Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

The Brooklyn What Are the New York Equivalent of the Clash

The corporate media wants you to believe that New York is all master mixologists mixing $26 heirloom lobster cilantro mochatinis, with celebrity djs pumping up the bass while Shtuppi, Blandie, Faylor and the rest of the cast of The Real Housewives of LoHo poledance for the camera. That element does exist, and in greater numbers with every passing tax break for the ultra-rich, but those people don’t represent New York. They’re not even from here. And while we wait, and wait, and wait, for a high-profile murder or two to send them scrambling for the next charter flight back to Malibu or Lake Wayzata, the Brooklyn What write songs for the rest of us. Like the Clash, they use punk as a stepping-off point for a range of styles that span the history of rock, from the 50s to the indie era. This may be old news for those who’ve seen them live, but they’re not just playing crazed punk music anymore: they’re become a truly great rock band. They have five newly recorded singles out: the songs are complex, psychedelic, and socially aware without losing the in-your-face edge that made the band so compelling from the start.

I Want You on a Saturday Night has been a big concert hit for them for awhile. It’s punked out doo-wop, a Weegee snapshot of a random night out. Guy’s at the bar, got only half a buzz, annoyed by the annoying crowd, trying to drown them out with Johnny Cash on the jukebox. He could go to Williamsburg, or to the Village where he’d meet some people and “want to kill them,” or stay home, get stoned and listen to Springsteen. But he wants out. And like the Uncle Sam poster, he wants you.

Punk Rock Loneliness is the shadow side of that picture. The guitars weave a staggered tango beat, distantly echoing the Dead Boys but more funky. Jamie Frey’s lyric sets the stage: “Rain through your canvas sneakers, nervous breakdown in your speakers…” Who hasn’t been there? Down at the corner of Bleecker and Bowery, where CBGB’s used to be, he thinks back on the girl who’s gone now. “All the things you had to give her, first your heart then your liver, drowned in the East River.” And the world couldn’t care less: there’s no more Johnny, or Joey, or Dee Dee with a song that would dull the pain, and the club they made famous is just another stupid shi-shi boutique now. A classic New York moment early in the decade of the teens.

Come to Me is like punked-out Sam Cooke. It’s sly and it’s irresistible – the singer understands that the girl’s been working a twelve-hour shift, she has to smile when her heart’s a frown, but he’ll make her forget about the long day and how light her purse feels at the end of it. The brief doubletracked guitar solo at the end is pure psychedelia: Evan O’Donnell and John-Severin Napolillo make the best one-two guitar punch this town’s seen in decades. A more rocking take on early 70s psychedelic funk/soul a la Curtis Mayfield, Tomorrow Night is more abstract, floating in on a catchy yet apprehensive slide guitar hook, winding out with another nimble, incisive solo. The fifth song, Status Quo, evokes Black Flag with its furious vocal tradeoffs, then goes for an anthemic garage punk Stooges/Radio Birdman knockout punch on the chorus. “I’m so bored with the status quo/Everything here has got to go,” the band roar. “You get all your sense of humor from reality shows,” Frey taunts the latest wave of gentrifiers. At the end, they finally let it fly completely off the hinges. The Brooklyn What also have a monthly residency at Trash Bar, a Saturday night where they play alongside some of the best of their colleagues in the Brooklyn underground scene. This month’s show is this Saturday, December 18 starting at 8 with power trio New Atlantic Youth, the Proud Humans (ex-Warm Hats), the Highway Gimps (the missing link between My Bloody Valentine and Motorhead), the Brooklyn What, postpunk rockers Mussles and finally the new Pistols 40 Paces at midnight. Check with the band for these songs as well as their classic 2009 album The Brooklyn What for Borough President.

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December 16, 2010 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, 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

Song of the Day 7/10/10

You may think we have been idle, but there’s a lot going on behind the scenes. Stay tuned. In the meantime our best 666 songs of alltime countdown continues all the way to #1…and then we start with the 1000 best albums of alltime. Saturday’s song is #19:

The Dead Boys – Not Anymore

Zillions of songs have been written about the plight of the homeless. Guitarist Jimmy Zero’s scorching, titanic two-guitar anthem tells it like it is. “Afraid of sleeping and I’m freezing to death, I gotta keep me awake.” Cheetah Chrome’s watery chorus-box solo is his finest moment in the band. From Young, Loud and Snotty, 1977. There are also numerous live versions, like the scorching one from CBGB that year in the link above, kicking around: do some exploring.

July 9, 2010 Posted by | lists, Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Concert Review: The Brooklyn What at Trash Bar, Brooklyn NY 5/28/10

An hour of power after power hour Friday night. Actually, the power started during power hour (at Trash Bar, they have free drinks in the back for an hour starting at 8 PM – with a deal like that, who needs to pregame). Play It Faster sound like the Subhumans, but if that band listened to Social Distortion instead of reggae – interesting song structures, smart politics, loud, roaring vocals and guitars. And a Rickenbacker for some unexpectedly sweet guitar textures. Memo to the Rick player: if you’re going to keep taking solos, you need at least a cheap Boss pedal so they can cut through every time.

“I can’t remember when we played a set this early,” Brooklyn What frontman Jamie Frey told the crowd (they hit the stage a little after nine this time; showtime for these guys is usually around midnight on a Saturday). There are louder bands in New York than the Brooklyn What – a few anyway – but there are none better. Their new songs are so strong that they don’t have to fall back on last year’s hits, or the ones from the year before. It’s amazing how much this band has grown – people don’t realize how young they still are. Lead guitarist Evan O’Donnell just graduated college. “He’s ours all the time now,” Frey grinned. Gibson SG player John-Severin Napolillo – who also leads first-rate powerpop band John-Severin and the Quiet 1s – joined O’Donnell in locking into a murkily beautiful, melodic, punk-inflected roar, reminding of nothing less than the Dead Boys, but without the drugs. Frey knows that hits are simple; this set was one after another and they all packed a wallop. And they did it without I Don’t Wanna Go to Williamsburg, or We Are the Only Ones, or Planet’s So Lonely. Like the Clash, the Brooklyn What leap from one genre to another with gusto yet without ever losing sight of the social awareness that defines them. How ironic that they’d play this show in what has become the neighborhood most antithetical to everything they stand for.

They opened with a characteristically cynical, scorching version of Gentrification Rock, title track to their most recent ep, bringing it down to Doug Carey’s growling bass for a couple of measures at the end. “I don’t mind if you put a hole right through me,” Frey sang sarcastically on the snarling midtempo rocker they followed with. This is a guy who obviously loves oldschool soul music, and he’s developed into someone who can deliver it and make it his own without sounding derivative or fake. There was a lot of longing in those vocals all night. Their best song was another new one, Punk Rock Loneliness, a bitter and angry memory of Bowery and Bleecker before CBGB became just another overpriced clothing boutique for tourists: “You wanna be a dead boy?” Frey taunted. As charismatic as Frey is, he’s generous with his bandmates, giving Napolillo a turn on lead vocals on a handful of cuts including a new one with a swaying Guns of Brixton flavor. The first of the encores was a delirious crowd-pleaser, I Want You on a Saturday Night, more doo-wop than anything the Ramones ever did (that these guys, like the Ramones, know what doo-wop was, speaks volumes).

And now comes the sad part of the evening, at least for us. Tri-State Conspiracy were next. Ten years ago they were a killer ska band, just busting out of the small club circuit. These days they still play ska, but they’re way more diverse than that, and even more gleefully noir than they were in 2000. One of their early songs sounded like the Yardbirds. Their trumpet player sang; their two guitarists traded licks better than any jam band in recent memory. So it hurt to walk out on what was obviously going to be a killer set – and hurt equally to miss the Highway Gimps, whose snarling post-Gun Club glampunk songs sound like they’d be even better live than what’s on their myspace. But sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do.

May 30, 2010 Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Song of the Day 5/15/10

The best 666 songs of alltime countdown continues every day, all the way to #1. Saturday is St. Dymphna’s Day and as you may know, St. Dymphna is the patron saint of the mentally unbalanced. For you, for St. Dymphna, and for us too we offer song #75:

The Dead Boys – I Won’t Look Back

Gleeful punk rock revenge doesn’t get any better than this:

I remember all their social games
Gossip spreading talk among the lames
Friday night’s lonely romance, empty heads with no reactions now

 

From We Have Come for Your Children, 1978; the version on Night of the Living Dead Boys is even more satisfying.

May 15, 2010 Posted by | lists, Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Song of the Day 5/10/10

The best 666 songs of alltime countdown continues every day, all the way to #1. Monday’s song is #80:

The Dead Boys – Son of Sam

Listen closely – the hook is a total ripoff of Crazy on You by Heart. But no matter – the taunting, macabre punk anthem is as eerie today as when David Berkowitz was stalking yuppie puppies on lovers lanes in the outer boroughs of New York back in 1977. The album version on We Have Come for Your Children is stiff and misproduced; the various live versions (notably on Night of the Living Dead Boys) are the real deal.

May 9, 2010 Posted by | lists, Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Song of the Day 2/16/10

The best 666 songs of alltime countdown continues every day, all the way to #1. Tuesday’s song is #163:

The Dead Boys – Caught with the Meat in Your Mouth

This furious, filthy, barely two-minute Chuck Berry-inflected punk classic is actually a remake of lead guitarist Cheetah Chrome’s Never Gonna Kill Myself Again, by Chrome’s old (and current) band Rocket from the Tombs, who continue to reunite and tour every couple of years. The best of the Dead Boys versions is probably the one on Night of the Living Dead Boys; the studio track on Young Loud & Snotty features mixing engineer Bob Clearmountain playing bass, uncredited, and doing a creditable job.

February 16, 2010 Posted by | lists, Lists - Best of 2008 etc., Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Some More Songs for You While We Fix This Thing

As many of you remember, we’ve had a longstanding tradition here putting up a new song every day, counting down our Top 666 Songs of Alltime list all the way to #1, until we were forced to break with that tradition about three weeks ago. Since it now looks like we may not be in a position to put up a new post every day til about November 1, here are the songs in the list which take us up to that point where we will hopefully resume daily activity here:

284. Procol Harum – Homburg

Very British, very stately, very subtle slap at authority from 1967, ominous organ and piano beneath Gary Brooker’s deadpan voice and one of lyricist Keith Reid’s best early ones. The single had to wait til 1974 to be released on album on Procol’s Best; mp3s are everywhere. The link above is the unintentionally hilarious original promo video.

283. Stiv Bators – A Million Miles Away

Haunting, majestic epic, the best song and sort of title track to Bators’ solo debut Disconnected, recorded as the Dead Boys were self-destructing around 1980 but not released til a few years later. RIP.

282. The Vapors – News at Ten

Furious, exasperated punk rock from the classic New Clear Days lp from 1979 (the same one that spawned their lone American hit, Turning Japanese), a generational battle taken up close and personal: “Still I can’t hear you!!!”

281. Al Stewart – Man for All Seasons

One of the popular 70s British art-rock songwriter’s most epic moments – and he had a bunch of them. This is a classic of existentialist rock, one of his smartest, most philosophical lyrics, slide guitar in the background providing lusciously ominous atmospherics. From the Time Passages lp, 1978, frequently found in the dollar bins at your favorite used vinyl purveyor.  Mp3s are everywhere (the link above is a torrent of the whole album).

280. The Dead Boys – Detention Home

Never recorded in the studio, this careening, menacing number was a live showstopper and one of the punk legends’ best songs. The best version is on the classic Night of the Living Dead Boys album from 1981, Jimmy Zero and Cheetah Chrome’s guitars screaming with feedback as the late Stiv Bators snarls his murderous lyrics.

279. Roxy Music – Out of the Blue

Haunting, swaying minor-key art-rock anthem, one of Bryan Ferry’s darkest numbers despite the upbeat lyrics. The studio version on the Country Life lp isn’t bad, but in concert the band went nuts with it. The link above is a tasty live clip from 1976. There are also delicious versions on the Roxy Music Live lp from the same year as well as the 2002 live reunion double cd, but the best is from the first live reunion cd featuring one of Phil Manzanera’s most exhilarating solos ever.

278. The Doors – The End

Listen closely: this is a pop song that morphs into a raga. Sure, it’s a “classic rock” standard, but deservedly so. Ray Manzarek’s swirling, funereal Balkan organ in tandem with Robbie Krieger’s evil guitar runs over John Densmore’s equally evil, crashing drums make the vocals almost an afterthought. “Mother, I want to fuck you!!!” Whatever.

277. The Church – Life Speeds Up

This macabre Syd Barrett-inflected epic was a mid-80s concert staple for the extraordinary, still vital Australian art-rockers. As Steve Kilbey has noted, the studio version on the 1988 double lp retrospective Hindsight is a bit stiff, but it’s still great. And there are bootlegs out there: Church fans are obsessive and generous with their files.

276. The Damned – Plan 9 Channel 7

The punk legends’ best song is this ornate, darkly anthemic masterpiece. The lyrics don’t make much sense – they seem to be about falling asleep with the tv on – but the raging guitar against a haunting organ backdrop are one of the high points in goth music. There are a million live tracks kicking around, many of them excellent, but it’s the 1979 studio version from the impressively diverse Machine Gun Etiquette lp that’s the classic.

275. The Church – The Maven

The Australian art-rock legends long ago proved that they didn’t need a major label behind them to succeed – in fact, the opposite is true, and this scorching, crescendoing broadside wastes no words in making that apparent. The clanging, crushing roar of what sounds like a thousand guitar tracks as the song reaches a peak at the end is one of the most majestic, sonically exquisite passages ever recorded, in any style of music. “Just turn the light off when you go, just tell the jury all you know,” Steve Kilbey snarls. From Sometime Anywhere, 1994.

274. Radio Birdman – Hand of Law

If you’ve been following this list from the beginning, you may have noticed that Australian garage-punks Radio Birdman’s classic 1979 album Radios Appear is very well represented here – and here we go again, with another cauldron of guitar fury, almost five minutes of paint-peeling, macabre, screaming intensity from Deniz Tek and Chris Masuak.

273. The Saints – Follow the Leader

The studio version (see the link above) on the Out in the Jungle album is decent, but when the band were at their peak – as a janglerock unit, for about ten years starting in the early 80s – they transformed this catchy, swaying number into one of their most beautiful songs. The version that opens the 1985 Live in a Mud Hut lp is transcendent, a feast of jangly guitar textures and lushly metallic overtones.

272. The New Race – Love Kills

The New Race were a Detroit supergroup of sorts, Ron Asheton and Deniz Tek on guitars, Warwick Gilbert of Radio Birdman on bass and Dennis Thompson from the MC5 on drums. They did a couple of Australian tours and then ruined what should have been a phenomenal live album with studio overdubs. But their two other subsequent live cds both effectively capture the band’s transcendent, unearthly power. This is one of Tek’s most vividly lyrical songs, a deathly winter road trip from Chicago to the Murder City. The stark, semi-acoustic studio recording by Radio Birdman is unforgettable, but the New Race version from The First To Pay, driven by Gilbert’s roaring, distorted bass chords, is even better. And very hard to find in a digital format other than the grooveshark stream in the title above. Here’s a live Radio Birdman take; here’s another.

271. Radio Birdman – Monday Morning Gunk

The original, released as a single by Radio Birdman mastermind Deniz Tek’s first Australian Band TV Jones in 1972 (and included on the 1988 Tek retrospective Orphan Tracks) is a blazing, somewhat woozily psychedelic masterpiece. Others prefer Radio Birdman’s even more scorching, professionally recorded version, released on the European version of the classic 1979 Radios Appear album some nine years later.The multitracked guitars of Tek and Chris Masuak on the solo are hit a literally unreal crescendo.

270. Howlin Wolf – Sitting on Top of the World

The iconic bluesman’s 1954 studio single hews much closer to the Mississippi Sheiks’ rustic version from the 20s that he probably learned it from. But believe it or not, his best version is on the 1969 London Sessions album with none other than Eric Clapton on guitar – given sufficient inspiration, even a hack can sometimes rise to the occasion. And it’s Bill Wyman’s casually soaring bass work that carries it over the top. Wondering who that tight in-the-pocket drummer is? It’s Ringo.

269. Bob Dylan – Positively 4th St.

The prototypical anti-trendoid anthem. Hypocritical as it may have been, Dylan had nothing but contempt for class tourism and most of the hippies who shared his comfortable upper middleclass background. And it’s obvious that a lot of them didn’t like him either since being one of them, he sussed them out. “You’d rather see me paralyzed” – how true. Download this with impunity because he isn’t getting any royalties from it. 

October 20, 2009 Posted by | lists, Lists - Best of 2008 etc., Music, music, concert | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Song of the Day 9/1/09

Every day, our top 666 songs of alltime countdown gets one step closer to #1. Tuesday’s song is #330:

The Dead Boys – All the Way Down

The last song the iconic punk band released – on a 12″ single in 1986 – is one of their best (even if it was totally misproduced), a bitter midtempo cautionary anthem about a “poison lady.” If only the guy who sang it had actually taken the lyrics to heart, he might be alive today. Hard to find – some extensive sleuthing resulted only in this dodgy live clip from Florida, 1988.

September 1, 2009 Posted by | lists, Lists - Best of 2008 etc., Music, music, concert | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Song of the Day 2/28/09

Every day, our top 666 songs of alltime countdown gets one step closer to #1. Saturday’s song is #515:

Rocket from the Tombs – 30 Seconds Over Tokyo

The legendary, theatrical Cleveland proto-punk band that spawned both the Dead Boys and Pere Ubu released two studio versions of this paint-peeling evocation of the WWII Tokyo firebombing raids, one on a lo-fi compilation of tinny digitized 1974 rehearsal tapes and another on the lacklustre 2004 reunion cd Rocket Redux. Best to look for a bootleg: their version from the second 2003 Maxwell’s show is the best we’ve heard.

February 28, 2009 Posted by | lists, Lists - Best of 2008 etc., Music, music, concert | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment