Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Album of the Day 8/5/10

Every day, we count down the 1000 best albums of all time all the way to #1. Thursday’s album is #908:

Ween – 12 Golden Country Greats

Making fun of the excesses of country music is even more popular than heavy metal spoofs (we’re waiting for The Rough Guide to Country Music Parody). But nobody’s ever done it funnier than Ween. Their 1996 masterpiece features Gene and Dean backed by a hall of fame cast of 1960s/70s country sidemen : Hargus “Pig” Robbins on piano, Charlie McCoy on a bunch of instruments and even the venerable Jordanaires when necessary, on ten period-perfect C&W songs (the album title is a joke). The lyrics range from sophomoric (Japanese Cowboy) to sick (the gay-baiting, faux-countrypolitan Mr. Richard Smoker: “You’re a chicken choker”) to the sad tale of Fluffy, the badly toilet-trained dog, to arguably the most hilarious kiss-off-song ever written, Piss Up a Rope.

August 6, 2010 Posted by | country music, lists, Music, music, concert | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Another Great Album from the Whiskey Daredevils

The title of these Cleveland roots rockers’ new album, Introducing the Whiskey Daredevils, is characteristically tongue-in-cheek – it isn’t exactly their first. Over the last six years, they’ve put out one kick-ass album after another, all laced with their trademark sense of humor: they are simply one of the funniest bands on the planet. Some of their greatest hits (some but not all of which appear on their Greatest Hits album) include a tribute to Mickey’s Big Mouth malt liquor, a surreal chronicle about a road trip with a guy who can’t stop talking about Planet of the Apes, and the most hilarious song ever written about open mic nights for singer-songwriters. This album is their first with their new guitarist Gary Siperko, who brings a ferocious garage-punk intensity as well as a growling Stonesy edge and a solid handle on country sounds. Frontman Gary Miller’s deadpan, stoic delivery lets his surreal, absolutely spot-on narratives speak for themselves: he’s got a Hunter S. Thompson-class eye for twisted detail. Siperko – formerly of upstate New York surf rockers the Mofos, whose album Supercharged on Alcohol is a genuine classic – veers between an otherworldly reverb-drenched tone and gritty, vintage tube amp distortion while bassist Ken Miller and drummer Leo P. Love hold the beast to the rails.

The opening track, Never Saw Johnny Cash chronicles a series of missed once-in-a-lifetime opportunities from the point of view of a guy who always overdoes it: we all have somebody like that in our lives who likes to go to shows with us (or at least ride to shows with us). They follow that with an amped-up Bakersfield country song. With its sizzling, surfy ghoulabilly guitar, Left Me on a Train could be a Radio Birdman classic from 1979, a sound they bring down a little on the next track, Thicker Than Wine. Then they take it to the logical extreme with the garage-punk smash Drive: Murder City Nights, anybody?

As breakup songs go, the midtempo country ballad Last Guest List is a classic: “No more free stuff, no more free beer, I guess you are no longer with the band.” There’s also the predictably amusing, painfully hungover Me and My Black Eye; a southwestern gothic rock parody; the monster surf instrumental Railbender, which sounds like a Mofos classic; a Social Distortion-style country-punk number with a little Led Zep thrown in; and the album’s closing boogie, Empty Out the Shake, which is pretty self-explanatory, and as amusing as you’d think. The band’s best album? Maybe. The others are really good too. The Whiskey Daredevils’ next gig is August 6 at 10 PM at the Happy Dog, 5801 Detroit Ave. in Cleveland.

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

Concert Review: The Inbreeds at Banjo Jim’s, NYC 12/9/07

The evening started an hour earlier across the street at Esperanto, where a forro band was playing unamplified in the window. Forro is Brazilian rainforest dance music, under ideal circumstances with acoustic stringed instruments like cuatro and guitar, and accordion. At its best, forro is the South American equivalent of Balkan gypsy music, as haunting as it is rousing. “What’s this band’s name? Mike’s band,” their leader, percussionist Nanny Assis joked. He’s been playing SOB’s for a long time: this is his weekly Sunday early-evening project, just two percussionists and accordion. They sound best at the bar where you can hear them over the yuppies chowing down on overpriced Spanish food. It was nice to be able to get out of the rain and hear this for an hour before splashing across the street. And it’s always fun to go out on a rainy night: you can always get a seat.

The Inbreeds played an absolutely hilarious set of country song parodies. It’s as if somebody in the band heard Tammy Faye Starlite’s Used Country Female album and said, hey, we can do this too. This show was that good. They’re very theatrical, and their act is very visual: imagine the best thing you’ve ever seen at Fringe Festival, only better. It wouldn’t be fair to give away their jokes, but over the course of an hour, they did spot-on spoofs of the country eulogy song, the American Idol ditzy country girl song, the dead dog song, the religious song, the Charlie Daniels clan-versus-clan epic, the sentimental those-were-the-days ballad, the one-night-stand song, the faux-country stadium rock song and finally the right-wing political song that closed the set, in which it was revealed at the end that the continued health of the American consumer economy is completely dependent on the availability of Chinese slave labor. Topics covered in the process include masturbation, teenage homosexuality, abortion, masturbation again, sexism, racist bigotry, religious intolerance and musicians’ inability to resist the urge to ham it up (one song featured banjo played with a bow like Jimmy Page used to play guitar). The material may frequently be sophomoric but the songs are very thoughtfully composed – whoever writes them obviously has the source material down cold. The humor extends to the music as well: even when nobody’s singing, the band is still trying to pull laughs and for the most part succeeded, even if the sound was as awful as it usually is here. Why the club can’t make it work in such a cozy, comfortable space is hard to understand.

The musicians in the Inbreeds are excellent. Haunting accordionist Annette Kudrak predictably steals the show, even if just she’s sitting in the back playing and contributing the occasional vocal harmony. There are two frontmen, one alternating between guitar and banjo, the other playing a standup drum kit. Both are a little stagy and very funny. The unit also has bass, violin (which was pretty inaudible throughout the show) and a woman on backup vocals who took a couple of breathtakingly good, twangy turns on lead vocals.

Where this really ought to be is Broadway: not off-Broadway, but in one of the big Broadway theatres, where wide-eyed tourists from the heartland can pay a hundred bucks a head so this talented crew can earn union scale and maybe teach the out-of-town crowd a thing or two. The ultimate irony here, of course, is that most country musicians go into music for the same reason that nonconformists in the Middle Ages did: to find a safe haven within an oppressive society. Just like five hundred years ago, most musicians, wherever they are, still swing hard to the left. Nashville included. The Inbreeds play Hank’s in Brooklyn on January 17 at 9 PM.

December 10, 2007 Posted by | concert, country music, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment