Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

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.

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

Hipster Demolition Night Still Rules

Thursday night was Hipster Demolition Night at Public Assembly. Last time we caught one of these, it was at Glasslands in the dead of summer, 120 degrees inside the club on a night where four excellent bands met the challenge head on but we didn’t. We left in the middle of a literally scorching set by Muck and the Mires, which pretty much speaks for itself. Since then, Hipster Demolition Night has moved to Public Assembly, whose larger back room is an improvement on every conceivable level. The Demands opened this show. They’re what the White Stripes ought to wish they were. The three-piece band’s frontwoman plays simple, catchy bass riffs that lock tight with the garage-rock drumbeat. Much of the time their guitarist would punch out chords on the beat but there were also a lot of places where he’d go out on a limb and explore, adding an unexpectedly psychedelic element. The operative question was whether he was going to go out too far and fall off – nope. Even with those diversions, they kept it tight, and with the vocals’ sarcastic, playfully confrontational edge, it was a fun set.

Jay Banerjee & the Heartthrobs were next. Between songs, Banerjee chugged from a Cloraseptic bottle and complained about his health. But whatever was in there – hey, cold medicine works fine for L’il Wayne – gave him a noticeable boost. Meanwhile, Vinnie, the drummer was bleeding all over his kit. If that isn’t rock and roll, then Williamsburg is cool. And just when we had them pegged as a band who write songs for guys, they get a woman to play 12-string lead guitar. She’s brilliant. She ended one of the songs with a casually stinging charge down the scale that evoked nothing less than 12-string titan Marty Willson-Piper of the Church. They opened with a blistering version of the deliciously catchy Long Way Home, an amusingly brutal account of a gentrifier girl being brought down to reality: OMG, she might actually have to get a job to pay the rent on her newly renovated $5000-a-month Bushwick loft! With a snort or two, Banerjee and the band did her justice. Maybe desperate to get the show over with, they ripped through the rest of the set: a Byrdsy janglerock song with cynical la-la’s, a guy assuring his girlfriend that he’ll stick around “because I’m too lazy to look for someone else,” a couple with an ecstatic early Beatles feel, another fueled by a catchy, melodic bassline that sounded like the Jam without the distortion and finally an equally ecstatic cover of I Can’t Stand up for Falling Down, reinventing it as a powerpop smash in the same way that Elvis Costello reinvented What’s So Funny About Peace Love & Understanding. If Banerjee was really feeling as miserable as he insisted he was, no one would have known if he hadn’t mentioned it.

Garage rockers Whooping Crane were scheduled to headline afterward, but there were places to go (the train) and things to do (kill self-absorbed, nerdy boys in skinny jeans standing in the middle of the sidewalk and texting – just kidding). Hipster Demolition Night returns to Public Assembly next month, watch this space.

December 12, 2010 Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment