Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Song of the Day 4/29/10

The best 666 songs of alltime countdown continues every day, all the way to #1. Thursday’s song is #91:

Pulp – I Spy

Every workingman’s fantasy – to screw the rich guy’s piece of ass. Even better – spirit her away to a better place, away from the evil boss, and turn her against him. All this and more set to a deliciously sweeping, epic synth-noir spy theme. From Different Class, 1996.

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April 28, 2010 Posted by | lists, Music, 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

CD Review: C. Depp – Belle Epine

His tour de force. At this particular moment, Invisible Friend frontman/guitarist C. Depp has a franchise on quietly creepy, minimalist rock, foreshadowed on his band’s excellent 2006 release, Precinct 9. This, his latest solo album also includes his bandmates Andrew Malenda and Lispector on guitars, keys and assorted electronic blips and bleeps. Stylistically, there are hints of Smog, Mark E.’s solo work after the Eels, and late 80s Pulp during their Little Girl With Blue Eyes phase. Depp’s deadpan delivery heightens the strange, ominous mood, leaving the listener unsure if he’s just kidding around or dead serious. The title is apt – “belle epine” translates from the French as “beautiful thorn”. This is a beguiling and very unsettling album.

Depp wastes no time getting started: traffic passes by, and a siren wails ominously in the distance on the intro to the cd’s first song, Wolf Whistle:

Sister I need you
To answer a few questions
I don’t want you to cry
But I need you to help me
Some bad folks got out
And hurt some innocent people
…we will protect you, protect you, protect you,

Depp intones casually over a catchy, backbeat-driven janglepop melody. The cd’s following cut, Central Parc features attractively jangly electric guitar tracks and what sounds like guy/girl harmony vocals. But you can never be sure with this guy: that’s the beauty of this album. After that, The Where & the When sets eerie, tinkly electric piano atop atmospheric washes of string synth. The cd’s scariest cut is the all-too-brief Shyshy: “I’m shy,” Depp sings in almost a whisper, layers of vocals doubled and recorded just out of sync enough to give the listener pause. “If you really knew about me you won’t ask why.”

Other impressive cuts on the album include the skeletal, reverbed-out A Prayer for Hope for Forgiveness, sounding like one of the minimalist tracks on Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasures. The brief Fate Will Free Will imaginatively plays two separate vocal tracks with different lyrics against each other. The Mancunian dirge Ghost Self wouldn’t be out of place on New Order’s first album. And, Why We So Far Apart, Lover? – simply vocals and guitar – displays tinges of French varietes music. Depp is a big Cat Power fan and although this album doesn’t sound much like her, he sometimes indulges in painful, honest revelations, although more elliptically than she does.

Malenda’s production is amazing: with ample but judicious applications of reverb, he gets these bare-bones narratives to sound like they have something approximating a full band behind them without overproducing or sinking into slickness. Depp is nothing if not prolific, and Invisible Friend promises to begin playing out again since Depp has returned from a brief sojourn in Paris. Surprisingly, he can be a very funny onstage. The cd is available online and at shows. C. Depp plays the Creek and the Cave in Long Island City on May 25 at 9 PM.

May 15, 2007 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment