Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Top Ten Songs of the Week 1/26/09

Here’s this week’s hit parade: if it keeps getting any more popular, it’s going to unseat our NYC concert calendar as the most popular post here. All of the links below are for either streams or downloads:

 

1. The Brooklyn What – The In-Crowd

The Brooklyn What continue to top the “charts” here, this time with a ridiculously catchy corrosively sarcastic singalong from their new cd The Brooklyn What for Borough President. “Is this the crowd, the crowd you wanna be in? Nah, nah nah nah, nah nah, nah nah!” They’re at Trash on 1/31 at midnight

 

2. Koony – 7 Fois 77 Fois

Beautiful, politically charged roots reggae in the style of Culture and Peter Tosh from this Burkina Faso expat and his killer band. They’re at Shrine on 1/29 at 10.

 

3. Myles Turney – Nobody’s Prize

Scathing, dismissive broadside aimed at spoiled tourists with some sweet acoustic guitar fingerpicking. She gets what’s coming to him, and so does he. Turney is at Arlene’s at 7 on 2/10.

 

4. Beluga – Trailer Park

Super catchy, danceable punk/funk/rock from this popular all-female band. They’re at Union Pool on 2/6.

 

5. Box of Crayons – Punk ATM

The history of punk rock in less than two amusing minutes, to the tune of In the City (or Holidays in the Sun, if you prefer): “I remember when you couldn’t find punk at the mall, when it wasn’t cool to be a punk at all.” They’re at the Parkside on 2/7.

 

6. First Degree Burns – Evolutionary

British ska/reggae/hiphop band doing a slow burning groove with good French lyrics!

 

7. Crime in Choir – Octopus in the Piano

 This San Francisco band play sort of minimalist, melodic classically inflected dance/groove instrumentals, like a warmblooded Kraftwerk, or New Order without the stupid lyrics and vocals.

 

8. Matthew Grimm and the Red Smear – One Big Union

This is their new single, picked up by at least 2 congressional campaigns as a theme song. The perfect, optimistic anthem for the early part of the Obama years.

 

9. The Back CC’s – No More Gasoline in My Car

Tight, snarling garage/punk from this Brooklyn crew. They’re at Matchless on 1/30 at 8.

 

10. The Microscopic Septet – Lobster Leaps In

A typically catchy, perverse, multi-theme jazz hit from the band’s latest cd. Download it free here.

January 26, 2009 Posted by | lists, Lists - Best of 2008 etc., Music, music, concert | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Song of the Day 1/27/09

Every day, our top 666 songs of alltime countdown gets one step closer to #1. Tuesday’s is #547:

Bruce Springsteen – Atlantic City

Forget the Super Bowl halftime show: many consider his stark, acoustic 1983 album Nebraska to be his best. You probably know this song, the hitman casually explaining that’s he’s got a little job to do: “Everything dies, baby that’s a fact, but maybe someday everything comes back.” Available wherever mp3s are traded; look for a small file, as there are a ton of live versions out there and most are not very good.

January 26, 2009 Posted by | lists, Lists - Best of 2008 etc., Music, music, concert | , , , , | Leave a comment

CD Review: The Slackers – Self Medication

For over 20 years, while some of the greatest minds of their generation have been drinking themselves to death, the Slackers have been putting out great albums blending equal elements of ska, reggae, classic 60s soul, blues and occasionally straight-up rock. Simply put, there is no other third-generation ska band with such a rich, deep catalog of songs. They tour constantly and consistently deliver a passionate, fun, cleverly improvisational show. This cd, their latest, is one of their best, a tad more subtle than their usual fare, for example, the deliriously fun Live at Ernesto’s cd from a few years back. As usual, the fat groove of the rhythm section is spiced with soaring, virtuosic horns and the smooth, bubbling organ work of main songwriter Vic Ruggiero.

 

The cd kicks off with Every Day Is Sunday, an anthem for the new depression: “Every day is Sunday when you’re unemployed…Friday never comes.”  Funny and apt beyond words, it’s basically just a super catchy pop song in a porkpie hat. From there they go straight into oldschool roots reggae with Don’t You Want A Man. Don’t Forget The Streets begins with a big soul rave-up intro and then goes classic rocksteady with a country melody and a nice minimalist electric piano solo from Ruggiero: “We still stick together/We still get along.”

 

Estranged has an eerie intro like the Specials’ classic Ghost Town but more ornate, then goes reggae with a darkly spacy dub feel. With more than a nod to the Beatles’ psychedelic period, the vividly metaphorical Stars is a big anthem with an echoey Lucy in the Sky George Harrison-esque solo and a phaser-fueled outro straight out of All You Need Is Love. Finally, on the cd’s sixth track, they do a straight-up, oldschool ska song, Leave Me, as in “Leave me, I wannna be alone again.”

 

They go back to reggae, with a strikingly complex 70s Steel Pulse or Aswad feel with the minor key, harmony-driven Eviction, followed by Happy Song, reverting to a vintage Skatalites feel right down to the dumb prosaic lyrics and a sweet Glenn Pine trombone solo. The title track, a reggae tune, reflects on how hard it is to keep your stash to yourself. There’s also a Johnny Cash-style country song with a gorgeous western swing guitar solo, an apocalyptic rocksteady number and a cynical tribute to the brilliant and the obscure, with a long, crescendoing ska jazz intro. It’s everything Slackers fans have come to expect, and a great way to get to know one of the most popular New York bands of alltime that you may have never heard of. Available at any punk rock record store, online and at interpunk.com. The band is currently on European tour; watch this space for NYC dates.

January 26, 2009 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Brooklyn What Interview

The Brooklyn What have just put out their first album, The Brooklyn What for Borough President (reviewed here recently). It’s only January, but it might just be the best album of the year by any New York band. And if it isn’t, it’s definitely the funniest cd that’s come over the transom here in a long time. The Brooklyn What play Trash Bar on Saturday, Jan 31 at midnight: if you don’t know them, it’s hard to imagine a better way to get to know this crazy, excellent band:

 

Lucid Culture: Where does the name the Brooklyn What come from? Were you originally called the Brooklyn Child Molesters or the Brooklyn Luxury Condos  – notice the juxtaposition – and somebody said, whaaaat?

 

Billy Cohen (guitar): I don’t remember who came up with it. I think Jamie [Frey, lead singer]. Some of us liked it at first and the rest of us agreed to it at some time. I think we’re all happy with it now.

 

Doug Carey (bass): There were some really terrible names while we were trying to think one up. I remember the Black Typewriters which is awful, and the Letter 4 which is also awful. I don’t remember who made it up first, I think it was Evan, but I think we’d all agree we could no longer imagine being called anything else.

 

Evan O’Donnell (lead guitarist): It definitely wasn’t me who thought of it. We were all in Yummy Taco on Church Avenue during a break. I think Yummy Taco is most responsible.

 

Jesse Katz (drums): I dunno, I just learned how to read.

 

LC: You guy are local – almost all of you went to Murrow together, right? But no Brooklyn accents. Can you comment on that for the sake of the out-of-town crowd?

 

Jamie Frey (lead singer): Hey-ooh, watchu’ talkin ’bout, no Brooklyn accent?

 

BC: I know I have a Brooklyn accent but it’s not very thick

 

John-Severin Napolillo (guitar): I went to college in Ithaca, NY and my friends up there claimed the accent only came out if I got really mad.

 

DC: People make fun of my Brooklyn accent all the time, but I’m from South Brooklyn where everyone talks like the stereotypical Brooklyn asshole, so thats how I speak. “Shaddap Maria, I went to da fuckin store to get some fuckin milk, and now I’m back, fuck you ya skank.”

 

EO: I for one come from a neighborhood that has been gentrifying for almost 20 years. It’s a real pioneer white people place, and it’s called Park Slope and it gets scarier every year. I had an accent when I was eleven, but adolescence in that neighborhood made me sound like a California surfer dude for a while. I’ve gotten over it, but now I only sound like a Brooklynite when I’m pissed off. People forget that in the 21st century there is so much media overdose that regionalism tends to disappear easily. That’s why these out-of-towners moving in scares me.

 

JK: Forgive me father for I have sinned, I’m from Manhattan. And I’m Jewish. But my mom’s from East New York and my Dad’s a mix of the LES and Flushing, Queens so I’m not sure exactly what that makes me. My accent is Slavic – Ashkenazi tho I think. Yentas and shmendricks and all that. As in “Achhh vegalech! Get me some lemon vater, I gotta little diaspora in my throat!”

 

LC: Are you surprised that with the popularity of the borough, more bands don’t call themselves the “Brooklyn something?”

 

JF: There are about 1,000 rappers on myspace called “Brooklyn” and I think a French hipster band also.

 

BC: I’ve noticed a trend with bands if their music doesn’t have anything to do with their name then the writing probably isn’t very good. Or if it sounds good, it’s an aural sensation but the composition probably won’t make sense.

 

DC: I think there is an R&B artist named Brooklyn, and I think she sucks.

 

LC: True! But I wouldn’t call her an artist…Again, for the sake of people outside the five boroughs of New York City, a lot of people I think very unfairly get the picture of Brooklyn being this lily-white, gentrified, playground for trendoids who’re trying to put off adulthood as long as possible. Other than Williamsburg which has for a long time been indie rock central, what’s coming out of the other neighborhoods, are there other bands from the borough that you admire? Now’s your chance to give a shout out….

 

JF: At Freddy’s Bar I discovered Box Of Crayons, who are a Irish folk punk band of older dudes who are fuckin brilliant and we played with them recently, one of the dudes lives in Bay Ridge and works for the ATM. These guys are real veterans and wrote a this song Punk ATM which is the best retrospective on punk I’ve ever heard. Also, they’re not together anymore but the Saudi Agenda were the best Brooklyn punk band that nobody ever heard.

 

LC: The Saudi Agenda were great and we reviewed them!

 

BC: For a while I didn’t know too many bands at all. After we got acquainted with Jake Noodles [who runs Don Pedro’s], he started booking us with good bands for the most part. Beluga is a great garage rock band with foxy ladies, and the Back C C’s are a great skilled punk band. Box of Crayons and Saudi Agenda – not together anymore – are two great rock bands before our generation. People should know their music. 

 

DC: All the bands we used to play with at Freddy’s. Box of Crayons need to start getting some respect and recognition. Beluga are one of, if not the best bands and live acts playing NYC right now. It’s ironic that that’s the picture of it now, because when I was a kid and went other places, I’d tell them I was from Brooklyn and they’d ask to see my gun or bullet wounds or how many times I’d been shot at in my life. And now it’s do you live on Bedford or Morgan or McKibben. I’ll take the gunshot wounds

 

EO: Ever since l’Amour and the Temple shut down at the beginning of this decade there haven’t been many places for kids with bands from other neighborhoods to play, or to have a sense of their own scene. There was much more going on when I was in high school. Now I don’t know any places to meet other kindred spirits from this borough. That doesn’t mean they aren’t out there. They definitely are and I hope they are reading this and find us.

 

JK: Oh no doubt! I gotta say whatup to my man MindBender, of MIndBending Production, up in the  BRONX, who just came out with the raw mixtape, Slave II Music: Something To Blast On The Jump To Hyper Space. Beats of the hot butter variety. MPG – Holler at the musical fire and “academic” witticism of our good friend Mickey, BROOOKLYN, NY on your friendly neighborhood PoZar Records. Our friends Paper Cities, an amazingly tight instrumental trio that range from the brutal breakdown to the beautiful melody and comprehensively touch on many interesting rhythmic styles and techniques. I just wish they’d come back from their sabbatical soon. They’re from BROOKLYN and affiliated with PoZar Records too.

 

LC: What bands made you start playing music and what influences do you bring to the Brooklyn What?

 

JF: When I was younger I was more into classic rock, heavy stuff and alternative radio stuff and basic punk: Sex Pistols, Clash, Ramones. The bands that really pushed me to start a band were Black Sabbath and Metallica, but I dropped that stuff early on. In my high school band we were influenced by stuff like Smashing Pumpkins and Jane’s Addiction but I think getting into the Pixies and hearing Frank Black really helped me find my own niche as a vocalist and later getting into Elvis Costello and then my favorite band of all time, the Replacements, who I think became my biggest influences in the Brooklyn What sound. I’m really big on sad love songs, angry songs and self-deprecating humor so singer/songwriters like Westerberg, Costello, Gordon Gano, Lou Reed, Bob Dylan and Ray Davies are always relatable to me.

 

JK: Of course when I first started it was Bonham, Moon, Ginger Baker, Mitch Mitchell, Chad Smith, Travis Barker and Danny Carey who are awesome, especially when I was 15 and smoking blunts outside school. But over the years I’ve acquired some  faves:  Skwert (Choking Victim), Chris Tsagakis (The Sound Of Animals Fighting, RX Bandits), Dave King (The Bad Plus), Tony Hajjar (At The Drive-In), William Goldsmith (Sunny Day Real Estate), Steve West (Pavement), Jimmy Chamberlin (Smashing Pumpkins), Chris Mars (The Replacements), and of course Art Blakey, Max Roach, Bill Stewart from the John Scofield Trio, Joe Morello, Elvin Jones, and Jimmy Cobb. Moments in drumming that I hold dear: Max Roach’s beat on Sonny Rollins’ “St. Thomas,” Joe Morello’s solo on Dave Brubeck’s “Take Five,” Chris Mars’ breakdown and speed up on “We’re Coming Out,” the opening hits and beat Skwert plays on “Suicide (A Better Way),” the beat Tony Hajjar plays for the verse of “Sleepwalk Capsules,” Dave King’s beautiful feel for the shuffle on his own “Layin’ a Strip For the Higher-Self State Line,” and the precision with which Steve West mirrors the emotion of the song “Stop Breathin’.” My friend also just got me these Animal [from the Muppets] printed drum sticks that have and will continue to be a heavy influence. I’ve heard there’s been talks between him and Vic Firth about a deal to release his own signature series.

 

BC: What’s funny is I never planned on being a great “lead guitarist” until into about a year or so of playing. I didn’t start playing guitar till the end of my reign in middle school, and at the point I was listening to Led Zeppelin, Metallica, Green Day, Radiohead, and countless 90’s pop rock bands like the Offspring  – their popular stuff – Fastball, Third Eye Blind, etc. Going to Murrow High School was like a transformation for me. This girl got me into the Smashing Pumpkins and Evan, being one of my first friends, turned me onto Frank Zappa and the Velvet Underground. I also got heavily into Weezer along the years, as well as Pavement, David Bowie, The Beatles, and a lot of Japanese rock bands me and my high school sweetheart used to listen to (like Dir en Grey and Luna Sea). I even liked Tool in high school and that was a quick fad for me. I also picked up a love for jazz music in HS playing in the jazz band, and during my early years of college I picked up a love for classical music studying composition. I am like the musical translator for the band. I can explain why something sounds the way it does. I also bring imagery lyrics to the band which clashes nice against the realist lyrics that come out through Jamie. Today some of the big influences are Stephen Malkmus, Television, Incredible String Band, The Pretenders, the Kinks, The Rolling Stones, Talking Heads, Brian Eno, Zebu, The Stooges etc. The two guitarists I’ve been told I sound like is Billy Corgan and Rivers Cuomo.

 

LC: You’re not strangers to community issues, standing up for the neighborhood against the abuse of eminent domain laws, arson, etc., should we take the album title The Brooklyn What for Borough President as a sign of things to come or are you simply content to play music at the moment? I mean, Obama got his start early, how about you?

 

BC: We want people to hear our album and see us live. If they like it, great. If not, fine. What really matters is that people just listen. I have much faith in success of having people listen to our music

 

DC: We’re gonna take over this city and steamroll over every skinny asshole in our way.

 

EO: I had the idea for a real write-in campaign for 2009 last summer. We haven’t mobilized yet, but I’ve got some strategies in the back of my mind. You might notice some activity soon. Our basic platform is Ratner in jail, hipsters move out, create a new wave of rent stabilization, and one night a week where you are allowed to egg Marty’s house.

 

JK: I’m part of the street team for Evan’s write-in campaign. Which tends to be behind the scenes and regards fairly sensitive information.

 

LC: The Brooklyn What seems to me to be very much something of a community effort, i.e. everybody contributes songs. What do each of you specifically bring to the group? Other than Jamie’s wiseass jokes that is…

 

JF:  I write really simple songs and these guys make them sound like real music. Also, my parents still let us practice in their basement, otherwise we’d be basically fucked.

 

BC: It is most definitely a community effort. The band started with Jamie bringing in all the material and the band polishing it up. That could be writing melodies, harmonies, rhythm patters, or style. So far five of us have written anything from outlines of songs to full complete songs themselves. Personally, I am a logical songwriter that has bitterly fought my way though music school to acquire a theoretical sense to it. I feel I bring the knowledge of “why something sounds the way it does”. The songs I wrote on the album are Sunbeam Sunscream, For the Best, and Soviet Guns.

 

JSN: I feel like everyone contributing songs gives the record a nice variety. We all have very different influences, even though it all comes back to rock n roll, and I like that that’s apparent when you listen to the record.

 

DC: I think it says it best on the myspace-  Jamie Frey- leadership; John-Severin- work ethic; Evan O’Donnell – integrity; Billy Cohen – ingenuity; Doug Carey – hilarity; Jesse Katz – smiles

 

EO: I’m the main organizational impulse. Doug has taken to calling me the Terminator when I start barking orders and arms start growing out of my head. I can get a little carried away.

 

JK: Sometimes I buy a couple bags of 25 cent hot cheese, butter and white cheddar popcorn and give everyone some.

 

LC: To what degree is the Brooklyn What a reaction against trendoid music, I mean, poser dilettantes who can’t play and don’t have anything to say but think it’s cool being onstage because all their lameass friends are in bands. Is there a deliberate attempt on your part to short-circuit that scene or is what you do just naturally against the grain, when it comes to conforming, being accepted by people who don’t question anything?

 

JF: Well, when people ask us what we play I generally say rock n roll, which I don’t think is fashionable really to these people. They like dance-punk or freak-folk or electronic, I don’t know. Also, I think we’re just entirely too weird for these people, and I don’t really relate to them much anyway. We spent at least a year in this band not playing in the greater Williamsburg, Greenpoint, Bushwick etc. at all, and then broke because there aren’t that many clubs that are decent anyway. Apparently, MTV had a special about “The Brooklyn Scene” in which Todd P and a bunch of assholes talk about how nobody from Brooklyn is “from” Brooklyn and there was no music in Brooklyn before these gentrifiers got here, which is fucking ridiculous because we’ve been playing music here since we were in fucking high school and there were Brooklyn kids before us and there will be plenty after us. Mostly, this scene is full of bad music played by good looking people and that is NOT rock n roll and needs to be decimated and we would be happy to be Nirvana to these indie-rock hair bands and put them out of work.

 

BC: We succeed in songwriting because we play music that comes from our feelings. Most of us met in high school and became friends because we’re all real people with real problems. That’s why we do real music.

 

JSN: I like to think that we don’t make music simply as a reactionary statement. I think it’s just what logically occurs when you try to make something different.

 

EO: There’s a knee jerk nonconformist thing going on too. I used to dress really weird and get called faggot all the time. When I see a lot of these hipster goons I just wanna become a construction worker. Being weird in New York City public school gets you into real trouble sometimes. Those kids don’t know anything about that, and I don’t want anyone confusing me with them. I’m gonna be contrary to them no matter what.

 

DC: We definitely didn’t start the Brooklyn What with that in mind per se, but Jamie’s songwriting did reflect his and all of our feelings on the matter, all of us and all of our friends have been anti-Atlantic yards/Ratner/Markowitz since their respective inceptions, that and the gentrification of places we love and care about, influence all of our lives and thinking. It is a big part of our lives and something we all care deeply about. But we’re also just all a big bunch of weirdos and have always been extremely far from the status quo, not on purpose necessarily. I’d love to use our music to obliterate all of that shitty shit.

 

JK: Well I like to think I do my own personal part by sweating and peeing allover everything.

 

LC: Do you think your popularity has anything to do with this? 

 

JF: Our friends like us and don’t like that other shit.

 

BC: Hahaha, I think effort, and popularity under that.

 

DC: I think most people just hear our songs and think they’re fun and catchy and good to dance too, and that’s wonderful. And if they buy the album and get the message, even better.

 

JK: Only when we were the orchestra for Urinetown.

 

LC: You’ve built a lot of critical mass lately: you get good nights at good clubs, you draw a lot of people and everybody in the crowd seems to know the words to the songs. What’s next? Take the act out of town? Get a song in the next Jim Jarmusch movie? Just wondering…

 

JF: We want a slot opening for the Hold Steady so we can blow them off the stage in front of a bunch of journalists.

 

BC: We are continuing our songwriting of course; we are starting to get cracking on gigs out of town. My aunt in California, a jazz musician herself, is getting us acquainted with record stores and college radio. Personally I think We Are the Only Ones [the anthem that ends the new cd] could be a great song for ending credits of a teen movie.

 

JSN: Ooooh, “Coffee and Cigarettes 2” perhaps? Maybe we could get a scene with Ghostface and Legs McNeil?

 

DC: Whatever it is, we don’t plan on stopping anytime soon

 

JK: Oh shit he did Ghost Dog, right? That would be sick. I am so down for a sequel, with casting like that you know I’ll get lost in the Forest.

 

LC: Can I ask why sometimes you add or subtract members onstage depending on the particular song? Cabaret and jazz acts do that a lot but it’s not so common in rock…

 

BC: Sometimes less is more. Sometimes we just pick arrangements based on band mates’ availablity as well.

 

JSN: Three guitars is a lot. It’s a huge plus on the loud numbers, but on the more delicate tracks the songs might need more space. Once in a while it’s just coincidence. On The In-Crowd I play drums, instead of guitar. It just happened that a bunch of us were hanging out in Jamie’s basement, but Jesse wasn’t there. I got an idea in my head for a drum part and jumped on the kit.

 

DC: Availability of members, six people is a lot for a band, sometimes people need a break, our songs are pretty intense and tiring.

 

JK: Well sometimes I gotta rep a pair of long johns I just recently found on the street and dance and scream a bit so I’m glad John can throw down on the kit. He taught me how to sex my groove on the backbeat.

 

LC: Wassup with the babe magnet thing? I couldn’t help but notice at the show the other night – but it’s not like any of you look like you’re trying to be ultra fashionista or anything…

 

JF: I’m the lead singer and I never have a girlfriend and I never get laid.

 

BC:  I was wearing my favorite t-shirt…

 

JSN: I think it’s mostly thanks to Jamie’s ‘Team Shirtless’ ideology. Evan and Jesse are also members, but Billy, Doug and I call ourselves ‘Team Civilized’ in opposition. Maybe they’ll be a manifesto someday; ‘The Brooklyn What Manual for Better Living’ ”

 

DC: Girls like me, I couldn’t possibly tell you why.

 

EO: That’s just our girlfriends. Usually no one will touch us with a ten foot pole because we emanate stink. 75% of the clubs we play burn incense.

 

JK: I actually recently just found a XXXL Sean-John hoodie and I think armor like that is really flattering on people. It’s also really easy to conceal beer in it. These are both qualities of a proper suitor.

 

LC: There’s a GBV tribute, Robert Pollard, on the new cd. Which one of you is the big Guided By Voices fan?

 

JF: That’s one of the first decent songs I wrote with chords and words a while before the Brooklyn What got together. GBV were important for me, I saw them at the first Siren Fest when I was 14 and I saw Robert Pollard and was blown away, and immediately had to get really drunk. I downed one of those Coney Island daquiris in the tall plastic cup and felt so sick I had to leave and miss Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, who to this day I have no opinion on. Also, I was at GBV’s last NY show which was one of the best fucking shows ever. Robert Pollard is one of the unsung geniuses of rock n’ roll.

 

JK: I think Jamie’s still angry at me for not knowing about Guided By Voices until I joined the band.

 

LC: Evan, you’ve said that you could envision the group expanding its quieter side. I get the impression that Summer Song (great track on the new cd) is yours, is that a direction you’d like to explore?

 

EO: Summer Song is not mine. Jamie wrote it. I just wrote the outro, and me and John dressed it up. No Chords is mostly mine, though. I like complex harmonies and unusual chord progressions. I feel like, aside from lacking all kinds of passion, sincerity, real energy and enthusiasm and rebelliousness, modern “cool person” indie rock lacks real songwriting chops or any ear for an interesting harmony. Ever hear “The Dream’s Dream” by Television? Ever turn the lights off and listen to The Velvet Underground self titled? [actually yes: high on opium – LC] Or how about Billie Holiday’s voice? Or “Moon Dreams” by Miles Davis? These are examples of the very soul of this city glowing within the walls of a well constructed piece of music, and it gives you chills. I could never compare what I write to that kind of genius, but I really want to find a way to express that again. I believe the Brooklyn What should be by and large a loud band, I’m writing a hardcore song right now, but I also want us to have those moments once and a while, and most importantly, well written music beneath all of the noise. We’re going to earn our place by actually working hard on our songs.

 

JSN: Evan also has a great new song, that’s going to be on our next album, called “Tomorrow Night” which has a really cool solo Lou Reed vibe. I get to play slide, which was really exciting. Some of Jamie’s new material also seems to be influenced by doo-wop and soul, but it’s still noisy.

 

JK: Evan’s only like that when he’s been sniffing glue.

 

LC: Doug, is that bass you play the real thing or a hybrid, in other words a bass neck on a Jazzmaster body? It’s cool, I haven’t seen anyone playing one of those in a long time.

 

DC: It’s actually a Fender Jaguar. It’s the body of a ’66 Fender Jaguar Guitar, built as a bass, it’s amazing and I love it.

 

JK: I like when Doug uses his fingertip, not just the nail, as a pick.

 

LC: Jesse, you’re the drummer – drummers are always in a bunch of bands at once – what other bands are you in and where do they typically play?

 

JSN: There have been gigs where Jesse’s ended up playing with two or three different acts on the bill. Hardest working drummer in rock n roll.

 

JK: Oh shit well you know I got all the love in the world for the shitty six and we’re gonna get married someday but, hell yeah can I get more shout outs? John-Severin & the Quiet 1s: John, Doug and me getting quiet, getting loud, getting raw, playing rock songs, eating chicken sandwiches and French fries. John sent me his solo EP and I was like oh you know I gotta hit this! John and Doug are excellent songwriters and it is truly an honor and privilege to play with them. Last show we played was The Brooklyn What record release party. Mollify: another band of Brooklyn miscreants who I’ve been playing with since my first year of college at SUNY New Paltz where I met Billy and we played in the band Savage Panda together, where we covered the Libertines and where For The Best was born. Mollify has played at a variety of crazy places including the Bearsville Theatre in Woodstock, NY with the Alexis P. Suter Band [ pretty good blues/soul funk band – LC], the Brooklyn Lyceum with The Brooklyn What, a New Paltz dorm, bar and most rocking of all a Park Slope synagogue. Musical soulmates. Tell the Dark Sky, representing upper Manhattan and Queens and formerly the hardcore punk band Tricks of The Tradeless. We played ABC No Rio, some unmarked bar in Brooklyn with Team Spider, [good ska punk band] a punk collective in Queens, Purchase College, a Library in New Jersey and the Crystal Pistol in Smyrna, Delaware. We are in the process of reformatting our sound using flavors of experimental, progressive, metal, punk, folk and electronic styles. These are my boys. My homies. We play with action figures and shit. They’re great musicians and creative thinkers.

 

I got other projects oooohh yes lemme shout-out the Quiet Beat Samplers, Gatzaholics, Fast Action, J Darwin, CrosbyMizzle, Ben and the Clammy Jam Band Blazin and as always the NB. 

 

LC: Is there a 8 1/2 X 11 of the band up on the wall over the counter at Wo Hop yet?

 

EO: A poster of our album can be seen on the back wall. It’s fairly large.

 

JK: Yeah we got a poster in Wo-Hop next to one of my old headshots when I was pursuing a career in selling my headshots. Last time I was there was after our Fat Baby show. I got chicken and corn soup, beef chow fun (good looks on that Adam), tea and a Tsingtao. What an excellent meal.

 

 

LC: Can I recommend the Szechuan string beans, they taste better the later it is. Plus the other thing about Wo Hop is that even though everyplace you go to eat is cutting back on the free stuff, they still give you the crackers AKA Chinese potato chips with the duck sauce and mustard!

January 26, 2009 Posted by | Music, music, concert, New York City | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Concert Review: Curtis Eller at Highline Ballroom, NYC 1/25/09

This was one of those good-to-be-in-NYC days. A trip to the Met to see the retrospective for departing director Philippe de Montebello was worth the shlep. The theme is simply a selection of the best of what the museum has acquired during his long tenure there. Everything is out of context, medieval Indian silk battle portraits side by side with antique instruments, pre-Renaissance Italian paintings, firearms, a Vermeer and a Van Gogh, effectively engaging and challenging the viewer with a whirlwind of art forms so diverse that it’s impossible not to discover something new and intriguing. The exhibit is up through the end of the month: you should see it.

 

After that it was down to St. Thomas Church where the estimable John Scott delivered a rousing, heart- and soul-warming program of Mendelssohn organ works, closing with a particularly inspiring, energetic take of the Second Organ Sonata. To fans of organ music, Scott needs no introduction; much has been written about him in this space, all of it good. The afternoon’s program was yet another reminder of how brilliant and stylistically diverse he is.

 

Next stop was Highline Ballroom, where songwriter/banjoist Curtis Eller was scheduled to play. Seafoam and the Psychedelic Chain Gang opened. Maybe because 70s music is so easy to lampoon, there are a whole bunch of parody bands around town who make fun of various 70s styles, Rawles Balls, Van Hayride and Mighty High notable among them. This band not only spoofs the music but also the look. Their frontman, his shaved chest festooned with the silliest temporary tattoos you could possibly imagine, affects a swishy, flamboyant gay stereotype (a swipe at Queen or Judas Priest, maybe?). The rest of the guys in the band all have the dirtbag look straight out of Almost Famous. Their musical satire ranges from predictable and dumb – give them credit for really knowing how to write a REO Speedwagon/Styx power ballad – to laugh-out-loud funny. The rhythm section plodded along predictably with the occasional faux Led Zep drum interlude. The guitarist and violinist would each simultaneously take a garish, masturbatory solo without paying the slightest attention to what the other was doing. Compounding the tasteless 70s vibe were the troupe of strippers with hula hoops cavorting across the stage while the band played. They closed with their Stonehenge number, all phony suspense as the volume rose to a crescendo that never arrived.

 

Curtis Eller took the stage and immediately climbed up on his chair, raising his mic to about a ten-foot height. To call him a dynamic performer would be an understatement. He spun, kicked up his leg a la Dontrelle Willis (now THERE’S a Curtis Eller song waiting to happen: The Ballad of Dontrelle Willis, the suspense is gonna kill us), darted out onto the tables to sing unamplified and at the end of the show took several sprints along the perimeter of the space, running outside til he reached the limit of how far the wireless mic on his banjo would carry. Because of his choice of instrument and maybe also because his songs have such a rich historical sensibility, he typically gets lumped in with the oldtimey crowd. Which doesn’t really do him justice: while his melodies frequently have a dark, Tom Waits-y bluesiness, the vibe is pure punk rock, especially when the lyrics hit you. And they hit hard and unsparing, with an Elvis Costello/LJ Murphy style brilliance. Eller’s bullshit detector is set to kill, whether playing psychopathologist and making fun of twisted everyday people or holding politicians to a pre-Bush regime standard. “I was extremely disappointed that plane made it back to Texas,” he mused. “Now it’s not an assassination, it’s just a murder.”

 

He opened with the aggressive, characteristically sardonic title track to his 2004 cd Taking Up Serpents Again, following with a coal miner’s bitter lament and then John Wilkes Booth, a fiery, minor-key call to arms that made an awfully good anthem before that one Tuesday last November. Like so many of Eller’s songs, Come Back to the Movies, Buster Keaton worked on several levels, in this case as both a sly, tongue-in-cheek slap at the entertainment-industrial complex and a revealing connection between the curmudgeonly and the reactionary.

 

To his further credit, Eller got the surprisingly young, obviously moneyed crowd going, especially on a quietly harsh 6/8 ballad about pigeon racing. Introducing the song, he mimicked a pigeon call: “You can do it, just pretend you’re from Hoboken,” he deadpanned, and by the time he’d reached the middle of the song, the crowd was a chorus of rats with wings.

 

As much as he energized the crowd, he antagonized them. “You know who Jack Ruby was? Some of you?” And then followed with the best song of the night, a blazing version of the haunting Appalachian gothic number Sweatshop Fire, from his latest cd Wirewalkers & Assassins (one of our top 50 picks of 2008):

 

I’m going down to Antietam with a quart of bourbon in my hand

I’m going to kick the shit out of Vicksburg…

I’m gonna get fucked up like Ulysses S. Grant

Get as black as a Tuesday in 1929

 

He closed with the barely restrained rage of Sugar in My Coffin – “There ain’t no such thing as Elvis Presley from the waist down, that’s one thing I learned from tv,” and encored with an evocatively wistful cityscape, “Coney Island right where it should be.” For anyone with an appreciation for what New York has lost and might create again now that all the money for luxury condos has evaporated, this show was a hopeful summer breeze on a nasty cold night. Curtis Eller is at Banjo Jim’s on 2/26 and then at Public Assembly on 3/14 before going off again on European tour.

January 26, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Song of the Day 1/26/09

Every day, our top 666 songs of alltime countdown gets one step closer to #1. Monday’s is #548:

The Sex Pistols – New York

The way Chris Thomas produced all those layers of Steve Jones’ guitar is one of the great studio achievements ever. Except that it left the grand total of two tracks for Johnny Rotten, who blew out his voice on the first take of the first song…and then had to do the rest of the album. And maybe sounded better for it. “A kiss, a kiss, sealed with a kiss, kiss this,” he snarls, dismissing his old tourmates the New York Dolls. Sweet pickslide by Jones to wind up the song. At all the mp3 sites; you may have to sift through several dodgy live versions.

January 26, 2009 Posted by | lists, Lists - Best of 2008 etc., Music, music, concert | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment