Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

A Corrosively Hilarious New Spoken-Word Album from Anthony Haden-Guest

Back in the early 80s, legendary journalist and gadfly Anthony Haden-Guest ran into Island Records honcho Chris Blackwell at a party in Cannes. Haden-Guest asserted that the hip-hop fad, as he called it, had run its course. That opinion might have been colored by having missed the opportunity to run up to the South Bronx with his buddy Malcolm McLaren to witness the birth of what McLaren called “scratch.”

Whatever the case, Blackwell’s response was, “Anthony, you are absolutely mad.” Thirty-five years later, Haden-Guest has released his debut hip-hop song,.“I always assumed you had to be in a studio up to your neck in hi-tech to do this,” he explains, over a wry faux Wu-Tang synth backdrop assembled by film composer Keith Patchel. “If this won’t kill hip-hop, nothing will.”

That number appears on Haden-Guest’s hilarious new spoken-word album The Further Chronicles of Now, streaming at Bandcamp. When he’s at the top of his game, his relentless, spot-on skewering of the ruling classes ranks with Michael M. Thomas’ Midas Watch, in its glory days in the pre-Jared Kushner era New York Observer. With a total of 24 tracks, a handful of them set to spare, surreal, quietly carnivalesque 80s synthesized organ or piano, Haden-Guest’s commentary is as grim as it is funny.

The apocalypse is a recurrent theme, as is art-world skullduggery. Haden-Guest doesn’t suffer fools gladly and has a bullshit detector set to stun. “So I’m siting in a Starbucks, listening to the blues, sound peculiar enough for you?” he poses early on, in his proper blueblood London accent.

A handful of tracks here were released earlier on Rudely Interrupted, Haden-Guest’s 2012 collaboration with darkly eclectic songwriter Lorraine Leckie. The Everywhere Man revisits the “strangely nihilistic bunch” who made it their job to get past the “clipboard Nazis from outer space” to crash Manhattan parties in the 1970s. Happy City, as Haden-Guest puts it, is his requisite drug song, a step out of character for a guy who “got a bit tipsy at age seven as a kilted pageboy at a wedding, which…unfortunately prefigured much of what was to come.” And Bliss,. the most plainspoken but possibly most harrowing piece here, is as poignant as Leckie’s glimmering remake.

The art world is where Haden-Guest really gets on a roll. The Secret History of Modern Art begins with Gustave Courbet,  “A slap in the face with a fat girl’s bush.” Haden-Guest saves his most venomous critique for Picasso:

Pablo switched styles like a man possessed
As if in some eerie way he’d guessed
The needs and the greed
The hunger he’d feed
Of collectors to come, a predator breed
From Picasso we got the shopping cart
And create a supermarket of art

A Song for Andy, a Seven Days of Christmas rewrite, is just as funny. Even the critics get what’s coming to them here, although “Viveros-Faune cannot be counted on and Roberta Smith should not be tangled with.” The rest are available at the right price – and Haden-Guest names names. And The New Avant-Garde are “the shock troops for developers now.”

The best of the apocalypse scenarios, Yesterday’s Snow is an update on Francois Villon’s famous, elegiac poem:

This may take a little while!
J. Edgar Hoover’s curdled bile
Lee Harvey Oswald’s bulging file
Jayne Mansfield in a speeding motor
Vic Morrow underneath a rotor
Mark Chapman outside the Dakota
Robert Maxwell got a floater…
The way that Enron made that pile
Bernie Madoff’s tiny smile

Frenemies, ex-girlfriends and old colleagues each get what’s coming to them here as well. The Tame Frontier draws its inspiration from a drive back to Manhattan from “an extremely aggressive Hamptons weekend”  where “nobody walks, they cross the street by car, where the city’s a bridge too faraway.” There’s also An Ordinary Day, whose implication is how endless terrorism alerts cry wolf to the point where they’re useless, and A Hymn to Intellectual Property Rights, with its wry allusions to a jazz standard. Now eighty, Haden-Guest shows no sign of slowing down. If there’s anybody who deserves to stay in the game long enough to chronicle the end of the world as it happens, it’s this guy.

Haden-Guest and Leckie celebrate the release of the album tonight, June 8 at around 7 at Anderson Contemporary Art at 180 Maiden Lane in the financial district.

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June 8, 2017 Posted by | avant garde music, interview, Music, music, concert, poetry, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Radka Salcmannova’s Forthcoming Film Reinterprets an Edgar Allen Poe Classic

Filmmaker Radka Salcmannova’s signature surrealism is scheduled to hit the screen again in her forthcoming film The Raven, a new interpretation of the iconic Edgar Allen Poe poem. To be shot in Brooklyn. the Prague Academy of Arts-trained director’s short stars William Leroy, star of the New York cult film Dirty Old Town and Derek Ahonen’s forthcoming The Transdendents, alongside folk noir singer Lorraine Leckie. The film is scheduled to be completed by the end of February, 2017.

February 7, 2017 Posted by | Film | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Nightcrawling 3/3/11

There’s been a wave of buzz lately about Americana songwriter Kelley Swindall, who’ll be on southern tour with Lorraine Leckie in the not-so-distant future. And it would have been nice to have been able to catch her whole set at Banjo Jim’s Thursday night. By almost eight, she was wrapping up it up with a couple of low-key, tuneful country-pop numbers that sounded like Sheryl Crow with a college degree. It’ll be interesting to catch more of her songs somewhere down the road.

Israeli-American rocker Rony Corcos was next. She’s a raw talent, somebody worth keeping your eye on. Watching her run her beautiful Les Paul through a series of pedals was something you rarely see at Banjo Jim’s, and what was obvious right off the bat was how good she’d sound if she had bass and drums behind her: she’s clearly a rocker, somebody who knows her way around the fretboard and has real command of a surprisingly diverse number of styles. PJ Harvey is the obvious influence, and that really made itself known when she did an understatedly intense cover of The Piano late in the show, delivering it with an only slightly restrained, compelling wail. Her other cover was a raw, vivid version of Bill Withers’ Ain’t No Sunshine, a launching pad for some poignantly soulful, incisive, amazingly precise blues runs. Her originals, some of them so new they didn’t have titles yet, put a harder-rocking spin on inventively jazz-tinged, late 70s Joni Mitchell stylings, along with a big, crunchy, hypnotic rock anthem that she artfully assembled layering one loop on top of another and then singing and soloing over it. What was too bad was that as intelligent and diverse as most of her playing is, sometimes she falls back on the stupid moveable chords (think Pearl Jam, Dashboard Confessional or just about any dumb indie guitar band) that have defined indie music pretty much since the 80s. It would be nice if this was just a part of a learning curve (the last musician we criticized for that kind of lazy playing made one of the best albums of the following year – here’s hoping lightning strikes twice).

At Pete’s Candy Store about an hour later, Whiting Tennis, former leader of popular lower East Side band the Scholars, took the stage and played a potently captivating set, also solo on electric guitar, to a full house. Where Corcos is exploring a whole slew of styles while she finds her own voice, Tennis’ music has the same penetrating consistency of vision as his visual art – at this point in his career, he’s best known as a painter and sculptor with a eerily impactful, rustic Pacific Northwest gothic sensibility. Musically, growling peak-era Neil Young and Crazy Horse are the obvious influences, although as he told the crowd late in the set, his quietly blistering kiss-off song Heart of Soap grew out of a line he misheard from a Smog song, which makes sense in that he’d make a good doublebill with Bill Callahan. Other than a simmering bluesy shuffle toward the end of the show, everything he played was slow-to-midtempo. His pensive, sardonic, sometimes brutally sarcastic lyrics are excellent. And as stylistically, and sonically similar as his songs are (he stuck with his signature gritty, distorted guitar tone all night), a close listen revealed how diverse the tunes are. Bad Checks – “Was a time when you’d write a check,” he grinned nostalgically – sounded like As Tears Go By as done by Neil Young. Another had the feel of Crazy Horse tackling Wish You Were Here: “Save us from these Christian men,” he intoned sarcastically. The night’s funniest moment came when he recalled a nightmare family scenario – his father’s a minister, and there was an argument over whether tap water or river water were more appropriate for a baptism. “Hit a deer broadside on the highway…as I dragged it across the road it felt like I was dragging the whole world on a blanket,” he sang nonchalantly on the chorus, a rapid return to brooding, intense mode. He wrapped up his hour onstage with a bitter evocation of John Brown’s execution. Tennis makes the occasional return trip to his old hometown when he’s not in Seattle; his 2006 album Three Leaf Clover is one of the underrated gems of the last decade.

March 7, 2011 Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lorraine Leckie’s Martini Eyes Are Bloodshot and Sinister

For the better part of the last ten years, Lorraine Leckie has been writing dark, deadpan songs that owe as much to punk – at least the spirit of punk – as they do Americana. Her new album Martini Eyes is deliciously ghoulish, and it’s her best one yet. It’s her Nebraska: simple, spare arrangements, most of them with just vocals and acoustic guitar or piano. If Patti Smith had gone Nashville gothic instead of punk, she might have sounded something like this

The real gem here is Don’t Giggle at the Corpse. It might sound funny, but it’s not, at all: it’s a blackly cynical depiction of a funeral. “Take a sip of wine…here we go, it’s time for the show, don’t giggle at the corpse,” Leckie warns, completely serious, perfectly capturing the temporary insanity that comes with grief. “I wish this town would burn to the ground – I loved him a lot, show him what we’ve got,” she muses out loud. It’s a profound theme for a year that’s had too many funerals.

Leckie follows that with a couple of distantly Tom Waits-ish ones. Trouble is a stark, witchy blues: things die and summer turns to winter wherever this girl goes. “Crazy girls are easy to love/By morning you’ve had enough,” the off-center narrator of Red Light intones – she’s written her paramour’s name on her walls in lipstick, and crayon, and god knows what, and what makes it poignant is that she’s just sane enough to know she’s crazy. And the 6/8 murder ballad Hillbilly will strike a nerve with anyone who’s survived the gentrification that’s blighted New York, or anywhere: girl from the sticks comes to town, wants to be a star, blithely steals another girl’s guy…and gets what’s coming to her.

The unexpectedly hilarious track here is I Met a Man, a simple, cabaret-ish piano tune about scoring drugs all over the world. “Coppers all around me like rain,” sings Leckie – and then runs off to Amsterdam to score again. The album winds up with Listen to the Girl, a stark yet encouraging theme for brooding individualists, and the off-kilter title track, laden with regret for a lost love who might or might not have left under his own power. One of Leckie’s greatest strengths as a songwriter is what she leaves out, and this is a prime example. Count this as a late addition to the rapidly closing list of the best albums of 2010.

December 18, 2010 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Lorraine Leckie Haunts Banjo Jim’s

Lorraine Leckie’s songs have a stylish menace, but they’re more about menace than style. Calling her excellent backup band Her Demons completes the picture – her music mines a rich urban noir vein, equal parts powerpop, Americana and psychedelia, a throwback to a more dangerous era in New York both musically and otherwise. Last night at Banjo Jim’s she treated a packed house to a mix of well-worn crowd-pleasers as well as new material with a similar dark, gritty intensity. Her casual, unaffected vocals took on just the hint of a snarl in places, especially on the bitter 6/8 murder ballad, Hillbilly, where a Mississippi transplant moves into the neighborhood, steals the narrator’s man and ends up paying the ultimate price for it. An anti-trendoid song? Maybe. Although she originally hails from Ontario, Leckie’s Williamsburg roots go back a lot further than the recent infestation of trust-funded posers.

She opened with a swinging, bluesy, phantasmagorically-tinged number possibly titled Everything Goes Wrong, a song that would fit nicely in the Carol Lipnik catalog. Guitarist Hugh Pool – who played inspired, tunefully virtuosic, smartly thought-out fills and riffs all night – kicked off the ominously boogie-flavored party anthem Language of the Night with a train-whistle motif. Alyson Greenfield joined the band on piano on the catchy Ontario: “Drank my last shot of the Ontario sky,” Leckie sang wistfully (they have good whiskey up there). She dedicated a surprisingly upbeat, optimistic solo acoustic song about crackheads in love to filmmaker Clayton Patterson (who was in the audience). The swaying, catchy Paint the Town Red and the Werewolves of London-ish Rainbow ended the set on a high note: they encored with a sultry, noir blues and then an ecstatically resounding version of Nobody’s Girl, a gorgeous paisley underground rock anthem that could be the great lost track from the Dream Syndicate’s first album. Leckie has a new solo cd coming out next month, with a cd release show coming up at the big room at the Rockwood: watch this space.

August 8, 2010 Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Top Ten Songs of the Week 6/22/09

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. Alice Texas – Oh, My Beautiful

New song from the reliably excellent NYC noir songwriter/chanteuse – you’ll have to see her live to hear this. Watch this space

 

2. Lorraine Leckie – Four Cold Angels

Ominous, surfy ghoulabilly with a strange early 80s new wave edge.

 

3. Panonian Wave – Pitanje

Janglerock meets gypsy punk. They’re at Radegast Hall in Williamsburg on 6/24 at 9.

 

4. Bing and Ruth – Chaperone to a Civil War

Offhandedly stark, hypnotic, echoey minimalist instrumental.

 

5. D.B.C.R. – Let Them Eat Bikes

The band name stands for Drunken Belligerent Confrontational Rock. They hate trendoids, gentrification and they have Jason Victor from Steve Wynn’s band on guitar. They’re at Hank’s at 9 on 6/25.

 

6. Chris Cacavas – It’s All Over

Ominously swaying Americana rock with a southwestern gothic tinge from the ex-Green on Red keyboardist.

 

7. Maya Caballero – All Roads Lead to Here

Ethereal, hypnotic acoustic southwestern gothic.

 

8. Garden Gnome – Service with a Smile

Synth loop-driven prog rock, totally King Crimson except with keys.

 

9. Girl to Gorilla – Madeira

Fiery tuneful somewhat Social Distortion style rock. They’re at the National Underground on 6/27 at 11.

 

10. Biggie Smalls – St. Ides commercial

St. Ides is one of the most disgusting beers ever made. But it will get you very drunk. Thirty seconds’ worth of what made Biggie’s tummy so big.

June 23, 2009 Posted by | lists, Lists - Best of 2008 etc., Music, music, concert | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Make Music NY 2009 – A Wash?

Running around hungover on a muggy, then rainy Sunday – pure joy, NOT. For the crew here, Make Music NY 2007 was a day at the office followed by a ferociously good System Noise concert before the clouds burst, and then it was pretty much all over. By contrast, MMNY ’08 seemed to be a smashing success – at least it was from this vantage point. Yesterday was awash in cancellations and delays, to be expected when there are roughly two thousand live shows of some kind going on all over town. Smartly, several establishments about as far removed from the music business as you can imagine opened up their storefronts or spare corners. The original game plan here was to get up as early as possible and head over to Governors (“Punk”) Island to see the allday punk festival, but the more hungover and tired party here stood her ground, not in the mood to traipse through the mud with nowhere to sit for a whole afternoon. Therefore, plan B.

Last year’s agenda here was to take in as much unfamiliar and diverse stuff as possible (regulars here know that Lucid Culture has an ever-growing list of stuff to review, not just all the albums that come over the transom but also bands who don’t have anything recorded – the more we know, the more we realize we don’t know). For one reason or another, the best stuff this year was spread out over a much wider geographical area than last year – and what’s up with all the open public spaces? Are public parks and sidewalks now off-limits to MMNYers? In Manhattan most of them seemed to be, at least early in the day.

We only got to two shows. Escarioka careened through a deliriously fun, hypnotically multistylistic hour inside a coffee shop on the Lower East. The nine-piece band is already excellent, will get even better and will be huge in Latin America once word spreads – and it will. They’re just loose enough to give themselves an air of real menace. With a three-piece horn section, rhythm section, percussion, two guitarists and a charismatic frontman with a rapidfire reggaeton-inflected delivery, they switched styles and speeds effortlessly yet with an energy that defied the show’s early hour. Like the band they most closely resemble, Mexican rock legends Maldita Vecindad, most of their songs are in minor keys. One of the tunes they played this past afternoon slunk along on a vintage bolero vamp, the bassist playing in the major scale under the horns’ minor-key attack, adding a considerably ominous edge. Another burst out of the gate as pogoing ska-punk, building to a trance-inducing, percussive cauldron of sound before mutating into a salsa riff and building that up to a big roar as well. Several of the other songs had a gypsy punk feel. Watching these guys kick in and give 100%, seemingly oblivious to the fact that it was daylight and they were surrounded by people sipping juice and herbal tea instead of dancing like people usually do at Escarioka shows, reminded of the early days of Gogol Bordello. This band is going to be huge. You heard it here first. At least you heard it in English here first.

From there, it would have made good sense to see what the Woes were up to – they were supposed to play outside Spikehill in Williamsburg. The hangover started barking at this point, demanding food and water, so after a quick trip home, it was over to Passout Records in Williamsburg where rain goddess Randi Russo was scheduled to play – it virtually always rains on her gig days, including an afternoon in Milwaukee when a storm literally blew her and her band off the stage. Some aid organization should sponsor a Randi Russo tour of the Sahara. By now the rain was no longer threatening but actually on its way – but then the clouds broke, they lugged the amps outside again, where she treated the growing crowd outside the store to a brief but characteristically rich seven-song set, solo on her beautiful red Gibson SG. Even through a makeshift PA, her velvet voice projected her biting, often savage, meticulously crafted lyrics. She opened with the corruscating Venus on Saturn, a spot-on sendup of status-seeking, catty women, followed that eventually with a gorgeously melodic, somewhat noir blues alienation anthem that wouldn’t have been out of place in the Gun Club catalog. Played solo, the anthem Head High While You Lie Low took on a percussive, hypnotic feel. She wrapped up the set with a fiery, swaying version of Battle on the Periphery, one of the great workingman’s (or working woman’s) laments of alltime.

Lorraine Leckie followed, solo, her terse, garage-inflected songs stripped to the bone. Leckie doesn’t waste words or notes, has a bite and an edge: she’s gritty in a good way. After just a couple of songs, the clouds burst. Here’s hoping she didn’t get zapped and will do another show next year that isn’t so rudely interrupted.

And a plug for the store – among the treats onsale were $1, decent quality vinyl copies of a Jacques Brel greatest-hits collection and a good Robert Cray album from the 80s, reggae great Jacob Miller’s greatest hits on cassette for $2 and Brubeck Plays Cole Porter on vinyl for $10. And plenty of punk and garage too. If the idea of owning music in tangible, visible, better-than-mp3 form isn’t alien to you, this place deserves your support.

June 21, 2009 Posted by | Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment