Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Song of the Day 7/22/09

Every day, our top 666 songs of alltime countdown gets one step closer to #1. Wednesday’s song is #371:

Steve WynnSomething to Remember Me By

So many versions of the iconic noir rocker’s killer kiss-off anthem floating around out there. The best of the acoustic cuts was released on the vinyl-only, now rare Straight to the Swapmeet ep, 1989. Tons of stuff up at archive.org, like this one from around the same time; the studio version on Kerosene Man is surprisingly stiff. Wynn still pulls this gem out of the woodwork at live shows.

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July 21, 2009 Posted by | lists, Lists - Best of 2008 etc., Music, music, concert | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Concert Review: Spanking Charlene at Lakeside Lounge, NYC 7/18/09

To get a Saturday night gig at the Lakeside you have to be either very good or very popular. Spanking Charlene are both. Saturday night found the entertainingly punkish, Americana-inflected rockers at the top of their game. With Mo Goldner’s roaring, Billy Zoom-inflected guitar and frontwoman Charlene McPherson’s unleashed wail, they mixed a lot of new material in with songs from their excellent 2007 debut cd, which if we’d published a “top 50 albums of the year” list back then would have definitely been on it. The anti-cattiness diatribe I Hate Girls was a spot-on as usual, as was When I’m Skinny, a slap at media-driven obsession with thinness (McPherson isn’t rail-thin but she’s hardly fat). She insisted that a friend in the audience introduce the big crowd-pleaser Pussy Is Pussy, which he seemed especially happy to do.

The newer songs were just as good. The growling, glam-inflected Where Are the Freaks offered some snide commentary on how the question of how much you earn now passes for acceptable barroom banter in the East Village. An catchy, insistent X-ish number about gentrification pushing everyone further and further to the outer fringes of the five boroughs hit the spot as well. The highlight of the show was a stark contrast, a haunting, towering, Americana-inflected requiem. “This one’s gonna kill me,” McPherson told her bandmates, but it didn’t. Then they returned to the merriment with I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend, which as McPherson related was inspired by an attempt by a lesbian to pick her up. Lakeside head honcho and guitar genius Eric “Roscoe” Ambel, who produced their cd, joined them for their last three numbers, adding a tasty, extra layer of smoldering grit. Definitely a fun way to wrap up what had been a long Saturday running all over town.

July 21, 2009 Posted by | Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Concert Review: Bern & the Brights at Spikehill, Brooklyn NY 7/18/09

An auspicious Brooklyn show by one of the finest, most intelligent and original exports from the impressively fertile music scene scattered around Montclair, New Jersey. This show was yet further proof that the best new rock music out there bears absolutely no resemblance to anything coming out of Williamsburg. Bern & the Brights’ sound is raw, plaintive and lush in an artsy vein somewhat evocative of New York cello rockers Pearl & the Beard. They don’t waste notes, they vary their tempos and their two women singers deliver a potent emotional impact: this band does not sound like they go gently into their parents’ luxury condo at the end of the night. Bandleader/Telecaster player Bernadette Malavarca sings with a big, powerful, wounded wail, a soulful delivery shared with just a tinge less projectile force by acoustic guitarist Catherine McGowan. Violinist Nicole Scorsone plays vividly and tersely, adding considerable poignancy to the band’s sound. Their sub bass player locked in impressively with the drums.  Their first song was an apprehensive minor-key number: “So long since I’ve been myself,” mused Malavarca. My Black Cat, sung by McGowan had a rustic Nashville gothic feel: toward the end of the song, the cat dies, and it’s not pretty. As the song wound up, Malavarca moved to the standup drum kit they’d set up to the side of the stage.

Another song was fast and fiery, punctuated with staccato violin and a swaying rhythm that grew funkier toward the end. Built around a catchy, insistent two-chord riff, When It’s Real was captivatingly perturbed, Malavarca’s soulful vocals effectively capturing a feeling of being pushed past the limit of willingly putting up with someone’s bullshit. The show wound up with a fast, Paisley Underground inflected stomp, a swaying, stark anthem possibly titled Irish Moss, and the somewhat epic Sleepless Aristotle which wound up as a delirious percussion jam, the whole band (and a friend of the band) joining in the pandemonium, banging on whatever was nearby and would resonate. This is a band that’s still growing – in places, some of the songs fall into the kind of lazy atonality that makes so much of indie rock so lame, i.e. the tendency to move a single note in a chord up or down a half step instead of shifting hand position to the real major or minor chord that would resolve the phrase more memorably and melodically. But most of the songs don’t have that problem. And indie rock types wouldn’t know the difference anyway. Watch this space for upcoming NYC area live dates.

July 21, 2009 Posted by | Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Concert Review: Nation Beat on Roosevelt Island, NYC 7/18/09

Nation Beat play what could be characterized as Brazilian country music, which might sound completely incongruous until you realize that from the 1950s through the 70s, musicians everywhere throughout northern Latin America and the Caribbean were influenced by American country sounds beamed from powerful Florida stations. This particular crew includes a Brazilian frontwoman and a bunch of Brooklynites in command of just about every style of fun party music from south of the Mason-Dixon line: the beat of nations. Willie Nelson is ostensibly a big fan, which makes sense since the country legend is actually a very diverse, jazzy player with a reggae album to his credit awhile back. The keening whine of the pedal steel enhances the country flavor; the trombone, drums and percussion play up the latin vibe. Saturday afternoon at Roosevelt Island, the band got a mostly neighborhood crowd of families, kids and wheelchair riders swaying in their seats.

The best of the straight-up country songs was an evocatively swaying number possibly titled Midnight Moon. A country waltz took Amazing Grace into salsa and sped it up. A Brazilian carnival tune began as reggae and then sped up to lickety-split, bracingly minor-key ska lit up by a blistering phaser guitar solo from the steel player, who’d been tossing off neat horn voicings from his strings for the previous half-hour. Toward the end of the set, they did a rousing cajun dance tune. The only time the cross-pollination got completely ridiculous was on a happy, bouncy treatment of Hank Williams’ I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry – not even the bracing Balkan violin solo that came out of nowhere and disappeared just as fast could save that one from “you have got to be kidding” territory. Still, this was a whole lot of fun. Nation Beat’s next gig, believe it or not, is at the Blue Note at 11 PM on 7/31.

A word about the surroundings: every Saturday at around four PM this summer there’s a free show here just around the corner from the Roosevelt Island F train stop – you can’t miss it. Situated between a couple of precariously cheap, hastily thrown up condo projects, there’s a sizeable lawn for sitting, a few benches and a delicious breeze off the water. So far it doesn’t look like anybody other than the locals know it exists. The incomparably fun Chicha Libre are here on 8/22.

July 21, 2009 Posted by | Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Art Review: An Excellent Short Summer Group Show at Black and White Gallery, NYC

Black and White Gallery’s current exhibit is characteristically relevant, cutting-edge and well worth a jaunt over to the western fringes of Chelsea. Michael Van den Besselaar provocatively addresses denial and in so doing takes a casual slap at pop art shallowness. Softly photorealistic portraits of vintage television sets from the 70s – two of Asian manufacture, one European – project images of terrorist activity (a hijacked airliner, a helicopter and a trio of Mercedes 240 series sedans) from their grainy black-and-white screens. Eerier still is a set of six Weegee-esque dead womens’ faces. Bonnie Parker, Marilyn Monroe, Mother Teresa, Evita Peron and Rosa Parks are smaller in death than life; the Anna Nicole Smith portrait pans down on her, puffy and lifeless in the purest sense of the word.

Most striking of all is Van den Besselaar’s Lethal Chamber Series. Whether or not these are actual depictions of the rooms where American executioners paralyze and then inject convicts with caustic de-icing chemicals, they’re impossible to turn away from, the curtained white rooms with their gurneys and straps radiating a brutally sarcastic soft-focus light.

Also on display: all-white, lifesize gas masks by Konstantinos Stamatiou; starkly strange cross-stitch-on-canvas figures by Alicia Ross; hip-hop inspired black-and-white collages by Elia Alba and a characteristically devious trio of pitch black “fur geese” sculptures by the irrepressible Jason Clay Lewis (the guy responsible for a recent series of sculptures made out of D-Con rat poison), which might be characterized as the most disturbing items in the entire exhibit

On opening night, the gallery also featured live black-and-white art. Pesu methodically painted a stylized Asian-tinged portrait of a dragon with what appeared to be smiley faces on its back. Those turned out to be scales. To his right, Fernando Mora created a raw, striking, possibly gunsight-view tableau that started out convex and then as he embellished it became just the opposite. Getting your perspective turned inside out after mass quantities of wine is great mind-melting fun – and serves as a vivid reminder of the arduous physical labor that is so often part and parcel of creating first-class art. More galleries should be doing things like this. The current exhibit runs through August 8. Black and White Gallery is at 636 W 28th St., ground floor, hours are Tuesday – Saturday, 11 AM – 6 PM and by appointment.

July 21, 2009 Posted by | Art, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Art Review: Leona Christie at Redflagg Gallery, NYC

We need more art like Leona Christie’s playful, trippy, surreal, utterly original ink-and-gouache drawings and etchings. 1960s psychedelic graphic art and album art seem to be a big influence, but Christie’s work is far less stylized. Bulbous, disembodied sepia-toned forms float in space (or seemingly in a microscopic, possibly biological environment: the digestive system on acid?), constantly morphing into one thing or another. They draw you in, make you smile, make you laugh and make you wonder what other influences, wink wink, are at play here. Here are some possible titles in lieu of Christie’s actually far more serious designations: Pedicure in Space; Pixies in the Intestine; Amoeba Space Fighter; Mollusk Tongue; The Baseball Plant Is Sprouting.

A tube emits a gentle bubble as the fetus above looks on with a bemused expression. Two women relax in a misty, spa-like environment – or is one of them on the toilet? A lava lamp blows bubbles, a big bath towel flows from a woman’s face, a lightbulb grows from the stem of a mushroom. Are you smiling yet? The prices are shockingly affordable for art of this caliber of technical mastery and out-of-the-box imagination. The exhibit is up through September 12 at Redflagg Gallery, 638 West 28th Street, between 11th & 12th Avenues, ground floor. Summer hours are Thursday & Friday, 10 AM – 6 PM.

July 21, 2009 Posted by | Art, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Top Ten Songs of the Week 7/20/09

We do this every Tuesday. You’ll see this week’s #1 song on our Best 100 songs of 2009 list at the end of December, along with maybe some of the rest of these too. This is strictly for fun – it’s Lucid Culture’s tribute to Kasey Kasem and a way to spread the word about some of the great music out there that’s too edgy for the corporate media and their imitators in the blogosphere. Every link here except for one will take you to each individual song.

1. Livia Hoffman – All My Imaginary Children

Bitter, brittle and brilliant. And unreleased – you’ll have to see this one live, assuming the underground rock legend keeps coming out of her lair to play it. It’s a fan favorite.

2. Mickey Wynne – All Quiet on the Eastern Frontier

Absolutely spot-on, darkly bluesy critique of war profiteering, Bush and Tony Blair-style. Roger Waters would approve.

3. Sabrosa Purr – One Weak Moment

Hypnotic and sad in a Sparklehorse kind of way

4. Billy Magee – The Happy Song

NOT. But it’s funny. He’s from the Statues of Liberty.

5. The Hellblinki Sextet – Indelicate Brew

Deliciously ominous oldtimey noir cabaret from this excellent, totally original Asheville, North Carolina band.

6. Romashka – Shimdiggy

Characteristically fiery balkan dance instrumental. They’re at Pier One on the upper West on 8/9 at 7 PM.

7. Skelter – Lucifer Sam

Classic Pink Floyd cover, not quite up to the True West version but pretty awesome anyway.

8. Mazarkabul – Behind the Veil

Classic Turkish metal. And here’s a cover of Fear of the Dark by Iron Maiden.

9. Lisa Burns – When You Walk in the Room

Irresistible Jackie DeShannon cover, totally retro 60s style.

10. The Whiskey Daredevils – Mickey’s Big Mouth

Barroom rock. “A six of Mickey’s Big Mouth and a half ounce of weed. I’ve got Mickey’s Big Mouth on ice, a buck ninety nine!” Scroll down the page and you’ll see it.

July 21, 2009 Posted by | lists, Lists - Best of 2008 etc., Music, music, concert | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment