Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Album of the Day 10/16/10

Every day our 1000 best albums of all time countdown continues all the way to #1. Saturday’s album is #836:

Wire – Chairs Missing

The fan favorite is Pink Flag: no disrespect to that. It’s as fun, and still practically as unique now as it was when these defiantly artsy British punks released it in 1977, despite Elastica and all those Williamsburg bands who stood behind Justine Frischmann in the plagiarism queue. This is Wire’s second album, from 1978, emphasis on the art rather than the punk, but the songs are arguably stronger this time out. As with Pink Flag, there are plenty of anthemic, staccato, chromatically charged, reverb-drenched Syd Barrett-ish vignettes like Practice Makes Perfect and the gleefully insistent anthem I Am the Fly (as in “I am the fly in the ointment”). The best song here is the surprisingly poppy, insanely catchy, genuinely beautiful Outdoor Miner, which a million lame indie bands claim as inspiration they’ll never be able to live up to. Side one also has the distantly off-kilter I Feel Mysterious Today; the Twilight Zone punk of French Film Blurred; the weirdly catchy Men 2nd; the macabre-tinged Marooned; the hypnotic Sand in My Joints and Being Sucked In Again. Side two’s highlights include the unselfconsciously funny From the Nursery, the woozily ominous Used To and the more-or-less straight-up punk Too Late. Colin Newman’s deadpan monotone vocals are not an affectation but a disguise: a lot of the band’s lyrics have a tightlipped, verrrry British absurdist humor. The 1994 reissue has four bonus tracks, which are worth hunting down if you’re a rabid fan. Wire’s frequently interrupted career arguably peaked in the 70s (their 1979 album 154 is also worth hearing), although their recent material is also choice, if a little closer to dreampop than punk. Here’s a random torrent.

October 16, 2010 Posted by | lists, Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Illimanjaro Boils Over in a Good Way

It’s always fun to discover a band as absolutely unique as Illimanjaro. They play a lot of punk and ska shows, but they venture out a lot further than either of those styles. For one, they’re a rare drummer-led rock band, joining the ranks of New Order (on the first album, anyway), Terry Anderson’s OAKTeam, New York rock en Espanol stars New Madrid and of course Moulty & the Barbarians (Phil Collins doesn’t qualify as rock, and anyway he doesn’t play drums anymore, does he?). On their new album Boiling Point, Proph the drummer supplies lead vocals – with bass player Furious George taking over on the sixth track. Pep, their guitarist is a one-man guitar army and a master of a million styles, from ambitious Tom Morello-style metal/funk, to 70s art-rock, to punk, blues and reggae. The songwriting is creative, switching from one style to another in a split-second; the energy level is through the roof. There’s definitely a Rage Against the Machine influence, but Illimanajaro are a lot more psychedelic (and interesting, when you think about it), with tinges of dub and even latin sounds.

The first track is hip-hop over a fiery funk/metal groove and an eerily atmospheric, psychedelic guitar interlude. The eight-minute epic Danger twists and weaves like a cruiserweight, through a surprisingly poppy, catchy chorus, a Santana-esque passage and then down to the rumble of the bass and drums – and then another another endless wall of cumulo nimbus guitar. And then it segues into a woozy but bracing dub-metal instrumental. The fourth track, Born to Believe starts out with a jagged late 80s indie/noiserock vibe, like Sonic Youth at their most focused and then morphs into slashing late-70s chorus-box powerpop with a searing, period-perfect bluesmetal guitar solo. The next song, White Girl Living in Bushwick is a slow jam, a real surprise, dedicated not to a gentrifier from Boca Raton or Lake Wayzata, but to a girl who grew up a little further out in Brooklyn, in Sheepshead Bay who now calls Bushwick Bill’s old turf her home.

The kiss-off anthem 6th Time Around takes a Sabbath-style riff and makes funky dub out of it, like an artsier version of the Bad Brains. The band end the album by taking a stab at making art-rock out of singsongey Warped Tour punk/pop. So many flavors, it’s insane. Illimanjaro’s next gig is at four in the afternoon on the Hell Gate stage at Astoria Park, Hoyt Ave. South and Ditmars Blvd. in Astoria this Saturday the 24th; their next one after that is August 6 at the Silent Barn in Ridgewood.

July 21, 2010 Posted by | funk music, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Concert Review: Wire at South Street Seaport, NYC 5/30/08

A pounding, hypnotic, energetic show, revealing the seminal British punk/new wave band none the worse for the thirty years since they played their first New York show at CBGB in 1977. If anything, the prototypical art-school punks are more minimalist than they were three decades ago when their highly influential debut album Pink Flag came out. Running their guitars through a labyrinth of digital reverb and delay effects, they roared through almost an hour of the “modernist deconstructed rock distanced from the form” or whatever bullshit their website says their music is about. Like so many of their punk contemporaries, they weren’t the greatest musicians, but their uniquely eerie melodicism was matched by an equally quirky sense of humor: frontman Colin Newman’s off-key, semi-shouted nonsequiturs have always imbued with a very subtle, very British sense of fun, something their legions of imitators (REM, said Michael Stipe, would never have existed without Wire) have been oblivious to. This wasn’t the original unit: they now have a woman (not Justine Frischmann) serving as the second guitarist, and her aggressive, noisy playing is just what this band needs to keep the old songs sounding fresh.

The set they played last night spanned the group’s entire career, from the barely ninety-second 106 Beats That, from Pink Flag, to a long, pummeling, danceable number that hung on the same chord for about four minutes as the overtones from the guitars built a seemingly impenetrable wall. A lot of Wire’s songs make great dance music, but, predictably, the surprisingly small crowd scattered around the stage didn’t move a muscle. Although, as one concertgoer remarked, it was a totally 90s crowd in all the best ways, a refreshingly diverse mix of gay and straight, old and young, with hardly a $300 bedhead haircut to be seen anywhere.

“You haven’t taken the opportunity to see the Eagles,” Newman noted (apparently the El Lay schlockmeisters were in town: who knew?). Some things never change: Wire’s subtly biting, percussively optimistic tunes remain just as much of an antidote to top 40 as they were three decades ago.

“I’m going to get epilepsy up here,” said bassist Graham Lewis, imploring the light person to be a little less creative. Otherwise, they didn’t say much, hitting the audience with one song after another, flailing away through several of their signature, sudden, cold endings. The last of their encores was a song they’d played at that first CBGB show, inbued with all the energy and intensity that one could hope for from a band from that era.

The next stop of the evening was Crash Mansion, that tourist trap on lower Bowery where El Jezel were playing the release show for their new cd The Warm Frequency. Word on the street is that it’s excellent, the album that Portishead should have made this year but didn’t. Sadly, it didn’t take long to figure out that the bands were running way, way behind schedule. Surrounded by the entire cast of the O.C. (or what looked like it, anyway) and with plenty of booze at home, the choice was clear. But you should see El Jezel sometime – they play around town at least once a month.

May 31, 2008 Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment