Wednesday, July 13, 2011

New Video From The War on Drugs - "Baby Missiles"

Thanks to Illiot Gould for sharing the new video from The War on Drugs for "Baby Missiles" from their forthcoming sophomore effort Slave Ambient, due out in August.  While I'm digging this first single, I'm not sure a more straightforward record is what I was expecting or hoping for from Granduciel and company.  The lo-fi sound of early 80s Boss played by boys bred on indie rock is infectious, but I don't know if another album chock full of these beat machine pumpers is going to work without a break to explore some more organic terrain.  I'm looking forward to reading IG's review of Slave Ambient in Blurt and reviewing the record myself here.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Meet Me On South Street, The Story of JC Dobbs Premieres at Franklin Institute June 23

Meet Me On South Street, The Story of JC Dobbs Premieres at Franklin Institute June 23

Why had I never heard of this venue?

Purling Hiss @ Daytrotter

Purling Hiss - A Messy Brain/Heart in a Cloud - March 2, 2011

 From Daytrotter's ever-enlightening writeup.

"We hear the messy perimeters of what Mike Polizee does as Purling Hiss. We feel that he might be a guy that leaves his dirty socks and his underwear littered all over his floor. We feel like he might be a guy who has as dirty of a floor - if not dirtier - than that of his dirty socks and dirty underwear. We think that he might be a guy who lets the dishes pile up in the sink, the cereal bowls getting covered by more cereal bowls, finally letting off a signal that they need to be addressed, when the leftover milk in the bottom curves curdles and starts to stink up the whole kitchen."

While this is certainly true to the spirit of Purling Hiss's records, the beauty of a Daytrotter session is that it often strips away the recording gimmicks, the walls of distortion and noise, the unnecessary reverb and feedback, the manufactured lo-fi ambiance of an artist's formal recorded output.  It cleans up the dirty underwear and cereal bowls, if you will.  This March 2 session does just that for Polizee and reveals him to be capable of the sort of summery, hook-heavy, guitar rock that is so hard to pull off under the bright lights.  His records are always in the red, which is a shame.  I'd like to hear all these songs without their masks of noise.  And while Polizee shares something with his homeboys Kurt Vile and Adam Granduciel (War on Drugs), his sound is something entirely more innocent and glassy-eyed.

I've got "Run From the City" playing on repeat.  It's kind of irresistible.

Record Review: Strapping Fieldhands - Wattle & Daub (1995)

It's strange that a decade so backward-looking as the 90s has already been quoted so much, both ironically and sincerely, not much more than a decade out.  Grunge was nothing more than a bunch of metalheads quoting Neil Young.  The popular punk revival of Green Day and The Offspring and then Blink 182 made a mockery of some tough, unassailable music from the 70s.  The white ska movement was just a repackaging of the black ska movement of the 60s and 70s.  I can't say I can think of a single musical movement that really had its genesis in the 90s, other than the dreaded indie rock, which was probably the last vestige of plain old rock music running, and probably started 20 years before in Lou Reed's twisted imagination.  Most of everything else turned out to be pretty derivative and vapid.  Even the skate kids of the 90s were a pale reflection of the real thing in late-70s So-Cal.  And of course, there were a slew of other hip-hop and pop music movements hearkening back to things as disparate as gritty soul and kraut-rock.  What's important, in the great words of Rob Gordon is "what you like, not what you are like."

Strapping Fieldhands, a stalwart of Philadelphia's indie rock scene of the 90s, are no different.  They might not wear their influences on their sleeves, but each song on their 1995 record Wattle & Daub, has a distinct predecessor on an obscure garage rock record of the 60s.  This is not to say they do not resemble their peers.  They're a slicker (not necessarily a compliment) Guided By Voices, a groovier Pavement.  They play a less focused brand of the eerie noisescapes and melodies of The Flaming Lips and manage some of the high-charged treble-fueled power punk of Husker Du.  If this review seems overly reliant on listing Strapping Fieldhands' influences, this is because the Fieldhands, though able to fuse these influences into a sound all their own, didn't come up with anything more interesting than a groovy garage record.  Now there's certainly a place in my heart for a few groovy garage records.  If you're into the genre there might be a few nuggets here worth finding.  For me, Strapping Fieldhands recall a bygone era when music didn't have to be overly serious or ambitious to be taken seriously.  They make me feel like strapping on my beat up old chucks, pulling on a flannel over a ratty t-shirt and bobbing my shaggy-haired head.  There are certainly worse things in this world than nostalgia.

"The Author In Her Ear" is a fun bit of sloppy garage rock of the hazy summer variety.  It's as if Robert Pollard were only mildly drunk and joined the Fieldhands for a bit of decent ad-lib.

"Ben Franklin Airbath" on the other hand  is like a stoned version of a lost Zombies b-side floating through the stalled traffic of the Vine Street Expressway.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

120 (Pointless) Seconds of Philadelphia in Italy

I've always wondered what it would sound like if The Walkmen covered The Wallflowers under a hot Italian sun, while half the band wrestles. Now I know.

Answering the eternal question - how loudly can Kurt Vile play an unplugged electric guitar? Quite loudly.

Monday, June 20, 2011

RIP Clarence Clemons

 I'm not really one to eulogize, so I'll let the Big Man and the Boss do it in their own words, taken from the New York Times obituary.  I certainly can't imagine an E Street Band without him. 

“When you look at just the cover of ‘Born to Run,’ you see a charming photo, a good album cover, but when you open it up and see Clarence and me together, the album begins to work its magic,” Mr. Springsteen wrote in a foreword to “Big Man: Real Life and Tall Tales,” Mr. Clemons’s semifictional memoir from 2009, written with Don Reo. “Who are these guys? Where did they come from? What is the joke they are sharing?"

Mr. Clemons’s first encounter with Mr. Springsteen has become E Street Band lore. In most tellings, a lightning storm was rolling through Asbury Park one night in 1971 while Mr. Springsteen was playing a gig there. As Mr. Clemons entered the bar, the wind blew the door off its hinges, and Mr. Springsteen was startled by the towering shadow at the door. Then Mr. Clemons invited himself onstage to play along, and they clicked. 

“I swear I will never forget that moment,” Mr. Clemons later recalled in an interview. “I felt like I was supposed to be there. It was a magical moment. He looked at me, and I looked at him, and we fell in love. And that’s still there."

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Record Review: Danielson - The Best of Gloucester County - (2011)

The Best of Gloucester County is both Danielson's most straightforwardly rocking record, as well as his most obtuse and psychedelic.  Gone is the outright and unbridled joy of 1997's Tell Another Joke at the Ol' Choppin' Block, and the stripped-down post-rock silliness of 2001's Fetch the Compass, KidsThe Best of Gloucester County combines the quiet (for Danielson anyway) introspective poetry of 2004's Brother is to Son with the exuberant psychedelia of 2006's Ships.  Danielson has crafted his most mature record, which might make it less of a hit with his stalwart fans who are expecting instantly memorable chants and euphoric banjo jams and sing-song choruses.  For the most part, a lot of Danielson's gimmick has been stripped away.  Even his trademark high-pitched squeal of a vocal delivery has been toned down to great effect.  The Frank Black comparisons are finally starting to make sense.

In a way, Daniel Smith has grown into something of a melancholy man.  This was hinted at towards the end of Danielson:  A Family Movie (2006).  Many of Daniel's siblings, and the extended famile that contributed to his music, have moved on in life - to live with their new families far, far away, or to sell more records on their own than Daniel could ever hope to, or to pursue their own creative lives, not dictated by a more talented older brother.  In some ways, this has improved Danielson's act.  His new drummer, Patrick Berkery, has added energy and precision to Danielson's live show.  When Daniel can get the whole family together, there is undoubtedly still a great chemistry, but the image I take away from this album is similar to the image we're left with at the end of A Family Movie - Daniel Smith sitting alone in his basement recording studio, belting out another clever lyric, his face turning red and his voice almost breaking.

The very brief moments of silliness, namely "Lil Norge" and "People's Partay" are the only throwaway tracks on this or, for that matter, any Danielson record.  The instrumentation here is standard fare for Daniel, which might be my one complaint.  It's been about seven records of girl vocal chants and glockenspiel and acoustic guitar, with a keyboard here or there, and we're beginning to know exactly what to expect sound-wise.  Otherwise, The Best of Gloucester County might turn out to be my favorite of Daniel's albums, the most honest statement he's made about the difficulty of living a positive life in a world that often disappoints.  We got a hint of this on Brother is to Son, but whereas that record had its moments of grating repetition, here Danielson allows his ideas to grow into more than childish (in a good way) chants and complaints.

Let's check out some of the highlights.

"Sick to death of laying around here, reading my clippings from these past years.  Opening up the Book of Daniel..."  Thus starts the record, and right away we know we're dealing with something more introspective and less joyful than anything else in Danielson's catalog.  As if the title "Complimentary Dismemberment Insurance" wasn't hint enough.

"Olympic Portions" is the closest Danielson's ever gotten to the contemporary psych of Animal Collective.  "This time the dove did not return, it has made it's home in the shade."  I hear hints of Jesus Christ Superstar in the vocals in the background during the daydream intro.

"Hosanna in the Forest" is the most relaxed thing I've heard Danielson do.  Very nice.  Reminds me of early, Peter Green era, Fleetwood Mac.

Half of Danielson's charm has always been his visual appeal, from the beautiful packaging of his records, to the changing uniforms and props of his stage show.  In the video for "Grow Up" the irrigation machinery and staring eye flags of the record sleeve are given life.  There's something sinister and paranoid going on here, but I don't know what it is.