Sunday, November 30, 2008

Live: Thorns Of Life at Disgraceland, Philly 11.29.8

I'm as excited, if not more, than the average guy when it comes to the return of a band fronted by Blake Schwarzenbach. I bailed on the Underground Railroad To Candyland show that ended up being first unannounced Thorns Of Life show and fell for the red herring that the show was cancelled about the second show, so when I saw a snippet on line about a TOL show in Philly and knew I'd be passing through town, I was determined to see the show if I could. Cue three days of phone calls and shenanigans that precipitated my getting the address 45 minutes before the show, through the luck of friendly punks on the street. I understand that they want to keep Disgraceland under the radar, but the level of subterfuge that is going on for these Thorns Of Life shows is bordering on the ridiculous. I'm sorry, but when you have Blake Schwarzenbach, Aaron Cometbus and an actress from The L Word in one band, its going to be hard to keep things a secret for long.

I ended up squeezing my way in to Disgraceland, but as the place was three or four times past capacity and I was wearing a bag, there was no way that I was going to be able to shed my outerwear, making for a sweaty, sweaty time for me. Most of the rest of the crowd were in the same boat, although there were the odd pre-emptive 40oz and Natty Bo's scattered through the space. The space seems to be well run and the sound was decent enough, so here's hoping that they are able to keep the place going for some time to come.

The first band was Philly's own Restorations. Despite playing to a full room of people that really wanted to see TOL, they played a really good set of stuff that sounded like The Weakerthans or early Hot Water Music without so much shouting. They are evidently also 3/4 of the band Jena Berlin, if you're familiar. I'm not sure whether this is a project thing or a full-time band, but they are well worth checking out. Do that here.

I passed Blake going the other way down the street from the venue and was pleased to see that he was actually coming back for the set. The room was so full that the drums had to be passed over the crowd but the band managed to take the stage in short order. Shows have to be over by 10pm at Disgraceland and I couldn't be more excited about that trend. May that trend move to NYC with the quickness. Thorns Of Life took the stage by 9 and played ten or so songs that were pretty decent. Two of them, especially the one about NYC were exceptional. It was good to see Blake and Aaron. Both look older, but Blake was quick to point out that he is 41, so I'd say they've held up ok. The stuff is raw, yet melodic, more Jawbreaker than Jets, save for the song about losing his virginity. I'm told they are recording in the early winter or late spring. I'm not sure when or if they are going to grace us with a web presence, but if you hear, holler at your boy.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Sadat X - Generation X

Aging gracefully has been tough for many of hip-hop's old school. A lot of the problem might be the lack of examples from forerunners. Afrika Bambatta and Kool Herc are hardly millionaires and save for Jay-Z, Bumpy Knuckles, and bizarrely enough Eric B, there aren't too many successful entrepreurs that have stayed solvent past their rap heydeys.

Rap's fan base is getting older as well. There are parents that came up listening to rap music, and maybe even grandparents. The question becomes, is today's rap music what the old school wants to hear about? Sadat X has a unique perspective, having come up with Brand Nubian almost 20 years ago. Nubian were more conscious than the average group of the time and Sadat hasn't lost that part of his personality, but he's still not adverse to smoking weed or getting some ass. Said ass-getting content is oddly juxtaposed against his openly extolling his love for his wife and (literally) telling his in-laws to go fuck themselves on this record, but such are the dichotomies in the hip-hop of today.

X has had varied success with his solo material, I thought Loud Hangover with Akineyle was (and is) among the best hip-hop of the time. By contrast, that Wild Cowboys shit was a nice nod to the Juice Crew, but all in all not the smartest idea. Nor was his getting arrested in Harlem for gun possession and resisting arrest a couple years ago. That's behind him and after the blink and it's gone Black October release comes Generation X, a record that does a pretty decent job of straddling the old school and the new. The beats are decent (all via producer Will Tell) and Sadat still has rhyme skills, but whether you want to listen to a whole album of is another question. I've given it a half a dozen spins thus far and like it, but it's not going to knock my Joell Ortiz or Big Daddy Kane playlists out of rotation. There a couple missteps, like the obvious attempt with Think Different to evoke Slow Down with a (I assume) Regina Spektor loop but Generation X is worth checking out. Reach out to X here to make that happen.


Friday, November 28, 2008

Ludacris - Theater Of The Mind

Theater Of The Mind is the sixth record from your boy Luda. Heath and I were discussing the other day how Luda is pretty much the cameo king. In retrospect, there's a strong argument for Jadakiss or Fabolous to fill that slot, but think about it: Ludacris makes DJ Khaled songs sound good. If you can do that, you're practically King Midas in the rap game. On the heels of his stellar cameos on that dung heap of a Khaled track and that Felli Fel joint, I **ahem** 'acquired' the Ludacris catalog recently, then picked up Theater Of The Mind on the heels of that reimmersion.

Luda is a smart guy who has always made the most of the options his fame has afforded him. Like his man David Banner says, "rap money is good--but you should see these movie checks". Luda has been stepping up his acting game, starring in Crash and Hustle And Flow and reaping the benefits therein and of. That's all well and good, but when your acting career seeps its way in as a weird concept for your next record, that's when it gets a little sketchy for me. As does the "many sides of Ludacris" cover. Is that ever a good idea? That shallowly said and hated on, the music on Theater Of The Mind pretty much makes us for any misgivings I have about the cross-career promotion.

Luda has his own label, Disturbing The Peace, which operates in conjunction with Def Jam. It's a good combination, perhaps increasingly for Def Jam, as they've been shitting the bed pretty consistently with Jay-Z at the helm. The argument has been made about Jay-Z keeping the rest of the roster down in favor of his releases and it's increasing looking more and more accurate. If you can't sell a million of the last Roots record, something is fucked up with your promotion.

Theater Of The Mind should sell big, especially with guest shots from Nas, The Game and Lil Wayne. Production is well-rounded, too, with tracks by Toomp, Clinton Sparks and even an up-and-comer you might have heard of called DJ Premier. It's notable that with all the guest appearances here, Luda rips the hell out of that Primo track all by himself. It's called MVP and might just be the best track on the record. I Do It For Hip-hop has Nas and Jay-Z in an actually-not-so-terrible guest appearance. Call Up The Homiez with The Game and Willy Northpole is another banger that should definitely be afforded single status. If It doesn't happen, I see it being all over the mix tape circuit. There are a couple tracks that I could do without, and the presence of Spike Lee on one of the tracks seems a wee bit desperate, but all in all, Theater Of The Mind is one of the few hip-hop records I've heard this year that I would actually pay for. Check out the web presence here.


Thursday, November 27, 2008

Centro-matic and South San Gabriel - Dual Hawks

Do I really have to tell you that this is a good record? Centro-matic have proven to be an unstoppable force in recent years, sort of a Denton Guided By Voices with better discretion as regards to numbers of records released per year. They do keep busy for a bunch of drunks. Will Johnson has found the time to record solo records, Matt Pence has The Echo Lab and multi-instrumentalist threat Scott Danborn has toured with Slobberbone and a bunch of other projects. I'm not sure what Mark does outside of these bands, but I'm sure he's no slacker.

Centro-matic started as a side-project for Johnson, but soon took a life of its own. There was always a duality to his work. Initially the louder and softer material was meted between seperate releases, as evinced by the Navigational and The Static vs. The Strings Vol 1 records, but recent years have found them subdivided further, with the quieter more melancholic fare taking the form of sister band South San Gabriel. 

Centro-matic takes the baton for the louder fare. Their hawk of the duo is my favorite of the two on this dual release.  The eleven songs are some of the best Centro has released and that sure is saying something. It reminds me of the Jay Bennett (read: good) Wilco era. How Tweedy can have a band that mind-numbingly boring with Nels Cline and Glenn Kotche in the fold is a staggering accomplishment. Maybe it's the lack of Obama mania, but Centro-matic have released a record that trounces all over that Chicago franchises last three record.  From the opening  'the rat patrol and djs' to the closing 'a critical display of snakes' it is hook after hook. Trust me, you need this record. Maybe sell an Arcade Fire record or two.

Now South San Gabriel I'm a little more ambivalent about. South San Gabriel tends to have more guests and be that much more slow and depressing. That's not a bad thing. I saw them for the first time opening up the American Music Club reunion shows and they are definitely cut from the same cloth. With the new Mark and Vudi AMC, SSG might be able to stand a chance, but they are no Engine or California era AMC. The material is good, and there's the same Centro underpinning to remind you that the bands are two sides of the same coin, but it falls a little short for me. It's better than most of the stuff your find on your average Paste sampler. It's no Dakota Suite, but it's also better than the last AMC record, so perhaps some standings need to be recalculated. 

You get both records when you buy Dual Hawks, so there's no sense splitting hairs. There is a Saturday Night/Sunday Morning dichotomy between the two records and I'm not talking the Counting Crows record. I could (and, I guess, now will) refer to the Ralph Stanley record Adam ripped the title off from. Stanley and the boys played the hell out of a lot of barn dances, but were in church on time the next day. South San Gabriel seems more steeped in regret than repentance, but I'm sure there's enough of both to go around. Personally, I would buy Dual Hawks for Centro-matic and stay for the South San Gabriel. You can acquire the means to do both here. Centro and SSG are wrapping up live dates behind Dual Hawks, but Will is coming through town next month for a solo show with Chris Brokaw. Keep up on that and all of the other going on in their dual worlds here. If you'd like to be their internet friend, do it here, but after you pick up Dual Hawks.


Wednesday, November 26, 2008

D.I.T.C - The Movement

I'm always surprised that D.I.T.C isn't a more successful crew. The death of Big L certainly took some wind out of their sails (and sales) and while Fat Joe has definitely taken it to the next level, he could rep the set that brought him up a little more. That said, true bad boys move in silence, and it's not like Show, Buckwild or Lord Finesse haven't been producing a gang of successful tracks in between crew releases.

The Movement features contributions from the aforementioned producers as well as their usual MC pool of A.G., O.C., Party Arty and D-Flow. I would have liked to have heard Finesse behind the mike, but his collabo with the mightiest MC out there, Mr. Joell Ortiz makes for an intriguing guest appearance on Air Y'all, as do the Boss Money tracks. The Movement is a good record. I really don't hear a single here, although Shine My Way comes damn close for Party Arty. I suspect it's not really an issue, as D.I.T.C are self-releasing and have a pretty rabid album-buying fanbase here and abroad. I don't think that anything here is going to propel The Movement to do huge numbers, but buy it here and spread the word. Support independent hip-hop!

the eighteenth letter

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Tim Barry review up at The Tripwire

Hey Kids:

Review of the new Tim Barry record Manchester up at The Tripwire. You can peruse here.

Thanks to Derek Evers and Luther Dickinson at Suburban Home!


Monday, November 24, 2008

The Mountain Goats - Satanic Messiah EP

John Darnielle is to metal what Craig Finn is to hardcore. Who would have thought? Darnielle's old school with his shit as well, having recently penned one of the better 33 1/3 books on Black Sabbath's Master Of Reality. Appropriate enough for the author of The Best Ever Death Metal Band Out Of Denton, I guess. Darnielle keeps up, as well: the opening track of his new four-track Satanic Messiah EP concerns a bunch of Brazilian teens waiting to see Brazilian metal merchants Sarcofago. That's a little esoteric and a lot of awesome.

The four songs were committed to tape recently in Darnielle's current hat-hang of North Carolina. They are spartan and austere for the most part, with the usual themes of trancendence and displacement. Darnielle is irritatingly prolific, and for the most part not to a fault. There have been two EPs and a full band release in the past year and all have been pretty top-notch. Satanic Messiah is being released in a limited double seven-inch run of, appropriately enough, 666 copies, but is also available in the trendy 'donate-what-you-choose' format that all the kids are doing these days. You can get the digital release as a zip in a myriad of formats here. Think about leaving a tuppence or two in the virtual coffers on your way out, ingrate. Up to the minute Mountain Goats news can be found here.


Sunday, November 23, 2008

Live: Chris Knight at Mercury Lounge 11.22.8

Scott Miller once described Chris Knight as 'country as a chicken coop'. At the time, even though I knew Miller was a dyed-in-the-wool Virginian, I thought that came off a little condescending. Then again, I am a Yankee, albeit one who is half-Texan. That unnecessarily elucidated, Scott ain't lying. Steve saw Knight on some CMT type program recently and described him as Cro-Magnon, and he ain't lying either. 

Not that Chris Knight is dumb (or that he couldn't dispatch me to the afterlife in a hundred simple ways). He has an Agriculture degree and worked for his home state of Kentucky for years before his songwriting career bore fruit. While his own releases haven't been huge successes sales-wise, he's had a gang of the songs from those records covered by artists from Montgomery Gentry to Gary Allan, affording him a comfortable living, especially if you still live in Slaughters, KY. 

The Chris Knight demographic is not a Northern one for the most part, and as a result we get him in NYC once a year, at best. With gas prices and the economy being what they are, they are almost always solo shows, but this one happened to be a duo show with a stunt guitarist. Wonderfully enough, the set was an early one and billed as "An Evening With" without an opener. God Bless The Mercury Lounge. The lovely Essie saw fit to comp me and I arrived as Knight and his sideguy took the stage. 

Knight is not exactly John Prine when it comes to stage banter. The first minute or so was filled with plinking into a tuner. He may have grunted hello, but pretty much launched into his first five songs without hesitation. When he did pause and some woodchuck called out a request, he acknowledged the shouter by grinning and offering, 'we got a new song for you called shut the hell up'. This is not a man who suffers fools or foolishness gladly. The set went maybe an hour and a half or so, featuring most of the new record, Heart Of Stone as well as some dips into early tunes like House And 90 Acres. The set was pretty well received by the bridge and tunnel redneck set that ventured out. They drank heavily and sang along loudly with most songs, cheering extra loudly for the ones that featured the enforcement of the Second Amendment.

Knight shows North of the Mason-Dixon Line are a rarity, and the sparse crowd may very well make it another year or so before we see him again, but check out his webpage here to find out when you might see him next. He's also got a MySpace, amusingly enough. I would venture that he's not administering that himself. The new record, Heart Of Stone is a hell of a good record, perhaps the best since his first. Pick it up here and get off the couch next time he comes through town. 

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Akimbo review up at The Tripwire!

Review of the new Akimbo record, Jersey Shores up at The Tripwire here.

Thanks to Neurot and Derek Evers!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Live: Wilderness at The Cake Shop 11.19.8

Wilderness played the other night at my new home away from home Cake Shop. I rode past on my way home to try to get a sense of how far behind things were running. In typical fashion, the second band was soundchecking at 8:30, so I settled in at the JS-NYC headquarters to wait things out. 

One chicken-fried steak and an episode of Antiques Roadshow later, I showed up ready to rock. I figured the combination of the small room and steady diet of Robotussin I've been on as of late would make this an even better Wilderness live show than usual. They men of Wilderness did not disappoint. I missed out on their show at the Whitney over the summer. That was supposedly quite a spectacle, but the in-your-face atmosphere of Cake Shop made for a good show nonetheless.

There were the requisite sound issues. This time with James and his vocal processing. I'm not sure whose fault it was, but the eleven or so years that Wilderness have spent together makes the band a formidable live entity with or without vocals. Johnson has a polarizing voice, to say the least. Equal parts PiL and Lungfish, it's not for the faint of heart. Historically, James has handled most of the vocals (and robot dancing) himself, but the new material from (k)no(w)here also features guitarist Colin McCann. He howls charmingly (and effectively) on the new material. McCann has a solo home-recorded release out as The Lord Dog Bird on Jagjaguwar that is well worth checking out if you are a Wilderness fan.

After seeing their live show, it's hard not to be a fan. Bring your ear protection though. Wilderness make a lot of noise for a four-piece. McCann plays floor tom on a couple songs along with polyrhythmic trappist terror Will Goode. The tribal drums and washes of guitar sound envelop you in a fog that the the darkened basement of the Cake Shop was ideal for. They played about an hour, covering most of the high points of the last three records before abruptly taking off their instruments and saying goodnight. The band has hinted that they will be taking one of their customary hiatuses after these tourdates, so check out where you can see them here. If you miss them, you can spend some time listening to MP3s and generally being frustrated by their exceedingly oblique web presence here


Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Mountain Goats and Kaki King - Black Pear Tree tour EP

I came in embarassingly late to the whole Mountain Goats thing. I guess it was because I always confused them with The High Llamas, but when master drummer/exceedingly awesome individual Jon Wurster started playing with John on the regular, I began to take a little bit more notice. Eventually, I saw them at that bizarre Daily Show thing at Irving a while back and got hooked pretty quickly. As I waded into my customary spate of obsessive compulsive acquisition, I was pleasantly daunted at the the sheer volume of their output but the power of the digital age allowed me to harness the lion's share of The Mountain Goats canon fairly quickly. I spent a good month or so trying to wrap my head around the body of work. Rapp's site here was an invaluable resource in the whole thing.  That vision quest completed, I'm pleased to find that my infatuation with all things Mountain Goat has been considerably less fleeting than my two week stand with Jens Lekman.

Once Darnielle came on the radar for me, it seemed like he was everywhere. Molly had seen him around in Carolina, friends were forwarding live sets and then he and Kaki King started a mutual admiration society. It seemed a somewhat odd pairing. I had just gotten over running into her at Looking Glass and realizing that my favorite bartender at Mercury was a nightmarishly good acoustic player in the Michael Hedges school and now here she was recording with John and The Mountain Goats. Life is weird that way, but hey it's an amazing pairing that has resulted in a tour and companion tour-only EP called Black Pear Tree.

There are only six songs on Black Pear Tree, but they sure are good ones. The opening title track is a textbook Darnielle track sung mostly by King that opens with a typically detailed description of filling up a hole with compost and bears fruit for the duration. Mosquito Repellant is a selection from the more spiteful end of the TMG canon sung by Darnielle and dovetails nicely with the melancholic Bring Our Curses Home. Black Pear Tree closes with the typically pop culture relevant Thank You Mario, But Our Princess Is In Another Castle, sung from the perspective of Toad, for you dorks out there. This EP is allegedly only available on tour, but I assume you can probably get one via schiesty Ebay bloodsuckers or that it'll become more available via 4AD or some sort of download entity. It's really too good of a record to be a limited release.

Keep up with all things Darnielle and Mountain Goats related here. The lovely and talented Ms. King can be found on the interwebs here. If you are going to be in Australia next month, look out for The Mountain Goats there from 12/5 through 12/14.  There will be more goat love coming down the pike soon. Look forward to a review of John's Satanic Messiah EP later on this week.


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Diamond D - The Huge Hefner Chronicles

Fools had been clowning this record on the net to the point where I was kinda dreading checking this out. I'm not sure why I drank the haterade. I hate a lot as it is without other fools buying me rounds. I'm glad to find that I'm not disappointed.

Diamond has been around forever. Like he was Jazzy Jay's crate carrier forever. He's released two bona fide classic hip hop records in Stunts, Blunts and Hip Hop and Hatred, Passions and Infidelity, reps for the Bronx and D.I.T.C and has produced a ton of straight-up bangers over the years for Busta, Fat Joe, KRS-One and a ton more. He even won a Grammy for his stuff on the Fugees The Score record. 

Which only means that he probably can't get arrested outside of NYC because of all you wack-ass trend jockers that can't live without your fucking Lupe Fiasco or Kanye records. Or maybe the current patron saint of overrated rappers: Jay-Z.  Granted, Diamond's last indie record wasn't his best, but even now it's a fair shade better than the new Young Jeezy record. Luckily, Babygrande snapped up our hero for The Huge Hefner Chronicles

It's a solid record. Most hip-hop records are way too fucking long. And while I'm on the subject: let's talk skits. I'm not sure who brought the skit into hip-hop records. Sadly, I bet Prince Paul might be to blame, and if that is the case, he shouldn't have to take the fall for a million self-aggrandizing weed carriers reliving their Scarface Halloweens of their past, but the skit really needs to banned outright. If you want to do a little Paid In Full type intro, so be it, but lose the fucking skits guys. That expunged: This record has no fucking skits and as a result is better than most of the hip-hop you'll hear this year. There are a couple missteps, the R&B tinged Good Tyme being the most egregious, but save for that steamer, The Huge Hefner Chronicles is one of the few hip hop records I've heard this year that I can listen to all the way through. I can admit that the Huge Hefner appellation is a bad idea, but it's not like he's taken on the personae like one of Kool Keith's alter egos or anything. It's odd that, save for the intro that features Fat Joe (not a skit, mind you!) his D.I.T.C affiliates are conspicuous in their absences, but there is a great collabo with Sadat X to keep all you old school heads happy. Trust me, you want this. You can get The Huge Hefner Chronicles from your friends at Babygrande here. There's a pretty bad-ass playlist of some of his best tracks from the past there too. Socially network with him afterward here if you are of a mind.


Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Live: Centro-matic at Mercury Lounge 11.17.8

Yowza! This was quite a show. Denton, TX's finest have released a double record called Dual Hawks that is comprised of both sides of the Centro-matic coin, their main face and their slower, even more depressing alter-ego South San Gabriel. I'm still waiting for my copy of the record, but if it's half as good as last night's live show, I smell a strong showing on the year-end lists.

I missed the South San Gabriel set, but as it was the Mercury and they actually run on time, I was pretty pleased to breeze in around 10:15 and have the boys start right away. They were in good spirits, and multi-instrumentalist threat Scott Danborn even spoke, so the tour must be going well. Will Johnson spent a good amount of time on one leg, assumably with glee, although the constant stream of drinks that were being bestowed on the gents from the audience could have had something to do with it. It was a decent mix of old and new stuff, including a brand new song and a couple songs with Mr. Doug Gillard of GbV fame. Not too shabby, and the closing encore of Lionel Richie's All Night Long was the frosting on the beater. If it wasn't so cold, I'd definitely be seeing them again in Brooklyn tonight. Check on the future must-see tour dates here and pick up a copy of Dual Hawks from the gents here. It's money well-spent live or recorded.


Monday, November 17, 2008

Live: Full Of Fancy, Lost Locker Combo, The Unlovables @ Cake Shop 11.16.8

It was a busy weekend for the pop-punk set as The Ergs! and Hunchback played their (assumably) final sets over the weekend in NJ. Chris Grivet (of The Steinways drumming fame) got this show together as a NYC capper. It featured a couple of now ex-Ergs, as well as the final show from 1/3 acid casualty band For Science and a gang of other scene luminaries making the devil's music.

The whole thing had a 'Saturday afternoon at SXSW' kind of slow and hungover air about it. As it was Cake Shop, I showed up at 2:30 to find they were still waiting for a bartender and that nothing was going on, but managed to browbeat the doorguy into taking my money so I could wait as the JS-NYC hq while they got their shit together.

45 minutes and some Gangland later, I returned to find the Unlovables setting up. That was both good and bad, as they were who I really wanted to see and I expected the old man in me would kick full-force afterward. The Unlovables were playing second, assumably as Hallie was performing in/with Fuerzabruta, and proceeded to rock the hell out of the place. Hallie has not gotten any less attractive since I've seen the Unlovables last, I'll tell you. It was kind of a short set, but pretty stellar for the second band on at a matinee. I hope those kids have a new record soon.

Without turning things totally in the direction of the lecherous, I kind of only stayed to see Lost Locker because of the glockenspeil player. Man oh man oh shevitz is that one attractively bookish woman. LLC is a school-themed band fronted by Mr. Jim Florio of (quasi-heirarchically) Bugout Society, MRR, and the Shemps. Think school outfits, wacky songs about scoliosis and the like. They were quick to label themselves as 'prop-punk' and pelt the crowd with no end of crap from the Tri-State areas finest dollar stores. Not exactly good, but certainly fun, and I refuse to front on Bugout, especially after that whole White Castle incident some years back. That said, Castle Carnage was pretty much the only thing not on the floor after their set. I don't think I'd ever buy a record, but it's fun to watch.

Next up was Full Of Fancy. These ladies (and a dude on traps) are sort of a NJ Soviettes. They sure do have great gear, if I may digress into gear dorkdom. I just wish they had better harmonies. I'd say the bassist is the stronger of the two singers, but a lot of the times they sang together were not the most aurally pleasing moments of the night. Oddly, Miranda's voice didn't show too much wear, even after playing the last Hunchback show the night before. I really want to like FOF, I'm going to try the next one drunk and see if that works for me.

For Science played after, as did The Steinways, but my OMS kicked in and I bailed to go sleep on my couch. I heard that Jeff Erg stepped in the breach for the final FS set, ironically (and somewhat anachronistically) due to the FS singer having a bad acid trip and bailing for NOLA and then Hawaii. Kids today. I heard that Jeff killed it, so maybe he'll step in full-time and give those kids some new life. The Steinways closed things out, but I was well into my Robotussin fueled covalescence by that point.

For a show at Cake Shop, not a bad time. Grivet definitely deserves props for making it happen. Once the NJ pop-punk deck is reshuffled, hopefully we'll get some more rock from the kids soon.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Death Cab For Cutie - something about airplanes deluxe edition

I know. I'm as sick of hearing about Death Cab as the next guy. When I saw them with The Jealous Sound at the Knit years ago I never thought they'd be playing the Garden or opening for Neil Young on tours, but fate seems to have smiled on them. It's now been ten years since Barsuk released something about airplanes and they have seen fit to commemorate the occasion with a deluxe reissue that adds a recording of their first Seattle show in February 1998.

It's a good period for them, and the live recording captures them as the fresh-faced Northwestern youth you would expect them to be. It's pretty funny to hear them hawking their tape for $3 over the course of the set. The live recording is evidently from a show at the Crocodile Cafe opening up for Harvey Danger. Their singer Sean Nelson joins the band for a cover of Sweet and Tender Hooligan. I never recalled liking Harvey Danger all that much, but it's a pretty good cover. It looks like maybe I should revisit them, especially since they are back on the scene and all.

Death Cab seem like they were a pretty tight band back then. There's more of an edge than you'll see them display in this day and age, although truth be told, the new record Narrow Stairs is pretty aces. Revisiting the something about airplanes ten years on, it holds up pretty well. Chris Walla really was doing amazing thing at his nascent Hall Of Justice studios back then and Gibbard had a good batch of songs. Nicholas Harmer deserves his due as well, his meaty yet melodic basslines are as integral to Death Cab as Simon Gallup is to the Cure. Barsuk releasing this marked the beginning of an era that was to soon include bands like The Long Winters and The Shins. Death Cab has been the most successful of the crop by far. Say what you will about the crew of ponces that comprises the majority of their new-school fanbase, they have achieved their station the old fashioned way: by releasing quality records and touring the hell out of them. If you are a fan, I hope that you are aware of this record's existence in its original form, but the deluxe version of something about airplanes is well worth picking up, especially for the live set. I assume that Walla probably remastered it, as well, so why not go for the upgrade. Buy it here from the good folk of Barsuk. If you are of a mind, you can keep up with all things Death Cab related here.


Saturday, November 15, 2008

Live: Lemuria, Gordon Gano's Army, Cheeky at Death By Audio 11.15.8

Let me derail this from the start and say how pissed I am that I missed the Thorns Of Life show. I heard it was pretty bananas. But really, what the fuck is deal with Hiesel posting info about their shows on the front page of the fucking Alternative Press site. I hope that this isn't some intentional anti-press promo stunt. 

In poking around on Jessica Hopper's blog for more dirt I found this curious post from 12/13 about a Lifter Puller project? Please forward all dirt to me immediately. The same for Thorns Of Life. I'll do the same unless the information is forwarded in confidence.

Ok, then. So I go to Death By Audio and finally blunder my way in. I'm not sure how above board the shows are there. They are pretty gung-ho about shooing people away from the front of the building and keeping things under the radar. I noticed a couple cruisers passing on my way home, so maybe there's a gentleperson's agreement between the two. Either way, they seem to start on time, as I got there at 9:30 and had already missed Get Bent and Slingshot Dakota, who evidently replaced the road-worn Bridge and Tunnel. Cheeky were setting up on the floor as I staked out real estate. I admire the Born Against aesthetic, but when you are a band mostly comprised of diminutive ladies, it does make for a bummer presentation-wise. 

So there was a pretty long wait before Cheeky jumped off. There sure was a lot of smoking (tobacco) in the back room. Like Carolina shows at the Brewery smoky. Yowza. When they did it was fun, but I wouldn't go so far as to say good. Granted there were PA issues and amps failing, so it wasn't all their fault. Either way, they seem to be decent folk and share Angie from Little Lungs, so maybe it was just a bad night.

There was also the small matter of none of the bands having Blake Schwarzenbach in their ranks, but Gordon Gano's Army were pretty damn great. I'm pretty sure Alex from Lemuria and Art Of The Underground was playing drums for them, but I'm not sure if that's a permanent thing. Either way, they did us the solid of actually using the stage and sounded like a slower UK Chixdiggit on the hookier stuff like First Song. That can't really be a bad thing. The crowd was pretty into them, especially an odd gang of young ladies who were hell-bent on attracting a lot of attention to themselves. If it was for the band's benefit, it seems like went unheeded, as GGA handled their business without a hint of distraction. You can get the full-length from Art Of The Underground here. When I get a copy, I'll get a review up stat. They are in the States for five more days. The dates are here. I'd see them if you could.

Lemuria closed out the night. Evidently Sheena's moved to Queens. We'll see how that works out, especially as they have been spending a hell of a lot of time on the road behind Get Better. It shows live, as the band brings it pretty seriously. Sheena's dual Music Man heads up the gear dork factor. She's a great guitar player, not in a Marnie Stern kind of way, but she drives that band with authority. Her rhythm section is no joke either. Alex and Jason are lock-tight and the band is authoritatively together to the point where various pieces of equipement crapped out over the course of the set and there wasn't a hiccup. It extended all the way to the lead vocals. Whenever Sheena had a mike crap out or her voice lagged in PA, the crowd was more than willing to take the reins and finish an entire verse or chorus as needed. The kids got kind of frisky towards the end of the set, which only asserts that pits at indie-rock shows are really the arena of amateurs and poseurs, but all in all a great evening, even if it wasn't the Thorns Of Life show.


Friday, November 14, 2008

Big Rock Weekend!

Hey Kids:

JS-NYC should be out in force this weekend and soaking up the rock goodness. Looking forward to hanging with you lot at the following:


Death By Audio with Lemuria, Gordon Gano's Army, Cheeky. Bridge and Tunnel, Get Bent.
Doors are supposedly at 8.


Connie Brooks Trio @ Waltz-Astoria. Show round 9ish.


The Steinways, The Unlovables, For Science (maybe), Full Of Fancy, Lost Locker Combo at Cake Shop. Doors are at 2 (yeah, right).


Thursday, November 13, 2008

Mansions - Mr. Boddy EP

Mansions are from Louisville, KY and make the rock for Doghouse. I was a big fan of Doghouse in the heyday of the Get Up Kids, but it's been years since I checked out anything on the label. Mansions is pretty much one guy, Christopher Browder, although he drafts in drummers for live shows.

It's pretty decent stuff. I hear some Ethel Meserve, some Death Cab (especially in the tones and arrangements) and a lot of late period Brand New. You can get a ZIP of the EP called Mr. Boddy through Check here for the download link. You can socially network with the Mansions here as well as buy some of his esoteric MiniDisc and cassette releases, if you're into dumb, antiquated formats and stuff like that.


Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Live: Bowery Boy Blue @ Les Poisson Rouge 11.11.8

Bowery Boy Blue are playing the big rooms now. Les Poisson Rouge is the old Village Gate and is down in the frightening strip that is Bleecker Street. Hey, at least it's not Kenny's Castaway. Regardless of location, LPR is a good sounding big room. There were tables out this night, but when bands like Soulive and whatnot play, they open up the room accordingly. This show happened to be with Luke Rathbone's In Search Of The Miraculous.

The first BBB record, Stalk That Myth, is out now on Space Photo Records. It's a great record that reflects the quieter side of the Bowery Boy Blue oeuvre. It's a wonderful recording, but live the band transforms into a snarling beast that starts off subtle, then grabs you by the collar and shakes you a bit. Trust me, you'll like it. Singer/guitarist Zeb Gould has a keening voice that evokes Stars In Bars-era Neil Young. He's played with lap steel/Danelectro wizard Sam Crawford in a bunch of projects over the last couple of years, including Three On The Tree and they have formed a comfortable stage alliance vocally and musically. Paired with the rhythm section of Christian Rutledge and Michael Trepanier, they make a lot of bands just seem unremarkable by comparison. There is talk of a Spring tour, but in the meantime check out the links below and see them around town.

You can keep up on current events in the BBB world here and socially interface with them here. You should also probably buy Stalk That Myth here for all your friends. It makes the perfect holiday gift for anyone currently in possession of a pair of ears.


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Wilderness review up at The Tripwire

Hey Kids:

Review of the new Wilderness record (k)no(w)here up at The Tripwire. Thanks to Derek Evers. Wilderness are at Cake Shop next week with San Serac. Go, unless you hate me and/or good music.


Monday, November 10, 2008

Bazan: Alone At The Microphone DVD

David Bazan is the enigmatic frontman of Northwest slow-rockers Pedro The Lion. He's also a man of faith, but not in a creepy Cornerstone sort of way. He's been known to play that bastion of God rock, but is considerably more moderate than you'd expect. 

I first heard Bazan through a CMJ sampler that had Big Trucks on it. It's still one of my favorites. At the time I wasn't aware of the scene he came from. Soon after, Pedro came through Brownies (R.I.P) and I caught them one Sunday evening. They were pretty good, but also did that weird Christian thing where they stopped and asked if there were any questions in between songs. I, and most of the assembled scant crowd, were a little confused but it was a decent set refreshingly free of rhetoric. I've been a fan ever since and even a horribly anachronistic run-in with religion hasn't put me off him. 

That said, Bazan's faith is a personal thing that he keeps mostly to himself and out of his songs. Alone At The Microphone has some interview footage, but is mostly Bazan playing selections from his catalog solo in the studio. And sometimes in his car. The songs are wonderful regardless of the venue. Bazan seems to be an earnest man who cares deeply about his faith, his family and his music. He comes off very warm, even if some of the material treads a darker path. If more religious people were like him, there might be a lot more tolerance on both sides.

Check it out for yourself. You can buy Bazan: Alone At The Microphone  here. If you were of a mind, you can find him on the web here and socially interface with him here. It's worth a trip.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Live: Bridge & Tunnel with Get Bent, Antillectual, One Win Choice & Little Lungs 11.8.8

After the previous night, it was hard to come down to Earth, but it was a crappy day and Get Bent were playing the lead off slot on a matinee a block away, so I figured I'd make the trip.

If I may digress into a bit of a tired old man rant. I don't think that it's too much to ask for the actual venue to know when a show will start or the order of the bands, in at least a relative sense. This is sadly not possible for the collective, but its location allows me to not have to hang around like an idiot because I only showed up 45 minutes after the show was supposed to start. Silly me. Another 45 got me a copy of the new DonDiva and an arrival halfway through a band that was not Get Bent, the purported opener. 

The band proved to be Little Lungs. They are pretty decent, but young, so I see leaps and bounds being made in the next year or so. The rocking is in the trio format, with two ladies up front on strings and microphones and a lone gentleman pounding the skins. Think Sleater-Kinney with a dose of The Measure and you've got a good start. The things was, they were not Get Bent, begging the question: where exactly does a project band with only five (non-Pelican length) songs appear in a set in this day and age? No one really seemed to know.

Soon enough One Win Choice set up, although I didn't know at the time.  Evidently hail from NJ and have been around for a while. They seem very earnest, so it'd be wrong to clown them too hard, but I am kind of a dick, so: they were kinda silly. Strike Anywhere tattoos, bad logo that one guy (assumably the designer of said logo) had spray painted on his cab and tattooed on his calf and frontman moves cribbed Tim from Rise Against are not a recipe for good times for this guy, so I went home to realign my perspective. A couple of kids really seemed to dig them and their hearts do seem to be on the right place, so make your own call. Maybe you can throw it on when your Mom won't let you go to the Gaslight Anthem show cause it's a school night.

I got back to see a pretty good bit of Antillectual's set. They had been touring with One Win Choice (in the same van, even) for a couple weeks and ABC was the last stop on the tour before they went back to the Netherlands. Good, sort of of a better version of OWC, although the foreign factor does tend to skew bands towards to better end of things. They've been around for eight years and tour hard in their homeland. They definitely seem to have earned their following, although it was a fairly meagre turnout here in NYC. They are no Manifesto Jukebox, but if you'd like a crustier version of Strike Anywhere in a three-piece format, check them out.

Get Bent finally materialized next and judging by how the room filled up, they seem to be getting quite a name for themselves. Dave Bierling had told me about the demo and I enjoyed it a bunch, but always seemed to miss them when they played. I'm glad I finally caught them. Despite nearly inaudible vocals, they got the best response of the day playing the songs off their demo and maybe a new song. Good times from a band that really deserves to go places. Pick up their demo here and see them next week at Death By Audio with Lemuria.

This was Bridge and Tunnel's homecoming show. They had been out on the road for two months previous behind their No Idea debut and really tightened their shit up. I'm a little too negative for their relentless positivity, but they played a great set. Lots of delay and interplay with single note lines and dual vocals that almost approach a Jawbox vibe, or Rainer Maria on a really good night. I liked their record a bunch before and am definitely going to spin it a lot more after this set. They may be fresh off tour, but they aren't letting any rust settle as they too, are playing with Lemuria on 11/14, making this a show you should probably make it out to. The Steinways/Unlovables show is on Sunday, too, so get your rest. See you there.


Saturday, November 8, 2008

Live: The Hold Steady with Drive By Truckers 11.7.8

Night two of the Rock and Roll Means Well tour and the Hold Steady were in the headlining slot. I came in while Drive By Truckers were into their first song and was staggered at how much more crowded it was than Thursday night. It made sense, as the shows a couple months ago were packed cheek to jowl. I picked out some real estate and settled in on the Neff side of things so I could be pushed in front of by as many packs of seven or more WFUV subscribers as possible. It's always a pleasure to rock with the non-profit set, let me tell you.

That said, Drive By Truckers sure are great. It had been a while since I had been really excited to see them but these shows have reaffirmed my love for the gents (and lady). Mike Cooley is one bad-ass individual. He's really been hitting them out of the park recently, especially with all the corkers he's got on Brighter Than Creation's Dark.   Patterson dropped science about Southern lithographers, Shonna took a turn at the mike and Johnny Neff killed everybody with his knee-weakening lap steel and killer guitar. I'm pretty sure Dave Marr is in school, but dammit can we get a Star Room Boys reunion already!? Make it happen, Patterson.

I was willing to endure a crappy spot for DBT, but I wasn't going to put up with that shit for a Hold Steady headlining slot. Luckily, I ran into the irrepressible John Cake and a gang of the other Unified Scenesters front and center. While I'm accounting socially, it was great to see Chris, Neil and meet Mr. Circuits from the Twin Cities. I'm not really about the talk at the average rock show, but them's good people. 

I thought that Hold Steady played it a little safe the night before. It was a decent set, but I was pretty sure we had something better than usual in store for us. Boy, was that an understatement.  Lots of b-side stuff: You Gotta Dance (!!!), Adderall, Arms and Hearts, plus the usual brace of absurdly good album cuts. It was hot as hell, and kids need to learn how to dance, but a great set that ended with How A Resurrection Really Feels. 

So then there was the small matter of the encore.  They opened with First Night, I think mostly so Tad could show off his new J-200, but settled into rock mode with Stay Positive. Then things started getting surreal. Craig started playing a familiar riff to the quiet room, then stepped to the mike and sang, "Our band could be your life...". Yep, History Lesson, Pt. 2, with Tad Kubler referenced in the Mike Watt slot. Mindblowing, and wonderfully enough mistaken for a new HS song by the internet set. Maybe that's not so wonderful. Either way, the only way it could have gotten any better was if they maybe played Burnin' For You into Killer Parties. Oh, they did that too. Seriously one of the best rock shows I've ever seen, and I'm old and shit. Just a spectacular bill from two of the best bands out there today.

As an aside, can I take a moment and speak to Dave Hause? Your band is good and you've got ok songs, but you're never going to be Patterson Hood or Craig Finn, so please stop forcing yourself into the picture. It's just embarassing and desperate. Your level of dick-riding makes Jesse Malin's attempts look classy and I shudder to think how much browbeating it took for Dusty to give you Craig's guitar. A guitar you are not fit to wield, my friend. Know your role and stay off the stage, especially when your fucking band isn't even on the damn bill. I'd love to see him try and pull that shit if Cooley was on stage.

That expunged, it was great to see all the Unified Scene kids. That was a hell of a good time. So good of a time that I almost didn't mind it too much when some Sex In The City cast-off doored me off my bike on Avenue A during the ride home. Almost.

See you at the rock show!


Friday, November 7, 2008

Live: Drive By Truckers with The Hold Steady 11.6.8

I had been looking forward to this show for a while. My Hold Steady obsession is well documented here, but it has been almost equalled in recent years by my love for Drive By Truckers. My dear friend Steven had introduced me to Patterson at a BBQ joint (on Bleecker Street, bizarrely enough) shortly after I had picked up Alabama Ass Whuppin at Academy. I was pretty damn impressed. It dovetailed nicely with my tenure dating the loveliest woman in North Carolina and seeing the gents in venues ranging from Antones to the house shows like the epic three hour acoustic set the gents played at Pine Hill Farm years ago. 

 I hadn't listened to The Hold Steady for a month or so to heighten the anticipation, with only a brief foray or two into the musical methadone that is the mighty Lifter Puller. The pot was sweetened by Drew and Flynn coming to their first show and the aforementioned Steven and male companion Mike making a rare appearance in NYC with their lady friends as the guest of the Brothers Johnson. Good times, plus there was no small amount of beer to foster a little crowdside bonhomie. 

The Hold Steady were on by 8:15 and played a pretty decent set. If you are a FLAC aficionado, you can get a copy of their set here.  It was most of the new record plus a couple dips into stuff like Cattle and the Creeping Things and The Swish. Terminal 5 has terrible sound, which was a mild bummer, but all in all a good time seem to had by most. Was nice to meet the lovely Joelle again and see some of the Unified Scene kids like John Cake.

Drive By Truckers are pretty great live their own bad selves. They are relentless touring machines that have only slowed somewhat in recent years due to their growing number of offspring. Patterson and Koob have had an on-line love affair for a while now and it only seemed logical that the two would hit the road together eventually. Patterson popped up during The Hold Steady set, grinning his way through a couple tunes and heightening the anticipation for their turn as the headliner. It was a pretty good cross-section of the last few records. Cooley continues to churn out great songs and he's a hell of a player, as is multi-string threat John Neff. Drive By Truckers are a hell of a live force and this night was no exception. I'd say they had the best of the Hold Steady, but both sets were as great as the company.

See you all tonight to do it all over again solo.


Thursday, November 6, 2008

Live: Aldenbarton @ The Delancey 11.5.8

Hey Kids. Aldenbarton rocked the Delancey last night. You really should have been there. Rumor is that they'll be recording with Mr. Jason Anderson soon for his record and then jump in with both feet for the next AB project.

Exodus of the Eldest is due for digital release soon. Stay tuned here for more info and check out their LastFM profile (with pictures of the gents on my couch at JS-NYC HQ) here.

Two nights of HS & DBT a'comin. Ooh, my head.


Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Bridge and Tunnel review up at The Tripwire

Hey Kids:

Review of the new Bridge and Tunnel called East/West is up at The Tripwire, questionable formatting and all. Thanks to Derek Evers!


Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Fucked Up - The Chemistry Of Common Life

I've seen a lot of Fucked Up shows in recent years. It's harder not to really, what with their playing twelve hour shows or maybe just the usual six or seven shows in two days they churn out whenever they are in town. The shows are great, ranging from mild free for alls at the Knit to basement and loft shows in Brooklyn where Cro-Mags covers would cause the decimation of anything the crowd could get its hands, legs or teeth on. After you see a show like that, it's kind of hard to listen to the record. 

I'm not sure how Gerard does it, but he's nabbed Fucked Up for Team Matador. They've dropped the Year Of The Pig EP for the gents and now have seen fit to release The Chemistry Of Common Man.  Nice move. I'd say it's the best recorded Fucked Up yet. The band has celebrated their union with Matador by expanding to include three obliquely named guitarists. They make quite a racket in the Black Flag end of things, but when they explode the sound stratosphere that is Crooked Head, it's pure Who bliss. 

It's kind of hard to articulate how freaky and wonderful this record is. It's no surprise that its title alludes to a mushroom tome. Hearing Pink Eyes shout over weird synths or paired with members of Vivian Girls is disquieting at first, but trust me, you'll take to it in short order. For every screaming rant, there is a companion plaintively ominous soundscape like Looking For God. It seems like this record may cross over for Fucked Up. We can only hope that it's too smart for the rabble, but I think we'll have to embrace the inevitable. That said, I'm totally intrigued to see how the new jacks take to the foul smelling, beer soaked maelstrom that is the average Fucked Up crowd. That should be an eye opener for the Hot Topic set. If you do make a foray, there's been a disturbing trend of balcony jumping at recent shows that should definitely prompt more awareness than the average show.

Much of the Fucked Up canon is so esoterically released that it's almost impossible to come by unless you live next door to a band member, so go for the easy gratification of snapping up The Chemistry Of Common Life here. If you're feeling ambitious, check out their relentlessly disingenuous blog here


Monday, November 3, 2008

Statik Selektah - Stick 2 The Script

Statik Selektah represents for Boston, although he currently lives in the NYC. He's dropped easily thirty mixtapes in recent years, with increasingly bigger guest spots and drops, plus mixes with Nas and Saigon. Stick 2 The Script pushes the envelope even further, scoring a State Property reunion cut, interludes from Q-Tip and a rare appearance from The Mad Rapper (rare, as in not well done). There's also an intriguing appearance by Black Rob. I was under the impression he was a guest of the state, and a quick check confirmed that, but it's nice to hear BR. Stay up! There's a street banger with M.O.P and Jadakiss plus good verses from rap phenom Joell Ortiz. There are also a lot of decent rappers on this comp who would do well to get off Jay-Z's dick. Like really. Listening, its no wonder Jay has all the DL rumors. I had to check twice to make sure a couple times that it wasn't ol' Mr. Overrated himself on some of the tracks.  All in all, though, Stick 2 The Script is some good shit. I'd pick it up. It's got a nice mix of new school guys and old heads and he doesn't shout his name every ten seconds. You can get it here. Check out his tourdates (for Red and Meth) at the social networking interface here. Support your local DJ!


Sunday, November 2, 2008

Swingin Utters - Hatest Grits: b-sides and bullshit

Swingin' Utters have been around since the late 80s and represent for the Bay Area. If you like the street punk and have been around more than a week or so, chances are you're already a fan. For the uninitiated, the street punk is more British-based, but the Utters have been around long enough that all sorts of influences have crept in, from the Pogues to Social Distortion. Since their inception, they have gone through some member changes and formed side bands like the Re-Volts and Filthy Thieving Bastards. Jack Dalrymple of yesterday's Dead To Me fame also currently tenures in their ranks. They also have a shit-ton of b-sides, like thirty-one to be specific, all compiled for your pleasure on the imaginatively titled Hatest Grits: b-sides and bullshit. There are both included, although the former more than outweighs the latter. I hear there are a bunch of pictures and annotations, but I got a bogus download card rather than the actual cd, so no art for me. Or review for you. Most of the material on Hatest Grits is a keeper, but I wouldn't make this my first purchase. If you're a fan (and I am) it's a nice addition to almost 2o years of punk.

Buy the record here and check out the web to hear some albums tracks here. There's an older site here if you want to bask in the nostalgia. I'm tired.


Saturday, November 1, 2008

Dead To Me - Little Brother

So a couple days ago, the good folk of Dead To Me dropped a new EP called Little Brother and cancelled their appearance at The Fest. Lots of people felt strongly about both eventualities, but I can't say I was one of them.  Don't get me wrong, Dead To Me are an ok band, but nothing that really caught fire with me. Plus, it's important to point out that they cancelled The Fest appearance because Jack and his wife are expecting a baby, so all the best to the new family.

Dead To Me was founded by Jack Dalrymple and Brandon Pollock after the demise of One Man Army. They recruited Chicken from Fat Wreck softball team/mascot band Western Addiction who brought his cousin on drums and eventually guitarist Nathan Grice when Pollack moved on. The four play East Bay/Fat Wreck approved punk rock with Jack and Brandon sharing vocals. They all appear to ride bikes, which may very well sway me a little more down the line, but save for that I have Rancid and Social Distortion records I don't have the time to listen to, so I think I'll leave Little Brother and their Fat Wreck spin on it to the younger set. Don't let this asshole stop you from checking them out, though. 

The boys were out with The Draft for a bit before the Hot Water Music shows, but I assume are up on blocks until Jack's new arrival settles in. You can get the Little Brother here. Check out the Fat Wreck page for more info and their social networking interface here for up to the minute info on what's coming next for Dead To Me.