March 31, 2011

Eldridge Rodriguez Record Release Show | O'Brien's Pub | 1 April

Eldridge Rodriguez Record Release Show, with Soccermom, O'Brien's
With the inimitable Soccermom, who are planning a release of their own sure to knock socks. Midriff Records issues Eldridge Rodriguez' You Are Released tomorrow. Buy it here.

March 28, 2011

Review: The Answering Machine | Lifeline

More mid-tempo, more introverted, more subdued, more, more, more. Lifeline, the sparkling sophomore set from Manchester, England-based indie pop phenoms The Answering Machine, is a world apart from the brash, barnstorming guitar anthems of the band's early singles and 2009 full-length Another City, Another Sorry. Instead, Lifeline is a startlingly mature record for such a young act; The Answering Machine, it seems, has (metaphorically) jumped straight from album one to album four. How much of this has to do with fronter Martin Colclough assuming the role of producer for this collection is unclear. But the massive step forward in songwriting -- just have a listen to the orchestral final minute of album opener "My Little Navy" -- is clear.

The set was launched with two great singles, "Animals" and the title track. The former served to introduce fans to The Answering Machine's evolution toward a pensive, synth-friendly attack (and perhaps to startle older fans with its melodic similarity to Foreigner's "Waiting For A Girl Like You"). The second, the bracing belter "Lifeline," was a staunch reminder that the quartet retains its facility with big anthems. At the same time, the second single displays a more sophisticated rhythmic sensibility -- in the bass playing in particular -- that evidences the band has more than great songs and deep energy these days; it also has chops.

Thematically, Lifeline captures The Answering Machine in transition. The collection is laden with the emotional wreckage of relationships that aren't working. The band made trips to Brooklyn and Los Angeles during the writing process, seemingly as part of an effort to be very cautious about what statement The Answering Machine would make with a second record. But more apparent than that conservatism is the gentle melancholy that pervades Lifeline, with its songs about hospitals, escape and wistful yearning.

Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me is one of the greatest albums of all time. We'd argue it is the best album by The Cure. But those who know us well know we always say the same thing about the 1987 tour de force: we'd love to hear it without so many keyboards. Similarly, there's a lot of keyboard on Lifeline, more so than we've heard from the band previously, and it makes us wonder what the band would have sounded like had it opted to just track more guitars instead of the plentiful keys. Of course, certrain tracks (we're thinking of "You Should Have Called" in particular) from the act's cracking debut evidences the band has been flirting with keyboards as part of an expanded sonic pallet for years. But the prominence of keyboards on Lifeline approaches '80s fetishism. Even so, the sturdy frames of The Answering Machine's characteristically ace songs carry their weight well, and in some cases exceptionally well ("Hospital Lung," for example). And there is certainly more than synths here; the spectral ballad "Rules" is not only a fetching tune, but its minimal percussion and acoustic guitar show that the quartet can solve its pop equations a number of ways.

Heist Or Hit released Lifeline Feb. 21 in a variety of packings, including some limited edition bundles with t-shirts and handmade rarities complilations (the shirt package is already sold out) and more. Rarities compilation you say? Why yes -- based on the photo at the band's online store the track list is the 2006 demos of "Romantic And Square" (which we love),"Answer Me" and "The Wind Up;" the 2008 demo of "Emergency;" and the 2009 demos for "Hospital Lung" and "Winter Without You." The band has created and posted a flash-based flip-book -- not unlike a CD insert -- that features Lifeline's music, lyrics and simple animated artwork. It's charming, check out "Lifeline Digital" right here. The Answering Machine recently played a series of well-received performances at the annual South By Southwest music confab in Austin, and is now back on its native soil touring in support of Lifeline. You can inspect all live dates right here.

The Answering Machine: Internerds | Fakebook | YouTube | Twitter

Previous Answering Machine Coverage:
YouTube Rodeo: The Answering Machine's "Lifeline"
Today's Hotness: The Answering Machine
Message Received: The Answering Machine Storm California
Footage: The Answering Machine's "Emergency (Acoustic In New York)"
Review: The Answering Machine | Another City, Another Sorry

March 24, 2011

YouTube Rodeo: Lilys' Amazing "YCJCYAQFTD," "A Nanny In Manhattan," "Baby's A Dealer"

Righteous dude and Lubec fronter Eddie Charlton sent us a link to this amazing video of Lilys performing at The Monarch in Camden, London in 1996. See, as a Lilys fan these little finds are like little Arks of the Covenant. The band never seemed to play live all that much, or at least never when I was around, even despite the myriad line-up changes. So finding performance footage that we've never seen before is always a constant source of wonder. The clip features three tunes, as the title to this post conveys. The sound isn't all that great, but the performance is frankly one of the ballsiest and solid we've ever seen from the band. "YCJCYAQFTD" is an astonishingly wonderful track from Lilys' equally wonderful, earthshaking A Brief History Of Amazing Letdowns EP, now long out of print. "A Nanny In Manhattan" was probably the nearest thing the band ever had to a hit, although "Ginger" was infamously used in a Calvin Klein commercial back in the day and more recently was in a Cadillac ad. The third cut is a raunchy version of "Baby's A Dealer," and although the sound is overpoweringly indistinct, the feel man, the feel. That latter track was released as the flip to the "Welfare Murder Plot" single and is well worth tracking down. Press play and revel in it.

March 23, 2011

Rock Over Boston Austin: SXSW Night 7

But wait, there's more!

Every year for the last decade or so, hometown hero Alejandro Escovedo has curated a post-SXSW benefit show at Austin's legendary Continental Club. He hand-picks the acts, enlists guest-stars aplenty, and essentially takes back his mantle of being a kind of mayor of Austin music after beating back the invasion of the world's bands, bloggers, music businessmen, and fans. Though I doubt he thinks of it that way - he couldn't have been a more gracious host.

We joined the 6:30 pm - 2:00 am show already in progress (hey, I have to draw the line somewhere) and caught the last half of St. Louis rockers The Incurables' set of solid, catchy... well, rock and roll. There was palpable sense of excitement in the club about what came next. Candy Golde is an odd duck of a Chicagoland supergroup: Rick Rizzo of Eleventh Dream Day, John Stirratt of Wilco, Bun E. Carlos of Cheap Trick, and Chicago mainstay Nick Tremulis have put together a hell of a rockin' band that tore through covers of "Hey Joe" and an unlikely revamp of Paul Simon's "Boy In The Bubble," as well as a bunch of original material from their new EP. (Recommended!). Ivan Julien of Richard Hell and the Voidoids (who produced Candy Golde's EP), played guitar on a song too.

Richard Barone, formerly of 80's Hoboken pop outfit The Bongos, who opened for Escovedo's Rank and File back in the day, was next with a set of energetic pop songs with accompanying violinst Deni Bonet, who we last saw on tour with Robyn Hitchcock some years ago. Shifting gears again, New Yorkers Jesse Malin and The St. Mark's Social Club blasted through their set, ending with "Instant Karma." Sounds like a groaner, but Malin and company's energy was infectious and I was a believer.

Willie Nile might be the most legendary singer/songwriter/rocker you've never heard of (take a gander at his Wikipedia entry to get the gist). His was an old-school rock and roll show - a bit corny by today's hipster standards, maybe, but convincing nonetheless. He absolutely detonated a cover of Jim Carroll's "People Who Died."

Some friends of mine first recommended Hamell on Trial to me, oh, 'round about 15 years ago, and I finally got around to it this night. I do wish I had taken their advice sooner - Ed Hamell's a bitter and hilarious spoken wordsmith, delivered over his jittery acoustic guitar. Funny, but not novelty. A good way to clear the decks for our host's headlining set.

Alejandro Escovedo's recent tour was a stripped-down rock band affair, but at the Continental, we were treated to a set by the "Orchestra" lineup (or part of it anyway), that he sometimes uses. Strings, trumpet, organ - there were never less than 10 people on the tiny Continental stage, and often as many as 12 when the guests started joining in. Fellow local Charlie Sexton stuck around on guitar for a good chunk of the set, and everyone went (justifiably!) wild for Lucinda Williams' appearance, though her half of a duet with Escovedo was on pretty shaky ground from the get-go. This may have been, unfortunately, a bit too late in the night.

Modest and gracious throughout, Escovedo simply delivered a great night of his great songs. Hell, not known particularly for his guitar playing, he even unleashed a blistering solo during his "Chelsea Hotel '78" that was at least as good as anything I'd heard all night.

By closing time, he'd shed his guitar and was winding up a passionate take on "Beast of Burden" (they'd done "Miss You" earlier), and that was the real end of SXSW, as far as I was concerned.


So closed 7 straight days of music. It was a blast, as always, but there were a few wrinkles this year. There's already been a lot of hand-wringing going on about this year's SXSW due to a few unfortunate incidents. Indeed, it felt significantly larger than even the last one I attended two years ago. Still, it remains a great time for the music (and taco) obsessed. Considering the number of people in the city for the event (an amazing 200,000ish, according one of the linked articles), it seems remarkable how few problems there are. The talk of cracking down on day parties seems especially ominous since they've become such a huge part of the fun. Then again, I don't live there. Given the exponential growth, I suppose it is inevitable that there would be potential for a tipping point where it is just too taxing on the city's infrastructure (to say nothing of how it gets increasingly difficult to see what you want to see when you're on a wristband budget in a town full of badge-holders - which reminds me: who wants to sponsor badges for Clicky Clicky next year?). Let's hope they're not there yet. It would be a shame to damage the good cheer of SXSW.

Now, it's never too early to start thinking about lodging for next year!

-Michael Piantigini

YouTube Rodeo: Ringo Deathstarr's "Kaleidoscope"

Our pre-order of the mighty Deathstarr's full-length debut cannot arrive soon enough (where the hell is it, anyway?). "Kaleidoscope" is our new favorite song. As far as we know the Austin, Texas-based trio's Colour Trip can only be pre-ordered domestically through Insound, and we highly recommend you get on that pronto. Although perhaps it is already out here? It was released in the UK 14 Feb. Bliss out. And in the meantime Insound is hosting an MP3 of the first single from Colour Trip, "So High," so snatch that. It's great, although we don't think it is "Kaleidoscope"-great.

Ringo Deathstarr -- "So High" -- Colour Trip
[right click and save as]
[pre-order Colour Trip from Insound right here]

March 21, 2011

Clicky Clicky Music Blog Is Five Years Old

Clicky Clicky Music Blog Is Five Years Old
Aloha. We've been remiss in recognizing that five years ago we bought the URL and transformed a personal blog that had been kicking around for five or six years (originally hosted by, remember when people did that?) while we wrote elsewhere into something intended for public consumption. Or at least consumption by the public that cares about good indie rock. Or the subset of that public that cares about what we think about good indie rock. It's a niche of a niche; maybe more of a fissure. But anyway, the proper anniversary date was February 26, but the opportunity to recognize the milestone has eluded us until now. So yeah. Here we are. We're on the list for ... uh, what's the opening band again? Wanna beer?

We're grateful for all the bands, all the music, all the promoters, all the clubs, all the labels, all the everybody who've helped us make Clicky Clicky something that we'd read if we were on the other side of the computer monitor. Without the music and the bands that make it, well, we guess we'd have to watch TV or play videogames like all the other losers. An extra special thanks goes out to my henchman Michael Piantigini, as well as Jay Kumar, Ric Dube and all the sometimes writers and reviewers who have contributed over the years (Brad Searles' guest post from 2006 may still be the most-read post ever -- thanks B!). As we tend to do whenever we mark a milestone on the blog, let's have a listen one more time to two of our absolute favorite tunes. Both were released by the mighty Slumberland Records in the early '90s: Lilys' "Claire Hates Me" and Whorl's "Maybe It's Better." These two songs sit comfortably among the greatest indie rock songs ever written, and no matter how many times we post them, it will never be enough. Here's to another five years.

Lilys -- "Claire Hates Me" -- In The Presence Of Nothing
Whorl -- "Maybe It's Better" -- "Maybe It's Better" b/w "Christmas" 7"
[right click and save as]
[both records out of print; buy in-print Slumberland releases here]

March 20, 2011

Rock Over Boston Austin: SXSW Night 6

I'm exhausted. Today's take:

Alejandro Escovedo at Maria's Taco XPress
The Decade Show at Trophy's
The Autumn Defense at Yard Dog
Eleventh Dream Day at Yard Dog
Menomena at South By San Jose at Jo's
Kurt Vile at Waterloo Records

The Cambodian Space Project at Habana Bar
Carsick Cars at Malaia
Soundtrack of Our Lives at St. David's Bethell Hall
Frank Smith at The Marq

-Michael Piantigini

March 19, 2011

And Then Some Days We Get Awesome Mail 9

Unboxing the Owls reissue
We've been so busy at the day job lately that we have hardly a recollection of ordering this, which we think we did at 11PM Central Time some night six weeks ago, which night was the umpteenth 15-hour day in a row. Good times. What we have here is the vinyl re-issue of Owls' blindingly brilliant self-titled set originally released July 31, 2001. Jade Tree re-pressed the set in an edition of 550 pieces, 150 white platters and 400 black ones. What stock did not move in pre-orders was available in finer retail stores as of Tuesday. Owls, in case you did not know, featured much of the fabled original lineup of late second-wave emo standard bearers Cap'n Jazz. If you aren't familiar, enjoy this MP3 of the wonder "Everyone Is My Friend," courtesy of the fine folks at Jade Tree.

Owls -- "Everyone Is My Friend" -- Owls
[right click and save as]
[buy Owls from Jade Tree right here]

Rock Over Boston Austin: SXSW Night 5

[Photos from SXSW in Austin, TX 3/18/2011 by Michael Piantigini.]
As is typical of SXSW, today was a day of frustration at long lines, parking problems, and bad timing that was more than made up for by a few spectacular performances.

Home Slice Pizza's Music By The Slice is always a great party with a great lineup with easy access to great pizza. This year, though, some permitting conflicts led to them having to put the shows on with no amplification whatsoever. Apex Manor played a great set there on Thursday, and Versus opened Friday. For longtime fans, it was a great chance to see them in a unique setup.

Our foray back into downtown was the source of the frustration I mention above, so before long we headed back down South Congress to get to the Yard Dog for the Bloodshot Records party. This is one of the most fun day parties, usually headlined by the irrepressible Waco Brothers, who stagger the line between The Clash and Johnny Cash (both of whom they covered). They blew it out of the water, as usual, while the band worked on killing a whiskey bottle between songs.

The Merge Records showcase was my target of the night, though I only managed to see the last half of it, just in time to catch American Music Club wrap up. Versus then reminded us of why they don't usually play acoustic sets - loud works for them. Wye Oak were playing their third set of the day, but showed no signs of wear.

Wild Flag were the most anticipated band of the night. They're an indie-rock Asia, of sorts: a supergroup fronted by Sleater Kinney's/TV's Carrie Brownstein and Helium's Mary Timony. Wow, does it ever seem like this group was mean to be together. They rocked. Who knew that Mary Timony could be such a guitar hero?

-Michael Piantigini

March 18, 2011

Rock Over Boston Austin: SXSW Night 4

More photos of most of what I saw at SXSW on Thursday.

Music By The Slice at Home Slice Pizza:
Apex Manor

Schubas Party at Yard Dog:
Alex Winston
Kopecky Family Band

Revolution Bar
Glad We Were
The Decade Show

Solid Gold at Mohawk Patio
Jason Isbell at Swan Dive
Leatherbag at Velveeta Room
Thee Oh Sees at Red 7

-Michael Piantigini

March 17, 2011

Rock Over Boston Austin: SXSW Night 3

My night 3, but day 1 of SXSW Music. Long day and night, so I'm going to give you a bunch of photos and a quick list of who I saw and go to bed.

eMusic Day Party at Beauty Bar:
Grass Widow
JEFF the Brotherhood

Ty Segall

Fat Possum party at Club deVille:
Unknown Mortal Orchestra
Smith Westerns

Wednesday night showcases:
Shit Horse at Habana Bar
Orbit at Lustre Pearl
The Dears at Plush
We Are Hex at Elysium
Okkervil River at Red 7 (Patio)
Parts and Labor at Red 7

-Michael Piantigini

March 16, 2011

Rock Over Boston Austin: SXSW Night 2

[Photos of Mighty Deerlick, Militant Babies, Li'l Cap'n Travis, and Glossary at Hole In The Wall, Austin, TX 3/15/2011 by Michael Piantigini.]
SXSW preliminary night 2 brought us up to the Hole in the Wall for a high energy night of mostly locals that set the bar high for the rest of the week.

Milwaukee's The Mighty Deerlick, who played the first SXSW 25 years ago, delivered some fun punk rock, aided and abetted by Austin's Militant Babies, who filled out the rest of the time slot with some of the new stuff they've been working on. Guitarist Geof Flasch seems like he might be Austin's Dave Minehan. Slaying. Fellow locals Li'l Cap'n Travis brought the crooning and the California, country, and indie pop. A mix they make work.

Grand Champeen
owned the night. How are they not as big as The Hold Steady? Their Twin Cities-style power chords and explosive energy was going to be tough to follow. Glossary, though, were up to it. Shit-kickers from Murfreesboro, TN, they too had a throng of fist-pumpers down front hanging on every note and country harmony.

To sleep, perchance to dream... of migas.

-Michael Piantigini

March 15, 2011

Johnny Foreigner Third Record Underway, Plotting Single, Tour, Chicanery

Johnny Foreigner -- There When You Need It
We haven't had adequate time to keep readers apprised of the goings-on of our top-serious favorite band since publishing a review of their excellent but exhaustingly titled EP here in November. Sure there was the Stagecoach split single, and various YouTuberies. But what has Johnny Foreigner been up to the last several months? The big news is the Birmingham, England-based noise-pop titans are in the midst of recording its third full-length, according to this post at Formspring. Johnny Foreigner are producing the as-yet-untilted set themselves, which we in indie rock call "doing the Fugazi." Another Formspring post states that the band will issue the first single from the pending collection in mid-April; as there has been no other announcement or plan for pre-orders, we're guessing this will be a digital single.

Record No. 3 is being created with the help (we presume of the engineering variety) of Sunset Cinema Club fronter Dom James, who has recorded a number of JoFo b-sides over the years. Off the top of our heads we know that Mr. James recorded the two songs released in the .zip file titled Johnny Foreigner Is Aces released in Feb. 2009, but we think he may have also recorded the tracks for the fabled Johnny Foreigner/Sunset Cinema Club split single released on Laundrette Recording Company in 2007 with the 3-D sleeve art. According to Twitter the band recently "re-amped" the guitars for a Deftones-styled guitar attack, which apparently is going to be polarizing? There will likely be grand piano, and as of early February drums had already been tracked on five songs.

Based on a lengthy blog post from February in which fronter Alexei Berrow disclosed the plan for the next record's album art, there are at least 15 songs being considered for the new collection, or at least the new collection and its attendant b-sides. Considering the band sorta cleared the decks of unofficial releases in February with the release of the digital EP There When You Need It, we wonder whether that is going to be 15 all-new tracks. That would be sort of amazing, but not unlike our heroes, who have churned out an abundance of songs during the last five years, more songs than most bands probably ever write ever. Right?

In the time-honored manner of How Things Art Done, Johnny Foreigner have plotted a tour of the UK in April, which you'll notice is right around the time we are supposed to be seeing the new single. Makes you excited, right? Remember during the last album cycle when you tore yourself away from listening to the Projekt A-ko record long enough to dig on "Feels Like Summer?" We're sure Johnny Foreigner has one like that sitting up their sleeves. The dour, soulful and largely unamplified tracks of recent months are wonderful, but we feel a rock song coming on. We feel it. Tour dates are below, as are embeds and buy links for the tunes on There When You Need It. Act accordingly.


04/02 -- Edinburgh -- Haddowfest
04/03 -- Edinburgh -- Haddowfest
04/18 -- Wakefield -- The Hop
04/19 -- Aberdeen -- Cafe Drummonds
04/20 -- Glasgow -- Nice n Sleazy
04/22 -- Nottingham -- Bodega Social
04/23 -- Preston -- Mad Ferret
04/24 -- Milton Keynes -- Sno Bar
04/26 -- Birmingham -- Hare & Hounds
04/27 -- Liverpool -- The Shipping Forecast
04/28 -- Manchester -- Night & Day
04/29 -- Stoke -- Underground

Rock Over Boston Austin: SXSW Night 1 (Bonus)

Some additional photos of the Wearcast Party at Venue 222 in Austin, TX, 3/14/11 by Michael Piantigini.

Rock Over Boston Austin: SXSW Night 1

Night one is in the books, or really night minus 1 or something. SXSW 2011 in Austin, TX is still in its film and interactive phases, but there's plenty for the early-arriving music attendees to do. Besides, I find it best to ease in to what is a four day sprint that begins on Wednesday. I'll do my best to update as it all happens - as long as the 3G and my batteries hold up. They'll probably be quick and dirty, so EXCUUUUSE ME!

So, night 1: just made it to one tonight, after a long travel day: the Wearcast party at Venue 222.

We came in late and just caught openers The Lemurs covering "Melt With You," which didn't allow for a good read on them; Bad Veins relied on a reel to reel tape player for some of their backing, but some energetic drumming made it clear that they were a Live Band; a solo Ted Leo anchored the night, playing a good selection of catalog favorites like "Bottle of Buckie," "Me and Mia," and " One Polaroid A Day." There was also a great new song that he said was from the point of view of a slob addressing a snob. He closed it out with an unexpected cover of The Waterboys' "Fisherman's Blues," and managed wellthe tough job that a solo act faces when playing for chatty, party-ready SXSW crowds. and New York's The Dig kept us from leaving early with some great songs with driving rhythms that powered through a dead bass amp. The atmospheric keyboard elements had me thinking of them as a more energetic Doves. One to keep an eye on.

See you tomorrow.

- Michael Piantigini

March 12, 2011

YouTube Rodeo: Yuck's "Get Away"

Kinda hot, kinda weird describes both Yuck's new video and the terrific and rising London-based act itself. The clip embedded above is the lead track from the quintet's superlative self-titled debut, which was released by Fat Possum last month. The band has a surprisingly busy SXSW schedule next week, playing a grand total of nine appearances over the course of four days, March 16 through 19. Local fans not able to get to the annual Austin-based music confab next week will have two shots to see Yuck bring the rock next month at the tail end of a West-to-East U.S. tour. The band plays Boston's Paradise Rock Club April 28 [Ticketbastard] and Northampton, Mass.'s Pearl Street nightclub the following evening. We mention the Pearl Street gig specifically because Yuck shares the stage with the absolutely fantastic NYC UFOs that night, making it one of the strongest bills we see on the radar. If you can't get enough of that Yuck rock 'n' roll stuff, here's a Soundcloud embed of the jam, but we can tell you from personal experience the Fat Possum dudes are totally obliging and will absolutely make sure you get your money's worth. Buy Yuck from Fat Possum right here. It will make you happy.

March 8, 2011

Participate! The WFMU Marathon 2011

In junior high, I felt like a big shot when WHAV played my frequent after-school Beatles requests. In high school, it was Dr. Demento on the weekends (I'm gonna assume that "Shaving Cream and "Dead Puppies" are still in the "Funny 5"). I strained to tune in to WERS' metal mecca Nasty Habits (which ended its 20 year run a few years ago). I spent all of my time in college at our station, WXPL, and heared the burgeoning days of "alternative" rock on WFNX during that time. And dove deep into WMBR's Breakfast of Champions when finally moving in to the Boston area. Luckily, there was always a radio station to influence and/or re-direct my musical tastes.

Things turned ominous for radion in the 90's, though, as lobbyists nudged along the loosening of corporate ownership restrictions and radio became less and less local and less and less interesting.

'Course, this here truck series of tubes have changed the math on this considerably - and just in the nick of time, really. The internet can serve us virtually any radio station or radio-like internet-only stream in the world. It's a boon, but does come at a price, since a lot of people seem to throw their hands up at the constantly flowing glut of stuff (by that I mean blogs other than this one!) and end up relying heavily on self-curated web streams that just reinforce what they already like.

So what you need is a good and interesting curator. While I continue to love WMBR and also WZBC, much of my aural attention is drawn to Jersey City, New Jersey's WFMU, a fully independent, self-sufficient, and almost entirely volunteer bastion of the wonderful, the weird, the stunning, and, yeah, occasionally the unlistenable. But even that unlistenable stuff is still interesting and isn't it fantastic that there's an outlet for it somewhere?

I came for the comedy, and stayed for the music (and more of that comedy). Scharpling and Wurster's hilarious Rock, Rot, and Rule was one of those discs that got passed around in the late 90's among music dorks. As soon as the internet became capable of reliably streaming audio as the next decade played out, everyone who heard it eventually did the math and realized that the show where that bit originated was still going strong. The Best Show on WFMU (Tuesday nights 9-midnight) celebrated 10 years last fall and Jon Wurster's cast of characters (along with callers from all over the world) are still calling in and harassing Tom for our amusement.

It wasn't long before I expanded my listening to, well, pretty much everything else on the station. The Boston-area native-hosted Evan "Funk" Davies Show (Wednesdays 9-midnight), Joe Belock's Three Chord Monte (Thursdays noon-3 pm), Mr. Fine Wine's Downtown Soulville (Fridays 7-8 pm), and the Cherry Blossom Clinic with DJ Terre T (Saturdays 3-6 pm) are my go-to staples that I can listen to any time thanks to FMU's rather incredible practice of archiving every edition of every show apparently forever. But tuning into the station at anytime virtually guarantees that you'll hear something interesting, unusual, and frequently mind-blowing before long. If that weren't enough, there's their other 24-hour automated streams: Ichiban serves up constant rock and soul classics, avant-garde is on UbuWeb, and Do or DIY and Give The Drummer Some cover pretty much everything else.

All that costs money, so WFMU takes these two weeks every year to ask nicely for it. They make it so fun that it's really the only pledge drive in all of radio that you actually end up wanting to listen to. There's tons of amazing pledge premiums, and Tom Scharpling, in particular, has got a corker this year: a t-shirt, a poster, and the pièce de résistance: "Rated G.G.," a 7" single of G.G. Allin songs cleaned up for General Audiences by Ted Leo, Fucked Up, Ben Gibbard, Mountain Goats, and Ty Segall. Plus - these will be available as a digital download and will include even more stuff by Dump, Scharpling and Wurster, and apparently more. AND, according to the Twitter machine, if you pledge during The Best Show tonight, 9 pm - midnight, you'll be in the running to win an autographed copy of the Numero Group's stupendous Syl Johnson box set, among many other things.

Even if you hated the station, the pledge will be worth it for all that stuff alone. But it's impossible to hate it: it is a vital cultural icon and needs our help to make sure it is maintained. If you have $1 million dollars, please give it to them, but help 'em out with anything you can. WFMU proves - on a 24 hour/7 day a week basis - what radio can and should be. Keep it alive.

-Michael Piantigini

WFMU on Twitter:
Tom Scharpling: @scharpling
Evan "Funk" Davies: @efd
DJ Terre T: @TerreCherry

March 7, 2011

Review: Buffalo Tom | Skins

Thankfully, we haven't had to wait as long for Skins (out tomorrow on the band's own imprint, Scrawny Records) as we did for Three Easy Pieces, the album Buffalo Tom returned with in 2007 after a nine-year semi-hiatus. Better still, the new set is a stronger album. Where Three Easy Pieces felt sort of self-conscious in trying to figure out what the band means in the new century, Skins finds the band on more confident footing.

Its sound is layered and textured, with pianos and acoustic guitars and mandolins alongside some big SG/Marshall power chords. It breathes. That much of it was recorded with Paul Q. Kolderie at Camp Street Studios, with whom and where the band last worked with on its watershed 1992 album, Let Me Come Over (Camp Street being in what used to be the legendary Fort Apache studios) is probably no coincidence.

It's real, just as Buffalo Tom always have been. They've always been a band that's wears its heart on its sleeve, but in ways we can all relate to and with a sound to match. It's as if the Stones, Van Morrison, and The Who weren't Ivory Tower rock stars, but rather guys that grew up on your block or that you went to school with.

Skins' foundation lies in tracks 3-5. I don't think I'm out of line suggesting that guitarist Bill Janovitz has a trademark chord progression style out of which he's somehow managed, with subtle variances, to wrangle a couple of the band's biggest songs, "Taillights Fade" and "I'm Allowed." Here, it yields "Down" and its infectious titular refrain, and it feels as timeless a Buffalo Tom track as this all suggests. "Don't Forget Me" doesn't even need its lyrics to make you run your whole life through your mind and Tanya Donnelly's harmonies seal the deal; its follow-up "Guilty Girls" should be the feel-good rocker hit of the summer.

Meanwhile, bassist Chris Colbourn's songs here are still disarmingly simple in structure, but there's a lot to unpack. Where he recalled Maria Callas on Three Easy Pieces (on "CC and Callas"), here, "Miss Barren Brooks" remembers silent film actress Louise Brooks. Yes, I had to Google that.

Skins all comes down to the album's central broken heart, "The Big Light," Janovitz's dedication to his beloved uncle (he related the devastating story on his blog in 2009). It's a soaring rush of a racing mind trying to process a tragedy. Two-chord songs have rarely been more powerful.

The album's solo demos -- included on a deluxe edition -- are a must. There's not necessarily many major revelations of lost verses and nixed middle eights -- their arrangements are more or less the same. But the spare sound gives the songs even more heft. They sound like they were recorded after a long night of pouring hearts into song. Those pure moments of creation. Special mention to Colbourn's demo of "The Hawks & The Sparrows," which is a charming mix of his cracking, ill-sounding voice over a background of playing children.

Buffalo Tom
has always meant autumn and back-to-school and flannel and melancholy reminiscence and the mental steeling for a bleak New England winter. Skins is not so different, but the end-of-winter release puts it in a different perspective. It breathes with that cool breeze from the first pre-Spring open window. It's still a bit dark and dreary outside, but we're turning that calendar page.

They're on tour in Europe right now, but return for a hometown gig at the Paradise on April 8th and play 2 for New Hampshire Public Radio in Portsmouth just before that on April 2nd. More US dates follow.

Their full schedule:
March 7, 2011: Melkweg, Amsterdam, Holland
March 8, 2011: Luxor, Cologne, Germany
March 10, 2011: Dingwalls, London, England
March 11, 2011: Sound Control, Manchester, England
March 12, 2011: Oran Mor, Glasgow, Scotland

April 2, 2011: The Music Hall, Portsmouth, NH (2 shows)
April 8, 2011: The Paradise, Boston, MA
April 13, 2011: Varsity Theater, Minneapolis, MN
April 14, 2011: Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL
April 28, 2011: Bowery Ballroom, New York, NY
April 29, 2011: M Room, Philadelphia, PA
April 30, 2011: The Black Cat, Washington, D.C.

May 17, 2011: Slim's, San Francisco, CA
May 18, 2011: Troubadour, Los Angeles, CA
May 19, 2011: Doug Fir, Portland, OR
May 20, 2011: Chop Suey, Seattle, WA

-Michael Piantigini

BUFFALO TOM: Intertubes | Twitter | Facebook | MySpace | Fan Reference

BILL JANOVITZ: Blog | Intertubes | Facebook | Twitter | YouTube

March 6, 2011

Footage: Young Adults' "Let Us Out"

Potty-mouthed ambient punk wunderkinds Young Adults' first official (to our knowledge) video, frankly, is too beautiful to really be their video. But seemingly like everything else the band has churned out in its very brief life span, somehow the result matches the trio's ambitions and (likely) exceeds every one else's expectations. Young Adults would like to be seen by you in the passive voice when the act headlines an SXSW show March 18 at the Easy Tiger Patio. The set time is 1AM, so the nit-pickers among you may be correct in assuming that really means March 19. Whatever. Go to the show in Austin and get your head blown off by these guys. Once you've recovered, assuming you recover, you can catch the trio back in the Commonwealth March 27 when it opens for the mighty Titus Andronicus at Clark University in Worcester, MA. Prague-based Amdiscs issued Young Adults' full-length debut Black Hole in late 2010, and you can stream or buy MP3s here; if you are lucky you might be able to buy the thing on vinyl right here.

March 5, 2011

Be Prepared: Eldridge Rodriguez | You Are Released | 22 March

Eldridge Rodriguez -- You Are Released
Boston noise-rock stalwart Eldridge Rodriguez' fourth solo effort, separate and apart from his work with local titans The Beatings. This full-length was written during and around the sessions for The Beatings' superlative 2009 effort Late Season Kids, and as such You Are Released evidences what seems to have been an incredibly fertile songwriting period for Mr. Rodriguez. But while his songs on Late Season Kids sound contemporary, there is something in the production on You Are Released's more aggressive numbers that imbues the guitar squall with a throw-back flannel dysphoria. Highlights include the annunciatory thriller "The Big Windup" and the melodic, mid-tempo, slide guitar-slung "Fragile Things," during which Rodriguez deploys an uncharacteristic murmur over a pulsing mirage of guitars, confessing "Dear Lord I shot my mouth off again." Midriff Records will issue You Are Released March 22.

Selected Previous E.R. Coverage:
Review: E.R. | This Conspiracy Against Us
That Was The Show That Was: E.R. | PA's Lounge
That Was The Show That Was: E.R. | TT The Bear's

Rock Over Boston: The Low Anthem at Old South Church 3.5.2011

The Low Anthem
[The Low Anthem at Old South Church 3.5.2011. Photo by Michael Piantigini.]

March 1, 2011

Review: The Baseball Project: Volume 2: High and Inside

As long as there's been records, there's been novelty records. Having grown up on my share of Dr. Demento, I guess I have a bit of a soft spot for 'em.

And that's what we have here, performed by a supergroup of sorts: In 2008, The Dream Syndicate's Steve Wynn put together the Baseball Project with like-minded hardball fan Scott McCaughey of the Young Fresh Fellows and Minus 5. McCaughey sidelines with R.E.M. and recruited Peter Buck to play bass, while Wynn recruited his wife, Linda Pitmon of Zuzu's Petals and dozens of other records in your collection to drum. Together they've managed to crank out not one, but now two, full albums of songs about the legends, the characters, and the legendary characters that make baseball so much fun to follow in the first place.

Second albums of this sort are usually problematic - premises overstay their welcome and songs become even more contrived and forced - but Volume 2... easily bests it's predecessor. It just has better songs, and a better performances by the band, probably aided by the month or so they spent on the road in 2009.

Sure, they hang a couple over the plate, but hit a few home runs of their own along the way: Wynn's opener about Mark "The Bird" Fidrych, "1976," has a catchy chorus and chiming 12 string, "Ichiro Goes To The Moon" is a driving McCaughey rocker, and "Here Lies Carl Mays," a ballad about the only pitcher in the history of baseball to kill a player with a pitch (in 1920), is an affecting heartbreaker.

There are plenty of guest stars, some more noticeable than others. The Hold Steady's Craig Finn offers Twins booster-ism and makes "Don't Call Them Twinkies" sound like a Hold Steady outtake.

My only regret about the album is it's high Red Sox content would have played better before our pre-World Series win attitude adjustment. Roger Clemens made us angrier, and the tragedies of Tony Conigliaro and Bill Buckner weighed so much more heavily on the Red Sox fan's deeply bruised psyche, before 2004. We're mature enough to handle it all now. I think.

-Michael Piantigini

The Baseball Project: intertubes | MySpace