Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Song of the Day 3/12/09

Every day, our top 666 songs of alltime countdown gets one step closer to #1. Thursday’s song is #503:

The PassengersFace with No Name

One of the greatest Australian bands of the late 70s, the Passengers tragically never achieved the fame they so deserved. With their haunting guitar-and-keyboard garage-pop sound and the chillingly direct, wrenchingly heartfelt vocals of frontwoman Angie Pepper, they were on the brink of releasing their first album when their label discovered that Pepper had secretly married Radio Birdman mastermind Deniz Tek. Fearing that she’d relocate to the States (they were right), the album was never released and the master tapes mysteriously went AWOL for years (but happily resurfaced, ending up on the 2001 Citadel cd reissue It’s Just That I Miss You). In the interim, all that had remained of the band’s recorded output was a single rehearsal tape, released on cd in 1985 on the French Revenge label. Despite the dodgy sound quality, the otherwordly quality of Pepper’s voice against the cascades of electric piano on this song will give you chills. On an even more auspicious note, Pepper resurrected the band in 2006 as an acoustic act; other than the new-ish recordings on their myspace, it remains to be seen how far they’ll go with it. The link in the title at the top is an imeem stream for the song.

March 12, 2009 Posted by | lists, Lists - Best of 2008 etc., Music, music, concert | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Song of the Day 2/25/09

Every day, our top 666 songs of alltime countdown gets one step closer to #1. Wednesday’s song is #518:

Radio Birdman – We’ve Come So Far to Be Here Today

From the band’s triumphant comeback cd Zeno Beach, our choice for best album of 2006. Everyone in this legendary Australian band except the drummer were over fifty by the time they’d recorded this searing, pounding, macabre punk/surf/garage masterpiece. And they rocked harder – and still do – than most people half their age. The link above is to their myspace where you can hear it.

February 25, 2009 Posted by | lists, Lists - Best of 2008 etc., Music, music, concert | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Song of the Day 2/23/09

Every day, our top 666 songs of alltime countdown gets one step closer to #1. Monday’s song is #520:

Radio Birdman – Remorseless

A brooding, midtempo haunter from these legendary Australian garage punks’ volcanic 2006 comeback cd Zeno Beach (our pick for best album of the year). The tension of this burning, funereal midtempo song never lets up, punctuated by a characteristically bone-severing solo from lead guitarist Deniz Tek.

February 22, 2009 Posted by | lists, Lists - Best of 2008 etc., Music, music, concert | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Song of the Day 2/3/09

Every day, our top 666 songs of alltime countdown gets one step closer to #1. Tuesday’s is #540:

Radio Birdman – Found Dead

Thirty-plus years after they started, the legendary Australian punk/garage monsters are still as vital as ever on this macabre, midtempo guitar-and-organ-driven gem. “Said we gotta go far away from here…can you make it alone, now can you? Can you?” singer Rob Younger intones. From their comeback cd Zeno Beach, our pick for best album of 2006.

February 3, 2009 Posted by | lists, Lists - Best of 2008 etc., Music, music, concert | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Maynard & the Musties and the Disclaimers Live at Red Star, Brooklyn NY 1/9/08

This place has to be the most unlikely venue in the entire New York area: a split-level, midtown-style sports bar/restaurant, complete with several flat screen tv’s downstairs and a long, spacious music room upstairs – in the middle of nowhere, in Greenpoint. It’s also midtown expensive, as one might expect from such unexpectedly plush surroundings. If their intention is to make a profit from door and bar receipts, they might actually have a chance, a scary thought: book enough popular trendoid bands, a few people who call themselves celebrity dj’s and pay Tara Reid a few grand to show up and drink for free, and they might be able to make a go of it in this former loft gallery space down the block from the Pencil Factory. Such is the state of Greenpoint, 2008.

Maynard & the Musties were playing their first show since the tragic death of their lapsteel player Drew Glackin. To their immense credit, not only did they pull themselves together, they played an exuberant, passionately twanging show. Hot on the heels of their Lakeside show last month (which we reviewed, and was marvelous), they proved that a throwback outlaw country singer backed by a bunch of indie rockers who may be game, but don’t really know their country music, can still kick ass. It was pretty much the same set list as at the Lakeside show. Maynard is an unapologetic advocate for the underdog and the down-and-out, and the band tore through his chronicle of a couple of derelicts in the wilds of a different part of Brooklyn as well as his only slightly tongue-in-cheek love song about a guy with his eyes on a woman and her Volkswagen (which seems in his eyes to be the ideal place to spend the night – with her, naturally). Maynard would probably cringe to hear this, but at their best the band sounded like the Grateful Dead: rockers jamming their way through some Americana with deliciously unpredictable results. In his band introductions, Maynard included the conspicuously absent Glackin, who received a massive round of applause. They closed with a subtly edgy new song, possibly titled It’s Been a Good Life, a chronicle of disengagement while the world goes to hell, set to a deceptively catchy, vintage Velvets-style melody, jamming it out at the end to a fiery crescendo.

Considering the bizarre location, Maynard and his crew brought a good crowd, most of whom stuck around for the Disclaimers. About three years ago, they were one of the best live bands in New York, until their bass player left the band. Since then, they’ve played only infrequently. Battling the club’s horrible sound (the sound guy tried gamely to make it work, to no avail), they reclaimed their status as one of the most exciting acts in town. Steeped in vintage 60s garage and soul, they dazzled with a set of mostly new material, proving that while they may have been absent from the live circuit, they haven’t exactly been idle. The band has the good fortune to have not one but two first-class songwriters, frontman/guitarist Dylan Keeler and keyboardist/lead guitarist Dan Sullivan. Generally speaking, Keeler has more of a classic 60s pop sensibility hitched to a fiery Radio Birdman-style garage-punk vibe while Sullivan is more of a hard-rocking garage traditionalist (and a spectacular lead player, as he proved again tonight). Because of problems with the sound system, Sullivan was reduced to playing only guitar on several of the songs, meaning that he had to come up with lead parts on the spot for the numbers he usually plays on organ, but he was up to the task.

One of their best new numbers, a supremely catchy oldschool garage tune, was sung by drummer Phil McDonald (one of the most sought-after players in town), with everyone in the band joining in on a bizarre doo-wop vocal breakdown between the second chorus and the next verse. Another new number put violinist/trombonist Naa Koshie Mills (who was doing double duty tonight, also providing incisive and ambient textures for Maynard & the Musties) out in front of the unit, a vivid reminder of how effortlessly charismatic a frontwoman she can be. The song was called Leslie Garwick: Sullivan told the crowd that it was a cross between Leslie Gore and Dionne Warwick, therefore, the title. One can only wonder how many Brooklyn bands know who Leslie Gore is, or who Dionne Warwick was before she did infomercials for a notorious psychic hotline scam. But that’s a story, or a rant, for another day.

They closed with their best song, Stay Out of My Nightmares, whose furious, staccato, violin-driven hook on the intro tantalizingly doesn’t recur until after the last verse. Because of trouble with the PA, Mills didn’t get the chance to do it the second time around, but no matter: the crowd, or what was left of it, was completely rapt. This band is the perfect choice to headline the next Cavestomp – or open for whatever 60s relic the promoters have dragged out of the woodwork. The audience will love them. Half Ajar, featuring some of the Disclaimers, was next on the bill, but we had places to go (home) and things to do (catch the train before the last one left the Greenpoint Ave. station).

January 10, 2008 Posted by | concert, country music, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

CD Review – The Nice Outfit

We could go on forever about how gentrification has made it doubly difficult for a new music scene created by young people to spring up here in New York. But it hasn’t kept a vital, exciting underground from springing up in Milwaukee. Which makes sense, if you look at the trend nationwide: good bands whose members might have gravitated to New York ten years ago get priced out of the market here and instead head for regional magnet cities like Santa Fe or Houston, doing probably just as well or even better there than they would here. Case in point: the “Milwaukee pop underground” centered around Easter Records, a vibrant, collaborative network of musicians that, by comparison, makes the Broken Social Scene seem pretty kaput. The Nice Outfit is the best new band to spring from it to date.

Their myspace says they sound “like the Kinks on a coke binge.” Picturing a wizened little Ray Davies shoveling blow up his nose at this point in time is pretty funny, but the only funny thing about the Nice Outfit is that they aren’t more popular than they’ve already become in their hometown. Using tasty layers of both jangly Rickenbacker and scorching Fender guitar, their debut ep blasts a hole in your nose, woops, umm, anywhere you need a hole blasted. They’re an escape hatch from a boring day. The first song, Kissing Jocelyn is a fast, deliriously sunny Rickenbacker-driven janglepop hit, sounding something like the Church crossed with New York’s own Dog Show. Track two, This Time Next Year evokes nothing less than Washington, DC psychedelic punk legends the Slickee Boys, with its furious twin guitar attack, Terry Hackbarth and Paul Wall playing off each other with a serious chemical burn. The all-too-brief One Minute Forty-Five – “Summer’s gone in one minute forty five,” goes the chorus – is a scorching blast of garage punk with distant echoes of Aussie legends Radio Birdman. The ep concludes with He Don’t Want You Now, which starts out as the most Kinks-ish of all the songs and builds to the best chorus of any of them. The band brings in a 60s artifact, a repeater box, the second time around. Nice touch. This album just makes you want to head to Milwaukee for Summerfest in June and never come back. It’s early in the year but this may well be the best debut of 2008. Five bratwursts.

Several of the other Easter Records bands are worth checking out: garage rockers White Hot Tizzy, janglemeisters Trolley (also featuring Hackbarth and Wall) and Heathrow, who sound like Supergrass if that band had been raised on Lienies and brats

January 8, 2008 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Concert Review: Thee Minks at Magnetic Field, Brooklyn NY 8/3/07

Thee Minks are the kind of band that you see and you say, mmm-hmmm, good. If you’ve had a few drinks, YOU FUCKING LOVE THEM. Hope Diamond, their guitarist, turns her amp up so loud she doesn’t even use a pick. All she has to do is brush the strings of her Gibson SG to get the most evil, distorted, overtone-laden tone you can imagine. Liz Lixx, the bass player, is still pretty primitive, but she has good ideas and you know that if she sticks with it she’ll be fine. And she has a cool bass, a beautiful black-and-white Gretsch Les Paul copy. The drummer, who goes by the name of the Playthang, is excellent, and the band rewarded him by giving him an amusing vocal cameo toward the end of the show.

The Philadelphia band’s best songs came toward the end of the set. They’d started out pretty much by-the-book garage/punk, nothing you haven’t heard before if that’s your music, if the 13th Floor Elevators, MC5, Kinks, Lyres or Mooney Suzuki are your thing. Their website says they bear some resemblance to Radio Birdman, but that wasn’t particularly apparent. About halfway through the set things suddenly got a lot more interesting: more melodies, unexpected chord changes and a lot more imaginative stuff coming out of the bass. The songs’ subject matter seems to be limited to drinking and sex – or both – but at least they’re about something, which is more than you can say about 99.999% of the Sonic Youth ripoffs out there. And there’s absolutely nothing trendy, pretentious or affected about this band. They just want to kick. Your. Ass. And then they do it. This was a good party.

Their last numbers included a punked-out cover of Loaded by Judas Priest (it seems that they actually like the song, instead of making fun of it: whatever the case, their version kicks the shit out of the original). And they did a song about their drummer where he got to sing about what kind of crazy animal he is. “I’ll eat your fucking children,” he hollered, before a series of false endings that wound up with him flailing around Spinal Tap style. The crowd loved it. Not that there was much of a crowd: they were an out-of-town band, after all, and since the audience that actually comes out for real rock music in New York continues to be priced out of town, that wasn’t unexpected.

For anybody who misses the Continental, this place is LOUD: even back by the door the volume was still earsplitting. But the mix was excellent: no surprise, since Zach from Ninth House was doing sound.

August 4, 2007 Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

CD Review: Radio Birdman – Zeno Beach

Volcanic comeback album by these legendary Australian garage punks that mixes a violent apocalypticism with a handful of black humor-driven, traditional garage rock numbers that sometimes veer to the goofy side. For three years in the late 70s, there was no better band on the planet. Driven by lead guitarist Deniz Tek’s maniacal Middle Eastern-inflected playing over a pummeling surf beat, Radio Birdman’s first two studio albums set the standard for uncompromising, raw, fast rock. Influenced by the Stooges, MC5, Blue Oyster Cult, Doors (you should hear the bootleg of their cover of LA Woman) and Ventures, they burned from 1976 to 1980 when Tek left the band for the Air Force and two of the remaining members spun off into the New Christs. Radio Birdman’s releases after the initial breakup are a mixed bag: the mix of alternate versions of songs from their classic 1979 album Radios Appear, including a couple of deliriously good outtakes, is a masterpiece; their 1997 live album, recorded at one of their annual reunion concerts in Australia, found the band lost in a maze of Marshall stacks and high-tech gear, their signature raw power blunted by a booming sound system. This, then is their real comeback, and it’s pretty amazing. With the exception of the new drummer, these guys are in their fifties now and can still outplay and out-write just about any band out there.  

As with their best work, it’s an eerie, death-defying ride. Just a glance at the song titles proves they haven’t lost their dark vision. You Just Make It Worse. Remorseless. Found Dead. Die Like April. Hungry Cannibals. Locked Up. This is desperate stuff; the rage that drove them in 1979 hasn’t dissipated one iota. The album kicks off with We’ve Come So Far (To Be Here Today), sounding nothing like the Grateful Deadly title might imply: it’s a blast of chromatic, minor-key fury, fueled by the twin guitars of Tek and Chris Masuak (who’s become a brilliant lead player in his own right), and organist Pip Hoyle. The album’s next track is a surprisingly trad garage riff-rocker, something that would sound perfectly at home on a good Lyres record. Next we get the haunting, aptly titled Remorseless: the tension of this burning, funereal midtempo song never lets up. After that’s over, Found Dead continues in the same vein. Connected explores reincarnation, a topic Tek has addressed in his solo work. The impressively ornate, artsy Die Like April builds off a hook that sounds suspiciously similar to something by their Aussie compatriots the Church. Heyday takes a Beatles lick and does pretty much the same thing.

 

Eventually it’s back to the nuevo-60s garage feel with the tracks If You Say Please and Hungry Cannibals, the latter of which brings some welcome comic relief. But it’s black humor, it doesn’t last long and you get the feeling that just maybe, the band might not be joking after all. After that, Locked Up is a scorching, Stooges-inflected riff-rocker; then the album winds up with two uncharacteristically sunny tunes, both by keyboardist Hoyle. The Brotherhood of Al Wazah riffs on Middle East terrorism, and the title cut works both as a tribute to a good surf beach and a warning that we could all be On the Beach.

 

Frontman Rob Younger no longer comes across as the Australian Iggy Pop; the oldest member of the band, he’s come to sound eerily like another Australian rock legend, guitarist/songwriter Marty Willson-Piper from the Church. You wouldn’t think a voice like that would necessarily work with such a ferocious band behind it, but it does. Descend into the maelstrom with these guys if you dare. One of the best albums of the decade so far, end of story.

April 26, 2007 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

CD Review: The Dirty Novels – Stealing Kisses

Word is that they don’t make kick-ass rock like this anymore – except they do. These raucous, stomping New Mexico garage rock hoodlums pump out a glorious blast of noise that blends the sound of the Thirteenth Floor Elevators with the early Damned, along with plenty of influence from the Stooges, Ramones, Seeds and Lyres, among others.

 

The album’s second song Slow It Down sounds like vintage Elevators, all nasty riffs over a jangly groove. Don’t Fit In (track four) sounds like a Stones song from Aftermath rearranged for one of their post-Blonde on Blonde albums like Between the Buttons. The following cut Candy Can’t Wait is uncharacteristically downbeat and creepy, shades of Steve Wynn at his most retro. Can’t Get Over You (track six) evokes the Damned circa Machine Gun Etiquette with its dark minor chord permutations. Stars Won’t Shine for You (track eight) starts out sounding practically like a dead ringer for the Damned classic Fan Club before taking a short detour down into la-la pop.  My Love Is Electric (track nine) launches on an evil Stoogoid riff, evoking nothing less than the great and recently reunited Radio Birdman. The album concludes with what sounds like a Stooges tribute, the TV Eye riff adapted just enough to beat a copyright suit. And it’s a worthy one: Asheton & co. would probably approve.

 

There are no deep lyrical concepts here, no shades of meaning. All these guys want to do is rock. There isn’t much about this album that’s original but that’s not the point. What the Dirty Novels want to do is kick your ass over and over and they do that exceptionally well. These guys are purists. They really know their stuff and obviously get a lot of pleasure bludgeoning your eardrums. Their live act is everything you would hope for after hearing the album. It all boils down to this: if you love unpretentious, catchy, balls-to-the-wall garage rock that you can get up and dance to, get this album and go see the Dirty Novels when they come to your town. All they need is somebody to hook them up with Little Steven and have them play a couple of his garage-a-thons and they’ll be packing ‘em in at dingy rock clubs from coast to coast. The cd is available online and at shows.

April 23, 2007 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment