Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Swift Years Mash Up Eclectic Sounds from Montreal and Around the Globe

Here’s how it works in the blogosphere:we’ve got every PR agent on the planet hammering on our virtual door, pleading for some attention, but we like it best when we do a writeup on the Montreal Jazz Festival, a Quebecois band we’ve never heard of finds it, and then sends us a link to their stuff. And it turns out, they’re great! Canadian trio Swift Years’ most recent album goes back to 2005, and it’s a ton of fun. They’re sort of a north-of-the-border counterpart to Tribecastan. What guitarist Patrick Hutchinson, mandolinist Bob Cussen and bassist Suzanne Ungar have assembled here is an endlessly surprising, eclectic, genuinely amusing mix of cross-pollinated global sounds. They don’t have drums on the album, but it’s so tight that you don’t notice unless you listen closely.

Musically, the two real killer tracks here are The Exile and The Sand, both tricky, bitter, bracing, psychedelic Smyrnika rock instrumentals much in the style of Annabouboula, with layers of mandolin, guitar and soaring bass. The real classic here is Old Man Santo. See, Old Man Santo – think about that title for a minute – had a Farm, E-I-G-M-O. On the farm he had some pot, and some pigs, and some cows, really bloody pissed-off mad cows everywhere. We won’t spoil the plot because it’s as funny as it is unfortunately true.

A lot of the other tracks here add reggae to enhance the comedic factor. Beside Me’s protagonist doesn’t let his lack of money stop him from trying to pick up the girl: “After supper we could split a beer,” he tells her. He’s strictly oldschool: “I’m a rotary phone, I’m the last bus home…at home I drink out of glasses that I take home from bars, an old piggybank is my retirement plan, the clothes from my back are from the Sally Ann.” Rasta Puszta blends reggae, bluegrass and a happy Eastern European dance in there somewhere. And I Dreamed I Stopped Smoking is an amusing faux-country song, like a zeros update on what the Stones did with Dear Doctor.

They do a tongue-in-cheek speed-up and then do it all over again on the gypsy-flavored Hanko Hanko, and merge Quebecois with bluegrass on the equally sardonic Mon Vieux François. The title track, which sounds like the Boomtown Rats doing a creepy reggae tune, offers a view of the afterlife where everything is pretty much the same for these guys, everybody playing everyone else’s culture’s music in one big mashup, with a politically aware edge. In this particular world, right-wing politicians are reincarnated as single mothers. The album also includes a gorgeous, plaintive Belgian barroom waltz, a medley of the Eddystone Light and three jigs, and a lickety-split string band version of Ain’t Nobody’s Business. The whole thing is streaming at Swift Years’ bandcamp site – thanks for finding us, guys! Now it’s the rest of the world’s turn to discover this entertaining band.

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July 21, 2011 Posted by | folk music, gypsy music, irish music, middle eastern music, Music, music, concert, reggae music, review, Reviews, rock music, world music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Album of the Day 1/26/11

Every day our 1000 best albums of all time countdown continues, all the way to #1. Wednesday’s album is #734:

The Scofflaws – Live Vol. 1

With jazz chops and punk attitude, Long Island, New York’s Scofflaws were one of the most entertaining of the third-wave ska bands of the 90s – and fifteen years later, still are. On this 1997 live set (conceived as the first of a series of live albums) frontmen Sammy Brooks – vocals and tenor sax – and Buford O’Sullivan – vox and trombone – work the crowd into a frenzy as the rest of the eight-piece band cooks behind them, through a mix of oldschool ska classics, boisterous originals and a characteristically amusing, pretty punked-out cover of These Boots Are Made for Walking. The instrumentals here are killer: alto saxophonist Paul Gebhardt’s Skagroovie sounds like a Skatalites classic; they rip through Tommy McCook’s Ska-La Parisian, Jackie Opel’s Til the End of Time and do a neat original arrangement of Gerry Mulligan’s Bernie’s Tune. The briskly shuffling Groovin’ Up is a launching pad for blistering solos around the horn, while the baritone sax-driven reggae-rap Nude Beach echoes the Boomtown Rats’ House on Fire. The surreal Paul Getty offers a raised middle finger to the boss – the outro singalong, “Work sucks!” is classic. There’s also the bouncy seduction anthem After the Lights, the comedic Back Door Open, the even funnier Ska-La-Carte, the horror movie sonics of Spider on My Bed and a homage to William Shatner, the “sexiest fucking skinhead in outer space.” Here’s a random torrent.

January 25, 2011 Posted by | lists, Music, music, concert, ska music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Song of the Day 7/22/10

Our daily best 666 songs of alltime countdown is working its way through the top ten: just a week left before we reach the greatest song ever. Thursday’s is #7:

The Boomtown Rats – Rat Trap

In his autobiography, Bob Geldof explained that this song was inspired by his brief tenure working at a slaughterhouse, particularly the line “pus and grime ooze from its scab-crusted sores.” An apt metaphor for the dead-end blue-collar life he chronicles here, a Springsteenish epic filtered through the cruel prism of punk rock. With a killer bassline by Pete Briquette, and the most exhilarating outro in the history of rock, Garry Roberts’ and Gerry Cott’s guitars melting into a firestorm, Johnnie Fingers sharpshooting through it on the electric piano. It’s on the classic Tonic for the Troops album from 1978.

July 22, 2010 Posted by | lists, Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Song of the Day 7/7/10

About three weeks til our best 666 songs of alltime countdown reaches #1…and then we start with the 1000 best albums of alltime. Wednesday’s song is #22:

The Boomtown Rats – When the Night Comes

Savage, sarcastic and more than somewhat desperate afterwork scenario. How little the corporate world has changed since 1979:

You get hooked so quick to everything, even your chains
You’re crouching in your corner til they open up your cage

Garry Roberts’ amphetamine, flamenco-spiked guitar solo is one of the most exhilarating moments in the history of rock. From the Fine Art of Surfacing.

July 7, 2010 Posted by | lists, Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Song of the Day 6/10/10

Every day til the end of July, our best 666 songs of alltime countdown continues, all the way to #1. And then we’ll start with the 666 best albums of alltime. Thursday’s song is #49:

The Boomtown Rats – I Can Make It If You Can

Fiery, towering, anguished anthem that serves as the centerpiece of the band’s classic 1977 debut album, Garry Roberts and Gerry Cott trading searing riffage:

Don’t talk about the future, please don’t talk about the past
Let’s forget about the present, it’s hard enough to laugh

The link in the title above is a ferocious high quality live take.

June 10, 2010 Posted by | lists, Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Song of the Day 6/7/10

The best 666 songs of alltime countdown continues every day, all the way to #1. Monday’s song is #52:

The Boomtown Rats – I Don’t Like Mondays

Widely banned at the time it was released, this gorgeous piano-and-orchestra art-rock anthem memorialized the first schoolyard sniper attack (and unwittingly foretold many more to come – this was back in the days before the antidepressants that Kip Kinkel, Dylan Klebold and all of the other school shooters were taking when they pulled the trigger). From The Fine Art of Surfacing, 1979; there’s also a killer live version with just Bob Geldof backed by Johnnie Fingers on piano on the first Secret Policeman’s Ball soundtrack from two years later. Who would have thought that Geldof originally wrote this as a reggae song.

June 7, 2010 Posted by | lists, Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Song of the Day 5/25/10

The best 666 songs of alltime countdown continues every day, all the way to #1. Tuesday’s song is #65:

The Boomtown Rats – Close As You’ll Ever Be

As punk as they ever got, a savage, macabre blast of machine-shop guitar fury from the band’s first album, 1977.

May 25, 2010 Posted by | lists, Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Song of the Day 4/23/10

The best 666 songs of alltime countdown continues every day, all the way to #1. Friday’s song is #97:

The Boomtown Rats – Someone’s Looking At You

Walk on the Wild Side-inflected new wave anthem, a nasty summertime police state scenario from The Fine Art of Surfacing, 1979 that only gets more prophetic and apropos as the years go by:

There’s a spy in the sky
There’s noise on the wire
There’s a tap on the line for every paranoid’s desire

The link above is the album version; here’s a nice live take.

April 23, 2010 Posted by | lists, Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Song of the Day 4/15/10

The best 666 songs of alltime countdown continues every day, all the way to #1. Thursday’s song is #105:

The Boomtown Rats – Watch Out for the Normal People

The artsy Irish punk rockers open the song with one of the most savagely beautiful guitar hooks ever recorded, then tease the listener til they finally bring it back at the end. In between there’s some tasty, stomping riff-rock. “Watch out for the normal people, there’s more of us than there’s of you.” From the British version (and also the late-90s cd reissue) of their classic 1978 lp A Tonic for the Troops.

April 14, 2010 Posted by | lists, Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

CD Review: Black 47 – Bankers and Gangsters

Another year, yet another excellent album from Black 47. It’s hard to fathom how they can keep it so fresh after twenty years, but they do it. Their previous album Iraq, a vividly thematic soldiers-eye view of the never-ending war, took the #1 spot on our best-of-2008 albums list. This one finds the Irish-American rockers exploring more diverse terrain, a characteristically eclectic mix of Clash-style anthems, a small handful of electrified Celtic dances, a reminiscence of better days in the New York rock scene, snarling sociopolitical commentary and more lighthearted, comedic fare. Black 47 make it very easy for you to like them and get to know them: the lyrics to the all the songs on the album are here and the “song bios,” each one explaining what they’re about, should you want the complete story, are here. Musically speaking, they go for a big, blazing, somewhat punk-inflected sound, equal parts Boomtown Rats and Pogues with frequent tinges of ska, reggae and of course traditional Irish tunes, bandleader/guitarist Larry Kirwan (who has an excellent new novel out, Rockin’ the Bronx) charismatically railing and wailing out front.

The title track, a big sardonic Clash-style anthem speaks for the generations disenfranchised by the new Great Depression; likewise, the vivid opening cut, Long Hot Summer Coming On ominously foreshadows a city where all hell’s about to break loose. Wedding Reel, a duet, is a somewhat less brutal take on what the Pogues did with A Fairytale of New York. There’s also a fiery tribute to Rosemary Nelson, the murdered Irish human rights crusader; a cynical number about an Irish music groupie; and a couple of absolutely surreal ones, the first about a Lower East Side romance circa a hundred years ago that isn’t actually as unlikely as it might seem (and on which the band proves perfectly capable of playing a good freilach), the other a long anthem based on the true story where former Jimi Hendrix bassist Noel Redding absconded with tapes of Hendrix’ last live recordings, using them as collateral for a mortgage in Ireland. All of this is catchy, a lot it is funny and you can sometimes dance to it, in other words, typical Black 47.

Black 47 typically play Connolly’s on Saturday nights at 10 when they’re not on the road; they’re also doing their annual St. Paddy’s Day show early on the 17th at B.B. King’s at 7, which despite the Times Squaresville location should be a good way to spend the evening away from the amateurs.

March 13, 2010 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment