Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Concert Review: The Universal Thump at Barbes, Brooklyn NY 7/16/10

Keyboardist/singer Greta Gertler’s new band the Universal Thump were something beyond amazing Friday night. The orchestrated rock bands of the 70s may have gone the way of the dinosaurs (except for the Moody Blues) but this was like being in the front row at an ELO or Procol Harum show at the Royal Albert Hall. Except with better vocals. Gertler’s sometimes stratospheric high soprano fits this band well: she went up so far that there was no competing sonically with the lush, rich atmospherics of the Thumpettes, a.k.a. the Osso String Quartet, whose presence made all the difference. With Adam D. Gold terse yet sometimes surprising behind the drum kit, equally terse bass from Groove Collective’s Jonathan Maron, fiery powerpop guitar god Pete Galub on lead and Gertler at the piano, they segued seamlessly from one richly melodic, Romantically-tinged, counterintuitively structured song to the next.

Gertler’s been writing songs like that since she was in her teens: one Aimee Mann-inflected number in stately 6/8 time dated from 1993. Otherwise, the set was mostly all new material from the Universal Thump’s ongoing album (now an ep, with a kickstarter campaign in case you have money to burn). The opening number worked a wistful post-baroque melody down to a piano cascade where Gertler rumbled around in the low registers for awhile, then the strings took it up again. The wistful vibe kept going, an uneasy, brooding lyric soaring over an austere minor-key melody, with a terse viola solo out. Damien, from Gertler’s now-classic 2004 album The Baby That Brought Bad Weather was all understated longing, cached in the mighty swells of the strings.

Galub used the next song’s Penny Lane bounce as the launching pad for an unabashedly vicious, percussively crescendoing guitar solo, something he’d repeat a couple more times – even by his standards, he was especially energized. The best song of the evening, possible titled Closing Night began with a matter-of-factly dramatic series of piano chords, worked its way into a lush backbeat anthem with another one of those Galub slasher solos, and gracefully faded out. Gertler explained that her closing number had been appropriated (and turned into a sizeable hit) by an unnamed Australian band, who’d transformed it into a song about playing the lottery. As it rose to a ridiculously catchy chorus out of just vocals and strings, its hitworthiness struck home, hard. The audience wouldn’t let them go: the band encored with a majestically fluid version of Everybody Wants to Adore You, another smash of a pop song from The Baby That Brought Bad Weather. We do our own individual list of the best New York concerts of the year in December, and you can bet that this one will be on it. This was it for the Universal Thump’s shows this summer – adding yet another reason to look forward to fall, which at this point couldn’t come too soon.

July 19, 2010 Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Mancie Proves That Real Rock & Roll Still Exists in Williamsburg

Good old-fashioned garage-punk rock from…Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Proof that good things sometimes rear their heads in the most unlikely places. The titles of the songs on Mancie’s new ep reflect how they’re written – they keep ’em simple and nasty. Singer/guitarist Andrea Montgomery delivers them with an uneasy, impassioned voice: it’s clear that she means business, all the more so because she doesn’t go completely over the top. What she holds in reserve is the scary part. The first song, the riff-rocking So Well blends tasty layers of guitar, mixing distortion and wah tones. Track two, Say Say works off a growling four-note riff a la the Detroit Cobras, with a sweet, noisy guitar breakdown mid-song: “I want to say (SAY!) we’re going nowhere,” Montgomery sardonically reminds.

Don’t Even Try starts off with a trip-hop beat, which seems strikingly out of place here, like somebody was trying to make a pop song out of it – but the song resists, and when the guitars kick in, hard, it’s worth the wait. The last cut, Second Best, a swaying backbeat ballad hints that it might also go in a pop direction but once again, when the guitars attack – janglier, this time – it’s clear that this crew aren’t interested in selling out. The quavery wah solo straight out of the Ron Asheton playbook, 1969, is priceless. Mancie sound like they’d be a lot of fun live: they’re wrapping up their monthlong Monday July residency at Arlene’s tonight, the 19th and a week from today, the 26th at 9 PM.

July 19, 2010 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Song of the Day 7/19/10

Our best 666 songs of alltime countdown has reached the alltime top ten. When we started this countdown, in the fall of 2008, we had no idea that we’d last long enough to get this far! Here’s #10:

Elvis Costello – Man out of Time

Sympathy for the devil – one of Costello’s greatest achievements is how he can both demonize and humanize at the same time, as he does with the utterly evil character in question here. The best version we know of is on the long out-of-print three-cd live box set Costello & Nieve, from 1996; here’s one from before the original album version (on Imperial Bedroom) came out, 1982.

July 19, 2010 Posted by | lists, Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment