We don’t really monitor the Billboard charts around here, but it appears that the Arctic Monkeys have finally cracked the American market big-time. They have a hit single and a smash LP and thousands of passionate American fans. And I suddenly realized that Iris Records sold more copies of the band’s latest album “AM” in the first three months of 2013 than any other new release. For those of us who love British rock, the Arctic Monkeys fill the void left by our BritPop friends Oasis, Blur, Pulp and the like (Muse sat in for a while). The fact that the AMs sold out MSG impresses me after seeing Muse play to a half-filled venue some years back. And their American popularity is underlined by massively popular Tumblr sites like this one, which boasts of 35,000 followers (Facebook “likes” of … Read More »
Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks – Wig Out At Jagbags (Matador) Warpaint – S/T (Rough Trade) Everyone has certain illusions, or more likely, outright delusions. Record store owners are no different. In the ultimate “Santa Claus complex,” vinyl dealers wait for the one or two releases that may make their month, records that might sell in quantities enough to help pay the rent. In the 90s, there were REALLY big releases: The latest U2 or the Indigo Girls or Pearl Jam sold millions and millions nationwide. In 2014, the cold months of January/February can only provide the latest from Warpaint and Stephen Malkmus. Is there really anything to get too excited about here, either for the desperate seller or the hungry buyer?
I’ve been swimming in Warpaint for weeks now, revisiting their 2010 debut album “The Fool” first and then attempting … Read More »
Honduras – “Morality Cuts” EP (LastPlaceTapes.com) “Slashing Wedding Present/Gang of Four-style guitars greet my ears and I am very quickly on my way to my particular form of personal paradise. And then the cat jumps straight in the air during these opening riffs of “Borders” blasting out of my phone. Don’t want to jump the gun (I often do), but Honduras really delivers mad goods for the punk greedy on this EP, just five simple, brash songs that leave your head spinning. While they are clearly of their exact time in history, (hmm, brooklynindiepunkhipster2013), there’s also plenty of reference points for the aged: I hear Mission Of Burma merging with the best of the Buzzcocks while singer Pat Phillips takes turns with the guitar as they drag the band through their self-proclaimed “punk/haze/pop”. And there are plenty of others piling … Read More »
THE BYNARS – X Vs. X (thebynars.com)
One of the joys of today’s music world is the crossing-over, the genre-bending, the mashing-up of different styles of music. It’s not that long ago that this was definitely not the case. Since Michael Jackson’s “Thriller,” there seems to be nothing to stop white boys from getting funky in public. Records like Miles’ “Bitches Brew” brought jazz and rock closer together in fusion, annoying some and delighting others. Scott Walker and the Bee Gees ushered in the chamber pop of Divine Comedy and Belle And Sebastian, showing that easy listening music need not be excluded from the rock world. You can draw a straight line from Brian Ferry to Ric Ocasak and then onward to Soft Cell, with electronica morphing from Kraftwerk to the Pet Shop Boys and the Human League. “Rock music” has … Read More »
Lee Ranaldo & The Dust – Last Night On Earth (Matador Records)
Even with my late-arriving and somewhat paltry appreciation for Sonic Youth (blame my beat music upbringing for this), Lee Ranaldo doesn’t have to explain himself to anyone, anywhere. His resume and influence is crystal clear: many great SY records, scads of contributions to the work of others, a bunch of solo efforts, and of course a major contributor to a punk/DIY/indie rock ethos that lasts to this day. Personally, the “Daydream Nation” show at McCarren Pool, Brooklyn some years back was powerful, overwhelming, relevatory. While noise is definitely not my thing, you can’t argue with Moore/Ranaldo/Gordon/Shelley’s legacy and influence. Like Zappa or the Beastie Boys, they are important whether you are a big fan or not.
That being said, Ranaldo’s tenth solo effort, entitled “Last Night On Earth” and recorded … Read More »
THE BONGOS – Phantom Train (Jem Records)
You had to be on another planet if you were unaware of the Bongos in the early 80s. Living and working in the New York area, they were omnipresent/legendary, especially on stage (dig this: 300 gigs in one year!). Early singles on the UK Fetish label were lively pop answers to that label’s stable of industrial/electro bands like 23 Skidoo, Throbbing Gristle and Eight Eyed Spy. They were catchy, danceable, accessible, perfect for the upcoming world of MTV. While their albums (three to be exact, plus a UK EP and a bunch of 45s) were hardly perfect and they didn’t reinvent the wheel, the songs were well-written, with upbeat, optimistic guitar riffs and the sweet, high vocals of Richard Barone. Indie rock was in its infancy, and the Bongos would never become “big,” their … Read More »
ALEX CHILTON – Electricity By Candlelight (Bar-None)
It’s been 26 years since Paul Westerburg sang the praises of Alex Chilton on the Replacements’ “Pleased To Meet Me,” and a little over three years since said Alex died of a heart attack at age 59 in New Orleans. His cult-figure status was quite secure by then, thanks to three very separate careers: singer for the poppy top-ten group the Box Tops, co-conspirator of the pre-alt rock band Big Star (with Chris Bell), and a fairly spotty, inconsistent solo career. It’s this latter phase of Chilton’s life that is chronicled in Bar-None’s release of “Electricity By Candlelight,” a recording that documents a rare live Chilton solo show from 1997. It’s the stuff of rock legend: a power outage at a club, refunded tickets to disappointed fans, triumph by the hearty souls who remain … Read More »
SCOTT NIBLETT – It’s Up To Emma (Drag City)
So often we attach great emotional meaning to music, mostly positive, because that’s what we prefer to remember. We cathect old tunes, they feed us, providing perspective in time and space. Memorable music makes youth seem present, love always within our grasp, optimism endless, forever, completely ours. But what of the negative experiences in our lives? Can certain songs/artists make us feel insane, worthless, torn apart, forgotten? Absolutely, and the power can be surprising and scary.
Stumbling upon the idea of reviewing Scout Niblett’s latest release “It’s Up To Emma,” I was immediately brought back to some difficult times. A bad relationship was only part of it (don’t ask), but somehow Niblett was included in the soundtrack of those years. I found her quite annoying back then, shrill and punky in that K … Read More »
MY HOMETOWN: A Tribute To NJ (FDR Records)
I come from a land where tribute albums do not exist. Research reveals that Nino Rota was the first artist afforded “tribute” status in the early 80s for some of those great Fellini soundtracks, feted by such wide-ranging artists as Carla Bley and Debbie Harry on vinyl. Prior to that, your “tribute” LP was only the sum total of the artists who covered your songs. Hence, Bob Dylan was the true “king of tributes” in the 60s and 70s, since it seemed like everyone was covering Dylan songs compulsively, obsessively, completely. Columbia should have issued some kind of LP box set around 1970, maybe a ten record compendium of Dylan covers (yes, there were that many people aping Bob). But none of this was planned of course; rather it was a testiment to … Read More »
Sadie Dupuis arrives at the indie rock table with plenty of legendary bio material for a reviewer. “Windowless basement apartments in Brooklyn,” “Pavement cover bands,” “Off to the wilds of Western Mass.” Well, can I let you in on my own little secret? Her band Speedy Ortiz writes and performs songs that stick in my head even on this very hot Friday night. Their fresh snippets of distorted pop remind me of the best of (ha!) Pavement mixed with a little Jenny Lewis/Chrissie Hynde, but louder and more raw. Though the quartet has become artistically more democratic of late, don’t forget that Speedy Ortiz is Sadie’s baby, nurtured through a debut 45, an EP, and now their debut full-length release, “Major Arcana.”. It’s not the longest record in the world, but Speedy gets right to the point. Apparently lead guitar … Read More »