Friday, October 30, 2009

Friday's Earful: Happy Halloween

BOOOOOO!!!

Consider yourself properly frightened by a scary scary ghost.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Thursday's Earful: Festival 8

By: David Schultz

Starting tomorrow night, Sirius XM's Jam On channel will bring Phish's Festival 8 live into your living rooms (or wherever else you listen to your satellite radio). Phish's eighth destination fest, hence the name, will take place in Indio, California and feature the resurrection of Phish's Halloween musical costume on October 31. The satellite radio station will broadcast all 8 sets over the three days live and, as always, without commercials.

Taking on the live music scene is a fantastic gamble for the radio conglomerate. Ever since Sirius garnered a whirlwind of attention by luring Howard Stern off the terrestrial airwaves, there hasn't been much to attract people to the satellite wavelength. Tapping into the market for live broadcasts, especially with a band that's made its living on the stage, is a fantastic idea. Hopefully this works out and we get more of this. Hell, it may even get me to buy one of those newfangled radio doodads.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Wednesday's Earful: Cadillac Records

By: David Schultz

A dramatized history of Chess Records, Cadillac Records turns out to be a threadbare and homogenized account of the rise of the label’s most well-known stable of stars: Muddy Waters, Chuck Berry, Howlin’ Wolf, Little Walter and Etta James. The movie peaks early with its opening scenes ripped from the pages of Can’t Be Satisfied, Robert Gordon’s wonderful biography of Muddy Waters with Alan Lomax tracking down McKinley Morganfield at the Stovall Plantation outside of Clarksdale, Mississippi. Once the narrative moves Waters to Chicago, the film starts leaving details as well as Chess’ brother Philip by the wayside. The movie touches on Little Walter’s demons, Waters’ womanizing, his animosity with Wolf and the paternalistic view Chess took over his charges but only superficially. In trying to include too much, Darnell Martin’s script glosses over the seamy underbelly of the travelling bluesmen, the complexity of the people involved and invents a romantic entanglement between Chess and James.

If you know the history of the Chess label and its performers, there’s a thrill in seeing some of the reenactments on screen. For a two hour film, a superficial account of events is all there will be time for. If you can live with the two-dimensional characters and the lack of depth into the psyches of the performers, there’s much worse on cable right now and you’ll find this a nice Cliff notes version of the Chess story. For a proper study though, it shouldn’t excuse you from seeking out Gordon’s Can’t Be Satisfied.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Tuesday's Earful: Halloween 2009

By: David Schultz

In 1994, Phish played The White Album in its entirety as part of its Halloween show at the Glens Falls Civic Center and began a tradition of donning a musical costume for the holiday’s that has grown beyond the crunchy Vermont foursome. When Phish takes the stage on October 31, to play one of their many sets as part of their Festival 8 in Indio, California, they will reclaim their Halloween legacy when the revive their ritual. What they will play though remains the object of intense speculation. They’ve been killing off albums in a gruesome fashion on their Web site, promising to play the last one standing. A campgrounds map with sites named Kid A, Electric Ladyland, Exile On Main Street, Hunky Dory, Purple Rain, Larks Tongues In Aspic and The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway has found its way onto the Internet, so you would have to think those are the odds-on favorites.

Warren Haynes and Gov’t Mule also like to get into the Halloween spirit and like Phish, they like keep their “costume” a mystery until show time. In the past, the Mule have covered Houses Of The Holy and engaged in a little Dark Side of the Mule with a set of Floyd covers. This year’s show at the Tower Theater in Philadelphia, PA will receive ab assist from Jackie Greene, who along with Haynes has a lot of experience playing with the catalog of the Grateful Dead. Too easy, though. It won’t happen.

Not every band is keeping their Halloween costume under wraps. Alt-country rockers Deer Tick will pull a complete 180 at the Brooklyn Bowl. After an opening band to be named later offers up a set of Sonic Youth, Deer Tick will become The Sex Pistols for a night. This is pretty much the equivalent of Marilyn Manson dressing up as Michael Jackson for the night. If you show up in costume, admission is free. Otherwise, it’ll cost you $5.

Last year, Leroy Justice literally and figuratively dressed up as The Beatles at the Bitter End for a fun romp through Let It Be. This year they will return to the legendary haunt along with guest guitarist Scott Metzger for two sets that will include selections from The Steve Miller Band’s Greatest Hits.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Monday's Earful: Leonard Cohen @ Madison Square Garden

By: David Schultz

In 2008, Leonard Cohen became one the more unlikely inductees into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. For all the praise that can be lauded upon the vaunted Canadian singer-songwriter for his evocative lyrics, inimitable style and singularly identifiable voice, Cohen really doesn’t rock. He does write fantastic songs though and once you hear him sing, his voice, spiritual mien and impeccable sense of songcraft remain with you. Cohen’s musical output over the last decade and a half has been scarce but with directors like Oliver Stone including his songs at critical moments in their films and Jeff Buckley’s version of “Hallelujah” eternally making new converts, he’s never drifted far from the collective unconscious of cerebral thinkers.

Earlier this year, Cohen played his first American concert in fifteen years, selling out the Beacon Theater in New York City. After returning for two more sold out nights at Radio City Music Hall this past May, a sellout of Madison Square Garden this past Friday night seemed like nothing more than foregone conclusion. If Cohen’s longtime manager’s embezzlement of Cohen’s retirement funds has played any role in Cohen’s recent desire to tour after a lengthy absence, we can condemn the motivation but revel in his return.

At 75 years of age, Cohen’s preternaturally deep voice sounds as warm and comforting as it did in his prime. Dropping to his knees in a penitent pose for the start of nearly every song, Cohen mesmerized the Garden with his neo-romantic visions, bohemian patois and oh so calm and reassuring voice for nearly three hours. Over two sets and three encores Cohen left no one wanting, playing a veritable greatest hits show that included early hits like “So Long, Marianne,” “Bird On A Wire” and “Famous Blue Raincoat,” his tender reminiscence of a night with Janis Joplin, “Chelsea Hotel No. 2,” confident declarations of masculinity like “I’m Your Man” and latter day apocalyptic prophecies like “The Future.” Notwithstanding jawdropping versions of “Suzanne,” the locale-appropriate “First We Take Manhattan” and his various takes on flamenco and European melodies, Cohen’s best moments were on “Anthem” and “Hallelujah.” A spiritual soul, Cohen’s passionate delivery evokes a powerful emotional response, shaming all inferior singers who feel theatrics and multi-octave ranges are a substitute for the true ability to convey the beauty of a song.

You might think that a crowd that skews old would diminish the feel of the show; a decidedly less rambunctious crowd couldn’t possible generate the proper atmosphere for a Friday night at Madison Square Garden. Never underestimate the power of a well-mannered audience. It has its time and place. For one night, MSG took on all the qualities of an intimate Broadway show. While Cohen sang, he didn’t battle banal self-involved chatter. When he spoke, nary a peep could be heard from the crowd who hung on every sepia-toned word that dripped from his lips. Once intermission finished, the concession stands, which were doing abysmal business, simply shut down. No one in that audience had an interest in anything but Leonard Cohen.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Friday's Earful: U2 Makes It U2BE; Lenny Kravitz

By: David Schultz

This Sunday night, U2's show from the Rose Bowl in Pasadena will be broadcast live on YouTube. The Worlds Biggest Band will be hosting the Worlds Greatest Listening Party while they help wizen people up to the fact that YouTube is broadening their broadband to show longer video clips. The Webcast starts at 8:30 p.m. and will be repeated twice afterwards. No matter how good your Internet connection, the broadcast won't match being there. It will be much cheaper though and if you aren't in California, well, this is just a great deal all around.

FOR THE SECOND STRAIGHT THURSDAY your humble narrator failed to see Lenny Kravitz at Irving Plaza. Last week, Kravitz had to call off his performance due to issues with his voice. Everyone showing up at the venue was greeted with notice of the cancellation and directions to check Live Nation for the rescheduled date. Originally, Live Nation had the new date as October 22 (last night). Perhaps, checking a second time would have been prudent. With CMJ in town, the Fillmore staff thought it quite humorous someone was showing up to see Kravitz. Unless the date is changed again, October 28 will be the night Kravitz officially finished his New York residency.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Thursday's Earful: Jim Morrison; John Cale

By: David Schultz

I am stymied by which of these story puzzles me the most.

Surely, you've come across the story associated with the picture on the left. In 1997, rock historian Brett Meisner posed for a snapshot at Pere Lachaise cemetery and the spirit, or ghost if you will, of its most famous resident, Doors lead singer Jim Morrison, decided to make an appearance. Those who believe in the hooey that is Ghost Hunters can revel in the fact that the photo apparently isn't doctored. Many will try to debunk the ghostly phantasm as nothing more than a trick of the light. However, if Jim Morrison's death was a hoax and he's still wandering around the planet, it would be hard for him to show up at his "grave" as a ghost.

The appearance of a ghostly Lizard King pales in comparison to the news that founding Velvet Underground member John Cale had to cancel an appearance at the Museum of Modern Art to discuss "Dyddiau Du," his recent media installation in the Wales Pavilion at the Venice Biennale due to a sports related injury. The 67-year-old musician apparently competes in skyscraper stair climbing races and hurt his knee while training. The man responsible for the unsettling drone on "Heroin" and the relentless organ on "Sister Ray" is now a StairMaster God. Fascinating.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Wednesday's Earful: U-Melt @ Sullivan Hall

By: David Schultz

If Disney were tasked with the job of describing U-Melt, they would proclaim them “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.” It takes that many syllables to properly relate the complexity, creativity and energy of the New York based band. Microsoft seems on board with this as well. Unless they were planning on Word being used to create documents discoursing of flying nannies, they have it spellchecked awaiting its application here. (Don’t believe me? Go check it out, I’ll wait).

Much like Lost rewards those who pay close attention, U-Melt’s shows build off those they’ve played in the past. Combinations and segues from one tour will be tweaked and modified for the next and songs started at the beginning of the set may not be completed until the end; new songs usually sit comfortably next to the old and any covers quickly become their own. Putting such a premium on the live performance is a philosophy that has worked wonders for bands like The Grateful Dead and Phish in the past and it’s serving U-Melt well in the present.

At Sullivan Hall, U-Melt wrapped “Red Star,” their sweeping opus around a first set that included “A Portrait Of Kismet,” the debut of a new song, “Almost Perfect,” “Pura Vida” and a cover of The Police’s “King Of Pain” cribbed from their cover of Synchronicity from last months Wormtown Festival. While hipsters flock to stand and nod approvingly at MGMT and Hot Chip, people come to dance and have an unabashed time at a U-Melt show. For the second set, a cover of Medeski, Martin & Wood’s “Bubblehouse” with subtle teases of Salt-n-Pepa’s “Push It” flowed into keyboardist Zac Lasher’s melodious “Disclaimer” and guitarist Rob Salzer’s electrifying “Elysian Fields.”

During an encore run through “Tomorrow Never Knows,” the facility with which Salzer, Lasher, drummer George Miller and bassist Adam Bendy can bring together a broad range of styles was on full display. Working within the spacey psychedelic framework of the Revolver classic, they tossed in flourishes of Michael Jackson’s “Don’t Stop 'Til You Get Enough” and Robert Randolph’s “I Need More Love” as if they were a natural extension of the song. Nearly four hours after they took the stage, they finished up with “Air.”

On October 27, Lasher and Salzer will play a rare acoustic set at 6:00 p.m. at the Rockwood Music Hall on Allen & Houston and U-Melt will return to Sullivan Hall on December 4 for a post-Phish at MSG after-hours. After that, keep your ears pealed: there should be some exciting news coming up to coincide with U-Melt’s winter tour.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Tuesday's Earful: Bell X1 @ The Highline Ballroom

By: Deirdre Bones

Just recently, Irish rockers Bell X1 returned to New York City for their second New York show of the year, attempting to duplicate in the US some of the sell-out success that they have enjoyed in Ireland and the UK at the Highline Ballroom. Bell X1 was born out of the remaining members of Juniper, following a bust up between their lead singer Damien Rice and Juniper’s label. Rice went off to Spain to tend sheep and find himself (I couldn’t make this stuff up) and Juniper’s drummer Paul Noonan took over lead vocals creating Bell X1. The band is known for crafting unusual lyrics, not unlike Rice, but with catchy radio-friendly hooks. In Ireland, they have built their reputation upon being a must see live band and have amassed a fiercely loyal following. After initial limited success, they released Flock in late 2005 which debuted at number one on the Irish album charts and garnered excellent reviews at home and in the U.K.

Bell X1 have toured the US twice this year on the back of their new album Blue Lights On The Runway. Unfortunately, I fear that their Highline show will not win over any new fans. When Bell X1 last came through in March, they seemed on the cusp of something big with several late night talk show bookings and tickets to their shows selling well. However, this show had a very different atmosphere. Fellow Irishman David Hopkins opened the night, putting on a good show and developing a good rapport with the crowd. American outfit Wild Lights took over from there with an all out rock set. Coming to the stage an hour later than billed, Bell X1 seemed disorganized and unprepared. Their instruments seemed to be all over the place and they were having difficulties with the sound system.

Noonan’s characteristic dance moves were on full display and shortly into the set, they broke the news that their cowbell had been stolen two days earlier, they improvised as best they could with a small drum which didn’t really have the desired effect. Although Bell X1’s music and performance are usually energetic and smooth, this performance was uncoordinated to the point of disorganized and messy. They seemed to be really badly prepared for this show with lead Paul Noonan doing various acrobatic stunts trying to get to an instrument while still singing into his microphone.

They tried to strike up a rapport with the crowd with a few anecdotes such as telling the story behind the writing of Chic’s disco song “Le Freak” and going into a performance of it which may not have been fully appreciated. Unfortunately, this audience afforded them only sporadic attention when a song they recognized appeared which did not help matters, although they did come to full throat for an encore. The band played a smattering of older favorites, “Rocky Took A Lover,” “Flame,” “Eve Is The Apple Of My Eye” as well as much of their more recent, more electronic material. It seems that Bell X1 is in transition from their older more soulful ballads to their more recent foray into a more electronic type sound and perhaps it’s the confusion of trying something new that led to a performance that felt erratic and disorganized.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Monday's Earful: Ian Anderson @ The Beacon Theater

By: David Schultz

A staple of classic rock radio, the mention of the name Jethro Tull conjures images of Ian Anderson perched on one leg with a manic, possessed look in his eye. With flute in hand, he leads his band of merry men through prog-rock elegies that borrow riffs from medieval times and careens through FM radio stalwarts, singing about the man who eyes little girls with bad intent and keeps alive the trains from the shuffling madness that has no way to slow down. This is the Jethro Tull that your average fan will be familiar with. It’s really only the tip of the iceberg; those who have delved deeper into the world of Tull are already well versed in Ian Anderson’s penchant for acoustic reveries and classical digressions. It’s a side of the band that too often becomes lost in memories of some of the excesses that This Is Spinal Tap brought under a microscope.

Despite the near-yearly Jethro Tull tours, it’s been ages since there has been a hint of a new album and the might classic rock titan has become less of an immediate and omnipresent concern. Nonetheless, Anderson possesses an ardent and devoted fan base. It skews heavily into the Baby Boomers but it is no less a force for the touches of grey in their remaining hair. For his current solo trek of the United States, Anderson has turned off the electricity, devoting the tour to exploring the often ignored, vastly underrated acoustic side of Jethro Tull.

As I’ve mentioned here before, in high school, my uncle sent me a handful of cassette tapes that included Thick As A Brick, War Child, This Was amongst other Jethro Tull classics that blew me away and made me a fan for life. Last week, when Anderson played to a packed house at the stately Beacon Theater in New York City, it afforded your humble narrator the opportunity to repay his uncle, who may be one of Anderson and Jethro Tull’s biggest fans, by bringing him to the show. While not only gratifying, it was convenient: Anderson opened the show with a set of rarities that was nothing short of fanatic’s dream. If my uncle wasn’t there, I would have spent the night sighing about how much he would have loved it.

Opening with the lilting melodies of Stormwatch’s charming “Dun Ringill,” Anderson moved through the Minstrel In The Gallery outtake “March The Mad Hatter,” Song From The Wood’s “Jack In The Green” and Stand Up’s “Jeffrey Goes To Leicester Square.” By the time Anderson eased into “Skating Away On The Thin Ice Of A New Day,” his band consisting of guitarist Florian Opahle, drummer Mark Mondesir and Tull’s keyboardist and bassist John O’Hara and David Goodier was all assembled and ready to stage as folksy a sit-in as Anderson would permit. O’Hara and Mondesir would engage in the occasional bongo duel, Goodier would intertwine his bass with the viola of Carnegie Hall’s Meena Bhasin and Opahle strummed away with a fury that would have made Martin Barre proud.

Anderson’s orchestral shows have opened the door for him to craft new arrangements of old standards. While tweaked versions of classics have become the fashion over the past few years, new songs haven’t. So when Anderson busted out not one but two new songs that he had written for Ravi Shankar and his daughter, the house grew quiet in eager anticipation. The pair of songs, “Tea With The Princess” and “A Change Of Horses,” were written with Shankar in mind and possessed a decidedly Middle Eastern flair, reminiscent of “Budapest,” one of the great songs from the latter-day Tull. In lieu of the sitar, Bhasin’s viola provided the classical textures and whetted appetites for the possibility that this might herald the arrival of new Tull album.

The acoustic setting provided a marvelous atmosphere for Anderson’s jazz and classical explorations. With the help of flautist Anna Drummond, Anderson reclaimed the jazz flute from Will Ferrell on “Griminelli’s Lament” and retrieved Rahsaan Roland Kirk’s “Serenade To A Cuckoo” from the back catalogue. Of course, no Anderson show would be complete without a stroll through Bach’s “Bouree” or a quick reprise of “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.” In addition, Bhasin paired with Anderson for one of her own compositions and Opahle dazzled on the acoustic guitar with a flamenco-derived instrumental of his own.

While the beginning of the show was a host of rarities, the close offered acoustic twists on old favorites. In previous discursions into the orchestral Jethro Tull, Anderson deconstructed “Aqualung” into a barebones arrangement that can best be described as “Classica-lung,” At the Beacon, it become “Acoustica-lung” with Anderson promenading around the front of the stage for the lilting flute solos. For the encore, Anderson transformed Tull’s other Aqualung standard into “Acoustic-omitive Breath,” with O’Hara giving a wonderful interpretation of the song’s elegiac piano solo. For a show that started as a marked departure from the canonical Anderson show, by the end, as he struck the familiar poses and raced through the Aqualung material, the thrill had been somewhat dulled and you wouldn’t have been mistaken for thinking you had wandered into a slightly transformed version of Jethro Tull concert.

ABOUT A YEAR AGO I had the opportunity to interview Ian Anderson for jambands.com. One of the benefits of being a so-called journalist is you occasionally get to chat with one of your favorite musicians. It's slightly nerve-racking: you wonder what would happen if you managed to tick them off and they insulted you. So, Lou Reed, if we ever meet -- be nice . . . please.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Friday's Earful: Lenny Kravitz; The Strokes

By: David Schultz

If you made your way to Irving Plaza last night intending to see Lenny Kravitz as part of his weeklong residency as part of his tour to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the release of Let Love Rule, you were greeted with a brief, polite statement announcing the cancellation of the show. Due to an illness, Kravitz was unable to perform. If Live Nation can be trusted (and on this, I think we can), the show has been rescheduled for next Thursday, October 22.

JUST IN TIME TO CASH in on the upcoming onslaught of praise for The Strokes' 2001 debut, Is This It, in the impending slew of Best of the 2000 lists, on November 3, lead singer Julian Casablancas will release his solo debut, Phrazes For The Young. With Albert Hammond, Jr. having released a solo album, Nikolai Fraiture spending time with Nickel Eye and Fabrizio Morretti's success with Little Joy, we're probably more likely to see Nick Valensi engage in his own project than see a 4th Strokes album.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Thursday's Earful: Starbucks v. Carly Simon (2); The Word

By: David Schultz

Starbucks has publicly responded to the Carly Simon lawsuit. If you read between the lines, they seem to be saying, "you ungrateful washed up 70s relic, how dare you." It will be interesting if Starbucks can support their figures but in the end, coffee megacorporations should stick to selling coffee and leave losing money on the record business to the record business.

The Word - the gospel-loving supergroup made up up Robert Randolph, John Medeski and the North Mississippi Allstars - will be playing a pair of shows at year's end, December 30 at the Theater of Living Arts in Philadelphia, PA and December 31 at Terminal 5 in New York, NY. The Hendrix of the pedal steel has kept a relatively low profile in 2009, making one notable appearance at the NMA's show at the HighLine Ballroom this past spring. The Word's last set of performances took place at the end of 2007 when they hit up the East coast including a gig at the relatively new T5.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Wednesday's Earful: Starbucks; Carly Simon

By: David Schultz

Remember when Starbucks thought they could be a player in the music business? After having a modest success teaming with Paul McCartney for the release of Memory Almost Full, Hear Music found out that a monkey can make money releasing music by a Beatle and the coffee giant decided to focus on coffee. However, they seem to have made a bunch of promises to Carly Simon and left the release of This Kind Of Love in the lurch. She's retained David Boies and filed suit in California seeking a few million bucks in damages. Ah Starbucks, you're so vain, you probably think this suit is about you.

You can learn all the details here.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Tuesday's Earful: Living Colour The Chair In The Doorway

By: David Schultz

The departure of original bassist Muzz Skillings, brought about dramatic changes in Living Colour, ones still felt more than a decade later. Going beyond the superficial differences between Skillings and Doug Wimbish, Stain and Collideoscope, Living Colour’s first two albums with Wimbish, contained a much harder edge than Vivid and Time’s Up, the albums that launched the band to national prominence. Many of fans that found themselves initially attracted to Living Colour’s wicked blend of New York funk, screeching Hendrix-quality guitar riffs and sociopolitical dialectic fell to the wayside as the music became heavier, the viewpoints less poignant and the wide variety of influences becoming slightly more narrow.

On The Chair In The Doorway, their fifth studio album and first in more than five years, Living Colour recaptures much of what their initial efforts such eye-opening and revelatory affairs. For the opening few songs, Living Colour picks up where they left off: Wimbish and drummer Will Calhoun continued to operate at a level of speed and sophistication that can get lost within the heft of their play, Vernon Reid’s crunches through the avant-metal riffs that have become his calling card and Corey Glover offers his customary array of trenchant observations, even interjecting a little humor into “Young Man.”

At the literal and figurative heart of the album, Living Colour strikes those chords that continue to make them an intriguing band. Living Color plays host to four of the greatest musicians to ever choose rock music as their forte but their strongest quality remains their heart, their warmth and their passion. On “Behind The Sun,” Reid taps out one of his finest guitar riffs, an intricate spiral that melds with Glover’s empathic vocals for those affected by Hurricane Katrina. On “Not Tomorrow,” the near-raga beat swirls beneath one of Glover’s most powerful vocal performances. “Bless Those,” a cocky blues strut that finds Reid channeling the masters of the slide guitar, will say with you simply for the reason that its one of the few songs where Living Colour seems to set their burdens aside and simply have fun.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Monday's Earful: Bob Mould @ Irving Plaza

By: David Schultz

One of the misconceptions people have about you when you write about music is that your breadth of knowledge on the subject is all-encompassing and that no album of note or artist of worth has eluded your musical radar. It’s a myth. For me, Bob Mould’s entire career falls within the interstitial spaces. I’m aware of his solo career, own a homemade cassette tape of a Sugar album (Copper Blue) and am relatively sure I’ve been in a college dorm room with Husker Du blaring from someone’s speakers but for the most part, I’m probably more conversant on Mould’s time crafting story lines for World Championship Wrestling than I am on his life as an alt-rock pioneer. When a group of Mould fans brought me along for his Thursday night show at The Fillmore at Irving Plaza, it made for a pleasantly rare scenario where I had absolutely no idea what to expect.

In the late Eighties/early Nineties, there emerged a genre known as alternative rock. Mainly consisting of bands that found their popularity on the college music scene, the alternative rock charts were where you could find The Replacements, Fishbone, School of Fish and other bands that would now be deemed indie-rock. Until R.E.M. erased the barriers between alt-rock and the rest of the world, Bob Mould was one of its more significant figures. Needing nothing more than a bass and drums, Mould offered ear-shattering bursts that rattled with the stripped down drone that could be found in many alt-rock mid Nineties releases.

Over the course of his ninety minute set, Mould covered all facets of his career, opening with a Husker Du song, playing “A Good Idea” and “Hoover Dam” from Copper Blue and offering a couple songs from Life And Times, his latest album. Mould’s near monotone drone makes a fine complement for his brusque and ridiculously loud guitar barrage. Given that many mid-Nineties alt-rock bands loved to bury their vocals within the mix, it’s unclear whether the ability to make out much of what Mould sang was by design or the result of a poor sound mix. Regardless, the volume bears note: for the first time in dozens of shows, I left the show with my ears ringing.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Friday's Earful: Temple Of The Dog; KISS; Fictional Bands

By: David Schultz

We're going to stay with the Pearl Jam theme for one more day. Earlier this week, Soundgarden's Chris Cornell joined up with his Seattle brethren to recreate Temple Of The Dog, the band they formed to eulogize Andrew Wood, whose untimely death derailed Mother Love Bone in its infancy but opened the door for Eddie Vedder to be brought into the fold and Pearl Jam to emerge. At the Gibson Ampitheatre in Los Angeles, they offered a version of "Hunger Strike" with Cornell taking lead while Vedder moved to backing vocals. You can check out the video here.

As if David Letterman didn't have enough problem over the past couple weeks, he gets licked by Gene Simmons. Perhaps there's some karma involved here. If KISS doesn't get inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame this year, there's something wrong with the whole process. Love them or hate them, this is a rock and roll band in every sense of the word. The Late Show has never been taken over to this degree. You can check out the video here.

Here at Earvolution, we love our fictional bands. Hidden Track has a fun collection of videos that includes "Eep Op Ork Ah Ah," which next to the Banana Splits theme song may be the greatest song to come from the Hanna Barbera universe.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Thursday's Earful: Pearl Jam Backspacer

By: David Schultz

Pearl Jam have always been at their best when they are in the midst of a fight. Whether they’re battling the insecurities over their own stardom, the Ticketmaster monopoly or the George W. Bush presidency, Pearl Jam has made a career giving voice to the earnest, plucky underdog. Nearly twenty years on and Obama in the White House, Pearl Jam may have run out of villains to vanquish. They’ve taken over the means of their own production, cut their own distribution deal (with Target no less) and, shudder the thought, seem happy and content. Rather than tilt at windmills, on Backspacer, their latest album, Pearl Jam settles into a new role, that of the learned and venerable rock band.

Don’t fret, Eddie Vedder and company haven’t gotten old, they are still a pretty feisty group; on “Got Some,” they’re ready for a fight should anyone step up and on “The Fixer,” they profess a need to fight and get back again anything that might be lost. Coming at in less than 40 minutes, Backspacer is a compact little album with the “Just Breathe” and the beachside canter of “Amongst The Waves” making nice companion pieces to Vedder’s soundtrack for Into The Wild. “Unthought Known” serves as a reminder that Mike McCready and Stone Gossard can build a song like no other and “Supersonic” and “Gonna See My Friend” are nice thrashy rockers. You can ignore “Speed Of Sound” the album-closing “The End,” although they may sound fantastic when played live.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Wednesday's Earful: mtvU Woodies

By: David Schultz

For some reason, I am always amused by The Woodies. Not out of some sort of Beavis & Butthead sophomoric humor (although now that you mention it, huh-huh, huh-huh) but more because I think its cute that MTV tries to pretend they are still musically hip and relevant. It's a ship that sailed from the moment someone confused The Real World with what actually goes on the real world. Enough insults; here are the nominees for the network's collegiate-based awards.


Woodie Of The Year
Asher Roth
Kings of Leon
Drake
MGMT
Silversun Pickups

Best Video Woodie
Matt & Kim: "Lessons Learned"
The Dead Weather: "Treat Me Like Your Mother"
Death Cab For Cutie: "Grapevine Fires"
Anjulie: "Boom"
Yeah Yeah Yeahs: "Heads Will Roll"
Kid Cudi: "Day N' Nite"

Performing Woodie
Green Day
Phoenix
3OH!3
Aminal Collective
P.O.S.

Breaking Woodie
Grizzly Bear
Never Shout Never
Wale
La Roux
Friendly Fires
Passion Pit

Left Field Woodie
Amanda Blank
Janelle Monae
Major Lazer
Jay Reatard
Tech N9ne

Good Woodie (awarded for commitment to social change)
John Legend
Wyclef Jean
Kenna
Jamie Tworkowski
Ra Ra Riot
Alicia Keys

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Tuesday's Earful: The Soft Pack @ The Bowery Ballroom

By: David Schultz

When four white guys from San Diego, California decide to name their band The Muslims, they are either the most na├»ve bunch of clueless putzes ever pick up instruments or a resolutely nervy group out to make a deliberate statement by adopting a politically-charged religious moniker as their own . . . or on further thought, it just might be one of those things that sounded like a good idea at the time. After making a splash as The Muslims, they tired of a reaction to their name that fell somewhere in the baffling realm that exists between uninformed and ignorant and changed their name to The Soft Pack. Like Shakespeare said though, a cool band coming to play the Bowery Ballroom on a Friday night by any other name is still a cool band coming to play the Bowery Ballroom on a Friday night. (I wasn’t a big Shakespeare scholar; I may be slightly off on the exact wording).

Like a West coast version of The Strokes, The Soft Pack careen through the stylized punk rock that evolved out of the psychedelic-garage bands in response to the sunny San Francisco feelgood pop in robust three minute bursts. The newer songs sprinkled throughout the hour long set possessed the same basement-reverb quality of The Muslims EP, expanding the intimate Bowery Ballroom stage area with its cavernous sound. Lead singer Matt Lamkin lays down his vocals in a dry manner, wryly detached from the disaffected emotions. When meshed with Matty McLoughlin’s stripped down, fuzzed out guitar, David Lantzman’s tightly wound bass lines and Brian Hill’s popping drums, they evoke the smartly organized punk bands of the post-Disco era as much as they do the indie-rockers of today.

As the Best of the Decade lists start to trickle forth, there will be a refresher course in the excitement caused by The Strokes when Is This It rejuvenated an interest in New York’s street-savvy vibe. The reminiscences seem to come with a caveat that when The Strokes lost interest in that type of modern rock, so did we all. That sound definitely isn’t dead, The Soft Pack may have just moved it to another coast when the rest of New York’s music moved to Williamsburg.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Monday's Earful: Fever Ray @ Webster Hall

By: David Schultz

When a reclusive, notoriously media averse Swedish electronic diva makes a rare concert appearance at New York City’s Webster Hall in support of her critically acclaimed solo debut album, it can only mean one thing: it’s hipster night in the Big Apple. Going in the opposite direction from the slickly produced pop that seems to spill out of Sweden like the actress who plays Ms. Holloway cascades out of her dress at an awards show, Fever Ray, the solo nom de plume of The Knife’s Karen Dreijer Andersson, drew a mighty crowd of fey, indifferent yet musically erudite New Yorkers for two sold-out shows at the mid-sized hall.

Listening to Fever Ray, there’s no escaping its seductive charms. If released twenty years ago, it would have joined Peter Gabriel’s catalog as a suitable soundtrack for any scene involving character development for Sonny Crockett on Miami Vice. For her hour long set, Andersson had no desire to explore the limits the album’s off-kilter world beats in a live setting, hardly deviating from the lushly layered recorded versions. Instead of making the night a rave and encouraging people to cut loose, she put on a piece of performance art, letting her own enigmatic aura serve as the added value. Enshrouding the stage in a camouflage of smoke, Andersson and her costumed band took the stage in relative anonymity and lest anyone concentrate on discerning their features, she bombarded the crowd with a constant array of overhead lasers.

In putting on a performance rather than performing, Andersson put together a compelling array of visuals to complement her engrossing art. Andersson could have wrapped herself up in a swan and no one would have batted an eye. To the contrary, she made a spectacle of herself only by revealing herself to the crowd by stepping into the light during “When I Grow Up.” In a Lady Gaga era, where ostentatious look-at-me displays of misguided stagecraft gets sadly mistaken for showmanship, Andersson’s focus on subtlety and mystique makes a much more powerful and lasting statement.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Friday's Earful: Bon Iver; Best Albums Of The Decade

By: David Schultz

Last weekend, Bon Iver played a sunrise concert at the Hollywood Forever cemetery in Los Angeles, the final resting place for Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks and Jayne Mansfield. From all reports, it seemed like the pacific alter ego to an all-night rave. Jambands.com has a very detailed account of the evening and NPR and Sleater-Kinney's Carrie Brownstein (via Live Music Blog) has some great video.

THERE'S STILL THREE MONTHS LEFT in the decade but that hasn't prevented the onset of Best Albums Of The Decade lists. Pop Tarts Suck Toasted has their countdown of the Top 100 albums while Pitchfork doubles down with the best 200 of the 2000s. This should be a fine way to kill an hour or two.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Thursday's Earful: Bruce Springsteen; Phish

By: David Schultz

Right on the heels of U2 bringing their 360 tour through Giants Stadium, Bruce Springsteen & The E Street began a five night run that will serve as the final shows for the East Rutherford landmark. To give the shows a special touch, each night The Boss will be performing one of his classic albums in its entirety. For last night's opener and Thursday October 8, he has Born To Run on tap; for Saturday October 3 and Friday October 9, he'll bust out Born In The USA, the album that got him his first shows at the outdoor venue, and this Friday October 2 there will be a Darkness At The Edge Of Town. In the same way that Billy Joel closing Shea and Paul McCartney opening the new Shea (CitiField) seemed appropriate, Jersey's favorite son is the only person who could have fittingly locked the Giants Stadium doors behind him. At the conclusion of the run, he will have played the field a total of 24 sold-out times.

IT'S HARD TO IMAGINE THAT there was a time when Halloween wasn't a particularly special night for live music. Other than Frank Zappa's annual show in New York City and the Grateful Dead trotting out "Werewolves Of London," there wasn't much to look forward to. Phish changed all that in 1994 when they donned the musical costume of The Beatles, playing The White Album in its entirety. They would follow it up in future years with Quadrophenia, Remain In Light and the Velvet Underground's Loaded and in the process give birth to a whole new industry of Halloween festivities. Gov't Mule has busted out (Haunted) Houses Of The Holy, Leroy Justice tackled Let It Be (Beatles not Replacements) and U-Melt offered their spin on the concept with a multimedia whirl through Pulp Fiction. This year, at Festival 8, Phish will be reclaiming their birthright this Halloween and they are having some fun with the idea. On their Web site, they are spinning through a roulette wheel of albums, eliminating them in ghoulish and macabre ways. Presumably, last one standing gets covered on October 31. Hidden Track has crunched such a startling amount of numbers on the subject, I worry for them.

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Grace Potter Rocking The Gear circa 2006!