Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Album of the Day 8/18/11

Every day, our 1000 best albums of all time countdown continues all the way to #1. Thursday’s album is #530:

Devi – Get Free

The 2009 debut release by this Hoboken, New Jersey psychedelic powerpop trio is a feast of good guitar and solid tunesmithing. But Debra, the band’s frontwoman, doesn’t let her virtuoso chops clutter the songs: instead, she goes for intricate layers and textures, with the occasional long, exhilarating, blues-infused solo. The genuine classic here is Welcome to the Boneyard, a haunted 9/11 memoir told from the point of a ghost in the rubble, drenched in watery riffs played through a Leslie organ speaker. When It Comes Down and the title track are the big concert favorites, all rises and falls and scorching solos. There’s also the wickedly catchy, gritty Howl at the Moon; Another Day (which could be the Runaways if they’d had better chops); Demon in the Sack, which pokes fun at gender stereotypes and sexual politics; Love That Lasts, which finally crosses the bridge over into exuberant metal; and a richly textured cover of Neil Young’s The Needle and the Damage Done. The album is streaming in its entirety at bandcamp and available as a free download at the band’s site.

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August 18, 2011 Posted by | lists, Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Song of the Day 2/13/09 – Happy Birthday Gail!

Every day, our top 666 songs of alltime countdown gets one step closer to #1. Friday’s is #530:

The Bongos – Numbers with Wings

The 1982 title track to the Hoboken band’s excellent ep, this is an uncharacteristically haunting if lyrically nonsensical janglerock anthem, Richard Barone’s watery guitar soaring over a brisk dance beat. Others – guess who – would say that this isn’t even the best track on the album, that it’s the atmospheric, melancholy Sweet Blue Cage that really hits the spot…

February 13, 2009 Posted by | lists, Lists - Best of 2008 etc., Music, music, concert | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Nightcall and Rawles Balls Live in NYC 6/10/07

Nightcall is the most exciting new band in New York. It’s retro revivalist Bliss Blood’s latest project, alongside the delightful, old-timey Moonlighters, Polynesian psychedelic unit Voodoo Suite and the acoustic blues band Delta Dreambox. “We’ve invented a new genre: snuff torch songs,” she told the audience, and the result was absolutely riveting. Playing her trusty ukelele, accompanied by upright bassist Peter Maness and electric guitarist Stu Spasm, who used a tiny amp with tons of reverb, she and her accomplices played a mix of covers and originals: all with a crime theme. “In all our songs, the criminal has to win,” she explained. They did sweetly ominous, noir versions of the theme to the James Bond film You Only Live Twice, a Leonard Bernstein composition called Big Stuff (“Not from West Side Story,” Blood told the crowd), and Tom Waits’ Black Market Baby. But their best numbers were all originals, including a haunting Moonlighters tune, Broken Doll. They also played their “signature song,” the lurid tale of an intruder aptly titled Nightcall, and Blackwater, which was far and away the high point of the night. “This is for Halliburton…and the mercenaries in Iraq,” Blood mused aloud. The song began with an ominous minor-key theme, the bass carrying the melody:

Don’t look too closely or you’ll find
He has a mercenary mind
He’ll be your man if you can pay
And when the gold is in his hands
He’ll acquiesce to your demands
Play any game you want to play

After a macabre, chromatic chorus, the bass player scurried up and down the scale like a twisted old man on the way to a Carlyle Group meeting.

In many ways Blood epitomizes what the Bush regime fears the most. She’s a charming, wickedly intelligent, completely innocent-looking Texan who never misses a chance to call truth to power, and does so in a blithely amusing way that doesn’t alienate audiences. Today was Puerto Rican day in Manhattan: “I’m from Vieques,” she joked. “You have to excuse me, I’m all messed up from the stuff they drop there,” referring to all the depleted uranium that’s covered the island over more than a decade of Air Force bomb testing.

“What’s an A minor?” Rawles Balls frontman Nigel Rawles – the former Scout drummer – asked his keyboardist, whom he’d just sent away from the stage.

“A-C-E,” came the reply.

“Can we write on the keys?” Rawles asked the soundman. The answer was no.

Rawles had for some inexplicable reason brought a guitar that was “broken,” he said. Nonetheless, he was determined to get through the show, seated at the piano, an instrument he doesn’t know how to play. Rawles Balls is the cover band from hell, capable of butchering pretty much any song from any era and tonight was a fullscale massacre. Doing his best to hammer out a bassline with two fingers, Rawles must have played At the Hop – or tried to, anyway – at least four times. When they’re on their game, Rawles Balls perfectly embody the true spirit of punk rock, having a gleeful time poking fun at every conceivable aspect of what they play. Taking the concept to the logical extreme, they never rehearse and the band is in a constant state of flux, with practically a new lineup every week: tonight Rawles dragged the estimable Ward White (who played bass in the band for a time) up to the stage. White fed Rawles lyrics as he struggled through the Bowie classic Five Years. “This is the last song we’ll ever play,” Rawles facetiously told the audience, managing to botch even the reference (that’s what Bowie says before Rock n Roll Suicide, dude).

At this point it looks like Rawles may have depleted the talent pool, such as it exists for a band like this. His backing unit tonight, such that it was, included a woman who sang harmonies on a few songs, a friend who knew a few piano chords and another who came up to the stage, tried to get through Fur Elise as Rawles whistled along but gave up in disgust after about fifteen seconds. And the Ward White cameo. And of course they recorded this show, since Rawles Balls has in the past three years released over 50 (fifty) albums, which has to be a record. All but two of those are live concert recordings.

In a sick way, it took a tremendous amount of nerve for Rawles to get up onstage and try to fake his way through an hourlong set, completely unrehearsed, playing an unfamiliar instrument. However, there were indications that he might not have been as completely lost as he seemed: there were clever segues between songs that shared the exact same chord changes, and he did exhibit an ability to at least figure out the bassline to maybe half of what he attempted to play. Then there was the issue of the “broken” guitar. When the Rawles Balls act is working, it’s unimaginably funny. Tonight was a new low: by the time the sound guy gave Rawles the two-minute warning, it was simply a reprieve. Which in itself was pretty amusing.

June 11, 2007 Posted by | Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Concert Review: Devi at Trash, Brooklyn NY 5/29/07

“I love New York!” exclaimed Devi frontwoman/guitarist Debra. “I’m from Wisconsin, where Friday nights the thing to do was go to Poppin’ Fresh Pies.

And eat pie.”

She and her power trio played with joy and abandon: it was as if they’d just been reprieved from a lifetime at the pie parlor. Tonight it was all about the songs. Maybe it was that Debra – like seemingly every singer in New York this week – had a bad case of allergies and didn’t feel like stretching out. For the most part, instead of getting all wild and psychedelic as they’re tending to do more these days, they hammered out one catchy powerpop number after another. Debra, one of the most exciting, original, virtuosic lead guitarists in rock, did stretch out one of their favorites for jamming, the edgy, anthemic When It Comes Down. First she launched into some blues, then some strategically placed feedback, then started feeling her way through the chorus. Like a cat looking around the house for food, she sniffed at her huge Marshall amp, brushed up against the drums and pawed at her effects pedals. Then, as if returning to a favorite spot by the window, she and the band went back into the song. Like the cat, the solo didn’t really go anywhere, but its insouciant grace was undeniably captivating.

Otherwise, it was nonstop energy, one song into another. They opened with the catchy riff-rocker Another Day and later did a growling, bouncy take on the old Del Shannon hit Runaway. Later, they played a couple of excellent new numbers: first the darkly gorgeous, minor-key, backbeat-driven Howl at the Moon, followed by the funky, sarcastic Miss Indispensable. On a couple of their songs, it was gratifying to see how much of a rapport has developed between band members. Debra led them in a call-and-response (could you imagine a band-du-jour like, say, the Killers playing off each others’ phrasing?), riffing on drummer John Hummel’s pounding tom-tom work as well as the fluid, upper-register melodicism of five-string bassist Dan Grennes.

Hummel’s drums kept scooching toward the front of the stage, which was a blessing in disguise since they were amped way too high in the mix, forcing him to hold back a little and this did a lot to bring the levels under control. While it would have been nice to have heard DeSalvo take a flying leap, swing out past the edge of the cliff and pull herself back with one hand, as she so often does, it was impressive to hear how strong her new songs are. Good to see this excellent, frequently exhilarating band getting some real momentum.

June 2, 2007 Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments