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JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Album of the Day 2/22/11

Every day, our 1000 best albums of all time countdown continues all the way to #1. Tuesday’s album is #707:

Lloyd Cole – Easy Pieces

The British janglerock songwriter made a splash in 1985 with his catchy Rickenbacker guitar-stoked debut, Rattlesnakes. Following up with this one a year later, just as Elvis Costello – the guy he most resembled at the time – had hit a barren period, it looked like the world of lyrical rock might have a new guy at the top. It never happened. Although Cole wrote some nice tunes after this one, he pretty much gave up on lyrics, which is too bad because these are ferociously smart and match the bite of the music. Rich, the stomping opening track, savages an old corporate type withering away in retirement; Pretty Gone takes no prisoners as far as lovelorn guys are concerned. Brand New Friend nicks a line from Jim Morrison and gives it some genuine intensity; there’s also the beautifully clanging Grace and Minor Character; the big college radio hit Cut Me Down, the morose and pretty spot-on Why I Love Country Music along with the chamber pop James and Perfect Blue, foreshadowing the direction he’d take later in the decade. If you like what you hear here, Rattlesnakes and 1989’s lushly orchestrated Don’t Get Weird on Me, Babe are also worth a spin. Here’s a random torrent.

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February 22, 2011 Posted by | lists, Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Album of the Day 2/3/11

Every day, our 1000 best albums of all time countdown continues all the way to #1. Thursday’s album is #726:

Bauhaus – Press the Eject and Give Me the Tape

Thirty years later, it’s easy to pigeonhole Bauhaus as the prototypical goth band, but at the time they came out they were nothing short of paradigm-shifting: they get too little credit for adding a noise-rock edge to the gleeful gloom. This 1982 live set captures them at their early creative peak: guitarist Daniel Ash can’t quite find what he’s looking for half the time, but it’s the search that’s impossible to turn away from. Meanwhile, the brothers in the rhythm section, bassist David J and drummer Kevin Haskins careen with a visceral chemistry behind Peter Murphy’s sepulchral croon. The iconic classic is the practically ten-minute version of Bela Lugosi’s Dead, with its funeral march bass and Holiday in Cambodia guitar sonics. In the Flat Field remains a concert favorite after all these years; The Man with X-Ray Eyes and Dancing are less energetically morbid than simply energetic. The Spy in the Cab and Kick in the Eye rock out while Hollow Hills and Stigmata Martyr mine darker corners. The 1988 cd reissue includes several bonus tracks from that era including an untight yet memorably Siouxsie-esque dirge cover of I’m Waiting for the Man featuring Nico on lead vocals. It would be one of her last moments on record. Here’s a random torrent.

February 3, 2011 Posted by | lists, Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Album of the Day 1/28/11

Every day our 1000 best albums of all time countdown continues, all the way to #1. Friday’s album is #732:

The Church – Of Skins and Heart

Who would have known that when the Australian rockers came out with this one in 1981 that they’d still be going, absolutely undiminished, thirty years later (with New York shows at the Highline on Feb 16 and at B.B. King’s the next day). Blending the epic grandeur of Pink Floyd, David Bowie surrealism and the luscious jangle and clang of the Byrds, Steve Kilbey’s warily allusive lyricism here distantly foreshadows the visionary, apocalyptic turn he’d take later in the decade. The Unguarded Moment (a cover, actually, written by a friend of Kilbey’s at the time) is the iconic hit, sort of the Australian equivalent of Freebird. Opening with a blast of guitar fury, For a Moment We’re Strangers strips a cheap hookup to its sordid bones, while the ghostly, gorgeous Bel-Air hints at the otherworldly side they’d mine on albums like Priest=Aura. Other standout tracks include the roaring epic Is This Where You Live; the glimmering country slide guitar ballad Don’t Open the Door to Strangers; the Kinks-inflected Tear It All Away, and the hook-driven janglerock smash Too Fast for You. Even the straight-up powerpop like Fighter Pilot/Korean War, Chrome Injury (a new wave take on Iron Man), the proto-U2 Memories in Future Tense and the riff-rocking She Never Said all have their moments. Here’s a random torrent; a cd worth getting is the brand-new reissue that combines both the Australian and self-titled American release’s tracks along with extensive liner notes from twelve-string guitar genius Marty Willson-Piper.

January 28, 2011 Posted by | lists, Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Walter Ego Defies the Snowstorm at Banjo Jim’s

Tuesday night the snow was swirling but Banjo Jim’s was packed and Walter Ego was onstage. This was the New York Walter Ego, not the cover band from the Isle of Man, the Dutch rapper or the disco guy from the 90s. Ironically, though this Walter Ego is arguably the most technologically savvy one of the whole crew, he’s also the one who doesn’t have a web presence: then again, there’s cachet in flying so far under the radar. With his icily sardonic vocals, pun-drenched lyrics and catchy, artsy pop melodies, he delivered a characteristically theatrical set that was all too brief. There’s a lot of surrealism in his lyrics, and that translates to his stage show. Just like last time here, he brought along an inflatable octopus, who’d had the wind knocked out of him, but one of the musicians in the bar “brought him back to life by blowing him,” as he explained. He also had a vintage die-cast model of the Beatles Yellow Submarine, although Ringo was stuck in “up” position. All these crazy props have a function: where Sybarite5 let their ipod shuffle choose what will be in the set, Walter Ego lets the props do it oldschool style by literally pulling the songs out of a hat: no two sets with this guy are ever the same.

This was a particularly good one. His opening song combined a country sway with a somewhat majestic Jeff Lynne style post-Beatles melody, about a “magician who makes magic disappear.” This particular killjoy can’t resist the urge to reduce everything to its lowest terms, literally – where somebody else hears a tune, he hears arithmetic. The theme echoed in the bluesy snarl of Don’t Take Advice from Me – “What use is one more yeasayer to boost your self-esteem when I can tell you the ugly truth that wakes you from your dream.” The high point was a rivetingly suspenseful version of the metaphorically charged I Am the Glass, the cruelly vengeful tale of an egotist who smashes everything around him, only to come face to face with the windshield in the last verse. The next song was the genuinely hilarious, Phil Ochs-ish Adventures of Ethical Man, a sanctimonious superhero who is either either “a saint or an idiot,” never missing an opportunity to show the world what a good guy he is…unless it takes too much effort.

“It costs a lot of money to make these props. I have to repurpose them when I can,” Walter Ego explained, bringing back the octopus to keep the set going with a sarcastic, bluesy number that quietly but forcefully mocked racism and extremism, in a vein that evoked LJ Murphy (which shouldn’t come as a surprise: Walter Ego served as Murphy’s bass player for a time a few years ago). He closed with The Immorality Detection Machine, which managed to be as Beatlesque as it was Orwellian. As funny and provocative as his songs are, this guy’s shtick would go over just as well at something like the Fringe Festival. Mystie Chamberlin, another songwriter with a considerable sense of humor, was next, but it was time to race for the M14C bus at 10th St. because even in a snowstorm, it’s a lot quicker than walking to the train at Union Square. Watch this space for upcoming Walter Ego showdates because it’s the only place on the web you’ll see them, at least for now.

January 14, 2011 Posted by | Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Album of the Day 1/6/11

Every day our 1000 best albums of all time countdown continues, all the way to #1. Thursday’s is #754:

Ellen Foley – Spirit of St. Louis

Often referred to as the “lost Clash album,” this 1981 obscurity features the band plus several of the sidemen who made Sandinista such a masterpiece backing Foley – already a bonafide pop star at the time in Europe (she had a #1 hit in Holland), who was dating Mick Jones at the time. You could call this the Clash’s art-rock album. It’s a mix of Strummer/Jones originals plus a handful of covers, and Foley’s own sweeping, evocatively riff-driven Phases of Travel. Her lovers-on-the-run pop duet with Jones on Torchlight is still fetching after all these years; her cover of Edith Piaf’s My Legionnaire is decent but nothing special. The two gems here are violinist Tymon Dogg’s wrenching, haunting ballad Indestructible, and the dramatic flamenco-rock anthem In the Killing Hour, a pregnant woman pleading for the life of her wrongfully convicted man as he’s led away to his execution. Otherwise, there’s the lush art-pop of The Shuttered Palace; Dogg’s eerie, surreal The Death of the Psychoanalyst of Salvador Dali and the minimalistic, reggae-tinged Theatre of Cruelty; the resolute feminist anthem Game of a Man; a big powerpop number and a couple of love songs. Foley followed this up with a forgettable new wave pop record; these days, she sings wry, clever Americana songs and can be found frequently on weekends playing New York’s Lakeside Lounge with her band. Oh yeah, she was also the girl on the Meatloaf monstrosity Paradise by the Dashboard Light. Here’s a random torrent.

January 6, 2011 Posted by | lists, Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Album of the Day 1/4/11

Tons of new stuff in the pipeline here: the new NYC live music calendar for this month and February is up but still needs a few additions. In the meantime, every day our 1000 best albums of all time countdown continues, all the way to #1. Tuesday’s is #756:

Split Enz – Waiata

A period piece from 1981 that’s aged extraordinarily well. Go ahead and criticize the tinny, trebly production – it’s a wonder that producer David Tickle didn’t put a watery chorus effect on the drums along with everything else. While there are aspects of this that are soooooo 80s, the inspired fun and purism of the songwriting transcends just about anything you could possibly do to it. The classic pop hit is the defiant kiss-off anthem History Never Repeats, driven by one of the alltime great rock guitar riffs. Hard Act to Follow takes the kind of pop direction Genesis should have followed but didn’t; One Step Ahead, Ships, and the ethereal Ghost Girl mine a more mysterious vein. I Don’t Wanna Dance, Clumsy and Walking Through the Ruins hark back to the artsy post-Skyhooks surrealism of the band’s early years; keyboardist Eddie Rayner also contributes an abrasive noise-rock raveup and the balmy, cinematic theme Albert of India. In the band’s native New Zealand, the album was titled Corroboree (Maori for “party”); the tracks are the same. Guitarist Neil Finn would carry on in another first-rate artsy pop band, Crowded House, joined by his brother Tim off and on over the years (notably on the excellent, one-off Finn Bros. album). Here’s a random torrent.

January 4, 2011 Posted by | lists, Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Cult with No Name: For Those Who Don’t Fit In

This one makes a good segue with today’s album by David J. London duo Cult with No Name’s fourth album, Adrenalin, came out on Halloween on Trakwerx. With its deadpan, brooding vocals and goth-tinged keyboard melodies, it’s the best one yet from the self-styled “post punk electronica balladeers.” Once the Williamsburg crowd hears the 80s new wave pop of Breathing – an blippy, ambient track that wouldn’t have been out of place in the Stranglers post-1985 catalog – every “celebrity dj” will want to remix it into unrecognizability. The rest of the album is a lot more substantial (legendary Clash associate and punk/reggae dj Don Letts is a fan). It opens with a long, pensive solo piano intro punctuated by the occasional echoey synth splash, similar to the Walkabouts’ recent work. The sardonic title track sets lo-fi 80s synth-goth to a trip-hop drum loop like early Dead Can Dance: “I’m not addicted to love, I’m addicted to pain…”

Macabre piano rivulets and vocals build to a majestic orchestral sweep on the next track, reminding of Blonde Redhead at their most goth, followed by the icy, accusatory piano ballad The Way You’re Looking at Me. The felicitously titled Youlogy blends watery acoustic guitar and eerily airy synth washes – it could be a more overtly goth Bobby Vacant, a vivid portrayal of the struggle to express grief with any degree of eloquence. It’s quite a contrast with the irresisibly funny, blippy goth spoof The All Dead Burlesque Show: “So teasing, but don’t tell me it’s art…don’t think it’s all about good taste, and I don’t care about your eight-inch waist.”

The rest of the album eclectically mines various 80s dark rock veins: the understated, noir cabaret bounce of Gone; the lush, echoey guitar ballad 7 and its mirror image, -7, a sad, cinematic piano soundscape, and the clip-clop downtempo pop of Make a List. The album ends with a wallop with Generation That’s, a majestic, bitterly poetic slap at the expectation that one should fit into one generation or another, the implication here being that for those of us who will never fit in, it’s a long, lonely road. Like every Trakwerx album, this one is elegantly packaged, in this case in a lustrous, metallic blue-grey cardboard sleeve that blends austere Factory Records minimalism with playful, retro 60-style, Doorsy embellishments.

December 28, 2010 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Album of the Day 12/24/10

Today has not been particularly productive for us: if you think it’s easy to run a music blog while everyone around you starts partying at noon, you haven’t tried it. In the meantime, our 1000 best albums of all time countdown continues as it does every day, all the way to #1. Friday’s album is #767:

The English Beat – Wh’Appen

You will see more albums like this as we move up the list. There’s only one song here that’s a genuine classic – the gorgeous reggae-pop ballad Doors of Your Heart – but every single track is solid. For us, that’s what defines a classic album, one that’s consistently good all the way through rather than one with a couple of great songs surrounded by filler. The rest of the cuts on this British second-wave ska band’s 1981 sophomore album are a characteristically tuneful blend of ska and chorus box guitar-driven new wave. All Out to Get You is punk-style encouragement to fight the good fight: “You’re so scared of death you don’t know what life is.” Monkey Murders sets flamenco-inflected guitar to Mexican-flavored ska; the franglais French Toast (Soleil Trop Chaud) has an afrobeat feel. Drowning and Cheated dive into dub reggae, while Over and Over has some deliciously watery Leslie speaker guitar. There’s also the sarcastic Dream Home in New Zealand, the cynical Walk Away (foreshadowing the more pop direction they’d take on Special Beat Service) and the big hit, Get-a-Job. After the band broke up in 1984, various reconfigurations including General Public, Special Beat, and most recently, guitarist Dave Wakeling’s barely recognizable version of the group have continued to record and tour. Here’s a random torrent.

December 24, 2010 Posted by | lists, Music, music, concert, reggae music, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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

Top Ten Songs of the Week 11/8/10

We’re getting better at this. Our weekly Kasey Kasem-inspired luddite DIY version of a podcast is supposed to happen on Tuesdays; last week we didn’t get to it til Friday, so at this rate we’ll be back on schedule by December! Every week, we try to mix it up, offer a little something for everyone: sad songs, funny songs, upbeat songs, quieter stuff, you name it. We’ve designed this as something you can do on your lunch break if you work at a computer (or if you can listen on your iphone at work: your boss won’t approve of a lot of this stuff). If you don’t like one of these songs, you can always go on to the next one: every link here will take you to each individual song. As always, the #1 song here will appear on our Best Songs of 2010 list at the end of the year.

1. Elvis Costello – One Bell Rings

From his sensational new album National Ransom, this chillingly allusive account of a torture victim draws on the murder of Jean Charles de Menezes as inspiration.

2. LJ Murphy – Fearful Town

One of New York’s greatest chroniclers takes on the gentrification era, live with the superb New Orleans pianist Willie Davis. This one topped the charts here in 2007 so we can’t put it up at #1 again…that would be cheating.

3. The Newton Gang – Westbound

JD Duarte’s soulful Texas baritone delivers this pedal steel-driven country escape anthem: live, they really rock the hell out of it. They’re at the Brooklyn County Fair at the Jalopy on 11/13 at 10.

4. The New Collisions – Dying Alone

This is the video for their offhandedly chilling new powerpop smash from their new album The Optimist. “God knows you hate the quiet, when you’re dying, dying alone.”

5. The Gomorran Social Aid & Pleasure Club – The Great Flood

Noir cabaret by a brass band with a scary girl singer. They’re at the Jalopy on 11/18.

6. Ljova Zhurbin & Clifton Hyde – Theme from The Girl and Her Trust

A new theme for the DW Griffith silent film, live in Brooklyn’s Atlantic Ave. Tunnel.

7. Los Crema Paraiso – Shine on You Crazy Diablo

Venezuelan tinged Floyd cover – for real.

8. Shara Worden with Signal – The Lotus Eaters

The frontwoman of My Brightest Diamond singing one of the highlights of Sarah Kirkland Snider’s new song cycle Penelope.

9. Wayman Tisdale – Let’s Ride

The late NBA star doing some serious funk, featuring George Clinton – this is the cartoon video.

10. Witches in Bikinis – All Hallows Eve

Not the surf punk original but a disco remix, even more over the top and just as funny

November 11, 2010 Posted by | avant garde music, blues music, classical music, country music, funk music, lists, Music, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment