Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Come to Axum's Lounge! See my band bring it!!

My band Braddock Station Garrison returns to the stage this Saturday, April 26, at Axum's Lounge at 1934 9th Street NW in Washington DC. We are first up at 8:30pm. Being old we like going early. Let the young whippersnappers play at midnight. There are lots of cool restaurants in the neighborhood so come on down and make an evening out of it!

We are playing with some great local bands. We are particularly fond of Exit Vehicles. I used to work with Adam many moons ago and am excited to share the bill with his band.

So far we have had three shows with our new bass player Jim. We were very sad to see Patrick leave but it was a good life-altering opportunity for him and his family. Finding Jim was a God-send. He is an experienced touring musician, a great talent, and a really nice guy who fits in perfectly with the rest of us. He brings a unique style to the proceedings. We are lucky to have him part of our little group.

Our CD High Water was recorded and mixed by Don Zientara and is available digitally at iTunes and Amazon and CDBaby and at Bandcamp. It's also streaming on Spotify. We'd be most appreciative if you considering getting yourself a copy. We'll have physical copies and tee-shirts too at our shows.

Here we are doing "Hey Cindy" at our show at Empire in Springfield VA. Come check us out!!

Heavy Round-Up

If you've read here enough you know I have a soft spot for heavy rock and metal. Here's a round-up of some records of that ilk I have been digging and playing regularly.

The back of Old Man's Will eponymous debut says "File Under: 70s rock/blues rock/hard rock." That sums them up just right. Hailing from Sweden they are a modern band doing old school heavy rock. They are another great band on the EasyRider Records (about to become Riding Easy due to legal reasons) label. Deep Purple minus Jon Lord is what comes to mind when listening. "An Ennobling Evening" has that Ritchie Blackmore kind of vibe, heavy guitar licks over a thudding beat and wailing Ian Gillian-esque vocal. "Alidheim" is slow burn, rhythm and bluesy vocals before the bottom-friendly guitar lick kicks in. It's a nice debut by a very promising band. I look forward to hearing more from them in the future.

The Oath are a couple foxy ladies from Sweden and Germany respectively and a couple guys named Fred (no offense) doing a fast, witchy blend of hard rock and metal. German singer Johanna Sardonis has a fascination with evil things and the hereafter; it bleeds into her lyrics. Swedish guitarist Linnéa Ollson can flat out play. Take the also eponymously-named album opener "All Must Die." That title does not express the end is imminent but that it's eventual, and that it might not be a happy eternity awaiting you. Musically it has a nice time shift in the middle. They do that a bunch keeping things especially interesting. The song titles are as expected: "Night Child," "Black Rainbow," "Death Delight" and "Psalm 7" for example. My copy came direct from Rise Above Records and includes a 7" for "Night Of The Demon." The album cover alone gets attention and the music backs up the look. If you dig devilish metal you'll dig this. It's harmless fun, whether or not they believe the shtick.

Less metal and more heavy rock is the wonderfully named British outfit Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovel and their new LP Check 'Em Before You Wreck 'Em. Another offering from Rise Above Records, these fellows bring more 70s inspired rock. These Brits sound more like late-era Ozzy Sabbath. It's not earth-shattering but it's rock n roll and it's fun. Plus their guitarist calls himself Johnny Gorilla and I respect that. They look like they stepped out of the 70s. Denim and boots and weird birds riding motorcycles. It's fun and sort of stupid but the fun is in the stupidness. 100% respect in that statement. I dig it and if you dig loud guitars and heavy rhythm you will dig this. What's not to like about a song called "2 Tonne Fuckboot"?

Here's Old Man's Will doing "Evil Woman"

The Oath and "All Must Die"

YouTube is coming up short on stuff from their new record
so here is a clip from a February show of theirs:

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Pass The Buck

Peter Buck was the first former REM-er to come out with a solo record. He also appears to be the only one planning to do that. Only a year after his eponymous and vinyl-only solo debut, he returns with I Am Back To Blow Your Mind Once Again. The debut was not earth-shattering. It felt loose and fun, things that Peter Buck never really seemed when he was in REM. The follow-up here, also a vinyl-only production, is more of the same.

His primary cohort is Scott McCaughey, he of The Minus 5 and long-time collaborator/pal of Buck. It is kind of a bluesy, boozy record.  I don't suspect this record took terribly long to make. It reminds me in terms of feel of the record he and Mike Mills and Bill Berry did with Warren Zevon back in the early 90s as Hindu Love Gods. It's the kind of record that musicians make when they are having a good time. It's not an artistic statement, it's not reaching for something great. It's a portrait of a talented artist doing his thing. It does not quite live up to it's name. But it's a welcome diversion.

Buck does not have the most magnetic voice. It is often drenched in effect but his voice is sort of a natural effect. He was not meant to be a front-man. But that is not a criticism, just a fact. It suits the vibe though. When McCaughey takes the lead vocal on the nice mid-tempo cut "Fall On My Own Sword" it's a noticeable shift.

The first three songs are solid rockers, especially the third one "Life Is Short" where Kurt...somebody. The credits on the back label don't go into much detail. Anyway he gets off a great psychedelic guitar solo that goes on a bit too long, which is perfectly fine.

The Drive By Truckers' Patterson Hood shows up for the most interesting song on the record: "Southerner." It features Buck on a sinister sounding enow guitar while Hood recites the lyrics, capturing what it means to be a southerner of a certain age.

The only song I could find on YouTube was "Drown With Me," which features Sleater-Kinney's Corin Tucker on lead vocal, and sounds like it could have come off of New Adventures in Hi-Fi. I didn't look that hard for a video, though.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Holdin' Steady

The Hold Steady are one of the best live bands on the planet. There is an incredible energy that fills every one of their shows. As Craig Finn shouts at the end of their live record "There is so much JOY in what we do!" I got to see them for the fourth or fifth time (I forget) on Monday at DC's 930 Club. As always they put on a great show but it did seem a little more subdued than previous. Maybe that was because they are a bit older, or maybe because my wife and I perched from the club's balcony so that we had perfect sound and a perfect view. When I've gone solo I usually get down front, so though  the mob at the front didn't seem particularly ornery, perhaps being away from it proved less exciting. The crowds are part of what make their shows more revival than concert. Everybody knows the words to the classics, and the classics were well represented. It was a wonderful show, and if you like classic Thin Lizzy-sounding rock with a madman holding court at the lead singer mic, then you should love The Hold Steady as much as I do.

Their latest record is Teeth Dreams and it is an improvement from their somewhat disappointing Heaven Is Whenever. That 2010 record sounded a bit lethargic to me. It was their first without keyboardist and backing vocalist Franz Nicolay. He brought a lot to the band. It took a record for them to adapt. Steve Selvidge, who used to be in Lucero, is now an official member and he brings a great compliment to Tab Kubler's guitar playing. They share lead duties and it rely ram homes the Thin Lizzy sound for me. A bunch of their solos start together, diverge to wrap around one another, before coming back. The short solo in "Saddle Shoes" is a nice sample of this.

Lyrically, Craig Finn is one of the best around. Maybe THE best. As always his songs are more stories. Tales of losers and drug addicts and lapsed Catholics and teenagers looking to score.  It's interesting, it's smart, it simply resonates. His voice is not for everybody, he uses this sing-talk style that folks tend to find grating. I found it grating when I first heard them, but the music draws you in and lends itself to the stories Craig is telling, the worlds he is building in his lyrics. The album closes on a new note, a great nine-plus-minute opus called "Oaks" which features some of Craig's best singing.

Here's a cool trailer for the new record. All hail The Hold Steady!!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Singin the (Transgender Dysphoria) Blues

A good record is a good record.

Sometimes I feel obligated to buy a band's record simply because I really liked their previous record or records. That can get a bit expensive and start to occupy a lot of real estate. The four crates full of CDs that cannot fit into my lone remaining CD rack are testament to that. With Spotify I have become more discriminating in what I actually buy. And since I only buy vinyl now, (NERD!) which is more costly than CDs, I need to be even more vigilant.

Against Me! are a sort of punk band that I was sort-of aware of.  I was never really into that scene or style, though a few songs I heard through RockBand I thought catchy enough to download for the video game. Their current claim to fame is that band leader Tom Gabel is now Laura Jane Grace. Her gender dysphoria has been a source of pain for her. She's in the process of fixing that. Good for her. I admit I don't understand it but it isn't for me to understand. She is still a person and she needs to do what she thinks is best for her.

That gender dysphoria and Grace's struggle with it is also the inspiration for Against Me!'s new record Transgender Dysphoria Blues. Emotional turmoil makes for great art, and Against Me!, a band I never really thought too much about, have gone and made one of the best records of 2014 (so far). It's a short record, around 30 minutes. It gets in, it kicks ass, it leaves. No hanging around beyond the prescribed time. Ten well-written, well-played songs. Mostly fast, mid-tempo in the middle, a slow-burner acoustic track near the end before going out with a bang.

It doesn't make me want to go back and get their other records. What I recognize here is the growth of the band. I know those other records and they are what they are. Real fans of Against Me!, of which I do not claim to be, appear to be not as enamored with the new record as with older ones. How much of that is due to Miss Grace and her struggles? Probably some. Musically though, the record is a step away from previous records. Less punk, much more power-poppy, but still with a snarl.

The anthemic title track opens things like a call to arms, followed by the rocking and catchy as hell "The Trans Soul Rebel." "Unconditional Love" has a fantastic sing-along bridge. Song title of the year may start and end with "Osama Bin Laden As The Crucified Christ." It also happens to be a nifty track with a cool little Cars-esque guitar run weaving in the depths. Side two opens with a great, straight-forward guitar riff in the song title of the year runner-up "fuckmylife666." Outrage gives way turmoil. Look at the song titles. Those are followed by "Dead Friend" and "Two Coffins." Resignation seems imminent. The album ends with "Paralytic States" and "Black Me Out." These final tracks do not represent giving up, nor are they a final howl on the way down. It's recognition of who Laura Jane Grace is. It is acceptance of that. Maybe the most difficult thing she ever had to do was accept who she really was; why does it need to be difficult for us to accept who she is?

Here they are doing "fuckmylife666" on Letterman. Not surprisingly, Dave does not say the name of the song.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Why Temples?

Putting the debut album from Britain's Temples is like putting on a record released straight out of 1968. "Shelter Song" opens with the chiming guitars at home on any Byrds record. But it is Byrds meets psychedelic-era Pink Floyd or Cream with the trippy rhythms, especially on the title track. "The Golden Throne" has a killer chorus as the drums take over with nice keyboard flourishes before giving way to a sinister-ish guitar line. "Mesmerize" gallops more than the other tracks with a Rick Wakeman-like keyboard line coupling the chorus back to verse.

Those ever present rhythms make for a very strong foundation; the bass and the drums do not quite thunder but they are definitely not weak. They anchor the songs nicely. Bolstered by reverb-y vocals and keyboards and ringing chords. The production is very classic sounding, very heavy in a way...maybe not heavy but thick. The sound, especially the drums, have bottom.

I read about the record first in Pitchfork. They were predictably blah about it. I reckon when you listen to as many records as they do it is hard to get jazzed over something. The music here is not especially unique. I agree in a way when they say Temples are Tame Impala without the modern flourishes. I think the fat drum sound steps it away from a total psychedelic tribute. It builds upon that scene, if not grandly at least functionally.

Reading about them, it seems they have already opened for the likes of Suede and even The Rolling Stones. Noel Gallagher has sung their praises. It makes me wonder where this comes from; how notice like this happens, especially for a band so young Is it great? I wouldn't say it is GREAT, but it is enjoyable if you like this kind of music: British bands wearing their influences on their sleeve and doing a great job at it. What makes it stand-out, though? Why do Temples get the notice but others don't. I can't imagine there are not others bands like this doing similar things. What sets apart a band like this from a band like mine (other than talent and inspiration and about 20 years and plenty of time is a big studio)? Maybe those things are really all it takes. What it is, the music business is about 10% talent and 90% luck. Lots of bands are talented and write great songs, but they simply never break through where Noel Gallagher gets to say nice things about you. Lucky for my band we aren't leaning on our talents for our livelihood. Otherwise we'd starve. At least we admit it.

Here's the title track from this fine new record.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Gimme Shelter

I have written about France's Alcest before. Their 2012 release Les Voyages de L'Âme made number 8 on my favorite records of 2012 list. When they started years ago they were another black metal band with growling vocals and sheets of noise. Happily, they have grown to a classic-sounding progressive band; they might be one of the best currently working.

Their new album is the lush Shelter. I had ordered it on Amazon but it was out of stock for what seemed like forever. I eventually gave up and went to my new favorite place Discogs to order through their marketplace. I think my copy came from Germany, but the price was plenty reasonable and it showed up about two weeks after ordering, which is not bad considering it had an ocean to cross.

Alcest is primarily Stéphane Paut on everything but drums and Jen Delfandre on drums. They go by Neige and Winterhalter because they are French and prog and why not, you know. I got to see them a couple months ago at Empire outside Washington DC opening for Anathema. It was a sensational show. Their brand of progressive is very anthemic, very dynamic, music that does not take long to soar. It is not everybody's cup of tea but I love it. It is emotional and powerful.

Shelter builds on that, easily their most progressive record. This one actually has vocals in english, on the album's penultimate "Away." Vocals here are done by Neil Halstead of Slowdive. That track is immediately followed by the fantastic closer "Délivrance." It is a beautiful track, typical of Alcest, starting with a lovely guitar figure before working it's way to a frenetic closing.  Some reviews of the records accuse the band of running in place, but I am all for good songs done exceptionally well. Shelter does that. There's no harm in doing what you do best.

Here is the album closer "Délivrance."