Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Album of the Day 8/23/11

Every day, our 1000 best albums of all time countdown continues all the way to #1. Today we’re playing catchup. Tuesday’s album was #525:

Melomane – Glaciers

This eclectic 2007 release captures the lushly lyrical New York art-rockers at the top of their game. It opens with the blackly amusing Hilarious, a breezy Crowded House-ish art-pop tune, frontman/guitarist Pierre de Gaillande blithely chatting up a girl while the climate and the arms race heat up on all sides. Unfriendly Skies is Elvis Costello’s Radio Radio for the millennial generation, followed by the darkly romantic Open Invitation and then Nobody, which takes a turn into tropicalia with its bossa rhythm, trumpet and strings. The real classic here is The Ballot Is the Bullet, a quietly ferocious, stately funeral march in advance for the Bush regime. There’s also the defiantly populist, catchy Little Man’s Castles; the quirky, psychedelic mini-suite This Is Skyhorse; the clever satirical, Gruppo Sportivo-esque Pistolla di Colla (Italian for “glue gun”) and the pensive Thin Ice. The whole thing is streaming at myspace, of all places; strangely missing from the usual sources for free music, it’s still available from Melomane’s site. In the years since this came out, De Gaillande has gone on to equally gripping projects including the Snow (see #890 on this list) and his Bad Reputation project, which plays witty English translations of classic Georges Brassens songs.

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August 27, 2011 Posted by | lists, Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Concert Review: Melomane at Union Hall, Brooklyn NY 4/25/08

While Lucid Culture takes pride in spreading the word about the best under-the-radar happenings around town, it’s always fun to revisit the A-list, to catch a show by one of New York’s most exciting, popular acts. Tonight’s show strikingly reaffirmed what a great band Melomane is, not just one of the best in New York, but in the entire world. And also a reminder of how much fun and visually entertaining their live show is, with everyone trading off licks, throwing in silly quotes from pop songs, orchestrating a little mayhem into their impeccably crafted tunes. And tonight they did it mostly with songs about the end of the world. The only bad thing about this show was that it ended: they called it a night after fifty minutes onstage, perhaps because their sizzling new three-piece horn section doesn’t know any more songs.

Forget the Melomane you might have known when they first started out, the artsy, Mediterranean-inflected, somewhat Roxy Music-ish pop band they were around the turn of the century. This band is a whole lot darker, a LOT louder, more powerful than ever. They hit the ground running with the title track from their second album Solresol, a scorching, fast minor-key anthem that takes flight on one of frontman Pierre de Gaillande’s signature eerie guitar hooks, anchored by multi-instrumentalist Quentin Jennings’ ominous organ. Then they took a lengthy excursion through Gaillande’s ongoing “disaster song cycle,” including new songs about apocalypse by never-ending solar eclipse, flood, volcanic eruption, collision with an asteroid and more. The volcano song, Vesuvius was a gleefully morbid, cabaret-inflected number. Their sky-is-falling song caught the audience completely off-guard with two dramatic, false endings to its incongruously Stonesy boogie blues outro, capped by a dark minor chord that rang out majestically at the end. Two more of the end-of-the-world songs were blackly humorous, slow 6/8 numbers. In the country band that shares with her husband Jack, bassist Daria Grace is all about the swing and the sway: in this unit, she gets to play a lot of melody, including one gripping, soaring solo, a lot of slides and chords for extra impact. The horn section, whose name is still up in the air – the Brassholes? The Brass-ieres? The band can’t decide – gave the crescendos extra fire and bite. They also played what was ironically the first song Paris-born Gaillande ever wrote in French – an amusing tune about the relationship between a cigarette and a match – bouncing along on Grace’s Motown bassline. They closed with the weird, multi-part, Skyhooks soundalike This Is Skyhorse from their most recent and best album, Glaciers, one of our picks for ten best albums of 2007. Melomane plays June 13 at BAM Café: if you like sweepingly orchestrated art-rock, or just plain good fun, you would be crazy to miss this show.

April 27, 2008 Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

CD Review: Melomane – Glaciers

Their best album. New York art-rockers Melomane have made the quantum leap from being a good band to being one of the best bands around. Their sound is lush, orchestrated and somewhat Mediterranean-inflected with meticulously arranged layers of guitars, strings, horns and keyboards. If you wish the Shins had some substance, if you’re wistful for Pulp at their mid-90s peak – or Roxy Music circa Avalon – this is for you. And while it’s a truism that this era’s musicians stand in opposition to the Cheney/Halliburton regime, Melomane have never shied away from taking a stand, as they do here more passionately and courageously than just about anyone else out there.

The cd opens with the blackly amusing Hilarious, a breezy art-pop song that evokes Crowded House. Frontman/guitarist Pierre de Gaillande blithely comes on to a girl while the climate and the arms race heat up on all sides. The next cut Unfriendly Skies has to be the best anti-entertainment industrial complex song written since Elvis Costello did Radio Radio almost thirty years ago. It’s a driving song, set to an ominous, driving beat, a fiery shot across the bow of corporate radio:

From unfriendly skies comes a dull monotony
To conquer and divide, entertainmentopoly
We drive so fast, we get so lost

I’ll turn it off
The channel’s clear, it gives me no alternative
One day soon I know

We will break the stranglehold
Hack apart the snake and
Take back what they stole

The cd continues with the darkly romantic Open Invitation and then Nobody, which takes a turn into tropicalia with its bossa rhythm, trumpet and strings. The next track, The Little Man’s Castles – a big hit at live shows – opens with a gorgeous, Byrds-style lick into a propulsive, backbeat-driven verse with trumpet and keys. There’s a nice bridge right before the outro featuring an all-too-brief, tersely melodic bass solo from Daria Grace (who also plays in her husband Jack Grace’s country band, and leads a charming old-timey outfit called the Prewar Ponies). The following cut This Is Skyhorse starts out totally early 80s new wave, with an acoustic intro into something that sounds like Turning Japanese by the Vapors, then bass and percussion, then back to the lick with distorted, processed vocals. And then it morphs into a bluesy 70s rock song. It’s a weird series of permutations that would do the Skyhooks proud. Could the song title be a cleverly veiled reference?

The high point of the cd, and instant candidate for best song of the year, no contest, is The Ballot Is the Bullet, a quietly ferocious, 6/8 rallying cry to any one of us who might find the courage to stand up to the traitors and thugs who brought us Guantanamo Bay and the Patriot Act:

You’re fodder and you’re grist
I think you get my gist
And you know these people don’t like you
They walk without souls

They’re turning our green world into a black hole
They’re out of their minds
We’ve run out of time
In the occident and the orient

Please assassinate the precedent

“Precedent” is what the lyric sheet says, anyway. Major props to Melomane for articulating what most of us never dare to speak. Out of the second chorus, the song builds majestically with a starkly powerful minor-key climb from Gaillande’s guitar, then the organ kicks in with a desperate, furious crescendo. The song then takes a bitter, depressed climb down to the intro and ends on the somber note where it began. And while Gaillande makes it clear that “We’re in love with love/That’s why we’re singing this,” it’s clear that this song is not about turning the other cheek.

Welcome comic relief arrives eventually with the pun-laden, tongue-in-cheek, Pistolla di Colla (Italian for “glue gun”). It’s a clever postmorten for the end of a relationship, evoking nothing less than artsy 70s Dutch satirists Gruppo Sportivo:

Some Roman gallivanter gifted in soothing banter
He’s cooing his sticky catchphrases while life decays in phases
She washed her hands and toes beneath the Caesar’s frescoes
With who, God only knows

Then they segue into a theme which will remain nameless here: you have to hear it to fully appreciate the joke. The following cut Thin Ice is a ballad: mournful harmonies fly over the quiet, reflective verse:

Plumbing the depths of the sadness that springs from confusion
And skating on thin ice

The album’s last song is anticlimactic to the extreme, but they saved it til the end so you can just stop there if that’s your preference.

Throughout the cd, Gaillande’s writing is more direct and hits harder than ever, and his voice has deepened, revealing a welcome, newfound gravitas. This is a terrific headphone album, a great road album and a shot of adrenaline for any disheartened freedom fighter. Five bagels. With arugula, prosciutto di Parma and capers. [postscript – after a hiatus that took up much of 2008 and 2009 as Gaillande busied himself with other projects, namely the Snow and Bad Reputation, Melomane seem to be at least a part-time project again, a welcome development]

June 3, 2007 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments