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JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Album of the Day 10/6/10

Every day our 1000 best albums of all time countdown continues all the way to #1. Wednesday’s album is #846:

Steve Earle – The Revolution Starts…Now

Believe it or not, this ferocious, guitar-driven Americana rock record won a Grammy – for “best contemporary folk album,” of all things – in 2004. It’s as memorable and apt a response to the Bush regime’s reign of terror as anyone recorded during those years. Many of the songs are as funny as they are savage, from the rig rocking anthem Home to Houston – told from the point of view of a mercenary who went to Iraq for the money but quickly found he couldn’t hack it – to the hilariously sarcastic faux-calypso of Condi, Condi (a backhanded slap at ice queen Condoleeza Rice), to the freedom-of-speech anthem F the CC (as in, “Fuck the FCC, fuck the CIA, we’re living in the goddamn USA”). It’s also got the insightful, acoustic Rich Man’s War, the mysterious Gringo’s Tale (where a CIA black ops guy comes clean…sort of), the rousing title track, the Orbison-inspired I Thought You Should Know and the Byrdsy rocker The Seeker. Pretty much everything Earle ever did, from 1986’s Guitar Town through his most recent album of Townes Van Zandt covers, is worth owning, even including his crack period in the late 80s and early 90s. His short story collection, Doghouse Roses, is also excellent and just as vivid as his song lyrics. Not something you could say about many other songwriters. Here’s a random torrent.

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October 5, 2010 Posted by | lists, Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Album of the Day 10/5/10

Every day our 1000 best albums of all time countdown continues all the way to #1. Tuesday’s album is #847:

The Electric Eels – The Eyeball of Hell

These guys invented no wave. In Cleveland. In 1972. Contemporaries of Rocket from the Tombs as well as the Raspberries (sounds absurd, but it’s true), in their brief three-year career they played three shows and released one album, reputedly because nobody in the band got along. Which makes sense once you hear it. This 1998 compilation contains pretty much everything from that along with almost another album’s worth of outtakes and rehearsal material. Frontman Dave E channels some seriously strung-out vibes over John Morton’s fingers-down-the-blackboard guitar, through a completely unhinged, screeching, feedback-enhanced, sometimes early 70s metal-flaked attack on songs with titles like Agitated, Cyclotron, You’re Full of Shit, Sewercide, and a hilarious spoof of free jazz, Jazz Is. They were also responsible for one of the alltime great punk covers (as a description, punk might be a little tame), a version of Dead Man’s Curve that beats Jan and Dean at the drag race of death. Not exactly easy listening, but as ugly, confrontational, uncompromising and in its own twisted way, disarmingly honest music, it has few equals. Here’s a random torrent.

October 5, 2010 Posted by | lists, Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The New Collisions’ Optimistic Full-Length Debut

Track for track, this could be the best rock album of 2010. The New Collisions burst out of Boston last year with an ep that blended coy, quirky retro 80s new wave pop with a dark, literate lyrical edge. Their new full-length debut The Optimist is a lot more serious and more intense: the title is sarcastic to the extreme. It’s a concept album of sorts about a society in collapse. Musically, it’s a turn in a much louder direction, with more of a fiery powerpop edge, guitarist Scott Guild adding layer after layer of roar, jangle and clang. Casey Gruttadauria’s woozily oscillating vintage synthesizer is further back in the mix this time out alongside Alex Stern’s percussive, insistent, melodic bass and Zak Kahn’s drums. Maybe what’s most impressive of all is how much more of her range frontwoman Sarah Guild is using, wary and serious in the lower registers when she’s not soaring above the roar with the chirpy wail she utilized so effectively on the band’s early material. She sings in character – whether sarcastic, defiant or simply exhausted, she draws you in and makes these narratives hard to turn away from. She brings some of the outraged witness that Siouxsie Sioux played so well for so long to these songs.

The single is Dying Alone, impossibly catchy yet bitter and cynical to the extreme. “God knows you hate the quiet, when you’re dying, dying alone,” Sarah reminds with an understated angst. Swift Destruction is a fast new wave powerpop smash, a final concession to what sounds like the inevitable: “I’d like to order up a swift destruction…standing in the shadows of my pride,” she announces. The most memorable cut on the entire album is Over, an exasperated, uncharacteristically intimate kiss-off anthem (like the best punk performers, Sarah typically keeps the listener at a safe distance). They go back to the roaring powerpop vibe with Seven Generations, a chronicle of decay: “Are we happy yet?” Sarah asks sarcastically. The sarcasm reaches boiling point with Ne’er Do Well, the album’s lyrical high point, which wouldn’t be out of place in the Squeeze catalog from around 1979. Over a lush guitar-and-keyboard attack, Sarah savagely details the dissolute life of someone who just won’t grow up:

Bring me all your ablebodied men
So I don’t have to take on the chin
And I don’t have a confrontation with what might have been
I’ve got my suitcase in back to cushion the impact
Better not to have tried at all
Rules are beaten, I haven’t eaten and I want to be alone

Coattail Rider is sort of a smoother I Don’t Want to Got to Chelsea, with a big explosive chorus, Sarah’s absolutely nailing the lyric with a coy disingenuousness. The lone previously released track here, the dead-end anomine anthem In a Shadow benefits from bigger production than the version on last year’s ep (and a really funny quote from the 70s cheeseball hit Funkytown). They wind up the album with an almost unrecognizable, Joy Division-flavored cover of the B-52’s Give Me Back My Man and then the most overtly pop-oriented track here, Lazy, with its oscillating layers of synth and repetitive chorus hook. The New Collisions play the cd release show for this one at Great Scott in Allston, Massachusetts on October 6.

October 5, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment