Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Album of the Day 11/5/10

Every day our 1000 best albums of all time countdown continues all the way to #1. Since we’ll be making another quick out-of-town jaunt, here’s Friday’s album, #816, a little ahead of schedule:

The Slits – Cut

We’re trying to avoid duplicating the most obvious choices which have been featured on other popular best albums lists, but this characteristically weird, irreproducible moment from the peak of punk, 1979 deserves a place here: every so often, good things actually become popular and this is one of them. Quirky and often irresistible, the lone album by the original all-female Slits (drummer Palmolive quit before the band could record: the drums here are played with surprising dubwise groove by Budgie from Siouxsie & the Banshees) has been imitated a million times but never duplicated. It’s hard to imagine Bjork without this. What’s coolest about the album is how dubwise it is, smartly and tersely produced by noted reggae bassist/bandleader Dennis Bovell. Frontwoman Ari Up was seventeen when she recorded this – her hybrid German/Jamaican accent is a long WTF moment – and leads the band with an unselfconscious defiance through the sarcastic, minimalist reggae-pop of Spend Spend Spend, So Tough (a sendup of macho poseurs); the gleeful Shoplifting; the cynical anticonformist anthem Typical Girls; and the scurrying, ominously minor-key garage-punk Love und Romance. Their darker, louder, more punk side comes across with the overtly Siouxsie-esque Newtown and Adventures Close to Home. They’d reunite with a new drummer in 2007 and tour until Ari Up tragically died at 48 just a few weeks ago. RIP. Here’s a random torrent.

Advertisements

November 4, 2010 Posted by | lists, Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Walking Hellos’ Debut Album is Delicious

The Walking Hellos’ new album Because I Wanted to Know is unpredictable, counterintuitive, tuneful fun. It’s a blast of rosemary cayenne popcorn flavor from down the hall. It makes you ravenously hungry. This band would have been huge in 1989. With their clear, sweet, sometimes chirpy, sometimes hypnotically atmospheric harmonies, the all-female, four-piece Brooklyn band reminds a lot of Lush, with the guitar-fueled, insistent intensity of the Throwing Muses and some growling, snapping Slits rhythm as well. Accordionist/banjoist Myla Goldberg (novelist and author of Bee Season, which earned her a song dedicated to her by the Decemberists), guitarist and occasional Pauline Oliveros collaborator Val Opielski, bassist Rose Thomson and drummer Heather Wagner shift unexpectedly and joyously from one style from another with an understated aplomb.

The album’s opening track, Botched contrasts woozy, out-of-focus slide guitar on the verse with an eerie, crescendoing chorus with goth tinges. The second cut, Little Boys is even creepier and explodes in sudden fireball of distorted guitar. The title track grows from a lot sparsely populated by hypnotic, reverberating guitar textures to an orchard of vocals and accordion – and a neat little bridge with some sort of wind instrument. “”I know how to do this, I know how to disappear, I’ve been on this job a thousand years,” Goldberg relates mysteriously.

Undertow 1 and Winter Remedy are cleverly arranged, dreampop-flavored numbers that contrast shimmery harmonies with Thomson’s marvelously trebly, gear-grinding, melodic Jean-Jacques Brunel-ish basslines. Lane 5 – unquestionably the coolest song ever set in a swimming pool – starts gentle and summery and goes out with a long yet terse distorted guitar solo. The album winds up with a percussively hypnotic, wickedly catchy, blazing dreampop rocker, an echoey instrumental fragment, the early Lush soundalike The Unloved and a dub-hop instrumental, Lane 5 After Hours. Wow. It’s been awhile since a band has packed so much fun into forty minutes or so. Look for this one on our upcoming Best Albums of 2010 list in December.

August 12, 2010 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Killer Triple Bill on the Lower East 5/14/10

Three bands, a lot of fun, in fact one of the funnest nights of music so far this year in New York – at just about the last place you would expect it to happen. Toronto rock trio People You Know opened. They’re growing into their good ideas, and they seem to have an unlimited supply. It’ll be interesting to see what they do once they have a more polished sound because their rough edges are what make them so appealing. It’s not easy to find their influences because their sound is so original – biting electric guitar, skittish rhythms and insistent, trebly bass, on one level totally retro 80s but also in the here and now because guitarist Aimee Bessada jumps from style to style with zero regard for tradition, fearlessly, punk rock style. And it always works. Bass player Devon Clarke is a newcomer to the instrument, already writing catchy riffs that promise to get even more interesting as she grows more comfortable with them. Drummer Iman Kassam held it simple and spot-on for Bessada’s explorations through acidic Sonic Youth noise, screechy Slits quasi-funk and plaintive Wire-esque major/minor changes. She may not be listening to any of those bands, just writing her own hooks in her bedroom by herself – if so, good for her. She dealt with adversity well, tuning and singing at the same time, Tom Rush style, and when her Gibson SG finally became untunable, she borrowed one of the next band’s guitars and scorched her way with a terse bluesiness through the next catchy postpunk number, sounding like a more down-to-earth Interpol.

AwShockKiss were a thrill ride. They really know how to write a song, slamming into one fiery, insanely memorable chorus after another. Hits have to be simple enough to stick in your mind and this band knows that. Tightly and intensely, they jumped from one to another, barely leaving any time between them. Almost everything they did was in a bracing minor key. Frontwoman Kiri Jewell took over center stage with a throaty wail similar to Bessada’s. Considering that this was Crash Mansion, it was no surprise that her lyrics didn’t often cut through the sound mix – when they did, they carried a cynical, sarcastic bite. Like People You Know, they have an 80s sound, but a good one: they would have ruled the Billboard Hot 100 in 1985. Their new bass player Charlie Cervone may have a Berklee degree but he doesn’t waste notes (a John Lockwood student, maybe?), adding an extra level of catchiness with a climb or a fill on a turnaround; their Telecaster player usually had the good sense to stick with roaring chords, mingling with Stefanie Bassett’s perfectly paced piano for some really gorgeous textures. They switched up the rhythm with a devious 7/8 verse on one number; their big 6/8 ballad was lit up with some spine-tingling tremolo-picking and then an otherworldly, reverb-drenched solo from the Tele player. The crowd screamed for an encore but the club wouldn’t give them one.

Another Toronto band, Hunter Valentine do one thing – fast, roaring new wave/punk pop – and do it tightly and passionately. Swinging her gorgeous hollow-body Gibson all over the stage, charismatic singer/guitarist Kiyomi McCloskey belted out her songs with a ferocious contralto wail in the same vein as Vera Beren – or, a generation before, Carole Pope of Rough Trade. Bassist Adrienne Lloyd and drummer Laura Petracca joined forces to provide a pummeling beat and sassy vocals when needed. Their biggest hit with the crowd was the savage powerpop song Stalker, McCloskey cutting loose with an unearthly shriek at the end of the second verse that practically drew blood – she hinted that she might do it again, but she didn’t. They wrapped up their fairly short set with Test Collision (a Toronto reference), quiet verse exploding into a roaring chorus, and then a bouncy number that they started with a wall of nails-down-the-blackboard guitar feedback.

May 15, 2010 Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment