Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

CD Review: The Slackers – Self Medication

For over 20 years, while some of the greatest minds of their generation have been drinking themselves to death, the Slackers have been putting out great albums blending equal elements of ska, reggae, classic 60s soul, blues and occasionally straight-up rock. Simply put, there is no other third-generation ska band with such a rich, deep catalog of songs. They tour constantly and consistently deliver a passionate, fun, cleverly improvisational show. This cd, their latest, is one of their best, a tad more subtle than their usual fare, for example, the deliriously fun Live at Ernesto’s cd from a few years back. As usual, the fat groove of the rhythm section is spiced with soaring, virtuosic horns and the smooth, bubbling organ work of main songwriter Vic Ruggiero.

 

The cd kicks off with Every Day Is Sunday, an anthem for the new depression: “Every day is Sunday when you’re unemployed…Friday never comes.”  Funny and apt beyond words, it’s basically just a super catchy pop song in a porkpie hat. From there they go straight into oldschool roots reggae with Don’t You Want A Man. Don’t Forget The Streets begins with a big soul rave-up intro and then goes classic rocksteady with a country melody and a nice minimalist electric piano solo from Ruggiero: “We still stick together/We still get along.”

 

Estranged has an eerie intro like the Specials’ classic Ghost Town but more ornate, then goes reggae with a darkly spacy dub feel. With more than a nod to the Beatles’ psychedelic period, the vividly metaphorical Stars is a big anthem with an echoey Lucy in the Sky George Harrison-esque solo and a phaser-fueled outro straight out of All You Need Is Love. Finally, on the cd’s sixth track, they do a straight-up, oldschool ska song, Leave Me, as in “Leave me, I wannna be alone again.”

 

They go back to reggae, with a strikingly complex 70s Steel Pulse or Aswad feel with the minor key, harmony-driven Eviction, followed by Happy Song, reverting to a vintage Skatalites feel right down to the dumb prosaic lyrics and a sweet Glenn Pine trombone solo. The title track, a reggae tune, reflects on how hard it is to keep your stash to yourself. There’s also a Johnny Cash-style country song with a gorgeous western swing guitar solo, an apocalyptic rocksteady number and a cynical tribute to the brilliant and the obscure, with a long, crescendoing ska jazz intro. It’s everything Slackers fans have come to expect, and a great way to get to know one of the most popular New York bands of alltime that you may have never heard of. Available at any punk rock record store, online and at interpunk.com. The band is currently on European tour; watch this space for NYC dates.

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January 26, 2009 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Concert Review from the Archives: Elena Zazanis, Revlover, Industrial Tepee and the Nods at the C-Note. NYC 9/6/00

[Editor’s note – it must have been a slow day in 2007, back when there were slow days at this blog. Because then we’d put up a post from our recently acquired archive of music reviews and writeups to keep the front page fresh. Here’s one from 2000.]

The C-Note was appreciably more crowded than in the dog days of the past month. Dark, chromatically-inclined powerpop siren Elena Zazanis opened the night with a rare early show, backed by just her two guitarists, both on acoustic. For once, she was able to stretch out and show off just how subtly brilliant a singer she is, without having to wail over the din of a loud electric band. She showed off an impressive upper range and a seductive whisper that doesn’t usually make it into her music, at least onstage. With the acoustic guitars, they slowed down her signature song, a vivid nightmare chronicle called Stingray, and this helped immeasurably. They also did a literally awe-inspiring, quiet take on the psychopathological Imperfect Scheme, along with the catchy Don’t Do Me Any Favors, the Middle Eastern-inflected Doors and Keep the Light On, and the powerpop hit Stronghold along with a pointless but fun cover of Satisfaction. She and the band closed with a ragged take on a punchy, riff-driven new one they’ve been working on. Although she’s a rocker at heart, her subtle side is just as captivating.

Revlover are a new project, just bassist-about-town Andrew Plonsky and Twin Turbine frontman Dave Popeck on guitar. Plonsky has a sense of humor and his bass playing – especially on an old song of his called Diner – is to die for: cool chords and great melodicism. Give them a drummer and a second guitar and they’ll be packing them in on Saturday nights. They got a lot of laughs with a deadpan Irish ballad about a guy romancing a hermaphrodite.

Industrial Tepee’s frontman Tom Shaner said after their set that they’d been ragged, but even in ragged mode they’re an excellent band, Southwestern gothic with maybe a little Byrds and Wallflowers in there sometime: they can get countryish, and some of Shaner’s songs have a classic pop sensibility. Tonight there was a lot of interplay between their two guitarists, with the lead player taking a lot of inspired, clearly extemporaneous solos. Their best song is a slow, chilling number called Lake 48, which is literally the subdivision from hell, with a long, offhandedly eerie, Dylanesque lyric.

The Nods were what the Slackers would become, and lately they’ve reunited for a few shows. They’re still ska, but with blazing, distorted guitars, without keys or their horn section. They blasted through their furious 45-minute set like the Specials on really good coke. Supertight musicianship, the occasional maudlin melody, but their energy and power more than compensated. They closed with a surprise cover of the obscure Booker T. Jones song Red Onions. The extremely popular janglepop trio Jerkwater were next and were very loud, so we went down to the Fish for a drink, then over to Arlene’s where we missed the singer we’d stopped in to see. She’d gotten so drunk that she’d keeled over onstage during her set, and was still having a hard time staying on her feet in the dressing room.

[postscript: The C-Note closed in 2004. The new owners turned it into a bar/restaurant for tourists. Zazanis would go on to a successful career as a stage and film actress, and still writes music. Revlover broke up in 2002, although Popeck still writes and performs. Industrial Tepee are also defunct, though Shaner continues as a solo artist. The Nods haven’t played recently, but the Slackers continue to record and tour, mostly in Europe, and play the occasional New York show. As does the drunk girl who fell over during her show at Arlene’s.]

September 6, 2007 Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments