Tuesday, March 31, 2009


Found this video for "Take Drugs"

Crazy stuff.

I'm interviewing Dan Bitney from Tortoise in a couple of hours. Feel free to submit questions if you like, they can't be any stupider than the ones I've got.

I'm thinking of headlines..."Tortoise inches ahead" "Tortoise comes out of its shell" "Tortoise bludgeons hare to a pulp..."

Monday, March 30, 2009


This one was fun…my review of a one of the world’s best rock bands, playing live at or near its historic best. It runs today at Blurt.

Still Dangerous comes from roughly the same period as Thin Lizzy's first official live album, Live and Dangerous, which went to #2 in the UK and cemented the band's reputation as a ferocious performer. Yet unlike the sanctioned "live" album, this one is actually live, no retouching, no overdubs. As you might expect, its versions of classics like ‘Boys are Back in Town’ ‘Jailbreak’ and ‘Cowboy Song’ are far rougher than the studio incarnations - but they are also more evenly mixed, so that you can hear the bass and drums. The cartwheeling guitar interplay is still there, still exhilarating, and Lynott's singing is just as wonderfully soulful and warm even at its loudest. But here, you get more of a band sound than you ever heard on the radio, an intimation of just how heavy and propulsive Lynott's bass playing was and how integral Downey's drumming. (‘Massacre’ turns almost tribal in this version.)”


“The Boys are Back in Town”

“Dancing in the Moonlight”

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Context matters…

PopMatters has a review up today of D. Rider’s Mother of Curses. It’s an extremely negative review, which is, I think, fine, not everyone’s going to like this sort of thing. However, it’s also written without any acknowledgement of what kind of context that Todd Rittman comes out of…as if you could apply the same standards to Mother of Curses as to, say, the latest Decemberists album or M. Ward.

Here’s the review.

But even without digging into the whole review, consider the teaser quote that is supposed to give some sense of the album, and help people decide whether or not to read the full review:
“Abstract, sloppy and practically tuneless musically, D. Rider tops off its debut album with grating monotone vocals. The end result is, not surprisingly, quite unappealing.”

First of all, D. Rider is a good deal more tune-oriented (though still not exactly Beatles-esque) than US Maple. It has much more readily understandable lyrics and even a hint of falsetto soul melodies than its predecessor band. But even setting that aside, there are certain traditions in music where abstraction, drone, and even monotone are important colors in the palette. Not every band has to be Vampire Weekend.

But my main problem with the review is that the writer seems to be entirely unaware of Rittman’s background. This is the first write-up I’ve seen that doesn’t even mention US Maple, generally considered one of the leading 1990s innovators in an abstract, challenging part of the post-rock movement. Here’s the AllMusic Guide on Talker, US Maple’s 1999 album produced by Michael Gira of Swans: “For all its surface chaos however, Talker's noise has an underlying space and structure that makes it as compelling as it is initially inaccessible; once caught in its sonic tar pits, it's fascinating to hear what else is stuck in there.”

Or here’s Scott McGaughey in (the really excellent) Perfect Sound Forever on US Maple:
“Al Johnson (vocals), Pat Samson (drums), Mark Shippy (high guitar) and Todd Rittmann (low guitar) work together to create a sound which only makes 'sense' after time. The guitars sputter unrelated phrases, the drums mimic an irregular heartbeat and the vocals zoom in and out like a cartoon spaceship. All of this could seem improvised or random, but it's not. U.S. Maple's music comes from careful deliberation and attention to detail. Johnson's unique vocals act as another instrument in the mix as they mingle with the guitars and drums. But rarely do the musicians meet up and lock into a steady groove. Those looking to tap their foot or pump their fists along with the music will quickly be lost.” Full text

US Maple was a serious band, an important part of a certain era of rock history, and you can’t just pretend like it never happened. Especially if you’re going to review D. Rider. Case in point, I went back and listened to Mother of Curses after reading this review, and found that, if you know US Maple, it’s really not that abrasive. It is bleak, claustrophobic, abstract, full of noise, devoid of verse/chorus structure, granted. But also quite powerful in the asymmetrical, convention-exploding tradition of no wave.

Here’s my review of the same record.

And the MySpace

Now granted, I came up through a music reviewing system that emphasized taking artists (and records) for what they were, appreciating how well (or badly) they achieved the goals they seemed to have set for themselves, measuring intensity and commitment rather than technical skill and, in general, not writing off entire genres because they weren’t my favorites. If I know that a band comes out of a tradition I’m not familiar with, if there are predecessor bands or obvious inspirations, I’ll spend a couple of days listening to that stuff. It’s not the same as being an expert, but it helps.

Context is important. If you don’t understand it, you’re not going to understand the record you have in your stereo. It seems to me that PopMatters missed the whole point of Mother of Curses, by insisting that all records have catchy, easily accessible choruses, smooth production and pretty voices. Not everything is pop, and things that aren’t pop shouldn’t be measured by pop standards.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Cobra Verde's covers album

Ian was asking about this, and I'm pretty sure it's gotten hard to find, so I thought I'd just put it up for a while. It's Cobra Verde's Copycat Killers, an all-covers albums with versions of songs by Pink, the Rolling Stones, New Order (hi Ian), the Fall (hi Michael), Leonard Cohen, and, ahem, Donna Summer.

It's pretty killer and i'm not just saying that because it's in the album title and I'm suggestable.

Well maybe I am.

Try here.

Amadou & Mariam

Back to the real world, with record reviews and tax forms and phone bills and such.

Here’s my Amadou & Mariam review, up today at Blurt, in which I ponder, “Why does the world’s most life-affirming music always come from the most troubled places?” I gave it an 8, but I genuinely thought about a 9…it’s very pop, not at all like some of those raw, field recorded African rock comps you may be listening to, but quite good in its own way. Here’s the review.

And a video of the first song off Welcome to Mali, the Damon Albarn-produced single “Sabali”.

Monday, March 23, 2009

my last night in austin...at least for this year

so I'm getting back to normal, not drinking beer until after it's dark, trying to stop using the F word so much, not asking random people if they've seen anything good (though it's kind of an interesting experience to do this, say, in the gas station and see what happens)...i had pretty much decided I was too old to even consider going to SXSW next year (at Beerland, one kid asked me if I had a daughter, which I think meant that I was pretty hot for an old hag...or something), but now I want to go again, like immediately. It's pretty disgraceful. My ears haven't even stopped ringing yet.

Anyway, I thought I'd post the link to my last night write-up which was, in some ways, the best of all, not really musically but just in terms of overall atmosphere and joy and complete lack of pony-tailed old men talking on their cell phones.

Here it is.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Few more SXSW blogs up at PopMatters now

My Friday stuff is all up now...read about Wovenhand/Obits/Major Stars, Mayyors, the rest of the WFMU showcase

Gotta go, plane's boarding

Punk rock woodstock


I spent really all night, at least the part where I wasn't wandering around aimlessly, at the Todd P. party at Mrs. Bea's, an unofficial, all-ages, outdoor thing with about 20 bands, starting before noon and going all the way to after midnight. Well, that's not true, I walked into town down Congress, stopped in at the Yard Dog to get a beer, and saw Freedy Johnston (actually quite good, though perhaps the un-hip-est thing I saw all week), then a little bit of the Uglysuits at HOmeslice Pizza (not bad either, in a sunny shoegaze kind of way, if that makes sense at all), and then the aimless wandering, getting lost, being on line for the Hold Steady for about 30 seconds (and then deciding it was hopeless) and finally heading east to Mrs. Bea's, stopping for one show (Los Llamerada, Mexican garage punk) and then deciding I should really go to the Hometapes party, and walking for what seemed like half the afternoon through a not especially nice part of town, and getting there just in time for Megafaun, who were really good...love those guys. And then my friend Jon wanted dinner, so we sat and waited for half an hour at Nuevo Leon, and it was 7 o'clock and I wanted to see Kurt Vile at Mrs. Bea's so I left. And then Kurt Vile, let's see, caUSE co-MOTION (infinitely better live), Psychedelic Horseshit (wearing Wavves Suxx tee-shirts), Blank Dogs, the Ohsees (LOVE this band), Woods and the Crystal Stilts. I'm going to try to think of something entertaining to say about all these bands in a little while, but for now, if you get a chance, go see the Ohsees...

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Dinosaur Jr. and other things

My Thursday write-ups, including Dinosaur Jr., are up now at PopMatters. Read all about two days ago here.

Also, my review of the Red Red Meat reissue Bunny Gets Paid, which I highly, highly recommend to anyone who likes Califone but hasn't dug back into the Red Red Meat, ran yesterday at Dusted.

I had a very slow start yesterday, only saw one band, really, before dinner. It was Wild Beasts, who sound very strange in broad daylight...more of a 3 in the morning kind of band. I went to the Yard Dog, where Bloodshot was holding sway but spent the whole time talking to Dave DeCastro (from Steve Wynn's band, who is now backing up Amy Speace) and Fred Mills from Blurt, while, I think, the Meat Purveyors were on stage. So it was really all about the night shows, mostly at the WFMU showcase at Spiro's, with one quick trip over to Flamingo Cantina to see Mi Ami (damn, go see this band). I couldn't get into see the Sonics, but I went to Emo's later and bought a tee-shirt for my husband and the singer signed it for me.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Akron Family, Dinosaur Jr., Julie Doiron, Factums

Here are photos of my favorites from yesterday.

Write-ups just about done, more later.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The first lot of my stuff is up at PopMatters now...

Try here...mine is the "day shows" piece and K Records and Anticon/Ghostly.

WEdnesday favorites

Okay, my write-up took three hours, so I'll just hit the highlights for you guys.

Ty Segall on the porch at Beerland, late in the day, my friend Clif will vouch for this, he was awesome.

Tara Jane O'Neil at the Beauty Bar

Parenthetical Girls at the Beauty Bar

More later...I've got shows to catch.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Magic Christian

So, I'm here...got in yesterday afternoon and managed (I am very proud of this) to reach my hotel on public transport. Yes, I got off one bus at the wrong spot, missed the first connection and dropped my purse, briefly, at the bus stop, but eventually everything turned out okay and I am here. And it cost $1.50 instead of $40 like last year.

The music festival hasn't officially started yet, but there was stuff going on last night, so I went first to the Beauty Bar, where Fanatic Promotion was having a party and later (not much later, it was boring) to the Dog and Duck, where I had a really good time. It was, obviously, St. Patrick's Day, so time for green hats and beer and "kiss me I'm Irish buttons", and the Dog and Duck had a big tent set up for all that. The main difference was taht they had some bands, too, good bands in fact, and one fantastic band...

I saw Right or Happy, the current incarnation of mid-1980s Austin pop band the Reivers, often mentioned in the same breath with Swimming Pool Qs, Let's ACtive and such. It is good to see women my age striking the rock star pose, windmills and all, in PTA-mom dresses...I don't know why but it is.

I saw Magic Christian which is kind of an all-star garage pop band, formed around Cyril Jordan, the guitar player from the Flamin' Groovies, plus Eddie Munoz from the Plimsouls and Clem Burke the from Blondie. A much younger singer Paul Kopf more than keeps up with all these heavyweights...in the sort of spastic, tambourine-and-maraca frenzy, part David Johannson, part John Petkovic from Cobra Verde. Anyway, super fun, go see this band if you like anything along the lines of power pop, garage etc. There are a bunch of downloads here.

I also saw a tiny bit of Ian McLagan and the Bump Band -- the piano player from the Faces and Small Faces -- and it seemed very fine, but I was pretty tired and today will be a long day, so I left kind of early. No disrespect to Mr. McLagan who was putting on a really good set.

More later, including photos, if I can find a camera cable somewhere.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Venus in a ten-gallon hat

So, I'm leaving early tomorrow morning for SXSW and will, hopefully, be able to keep you up to speed with my dubious adventures there...officially via popmatters and perhaps unofficially here if I have time.

meanwhile, here's a preview I did for Venus about things to see. It's not exactly what I want to see, because it's a bit slanted towards the female end of things, and also there were some mandatory things and finally because I only wrote the intro and Wednesday through Friday...but it'll give you an inkling.

Clif, I'll be at Beerland late on Wednesday...for the Homosexuals and Endless Boogie...maybe I'll see you there?

Julie Doiron

I've got a new interview up at Venus with Julie Doiron. Doiron started, as you might remember, with Eric's Trip. She worked, last year, with Phil Elverum on one of my very favorite albums, Lost Wisdom. And she now has a new solo album out on Jagjaguwar called I Can Wonder What You Did With Your Day, which is excellent, too.

Here's a link to the interview, where she discusses, happiness, volume, working when you have small children and love.

"Consolation Prize"

Friday, March 13, 2009

More indie rockers turning to electro

Handsome Furs is sort of a Wolf Parade offshoot, consisting of Dan Boeckner and his wife Alexei Perry. It’s way more electro than Wolf Parade, though, and in fact, the new album Face Control is considerably chillier and more dance-oriented than the first one. All of which means that I liked it less and other reviewers liked it more. What are you going to do?

Anyway, here’s part of the review, up today at Dusted:

Handsome Furs’ debut, Plague Park draped Alexei Perry’s programmed drums and synthesizers in her partner Dan Boeckner’s shaggy, distorted guitars and emotive singing. Like some science experiment in currents and thermal drafts, the band’s sound flowed hot and cold, but the warmth floated to the top. Face Control, by contrast, places stylish, strobe-lit club beats at the forefront. Boeckner’s guitar flares in brief, arena-aspiring moments, but mostly stays in check. The whole vibe is cleaner, clearer and less fraught with human feeling than the debut. It’s a restless, twitchy, uncomfortable dance party, concerned primarily with sharp rhythms and slick surfaces. It is, overall, very early 1980s.


I’m Confused” from Face Control)

“Cannot Get, Started” (from Plague Park)

Thursday, March 12, 2009

I go to church…and have my ears blown off

My review of the local epic rockers in Amargosa is up today at PopMatters. In which I observe…”There is nothing quite like the visual of a camouflage-dressed metal singer spewing rage and disaffection into a microphone in front of benches that have hymnals tucked into the pockets.”


Here’s Amargosa performing and being interviewed on an MIT college radio show.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Strange Boys here we come

Strange Boys, out of Austin, Texas, make an oddly compelling, bare-bones kind of blues rock that smoulders rather than flares up, insinuates rather than making a plain statement. My review is up at Dusted today.

Strange Boys make garage rock stripped to knuckle bones and gristle, reaching back way past the Beatles to a Chess Records-ish mash of high slide guitar, second-hand shuffles, and woeful, wandering laments. “Should Have Shot Paul,” croons Ryan Sambol, against a slack-jawed, southern soul beat, but really, you could have shot all four of the moptops and not made an ounce of difference in this blues-blistered, early rock sound. The Beatles just don’t enter into it.


“Heard You Wanna Beat Me Up”

My wallet got stolen yesterday…a minor pain in the ass, but capping off a couple of weeks of new depression anxiety for the future, boredom for the present and very little money-making activity. I’m going to try to get a new driver’s license today. Wish me luck.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Mountains…almost too beautiful

Another very fine release from Thrill Jockey, the third CD from Mountains, reviewed today at Blurt.

“Mountains, a pair of art schooled sound sculptors now working out of Brooklyn, work like Fennesz in the fine interstice between organic and electronic composition. Their third album Choral (the first on Thrill Jockey) builds gorgeous slow moving drones out of guitar, piano organ, accordion and cellos, blurs them with static and intersperses dream like snatches of real world sound.”



Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Blackout Beach…better late than never

I really like almost all Carey Mercer’s projects – Frog Eyes, Swan Lake and the little bit of Blue Pine that I’m familiar with – so it’s not surprising, maybe, that I liked his solo endeavor, Blackout Beach, whose Skin of Evil came out this January on Soft Abuse.

I covered it at Blurt a week or so ago, concluding, “Feral yet literate, hallucinatory yet possessed of an intrinsic kind of logic, Skin of Evil takes listeners through nightmarish, semi-real landscapes. Nothing is exactly what it seems. Everything evokes hidden resonances and unspoken connections. It's exhausting, mystical and ultimately fascinating, speaking to a much greater reality than what's on the surface.”

The whole review is here

"Astoria, Menthol Lite, Hilltop, Wave of Evil, 1982"

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Aidan Moffat’s bruised (and bruising) love

I’ve gotten kind of behind on pointing out reviews. This one went up last week, I think, at Blurt. It’s How to Get to Heaven from Scotland by Aidan Moffat, who used to be in Arab Strap, and it’s probably the blackest humored bit of love singing I’ve heard in years…excellent stuff.

Here’s a little bit from my write-up, the last bit, actually…I think I am finally figuring out how to end a review.

“For all the profanity, the drinking, the burnt-black sarcasm, and the stories that hint at how Moffat got cynical, you have a sense of happy ending. 'A Scenic Route to the Isle of Ewe' is flat-out lovely, bruised and hushed and sublimely hopeful. And later, on 'Lullaby for an Unborn Child', Moffat turns downright tender, recounting the world's harshness, then murmuring, 'If you need me, just knock on the wall of your womb.' Moffat has evidently taken some detours on his way to heaven, but he has gotten there all the same.”

The whole thing is here.

Big Blonde

Monday, March 2, 2009

I have a new favorite…

I was kind of bummed about discovering Animal Collective’s Merriweather Post Pavillion so soon after the new year, setting up 2009, I thought, as one long anti-climax. (And I am anything but anti-climax, personally.) Well, just goes to show you that life is unpredictable. The Floodlight Collective, a new album by Lotus Plaza (that's Deerhunter guitarist Lockett Pundt), has taken over my #1 spot for this year. In my Dusted review, up today, I call it “the most beautiful record of the year.”

Here’s a little bit from that review:

There is a dream-like quality to the whole record, a sense of endless vaulting spaces and time stretched out and slowed down. Light seems to be a metaphor, in songs like “Whiteout” and the abstract title cut. You have the sense of staring into immense, overwhelming brightness. Even the cover image is flooded with whiteness. It’s a photo of a young boy, maybe Pundt, on a rocking horse, overexposed to pastel tints. What you lose in clarity, you gain in pure buoyant energy.

And here’s the rest:

Pundt uploaded a bunch of his songs-in-progress to the Deerhunter blog . Here’s a link to “What Grows?”