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JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Album of the Day 6/7/11

Every day, our 1000 best albums of all time countdown continues all the way to #1. Tuesday’s album is #602:

Knoxville Girls – In the Woodshed

Active from the late 90s through the early zeros, darkly swampy New York rockers Knoxville Girls inhabitated a stylized world of Jim Jarmusch noir Americana. With Dimestore Dance Band leader Jack Martin, former Cramp Kid Congo Powers and the Chrome Cranks’ Jerry Teel on guitars, Barry London on organ and original Sonic Youth drummer Bob Bert, they were the “the ultimate Lower East Side resume band” as one blog aptly billed them. As entertaining and occasionally menacing as their two studio albums are (In a Paper Suit, from 2004 is highly recommended), onstage they were an unstoppable beast. From 2000, this is their only live album, released only on vinyl and sold exclusively as tour merch. When Teel croons Warm and Tender Love, somehow it feels like just the opposite, a feeling that recurs on I Had a Dream and Charlie Feathers’ rockabilly standard Have You Ever. They take Ferlin Husky’s I Feel Better All Over to the next level, careen through the shuffling Armadillo Roadkill Blues, Kung Pow Chicken Scratch, the tongue-in-cheek One More Thing and the instrumental Sixty-Five Days Ago with an unhinged abandon that peaks in the sprawling, closing jam, Low Cut Apron/Sugar Fix. It doesn’t look like this has ever been digitized: try your local used vinyl joint. The band’s two studio albums are still available from In the Red.

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June 7, 2011 Posted by | lists, Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Album of the Day 9/15/10

Every day our 1000 best albums of all time countdown continues all the way to #1. Wednesday’s album is #867:

The Chrome Cranks – Live in Exile

The Chrome Cranks were New York’s best band for most of the 1990s before imploding late in the decade. Combining the assaultive, combative riff-driven charisma of the Stooges with the paint-peeling, feedback-riddled, blues-warped guitar of frontman Peter Aaron and lead player William G. Weber and propelled by the potent rhythm section of former Honeymoon Killer Jerry Teel on bass and ex-Sonic Youth drummer Bob Bert, their studio albums blew away the rest of the Lower East Side glampunk crowd but never quite captured the raw unhinged menace of their live shows. But this does. Recorded at the end of 1996 in Holland at the end of a European tour, the band are at the peak of their power. Much as most of their songs are about facing down the end with a sneer, a smirk, a snort or something, this one really has the air of desperation: they knew this wouldn’t last, but they wanted to capture it for those who came after. They open the show with their gleefully ugly signature cover, See That My Grave Is Kept Clean and after that, the song titles pretty much say it all. Lost Time Blues; Wrong Number; Dead Man’s Suit; We’re Going Down. Their practically nine-minute version of Pusherman surpasses even the Live Skull version for out-of-focus, fatalistic fury; the last of the encores is the self-explanatory Burn Baby Burn. Reinvigorated and apparently free of the demons that plagued them the first time around, the Cranks reunited in 2008 with a mighty series of shows in New York and Europe, with the promise of a new album sometime in the future.

September 15, 2010 Posted by | lists, Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Concert Review: The Friggs and the Chrome Cranks at Santos Party House, NYC 5/8/09

Two very different bands with a long history together delivering the same good news, twice: they’re back. Well-loved, all-female garage rock revivalists the Friggs are the kind of band that always seemed up for a reunion show, and word on the street is they’ll be around for the occasional doublebill like this in the coming months even while lead player Palmyra Delran continues her excellent solo career. The Chrome Cranks? Same deal, a prospect that seemed something beyond impossible when the LES legends imploded in the mid-90s. More about them later.

With two Fender Jaguars and a Mustang bass, Delran, Jezebel, drummer Kitten LaChaCha and bassist Ruby Garnett – a distant relative of the Boston Celtics superstar who moonlights as a very compelling keyboardist/chanteuse under the name Rachelle Garniez – drew the crowd in. “Come up here, motherfuckers!” Delran cajoled, and nobody could resist. Over the course of a too-brief twelve-song set and a lone encore, the Friggs gave a clinic in good chord changes and good fun. The charm of the Friggs – beyond the obvious – is their raw edge: the band has just enough looseness to give their catchy, upbeat, jangly riff-rock a little bit of unease. The women smile and pogo and scooch across the stage, but mess with them and you’re liable to get hurt. They opened with Shake, sounding like the Go Go’s doing Link Wray (wouldn’t he have loved that), the fast, funny rockabilly-inflected Mama Blew a Hoody, the stomping, Cramps-ish I Cringe, which Delran prefaced with “This is not a love song, feels like one, but it’s not.” The surfy Friggs Theme had both guitarists playing harmonies on the central hook, almost a Hotel California spoof; after a Kinks-ish riff-rocker, the gorgeously clanging, tongue-in-cheek Kill Yourself and a guest vocalist roaring through a cover of Sam the Sham’s Deputy Dog, they closed with the defiant Bad Word for a Good Thing, Delran – who’d been unabashedly and gleefully showboating all night – straddling the monitors as she delivered yet another offhandedly savage, blissful solo.

Of all the Lower East Side bands of the early to mid 1990s, noisy bluespunks the Chrome Cranks were the best, an underground legend in the making, and maybe they knew it all along. Uncompromisingly abrasive, ferociously intense, caustic yet charismatic, they were an amazing live act whether they were on top of their game or the show was a complete trainwreck. Which was always a crapshoot. Now back together for the first time in twelve years with all the original members – guitarist/frontman Peter Aaron, lead player William G. Weber, bassist Jerry Teel (now doing his own noir rock thing leading the excellent New York City Stompers) and former Sonic Youth drummer Bob Bert – they’re better than ever, a scenario that hardly seems possible, especially considering that their blistering, assaultive show was fueled by nothing stronger than water. With songs like Slow Crash, Desperate Friend and Lost Time Blues (the latter two which they played), their inspiration was no secret. The Chrome Cranks’ music, both on album and onstage was seemingly created for the early morning hours, for a condition where sanity and madness have become one and the same, where everything is so impossibly faraway that’s too close for comfort. A cynic could say that they sound an awful lot like the Stooges, but for them it’s the Fun House era Stooges, 1970.

By the time the band was ready to go, the dj’s music was still playing over the PA. Aaron stepped over the monitors, fixing a glare on his target. “CHECK,” he spat. And then spat on the stage and with that, feedback screaming from his battered Strat, they launched into one pummeling stomp after another. As one of the cognoscenti in the crowd said afterward, it was like being in a movie. Desperate Friend gave Weber a chance to go off into savage Ron Asheton territory for a few bars. Teel stood impassive, stage left, cooly providing an eardrum-blasting low end, occasionally with chords. About eight songs into the set, Aaron finally peeled off his coat, soaked in sweat. On a few songs, notably an absolutely hypnotic version of Eight Track Mind, he hit his vintage repeater pedal, adding an even darker edge to the songs’ careening menace. Although Aaron was roaring at full voice, it would get lost in the maelstrom of guitars. Fragments of lyrics emerged: “You’ll fall down..I don’t wanna know you…I just want you dead.” At the end of the set, he and Teel both stuck their guitars in front of their amps, leaving the PA howling with feedback until Weber made his way over to the middle of the stage and gingerly clicked off Aaron’s Fender Twin. The crowd was stunned, both the young in front who’d obviously never seen the band before, and the oldsters in the back who had. Nobody had the energy to scream for an encore until the band had already played them.

With a new compilation, The Murder of Time (1993-1996) due out on Bang! Records, one can only hope for a tour in the wake of a series of New York area shows. For those kicking themselves because they missed this one, they’ll be at Glasslands on May 15, probably around 10 with a bunch of other bands on the bill.

May 9, 2009 Posted by | Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Top Ten Songs of the Week 2/9/09

Here’s this week’s hit parade. All of the links here lead to the individual song except for #9 which you’ll have to see live since the band hasn’t recorded it yet. But it was so good we had to include it anyway.

 

1. The Brooklyn What – We Are the Only Ones

Yet another smash from the Brooklyn What’s sprawling, multistylistic, funny and furious debut cd. This one’s absolutely right for the here and now: a call to the cool kids to overthrow everything that’s keeping everybody down and start something new. What’s this make, six #1 hits from the album, by our reckoning? If this was 1978, that would be the case. They’re at Red Star on 2/20 at 11.

 

2. Botanica – Who You Are

Absolutely gorgeous, majestic, wickedly sardonic art-rock anthem from this era’s greatest art-rock band. They’re at Joe’s Pub on 3/21 at 7, early, after getting back from a whirlwind European tour.

 

3. Edison Woods – Finding the Lions

Warm, reassuring, hypnotic art-rock ballad with gorgeous harmonies from one of New York’s most unique and captivating groups, equal part classical and rock. They’re at Galapagos on 2/19.

 

4. King Khan & the Shrines – Live Fast Die Strong

This band is completely insane but they’re a lot of fun. Bizarre, completely over-the-top funny garage rock, like Emmett Kelly sharing the stage with Jesse Bates’ Flying Guitars, recorded live at a record store. 

 

5. Pearl & the Beard – Vessel

Disquieting, dark, slow and artsy with melodica, cello and guitar. They’re at Union Hall on 2/18.

 

6. The JD Allen Trio – iD

Is it id or ID or…? Typical of this guy. He makes you think. From his latest, magnificent jazz trio album I Am I Am (reviewed here recently), this is as catchy as it is haunting.

 

7. The Latin Giants of Jazz – Trip to Mamboland

This is serious oldschool stuff, essentially what’s left of Tito Puente’s band playing a sizzling, upbeat salsa gem that sounds like something Machito could have done but with better production values.

 

8. The Dirt Luck Outlaws – Whiskey Song

Punkabilly, cowpunk, country punk, whatever you call it, it’s a lot of fun. This is one of those songs that every band is tempted to write and it’s a good thing these guys did. 

 

9. The Disclaimers – The Damage Is Done

Typical Disclaimers song: killer tune, killer hooks, sardonically brooding lyric and a gorgeously jangly two-guitar tune by rhythm player Dylan Keeler.

 

10. Jerry Teel & the Big City Stompers– Sugarbaby

Hypnotic Howlin Wolf style blues as done by one of the legends of Lower East Side noir glam rock. It always brings down the house when they play it live. They’re at the Mercury on 2/20.

February 10, 2009 Posted by | lists, Lists - Best of 2008 etc., music, concert, New York City | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Song of the Day 12/21/08

If you’re wondering what’s happening in live music in NYC over the next few days, or on New Years Eve, our constantly updated NYC live music calendar is here. In the meantime our top 666 songs of alltime countdown continues, one day at a time all the way to #1. Sunday’s is #584:

Douce Gimlet – The Well

New York’s best band from the late 90s and early zeros could play virtually any style they wanted: sad country ballads, cheery janglerock, jazzy pop hits, instrumentals, you name it. This is just about their darkest song, a slow, grinding, art-rock dirge with a screaming, anguished, noisy guitar solo by frontman Joe Ben Plummer. During their almost ten-year existence, Douce Gimlet officially released only one vinyl single, so this is nowhere to be found online. In fact, a studio version of this song may not exist, although there are several terrific live takes floating around. However, the cd Douce Gimlet recorded at Jerry Teel’s legendary Fun House Studios, unreleased during the life of the band, is available for free download here.

December 21, 2008 Posted by | Lists - Best of 2008 etc., Music | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Concert Review: Jerry Teel & the Big City Stompers at Union Pool, Brooklyn NY 9/27/08

By 11 PM, the Headless Hookers had finished, which was too bad because they sound like they’d be a fun live band. Triple Hex were already on by then: they’re good. The trio play slightly glam noir garage stuff in the same vein as Reid Paley or Kid Congo Powers, with a leering, Lux Interior Mad Elvis touch to the vocals. The frontman’s guitar solos were terse but deliciously noisy, frequently laced with squalls of feedback; the rhythm section kept it simple and strong. This kind of band sounds better the more you drink.

 

We’ve recently mischaracterized Jerry Teel and the Big City Stompers as a country band because that’s what they used to be. They’re so much more now. Teel is a New York underground legend, dating back to his days with dirgy noise-rockers the Honeymoon Killers, the equally noisy, faster and more fiery Chrome Cranks, gothic garage/Americana band Knoxville Girls and now this unit. He ran the popular Fun House Studios on the Lower East for years before relocating to New Orleans…just in time to get wiped out by the hurricane. It’s nice to have him back.

 

The band is vastly more energetic: they still play some country, but they’re putting the kind of sometimes offhandedly sarcastic and sometimes actually menacing noir spin on it that’s characterized most everything Teel has been involved with. This show started out hot and got even hotter as the night wore on. They opened with a boisterous country shuffle, lead guitarist JJ Jenkins putting some corny bite on his lead lines for a deliberately satirical feel. Their second song saw Teel and his inscrutable retro rock goddess wife Pauline trading off on vocals; the third, an eerie, fast shuffle possibly titled Follow Me featured John-and-Exene-style harmonies, the bass playing a minor progression against major chords, building tension.

 

After a swaying, pounding, Crampsish country blues, Jenkins opened the next tune with a classic Stones riff while the rhythm section did a spot-on take on the other, less glamorous Glimmer Twins (that’s Wyman and Watts in case you didn’t know), Jenkins doing his own spot-on Keith Richards when it came time for a solo. A slow country ballad and a garage song that could have been the Blues Magoos or for that matter the Fleshtones were next, followed by a scorching, guitar-fueled version of Loretta, the sly, swaying country tune that was a massive audience hit in this band’s previous incarnation. Then they did Shaking All Over. But unlike virtually every other band that covers this old garage chestnut, they held back: when they got to the hook at the end of the verse, it was almost as an afterthought, maintaining the night’s dark intensity. They followed with a surprisingly short version of the Knoxville Girls hit Hillbilly Boogie.

 

Teel and cohorts saved their best for last. Midway through their slow, blackly hypnotic, absolutely psychedelic encore, it was as if for about 90 glorious seconds, it was 1984 and this was True West onstage, Jenkins played gentle, beautifully fluid Richard McGrath style Telecaster melody as Teel went nuts, furiously chopping at a single chord like Russ Tolman at his most demented and inspired. Like cocaine, with one big difference: coke will kill you, while stuff like this will actually make you live longer.

September 29, 2008 Posted by | Live Events, Music, New York City, Reviews | , , , | Leave a comment

Concert Review: The Dog Show Live at Club Midway 5/24/07

An aggressive, ballistic performance. The Dog Show is basically frontman/guitarist Jerome O’Brien backed by a rotating cast of A-list New York musicians. As with the great jazz groups of the 1950s, this band shifts shapes depending on who’s playing: with one cast of characters, they can sound like the Stones playing early Elvis Costello; with a different crew, they sound more like the Animals. This unit featured the players on their landmark album Hello, Yes, which was the last recording ever made at Jerry Teel’s legendary Fun House studios. This incarnation bears a very close resemblance to the Jam, mod beats and melodies fueled by pure punk energy and O’Brien’s corrosive, literate lyricism.

The rhythm section had come out of semi-retirement for this show and played like they’d never left. Although the drums were too high in the sound mix, this was a blessing in disguise: Josh Belknap played joyous, rolling thunder all night. You could have closed your eyes and believed that Keith Moon was behind the kit. Bassist Andrew Plonsky was also way up in the mix, playing his dexterous, melodic lines with a growly, trebly tone, defying any conventional wisdom about having to have calloused fingers to play well. Lead guitarist Dave Popeck, whose regular gig until recently was fronting the power trio Twin Turbine, was unfortunately way back in the mix for most of the show. Those lucky enough to figure out what he was doing by watching his fingers fly up and down the fretboard were, until the end of the show, the only people in the house who could have appreciated his searing leads. O’Brien cut loose in front of the band, delivering each line as if it was his last.

The entire set was songs from the Hello, Yes album, opening with Broken Treat, sounding very much like something from All Mod Cons. They followed it with a scorching version of the Stonesy White Continental. On the next song, a particularly terse version of the 6/8 blues Diamonds and Broken Glass, the band came way down on the third chorus, putting O’Brien’s bitter lyric front and center. It’s a dismissive slap at an ex-girlfriend’s “man who can open you up like a can,” building to the chorus:

There’s a diamond inside
For every tear you ever cried
And broken glass is all you’ll ever find
When you’re living a lie

Popeck, finally audible in the mix, followed with a brief, blistering, trebly solo, then the band brought it down again for a final refrain. Later in the set, on the bouncy I Heard Everything That You Said, Popeck built the tension to the breaking point on the chorus with sheets of guitar feedback. Then, on the gorgeously evocative Halcyon Days, a series of scenes from a happier era on the Lower East Side – now overrun with luxury housing and tourists from the outlying counties – Popeck let loose with his most pathological, Stoogoid solo of the night. The band built to an extended, pummeling crescendo out of the chorus on the next song of their tantalizingly brief set, Every Baby Boy. While the sound in the club was uncharacteristically muddy, the passion and intensity of the show made up for it.

One of the later bands on the bill had cancelled, but instead of giving the Dog Show a chance to stretch out and give their fans a little extra, the club pushed them back an hour. Which backfired: when the announcement was made, the audience trickled out for food or cheaper drinks elsewhere, returning just as the Dog Show were about to take the stage for real.

May 25, 2007 Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments