Monday, October 27, 2008

Los Peyotes - Introducing...Loud, Superfuzz Garage Rock From Argentina!

Los Peyotes

Dirty Water Records with USA distribution from Get Hip Records

Although South America was historically far more civilized than the rest of the world historically, A quintet of tooth necklace, fur vest donned cavemen with music as addictive as their name implies crawled out of Argentina and Peru called Los Peyotes. In a fuzz and farfisa fury, this band wowed audiences at The Primitive Festival in Rotterdam this year and are poised to throw everyone back into The Stone Age. This is serious stuff! Although formed in 1996, our friends accross the pond at Dirty Water Records have given them a proper debut with Introducing Los Peyotes. On the release, these guys pump out music that will turn any occasion into an all out Cro-Magnon clubbing for the '60s surf garage rock and punk faithful, but carries enough energy and fun to bludgeon more unlikely followers!

Simply put, Los Peyotes are superb. "El Corredor Quemado" is a furious surf brawl filled with Dick Dale type tremolo that leans towards The Cramps, but Victor la Pantera's farfisa sometimes feels like the waves rolling in rythmically and at other times feels like an all out pounding. One of the few songs on the album in English, "Action" is a great shot of Sonics inspired beats with more fuzz than you find on month old bread sitting on top of your refridgerator. Surprisingly, it's another fine example that the best garage rock is being made today. "El Humo te Hace Mal" is an all out riot! Forget that one might not know what the lyrics mean, you'll be screaming along to "Yeah!" and trying to sing along with the words and joining in on the screams just because you can't help it! As if it wasn't already good enough, the beat picks up with a true punk rock bass intro courtesy of Oscar Hechomierda in the middle that ends up in a frenzy.

It's not only fitting that around Halloween, one reviews a pack of guys who dress up and play some of the ghouliest, zombie garage rock around, but one also gets the added benefit of "Vampiro," another English song that one can barely discern, but falls somewhere between a good organ groove combined with Pablo Bambam's pounding, a really cool touch of David Peyote's maracas, but an overall feel that's almost "Secret Agent Man" with Rolando Bruno's surf guitar that's just a bit cooler. The treat goes further with guitar/scream frenzy of "Scream" that's enough to wake the dead! The final injection of creepy crawlies is found on the eerie farfisa organ of "La Malvada Creacion del Dr Ilusion" and bolts of guitar fuzz that will put anyone in Frankenstien's lab.

"El Entierro de los Gatos" is a a great surf song, but the punctuation is from the organ. Very '60s, indeed. "Psicosis V" is aptly titled with enough surf tremolo and fuzz to put one into a psychosis. The theramin gives it a magic potion veneer, too. Los Peyotes then get back down to primitive Stones style garage on "Back Come To Me" that's enough to impress even the staunchest of purists, while "I Don't Mind" had a more "Knights of Fuzz" take that only serve to prove that these guys that ought to put anyone into the mood for a perfect freakout.

In fact, everything about these guys is garage freakout! "Serial Killer" plays like a surf zombie movie while "Connection" is an almost British Invasion sound through a tube amp! The closing "No Puedo Hacerte Mia" is about the closest thing one gets to a love song from Los Peyotes, but it's more of a solitary lament on an an empty beach that sounds more like California than anywhere in South America.

Introducing Los Peyotes is a true garage rock fest with ghouls, zombies, surf, and more fuzz and farfisa than anyone could muster into one album. One could only imagine how lucky anyone was to be able to see them. The music sounds raw and a whole lot of fun. As great as the album is, one gets the feeling that the live experience of Los Peyotes is exponentially better. The music is in the spirit of pure fun that I'm sure everyone who saw them fell under a hallucinogenic dance. Los Peyotes are scheduled for their next live show in Buenos Aires in November 15th. Hopefully, as many of us as possible will get a chance to see them in the near future. In the meantime, Introducing Los Peyotes is a slab of '60s style vintage garage rock worth having and playing over and over.

El Humo te Hace Mal

No Puedo Hacerte Mia

The Quarter After - Changes Near is Rickenbacker 12 String Heaven!

The Quarter After

Changes Near
The Committee To Keep Music Evil"

Changes Near and my introduction to The Quarter After was a chance suggestion by their record label while researching another band on their label, The Asteroid 4. The Quarter After is quite a lucky find for those of you into The Byrds. These guys have the unmistakable Rickenbacker jingle jangle sound, and much like their main influence, the occasional country influence, but the sound is stronger and bigger. The opening track "Sanctuary" has the obvious full sound of a Rickenbacker 12 string from Vox/guitarist Dominic Campanella, but David Koenig's bass give it a heavier feel. The addition of tablas make it even more psychedelic, but the song just sounds FULL. The sound is thick and loud, and the vocal harmonies add a great finishing touch. "She Revolves" is slightly mellower but carries an equal amount of electric guitar surprises. One of those is that one actually hears all the guitar strings strummed instead of a simple chord, but one can only describe what something sounds like. The Quarter After take their musical ancestry to a bigger place. A country rock track "Counting The Score" is twangy beyond belief but it somehow works with great vocal harmonies and dual guitars. It's a lot more forward thinking than most.

"See How It Feels" is upbeat, full of great feedback, and a basic but strong rhythm section much akin to bands from The Paisley Underground era. Overall, The Quarter After have one foot steeped in the L.A. folk rock scene and the other well planted in the psych/garage revival of The Paisley Underground. However, that's just the beginning. The vocal harmonies are stronger, the guitars are louder and more ambitious, thus giving a stronger garage rock feel, but there are also surprises that echo the pioneering spirit of many other bands that seek to really create something new. Luckily, it works well for The Quarter After. "Early Morning Rider" can only make one think of "Easy Rider," but Rob Campanella's Vox Ultrasonic and then the trumpet throws something new into what at first has that basic background already alluded to. The Quarter After is like that: You get hit with a few surprises on each song that challenge convention or what you might expect. Although a "jam" is tantamount to pure evil for me when it comes to music, the otherwise slow, folksy "Something Out Of Nothing" gives off a battery acid solo that's refreshing and bizarre, although just slightly a little too long. Changes Near just sounds great! The Rickenbacker 12 string is bright and instantly recognizable, but there's a pedal steel thrown in on the slower parts, then the song goes into a marching beat out of nowhere with more surprises to follow.

"A Winter Song" is a deep, slow psych pour with enough tamboura and tablas to make George Harrison proud, but also acoustic guitars, a Hammond and a Mellowtron that could put The Quarter After at home with the good vibes of The Grip Weeds. Another standout track is "This Is How I Want To Know You" that psyches out with the jingle jangle sound, but carries some great vocal harmonies and a beat much like The Bangles and then takes a heavier ending much like The Church second album, The Blurred Crusade. The final song "Sempre Avanti (Johny Marr Is Not Dead)" is self explanatory, but then again, The Quarter After is as much about surprises as they're being built around a 12 string Rickenbacker. Changes Near is a heavy musical venture. It's something to hear and listen to on the edge of folk and psychedelic rock, but the sound is melodic, full, soft, but definitely loud at the same time. If you love Rickenbackers, The Paisley Underground, or both, Changes Near can take you back there, but there's more originality to The Quarter After than meet's the eye.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

John Doe: A Year In The Wilderness. Not recommended. ESSENTIAL!

John Doe

A Year In The Wilderness
Yep Roc

There really isn't anything that John Doe can't do. X still packs in a crowd and rocks the house down after 35 years, he's an often working film and TV actor with too many credits to mention, seven solo albums, and endless touring for both X and his own band, not to mention The Knitters!. There are a lot of people out there who are prolific, but very few (if any) that can stand up to the quality of music that John Doe continuously releases and performs. A Year In The Wilderness was released June of 2007, but there's been brief X, The Knitters, solo tours and the acting thing in between, so for a guy who's working all the time on different things, A Year In The Wilderness deserves a new introduction.

It's hard to place John Doe. His music in its various incarnations stated above range from punk to country tinged punk, rockabilly, Americana, and even powerpop. The labels mean nothing especially because John Doe effortlessly intertwines those styles into one. Let's just say it's American music. He can be loud and raucaus, bluesy, introspective, soft, tell a story, sing a love song, add some Velvets, some twang, some other things, and the result is uniquely John Doe. The title track is a 21 second piano in an empty room piece with a great melody but just a hint (or not) of what's yet to come. "Hotel Ghost" is a building, heavy beat rock song with continously loud, unfiltered guitar, some great organ, roadhouse style piano, and a voice that is undeniably smooth but is punctuated with his louder, trademark wail. There's no holding back here. It's a loud, rockin' song that treads the wire between rocking out while drawing one into the haunting story of a lonely being from the other side who connects with the living. This is followed up by "The Golden State," which is equally loud but a little more basic in melodic chainsaw buzz guitar. A large portion of John Doe's songs are only complete with the addition of a female voice and that's not surprising since he's always shared songwriting and musical contributions with them. "The Golden State" gives out a serious full shock as a duet with Ottawa alt. country rocker Kathleen Edwards, whose range and pitch not only lend a great contrast that it succeeds in having two people telling their own side of the same story, but her voice is so strong yet different that it will put a lump in your throat and lead you to crashing on the rocks from the siren's call. It's truly amazing.

"Darling Underdog" is a haunting ballad punctuated with lyrics that Exene sent to him that feel like intense fleeting moments when they come to the forefront - "Green into blue, Black into white, me into you, like ultraviolet light." John's voice sends more tender than usual and he felt that the lyrics themselves were that way also. Equally subtle but welcome backing vocals were provided by Jill Sobule a great underrated American talent who's brief flirt with billboard success (remember "I Kissed A Girl?") caused a phenomenal songwriter to end up severely underrated. This is followed up by "Just A little More Time," an almost Replacements or Paul Westerberg sounding song with Kathleen Edwards again on backup and fellow X mate Dave Alvin plus bandmate/producer Dave Way providing serious guitar twang that's melodic in almost a sweet sense but somehow reflects the desparation of wishing one had more time with a loved one. The fact that there's a lyric "Stuck in Nebraska" only accentuates that desperation.

There's a lot to be said about roots based American music. It can be punk, rock, folk, or some short and poppy combination, but it tells a story and gives a summation of experiences that reflect in the mixture of influences and places, both geographically and internal. It can be isolated in a particular time frame or it can be the culmination of things. If that sounds a little out there, consider the fact that "Los Angeles" itself is a story about a place and experiences. In fact, powerpop guru Paul Collins and currently Paul Collins Beat and their recent release "Ribbons of Gold" share the same traits. "Unforgiven" takes a more thematic and less storied approach about a broken relationship that reflects the permanence of negative feelings as more of an acceptance of the fallout. Aimee Mann adds a strong contrast that compliments but sounds like a personal reflection instead of a contrast. Musically, the three chord approach with a throbbing beat gets heightened with an almost upbeat piano that sounds welcome. Somehow, the bitterness of the song combined with the piano melody communicate the feeling of "You know I feel bad, but not bad enough" as a great way of dealing with how someone who was important in your life might permanently see you by knowing that you can move forward. In other words, after the breakup, this is a great post breakup song to encourage one to move on with their lives - "I've been called 100 things a 1000 different times, but now and forever I will always be one thing to you and me, that's unforgiven." That's something that won't change for a while and it's good to acknowledge it and move on. "There's A Hole" is somehow the culmination of blues and punk into one. It's raw and nasty with Black Keys guitarist Dan Auerbach playing some nasty, definitely southern influenced guitar that conjure the image of some hot, small town juke joint populated by a punk band. As contrary as it sounds, there are a lot of great bands whose music reflects the experiences of playing "punk" in a southern blues dive and/or brought blues into the punk club. It's definitely a blues song, but completely John Doe in it's short, loud brutality. "Big Moon" has some of the coolest organ your ears will ever experience that reasonates with the story of sitting alone on the rooftop waiting for someone who will never show up.

Great Rock 'n' Roll is a pretty straight up thing for me. It's three chords, a beat you can dance to, and often some great melodic embellishment that feed the senses beyond its primal beat. This goes for many of you, so it comes as a big surprise that Auerbach's intense slide guitars give a blistering but harmonic atmosphere to "The Bridge" that can only bring to mind Lou Reed complimenting The Cowboy Junkies for doing a better cover of "Sweet Jane" than VU original. Although storytelling has always been a part of John Doe's songs, the narrative style is derived from early country music but one could never say that John Doe does country music, but the final two tracks are the closest thing to it. "The Meanest Man In The World" makes that clear in its introduction with "The wide open sky" and then a story that follows that's sinister in it's honesty and story. "Grain of Salt" is a lamenting love song that elevates John Doe into a blues realm with his voice and a theme of love as a salvation that is true to blues origins.

For someone who focuses on defining good rock 'n' roll in terms of its r & b origins with its basicness and a dance beat, "A Year In The Wilderness" was a struggle because it's brilliant but its commonality in other music that I reviewed is found in its roots and rawness. On the other hand, it's a beautiful, incredible piece of work done by a punk rock icon who always made his music out of those roots and wore them on his sleeve more easily than most. However, like a chosen few of his punk/new wave cohorts, John Doe went backwards into his roots to go forwards. On "A Year In The Wilderness," the music is raw and loud, but it combines a punk club, southern juke joint, and occasionally, the honky tonk into one. That's not saying it's some kind of style that appeals to everyone because it's a lot deeper than that. For example, EVERYONE loves Johny Cash. Would you consider him country? Rock 'n' Roll? Neither. We like him because he's real. He made great music and it doesn't matter what people want to call it. When someone does roots based music, there's always that danger of coming off as unoriginal by trying to sound authentic. No problems here. This is John Doe. He can do whatever he wants and it's good. Again, there's a lot more to it, though. If you want to describe it, it's somewhere between Cash and Reed with some Dylan. That's a mouthful, but it's a fair comparison. It's roots based, but confrontational in its honesty, rawness, and volume. The music, the songwriting, all of it. There is not a single compromise or forgettable song here, but it's too good to have mass appeal. For those devoted to one type of music that "A Year In The Wilderness" shares some influence with, it's too challenging, but if one can understand what makes music done by Paul Westerberg and others previously cited, you'll get it. For those who understand good rock 'n' roll, you'll be surprised at how good this is. You can pick out things, but you can't put your finger on it or narrow it down. Simultaneously, you can't say "there's something for everyone" because the music is real punk, garage, blues, country, and full of the strongest roots around. That's rock 'n' roll compressed into one thing without taking away the true heart and originality of any of those things.

"A Year In The Wilderness" is something you'll buy for yourself and end up recommending and buying for everyone you know who understands good rock 'n' roll. You'll listen to it over and over and over again. Every song is great. Of course, it gets better in proportion to the volume. We should all feel very, very lucky that we're around to share the same time with a treasure like John Doe.

Tour Dates:

Nov 5 2008 8:00P The National Richmond, Virginia
Nov 7 2008 8:00P Zankel Hall New York, New York
Nov 8 2008 8:00P Capitol Theatre York, Pennsylvania
Nov 10 2008 8:00P Stubb’s BBQ Austin, Texas
Nov 11 2008 8:00P The Loft Dallas, Texas
Nov 13 2008 8:00P El Rey Theatre Los Angeles, California
Nov 14 2008 8:00P Great American Music Hall San Francisco, California
Nov 15 2008 8:00P Rio Theatre Santa Cruz, California
Nov 17 2008 8:00P John Henry’s Eugene, Oregon
Nov 18 2008 8:00P Tractor Tavern Seattle, Washington
Nov 19 2008 8:00P Aladdin Theatre Portalnd, Oregon

I couldn't find a video that truly did justice. "A Year In The Wilderness" is just incredible.

Sunday, October 5, 2008


Lots of various shots from The Hives, Hoodoos, Dirtbombs, Fleshtones, Stems, etc..