Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Song of the Day 5/17/10

The best 666 songs of alltime countdown continues every day, all the way to #1. Monday’s song is #73:

True West – Shot You Down

Best song on the iconic “paisley underground” psychedelic rockers’ best album, Drifters, 1983, a pounding post-Television style revenge anthem. “And it feels so good to be alive.”

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May 17, 2010 Posted by | lists, Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Concert Review: The Roscoe Trio at Lakeside, NYC 3/23/10

The big news is that Eric “Roscoe” Ambel’s 80s band the Del Lords are back together, having just returned from a short Spanish tour, their first in practically twenty years. They were one of the best bands of the 80s – forget that silly synthesizer stuff, there were so many great guitar bands back then, it’s not funny – the Dream Syndicate, True West, the Long Ryders, the list goes on and on – and the Del Lords represented New York. So any Roscoe appearance at Lakeside these days could be a Del Lords show, considering that they’ve already done at least one unannounced gig there under a phony name. But it was not to be. “I saw an open date on the calendar. So I put my name on it,” said Ambel, and this time he brought his trio, Demolition String Band drummer Phil Cimino and Spanking Charlene bassist Alison Jones. It was like a casual night in the band’s rehearsal space – or a trip to the supermarket in a vintage Trans Am, laid back and comfortable in the bucket seat until you put the hammer down and then all of a sudden you’re burning rubber and your eyeballs are getting pushed way back into your brain.

Ambel had a couple of amps going at once, gleefully blending an eerie, watery chorus tone with distorted clang and roar. Since he’s a gearhead, any time he gets to experiment with textures is a treat for the crowd because that means he goes for the jugular. He’s a melody guy, but he’s just as good at evil noise and that was tonight’s special. It was obvious from the git-go, with a nasty little blaze of wailing bent notes on the stomping Song from the Walls, from his Loud and Lonesome album. Another snarling number from that uncharacteristically angry cd, Way Outside, blew the embers all over the place. A cover of Gillian Welch’s Look At Miss Ohio started out slow and soulful and then careened all the way into the outro from Hendrix’ Hey Joe, which the rhythm section had a ball with. They also did a plaintively jangly version of the Everly Brothers-ish Peter Holsapple tune Next to the Last Waltz, Dee Dee Ramone’s Chinese Rocks done Johnny Thunders Style (which gave Ambel a chance to relate his first encounter with Thunders, who’d been hogging the men’s room at the Mudd Club so he could shoot up), and a slinky, characteristically funny version of the Hank Williams Jr. sendup Monkey with a Gun. They wrapped up the show with a slow, surfy instrumental that Ambel suddenly attacked with a frenzy of tremolo-picking, only to gracefully bring it back around. And was that the Power Lounger Theme they closed with? That’s a blast from the past. Despite what the indie blogs will tell you, great lead guitar never went away – the great thing about living in New York is that you can see it for the price of a beer and a couple of bucks in the tip jar for the rhythm section.

March 24, 2010 Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Song of the Day 4/22/09

Every day, our top 666 songs of alltime countdown gets one step closer to #1. Wednesday’s song is #462:

True WestMorning Light

Not the most interesting lyric, but what an exhilarating, beautiful song, with all those layers of gorgeous, jangling, twanging, roaring guitars. Along with the Slickee Boys, True West were the best of the “Paisley Underground” of early-mid 80s neo-psychedelic bands, driven by the frequently fiery interplay of Richard McGrath and Russ Tolman’s fretwork. From the classic Drifters album, 1984; there’s the cd reissue Hollywood Holiday Revisited out there as well. The link in the title above is to the stream at deezer.

April 22, 2009 Posted by | lists, Lists - Best of 2008 etc., Music, music, concert | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Concert Review: Kerry Kennedy at Rose Bar, Brooklyn NY 1/21/09

A casually captivating, absolutely haunting set by the songwriter/guitarist and her brilliant band. In about 45 minutes onstage, Kennedy came across as part David Lynch girl and part Paisley Underground bandleader, a sound that hasn’t been heard around New York in a long time. She’s a lot like Neko Case, but with a distinctly more rocking edge: she deserves to be just as well-known. Throughout the set, Kennedy sang in a clear, unaffected, unadorned voice, playing her Fender Jazzmaster a little low in the mix. Her terrific lead player, Nathan Halpern made heavy and spectacularly effective use of reverb throughout his often wildly intense solos, adding flame and intensity to the songs’ darkly glimmering, noir ambience. The rhythm section, with acoustic bass, played with a hushed subtlety, the occasional tasteful drum accent or bass fill deftly following the lyrics or the trajectory of the music.

 

The group opened with the eerie, 6/8 James Jackson Toth ballad One From the Mountain, Halpern wailing and tremolo-picking as the song built: and then they took it out the same way they came in, again building the intensity to redline. Their second song reminded a bit of the Jesus & Mary Chain’s Happy When It Rains, with a nice pointillistic solo from Halpern. On the next number, he took a long, thoroughly macabre Bauhaus-style noise solo that didn’t waver even as the band brought the sound down to just drums and guitar.

 

Kennedy remarked that the bar’s lowlit confines were the perfect place for her to get glammed up a bit (as unpretentious as she comes across, that was seemingly a big deal for her), asking the crowd if they’d ever been to Graceland: “It makes clear the connection between Lisa Marie and Michael Jackson,” she explained, the glitter on her face twinkling behind the lamps.

 

The next song was a hypnotic two-chord song with a total Dream Syndicate/True West feel that built to an eerie snakecharmer solo from Halpern, then Kennedy took it down again, then finally built to a completely unhinged crescendo with the guitars raging at the end. The next number, possibly titled Wishing Well, maintained the nocturnal, psychedelic vibe: “How long into the night will you wait for me?” Kennedy inquired matter-of-factly. They closed the set with a David Lynch-esque, noir 60s style pop song featuring some tasty country-blues fills from Halpern. The crowd roared for an encore, so Kennedy obliged them with a starkly haunting, solo version of another James Jackson Toth co-write, Dive, a brand-new country-gothic suicide ballad that she said she’d written in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. If that’s the kind of inspiration she gets there maybe she should visit more often. Fans of all dark Americana bands and rockers – Steve Wynn, Calexico, Giant Sand, Tandy and the aforementioned Ms. Case – will love this stuff. Watch this space for upcoming NYC gigs.

January 22, 2009 Posted by | Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Song of the Day 1/11/09

Every day, our top 666 songs of alltime countdown continues, one day at a time all the way to #1. Sunday’s is #563:

28th Day – Burnsite

Defiantly multistylistic, pioneering indie rocker Barbara Manning (check out her latest project, the Sleaze Tax) got her start in 1984 with this jangly REMish trio produced by True West frontman Russ Tolman, which sounds absolutely nothing like any of her solo work. In this brisk, rather horrific tale, Manning follows guitarist Cole Marquis’ evil, crescendoing, raga-esque solo with one of the most bloodcurdling screams in the history of rock. Good luck finding the vinyl, out of print for years along with the incomplete “complete recordings” cd once available from artistdirect. Although amazon is still selling the mp3 (a check of the usual share sites didn’t turn up anything).

January 11, 2009 Posted by | lists, Lists - Best of 2008 etc., Music, music, concert | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Song of the Day 11/3/08

OK, OK, more reviews and stuff tomorrow. Promise. Til then here’s another of the alltime top 666 songs as we count them down to #1 (full list, as it stands today, at top right):

631. True West – 20th Room

One of the finest of the psychedelic revival bands of the early-to-mid 80s, True West’s live shows are the stuff of legend. This lo-fi concert recording validates their mythic status. Both the band’s guitarists played Telecasters, Richard McGrath’s fluid, melodic lead lines soaring over Russ Tolman’s furious, psychotic noise and chordal work and this is a prime example, a supremely eerie anthem. Originally from their posthumous 1989 lp West Side Stories. In a delightful stroke of fate, the surviving original members reunited this year with a concert in Portland, OR, and there’s an absolutely killer live show from Germany available for streaming here.

November 2, 2008 Posted by | Lists - Best of 2008 etc., Music | , , | Leave a comment

Concert Review: The Bedsit Poets, Don Piper and the Oxygen Ponies at Luna Lounge, Brooklyn NY 6/3/07

The show probably would have sold out if not for the elements: torrential rain, umbrellas blown inside out, everyone in the house soaked to the bone. The marvelous Bedsit Poets opened. Their sound is totally late 60s/early 70s, windswept pastoral beauty in places, otherwise super catchy harmony-driven Britpop, the Kinks circa Arthur hanging out with the Fairport Convention crowd. Frontman Ed Rogers and rhythm guitarist/singer Amanda Thorpe blend voices beautifully. Both British expats, he has a classic pop delivery which pairs well with Thorpe’s soaring, passionate Britfolk style.

Thorpe was celebrating her birthday, and she held the audience in the palm of her hand, particularly on the sweeping, anthemic Reach for the Sky, from their well-received album The Summer That Changed (as in “changed our lives”). On the quiet, ethereal Chemical Day, Thorpe played a small keyboard that for a minute sounded as if it was producing some quiet, strategically placed layers of feedback. They closed their rousing 50-minute set with the title track from the album, a supremely catchy pop tune punctuated by lead guitarist Mac Randall’s swinging country licks. Rogers and Thorpe sang a round with each other at the end of the song: he launched into Mungo Jerry and she countered with Gershwin, the result being a typical Bedsit moment. They’re a very playful band. The audience wanted an encore but didn’t get one.

Singer/guitarist Don Piper and his band – including many of the people who would play later in the evening – followed with a painless set of slow-to-midtempo jangle and clang. At one point, guest guitarist Drew Glackin (who also plays with the Jack Grace Band and the Silos) took a slowly growling climb up the scale, turned around and came back down the way he went up. Against the steady wash of the two guitars behind him, it was almost as if it was 1984 and True West was onstage. But they never hit that peak again: Piper seems to be more interested in mood and atmosphere than saying anything specific. He doesn’t have the voice for rock – it’s a keening, high tenor – but to his credit he tackled a Curtis Mayfield number and absolutely nailed it. He has a real future as a soul singer if he wants it.

The Oxygen Ponies are basically songwriter Paul Megna and whoever he can rustle up for a show. Tonight he brought a whole herd, 11 musicians including a trio of backup singers, two guitarists in addition to Megna himself, lapsteel, rhythm section and two horn players. Megna comes from the gutter-poet school of songwriting, all bedraggled, depressed and chain-smoking. His melodies are contagiously catchy (think a less skeletal Leonard Cohen, or a more pop-oriented Nick Cave) and he can write a hell of a lyric, with a sometimes savagely cynical edge. And the band pushed him to project and sing, keeping his vocals at a safe distance from the dreaded cesspool of grunge. The band’s ability to hit a crescendo out of nowhere was literally breathtaking, especially on the final track from their new cd, The Quickest Way to Happiness.

What was perhaps most striking about their performance was that everyone onstage was clearly having a great time, and this carried over to the audience. What could have been dirges became anthems. The lead guitarist didn’t play much, but when he did, his slashing pyrotechnics never failed to ignite. The horns played in perfect unison with each other and the backup singers delivered joyous, heartfelt harmonies. Megna’s songs tend to go on for at least five minutes, sometimes much more, but they never dragged. And the sound system was crystal clear all night long. What fun.

June 9, 2007 Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments