Monday, October 26, 2009

The Morning After Girls: Alone

The Morning After Girls


I love rock 'n' roll. I like it simple. Three chords driven by a beat and some occasional harmonies from either guitar and/or vocals is all you need. However, every now and then a deviation from that comes along that makes me expand my paradigm. Most of us like at least some psychedelic music as it relates to early garage rock, but psych has taken so many twists, turns, and different beats that we tend to be very selective in the bands we like within that labeling. Hailing from from Australia, Tanzania, and New York City, The Morning After Girls take psychedelic rock on some familiar roads and then end up at very new places. I'm not sure if that description gives Alone enough justice. In many ways, this is completely new.

The opening "A New Silence" is a short drone of feedback. Not much to hook into, but goes right into the acoustic intro of "The Best Explanation", a song with beautiful soft vocal harmonies and explosions of celestial psych guitar and feedback that goes from complexity to simplicity and back again. It's a little sonically overwhelming, but carries a sharp, colorful lysergic quality that sounds both beautiful and confrontational. The following "The General Public" takes the paisley underground revival and turns it on its head by adding the Revolver influenced side of '80s Britpop in its dance beat, but with an emphasis on rawness instead of cleaner production that characterized much of the music from that era. The title track "Alone" continues in this vein closer to the early '90s Manchester psych of The Stone Roses or some of the Stonesier material from Primal Scream or The Verve, but the only strong commonality it has in its structure. The vocal harmonies are softer and much more memorable, but the guitar is both melodic and filled with feedback, which makes it more attention getting than what's commonly called "Shoegazer."

Like the title itself, "Death Processions" is a little on the brooding side with it's goth rock tone, but not quite dark psychedelia with wah guitar and noise. Nevertheless, it's another song that demands multiple listenings because one hears something different that they can't quite place their head around every time they hear it. In a slight continuance of the theme, "You Need To Die" matches only in title. The production, backing guitar melodies, and overall theme suggest more of the mid era Who/psych rock of The Soundtrack of Our Lives, but takes more risks. "Who Is They" also continues in this melodic mold, but like many other tracks on Alone, the combination of the harsh and the exquisite in vocals and guitars take one on familiar roads to places they've never been. On a personal note, this track amazed me to the point that I often had to pause it and take a break in order to absorb what I just heard.

"Part Of Your Nature" is probably the most straightforward tracks as an acoustic song, but also has vintage sounding loops (sound moving back and forth) and a harmonic, Edge like guitar climax that carries the song to its conclusion. "To Be Your Loss" has a lush, shimmering quality and a higher pitched vocal that more or less defines shoegazer music, but vocal contrast and guitar driven melody leaves a lot more enjoyment in its abrasive quality and volume.

"There's A Taking" catches one off guard given all the guitar hooks one has up to this point. It feels like a short, intense foray into Syd Barrett's mind in the mid '60s as he began to slip away. None of us have ever been there nor is anyone really qualified to say that, but it feels detached and somehow hints at accurate mental perception. I'm not really sure if there's a better way to describe it, but I think the interpretation is best left open. "Still Falling" has the complex but engaging sound of modern era The Chuch, only one also hears the folky simplicity of "Jane Says" for a song that is so beautiful that I felt a lump in my throat after the first few listens. However, this becomes the norm for Alone after repeated listens.

The lengthy, ending tome of "Tomorrow's Time" passes closely to the country tinged psychedelia of former labelmates The Asteroid #4, but the first 5 minutes are the bulk of the song followed by silence until the echoed noise of the last one and a half minutes.

On their new release, psychedelic rock is encapsulated and compressed from all the different revival eras into something that tends to explode outwards, expand, then contract. It's heavy, melodic, harmonic, abrasive, confrontational, never stays in the same place, but never strays into meandering or a background, which is really the essence of good psychedelic rock. It remains rock. It's exciting, different, goes in different directions, but never sounding like an aimless experiment.

As a major proponent of the three chord rock ethos, one has to move their feet and dance to call it good rock 'n' roll. There are notable deviations, but that's really it. Every now and then, something comes along that demands one to think twice. After all, if one cites bands like The Byrds, Love, VU, and a growing list of other acts that drew upon early psych and garage rock to reinterpret it, the idea grows and is no longer as cut and dry. Certain things come along that demand attention beyond the simple mindset. The new release from The Morning After Girls is not just a prime example of this, but truly phenomenal.

Alone is currently available exclusively on iTunes for the USA.

The General Public

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Moog

Razzmatazz Orfeum
Musick Recordings

You Raised A Vampire, Side B The Passion Of Lovers (Bauhaus, featuring David J) Artwork by Gris Grimly

After a long hiatus and especially since 'tis the season, there's nothing like sinking your teeth into something from Hungary, the home (He ruled what is now Romania, but was born in Hungary) of a bloodsucker that doesn't need to be named. To boot, The Moog even live up to their birthright with "You Raised A Vampire", the first single from their latest release Razzmatazz Orfeum, with the bonus of a Bauhaus cover with David J as a guest!

The Moog lie off the beaten path of garage and psych in their Cars and obviously Moog infused take on goth rock, which in its present, more encompassing form of goth music, has incorporated earlier musical styles and thus, is not really rock 'n' roll, but in its early form, goth rock was the inevitable growth off of garage (Bauhaus even covered The Strangeloves classic "Nighttime", found on Nuggets: Volume I), Velvet Underground, and the early glam of Bowie and T.Rex. On their latest release, The Moog stay close to the "rock" part. The opening track "This Is Horror" provides a heavy Moog (of course) intro that reminds me of the little known Tones On Tail classic song "Performance" with its added guitar screeches announcing something big about to happen. It switches into a more '80s dark Britpop song with a strong melody and strong vocals from lead vox Tonyo, but the melodic diversions are a bit surprising. The followup "Panic" is a bit hard to pin down. However, like many of their progenitors such as Bauhaus, the combination of melody, searing guitars, and changing beats that still keep a basic but not constant structure is a sure trademark of the post punk ethos of breaking things down and starting up again.

"You Raised A Vampire" is a take on hunger caused by deprivation. Surprisingly, it's very upbeat and strange in The Moog's own way with its simplicity and faster beat. As one quickly learns with these guys, there's a lot more to them than what one immediately senses. A fast tempo, great, simple chords that seem to speed up, and some underlying "gothiness" to lend energy to your angst. "When I See You" is an immediate reminder of Weezer's "The Sweater Song", but an awful lot more fun with lyrics like "Just want me, just need me, just say that I'm your baby, I haunt you then kill you, When I see you I go, Woohoowhooo!" If anything, you'll want to put the fun back in funeral!

"Lost Day" puts a smile on the face of every late Joy Division and early New Order fan with a bass driven melody and a clean, melodic guitar coupled with a great vocal range that communicates longing and vulnerability not unlike Peter Hook. This is definitely an album highlight. The following "Joyclad Armies" shows off some heavier chops, but The Moog's unique combinations and musical refrains tend to be uncategorizable in the rock milleu, although still engaging and unmistakably theirs. "Sphinx" even gets heavier with a dominating and neverending tribal beat that keeps one listening. "Heart and Soul" is another great listen for fans of post punk Britpop in its Smithslike isolation, but Tonyo's falsetto is both amazing and a little alarming.

As someone with a broad musical background but a strong tendency towards certain definitions of great rock 'n' roll that lie in its r & b simplicity, the occasional infusion of jingly jangly guitar and sometimes, wonderful vocal harmonies but still having a tendency towards a definition of great rock 'n' roll as music that essentially gets one to dance, move, and have fun, The Moog present a challenge to it. They have those elements, but they bring a younger voice (and definitely spirit) with later post punk, dark Britpop, and goth influences that present a picture that's a little more complex than my original focus. The Moog could do a teenage vampire movie soundtrack on their own and hook everyone in that age group in. They're young and thus, could easily be categorized somewhere in the emo camp, but a genuine listen to Razzmatazz Orfeum gives a lot more surprises than a quick and easy classification that most bands their age have and stick to. The music has its simplicity, becomes elaborate, and like great rock 'n' roll, has very little in fillers or dull moments, although they packed a lot into the album that needs an explanation from a broader background. Despite the young appeal, the approach is very firm and never boring or predictable.

The album review would not be complete without a very honorable mention to the b-side from the "You Raised A Vampire" single, a cover of the Bauhaus classic "The Passion of Lovers" with a slight melodic guitar in line with the romanticism of early Mission UK and guest David J's detached vocals thematically fit the song and its original cover of a praying mantis being devoured. In fact, it's better than the version I recently saw Peter Murphy do live. Finally, the artwork on the gold vinyl 7inch by Chris Grimly is incredible.

You Raised a Vampire

Here's a new video for "When I see You" shot in Los Angeles at The Bob Baker Puppet Theater

Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Fuzztones: Horny As Hell!

The Fuzztones

Horny As Hell
No Fun Records

As much as I "dig the new breed", leave it to a band that's been around for three decades to rewrite garage rock, make it bigger, louder, and give it a whole lot more soul. Since The Fuzztones are mainly known as a "garage punk" act, adding a horn section, female backing singers, and trading the Vox for a Hammond B3 is pretty ambitious. The opening cover of "Garden of My Mind" by Mickey Finn rearranges the raw sound of the original with super loud horns and a much more exciting vocal treatment from lead vox Rudi Protrudi, but the backing female vocals give it an upbeat, Motown vibe that's got so much soul that it's sinful. Followed up witha Fuzztones staple "Bad News Travels Fast", which grooves and swings heavier than the original recording, and you get a garage/soul/ghoul rockin' heaven that anyone would be hard pressed to even pause for a moment. The blazing saxophone treatment on "Brand New Man" might come as a shock to some devotees, but it's honestly not that radical. Afterall, The Sonics have a sax player, too. Another fascinating high note on Horny as Hell is the added swing in the ? and The Mysterians cover "Girl, You Captivate Me" with a "cooler" but older toned organ from Lana Loveland that retains a psychedelic buildup.

Horny as Hell is full of notables. "Third Time's a Charm" has equal parts fuzz and wailing, almost funky guitar while "Be Forewarned" is thick in deep, dark blues and works to bare Rudi's, soul as an unrivaled, powerful vocalist. The cover of The Moving Sidewalks "99th Floor" is both sweet and dirty with guitar licks. This is followed up with The Pretty Things "Alexander", which lays on the backing female vocals enough to make it sound like classic Motown. Very few can ponder the thought of monster fuzz with blasts of brass, but "Black Lightning Light" pulls it off with a thick, swampy feel then adds eerie keys over it to get every zombie rocker moving. An overall accomplishment of Horny As Hell is the ultimate mixture of soul, fuzz, and garage punk. The songs sometimes sound vintage enough that one can imagine swinging to it, but the added snarls, howls, and overall madness of The Fuzztones fuse the elements to create new standards on songs like "Yeah Babe". It's not a nicely done experiment, but a bold move by one of the few acts good enough to make it incredible. It sounds like vintage soul, psychedelic fuzz, and garage concocted into a tasty, mind and ear blowing trip that will definitely leave one a changed person after they come down.

One can't go without mentioning the "new" version of The Fuzztones most popular song "Ward 81." The vocal introduction, the saxes that just add to the insanity, the backing vocals that add the sadness and desperation more effectively, the crashing drums, and the lyric "Gotta flip a switch, pull out the stitches" that many of us might have used to express ourselves (metaphorically) will leave one screaming them as though they're an angry teenager. "She's Wicked", another staple, will make everyone realize where many of their favorite acts got their inspiration from.

We've all heard of The Fuzztones, but limited press and distribution has placed them in obscurity even though they have over 70 releases to date. For those not familiar with them, Horny as Hell is a fine introduction to the realm of skull and crossed Vox guitars! For you loyal fans already initiated, tune in, turn on, and fuzz out!

Horny as Hell is a available at your finer indie record store. If they don't have it, they need an education, but in that case, you can buy it directly in either vinyl or CD from No Fun Records, a great label out of Detroit, MI with truly worldwide garage rock origins. Other notables who call the label home are Los Peyotes, The Dials, The Avatars and Los Kahunas. They've also got some exciting new acts and releases coming out this year. Although I'm partial to vinyl, the CD version of Horny as Hell has a bonus track "Caught You Red Handed" featuring Mark Lindsay from Paul Revere and The Raiders.

"She's Wicked"

Video courtesy of electricbanana69

Monday, May 4, 2009

The Asteroid No. 4: These Flowers Of Ours

The Asteroid No.4

These Flowers Of Ours
The Committee to Keep Music Evil

The Asteroid No.4 have always been distinctive in their craft. With three guitarists, the band has crafted a melodic noise. Part early Pink Floyd, but jangling, Byrds influenced rock at the same time. Something that causes most to pause is the extra guitar creating a thicker noise and making the songs into heavier psychedelic rock. Although this band is an ever evolving experiment with a stable partnership, one really can't say they pick up where they left off. These Flowers Of Ours is completely new. The opening "My Love" goes from intense space effect to lulling folk rock set on an English countryside, evoking images of a well dressed gentleman and his equally primped partner looking upon the greenery and architecture that seems to become darker with the addition of guitar fuzz and spacey organs that brings on a sense of foreboding. Beautiful, but intense. The following "Let It Go" is a dual jangling guitar song that would put every Rickenbacker fan into a sonic heaven with one guitar chiming while the other one kicks in a similar melody, but the drums + tambourines turn it into a great rock song that's both wonder to the ears as well as the feet. In their true trademark, loud, sharp guitar noise adds a sense of highs and lows and a whole new dimension. This one is rock 'n' roll that one can appreciate on so many levels. Truly amazing.

"Hold On" takes on some grounding with its blues drenched harmonica and foray into Americana. However, one also hears a little bit of "The Porpoise Song" mixed in with slow, heavy Southern rock guitar that gives it a harder, louder edge that lends itself more to delta blues. A special surprise on These Flowers Of Ours is the fuzzed out remake of Rain Parade's "I Look Around". Although retaining the happy psych pop melody of the original, the guitar work leaves one to conclude that it's no mistake, it's a loud garage rock song. "She's All I Need" takes on a pounding shoegazer approach with thicker guitars, but the soft vocal refrains that get punctuated by the heavier instrumentation leave one at a loss. Like the rest of the album, there's a lot here that require multiple listens. "War" takes on a more classic psychedelic/experimental approach that might take one back to a time when people would listen to music on headphones to get the full effect of tape loops and sounds moving in circles, but for some reason, the smoother, calming melodies are still confrontational and challenging.

The title track "Flowers of Ours" is rather disturbing but somehow a smooth image of Velvet Underground's "Sunday Morning" crossed with Simon & Garfunkel's "A Most Peculiar Man", but it has an overall presentation that illuminates the title as a much more accurate portrayal of all that comes with love. A psychedelic album would not be complete without an Eastern influence. "Hei Nah Lah" is their contribution, but it's also a hypnotic chant that brings to mind Native American and maybe Polynesian music too, but the steady stream of guitars and psychedelic noise subtract any idea of it being worldly. Instead, the spoken word ending places it squarely in confusion, leaving one to think more of where it took them. "She Touched The Sky" is also a take on a familiar psychedelic theme, but slide guitar add fuller dimension to its acid sound. The following "All Fall Down" is somewhat of a breather. I thought of The Jesus and Mary Chain at first, but with more tremolo and a beat that picks up into a faster tempo. The closing "Empty Like a Little Child" sounds a perfect 'goodbye' with the repeated lyric "Empty like a little child, you'll realize, my friend, when you're gone." As many ideas that one hears throught These Flowers Of Ours, this idea is an apt summary. The album takes you to a lot of places and presents you with a lot of things. A mystic trip, maybe. But unlike one, a person is confronted so much that they don't know all the places they've been, only that they've been given a sensory overload of a lot of strong ideas. This album is actually hard to get one's head around. However, the lullaby melody of the closing track is almost a way of coming down, which any good trip host makes the effort to not leave us shaking in the wind, confused over everything we've just experienced.

The Asteroid No.4 have allowed their talents to be affected and driven by their multitude of surroundings. The resulting These Flowers Of Ours starts on ground and then shoots the band and its listeners into space through non logical means. It's not spiritual. It's too weird in a good way for that. One could call probably say dark but benevolent forces have integrated themselves into the rational world of music to create a rock experience that is more psychedelic than anything out there, although still a rock experience. In fact, These Flowers Of ours borders on a new genre because it's psychedelic but loud and thought provoking. There's a basis in '60s rock and garage, but with a lot of psychedelic experimentation. That explanation isn't enough because psychedelic music that goes beyond rock reminds one of the late '60s to mid '70s prog rock experiments with concept albums. It's a listening experience, but it rarely rocks you. That was the unfortunate history of psychedelic rock and what became of it. Instead, These Flowers Of ours is a rock album from start to finish because it's confrontational. Great rock 'n' roll does that. It shakes you out of your expectations and forces you to think. You might not love everything you're hearing, but it's causing the cogs in your cerebrum to move and try to figure it all out. But in the end, this album can't be taken apart.

One can't sum them up so easily because we try to fit new things into what we know. These Flowers Of ours? It's quite beautiful, but striking. It's been a task to summarize. '60s punk, garage, acid, folk, deep blues, paisley undergound, Americana, tons of feedback, and jingle jangle thrown into a vat of acid that eats away and exposes parts at random that combine but never blend enough to become homogenous. Call it a bouquet. Call it a dark gift that shatters expectations and will constantly call to you to listen to it. Call it These Flowers Of Ours.

From the albums's liner notes:

The work, of course, came later, and the resulting tome, These Flowers Of Ours, was what was on the group's mind this misty morning as they stared into the fog, while, as always, each cold grey morning, the fog sang right back to them. In the dulcet tones of a male harmony, in the chime of an ancient, knowing Rickenbacker, in a lonely slide guitar, the fog told them: Science alone won't save you. It can't. So to temper it, please accept this treasury of witchcraft and devilry, this humble relic, this partial map of a crumbling continent: These Flowers Of Ours.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Cocktail Slippers "St.Valentine's Day Massacre" In Stores 4/28

The Cocktail Slippers

St. Valentine's Day Massacre
Wicked Cool Records

Straight out of their rousing sets at SXSW, The Cocktail Slippers release their second effort on Wicked Cool Records, but it's anything but sophomoric. Admittedly, there's no shortage of great garage acts from Scandinavia, but St. Valentine's Day Massacre hits a few different chords. "Sentenced to Love" is a tight song with cool keys and a strong beat, but there's something more with the girl group harmonies and the the vocal stretches of "aye yaye yayes" more well known of male vocalists make it a lot of fun. "You Do Run" has a catchy chorus that you can't help thinking of "Da Doo Run Run", but that was probably intentional. It's a straighter song, but again oh, those great harmonies and impressively tight rock beat. The title track "St. Valentine's Day Massacre' sounds better the second time around within the larger context of a full length album and has a groovy organ throughout. The rock guard comes down on songs like "Don't Ever Leave Me" and "I Got A Crush On You, both sweet, full on '60s girl group homages with all the vulnerability of an original, but definitely cooler with some melodic guitars and vintage organ.

"Anything You Want" is probably the best description of The Cocktail Slippers overall sound: A tight, garage rock band with an affinity of 60's girl group pop. Although one could say that combining both is a standard for modern garage rock, other bands have not really embraced the girl group ethos like they do. Instead, other acts that are all or mostly female play rock 'n' roll or garage rock with a female lead or take a more assertive, rock 'n' roll approach. Therefore, The Cocktail Slippers take is pretty refreshing. A standout on the album is "Round and Round" with a mixture of Pat Benatar's energy from some of her earlier work mixed with, you guessed, vocal harmonies.

Although there are countless excellent all female rock and garage acts out there that might rock harder or have deeper soul roots, The Cocktail Slippers might have a leg up in breaking into the mainstream with their girl group derived songs. However, they still rock. Every song on St. Valentine's Day Massacre is proof of that. The songs not only rock, but they're really good. The mix of simpler pop songs with a stronger beat and a really tight sound are pretty unique. Although many are going to fall either more towards the rock side while others might lean towards the pop song side, a lot of people will be happier in the overall cohesiveness of having both. Even the simplicity of the final track "Heard You Got A Thing For Me" with it's simple vocal pop and "Leader Of The Pack" sensibility cuts into a deeper, less pop oriented keyboard solo that's more '60s rock.

Courtesy of Wicked Cool Records

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Graham Day & The Gaolers: Triple Distilled

Graham Day & The Gaolers

Triple Distillled
Damaged Goods Records

Many of you are familiar with "The Medway Sound", but let me just start off by saying that Medway is a conglomeration of a bunch of towns in Kent that eventually merged as a result of population growth and sprawl. Oh, what a beautiful name to call it! The conumeration is named after the River Medway, which had a long standing reputation as a waterway for factory runoff until it's cleanup in the last few decades. To call music "The Medway Sound" is ignorant. It would be like combining Manchester and Liverpool into one general area. In fact, those two towns are 35 miles apart from each other, which is less than the distance from Canterbury to Chatham, both of which are considered part of Medway. Geography lesson aside, as much as many Americans need it, Medway rocks. From The Pretty Things to Mickey and The Milkshakes and beyond. The "sound"? NME calls it "music should be immediate." Not much to go on there. One could just say that the bands that are considered to be "The Medway Sound" make garage rock that's equally r & b as it is punk with a raw, freakbeat delivery. A somewhat silent genius of Medway is Graham Day, formerly of The Mighty Caesars, The Prisoners, The Solar Flares, as well as producer for The Len Price 3 and Jarvis Humby. His recent project is Graham Day & The Gaolers with Woggles and Bongolian member Dan Elektro as well as a revolving bass lineup including fellow Woggles axeman Buzz Hagstrom and former Buff Medways Johny Barker. Their new offering Triple Distillled is a collection of agressive rawness and perfect harmonies that leaves one wondering why they haven't heard them.

Although many of us occasionally lament being older, the opening "Glad I'm Not Young" is garage punk fury that both bludgeons the ears and strikes a good chord with "I don't have to identify with anything". Besides, Dan Elektro's drumming is furious and pounding throughout. Another tune for identification is the great vocal harmony backed up "A Better Man" that confronts the conundrum that men have about being complimentary or being honest with "If you're talking shit, then I'll agree." Other notables not only the sitar flecked, persuasive invitation "Pass That Whiskey", but also the catchy, organ infused "Begging You", which is one of the few times any of us will seriously consider singing along to a song with the words "My baby". There's also the apt opening "I"m standing in the rain and I'm really pissed off" on the hard hitting "I Wanna Smoke", one of the louder tracks on an overall collection of superbly loud tracks that could easily be an anthem. Another notable is "Something About You Girl", but we'll take a pause on so we don't give away its secret. With all the work Graham Day has done, the most polite way of telling people not to ask for him to play 'hits' with the slightly jangly, Rolling Stones "Monkey Man" hinted "Just A Song".

Like its title, the sound of Graham Day & The Gaolers can best be summarized as Triple Distilled. That can be exemplified in "If There's One Thing I Can Do" with Graham's smooth vocals and infectious choruses, chunky, raw guitar chords, Dan's drumming, which sounds more like a driving force that punctuates frequently instead of just providing a beat, and Johny's high noted and quite noticable bass. Although Triple Distilled has nothing less than every single song being great, other standouts include the slightly dark surf sound of "Lost Without My Dignity" and the common sense but searing volume of "Go To Sleep", a strong suggestion of exactly what you should do at some point after going out (instead of loitering around at parties).

There's no shortage of well known talent engaging in side projects to fill in the time inbetween their better known bands, but Graham Day & The Gaolers are a fulfillment of so many of our wishes since not only is Graham a legendary talent who's created something with his new band as another outlet to make an important contribution to garage rock, but for Woggles fans, it gives them another slice of perfection to enjoy before the next Woggles album. Additionally, Dan's work on Triple Distilled is so up front that it will give many who already love The Woggles a greater appreciation for his talent.

Damaged Goods Records does not have a USA distribution yet. However, Triple Distilled is more than worth the extra pounds (dollars) layed down. Don't let this one pass you by or you're really going to miss out on a possible favorite new band. Graham Day & The Gaolers are touring Europe this May. We'll also have to work on getting this raw, trashy but melodic garage rock supergroup to broaden their live potential.

"I Wanna Smoke"

Courtesy of retrobambino

"Glad I'm Not Young"

Video courtesy of GrecianFire

Gaolers May tour dates

15th Rennes, Mondo Bizarro
16th TBA
17th Aachen, Musikbunker
18th Münster, Gleis 22
19th Berlin, Cortina Bob
20th Hamburg, Hafenklang
21st Bremen, Towerbar
22nd Antwerpen, Bar Mondial
23rd Bourges, Cosmic Trip Festival

Friday, April 3, 2009

Robyn Hitchcock & The Venus 3: Goodnight Oslo

Robyn Hitchcock & The Venus 3

Goodnight Oslo
Yep Roc Records

Robyn Hitchcock is a walking contradiction. He's a channel of psychedelic weirdness with bits of Erickson, Barrett, and even Lennon, but his music always seemed to rock a little harder and go to more places. Lyrically, one might call him an evolutionary mystic with his songs about everything from bees to prawns as allusions to the human condition, but other songs of his are blatantly forward like "Uncorrected Personality Traits." In over 20 albums, Robyn is the King of Weird while simultaneously emotionally stable. That of itself is a rock 'n' roll contradiction. On his third release with friends The Venus 3, the slight CCR feel of the opening "What You Is" is a little shocking for such a grammatically correct guy. He gives us the moral with "It doesn't matter what you is, it's what you are." And if you miss the bees, "Is Your Head Here?" offers a few along with tentacles and various surprises. Singing "Bop bop" hasn't been heard in a while, but the slightly distorted "Saturday Groover" is a result of Beach Boys harmonies and "Day Tripper". With added guitar distortion and horns, let's just say it grooves in many ways.

"I'm Falling" takes on territory familiar to Robyn Hitchcock fans in its emotional tone in losing one's self when falling in love and all the the doubt and difference that lies within, but has an almost gospel fervor in both the chorus "Take it away" and the vocal refrains. Goodnight Oslo flirts with country and slide guitar on "Hurry For The Sky" with success that sounds vintage. "Sixteen Years" follows up backstepping in sound with a harmonica as well as "Sixteen years and all I got was high", but also is a slight departure to his Dylan influences and earlier since it's a sad, bluesy track. Simultaneously, Peter Buck's jangling guitar is conspicuous throught to add some welcome complexity. This mood become uplifted with "Up To Our Nex", which is bright with horns and strings. Musically, there are a lot of sounds that one tries to pick out that somehow combine in a great harmony such as banjos and various strings, but builds into a heavier rock song with guitar and Bill Rieflin's sharp drumming. In some way, maybe Robyn's long exile as a folky, wise troubadour resulted in putting a lot more instrumentation on his recordings.

If one's familiar with Gertrude Stein's statement "A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle", "Intricate Thing" brings up those contradictions pretty well. Instead of love needed, it's an "intricate thing" with "all kinds of needs that you don't know you're needing" to "little drops of blood that you don't know you're bleeding." The opening sounds a little shallow, but it really delves in to everything behind an intimate relationship that and results in one of the most truthful and obvious songs about love without being a love song. The ending title track is simply a thing to behold. I never thought I'd talk about cellos and rock 'n' roll at the same time, but it's use on "Goodnight Oslo" is an effective draw that pulls one into the song from the very beginning. Additionally, one can't help but appreciate "I've got special powers that render me invisible to everyone buy you." Despite the deeper, moody feel of this track, the cello duplicates the human voice so much that it's naturally good to hear, but the string arrangements meld themselves in high volume with even louder guitars that communicate well the last statement "They're waiting for the dark that never comes."

Instead of walking the familiar tightrope that many of his influences have between genius and insanity, Robyn Hitchcock occupies a more solid space of the odd lyricist with more to say than most of us could fill in our heads that's either flecked with animal and psychedelic overtones or blunt directness. He once summed it up in saying that like everyone else, he wonders about the human condition and is just as afraid of the outcome as the rest of us. As a result, his version of pop both musically and lyrically embody the human condition in all its foils and triumphs. Likewise, the human condition cannot be simplified. As a result, Robyn Hitchock's music isn't, either. It's great to hear him once again with a band that somehow fits his vision. Peter Buck, Bill Rieflin, and Scott McGaughey as The Venus 3 are all stellar performers that envelope Robyn's ideas and visions in a way that compliments but never stays in the back. It's great to hear him with a great band again.

Tour Dates:

FR 04.03.09 - Austin, TX
SA 04.04.09 - Dallas, TX
MO 04.06.09 - Nashville, TN
TU 04.07.09 - Atlanta, GA
WE 04.08.09 - Carrboro, NC
TH 04.09.09 - Washington, DC
FR 04.10.09 - Philadelphia, PA

Friday, March 13, 2009

SXSW '09 Pick #17: The Urges!

The Urges

Psych Ward
Wicked Cool Records (US)

Although Psych Ward was released in Europe a almost a year ago on Germany's Screaming Apple Records, this release that has garnered so much praise both far and wide overseas is out on Wicked Cool Records and easily available in The States. Recorded at legendary Circo Perrotti Studios in Gijon, Spain by Jorge Explosion, who recorded Pittsburgh legends The Cynics latest offering Here We Are as well as releases from Billy Childish, Los Immediatos, and The Dee Rangers to name a few, Psych Ward is almost a purist's delight of '60s garage punk. Fuzz, psychedelic Farfisa, zombie howls, harmony vocals, you name it, it's here. In fact, Us Americans are now kind of late in our discovery of The Urges and their debut Psych Ward. Reviews from all over have hailed them as mistaken for a '60s garage punk band, leaders of the new generation of psych/punk, to the missing link between '60s garage punk and '80s Paisley Underground. Then again, that last reference is over two decades old. Since then, garage rock, garage punk, and many psych tinged manifestations on it have emerged with bands that are both backwards in their influences but forwards in their sound. However, The Urges sound like all of those things combined and fans leaning towards every angle are going to pick up on it.

The opening "Jenny Jenny" is a raw '60s Brit Beat number with lyrics that bear an eerie resemblance to "If I Ain't Got You" by The Len Price 3 - "Without you I'm just a ghost of myself" although with a bit more of a louder garage rock twang. However, theirs came out well before The Len Price 3. One might pick up traces of The Chocolate Watchband or The 13th Floor Elevators on "I Gotta Wait," but there are simultaneous traces of raw guitar much like early Stones and The Downliners Sect. The following track "You Don't Look So Good" lines up well next to The Wheels but adds more fuzz guitar, a stronger beat, and great harmonies. The Urges manage to break out some great surf guitar and a pretty strong Chesterfield Kings style farfisa melody, but the overall feels is still older and louder. "You're Gonna Find Out" is a tripped out mix of The Remains and even a touch of early Cynics. This sounds like an awful lot of "sound like" to stomach, but if you take parts of all of your favorite bands and put them together into one, The Urges could be it. "The 13th Floor" could be mistaken for a '60s garage psych classic, but somehow it's also a deeper rock lament that's both psychedelic but without some of the forgettable experimentation of early garage psych. One could guess that this what it sounds like when a garage punk tries something psychedelic. It's more urgent, compact, louder, and much more focused. "Salvaje" is a fuzzed out stomp that unmistakably could be The Mummies and throws in some great, ghouly Cramps laughs. Among the more straightforward songs is "So Uptight," which sounds a little too much like "Stepping Stone," only much better. "The Urges Theme" is a muted reverb, dark, surfy, echo laden song with some truly impressive tremolo and building beats.

I'm finding it really hard not to talk about every song on Psych Ward. Every song is packed with something great. One might hear The Seeds influence on "Out of Time" while others will hear traces of Mickey & The Milkshakes and The Electric Prunes. That's actually a fine example. Take your pick of something really good and you'll hear some of it, no matter what decade of the garage spectrum you lean towards. "Curse It All" is an all out surf romp that seems to cross territory into fast paced Irish pub and Russian drinking music. The guitar is fast and all out impressive, and the beat holds time with it just as frenetically. The last track is "Psych Ward." It's just as impressive as the rest, but heavier on the Electric Prunes styled delerium and the only "psychedelic" studio effect on the whole album thrown in at the end.

One could look at The Urges Psych Ward in two different ways. Before I start on the negative, I need to use the disclaimer that those who can do music do it, but those who don't succeed critique. One can easily narrow The Urges as a band who listened to their parents' record collection and all volumes of Nuggets religiously and studied them to come out with a sound that has all those influences without allegiance to a single one. As a result, It's great music, although not original. I beg to differ. As I've said before, don't listen to rock 'n' roll if you want to hear something original. It's rock 'n' roll! It's basic. Guitar, bass, and drums. The real truth is that great rock 'n' roll never gets old. If one combines great parts of 60's garage rock, garage psych, garage punk, zombie films, surf music, Paisley Underground, and everything else that's been out afterwards that's worthy of one or more of those labels and is good, it would sound like The Urges, but it's definitely original. Psych Ward has the fuzz of garage, the faster, sharper guitar of surf, the psych garage of Farfisa, but the youth, focus, and volume of garage punk. '60s garage purists, mod music fans, surf afficionados, psych rockers who want some good vocal harmony or melodic embellishment on guitar, and garage punks who want to hear loud wails and basic chords will hear ALL of those things in each song. In the end, you'll hear at least one thing you like in every single song; one thing that reminds you of another band that you really, really like, but different from them at the same time. This band sounds both like seasoned '60s garage staples AND loud, snotty punks with attitude. According to their bios, they had little to no musical experience. After listening to Psych Ward, one would find that really hard to believe. It's that fucking good.

Pysch Ward is essential garage rock perfection. Nothing else. In fact, the best way to appreciate it is with the the package deal of vinyl with the full length cd + bonus tracks for only $15. You can't beat that. Among them is "Don't Lead Me On", a slow tempo song that's full of guitar exchanges from Glen and Gary that range from almost delicate psychedelia to loud surf, intense vocal melodies, and Ross's bass that keeps the tune more deeply. It's a damn good vibe, but what's most noticable is the kind of airy sound that either has a vintage analog tape hiss or just the sound of a big room with a lot of empty space. It's pretty special. The other extra track is "Around and Around," a tune with a splendid garage punk beat, plenty of vox guitar sounds, and a little bit of fuzz to send it on. Since every track on the original release is great beyond belief, the extra tracks are essential. There's no slip ups or filler to be found with The Urges. These guys are the real thing.

SXSW Appearances

The Urges are putting down roots in Austin, Texas for a full seven days next week. There are plenty of opportunities to catch one of today's best rock 'n' roll acts. You should see them at least twice. You don't have any excuses.

Mar 16 2009 8:00p.m. Hole In The Wall w/Black Nite Crash & Lower Heaven Austin, Texas
Mar 17 2009 8:00p.m. The Red Scoot Inn w/ Choo Choo and Teen Sensations Austin, Texas
Mar 18 2009 4:00p.m. Sonny’s Vintage w/The Hall Monitors, The She Creatures, Broadfield Marchers, and friends Austin, Texas
Mar 19 2009 1:00p.m. Blue Velvet Vintage Day Party Austin, Texas
Mar 20 2009 1:00p.m. SXSW Antones - LSUG/Wicked Cool showcase Austin, Texas
Mar 20 2009 3:00p.m SXSW - BD Riley’s (Full Irish Breakfast) Austin, Texas
Mar 20 2009 8:00p.m SXSW Red Eyed Fly - LSUG/Wicked Cool showcase Austin, Texas
Mar 21 2009 6:00p.m. Spider House Café w/The Higher State & The Woggles etc Austin, Texas
Mar 22 2009 8:00p.m. The Fuzz Club w/The Cynics & The Higher State Austin, Texas

Free In-Store Thursday March 19, 2009 1-8pm


Party of the year!

Here's a cool cover of The Omens' "Searching."

"The Urges Theme." Utterly convincing.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

SXSW '09 Pick #16: The Moog!

The Moog

Sold For Tomorrow
Musick Records

Budapest's The Moog are the newest teen sensation out of Hungary. Well, the only teen sensation out of Hungary, for that matter. Short, sweet songs created out of early punk, synthy new wave, and a little indie rock become popular music that's still good music. "Your Sweet Neck" is about as current as one can be with it's vampire theme, so it's no wonder that goth kids are among their growing legions of fans, despite that it's a catchy, Cars like synth tune that's beat and hooks are about as far beyond the self indulgent themes and slower tempos of most goth rock, but maybe the appeal is Tonyo's seductive, low voice. "Everybody Wants" is a little '80s and a little modern indie with clever guitar hooks and a catchy chorus that causes one to envision Sold For Tomorrow as beginning to take root among the disaffected high school youth that still value art and literature. Definitely a thing for the geeks! The teenage angst bend to a lot of Sold For Tomorrow is temporarily shed on the super clap and say "yeah" along song "I Don't Want You Now", and it's probably the 'funnest' song on the release. Was that a Moog at the end?

The first single off the album, "I Like You" is catchy, but seems to aim more for young romance or better stated, obsession with its repetitive chorus, but the refrain "I do not know what I should do" adds a little more character and has some well filled drumming from Gergo that gives it some added depth that will cause a better listen. "If I Died" definitely has a Moog and gives the song a straight out of '80s American new wave bend, but with lyrics "Oh, and there's nothing left for me to live or die for, so I think I lock every door behind me and throw away the keys 'cause it would not impress me" speaks volumes for their appeal to the doom and gloom". Wait, the chorus of "If I loved, if I cried, if I died" is really fun! I guess one could say the appeal of The Moog is that the music is fun, early new wave and punk based, but the juxtaposition of gloomy and/or teenage angst expands their appeal. I'm wondering how the brooding, black dressed crowd will deal with a live show with so many people smiling, pogoing and singing along? Another standout is "Survive". It's got a fast, near hardcore punk beat that suits it's theme of telling some sad (probably goth girl, again) to stop blaming others and pay attention to their own actions.

A particular appeal of Sold For Tomorrow is that it has both a musical depth and simultaneous simplicity. "Xanax Youth" is a great example of that. Drums and Csabi's bass have a clarity and wholeness, but Adi adds guitar that is both melodic and slightly hooked while also relying on a chord progression that channels early Joy Division. The lyrics? Imagery that's straight out of the book of The Cure, but instead of taking their route of abandoning sharper hooks for somber but good melodies, the song has a really good buildup and eventual climax of drums and feedback which only serves to summarize that The Moog is a rock 'n' roll band that's harder to place. The bonus song "Hit Song" empasizes The Moog's contradictions further as a song of longing but acceptance of a breakup, only it sounds so happy it's beat!

Being not so easily categorized can either be a blessing or a curse. Too often, music fans put their tastes in a pidgeonhole by taking a narrow view of it and only putting bands in that narrow, little space. In truth, great bands have musical connections who are in turn also great, but not necessarily in the same way. If one loves great rock 'n' roll, then they see those connections, although they don't necessarily have to love them. Are The Byrds a garage rock band? No. Are The Sonics a psych/garage band? No. However, many of us share an interest for bands that fall under both influences. How is surf music with it's emphasis on notes instead of straight chords related to garage rock? Musically, one could say it isn't. Therein lies the appeal of The Moog. They're a lot of fun musically. Great beats, catchy hooks, the occasional Moog itself finds its way in and gives the music a quirky, new wave feel at times. The other side is lyrically, they're kind of goth with darker themes, heavy imagery, and plenty of teenage angst. Their influences lean just as heavily on The Ramones as they do to bands from Manchester, UK in the early '80s and the following Batcave crowd which spawned the goth scene. These oppositions are sharp, but The Moog have taken them to create something entirely new that sounds familiar without sounding too much like anyone, so they fit perfectly in with what so many of us seek when we hear new music. We want somthing that has a past in great bands, but we appreciate it more when it still is original. Otherwise, we'd be listening to the same thing. If one's in the latter category, then one's too old for rock 'n' roll.

"Everybody Wants"

"I Don't Want You Now"

SXSW Appearances

Mar 19 2009 4:00p.m. Unofficial SXSW free day show Blue Velvet Vintage Clothing 217 W North Loop Blvd 78751
Mar 19 2009 8:00p.m. SXSW
Mar 20 2009 8:30p.m. SXSW Official show Club 115 115 San Jacinto 78701

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

SXSW '09 PIck #15: Muck and The Mires!

Muck and The Mires
Dirty Water Records

Muck and The Mires gave us a little teaser last year for their upcoming Kim Fowley produced release, Hypnotic. The long wait will finally end on April 9th. It's been too long! The opening "Doreen" somehow sounds much better now. Drummer Jessie Best kicks up a sweet, loud beat while Evan "Muck" Shore throws in superb, unadelterated chords on his Muckenbacker while gravelling jubilantly. Throw in some tasty little high and low riffs from Brian Mire, a few handclaps, John Quincy Mire's groovy bass and solo time, and you're in rock 'n' roll high school were it's all about girls and fun. Great start, isn't it? "Treat Her Right" is a little alien at first with it's country tone, but it grows on you after a while. "I'd Do It Over Again" takes a '60s surf/spy approach with a slower beat that brings to mind wet, warm nights and hot rods.

Later tracks like "Hang All Over Me" cements in Muck and The Mires signature vintage sound of early '60s Hamburg with two raw guitars and a basic rock 'n' roll approach that echoes the celebratory revolution of rock 'n' roll in those days; a time when The Beatles thrived on playing nasty tunes live every night and the newly shorned Monks made the town their own monastery by squeezing in faster beats and an organ, thereby perfecting The Hamburg Sound. In fact, "Hang All Over Me" has the group singing in unison a nice organ in it! A great track is the Kinks influenced "Crush on Me", which has smoother vocals and a melody reminiscent of "Tired Of Waiting" that builds, moves, and will shake anyone as well as any structures within earshot. "That Poor Little Girl" still sounds fresh and new, but "Hypnotic" takes on a new identity in its second run. It somehow sounds a little louder and definitely persuasive with its Harrison-like plucks and two chords for a melody. "Hamburg Time" is a loud homage to the previously mentioned birthplaces of loud rock 'n' roll that will leave everyone else wanting to set their clocks to "Hamburg Time," but "Mata Hari" throws The Rat Pack out of the tiki bar to replace them with some British Invasion and a slinky sitar. It's rock 'n' roll that brings to mind wild nights among tiki torches and hula dancers in celebration of the ended day's wave riding. The British Invasion models and shapes the sound of many acts today, but Muck and The Mires make it a lot more special by reviving The Hamburg Scene when the bands that played were a lot rougher and more fun than their later incarnations and subsequent counterparts.

Kim Fowley declared "Cocoa Beach" to be a big hit for the Summer of '08 when he went into the studio with them a while back. It's got a great ocean rhythm, beach music harmonies, and some astounding drumming, but whether it's by heritage or the age demographic of Florida, my image and memories bring up visiting Aunt Sadie and Uncle Morty in Boca more than a hot vacation. Although "lying on the beach all day" would be ideal, many who visit end up playing a lot more shuffleboard. I can't fault anyone for that, though. In fact, I need to get down there if Cocoa Beach is as groovy as Muck tells us. The closing track "Gone, Gone, Gone" is a standout with feedback and volume. It's a good ending by kicking things up just a little.

Fowley had a vision of recording Muck and The Mires in the style or feel of With The Beatles. Although The Beatles are so familiar that everyone likes them, but a large portion amonth them lack the ability to hear great new music, so they've dissected, overanalyzed, and written endless, over repeated tomes on their genius to the point where we all know about it and have been furiously shaking off the weight of The Beatles for a good part of our lives, if one listens to a song like "I Saw Her Standing There" and rediscovers the rock 'n' roll simplicity of it in the catchy lyrics, the happy beat, the elated tone in the screams, and the eventual realization that it still has what we all are looking for: Simple, fun rock 'n' roll, then go farther back and dig "The Hamburg Sound" with The Monks, one could only conclude that Hypnotic is the answer to our modern dilemnas of politics and the economy. We've got fun, loud rock 'n' roll that's not complicated or overdone. Things have been pretty tough for everyone lately. It's time to get out there, go to a show, and shake, rattle, roll, and shimmy one's self back to into a time when things were fun and the world carried a lot of hope and promise. Not only can Hypnotic take us there, but it reminds us that like back then, things are changing all around us and while we remain apprehensive about the future, the world is opening up again, which is exactly what one feels when they discover rock 'n' roll. It's time to have some fun!

"Hamburg Time"

"Crush on Me"

Both videos courtesy of rfgenerator-March 6, 2009 from Vincent's Bar in Worcester, MA.

SXSW Appearances

Mar 20 2009 11:00p.m. With THE NEW YORK DOLLS 504 Trinity St. 78701

Sunday, March 8, 2009

SXSW '09 Pick #14: Maximum Jangle with The Parties!

The Parties

Can't Come Down
Rainbow Quartz Records

The Parties are a mod band that plays two 12-string electric guitars. That's the best description. Not psychedelic, not mod, not Byrds influenced. All of the above. They call it Maximum Jangle. What one finds on their debut Can't Come Down is a lot of songs all built around their sound that do, in fact, touch on late '60s garage, mod, early psych, '60s LA folk rock, The Paisley Undergound, and modern psych with older twists. Although that covers a lot of musical territory, one notices the most that their sound is their own with a combination of eras and influences led by vocal/12-string, left handed Vox Phantom wizard Jeremy Powers. "Love For Sale" floats like an '80s psych anthem, complete with an effect laden intro, almost choral opening vocals, a deep, melodic bass from Rex Paddyhag, a catchy guitar melody intro, and definitely 'trippy' guitar to compliment the melody that send it into melodic psychedelia, although with plenty of feedback. It hooks and pulls one right in. Tripped out, raw guitar, psychedelic pop much like not only modern influences like The Asteroid #4 and The High Dials, but also nods to The Rain Parade and The Church. Then the higher harmonic pitch of the refrain "She did it again" sends one into The Stratosphere. "Breaking Hearts" leans towards a more basic approach, but the jangle has a lot more feedback than the classic Rickenbacker 'tinny' sound. It's got this early Who sense of rawness and the occasional Keith Moonish drumrolls from John Morgan, but instead of Maximum R & B, we get Maximum Jangle! "Cold Life" has a more "classic" 12-string Rick sound, but the song introduces us to guitarist Sarah Mehlfield, who's Velvet(y) Underground tone combines with LA folk and Burt Bacharach coolness to create a fully electrified folk experience (Sarah has since departed). "Yours and Mine" probably comes the closest to classic jingle jangle in tempo, but it also has a great, live sound with a tambourine taking a central role. The title track takes an echoed, smooth approach with a full sound air that feels like a late, inebriated evening where the music fills the room like The Mama's & The Papa's if they had mixed sweet harmonies with a lot more guitar and "All Tomorrow's Parties".

After deeper, introspective tones, "Radio" is a more chord driven psych number which provide an upbeat, rock lift that's accentuated with a good amount of fuzz and still retains a '60s innocence and simplicity. The select number of people that I've turned on to The Parties were turned on by "Velvet Love Affair," which has a slight '60s country rock/folk tinge that reminds one of The Stone Pony's interpretation of Mike Nesmith's a different drum. Although all the tracks on Can't Come Down move around a dual 12-string sound, "Waterfall" goes into '80s Paisly Underground interspersed with the louder, mod revival powerpop. One sees one of the forumulas in The Parties of airy psychedelic melodies twisted with feedback, fuzz, and even folk. These seem to come together in "Gotta Get Out", a slow, modish song that would have been at home on Quadrophenia, especially with the words "I've got my head in the clouds, all for the chance of impressing a girl" that could only make one think of Jimmy's identity crisis "Cut My Hair".

With the mix of feebacked early psych and folk rock played as more lush, layered but still fuzzed out songs on most of "Can't Come Down", the title track comes as a little bit of a shock as a full jangly powerpop song that although it's my favorite track, it's definitely a standout compared to most of the album. What's even more shocking is the slide guitar intro of the ending "Much Better", but this one somehow just puts a lump in one's throat with Everly Brothers like harmonies. Additionally, it's a chord based rock song that somehow combines a faster melody with a slower but groovy rhythm over it. It's another song that makes one stop and marvel at how special The Parties are.

The Parties make jangly psych rock that's too fuzzy to be powerpop, but there's a range of musical styles from airy psychedelic, electric folk, and jangly fuzz that might leave most listeners unsure of what to call them. Truthfully, a great band either does the same thing over and over and does it brilliantly every time, or they challenge themselves and their fans by using their own, original sound to take bigger jumps from without transforming into something less exciting than they were. The latter can be said about The Parties. Every song has strong points, whether it's in a deep, folky simplicity, trippy electric psych, or just rock 'n' roll with a maximum jangle, The Parties have their own voice that lies in their sound. Once one hears a few tracks, they'll recognize the remaining tracks as distinctive and sounding more like The Parties, a band that invented Maximum Jangle!

"Gotta Get Out"

SXSW Appearances

Mar 21 2009 3:00p.m. The International Psychout! SXSW Day Party Austin, Texas
Mar 21 2009 8:00p.m. SXSW Showcase - B. D. Riley’s Irish Pub Austin, Texas

Note: Rough Draft, Disraelis misspelled

SXSW '09 Pick #13: The Love Me Nots

The Love Me Nots

Atomic A Go Go Records

The hottest/coolest thing to come out of Arizona have returned with their second album wrought in spy/surf mayhem. Whereas their debut In Black & White packed punches in every song, Detroit pummels. Nicole's vocals are stronger, more seductive, louder, and more soulful, while Michael Johny's guitar is heavier, thicker, and louder. As if the two leaders aren't enough to batter you with fuzzed out surf and farfisa for nearly 40 minutes, bassist Christina Nunez and drummer Jay Lien equally join the melee with every thud and pound, although both left recently and were replaced by Kyle Rose Stokes and Vince Ramirez. In Black & White was a flawless debut that left many record labels pounding at their door. Alas, The Love Me Nots were left unimpressed with the possibility of major label exposure and losing certain rights as a compromise. As a result, the band kept their DIY attitude and outdid themselves. Detroit is the second album released on their own label, Atomic A Go Go records. This is an album that labels wish their artists could do.

Ghetto Recorders guru Jim Diamond turned the knobs again, but this time, every thing that was so great about In Black & White was turned up to 11! An Arizona band turned into natives of The Motor City, definitely. Detroit is heavier in volume and power. Farfisa/lead vocal Nicole Laurenne's voice is enough to leave everyone bowing their heads in awe on the opening track "Walk Around Them," but the keys blast in like ice against Michael Johnny's wailing guitar, but the chords have an echo that fills up every corner of a room. There's also a cool pre-solo of melodic bass fuzz that one can't help but nod their head in approval. "Bulletproof Heart" and "Secret Pocket" has almost Arabian guitar intros and later solos that is nothing less than authentic if one considers that surf guitar legend Dick Dale is of Lebanese descent and used Arabian melodies as a major influence in his work. Jay's drumming on it is tough, primal, and to the point, but Nicole's almost hypnotic keys on "Secret Pocket" have a swirling, almost mesmerizing effect that could make anyone swoon if it weren't for the fact that all the other instrumental and vocal parts demand notice. "I'm The One" is almost a 'traditional' garage rock song with it's simple beat, but the keys are eerie enough to throw one into a zombie movie. "Love Letter" is almost a refrain from the previous tracks in it's simpler delivery. Whereas the songs before it have an almost punk assault in delivery, "Love Letter" is a freakbeat dance song that can fill the floor. "Work" is a pure r&b foray that showcases a fuller range of Nicole's vocal prowess in that it's smooth and seductive, but the added tambourine rhythm is a great surprise as well as the certainly Motown style background vocals.

Detroit is undeniable fun that is far better in its intensity and simplicity than most of what's out there. The 60's surf, garage, spy movie and fuzz/farfisa are all there, one can instantly pick out the influences, but the delivery is punk in volume and one can only slightly pick out influences to say what they sound like. For example, "Shuffle" has loud, dark surf guitar and the beat that could have been at home on Hulabaloo, Shindig, or Beat Club, but it doesn't really sound like anyone. An exception is the commanding Black & Blue that hints at The Sonics "Have Love, Will Travel." Then again, that song is such a staple that an awful lot of great bands have a few songs in their repertoire that hearkens back to it. Although Birthday Present has the same beat of In Black & White's "Move In Tight," the Farfisa is nice and muddier than the other tracks, Nicole's voice into full command as well as the others. "Shaken" is a slower, subtle but still intense, and desolate lament that's a perfect ending for the album.

SXSW Appearances

Mar 22 2009 1:00p.m. CHEAPO RECORDS IN-STORE Austin, Texas

SXSW 2009


Friday, March 6, 2009

SXSW '09 Pick #12: Magic Christian

Magic Christian

Wizard's Den Records

Given the pedigree of Flamin' Groovies, The Plimsouls, and Blondie, one can't help but to think in awe of Magic Christian. It comes bottled in their second release, Evolver. As a good intro, "In Your Arms" is good, jangly, late Groovies era, but it's followed by the supercharged "Out In The Streets", with full, raw chords from Cyril Jordan, intense rhytmic drumming from one of the most talented drummers around, Clem Burke, and convincingly superb, commanding vocals from Paul Kopf, who's probably the luckiest rock fan in the world! It's also got some southern boogie, Rolling Stones style piano that brings together the overall sound. Perhaps the trademark of Cyril's legendary Flamin' Groovies was this ultimate mix of dirty r & b with perfect, jingle jangle melodies. "All The Stars" is a great example of this hard rockin' with great melodies, almost to the point where the melody is really familiar even though it's an original song. They also give "Anytime At All" from The Beatles A Hard Days Night a great update that has echoes of "Turn Turn Turn!". What's most exciting about this one is Paul's incredible vocals.

"Run and Hide" takes a careful emphasis on great vocal harmonies, another late Groovies trademark, but with a lean towards Rubber Soul that will dare anyone not to think it's a great song, but it also has a deeper bass melody from 'Fast' Eddie Munoz and builds up into a louder song with some heavier guitar parts and layered vocals that are quite surprising. As if self fulfilling, "Turn Up the Heat" matches a little rock ferocity r & b style, a simple melody, and Clem Burke's fabulous beats. At times, one can hear his snare drum stand out, but the buildups, especially before and during the chorus, is proof why he's so sought after. Two songs on Evolver remind me of "Shake Some Action", which I often tell people is the best song ever: "Sha La La" has Cyril's familiar twang, but with a slower beat and a surprising high voice from Paul that takes one back to '64 even though most of us weren't around back then, while "Come And Go" mixes a few different chord effects that sound both raw and with effects, but also combines with a smooth and strong vocal tone that turns it into a song that's somehow hard, sweet, and melodic.

"Tomorrow Never Comes" (notice a second Revolver reference) is one's personal journey, which is a familiar theme in rock that plays out with practically every band that's able to look at themselves, but it also reflects both a personal struggle of trying to move that fits into the title itself. Much different than most songs involving personal journeys, which don't really describe a some sort of change, lyrics like "Clocks are running now...will I ever find the time to get some piece of mind? There's never a way of knowing where or what you will find" emphasize that personal change, which makes it a better story than the familiar lament of a personal identity crisis. Additionally, the longer intro played dually with Cyril and Eddie is a great sounding exchange. Magic Christian ends Evolver on a great high note with the Memphis Blues hued "The Real Thing", complete with stompin' shoes, smokestack lightnin', '60s themes of "You can't do this, and you can't do that", but with encouragement to "come on down the road, it's not what you think you'll see, the real thing, baby!" and experience some down home, raunchy rock Beggars Banquet style, but with a great sounding guitar echo that are loud and clean with a little bit of Andy Summers from The Police's louder, least known Regatta de Blanc. Luckily, the reggae influence is left out.

Evolver should be considered a true rock 'n' roll album. It mixes soul harmonies, dirty blues guitar, a lot of jangle, a little twang, and a strong presence all around. The drumming's incredible, the bass has it's own melodic presence that also compliments the guitar, and the vocals, both group and solo, have a presence that's unrestrained but remain grounded. Evovler is great rock 'n' roll. Then again, that's exactly what one would expect with the combined talents of Magic Christian.

SXSW Appearances

Mar 17 2009 7:30p.m. The Dog And Duck Pub’s 19th Annual St. Patrick’s Day Party Austin, Texas
Mar 19 2009 4:00p.m. SXSW - Dogfish Head Showcase Ginger Man Austin, Texas
Mar 20 2009 4:00p.m. SXSW Day Show Dogfish Head Showcase Ginger Man Austin, Texas
Mar 21 2009 1:45p.m. SXSW Day Show Breakaway Records Austin, Texas
Mar 21 2009 5:00p.m. SXSW Day Show Antone’s Records Austin, Texas

"Out In The Streets"

"All the Stars"

Videos courtesy of vinylrichie

Thursday, March 5, 2009

SXSW '09 Pick #11: She Creatures Invade!

The She Creatures

She Creatures Invade
Not signed on any Earth label!

The look is cool, the vibe is cool, and it's space age garage rock. That's almost enough right there to make anyone submit. Musically, The She Creatures rock like no one else! The opening "She Creatures Invade" is such a bold statement filled with super beats from Elektra Statik, interstellar Vox Continental hits, choppy chords, and the chorus "She Creatures invade! Men, can't be afraid, we'll hypnotize you, yeah, yeah, yeah!" is more than persuasive, but Nancy Raygun deals the final hypno-ray with her strong vocals that remind one of every tough female lead from Grace Slick to Debbie Harry, but with even greater power and seduction akin to Sharon Tandy's vocal on "Daughter of The Sun" that adds a hint of smoothness and range to the likes of Kate Pierson. If that's not enough, the siren's call of The She Creatures singing in unison is going to bring one to their knees on the slow tempo, Motown inspired "Hungry", which is an response equal in musical chops and garage influences to The Fleshtones "I'm Still Thirsty", complete with Princess Slayer's Vox Contintental organ sweeps.

"Radar" has has a harder, louder feel with some great guitar riffs and some handclaps that are long enough to get everyone on their feet. "Moonman" was so full of great stuff that it's hard to get one's hands around. At first, a slow, bluesy number that reminds one of "Needles and Pins", great background vocals, a little bit of "I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend", some awfully loud guitar, the all too familiar lament of "Show me your dark side" and the idea of falling in love in a way that everything is new and full of aching desire and so much unfamiliarity. To expand, it's that feeling of infatuation with someone one's just starting to know and therefore, really does come off as someone from another planet. The closing song "Space Madness" edges towards a sleazy garage punk song complete with fuzzed out chords and a chorus that's going to get everyone screaming along, but it's another pure She Creatures anthem that points to their louder, sleazier garage punk sound with Haley Comet playing both bass and a mesmerizing theramin.

The She Creatures have their own theme that permeates these songs as well as their original '60s sci-fi interplanetary invaders inspired intro and outtro, but what one really finds is that the music is so good that it's light years beyond anything. This is Super rock from The Space Age! South by Southwest had the original intentions of giving exposure to unsigned acts. Although that message has sharply changed to having a few well known artists and a strong showing of already signed indie acts who also deserve more exposure, it's a great way to discover those who you might not hear of otherwise, so the unsigned acts that often have more talent and ability than most. This applies to The She Creatures. In fact, this is one act that one should see at least one performance of. As much as we try to remain gender neutral, The She Creatures display a feminist strength in their persuasiveness and ultimately, their music that should make both genders think twice about roles. This is strength, power, dominance, desire, common vulnerabilities that everyone can identify with, and sex appeal that not only has the potential to remind women of their own power, but to really put those in the male category a still needed step down. This is at first alien in appearance, but is also proof that these invaders studied us less evolved humans well enough to know how to take us over. Not only do these vixens from Venus have the look to make everyone submit, but their music is so powerful that it commands admiration. Prepare to submit, puny Earthlings!

SXSW Appearances

Mar 18 2009 8:00P 2.40pm Sonny’s Vintage - Austin, Texas
Mar 19 2009 8:00P 1.45pm Breakaway Records/11pm Esther’s Follies - Austin, Texas
Mar 20 2009 8:00P SXSW Austin, Texas
Mar 21 2009 8:00P 3pm Cheapo Discs - SXSW Austin, Texas

3-21-09 @ 3pm

Saturday, February 28, 2009

SXSW '09 Pick #10: The DT's

The DT's

Filthy Habits
Get Hip Recordings

Given the overwhelming dose of psychedelic garage at SXSW this year, The DT's are a super double shot of balls to the wall, straight up, hard and heavy soul that stand out as a loud shock compared to the rest of this year's lineup of performing acts. Hailing from Bellingham, Washington, these hard rockers were founded on the premise of good time '70s rock with a hard does of soul. Not only do they deliver on it, they bludgeon you with it! The DT's are about being loud, dirty, and nasty. As a perspective before one hears them for the first time, think of the Ike & Tina recording of "Proud Mary" when Tina says "You see we never ever do nothing nice and easy, we always do it nice and rough" and you get the picture. When Diana Young-Blanchard belts out "I'm gonna scratch out your eyes, pull out your hair, put my boot up your ass" amidst Dave Crider's heavy riffs, it's double proof that The DT's are here to give out a rockin' beatdown. Additionally, for everyone who loves saying "More Cowbell", you've got it here! The followup "Mystified" is ample parts Malcolm Young and power drumming from Mike Van Buskirk with the longest, coolest vocal carry from Diana that's going to make every rock 'n' roll fan stand want to shake their fists in the air. This is loud, hard, pure rock 'n' roll "fuck you" attitude. Although their music has commercial appeal in hard rock, The DT's sound almost too real to end up on that route.

"Freedom", which was also recently released on Get Hip Recordings as 7 inch vinyl, embraces what The DT's are all about: Loud, heavy, unrestrained power. In this case, when we hear "freedom from sin, freedom from religion, ain't got nothing to lose", it's a more universal call to "power, self satisfaction, I want it here and I want it now." It feels damn good to look at it in the way The DT's are portraying it instead of the concept of freedom that's been distorted in the last eight years by The Bush Administration to mean one's free as long as they follow and don't question a political idealogy. The kind of freedom The DT's sing about is an open road and a more "Born To Be Wild" sense. This is followed up by the soul rockin' "Crowfinger" with a personal fire of confusion and desperation much like the true theme of soul music in the sacred combined with the profane. The pounding uptempo of "Turn Loose" is another great guitar and drum, take no prisoners brawl that's strong enough to fulfill the lyrical point of being left alone after a breakup.

The slower, dirty blues of "Red Eye" is a standout as a super heavy, early '70s, slow starting rocker that's lyrically the result of "Turn Loose", but by now, a strong picture of Filthy Habits emerges as an album that's all about freedom, getting away, and liberation. In fact, the songs start to feel more like a story than a collection of songs. The Motown influenced "Sweet Words" is a great soul lament with some down south guitar licks and for the first time, some great blues keyboards. In keeping with the unraveling story of Filthy Habits, the awesome beat of "Sugar Pie" is a new romance that feels like both an up front offer and a soul plea. This song is perhaps the biggest reminder that we've had in a long time that rock 'n' roll is about getting some action, but the final song "When The Lights Go Out" fulfills that goal when Diana let's us know "When the lights go out, there's heaven in the dark. And when the lights go out, we ain't gonna talk about much."

Everything about The DT's Filthy Habits is dirty, sexy, loud rock 'n' roll that's blood, sweat, and spit. When one utters the words "rock 'n' roll", this band is a perfect description of it. One sways back and forth, stomps their feet, screams out for it, and feels it. But what makes Filthy Habits a standout in spite of it being so pure is that with a strong female frontwoman, it's more appealing and seductive than the stereotypical male in command of rock and therefore, sex image that most people are accustomed to. In the end the story behind Filthy Habits has more guts, power, and balls than most acts claiming to be hard rock, but what makes it great rock 'n' roll is that it's got more soul than what most people call hard rock. The riffs and rhythm might sound like '70s rock, but the sound and feel is all soul and therefore, a lot harder than what's typically heard. The DT's not only rock, they efinitely roll.

Filthy Habits is available at your local indie record store or online from Get Hip Recordings

SXSW Shows:

Mar 18 2009 8:00 pm Get Hip Records Showcase Habana Calle
6709 E. 6th St.
Mar 19 2009 2:00 pm Unofficial Day Show Cheapo Records and Discs
914 N Lamar Blvd
Mar 20 2009 2:00 pm Unofficial Day Show Breakaway Records
1704 E. 5th St.

Friday, February 27, 2009

SXSW '09 Pick #9: The Broadfield Marchers

The Broadfield Marchers

The Inevitable Continuing
Rainow Quartz Records

Among its origins, Psychedelic rock could be characterized as an early offshoot of garage rock. Fuzz pedals, Farfisas, and older Rickenbacker guitars with their classic twang integrated into garage rock to take it from basic to freaky. This progression not only took place in the '60s, but also in the '80s once punk bands integrated The Velvet Undergound into their sound, then later The Byrds, Thirteenth Floor Elevators, The Beatles Revolver, and others. That result was bands like The Soft Boys, REM, The Bangles, The Plimsouls, and others. Right now, we're witnessing the third wave of that progression that started in the mid '90s with The High Dials, Asteroid #4, and newer acts like The Urges, who stick to a loud, fuzzy garage rock, but also have integrated small elements of psychedelic rock, The Disraelis, and The Parties. In fact, one could say this is the year of psychedelic garage rock. A relative unknown to this third wave is The Broadfield Marchers, a three piece outfit that carries melodic psychedelia with a raw, lo-fi sound, and a slower tempo. In fact, they're a bit of a standout with the combination.

Considering they're on Rainow Quartz Records, a label long known for picking a lot of the best sounding, highly polished psych pop out there, The Broadfield Marchers are a bit of a surprise since it's not the crisp sound that many of use have come to expect from acts on the label. "Raul" is a strong, slow but heavy blast of low tempo, heavy chords that seem to have more in common with early Pixies than the band's labelmates, but the nearly out of nowhere guitar lick and the buildups to the chorus have more in common with the louder, heavier songs from The 13th Floor Elevators. One also notices that guitar/lead vocalist Dustin Zdobylak has a soft, high pitched voice that stands as a good contrast to his somewhat heavy guitar playing. If one has a genuine affection for lo fi, "Leopards With Empty Claws" is a wonderful fulfillment with it's Peter Buck, early REM style guitar, and although early REM was not exactly top studio production and has a great element of newness in its back to basics approach, The Broadfield Marchers have an even less frills sound.

One can tell The Broadfield Marchers are a basic psychedelic outfit by way of The Byrds and previously mentioned acts, but with the odd, sliding diversions on "Stutter Shaker" and "Watchful Hill People", one notices that The Broadfield Marchers use a good bag of psychedelic touches that are always original, exciting, and just odd enough in their contrast to the rest of a song that show that this band is well above doing anything formulaic. In fact, although "The Inevitable Continuing" is mostly downtempo with little guitar effects, they got quite a response at last year's CMJ showcase, where Dustin wowed the crowd to the point that a few likened them to early Nirvana! Possibly, what makes The Broadfield Marchers is that they've completely eschewed the '90s shoegazer type psychedelia for something much less refined and exciting. That's not to say that the songs border on catchiness, but songs like "Mondo from Growth" carry a much stronger air of rock 'n' roll than lush psychedelia of shoegazer music. Also, the songs just sound like they're being played in a room in front of you. They're great songs that although are quite well done, don't sound like they came from a studio. For example, Mark Zdobylak has a prominent, melodic bass on "Following Minds" that seems to be on its own melody at times and is just complex enough to be interesting. At the same time, Justin's guitar is best described as "active" and never predictable, but his voice possesses a clarity and almost innocence since it's so high that that it makes for a song that one could both sing along to but never be able to predict the music to it.

The combination of a minimalist approach with careful attention to the music itself is hard to come by. In fact, the band that always championed this approach was The Velvet Underground by doing few things and not relying on studio tricks. One of the greatest results of this idea was Loaded, which was an album full of great, basic rock songs that were often slow, but remain fresh and modern with every listen. The Broadfield Marchers have a natural affinity for this sound and approach on "Patterns Of A Glance" and "Eagles Prevail." A personal favorite is "Panic Imposed", with a near '70s beat from drummer Justin Carter and many creative touches combined with some similar decade guitar riffs over Dustin's high voice that seem to communicate a heightened sense of fear when he sings the words "Panic imposed". Another standout is "Rightness of Commands", with an almost familiar melody interspersed with flowing but almost disturbing guitar effects.

The Broadfield Marchers The Inevitable Continuing can best be described as striking. Most of 19 tracks on the album are sharp pieces that don't repeat themselves, but are definitely a great psychedelic trip because the album moves like being in an ever changing world with sharp turns and never knowing what's coming around the corner, but having Dustin's voice as a permanent tourguide. Even the songs that one can easily point to influences carry enough string disturbances to keep one from becoming too comfortable and feeling like they know what The Broadfield Marchers are all about. In summation, this is what psychedelic music should be like: raw, harmonic, but also never predictable and often, unsettling. However, the confrontational elements are never shocking, but some to come naturally as part of their talents. The fact that the songs on The Inevitable Continuing have what can best be described as on overall weirdness to them while retaining a rock 'n' roll sound instead of being experimental are testimony to the fact that The Broadfield Marchers carry a lot of talent in three people that have translated into incredible performances according to the few who have seen them.

If you love rock 'n' roll, a part of that affection is for an element of disturbance because it's a rebellion to something standard and accepted. Unfortunately, most elements of the music that we hold so dearly that once were rebellion are now packaged and sold for it. The Broadfield Marchers play music that is still rock 'n' roll, but psychedelic and somewhat off either in key in certain places or full hits of odd but never contrived noise that they will remain with us and not be co-opted like so many of our favorite acts have been. It's not anarchy, but The Broadfield Marchers create short masterpieces that really provoke thought and appreciation for melodies with more than hints of disturbance to keep one always interested without being musically overbearing. Not only is The Inevitable Continuing a fast paced, psychedelic mindtrip on an unfamiliar and changing path, but their live shows simply cannot be missed.

SXSW Schedule:

Mar 18 2009 4:00Pm Unofficial SXSW Day show: Go Ape @ Sonny’s Vintage Austin, Texas
Also on the bill:
The Hall Monitors
Los Coronas
She Creatures
The Breakers
The Urges
The Right Ons
Eli Paperboy Reid and The True Loves

Mar 19 2009 2:30Pm Unofficial SXSW Day show: Blue Velvet, Austin, Texas
Also playing:
The Orchid Highway
The Ripe
The Moog
The Urges
The Telepathic Butterflies
Love City

Mar 20 2009 3:00P SXSW Music Festival @ The Spiderhouse (Day Show) Austin, Texas
(check back for the full lineup)
Mar 21 2009 11:00P

SXSW Music Festival @ BD Rileys 9:00 pm (Rainbow Quartz Showcase) Austin, Texas
Also playing:
The Telepathic Butterflies
Deleted Waveform Gatherings
The Orchid Highway
The Parties