Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Rally for Affordable Housing May 23rd


On Wednesday, May 23rd, New Yorkers will rally in support of New York is Our Home, a broad coalition of advocacy groups and labor unions campaigning for the preservation and creation of affordable housing opportunities in New York City.

Meet up with a team representing Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn for the rally and march on May 23rd at 5 p.m., at the corner of First Avenue and 15th Street in Manhattan (in front of the Chase Bank on the west side of First Avenue). Wear your Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn t-shirt if you have one and join with thousands of other demonstrators in forming a human chain around Stuyvesant Town.

For more information on the event, please visit www.newyorkisourhome.com.

May 16, 2007 Posted by | New York City, Politics | Leave a comment

Jerry Falwell bites the big one

This just in: Rev. Jerry Falwell was found dead in his office earlier this morning, lying nude, facedown in a pool of santorum. Security cams downstairs recorded a man rushing out of the building wearing only a White House press corps pass.

They say these come in threes. I can’t wait to see who’s next!

May 15, 2007 Posted by | Rant, snark | 1 Comment

CD Review: Sharon Goldman – Shake the Stars

Sharon Goldman’s second full-length effort is a triumph of catchy melody, witty lyricism and subtle humor. It will shatter any preconceptions you might have about singer-songwriters being a bunch of self-absorbed whiners who can barely sing or play guitar yet think the whole world wants to hear about every minuscule facet of their miserable, lovelorn lives.

Goldman grew into a songwriter the right way. Joined a competitive bunch of other writers who pushed each other to new heights. When it was time to record, she didn’t hire a bunch of studio hacks: by then, she’d connected with a close-knit group of talented musicians who play for the sheer joy of it, who know that ultimately, the song dictates what needs to be done. All you have to do is listen. Goldman is really more of a rock/pop type than a folkie, a master at blending major and minor chords, dynamics and writing catchy hooks that linger in your mind for days.

She’s also an uncommonly good singer. There are legions of songbirds with nice voices out there, but Goldman’s strength is that she knows how to use hers. Honest, unaffected, completely unafraid, and fun in an effortless, conversational way. Ultimately, the reason why Goldman’s albums sound as good as they do is that she’s a purist. She doesn’t go for cheesy synthesizers, dated trip-hop production or sing in that awful, affected white “r&b”-inflected style that Sarah McLachlan made so popular and her legions of followers sadly adopted. Instead, on this album you get that great voice, tasteful layers of acoustic guitars, strings and occasional percussion, tastefully arranged and produced.

The album opens with The Subway Song, a hilarious, picture-perfect tale of the train ride from hell:

“There was this smelly guy standing next to me
He wore dirty jeans and a t-shirt saying ‘This way to Williamsburg’
….the train was creeping the whole way
How could this happen when you were waiting for me?”

Thinking that she’s boarded a N train to Brooklyn, she discovers that she’s on the way to Astoria. So she transfers to the G train. Oh, shit! There you have it: an indelible New York moment. This is one of those songs that was waiting to be written for decades (I guess the New York Dolls did it, but not nearly this well). Believe it or not, it has a happy ending.

Other tracks include the surreal, amusing Bad Day and the country-blues tinged title track:

“Do you double dare me to open up my eyes
And look at where we’re going instead of asking why?”

The high point of the album is Suburban Sunshine, Goldman’s greatest shining moment so far, a snide dismissal of outer-borough conformity. A genuine classic: this smoldering, minor-key broadside ranks with Pretty for the Parlor by LJ Murphy and Amy Allison’s version of the Smiths’ Every Day Is Sunday in the pantheon of exquisite musical autopsies of a horrid time and place. It’ll resonate vividly with anyone who spent far too many years with bated breath, waiting for their first chance to get out for good. Because as Goldman so accurately puts it, suburban sunshine “feels heavier than rain.” And if she stays where she is, she knows that she’ll eventually disappear.

Fans of Aimee Mann, Erica Smith and Mary Lee’s Corvette will find plenty to feast on here. Fine album. Four bagels. Fresh from the oven at Essa Bagel with melted butter…mmmm…..delicious. Cd’s are available online and at shows. .

May 15, 2007 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

CD Review: C. Depp – Belle Epine

His tour de force. At this particular moment, Invisible Friend frontman/guitarist C. Depp has a franchise on quietly creepy, minimalist rock, foreshadowed on his band’s excellent 2006 release, Precinct 9. This, his latest solo album also includes his bandmates Andrew Malenda and Lispector on guitars, keys and assorted electronic blips and bleeps. Stylistically, there are hints of Smog, Mark E.’s solo work after the Eels, and late 80s Pulp during their Little Girl With Blue Eyes phase. Depp’s deadpan delivery heightens the strange, ominous mood, leaving the listener unsure if he’s just kidding around or dead serious. The title is apt – “belle epine” translates from the French as “beautiful thorn”. This is a beguiling and very unsettling album.

Depp wastes no time getting started: traffic passes by, and a siren wails ominously in the distance on the intro to the cd’s first song, Wolf Whistle:

Sister I need you
To answer a few questions
I don’t want you to cry
But I need you to help me
Some bad folks got out
And hurt some innocent people
…we will protect you, protect you, protect you,

Depp intones casually over a catchy, backbeat-driven janglepop melody. The cd’s following cut, Central Parc features attractively jangly electric guitar tracks and what sounds like guy/girl harmony vocals. But you can never be sure with this guy: that’s the beauty of this album. After that, The Where & the When sets eerie, tinkly electric piano atop atmospheric washes of string synth. The cd’s scariest cut is the all-too-brief Shyshy: “I’m shy,” Depp sings in almost a whisper, layers of vocals doubled and recorded just out of sync enough to give the listener pause. “If you really knew about me you won’t ask why.”

Other impressive cuts on the album include the skeletal, reverbed-out A Prayer for Hope for Forgiveness, sounding like one of the minimalist tracks on Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasures. The brief Fate Will Free Will imaginatively plays two separate vocal tracks with different lyrics against each other. The Mancunian dirge Ghost Self wouldn’t be out of place on New Order’s first album. And, Why We So Far Apart, Lover? – simply vocals and guitar – displays tinges of French varietes music. Depp is a big Cat Power fan and although this album doesn’t sound much like her, he sometimes indulges in painful, honest revelations, although more elliptically than she does.

Malenda’s production is amazing: with ample but judicious applications of reverb, he gets these bare-bones narratives to sound like they have something approximating a full band behind them without overproducing or sinking into slickness. Depp is nothing if not prolific, and Invisible Friend promises to begin playing out again since Depp has returned from a brief sojourn in Paris. Surprisingly, he can be a very funny onstage. The cd is available online and at shows. C. Depp plays the Creek and the Cave in Long Island City on May 25 at 9 PM.

May 15, 2007 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

NYC music calendar 5/15-22/07

Weds May 16 at 2 (two) PM,  Hazmat Modine plays the Hoboken Spring Jazz Festival, somewhere on  Washington St. It’s the main street in town after you get off the Path train. I suspect it will be within a short walk away: follow your ears and listen for dueling harmonicas and minor keys.

 

Also Weds May 16 Alec Stephen and his band play Luna, 10 PM. The ex-Railroad Jerk lead guitarist has been through several subsequent incarnations, and this straight-ahead rock unit is by far the best: he’s never been more rousing or melodic. And he’ll still throw in a few of theolder bluesy numbers  that he used to do so well.

 

Also Weds May 16, Mr. Action & the Boss Guitars play  Lakeside, 10 PM. This is the rhythm section from the pretty-much-defunct Supertones, plus two decent guitarists playing oldschool surf covers, most of them Ventures or Shadows songs. If you like your surf twangy, mellow and played on authentic instruments, this is your cup of salt water.

 

Also Thurs May 17 the Roulette Sisters play Freddy’s (around the corner from the Atlantic Yards railroad terminal) in Brooklyn, 9:30 PM. Four talented women on steel guitar, Gibson hollowbody guitar, violin and washboard singing obscure sex songs from the 1920s and 30s, most of them delta blues tunes. Also some deliciously fun originals, some Carter Family, some real oldtimey turn-of-the-20th-century stuff. One of the funnest, sexiest bands on the planet. You must see them sometime.

 

 

Also Thurs May 17 Elk City plays  Luna, 10 PM. Female-fronted band that manages to bridge the gap between noise-rock and janglerock, but with more crunchy guitars. They once covered the Dream Syndicate classic Tell Me When It’s Over and didn’t embarrass themselves, which is pretty impressive. 

 

Also Thurs May 17 guitar genius Matt Munisteri plays Barbes, 10 PM. Born a bluegrass cat, grown to be a jazzman, a devotee of the weird and obscure, the weirder and more obscure the better. You may hear covers of both oddball Western swing genius Willard Robison, and haunting, accordion-driven French musette instrumentals.

 

Also Thurs May 17 Flugente (which is Jerry Adler from the Blam, solo acoustic) plays  Zebulon on Wythe Ave. in Williamsburg at 9 PM. Brilliant lyricist, nonchalantly unpretentious singer, fueled by righteous rage and unable to resist a clever double entendre. Dylan and Leonard C. lurk somewhere in the background, faraway. 

 

Fri May 18 Ellen Foley plays  Lakeside, 11 PM. The ubiquitous Steve Antonakos on slide guitar. Ex 5 Chinese Brother Paul Foglino on Telecaster. The bandleader, an actress and onetime cohort of the Clash looks great, sounds better than ever and tells a great story: her persona is more or less slightly dotty grand dame of obscure rock n roll, and she plays it to the hilt, singing Foglino’s slightly dotty, Americana-inflected pop songs. And she pulls out a few obscure pop tunes that were European hits for her in the 80s. 

 

Also Fri May 18 Luther Wright and the Wrongs play Rodeo Bar, 2 sets 10:30 PM or so. The Canadian bluegrass cat and his band are best known (and rightfully so) for their brilliant cover of Pink Floyd’s album The Wall. But their originals are first-rate as well, with the requisite sense of humor and spectacular guitar/banjo chops.

 

Sat May 19 Randi Russo and her band play a show early at 5:30 at Cake Shop to celebrate her bass player’s birthday, as they’ve done for three years in a row now. She’s the eerie lefty guitarist and reigning mistress of hook-driven, smoldering outsider rock anthems. Lenny Molotov on spookily virtuosic Middle Eastern-inflected lead guitar. The Wowz follow on the bill with their gorgeous 2-part harmonies, sounding something like the Everly Bros. on speed.

 

 

Sun May 20, 9 PM Big Lazy plays the cd release for their mesmerisingly good new one, Postcards from X at the new Luna, Metropolitan and Havemeyer in Williamsburg. The world’s most consistently interesting, haunting, improvisational reverb guitar instrumental outfit takes a break from doing indie film scores and treats the locals to what they’ve been up to lately. The new cd explores a lot of hallucinatory, nightmare-tinged 90s Southwestern gothic in the spirit of great bands like Friends of Dean Martinez. Opening act the Droves are Coldplay wannabes. Strange segue to say the least.

 Mon May 21 Jenifer Jackson says farewell to NYC – at least for the time being – with an intimate and romantic show at 8 PM at Marion’s Marquee, the throwback old-NYC steakhouse at 354 Bowery up the block from what used to be CBGB’s. Just her and sensational noir jazz lead guitarist Oren Bloedow (from Elysian Fields). She’s moving to Austin: Texas’ gain is our loss. This will no doubt  be a particularly poignant parting.

May 14, 2007 Posted by | Live Events, Music, New York City | Leave a comment

CD Review: Botanica – Berlin Hi-Fi

What do you do when your last album was arguably the best single-disc cd of the decade so far? Maybe you flip the script. Maybe you do something radically different, that no one can compare to your most recent effort. Maybe, you make a pop album – or part of one, anyway. That’s what Botanica has done with their latest masterpiece (their trademark epic grandeur and snarling ferocity roars back and takes over on the rest of the songs). It’s an unabashedly romantic (and Romantic) achievement, lush and orchestrated, eerie yet sexy as hell. Put this on the night table beside the Al Green and the Moonlighters: it’s bedroom music for cold starless nights.

Botanica’s trademark sound welds their towering, passionate, keyboard-driven melodicism to a dark, savage reverb guitar attack, blending elements of gypsy punk, classical music and goth into a powerful, potently cerebral cocktail. On this one, they don’t even start a song in 4/4 until the album’s fourth song. The album opens with the stately Eleganza and Wines, a beautiful, rueful lament for a time and place lost forever, played in slinky 7/8 meter. As is so typical with Botanica’s songs, it builds to a towering crescendo and then fades to its central hook. (And Then) Palermo maintains the feeling of regret, a gorgeously romantic pop song in 6/8. The cd’s following cut, its title track is the most overtly 90’s style indie rock song they’ve done to date, a little out of character, but it works: a joyous shout-out to Berlin, where they’ve built up a substantial following, and it’s obvious that the appreciation is mutual. Remember the last time you left the country, how good you felt, how absolutely liberated? If so, this is your anthem. Next song: Concrete Shoes. Classic Botanica, haunting and desperate. “Save me now/Tie the rope around my neck and pull me up.” The footfalls of Christian Bongers’ bass quickly creep along as the guitar and organ roar, building inexorable momentum. On the following cut, I’m Lifting, the tension recedes to the background, but just a little bit: the rest of the band plays over and around frontman/keyboardist Paul Wallfisch’s central, haunting electric piano arpeggio.

Next up is A Freestyle Kiss to Hedy Lamarr (whose image graces the cover of the album), laden with sadness, melodies pouring in and overflowing the carafe, staining the tablecloth shiraz red. Then we get the frenetic concert favorite Someone Else Again, with its ascending bassline and Hollywood noir feel: David Lynch could use this for his next movie if it’s anything like Mulholland Drive.

The scorching antiwar song Waking Up clocks in at barely a minute and a half, a throwback to the furious politically charged power of Botanica’s career-defining previous album, Botanica vs. the Truth Fish. The album’s next tune, I Desire perfectly encapsulizes where Botanica is now. John Andrews’ scary reverb guitar plays the song’s central arpeggio as Wallfisch’s funereal electric piano tones reverberate against it and build to a firestorm of emotion.

The album’s most likely radio hit – and there are many to choose from – is its next track, Not a Bear: “more ambitious than your average bear,” as the lyric goes. “Why sleep when you could be wide awake?” It’s a curious question, with Andrews’ menacing guitar and Wallfisch’s organ lurking in the background, and it might be rhetorical. The alternative could be fatal.

More political gypsy punk (and a wildly frenetic, deliciously climactic violin solo) with How, which the band frequently uses as an aptly furious concert encore. Then the sarcastic, Nick Cave-inflected Fame, a savage blast back at the entertainment-industrial complex and all the rockstar wannabes who buy into it.

Then a return to the same reflective tone the album began on, with This Perfect Spot. The cd’s secret track is Eleganza and Wines rearranged for string quartet and it’s absolutely beautiful, a spot-on way to close this gorgeous, meticulously arranged and fearlessly intense album. This is not your neighbor’s whiny, tuneless indie rock. It’s not your father’s bloated, bombastic prog rock. It’s the soundtrack to your life at top speed, full volume, every synapse at full power. Why sleep when you could be wide awake. Albums are available in better record stores, at shows and online.

Frontman Paul Wallfisch is on tour right now with the “coalmine canary,” noir chanteuse Little Annie but we should expect at least one NYC area show this summer after they return.

May 14, 2007 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Nightcrawling 5/11/07: Basement, Lenny Molotov, Les Chauds Lapins, Moisturizer

The evening began at with happy hour at Lakeside, a reliably good way to kick off the night. The scheduled band had apparently cancelled and had been replaced by a country/rock outfit called Basement who took the stage at 8 instead of the usual 11 PM. They were excellent: two guitars, rhythm section and keyboardist who played mainly organ fills, from what little we got to hear. The lead player, on Telecaster, seems to be more of a rock guy, but he still gave them a shot of adrenaline. The flyer in the club window described them as rockers with a lot of bluegrass and Irish influences: the latter was in evidence, not the former. But there’s only so much you can tell from the first fifteen minutes of a band’s set. They’re definitely worth checking out.

Next stop was Sidewalk, where by the time we arrived Lenny Molotov was already into his 45-minute set. Funny how times change: ten years ago, this place was Dork Central and now it’s one of the more prestigious places to play. Same shitty sound, but it’s become a sane alternative to the Living Room, cheaper and usually pretty much tourist-free. And apparently musicians who want to play there no longer have to subject themselves to waiting ten hours for a 3-song audition in the wee hours of Tuesday morning, subject to the ridicule of the Woody Allen wannabe who’s been booking the place forever.

Molotov (who also fronts the excellent delta blues outfit Elgin Movement, and plays mean lead guitar for Randi Russo) was without his usual collection of effects pedals, so with only the club’s weak PA to amplify his acoustic guitar, the brilliance of his spiky, fingerpicked melodies wasn’t always readily apparent. He played a lot of new material, accompanied by his Elgin Movement sidekick, Jake Engel, on chromatic harp and Karl Meyer on violin. Engel was in a particularly buoyant mood and got a lot of response out of the surprisingly sparse crowd. Molotov’s original songs typically set darkly witty, brilliantly literate, contemporary lyrics to oldschool delta blues melodies, and tonight he played one of his best originals in that vein, possibly titled Hard to be an Outlaw. It’s a bleak, black-humor-driven chronicle about a kid from somewhere sketchy in Brooklyn who a couple of years ago went out to buy some weed, may or may not have been entrapped into starting a fatal shootout with an undercover cop, and ended up blowing his brains out later that night in an ex-girlfriend’s project apartment. Later, Molotov told the audience that he was going to do a number he’d never before played live, and that he’d just found out why everyone else plays it. After working out who was going to take a solo and when, he launched into a fascinating open-tuned arrangement of St. James Infirmary Blues, barely recognizable save for the lyrics. He closed the set with a new original song, Luxury Blues: “You say you don’t have a woman/Well try having two.”

We cut out moments after he left the stage and went east to Banjo Jim’s for about 40 minutes where Les Chauds Lapins were playing. They’re Kurt Hoffmann on banjo uke and clarinet, trading vocals with Roulette Sisters lead guitarist Meg Reichardt, who alternated between guitar and banjo uke as well. They were backed by a rhythm section (bringing in a new upright bass player for the second set, as their first had to leave for another gig), along with violin, cello and Frank London blowing exquisitely balmy muted trumpet on a couple of numbers. Translated literally from the French, Les Chauds Lapins means “the hot rabbits.” What it actually means is “hot mamas.” It can also mean “pains in the ass.” They play vintage French pop from the 20s and 30s, Hoffmann’s urbane tenor playing off of Reichardt’s breathy, sensual vocals. Like the Roulette Sisters, Les Chauds Lapins’ specialty is sex songs, laden with double entendres, sung more or less sans accent Americain, in the language of love. Strange that the place wasn’t packed – sex sells, as everybody knows – plus, the band was playing two whole sets. Their musicianship is superb, and the songs are well-chosen. For decades, in fact until very recently, French assembly-line songwriters from Charles Trenet to Didier Barbelivien had little in common with their American Tin Pan Alley counterparts: in France, even pop songwriting is an art form. Clever lyrics, complex song structures and real artistic achievement abound. Even the much-maligned varietes folk-pop from the 70s frequently has great lyrics. Hoffmann and Reichardt mine the archive for every innuendo they can whisper. Their new cd, which they were hawking tonight, promises to be excellent. But we were off to Luna to see Moisturizer.

The new Luna Lounge (across the street from Black Betty, just off the corner of Metropolitan and Havemeyer in Williamsburg) tries very hard to be likeable and succeeds on most counts. Sizewise, it’s about the same as Bowery Ballroom without the balcony: it’s obvious that the walls and ceiling have been expertly tricked out for sound. The staff and bartenders are uncommonly nice and the drinks aren’t outrageously overpriced. Moisturizer is strictly an instrumental band, so getting the sound right for them should have been a breeze. It wasn’t. Baritone sax player Moist Paula, bassist Moist Gina and their drummer fought magnificently for almost 40 minutes, trying in vain to cut through a relentless, drum-heavy morass of sonic sludge. One has to wonder: was the sound guy stoned? Did they bring in a sub because the regular guy wanted a night off and there was a “local” band playing?

Despite the dodgy sonics, Moisturizer won over the crowd: what a surprise. They’re the closest thing we have these days to the Funk Brothers, who were Motown Records’ studio band throughout the 60s and subject of the terrific documentary Standing in the Shadows of Motown. Moisturizer’s irresistibly fun, danceable tunes had everyone at least swaying in their seats. They gets a lot of ESG comparisons, and that’s not a stretch, although Moisturizer is (pardon the pun) more fluid and a lot more melodic. Frontwoman Moist Paula, who has played with everybody and also has a fine, jazzy side project called Secretary, draws on a lot of influences, from Lonnie Smith go-go to Motown to hip-hop. But her sound is unique and instantly recognizable, always coming back to the melody even if she’s known to take a noisy excursion to the outer reaches of jazz from time to time. Bassist Moist Gina is one of the best in the business, one of the hardest hitters around, a terrifically melodic, imaginative, fluid player (there’s that word again) whose flying runs up and down the scale are adrenalizing to say the least. They’ve been through a succession of drummers lately, but the latest one is working out well.

Moist Paula was the only band member who had a mic, and she didn’t talk to the crowd much: maybe they were trying to pack as much material into the allotted time as they could, an admirable goal if that’s what they were shooting for. Moisturizer has a lot of material (dozens and dozens of songs), all of them “true stories,” as Moist Paula will proudly announce from time to time, and because they don’t announce them frequently it’s hard to tell what they’re called. The Satie-esque, surreal wit of the titles carries over from the title to the music. Among the tunes they played tonight were an uncharacteristically haunting, gorgeously melancholy number about a child who was reunited with his/her mother in the wake of the Indonesia tsunami, as well as the current Moisturizer crowd-pleaser Enactuate Our Love which features a blistering, breathtaking solo from Moist Gina at the end of the song. By then she’d turned off the flange she’d been using through most of the set, giving her propulsive lines a watery, 80s tone.

Everyone’s entitled to an off night: it’s just too bad Moisturizer and their fans came out on the wrong end of this one. Maybe it’s just growing pains at a new venue: by all other standards, the new Luna is actually a welcome addition to Williamsburg. Can you remember the last time you could say that about anything new in the neighborhood? I can’t.

May 13, 2007 Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, New York City, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

CD Review: Love Camp 7 – Sometimes Always Never

Their great shining moment. There will assuredly be others, considering how good the unreleased material that they’ve been playing live has been, but this is Love Camp 7’s best album to date. It’s a triumph of soaring harmonies, catchy hooks and general fearlessness for these authentic 60s psychedelic throwbacks. Rich with catchy melodies, steeped in history, the album gets better with repeated listenings, in the spirit of great psychedelic, garage and art-rock bands from the Pretty Things, to Nektar, to the Kinks.

The album opens on an apt note, with some found footage from the studio.“I can’t really…can’t really hear myself at all. Am I even in the mix, man?” demands a mystified Dave Campbell (an Elvin Jones devotee and one of the two or three best rock drummers of this era). Then the band launches into the opening tune, Connecticut, a jangly, harmony-driven tribute to the 1999 NCAA champion Connecticut Huskies basketball team: “driving past the mighty Eldon Brand.” Connecticut was frontman/guitarist Dann Baker’s alma mater. “Did I ever think I’d look back fondly? No, not really,” he muses.

The next cut is about Baker’s cat Munoz: “The universe is magical!” he purrs. But then he gets lost in Chinatown, and there’s a forlorn wah-wah driven passage straight out of the Pretty Things’ SF Sorrow, into a short, squalling free jazz breakdown, back into the intoxicatingly catchy chorus. After that, there’s the brief Naming Names, punky with slide guitar, a rogues’ gallery of some of the friendly witnesses and those who sold out their colleagues before Joe McCarthy’s infamous House Un-American Activities Committee.

The following three cuts are a trilogy, a look back at corruption in the southern California irrigation system in the 1920s and 30s, and its disastrous results. The first part, Once Upon a Time Our Valley Was Green features an achingly beautiful hook coming out of the chorus. Love Camp 7 have so many hooks they use them judiciously: other bands would have started out the song with that descending progression and would have hit you with it with every chance they got, but these guys always leave you wanting more: until they clock you upside the head with another one just as good. The trilogy’s focal point, Telephone Girl, with its eerie circus motif mid-song, is a tribute to a brave telephone operator who took it upon herself to call people in the surrounding area after shoddily constructed dam broke and unleashed a landlocked tsunami of water. The cycle concludes with David Gaines, a tribute to a California conservationist and freedom fighter, cast as a retro English dancehall psychedelic number.

Many other good songs on the album. Little Mr. Elephant nicks the intro from Hell’s Bells by AC/DC brilliantly into a bouncy psych/pop number. The Queen of Whale Cay starts out as a bouncy, cheeky march a la something silly off of Village Green and then turns into a gorgeously sunny, jangly tour through one gorgeous permutation after another. The rest of the album chronicles people, most of them everyday Americans in their moment of glory, standing up for their rights. But first, the self-explanatory 39-second Nobody Knows As Much as Phil seems very much to be about legendary/exasperating knowitall jazz dj Phil Schaap. Harvey Weinberg is based on an imaginary character from a 60s camp film, a middleclass dad type trying to hang with the stoners and having a hard time cutting it: the faux-60s bluesy solo toward the end of the song is priceless. Barbara Lee salutes the California congresswoman who was the only person in Congress to vote against giving Bush war powers in the wake of 9/11: “Barbara Lee is having no trouble sleeping.” Jon Strange opens like Rain by the Beatles, a jangling 12-string guitar playing against a wall of distorted chords, with lyrics taken from the transcript of one Jon Strange asking some particularly pointed questions of Madeleine Albright at a town meeting-type event at Ohio State University. Strange’s simple, brutal honesty plays out against a beautifully triumphant, Beatlesque melody. The album closes with The Seeds, which sets some of the liner notes from legendary 60s garage/psych band the Seeds’ first album to a somewhat over-the-top musical treatment complete with long extended guitar jam. It’s hard to tell who’s playing what, Baker or the ubiquitous Steve Antonakos (who’s now apparently a full-fledged member of the band), but redoubtable bass player Bruce Hathaway holds the wheels to the rails.

Love Camp 7’s previous work has occasionally been taken to task for being overly nostalgic, or for having a Beach Boys fetish, and neither neurosis rears its ugly head here, at all. This cd makes a good present for someone who’s into quirky 60s revisionist bands like XTC or the Essex Green, and serves as a welcome antidote to the legions of freak-folk stoners who pretend to be 60s when they’re really just a change of clothes away from James Taylor. Great album. 5 bagels. With nova, Bermuda onion and ripe beefsteak tomato. Love Camp 7 choose their live dates judiciously: they typically play the Parkside on the occasional weekend. The album is available at select independent record stores, online and at shows.

May 11, 2007 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Concert Review: Randi Russo at Cake Shop, NYC 5/8/07

When the band took the stage just after 8, there wasn’t much of a crowd, perhaps because this was a last-minute gig at an odd hour for NYC’s reigning chatelaine of outsider rock anthems. The sound, usually pristine at this venue, left something to be desired for much of the show, Randi Russo’s vocals cutting in and out of the mix. She and her bass player were clearly ticked off, but the drummer and lead guitarist Lenny Molotov were exuberant. The energy was high right off the bat, as they launched into a ridiculously catchy new song, possibly titled Invisible: “I am, I am invisible/I feel, I feel invincible.” At the end, Molotov picked up the delicious soul-infused lick that opens the song. Next on the set list was Wonderland, a big alienation anthem and audience favorite from Russo’s first full-length cd, Solar Bipolar. “I heard you went to Wonderland/Come back and see me if you can.”

They followed with another unreleased track, a titanic, 6/8 epic called Prey which the band built to a towering crescendo and an uncharacteristically metalesque ending. After that, they dug out one of her earlier songs, the stomping, hook-driven, Velvets-style One Track Mind, from her Live at CB’s Gallery ep. The next tune was another unreleased number, House on the Hill which built from a swinging backbeat on the verse to a percussive firestorm on the chorus, then back again. Following that, they did the funky, haunting, minor-key Battle on the Periphery, a dayjob-from-hell number that gave Molotov a chance to show off his love of evil, Middle Eastern-inflected licks. The set’s final song was the surprisingly upbeat Ceiling Fire, from Russo’s latest album Shout Like a Lady.

Russo didn’t say much between songs, busy changing from one tuning to another. She’s lefthanded and plays Hendrix-style, upside down, and with the odd tunings, gets a maelstrom of eerie, ringing overtones out of her Gibson SG guitar. She and the band encored with a long, ragaesque, psychedelic number that gave them a chance to stretch out and play off each other. They’ve been heading in a more improvisational direction lately, unusual for a group whose job is basically to flesh out Russo’s meticulously crafted songs. For anyone who missed this show – and by the looks of it, most did – they’re playing Cake Shop again at the early hour of 5:30 PM on Saturday May 19 in celebration of the bass player’s birthday, as they’ve done for three years in a row now. No doubt much of the crème de la crème of the NYC underground music scene will be there (which means that you won’t have to worry about bumping into Lindsay Lohan or her legions of lookalikes).

May 10, 2007 Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

NYC music calendar 5/10-18-07

Obviously, the best musical acts are those who play all or mostly their own material. But an artist’s choice of cover songs says a lot about their imagination, their ability to interpret or reinterpret or behave hubristically.  This week’s listings feature what many of these people like to do with other peoples’ stuff.

 

Thurs May 10  Hula plays the Mercury, 9 PM. Thoughtful, quietly meandering indie rock from Williamsburg, a cut above the rest of the pack. Hard to figure out their influences: Calla? Maybe, but a lot more melodic and hummable.

 

Fri May 11 brilliant guitarist Lenny Molotov  plays Sidewalk at 8 PM with  chromatic harp wizard Jake Engel and violinist Karl Meyer on a few songs. Molotov – who also plays lead in Randi Russo’s band – is one of the most amazing fretburners in town, a master of old open-tuned acoustic delta blues but equally good as a  rocker or throwback 60s psychedelic guy. And a hell of a lyricist. If you’ve always wanted to see Richard Thompson but can’t afford the ticket price, this guy is just as good. Choice cover: a terrific and terrifically obscure Bush-era parable called Walker Texas Ranger. Who did the original? You tell me.  

 

Also Fri May 11 Les Chauds Lapins play  Banjo Jim’s, 9 PM. Quietly potent blues guitar powerhouse Meg Reichardt (from the Roulette Sisters) and her band run through popular and obscure French pop from the early decades of the last century. The band name is French for “the hot bunnies,” which indicates where they’re trying to go.

 

Later Fri May 11 Moisturizer plays  Luna in Williamsburg at 11 PM. They’ve set a record of sorts in that they’ve literally never written a bad song. Each and every one of their bouncy, percussive, bari sax/bass/drums instrumentals is really good! And as frontwoman/saxist Moist Paula will tell you, all of them are true stories. Subway Flood. Actually I’m So Busy. Mother’s Coming Over with a Bunch of Scallions. If Erik Satie was alive today Moisturizer would be his favorite band. Choice cover: they did the Batman theme once or twice – and it was great! – but don’t play it anymore.

 

Sat May 12 Hazmat Modine plays Terra Blues on Bleecker just west of LaGuardia, two sets starting about 7:15 PM. Blues instrumentation augmented by ancient reed instruments: half of this band should be in a museum. Fiery, exuberant, terrifically funny frontman. Strange, surreal lyricism, all kinds of improvisation, wild soloing and a rustic panglobal psychedelic vibe. One of the best live bands anywhere: you should see them sometime. Choice cover: Buddy, a hilarious, obscure blues tune wherein a hypocrite gets what’s coming to him, and the frontman mines it for all it’s worth. “Do you call that a buddy? “No, no!”

 

Also Sat May 12, 10:30 PMish  Demolition String Band plays Rodeo Bar. Basically, it’s electrified bluegrass by a bunch of purists, the frontwoman’s sweet vocals balancing out the lead player’s supersonic, crescendoing climbs and runs down the scale. Choice cover: anything from their tremendous cover cd of Ola Belle Reed songs, including the bluegrass standard High on a Mountain. 

 

Also Sat May 12 the Sprinkle Genies play Hank’s Saloon in Brooklyn, 9 PM. At their best they remind of X with punky attitude and guy/girl vocals. A lot of their songs are very funny, especially the one with the surfy Middle Eastern guitar. Also on the bill tonight: upstate zydeco band the McGillicuddies.

 

Sun May 13 Maynard & the Musties and Mr. McGregor play Mo Pitkins downstairs, 7 PM, free. The former is the onetime Millerite Redeemers frontman playing his hilariously literate country songs, and faux-country songs, and now some rock as well. The latter are Maynard’s backing band playing their own original, humorously inclined indie rock. Choice cover: a hilarious, Velvet Underground-inflected version of Rhinestone Cowboy.

 

Later Sun May 13 Van Hayride plays Banjo Jim’s, 10 PM. Country covers of Van Halen songs. Jack Grace is the stand-in for David Lee Roth, sick beyond anything you could ever imagine. There is no funnier band in town right now. Pick a song. Running with the Devil? Ain’t Talkin About Love? Dunno about you, but I think they ought to do Ice Cream Man.

 

Mon May 14 Rev. Vince Anderson plays Black Betty, 10:45ish, two sets. Moist Paula from Moisturizer on baritone sax. The rhythm section is from dance-rockers  Chin Chin. The guitarist was once in the Pleasure Unit and has really come around to work well in this deliriously fun, gospel-based, improvisationally brilliant piano-driven unit (that’s the Rev. on keys). Also one of the funniest bands in town. Choice cover: a shockingly good, stripped down, bluesy version of You Gotta Serve Somebody.

 

Weds May 16 at 2 (two) PM for people who feel like playing hooky,  Hazmat Modine plays the Hoboken Spring Jazz Festival, somewhere on  Washington St. It’s the main street in town after you get off the Path train. I suspect it will be within a short walk away: follow your ears.

 

Also Weds May 16 Alec Stephen and his band play Luna, 10 PM. The ex-Railroad Jerk lead guitarist has been through several subsequent incarnations, and this straight-ahead rock unit is by far the best: he’s never been more rousing or melodic. And he’ll still throw in a few of the older bluesy numbers that he does so well.

 

Also Weds May 16, Mr. Action & the Boss Guitars play  Lakeside, 10 PM. This is the rhythm section from the pretty-much-defunct Supertones, plus two decent guitarists playing oldschool surf covers, most of them Ventures or Shadows songs. If you like your surf twangy, mellow and played on authentic instruments, this is your cup of salt water.

 

 

Thurs May 17 Elk City plays  Luna, 10 PM. The media says they’re a janglepop band but they’re really more noise-rockers: they once covered the Dream Syndicate classic Tell Me When It’s Over and didn’t embarrass themselves, which is pretty impressive. . 

 

Also Thurs May 17 guitar genius Matt Munisteri plays Barbes, 10 PM. Born a bluegrass cat, grown to be a jazzman, a devotee of the weird and obscure, the weirder and more obscure the better. You may hear covers of both oddball Western swing genius Willard Robison, and haunting, accordion-driven French musette instrumentals.

 

Fri May 18 Ellen Foley plays  Lakeside, 11 PM. The ubiquitous Steve Antonakos on slide guitar. Ex 5 Chinese Brother Paul Foglino on Telecaster. The bandleader, an actress and onetime cohort of the Clash looks great, sounds better than ever and tells a great story: her persona is more or less slightly dotty grande dame of obscure rock n roll, and she plays it to the hilt, singing Foglino’s slightly dotty, Americana-inflected pop songs. And she pulls out a few obscure pop tunes that were European hits for her in the 80s. 

 Also Fri May 18 Luther Wright and the Wrongs play Rodeo Bar, 2 sets 10:30 PM or so. The Canadian bluegrass cat and his band are best known (and rightfully so) for their brilliant cover of Pink Floyd’s album The Wall. But their originals are first-rate as well, with the requisite sense of humor and spectacular guitar/banjo chops.

May 9, 2007 Posted by | Live Events, Music | 4 Comments