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JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Song of the Day 1/31/10

The best 666 songs of alltime countdown continues every day, all the way to #1. Sunday’s song is #179:

The Boomtown Rats – Rain

Fearing that American audiences might misconstrue the Rats’ big 1985 Roxy Music-inspired UK hit Dave as a love song from one man to another (it’s not – it’s a sympathetic cautionary tale directed at a friend whose drinking has gotten the best of him), the band’s label had them redo the song with a new title, Rain. One has to wonder why, because as with the rest of the band’s UK hits, it didn’t go anywhere stateside. From their last dismal gasp of an lp, In the Long Grass.

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January 30, 2010 Posted by | lists, Lists - Best of 2008 etc., Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Song of the Day 1/2/10

We’ve resolved to keep up our daily tradition counting down the Top 666 Songs of Alltime, all the way to #1, and two days into our resolution, we haven’t broken it. Wish us luck. Saturday’s song is #208:

Roxy Music – More Than This

“More than this, there is nothing.” In a sense, Bryan Ferry’s quintessential song. Uninhibited, fearless, yet knowing there will be a comedown. Lush atmospheric beauty from the Avalon lp, 1982.

January 2, 2010 Posted by | lists, Lists - Best of 2008 etc., Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Some More Songs for You While We Fix This Thing

As many of you remember, we’ve had a longstanding tradition here putting up a new song every day, counting down our Top 666 Songs of Alltime list all the way to #1, until we were forced to break with that tradition about three weeks ago. Since it now looks like we may not be in a position to put up a new post every day til about November 1, here are the songs in the list which take us up to that point where we will hopefully resume daily activity here:

284. Procol Harum – Homburg

Very British, very stately, very subtle slap at authority from 1967, ominous organ and piano beneath Gary Brooker’s deadpan voice and one of lyricist Keith Reid’s best early ones. The single had to wait til 1974 to be released on album on Procol’s Best; mp3s are everywhere. The link above is the unintentionally hilarious original promo video.

283. Stiv Bators – A Million Miles Away

Haunting, majestic epic, the best song and sort of title track to Bators’ solo debut Disconnected, recorded as the Dead Boys were self-destructing around 1980 but not released til a few years later. RIP.

282. The Vapors – News at Ten

Furious, exasperated punk rock from the classic New Clear Days lp from 1979 (the same one that spawned their lone American hit, Turning Japanese), a generational battle taken up close and personal: “Still I can’t hear you!!!”

281. Al Stewart – Man for All Seasons

One of the popular 70s British art-rock songwriter’s most epic moments – and he had a bunch of them. This is a classic of existentialist rock, one of his smartest, most philosophical lyrics, slide guitar in the background providing lusciously ominous atmospherics. From the Time Passages lp, 1978, frequently found in the dollar bins at your favorite used vinyl purveyor.  Mp3s are everywhere (the link above is a torrent of the whole album).

280. The Dead Boys – Detention Home

Never recorded in the studio, this careening, menacing number was a live showstopper and one of the punk legends’ best songs. The best version is on the classic Night of the Living Dead Boys album from 1981, Jimmy Zero and Cheetah Chrome’s guitars screaming with feedback as the late Stiv Bators snarls his murderous lyrics.

279. Roxy Music – Out of the Blue

Haunting, swaying minor-key art-rock anthem, one of Bryan Ferry’s darkest numbers despite the upbeat lyrics. The studio version on the Country Life lp isn’t bad, but in concert the band went nuts with it. The link above is a tasty live clip from 1976. There are also delicious versions on the Roxy Music Live lp from the same year as well as the 2002 live reunion double cd, but the best is from the first live reunion cd featuring one of Phil Manzanera’s most exhilarating solos ever.

278. The Doors – The End

Listen closely: this is a pop song that morphs into a raga. Sure, it’s a “classic rock” standard, but deservedly so. Ray Manzarek’s swirling, funereal Balkan organ in tandem with Robbie Krieger’s evil guitar runs over John Densmore’s equally evil, crashing drums make the vocals almost an afterthought. “Mother, I want to fuck you!!!” Whatever.

277. The Church – Life Speeds Up

This macabre Syd Barrett-inflected epic was a mid-80s concert staple for the extraordinary, still vital Australian art-rockers. As Steve Kilbey has noted, the studio version on the 1988 double lp retrospective Hindsight is a bit stiff, but it’s still great. And there are bootlegs out there: Church fans are obsessive and generous with their files.

276. The Damned – Plan 9 Channel 7

The punk legends’ best song is this ornate, darkly anthemic masterpiece. The lyrics don’t make much sense – they seem to be about falling asleep with the tv on – but the raging guitar against a haunting organ backdrop are one of the high points in goth music. There are a million live tracks kicking around, many of them excellent, but it’s the 1979 studio version from the impressively diverse Machine Gun Etiquette lp that’s the classic.

275. The Church – The Maven

The Australian art-rock legends long ago proved that they didn’t need a major label behind them to succeed – in fact, the opposite is true, and this scorching, crescendoing broadside wastes no words in making that apparent. The clanging, crushing roar of what sounds like a thousand guitar tracks as the song reaches a peak at the end is one of the most majestic, sonically exquisite passages ever recorded, in any style of music. “Just turn the light off when you go, just tell the jury all you know,” Steve Kilbey snarls. From Sometime Anywhere, 1994.

274. Radio Birdman – Hand of Law

If you’ve been following this list from the beginning, you may have noticed that Australian garage-punks Radio Birdman’s classic 1979 album Radios Appear is very well represented here – and here we go again, with another cauldron of guitar fury, almost five minutes of paint-peeling, macabre, screaming intensity from Deniz Tek and Chris Masuak.

273. The Saints – Follow the Leader

The studio version (see the link above) on the Out in the Jungle album is decent, but when the band were at their peak – as a janglerock unit, for about ten years starting in the early 80s – they transformed this catchy, swaying number into one of their most beautiful songs. The version that opens the 1985 Live in a Mud Hut lp is transcendent, a feast of jangly guitar textures and lushly metallic overtones.

272. The New Race – Love Kills

The New Race were a Detroit supergroup of sorts, Ron Asheton and Deniz Tek on guitars, Warwick Gilbert of Radio Birdman on bass and Dennis Thompson from the MC5 on drums. They did a couple of Australian tours and then ruined what should have been a phenomenal live album with studio overdubs. But their two other subsequent live cds both effectively capture the band’s transcendent, unearthly power. This is one of Tek’s most vividly lyrical songs, a deathly winter road trip from Chicago to the Murder City. The stark, semi-acoustic studio recording by Radio Birdman is unforgettable, but the New Race version from The First To Pay, driven by Gilbert’s roaring, distorted bass chords, is even better. And very hard to find in a digital format other than the grooveshark stream in the title above. Here’s a live Radio Birdman take; here’s another.

271. Radio Birdman – Monday Morning Gunk

The original, released as a single by Radio Birdman mastermind Deniz Tek’s first Australian Band TV Jones in 1972 (and included on the 1988 Tek retrospective Orphan Tracks) is a blazing, somewhat woozily psychedelic masterpiece. Others prefer Radio Birdman’s even more scorching, professionally recorded version, released on the European version of the classic 1979 Radios Appear album some nine years later.The multitracked guitars of Tek and Chris Masuak on the solo are hit a literally unreal crescendo.

270. Howlin Wolf – Sitting on Top of the World

The iconic bluesman’s 1954 studio single hews much closer to the Mississippi Sheiks’ rustic version from the 20s that he probably learned it from. But believe it or not, his best version is on the 1969 London Sessions album with none other than Eric Clapton on guitar – given sufficient inspiration, even a hack can sometimes rise to the occasion. And it’s Bill Wyman’s casually soaring bass work that carries it over the top. Wondering who that tight in-the-pocket drummer is? It’s Ringo.

269. Bob Dylan – Positively 4th St.

The prototypical anti-trendoid anthem. Hypocritical as it may have been, Dylan had nothing but contempt for class tourism and most of the hippies who shared his comfortable upper middleclass background. And it’s obvious that a lot of them didn’t like him either since being one of them, he sussed them out. “You’d rather see me paralyzed” – how true. Download this with impunity because he isn’t getting any royalties from it. 

October 20, 2009 Posted by | lists, Lists - Best of 2008 etc., Music, music, concert | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Debra from Devi’s Top 10 Guitar Albums

This falls into the “ask an expert” category. Debra, who plays lead guitar and fronts the ferocious, psychedelic power trio Devi (whose excellent debut cd you can get at itunes and in stores) knows a thing or two about guitar – she’s one of the most uniquely individual, virtuosic stylists of this era. Here are the ten albums that really hook her up:   

 

Key to the Highway, Freddy King – Best phrasing in the blues and so tuff and sexy it makes me want to dance on a table in hot pants for Mr. King. I snuck a lick from “Hideaway” into Devi’s jam version of “The Needle and the Damage Done.” (You can hear it at 3:43).

 

Another Perfect Day, Motorhead – I moved into a grungy cat-stank apartment on Avenue B one December and by Christmas Eve I couldn’t breathe. Found myself in Bellevue sucking adrenalin from a tank to open my lungs and was told I’d die if I tried to spend another night in my apartment. The only friend I knew who didn’t have a freaking cat was bassist Nick Marden. He had a bird, a rat, a pitbull and a snake. Slept under the Christmas tree in the living room and awoke to Nick handing me this album, saying “Merry Christmas.” Thin Lizzy guitarist Brian Robertson was kicked out of Motorhead after the tour for Another Perfect Day for wearing leg warmers and being generally fey, but I was hooked from the opening note on his soaring, searing, gorgeous playing. Thanks Nick.

 

That’s Entertainment, Gang of Four – Every once in awhile a guitarist comes along who is so original, he makes everyone else sound boring and dated and stupid. Andy Gill’s playing is utterly fresh, sharp, and compulsively danceable. I saw Gang of Four play and all I remember is flying into a state of spasmodic ecstasy from the Gill’s first slashing rip across the strings.

 

Filth Pig, Ministry – God, I love this record. I’ve been known to put it on repeat and listen to it for 8 hours in a row. The guitars sound like thunder, like earthquakes, like tsunamis. One of my fave moments ever was meeting Al Jourgensen and having his wife Angie ask him, “Guess which Ministry album Deb likes the best?” and me and Al both hollering at the same time “FILTH PIIIIIIIIG!!”

 

Dreamboat Annie, Heart — Nancy Wilson’s acoustic guitar playing is exquisitely feminine and also every bit as rock as the Celtic touches Jimmy Page was giving Zeppelin. Otherwordly and heartbreakingly beautiful. Need to cry your way through a breakup? This is the album.

 

Country Life, Roxy Music — Phil Manzanera’s romantic passionate solos slay me. When he lets that delay fly, it sounds like flocks of magical sparkling geese heading straight to heaven. Saw Roxy Music at Radio City Music Hall. Cried. Sighed. Swooned.

 

Texas Flood, Steve Ray Vaughan – Hands that could crush a Volkswagen. His best solos are on this album and they are bursts of fire. I learned his solo on “Mary Had a Little Lamb” and I use what I learned all the time. Snuck a few variations on the licks from that solo into mine on “C21H23NO3”.

 

Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols, Sex Pistols – Guitars like a punch in the face. Steve Jones set the standard for the tightest, most powerful playing on the tightest, most powerful punk rock record ever. Taught the rest of us how to triple track separate parts for maximum wallop. It still makes me want to throw furniture and slamdance as hard as it did the first time I heard it.

 

Ritual de lo Habitual, Jane’s Addiction – Dave Navarro’s solo on “Three Days” is a rippling, cascading masterpiece. He took what Daniel Ash was doing in Bauhaus with digital delay and mixed it up with Jimmy Page and superscorchers like Nuno Bettencourt to create a new style that everyone’s been ripping off every since.

 

Santana, Santana – Jimmy Page said “tone is in the fingers” and Carlos Santana’s fingers make the guitar sound like a celestial viola. His gorgeous sense of melody is like nobody else’s either…he never gets stuck in a blues bag. Even just trying to play along with him for just a few minutes opens up entire new vistas.

 

 

Honorable Mention:

 

Everything by Led Zeppelin, everything by Pink Floyd

 

Pretenders, The Pretenders

 

Sweet Forgiveness, Bonnie Raitt

June 24, 2009 Posted by | lists, Lists - Best of 2008 etc., Music, music, concert | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Concert Review: Melomane at Union Hall, Brooklyn NY 4/25/08

While Lucid Culture takes pride in spreading the word about the best under-the-radar happenings around town, it’s always fun to revisit the A-list, to catch a show by one of New York’s most exciting, popular acts. Tonight’s show strikingly reaffirmed what a great band Melomane is, not just one of the best in New York, but in the entire world. And also a reminder of how much fun and visually entertaining their live show is, with everyone trading off licks, throwing in silly quotes from pop songs, orchestrating a little mayhem into their impeccably crafted tunes. And tonight they did it mostly with songs about the end of the world. The only bad thing about this show was that it ended: they called it a night after fifty minutes onstage, perhaps because their sizzling new three-piece horn section doesn’t know any more songs.

Forget the Melomane you might have known when they first started out, the artsy, Mediterranean-inflected, somewhat Roxy Music-ish pop band they were around the turn of the century. This band is a whole lot darker, a LOT louder, more powerful than ever. They hit the ground running with the title track from their second album Solresol, a scorching, fast minor-key anthem that takes flight on one of frontman Pierre de Gaillande’s signature eerie guitar hooks, anchored by multi-instrumentalist Quentin Jennings’ ominous organ. Then they took a lengthy excursion through Gaillande’s ongoing “disaster song cycle,” including new songs about apocalypse by never-ending solar eclipse, flood, volcanic eruption, collision with an asteroid and more. The volcano song, Vesuvius was a gleefully morbid, cabaret-inflected number. Their sky-is-falling song caught the audience completely off-guard with two dramatic, false endings to its incongruously Stonesy boogie blues outro, capped by a dark minor chord that rang out majestically at the end. Two more of the end-of-the-world songs were blackly humorous, slow 6/8 numbers. In the country band that shares with her husband Jack, bassist Daria Grace is all about the swing and the sway: in this unit, she gets to play a lot of melody, including one gripping, soaring solo, a lot of slides and chords for extra impact. The horn section, whose name is still up in the air – the Brassholes? The Brass-ieres? The band can’t decide – gave the crescendos extra fire and bite. They also played what was ironically the first song Paris-born Gaillande ever wrote in French – an amusing tune about the relationship between a cigarette and a match – bouncing along on Grace’s Motown bassline. They closed with the weird, multi-part, Skyhooks soundalike This Is Skyhorse from their most recent and best album, Glaciers, one of our picks for ten best albums of 2007. Melomane plays June 13 at BAM Café: if you like sweepingly orchestrated art-rock, or just plain good fun, you would be crazy to miss this show.

April 27, 2008 Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews, 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