Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Album of the Day 5/6/11

Every day, our 1000 best albums of all time countdown continues all the way to #1. Friday’s album is #634:

The Cramps – Songs the Lord Taught Us

As time goes by, we may from time to time pull down some of those obvious picks on the main list page here and replace them with albums that are absolutely impossible to find online (Lennie Tristano, wherever you are, enjoy spot #933 – you’ve made the big time now). For those of you who’ve been paying really, really close attention, the prototypical 1980 ghoul-punk classic was originally sitting there among the rest of the albums we consider to be “obvious suspects,” but we thought it deserved a day all by itself. The Cramps took Link Wray, Hasil Adkins and the darkest side of surf music to its logical punk extreme. Produced by Alex Chilton, who gave Kid Congo Powers a wall of feedback that might never be topped, the late Lux Interior, guitarist Poison Ivy and drummer Nick Knox primitively stomp their way through a bunch of menacing originals – TV Set and Garbageman being the best of them – as well as completely over-the-top covers of Strychnine and The Fever, done the opposite of Peggy Lee with no bass. The fun continues with I Was a Teenage Werewolf, Lux panting like Norman Bates on steroids; What’s Behind the Mask is like that too. There’s also the ghoulabilly of Sunglasses After Dark, Mystery Plane and Zombie Dance among the thirteen tracks here. The Memphis Morticians and a million other ghoulabilly bands would be pretty much unthinkable without these guys. RIP, Lux. Here’s a random torrent.

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May 6, 2011 Posted by | lists, Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Noisy Intense Quadruple Bill Friday at Death by Audio

It was weird seeing a good crowd bouncing and hollering and having a general good time at Death by Audio Friday night. Maybe the newest arrivals in New York are sick of the whole trendoid thing, of being afraid to show any kind of emotion or passion for fear of not fitting in. If that’s true, that’s great and it’s been a long time coming, at least in Williamsburg. Has this place ever had four bands this good in a single night? Probably not.

The Sediment Club opened. One faction here can’t figure out why on earth anyone would want to subject themselves to their hideous sonic assault. The other faction (guess which one) thinks they should be everybody’s favorite band. They take ugliness to the next level. Their guitarist unleashed a chilly, Albert Collins-toned torrent of sonic sludge, wailing up and down on his tremolo bar as his strings went further and further out of tune while another slightly less assaultive wash of sound oozed from the wobbly, deliberately out-of-tune Casio. Yet in a perverse way they’re a very melodic band, the melody being carried by the growly, trebly bass. And a lot of their stuff you can dance to: some of the grooves had a funk beat, a couple of the songs shifting to a perfectly straight-up, poker-faced disco rhythm. The lyrics, screamed by the guitarist, went for the same assaultive vibe as the guitar, especially on a couple of occasions when the songs went hardcore speed.

Nice Face were next. They took their time setting up. Just when the wait between bands started to become really annoying, one of their guitarists fired off what sounded like the riff to Caught with the Meat in Your Mouth by the Dead Boys, which proved to be a good omen. In their own way, they were just as original as the Sediment Club, if a lot more tuneful, at least in a traditional sense. The two-guitar band blends a growling, dirty LES glampunk sound with a lot of different elements, plus a swishy, stagy lyrical vibe that reaches for some kind of menace, their frontman rasping his vocals through a trebly megaphone effect. They worked their way into the set slowly, first with a hypnotic, Black Angels-style vamp, then brought the energy up with a mix of stomping neo-garage rock bolstered with melodic, anthemic 90s-style Britrock changes. As with the Sediment Club, the trebly bass gave the songs extra propulsive boost.

 Woman were next. The  joke is that the band is all guys. They brought the intensity up yet another notch or ten. Like a more rhythmically interesting version of Clinic, they match overtone-laden dreampop swirl to a ballistic noiserock attack, bassist out in front slamming out his riffs while their two guitarists went berserk. The lefthanded guy spun and dipped wildly, cutting loose maniacal webs of acidic noise; the righthanded guy worked more of a purist, Ron Asheton style riff-rock style. Some of the songs blasted along with a hypnotic, repetitive insistence, like the Thirteenth Floor Elevators with better amps; others built off menacing chromatic hooks, the guitars a screaming vortex overhead. Like the bands before them, they take classic ideas – in this case, the Stooges and My Bloody Valentine – and find new, original ways of making them sound fresh and exciting again. They could have played for twice as long as they did – barely 40 minutes – and the crowd still would have wanted more.

The K-Holes headlined. The guys in the band play scorching guitar and caveman Cramps drums – just a kick and a single cymbal. The females handle the bass, vocals, and warily circling alto sax that with a tinge of reverb added some unexpectedly delicious textures. A quick assessment of the gear they were using – what looked like a vintage Music Man guitar amp, Danelectro lyre bass and a huge old Ampeg bass cab – looked auspicious, and they delivered. Like a late 70s version of Destroy All Monsters on really good acid, they fused a rumbling, eerie Link Wray groove with punk and garage rock and just plain good insane squall. Their first song was a long one-chord jam, a launching pad for some serious guitar torturing that contrasted mightily with the sax’s mysterioso chromatics. A hardcore punk tune seemed to be a dis of Williamsburg trendoids: if any band has earned a right to do that, it’s these guys, although the guitarist assured the crowd that they were just being sardonic. The rest of the set blended fiery jangle and clang with an ominous, funereal bassy thud that on occasion picked up into a murderous gallop, the frontwoman sticking her mic into her mouth, Lux Interior style at one point as she screamed. They closed with a “slow jam” that seemed to be in some impossibly complicated time signature but then straightened out into straight-up 4/4 hostility. By the time their too-brief set was over, it was about two in the morning, pretty much everybody had stuck around and after four exhausting if frequently exhilarating hours, still wanted more.

December 13, 2010 Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Butchers and the Brimstones Live at Otto’s, NYC 1/26/08

New Jersey garage/surf rockers the Brimstones have earned a reputation for being a great live act, but tonight they were somewhat upstaged by the Butchers, the garage/punk trio who opened the show. It wasn’t that the Brimstones played a bad set; on the contrary, they roared through about an hour’s worth of eardrum-damaging, Pabst Blue Ribbon-fueled riff-rock with a couple of surf-ish instrumentals thrown in for good measure. But the story of the night was the Butchers. This Lancaster, Pennsylvania-based trio – two guitarists, on Rickenbacker and Gibson, respectively, plus a drummer – absolutely set the place on fire. Their sound is raw, pummeling, unadorned, in other words every quality that makes a song catchy and fun to hear live. Their Rickenbacker player took most of the solos, getting the most gorgeous, distorted guitar tone we’ve witnessed anywhere since seeing Scott Morgan with Powertrane when they played Warsaw. That’s what an overdriven vintage Fender amp will do if you leave your effects pedals at home and just turn it up to…about 5. Otto’s is a small place and Fender Twins are mighty amps. Although the stuff on the Butchers’ myspace has bass, they don’t have a bass player. For a band who obviously take their cue from the 13th Floor Elevators, they don’t really need one.

  

It would have been nice if the Brimstones had played more of their surf stuff, because that’s what they really excel at, and that’s what differentiates them from the legions of other garage bands out there. That, and a completely authentic vintage 60s songwriting style, and an evident ability to consume mass quantities of alcohol and not miss a beat. Their organist/frontman delivered many of their tunes perched precariously atop his keyboard. When they finally called it a night, well past midnight, with a completely out-of-control, completely perfect cover of TV Eye, they’d outlasted many of the people who packed the little back room here. It was nice to see them in such an intimate setting: when they play New York, it’s usually opening for big-name acts like the Ventures or the Cramps.

January 28, 2008 Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Concert Review from the Archives: The Cramps at the Academy, NYC 11/25/94

The concert was newer stuff bookended by old and perhaps someday canonical material: the original ghoulabilly band earned themselves a place in the pantheon a long time ago. They opened with Mad Daddy and Mystery Plane. Frontman Lux Interior appeared sober for most of the show, and even a little self-effacing; guitarist Poison Ivy played distorted rockabilly and hotrod rhythm without many solos. It seems that they’ve come to an uneasy grasp of the fact that this after all is show bizness and they’re in it for the money as much as anything else. Which is ok, because the Dead Boys were too and they also rocked incredibly hard live. So what if the Cramps are basically a 60s garage band with a lot of distortion and a mad Elvis fronting the unit. “Let’s take some drugs,” said Lux.

Let’s Get Fucked Up was one of the last numbers in the set but wasn’t as memorable as something with that title should be. They closed it with TV Set and The Crusher, the bass player using a slide on the highest registers, an attempt to replicate the sound Kid Congo Powers got on the records. An appropriately ominous Human Fly was the first of the encores, followed by She Said wherein Lux made a half-assed attempt to tell a story between choruses. Surfin Bird was the last song and quickly degenerated into a high-velocity, half-hour feedback jam. Lux put the mic in his mouth, climbed on top of the bank of amps to the left of the stage and made a variety of gross noises while Ivy stood with her guitar looking up at him anxiously as the bass and drums pounded and a high-pitched shriek blasted from her amp.

November 26, 2007 Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment