Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Top Ten Songs of the Week 7/26/10

OK, we’re a little behind with this but we have not been idle: new NYC concert calendar coming August 1, the 1000 best albums of all time, not to mention 72 albums and two concerts to review. At least. In the meantime here’s this week’s version of what Billboard should be paying attention to: we try to mix it up, offer a little something for everyone, sad songs, funny songs, upbeat songs, quieter stuff, you name it. If you don’t like one of these, you can always go on to the next one. Every link here will take you to the song. As always, the #1 song of the week is guaranteed a spot on this year’s best 100 songs list at the end of December.

1. The Larch – Sub-Orbital Getaway

A masterpiece of catchy paisley underground rock dressed up in a skinny tie and striped suit. From the Brooklyn band’s best album, the brand-new Larix Americana.

2. Devi – When It Comes Down

The psychedelic rockers are giving away this live showstopper as a free download. Doesn’t get any more generous than this!

3. People You Know – Glamour in the Hearts of Many

Go Gos soundalike from the fun, quirky Toronto trio.

4. Wormburner – The Interstate

Long, literate highway epic: it’s all about escape. What you’d expect from a good band from New Jersey (they tore up Hipster Demolition Night this month).

5. The Fumes – Cuddle Up the Devil

Not the Queens ska-rock crew but an Australian band very good at hypnotic pounding Mississippi hill country blues a la RL Burnside or Will Scott. They’re at the Rockwood 8/26-27

6. The Alpha Rays – Guide to Androids

Ziggy-era Bowie epic warped into an early 80s artpop vein from these lyrical London rockers.

7. Fela Original Cast – Water No Get Enemy

A Fela classic redone brilliantly, from the Broadway show soundtrack – then again, it’s what you’d expect from Antibalas.

8. Iron Maiden – God of Darkness

This is the first Iron Maiden – bluesy British metal from 1969!

9. Darker My Love – Dear Author

Faux psychedelic Beatles – funny in a Dukes of Stratosphear vein. Free download.

10. Megan McCullough Li – Blood in the Water

Solo harp and vocals – creepy!

July 29, 2010 Posted by | blues music, lists, Music, rock music, world music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hipster Demolition Night II at Glasslands

This would have been the best rock show of the year if it hadn’t been so physically taxing. Thursday night, an atrocious sound mix and hundred-ten degree heat (the club has no air conditioning) couldn’t stop four excellent bands. Hipster Demolition Night III moves to Public Assembly in August, which has both air conditioning and much better sonics, an auspicious move for both musicians and fans, especially those who stuck around in the sweatbox this time out. The Anabolics opened. This band just gets better and better with every gig, it seems. Frontwoman/guitarist Anna Anabolic ran her Gibson through a vintage Vox amp for some of the most delicious natural distortion you can possibly imagine: in their finest moments, they sounded like the Dead Boys. Other times they resembled another first-rate female-fronted garage band, the Friggs (whose frontwoman Palmyra Delran happened to be playing Maxwell’s the same night). Anna’s chirpy vocals were buried in the mix most of the time, as were the bass player’s agile, fluid Rickenbacker lines. The drummer took a few vocals but never got the chance to cut through either. At least the songs were good: the ferocious Dead Boys-ish anthem they played early in the set, the Go Go’s-style girl-group punk song Bad Habit and the ghoulish Kill for Thrills that they closed with. They’re at Bruar Falls on August 1.

Jay Banerjee & the Heartthrobs were next. Banerjee is the creator of Hipster Demolition Night and really knows his way around a retro janglerock song. They have two Rickenbacker guitars in the band, which usually means a feast of ringing overtones; this show only hinted how good they’d sound with in a club with a competent sound engineer. Lead player Jason Szutek was obviously working hard, but most of what he played got lost in the sonic sludge. With the guitars abetted by some neat upper-register, melodic bass work, the band battled through a couple of powerpop numbers that could have been the Raspberries if those guys had been born right around the time they were making records. Several more echoed the way the Jam would amp up old R&B hits; a couple of tasty, jangly ballads had more than a few echoes of the Byrds. They closed with an ecstatically fun cover of the Beatles’ You Can’t Do That.

If the Gaslight Anthem could actually write a song, they might sound something like Wormburner. The anthemic New Jersey five-piece powerpop band blasted through one fiery, smartly lyrically-driven anthem after another. Escape is a constant theme with them (any surprise, considering where they’re from?). Early in the set, one of their janglier numbers, Peekskill, chronicled an aimless trip up and down (mostly down) along the Hudson, from one dead-end town to another, through power outages and worse. A cover of Guided By Voices’ Teenage FBI perfectly evoked its contempt and frustration at pressure to conform; their closing version of the Undertones’ Teenage Kicks was tighter and ballsier than the original. In between they threw in a catchy ba-ba-ba pop song, but done as the mid-80s Ramones might have done it, a couple of big midtempo stomps, and a long, drawn-out version of Interstate, their towering, distantly Springsteenish highway alienation anthem, their lead guitarist switching to bass and doing some tremendously interesting, melodic work with it (it was hard to hear much of anything else in the din, let alone their charismatic frontman’s lyrics). Interestingly, they also contributed the night’s lone, caustic anti-trendoid moment [From day one, we were pioneers here in refusing to use the h-word, even though Banerjee thinks that’s a mistake. He thinks that the more overtly hostile slur, “trendoid” plays into their “esthetic,” if you can call it that, because the word’s robotic connotation mirrors what they’d most like to be. He’s probably right.] Wormburner once shared a rehearsal space with the Rapture, and when they moved out they liberated one of the Rapture’s keyboard stands. That this stand was being used to support a keyboard being played by an actual human being (the rhythm guitarist) was a point that resonated with the crowd.

Muck & the Mires headlined. The moptopped, redshirted heirs to the throne occupied for decades by the Lyres and the Fleshtones, this era’s kings of garage rock were as fun as always. They mixed up a bunch of songs from their most recent album, Hypnotic one along with some older crowd-pleasers. Drummer Jessie Best and bassist John Quincy Mire kicked out a boisterously slinky British Invasion beat while frontman/rhythm guitarist “Muck” Shore and lead player Brian Mire punched and clanged over it with just enough vintage tube amp distortion to add a tinge of danger: considering how hot it must have been onstage by the time they went on, it’s surprising that nothing caught fire, at least in a literal sense.

Shore alluded to having Kim Fowley in the merch booth, which may or may not have been true, although Fowley did produce the new record. A couple of songs had a Jeff Beck-era Yardbirds rattle and clatter; the rest of the set smartly mixed up punch riff-rockers, jangly midtempo tunes and a couple with a ghoulabilly feel. The best song of the night was one of the set’s early ones, Do It All Over Again, a dead ringer for a Lyres classic circa 1981 with its snarling, insanely catchy chorus. By the time they finally called it a night, most of the crowd, withered by the heat, had escaped into the relative cool of Kent Avenue. Public Assembly in August has never looked so good.

July 18, 2010 Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Hipster Demolition Night Comes to Williamsburg and We Can’t Wait

Jay Banerjee is the impresario behind the Hipster Demolition Night scene and leads a tremendously tuneful janglerock band, Jay Banerjee & the Heartthrobs. The next one is on Thursday, July 15 at Glasslands. Lucid Culture convinced him to go on record about his thoughts concerning the great unwashed masses of Williamsburg and whether there’s actually an audience in New York for fun, entertaining rock music anymore.

Lucid Culture’s Correspondent: Would you mind if I started out by playing devil’s advocate?

Jay Banerjee: Well, I’ve never heard of them, but they can’t be any worse than Bear in Heaven.

LCC: Isn’t “Hipster Demolition Night” kind of flogging a dead horse, I mean a dead trendoid? For example, look how popular stuffwhitepeoplelike is. We outnumber the trendoids a hundred to one, and they’re universally despised except within their own tiny little clique. Isn’t this kind of like picking on the retard in fourth grade?

JB: No, because most retarded people shower.

OK, OK, really now…my problem with hipsters isn’t the suspect hygiene, the asphyxiating jeans, the tumbleweed facial hair, the neon, the keffiyeh, or the 1980s. Those things are evil, of course, but the only thing about hipsters that I would classify as worthy of all-caps HATE is the music, or rather the “music”. Guitar feedback grafted onto a Casio demo beat is not music. Caterwauling your AP English compositions into a microphone while your kid sister flails at the drums with her eyes closed is not music.

While I find other elements of their culture – do I have to call it that? – distasteful, it’s secondary to and mostly an extension of my intense distaste for Bedfordbeat. Williamsbeat?

Maybe I’m just a stuffy little square, but I think all music – good music – has to have some kind of structure. There needs to be a concept beyond “Hey guys, let’s make noise!” because otherwise, noise is exactly what you’ll get. And noise is exactly what we’ve been getting. And that’s the problem. As widely as hipsters are mocked, they’ve had a stranglehold on the underground rock scene for the last decade. This is what I’m trying to demolish.

LCC: It’s 2010. You write these gorgeous, jangly twelve-string guitar pop songs that sound just like the fucking BYRDS. Roger McGuinn is, like, your grandfather’s age now. What on earth makes you think that there’s an audience for music with real melody, real guitars, real emotion these days? I mean, look at how popular Lady Gag is. You don’t have a prayer! Or do you?

JB: Thank you very much, first of all. The thing is, Clear Channel ain’t part of the battleground here. I could dumb down the lyrics, spit-shine the production, spring for voice lessons and cosmetic surgery, and maybe I’d have a shot at widespread appeal, but I don’t want to do any of those things. That said, I’m confident the indie world is more than ready for a change after spending the last ten-plus years trying to figure out if the stereo’s broken or if that’s really the song.

It’s time the scene saw a revolution, which is exactly what I hope to spark – or at least fuel – with Hipster Demolition Night. Maybe that sounds megalomaniacal, but I’ve been very pleased to discover that I’m not the only one who wants to go back to real songs. So, not only do I have a prayer, but the congregation’s growing every day.

As for the influences, yes, The Byrds are a byg one. I’m proud of my musical roots – and I love it when people get them right – but I do try to take my own musical and lyrical approach to things. I don’t think it’s pure revivalism…but even if it is, it’s still better than whoever’s playing at Bruar Falls tonight.

LCC: This is the second Hipster Demolition Night, I believe? It’s July 15, 8 PM at Glasslands.

JB: Right. The first was at Southpaw in May.

LCC: I know the girls who run Glasslands are nice and all, but you’re playing Trendoid Ground Zero! Do you really expect anybody from that neighborhood to come to the show?

JB: Oh, I’m sure some will stagger in after downing a few half-priced PBRs elsewhere.

There’s no point in hosting Hipster Demolition Night where there are no hipsters. You can’t demolish things from across a river. Given their usual fare, though, I’m aware that Glasslands is a particularly ironic choice. I’ve told this joke before, but it reminds me of Ozzy Osbourne hosting a PETA rally. And I’ve told this joke before, too, but it’s not as if Williamsburg is any stranger to irony.

LCC: I know what you’re saying but let me interject that the Williamsbeat crowd that we all know and despise has no idea what irony is. They misuse the term. What they really mean is sarcasm.

JB: Seriously, though, how cool was it for the Glasslands team to book this sort of thing on a high-demand night? Thanks, guys!

While I know that most of the audience will be committed fans of power-pop and garage-rock, I absolutely want hipsters to attend. If I can make just one of them realize, “Say, song structure and tight popcraft are actually not so bad after all!”, then the evening will be a success.

LCC: On the bill July 15 – that’s this coming Thursday – you have four excellent live bands – retro garage rock with the Anabolics and Muck & the Mires, plus your band Jay Banerjee & the Heartthrobs, plus Wormburner, who also have a smart, jangly, lyrical powerpop thing going on. Other than Muck & the Mires, a band that pretty much everybody knows – everybody who’s not a trendoid, that is – how did you find them? I’m always curious…

JB: I don’t like calling hipsters “trendoids”. That makes them seem like robots, which is what they want.

Yes, Muck & The Mires are one of the biggest names in the international garage-rock scene – they have a Wikipedia entry, and isn’t that the gold standard of notability? They’re very well known for winning Little Steven’s Underground Garage Battle of the Bands a few years back, and they deserved it, because they have first-class tunes.

Evan “Muck” Shore and I had been in touch via Myspace a few times. Once I secured the Southpaw gig, I asked him if they wanted to come down from Boston to play it. Unfortunately, they couldn’t, but not too long afterwards, Evan sent me a message asking if I could set something up on Thursday, July 15th. So, tah-dah! Hipster Demolition Night II.

As for Wormburner, I met their frontman, Steve “Hank” Henry, a few months back through my friends in a terrific band called the Neutron Drivers. Hank is a world-class lyricist, not that he has much competition these days. We talked via e-mail; Glasslands fell into place; I invited the band onto the bill; they accepted. If only it were always that easy. I’d originally scheduled my band to go on after them, but then I saw them pack the Bowery Ballroom – ! – back in June, and I’m not that megalomaniacal.

I’ve known The Anabolics for a couple years. Cute girls, good songs. Not a hard band to like unless you’re both deaf and blind. Or a hipster. They’re mainstays on the Brooklyn garage-pop scene, and we played gigs together back when I played drums for a band called the Anything People.

Let me get in a word for the Anything People, because they were a terrific group. I was kind of the odd duck in the band – as if I’m not the odd duck everywhere else – since the other three guys are a bit older than I am, and since they’d been playing together for a few years before I joined. They wrote songs for the Anything People; I happily bashed away at the drums while writing and recording my compositions on my own. Well, not quite on my own. My Anything People bandmate Michael Lynch engineered and co-produced them.

The three songs you hear on the Facebook page are just a start, by the way. I have a full album ready, but more on that some other time, because I think this answer’s going to cross the browser-crashing threshold if I don’t end it here.

LCC: Can I ask, who actually comes to your shows?

JB: Passionate rock & roll die-hards who are fighting for a change in the music scene just as fervently as I am. And my mom.

LCC: Is it possible that there’s an audience for real rock & roll right here in New York, one that’s completely shut out of the corporate media and the trendoids at stereogum, flavorpill and pitchfork, etcetera?

JB: There absolutely is an audience for real rock & roll in New York. The trick is to harness it. That means playing on a respectable bill on a respectable night at a respectable hour on a respectable stage. This is why I started putting my own shows together, so that I could make sure we tap into the audience every time and get the exposure I feel we deserve.

The emphasis is definitely on “we.” I did things backwards as ever by forming the band after recording the tunes, alone, but the live line-up is in many ways a separate project. The Heartthrobs come in with their own perspectives on how the music should be played, and they take the songs to places I never thought they’d go. Let’s hear it for the boys who actually make me sound talented: Vinny Giangola on drums, John McNamara on bass, and newcomer Jason Szkutek on lead guitar. “Skinny Vinny” has a solo project of his own, and Jason fronts one of my very favorite local acts, the Naturals, who sound sort of like what I would if only I could sing and play guitar.

LCC: If somebody can’t make it to the Thursday show at Glasslands, I understand that you have another Hipster Demolition Night in the works. When and where, and who’s on the bill?

JB: Starting in late August, the night is becoming a monthly residency at Public Assembly. The first line-up there is going to be a special surprise for everyone. By which I mean it’s not finalized yet.

LCC: Anything else we should know about?

Because some people don’t seem to get the joke, I should make one thing clear: As much as I really, really, really, really hate their music, I don’t seriously advocate violence against hipsters. I’ve even met a few who are quite nice. Along these lines, Mike Conlin (The L’s music editor) and I had a little internet spat a while back about the concept behind Hipster Demolition Night, but we ended up with mutual respect for each other.

In other words, smash the records, but spare the skulls.

July 10, 2010 Posted by | Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment