Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Song of the Day 7/27/09

Every day, our top 666 songs of alltime countdown gets one step closer to #1. Monday’s song is #366:

The Velvet Underground – Run Run Run

A NYC classic, best song on the Velvets’ first album. This careening, hypnotic sprint through a junkie 1965 East Village of the mind harkens back to when there was no telling what a person could find at Union Square, no Whole Foods, no Trader Joe’s and no undercover cops either.

July 27, 2009 Posted by | lists, Lists - Best of 2008 etc., Music, music, concert | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

CD Review: Ten Pound Heads

Ten Pound Heads play purist, dark, artsy, ballsy rock with the kind of lush, gorgeously intricate arrangements you hardly ever see anymore since record labels stopped putting bands up in the studio for months on end. Layers and layers and layers of guitar, ringing, roaring, clanging, pinging, strumming: you name something a guitar can do, it’s on this cd. Sometimes psychedelic, sometimes startlingly direct, either way this is a stunningly smart, potent album. Songwise, the whole cd has an indelibly New York noir feel, both lyrically and musically – this is the great long-lost mid-70s Blue Oyster Cult album, only smarter.

 

The first cut is All Hands On Deck, a darkly growling, pounding midtempo rocker more than a little evocative of Steve Wynn’s great first band the Dream Syndicate at their mid-80s peak. There’s a long outro where finally at the end the band falls out marvelously, dropping down to just the hypnotic acoustic guitar lick that’s been propelling the whole thing. This World follows, a sad, downbeat ballad with a thoughtful blend of acoustic and electrics.

 

Johnny Box O’Doughnuts is a big garagey riff-rocker, a spot-on funny noir New York character study about a wannabe gangster. Another riff-rocker, the wah-wah driven Snake in the Grass sneers at the creeps who make up a large percentage of the drug underworld. The beautifully ominous Paint Manhattan Black motors along on a fast eight-note new wave bassline over an eerie current of organ and guitar. Sweet, brief heavy metal outro. The tensely suspenseful Back to L.A. maintains the gleefully evil vibe, getting several steps closer to completely unhinged on the pummeling Hell or High Water. Finally, we get an extended guitar solo and it hits the spot head-on.

 

With its understatedly melancholy, George Harrison-inflected chorus, One for the Record speaks for generations of good musicians who put on thousands of good shows but never quite made it (one suspects this may be true of some of the band members). After the tongue-in-cheek My Guitar Is an Alien, the cd wraps up with the brooding What You Said, hauntingly stark electric guitar over funereal drums. Behind the board, Martin Bisi does an admirably purist take on what Sandy Pearlman (fans of the Dream Syndicate – or the Clash, for that matter – will appreciate the reference) might have done in the producer’s chair. If nothing else, this album has lasting power: it will be a hit with the cognoscenti and haunt some of the best obscure corners of the internet for as many years as it’s around. Watch this space for NYC area live shows.

February 19, 2009 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

CD Review: Darren Gaines and the Key Party – My Blacks Don’t Match

First-rate noir rock by probably the first-ever good band to be frontpaged at the CMJ site. On My Blacks Don’t Match, Gaines’ second cd, the musicianship is terrific, the songs are inspired and tuneful, the arrangements are purist and even the production is first-class.  If you can get past the vocals with this – indie rock types won’t notice or care, but purists will have a hard time with some of them – you’re in for a real treat. The weak link here is Gaines himself, who sang perfectly fine on his previous cd Hit or Miss but now seems to be flailing all over the place for an identity – he can’t decide whether he wants to be Nick Cave or Tom Waits, when who he really ought to be is himself. Drop the pose, drop the persona, guy, you’ll be glad you did someday.

 

Much of this cd will remind New York fans of the weary, 4 AM gutter jazz poetry of Blasco Ballroom spiced with anthemic Nick Cave Romanticism, Leonard Cohen gloom, boozy Waits saloon jazz and even the ominous nocturnalia of Botanica. The cd kicks off with Nightshade, a fast noir blues with a gypsy tinge a la Firewater before they went all South Asian. Track two, She Says She Does is sardonic, minimalist and dismissive, somewhere between Steve Wynn and vintage Iggy with acoustic guitar and a vintage soul horn chart. “The hits get harder/The kisses get shorter/Find me a porter/I can’t carry these bags anymore,” Gaines complains.

 

The snide anti-nostalgia anthem Good Old Days (Wash Away) builds to a fast, scurrying chorus with more horns soaring over dirty guitars: “What’s so good about the good old days?” Snowdrift is a dead ringer for Nick Cave in stark ballad mode, guitar feedback ringing eerily in the distance for extra ambience. The low-key noir vibe continues with the laid-back Tripped Down Memory and its tasty bed of watery flanged guitars.

 

Hey Napoleon, with its Peter Gunn bassline, Keystone Kops horns and careening guitar reverts to a vintage Firewater feel; Midnight, which follows, brings it down again with its strung-out wee-hours atmospherics: “I see no reason why I should be sincere.” The Litterati is an imaginative, pretty spot-on spoof of an unlikely target; Hallelujahville is a smartly sarcastic, swaying country ballad that screams out for a deadpan, unaffected lead vocal. The cd winds up with the Lou Reed-inflected Very Different Times and and the actually somewhat anguished Speechless: “I broke my fingers keeping them crossed for you/And the cross I bear is broken too.” Give this band credit, they really know their noir. This is one of those albums that sounds better the later the hour and the smaller the crowd – and foreshadows even better things for the band as they evolve. Darren Gaines and the Key Party play the cd release show for this one at 8 PM on March 14 at the Gershwin Hotel.

February 19, 2009 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Song of the Day 2/7/09

Every day, our top 666 songs of alltime countdown gets one step closer to #1. Saturday’s is #536:

Lou Reed – Kill Your Sons

 

Bellevue treated me pretty good

Creedmoor was even better…

All those drugs that we took, they really were lots of fun

But when they shot me up with Thorazine

I’d just smoke and talk like a sonofagun

Dontcha know they’re gonna kill, kill your sons.

 

Remember, this was 25 years before Prozac. The 1973 album version is on Sally Can’t Dance; mp3s are everywhere you would expect. The link above is a neat live take from Italy, 1983 with the late Robert Quine on lead guitar.

February 7, 2009 Posted by | lists, Lists - Best of 2008 etc., Music, music, concert | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Concert Review: The Bedsit Poets, Don Piper and the Oxygen Ponies at Luna Lounge, Brooklyn NY 6/3/07

The show probably would have sold out if not for the elements: torrential rain, umbrellas blown inside out, everyone in the house soaked to the bone. The marvelous Bedsit Poets opened. Their sound is totally late 60s/early 70s, windswept pastoral beauty in places, otherwise super catchy harmony-driven Britpop, the Kinks circa Arthur hanging out with the Fairport Convention crowd. Frontman Ed Rogers and rhythm guitarist/singer Amanda Thorpe blend voices beautifully. Both British expats, he has a classic pop delivery which pairs well with Thorpe’s soaring, passionate Britfolk style.

Thorpe was celebrating her birthday, and she held the audience in the palm of her hand, particularly on the sweeping, anthemic Reach for the Sky, from their well-received album The Summer That Changed (as in “changed our lives”). On the quiet, ethereal Chemical Day, Thorpe played a small keyboard that for a minute sounded as if it was producing some quiet, strategically placed layers of feedback. They closed their rousing 50-minute set with the title track from the album, a supremely catchy pop tune punctuated by lead guitarist Mac Randall’s swinging country licks. Rogers and Thorpe sang a round with each other at the end of the song: he launched into Mungo Jerry and she countered with Gershwin, the result being a typical Bedsit moment. They’re a very playful band. The audience wanted an encore but didn’t get one.

Singer/guitarist Don Piper and his band – including many of the people who would play later in the evening – followed with a painless set of slow-to-midtempo jangle and clang. At one point, guest guitarist Drew Glackin (who also plays with the Jack Grace Band and the Silos) took a slowly growling climb up the scale, turned around and came back down the way he went up. Against the steady wash of the two guitars behind him, it was almost as if it was 1984 and True West was onstage. But they never hit that peak again: Piper seems to be more interested in mood and atmosphere than saying anything specific. He doesn’t have the voice for rock – it’s a keening, high tenor – but to his credit he tackled a Curtis Mayfield number and absolutely nailed it. He has a real future as a soul singer if he wants it.

The Oxygen Ponies are basically songwriter Paul Megna and whoever he can rustle up for a show. Tonight he brought a whole herd, 11 musicians including a trio of backup singers, two guitarists in addition to Megna himself, lapsteel, rhythm section and two horn players. Megna comes from the gutter-poet school of songwriting, all bedraggled, depressed and chain-smoking. His melodies are contagiously catchy (think a less skeletal Leonard Cohen, or a more pop-oriented Nick Cave) and he can write a hell of a lyric, with a sometimes savagely cynical edge. And the band pushed him to project and sing, keeping his vocals at a safe distance from the dreaded cesspool of grunge. The band’s ability to hit a crescendo out of nowhere was literally breathtaking, especially on the final track from their new cd, The Quickest Way to Happiness.

What was perhaps most striking about their performance was that everyone onstage was clearly having a great time, and this carried over to the audience. What could have been dirges became anthems. The lead guitarist didn’t play much, but when he did, his slashing pyrotechnics never failed to ignite. The horns played in perfect unison with each other and the backup singers delivered joyous, heartfelt harmonies. Megna’s songs tend to go on for at least five minutes, sometimes much more, but they never dragged. And the sound system was crystal clear all night long. What fun.

June 9, 2007 Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments