Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Album of the Day 9/20/11

Pretty much every day, our 1000 best albums of all time countdown continues all the way to #1. Tuesday’s album was #498:

Ian Hunter – Rant

Ian Hunter may have played in a stadium rock band back in the 70s, but his best years were ahead of him, and that may still be true – and he’s no less vital today, now in his early 70s. It’s amazing how ten years ago, at practically age sixty, he came up with this bitter, ferociously angry requiem of sorts for the entire world. Taking care to kick off the album with persuasive proof that he’s undiminished by all this, he revisits his glam side with Still Love Rock N Roll before the apocalyptic Wash Us Away, the relentlessly ferocious Death of a Nation and Morons, the anti-yuppie diatribe Purgatory and the vitriolic American Spy, directed at sellout ex-punks. There’s also the Bowie-esque Britrock of Dead Man Walking; the sarcastic Good Samaritan; the defiant Soap N Water and Ripoff; the lush, beautiful janglerock of Knees of My Heart and the alienated angst of No One. Dark, lyrical four-on-the-floor rock doesn’t get any better than this. Here’s a random torrent via [not sure what this blog is called, but it’s really good].

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September 22, 2011 Posted by | lists, Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ian Hunter Wails in Hoboken

Ian Hunter is an inspiration: at 72, he’s at the peak of his career, as his careening show at the Hoboken Arts & Music Festival last night reaffirmed. With an excellent band including Mark Bosch on lead guitar, James Mastro on rhythm guitar, a second keyboardist supplying rippling organ and incisive piano, and a rhythm section, Hunter stomped with a nonchalant intensity through songs from the glam era up to the present. The old stuff was represented by Angeline, which has aged well; the woozy All the Way to Memphis, which hasn’t; and of course the requisite All the Young Dudes which at this point is on autopilot and needs to be retired. The more recent material, unsurprisingly, was the best. Mastro grinned and played purist, straight-up rhythm throughout the show, switching to mandolin on a couple of songs, Bosch firing off noisy, shattered blues when it came time for solos. Hunter began on piano: a singalong of Cleveland Rocks appeared early on, along with a noisy version of Life After Death that alternated anguished guitar screams with stillness.

Hunter switched to acoustic guitar early on; they hit a pretty indifferent riff-rock vibe mid-set but regrouped with the best song of the night, a rough, rampaging version of the towering gutter anthem Man Overboard, title track to his excellent 2009 album. They followed that with a slightly less pessimistic, incisively roaring 23A Swan Hill, another cynical, regret-tinged disollution anthem. Maybe it was because they did everything generously and expansively, with plenty of room for intros, outros and solos, but when they closed down the set with a pounding cover of Sweet Jane at close to half past five, it seemed like a short set. Or maybe that’s because Hunter’s catalog is so deep that there’s no way he’d be able to get to all the gems in a single concert. He’s got several dates lined up at City Winery in September for those who need to see more – and by the crowd’s reaction, those shows will probably sell out.

May 2, 2011 Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Spottiswoode’s Wild Goosechase Expedition: A Great Discovery

Spottiswoode & His Enemies’ new album Wild Goosechase Expedition is a throwback to those great art-rock concept albums of the 70s: Dark Side of the Moon, ELO’s Eldorado, the Strawbs’ Grave New World, to name a few. And it ranks right up there with them: if there is any posterity, posterity will view this as not only one of the best albums of 2011 but one of the best of the decade. Songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Jonathan Spottiswoode calls this his Magical Mystery Tour. While the two albums follow a distantly parallel course in places, the music only gets Beatlesque in its trippiest moments. Ostensibly it follows the doomed course of a rock band on tour, a not-so-thinly veiled metaphor for the state of the world today. Most of this is playful, meticulously crafted, Britfolk-tinged psychedelic art-rock and chamber pop – the obvious comparison is Nick Cave, or Marty Willson-Piper. Fearlessly intense, all over the map stylistically, imbued with Spottiswoode’s signature sardonic wit, the spectre of war hangs over much of the album, yet there’s an irrepressible joie de vivre here too. His ambergris baritone inhabits the shadows somewhere between between Nick Cave and Ian Hunter, and the band is extraordinary: lead guitar genius Riley McMahon (also of Katie Elevitch’s band) alternates between rich, resonant textures and writhing anguish, alongside Candace DeBartolo on sax, John Young on bass and Konrad Meissner (of the Silos and, lately, the Oxygen Ponies) on drums.

As much lush exuberance as there is in the briskly strummed title track, Beautiful Monday, there’s a lingering apprehension: “Hoping that one day, we’ll be truly free,” muses Spottiswoode. It sets the tone for much that’s to come, including the next track, Happy Or Not, pensive and gospel-infused. Slowly cresendoing from languid and mysterious to anthemic, the Beatlesque Purple River Yellow Sun follows the metaphorically-charged trail of a wide-eyed crew of fossil hunters. The first real stunner here is All in the Past, a bitter but undeterred rake’s reminiscence shuffling along on the reverb-drenched waves of Spottiswoode’s Rhodes piano:

I was young not so long ago
But that was then and you’ll never know
Who I was, what I did
How we misbehaved
Who we killed
I’ll take that to the grave

The song goes out with a long, echoing scream as adrenalizing as anything Jello Biafra ever put on vinyl.

A bolero of sorts, Just a Word I Use is an invitation to seduction that paints a hypnotic, summery tableau with accordion and some sweet horn charts. A gospel piano tune that sits somewhere between Ray Charles and LJ Murphy, I’d Even Follow You To Philadelphia is deliciously aphoristic – although Philly fans might find it awfully blunt. The gorgeously jangly rocker Sometimes pairs off some searing McMahon slide guitar against a soaring horn chart, contrasting mightily with the plaintive Satie-esque piano intro of Chariot, a requiem that comes a little early for a soldier gone off to war. It’s as potent an antiwar song as has been written in recent years.

All Gone Wrong is a sardonic, two-and-a-half minute rocker that blasts along on a tricky, syncopated beat. The world has gone to completely to hell: “They got religion, we got religion, everything’s religion,” Spottiswoode snarls. Problem Child, with its blend of early 70s Pink Floyd and folk-rock, could be a sarcastic jab at a trust fund kid; Happy Where I Am, the most Beatlesque of all the tracks here vamps and then fades back in, I Am the Walrus style.

This is a long album. The title track (number twelve if you’re counting) might be an Iraq war parable, a creepy southwestern gothic waltz tracing the midnight ride of a crew who seem utterly befuddled but turn absolutely sinister as it progresses: it’s another real stunner, Meissner throwing in some martial drum rolls at the perfect moment. All My Brothers is a bluesy, cruelly sarcastic battlefield scenario: “Only the desert understands, all my brothers lie broken in the sand – freedom, freedom, freedom.” The satire reaches a peak with Wake Me Up When It’s Over: the narrator insists in turning his life over to his manager and his therapist. “Don’t forget to pay the rent…tell me who’s been killed, after all the blood’s been spilled,” its armchair general orders.

McMahon gets to take the intensity as far as it will go with The Rain Won’t Come, a fiery stomping guitar rocker that wouldn’t be out of place on Steve Wynn’s Here Come the Miracles. The album ends on an unexpectedly upbeat note with the one dud here and then the epic, nine-minute You Won’t Forget Your Dream, a platform for a vividly pensive trumpet solo from Kevin Cordt and then a marvelously rain-drenched one from pianist Tony Lauria. All together, these songs make the album a strong contender for best album of the year; you’ll see it on our best albums of 2011 list when we manage to pull it together, this year considerably earlier than December. It’s up now at Spottiswoode’s bandcamp site.

April 26, 2011 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The 20 Best Concerts in New York in 2009

Of all our year-end best-of lists (the 100 Best Songs of 2009 and 50 Best Albums of 2009 included), this is our favorite, because it’s the most individual (everybody has a different list) and it’s closest to our raison d’etre, live music in New York. Last year’s was difficult enough to narrow down to twenty; this year’s is criminally short. We could have put up a top 100 concerts list and it would be five times as good. 

This was the year of the Beast – Small Beast at the Delancey, New York’s most exciting weekly rock event. We caught onto this slowly – the concert series ran for about a month before we discovered it – but when we did we were there almost every week. Occasionally someone will ask, since you have a music blog, why don’t you start booking shows? With Small Beast, there’s no need: it’s your weekly chance to discover the edgiest, smartest rock-ish talent from Gotham and across the globe. You’ll see a lot of those shows on this list.

Yet 2009 was a weird year for us – running a New York live music blog and not being in town much of the time made it problematic, to say the least. Week after week, we watched from a distance, enviously as half the city got to see stuff we never did. In August, the Brooklyn What did a killer triple bill with Palmyra Delran’s garage band and amazing latin ska-punk-gypsy rockers Escarioka at Trash Bar, but we weren’t there. The second night of the Gypsy Tabor Festival just a few weeks later looked like a great time, but we missed that one too. As the year winds down and we finally (hopefully!) start to reap the rewards of a whole lot of hard work, it appears, pending some absolutely transcendent show exploding onto the radar, that this is it for our Best Shows of 09 list. Needless to say, we can’t wait for 2010.

Since any attempt to rank these shows in any kind of order would be an exercise in futility, we just listed them as they happened:

The Brooklyn What at Fat Baby, 1/15/09 – since we’d just reviewed a couple of their shows in the fall of 08, we didn’t even review this one, fearing overkill. But on what was the coldest night of the winter up to that point, they packed the club and burned through a characteristically fun, ferocious set, maybe fueled by the knowledge that one of their idols, Ron Asheton, had left us.

Kerry Kennedy at Rose Bar, 1/21/09 – the noir chanteuse was at the absolute top of her game as quietly resilient siren and southwestern gothic bandleader.

Paul Wallfisch and Larkin Grimm at Small Beast at the Delancey, 4/9/09 – the Botanica frontman (who books Small Beast) turned in a typically fiery set, followed by the avant-chanteuse who battled and finally lashed out at a crowd of clueless yuppie puppies who just didn’t get what the show was all about.

Kotorino at Pete’s Candy Store, 4/13/09 – the quietly multistylistic, gypsyish band filled the place on a Monday night and kept the crowd riveted as they all switched instruments, beats and genres over and over.

The New Collisions at Arlene’s, 4/23/09 – Boston’s best new band blazed through an early 80s inflected set of edgy powerpop.

Paul Wallfisch, the Ulrich-Ziegler Duo and McGinty and White at Small Beast at the Delancey, 4/23/09 – after Wallfisch had set the tone for the night, Big Lazy’s Steve Ulrich and Pink Noise’s Itamar Ziegler played hypnotic, macabre guitar soundscapes followed by the ferociously lyrical retro 60s chamber pop of Joe McGinty and Ward White.

The American String Quartet playing Irving Fine and Robert Sirota’s Triptych at Bargemusic, 4/26/09 – a sinister ride through works by one of the leading lights of the 1950s avant garde followed by a haunting, intense performance of contemporary composer Sirota’s 9/11 suite.

Paul Wallfisch, Vera Beren’s Gothic Chamber Blues Ensemble, Spottiswoode and Steve Wynn at Small Beast at the Delancey, 4/30/09 – after Wallfisch got the night started, Beren roared and scorched her way through a pummeling, macabre set. Then Spottiswoode impressed with a subtle set of nocturnes, setting the stage for Wynn, playing together with his friend and ex-lead guitarist Chris Brokaw for the first time in several years, a feast of swirling, otherworldly guitar overtones.

The Friggs and the Chrome Cranks at Santos Party House, 5/8/09 – a triumphant return for the popular 90s garage girl rockers followed by the equally triumphant, reinvigorated, snarling sonic attack of another one of NYC’s best bands of the 90s.

The French Exit at Local 269, 5/13/09 – NYC’s best new dark rockers playing one of their first shows as a four-piece, rich with reverb, tersely incisive piano, haunting vocals and defiant lyricism.

Chicha Libre on the Rocks Off Concert Cruise Boat, 5/15/09 – definitely the best party of the year that we were party to, a swaying excursion through psychedelic, surfy cumbia music, past and present.

Paul Wallfisch, Darren Gaines & the Key Party and Alice Texas at Small Beast at the Delancey, 6/4/09 – Wallfisch kicked it off, Gaines and a stripped-down trio impressed with gutter-poet, Lou Reed/Tom Waits style rock and then Alice Texas turned in a swirling, incandescent, gently assaultive show that reminded how much we miss Tonic, the club where she used to play before it was torn down t0 put up plastic luxury condos.

Paul Wallfisch, Marni Rice and the Snow at Small Beast at the Delancey, 6/22/09 – another Wallfisch night, this one featuring the great LES accordionist/chanteuse/cabaret scholar and then Pierre de Gaillande’s clever, haunting art-r0ck crew.

Ian Hunter at Rockefeller Park, 6/24/09 – the former Mott the Hoople frontman, at age 70, has simply never written, played, or sung better. This show was a real revelation.

Daniel Bernstein at Sidewalk, 7/9/09 – the underground songwriter/lyricist/tunesmith casually burned through one haunting, haunted, ridiculously catchy tune after another.

Randi Russo and the Oxygen Ponies at the Saltmines, 7/10/09 – another haunting show opened with the absolute master of the outsider anthem, who did double duty playing in Paul Megna’s equally dark, intense, lyrical indie band.

The Main Squeeze Accordion Festival: Musette Explosion, Suspenso del Norte, Hector Del Curto’s Eternal Tango Quintet, the Main Squeeze Orchestra, Roberto Cassan and John Munatore, Liony Parra y la Mega Mafia Tipica and Peter Stan at Pier One, 7/11/09 – squeezebox heaven.

Amir ElSaffar’s Two Rivers Ensemble and the Dave Brubeck Quartet at Damrosch Park, 8/5/09 – cutting-edge Middle Eastern-inflected jazz followed by one of the great ones, undiminished and still inventive at 89.

Jenifer Jackson at Rockwood Music Hall, 11/19/09 – the panstylistic rock goddess played several good New York shows this past year, but this one with Matt Kanelos on piano and glockenspiel and Billy Doughty on drums and melodica was pure transcendence.

Carol Lipnik, Bonfire Madigan, Rachelle Garniez, Vera Beren’s Gothic Chamber Blues Ensemble and McGinty and White at Small Beast at the Delancey, 11/23/09 – what seems at this point to be the single best show of the year (if only because it’s the most recent one on the list) matched Lipnik’s phantasmagoria to Madigan’s equally artful chamber pop, Garniez’ irresistible charisma and ferocity, Beren’s contralto classical punk assault and then Ward White took over where the sirens had been and sang what could have been his best show ever.

December 3, 2009 Posted by | lists, Lists - Best of 2008 etc., Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Top Ten Songs of the Week 7/13/09

We do this every Tuesday. 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. Pretty much every link here will take you to each individual song.

 

1. Ian Hunter – Man Overboard

At age 70, he’s the oldest guy to ever top the “charts” here – and this may be the best song he’s ever written! The fiery, anguished 6/8 anthem is the title track to his brand-new cd.

 

2. We Intersect – Let’s Gentrificate

Fast 2/4 Interpol-ish stuff but with bite and venom. They’re at Small Beast at the Delancey on 8/24.  

 

3. Andrea Wittgens – Cardboard Cutouts

Very smart songwriter/keyboardist in the Greta Gertler vein. She’s at Spikehill on 7/30 at 11

 

4. Chronikill – Drinking on a Tuesday

This hip-hop trio claim to “put the funk back in functional alcoholic.” Self-explanatory and funny. They’re at Bowery Poetry Club at 10 on Oct 9

 

5. Sophie Auster – Away

Noir janglerock from this artsy chanteuse with a big dramatic voice. She’s at Caffe Vivaldi on 7/31 at 8.

 

6. The Erotics – Gas Chamber Barbie Doll

NY Dolls style glam punk, self-explanatory. They’re at Trash Bar on 7/31 at 9.

 

7. The Bombshell Betties – Cherry Lips

Sassy punk pop from this promising all-girl Staten Island group.

 

8. Katie Ballou – Save My Children

Rustic Appalachian-style antiwar anthem. She’s one of the guitarists in the Bombshell Betties.

 

9. John Batdorf – What’d Ya Got

Kinda folkie, but hang in there with this one – the very contemporary lyrics pack a James McMurtry-class wallop

 

10. Crowds and Power – The Viscount of Discount

Cleverly lyrical Britpop.

July 14, 2009 Posted by | lists, Lists - Best of 2008 etc., Music, music, concert | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Concert Review: Ian Hunter at Rockefeller Park, NYC 6/24/09

“You goin’ to Poughkeepsie?” a paunchy, greyhaired guy in a Zappa tour shirt and jeans eagerly asked his somewhat more nattily attired friend reclining on a blanket in the wet grass. The friend grimaced as he made an attempt to shift his weary bones into a more comfortable position. The guy to their right had a Bowie shirt: the Sound & Vision Tour, 1990 (wait a minute – Sound & Vision was a 70s song!).

“It’s just like the Fillmore, ’73!” exclaimed another concertgoer into his cellphone, ratty ponytail swinging below what was left of his hair, his voice equal parts wonderment and self-deprecation.

But this was no nostalgia show. Ian Hunter and his five-piece backing unit the Rant Band went on a little late, without a soundcheck and transcended a dodgy sound mix, playing a fiery, anthemically melodic mix of mostly upbeat, smartly literate, glam-inflected four-on-the-floor rock. Most of the songs were more recent and were unequivocally excellent: Hunter has never written or sounded better. Kinda heartwarming to see a guy who’s pushing seventy at the peak of his artistic career. Hunter is something of an anomaly in rock, the former frontman of a generic 70s “hard rock” band whose solo career vastly surpasses any radio or arena rock success he might have enjoyed with Black Crowes foreshadowers Mott the Hoople. Decked out in his trademark shades, playing acoustic guitar (and piano on the set’s closing numbers), he was characteristically energetic and intense throughout his practically 90-minute battle with one technical difficulty after another. “There are women and children here, I can’t vent my spleen,” he snarled after the crew finally got his mic at the piano working.

They opened with the big anthem Once Bitten Twice Shy, just Hunter and the drums until the two electric guitars and the bass finally came in on the second chorus. Central Park and West, from Hunter’s underrated 1981 Short Back and Sides album (produced by Mick Jones) was warmly received as the chorus kicked in: “New York City’s the best!!!” By the time they launched into the gritty, backbeat-driven anthem Soul of America, a ridiculously catchy number that wouldn’t be out of place in the Willie Nile catalog, they’d finally gotten all the guitar issues ironed out. Big Mouth, from Hunter’s Shrunken Heads cd was a characteristically sardonic, urbane urban tale with a surprisingly ornate bridge, finally given some guitar firepower with a couple of ferocious twin solos. Then they took the volume up even further with the snidely riff-rocking 9/11 memorial song Twisted Steel.

Best song of the night was the title track from the forthcoming album Man Overboard, a wrenching, towering, anguished 6/8 ballad, a bitter chronicle of disappointments and a desperate need to escape. After that, the rest of the show could have been anticlimactic, but it wasn’t, the feeling of unease recurring in the potent anthem 23A Swan Hill: “There’s gotta be some way outta here, this can’t be life.” They also treated the crowd to one of the closest things Hunter’s had to a radio hit here, Just Another Night, and a Bowie-esque two-keyboard song building a Moonlight Sonata-ish ascending riff into hypnotic intensity. The last of the recent songs was a big, stomping riff-rocker, Out of the Running, also from the new album. They did some songs after that, but those were for the nostalgia crowd and were pretty tired. Most of the dark rockers of the 70s like Lou Reed may have gone off to “experimental” land or elsewhere, but Ian Hunter’s midnight oil still smokes and burns.

June 25, 2009 Posted by | Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Song of the Day 3/9/09

Every day, our top 666 songs of alltime countdown gets one step closer to #1. Monday’s song is #506:

Ian Hunter – Rain

If you count everything in the guy’s prolific post-Mott the Hoople career, Hunter’s got a pretty impressive catalog of gloomy, Lou Reed-ish glamrock. This is a big, swirling, stately, elegaic anthem with towering, monumental post-Sandinista production by the Clash’s Mick Jones. Mp3s are kicking around; if you’re looking for vinyl, it’s on the Short Back and Sides lp from 1981 (link is to a choice of torrents).

March 9, 2009 Posted by | lists, Lists - Best of 2008 etc., Music, music, concert | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment