Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

CD Review: The Very Best of the Whiskey Daredevils

Very smart, very funny roots rock. At first listen, this might sound at a distance like your typical bar band fare, but Cleveland’s Whiskey Daredevils are a whole lot more than that, closer to the Yayhoos except with more of a vintage 50s/60s influence. ” How come Guns N Roses took 14 years to make a record, yet the Daredevils made one in 5 days that is twice as good?” asks their press release. Answer: well, for one they aren’t a bunch of posers (like the girl just back from LA chronicled in the snide Hey Nancy). What’s more, they play with soul and fire, particularly guitarist Bob Lanphier who sounds like Billy Zoom on steroids. As you may have guessed, this isn’t the greatest-hits anthology alluded to by the cd cover, it’s their latest album (on the German Knock-Out label).

 

The cd kicks off with the riff from Mystery Train, into the tongue-in-cheek murder ballad Friend in Jesus. One of the reasons why the songs here are so funny is because they succeed so well at capturing the band’s twisted, blue-collar, decaying Rust Belt mileu and the weirdos who populate it, notably Gary in Gary Sez Fuck ‘Em, who can’t remember anything because he drinks too much Jaegermeister and has absolutely no interest in meeting anybody from Springsteen’s band. He could be real – there are a lot of guys like that around. Like the obsessive who won’t let his friend get a word in edgewise because he’s always talking about Planet of the Apes, when he could be hearing about something far more interesting like an encounter with a mobster on the way to an Iggy Pop show, or a stripper from Iran with a “snow white tan.” That’s another song here.

 

The absolutely funniest one here is a minor-key rockabilly-inflected number about a wannabe Texas troubador who works at Bennigan’s and lives in his parents’ basement, spending his free time serenading girls at the local open mic: “Original compositions sure do make the ladies cry,” singer Greg Miller explains with a wink the size of Lake Erie. Another one, Jimmy Rogers, is a laugh-out-loud dismissal of hero worship that plays like a straight-up country homage until the last verse. Then there’s the roaring, punkish Skunk Weed, nicking a lick from We’re Desperate by X (could that be intentional maybe?), chronicling the misadventures of a brain-addled Deadhead. He can’t get a job, but “when it comes to weed, he’s a handyman, make you a pipe from a Pepsi can.” There’s also a swinging, minor-key rumble, like a darker Rev. Horton Heat, the snide tale of a drunk kid who tries to swim the Cuyahoga river and doesn’t make it (set to the tune of El Paso) and a spot-on, sarcastic tune about laid off industrial workers going off to Iraq, knowing, of course, that Uncle Sam has a plan and everything will be fine. This is a great driving album (it’ll definitely keep you awake) and a great party album. If you ever throw a kegger and a crowd of trendoids with trucker hats, lumberjack beards, Elton John glasses and $400 bedhead haircuts shows up, just put this cd on, they’ll all leave and you’ll get your place back.

April 24, 2009 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Song of the Day 12/3/08

The top 666 songs of alltime countdown continues, one day at a time all the way to #1. Wednesday’s is #601:

The Yayhoos – I Love You Baby

The most touching love song ever written…heh heh heh. It’s got a sweet little early 60s style pop melody and nicely swinging guitar from its author, Eric “Roscoe” Ambel from Steve Earle’s band. “I love you baby, just leave me the fuck alone.” From the Yayhoos’ 2002 cd Fear Not the Obvious. Ambel almost always plays this live when he does shows with his trio: check the Lakeside calendar.

December 3, 2008 Posted by | Lists - Best of 2008 etc., Music | , , , , , , , | 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: The Roscoe Trio at Lakeside Lounge 6/15/07

A clinic in good guitar and good fun. Besides being Lakeside head honcho, producer of note, Steve Earle’s lead guitarist and member of the Yayhoos, Eric “Roscoe” Ambel sometimes finds the time to play in this self-described “party band.” With an open date on the Lakeside calendar, he’d apparently had enough of a break in his schedule to pull a show together. This was a pickup band of sorts, Phil Cimino on drums and Alison Jones on bass. It didn’t seem that anybody had the chance to rehearse much for this, but Jones is a quick study and Cimino can pretty much play anything. Tonight they played a lot of blues, but it wasn’t lame whiteboy blues, a bunch of aging fratboys hollering their way through Sweet Home Chicago and similar. “Craft” is a favorite word of Ambel’s, and tonight was a chance to watch an artisan pulling good stuff out of thin air and making it work every time.

Ambel is one of the most dynamic, interesting guitarists out there, a four-on-the-floor, purist rock guy at heart but equally adept at pretty much any Americana genre. In Steve Earle’s band the Dukes he plays a lot of wrenchingly beautiful stuff along with his usual twang; this band gives him the chance to parse his own back catalog and cut loose on some covers. Tonight he was in typically terse, soulful mode: he can solo like crazy when he wants to, which is hardly ever. This show was all about thoughtful, sometimes exploratory licks and fills with a few tantalizingly good moments of evil noise. With Ambel, melody is always front and center, but he’s a hell of a noise-rock player  – think Neil Young in a particularly pathological, electric moment – when the mood strikes him.

We arrived to find the band burning through Merle Haggard’s Workingman’s Blues. They then did a quietly captivating take on the old blues standard Ain’t Having No Fun, followed by J.J. Cale’s eerie The Sensitive Kind, which began with a long, darkly glimmering Ambel solo. A little later, they played an obscure Steve Earle tune, Usual Time of the Night, a cut from Ambel’s most recent solo album Knucklehead. It’s Earle’s attempt at writing a Jimmy Reed song, and tonight they did justice to the old bluesman, calmly wringing out every ounce of sly, late-night seductiveness.

They also played a really cool, slow surf instrumental; an amusingly upbeat, chromatically-fueled theme called How ‘Bout It (an expression, Ambel told the audience, that he used to death for a couple of years); the angry, blazing indie rock tune Song for the Walls (the opening track on Ambel’s Loud & Lonesome album); and closed the set with a rousing version of his classic song Garbagehead, written in about five minutes for a Lakeside New Year’s Eve show a few years ago. They wrapped it up with a completely over-the-top, heavy metal finale. Fucking A, fucking right. Fucking A, fucking A, Friday night, gimme five more beers and a snootfull of garbagehead. Who needs garbagehead when you can go out and see a show like this instead. For free. Even though it was past midnight by this point and therefore past Lakeside’s strict curfew (they’re trying to be good neighbors), the audience wasn’t about to let them go without an encore, so Ambel obliged them with the soul-inflected Hurting Thing, from the Yayhoos’ most recent album.

June 16, 2007 Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments