Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

The Devil Makes Three Play Cool Funny Oldtime Americana at Maxwell’s Tonight

Santa Cruz-based acoustic Americana hellraisers The Devil Makes Three play Maxwell’s tonight at nine. If you miss the Asylum Street Spankers, The Devil Makes Three are just as entertaining – and like the Spankers, they also happen to be an excellent band. The most recent album from guitarist Pete Bernhard, upright bassist Lucia Turino and guitarist/tenor banjo player Cooper McBean came out a couple of years ago. It’s called Do Wrong, Right, and it’s something that should have been on our radar at the time but wasn’t. It’s not just bluegrass with funny, surreal lyrics – the band also plays country swing, blues and Nashville gothic and does that stuff period-perfect as well.

The album is sort of a cross between the Spankers and Mojo Nixon’s duo stuff with Jello Biafra. The opening track, All Hail is a genuine classic: as they see it, the world is populated with clueless shoppers all wasted on crack and antidepressants: “It ain’t a drug, goddamn it, I give it to my only son,” says the guy on the way to the office thorazine party. The amusing intro of Poison Trees gives no indication of the ominous, apocalyptic shuffle that follows. The title track is a bouncy, violin-fueled bluegrass tune; they follow that with Gracefully Facedown, a woozy swing shuffle like early Dan Hicks. It’s a tribute to anyone who subscribes to the idea that “drinking bottom shelf bourbon seems to work all right til closing time.” For Good Again cynically mythologizes the band’s roots living in squalor, paying the rent in illegal drugs and writing songs that someday they’d get paid to play. “Everybody who’s anybody at one time lived in somebody’s hallway,” they assert, and they’re probably right.

Their Working Man’s Blues isn’t the Merle Haggard standard – it’s a haunting tobacco sharecropper’s lament with blues harp that sounds like it was recorded on another planet, a feeling echoed on a biting version of Statesboro Blues. The Johnson Family is an eerie, carnivalesque gypsy waltz; Helping Yourself puts a devious Curtis Eller-style spin on oldtime country gospel, spiced with an unexpectedly searing slide guitar solo. A spot-on early 50s style honkytonk tune that does double duty as raised middle finger to the boss, Cheap Reward unexpectedly quotes Elvis Costello; there’s also the careening slide guitar shuffle Aces and Twos and the unexpectedly epic Car Wreck. Good album – where the hell were we when this came out? You can get it at the band’s site or pick one up at the show.

May 18, 2011 Posted by | blues music, country music, folk music, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Album of the Day 3/15/11

Every day, our 1000 best albums of all time countdown continues all the way to #1. Tuesday’s album is #686:

Ice-T – The Iceberg: Freedom of Speech…Just Watch What You Say

Before Ice-T was the leader of a metal band, or a character actor specializing in cop roles, he antagonized them with his lyrics – which were usually brilliant. This 1989 album by the self-styled “inventor of the crime rhyme” is the highlight of his rap career. It opens with a long, Orwellian Jello Biafra spoken-word piece over a Black Sabbath sample. The rest of the album mixes the verbal gymnastics of the title track and Hit the Deck with crime rhymes like the ominous drive-by scenario Peel Their Caps Back and the rapidfire, desperate Hunted Child, the hilarious The Girl Tried to Kill Me and the ferocious, antagonistic, politically spot-on This One’s for Me. The only dud here is an interminable party rap with one forgettable cameo after another. Here’s a random torrent via fromthaold2thanew.

March 15, 2011 Posted by | lists, Music, music, concert, rap music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Song of the Day 7/23/10

Our daily best 666 songs of alltime countdown is working its way through the top ten: six days left before we reach the greatest song ever. Friday’s song is #6:

The Dead Kennedys – A Growing Boy Needs His Lunch

Hang in there: the DKs open the song by running a whole verse without lyrics, East Bay Ray’s macabre surf guitar sounding like a guitar army. The song is on Frankenchrist, the greatest punk band’s greatest album. It’s a random series of observations that any relatively perceptive kid could have made in 1985: the idiocy of Elvis worship; how multinational corporations take their poison to the third world when the FDA bans it here (they don’t anymore); the sick and twisted world of CIA black operations. And how does the average person respond: “Turn on, tune in, drop out? Drop kick, turn in, tune out.” Bassist Klaus Flouride practically breaks his low string in disgust at the end.

July 23, 2010 Posted by | lists, Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Song of the Day 7/8/10

Three weeks til our best 666 songs of alltime countdown reaches #1…and then we start with the 1000 best albums of alltime. Thursday’s song is #21:

Jello Biafra & DOA – Full Metal Jackoff

Dating from the Bush I presidency but as accurate now as it was almost twenty years ago, Biafra caustically and painstakingly documents the failure of the war on drugs – and its use by the right wing to keep the working classes divided and conquered – over practically twenty minutes of reverb-drenched sonic sludge by the Canadian punk rockers. One of the most important political documents of our time, and a great song too. From The Sky Is Falling and I Want My Mommy, 1992. For an even more bleakly funny take on the situation, see #121 on this list, the Geto Boys’ City Under Siege.

July 7, 2010 Posted by | lists, Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Song of the Day 4/13/10

The best 666 songs of alltime countdown continues every day, all the way to #1. Tuesday’s song is #107:

The Dead Kennedys – Saturday Night Holocaust

Grisly, sludgy noise-rock intro giving way to one of the most ferociously powerful, reverb-drenched punk choruses the greatest punk band of them all ever wrote, with characteristically relevant lyrics (and some that aren’t so relevant: “Up and down your spandex ass….). First released on album on the 1989 Give Me Convenience or Give Me Death anthology.

April 13, 2010 Posted by | lists, Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Song of the Day 3/16/10

The best 666 songs of alltime countdown continues every day, all the way to #1. Tuesday’s song is #135:

The Dead Kennedys – Cesspools in Eden

The most musically interesting song the band ever did closes side one of their final, haphazardly assembled studio album Bedtime for Democracy, 1986. It’s a big, towering ecocide epic driven by Klaus Flouride’s savage, roaring, distorted bass chords.

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

Song of the Day 2/27/10

The best 666 songs of alltime countdown continues every day, all the way to #1. Saturday’s song is #152:

The Dead Kennedys – This Could Be Anywhere

Not only is Frankenchrist a great album, it’s also an irreplaceable historical document, a vivid look at what it was like being a kid during the Reagan years – the division between rich and poor growing ever wider, the dispossessed underclass distracted by media-generated fear of immigrants, punks and smart people in general. This song captures that era better than any prosaic description ever could. It also has a ferociously good bassline.

February 27, 2010 Posted by | lists, Lists - Best of 2008 etc., Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Song of the Day 1/24/10

Wow, the possibilities a new modem opens up! Back to the daily countdown as we chronicle the best 666 songs of alltime all the way to #1. Sunday’s song is #186:

The Dead Kennedys – Too Drunk to Fuck

Not only is this one of the funniest songs ever written, it’s also one of the alltime great garage rock hits. And also the #1 song of the year in Finland, 1981 – must be all that vodka. “Take out your fucking retainer, put it in your purse!”

January 24, 2010 Posted by | lists, Lists - Best of 2008 etc., Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

CD Review: Matthew Grimm & the Red Smear – The Ghost of Rock n Roll

This is hands-down the funniest album of the year. It might also be the best. Matthew Grimm is the populist that Springsteen probably wishes he still was – over a pummeling highway rock backdrop, one part Social Distortion stomp, one part turbocharged Bottle Rockets barroom roar, he drops one direct hit after another on religious fanatics, Wall Street swindlers and the system that allowed them to take power in the first place. If the Dead Kennedys had survived Tipper Gore’s assault and traded in the surf rock for Americana, they might sound something like this.

Like Stephen Colbert, Grimm’s satire knows no bounds. He’s been as formidable a social critic as songwriter since his days in the 90s and early zeros fronting twangy New York rockers the Hangdogs and this time out he spares no one, and despite the full-frontal assault he’s a lot subtler than it might seem. The first cut on the cd is typical, hardly the self-effacing narrative the title, My Girlfriend’s Way Too Hot for Me, might suggest: it’s a raised middle finger at the yuppie who has everything but the hot girlfriend and who just can’t seem to be able to buy the piece of ass who would complete his collection. Grimm makes it clear how aware he is that it’s always the smart guys who get the hottest girls (and vice versa). Lead guitarist Jason Berge mimics an air-raid siren as Grimm has a laugh or five at the expense of doomsday Christians on the next cut, the Bodeans-ish Wrath of God.

Hang Up and Drive is a late-period Hangdogs song, a deliciously unleashed barrage of invective against the kind of guy who doesn’t exactly need those three tons of steel and glass to chill out in the left lane at 60 MPH while he calls his wife. The even funnier and characteristically spot-on Ayn Rand Sucks explores the righteous world of a rich suburban girl who brags about her fondness for the “Nazi skank” on her Facebook page: “Mein Kampf by any other name is Mein Kampf.” If that realization doesn’t get you, you won’t get this album. The best song on the album – and maybe the best song of the decade – is a savage, anthemic kiss-off to George Bush titled 1/20/09. “I know you won’t be troubled with states of reflection/Still a cloistered and dull trust-fund kid,” Grimm rails. “But maybe one shiny day, we’ll see each other again in the Hague.” The album’s exhilaratingly optimistic final cut, One Big Union is just as catchy and just as fiery an anthem, and it’s been picked up by more than one political campaign as a theme song.

Even the less politically-charged tracks here have a remarkable social awareness. The title track does double duty as an evocative examination of working-class drudgery and how people somehow manage to make it through the day fueled by tunes from realms people who have never opened their ears have never seen. There’s also Cry, which manages to be sympathetic while reminding a heartbroken girl how much better off she is than the rest of the world, and the less sympathetic Cinderella, where Grimm turns both barrels on a woman looking for soap opera-style yuppie contentedness and ends it by hitting on her. And he also proves himself adept at hip-hop during the break on White, which might be a parody:

Who thinks Sarah Palin’s smart? Who still watches MTV?

Who thinks sitcoms are funny and reality shows are reality?

Who deducts hookers, cooks the books and burns the paper trail?

Grifted away your 401K, won’t ever spend a fuckin day in jail?

I don’t wanna be white anymore

Turning in my Amstel Light, my golf clubs and my gun…

Look for this one high at the top of our best albums of 2009 list at the end of the year. Iowa-based Grimm and his band’s next show is an acoustic gig at Tornado’s, 1400 3rd St. SE in Cedar Rapids on October 1, sharing the bill with Sarah Cram.

September 12, 2009 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Song of the Day 8/31/09

Every day, our top 666 songs of alltime countdown gets one step closer to #1. Monday’s song is #331:

Jello Biafra & NomeansnoChew

Nightmare wee-hours NYC subway platform scenario with one of the most guitarishly delicious, reverb-drenched intros ever. The rats are everywhere, and they’re on the attack. Finally the train comes, but in typical MTA fashion, it doesn’t stop! From The Sky Is Falling and I Want My Mommy, the Dead Kennedys’ frontman’s otherwise so-so 1989 collaboration with the dadaesque Canadian punk band. The link in the title above is a youtube clip of the full track.

August 31, 2009 Posted by | lists, Lists - Best of 2008 etc., Music, music, concert | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment