Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

CD Review: Eyal Maoz’s Edom – Hope and Destruction

Raise your fist. Now extend your index finger and pinky. This album rocks. The second album by Eyal Maoz’s Edom, just out on Tzadik, is a nonchalantly dark blend of pounding instrumental metal and surf music with brooding Middle Eastern flourishes. The obvious comparison is Texas cult instrumentalists Intodown, with a slightly more ornate, noisy sensibility. In this power quartet, multi-faceted guitarist/composer Maoz is backed by keyboardist Brian Marsella (of Cyro Baptista‘s band and the fascinating melodic jazz ensemble the Flail) along with a plodding rhythm section. From the first few bars of the first song, it becomes clear that these guys really don’t have a clue about surf music. But that’s cool. That’s what gives them an original sound. The Yardbirds didn’t have a clue about blues either, and nobody can say that they didn’t rock.

As you would expect from a bunch of guys with a jazz background, they vary the tempos and dynamics. Maoz sets down eerie, often anguished layers of noise and feedback over simple, catchy chromatic vamps. Marsella utilizes several keyboard patches: quavery Vox organ, smooth Hammond and seemingly every bleep and bloop stored within the memory of whatever he’s playing (a Nord Electro seems a good guess). Most of the craziest noise passages are his, although, predictably, the most beautifully lyrical moments – particularly the Vox solo on the fifth track – are his as well.

The best song on the cd is Shell, a terse, catchy, macabre number that sounds like the Coffin Daggers gone to the Golan Heights, especially menacing as the organ doubles Maoz’ sinister guitar line. The best single solo is by bassist and producer Shanir Ezra Blumankranz, on the same song – it’s long and bluesy and deliciously terse and you don’t want it to end. Beyond the chromatic metal vibe of most of the other tracks, there’s also one that nicks a familiar hook by the Cure before going all hypnotic with a two-chord vamp, a bizarre attempt at a bubblegum surf song and a big, cinematic track simply titled Two with a noise breakdown evocatively colored with Maoz’ hammerlike attack. It’s nothing if not original and probably sounds terrific live. Shesh shesh shesh (that’s 666 in Hebrew).

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September 6, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Songs of the Day 4/3-5/09

This weekend the nucleus of the Lucid Culture crew are going to Beefstock, the upstate New York 3-day music festival. We’ll be back by Monday. Because we won’t have either internet or phones – wow, the old days! – here are another three which comprise a small section of our Alltime Top 666 Songs list, as we count them down all the way to #1.

 

481. The Go Go’s – Here You Are

Jane Wiedlin at the absolute top of her game as a songwriter, this time with a gorgeously haunting, atmospheric, Beatlesque ballad:

 

So if you lose control

And burn a bridge too far

No matter where you go, here you are

 

From the band’s triumphant 2001 comeback cd God Bless the Go Go’s. The link above is a download. 

 

480. The Coffin Daggers – Besame Mucho Twist

Some claim that the original is the most widely recorded song of alltime. The Ventures’ surf version was good but nothing like this. By a long shot, the New York surf punks’ savagely macabre cover, a staple of their live set circa 1999-2004, is the best, bringing out every menacing chromatic in the old 1940s Mexican bolero hit. Never officially released, but there are bootlegs kicking around.  

 

479. The Fixx – Driven Out

Songs like this just make you shake your head and wonder, if the band could write something this great, why didn’t they do it again? But they never did. In this fiery, apocalyptic backbeat anthem from their now-forgotten 1988 lp Calm Animals, they finally let the guitars roar free, with a bitter, angry lyric: “Castaways have silent lives with a strength to rival you all.” There’s also a nice acoustic version by the wonderfully named Lenape Fire Turtle.

April 3, 2009 Posted by | lists, Lists - Best of 2008 etc., Music, music, concert | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Concert Review: The Coffin Daggers at Otto’s, NYC 12/7/08

A raw, cold, drizzly night didn’t stop their fans from coming out and dancing. Hitting the stage a little after midnight, the Coffin Daggers validated their reputation as one of New York’s half-dozen or so best live bands, tearing through one song after another without so much as a word to the audience. With Dick Dale temporarily on the shelf after surgery, it’s hard to think of a more intense, powerful surf band anywhere in the world right now. Last night their mix of scorching, distorted reverb guitar and ominous organ was as bracing as ever. Lead guitarist Viktor Venom played with his usual gleefully macabre sarcasm, much in the same vein as the Dead Kennedys’ East Bay Ray but with vastly greater speed and agility against organist Eudocia Rodzinak’s somber gothic atmospherics. The rhythm section hit with Joe Louis power and precision, bassist Peter Klarnet blasting out big, distorted chords on many of the songs’ massive crescendos.

 

Alternating between standards and originals, they opened with a Link Wray number with an eerily smoldering guitar feedback solo, later ripping through punked-out versions of The Cruel Sea and Out of Limits (lots of sci-fi instros in the set tonight). But their own songs were the best. A new one began dramatic and somewhat tongue-in-cheek, building to characteristic, chromatically-fueled menace. Another newish one, perhaps titled Monsters from the Id pounded along with a lot of call-and-response between the guitar and organ, winding itself up to a nasty, sunbaked fuzztone guitar solo. Perhaps the best one of the night was yet another new number, ghoulish and minor key with a sepulchral, watery tone from the guitar, climbing to an inexorably brutal, percussive chorus. While the band has tightened up, abandoning most of the noisy psychedelic wildness that was their stock in trade seven or eight years ago, they typically jam out at least one song and tonight that one was the snarling Avenue X from their 2004 full-length debut cd (which made our top ten list that year). They started it slowly with a wall of noise from the Echoplex unit, Klarnet playing evil tritones against the organ’s slowly rising flood. After a long, hypnotic noise solo, they suddenly hit a false ending before wrapping it up with a roaring blaze of guitar. They closed with Caravan, this time pretty close to the classic Ventures version on Live in Japan, right down to the drum solo, Pete Martinez putting his own propulsive spin on the Mel Taylor beat.

 

Like a lot of New York bands with a big out-of-town following, the  Coffin Daggers don’t play many dates here anymore (they do a lot of European and Midwest tours); this show was a stark reminder of what we’ve been missing. Watch this space for upcoming shows.

December 7, 2008 Posted by | Live Events, Music, New York City, review | , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Supertones Live at Otto’s, NYC 2/2/08

The Supertones differentiate themselves from the legions of other bands in the thriving surf instrumental underworld in that they write excellent original songs. The long-running unit has been together since 1988; their weekly residency at the old Luna Lounge in the late 90s is the stuff of legend. But the band seemed to lose interest after that, phoning in covers of awful 60s pop hits like Georgie Girl on the increasingly rare instances that they played out at all. Although their drummer and rhythm player left shortly thereafter to form Mr. Action & the Boss Guitars, the rhythm guy is back, and their lead guitarist is better than ever, tremolo-picking furiously and really taking his playing to the next level. With Simon Chardiet from Simon & the Bar Sinisters on bass, way up in the sound mix, playing wildly furious, intense lines on an 8-string Hamer and then a vintage Rickenbacker, and a new drummer whose stock in trade obviously isn’t surf but proved up to the challenge, they immediately reclaimed their status as one of this city’s must-see live bands.

As usual, most of their set was originals. Stylistically, they take their cue more from the Ventures or the Shadows, jangling and clanging in major keys with a ton of reverb rather than doing the Beirut stomp a la Dick Dale. Of the few covers they did play, the best were a spot-on recreation of the old Lee Hazelwood classic Baja and the obscure, gently twanging Morgan, along with a driving take of Journey to the Stars. Their best original was a gorgeously melodic, nocturnal number introduced by Chardiet: “That one is dedicated to George Bush. It’s called Bushwacked. And this next one is dedicated to Rudy Guiliani’s prostate. It’s called Last Ride,” he gleefully told the crowd, as they launched into a swaying, spaghetti-western tune.

The show was put together by Unsteady Freddie, who is something of a legend in the surf world, a promoter who tirelessly travels the country, spreading the gospel of reverb and 2/4 time. The shows he puts together here on the first Saturday of every month are reliably good and sometimes absolutely transcendent. The latter promised to be the case tonight. It would have been awfully nice to have been able to stick around for the scorchingly powerful Coffin Daggers and another recently resurgent band, the Sea Devils, but by then it was already past one and time to nudge a handful of overindulgent people in the direction of home.

February 3, 2008 Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Concert Review from the Archives: Les Sans Culottes, Satanicide and Big Lazy Live in NYC 11/22/02

[Hope everybody had a good Thanksgiving! We’re digging into the archive til we’re back from the holiday next week. Hard to believe that it’s been five long years since this particular show – ed.] 

Went to Gwynne Duncan’s art opening in the afternoon in the wilds of Fort Greene. Actually, the space was just a few blocks off DeKalb Ave., but it felt like a long ways since it was pouring rain and pretty cold out. As expected, there was hardly anybody there. Duncan is excellent, paints in a whole mess of styles with strong command of all of them: gentle pastels, trippy psychedelic oils with tendrils of plants with eyes, social realism studies imagining evening subway commutes in the 30s and a ship named Ego adrift on the ocean. Ran into a friend who promised me a copy of the Robyn Hitchcock Royal Albert Hall Dylan cover show but still hasn’t delivered – we agreed that I’d give him a copy of the Mary Lee’s Corvette Blood on the Tracks show in exchange. Looks like somebody’s getting a way better deal here and that person isn’t me.

We waited a long time for the G train back to the F, then to CBGB where the Coffin Daggers had just left the stage. Bad information, lamented one of the band members. By now my companion was drunk on wine from the opening; we grabbed seats on a bench located comfortably in front of the sound board and were pleased to see some other friends come join us for the duration of the show. Les Sans Culottes have been around forever, since the late 80s. They’re a very good garage band playing a mix of Gainsbourg covers, some other French pop from 60s and their own faux-French originals. Everybody in the band has a silly French or franglais name: Clermont Ferrand, Jean-Luc Retard, Kit Kat Le Noir, ad infinitum. Frontman Bill Carney, whatever his nom de plume is, stays in character, affecting a French accent even while addressing the audience. They did their usual stuff, bolstered by a good, loud sound mix: Ecole de Merde (French for school of hard knocks), a few covers and a disco song that might or might not have been an original. It’s a tribute to these guys that it’s sometimes hard to tell.

Satanicide were next and also got good sound: people forget just how good the sonics at CB’s are. What Spinal Tap were to 70s British metal, Satanicide is to 80s American hair metal. They absolutely nail it, and the lack of a second guitarist doesn’t hurt them. Unsurprisingly, their one spandex-clad axeman didn’t do a lot of soloing. Dale May AKA Devlin Mayhem is actually an excellent singer, with a perfect take on the completely over-the-top Motley Crue thing. Sample song title: Pussy and Ice Cream. They also did a very funny one about a NJ metalhead girl that began as a sensitive power ballad that crescendoed predictably as it went on [most likely the title track to their hilarious cd Heather –  ed.]. After the show our crew scattered in different directions, so I went next door to the gallery to hang with another friend, who was closing, so on the spur of the moment I decided to catch Big Lazy at Tonic on the way home.

Timed this one pretty perfectly, as they went on about five minutes after I got there, about half past midnight. Technical difficulties abounded with the mix and the monitors on bassist Paul Dugan’s side of the stage. Victoria Hanna was in the house, and she eventually contributed delicious vocalese on the cinematic Tel Aviv Taxi, which the band played mid-set. Otherwise, they were somewhat subdued, at least by comparison to their usually scorching live sets, benefiting greatly from some unexpected restraint on the part of drummer Tamir Muskat. Which gave guitarist Steve Ulrich a chance to back off a little bit and use some wild fills as punctuation rather than wailing nonstop all night with descending runs, slides and his trademark eerie chromatic hooks. Most of their noir instrumentals were done very tersely, including the absolutely macabre Theme from Headtrader, the multi-part spaghetti western theme Our Lady of the Highways, a cover of an Astor Piazzolla tango, the pitch-black Amnesia, the lickety-split, rockabilly-inflected Princess Nicotine and finally the hourlong set’s closing number, the hilarious heavy metal parody Starchild. What’s the likehood of seeing two drastically different bands both do killer heavy metal sendups in one night? The band didn’t encore, and by now I’d reached the point where continued alcohol consumption would have required more energy than it would have been worth to reach any state of inebriation, so I went home.

[postscript: Les Sans Culottes – who will probably be around forever , continue to do what they do best, which is play live shows. CB’s and Tonic are both sadly defunct; Satanicide, true to its metal roots, plays the occasional reunion show, while Big Lazy are on indefinite hiatus.]

November 23, 2007 Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments