Tag Archives: rock
As a music reviewer, I’m prone to exaggeration. It’s part of the job. You hear an exquisite piece of music and you rack your brain for the right adjectives to make the world notice. Sometimes it gets over-the-top.
This, however, is no exaggeration: The A-Side of Birds of Maya’s Celebration is the greatest, gnarliest, most rockingest 20 minutes of Rock ‘N’ Roll music pressed to vinyl in the past ten years. And, not only is it the greatest Rock ‘N’ Roll you’re liable to hear in many a year, it’s the greatest example of Rock ‘N’ Roll music that practically no one has heard. Originally limited to 350 copies of vinyl with hand-painted covers (no digital or CD release), the album sold out before I even realized it was on sale. A repress has been promised ever since. That long overdue repress finally arrived in the past this past week and holy fuckin’ hell, you have no idea.
The A-Side, labeled only as “Picnic,” as it was recorded during a neighborhood party in Philadelphia in 2012 called the Kensington Picnic, can be broken down into four movements. The first, we’ll call “Son of a Bitch.” It begins with a basic, barroom blues progression in the rhythm section before guitarist Mike Polizze barrels in with a lead riff reminiscent of Nazareth’s “Hair of the Dog.”
The second section is easily recognizable as a variation of “The Cross Road Blues,” the standard established by Robert Johnson and popularized by Eric Clapton and Cream. This bleeds into “Some Kind of Mettalica,” a section named after the heavy metal heroes because this is where the trio gets metal in a Ride the Lightning and Master of Puppets kind of way. The final movement is one which doesn’t need a made up name, it’s The Stooges’ classic, “TV Eye.”
Through it all, the power trio — Polizze on guitar, Jason Killinger on bass, Ben Leaphart on drums, is relentless. There’s barely a second of dead air to be found on “Picnic.”
Polizze’s playing, meanwhile, is epic in the truest sense of the word. While informed by the Mascis and Moore school of guitar playing (he’s loud, blown-out and rambunctious like those alt-rockers), he’s also more in tune with the blues. One can hear a bit of Jimmy Page in his playing, for like the Zeppelin axe-man, Polizze arena-sizes those old-timey melodies. Page, however, never let himself go in the way Polizze does. And that is the third ingredient to the playing of Polizze and Birds of Maya. They jam like they’re in a punk band, unafraid to go headlong into a technical passage, but skilled enough to keep the wheels from rolling off of the damn thing as they’re shredding and thrashing and jamming and jam-thrashing. Impressive isn’t the word and we haven’t even discussed the B-Side, “BBQ” with Harmonica Dan.
Sexy, cool, and kitschy are the first three words to come to mind when describing Costa Blanca, The Limiñanas’ latest release of garage, lounge pop, and psychedelic rock for Chicago’s Trouble in Mind Records. Sexy and cool are a given. From their understated arrangements to their sly vocals sung in both French and English, The French duo reek of refinement. Although the credits list guitar, sitar, banjo, bouzouki and something called an oud, most tracks live and die by the vibrant, buoyant grooves laid down by principles Marie and Lionel Limiñana.
Kitschy is a little more difficult to identify. They could be a cheeky couple, too. The difference is in one’s interpretation, I suppose, and with such a high level of emotional detachment from the band, and without being able to see any actual winks, it’s not clear if the lyrics of “Votre coté yéyé m’emmerde” are anything more than people, places, and acts that sound more exotic when said with a french accent. I’m hooked. Then again, my French is limited to merci, moustache, Zidane and Henry and just hearing a French woman say “Woody Allen” made my knees buckle.
Ultimately, the issue of whether The Limiñanas are being campy on purpose, or are being campy because go-go and ’60s lounge music elicit images of Austin Powers to ugly Americans, like myself, becomes irrelevant. Instead, it becomes part of the mystique.
They have this way of making stoner grooves appropriate for cocktail parties
and spy grooves apt for head music fans.
Hell, they even make their take on early Velvet Underground sound fresh.
The Limiñanas may be campy at times, and they may nor may not be in on the joke, but one thing is sure: This duo knows there way around ’60s art– From high brow to low brow, from art museums to back alleys, and from New York to Paris. For a talent like this, cool may be end up being the only adjective you’ll ever need.
Keep Austin Weird. Keep Portland Weird. Keep Cleveland Weird. Every city worth its salt want to be weird these days. It’s how you attract the young ‘uns to live in the city’s core.
However, as weird as you think Cleveland is these days with its large tracts of post-industrial brown fields, a thriving
thieving scrapping industry, underappreciated arts and square pockets of hip, there was a time our town was even weirder.
Back in 1975, a band by the name of 15-60-75 opened up for Bob Marley and The Wailers at the Cleveland Agora. They were regulars in the Kent scene, often playing three or four nights in the row at the same bar. On this night, one can imagine the usual response for an opening act, a tight group of die-hards pressed up against the front of the stage, surround by the talkers, the preeners, and the can’t be bothered until the other band comes on people.
Or, once that opening groove of “Animal Speaks” hits, one can imagine an entirely different scene. This was Northeast Ohio rock at its weirdest, and some would contend its best, and the opening band won over the crowd. The liner notes suggest my first guess was the right one. The crowd chanted “Wailers” and cheered when one last song was announced.
15-60-75 (Numbers Band) – Animal Speaks
Still, the Numbers band soldiered on, determined to blaze this night.
Like Pere Ubu, the music collected on this live set, Jimmy Bell’s Still in Town, is maddeningly difficult to categorize. Though at this point in the band’s history, their heritage could already count members of Devo and The James Gang, and a brother of Chrissie Hynde of the Pretenders, calling them a punk band, a blues band or even a rock band doesn’t feel quite right.
The rhythms are often robotic and repetitive, like early krautrock. Guitarist Robert Kidney’s vocals, meanwhile, are delivered tersely, like a street poet, or a street preacher, or a street vendor, or any old man who spends too much time on the streets. Add to this mix, the freewheeling saxophones of Terry Hynde and Tim Maglione and you get something quite unlike anything going on in Cleveland, then or now. Later on in the set, the title track adds Afro-Caribbean percussion to the mix, because, let’s be honest, what preceded it wasn’t nearly wild enough.
The strangest part of it all, however, isn’t the opening for Marley part, or the local legend of the Numbers Band being the inspiration behind the Blues Brothers part, or even Gerald Casale of Devo spending time in the band and getting kicked out of the band for wearing a monkey mask on stage part, it’s that it works, period. Not only is Jimmy Bell’s Still in Town certifiably weird, but it is wholly essential, too. It not only showcases the merits of following your own tune, but also the virtues of practice and perseverance. This is a record that could have only been made by a tight band of musical eccentrics, men who took in every piece of outsider music and designed a way to make it their own. Then they gigged and practiced and gigged and practiced and gigged some more.
We all want to be weird, right? For Cleveland musicians, this is where you start.
Why turn to a new band like Swearin’ for ’90s alt-pop nostalgia when there’s plenty of the real thing out touring today?
The answer to that one is simple. “Dust in the Gold Sack” is every bit the buzz cut as Belly’s “Feed the Tree,”
The Primitives’ “Crash,”
or anything by The Breeders not named “Cannonball.”
Swearin’ have the advantage of being a fresh band in 2013. You don’t have to deal with that icky feeling of nostalgia taking over your life.
Plus, there are ten more tracks of this stuff on Swearin’s second album, Surfing Strange. And while no single track hits as hard as “Dust in the Gold Sack,” women who rock like Allison Crutchfield are always welcome around these parts. There just aren’t enough of ‘em these days.
Kurt Vile’s latest EP, “it’s a big world out there (and i am scared)” is either a record for completists or a record for a record company to squeeze every last dollar out of their consumers (depending on how cynical you feel). I happen to like Matador Records, so let’s say it’s a record for completists. The two alternate takes from his recent album, Wakin on a Pretty Daze, “Never Run Away (String Synth)” and “Snowflakes (Extended)” are just as listed. The former adds string synths to the mix and the latter has a longer running time that the original version. Two other cuts, the short instrumentals, “(Reprise Reprise)” and “NRA Reprise,” are similarly expendable. That leaves us with three tracks of note on a seven track EP, and of those two, “The Ghost of Freddie Roach” is the one worth seeking out. The reminiscent tone of Vile’s voice as he eases out “Back in the day when we were young whipping every one,” is perfectly mirrored by a side-winding and sliding guitar melody. Eventually, the vocals reduce themselves to barely perceptible whoos and oohs, as Vile rides that solo for all its worth. “The Ghost of Freddie Roach” would have made for an ace closing track, or, perhaps, a much sought after 7″. On an album of ephemera, however, it’s all too easy to overlook its brilliance.