Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Second Dan: Oasis for a New Generation

Second Dan sound like Oasis without the posturing – which means that if you like Oasis you’ll really like Second Dan. The Australian-American band write warmly catchy, anthemic songs that are easy to like, that linger in your mind. The production here is more terse, going for sort of a vintage pop vibe rather than the wall of guitars that the Gallagher Bros. relied on to disguise their weaknesses. Which testifies to the strength of the songwriting here. Frontman Dan Rosen plays guitar and keys, alongside smartly tuneful, eclectically skilled lead guitarist Adam Lerner and drummer Sonny Ratcliff (who also adds bass on some tracks).

The upbeat anthem Today sets the tone for the rest of the album with its gleaming powerpop chords. The swaying midtempo title track plays off a swoopy vintage synthesizer hook; Let It Go evokes the stomp of Definitely Maybe rather than the Beatlisms of What’s the Story Morning Glory. We Can is fast and optimistic in the midst of chaos: “We can, we can, we can start a revolution.”

Opening gentle and acoustic, More Than the End builds slowly with some tasty, mid-60s style soul guitar fills. Wake Up finally throws in some Beatles allusions: Paul’s hoarse vocals at the end of Hey Jude, the chorus of She Came In Through the Bathroom Window and a big drum explosion after the last chorus. The band switch it up at this point with Pretty, which is sarcastic and jangly like the Saints at their late 80s peak and follow that with a surprisingly understated, nocturnal soul/blues ballad, I Want It, I Need It. The last track, Advantage isn’t bad but after everything that came before, it’s pretty anticlimactic. If this album is any indication, Second Dan are probably even better onstage where they can unleash the guitars and stretch the songs out.

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August 21, 2010 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Song of the Day 4/7/10

The best 666 songs of alltime countdown continues every day, all the way to #1. Wednesday’s song is #113:

The Saints – Grain of Sand

One of the great janglerock hits of alltime, and also the most evocative song about cocaine ever written. It doesn’t exactly romanticize the drug. From All Fools’ Day, 1989, the group’s high point as a jangle band.

April 6, 2010 Posted by | lists, Lists - Best of 2008 etc., Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

CD Review: Marty Willson-Piper – Nightjar

His best album. Marty Willson-Piper is the preeminent twelve-string guitarist of our time, whether creating rich layers of atmosphere as one of the two lead guitarists in legendary Australian art-rockers the Church, or building a ferocious, bluesy blaze moonlighting in the latest incarnation of the Saints. He’s also as good as songwriter as he is a guitarist. This cd, his first studio effort since 2000 is every bit the match for pretty much everything his main band has ever done. The production manages to be ornate yet terse, with judiciously arranged guitars, keys and occasional strings  (by the alluring Australian quartet the Mood Maidens) and harmony vocals by cult siren Tiare Helberg. Willson-Piper leads the band with a somewhat airy delivery (imagine Rob Younger of Radio Birdman today, in a relaxed, thoughtful moment, if that’s possible). The songs are mostly slow-to-midtempo anthems, and Willson-Piper also, somewhat surprisingly, proves particularly adept at mid-60s style country on the sardonic, pedal steel-driven Game for Losers and the unforgiving, stern The Love You Never Had.

The opening track, No One There sounds, unsurprisingly, towering and majestic just like the Church, right down to Willson-Piper’s trademark echoey, ominous, portentous bent-note phrases, a pensive study in alienation and, more importantly, disalienation. Willson-Piper does not suffer fools gladly, and though he’s often very funny about it, much of this album is a surgical strike against complacency. The theme echoes, amusing yet spot-on, in the thoughtful, eco-friendly More Is Less:

 

I heard that god was coming back

I didn’t know that he’d been here…

Even the angels enjoy a good cigar

They say, tone-deaf drunks sing sweet songs

 

The cd’s centerpiece The Sniper, is a similarly thoughtful, methodical track, an eerily calm, rational assessment of whether or not to assassinate an unnamed, crooked politician (this album being recorded during the waning days of the Bush regime, Dick Cheney is the obvious suspected victim). The world goes to hell, and we all let it happen, Willson-Piper calmly intones. What if we didn’t? What is the price, and what are the philosophical consequences of heroism, he ponders?

The rousing, countryfied Feed Your Mind is laugh-out-loud hilarious, a savagely lyrical anti-tourist tirade that begins almost inscrutably but gets less and less subtle as it goes on, ending on the same note as the Room’s classic Jackpot Jack. High Down Below is the requisite big rocker, its narrator retreating to a place of sanity to make sense of the idiocy all around. The most poignant of all the tracks here is the vivid, haunting Song for Victor Jara, commemorating the great Chilean songwriter and poet murdered in 1973 in the wake of a CIA-backed coup. Ferociously intelligent and richly melodic, this makes an ideal late-night headphone album: look for this at the end of the year high on our best albums of 2009 list in December. The Church are on tour this summer (they’re at Irving Plaza in New York on July 8th) and hopefully Willson-Piper will be able to do a few solo dates as well.

May 18, 2009 Posted by | lists, Lists - Best of 2008 etc., Music, music, concert | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Songs of the Last Couple of Days

Every day, our top 666 songs of alltime countdown gets one step closer to #1. Sunday’s song was #486:

The Saints – Brisbane

Lead guitarist Ed Kuepper’s finest moment in the band. This slowly burning epic is one of the great summer songs of alltime – it just radiates heat and defiance over listlessness. On an unexpectedly prophetic note, the song is subtitled “Security City” – little did the band know what was to come in the following decades. From the 1978 album Prehistoric Sounds.

 

Today’s is #485:

Rachelle Garniez – Quality Star

Arguably the noir-inclined, multistylistic New York chanteuse’s finest hour. It begins all starlit and atmospheric with eerie music-box piano, subtly building to an explosion on the chorus:

 

You say monsters like us don’t make good husbands and wives

But monsters

Lead such interesting lives

And I don’t know what you’re hoping the future might bring

But monsters

Make the best of everything

 

And the outro is pure redemption, pure revenge for anyone who’s ever been betrayed. From her classic 2003 cd Luckyday.

March 30, 2009 Posted by | lists, Lists - Best of 2008 etc., Music, music, concert | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment