Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Album of the Day 6/26/11

Today is Day Two of the Montreal Jazz Festival and the core crew here is taking it in: details soon. In the meantime, as we do every day, our 1000 best albums of all time countdown continues all the way to #1. Sunday’s album is #583:

Marty Willson-Piper – Nightjar

The preeminent twelve-string guitarist of our time, Marty Willson-Piper is also a powerful and eclectic lyrical rock songwriter, much like Steve Kilbey, his bandmate in legendary Australian art-rockers the Church. This 2009 masterpiece is every bit as good as any of his albums with that band. Willson-Piper proves as adept at period-perfect mid-60s Bakersfield country (the wistful A Game for Losers and the stern The Love You Never Had) as he is at towering, intense, swirlingly orchestrated anthems like No One There. The album’s centerpiece, The Sniper, is one of the latter, a bitter contemplation of whether murder is ever justifiable (in this case, there’s a tyrant in the crosshairs). There’s also the early 70s style Britfolk of Lullaby for the Lonely; the casually and savagely hilarious eco-anthem More Is Less; the even more brutally funny Feed Your Mind; the blistering, sardonic rocker High Down Below;and the vividly elegaic Song for Victor Jara. Here’s a random torrent; the cd is still available from Second Motion.

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June 26, 2011 Posted by | lists, Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Oxygen Ponies’ Exit Wounds Leaves a Mark

The Oxygen Ponies’ 2009 album Harmony Handgrenade was a ferocious, lyrical art-rock masterpiece, one of the best releases of recent years: you can find it on our Best Albums of All Time list. Written during the waning days of the Bush regime, it’s a chronicle of love under an occupation. On the band’s new album Exit Wounds, frontman Paul Megna revisits similarly tortured terrain, this time more personal than political. For the most part, this is an album of snarling kiss-off songs, with psychedelic, anguished epic grandeur juxtaposed against stark Leonard Cohen-esque passages. The band this most closely resembles is Australian art-rock legends the Church, both in terms of the stunningly catchy simplicity of Megna’s melodies, the hypnotic sweep of the production and the clever, literate savagery of his lyrics.

“The velvet rope around your neck pulled you away,” he intones in his signature rasp in the opening track, Hollywood, as the band pulses with a trancey post-Velvets sway behind him. “Did you sell your face so you could buy the farm out at Maggie’s place?” he asks. But this isn’t merely an indictment of a starstruck, clueless girl: it indicts an entire generation. As Megna reaffirms later on with the amusing I Don’t Want Yr Love: after a pretty hilarious Lou Reed quote, he makes it clear that he doesn’t “want to be anywhere you are ’cause all the people there are blinded by the stars.” The outgoing mantra of “nobody loves you anymore” is just plain brutal: it makes a great outgoing message for anyone in need of some post-breakup vengeance. And the cello-driven This Disaster offers a more expansive view of the wreckage leading up to the big dramatic rift, Megna musing that “If all we have left is one technicolor kiss, I’d rather be the standin than the star.”

Hope and Pray is pure schadenfreude – it could be the great missing track from the Jesus & Mary Chain’s Darklands, but with better production values. “Hope the further down you go, the higher is the climb,” Megna snarls. He follows that with the bitter lament Good Thing, crescendoing out of spare, plaintive folk-pop with a cynical fury:

This is a call to everyone
Wake your daughters, rouse your sons
Take your aim and shoot to kill
So your friends don’t hurt you
‘Cause others will

Hornet, a dead ringer for a Steve Kilbey song, offers a backhanded compliment to a femme fatale, “Dancing around like a flame in the fire/As hot as it gets you don’t have to perspire.” They revert to Jesus & Mary Chain mode for Wild Animals, a more subtle putdown: “You think you’re smart, that each work of art ended up a failure,” Megna taunts. The indomitable Drink Myself Alive packs a punch, its undeterred narrator only willing to change his wicked ways if the girl who’s bedeviled him will do the same. With a distantly Beatlesque swing, Land That Time Forgot wouldn’t be out of place in the Spottiswoode catalog: it works both as a tribute to an individualist and a nasty slap at trendy conformists: “You’re walking around ahead of the crowd, such happiness is never allowed,” Megna sneers. He reprises that theme on the sparse, more gentle Jellybean with its torrents of lyrics:

Everyone around me is just sharing the same brain…
I guess they find it’s easier to be part of the whole
Searching for a reason why they buy the shit they’re sold.

The album ends on a completely unexpected note with the pretty, backbeat pop hit Christmas Every Morning. The album is out now on insurgent Brooklyn label Hidden Target Records, the same folks who put out Randi Russo’s brilliant new Fragile Animal a couple months ago. This one’s in the same league: it’s hard to imagine a better album than this coming out any time this year. Watch this space for upcoming NYC dates.

May 17, 2011 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hypnotic Textures from Teletextile

Brooklyn band Teletextile’s latest ep, Reflector, makes a good segue with Damian Quinones (just reviewed here), although it draws on completely different influences, in this case late 80s dreampop and 90s trip-hop. Frontwoman/keyboardist/harpist Pamela Martinez writes simple, memorable hooks that slowly build into big anthems, backed by Caitlin Gray on bass and guitars, Luke Schnieders on drums and a posse of special guests. As a singer, Martinez is just as interesting when she’s quiet and pensive as when she belts – and she saves the volume for when she really needs it. The album’s first song, I Don’t Know How to Act Here sets the stage for everything that follows it, a dreamy intro morphing into quirky trip-hop with disquieting, bell-like keyboards and a big anthemic guitar crescendo. “Endless, endless, endless,” is the uneasy closing mantra.

What If I sets atmospheric vocals over tricky insectile percussion with layers of keys and guitars that come in waves, slowly up, and then suddenly back down: the song winds out with a wary vocal line over hypnotic ooh-ahs. John, a big rock ballad in disguise, slowly brings in big ringing reverb guitar chords and a long dreampop/shoegaze interlude before going out as quietly as it came in. The last song, What if You, a companion piece to What If I, is the loudest track here, lush and majestic like the Church or the Cure, right down to the bass playing the lead line, whether with a fuzztone or with a watery chorus-box effect. It’s good headphone music; like Quinones, it’s proof that accessible rock doesn’t necessarily have to be stupid.

March 14, 2011 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Album of the Day 2/14/11

Every day, our 1000 best albums of all time countdown continues all the way to #1. Monday’s album is #715:

The Church – Hologram of Baal

The one band featured on this list more than any other, this is the Australian art-rockers’ big 1998 comeback: in a way, it perfectly encapsulizes their career. It’s got lush, gorgeous janglerock songs like Anesthesia and Louisiana; hypnotic, swirling, atmospheric mood pieces like Another Earth; the brutal satire of Tranquility and The Great Machine; the blistering multitracked guitars of No Certainty Attached; the hauntingly elegaic This Is It; and the album’s two most compelling cuts, the characteristically enigmatic yet irresistibly catchy Buffalo – which could be a wintry love song – and Ricochet. Lead guitarist Peter Koppes had rejoined the band after a five-year absence and bassist Steve Kilbey had rediscovered his lyrical muse, and everyone sounds completely reinvigorated. It’s a good way to get to know the band if you’re new to them. The Church are currently on US tour with stops in New York at the Highline on Feb 16 and B.B. King’s on the 17th. Here’s a random torrent.

February 14, 2011 Posted by | lists, Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Peter Koppes of the Church Offers the Scoop on the Band’s 2011 US Tour

Peter Koppes’ rich, darkly majestic lead lines, fiery riffage and judicious jangle alongside Rickenbacker guitarist Marty Willson-Piper’s incisive clang and frontman Steve Kilbey’s melodic bass have been a defining component of the Australian art-rockers sound for the better part of the band’s thirty-year history. The Church are currently on US tour, with stops in New York at the Highline Ballroom on February 16 and at B.B. King’s on the 17th. With his thousand-yard stare onstage, Koppes projects a restless intensity; offstage, his unselfconscious warmth and stinging wit come as a welcome surprise. With some rockers, trying to get their opinion is like pulling teeth. Not this guy:

Lucid Culture’s Correspondent: I understand that on this tour, you’re doing three of your classic albums – Starfish, from 1988; Priest = Aura, from 1991, and Untitled #23, from 2009, at each show. The buzz on the west coast where you are now is that you’re doing them in reverse chronological order – is that the same way you’ll be doing them in New York?

Peter Koppes: Yes. I thought in some ways that Priest = Aura would be a great culmination of the three album set. But funny enough, with the earlier albums in the later part of the set, you have a trajectory. In a live peformance, you have to have a climax, you have to knock the socks off the audience.

LCC: So are you doing the songs on the albums one after the other, as they appear?

PK: Yes. We’ve really never done anything like this – the Cure have, Trilogy, which I particularly enjoyed actually. Doing Untitled #23 first is like being our own support act. That leaves the nostalgia aspect to look forward to.

LCC: I actually think your idea of Priest = Aura to finish the night would send everybody home on a high note…

PK: Having Priest = Aura in the set is the artistic high point, the overlooked, monumental masterpiece of the band. So many of the songs are timeless – lyrically, they have as much resonance as they did when the album came out. The Disillusionist, for example. We were recording the album during the first Iraq war: all the images of the Kuwait bombing were a feeling for us at the time that still resonates throughout it…But then when we come back for Starfish we have an encore. You know, you have to have a reverie, and then a wake…

LCC: That’s an awful lot of songs. I’ve seen you jam out so many of your songs in concert over the years: is the jam aspect going to be constrained by the sheer volume of material?

PK: No. We jam Chaos; there’s the interlude on Destination where we improvise, and Hotel Womb, and Reptile – we take those a bit further just to push the dynamic. So that aspect of our show won’t completely change.

LCC: On recent tours you’ve been doing some pretty radical reinventions of your older songs, even some of the iconic ones, Under the Milky Way, Unguarded Moment, etcetera. Are there going to be moments where you’re playing piano, Steve is playing your Strat and Marty is playing bass, or are you going to stick with pretty much assigned roles?

PK: We try to maintain our particular instruments that we play on the albums. But on another tangent, we’ve freed up Steve from playing bass on some of the more intricately worded songs – on The Disillusionist, for example – so that he can carry the lyrics. Remember, Steve started out like that, as a lead singer without an instrument, in a band called Baby Grand in Canberra that I was in. We’re just trying to maximize the best possibilities for the band. There are other times where I play the keyboard because that was my part on the record, where Steve typically plays guitar. On Anchorage, Marty uses my guitar: I play both basses on the song on the record; now we have our roadie playing the other bass and the assistant manager onstage singing as well!

LCC: The most recent show of yours I saw was Irving Plaza in 07 I think, with a concert harpist sitting in. Anyone else along with you for the tour?

PK: Craig Wilson – he’s like having two extra people in the band, keyboards and guitar – he’s become a bit of a star, playing both at the same time sometimes.

LCC: How does he do it? Tapping the frets?

PK: He puts the pedal on and frets the chord and plays the keyboard at the same time.

LCC: How did you find this guy?

PK: Our drummer had a band he was producing, Astreetlightsong, and he’s the lead singer actually.

LCC: You have Tim Powles on drums. Steve has gone on record as saying he’s the best drummer you’ve ever had, do you agree?

PK: Tim Powles is one of the most important members of the band we’ve ever had. He managed the band with his wife’s production company at a time when we were trying to start up again. He’s a producer – he and I produced the “return” albums, Hologram of Baal, After Everything Now This, and so on. He’s also doing the upcoming show at Sydney Opera House, with the orchestra, which is really getting to be complicated, I was just on the phone about it before you called…

LCC: You’re playing with a full orchestra? I hope you’re recording that!

PK: We are, actually. It’s not the complete ensemble, with eight double basses, but we will have two double basses, a string quartet and a horn section.

LCC: Your shows on this tour, from what I understand, are routinely selling out. For a thirty-year-old band touring without a new album, unless you’re U2 or the Police doing a final tour, you realize that this is unheard of in America these days! Rock tours are tanking left and right: at Irving Plaza, where you’ve played a couple of times here in New York, cancellations seem to outnumber actual shows…

PK: I hadn’t realized how bad the economy is here. The response to the tour has really helped us – it’s an expensive tour, with all the extra personnel playing, and these sit-down venues…I’ve always said, “Lie by fashion, die by fashion.” We have a legacy of thirty years of playing music that hasn’t necessarily kowtowed to commercial markets…MTV seemed to think that their idea of music was better than our idea of music – and look who’s still around! I don’t think MTV should be allowed to do music awards!

LCC: MTV still has music awards? I haven’t watched MTV in ages.

PK: They are the barometer for what’s most wrong with combining music and business together…

LCC: How’s the merch table doing? Will you have any left by the time you get to New York?

PK: Believe it nor, we’ve doubled the amount of merch being bought. I think substance is style – that’s always been my motto. Style is vacuous and empty. Someone I know the other day said that fashion is infinite: it’s never complete, the beauty of is is that is always evolving. Music should be evolving too. I think that if somebody buys one of our t-shirts in a way that’s a statement that they share that kind of view…

LCC: As you may know, we have a daily gimmick around here to help draw traffic from around the web. These days we’re counting down the 1000 best albums of all time, and before that we did the 666 best songs. And we decided that the greatest song of all time was Destination by the Church. I think it deserves that because it captures the state of humanity in our time and place more perfectly, more poetically than any other song. Where do you think Destination fits in your catalog – is it one you take a measure of pride in, or is it just another song for you?

PK: That’s great. We don’t haggle about comments like that! I’m impressed that you would choose that one, it’s got a very progressive edge, more than a simple pop song. Musically and lyrically, it definitely was inspired. And Steve would agree.

LCC: Can I ask you how you get that amazing, eerie, sustained guitar tone? What kind of rig are you using onstage these days?

PK: I use Black Star amps with a Vox guitar amp, which has like an inimitable sound that’s kind of midrangy. For awhile I was doing Marshalls and things like that. I’ve found out how to replicate the sound out of the Leslie speaker boxes that I used to have on tour. The roadies didn’t like carrying them! So I reverted to Marshalls; now I have a couple of Black Stars for bottom and top – some are actually handwired like the old Voxes. The sound I get apart from a mix of overdrives is from a Leslie replicator pedal.

LCC: You mean one of those Boss boxes you can get at a guitar store?

PK: That’s the one. The big-part sound of the Church that sounds like a keyboard pedal is actually a harmonizer combined with a reverb unit. You know the horn part on Crash/Ride, on the Beside Yourself album? For that I put an ebow through this device. There are places on the records where I play the bass, the guitar and replicate an actual orchestra.

LCC: Does that mean that your music is going in a more complicated direction?

PK: Jazz is where we’re heading now, in a Burt Bacharach sense…

LCC: In terms of rhythm? Odd time signatures?

PK: Not so much odd time signatures but harmony. It’s a natural progression, we’re not the only band to have done it. For example, Hendrix used to use a flat 5 chord that was definitely jazz. He learned it from Eddie Kramer, who engineered all those records. Eddie Kramer was a jazz keyboard player – Hendrix heard it, copied it for Purple Haze, Voodoo Chile…likewise, Neil Young, on Cinnamon Girl with the double drop D chord changes the rest of the chords to jazz chords…that’s why we did the Pangaea ep. There were some songs that came out of the Untitled #23 session that didn’t gel with the album, with their jazzy aspects; they’re only on the double vinyl version of the album.

LCC: How have the relationships in the band changed over the years? There have been some rocky periods – how is the chemistry these days?

PK: The band is a bunch of vectors and energies, and directions change, individuals as well. For example, Marty runs the business of the band now so he’s much more broadminded about why certain things are good to do for the greater picture. Everybody has to compromise to a certain extent, and Steve to his credit has realized that. If you remember the hall of fame speech that he made in Australia recently, he’s gone from being aloof to a sort of master of ceremonies!

The Church play Highline Ballroom on February 16 at 7 PM and B.B. King’s on the 17th. Tickets are still available as/of today.

February 10, 2011 Posted by | concert, interview, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Hipster Demolition Night Still Rules

Thursday night was Hipster Demolition Night at Public Assembly. Last time we caught one of these, it was at Glasslands in the dead of summer, 120 degrees inside the club on a night where four excellent bands met the challenge head on but we didn’t. We left in the middle of a literally scorching set by Muck and the Mires, which pretty much speaks for itself. Since then, Hipster Demolition Night has moved to Public Assembly, whose larger back room is an improvement on every conceivable level. The Demands opened this show. They’re what the White Stripes ought to wish they were. The three-piece band’s frontwoman plays simple, catchy bass riffs that lock tight with the garage-rock drumbeat. Much of the time their guitarist would punch out chords on the beat but there were also a lot of places where he’d go out on a limb and explore, adding an unexpectedly psychedelic element. The operative question was whether he was going to go out too far and fall off – nope. Even with those diversions, they kept it tight, and with the vocals’ sarcastic, playfully confrontational edge, it was a fun set.

Jay Banerjee & the Heartthrobs were next. Between songs, Banerjee chugged from a Cloraseptic bottle and complained about his health. But whatever was in there – hey, cold medicine works fine for L’il Wayne – gave him a noticeable boost. Meanwhile, Vinnie, the drummer was bleeding all over his kit. If that isn’t rock and roll, then Williamsburg is cool. And just when we had them pegged as a band who write songs for guys, they get a woman to play 12-string lead guitar. She’s brilliant. She ended one of the songs with a casually stinging charge down the scale that evoked nothing less than 12-string titan Marty Willson-Piper of the Church. They opened with a blistering version of the deliciously catchy Long Way Home, an amusingly brutal account of a gentrifier girl being brought down to reality: OMG, she might actually have to get a job to pay the rent on her newly renovated $5000-a-month Bushwick loft! With a snort or two, Banerjee and the band did her justice. Maybe desperate to get the show over with, they ripped through the rest of the set: a Byrdsy janglerock song with cynical la-la’s, a guy assuring his girlfriend that he’ll stick around “because I’m too lazy to look for someone else,” a couple with an ecstatic early Beatles feel, another fueled by a catchy, melodic bassline that sounded like the Jam without the distortion and finally an equally ecstatic cover of I Can’t Stand up for Falling Down, reinventing it as a powerpop smash in the same way that Elvis Costello reinvented What’s So Funny About Peace Love & Understanding. If Banerjee was really feeling as miserable as he insisted he was, no one would have known if he hadn’t mentioned it.

Garage rockers Whooping Crane were scheduled to headline afterward, but there were places to go (the train) and things to do (kill self-absorbed, nerdy boys in skinny jeans standing in the middle of the sidewalk and texting – just kidding). Hipster Demolition Night returns to Public Assembly next month, watch this space.

December 12, 2010 Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Jay Banerjee’s New Album Slashes and Clangs

Cynical janglerock heaven. Jay Banerjee may be best known at the moment as the creator of Hipster Demolition Night, arguably New York’s best monthly rock event, but he’s also a great tunesmith. On his new album “Ban-er-jee,” Just Like It’s Spelled, he plays all the instruments, Elliott Smith style (aside from a couple of a couple of harmonica and keyboard cameos, anyway). Drawing deeply on the Byrds, the Beatles, the first British invasion and 60s soul music, Banerjee offers a slightly more pop, more straightfoward take on what Elvis Costello has done so well for so long, crafting a series of three-minute gems with a biting lyrical edge. The obvious influence, both guitar- and song-wise, is the Byrds’ Roger McGuinn – like McGuinn, Banerjee plays a Rickenbacker. The tunes here are brisk, with an impatient, scurrying pulse like the Dave Clark Five, with layers of guitar that ring, jangle and chime, throwing off fluorescent washes of magically glimmering overtones as only a Rickenbacker can do.

Lyrically, Banerjee goes for the jugular, sometimes with tongue in cheek but generally not. These are songs for guys. Banerjee’s characters, if they are in fact characters, have no stomach for drama, no patience for indecisive girls holding out for men they’ll never be able to measure up to. And these women don’t get off easy. The funniest and most spot-on cut here is Long Way Home: what the Stooges’ Rich Bitch was to Detroit, 1976, this one is to Brooklyn, 2010, a brutal dismissal of a “dress up doll with a goofy drawl” who finds that she’s no match for New York heartlessness. By contrast, Just Another Day (not the McCartney hit, in case you’re wondering) is equally vicious but far more subtle. Banerjee lets the gentrifier girl’s aimless daily routine slowly unwind: finally awake by noon, “She tells herself if life’s a game, it isn’t hard to play/’Cause all you lose is just another day.”

A handful of the other tracks have obviously pseudonymous womens’ names. Dear Donna, the opening cut, sarcastically rejoices in pissing off the girl’s mother – via suicide note. Kate is rewarded for having “too many feelings” with a memorable Byrds/Beatles amalgam. Lindsay won’t be swayed by any overtures, and her shallow friends may be partially at fault: “They said you pray that I just find someone desperate/Lindsay, all that they say, already I could have guessed it.” Another cut manages to weld the artsy jangle of the Church to a Chuck Berry boogie, with surprisingly effective results. There’s also the early 60s, Roy Orbison-inflected noir pop of Leave Me Alone; See Her Face, the Byrdsiest moment here; and the clanging 60s soul/rock of No Way Girl. Fans of both classic pop and edgy, wounded rock songwriters like Stiv Bators have plenty to sink their teeth into here.

With his band the Heartthrobs, Banerjee rocks a lot harder than he does here: your next chance to see them is the next Hipster Demolition Night at Public Assembly on December 9, starting at 8 with the garage rocking Demands, then Banerjee at 9 followed at 10 by psychedelic rockers Whooping Crane and then oldschool soul stylists the Solid Set. Cover is seven bucks which comes out to less than $2 per act: did we just say that this might be New York’s best monthly rock night, or what?

By the way, for anyone lucky enough to own a turntable, the album’s also available on vinyl.

December 1, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Album of the Day 11/25/10

Every day our 1000 best albums of all time countdown continues all the way to #1. Thursday’s album is #796:

The Church – The Blurred Crusade

Since the American Thanksgiving holiday is one of our famously high-traffic days, we wish a happy one to those who celebrate it with a band you might just see again on this page. This 1982 classic is the legendary Australian art-rockers’ jangliest album, if not their most lyrically rich – on all but the gorgeously ghostly Field of Mars (named after a cemetery in Sydney), it sounds as if frontman Steve Kilbey wrote them in a rush on the way to the studio. But the melodies are sublime, a lush, rich wash of clanging, overtone-drenched Rickenbacker guitar textures. Almost with You features a beautiful flamenco-inflected acoustic guitar solo from Peter Koppes; When You Were Mine, An Interlude and You Took are big anthems and concert favorites. Just for You and To Be in Your Eyes are among the band’s Byrdsiest songs. Each of the album sides ends with a beautiful, barely two-minute miniature: Secret Corners and Don’t Look Back. Because we’ve carefully considered all the feedback we’ve received from you people out there, we’re generally trying to limit this list to one album per band. We just might make an exception for these guys. Here’s a random torrent; there’s also a brand-new cd reissue out with extensive new liner notes by guitarist Marty Willson-Piper.

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

Album of the Day 10/1/10

Every day our 1000 best albums of all time countdown continues all the way to #1. Friday’s album is #851:

The Oxygen Ponies – Harmony Handgrenade

This album is about love under an occupation. Recorded during the last months of the Bush regime, it’s an attempt to reconcile the search for some sort of transcendence with the need to overthrow the enemy. Savagely lyrical, swirling and psychedelic, the New York art-rockers’ second cd was one of the great albums of 2009. Frontman Paul Megna offers Leonard Cohen-inflected menace through the eyes of a metaphorical, suicidal messenger on the skeletally crescendoing Love Yr Way; savages suburban smugness with the garage rock of Fevered Cyclones and the backhanded, sarcastic The War Is Over, and evokes the great Australian art-rockers the Church on the desperate, titanic anthem Finger Trigger: “Anything to dissipate the grey skies falling.” A vivid portrayal of a time and place that nobody who lived through it wants to remember. What is it that happens to those who can’t remember the past? So far this one hasn’t made it to the share sites; it’s still available from the band, whose follow-up is due out in a few months and reputedly maintains the power of this one.

October 1, 2010 Posted by | lists, Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Krista Detor’s Chocolate Paper Suites Are Dark and Delicious

Krista Detor’s album Chocolate Paper Suites has been out for awhile this year – but who’s counting. It’s a dark lyrical feast. Images and symbols rain down in a phantasmagorical torrent and then reappear when least expected – and the pictures they paint pack a wallop. This is first and foremost a headphone album: casual listening will get you nowhere with her. Detor’s carefully modulated alto vocals land somewhere between Aimee Mann and Paula Carino over a bed of tastefully artsy piano-based midtempo rock/pop that downplays the lyrics’ frequent offhand menace. While Detor sings in character, a bitterness and a weariness connects the dots between the album’s five three-song suites. Allusion is everything; most of the action is off-camera and every image that makes it into the picture is loaded. Not exactly bland adult contemporary fare.

The first suite is Oranges Fall Like Rain. The opening track swirls hypnotic and Beatlesque, essentially a one-chord backbeat vamp in the same vein as the Church. Detor’s heavy symbolism sets the stage: a green umbrella, the rich guy in the title pulling out a knife to cut the orange, a desire for a “white car driving up to the sun.” Its second part, Lorca in Barcelona mingles surreal, death-fixated imagery with a dark, tango-tinged chorus. Its conclusion is savage, a rail against not only the dying of the light but any death of intelligence:

Poetry is dead, Delilah said,
Maybe in a pocket somewhere in Prague
That’s all that’s left of it
Are you a good dog?

The Night Light triptych puts a relationship’s last painful days on the autopsy table. Its first segment, Night Light – Dazzling is an Aimee Mann ripoff but a very good one, its slowly swinging acoustic guitar shuffle painting an offhandedly scathing portrait, a snide party scene where the entitled antagonist acts out to the point where the fire department comes. What they’re doing there, of course, is never stated. Night Light – All to Do with the Moon is a stargazer’s lament, all loaded imagery: “It’s the synchronous orbit that blinds my view.” It ends with the slow, embittered, oldtimey shades of Teeter-Totter on a Star, Mama Cass as done by Lianne Smith, maybe. The Madness of Love trio aims for a sultry acoustic funk vibe, with mixed results. Its high point is the concluding segment, gospel as seen though a minimalistic lens, the narrator regretting her caustic I-told-you-so to her heartbroken pal, even though she knows she’s right.

By Any Other Name opens with a pensive reflection on time forever lost, Joni Mitchell meets noir 60s folk-pop; set to a plaintive violin-and-piano arrangement, its second segment is another killer mystery track, a couple out on a romantic two-seater bicycle ride with some unexpected distractions. The final suite was written as part of the Darwin Songhouse, a series of songs on themes related to Charles Darwin: a very funny if somewhat macabre-tinged oldtimey swing number told from the point of view of an unreconstructed creationist; a live concert version of a long Irish-flavored ballad that quietly and matter-of-factly casts the idea of divine predestination as diabolical hell, and a lullaby. New Yorkers can experience Detor’s unique craftsmanship and understatedly beautiful voice live at City Winery on October 18.

September 23, 2010 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment