Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Which Creation Records Band Are You?

You Are... Ride.
You are young at heart and full of energy. You are
talented but very modest. You are happy go
lucky and care free. You have learned to take
the good with the bad and you just accept life
for being what it is. People tend to be envious
of you, That's only because they don't
understand you and they just want some of what
you have. There's no task too hard for you and
you excel at pretty much everything you try to
do. You have a playful personallity and a
beautiful inner soul.


Monday, June 20, 2005

This One Should've Been in The Onion

Check this out and tell me that you don't agree. Personally, though, I think he would love Raisin Nut Bran, which kicks the shit out of Raisin Bran any day of the week. And maybe for his sugary cereal fix (boy that Saddam really is a Toys R Us kid in the making, isn't he?) he should try some magically delicious Lucky Charms since they're way better than Froot Loops.

Lots of New Show Reviews!!!

Doug Gillard and Last Burning Embers (Pink Frost/Big Takeover Records night) @ Southpaw 6/18/05

Full disclosure: I am a staff writer for The Big Takeover, the magazine edited and published by Jack Rabid, who is the drummer for Last Burning Embers. Thus, I'm inherently biased in regards to this band. With that said, they're a really good post-punk influenced quartet (formerly a trio) led by Dave Barokas, who sings, plays guitar and writes all of the songs. Ever since their bass player left for work-related reasons (he moved to Japan), they've had 2 of Dave's students (he's a teacher in Newark and he's taught his students songs by The Specials, The Adverts and others; pretty cool to say the least) fill in on bass and lead guitar, respectively. Dave, Jack and the bass player (sorry I don't know his name) were all very comfortable up on stage and all had great presence whereas the 2nd guitar player was a bit more restrained and hiding out a bit in the back. Overall, the set was stronger than their last show, which was opening for New Model Army at Maxwells back in March. Whereas they were a bit rusty at Maxwells, here they sounded a bit better and less tentative, though still not as rockin' and unrestrained as they can be. Jack's drumming was also better on this evening as he's further into recovering from a thumb injury that prevented him from playing drums for a while (and thus preventing Last Burning Embers from playing shows for about 9 months). They played material from their full-length Lessons in Redemption and one song from their Distress Call ep and no covers, unfortunately (they do great versions of Husker Du's "Pink Turns to Blue" and The Wipers' "Nothing Left to Lose"), but it was still a strong set nonetheless.

As for Doug Gillard, well I'm not a particulary big Guided By Voices fan (Doug was the lead guitarist on their last few records), so perhaps I'm not the best person to write this review, but I will say that though I'd only listened to his debut full-length Salamander once before the show (and enjoyed it on 1st listen), I was struck by how much more energetic, upbeat and well rockin' (there's that word again) the songs were as opposed to their studio versions. I was also struck by how good the musicians in his band were, especially the drummer. However, only a few songs really stood out (perhaps the songs will grow on me more as I keep listening to the album). A big surprise was a slowed-down and initially unrecognizable cover of The Smiths' "Stop Me If You've Heard This One Before" (a song I've listened to hundreds of times) and aside from his solo stuff, a few songs from his old band Gem were played and the last song was the Guided By Voices crowd-pleaser "I Am A Tree".

Agent Orange @ The Continental 6/15/05

A very interesting way to spend the Ides of June. I've been a fan of Agent Orange ever since first hearing them on the old hardcore punk radio show "Radio Riot" on WRSU, Rutgers College's radio station, back when I was in high school. I used to stay up late on Monday nights (it was on between 12 AM and 2 AM, so I guess technically it was Tuesday morning) and I would hear amazing music, among which were songs like Agent Orange's stunning skate-video classic "Bloodstains", "Everything Turns Grey" and "A Cry for Help in a World Gone Mad", all from their incredible debut Lp Living in Darkness (a record which isn't standard issue hardcore, but rather a combination of early '80s Cali punk, '70s metal and surf music which had never been attempted before and hasn't really been replicated since).

The first time I saw them perform was at City Gardens back in 1993, when I was a senior in high school. Later I saw them in 1995 at the then just reopened Stone Pony in Asbury Park and the last time I saw them before this show was about 5 years ago at the Court Tavern in New Brunswick (you can teall I'm a Jersey boy, huh?). All of these shows were memorable and enjoyable (especially the last 2), but all were sparsely attended, with Agent Orange never managing to draw more than 50 people or so in good ole New Jersey.

My oh my, was this show a completely different story, though. At The Continental, they drew 200 rabid, screaming mohawked, pierced and shaved-headed punk youth on a Wednesday night. While on one hand, it's great to see Agent Orange draw a good crowd and get somewhat repaid for their efforts and their great music. On the other hand, though, it makes seeing them much more annoying. I mean, this isn't 200 people packed in at the Mercury Lounge or something watching an indie-rock band and generally behaving themselves and not getting in anyone's way. No, I was up front for this one and I don't remember the last time I'd been bumped into, had people land on my head, been pushed from my spot (not easy to do as I'm 6'2" and quite big), etc. as many times as I had on this night. Now all of this was fine when I was 17 or so, but after the age of 20, when I almost completely got out of the hardcore/punk scene (I'm 30 now so it's been about a decade), I just didn't have the stomach for it anymore as I realized the inherent stupidity behind moshing/slam-dancing or whatever you wanna call it. OK, now that my ranting is out of the way, I'll say that Agent Orange, as always, played a terrific and tight set encompassing all of Living in Darkness (including my favorite"No Such Thing") as well as some choice material from their later records like their covers of "Somebody to Love" and "Secret Agent Man", the great hardcore stomper "Breakdown" and the classic should've been a college-radio hit "Fire in the Rain" (from their This is the Voice album). After the show, I got to talk to Mike (Palm, the only original member left and the one who sings, plays incredible surf-guitar and wrote all of their classic material that weren't covers) and he mentioned that they would be coming to either a club in Clifton, NJ or to CBGB's tomorrow night, so be on the lookout. I know if the CBGB's show happens, I may be there to see them again (if I decide I can brave the stupid-ass slamsters)!

Engineers 6/13/05 @ Southpaw

Yes, dear reader, you're reading this correctly. I went to Southpaw 3 times in one week. Definitely a record for me of some sort, though perhaps not because knowing myself, I'm sure it's not unprecedented. :-) Anyhow, Engineers are a terrific UK shoegazer-style band (think My Bloody Valentine and you won't be too far off, though the recorded stuff I've heard reminded me more of Spiritualized's quieter moments) that have a full-length, a mini-Lp and a few singles out. Before they opened for Bloc Party at Webster Hall the following 2 nights, they managed to squeeze this one in and of course, since it was over 90 degrees out and it was on a Monday night, hardly anyone showed up so unfortunately they only played to about 20 people or so. Nevertheless, though they were quite loud, they were quite good and I'm glad that I managed to catch them. Oddly enough, though, they didn't play their 2 singles (including the new one "Home") or replicate the harmonies found on the recorded versions of those songs. I didn't stay for the headliners, The Nein, though they have a former member of '90s noise-rockers Steelpole Bathtub from what I understand.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Magic in Here

The Go-Betweens @ Southpaw 6/11/05
First off, before I go on about the Go-Betweens performance, let me say once again that it's such a pleasure going to a great club like Southpaw, especially after having to endure Tonic the night before. It has a really great, welcoming atmosphere, great beer on tap (including all the varieties of Brooklyn Lager; my favorite is the Brooklyn Weisse beer; mmmm beer, I say, Homer Simpson style), good sightlines, much improved sound (the first time I went there, about a year ago to see Clinic, the sound was utterly horrible, but every time I've been there since, they've really upped the ante in that department) and a really friendly staff, not to mention the fact that they constantly book quality national touring and local acts.

Last night's sold-out Go-Betweens show was no exception. Having never seen them before and knowing that they hadn't played in the New York area for almost 5 years, I was really looking forward to this show and fortunately, they didn't disappoint. Showcasing a 4-piece lineup featuring Adele Pickvance on bass (she had a keyboard next to her but I didn't see her touch it during the entire set) and drummer Glen Thompson, they sounded less like the orchestrated and sometimes produced (though not overproduced generally) classic lineups of the late '80s and more like their original incarnation as a proto indie-pop 3-piece in the late '70s and early '80s. They played for about an hour and 45 minutes and the set was a mix of new and old songs. From their excellent new album Oceans Apart, a few of my favorites were played ("Darlinghurst Nights" and "This Night's for You" among them, though no "Born to a Family"; darn) and there was also a fair amount of songs played from their 2000 reunion album The Friends of Rachel Worth ("Surfing Magazines" and the opener "Magic in Here" were highlights).

Digging deep into the back catalogue, the highlights were "Cattle and Cane" (from 1982's Before Hollywood) "Draining the Pool for You" (from 1984's Spring Hill Fair) "Spring Rain" (from 1986's excellent Liberty Belle and the Black Diamond Express), "Bye Bye Pride" (from 1987's very spotty but occasionally brilliant Tallulah) and 3 songs from their masterpiece, 1988's 16 Lovers Lane ("Streets of Your Town", "Was There Anything I Could Do?" and "Dive For Your Memory"). They also played a few oddities like the Robert Forster solo single "Baby Stones" and the excellent "This Girl, Black Girl", though they also ignored classics like "The House that Jack Kerouac Built", "Bachelor Kisses", "The Wrong Road", "In the Core of the Flame", "Right Here", "That Way", "Part Company" and many others (personally I would've loved to hear "You Can't Say No Forever" and "Quiet Heart"). However, with such a vast catalog, they were bound to skip a few fan favorites since they can only play so many songs, though they did managed to play a long main set with 2 full encores. Of the 2 main songwriters (Robert Forster and Grant McLellan), Robert is clearly the showman at the front and center of the stage with Grant almost looking on (though the amount of songs each writes and then sings is about equal with perhaps a slight advantage going to Robert).

Oh and thanks again to Jeff for giving me a ride to the nearest subway stop. You're a sweetheart. It's like having my own post-show personal driver. :-) Of course I would've gotten home sooner had I not taken the 4 the opposite direction by accident before I realized the error I'd made and (when I was already in Crown Heights) promptly got back on a Manhattan-bound 4 train.

As an addendum to this post, here are some pictures of the show, used by permission (thanks Rob). Check out the rest of the site for some more Go-Betweens photos (including some from a 1984 show in Ohio) as well as others of XTC (from the early '80s) and other artists as well.

The Coast is Always Changing

Maximo Park @ Tonic 6/10/05
Well after missing their pre-SXSW shows here back in March and after finally hearing their terrific debut album A Certain Trigger (though it only came out a few weeks ago here in the U.S.), the wait was finally over and I managed to catch the 1st night of their 2-night stand at Tonic, a club I'd never been to before that's better known for playing host to avant-garde, experimental artists (think any of Thurston Moore's side projects or venerated guitarist Elliott Sharp playing a musical adaptation of The Fibonacci sequence) as opposed to (relatively) straightforward UK post-punk/indie bands like Maximo Park. This venue was in danger of closing (though when I spoke to one of their staffers about a month ago, they said that they were ok for now and have managed to stay open) and honestly, if the attitudes of the entire staff approximate those of the person who was working the door and sitting behind the box office (he took my ticket and when I asked if I could keep my stub, he ripped it in such a fashion that only half of the part of the stub that I got to keep was visible; asshole), then good riddance. I mean, don't get me wrong, I hate what's happening to the Lower East Side with great clubs like the Luna Lounge (where there was never a cover and they booked good bands and there was no BS dress code or fashionista vibe as you find in so many placed down there these days) closing and being replaced by places with velvet ropes, but I also hate clubs and people that are so snobby that they think they're cooler than everyone else and this place definitely had it in spades, much like some of the record stores I try not to frequent too often in both the East and West Village (names will be omitted to protect the guilty; ha). Also, negative points go to this place for not having any beer on tap (though at least they had Bass in a bottle) and for having a relatively long bathroom line (2 bathrooms with only 1 stall each and the one I used was filthy and cramped, too; yuck).

Regardless, the sound in this place is excellent, so if you can brave the avant snobs and bathroom lines and bottled beer and a band or artist you like is playing, then at least they'll sound great. And fortunately, Maximo Park not only sounded great, but they placed a killer, ace, 45 to 50 minute set (with one 2-song encore) in which they managed to play every single song from their album except for the Peter Gabriel-ish "Acrobat" as well as 2 B-sides ("Fear of Falling" and "I Want You to Leave") and 2 brand new songs as well. The energy they had was unbelievable and fortunately, singer Paul Smith and keyboardist Lukas Woller were able to curtail their Devo-esque hand gesturing and strutting down to a minimum. Sound-wise, they remind me of everyone from The Dickies and Devo to on a few songs The Smiths (one song borrows the riff from "This Charming Man"), any C86 band and The Jam (as well as more recent contemporaries), but they have a sound that's distinctly their own and lyrically, Paul Smith is an adept writer of adolescent and young adult struggles at the art of romance, making their songs feel more personal than those of many of their contemporaries. I can't wait to for them to come back here! And plus, Paul graciously signed my "Apply Some Pressure" CD ep after the show and guitarist Duncan Lloyd was very nice as well. In short, if they come anywhere near you and even if you don't know them and you like the current crop of post-punk/new-wave revivalists coming out of the UK (or the older bands I cited above), you must see them!