Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Album of the Day 10/10/10

Every day our 1000 best albums of all time countdown continues all the way to #1. Sunday’s album is #842:

Auntie Christ – Life Could Be a Dream

X’s Exene Cervenka and DJ Bonebrake teamed up with Rancid bassist Tim Armstrong for a handful of fast, furious, characteristically lyrical punk gems on this brief one-off 1997 classic. This was Exene’s debut recording as a guitarist and she absolutely kicks ass, with the kind of raw roar you’d expect from this woman. It’s got the hallucinatory, hellacious highway anthem Bad Trip, the Gen X dis Nothing Generation (“Stupid fucking kids wake up, you’re sheep”); the grim The Virus (“The virus is you”), the prophetic, riff-driven Future Is a War, the defiant-to-the-end I Don’t and ends with the Stonesy, surprisingly upbeat With a Bullet. The brief nine-song cd repeats all over again for maximum effect. You can hear the whole thing streaming on myspace or try this random download.

Advertisements

October 10, 2010 Posted by | lists, Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Pleasure Kills Are Pure Pleasure

Bay area rockers the Pleasure Kills’ new punk-pop album Bring Me a Match is a time warp from the days before autotune, before nonsense syllables replaced real lyrics in radio pop songwriting. There’s not a single bad song here. The tunes are irresistibly catchy and pack a punch, their signature sound blending distorted, melodic punk guitar with swooshy organ. The wounded wail of Lydiot, their frontwoman, has a regret-tinged phrasing like the Go-Go’s Belinda Carlisle except that she sings on key. At their best they evoke Angie Pepper’s legendary Australian proto-punk band the Passengers.

The opening cut Dancing on My Bed is a Ramones-style stomp with sweeping synth – “I’m stomping on my phone, I wanna be alone,” Lydiot insists: she may be all by herself, but she’s damned if she won’t have fun anyway. The title track is sort of Blondie gone punk; I Want You isn’t the Dylan hit, but a riff-rocking garage-punk song with some perfectly nasty Scott Asheton-style rolls on the drums. The strongest, and most original song here, is Hearts Run Out, with its wicked, catchy, growling guitar hook. Everything Lydiot sees reminds her of something from a dead affair: “I can never go home.” It wouldn’t be out of place on an album by legendary Milwaukee powerpop band the Shivvers.

Another standout cut is Modern Problems – with its snaky organ lines and ruthless pummelling drive, it’s like Radio Birdman at their most pop. Heartbreak in Space is a candy-coated punk-pump smash; Victoria isn’t a cover of the Kinks classic, but instead a jagged early 80s punk/new wave song and an insanely catchy chorus hook that fades out. They go back to the Radio Birdman pop, if not quite as intensely, with Ammunition, followed by the casually snide Bag of Bones, which bears some resemblance to post-X bands like Spanking Charlene. The album closes with And Me, nicking the intro from Agent Orange’s Living in Darkness, then launching into into an unstoppable punk/pop stomp with a surprise cold ending. It’s not an insult to say that if this had been released thirty years ago, an entire subculture would now regard it as a cult classic. Play it loud. San Francisco fans can catch the Pleasure Kills’ next show at Hemlock Tavern, 1131 Polk St. between Post and Sutter with Paul Collins’ Beat on 9/25 at 9.

September 15, 2010 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Concert Review: Spanking Charlene at Lakeside Lounge, NYC 7/18/09

To get a Saturday night gig at the Lakeside you have to be either very good or very popular. Spanking Charlene are both. Saturday night found the entertainingly punkish, Americana-inflected rockers at the top of their game. With Mo Goldner’s roaring, Billy Zoom-inflected guitar and frontwoman Charlene McPherson’s unleashed wail, they mixed a lot of new material in with songs from their excellent 2007 debut cd, which if we’d published a “top 50 albums of the year” list back then would have definitely been on it. The anti-cattiness diatribe I Hate Girls was a spot-on as usual, as was When I’m Skinny, a slap at media-driven obsession with thinness (McPherson isn’t rail-thin but she’s hardly fat). She insisted that a friend in the audience introduce the big crowd-pleaser Pussy Is Pussy, which he seemed especially happy to do.

The newer songs were just as good. The growling, glam-inflected Where Are the Freaks offered some snide commentary on how the question of how much you earn now passes for acceptable barroom banter in the East Village. An catchy, insistent X-ish number about gentrification pushing everyone further and further to the outer fringes of the five boroughs hit the spot as well. The highlight of the show was a stark contrast, a haunting, towering, Americana-inflected requiem. “This one’s gonna kill me,” McPherson told her bandmates, but it didn’t. Then they returned to the merriment with I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend, which as McPherson related was inspired by an attempt by a lesbian to pick her up. Lakeside head honcho and guitar genius Eric “Roscoe” Ambel, who produced their cd, joined them for their last three numbers, adding a tasty, extra layer of smoldering grit. Definitely a fun way to wrap up what had been a long Saturday running all over town.

July 21, 2009 Posted by | Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Three Killer Vinyl EPs by the Hussy

The Hussy like short songs. They keep it simple, just volcanic, distorted guitar and drums, punk beats and blistering garage-inflected tunes. Both guitarist Bobby and drummer Heather sing. Sometimes they take turns, sometimes they do it together. It’s catchy, anthemic, fun stuff. If what they’re doing in the studio is any indication – a lot of this sounds completely live – their shows ought to be killer. And they have three records out on vinyl, something that more bands like this ought to be doing.

The Winter Daze 7″ manages to squeeze in six songs. One Word is like Ramones without the bass, with sassy punk pop vocals. A couple of these are barely a minute long: Herbie, sung by Heather sounds like a NY Dolls demo with one of the groupies joining in the melee. Turkey might or might not be about slaughtering a bird – it’s as assaultive as everything else here. Head Set  is sexy, confrontational 3-chord garage punk with guy/girl vox. Winter Daze is poppier, with layers of guitar including an incisive solo – and is that a Casio? The best song on the ep is the irresistibly fun bubblegum punk Drinking Song which turns the original idea of teenage pop on its head. What do kids do? They get wasted! “Let’s go out and drink tonight with me!”

Also available is the Science of Sound split 7″ with the entertainingly playful garage/punk/noise band Sleeping in the Aviary. The Hussy’s contributions are I Got Soul, a minor-key riff-rock rumble; One Time, which sounds a little like X,  layers of overtones and natural distortion screaming from Bobby’s amp, and a barely thirty-second number about snakes that resembles the DK’s.

The Creepy Season bonus tracks (which you can also get online) include Oh No, vintage Stooges gone unhinged, lo-fi, zeros style; Brown Eyes and its 60s Sonics fuzztone guitar vibe and Going Home, a snotty frenzy of cymbal crashes and a catchy walking guitar line. The Hussy have a whole slew of Madison and Milwaukee shows coming up: Summerfest next year, guys!

July 3, 2009 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Song of the Day 5/12/09

Every day, our top 666 songs of alltime countdown gets one step closer to #1. Tuesday’s song is #442:

Body Count – Cop Killer

Over a melody that very cleverly quotes Los Angeles by X, future tv character actor Ice-T talks justice and revenge in the wake of the Rodney King scandal, 1992. The right-wing backlash was so vitriolic that the label caved in, recalled the album and reissued it without the track; copies from the era are a collector’s item (we have one). Mp3s are everywhere.

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

CD Review: Spanking Charlene – Dismissed with a Kiss

This band sounds almost exactly like X! Except with better vocals. Spanking Charlene’s frontwoman Charlene McPherson sings with a powerful, accusatory wail: her voice can be very pretty, and it is on a couple of the quiet songs on the album. But most of the time it’s fierce and intense, and really packs a wallop. The songs are gritty and slightly Stonesy: this could be the great lost X album, sandwiched between Under the Big Black Sun and More Fun in the New World. Although McPherson’s songs are more intentionally amusing, and she doesn’t try to be deliberately poetic like Exene: her lyrics rhyme, often very cleverly. “Beauty is subjective/And I know your objective,” McPherson taunts the guy trying to pick her up, in the in-your-face punk smash Pussy Is Pussy.

The other songs are a mix of short, roaring guitar tunes along with a couple of surprisingly thoughtful, quiet numbers. I Hate Girls catalogs the innumerable ways women can make each other miserable with catty behavior; When I Get Skinny is a sarcastic swipe at the multibillion-dollar business of making women insecure about their looks. “When I’m skinny maybe I’ll finally get myself that record deal” and “drink red red wine with every meal…the girls I see on MTV shake their ass and don’t look like me,” McPherson laments, speaking for every normal woman perplexed by the popularity of anorexics with implants.

Guitarist Mo Goldner sings the potently gritty, percussive Fidgety – “My dog is on that Prozac too!” – slamming out a series of licks straight out of the early Billy Zoom catalog. Red Rolling Papers is McPherson’s not-so-nostalgic look back at the hungover residue of late-night high school partying. The brief, lickety-split When Things Were New evokes X’s Year One, from Wild Gift. The gentle, introspective Easy to Be Sad and Behind (as in, leaving it all behind) prove McPherson isn’t just a one-trick pony, giving her the chance to show off her subtle, country-inflected side. On the album, bassist Keith Christopher (of Yayhoos notoriety) also shows off his versatility, keeping everything impressively simple and direct. Drummer Phil Cimino (from the Demolition String Band) proves he can play this hard fast stuff just as well as the more complicated material he’s used to. Eric Ambel’s production is spot-on, as usual: everything is dirty right where it needs to. Unsurprisingly, Spanking Charlene’s New York home base is Lakeside, where they play this coming February 16 at 10 PM. We reviewed one of their shows there last year [third most popular review in the history of this blog – Ed.] and it was as excellent as you would expect after hearing this fun, fiery album. Four bagels. With safety pins stuck through them.

January 11, 2008 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Concert Review: Demolition String Band CD Release Show at Rodeo Bar, NYC 11/16/07

If you want to buy something substantial, say, a car or a guitar, you want to take it for a spin. You want to hear what it sounds like. Likewise, it makes no sense to buy a cd sight unseen: no matter who’s putting it out, you need to know if it’s worth it. One surefire way is to hear the songs live: anybody can fix mistakes in the studio, overdub guitars or vocals til the cows come home, but how do the songs stand up without any added embellishments? If this show is any indication, Demolition String Band’s new one Different Kinds of Love completely and totally kicks ass.

X would be the closest comparison for this band. Although Demolition String Band aren’t punk by any stretch, they share the legendary LA band’s love for both American roots music and sheer guitar volume. In an age where rock has actually taken over country radio, this album is particularly well-timed. Tonight they mixed up a bunch of catchy, twangy country tunes with a couple of blazing straight-up rock songs and some dazzlingly played bluegrass.

They opened on the rock tip with Hurt So Bad, featuring a Stonesy Keith Richards-esque intro from Telecaster master Boo Reiners and followed that with the best song of the night. Written by frontwoman Elena Skye – who’s been on something of a tear lately coming up with new material – it rocked all the way through its ominous minor-key intro until they reprised it at the end. Then they invited their friend Rina (Did we spell it right?) to sub the backing vocal part that Mary from Southern Culture on the Skids did on the recorded version of the pretty, traditional country tune I Wanna Wear White.

The band blazed through their reliably crowd-pleasing cover of Madonna’s Like a Prayer – “See, Madonna can write a great country song, she just doesn’t know it,” Skye told the audience – and then returned to their originals with a fast, backbeat-driven song inspired by Skye’s daughter, and then the twangy, midtempo Baby Won’t You Come Home on which Skye switched to mandolin. Reiners took over lead vocals on another relatively new Skye song, the fast, electric bluegrass number Thinking About Drinking, then thry brought it down again with a slow ballad on which Reiners played his heart out with a long solo.

Their cover of the Ola Belle Reed classic Where the Wild Wild Flowers Grow rocked hard, crescendoing with a bluesy 70s rock guitar solo. On the tune after that, Reiners left his wah-wah pedal (or was it a flange?) wide open during another long solo, letting his tone phase in and out and the way he made the melody work with it was as impressive as it was amusing. After a fast bluegrass instrumental followed by their excellent new song Drinking Whiskey (a tribute to bootleggers, it seems, carefully explaining how “you got your selling, and your drinking whiskey”) they closed their long, exuberant first set with the old bluegrass standard True Love Never Dies. As if to check to see how hard the crowd was listening, Reiners threw in several sly Beatles quotes, then they sped it up almost doublespeed, finally wrapping it up as he played the big hook from Hendrix’ Little Wing. Party music doesn’t get much more clever or entertaining than this. Lookout Nashville, here they come. CDs are currently available online for pre-order or at shows (Demolition String Band usually play Rodeo Bar at least once a month when they’re not on the road playing with SCOTS or some other good country touring band).

November 19, 2007 Posted by | concert, country music, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Fuck American Idol

Tonight voices ruled: not the tiresome parade of flashy melismatic effects that the American Idol crowd reaches for, but uniquely individual voices, each with its own signature style. Pure, unleashed passion, wit, sadness, rage, exuberance, the whole gamut. Real, original voices delivering real, original material with real emotion.

After several rounds of stiff Bacardi 151 drinks at the Holiday Lounge, the Ukrainian bar on St. Mark’s (that venerable dive doesn’t take credit cards, so there’s no worry about losing your place at the bar to some trust fund child from Malibu), we made our way down to the LES to a tourist trap we would normally never be caught dead at. Ninth House was scheduled to play, but their drummer was stuck in midtown traffic, caught in a security gauntlet, a byproduct of the current westside gathering of multinational robber barons. So frontman Mark Sinnis did a trio show with his lead guitarist and piano player. Sinnis sings in a low, ominous baritone somewhere from the nether regions where Johnny Cash, Ian Curtis and Jim Morrison reside. He can croon with anyone, but he’d rather belt, raging against the dying of the light. Death figures in most of his Nashville gothic songs: he knows that country is the original goth music and mines it for every eerie tonality he can pull out of that deep, dark well. The sound at this yuppie puppie trashpit usually frightfully bad, and it was tonight, the vocals struggling to pull themselves from under the piano. One would think that at a folkie club like this that bills itself as sonically superior, vocals should automatically be the highest thing in the mix, but the sound guy was lost in his comic book and didn’t do anything to fix things. Sinnis fought the PA, and like John Henry, man against machine, the machine won. But he put up a good fight: hearing him project all the way to the back of the little room, virtually without amplification, was pretty impressive. If you were there (you probably weren’t – it was a small crowd) and liked what you heard, wait til you hear this guy through a mic that’s on.

Elsewhere, janglerock quartet Sputnik took the stage just as Sinnis and crew were wrapping up their set. Shockingly, the sound they had to deal with was actually pretty good: their tall, willowy blonde frontwoman Genie Morrow has never sung better. Tonight she was in effortlessly seductive mode, her sultry, breathy, sometimes whispery soprano peeking around the corners of the melodies. You have to listen closely for the drama in this band’s pleasantly catchy, jangly songs, but it’s there. Part of a frontperson’s job is to grab the audience somehow or other and hold them, while keeping the band all on the same page at the same time (a job that most corporate and indie rockers don’t have a clue about). Morrow delivered as if she was born to do this, and with a little luck (maybe a song in a good cult indie flick), she’ll be able to. She’d borrowed an accordion from an especially generous neighborhood shop, and its gently wistful tones were the perfect complement to her vocals’ gentle allure. This band has everything it takes to be big: hooks, tunes, a generally sunny disposition and casually virtuosic musicianship. And they were clearly having a great time onstage. It was particularly nice to see excellent drummer Nigel Rawles involved with something that has as much promise as his previous band Scout.

The high point of the night was at Lakeside where the excellent 4-piece punk band Spanking Charlene were playing. They’re not straight-up punk like the Ramones or UK Subs, but more Stonesy, like the Heartbreakers. Like Sputnik, they also have a casually charismatic frontwoman, but she’s a completely different type of animal, armed with a big, powerful wail. It’s a dangerous weapon, and she wields it expertly. This band’s lyrics are sardonic and funny. As with any punk band, they also have some anger, but in their case it seems to be inner-directed. In the night’s most intense moment – there were a lot of them – the singer launched into a crescendoing chorus, singing “stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid me,” berating herself over and over again, and this was as incongruous as it was disturbing. From the lyrics, it was obvious that she’s no dummy: what on earth could she have done that was so stupid? Maybe the song is a cautionary tale. Either way, it made an impact. She also proved that she’s no one-trick pony with a surprisingly quiet, sweetly twangy country song. Their big audience hit right now seems to be a riff-rocker called Pussy Is Pussy (“People are afraid of pussy,” the singer knowingly told the audience) which isn’t even their best number. But it’ll be huge if they can get somebody to pull some public-domain footage (or, hell, any footage), make a primitive video and put it up on youtube. Spanking Charlene have a cd coming out in November, and if the live show is any indication, it will kick serious ass. Stay tuned.

Like Bob Lefsetz is fond of saying, the mainstream is dead. But the underground has never been more vital. So good to be alive in a place where, against all odds, there are still so many great bands – and killer singers. American Idol? Simon says, stick a fork in it.

September 16, 2007 Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments