Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Son of Sam: Into the Night

By: Rinjo Njori

Super groups often fail because the assumption that putting like minded and revered musicians in the same room will produce a perfect song every time doesn't already hold true. Unfortunately, the most well intentioned super group rarely bears a legacy comparable to the leaders of the genre: Bad Company was no Led Zeppelin and The Aftermath (Dr. Dre) didn't come close to NWA. Likewise, the first incarnation of Son of Sam didn't come close to horror punk legends like the Misfits or Samhain. At the dawn of the decade, Todd Youth (Murphy's Law ca. 1988) teamed up with some Samhain alumni (London May), fellow soldiers in the 2000 lineup of Danzig (Steve Zing, Joey Castillo), AFI's Davey Havok and the godfather of horror rock, Danzig, to form Son Of Sam. The resulting Songs from the Earth fell somewhere between Glenn Danzig-era Misfits, Samhain and AFI's destination on Sing the Sorrow. With Havok's distinguishable vocals, the album could easily have passed for AFI to the group's growing legions. Still the involvement of Danzig gave the project some weight and hope that the style of music would ignite the cold, desolate region of his nostalgic heart. In the end, the side project should have been relegated to a footnote of the musical careers of everyone involved.

Fast forward to 2007 where Todd Youth decides to revive the Son of Sam brand, replacing Havok on vocals with the unknown Ian Thorne and the Joey Castillo/Steve Zing drum combo with Karl Rosqvist. Beyond the change in vocal style, gone are the Black Aria-esque lush organ arrangements. In their place are sound effects that "try" to create the right feel of despair and terror. This falls slat on the intro "The Bleeding" but Youth and the rest of the band surprisingly make up for it with "Death Baby," whose main riff checks John Christ's contributions to the great era of Danzig. Oddly enough, Youth goes back to basics for "They Have Risen," which is one part New York hardcore anthem and one part Misfit's tribute. Jerry Only (The Misfits) has never come this close with any post-Danzig incarnation of the band. The last half of the album falls somewhere between Doyle-era Misfits and early era AFI. Skip ahead and you might be hooked.

The first five songs make every single mistake imaginable and could possibly drive the horror punk faithful away. The guitar is too metallic and precise and Thorne's vocals are all over the place. He sounds like he's channelling Scott Weiland on "The Bleeding" and "Dark Life" and like a Danzig clone without the chops on "Suffer." Youth and Zing are seasoned in the genre but seem to have forgotten the consistency of Songs from the Earth. You could leave it up to progression but Son of Sam 08 is clearly a reset.

As long as there are Misfits fans, there will be an audience for this brand of punk. Youth has played with Danzig and tapped into his expertise on their first effort. There are less able torchbearers leading the genre, Doyle's current lineup for example. Paul Rodgers now fronts Queen and Dr. Dre isn't looking for Compton/South L.A.'s latest gangster rhymers for After the Aftermath. Let's see where Youth, Zing, Rosqvist, and Thorne guide this vehicle. All the black hair dye, eyeliner, posturing, and the occasional hit should warrant a Son of Sam III.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Up On High: Black Mountain & Jesse Sykes At The Bowery Ballroom

By: David Schultz

Practically every review of the new Cold War Kids album makes a point of noting that bloggers embraced the band in its infancy, implying that perhaps a skeptical eye should be turned towards the praise. After all, why should anyone care about the opinions of those who love music to such a degree that they devote a good portion of their spare time to writing about it? What do they know? Last week, Black Mountain made their way through New York City with Jesse Sykes & The Sweet Hereafter for midweek shows at New York City’s Bowery Ballroom and Brooklyn’s Music Hall at Williamsburg. My friend who went with me made her reasons for seeing Black Mountain quite clear, “I don’t know if I like them, but the blogs say I should.” In our ever-flattening world, the musical bloggers do have influence and will steer less rabid fans in the direction of some pretty fine music; in the case of Black Mountain, as well as the Cold War Kids, they aren’t offering poor guidance.

Offering a slinky mix of psychedelic beats, progressive rock, hard rock guitars and folk-singer-siren wailing, Black Mountain delivers the goods for anyone looking an old-fashioned rock and roll rave. Much of the well-deserved praise towards the band lands upon guitarist Stephen McBean and singer Amber Webber, Black Mountain’s most distinctive voices. At the Bowery Ballroom though, it was bassist Matt Camirand and drummer Joshua Wells that sank their hooks into the sold-out crowd’s collective psyche. The worked a variety of soul-moving, trippy rhythms which allowed Jeremy Schmidt to work some powerful Greg Lake derived keyboard melodies and McBean to supply the power rock.

The eighty minute set was heavy on material from their recently released In The Future; they careened their way through the twists and turns of lengthy epics like “Tyrants” and “Wucan,” blasted the straightforward power rocker “Stormy High” and slithered through the psychedelic cum Barry White groove of “Druganaut.” Seeing Webber sing on stage removes much of her ephemeral aura. On record, Webber’s unearthly siren song comes with Wagnerian overtones, as if descending from up on high; on stage, you get a peek behind the wizard’s curtain and without the mystery, dulls the effect.

Another enthralling singer, Jesse Sykes & The Sweet Hereafter, opened the night. A interesting complement to Black Mountain, Sykes and her band provide the same hypnotic swells as the psychedelic Canadians but as anyone who’s listened to Like, Love, Lust and the Open Halls of the Soul already knows, she does it with a quieter, more inviting tone. For the first couple songs of the set, Sykes hid her angular face behind her waist length hair before tossing it back and meeting the crowd head on. Sykes’ richly distinctive voice trembles and warbles and walks the line between slight speech impediment and extraordinary vocal control. It wavers in the air, giving a haunting quality to the moody “Moonlight Mile” style rock and roll that she and the Sweet Hereafter deliver with the same refined power of Crazy Horse.

Along with Wooden Shjips, Black Mountain owe a debt to the Syd Barrett’s acid fueled Pink Floyd jams. By mixing in some Seventies era hard rock a la Wolfmother, ELP derived progressive rock and their own trippy style of funk, Black Mountain drinks deep from the well that’s sustained many a fine artist. In no small part to the presence of Sykes & The Hereafter, I probably had more fun at Black Mountain’s show than I have in quite some time. Unfortunately, with the exception of a couple Canadian shows, you have to go Black Mountain, cause Black Mountain won’t be coming to you in the near future.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Stooges, Beck & Run-D.M.C. Head Up Hall Of Fame Nominations

The nominees for the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame Class of 2009 were released today: Jeff Beck, Chic, Wanda Jackson, The Stooges, Run-D.M.C., Little Anthony & The Imperials, Metallica, WAR and Bobby Womack are under consideration; only five will make the cut.

The Stooges are probably the only lock in that group but there's a valid case to be made for each of the nominees, even if Wanda Jackson makes people scratch their head and go "who?" (She's the "Queen of Rockabilly" and toured with Elvis).

As names like Chic and Metallica start appearing on the nomination list, fans of classic rock bands like Jethro Tull and Rush can probably cancel any plans they have to see their favorites ever inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall.

mtvU Pops The Woodies

On the same date that the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame previewed the class of 2009, mtvU announced the nominees for the 2008 Woodie Awards. One of the few remnants of MTV's former dedication to supporting new music, the Woodies are geared towards those artists who made an impression on the college music scene. Santogold, Paramore, Lil Wayne, Tokyo Police Club and MGMT are up for the event's prestigious "Woodie Of The Year," given to the artist who had the biggest impact on college campuses. The Woodies will be given out November 12th at New York City's Roseland Ballroom.

The other awards and nominees are:

Breaking Woodie (emerging artist): All Time Low, We The Kings, There For Tomorrow, Tyga and Swedish cutie Lykke Li

Good Woodie (social commitment): Eddie Vedder, Emmanuel Jal, Ludacris, Jack's Mannequin and Mary J. Blige

Left Field Woodie (?????): No Age, Chromeo, Yelle, She and Him and The Cool Kids

Performing Woodie (live performer - duh): Kanye West, Atmosphere, N.E.R.D., The Ting Tings and Simian Mobile Disco

Best Video Woodie (I'm not defining this one): "Who's Gonna Save My Soul," Gnarls Barkley; "Honey," Erykah Badu; "Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa," Vampire Weekend; "Chasing Pavements," Adele and "It Had To Be You," Motion Picture Soundtrack

Vote for your favorites - or if you were at Bonnaroo, vote for anyone but Kanye - here.

Friday, September 19, 2008

BuzzUniverse Brings Live Vibes To The River

On September 25th, BuzzUniverse will be celebrating Live Vibes At The Donegal Saloon in New York City with a CD-release boat cruise upon on the Half Moon Cruise Ship. Painstakingly recorded, BuzzU's upcoming album captures the band at the venue they consider their home and contains live versions of birdfishtree's "All Of My Friends," "Lovelight Babylon" and "In The Sun," newer songs like the psychedelically-tinged "You And Me" and a couple choice covers including Pink Floyd's "Astronomy Domine."

The boat will depart from the East 23rd Street Marina at 8 pm. Leroy Justice will open the festivities and then BuzzU will pur forth their progressive blend of rock, blues and funk. There are a few spots left on the boat; get your tickets here.

Allmans & The Dead Grateful For Obama

A little Sixties revivalism can never hurt a Democratic Presidential hopeful, can it? Although they aren't billing it as The Dead and The Allman Brothers, that's exactly what the crowd at the Bryce Jordan Center at Penn State University are going to get on October 13th as part of the Change Rocks benefit in support of Barack Obama. The tickets, which go on sale Friday at noon, are an amazingly reasonably $50 ($30 if you have a Penn State ID).

Now, if Led Zeppelin and The Who get together for John McCain, we've got ourselves a race.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

James "Blood" Ulmer: Bringing The Blues To The Jazz Standard

By: David Schultz

A former confederate of jazz visionary Ornette Coleman, guitarist James “Blood” Ulmer has taken a recent fancy towards the traditional blues, using the embattled tones to express his dismay over the destruction of New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina on 2007’s Bad Blood In The City. With a weathered voice that embodies the emotional depths that birthed the blues, Ulmer plays them like they are meant to be played: precise, heartfelt and extremely soulful. With New York City lacking for an authentic blues hall or juke joint, Ulmer and his exemplary band, which has been with him for much of this decade, took over The Jazz Standard this weekend for a series of perfunctory sets heavy on blues revival.

With its complement of tables, booths and efficient waitress service, The Jazz Standard comes perilously close to dinner theater and for his second of three Friday night sets, Ulmer played before a crowd chowing down on the Standard’s signature plates of ribs. Ulmer got the star treatment; longtime confederate Living Colour’s Vernon Reid led the band through a traditional blues opening, warming up the crowd before playing Ulmer onto the stage in the fashion of the old-time R&B stars. Remaining slightly aloof within the intimate environs, Ulmer played the entire hour long set sitting center stage, serving as the anchor and focal point for the fine assemblage of musicians.

Arguably more recognizable then the headliner himself Reid acted as the evening’s unofficial master of ceremonies, fronting a band that included Masque’s keyboard wizard Leon Gruenbaum, Aubrey Dale (drums), Mark Peterson (bass), David Barnes (harmonica) and Mazz Swift (violin). Well seasoned, they all meshed together quite well but given the time limitations, there simply wasn’t enough time for them to do much more than run through the set, passing the solos back an forth. Barnes displayed a fine feel for the blues, turning in some impressive harp while playing off of Ulmer’s guitar, Gruenbaum and Swift added a baleful “House Of The Rising Sun” feel and Reid couldn’t help but infuse his blues-based solos with his inimical electric guitar scree.

A fine night of music, it still felt like there was unmet potential. Ulmer possesses quite the charismatic presence and while a full band fills out the songs, it detracts from the power of what an unaccompanied Ulmer could accomplish. Similarly, Reid, Gruenbaum and the rest have the ability to go in a number of directions but remained within their roles. Getting past what could have been, what actually took place was a fine, albeit short, reminder of the vitality of the blues.

David Foster Wallace (1962-2008)

David Foster Wallace, arguably our generation's most talented writer, committed suicide on Friday, ending his life at the age of 46. In terms of quality, Wallace leaves behind a substantial body of work including Infinite Jest, a Ulysses style opus covering addiction, America's obsession with entertainment and wheelchair assassins. Whether fiction or non-fiction, Wallace's hyperliterate, uber-intellectual writing style always proved fascinating whether he's discoursing on the history of infinity, interpreting the Presidential campaign of John McCain, reporting on the Adult Video Network awards or considering the lobster.

On a personal note, hearing of Wallace's death over the weekend left me stunned. After reading Infinite Jest, I could never wait for Wallace's books to come out in paperback and he is one of the few authors whose latest I had to have the moment it came out. Infinite Jest may be intimidating in its length and puzzling in its use of footnotes but its also one of the best books I've ever read. If Wallace's death reawakens interest in this amazing novel, then there may be something good to come out of this tragic loss.

This is truly a sad time for the Howling Fantods.

Particle Celebrates Year #8 With String Cheese's Michael Kang

Michael Kang, lately of String Cheese Incident will join Steve Molitz, Darren Pujalet and Eric Gould when Particle celebrates their eighth anniversary with a pair of shows in Colorado: October 9th at the Fox Theater in Boulder and October 10th at Cervantes Ballroom. It's been nearly a year since guitarist Ben Combe amicably parted ways with the band. Since then, Steve Molitz has played a myriad of shows with Phil Lesh & Friends and Tea Leaf Green's Josh Clark and Karl Denson's Tiny Universe's Brian Jordan have sat in with Particle on guitar.

In addition, The Breakfast and U-Melt will join Particle in Boulder and the Brian Jordan Trio will be on the Denver bill.

Richard Wright (1943-2008)

Us and Them
and after all we're only ordinary men
Me, and you
God only knows it's not what we would choose to do

Forward he cried from the rear
and the front rank died
And the General sat, as the lines on the map
moved from side to side

Black and Blue
and who knows which is which and who is who
Up and Down
and in the end it's only round and round and round

Haven't you heard it's a battle of words
the poster bearer cried
Listen son, said the man with the gun
There's room for you inside

Down and Out
It can't be helped but there's a lot of it about
With, without
and who'll deny that's what the fightings all about

Get out of the way, it's a busy day
and I've got things on my mind
For want of the price of tea and a slice
The old man died

Monday, September 15, 2008

Elton John Brings Goodbye Yellow Brick Road To Broadway

Elton John will be breaking out his ruby shoes to celebrate the 35th anniversary of the release of Goodbye Yellow Brick Road by playing it in its entirety on October 20, 2008 at New York City's New Amsterdam Theater. The concert - presented by the Elton John AIDS Foundation, Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS and Friends in Deed - will feature a number of special guests. At present, Ben Folds, Rufus Wainwright, Jake Shears of The Scissor Sisters and the casts of Hair and The Lion King.

Putting the steep $179.50/seat prices for Tina Turner's return to Madison Square Garden to shame, the Yellow Brick Road concert will set fans back $2,500 to be on the floor and $500 if they want to perch in the balcony. A healthy portion of the ticket price seems to be going to charity, so its hard to term this as a money grab but the steep cost is surely going to keep the kids away. There truly is no place like home.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Rose HIll Drive To Cover Led Zeppelin II

A bit akin to people getting their Christmas decorations up well before Thanksgiving, Rose Hill Drive has announced that for their annual New Year's Eve show in Boulder, Colorado, they will cover Led Zeppelin II in its entirety. Much like Phish's donning a musical costume for Halloween, RHD has taken to covering a classic album in its entirety each NYE. In prior years, they've covered Aerosmith, Band Of Gypsys and Led Zeppelin I; those at the shows rave about them, those who miss them wait eagerly for the tapes to hit the Archives.

With Plant hanging out with Allison Krauss and Jimmy Page playing coy, this may be the most Zeppelin we get in 2008.

Gilmour Nixes Pink Floyd Reunion

The Dead may be reuniting for Obama and Phish did reunite for their manager's wedding but those hoping for Pink Floyd, at least a version with both David Gilmour and Roger Waters, can put those dreams to bed. Gilmour has pretty much quashed all hopes of a true Floyd reunion. "There have been all sorts of farewell moments in people’s lives and careers which they have then rescinded," the AP quotes the guitarist as saying. "I think I can fairly categorically say that there won’t be a tour or an album again that I take part in."

Sounds like The Final Cut may be the disappointing final cut.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Vida La Rainbow; The Broken West: Now Or Heaven

By: Rinjo Njori

From the start, Now or Heaven, makes an effort, conscious or unconscious, to distance itself from I Can't Go On I'll Go On, their hook filled debut. They felt like a band on the rise and Ross Flournoy's vocals and keyboards have literally become the sound of The Broken West. Effectively, he guides the sound of the band away from power pop simplicity and toward mood-filled songscapes.

"Gwen, Now and Then" and "Ambuscade" deftly blend robotic drums with Flournoy's vocals and minimal guitar. Verging into the more coherent moments of Radiohead or stripped down X&Y-era Coldplay, Flournoy's vocals are distinctive enough to avoid a comparison to Thom Yorke or Chris Martin but the songs feel like those established acts' more accessible moments. "Gwen, Now and Then" creeps close to Radiohead's simple era. "Ambuscade", an obscure crossword reference for the word "ambush" anchors the album but hints at Coldplay's rolling anthems. "Auctioneer" and "Perfect Games" return to the more familiar sound of The Broken West's debut. The crisp piano on "Auctioneer" makes the song both fun and dramatic. "Perfect Games" driving backbeat opens the song but quickly fades to the back and gives the album a shot in the arm. "House of Lies" surprisingly reaches back to the early 80s Power Pop, capturing the more restrained moments of Dwight Twilley and Shoes. The paranoid themes work well for the album, but at moments they are thoroughly boring. "Elm City" aims for brooding and intense but unlike "Ambuscade," the song feels hollow and soulless. The vocals aim for harmony on the verse, but end up muddled. Similarly the chorus suffers as well. Luckily the missteps are few and far between.

The Broken West's debut was unfairly pegged with associations to Wilco and Son Volt; they displayed a more pop oriented sound than those Americana stalwarts. In the end, that probably hurt them. Now or Heaven also begs comparison to more established acts. This time those comparisons are a little more obvious. Luckily, these comparison's should benefit The Broken West.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Jen Crowell: Cold Front

By: David Schultz

In early June, Grace Potter & The Nocturnals played a pair of New Hampshire shows as part of Child & Family Services’ Concerts For The Cause. As mighty as the headliners were, singer-songwriter Jen Crowell caused quite a stir with her fantastic opening set. After impressing the crowd at the Lebanon Opera House in Manchester, Cold Front, Crowell’s album, turned into such a hot-selling item, more needed to be produced backstage to meet the high demand. Fans that have followed Grace Potter & The Nocturnals since their “Gumbo Moon” days are already quite familiar with Crowell. Not only has the lovely songstress been the band’s tour manager, she was also an early member of the Nocturnals. With Cold Front, those outside her Vermont base can finally see what the fuss is all about.

Cold Front receives high-profile assists from Potter, guitarist Scott Tournet and The Leaves’ Aya Inoue but it soars on Crowell’s ethereally warm vocals and wonderfully dreamy melodies. Reminiscent of Natalie Merchant, Crowell’s sultry voice provides a welcoming invitation into her world. On songs like “Hey Dixon” and “Marvelous,” her vocals glide smoothly over the rolling Gillian Welch/David Rawlings guitars producing a powerful vibe that transcends its coffee house roots. “But Instead” is a finely crafted bit of folk-pop and on “Seven Days,” Crowell slips into heavenly chanteuse mode.

Cold Front seems born from those Vermont winter nights when a roaring fire isn’t enough to keep the soul warm. It’s a superb offering from a talented singer who has unselfishly devoted her time and efforts towards the Potter collective and Crowell deserves her moment in the spotlight. Like most thing of value, Crowell’s self-produced album isn’t the easiest to acquire and falls into the category of treasures that are well worth the effort of locating.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Richie Havens: Nobody Left To Crown

By: David Schultz

It may not be the first image that comes to mind when somebody brings up Woodstock but Richie Havens’ chanting of “Freedom,” while he improvised due to the need to fill time, set the tone and mood for the entire three day festival and in the years since, has become one of his most identifiable songs. One of the original New York City Greenwich Village folkies, Richie Havens has remained true to singer-songwriter roots, his voice always one to sing out in protest. On Nobody Left To Crown, his latest studio album, Havens adds to his already impressive legacy, a steadfast reminder of the need for hope and optimism under any circumstances. Havens’ fast-paced strumming still recollects hippies reveling in the Woodstock mud and his voice continues to rise up in protest over the injustices of the day. More than forty years have passed since the release of A Richie Havens Record and despite the passing of time, the 67-year-old singer doesn’t update his sound for the modern day; Nobody Left To Crown could have come from any era.

The politics on Nobody Left To Crown are understated but not mired in complex symbolism or indecipherable metaphor; it’s not hard to miss Havens’ message. It would be na├»ve to think the leader on high that is the subject of “Fates,” “(Can’t You Hear) Zeus’s Anger Roar” and the title track is anyone other than George W. Bush but the subtlety of the wordplay allows the songs to serve as eloquent scorn to any failed politician. In line with the folk ideals, Havens’ hasn’t transformed himself into a cranky old man. He still sings calmly and passionately of a better tomorrow. To a larger extent it works, although Havens soothing voice turns some songs into folk lullabies with “Hurricane Waters,” a nuanced Katrina rebuff, sounding a bit like a Michael McDonald leftover.

While there are a couple covers, Nobody Left To Crown is very much an album of new material, although critics of his open tuning style may take umbrage to calling anything Havens does as new. Only someone with Havens’ solid pedigree and rich, distinctive voice could get away with an acoustic cover of “Won’t Get Fooled Again.” In Havens’ wizened hands, The Who classic retains every ounce of its revolutionary fervor and in reducing it to its essence. Havens not only provides a reminder that Townshend’s saber-rattling anthem of cynicism is at heart a wonderful folk protest song, he also brings a Sixties idealism into the modern age and reestablishes himself as a relevant voice of protest.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Backyard Tire Fire: The Places We Lived

By: David Schultz

Fronted by Ed Anderson, one of the hardest working songwriters in the game, Backyard Tire Fire have developed one the broadest repertoires, surpassing by leaps and bounds what you would expect of a young band from Illinois. Anderson, who writes new songs at an inhuman pace, draws inspiration from a vast spectrum of road house styles: outlaw country, blues and classic rock. Depending on where they play, Backyard Tire Fire – rounded out by Tim Kramp (drums) and Ed’s brother Matt Anderson (bass) – can easily transform themselves into any region’s greatest bar band.

Their latest album, The Places We Lived, finds the Tire Fire in a reflective period, pausing to take a look around and noting what’s changed. It’s a modest shift from the raucous Vagabonds and Hooligans and adds depth to an already deep catalog. Without becoming a list of grievances, The Places We Lived consists of Anderson’s sense of frustration with the people around him (“Everybody’s Down”); the consequences of speaking his mind (“Shoulda Shut It”); the concept of marriage (“Legal Crime”) and of people who just won’t leave (“How In The Hell Did You Get Back Here?”).

BTF approaches this album with an ear towards the studio setting, focusing on delivering the song as opposed to a visceral impact. “Welcome To The Factory” clanks along in a slight homage to “Welcome To The Machine” and “Rainy Day (Don’t Go Away)” nicely uses tape hiss to replicate the melancholy effect of a downpour. Places puts an emphasis on Anderson’s vocals, which are more suited towards Johnny Cash style dissertations than some of the album’s more personalized offerings. On the stripped down songs, Anderson’s voice draws attention away from the nicely plotted melodies; however, in pushing his vocal limitations to convey the proper emotion, he adds a strained quality that perfectly suits the thoughtful vibe and somewhat troubled sentiment of the album. Those who like their Tire Fire raw and pissed off will not be disappointed; The Places We Lived is far from ten songs of mediation. “How In The Hell Did You Get Back Here?” zips along with angry guitars and a properly righteous growl, “Time With You” motors along on Tim Kramp’s driving drums and on “One Wrong Turn,” Anderson belts out a prisoner’s song of regret over a wonderfully boozy saloon hall piano.

The Places We Lived is being released by HYENA Records, a label with a fine knack for finding young artists with unlimited potential. In teaming up with Backyard Tire Fire, HYENA does nothing to jeopardize that sterling reputation.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Rose Hill Drive: Moon Is The New Earth

By: David Schultz

The Hold Steady have currently cornered the market on wry observations of drunken and debauched youth, a factor of Craig Finn’s dry wit and the Hold Steady’s collective personal detachment from the demographic they chronicle. A little closer in age to the parking lot set, Rose Hill Drive have unleashed Moon Is The New Earth, an album full of testosterone-laden, guitar driven anthems that move along on the sly pick-up lines and come-ons thrown about by bassist and lead singer Jake Sproul. While their recently released sophomore effort, Moon Is The New Earth, shows a slight regression in their songwriting it is a gigantic step forward overall for this young trio from Boulder, Colorado.

After the unqualified success of their self-titled debut, Moon Is The New Earth seems to have emerged with little fanfare, failing to receive the attention it deserves. A fine sophomore effort, Rose Hill Drive concentrates more on hard-driving rock and roll that reawakens the power trio tradition. Jake Sproul shows a increasingly fine aptitude for raucous rock and roll but his sparkling gift for lyrical wordplay and character sketches, a revelation on their first album, is noticeably missing. For the most part, Moon Is The New Earth is as a subtle as a jackhammer, the straightforward “Do You Want To Get High?” the furtive “Sneak Out” and the cold hearted “One Night Stand” leaving little to the imagination. Fortunately, not every album needs to be rife with lyrical poeticism in order to rock and Moon Is The New Earth is definitely an album that rocks.

After catching the attention of Pete Townshend, Rose Hill Drive spent some time with The Who as their opening act and have benefited greatly from the exposure. Daniel Sproul is an emerging guitar hero able to expand and enhance the bounding beat generated by his older brother and drummer Nathan Barnes. On “I’m On To You” Daniel unleashes a fiery guitar in the mold of their current tour mates Earl Greyhound and on “The 8th Wonder” he bursts forth with a magnificent frenzy of thunderous arena rock that might be the best two minutes that Rose Hill Drive has ever laid down in the studio. For those who approach second albums with a sense of trepidation over whether a band can recapture the magic, listen to Moon Is The New Earth without fear.

Hootie & The Blowfish R.I.P.

Over the weekend, new broke that Darius Rucker would be concentrating on his solo career as a country artist, essentially breaking up Hootie & The Blowfish. The announcement served as a stunning reminder that Hootie & The Blowfish hadn't already split up years ago. Hootie emerged from the South Carolina bar scene to become one of biggest selling acts of the mid-Nineties before quickly becoming a punchline and sliding quickly into obscurity.

Monday, September 01, 2008

20 Songs For Labor Day

Muxtape, a site that allows to users to create their own playlist of mp3s much like mix tapes of old, is in the midst of a legal tussle with the RIAA over whether they should be allowed to exist. In that vein, as it's Labor Day, here is our mixtape of songs about working and in solidarity with Muxtape, we've gone silent with it.

1. Dirty Work - Steely Dan

2. Overkill - Men At Work

3. Work - John Cale & Lou Reed

4. Working For A Living - Huey Lewis & The News

5. Working For The Weekend - Loverboy

6. I've Been Working - Van Morrison

7. I've Been Working On The Railroad - Pete Seeger

8. Lord Have Mercy On The Working Man - Travis Tritt

9. Working Class Hero - John Lennon

10. Working Man - Rush

11. Working In The Coal Mine - Devo

12. Working On The Highway - Bruce Springsteen

13. Take This Job And Shove It - Johnny Paycheck

14. Five O'Clock World - The Vogues

15. She Works Hard For The Money - Donna Summer

16. The Job That Ate My Brain - The Ramones

17. Get A Job - The Silhouettes

18. 9 to 5 - Dolly Parton

19. It's 5 O'Clock Somewhere - Jimmy Buffett

20. Happy Hour Hero - moe.

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Grace Potter Rocking The Gear circa 2006!