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JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Album of the Day 10/22/11

As we do pretty much every day, our 1000 best albums of all time countdown continues all the way to #1. Saturday’s album is #466:

Message – From Books and Dreams

A cynic would call this 1973 album a Nektar ripoff – and with the galloping tempos, trippy orchestration and soaring, growling, melodic bass, that influence is definitely there. But this German stoner art-rock/metal band with a Scottish singer is a lot more diverse than that here. And a lot darker too: the skull on the cover pretty much gives it away. Some of this is sludgy and Sabbath-y; other times it goes in a jazz direction, with alto sax far more interesting than you’d typically hear from bands like this. It’s a suite, if not a fully realized concept album, beginning ambient and creepy like ELO’s Eldorado Overture, then blasting into the first multi-part segment, Dreams, followed by the sax/metal guitar instrumental Turn Over (which has a hilarious ending). Side two is a quieter but just as macabre continuation titled Sigh, followed by the long, ominously crescendoing Nightmares and its absolutely chilling ending. Now that youtube allows for long tracks, there’s a stream of the whole album here; here’s a random torrent via Fantasy 0807.

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October 22, 2011 Posted by | lists, Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Album of the Day 10/9/11

As we do pretty much every day, our 1000 best albums of all time countdown continues all the way to #1. Sunday’s album was #479:

Flower Travellin’ Band – Satori

This one’s for the smoking section. By the time these Japanese stoners came out with this sludgy, creepy 1971 five-part suite, they were arguably heavier than Sabbath. Some of you may find this ugly and heavyhanded; the band alternates between bludgeoning blues and morbid, funereal dirges. The lyrics are in Japanese. Part one of the suite sets the stage for the slightly more Hendrix-inspired part two. Part three might be the high point, doom rock with Asian motifs; part four blends funk and even jazz touches into the murk; the concluding movement foreshadows where King Crimson would be in five years. Call it metal, or art-rock, or proto-goth, either way it’s pretty amazing. Here’s a random torrent via Lysergia.

October 11, 2011 Posted by | lists, Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Two Cool Singles from Fun, Entertaining Brooklyn Bands

Spanking Charlene have a brand-new version of Dismissed with a Kiss – the title track to their deliciously fun album – just out on Little Steven Van Zandt’s label Wicked Cool. How cool is that? The pay-radio conglomerate SiriusXM ran a yearlong “best unsigned band contest,” which we had no idea existed. And Spanking Charlene won! Imagine that. When is the last time a band that didn’t suck actually won some kind of contest? Maybe never? And as you can hear from the single (at the band’s reverbnation), it’s a lot of fun. We’re partial to the Eric Ambel-produced original because it’s on the album, one of the first ones we ever got in the mail back when we started the blog in 2007, but this is killer. Charlene McPherson’s wounded wail is as seductive as ever and Mo Goldner’s guitars roar and sizzle. They’ve got a new album due out this fall, titled Where Are the Freaks which is something to look forward to, ostensibly a blast from a much cooler East Village NYC past.

Strange Haze also have a new single out, Let Me Hear the Dropping Pin, available at cdbaby both as a download AND on purple vinyl, which we obviously recommend. It’s as hilarious as pretty much everything the Brooklyn stoner retro-metal band has ever come up with. It’s kind of a three-minute history of weedhead music from, say, 1964 to 1974. A fuzztone funk intro and classic garage riffage sets the stage for the woozy one-liners, which begin with “I don’t have nothing to do today, but I got all day to do it, so I got to get away.” The rest are just as good, or…at least as surreal. The band has the oldschool, rolling, kinda funky early 70s groove down cold and some musical jokes to go with the lyrical ones, and of course a guitar solo. It might sound like an insult to say the higher you are, the more fun this is, but that’s the point.

May 10, 2011 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Pitom Shreds With Ominous Majesty

Guitarist Yoshie Fruchter’s band Pitom’s new instrumental album Blasphemy and Other Serious Crimes, just out on Tzadik, blends Israeli stoner metal with surf music, gothic rock and ancient Hasidic ngunim. Ostensibly a reflection on Yom Kippur, if there’s anything to atone for here, it should be for not making the album longer – and it is a long one to begin with. Here bassist Shanir Blumenkranz (also of Pharaoh’s Daughter) serves as their Lemmy, propelling much of this with a roaring chordal attack, alongside Jeremy Brown on violin and Kevin Zubek on drums. Fruchter has an individual and impressively tasteful style for a genre where florid is the norm: he roars, squalls and skronks but also cuts his chords up into juicy pieces that he offers up like a lion tamer determined to get the best out of the beast. The melodies bristle and wail, charged with eerie chromatics and Middle Eastern tonalities along with the metal riffage and slowly careening psychedelic licks.

The first song is a flamenco-tinged stomp with guitar that ranges from theremin-ish to Dick Dale-ish, set to a pounding Nine Inch Nails beat. After that, they deliver a sludgy bulldozer waltz driven by distorted bass chords and an apprehensive violin solo, Fruchter screaming in wildly to ambush Brown’s stately lines. The third track is a Maidenesque, chromatic gallop with scrapy violin/guitar textures and a watery, dambuster Leslie speaker guitar solo. With slyly growling twin guitars over a gritty bass groove, the fourth track builds to a genuinely anguished crescendo, Blumenkranz wailing with a dirty, distorted tone over Fruchter’s clanging, echoey, menacing chordal fragments.

Motorhead goes to a Jewish wedding and dances in 14/4 through a pungent cloud of guitar/violin smoke on the fifth cut; the sixth is a creepy, low-key spiderwalk. The seventh starts out with a gorgeously plaintive klezmer melody that grows menacing, then hits a grand guignol interlude straight out of early Queen, then back to the menace again. Track eight amps the rustic, wounded beauty higher, with a slow Peter Gunn-style interlude and variations. On the next cut, a frantic Balkan chase scene collapses and gets all Sonic Youth before reassembling and scurrying off again – and then they hit a noisy bridge with an early 70s style bluesmetal solo peeking out from behind the gnashing and thrashing. They close with another klezmer melody, this one done as 80s psychedelic rock a la the the Raybeats or Slickee Boys, and the majestic concluding cut featuring alternatingly intense guitar and violin solos over the murk beneath. Fans of intelligent, artsy metal bands from Junius to Iron Maiden will love this stuff. Pitom play the cd release show for this one at Rock Shop in Gowanus on Monday May 2 at 9 or so with the excellent, eclectic Gutbucket opening at 8. The bands are also bringing food for everybody.

April 28, 2011 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Soda Shop’s First Compilation Kicks Ass

If you’re wondering what the cool kids across the USA are listening to, chances are that some of it is right here. Last month our colleagues over at the Soda Shop put out a massive free compilation – the first in a series – that you should get your hands on if you like metal or the louder fringes of stoner music. The corporate media are trying as hard as they can to make you believe that anyone over age eight actually listens to Kesha, or that anyone actually enjoys Arcade Fire instead of merely pretending to because they don’t want to seem uncool in front of their trendoid friends. The reality is that metal is bigger than ever, and maybe better than ever, because the new wave of bands who play it have gone back to the source, the motherlode of it all, Black Sabbath. Tony Iommi should be proud of what he spawned here, yet while most of the bands here have the sludgy slow stoner groove, double and tripletracked solos and chromatic riffage, they aren’t ripoffs either. This is a LONG album, sixteen songs, most of them well over five minutes a clip and most of them various shades of excellent. A couple of them are spoofs, but most of them are straight up pure adrenaline.

Period-perfect early 70s style band Stone Axe open this up with riff-rock on the off beat. Is it a Sabbath homage? A parody? Maybe both. Meat Charger, by Boston’s Gozu, sets lazy drawling Skynyrd vocals over crunchy riffs, more artsy than their smoking Meth Cowboy/Mr. Riddle release from last year. Ohio band Lo-Pan’s Dragline works a long psychedelic 1-chord intro into brain-melting, galloping torrents of guitar triplets, while Brisbane band Shellfin get even more hypnotic, proving that you don’t even have to change chords at all, at least until the overtones are ringing so loud it sounds like a guitar orchestra. And when they do, it’s pretty macabre. Seattle power trio Mos Generator also keep it simple and smart, from the War Pigs echoes on the intro, a catchy bass solo and the ridiculously tuneful, too-brief guitar solo out.

Dayton, Ohio’s Blaxeed, “a heavy drinkin’ hard rockin’ no frills 4 man rock-n-roll band” are represented by the swaying, slightly funky Whiskey Warrior, and have the balls to quote the Beatles. Devil to Pay, from Indianapolis, offer the fuzztoned riffs and doomy lyrics of High Horse, with a juicy brief wah-wah solo to wind it up. The best of all of them may be Cleveland band Venomin James’ Cosmonaut, sounding like Pantera covering Sabbath, some cooly ominous backing vocals lurking toxically in the background and a ferociously charging, doublespeed bridge – if you like this, also check out the scorching live version of their song Abu Graib.

There are also some great songs here that don’t reference Sabbath at all. The funniest track here, Brooklyn band Strange Haze’s Straight Dope, is pure early 70s satire, complete with “soulful” blues harp. This band’s lyrics are off the hook – on this one, the singer wants to walk you “down to the marble garden with a buckskin bottle of wine – sometimes I get so drunk I can sing just like a child…” Luder (German for “little shit”) hail from Detroit, springing from the ashes of the band Slot, and add a dreampop/shoegaze vibe with bassist Sue Lott’s ethereal vocals over layers of crunch and echoey swirl. California trio Whores of Tijuana do a funny punk/metal-meets-ghoulabilly number. And another Detroit band, Chapstik, offers a punishing blast of mostly instrumental metal/hardcore a la the Bad Brains but more chromatic. The compilation starts to run low on gas toward the end, with some nu-metal and grungy stuff that stands out like a sore thumb. But the beauty of this compilation is that you can cherrypick the good stuff, and there’s plenty to choose from. Besides, it’s free. Spread the word and keep your eyes open for Volume 2.

March 18, 2011 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Album of the Day 2/24/11

Today we’ll be completely out of commission until early evening, at which point we’ll do our best to get back to business and open up the floodgates. In the meantime, as we do every day, our 1000 best albums of all time countdown continues all the way to #1. Thursday’s album is #705:

The MC5 – Kick Out the Jams

Here’s one you know. We’re trying to steer clear of the stuff on the web’s two most popular “best albums” lists, but this one pretty much everybody agrees on. It works whether you consider this metal, proto-punk, garage rock or the avant garde (it’s a bit of all of them). The MC5’s 1968 debut kicks off with frontman Rob Tyner screaming “Motherfuckers!” and ends with the drony proto-noiserock epic Starship. In between we get a practically punk version of an old folk song and then the title track – an urgent message to self-indulgent hippie musicians to keep things tight – as well as the completely nonsensical but deliriously fun Rocket Reducer No. 62, the lumpen, proletarian Come Together and Borderline, the searing bluesmetal anthem Motor City Is Burning (which nicks a page from fellow Detroiter John Lee Hooker’s book) and I Want You Right Now, one of the first attempts to blend metal and funk. Guitarists Fred “Sonic” Smith and Wayne Kramer kick up a cataclysm while Dennis Thompson, one of the most exhilarating rock drummers ever, adds extra firepower to the river of molten sludge. Here’s a random torrent.

February 24, 2011 Posted by | lists, Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Formerly Whooping Crane, Now Strange Haze, Same Great Album

“You have to be stoned to listen to this” is usually an insult. We don’t ordinarily advocate for or against the use of one substance or another – that should be an individual choice, and a legal one. But if the phrase “strange haze” has any kind of special meaning for you, Strange Haze’s album Riffin’ for Rent is the kind that you really ought to hear after indulging. If your dad still gets stoned, smoke him up and then try to convince him that this band was around when he was doing it all the time. He just might believe you.

Strange Haze (formerly known as Whooping Crane) should have been the band in Almost Famous. Hilariously satirical, sometimes cruelly, sometimes fondly, the Brooklyn rockers’ stoner shtick works as well as it does because they’re such excellent musicians. When’s the last time you heard a metal band with a drummer who can swing like crazy? Everybody knows that you have to have chops to play metal really well, but these guys don’t just know their early 70s stoner music, they know soul, and Stones, and Sabbath, and Skynyrd, and probably a bunch of bands from that era who were quickly forgotten because they weren’t as good. That’s what Strange Haze sound like. They’ll riff on a single chord for what seems minutes on end, and yet there’s something fresh and unselfconsciously fun about it. They know every cliche in the book and aren’t afraid to employ them wherever they’d be the most ridiculous. Likewise, their lyrics, delivered in a deadpan, period perfect faux-bluesy drawl, are beyond hilarious.

The opening track is She’s a Knockout, which sounds like the MC5 as done by Grand Funk Railroad. It’s about a girl “who was born in the heart of the whooping crane,” with an irresistible multiple-tracked bluesmetal solo out. Track two, Tomm Tapp starts out as sludgy but swinging riff-metal in the Poobah vein and adds honking harmonica for, you know, that authentic bluesy feeling – and suddenly goes all starlit and rapt for a second before the bludgeoning begins again. “Can you see the fork in the road? Close your eyes before they explode!” They follow that with Hang Loose, six minutes of wah funk, Sabbath style with some woozy southern overtones: “Summer of love don’t tell no lies ’cause we’re underneath the firefly…smoking the kingsized ultralights, still looking kinda tight.”

One Hit Sally is a tribute to a girl convinced that her smoke-filled room is more interesting than anything that could possibly exist outside it, pulsing along on a Stax/Volt bass groove with grand guignol art-rock guitar flourishes. The perfectly titled Voomp! keeps the funky groove going (if you remember early 70s Texas “hard rock” band Bloodrock, this is that kind of thing). The funniest song on the album is Straight Dope, playfully taking a 60s soul riff, adding more of that honking harmonica and a priceless lyric:

Walked down to the marble garden with a buckskin bottle of wine
Sometimes I get so drunk I can sing just like a child

The bonus track that you can get from their bandcamp site is That’s More Like It, working both sides of the Atlantic for a riff-loaded hash buzz, then a skunkweed heartland metal vibe: “Make you crawl like an armadillo, armageddon in an armchair!” In addition to this one, Strange Haze will be on the Soda Shop’s upcoming free compilation coming out Feb 22.

February 16, 2011 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Poobah’s Classic 1972 Stoner-Metal Debut Is Back in Print

In 1972, Poobah, a high school rock band from Youngstown, Ohio recorded Let Me In, a fuzzed-out stoner metal album that became a cult classic: copies of the original vinyl go for hundreds of dollars on the collector market. Little did teenage guitarist Jim Gustafson, bassist Phil Jones and drummer Glenn Wiseman know that they’d created a psychedelic, proto-metal masterpiece. Originally reissued in 1994 on a small, now defunct label, Ripple Music’s newly remastered re-release contains the original album’s seven tracks as well as twelve bonus cuts featuring additional band members (ten of the songs included on a limited-edition double gatefold black-and-white vinyl album). The obvious influence is Black Sabbath, right down to the catchy simplicity of the hooks, the way they’ll hang on a single chord for minutes on end, the heavy echo on the vocals, the fat midrange tone of the bass and Wiseman’s busy but absolutely brilliant drumming. Gustafson’s sunbaked, bluesy playing is shockingly terse, especially for this kind of music. As long and convoluted as some of these songs are, he doesn’t waste notes, tossing off one brief, incisive riff after another with a heavylidded leer.

The band’s signature song, Mr. Destroyer motors along on an unstoppable midtempo groove, Gustafson’s doubletracked solo phasing back and forth between channels, and a conga break with screams echoing in the background: Spinal Tap central! It’s quite a contrast with what follows it, the surprisingly gentle, folk-tinged ballad Enjoy What You Have, Wiseman’s amazing drums picking it up little by little. The slow ba-bump boogie Live to Work is a workingman’s anthem: “You know I can’t stand this hell.” Bowleen, the eeriest number here, has a Syd Barrett feel, the sample at the end providing an irresistibly funny answer to the question of what it’s about. The fifth track, Rock n Roll is unhinged Chuck Berry rock as Uriah Heep might have done it, except with better drums; the title cut is a 7-11 parking lot riff-rocker with a long In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida drum solo – all that’s missing is the crowd noise! – and a gleeful solo guitar break.

Most of the bonus tracks are strong as well. Make a Man Outta You, one of the few here that was previously issued, layers one delicious, reverb-drenched sheet of wild tremolo-picking on top of another. A one-chord stoner jam, Upside Down Highway has Gustafson’s guitar echoing around a catchy, circling bass riff, finally delivering a long, wild, Tony Iommi-style wah solo. The closest thing to Sabbath here is the hilarious Walk of the Bug: “When you’re asleep in your bed you’ll feel his legs on your head.” The bass walks on your face, the guitar injects the venom and it’s over. There’s also a couple of tasty bluesmetal instrumentals, a late MC5 style metal-pop number manufactured specifically for a car radio audience, and a lone attempt to weld funk to a blotto metal groove. The whole thing ranks with Flower Marching Band, the original Iron Maiden and Sir Lord Baltimore as one of the classics of early metal. And if you like these guys, you might want to check out their labelmates and early 70s contemporaries the JPT Scare Band, a Kansas City outfit who split their time between skin-peeling acid-metal and a more commercial Allman Bros.-style sound.

October 12, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Hoodless Put Their Original Stamp on Classic Metal

Jersey City rockers Hoodless pride themselves that they can replicate 99% of their new album Music for Jerks live, and a lot of it actually sounds like it could be live in the studio. If you like metal but can’t stand the tunelessness and unoriginality of all the post-grunge corporate metal acts of the last ten years, Hoodless are for you. The one band they evoke, again and again, if from a distance, are Van Halen, but without the over-the-top ridiculousness (just imagine how awesome VH would have been if, say, Mark Anthony, or anybody BUT David Lee or Sammy was the singer…). Some of the songs here follow the grunge formula of quiet verse/loud chorus, but they’re not grunge – the vocals aren’t slurred or stupid and the twin guitars of Paul Allan and Finn are definitely metal, dry 80s style Charvel-through-a-Peavey grit. Most of the songs are short (three or four minutes, tops) and riff-oriented: there isn’t a lot of soloing, but when they cut loose the playing is choice.

The first cut, Touch and Cry is simple and characteristically catchy: it goes doublespeed after the verses are over, Van Halen meets Pantera without buffoonery of either one. Waiting and then Innocent do the soft/loud contrast effectively, the first with repeater-pedal guitar, the second with an eerie, echoey PiL vibe on the verse. Down, a darkly majestic 6/8 ballad, follows the same pattern, with echoes of Black Angel by the Cult. GAPO, whatever that stands for, has a spacious, early 70s style stoner metal feel, with a memorable descending progression, a trick ending and solid bootkick Bill Ward style drums. The sixth track, Say It Loud juxtaposes thrash with new wave, hair metal as done by Anthrax, maybe, and finally a nice NWOBHM blues-tinged solo. Run Away works a catchy twin guitar chorus hook, some tasty chromatic riffage and something about how “the cannibal masses can’t run away.” Be My Whore is memorably abrasive and as funny as you would think, with “my fingers down your throat.” ?!?!? Underground reaches for a majestic, rhythmically tricky British metal majesty and nails it in four minutes or less; the concluding track, Why So Serious runs variations on a classic Led Zep style hook. Make the sign of the horns and raise your lighter.

September 30, 2010 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment