Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Album of the Day 1/9/11

OK, mini-vacation is over, we’re firing up the engines again. To get things started, as we do every day our 1000 best albums of all time countdown continues, all the way to #1. Sunday’s is #751:

Blue Oyster Cult – Tyranny and Mutation

The artsiest and most ornate metal band, at least until the new wave of British metal of the late 70s/early 80s, Blue Oyster Cult blended elegant classical flourishes and epic grandeur into their riff-rocking roar and stomp. Sarcastic, vicious and sometimes satirical, they collaborated with Patti Smith and were a considerable influence on punk, new wave and goth music, covered both by Radio Birdman and the Minutemen. This is their best studio album, from 1973. It kicks off with the split-second precise tripletracked riffage of The Red and the Black, followed by the gorgeously crescendoing O.D.’d on Life Itself. Hot Rails to Hell, Baby Ice Dog and Teen Archer are the heavy tracks here; 7 Screaming Diz-Busters is something of an epic, with a deliciously evil siren of an outro. Mistress of the Salmon Salt is catchy and matter-of-factly macabre; the best song here is the ghoulishly watery Wings Wetted Down, punctuated by a beautifully dark chorus-pedal solo by lead guitarist Buck Dharma. Everything the band released  through the live On Your Feet or On Your Knees album is worth hearing; forty years after they started, they’re still touring with a slightly revamped lineup and can still put on a good show. Here’s a random torrent.

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January 9, 2011 Posted by | lists, Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Poobah’s Classic 1972 Stoner-Metal Debut Is Back in Print

In 1972, Poobah, a high school rock band from Youngstown, Ohio recorded Let Me In, a fuzzed-out stoner metal album that became a cult classic: copies of the original vinyl go for hundreds of dollars on the collector market. Little did teenage guitarist Jim Gustafson, bassist Phil Jones and drummer Glenn Wiseman know that they’d created a psychedelic, proto-metal masterpiece. Originally reissued in 1994 on a small, now defunct label, Ripple Music’s newly remastered re-release contains the original album’s seven tracks as well as twelve bonus cuts featuring additional band members (ten of the songs included on a limited-edition double gatefold black-and-white vinyl album). The obvious influence is Black Sabbath, right down to the catchy simplicity of the hooks, the way they’ll hang on a single chord for minutes on end, the heavy echo on the vocals, the fat midrange tone of the bass and Wiseman’s busy but absolutely brilliant drumming. Gustafson’s sunbaked, bluesy playing is shockingly terse, especially for this kind of music. As long and convoluted as some of these songs are, he doesn’t waste notes, tossing off one brief, incisive riff after another with a heavylidded leer.

The band’s signature song, Mr. Destroyer motors along on an unstoppable midtempo groove, Gustafson’s doubletracked solo phasing back and forth between channels, and a conga break with screams echoing in the background: Spinal Tap central! It’s quite a contrast with what follows it, the surprisingly gentle, folk-tinged ballad Enjoy What You Have, Wiseman’s amazing drums picking it up little by little. The slow ba-bump boogie Live to Work is a workingman’s anthem: “You know I can’t stand this hell.” Bowleen, the eeriest number here, has a Syd Barrett feel, the sample at the end providing an irresistibly funny answer to the question of what it’s about. The fifth track, Rock n Roll is unhinged Chuck Berry rock as Uriah Heep might have done it, except with better drums; the title cut is a 7-11 parking lot riff-rocker with a long In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida drum solo – all that’s missing is the crowd noise! – and a gleeful solo guitar break.

Most of the bonus tracks are strong as well. Make a Man Outta You, one of the few here that was previously issued, layers one delicious, reverb-drenched sheet of wild tremolo-picking on top of another. A one-chord stoner jam, Upside Down Highway has Gustafson’s guitar echoing around a catchy, circling bass riff, finally delivering a long, wild, Tony Iommi-style wah solo. The closest thing to Sabbath here is the hilarious Walk of the Bug: “When you’re asleep in your bed you’ll feel his legs on your head.” The bass walks on your face, the guitar injects the venom and it’s over. There’s also a couple of tasty bluesmetal instrumentals, a late MC5 style metal-pop number manufactured specifically for a car radio audience, and a lone attempt to weld funk to a blotto metal groove. The whole thing ranks with Flower Marching Band, the original Iron Maiden and Sir Lord Baltimore as one of the classics of early metal. And if you like these guys, you might want to check out their labelmates and early 70s contemporaries the JPT Scare Band, a Kansas City outfit who split their time between skin-peeling acid-metal and a more commercial Allman Bros.-style sound.

October 12, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Hoodless Put Their Original Stamp on Classic Metal

Jersey City rockers Hoodless pride themselves that they can replicate 99% of their new album Music for Jerks live, and a lot of it actually sounds like it could be live in the studio. If you like metal but can’t stand the tunelessness and unoriginality of all the post-grunge corporate metal acts of the last ten years, Hoodless are for you. The one band they evoke, again and again, if from a distance, are Van Halen, but without the over-the-top ridiculousness (just imagine how awesome VH would have been if, say, Mark Anthony, or anybody BUT David Lee or Sammy was the singer…). Some of the songs here follow the grunge formula of quiet verse/loud chorus, but they’re not grunge – the vocals aren’t slurred or stupid and the twin guitars of Paul Allan and Finn are definitely metal, dry 80s style Charvel-through-a-Peavey grit. Most of the songs are short (three or four minutes, tops) and riff-oriented: there isn’t a lot of soloing, but when they cut loose the playing is choice.

The first cut, Touch and Cry is simple and characteristically catchy: it goes doublespeed after the verses are over, Van Halen meets Pantera without buffoonery of either one. Waiting and then Innocent do the soft/loud contrast effectively, the first with repeater-pedal guitar, the second with an eerie, echoey PiL vibe on the verse. Down, a darkly majestic 6/8 ballad, follows the same pattern, with echoes of Black Angel by the Cult. GAPO, whatever that stands for, has a spacious, early 70s style stoner metal feel, with a memorable descending progression, a trick ending and solid bootkick Bill Ward style drums. The sixth track, Say It Loud juxtaposes thrash with new wave, hair metal as done by Anthrax, maybe, and finally a nice NWOBHM blues-tinged solo. Run Away works a catchy twin guitar chorus hook, some tasty chromatic riffage and something about how “the cannibal masses can’t run away.” Be My Whore is memorably abrasive and as funny as you would think, with “my fingers down your throat.” ?!?!? Underground reaches for a majestic, rhythmically tricky British metal majesty and nails it in four minutes or less; the concluding track, Why So Serious runs variations on a classic Led Zep style hook. Make the sign of the horns and raise your lighter.

September 30, 2010 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Top Ten Songs of the Week 5/18/09

We do this every week. You’ll see this week’s #1 song on our Best 100 songs of 2009 list at the end of December, along with maybe some of the rest of these too. This is strictly for fun – it’s Lucid Culture’s tribute to Kasey Kasem and a way to spread the word about some of the great music out there that’s too edgy for the corporate media and their imitators in the blogosphere. Every link here will take you to each individual song.

 

1. McGinty & White – Rewrite

Bitter, brutal and clever but not too clever by half, this collaboration between lyrical songwriter/crooner Ward White and cult fave keyboardist Joe McGinty puts a vicious spin on classic 60s psychedelic chamber pop. They’re doing the cd release show for their new one at Bowery Electric on 5/21 at 11.

 

2. Benny Profane – Skateboard to Oblivion

For anyone who wonders what happened after the late, great British band the Room broke up in 1985, singer Dave Jackson and bassist Becky Stringer started this noisier, more jangly, slightly Nashville gothic unit with similarly edgy, potent lyrics.

 

3. The Dead Cowboys – Dear John

Continuing the saga – an important part of the secret history of rock – when Benny Profane broke up, Jackson and Stringer went Nashville gothic all the way with this act, happily still active in the UK.

 

4. Grand Atlantic – She’s a Dreamer

Vintage Oasis is alive and well…in Australia! You like anthemic? You’ll love this.

 

5. Naissim Jalal – Horia

Parisian-Syrian ney flute virtuoso. This is a beautifully pensive instrumental.

 

6. Buffalo – The Grange

Beating O’Death at their own game.

 

7. The Mummies – Mummies Theme

Sinister lo-fi garage rock. They’re on the Maxwell’s/Southpaw shuttle in June but all three shows are sold out…awww.

 

8. Hope Diamond – Costume Drama

Nice catchy dreampop, Cocteau Twins without the valium.

 

9. The Hsu-Nami – Rising of the Sun ’09

OMG, a ferocious metal instrumental band led by a virtuoso erhu (Chinese fiddle) player doing Taiwanese-inflected stomps. They’re at the Passport 2 Taiwan festival at Union Square at 2 PM on 5/24.

 

10. The Ramblin Dogs – You Let Me Down

Blues band. Albert King, Stevie Ray, Freddie King, you can hear all those influences but no Clapton. Sweet. They’re at Kenny’s Castaways on 6/17.

May 19, 2009 Posted by | lists, Lists - Best of 2008 etc., Music, music, concert | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Wishful Thinking: Led Zeppelin Live on West Ninth St., NYC 11/26/07

[Editor’s note: we’re going to let this writer get away with this just this once]

The concept was beyond ludicrous: the world’s most popular heavy metal band (maybe the world’s most popular band, period) schedules their first New York show in almost thirty years outdoors, for free, on a side street in the West Village. No matter that it wasn’t advertised or announced to the public: I learned about it about four hours earlier from a friend, who got a phone call from a friend in the union who was setting up the sound equipment. One can only assume that a few more phone calls would be made, and in a few minutes’ time a flashmob the size of several ocean liners would clog the westside streets, requiring a police presence sufficiently gargantuan to protect the band and the lucky few who made it inside the “security zone” hours before the band went on. Which is why I didn’t cancel my two scheduled afternoon appointments: after all, I had no expectation that I’d get to see the show. Or that it would happen at all. Altamont, by comparison, was a brilliant idea.

But curiosity got the best of me, and a few minutes after the 4 PM scheduled start time, I decided to get off the train a couple of stops away from where I was going so I could scope out the neighborhood, just for the hell of it. When I exited the subway, the sky was dark and ominous. It had been cold all day, and threatening rain. For that reason, it wasn’t surprising to see the streets pretty much empty of pedestrians. There was also absolutely no police presence. Or any sign, audible or otherwise, that anything was happening. I kept walking, and suddenly I began to hear music in the distance. It was the bassline to Kashmir. Could this be true? I was loaded down with gear but I must have started running. I don’t remember. I was in a dream state. When I reached the end of the block, there on the sidewalk, playing through their amps (Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones had huge 4X12 cabinets) was Led Zeppelin. The only thing going through the PA was Robert Plant’s vocals, amplified by a couple of medium-sized JBL speakers, like the kind you see at street fairs. For a band whose reputation was built on volume and grand gestures, they sure were quiet, especially considering the size of the amps they were using. But the most unbelievable thing about this was that it was happening at all. There wasn’t a cop in sight, nor was there any kind of canopy over the band, who were facing possible electrocution in the event that the rains finally came. By my count, there were about 200 people assembled, a mix of old hippies and working-class metalheads all watching silently and reverently from a distance, even though anyone could have gone right up to the mic and ripped it from Plant’s hand if they so desired: there were no barriers or bouncers. The band didn’t even have a stage to play on: the sound mixer was perched on a stoop behind them. Was it possible that not a single person who knew about this spilled the beans to anyone who would have then IM’d their entire address book in seconds flat? Or was everyone here on the same page as I was? After all, I didn’t tell anybody about this because I had no plans to be here in the first place. And what about all the people in the surrounding buildings? Maybe they heard the low volume and assumed that it was just a Zep cover band practicing. After all, it was all but impossible to hear anything but the bass just a couple of blocks away, and the songs they were playing were all pretty iconic: most musicians know how to play them, at least the central hooks.

After Kashmir, the rest of the band sat out while Jimmy Page played Tangerine, solo. He did it thoughtfully but deliberately, without hardly any of the ostentatious vibrato that is his trademark. This was Page’s show, a clinic in dynamics. He didn’t cut loose too much, so when he did, the effect was spine-tingling. His guitar had three necks, looking like a prop straight out of Spinal Tap: one with six strings, one with twelve, and one with bass strings (which he never used). Jones is still a groovemeister, and had a clavinet to his right that he played on Stairway to Heaven. Plant’s voice is shot: his upper register is completely gone, but that’s a blessing in disguise, since he can’t overemote anymore. He just stuck to the melodies, using what little range he has left, and in a sense he’s never sounded better. The new drummer played a simple seven-piece kit: kick, snare, a couple of toms, ride and crash cymbals and hi-hat. He wasn’t amplified, so when the music got loud, it was impossible to hear him. He didn’t even try to do any of the complicated double-bass stuff Bonham used to do, although it was clear that he was a good timekeeper and seemed to be locked with Jones when the two were both audible.

After Tangerine, they picked up the pace with The Ocean, then followed with some of the more obscure tracks from Physical Graffiti. Since I’d gotten there late, I missed what could have been the first two or three songs, which conceivably could have been big radio hits like Whole Lotta Love. They closed, predictably, with Stairway to Heaven. When they got to the big guitar break, Jones, who still had his bass hanging around his shoulders, left the keyboard and jammed with Page. At the end, they brought it down to just the vocals and the clavinet. The crowd was completely silent for a second or two, then breaking out into polite applause. Not what you’d expect at a heavy metal show.

“Go ahead and put some money in the tip bucket,” Page growled at the crowd, motioning to a big green bucket to his left that looked like it had held flowers and sod until a few minutes previously. “Or buy us some beer.” As if on cue, at least a couple dozen audience members made a beeline for the deli on the corner. Meanwhile, I was trying to recapture the whole experience, wondering how I could relate here what I’d just experienced, if I could remotely do justice to such an exhilarating, completely unexpected performance. Sadly, I never got the chance to figure that out, because that’s when I woke up. This, then, is the best I can do. Now before you get all worked up and upset at me for writing this piece, just think for a minute about how depressing it was for me to return to a waking state from a dream like this.

November 28, 2007 Posted by | Conspiracy, Music, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Concert Review: Sasha Dobson and Van Hayride at Banjo Jim’s 5/6/07

Sasha Dobson, a jazz/pop singer who’s now playing guitar as well, has become one of the few NYC artists to get any press in the NY Times, and she’s earned it: she’s what Norah Jones should aspire to be in a couple of years. Dobson has paid her dues playing small clubs over the past several years and sings in a lower register than Jones, but still invites the inevitable Norah comparisons since she’s moved away from jazz toward a more pop style. Her stage persona is more confident, more world-weary and decidedly more mature, perhaps appropriately so. She has a fondness for minor keys and rhythms like bossa nova and tango which are well suited to her sultry delivery. Now if only she could stick to doing her own, surprisingly compelling original material instead of covering the likes of hacks like Richard Julian (who duetted with her on one of his songs and added absolutely nothing: to paraphrase Billy Preston, nothing plus nothing makes nothing).

Van Hayride, the headline act, shares a rhythm section with Dobson, the only conceivable reason (other than careless booking) for them to have followed on the bill: But segue or no segue, they were tremendous, and had the audience in hysterics throughout their completely over-the-top set. Van Hayride features the hardest working man in country music, Jack Grace as frontman plus the piano player from his country band along with guitarist Steve Antonakos (what NYC band is this guy NOT in???), doing country covers of Van Halen songs. These guys are smart: they know that 99% of heavy metal is comedy, and that Van Halen were its finest Borscht Belt practitioners. Grace does a spot-on David Lee Roth parody: during one song, he lay on the floor, the mic just out of his reach, as if so wasted that he lacked the eye/hand coordination to reach out and grab it. “Where’s my mic tech,” he growled. On another song, he slumped backwards against the drum kit, his head up against the kick drum. He put the mic everywhere but where it should be, and made his bandmates laugh to the point where they were screwing up. Which is all part of the act. Van Hayride is a thorough reminder of A) how moronic Van Halen’s lyrics were, B) how even stupider Eddie Van Halen’s guitar playing was and C) how absolutely necessary Van Hayride is. And it’s a good thing it’s these guys doing it. Grace is the consummate showman, whether fronting this unit or his own far more serious yet still gutbustingly funny band, and he’s never lacked for excellent players behind him. Antonakos plays Eddie Van Halen’s lines pretty much note for note, albeit without the fuzzy distortion or garish flourishes. Van Hayride are in a four-way tie for funniest New York band, along with Tammy Faye Starlite in all her many incarnations; cover band hellions Rawles Balls, whose most recent shows have turned into bacchanalian karaoke sessions; and Cocktail Angst, the Spinal Tap of lounge bands.

To fully appreciate Van Hayride, it helps to know the source material (Doug Henwood, I know you’re out there): there’s a certain target audience here, specifically those who were subjected to the stuff on FM radio in the early 80s (Van Hayride proudly declares that they’re a “David Lee Roth only” Van Halen cover band). But judging from the response of the crowd in the club – a broad cross-section of ages and locales – you don’t have to be a Van Halen fan (or hater) to get a kick out of this. Next time they play, you might as well jump (”So that’s what the song’s about?” Grace asked quizzically as they reached the end). Van Hayride plays every Sunday in May at 10 at Banjo Jim’s.

May 8, 2007 Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments