31 August, 2013

Recent Love (Solid Bros Against Karl Rove Edition)

Victory and Associates, Better Luck Next Life
First of all, I like how when I shorten this band's name - V&A - it sounds like something off the itinerary for a porno shoot.
OK, so long as we're having honesty time here, I pop this CD into my computer, which opens up iTunes and, much to my horror, seven out of ten of the songs are over four minutes. I don't have that kind of time. I'm a busy man. I can't be spending a hour just listening to music.
But I'll give it a try.
For those of you unfamiliar with Victory and Associates, this is the band that apparently never got the memo that anthemic arena rock was uncool. However, instead of sounding like some novelty 80s throwback or th'fuck ever, V&A (teehee) just write big sounding power pop songs with simple, elegant hooks. Think Replacements and Cheap Trick, not KISS or Journey.
There's also a smattering of social commentary, addressing issues like perceived apathy of youth, hope without action, class privilege, celebrity without merit, etc. If you're even a little on the right wing side, this record is not for you. No, "for serious", this record was not made for you. (I don't know what conservatives listen to, maybe Bieber? Go listen to Bieber. I heard he's turned into a dick, so whether he's a triple threat - singer, dancer, and one fuck of a drummer - or not, he's still a dick. With some ugly tattoos. No, you know what? I'll go with the typo. I almost typed "twattoos". Biebs has twattoos.
Wait. Am I still in the parentheses?)
And then there are a couple of pop culture references, say like the fourth song, "Everything's Amazing (Nobody's Happy)", and the eighth song, ""Are We Having Fun Yet?"".
Now, big arena rock just usually isn't my bag - I think I might have a Cheap Trick best of, I think - so this record, for me, is a grower, not a shower, even on the big speakers. But when I saw V&A (teehee) at the Hexagon, I had a fucking blast. And mind you, that was on a stage only yay big...

It's not even big enough for the whole band.
That's kind of what happened with me and ... And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead. Loved them live. Couldn't listen to their records. Thankfully, Better Luck Next Life is listenable compared to the overwhelming majority of AYWKUBTTOD's recorded output. So if you're into left-leaning anthems that tell whiners and righties to shut the fuck up, this is your record. When was the last time you pumped your fist in the air unironically, anyway? Get on this, young'un.

29 August, 2013

There's some thing with some pick-a-year-and-write-a-top-ten-list business clogging up my Facebook feed right now.

I wasn't given a year so I'll just make up a top ten list.

1. Buddy Gomez and His Flying Banditos - Cantina Songs
♦ Cashing in on the popular "Meximania!" of the era, Belize-born saxophonist Buddy Gomez donned a country & western look and put together a four-piece backing band of former ranch hands to sing Spanish-language songs about the white sands, blue waters, and pink sunsets of a country he had only passed through.

2. Three Nights in a Parisian Chateau - Original Cast Recording
♦ Originally panned for its at-the-time racy and revolutionary take on feminism and bedroom politics, this oft-overlooked Broadway gem eventually made it to the silver screen nearly forty years after its final staging.

3. Luisa Bennet - Jump! Jump! Swing!
♦ Noted San Francisco party gal Luisa Bennet's fourth LP of big band numbers is sure to delight even casual fans of the swing genre with her vivacious energy and husky baritone voice that adds an extra suggestion to some of her - ahem - more inviting lines. Be prepared, though. A night on the town with this debutante calls for aspirin and alka-seltzer in the morning.

4. The Peter Falco Big Brass Band - Air Force and Naval Marches
♦ Hands down the hardest working para-military marching band working that year brings their audience a dual collection of favorites. Noted for the innovative (at the time) labeling of Air Force Side and Navy Side on the LP label.

5. The Gordon Sisters - Jesus Take My Love and the Light the World
♦ The Tennessee Christian Sister Trio are at it again, spreading their faith to the ears of all who will let them and their dulcet tones into their hearts.

6. Bleeding Rabbits - S/T
♦ Obscure NJ punk progenitors debut forty eight song LP set the tone for what would become grindcore.

7. Luisa Bennet - More Hopping Numbers for Swinging Lovers
♦ Luisa's fifth record (and second that year) expanded on her repertoire as her band - the Bennetones - expanded to a twenty five piece orchestra. Hits and haymakers like "Never Met a Man Better Than a Full Shot Glass" and "Who's Riding My Caboose?" sent Luisa to the top of the charts and global recognition.

8. "Jiving" Jerry Hamlin - Working Blue After Hours
♦ Funny man "Jiving" Jerry took comedy to places few would dare to on this iconic release, which earned him over a dozen obscenity charges. A rare collector's favorite, Working Blue After Hours is not only hilariously raunchy but a thoughtful dissection of pre-Civil Rights life for homosexual African Americans.

9. Roberto Morgan - Songs to Woo Your Lady By
♦ Who looks better in a pencil moustache and smoking jacket than legendary Franco-Italian crooner Roberto Morgan? Rumored to have written the entirety of this record while vacationing on the southern coast of Spain with his mistress, Roberto pours his heart - and his lust - into every word of this lounge lizard staple.

10. Slim Coolie and his Fabulous Cooliettes - I Like Short Skirts and Six Shooters
♦ Nashville born and Hollywood reared Slim Coolie took a four year break from appearing in pictures and put together country music's first all-female backing band. On their second release, the quintet sing tales of the west as envisioned on Hollywood soundstages, where tumbleweeds breeze by cacti and not a single dispute can't be solved with a dance-off.

You see? That's how you write a top ten list. Now knock it off.

28 August, 2013

Prince Builds A Frankenstein

24 August, 2013

Recent Love (That Guy From That One Band Edition)

ROTHKO, Prayer Furnace
Anthony from (the great, almighty, unreleased) CHINA emailed me a while back to hip me to this side-project thing he did in Chicago called ROTHKO. What starts with a couple clanging guitar echos that sounds like shit was about to get mathy instead turned into this big, lurching juggernaut that gets down to baseball bat fight tactics so out for blood that if any of your "rock friends" don't like it, they're plainly wrong. Basically, this EP is going to be your full-of-shit barometer for when you're stuck in a conversation with somebody who professes to know this and that and all that about music. Put this EP on your phone and keep it handy for when someone starts talking ridiculous shit. That way, you can pull it out and ask, "What do you think of this?" If they don't dig it, that's your cue to turn it off and walk away. They are clearly clueless and you deserve better.
Not one of the four songs breaks the 3:50 mark, ensuring that each song is nothing but pure, concentrated fuck-you-up. You know, the good stuff. What dreams are made of.
OK OK OK, so what does it sound like?
Well, buckle up and fix a cocktail.
To my ears, I'm hearing traces of Pink Flag and Mclusky Do Dallas in the influences. "Discovery of a Weapon" kicks things off with the aforementioned clanging echoes that turn to truckers' speed drums and near-drone composition and slide guitar acrobatics. "Waiting for Shit" reminds me of a more violently-ready-to-fall-apart "Steady As She Goes" with a screeching brass arrangement that becomes the centerpiece of this exercise in repetition and tension until the tape goes out. "After the Rape" is a study in tempo and rhythm, with creepy need-a-shower-after-hearing lyrics and a handful of varying sections played linearly rather than cyclically (actually my preferred manner of composition). And if you were waiting for the Birthday Party to get back together (which, you know, they can't do), "Tased and Confused" will surely satiate that need. Avoid smoking any grass listening to this or you'll worry that your soul is trying to escape through your ribs. It's as creepy as it is quiet and simple, with a guitar jangle that will remind you of Sonic Youth's "Halloween".
If ever there was an aural punk analogue to Ernst's Une Semaine De Bonté, this would be it.

Recent Love (Couples Tennis Edition)

Post Honeymoon, Second Skin
Normally, when I hear about duos, I think, Great. Who decided they didn't need a bassist this week? I hope they at least have an octave divider.
Normally, when I hear about synth-rock, I hope things sound like Suicide or Devo, otherwise, I'm probably not going to get into it.
So when I get a promo email for Post Honeymoon's new record, it had two strikes against it before I even hit play. Because I am often a wrong man. I accept that.
So I finally get around to listening to the record (my FBook friends will have seen the post I made detailing why I've been delinquent on the reviews lately) and I'm into it. It begins with a pulsing little synth throb and a killer drum beat that Kanye and Jay-Z will be sampling before the close of this year. For real, listen to it and tell me that beat won't be at the center of a sampling storm that will rage until 2015 and then again in about twenty years when it will be declared "The New Amen Break". Don't believe me? I don't blame you. As I said, I am often very wrong about these sorts of things. At any rate, "Schoen and Schaden" sucked me in. "The Hunter" reminded me of some of the grime music that I'm all that familiar with, but with vocals that I can understand.
Still, it takes a few listens before I can really get into it and there are three songs before you get to a real a jumper, "Olympia", which is as close as the Post Honeymooners get to a four-on-the-floor beat on this record. Otherwise, the record has more in common with dub-reggae and -step, Daft Punk's Tron: Legacy score. It's on the mid-tempo dance side. And the title track is so eerie and dark that I think that if I listen to this on some real mind bender of a drug, I could plea insanity and get acquitted of all the charges of homicide. For real, my lawyer could play "Second Skin" for the jury and the jury would have to go, "Oh, fuck. He ate peyote buttons and listened to this? Shit, I smacked my husband last week and that was just because I had the Facts of Life theme stuck in my head for a few hours. Yeah... phew... fuck... uh, not guilty, really. Really. Cut the kid loose."
Just to be clear, I'm not saying that Post Honeymoon have made a hallucinatory knife-murdering record, I'm just saying that you might want to be careful with what you ingest while this record is on because mistakes could be made.
Also? "Unraveling Mr. Murphy", "North Woods", and "Renewed" back-to-back to close out the record? Get ready to draw a pentagram on the floor in lamb's blood and light some black candles because you're about to fuck like goths do.

21 August, 2013

07 August, 2013

03 August, 2013

The Life and Times of Harvey Milk (The Band), Episode 7: A Small Turn of Human Kindness

A Sound Design and Assembly Original Miniseries
Produced by M. Martin
Tonight: 2010's A Small Turn of Human Kindness
Written by Charlie Pauken
Well, M. was supposed to handle this one last week (which I figure you noticed by now is missing) so I suppose it's up to me to take on the final entry.
A Small Turn of Human Kindness was, for me, perhaps the least accessible, most difficult record in the Harvey Milk catalog. It's a concept record with a vague story that lets you think you've figured it out and then you notice something else in the lyrics that makes you go "Wait... Wha?", it's slower than anything on earth, all of the songs share a motif (hell, the songs on Side A all share the line "I am sick of all this, too", which happens to be the title of and only line in the third song), and it irks you with the substantial amount of just quiet rather than try to beat you over the head with deafening chaos. It's a tremendously suffocating venture that, I gotta tell you, bums me the fuck out when it doesn't make me check over my shoulder for somebody about to garrote me after double checking the lock on the door.
Only two moments during the Side A closer, "I Know This Is No Place For You", approaches any sort of bombast or grandeur found on previous records but that those two moments are mired in and surrounded by the sonic incarnation of fear and loss and pain and sadness doesn't change the tonality of the song. "I Know This Is All My Fault" also changes things around with a bit of Twin Peaks-ish synth sounds and then some minimalist piano and voice arrangement but its still a fucking bummer.
Whatever this record is about, it's certainly about some sort of tragedy, and the ending is so vague that the two outcomes I can think of are just "still bad" and "worse". I can tell you this much: There is a man, a woman, there's a baby on the way, there's US Highway 41, and there's a deer. And, no, it doesn't go the way you might think. It's still a tragedy though.
So it's mercilessly heavy, a little on the scary side, a lot on the drag side and, OK, so not my favorite Harvey Milk record. But even when they make a record I'm not completely into, it's not a bad record, in fact, it really does deserve your attention. Personally, I wouldn't listen to it after the sun goes down, though. Shit would freak me out.

01 August, 2013

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