Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Compared to Bee vs. Moth’s Acronyms, Most Other Bands Sound FUBAR

Part 27 of our ongoing, never-ending process of playing catch-up: Austin instrumentalists Bee vs. Moth’s album Acronyms came out last year. The fun factor is off the hook – they pin the needle in the red. They’re part jazz, part noise-rock, and part movie theme music. Their compositions are very clever, but there’s just as much improvisation going on and that’s just as clever. Yet any good jazz band has that: what sets these folks apart is their sense of humor and out-of-the-box mashup-style songwriting. For a point of comparison, it could be said that what Tribecastan is to the Red Sea, Bee vs. Moth is to Americana. Some of this you can even dance to. To give you an idea of how much is going on here, these are the notes our reviewer took while trying to get a basic idea of how to explain just the first song on the album: “Drum hammers out the ‘one’ – guitar comes in against the beat – a blast of fuzzy guitar feedback – down to just bass holding the beat, backward masking and glockenspiel, up with it then horns and the whole band, becomes an actual anthem – then it falls apart with disembodied voices, comes back with a distorted guitar rock interlude – simple fast 2/4 changes a la Joy Division – down to glockenspiel and trumpet again.” Something for just about everyone in 3 minutes, 50 seconds.

Interplay is everywhere throughout this album: instruments converse, argue, twirl each other across the floor, blow up in each others’ faces and then make up. Now More than Ever, whose focal point is a warped spaghetti western theme, has the trumpet, guitar and bass doing a neat call-and-response. Peter Benko, a blend of Chronic Town-era REM, Tuatara jazz nocturne and reggae, has the bass taking over for the guitar – which in this song plays a role usually reserved for a drummer. The fiery, hypnotic Afrobeat song Pennies from Hell (these guys are good at titles) has trumpet and baritone sax riffing off each other. And Ugly Is the New Black welds crazed noise-rock guitar to a vintage doo-wop theme.

The rest of the album is more cinematic. Tuesday in Tuskegee shifts from mournful gospel to joyous noise, with some intense guitar tremolo-picking, and then back down again. The Sky and the Dirt Earth is southwestern gothic teleported to Bali; Mexican Noise Soda warps out of horn-spiced metal to a nasty, satirical trumpet waltz. They prove especially amusing with marches. All Hail Freedom is scathingly sarcastic and bombastic, the band taking their time machinegunning the propagandistic theme to bits, while ICP on Parade has gleeful fun mocking a parade theme and I Listen to Coffee All Day add hayseed banjo and cowbell to raise the eyebrow factor. The most straight-up number here – straight-up being a relative term – is Gor’s Apparatus, a joyously crescendoing, noisy jaunt featuring a couple of tongue-in-cheek bass solos and some particularly satisfying drum work. Bee vs. Moth’s next gig appears to be on March 19 at Austin’s Alamo Drafthouse Ritz Theatre, where they’ll be doing their live original score for Buster Keaton’s The Cameraman as part of the Austin Film Festival.

February 12, 2011 Posted by | avant garde music, experimental music, jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Album of the Day 11/8/10

Every day our 1000 best albums of all time countdown continues all the way to #1. Monday’s album is #813:

Eric Ambel – Roscoe’s Gang

The original lead guitarist in Joan Jett’s Blackhearts, Eric “Roscoe” Ambel made a name for himself as a ferociously talented soloist in 80s Americana cult band the Del Lords (who have recently reunited after a 20-year hiatus). After that, he’d go on to serve for several years as Steve Earle’s lead guitarist when he wasn’t producing great albums by an endless succession of twangy rock acts over the past 20 years or so. This one could be found playing over the PA in every cool bar and club in New York in the summer of 1989; Ambel has since remastered and tweaked it. Here he’s backed by Springfield, Missouri highway rockers the Morells along with REM collaborator Peter Holsapple and Golden Palomino Syd Straw, along with several New York street musicians including sax player “Mr. Thing.” They rocket through a mix of tight, imaginative covers and originals, all of which are streaming at Ambel’s site. An insanely catchy, considerably altered version of Swamp Dogg’s Total Destruction to Your Mind was the New York party anthem of 1989; Ambel’s Del Lords bandmate Scott Kempner’s classic powerpop song Forever Came Today is as poignant now as it was 20 years ago. 30 Days in the Workhouse gets a stinging treatment that enhances the lyrics: “If I’d been a black man, they’d have given me thirty years.” There’s also the classic kiss-off anthem You Must Have Me Confused (With Someone Who Cares); Holsapple’s Everly Bros. soundalike Next to the Last Waltz; the macho Don’t Wanna Be Your Friend; and a well-oiled, impromptu live-in-the-studio version of Neil Young’s Vampire Blues that beats the original hands down (and cuts off mysteriously midway through the outro). For newcomers to Ambel’s music, it’s available attractively as a three-fer along with the bitter, stinging Loud and Lonesome and the more recent, frequently hilarious Knucklehead album.

November 8, 2010 Posted by | lists, Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Song of the Day 3/7/10

The best 666 songs of alltime countdown continues every day, all the way to #1. Sunday’s song is #144:

REM – It’s the End of the World As We Know It and I Feel Fine

Like Subterranean Homesick Blues and other songs before it, the lyrics to this one became part of the public consciousness (something that used to happen a lot before corporate music completely took over commercial radio and everybody stopped listening). Not bad for a rapidfire apocalyptic indie rock song released at the nadir of the Reagan years, Mike Mills wailing plaintively in the background, “Can I get some time alone?” High point of the essentially one-sided Document album, 1986. The Suicide Machines’ snotty 1998 punk-pop cover isn’t bad either.

March 7, 2010 Posted by | lists, Lists - Best of 2008 etc., Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Song of the Day 1/18/10

As we do every day, the best 666 songs of alltime countdown continues all the way to #1. Monday’s song is #192:

REM – Cuyahoga

A darkly Wire-inspired tribute to the river that caught fire, arguably bassist Mike Mills’ most beautifully inspired moment in the band with all those chords. Will some good band please cover this and give it the wild intense treatment it screams out for? From the otherwise mediocre Life’s Rich Pageant album, 1987.

January 18, 2010 Posted by | lists, Lists - Best of 2008 etc., Music, music, concert | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Some Songs For You Until We Return

As regulars here know by now, Lucid Culture HQ is undergoing some big renovations and for that reason we have to leave this site more or less in limbo until about the middle of October  when we  return with more of the stuff you may have grown accustomed to: the NYC live music calendar, cd and concert reviews, Song of the Day and our Tuesday Top Ten Songs list. This will also serve as a test of sorts to see how much traffic we get while there’s not much going on here. In the meantime, here are the songs of the day that we’d scheduled to appear, a new one every day through October 15, 2009  as the countdown to #1 on the Top 666 Songs of Alltime list continues.  If this isn’t enough to satisfy your curiosity, look around a little, browse the index above and we’ll be back before you know it.

304. Joy Division – Walked in Line

“All dressed in uniforms so fine/They drank and killed to pass the time/Wearing the shame of all their crimes/With measured steps they walked in line.” Nazis as metaphor for conformity as a whole, stepping to a ridiculously simple, potent descending punk riff. An early, 1977-era song released on the posthumous 1981 Still lp, available in a ridiculous number of live and studio versions: peek around.

303. Dick Dale – Misirlou

The lefty guitar genius and surf music pioneer is Lebanese-American and probably heard this iconic Greek melody as a kid in the 50s. Nice to see him healthy again and back on the road. New York Greek party rockers Magges also do a tremendously fun version.

302. The Dog Show – If I Laugh Anymore I’ll Break

Blistering and catchy, sort of a cross between the Dead Boys and 50s R&B. One of the more obscure tracks here, this is on a rare ep by the NYC mod punks from 2003 or so and well worth seeking out, whether on a live bootleg (they exist) or otherwise.

301. Elvis Costello – Riot Act

One of Steve Nieve’s finest, most poignant moments in the band with all those hauntingly restrained piano arpeggios. From Get Happy, 1980; mp3s are everywhere.

300. The Grateful Dead – Days Between

Every now and then, Jerry and co. would pull out the gravitas and this is a prime, extremely poignant example from right before the end, an elegiac epic that in its dark, determined way might just be their best song. Not that it really mattered, but the Dead never released it during their lifetime as either a studio or live recording. So you need to go to dead.net or archive.org, where this 12-minute gem resides in several places.

299. The Go-Betweens – You Can’t Say No Forever

Haunting, percussive janglerock cautionary tale about the dangers of succumbing to the lure of marriage. An apt companion piece to the Fun Boy Three’s Tunnel of Love…and a million blues and country songs. It doesn’t sound much like anything the artsy New Zealand pop band ever did before or after. From 16 Lovers’ Lane, 1989; mp3s are everywhere.

298. The Rolling Stones – Black Limousine

A poignant requiem for a good time, Ron Wood’s warmly fluid blues solo one of his finest moments in the band over a neat hesitation-step series of basic blues changes. From Tattoo You, 1981; mp3s are everywhere, and don’t be shy about downloading it because like all major label releases, this one will never make the band any more money. Not that they need it anyway. The link above is a spirited live version from the tour of the same year.

297. Telephone – Au Coeur de la Nuit

The title translates as “heart of the night,” which to songwriter Jean-Louis Aubert’s credit transcends cliche here. One of the most iconic songs in French rock, it’s a blistering requiem, title track from the Parisian rockers’ 1981 lp. Which you can download all over the place; the link above is a careening live version from German tv.

296. Zager & Evans – In the Year 2525

OK, some of you may find this cheesy and over-the-top. But we think the 1969 one-hit wonder is spooky in a psychedelic California Dreaming kind of way. Whatever you think, the video above is hilarious – and it screams out for someone with a little more depth to cover the song and bring out all its apocalyptic angst. By the way, the song was a last-minute addition to the band’s first album (if you find it, pick it up, it’s rare). Available for taping off your favorite oldies radio station as well as all over the web.

295. Randi RussoWonderland

Arguably the iconic indie rock siren’s signature song, this is a bruised, towering anthem about being left behind. And the injustice and cruel irony of it. From her classic Solar Bipolar cd, 2000; the link in the title above is the considerably faster but still dangerous version from the Live at Sin-e album, 2005.

294. Amy Rigby – Rode Hard

Culture shock has seldom been more amusingly, or more poignantly portrayed: fearless big city girl goes south and she doesn’t understand the natives any better than they understand her. She might be jealous of their brightly lit homes and seemingly secure lives, but she’s not sure. And are there any eligible guys within a hundred mile radius? Is there one? From the Sugar Tree cd, 2000, which you could download, or you could get at her site, she’s an independent artist so none of your money will go to any sleazy record label exec.

293. Erika Simonian – Bitter & Brittle

Best song on the classic 2003 All the Plastic Animals cd by the NYC underground songwriter/chanteuse and Sprinkle Genies guitarist, grimly yet wittily contemplating a fullscale breakdown with one of her characteristically gemlike lyrics.

292. Elvis Costello – Love Went Mad

“Do you know how I feel? Do you have a heart, do you have a heart of iron and steel?” the King inquires with a savage amphetamine insistence. A fast, anthemic smash from Punch the Clock, 1983, driven by Steve Nieve’s incisively bright piano. Mp3s are everywhere.

291. Curtis Eller – After the Soil Fails

Apocalyptic opening track on the fiery NYC banjo rocker’s 2008 cd Wirewalkers & Assassins:

This time the dream is a Russian oil tanker

Fidel Castro and Cuban sugarcane

Richard Nixon’s having the same old nightmare

Jack Ruby’s black secret crawling up through the drain…

When the hurricanes finally take out New Orleans

And scarlet fever has finally left Philadelphia bare…

There’s a ghost that we remember hanging in the air

290. Ninth House – Your Past May Come Back to Haunt Me

Catchy, swaying Nashville gothic existentialist cautionary tale: “I know all your secrets,” frontman Mark Sinnis intones ominously. From Swim in the Silence, 2000.

289. Elena Zazanis – Stingray

The highly regarded indie film actress is also a terrific singer and songwriter, with a powerful alto wail and a haunting chromatic edge that reflect her Greek heritage. For a few years during the early part of the decade, she led a first-rate, dark New York powerpop band and this is their finest moment, a towering anthem vividly depicting a surreal nightmare scenario that doesn’t end well. Never recorded, although live bootlegs exist.

288. REM – Find the River

Arguably their best song, about as far from their indie roots as they ever got, lush and anthemic with a string section. It’s about getting old, and failure, and death. “All of this is coming your way.” From Automatic for the People, 1992. Click on the video in the link above.

287. Latin QuarterTruth About John

For about a year the British rock press were all gaga over this lyrically brilliant, Costelloesque band who were one of the first to bring Afropop flourishes into rock. This is probably their most straight-up rock song, a bruising anthem about Albert Goldman’s hatchet-job John Lennon bio. From the Modern Times lp, 1985. The Pip Hoyle style organ solo out is luscious. Frontman Steve Skaith now fronts his own band, continuing to play and record intriguingly polystylistic, lyrical songs. The link in the title above is the stream at imeem.

286. Flash & the Pan – Restless

A few years after their legendary 60s garage-pop band the Easybeats had run its course, Australians Harry Vanda and George Young led this pioneering, truly extraordinary dark new wave studio project best known for their big 1979 hit Hey St. Peter. This apocalyptic number sets a haunting Middle Eastern melody to a fast, hypnotic dance beat, the lyrics as offhandedly disconcertingly as ever. From the classic Lights in the Night lp, 1980, more easily downloaded than you would think – the link above is a torrent.

285. The Room – Naïve

Best song on probably the best ep ever made, the Liverpool new wave legends’ 1985 release Jackpot Jack. This updates noir 60s pop with a jazzy tinge and haunting Hammond organ, Dave Jackson’s ominously breathy voice and characteristically biting lyrics. It’s also a great drinking song – who knew beer goggles could be so lyrical. Jackson and bassist Becky Stringer would carry on in the equally captivating Benny Profane and currently the Nashville gothic act the Dead Cowboys.

September 27, 2009 Posted by | lists, Lists - Best of 2008 etc., Music, music, concert | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Song of the Day 5/4/09

This is pathetic. We haven’t put up a real post here since the middle of last week and we’re getting more traffic than we’ve seen in weeks. You must like songs with a lot of swear words in them. This one doesn’t have any but it is on our top 666 songs of alltime list which we count down daily, one at a time (tons more reviews coming soon…). Monday’s song is #450:

Robert Cray – Smoking Gun

Wherein the great bluesman decided to write a REM song and succeeded wildly. Like nothing he ever did before or after – maybe that’s a good thing. Love that catchy bassline. And notice how, on the solo, he goes from matter-of-fact swing to absolute redline in a split second? Wow. From the Strong Persuader album, 1986; mp3s are everywhere

May 3, 2009 Posted by | lists, Lists - Best of 2008 etc., Music, music, concert | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment