Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Jay Banerjee’s New Album Slashes and Clangs

Cynical janglerock heaven. Jay Banerjee may be best known at the moment as the creator of Hipster Demolition Night, arguably New York’s best monthly rock event, but he’s also a great tunesmith. On his new album “Ban-er-jee,” Just Like It’s Spelled, he plays all the instruments, Elliott Smith style (aside from a couple of a couple of harmonica and keyboard cameos, anyway). Drawing deeply on the Byrds, the Beatles, the first British invasion and 60s soul music, Banerjee offers a slightly more pop, more straightfoward take on what Elvis Costello has done so well for so long, crafting a series of three-minute gems with a biting lyrical edge. The obvious influence, both guitar- and song-wise, is the Byrds’ Roger McGuinn – like McGuinn, Banerjee plays a Rickenbacker. The tunes here are brisk, with an impatient, scurrying pulse like the Dave Clark Five, with layers of guitar that ring, jangle and chime, throwing off fluorescent washes of magically glimmering overtones as only a Rickenbacker can do.

Lyrically, Banerjee goes for the jugular, sometimes with tongue in cheek but generally not. These are songs for guys. Banerjee’s characters, if they are in fact characters, have no stomach for drama, no patience for indecisive girls holding out for men they’ll never be able to measure up to. And these women don’t get off easy. The funniest and most spot-on cut here is Long Way Home: what the Stooges’ Rich Bitch was to Detroit, 1976, this one is to Brooklyn, 2010, a brutal dismissal of a “dress up doll with a goofy drawl” who finds that she’s no match for New York heartlessness. By contrast, Just Another Day (not the McCartney hit, in case you’re wondering) is equally vicious but far more subtle. Banerjee lets the gentrifier girl’s aimless daily routine slowly unwind: finally awake by noon, “She tells herself if life’s a game, it isn’t hard to play/’Cause all you lose is just another day.”

A handful of the other tracks have obviously pseudonymous womens’ names. Dear Donna, the opening cut, sarcastically rejoices in pissing off the girl’s mother – via suicide note. Kate is rewarded for having “too many feelings” with a memorable Byrds/Beatles amalgam. Lindsay won’t be swayed by any overtures, and her shallow friends may be partially at fault: “They said you pray that I just find someone desperate/Lindsay, all that they say, already I could have guessed it.” Another cut manages to weld the artsy jangle of the Church to a Chuck Berry boogie, with surprisingly effective results. There’s also the early 60s, Roy Orbison-inflected noir pop of Leave Me Alone; See Her Face, the Byrdsiest moment here; and the clanging 60s soul/rock of No Way Girl. Fans of both classic pop and edgy, wounded rock songwriters like Stiv Bators have plenty to sink their teeth into here.

With his band the Heartthrobs, Banerjee rocks a lot harder than he does here: your next chance to see them is the next Hipster Demolition Night at Public Assembly on December 9, starting at 8 with the garage rocking Demands, then Banerjee at 9 followed at 10 by psychedelic rockers Whooping Crane and then oldschool soul stylists the Solid Set. Cover is seven bucks which comes out to less than $2 per act: did we just say that this might be New York’s best monthly rock night, or what?

By the way, for anyone lucky enough to own a turntable, the album’s also available on vinyl.

December 1, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Album of the Day 9/16/10

Every day our 1000 best albums of all time countdown continues all the way to #1. Thursday’s album is #866:

Sham 69 – That’s Life

The second and best album by these first-wave British punks, from 1978. Their 1977 debut Tell Us the Truth was raw to the extreme, half of it recorded live and clocking in at barely a half hour. This one is a concept album, a day in the life of a dead-end blue-collar London kid. Thirty years later, it’s as powerful and vivid as it was when it came out. Stuck in a stupid office job, the kid still lives at home with his dysfuctional family, none of whom get along and always seem to blame him for everything that goes wrong. The early songs set the scene, frontman Jimmy Pursey playing the wry, fatalistic but ultimately indomitable role to the hilt. Of course, the kid eventually gets fired, as chronicled in the catchy, Kinks-inflected title track. The songs really pick up when everybody goes off to the dog track (in Win or Lose, fueled by lead guitarist Dave Parsons’ insanely delicious, judiciously screaming chordal work), and then the pub: Hurry Up Harry is a cockney punk classic. As the night goes on, the kid gets drunker, strikes out with the cynical girls who hang out at his local in the hilarious Reggae Pickup Pt. 1 and 2 and finally comes face to face with a Sunday Morning Nightmare in one of the greatest and most evocative punk songs ever written. Even the period references still resonate: he’s horrified that his brother looks like John Travolta and his sister like Olivia Newton-John. And the slower songs, like the organ-fueled Everybody’s Wrong, have a genuine plaintiveness. The band didn’t last much longer; after a disappointing follow-up album, Hersham Boys (whose only standout track was the classic If the Kids Are United), the band broke up, Pursey disenchanted with the Nazi punk crowd who had strangely glommed onto the group and made their live shows literally dangerous. Parsons would go on to play briefly with Steve Jones in the short-lived punk supergroup the Sham Pistols; bassist Dave Tregunna joined the Wanderers with Stiv Bators and then continued on with him in the Lords of the New Church. Pursey has soldiered on with a completely different, vastly more pop version of the band for decades but little to show for it. There is however a Sham 69 album in the Live and Loud series and although the sound is a bit dodgy, the performances are first-rate.

September 16, 2010 Posted by | lists, Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Song of the Day 7/10/10

You may think we have been idle, but there’s a lot going on behind the scenes. Stay tuned. In the meantime our best 666 songs of alltime countdown continues all the way to #1…and then we start with the 1000 best albums of alltime. Saturday’s song is #19:

The Dead Boys – Not Anymore

Zillions of songs have been written about the plight of the homeless. Guitarist Jimmy Zero’s scorching, titanic two-guitar anthem tells it like it is. “Afraid of sleeping and I’m freezing to death, I gotta keep me awake.” Cheetah Chrome’s watery chorus-box solo is his finest moment in the band. From Young, Loud and Snotty, 1977. There are also numerous live versions, like the scorching one from CBGB that year in the link above, kicking around: do some exploring.

July 9, 2010 Posted by | lists, Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Song of the Day 5/15/10

The best 666 songs of alltime countdown continues every day, all the way to #1. Saturday is St. Dymphna’s Day and as you may know, St. Dymphna is the patron saint of the mentally unbalanced. For you, for St. Dymphna, and for us too we offer song #75:

The Dead Boys – I Won’t Look Back

Gleeful punk rock revenge doesn’t get any better than this:

I remember all their social games
Gossip spreading talk among the lames
Friday night’s lonely romance, empty heads with no reactions now

 

From We Have Come for Your Children, 1978; the version on Night of the Living Dead Boys is even more satisfying.

May 15, 2010 Posted by | lists, Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Song of the Day 5/10/10

The best 666 songs of alltime countdown continues every day, all the way to #1. Monday’s song is #80:

The Dead Boys – Son of Sam

Listen closely – the hook is a total ripoff of Crazy on You by Heart. But no matter – the taunting, macabre punk anthem is as eerie today as when David Berkowitz was stalking yuppie puppies on lovers lanes in the outer boroughs of New York back in 1977. The album version on We Have Come for Your Children is stiff and misproduced; the various live versions (notably on Night of the Living Dead Boys) are the real deal.

May 9, 2010 Posted by | lists, Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Song of the Day 2/16/10

The best 666 songs of alltime countdown continues every day, all the way to #1. Tuesday’s song is #163:

The Dead Boys – Caught with the Meat in Your Mouth

This furious, filthy, barely two-minute Chuck Berry-inflected punk classic is actually a remake of lead guitarist Cheetah Chrome’s Never Gonna Kill Myself Again, by Chrome’s old (and current) band Rocket from the Tombs, who continue to reunite and tour every couple of years. The best of the Dead Boys versions is probably the one on Night of the Living Dead Boys; the studio track on Young Loud & Snotty features mixing engineer Bob Clearmountain playing bass, uncredited, and doing a creditable job.

February 16, 2010 Posted by | lists, Lists - Best of 2008 etc., Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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

Song of the Day 9/1/09

Every day, our top 666 songs of alltime countdown gets one step closer to #1. Tuesday’s song is #330:

The Dead Boys – All the Way Down

The last song the iconic punk band released – on a 12″ single in 1986 – is one of their best (even if it was totally misproduced), a bitter midtempo cautionary anthem about a “poison lady.” If only the guy who sang it had actually taken the lyrics to heart, he might be alive today. Hard to find – some extensive sleuthing resulted only in this dodgy live clip from Florida, 1988.

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

Song of the Day 8/4/09

Every day, our top 666 songs of alltime countdown gets one step closer to #1. Tuesday’s song is #358:

The Choir – It’s Cold Outside

Maybe the quintessential noir 60s pop song, set to a beautifully clanging 12-string guitar melody. The Stiv Bators cover of his fellow Clevelanders’  lone hit is good too. First issued on album on the original Nuggets anthology, mp3s are everywhere.

August 4, 2009 Posted by | lists, Lists - Best of 2008 etc., Music, music, concert | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Song of the Day 2/28/09

Every day, our top 666 songs of alltime countdown gets one step closer to #1. Saturday’s song is #515:

Rocket from the Tombs – 30 Seconds Over Tokyo

The legendary, theatrical Cleveland proto-punk band that spawned both the Dead Boys and Pere Ubu released two studio versions of this paint-peeling evocation of the WWII Tokyo firebombing raids, one on a lo-fi compilation of tinny digitized 1974 rehearsal tapes and another on the lacklustre 2004 reunion cd Rocket Redux. Best to look for a bootleg: their version from the second 2003 Maxwell’s show is the best we’ve heard.

February 28, 2009 Posted by | lists, Lists - Best of 2008 etc., Music, music, concert | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment