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JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Album of the Day 12/12/10

Every day our 1000 best albums of all time countdown continues all the way to #1. Sunday’s album is #779:

The Vapors – New Clear Days

Best known for their inscrutable and uncharacteristically new wavey 1979 hit Turning Japanese, this ferocious and surprisingly eclectic British punk band put out two excellent albums, this one and 1981’s Magnets, the latter featuring one of the alltime great album covers. The two standout tracks here are the raging News at Ten, an alienated kid going off on his conformist, complacent dad, and the artsy, Asian-flavored epic Letter from Hiro, told snidely from the point of view of a kamikaze pilot who was luckier than most. Spring Collection is just as snide: “You’re just another little girl with stars in your eyes, and I don’t wanna go home with you.” Somehow shares Turning Japanese’s pop feel; Prisoners is more like the Clash; Waiting for the Weekend a rare respite from the gloom; Sixty Second Interval and Trains and have a scurrying, furtive angst. The album closes with Bunkers, a postapocalyptic reggae-punk number. Frontman/rhythm guitarist David Fenton would go on to play in a considerably harder-rocking second edition of Bow Wow Wow in the 90s; afterward, in a considerably bizarre twist of fate, he would become a lawyer with the British equivalent of the RIAA. Here’s a random torrent.

December 12, 2010 Posted by | lists, Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Album of the Day 10/16/10

Every day our 1000 best albums of all time countdown continues all the way to #1. Saturday’s album is #836:

Wire – Chairs Missing

The fan favorite is Pink Flag: no disrespect to that. It’s as fun, and still practically as unique now as it was when these defiantly artsy British punks released it in 1977, despite Elastica and all those Williamsburg bands who stood behind Justine Frischmann in the plagiarism queue. This is Wire’s second album, from 1978, emphasis on the art rather than the punk, but the songs are arguably stronger this time out. As with Pink Flag, there are plenty of anthemic, staccato, chromatically charged, reverb-drenched Syd Barrett-ish vignettes like Practice Makes Perfect and the gleefully insistent anthem I Am the Fly (as in “I am the fly in the ointment”). The best song here is the surprisingly poppy, insanely catchy, genuinely beautiful Outdoor Miner, which a million lame indie bands claim as inspiration they’ll never be able to live up to. Side one also has the distantly off-kilter I Feel Mysterious Today; the Twilight Zone punk of French Film Blurred; the weirdly catchy Men 2nd; the macabre-tinged Marooned; the hypnotic Sand in My Joints and Being Sucked In Again. Side two’s highlights include the unselfconsciously funny From the Nursery, the woozily ominous Used To and the more-or-less straight-up punk Too Late. Colin Newman’s deadpan monotone vocals are not an affectation but a disguise: a lot of the band’s lyrics have a tightlipped, verrrry British absurdist humor. The 1994 reissue has four bonus tracks, which are worth hunting down if you’re a rabid fan. Wire’s frequently interrupted career arguably peaked in the 70s (their 1979 album 154 is also worth hearing), although their recent material is also choice, if a little closer to dreampop than punk. Here’s a random torrent.

October 16, 2010 Posted by | lists, Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The New Collisions’ Optimistic Full-Length Debut

Track for track, this could be the best rock album of 2010. The New Collisions burst out of Boston last year with an ep that blended coy, quirky retro 80s new wave pop with a dark, literate lyrical edge. Their new full-length debut The Optimist is a lot more serious and more intense: the title is sarcastic to the extreme. It’s a concept album of sorts about a society in collapse. Musically, it’s a turn in a much louder direction, with more of a fiery powerpop edge, guitarist Scott Guild adding layer after layer of roar, jangle and clang. Casey Gruttadauria’s woozily oscillating vintage synthesizer is further back in the mix this time out alongside Alex Stern’s percussive, insistent, melodic bass and Zak Kahn’s drums. Maybe what’s most impressive of all is how much more of her range frontwoman Sarah Guild is using, wary and serious in the lower registers when she’s not soaring above the roar with the chirpy wail she utilized so effectively on the band’s early material. She sings in character – whether sarcastic, defiant or simply exhausted, she draws you in and makes these narratives hard to turn away from. She brings some of the outraged witness that Siouxsie Sioux played so well for so long to these songs.

The single is Dying Alone, impossibly catchy yet bitter and cynical to the extreme. “God knows you hate the quiet, when you’re dying, dying alone,” Sarah reminds with an understated angst. Swift Destruction is a fast new wave powerpop smash, a final concession to what sounds like the inevitable: “I’d like to order up a swift destruction…standing in the shadows of my pride,” she announces. The most memorable cut on the entire album is Over, an exasperated, uncharacteristically intimate kiss-off anthem (like the best punk performers, Sarah typically keeps the listener at a safe distance). They go back to the roaring powerpop vibe with Seven Generations, a chronicle of decay: “Are we happy yet?” Sarah asks sarcastically. The sarcasm reaches boiling point with Ne’er Do Well, the album’s lyrical high point, which wouldn’t be out of place in the Squeeze catalog from around 1979. Over a lush guitar-and-keyboard attack, Sarah savagely details the dissolute life of someone who just won’t grow up:

Bring me all your ablebodied men
So I don’t have to take on the chin
And I don’t have a confrontation with what might have been
I’ve got my suitcase in back to cushion the impact
Better not to have tried at all
Rules are beaten, I haven’t eaten and I want to be alone

Coattail Rider is sort of a smoother I Don’t Want to Got to Chelsea, with a big explosive chorus, Sarah’s absolutely nailing the lyric with a coy disingenuousness. The lone previously released track here, the dead-end anomine anthem In a Shadow benefits from bigger production than the version on last year’s ep (and a really funny quote from the 70s cheeseball hit Funkytown). They wind up the album with an almost unrecognizable, Joy Division-flavored cover of the B-52’s Give Me Back My Man and then the most overtly pop-oriented track here, Lazy, with its oscillating layers of synth and repetitive chorus hook. The New Collisions play the cd release show for this one at Great Scott in Allston, Massachusetts on October 6.

October 5, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment