Thursday, July 31, 2008


I spent yesterday evening down in Northampton again, at a somewhat combative, intermittently obscene and totally excellent show by King Khan and the Shrines…about which, more later, when I’ve had coffee and PopMatters has had about a month to sit on my review. But meanwhile GO SEE THIS BAND! It’s fun. You’ll thank me.

(They’re just about done with this particular tour, but I’m guessing they’ll be back…though maybe not to Northampton, which they didn’t seem to care for very much.)

Also a few short things in various places around the web.

A review of the new Fucked Up EP at Philadelphia Weekly:

Fucked Up
Year of the Pig (Matador)

Rating: Solid, like the Liberty Bell.

Three little piggies and one monstrous she-sow wallow recklessly on this appetite-whetting EP from the Canadian hard cases newly signed to Matador. Centered around the ground-shaking, epic “Year of the Pig,” the disc collects three different edits of the 18-minute single, one each for the U.S., U.K. and Japan. Each balances soft female waltz-lullabies with teeth-rattling aggression, though none quite matches the force and complexity of the original. New cuts, a B-side and one very un-twee cover
of Another Sunny Day’s “Anorak City” top off the disc, but this time it’s the pig that blows the house down. (Jennifer Kelly)

Here’s the US edit of “Year of the Pig”

A show preview for Kenyan/Chicagoan benga quartet Extra Golden:

Extra Golden
Sat., Aug. 2, 8pm. $10. With Sonic Liberation Front + Public Record. Johnny Brenda’s, 1201 Frankford Ave. 215.739.9684.

The three Kenyans in Extra Golden have been unable to play in their native country for some time now, due to the extreme unrest that keeps people of all tribes battened down in their homes. So why not come to America where their brand of funky, laid-back jam and traditional Kenyan benga is just another excuse to party? Last time the band hit the States they had a new song about an Illinois senator (half-Kenyan, like the band) who helped them cut through a bureaucratic visa morass. This time the senator is starting to look like a president, and the band might haul out “Obama” not as a traditional praise song, but as a song of triumph. (Jennifer Kelly)

Check out an MP3 of that Obama song

And a review of Howlin’ Rain’s Magnificent Fiend, which I wrote a long time ago for Harp and which ran yesterday in Blurt.

Howlin’ Rain
Magnificent Fiend
Comets on Fire's Ethan Miller can't possibly remember the 1960s, and maybe that's the secret to Magnificent Fiend's dead-on, day-glo channeling of the decade of love. The unmistakable scent of patchouli wafts from the viscous guitar lines and swirling organs in "Dancers at the End of Time." You can hear a bit of Comets on Fire's mad chaos in the interstices here, but not much. This is, after all, Miller's band for structured songs. And what songs! In "Lord Have Mercy," a cast of thousands swirls gospel, blues, funk and soul into one Peter Max-vivid vibe. "Goodbye Ruby" shape shifts from porno-quality, wah-wah laced funk into a soaring, circling guitar solo worthy of Duane and Dickey in their prime.

These cuts are so old-fashioned, they're almost fresh by default. In the end, though, what's remarkable is not how well Howlin Rain remembers the 1960s, but how completely it forgets everything that came after. (Consumer note: the band is issuing the vinyl version of the album via indie label Birdman.)

Listen to “Dancer at the End of Time” yourself.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Going global…let’s see Cambodia, Peru, Sweden

PopMatters has a couple of my pieces up today, the first a review of a really excellent show about a month ago that featured the Cambodian pop/rock/funk of Dengue Fever and the groovy Peruvian chicha of Chicha Libre.

Dengue Fever + Chicha Libre
8 July 2008: The Iron Horse — Northampton, MA

On this sweaty, hazy night, two bands with mostly gringo players but decidedly non-Western influences viewed 1960s psych, funk, and soul through different perspectives. Chicha Libre filtered all-world pop through the Peruvian barrio genre mash known as “chicha,” while Dengue Fever cranked a sweltering blend of R&B, surf, and Cambodian pop.

More you say? Try here.

Here’s an NPR segment on Chicha Libre, too.

And a free mp3 of Dengue Fever’s “Sober Driver”

Also PM has my review of Boy Omega’s latest indie pop album.

Boy Omega
Hope on the Horizon
US release date: 19 February 2008
UK release date: 19 February 2008
Germany release date: 14 September 2007
by Jennifer Kelly

Expansive orchestral pop

Martin Gustafsson, AKA Boy Omega, has been making delicate, emotionally vulnerable yet catchy music for about five years now in his native Sweden. If you haven’t heard of him—and most people haven’t—it’s likely because of distribution problems. The record in question, his fourth, has been out on a hodgepodge of European labels since late last year and slipped into the US, ninja-style, only this spring on Spanish Acuarela in partnership with underground pop label Darla. He is making a very modest splash here, while similarly orchestrated pop outfits backed by larger entities—Loney, Dear, We’re from Barcelona, Architecture in Helsinki, et. all—gather the headlines. If a 12-person ensemble pop song falls in the forest and no one hears it...well, you get the idea.

Actually, the liner notes credit 14 musicians, including Gustafsson, and perhaps twice as many instruments (Gustafsson himself plays 16 of them, not counting vocals). Per-Ola Eriksson, who appeared on The Black Tango two years ago, kicks in three different varieties of keyboards, plus electric guitar. People are pulled in indiscriminately for bit parts on violin, cello, trumpet, saxophone, and tuba. You could probably put together a reasonable version of the 1812 Overture just with the individuals listed on the inside sleeve. This is definitely not just a guy with a guitar and a stool.

More here

And a video of the first single, “Suffocation Street”

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Kicking like the Donkeys

I reviewed the first self-titled Donkeys album a couple of years ago when they were on Antenna Farm and liked it, and now this San Diego country-pop band has a full-length on the much larger, much higher profile Dead Oceans...oddly, it seems very much the same -- that is, Band and Byrds-esque, lazy summer day tunes -- but I liked it less. I may be burning out on new records.

Here's the Dusted review:

The Donkeys
Living on the Other Side L (Dead Oceans)

The Donkeys make music for late summer, harmonies lofted by the smallest hint of a breeze, tempos dawdling in August sloth, country-lazing guitar lines bubbling up, then subsiding. No effort is required to listen - nor is it rewarded. Living on the Other Side sounds as good the first time through as it's going to, perfectly pleasant but slight. No risk of jolting you out of your hammock at all.

The languid "Dolphin Center" is, perhaps, the best song here, paced at a ramshackle, Band-like shuffle, with torpid blues guitar melting over a fog of organ tones. It's best, actually, if you don't pay much attention to the words. Surely a song this hazily melancholy could find a better way to end the chorus than, "I don't mind the passing weather / I might end up in a Dolphin Center." You might ask, why a Dolphin Center? Why not a community center or a movie theater or possibly a 7-11? No idea. There is nothing in the song to explain it.

The rest here.

"Walking through a Cloud"

And, for something completely different, here's a single review of two new-ish albums from Wayne Horvitz, the avant-jazz, new classical composer and sometime John Zorn collaborator.

Wayne Horvitz Gravitas Quartet
One Dance Alone
US release date: 22 April 2008
UK release date: 5 May 2008

Wayne Horvitz & Sweeter than the Day
A Walk in the Dark
US release date: 22 April 2008
UK release date: Available as import
by Jennifer Kelly

Downtown jazz and uptown avant classical ... inspired by the same groove
Pianist Wayne Horvitz has been in about a dozen leading jazz-avant-classical ensembles, from early days with John Zorn's Naked City, through groove-oriented Zoney Mash, to solo collaborations with his wife Robin Holcombe. His Mylab project, with producer and percussionist Tucker Martine, filtered diverse genres, from African proto-blues to bluegrass, through an ebullient aesthetic. Horvitz maintains that all these projects are united by a single vision. In a recent interview, he commented that, "I am infatuated with certain harmonic, melodic and rhythmic devices, and those devices are the backbone of everything I do."

This year, as if to test this hypothesis, Horvitz has released two separate albums with wholly different ensembles. His self-released A Walk in the Dark reassembles the Sweeter than the Day quartet of Horvitz, plus Timothy Young on guitar, Keith Lowe on acoustic bass, and Eric Eagle on drums. One Dance Alone convenes Horvitz' newest ensemble, the classically-leaning Gravitas Quartet with Peggy Lee on cello, Ron Miles on cornet, and Sara Schoenbeck on bassoon. Even better, the two recordings include a handful of common songs.

The full review.

"A Walk in the Rain"

"A Fond Farewell"

Monday, July 28, 2008

Crap, I’m back already…

Fantastic time in Montreal last week, lots of good food, interesting video exhibit at the Contemporary Art Museum, good runs up Mont Royal itself (just one hill but it’s a long one,) visits to the Biodome, the Botanical Gardens…and a huge, gorgeous outdoor food market called Jean Talon, really remarkable all the colors and smells, like Paris but more abundant…

We also managed to find the Shakespeare in the Park (way out of the center, BTW) and saw about half of the “Tempest” when it started to rain…apparently it was far worse down here, roads washed out, tornados in NH (!!), flooding etc. We had a couple of really nice days and a couple of on-and-off shower days but nothing to stop us having a pretty good time.

So I get back and I check all my outlets and apparently, no one published anything of mine while I was gone…so you may have missed me tapdancing around the fact that I had not much to say for a couple of days, but nothing else.

Meanwhile, today, PopMatters is starting its “Detours” series on strange records by mainstream bands. Today is “icons” which means really, really mainstream bands. Mine is The Who Sell Out.

Here’s a link to the whole series:

And a video of “I Can See for Miles”

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

See ya in a while

I'm leaving for Montreal in an hour or so, and will probably not post for the rest of the week. Meanwhile, here are a couple of short items from this week's Philly Weekly.

A review...

Wooden Shjips
Vol. 1 (Holy Mountain)
Rating: Solid, like the Liberty Bell.
Feedback-glazed juvenilia from the SF psych-rock foursome, Vol. 1 collects early material so minimally released that, up to now, you pretty much had to know the band to have it. These cuts are less fussed-over and heavier than last year’s self-titled debut, like early Bardo with a beat. “Shrinking Moon for You” is all buzz-sawed, circling guitar distortion, swinging pendulously from note to note, while “Death’s Not Your Friend” adds the pingpong trippiness of keyboards and Doors-reverbed psyched-out vocals. “SOL ’07” rides a monolithic groove, trumpets blaring, organ wailing, until it stops, dead-halt, like the tape ran out. (Jennifer Kelly)

The Wooden Shjips' "Dance, California"

Also a show preview...

Wed., July 30, 7:30pm. $25-35. World Cafe Live, 3025 Walnut St. 215.222.1400.

If Dwele’s velvety tenor—in his words “just like sex/ except you don’t need no damned protection”—sounds familiar, it might be because he’s upped the pheromone content in big hits like Common’s “The People” and Kanye West’s “Flashing Lights.” He’s also got four highly regarded solo albums to his credit. The just-released Sketches of a Man both updates and upends classic R&B with its pulsing slow-dance rhythms, lush singing and incisive lyrics. Highlight “I’m Cheatin’” is an interlocking puzzle of a song—on the surface another man-can’t-help-it tale of infidelity, but underneath a story about reinventing long-term relationships. (Jennifer Kelly)

Here's the video to "I'm Cheatin'"

Back Monday, have a good week.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Shakespeare, 18 miles and two bands from Thrill Jockey

Pretty busy weekend. Sean capped off a week of theater camp with four performances of “Shakespeare’s Greatest Scenes”…sort of a hodgepodge and lots of the kids were younger and less experienced, but by Saturday night, it was pretty good. Sean got to play Anthony in Anthony and Cleopatra and had a short sword fight as Edgar in King Lear. He’s got a week off now (we’re going to Montreal for vacation on Wednesday) and then right back to it for West Side Story.

As for me, I got up early on Sunday for a long run, which went pretty well…no thunderstorms, no injuries. I had the afternoon to myself for sleep and a couple of reviews – Donkeys and Fucked Up, more on both later.

Meanwhile, Dusted is running my review of the Arbouretum/Pontiak split today. It’s called Kale, I believe because of its three John Cale covers and not anything to do with the vegetable…here it is.

(Thrill Jockey)
Two guitar-heavy bands of distinctly different lineage – Arbouretum along the axis of Neil Young and Palace Brothers, Pontiak more in the line of Kyuss and Dead Meadow – share this split. The fact that both bands cover John Cale songs provides some degree of unity, but not much. The two halves are completely separate experiences.

Arbouretum, one of last year's best surprises, starts the thing off, unfolding "Time Will Tell" with a slow, ruminative patience. Lyrics are soft, widely spaced, framed by (almost) audible thought as they trace out sparse images, a stormy natural landscape, a beautiful woman. Dave Heumann gives them both equal weight and power. The woman in the second verse – "her hair in coils her shoulder soft and bare / In her eyes, a firelight roars and dims" – is nearly as ominous as the clouds building in the first. Human beings are just as much a force of nature as trees and winds in Heumann's songs, and as the guitar escapes its bonds near the 3:30 mark, a prolonged solo brings that anarchic, wind-torn aesthetic to life. It starts with a winding, unspooling series of notes, bass and guitar wrapped in serpentine coils around each other. Then Heumann's guitar heads off into unknown territories, wailing and spinning in intractable circles, as if unwilling to fit into the strictures attached to song but unable to fully escape them. It's quite a long guitar solo, struggling on mightily over its six-minute duration to find some reconciliation between structure and pure emotional abandon. You keep expecting it to circle back to the initial musical idea, but it crashes to a halt without ever revisiting the verse or chorus.

More here:

MySpace for Arbourteum

And Pontiak

A live recording of Arbouretum from last month

And for Pontiak

Friday, July 18, 2008

I made a new mix

I made a new mix yesterday and in my very humble opinion, it's pretty awesome.

Track listing:

Swell Maps -- Harmony in Your Bathroom
Oneida -- Cream Puff War
Darker My Love -- Pale Sun
Blank Dogs -- Three Window Room
The Homosexuals -- Hearts in Exile
Jay Reatard -- Feeling Blank Again
Kurt Vile -- Freeway
Envelopes -- Life on the Beach
The Kills -- Last Day of Magic
Hercules & Love Affair -- Hercules Theme
Endless Boogie -- Give me the Awesome
King Khan and the Shrines -- Burnin' Inside
Johnny Thunders -- Pirate Love
Psychedelic Horseshit -- Rather Dull
The Dirtbombs -- Leopardman at C&A
Wooden Shjips -- We Ask You to Ride

There's a link in the comments. Enjoy

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Thinking about Karen Dalton

My review of the newly rediscovered Green Rocky Road materials, recorded by Karen Dalton in Colorada between 1962 and 1963, runs today in Dusted.

Karen Dalton
Green Rocky Road

Recorded "on two tracks" (as Dalton plainly states) in 1962 and 1963, the material for Green Rocky Road came from the same trove of reel-to-reel tapes that gave birth to Cotton Eyed Joe last year. The main difference is that Cotton Eyed Joe was played for an audience in a tiny Colorado coffee house, while Green Rocky Road was laid down at home and mostly alone. So, while Cotton Eyed Joe was interspersed with the evidence of other people – applause, conversation, a certain communicativeness in the playing – this one seems almost wholly internal.

Dalton is still in her mid-20s here, not yet smoothed or styled by contact with Bleecker Street contemporaries like Fred Neil, not yet plagued by the addictions of her later years. She has not yet learned the sophisticated jazz-like phrasing of So Hard to Tell Who's Going to Love You Best, and her approach is plain-spoken, strong and solitary. You have only to contrast Green Rocky Road's "Ribbon Bow" with the one she recorded for Capitol half a decade later to hear the difference. Here, "Ribbon Bow" is all her, the extraordinarily emotive voice, the steady thrum of 12-string. You feel, almost, as if you're eavesdropping, so private and meditative is the song. By the time she comes back to "Ribbon Bow" in 1969, her voice has modulated, landing lightly on the notes, curving around them in blues-tinged flourishes. She no longer sounds like she is thinking aloud, but rather performing. It is as if, in the interim, she has gone from dreaming about "if I were like city girls" to becoming one.

More here:

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Getting closer to the Closer, Sic Alps and Jay Reatard

I don't have broadcast TV out here in beautiful northern New England (we get PBS, but not much else), so I have taken to reviewing DVD sets of current television shows. What can I say? It keeps me off the street. Anyway, this time it was The Closer, starring Ms. Kyra Sedgwick, not bad, not bad at all.

The Closer: The Complete Third Season
Cast: Kyra Sedgwick, J.K. Simmons, Robert Gossett, Jon Tenney, G. W. Bailey, Corey Reynolds
(Warner Brothers, 2005)
US release date: 1 July 2008 (TNT)
by Jennifer Kelly

We’ve come a long way from Murder, She Wrote

The first thing you have to know about Deputy Chief Brenda Leigh Johnson is that she’ll do anything to get her confession. She’ll lie. She’ll flirt. She’ll pretend to be your first. She’ll threaten. She’ll lean way over your way with her considerable cleavage showing, and pretend to be far dumber than she is. She’ll even tell you that your little brother has been murdered – she’ll do this right in front of her parents, her fiancé and two of her colleagues—when if fact that little brother is fine and asking about you every ten minutes.

Johnson, as Kyra Sedgwick portrays her, is a bundle of conflicting energies, deeply committed to what she sees as right, but willing to do all kinds of morally questionable things to get there. She is moral without being especially trustworthy, truthseeking but not terribly truthful, and though she seems to care, more or less, about the people around her, she will toss them over the side anytime, anywhere, if it gets her closer to catching the criminal.

It’s kind of a strange part for a Hollywood beauty to be playing, when you think about it.

Read the whole thing, if you want, by clicking here.

Brenda Leigh Johnson would just fucking destroy Jay Reatard, using her Southern charm to get him to confess to things he'd never heard of...but let's hope they never meet up, because first with Blood Visions, now with his Matador singles, Jay is making me believe in punk rock again. Here's my review of the singles comp in Philly Weekly.

Jay Reatard

Singles 06-07 (Matador)
Rating: Excellent, like John Oates’ mustache.
Singles continues what 2006’s Blood Visions started: cranking, short, sharp, desolate punk songs that lodge in your head like advertising jingles. Songs range from synth-pumping stutters to New Wavish to classic oi! band shout-alongs. Regardless of style, Reatard has a way with catchy refrains, lodging undeniable hooks into sped-up, sticks-on-rims implosions. Still, there’s a darkness in these songs, each one taking a belligerent poke at death and alienation. “Feeling blank again,” screeches Reatard in his vintage Richard Hell yelp. And if you stopped slamming, you might feel just the same. (Jennifer Kelly)

Here's Jay playing "Oh, It's Such a Shame"

I also wrote a preview for a Philly Sic Alps w/ Blues Control's show, which seems like it would be wholly worth seeing:

Sic Alps + Blues Control

Fri., July 18, 8pm. $10. With Home Blitz. Johnny Brenda’s, 1201 Frankford Ave. 215.739.9684.

This show was supposed to happen back in May, but Sic Alps drummer Matt Hartman broke a wrist bicycling (wouldn’t you think a guy who used to play in the Coachwhips would know how to fall safely?) and the whole tour got postponed. No matter, this fuzz-crusted, distortion-infected, garage-psych duo returns in triumph, newly signed to the legends-of-noise Siltbreeze and expecting a new album in August. U.S. EZ, their fourth, is unhinged and haunting, loosely strung laments hitched to vintage 1960s guitars. Openers Blues Control take their blues-based meditations in a heavier direction, with ponderous, molten riffs that circle and envelop. (Jennifer Kelly)

Here are Sic Alps playing "Semi-Street"

and Blues Control

Remaining Sic Alps dates:
JULY 16 KNOXVILLE {@ the Pilot Light w/ Three Man Band}
JULY 17 CHAPEL HILL {@ the Reservoir w/ Minchia, & Jokes&Jokes&Jokes}
JULY 18 PHILADELPHIA {@ Johnny Brenda's w/ Blues Control & Home Blitz}
JULY 19 BROOKLYN {@ Death by Audio w/ Religious Knives, Meth Teeth, & Ca-USE Co-MOTION!}
JULY 20 BROOKLYN {@ Union Pool w/ Child Abuse, Flowers of Flesh and Blood, & Stetson-Sawyer Duo}
JULY 21 BOSTON {@ the Abbey Lounge w/ Reports, Black Clouds, & Heathen Shame}
JULY 22 PITTSBURG {@ Garfield Artworks w/ Pink Reason, Harangue & Centipede E'est}
JULY 23 CLEVELAND {@ Pat's in the Flats w/ Scarcity of Tanks & Stephe DK}
JULY 24 COLUMBUS {@ Cafe Bourbon St. w/ Psychedelic Horseshit, El Jesus de Magico, & Necropolis}
JULY 25 DETROIT {@ X! Fest at the Bohemian National Home w/ Tyvek, Terrible Twos, Frustrations, The Mahonies, Fontana, Psychedelic Horseshit, Guinea Worms, Necropolis, & Timmy V Lamp)
JULY 28 ST. LOUIS {@ Open Lot w/ Ghost Ice, Raglani, & Thankful Tree} - *ALL TO BE CONFIRMED*
JULY 29 KANSAS CITY {@ the Pistol Social Club w/ Witch and Hare}

Fall dates with the Ohsees
SEPT 16 LOS ANGELES {@ The Smell}
SEPT 17 SAN DIEGO {@ Bar Pink Elephant}
SEPT 21 AUSTIN {@ Beerland}
SEPT 22 AUSTIN {@ Club 1808 - ALL AGES)
SEPT 23 DALLAS {@ The Lounge}
SEPT 25 MEMPHIS {@ Gonerfest}
SEPT 27 NYC {@ Chris Johanson art opening/TBD}
OCT 1 MONTREAL {@ Pop Montreal Festival}

Monday, July 14, 2008

CSS has stopped swearing...fuck!

Have you seen Pan's Labyrinth? I just watched it last night and am still wandering around in a’s sort of like a Terry Gilliam movie, but instead of just being full of amazing images for their own sake, they all move the story. Incredible. Should have been best picture, not just for last year but the last ten years.

Anyway, the music. Here's my review of the surprisingly dull new record by Brazil's CSS. It ran today in Dusted:

Sub Pop
Transgression was a big part of CSS's appeal back in 2006 when this band of bratty, potty-mouthed Brazilians bounced up and down in pigtails to a chant of "C-S-S Suxxx!" Whether you were a guy making the limbic connection between risqué language and risqué behavior, or a girl sick of being held to a double standard for lady-like-ness, CSS was a breath of fresh air. "Suck, suck, my art tit" indeed … it was fun stuff. Still, that was then, this is Warner-distributed now. There's hardly a trace of CSS's insouciant sailor swagger in the follow-up, Donkey. In fact, you could play it for a Montessori car pool, and no one would learn any new words.

It's not just the language that's been cleaned up, either. The band enlisted Mike Stent, who has worked with Madonna, MIA and Massive Attack, to work commercial grade emptiness into the mix. Where Cansei de Ser Sexy beckoned you to join a gritty, possibly dangerous street party, Donkey is all about the velvet rope. Last time, it seemed that anything might happen, cut to cut. This second record is as poised as a runway show: strut, saunter, smile, whirl, and flounce back to the dressing room.


You can listen to "Rat Is Dead" (which is one of two songs on the album that I kind of like) for yourself:

On the other hand, I truly enjoyed The Boy Bathing's A Fire to Make Preparations, a self-released, baroque pop endeavor along the lines of Loney, Dear. My review in today's PopMatters concludes, "Throughout, the arrangements lift these word-loving, intricate songs into baroque pop exuberance, undercutting anything overly sober with bubbly harmonies, strident rhythms and the sheer power of their hooks. There is, indeed, “a fire in the basement” of these songs, as Hurwitz insists in the album’s closing song ("The Fire"), its heat and light and pure joy spilling out of complicated musical constructs." The whole review is here:

There are a couple of giveaway MP3s:
"The Beaches Meet the Sea"
and "A Fire"

Friday, July 11, 2008

Still more Abe Vigoda

Double-booked's my Blurt review of the new Abe Vigoda.

I am unbelieveably frazzled these days and not at home much, so the "pick three records" at random extravaganza may need to wait until Saturday.

Abe Vigoda
(Post Present Medium)

Noisy, pop-crackling Abe Vigoda comes from the same vegan DIY punk scene as LA’s No Age (whose members run the Post Present Medium label), so it’s no surprise that the band wraps insouciant melodies in fiberglass splinters of abrasive distortion. What might be a surprise is how well the band incorporates LA’s multicultural heat into its short, sharp implosions. “Hyacinth Girls” slips a Third World-ish hip shimmy into its punk rock pogo, an island blast of sunshine into its distorted guitars, and “Bear Face” has a bit of Konono No. 1’s hallucinatory groove in its call-and-response structure.

You wouldn’t think that urgent DIY noise and laid-back tropical rhythms would mesh, but it’s a surprisingly happy blend. Think of this band as a punk squat incongruously perched on tropical seashore, pasty-white dudes catching some rays and pouring over Lonely Planet as they figure out which bus to take from here.

Standout Tracks: “Bear Face”, “Hyacinth Girls” “Lantern Heights” JENNIFER KELLY

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Rock and roll will never die…it just gets really sleepy

My straight-up review of the straight-up rock band Skybombers. They’re out of Melbourne, Australia, where they put sticks in the air and count “1, 2, 3, 4” without an iota of irony, god bless them.

Take Me To Town
(Albert Productions)
US release date: 13 May 2008
UK release date: 13 May 2008

Once more for old time's sake

Rock and roll will never die, we are told, again and again, as a steady stream of oldies flits by on radio shows (most of them, ironically enough, by dead or retired rock stars). The rebellion that is rock is forever in danger of slipping into a coma, canonized by Mojo and enshrined in any number of television ads. But the thing is, rock and roll never will die, because it will be reinvigorated repeatedly, given CPR by bratty young punks with today’s lock on melody and mayhem. The Skybombers, out of Melbourne, Australia, are just another in a long tradition that started with the Beatles, the Who, and the Stones, and has lately wound through Oasis, the Strokes, the Libertines, and the Arctic Monkeys.

All of which means that there is nothing much new about Take Me To Town, from its blustery power chords to its raggedy vulnerable vocals to its twitchy and angst-filled rain of strumming. For god’s sake, there is even a track called “Teenage Dreams”, a blistered barrage of guitar fuckery and pulsing bass that the boys of Skybombers may well be singing—and rather sick of—in their reunion tour a decade or two hence. And yet, however straight-up Skybombers’ approach to garage-into-stadium rock may be, it is undeniably fun. It always is. That’s why we keep coming back.

More here:

“Always Complaining”

A media player with some additional songs is here:

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Repeating myself all over again

Maybe a week and a half ago, I put up some videos from three spazz punk bands without much in the way of analysis or verbiage. Today, just the opposite, words, words, words, and not a bit of TV.

(Though feel free to reach back into time for the accompanying images here:
A record review from this week’s Philadelphia Weekly (

Abe Vigoda
Skeleton (Post Present Medium)

Rating: Excellent, like John Oates’ mustache.

Part of the noise-pop phenomenon centered around L.A.’s the Smell, Abe Vigoda have none of the world-weariness of their ’70s actor namesake, but rather jitters like a Montessori class on an Easter egg hunt. There’s a world-ish shimmer to this band’s splintered melodies, south-of-the-border rhythms breaking through eerie distortion. Vocals also drift in from sunny distances, leading a far away parade against a Day-Glo array of keyboards and drums. You feel every minute as if songs like “Bear Face” will open up, and yet they remain bright, inscrutable and full of wordless joy. (Jennifer Kelly)

And a coupla show previews:

No Age

Thurs., July 10, 8pm. $10. With High Places + Abe Vigoda. First Unitarian Church, 2125 Chestnut St. 215.733.9623.

Even No Age’s records—whether last year’s singles or this year’s Nouns—are like grabbing onto the business end of a power wire. Live, this L.A. duo sputters and spazzes, guitarist Randy Randall locked in an epileptic fit of up and down strumming, drummer/singer Dean Spunt bouncing up and down on the seat, arms flying in frantic eighth-note banging. The energy is all punk and noise, but the songs themselves hide broken shards of poplike melody, glittering once or twice, then disappearing into a firestorm of aggression. (Jennifer Kelly)

Titus Andronicus
Mon., July 14, 8pm. $8-$10. With Wye Oak. Circle of Hope, 1125 S. Broad St. 215.468.2726.
Titus Andronicus
, the Shakespeare play, begins with a ritual murder, winds its way through rapes and dismemberments and ends with pretty much everyone dead. Titus Andronicus, the Jerseyite punk band, begins with pogo rhythms and mindlessly catchy choruses, winds its way through cheerful images of death and dismemberment and ends up with a bouncy chant of “Your life is over.” That’s “Titus Andronicus,” the band’s brilliantly oversimplified take on the bard’s least-known tragedy—Shakespeare not just for dummies, but for beer-swilling spazzes. Who says the kids aren’t learning the classics these days? (J.K.)

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Going out tonight

So I’m dragging the family to see Chicha Libre and Dengue Fever play Northampton tonight. You might recall (or you might not), that I interviewed Olivier Conan about his Peruvian-influenced Chicha Libre a little while ago for PopMatters (Link:

There’s a Chicha Libre radio performance from WYNC here, if you’d like to hear for yourself:

What do they look like? Like this:

I know far less about Dengue Fever except that a) they are from LA, b) the bass player is also in Radar Brothers and c) the singer is Cambodian.

So, how about a video, eh?

Or two?

Monday, July 7, 2008

Monday again…how did that happen?

That three-day weekend flew by didn’t it?

It was a pretty good holiday, though, all in all. Sean and I went strawberry picking on Thursday afternoon, got 7 pounds of berries…the real kind, the kind you can smell from ten feet away, not the plastic things they sell in supermarkets. So we made a strawberry pie and strawberry smoothies and that was good. You can never have too many strawberries.

On the 4th, Sean astonished me by getting up at 7:30 a.m. to run the “4 on the 4th” roadrace down in Keene. I was pretty sure he would bag out, but he didn’t and we had a pretty good time. He took about nine minutes off his last year’s time, finishing at 31:28, not bad for a 13-year-old (though there are some freakishly fast 13-year-olds out there). The woman who won was 54! And ran the thing in under 21 minutes, 5:20 or so per mile, pretty amazing. I did a 28:31, which was fine, but not great.

So, then we did not so much until the fireworks, except I listened to the Jay Reatard singles about four times in a row, damn, what a fun record! (And how dark and twisted underneath). Next day I continued to punish my fading body with a 20 mile run, the first in the current marathon training schedule (I’m running DeMar in Keene on September 28th). And we had dinner with some friends that night, which was particularly great, but probably too dull to talk about. (Now I start worrying about boring you, right?)

Anyway, it’s all over, so let’s catch up on the music stuff. First, my not-entirely-enthusiastic review of the new Wire at Dusted today:

Object 47 (Pink Flag)
Even though this is Wire's 47th recording (counting EPs, singles, live albums and god knows what else), the band's reputation still mostly rests on its three groundbreaking albums in the late 1970s: Pink Flag, Chairs Missing and 154. When people say that something "sounds like Wire," they mean it sounds like these three records – either brash and fast and loud like the first two, or tentatively melodic, experimental and synthy like the third. They forget, for the most part, that Wire itself didn't sound like Wire for much of the late ’80s and early ’90s, that in those dance-influenced, synthetic years, Wire actually sounded more like New Order. A series of fractious post-2000 reunion recordings – the three Read and Burn EPs and the summing full-length Send – may have allowed us to forget that Wire had its pop side, its new wave side, its technology-fascinated dance side. If nothing else, Object 47 serves as a reminder that no one should ever assume they know what the next Wire album will sound like, only that it will differ from the last.

More: here:

Wire is giving away an mp3 of “One of Us”
And also, a review of Will Johnson’s split Centro-Matic/South San Gabriel recording, which is low-key and excellent.

South San Gabriel/Centromatic
Dual Hawks (Misra)

A two-disc set contrasts two overlapping bands headed by Will Johnson, the four-piece, raucous Centro-Matic and the quieter, string-embellished South San Gabriel. Both CDs have stunning moments, the South San Gabriel one right up front with the luminous "Emma Jane," a whisker-stubbled, ruminative ballad. Despite lush fingerings of acoustic blues guitar and baroque turns of cello and viola, the song remains spare, its arrangements giving space for Johnson's rueful, sigh-damaged voice. "Of Evil/For Evil" feels denser and more threatening, as Johnson murmurs ominously above slow-marching piano notes and trilling, edgy strings. The Centro-Matic disc is looser and less premeditated but no less compelling, with key players talking and laughing in between fuzzy, distorted takes. Best cuts here include urgent opener "The Rat Patrol and DJs" and country-rollicking "Twenty-Four." Johnson slips telling lyrics into the slow songs and the rockers, injecting emotional resonance and intelligence into two very fine discs.

Standout Tracks: "Emma Jane," "Twenty-Four" JENNIFER KELLY

Here’s Centro-Matic’s “The Kite”

And South San Gabriel’s “Trust to Lose”

Thursday, July 3, 2008

King Khan and the Shrines kick out the jams

Super fun garage-rock-soul from Montreal-via-German King Khan, a frequent fellow-instigator of Mark Sultan. I reviewed it for Blurt yesterday morning and it went up, still smoking, in the's a bit of my purple prose "a 16-cut singles compilation ...splic[es] Sonics-style howls to Stax-y surges, tambourine-man beats to searing MC5 guitar riffs."

The rest can be found here:
And just for fun, here's King Khan, the Shrines and the Sun Ra Arkestra...all together.

King Khan and the Shrines "Burnin' Inside"

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Why did I ask for this?

Is it just me or is “Grammy-winning” a synonym for “chunk-blowing”? I’ve spent the last few days listening to this NPR sanctioned, adult-alternative fodder. Now I’d like my week back

Los Lonely BoysForgiven
US release date: 1 July 2008
UK release date: Available as import
by Jennifer Kelly

Slick corporate rock, Texas style
For Los Lonely Boys’ first album, the Garza brothers called on outlaw country legend Willie Nelson for extra guitar (and extra credibility). For this one, the third in the Los Lonely Boys canon, they’re hauling in John Mayer producer (and ex-Blues Brother) Steve Jordan. Dr. John guests on a couple of tracks, lending the warmth of Hammond B3 to “You Can’t See the Light”, the chill of Wurlitzer to “The Way I Feel”, but sunk so far down in the mix that you can hardly hear him. Even by Grammy-award-winning standards, this is ultra-safe, ultra-commercial pap, blues rock with every bit of scratch and grit vacuumed out.

Maybe you will like it better than I do?

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Odds and sods…

I have a couple of reviews up at PureMusic (

One is of the Mr. Lonely Soundtrack, scored by Jason Pierce of Spiritualized and Spaceman 3 and the Sun City Girls. I called it “Strange, beautiful, but curiously truncated, these songs hint at a fuller experience, which can, perhaps, only be gotten through the movie.” The full review is here:

Here’s a video trailer for the movie:

The other is even odder, a review of a new record by a Scottish folk/drone outfit called Nalle.

“Nalle, the experimental folk trio led by Hanna Tuulikki, taps into the weird multiplicitous loveliness of the natural world, visiting not just the prettiness of flowers and sunshine and baby animals, but the primitive power of howling winds and pitchblack nights, wild seas and sharp teeth. In The Siren's Wave, their second album, madrigal harmonies and waltz time laments morph into wild keenings and improvisatory abandon. You may hear a trace of birdsong or gypsy tunes, alongside guitar, clarinet, violin, and a Finnish zither called the kantele. But what you will not hear is any kind of sentimentality about the past or the woods or anything else. These are folk songs that take the earth seriously and with awe. ‘In all things of nature there is something of the marvelous,’ Aristotle observed, and these British folk improvisers would agree wholeheartedly, I'd guess.” The full review can be found here:
There’s an mp3 at Locust Music:'s%20ladder.mp3

And I missed this one when it went up last week, but it is yet another record from the Hydrahead label which is worth checking. It’s the self-titled from Pyramids…which I described thusly: “Denton, TX-based post-metal foursome creates frightening, beautiful soundscapes with the majesty of Jesu, the proggy lyricism of Radiohead.”

The full review is here:

You can stream the whole album (just the originals, not the remixes) by going here: