Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The Karl Denson Trio: Lunar Orbit

By: David Schultz

Karl Denson has always been a hard man to pin down. The eponymous leader of Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe and a motivating force behind The Greyboy Allstars, the saxophone maven has kept his feet squarely, if not always firmly, in the funk, soul and jazz camps. On Lunar Orbit, his first album with The Karl Denson Trio, he ambitiously tries to reinvigorate the keyboard, drums and sax formula with only moderate success. Wavering between funk, acid-jazz and instrumental rock, Lunar Orbit never commits itself in one direction. Instead of being a variegated mélange of interconnected genres, the disc just skims along the surface, never doing any in-depth exploration.

On the album’s ten tracks, Denson is the only constant with Kenneth Crouch, Will Blades and Anthony Smith taking turns on keyboards and organ and Aaron Redfield, Jake Najor and Steve Haney contributing drums and conga. No surprise, the best moments belong to Denson. On “Lunar Orbit” and “Ghetto Fireworks (Part 2),” Denson reclaims the jazz flute from the realm of mockery it has dwelt in since Will Ferrell’s Anchorman. On the title track, Denson weaves his flute around the steady though a plodding futuristic beat and on “The Plain Truth” his tenor sax glides breezily through the tune. Even lite-jazz fare like “Won’t Somebody” gets a boost from Denson’s work.

There’s lots of fine musicianship and listenable jazz on Lunar Orbit, but, regardless of the Trio’s composition, the grooves just don’t draw you in.

Birdie Busch: Penny Arcade

By: David Schultz

For Penny Arcade, her sophomore full-length release, Philadelphia singer-songwriter Emily “Birdie” Busch tightly follows the pattern laid out by Jenny Lewis on her critically beloved Rabbit Fur Coat. Both albums sustain themselves on a steady diet of sweetly arranged songs replete with expressive lyrics that seem lifted from a bedside journal and sung with voices whose innocent quality belies the wisdom lying underneath. Busch even mimics Lewis’ modus operandi of shrewdly covering a classic rock nugget, turning Steve Miller’s “Wild Mountain Honey,” into a trippy, sultry come-on.

For the most part there is a demure simplicity to Busch’s lyrics and music, though both take turns when they get surprisingly complex. “Hold Ya” trades in acoustics for a raw rock guitar sound and “Mystical” moves along with a catchy though restrained foot stomping beat. As a songwriter, Busch has a talent for succinctly telling a nice tale: whether she’s eulogizing a singing group in “Huff Singers (North Philly);” painting a picture of a dysfunctional family in “Water” or turning an artist’s repertoire into a metaphor for emotional baggage in “Back Catalogue.” The cutesy act can wear thin, the saccharine “Go Go Gadget Heart” being the album’s one cringe-inducing moment.

Jenny Lewis found an audience with her solo debut and although, small pun intended, Birdie Busch’s voice is a little chirpier than the Rilo Kiley singer’s, those who ate up Rabbit Fur Coat will find lots to enjoy on Penny Arcade.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Pawnshop Roses Enter Home Grown Radio Chart

Home Grown Music tracks radio airplay across the country for shows playing new groove / jamband / americana artists...we are pleased to let you know that Let It Roll, the new record from the Pawnshop Roses (Earvolution Records) has joined some cool bands with great records on the chart this week jumping from 32 last week to grabbing the 25 spot this week. Here is the whole list (with last weeks' positions in the inner parens):


(1) (1) Grace Potter & The Nocturnals - This is Somewhere

(2) (2) ALO - Roses & Clover

(3) (3) John Butler Trio - Grand National

(4) (4) Scarecrow Collection - Radio frequency disaster

(5) (6) The Greyboy Allstars - What Happened to TV?

(6) (10) Soulive - No Place Like Soul

(7) (8) Martin Sexton - Seeds

(8) (11) The Beastie Boys - The Mix Up

(9) (9) Keller Williams - Dream

(10) (14) The Avett Brothers - Emotionalism

(11) (15) Jason Isbell - Sirens of the Ditch

(12) (17) Amfibian - Skip the Goodbyes

(13) (5) Page McConnell

(14) (16) Moses Guest - Best Laid Plans

(15) (7) Moe. - The Conch

(16) (12) Umphrey's Mcgee - The Bottom Half

(17) (13) J.J. Grey & Mofro - Country Ghetto

(18) (19) The Gourds - Noble Creatures

(19) (18) New Monsoon – V

(20) (20) Xavier Rudd - White Moth

(21) (21) The Bad Plus - Prog

(22) (24) Charlie Hunter Trio - Mistico

(23) Goose Creek Symphony - The Goose is Loose

(24) Delta Moon - Clear Blue Flame

(25) Pawnshop Roses - Let it Roll

Version 2.0: The Secret Machines At The Annex

By: David Schultz

A funny thing happened to The Secret Machines in the aftermath of their in-the-round tour in support of their critically praised sophomore effort, Ten Silver Drops: they appeared to be on the verge of splitting up. This past March, the band quietly announced that guitarist Ben Curtis would be leaving the band he founded with his brother Brandon and drummer Josh Garza to pursue other endeavors. While Ben’s departure threw a wrench into the works, the Machines have not become derailed. Just two months after the announcement, David Bowie tapped The Secret Machines, one his favorite bands, to close out last May’s High Line Festival at the HighLine Ballroom. With a pair of guitarists replacing Ben, the Machines performed a few works in progress that showed hints that the band might be heading in a heavier direction.

After remaining out of the public eye for the summer, The Secret Machines have emerged from their modest hibernation for a month long Wednesday night residency at New York City’s The Annex. With substantial recording on their first album without Ben completed, Garza and Brandon Curtis are giving the material a live workout at the intimate Lower East Side club. At last Wednesday’s installment, the second of four scheduled gigs, the Machines were a leaner outfit than their Highline incarnation. Phil Karnats replaced Ben on guitar and Brandon solely played bass, not even bothering to set up his keyboards.

The Secret Machines 2.0 kept the heavier sound they debuted at the HighLine, only now the weightier songs bristle with a life instead of being mired down in their ponderous density. The new songs have a decidedly industrial flavor: Garza’s explosive drumming contributes to a vibe similar to Trent Reznor’s more accessible material and Curtis and Karnats’ interaction has a slight Velvet Underground feel. It was hard to get a full grasp on the new material as the hour long set was beleaguered by horrible sound. For the entire evening, Curtis’ vocals could hardly be heard, unintentionally turning many of the songs into industrial style jams. Even if it wasn’t designed that way, the effect was fantastic as the powerful chords and melodies washed over the club in an overwhelming wave of sound.

Garza, who is emerging as one of the strongest drummers on any scene, carries many of the songs on his back. A controlled tempest, Garza wails away with a fury, powering the songs along. The chemistry he has with Curtis results in the identifiable Secret Machines crunge, with one of the new songs having the same heavy draw as “First Wave Intact.” If the songs at The Annex are any indication, Garza and Curtis seem to be moving away from the guitar based grooves of “The Road Leads Where It’s Lead” and “Nowhere Again.” To close the evening, Karnats led a run into “Lightning Blue Eyes,” the one nod to their prior material. As Karnats found his way into the intro, Garza looked on, squinting in dissatisfaction until the guitarist found the exact tempo; at that point, Garza burst into a beaming smile and launched into the song.

Any stories that The Secret Machines have become outdated or obsolete are premature. They are regrouping, changing and evolving, but they are very much in fine working order.

Marie Knight: Let Us Get Together: A Tribute To Reverend Gary Davis

By: David Schultz

Obscurity is a trait all too common of the early 20th century blues musicians that created the foundation on which rock and roll was built; for every Robert Johnson and Howlin’ Wolf, there are two “Blind” Lemon Jeffersons or Hudy “Leadbelly” Ledbetters. One of those lesser known bluesmen, Reverend Gary Davis, may not be known to many who fail to make a scholarly interest of music’s origins. An early practitioner of the Piedmont blues, Davis renounced the “wicked” brand of music and, in the mid-Thirties, became an ordained minister. Although he gave up the blues, he didn’t give up the guitar, applying his distinctive percussive playing style to gospel music.

Let Us Get Together: A Tribute To Reverend Gary Davis pairs R&B singer Marie Knight with guitarist Larry Campbell. Even though Knight traveled in the same circles as Davis in the late 40s, it’s Campbell, a student of the Piedmont blues, who introduced Davis’ music to Knight. Davis may not be household name but his songs have worked their way into the collective unconscious: Deadhead’s are well familiar with “Samson & Delilah” and the O Brother Where Out Thou soundtrack exposed “I’ll Fly Away” to a whole new audience. A collection of originals and traditional songs associated with Davis, like “12 Gates” and “You Got To Move,” Let Us Get Together focuses on Davis’ inspirational, gospel-style blues, often needing nothing more than Knight’s voice and Campbell’s guitar to convey Davis’ message.

Full of soul and passion, Knight sings Davis’ gospel blues with an intimacy and familiarity that cannot be taught. Her wizened voice evokes the spirit of the chapel without overpowering Campbell’s nimble playing. Let Us Get Together remains predominately upbeat, with the one exception being the foreboding “Death Don’t Have No Mercy” in which Kim Wilson’s mournful harmonica accentuates the gravitas Knight puts into her vocals. Knight and Campbell complement each other nicely, letting the music rather than their own estimable skills remain at the forefront. Fans of Campbell’s work with Phil Lesh & Friends will revel in his dexterous playing on “Samson & Delilah” as well as tracks like “When I Die” where Campbell brings the same country and folk tinged style that makes any Levon Helm Ramble a real treat.

Let Us Get Together does not try to mimic Davis’ music and guitar-style. As Campbell explains in the liner notes, “How much can you play like him without sounding just like him only not as good? On the other hand, how far can you stretch it and still call it Rev. Gary Davis style?” It’s this approach, shared by Knight, which makes this collection something special and a fitting homage to the words and musical style that comprise Davis’ legacy.

Friday, September 21, 2007

On A Timeless Wavelength: Rush At Madison Square Garden

By: David Schultz
Photo via Wikipedia

My first real introduction to Rush came a couple years back when I fulfilled a promise I made as a sort of wedding present to a college friend and her husband. In lieu of a tea set or vase, I pledged that I would go with my friend, an avid Rush fan, to see the Canadian trio whenever they came to town. The husband, who would rather gouge out vital organs than sit through another Rush show, thought this was one of the most thoughtful gifts he ever received. While I can tell By-Tor from the other snow dogs, I am far from the target audience Geddy Lee, Neal Peart and Alex Lifeson are aiming for with their live shows; I still have no idea what a Red Barchetta is supposed to be. In the midst of a lengthy tour in support of Snakes & Arrows, their 18th studio album, Canada’s most-rockin’ export returned to Madison Square Garden with a show designed to delight the faithful Metropolitan Rush fans.

With the exception of a health care system that caters to everyone regardless of social status or insurance coverage, America always co-opts the best that Canada has to offer, importing all sorts of fine beer, busty blondes and hockey prodigies. In the realm of classic rock, Rush has conquered America like no other band hailing from the Great White North. In the early Eighties, Rush seemed to crank out an album an year, creating a sound that would define them for decades to come. Besides his distinctive voice, Geddy Lee’s synthesizer intro to “Tom Sawyer” and Alex Lifeson’s guitar riff from “The Spirit Of Radio” are inextricably linked to any classic rock format worth its salt. Without taking a considerable hiatus or breaking up in preparation for a colossal reunion tour, Rush have remained a viable entity for more than 40 years without degenerating into a nostalgia act, an impressive feat by any standard.

Ostensibly a sell-out, the upper decks of the Garden were empty and the mammoth stage set-up precluded any seating behind the stage. In a wise move, the Madison Square Garden show catered to their devoted fan base, who aren’t looking for anything more than three hours with their favorite band. Rush didn’t forgo their major hits but when they decided to look backwards, they opted for songs that will be more familiar to long time listeners instead of those who know of the band from classic rock radio or the hits culled from Moving Pictures and Permanent Waves - although they did practically play the former in its entirety.

Much of the second set and almost a fourth of the show was devoted to Snakes & Arrows, the album’s three instrumental tracks “The Main Monkey Business,” “Hope” and “Malignant Narcissism,” a possible jibe at virtuosic wanking posing for solos, standing out. Unsurprising for a band that has played together as long as they have, Lee, Lifeson and Peart’s remarkable ability to work around each other as well as together makes the overall effect much more powerful. Peart’s uncanny ability to interject the perfect drum roll into empty spaces, (just listen to “Tom Sawyer”) remains a wonder. The newer material stood up well and could even be mistaken for songs from their late 80s/early 90s period.

The distinctive Rush sound was on display during excellent renditions of “Subdivisions” and “Distant Early Warning,” Geddy Lee’s synthesizer runs from these tunes joining those from Asia’s Geoffrey Downes and Van Halen’s intro to “Jump” as defining synth moments of the Eighties. One of the more under appreciated guitarists, Alex Lifeson’s riffs from “The Spirit Of Radio” and “Limelight” provoke more than appreciative recognition and rank up there with some of the most accomplished classic rock guitar work of the time. Oh yes, there is also that drummer affectionately referred to as “The Professor.” Neal Peart’s extended drum solo remains one of the true wonders of any Rush show. Making use of a revolving drum kit that contains all sorts of percussion instruments, his solo zipped along with an inspired creativity. Beyond the entertainment value of Peart doing what he does best, his drumming is apparently meant to be studied and analyzed. While he played, three large video screens projected views from various angles, including an aerial shot and one from a low level camera focusing solely on his feet.

Rush’s stage show remains an arena rock spectacle, complete with synchronized video screens, lasers and an impressive, though underused, arsenal of movable light stanchions. Incorporating the screens into the show, Rush put together some slickly produced video introductions for each set as well as a cameo from old friends Bob & Doug McKenzie, who popped up to introduce “The Larger Bowl.” Undoubtedly, the best use of the video packages involved South Park’s Eric Cartman. Wearing a Geddy Lee wig and trying to lead Li’l Rush (Stan, Kyle and Kenny) through “Tom Sawyer,” his confusion as to which literary character the song namechecks made for a hilarious intro to Rush’s most well-known song.

In Rush’s early days, they had a penchant for Dungeons & Dragons style prog-rock. The Garden show didn’t have any odes to temples or other realms, although their ubiquitous video dragon did appear during the encore to breathe fire onto the stage. In breaking out deeper album cuts like “Circumstances,” “Digital Man” and “Witch Hunt,” instead of sure-fire smashes like “Closer To The Heart” and “Red Barchetta,” Rush returns their dedicated fans’ appreciation. Their Greatest Hits tour showed that they could probably sell out arenas in perpetuity by just playing old material to thousands who only want to hear “Tom Sawyer” and “Freewill.” Despite the easy crutch of a wealth of classic rock staples, Rush refuse to devolve into a band that survives by raping its own legacy. In gearing their show towards the group of people that made it possible for them to be there, Rush shows why they have lasted where others have gone the way of the dodo.

The Go! Team

The Go! Team, who Earvolution interviewed last year, are back with a new record. You may recall Ian Parton telling us they had turned down an opening slot for Duran Duran and how things had gone further for the band than he had expected. Well, things have gone even further since then.

The new stuff I've heard is high energy (as expected with a name like Go! Team) and the legendary Chuck D of Public Enemy helps out with a guest appearance. You can listen to some Proof of Youth (in stores now) tracks and get show dates for their fall U.S. tour here.

Birdie Busch Gets Mystical

A name like Birdie Busch is just begging for some pun-ishment, but this Philadelphia song bird is no joke. American Songwriter sums up her music this way "Every folk-pop debut should be as buoyant as Birdie Busch's The Ways We Try. Charming, unpretentious and hooky, it's refreshing for it's simplicity." I couldn't agree more. As you'll hear below her new material fits that same description.

Her new record Penny Arcade is set for a September 25th release and you can preview a cool track here called "Mystical" (mp3). You can catch Birdie this Saturday at the Collingswood Music Festival or check out her record release party at Johnny Brendas in Philadelphia's famed Fishtown neighborhood on Tuesday September 25th.

Electric Eel Shock Makes No Mistake

Big Mistake
Double Peace Records

by Rinjo Njori

Awhile back, I reviewed Electric Eel Shock's sophomore effort Beat Me. The review came out a good time after the actual release and assumed that it would go unnoticed. Their management quickly fired off an e-mail thanking me for the "best" bad review of the album. I pointed what I felt were the good things and bad things about the album. If that review came off as bad then so be it, but there was no denying that Electric Eel Shock had some talent and a huge amount of appeal to any Japanese music fan. While they are not in the same league as Guitar Wolf, they are definitely a close cousin of garage rockers Teengenerate.

The band rose to prominence via New York, Tokyo, and Utrecht. With the relative success of Beat Me (other critics loved it) and a diligent management team (see above), album number three was a sure thing. Before TransWorld Ultra Rock (out on 10/1/07) jettisons them to "fame", Electric Eel Shock gives us three tracks from this "soon to be" international rock sensation.

"Big Mistake" is the only "English only" language track and a decent mid tempo rocker that serves only to anchor the other three tracks. I imagine live versions would also serve a similar purpose. Most notably it's great to see that lyrically Aki Morimoto (guitars and vocals) has moved beyond such juvenile tirades as "Don't Say Fuck" and "I Can Hear Sex Noise". "Dice De Try" makes a decent attempt to "metal" up Uplift Mofo Party Plan-era Red Hot Chili Peppers. Aki may not be the perfect fusion of Anthony Kiedis and Hillel Slovak, but other bands that try to emulate the sound fare worse. The mix of Japanese on the verse with an English language classic rock styled chorus is relatively inspired. This is also a much better experiment than the electro nonsense that they dabbled in on Beat Me. Electric Eel Shock's brightest moment is "No Standing Still". Take Beat Me's "Slow Down" and stick with the metal instead of digressing into Meat Puppets-styled psychedelia and you get this track. Beat Me dabbled in too many genre's within each song. This song, as well as the others, keeps it focused. Aki deftly combines Too Fast For Love-era Motley Crue with a Japanese version of Bruce Dickinson style vocals and Electric Eel Shock nail the song. Mick Mars might accuse Aki of stealing a riff, but the song is a faithful homage to all that was perfect about 80s Sunset Strip style metal.

If Electric Eel Shock can produce half a dozen more songs that remotely resemble these three songs then their forthcoming album should once again satisfy critics and garner some fans. The only obstacle (and a truly unfair one) are the Japanese lyrics which the average English speaking music fan may dismiss. Hopefully their charisma will carry the band over that hump and give the band the chance it deserves.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Songs of America

There is nothing wrong with America that can not be fixed by what is right with AmericaYou'll recall Janet Reno made her transition from Attorney General to pop culture icon via Will Farrell impersonating her on Saturday Night Live. While Farrell's character didn't have rythm it was always clear that Ms. Reno had soul. Now, the truck driving prosecutor is back in the pop culture spotlight channeling her inner Zach Braff. But, instead of doing a movie soundtrack Ms. Reno decided to put one together for America. Since it's a pretty big country, it makes sense that you'd have to have a pretty big selection (or multiple volumes that we'll no doubt see) to capture the sounds of the nation. Appropriately, Songs of America is a 50 track, 3 cd set.

Of course, any collection that purports to be the "songs of America" has to include John Mellencamp. Under the "little pink houses rule" you gotta have some Mellancamp. Being a student of rules, Reno complies. John contributes his take on "This Land Is Your Land", whose lyrics are even more timely today as certain politicians try to separate the country in two parts.

Also you have to include something about America's hometown. That falls under the "cheese steak rule." Betty LaVette turns in a soulful version of "Streets of Philadelphia" (listen here). For those unfamiliar with Bettye, the Detroit native was on Atlantic Records in the 1960s and toured with greats like Ben E. King, Otis Redding and James Brown. Fast forward to 2007, LaVette released a new record co-produced by Patterson Hood with his Drive By Truckers serving as the backing band. Now that image speaks to where we've come as a nation - a black woman from Detroit recording with a southern rock band in Muscle Shoals, Alabama.

Indeed, Reno captures our societal growth with a diverse lineup. Old Crow Medicine Show, The Blind Boys of Alabama, Martha Wainwright, The Black Crowes, Andrew Bird, and Devendra Banhart are among the artists selected to help tell our story through song. This sounds like something you need to pop into your cd player for a trip across Route 66. Just watch out for the lady in the red pick up.

Rose Hill Drive Host "Rock Me"

Earvolution, obviously, is a fan of great live music which is why we feature bands like Rose Hill Drive and many others from of the "festival circuit." Live music is alive and well, as is the festival scene. The experience of a festival, be it Bonnaroo or Mountain Jam, is not just the music but the personal interaction. So, I find it interesting that someone is putting together an "online music festival."

Rose Hill Drive is hosting the "event" that will feature several bands including Gosling, who played the Earvolution Happy Hour during the Industry of Music Showcase at Fado in Austin during this year's SXSW week. Yes, our event was "live" in the personal interactive sense. This one is a streaming webcast billing itself as "the first online mosh pit." Maybe it's just me, but an online mosh pit doesn't seem nearly as much fun as the real thing. But, I dig RHD so I'd likely tune in...except you have o download some new application to get it. I think I'll just wait to see them live (in person live, that is).

A Night Of Acoustic Soul: Ben Harper At Radio City Music Hall

Ben Harper
By: David Schultz

No one separates the two sides of their musical personality as well as Ben Harper. Without going to Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde extremes, Harper has cultivated a softer side focusing on acoustic songs that bear the intimacy of a cozy coffee house as well as that of a soul revivalist with anthems tailor made to reverberate through arenas. It’s a dichotomy Harper has exploited with great success on Live From Mars and Both Sides Of The Gun, double albums consisting of one disc in each style. As all of Harper’s music traces its roots back to some form of gospel, soul or folk tradition, his not-so-split personality reconciles within him quite nicely.

In line with the mood of Lifeline, his latest album, Harper is focusing his current tour on his own brand of acoustic soul. The spacious Radio City Music Hall seems an unlikely space to stage an intimate performance but Harper treated the roomy concert arena as if it were no bigger than his living room. If you’re going to have a sit-down show, there’s no better place to do so than Radio City, which has the most comfortable seats you will find anywhere. Harper’s night of acoustic soul turned out to be a hit or miss strategy: when the song had a hook that pulled you in, like “Fool For A Lonesome Train” or “In The Colors,” he created an enchanting mood; otherwise, workmanlike songs that don’t have that draw, like “Fight Outta You” or “Having Wings” hung awkwardly in the air.

Harper has been dedicated to his mission, omitting crowd pleasers like “Burn One Down” and “Steal My Kisses” from his recent set lists. Sensing the audience wanted to get up and dance a little, Harper got them on their feet by the end of the show with “Put It On Me” and a sparkling cover of Bill Withers’ “Use Me.” The moment that prompted the most spontaneously enthusiastic reaction came after Harper moved away from the microphone, hushed the crowd and sang a few verses of “Where Could I Go” with sparse accompaniment and no amplification. An amazing enough feat when he accomplished it in Central Park a year ago, in the enormity of the arena, it was a magical moment that inspired a passionate audience response.

Harper’s best musical moments came while he was seated himself, playing his trademark Weissenborn lap steel slide guitar. Before being joined by The Innocent Criminals, who were feloniously handcuffed for the majority of the evening, Harper took the stage by his lonesome for “11th Commandment” and “Well Well Well.” Likewise, he began his encore with solo versions of the instrumental “Paris Sunrise #7” and “Lifeline” before bringing Piers Facini, who opened the show, back to the stage for an impassioned cover of Bob Dylan’s “Masters Of War.” Even with its mixed metaphor of praising both Rodney King and Martin Luther King as equals in the crusade for civil rights, Harper’s stirring rendition of “Like A King/I’ll Rise” made a fitting closer, encapsulating the best of Harper and the Criminals’ acoustic skills, it ended the evening on a suitably inspirational note.

In publicizing the event as an intimate night of acoustic soul, Harper can’t be faulted for giving the audience exactly what he advertised. However, when Harper got the crowd onto their feet, teasing them with his considerable ability to rock the house, it did leave you craving more. The old adage may be true: you can’t always get the Ben Harper you want.

The Krinkles: 21st Century Masters?

KrinklesThe Krinkles
3: The Mordorloff Collection

By: Rinjo Njori

If the album cover from The Krinkles' latest album looks familiar it's because the cover is a pretty faithful recreation of the 20th Century Masters - The Millennium Collection, the most successful Canadian Greatest Hits series of all time. Regardless of the "wink and nod" art work The Krinkles are coming off their own self imposed hiatus. For the unitiated, the Chicago four piece has been around for roughly a decade and released two previous albums, Three Ringos and Revenge of The Krinkles.

The new album delivers a fairly even mix of "Power Pop Punk Rock". The anthemic "Today is The Day's" contains less sneer and scowl then your average pop punk. The feel good, positive lyrics work well with the music. Especially when you consider other songs like "Dirty Girl" that has the same energy with decidedly darker overtones. This might make it harder to separate the more humorous songs from the "serious" songs. "Best Friend" examines the concept of a platonic love song, ideal for the average guy's "bro-mance." Considering a few tracks here sound like Weezer, it wouldn't be unfair to call this River and Matt's theme song.

"Gimme Gimme" is another decent track that is reminiscent of San Francisco's The Rubinoos. "Listen to the Future" captures that late 90s alternative sound. The Krinkles hinted at that sound on their previous two releases but were never able to achieve it with great effect. The chorus reminds me of a few songs from one hit wonder's Fastball. If there is one song on this album that might catch on based on sheer talent it is "Friday Night". The vocals and music come into perfect harmony. The song plays up that same magic formula that bands like Plain White T's have honed and turned into surprising commercial appeal. "So... Goodbye" and "Outerspace" are worth the price of admission. In five plus minutes they capture all the signature sounds of early 80s power pop. Rising vocals, one memorable solo, and inspirational vocals. These songs are demos but are clearly the strongest of fifteen tracks which make up 3: The Mordorloff Collection.

Like every other band that spreads themselves too thin, there are a few tunes that clearly shouldn't have made the cut. Prime examples here are "Stay With Me", which represents the "token" underwhelming love song, and the Weezer-esque take on bad metal that is "Blinded by Love". When The Krinkles slow things down the mistakes add up. Luckily the strength of the majority of the album makes these "low lights" less noticeable.

It's doubtful that The Krinkles could or would indulge this reviewer and write more songs with Springfield-esque chorus' like "So.. Goodbye" or the dramatic lyrical overtones on "Outerspace". More likely they will and should stick to the anthemic pop punk that holds 3: The Mordorloff Collection together. A couple of more albums like this might rate The Krinkles their very own 21st Century Masters Series. That is if the Canadians agree.

Parlor Mob

By: David Schultz

The Parlor Mob first caught Earvolution’s attention at this year’s SXSW Festival. Originally planning to make our exit from the Fado Irish Pub, Paul Ritchie and Dave Rosen’s double guitar assault, Nick Villapiano's menacing keyboards, Sam Bey's pounding drums and Mark Melicia’s Robert Plant quality vocals kept us riveted for the entirety of their set. Formerly known as What About Frank?, The Parlor Mob are cut from the same mold of hard-driving, old-school bands like Rose Hill Drive.

The New Jersey based group has just entered the studio to cut their first full length album for Roadrunner Records. In the meantime, they have a 4 song EP that nicely captures the band’s riff-heavy metallic blues. For those who won’t be able to travel to England to see the Led Zeppelin reunion or are impatient for the new Wolfmother album to drop, Reverb Nation is making it possible to satisfy your jones for Seventies-style hard rock by making The Parlor Mob EP available for download.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Patti Smith Kicks Out the Jams At The Beacon Theater

Patti Smith
By: David Schultz
Original Photo via Smith's MySpace Page

I’ve always been puzzled about the sex appeal of Stephen Tyler, Mick Jagger and other relatively unattractive lead singers. Even as they near Viagra’s target consumer demographic, groupies of all ages worldwide would still not refuse a late night invitation up to their hotel room. I thought this odd fascination with the weird looking lead singer was a phenomenon unique to female fans, probably because an inordinate number of female singers are thrust out front because of their stunning looks plus the fact that Madonna really has aged quite nicely. As it turns out, the missing link to this pheromonoligcal inquiry is the original rock poetess Patti Smith. Her inner spirituality and beauty will never be cast into doubt (at least not by anyone unaffiliated with the conservative right), but at present, if you passed her in the hallway, you might mistake her for a man. However, one thing became clear at New York City’s Beacon Theater this past Friday night: once Patti Smith starts to sing, she transforms into one hell of a captivating woman.

Smith’s return to the Beacon, her first in more than a decade, had an ulterior motive: the celebration of what she believed would have been her late husband, Fred “Sonic” Smith’s 60th birthday and the visage of the influential MC5 guitarist, who died in 1994 of a heart attack, greeted everyone as they entered the theater. Unleashing her inner blond, Smith, with a bit of a nervous giggle, began the evening by confessing that it would have only been her husband’s 59th. With a stripped down band, that included Flea on bass and her son, Jackson, on guitar, Smith started the show with a touching pair of songs that included “My Madrigal” with its chorus promising “til death do us part.”

Smith played many roles over the course of the evening: devoted spouse, doting mother, giggly girlfriend, political activist and rock and roll icon. Opening with “Gone Again,” a song partly inspired by her husband’s passing, Smith never let the show’s focus drift far from “Sonic.” Throughout the night, Smith told various anecdotes revealing that beneath the veneer of the fierce warrior-poet lays a fragile and loving heart. Instead of ending of the evening with a thunderous jolt, Smith brought her daughter Jesse to the stage and playing before a Robert Mapplethorpe family portrait, mother and child closed the show with a simple, heartfelt acoustic duet.

Although Smith seemed to have her guard down for most of the evening, the night was far from a saccharine reminiscence through her photo album. One thing the Smith family did very well was tear down a music hall with vengeful precision. Making no bones about her disgust of our current administration, the political activist broke through during a relatively lackluster reading of “People Have The Power.” The message, which she attributed to her husband, remained strong, even if the once powerful melody did not. More excitingly, the fiery punk persona that Gilda Radner cribbed for her Candy Slice character finally emerged during the encore. Introducing “My Generation” as if it were a touching paean akin to an anniversary song, Flea and guest guitarist Rich Robinson of The Black Crowes, helped unleash the full angst-filled fury of The Who’s anthem.

Always a skillful interpreter of other artist’s songs, Smith offered a solid rendition of “Gimme Shelter” as well as her take on “Because The Night,” a song she co-wrote with Bruce Springsteen. The shortcomings found on Twelve, her recent album of covers, didn’t make their way to the Beacon stage. With Smith picking up a clarinet and Flea joining in on trumpet, the pair used the wind instruments to create a cacophony of noise to accompany a trippy take on Jimi Hendrix’ “Are You Experienced.” Unlike “The Boy In The Bubble” which, despite Smith stumbling through the words, gained a fuller sound on stage, her twangy reading of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” came across as artsy and pretentious.

Smith’s true talent as a performer lies in her ability to quickly fire up a crowd. Although she has a tendency to occasionally pick inappropriate spot (e.g. Lollapalooza’s kid’s stage), no one would ever mistake the Rock & Roll Hall of Famer as a wilting flower. At the Beacon, all Smith had to do was utter the phrase “I haven’t fucked much with the past but I’ve fucked plenty with the future” and it became obvious that the mood was about to change. Channeling the fury and anger that fueled her Seventies-era performances, Smith and guitarist Lenny Kaye tore into “Rock And Roll Nigger” with a vengeance. Even though the song is more than twenty years old, its call to activism and finding solace and justice outside of a society that Smith neither condones nor understands speaks louder and more forthrightly than anything being put forth today.

Chuck Treece Rises with McRad

McRad: F.D.R.
Uprising Records

By: Rinjo Njori

At some point Chuck Treece tried out for the open slot as the Bad Brains lead singer. Although he didn't work out a possible replacement for H.R., Treece got a second chance with the band and filled the seat behind the drum kit vacated by Earl Hudson and Mackey Jayson. Several tours ensued until H.R. and Earl ran out of money and the band reunited as the dreadful Soul Brains. Since we last heard from Treece he has become a fairly successful studio musician lately has revived his Philadelphia skate punk band, McRad.

During the almost twenty years since McRad was a name on the 80s hardcore/skate punk scene Chuck Treece has been busy: whether it was a stint as the lead guitarist for Underdog, touring bassist for Urge Overkill or laying down bass for Billy Joel's "River of Dreams." What does nineteen tracks get you in 2007? Judging from the re-recorded versions of songs from Absence of Sanity or his lone solo album Dream'n - Treece still has a lot to give back. "Feel" blends Treece's hardcore roots with the pop chops he displayed so aptly on Dream'n. Rapid fire rhythm guitar with late 80s hardcore drums and bass lines flow evenly with vocals. "Prevent That Tragedy", "Dead by Dawn", and "McShred" are songs that appeared on MC Rad's sole full length - Absence of Sanity. On the new version of "McShred" Treece add's some hip overtones and slows down his vocal delivery. Like HR of the Bad Brains he is trying out a new vocal style for 2007. Unlike H.R., however, Treece's vocals aren't hidden behind unnecessary "artistic" vocal effects.

We hear that Chuck is returning to the studio to lay down new tracks for another forthcoming record. McRad is a welcome comeback and we look forward to hearing more from Treece.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Earvolution in Nashville....Again.

Earvolution had such a great time in Nashville in July a repeat was necessary. Heck, in November we'll make it a three-peat. But, for now, I wanted to let everyone know we've got a great FREE party lined up this Saturday night (yes, tomorrow!) at the French Quarter Cafe. Festivities kick off at 8pm. It is a great live room (with good food)

Kicking things off will be the Noble Three. Yes, there are only two of them. They are an offshoot of the band Greenland, who you will remember from winning the YouTube Underground prize for "Best Song" for "The Way It Is." It's a great song and fun video. The Noble Three project is a departure from that pop offering. But, it is good stuff and worth checking out. The Simon and Garfunkel, Beatles and even Oasis influences are subtle, yet apparent. It'll be a great way to start your Saturday night!

At 9pm you'll want your boogie shoes handy when The Go Show takes the stage. They are a great bunch of guys who have fun when they play. Anyone who was at Summerfest in Milwaukee this year may have caught them and, of course, we've talked about them here before because they were cool enough to travel over from Murfreesboro to play our last show at the French Quarter. They are one of the reasons Earvolution got invited back so I'm psyched they are able to play again for us and you.

Earvolution's own Pawnshop Roses, who will be fresh off a stop in Spartanburg, NC, will take the stage at 10pm. Obviously I'm biased since I've invested time and money in this act. Of course, I wouldn't have done that if I didn't objectively like them. But, be warned. As Americana UK said so well, this is not music for the cynical. If you want to stand around at shows with your hands in your pocket trying to look cool this isn't for you. The Pawnshop Roses are only for those who like to have fun at a show. If that's you, stop on out and say hello.

David Condos will take the stage around 11. Remember this name. I've got a feeling you'll be seeing and hearing it again in many places. David is Nashville based, but he's on the roster of the famed Agency Group (White Stripes, Feist) so he'll no doubt be on the move quite a bit. The Nebraska native has recorded with Tom Laune (R.E.M., Bruce Springsteen, Mat Kearney) and is creating some buzz in Music City and beyond. Earvolution is pleased to help spread the word about this rising artist. I agree with those who hear a little Jeff Buckley and some other greats as influences, but I think David really is doing his own thing so I won't list too many other comparisons and dilute David's unique style. Backed by an able band that includes a skilled cellist, David is definitely worth sticking around for (because you're coming early, right?!?).

David was kind enough to recommend another Nashville act for the show. Quote will close things out taking the stage around Midnight. Quote's folkish stylings will make a nice book end to Noble Three to end the show. As noted on their MySpace page, "quote" is not just about music... "phase two of their release of thier releas is a book! Each "quote" composition is a narrative and each narrative is now being interpreted by a literary writer and visual artist - ie. a short story and original work of art for each song. Definitely something different!

Come on out and see all these great acts!!! Did I mention it is a free show?!?!?!

The Greening of NYC: Tea Leaf Green At The Blender

By: David Schultz
Photo Credits: Michelle Powell

Throughout their storied career, the Grateful Dead’s arrival in any town was cause for joy and merriment. Not counting the sizable number of Deadheads who would follow them from town to town, a multiple night run of shows probably accounted for a greater percentage of corporate personal days than most are comfortable admitting. The welcoming community created around the Dead was one of the significant factors towards making them one of the industry’s most lucrative touring entities regardless of whether they had new music to promote. Tea Leaf Green’s three night run at New York City’s Blender Theater at Gramercy this past weekend highlighted the fact that the TLG experience draws many parallels to the one formerly provided by the Grateful Dead.

Following in the footsteps of their San Franciscan ancestors, Tea Leaf Green has carved out a sizable niche as a potent touring entity, building a loyal fanbase that is all too happy to greet newcomers into their fold. Another hallmark of Grateful Dead shows was the ever-malleable set list. If they were pulling multiple nights at a venue, each show would be distinct from the next; miss one and you might miss something special. For Tea Leaf’s recent New York run, not only did they mix up each night’s set list, in seven sets of music (six electric, one acoustic), the band never repeated a single song. Showing the breadth and depth of their current repertoire, with the exception of a Saturday night cover of The Band’s “Don’t Do It,” Tea Leaf Green played more than 8 hours of worth of original music without the padding of 20 minute jams.

Each show was a microcosm, encapsulating Tea Leaf’s creative energy and inventive musicianship. Only in widening the focus and looking at their marvelous three-night run, (which ultimately encompassed a fourth night, a “secret” intimate acoustic performance at Mo Pitkin’s), as a whole can you get a grasp on how Tea Leaf Green’s whole is greater than its parts.
Keyboardist Trevor Garrod brings a homespun sense of folk and country and brings an understated sense of urgency to songs like “Incandescent Devil” and “Devil’s Pay.” Even though he shares writing credit with Garrod on Friday night’s encore, the mellow “Truck Stop Sally” (the ultimate party-with-the-band song), guitarist Josh Clark provides a hard-driving growl that fuels Tea Leaf’s heavier side, bursting forth on songs like “Criminal Intent,” “Dragonfly” and “Death Cake.” Bassist Ben Chambers’ bent towards laid-back hip-hop, fleshes out the funkier side of the band, his bass line on “Franz Hanzerbeak” being one of TLG’s greatest concoctions. With three charismatic musicians fronting the band, it’s easy to miss Scott Rager’s sizable contributions. Often toiling literally outside of the band’s spotlight, Rager’s understated drumming becomes noticeable for its subtlety. During Saturday night’s encore of “Professor’s Blues,” Rager did get his moment, taking an extended drum solo while his three band mates took to the sides.

At a single show, you’ll catch a glimpse at how masterfully the four of them play together; over a span of shows, you can truly appreciate the skill with which they weave an intricate tapestry that brings together a wide range of styles. It’s the little things that become more pronounced: Chambers’ demonically funky bass riff during a “Kali-Yuga” jam; Clark integrating part of the Indiana Jones soundtrack into “Wet Spot;” Garrod pulling out the Jimi Hendrix inspired trick of playing his “Franz Hanzerbeak” keyboard solo behind his back and Rager underscoring one of Garrod’s solos with a bossa nova beat. These are just some of things I caught, I’m sure I missed many more.

The most punctual band in modern rock history, Tea Leaf remembers that going to a rock show is supposed to be a fun experience, giving knowing winks to those who know where to look. The curiously named Coffee Bean Brown, Saturday night’s opening act, was simply Tea Leaf performing an acoustic set. With Clark playing acoustic guitar and Chambers playing a sleek wooden acoustic bass, they ambled through forty-five minutes of folk and country tinged rock that catered nicely to Garrod’s mellow vocals. Keeping the mood light, Chambers drew excited cheers for his run through “(Baby Wants) Biscuits” which had Clark and Garrod chiming in on the “she’s addicted to dough” chorus. This past Tuesday’s acoustic performance encompassed much of the Coffee Bean Brown set while including nice stripped down interpretations of “Dragonfly,” “These Two Chairs,” “Earth And Sky” and “Freedom.” Opening Thursday night’s show with “The Garden,” they went on to play “The Garden (Part II)” on Friday with “The Garden (Part III)” becoming Saturday night’s predictable first number.

Tea Leaf started Saturday night’s final set with longtime staples “If It Wasn’t For The Money” and “Franz Hanzerbeak” before running through a series of songs that included “Tequila,” “Deep River” and “Stormcloud” which featured a couple stunning flute solos from Garrod. While not exactly full of concert rarities, Tea Leaf’s final set of the run, highlighted by an enthusiastically inspired “Planet Of Green Love” during which Chambers' uncharacteristically came center stage to rambunctiously bounce around, primarily consisted of songs that hadn’t been part of their New York repertoire for more than a year and a half, providing a real treat for long time but sedentary Metropolitan fans.

At this point Tea Leaf Green is at a very curious point in their career. Not that it would be a wise or advisable career decision, but if they broke up right now, their legend would spread virally and exponentially, growing to such mythic proportions that their eventual reunion concerts would make Dispatch’s sellouts of Madison Square Garden pale in comparison. The word-of-mouth buzz about the band has grown that strong as has the connection they are making with their audience. A fine example of the bond between Tea Leaf and their fans was that Josh Clark’s dad, who was in New York on business, was as big a celebrity at Mo Pitkin’s as his son.

The Gramercy run of shows saw the TLG machine, which has been finely honed and road tested over the past few years, running on all cylinders like a high precision instrument. Adept at looking back into their catalog, which has become quite sizable, it feels like it’s been a while since they’ve looked forward. For the past couple years, it seems as if the band has been in a holding pattern, establishing their current catalog and amassing hordes of new fans by maintaining one of the most industrious touring schedules imaginable. Going back to the Dead, when their touring catalog became static, it was mainly because they were past the fertile inventive stages of their career; that can’t be said of Tea Leaf Green, which has incredible reserves of creativity at their disposal. However, “new” is also a relative term. The Mo Pitkin’s show, which was recorded with an eye towards being released in conjunction with eMusic, contained a substantial number of tunes that while not new in the sense of being fresh off the notepad will be new to the ears of many. Clark may have summed up the new material conundrum for Earvolution quite concisely, “Oh, we’ve got it and you’ll have trouble keeping up with it.”

Zambri: Zambri

By: Rinjo Njori

Pretty Girls Make Graves decided to call it a day this past year after an “experimental” album (Elian Vital) that didn’t feel right or faithful to their progression. Christie Jo and Jessica Zambri ably fill the void left by the Seattle post punk outfit by drenching their like sound with just enough anachronistic new wave sheen and aggro rock to cater to ever evolving tastes.

The first song on their self-titled EP, “Aliens” has post punk feel mixed with a sugar coated take on Siouxsie Sioux' and Karen O’s vocals. Chris C’s guitar is particularly infectious parrying between riffs and more intricate guitar chords. Countering with “Get Dressed,” Zambri ably take on gothic dance rock. The time changes in the song can be quite awkward, but nothing a few cocktails couldn’t erase.

“I Said”, best described as a ballad, finds Jessica/Christie Jo resembling Siouxsie at her peak with smoky overtones. Chris C’s guitar fades out as the piano takes over midway through the song for Zambri’s “November Rain” moment. You can’t imagine that any girl at heart wouldn’t be all over this song. “Hallways,” perhaps the biggest departure, could have been a Divinyls song back in the day. The backing piano is surprisingly strong when you consider the other “synth” stunts that are littered throughout these seven songs. However, during the chorus the ladies channel Christina Amphlett and the vocal style is more suited to the bands sound then when they sound like Siouxsie Sioux/Karen O.

Misnamed, “:20” runs just shy of the five minute mark. It is all over of the place, falling just short of the rock masterpiece achieved on “I Said” and the early 80s rock feel of “Hallways.” There might be two or three separate songs here. On the other end of the spectrum is “God.” The only other misstep on the album quickly devolves into Nine Inch Nails' style industrial that feels like an outtake from a Crow movie — just not that Crow movie.

Zambri EP puts together enough anachronistic ideas to make very engaging music. Their mix of guitar and synth walks the line between new wave and dance rock much like Andrea Zollo and the rest of Pretty Girls Makes Graves did when they broke out of Seattle. With their departure, Zambri are hitting the scene at just the right time.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Covering Cash: Remembering Johnny

It has been four years since the world lost Johnny Cash. His legend and songs will live forever, but he's a guy we could really still use around in these trying times when a lot of the people he stood up for are being overlooked. As an attempted homage, I've assembled various artists covering Johnny's songs. There are scores more on Youtube, and other forms of tribute including dozens of duets with Johnny and artists ranging from Bob Dylan to Louis Armstrong, and, of course, the love of his life June Carter.

Bruce Springsteen: "I Walk The Line"

U2: "Don't Take Your Guns To Town"

Pearl Jam: "25 Minutes To Go"

Social Distortion: "Ring of Fire"

Norah Jones and Kris Kristofferson: "Guess Things Happen That Way"

Kid Rock: "What is Truth"

Norah Jones: "Home of the Blues"

Joaquin Phoenix & Reese Witherspoon: "Jackson"

George Jones, Willie Nelson & Kris Kristofferson: "Big River"

This tribute is not exactly a cover, but truer words have never been spoken:

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

9/11 We Remember

Theres a blood red circle
On the cold dark ground
And the rain is falling down
The church doors blown open
I can hear the organs song
But the congregations gone

My city of ruins
My city of ruins

Now the sweet veils of mercy
Drift through the evening trees
Young men on the corner
Like scattered leaves
The boarded up windows
The hustlers and thieves
While my brothers down on his knees

My city of ruins
My city of ruins

Come on rise up!
Come on rise up!

Now theres tears on the pillow
Darling where we slept
And you took my heart when you left
Without your sweet kiss
My soul is lost, my friend
Now tell me how do I begin again?

My citys in ruins
My citys in ruins

Now with these hands
I pray lord
With these hands
For the strength lord
With these hands
For the faith lord
With these hands
I pray lord
With these hands
For the strength lord
With these hands
For the faith lord
With these hands

Come on rise up!
Come on rise up!
Rise up

State Of Grace: Grace Potter & The Nocturnals At Summerstage

Grace Potter and the NocturnalsBy: David Schultz

Near the end of Grace Potter & The Nocturnals opening set for Warren Haynes and Gov’t Mule in Central Park, a small vocal group near the front of the stage began shouting “Paris! Paris! Paris!” Don’t fret; the engaging foursome from Vermont have not lost their minds and brought talentless hotel heiresses into their midst. Rather, they wanted to hear “If I Was From Paris,” a compact little rocker with a chorus that would make Maurice Chevalier green with envy. Before tearing into the number, the ever-cheerful Potter looked over at the chanting fans, telling the crowd, “We’ve got some diehards in the audience.” A couple years ago, demands for unreleased numbers might have been reserved for the serious fans. As it stands right now, the band’s faithful are being joined by legions of newbies anxious to smell what Potter, guitarist Scott Tournet, bassist Bryan Dondero and drummer Matt Burr are cooking.

Last May, I had the opportunity to interview Potter and the Nocturnals for jambands.com. What struck me the most about being around them is how, to a person, they seemed unaffected by the beehive of activity that surrounds them. When Potter talks about being a “little ol’ band from Vermont,” she’s not being disingenuous or affectatious. Despite appearances on Good Morning America, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and sit-ins with Steve Kimock and Joe Satriani, they are still the same people they were when they left the Green Mountain State to conquer the world.

Central Park’s notoriously strict 10:00 curfew can play havoc with the attendance for the opening acts. Sandwiched between an electrifying opening set from Earl Greyhound (who played before a criminally sparse crowd) and a smoldering headlining set from the Mule, Potter & The Nocturnals played to a nearly packed house; the fine weather and exceptional music combining to make a perfect early autumn evening. Knowing that Mule’s audience would want a bluesy, uptempo set, they expertly catered to the expectations. Opening with an organ-heavy extended version of “Mastermind” and plowing into “Treat Me Right,” they touched equally upon their sparkling debut, Nothing But The Water, their latest This Is Somewhere and weighty live staples like “Watching You.” Over the past few months, the middle portion of “Nothing But The Water” has evolved for improvisational soloing: a showcase for the band to stretch their musical chops. At Summerstage, they cut the solos short and congregated around Burr’s drum kit for an impromptu drum circle. Burr never strayed from the song’s beat while Tournet, Dondero and Potter, who lounged on her side by the bass drum, went tribal.

I have said this before but it bears repeating as it always remains a true statement: Scott Tournet gets better every time I see him. Even though he is an accomplished axeman in his own right, he still watches and observes other guitarists, always open to learning from fellow musicians. If you ever questioned the amount of respect Warren Haynes receives for his guitar work, the rapt attention Tournet and Earl Greyhound’s Matt Whyte paid to his playing should resolve any such doubts. Starting next month, Potter & The Nocturnals will set out on a month long stretch of shows with Gov’t Mule and Tournet is excited at the prospects of the extended exposure to Haynes. When asked about the prospects of sharing the stage with Haynes, Tournet’s hopeful expression said it all. I would wager that if he gets that opportunity, Tournet will not squander the opportunity and will open a lot of eyes with his skillful guitar work.

Nearing the end of Mule’s set, I told Potter that I would open up the column for her and give her free reign to discourse on whatever she wanted. A veritable quote machine, Potter gathered her thoughts with a bemused expression before telling Earvolution, “I would rather fuck the mule, than the horse.” I think I know what she meant, but it’s not chivalrous to give away a lady’s secrets.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Britney Spears' Comeback?

Britney Spears comebackBritney Spears donned her best diamond studded bra to take the stage at last night's MTV "Video" Music Awards, but it wasn't enough to hide a subpar performance. Say what you want about Spears. However, in her pre-K Fed days she was at least somewhat of an exciting performer. Not so much last night. Britney's listless "performance" was a bust by all accounts, with rapper 50 Cent summing it all up with a bewildered expression as he looked on at Spears walking through what she must have thought was just a dress rehearsal for talent night at the clinic.

The Britney debacle, though, speaks to more than just Spears' unpreparedness. It goes to the larger question of MTV and the big label heads pushing "performers" instead of actual musicians. Instead of wasting everyone's time, imagine if MTV would have invited a band like the Cold War Kids or Clap Your Hands Say Yeah or the dozens more great live bands that could have injected some energy and musicianship into the show. Good musicians can still pull off a decent show on an off night. But, as Spears proved, if the performance (and lip synching) is off there is nothing to fall back on. Not even some nice panties can save you. I hope the "pros" at the top of the "music industry" has more to offer us than this.

Kid Rock KO's His New York Fans

With Rock And Roll Jesus set to hit stores on October 9th, Kid Rock, who reportedly scuffled with Tommy Lee in a battle of Pamela's exes at last night's MTV Video Awards, has scheduled, according to the promotional blitz, "a series of intimate concerts, packing the arena-sized Kid Rock extravaganza into small venues that will give die-hard fans a chance to see the larger-than-life rocker up close."

Hopefully, the die-hard fans have a better way than getting tickets than Ticketmaster. Tickets for his gig at the Fillmore at Irving Plaza went on sale this past Saturday at 10:00 a.m. At 10:00.01 a.m., they were sold out. Given the proliferation of tickets that were immediately available on such helpful "ticket broker" sites, one can only wonder what happened to the tickets earmarked for Kid Rock's fans.

Friday, September 07, 2007

The States: The Path Of Least Resistance

By: David Schultz

In the midst of a sweltering stretch of late August summer humidity, Brooklyn indie-rockers The States commemorated the release of their latest album The Path Of Least Resistance with a gala celebration at the MC Gallery. Opting against a club, bar or other comparable venue, The States selection of an art studio in midtown Manhattan is indicative of the band’s singularly creative nature. On Multiply Not Divide, their initial release, The States tapped into the simplicity and clarity of early-era U2. For The Path Of Least Resistance, they remain loyal to their familiar sound and by broadening their range and working different tempo changes into their work, they channel the best of another 80s supergroup, the Police.

Lead singer and guitarist Chris Snyder creates a one-man wall of guitar fury, especially notable on “Charm Offensive” and “CCTV (I’m A Star),” but like most power trios, without a standout rhythm section, the guitars would be full of sound and fury while signifying nothing. On Resistance, bassist Previn Warren works beautifully with drummer Joe Stroll to give body and life to The States’ songs. Stroll gets the full-bodied Synchronicity drums of Stewart Copeland on “The Darkest Hour” and “God’s Numbers” and the opening of “The Architect” bounces to the same beat as “Roxanne.” Snyder’s guitars lift off at various points of the album. It’s nothing complicated and on songs like “All The Salt In The Sea” the plaintive simplicity results in a triumph of timing and songcraft.

When you scratch beneath the surface, you find that The States possess an intriguing depth. As bands containing Harvard grads are want to do, The States songs contain a slew of hyperliterate, expressive lyrics. Already singled out by the John Lennon Songwriting Contest which tapped “Black Jack,” as one of the finalists of the 2006 competition, they make unlikely topics like gentrification and the erosion of the 4th Amendment as suitable for modern rock as songs about broken or unsalvageable relationships.

As Earvolution seeks to make life easier for our readers, get The Path Of Least Resistance, click here.

Mp3s, News and Notes

Earvolution's Pawnshop Roses will play the Dogfish Head in Rehobeth Beach tonight and then head north to Boston on Saturday for a homecoming show for guitarist Kevin Bentley at the Middle East. The Boston show is with Taxpayer, The Every Day Visuals and Polarbaron. Next weekend the boys swing south to hit Spartanburg, South Carolina (Wild Wing Cafe) on Friday and then Nashville on Saturday for another Earvolution Nashville Jam (more to come on rest of bill next week) at the French Quarter Cafe.

Speaking of Boston, Razorlight will kick off their fall North American tour in Beantown on November 7th at the Middle East as well. Frontman Johnny Borell says the band is looking forward to hitting the U.S.: “We’ve spent most of this year trying to find time to tour in the States, so we’re really looking forward to finally getting to play these shows. We felt we made a real connection with the US fans when we were over in the Spring, so we want to build on that.” The band will be debuting some new material they've been working on for their next record. You can get all the Razorlight dates on their MySpace page.

Earvolution friend Rich Casella tells Schultz he will be debuting his most recent material with his new band this Friday night, September 7th, in New York City. "We sound a little like Cream or the Who but the music is a result of my travels over the past 5 years," says Casella. The early evening show kicks off at 7:30 p.m. at New York City's Lions Den, 214 Sullivan Street (between Bleeker and West 3rd). If you want to get a sense of the musicianship involved, check out a bit of Casella's guitar work here.

The Secret Machines (Earvolution interview here) will headline "Ludfest" in Brooklyn this coming Sunday, September 9th. I know, you're thinking what is Ludfest? Well let me tell you...Ludfest is "a fundraiser for the 7th Precinct Community Council, with proceeds going toward charitable functions, such as giving toys out to needy members of our community, as well as funding for the Explorers Program, which gives teens activities to keep them off the streets. If you've never seen the Secret Machines live, I suggest you head on out. There will be several other bands and lots of other stuff to check out.

Mp3 Offerings:
Ravens & Chimes (Brooklyn bounce pop): January
The Real Tuesday Weld (not the fake one!): Last Words
Wooden Shjips (not Wooden Ships): We Ask You To Ride
Aesop Rock (ok, I give): Big Wiz MegaMix
The Coathangers (Atlanta pottymouth pop punk): Shut The Fuck Up
Herbie Hancock w/Norah Jones (Joni Mitchell cover): Court & Spark
Eulogies (debut out 9/11, mixed by John Goodmanson [Sleater-Kinney, Blonde Redhead]): One Man

Appleseed Recordings, celebrated it's 10th anniversary this Tuesday by releasing Sowing the Seeds - The 10th Anniversary. The 2-CD, 37-track good deeds opus includes a collaboration between Pete Seeger and Bruce Springsteen, as well as exclusive new songs from Ani DiFranco, Donovan, Wyclef Jean, Roger McGuinn, Jackson Browne, David Bromberg and more. "In celebrating Appleseed's tenth anniversary, we want to pay tribute to the politically active artists here - and to non-musical activists as well - who are unafraid to fight the good fight for social justice and positive change," explains Musselman. "Many of the musicians on this compilation were on the front lines of the major social movements of the last 50 years. We salute all who have challenged our skewed domestic and foreign policies and have championed peace, environmental preservation, civil rights, the women's movement and other vital issues." Word.

The Klaxons Win Mercury; Everyone Pays Attention To Amy Winehouse

The Klaxons may have taken the 2007 Mercury Music Prize for their debut album, Myths Of The Near Future, but they weren't the big story as Amy Winehouse's return to the stage seemed to be all anybody could talk . . . and write about. Winehouse made her first appearance on stage in many weeks and for the moment took the focus off of her rumored stint in rehab and domestic abuse tete-a-tete with her husband by playing an acoustic rendition of "Love Is A Losing Game."

Beyond the effusive host at the Mercury Awards. Not everyone is singing Winehouse's praises though. "I think it took the focus away from the fact that the Mercury Music Prize is about the music," said Jamie Reynolds, The Klaxons' frontman. "Amy is an amazing artist but coming in . . . and hearing questions about whether Amy will turn up or not is boring. It’s just a shame."

Seeing as most coverage of the event turned The Klaxons' win into the "Spinal Tap" to Amy Winehouse's "Puppet show," Reynolds may have a point.

Monkeying Around Central Park: Arctic Monkeys At Summerstage

By: David Schultz

Arctic MonkeysJust ask Amy Winehouse or Lily Allen, the English press is the greatest tool for becoming a worldwide megasuperstar, quick to proclaim a fresh new face as the “Next Big Thing,” with a clarion call that attracts attention from the rest of the globe. It’s also the largest factor in their fall from grace, savagely swooping in to dissect and destroy the idols of their own creation with the same efficiency used in building them up. Even before the release of their debut album, the British hype machine went into overdrive for the Arctic Monkeys with the brash Sheffield youngsters receiving all sorts of accolades hailing them as everything short of the “Second Coming.” A strange thing happened though once the Monkeys reached the peak of their popularity: they were worthy of the praise.

As New York City’s Summerstage series enters its final stages for the season, the Arctic Monkeys breezed in for a quick one-off gig in Central Park. Barely old enough to drink, they blend in with the youthful crowd they attract. In the interim between their set and Voxtrot’s Rush meets The Smiths opening one, I spotted the Monkey’s lead singer and guitarist Alex Turner roaming anonymously amidst the audience, hardly attracting a second glance from a sold-out crowd that had come to see him.

From the moment they hit the stage, Jamie Cook and Turner created a frenetic aura with their dual guitars, the hectic pacing giving the songs an edginess like the band is rushing somewhere or being chased Hard Days Night style through the streets of Sheffield. They breezed from choppy, punk rock licks to surf rock rumbles, rarely lingering too long on any set style. The Monkeys also don’t dwell on any particular riff: where some bands would branch off into lengthy jams built around a particular musical phrase, Cook, Turner, bassist Nick O’Malley and drummer Matthew Helders grab hold of a riff, quickly throttle everything out of it and then discard it without a second thought. Fortunately, they seem to have a multitude of these at their fingertips.

Frontloading the show with “This House Is A Circus,” Brianstorm” and “Still Take You Home,” they set a breakneck pace that eventually grew stale. Some of the finesse exhibited on Favourite Worst Nightmare, their latest release, made its way to the stage but little touches like the cowbell segue in “Balaclava” were noticeably absent. They brought the same ragged, sneering charm to their newer material as found on “Fake Tales Of San Francisco” and “I Bet You Look Good On The Dance Floor” which received the most enthusiastic responses of the night. Although I am usually in favor of a band playing for as long as humanly possible, their remarkable 80 minute set would have been a jaw-dropping 45 minute one.

Having attained so much so fast, it’s hard to tell if the Monkeys truly appreciate the adulation they receive. In some respects, the overnight popularity foisted onto the band and the resulting demands and obligations, ultimately led to Andy Nicholson, their original bassist and friend, leaving the band. Turner’s pinched snarl of a singing voice and brief sometimes flippant stage banter doesn’t do much to shed any light on the subject nor did their abrupt end of the show, with the house lights coming on, signifying no encore, before Cook’s final guitar chord finished reverberated in the starry skies. In just a year the band’s maturation has been noticeable and impressive and it will definitely be an intriguing curiosity to watch these Monkeys continue to evolve.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Mp3s, News and Notes

The now annual "Fun Fun Fun Fest" in Austin, Texas is taking place on November 3rd and 4th. A stellar lineup has been announced that includes Cat Power and the Dirty Delta Blues, Of Montreal, New Pornographers, Ted Leo, Riverboat Gamblers and many more. Two day passes and other info can be found on the festival's website.

PJ Harvey will play at least two U.S. dates this fall. Harvey will play the Beacon Theatre in New York City on October 10th and The Orpheum in Los Angeles on October 15th, with tickets for both shows going on sale September 7th. Harvey's new record, White Chalk, hits stores September 25th on Island Records. With a new record in the works one would expect more shows to be announced. But, they may not be until 2008 so these dates might turn out to be the only U.S. gigs this fall.

It'll be Little Pink Houses for you and me this fall when John Mellencamp kicks off a fall tour. Mellencamp is also busy at work working on a new record that is being produced by T Bone Burnett. He'll take a break this week though to NBC’s NFL kickoff on Thursday, September 6th before the Indiana Colts vs. New Orleans Saints’ season opener. Mellencamp, of course, also be at New York’s Randall’s Island on Sunday, September 9th, to play Farm Aid 2007: A Home Grown Festival. He'll be joined by his Farm Aid co-founders Willie Nelson and Neil Young. Dave Matthews with Tim Reynolds, The Allman Brothers Band, Counting Crows, Matisyahu, the Derek Trucks Band, Warren Haynes and others are also on the bill. Details for John's tour can be found here.

Mp3 Offerings:
Midtown Dickens ("Sit around and play 'em in my underwear and socks"): Tetris
Apples in Stereo (on tour with with Aqueduct ): Same Old Drag
Sleeping In the Aviary (Wisconsin tango pop): Pop Song
The Go Station (produced by Phil Racine (Flaming Lips)): All Together Now
Cake (Black Sabbath cover via WXPN, via Spinner): War Pigs
The Sharp Things (we spotted them back in '05!): Cruel Thing
Randy Newman (Fats Domino cover; see below): Blue Monday

Sigur Ros is treating their fans to tons of new stuff this fall. They will release both a double disc, Hvarf / Heim, and a DVD, Heima, on Novemeber 6th. And, for those trying to figure out how to spend all that money left over from your summer job, there is an exclusive advance screening of the DVD on September 14th in Akureyri, Iceland. If you go, send pics!

Fats Domino is one of those great music legends that seems to sadly be mostly celebrated in Happy Days reruns. But, now the big man is getting more of a proper celebration with a tribute record, Goin' Home, that has an all star lineup contributing tracks. The acts interpreting classic Domino songs include: Sir Elton John (Blueberry Hill), Sir Paul McCartney (I Want To Walk You Home), Tom Petty (I’m Walkin’), Robert Plant (It Keeps Rainin’), Willie Nelson (I Hear You Knockin’), B.B. King (Goin’ Home) and Neil Young (Walkin’ To New Orleans). This should be much better than Ritchie and Potsie's work. The two disc set hits stores September 25th.

Ringo Starr: Photograph: The Very Best of Ringo Starr

By: David Schultz

Wrapped in the throes of a mild college obsession with The Beatles, a friend and I decided a four tape Beatles mix was the necessary soundtrack for an Ann Arbor to Daytona Beach road trip. To add variety to our little anthology, named “Beatles, Beatles, Oh God Yes Beatles” (in homage to a David Letterman joke praising New York anchorwoman Sue Simmons), we rounded it out with choice cuts from the Fab Four’s post-Beatlemania solo careers. In the embarrassingly long amount of time we spent debating what songs would meet our rigorous standards, I found myself arguing - strenuously, I might add - on behalf of the understated genius of the best of Ringo Starr’s solo work. As if to justify my faith in the drummer’s brilliance, Capitol Records has released Photograph: The Very Best of Ringo Starr.

Given John Lennon’s reverence as a musician and political figure, Paul McCartney’s unparalleled status as a master of pop songcraft and George Harrison’s visionary infusion of Eastern music and philosophy into classic rock, Starr’s abilities as a drummer and musician are often unfairly maligned. As a Beatle, his solo work will always be compared to his former band mates; a balancing that will always leave Starr’s end of the scale touching bottom. Taken out of the Beatles construct though, Starr’s solo work, which received periodic helping hands from Harrison, has stood up well. If the groundswell of support pushing for Starr to go into the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame on his own does lead to his induction, it will be on merit, not sympathy.

Ringo’s songs all have a familiar bounce to them that perfectly suits his witty demeanor and breezy persona. The collection is frontloaded with Ringo’s classic rock masterpieces like “Photograph,” “It Don’t Come Easy” (featuring Stephen Stills on guitar) and “Back Off Boogaloo;” all of which compare favorably with any mid-70s FM radio staples. “Beaucoups of Blues” and “Early 1970” have a country lilt most associated with his cover of “Act Naturally,” included here as a duet with Buck Owens, the man who originally popularized the song. Ringo’s battles with drugs and alcohol may have tainted his mid-Seventies material but it also spawned the marvelous “The No-No Song” which succinctly and humorously captured the debilitating effects of excess. Ringo’s post-Seventies material echoes early Beatles blues with the exception of 1992’s marvelous “Weight Of The World,” Starr’s last true radio hit which followed the inception of the Ringo Starr & His All-Star Band touring menagerie.

Coinciding with Photograph’s release, VHI Classic has been re-running Starr’s wonderful 1998 appearance on Storytellers. With Joe Walsh quietly lurking in the background, Starr mixed together Beatles standards, his own estimable classics and a couple songs from his then about-to-be-released Vertical Man into a briskly paced and eminently enjoyable show. The Storytellers set, also available on CD, makes a fine companion piece to Starr’s latest and most complete best of compilation.

It's Been A Long Time . . . Led Zeppelin to Play O2 Arena?

Ever since the stories arose that Robert Plant, Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones would reunite to honor Ahmet Ertegun, the man who signed them to Atlantic Records, the rumor mill has been aswirl with all types of stories relating to one more Led Zeppelin reunion show. According to the several UK outlets, the three surviving members of the mythic group are in talks with the owners of London's O2 arena for a one-off show to pay tribute to Atlantic's mogul.

Since drummer John Bonham passed away in 1980, Plant, Page and Jones have played together only a few times; at 1985's Live Aid with Tony Thompson and Phil Collins on drums; in May of 1988, for Atlantic Records' 40th Anniversary concert, with Bonham's son, Jason Bonham, on drums and at their 1995 Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame induction ceremony where they played with Aerosmith. For the potential O2 Arena gig the reports have Jason Bonham once again manning the skins.

But, there is still some uncertainty to all this. While he won't completely rule out such a show, Led Zeppelin promoter Harvey Goldsmith told NME there is nothing set right now and warned fans against buying bogus ticket packages for shows that do not exist. So, if you are in the area or are otherwise seeking "tickets" or "hotel packages" please don't spend your money until if and when there is an official announcement.

Second Serving: Meat Puppets At The Knitting Factory

By: David Schultz

The Meat Puppets always seemed like a band that couldn't catch the right break at the right time. For a vast majority, the Puppets are that band that Kurt Cobain liked so much he played three of their songs on the Nirvana Unplugged special. As MTV turned that performance into a recurring communal wake for fans to perpetually mourn Cobain’s suicide, it became the biggest exposure for the band intimately connected with Cris and Curt Kirkwood. Anyone diligent enough to notice might have even spotted the Kirkwoods playing along with the expanded band. They capitalized to a small extent on the increased awareness brought to them by grunge rock’s poster boy, but they couldn’t sustain it. Cris Kirkwood battled heroin addiction, original drummer Derrick Bostrom left the band and by the mid-Nineties, one of SST’s brightest acts were relegated to being talked about in reverent terms by idiosyncratic music junkies.

Meat Puppets were a band that was simply ahead of their time. As populist attention has finally caught up with them, it’s only fitting that the Kirkwoods have recruited a new drummer, Ted Marcus, and reformed their seminal band. The Puppets closed out the summer with a pair of sold-out shows at New York City’s Knitting Factory. For their Thursday night show, they tore through a ninety minute set that infused country, punk and a little psychedelia into a raging guitar fueled pastiche. Were these songs, many of more than 15-20 years old, to come along today, Meat Puppets would be at the forefront of the alt-country movement instead of its distant grandfather. Sadly, the Puppets were putting this forth in the Eighties when most of America was looking for new ways to spike their hair and finding comfort in sterile, synthesized beats rather than off-kilter, country tinged punk.

Sounding as if they were belched out of Austin, Texas, the Puppets offered a thunderous version of “Plateau” and reclaimed “Lake Of Fire,” closing their set with a powerful, extended version of the tune. For their encore, the rambled with a little country before capping off the night with “Backwater,” their biggest hit in the wake of their post-Unplugged upsurge of notoriety. Although they recently released Rise To Your Knees, the first true Meat Puppets album (both Kirkwoods) in seven years, they barely acknowledged the new release, keeping the set list firmly rooted in their older, influential material. The skeletal looking Cris sounded in fine form but physically looked like a man who has battled demons. When he sang, his face strained into a bunched mass and his neck muscles bulged and strained with an unnatural ropiness.

History has finally caught up with Meat Puppets; it’s fortunate that they are still around to take a much deserved victory lap.

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Grace Potter Rocking The Gear circa 2006!