easy to write off as a novelty were it not so clever, tuneful, and charming.

Now, I don’t mean to begrudge him his craft, but as I was talking about with a friend over the weekend, the longer you keep at songwriting, the harder it seems to be to recapture the innocence and charm of your early attempts. You’ve done the three-chord pop, what’s next? This is often a good thing: “Tomorrow Never Knows” was a scant three or so years on from “Love Me Do,” after all. Not everyone agrees about such things of course: the Wilco of A Ghost Is Born is not the same band that people fell in love with on Being There (though I happen to love both). For me, Lee’s records started to lose that charm after he dropped the Noise Addict moniker and releasing albums under his own name. After 1995’s Grandpaw Would, they just started to get less interesting.

So, when alerted by a Merge press release that there was a new Noise Addict album – available NOW – and FREE – and LOU BARLOW is IN the band (along with Crooked Fingers’ Lara Meyerratken), I was skeptical that Lee could reach back and recapture that spirit. I’m glad to report that he largely has. According to the liner notes for it was never about the audience, there were arbitrary ground rules, key among them that the songs were written right before being quickly recorded in Lee’s bedroom, just like when he was a teen. That urgency leaves little time for over-crafting and it suits his pop instincts well.

Lyrically, it’s a throwback too. The first track, “That’s How It Goes” opens with the lines “bands make music/writers write about it/sometimes people like it/and sometimes they don’t” and later in “I Heart Your Band,” he mocks with “I heart your band/especially the early stuff.” Elsewhere he goes after “Chris Martin’s Frown,” so there may still be a lot of music fanboy still in Lee, but a wearier one.

I’m holding out hope that this experiment reinvigorates Lee’s songwriting, and it certainly will stir an examination of what I missed. Grab it –- it’s available now for free download here. -- Michael Piantigini