Tuesday, May 31, 2005

In a Different Place

Last week, Central Village reported that Mark Gardener of Ride was going to be playing solo shows at The Living Room last night and tonight (Monday and Tuesday). This seemed like a nice, reasonably priced option to wind down after spending my Memorial Day weekend at a wedding of someone I didn't know in Syracuse. Peephole and I arrived at The Living Room shortly before 8, mildly worried we didn't get there in time to get a table. Our concerns quickly evaporated when we realized that, aside from staff, there was NO ONE in The Living Room. No members of Ride, no fans of shoegazer rock, no nothing. The bartender said Mr. Gardener was supposed to be there but there was no sign of him. Thirty minutes pass and still no musicians or fans. Needless to say, we were a bit confused. Perhaps Mr. Gardener's non-appearance has something to do with The Living Room's show listings: Mark Gardenerer was scheduled to play last night, while Mark Gardener of Ride is scheduled for tonight.

As much as I want to leave it all behind tonight, in all likelihood, I will not attempt to go back to The Living Room tonight, but it will be a game-time decision because this afternoon I get to see David Beckham's debut in the USA. The lip service Becks paid to America at yesterday's press conference has Soccernet speculating that he might pull a Pele/Beckenbauer and play professional soccer over here in the near future. I'll believe it when I see it. For now, I am happy that I will get to see Michael Owen, Becks, and of course Arsenal's Ashley Cole (though he may be on his way out of Arsenal after the Chelsea scandal). Fellow Gunner, Sol Campbell, won't be playing because he is still injured. And, despite my allegiance to Arsenal, I have to say I am a bit disappointed that John Terry of Chelsea - the best player in the Premiership this year and Neil Peart doppelganger (which is probably why I like him) - is at home getting surgery on his toe.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Stuff

1) According to Filter Magazine, the new Underworld album is scheduled for release in August. For loyal readers of Underworldlive, where Karl has constantly teased that the new album was in the final stages, this is some welcome news. That was only a UK release, but I am sure it won't take too long for the untitled album to come out in the US.

2) I don't know how James Murphy is doing it, but he is a touring/remixing machine at the moment. Hot off the DFA remix of NIN's "The Hand That Feeds" (which I have yet to hear), DFA is now going to remix The Chemical Brothers' "The Boxer." This is most excellent news as "The Boxer," sung by Tim Burgess of The Charlatans (UK), is one of the sharpest songs on Push the Button.

3) Correction on my last bit of Goldfrapp news: the new album is now called Supernature - it was originally supposed to have the title of the first single "Ooh La La."

4) I saw Gang of Four last Tuesday night (May 17) at Irving Plaza. By this point, I am sadly not capable of a full write up. For a bunch of 40-something Brits that haven't played together in ages, they were a fierce blitzkreig of a live band. Reminded a little bit of Primal Scream's tight energy, except Jon King's on stage theatrics (including pounding an 80s era microwave with an aluminum beisbol bat)added to the experience, as opposed to Bobby G's clumsy attempts to derails the Scream. Go4's drummer, Hugo Burnham is a badass - like OL said, he makes some very sophisticated beats look very simple. The fact that he looks like he could beat up an entire pub if a barroom brawl every broke out adds to his mystique. As I was one of the Go4 fans that only know Entertainment! and "To Hell With Poverty," I was quite happy with the song selection for the night, which was in large part that album plus that single. "Ether" is a killer track, but "Damaged Goods" and "Return the Gift" were also quite memorable. Check out Rajeev's write up on OL - he has pictures that nicely sum up my view of the show.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Album Review: Death in Vegas - Satan's Circus

Many of my favorite bands, perhaps the second tier in my pantheon, are those that have maintained a consistent run of very good to great albums over a sustained period of time. They may not be responsible for any of my Desert Island Discs but instead have provided a substantial catalog that I can always turn to.

Death in Vegas is one of my Tony Gwynn groups (great baseball player whose career was based on getting lots of singles and doubles rather than and maintaining a high batting average, rather than hitting home runs but little else). I got into them during my days at Formula PR - I worked there during the promotion of their second album, The Contino Sessions. The main man, Richard Fearless (other member of DIV is Tim Holmes), would send his publicist cryptic quotes from
Jean Luc Godard - I thought "what a jackass" as Godard brought back all kinds of bad memories from one of my film classes. When they came to town for their press day on that album, one of my co-workers was sent to Brooklyn to buy their greens - I guess an implicit rider for having to do interviews all day is entitlement to a bag of dank. Contino clicked for me in an unconventional way - a couple of singles where they bring in a lead singer (Iggy Pop's performance on "Aisha," Liam Gallagher on the title track for the next album, Scorpio Rising and others in that vein), but a lot of instrumental, ambient musings. Usually sinister sounding in a very soundtrack-centric way, their music is often very effective at eliciting feelings and images.

DIV had always been a hype group - but being a hype group is easy when you always have a couple of collaborations on your albums. Somewhere along the way, the hype waned on them, and at the same time, they decided to make a cold as fuck Teutonic instrumental album (equal parts krautrock and Kraftwerk) called Satan's Circus. It was released in Europe at the end of 2004 with no fanfare and it is coming out here later this month with even less.

No vocals, no personality, no musical warmth anywhere on this record - no problem. I have been warming up to Satan's Circus slowly. It felt more conceptual than compelling on first listens but, for me at least, it has gradually evolved into a keeper album. There are no obvious songs here, although I can see "Reigen" and "Head" to be methodical killers live (they put on an excellent live show with a full band).

A note on the song titles: possibly the worst ever on any album, unless you look at them as tongue in cheek, and then they they might be humorous. These include "Zugaga" (a reworking of Kraftwerk's "Trans Europe Express"), "Heil Xanax," and "Sons of Rother" (Michael Rother was a member of Kraftwerk and Neu!).

Fearless and Holmes work on Satan's Circus is ambitious and adventurous in one sense as it doesn't rely on big name guest appearances to sell the album. It is also ambitious as musically it is a departure from their other three albums. At the same time, it is very DIV: the requisite elements of dub and rich electronic production smoothly working within the rock band paradigm are there. I could see it being on my top 10 for this year, which their other albums have tended to find their way onto, and consistency like that is how Gwynn became a Baseball Hall of Fame lock.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Nine Inch Nails @ Hammerstein Ballroom, May 16, 2005

Last night I knocked off yet another band from the pantheon of great artists I had never seen live before - Nine Inch Nails. They would have been off the list in December of 1994 had it not been for a member of the opening band, Marilyn Manson, breaking his arm, causing the show to be postponed by one night, and I wasn't able to attend the rescheduled date.

I was never a NIN obessive. I have always been a big fan of The Donward Sprial but for some unexplainable reason never bought Pretty Hate Machine (I had Broken but didn't know it that well). I spent a summer working for Formula PR, which was originally started by Trent as his own PR machine (and he had his ex-girlfriend run the thing). By the time I worked there, Formula only did electronic stuff and was pretty much done with Nothing Records - but that is another story. Nonetheless, especially after getting [With_Teeth], I was very excited about this show and expecting nothing short of a spectacle.

As a concert experience, it was nuts. Like OL, and SoF, I was very happy to be on the 1st mezz - the floor looked absoultely mental from above as OL said. From a distance, a crowd that frenzied creates a great energy (but I imagine up close, would have had me clutching on for dear life). Opening with a scathing "You Know What You Are" off the new album, Trent and co. brought the high heat from the first pitch so to speak. Fierce energy articulated with precision. That feeling sums up the whole night for me. Many of the great NIN songs were played, like "Closer," "Hurt," and "March of the Pigs" - and the sound was as sharp as I have ever heard the Hammerstein Ballroom - but the sheer power in the back and forth energy between the band and the crowd was left the most profound mark on me.

For an aggro rock show, the gender breakdown (close to even) spoke volumes about how Trent's persona (looks and personality) impacts who loves them. If an unattractive, less charismatic figure was up there screaming "bow down before the one you serve," I doubt that any of the 100s of girls declaring their unbridled love for Trent would still be there. And I think that is also the case with the male fans too - Trent's brooding personality gives the music a far more interesting context. I think it is impossible to take him away from the music when thinking about NIN.

The show came to an absolutely cathartic conclusion with "Head Like a Hole." When they walked off, even though there had been no encore, you knew it hand to end there - there was nothing that could top that as an ending. "Head..." was a highlight, along with, not surprisingly "Closer" and "March of the Pigs." I enjoyed all of the new songs that were played but "The Heand that Feeds" right after "Hurt" was killer - it's an evil song with a very danceable rhythm. Like SoF, I was hoping to hear a couple of the new songs that weren't played, like "All the Love in the World" and "Only" but there was plenty there to keep me happy.

For more in the blogosphere about the show: OL, SoF, Brooklyn Vegan (who has great photos), and Central Village.


Thursday, May 12, 2005

I want a girl who laughs for no one else - Weezer @ Roseland Ballroom, May 11, 2005

Old reliable music can be very warm and comforting. As a child of the grunge era, many things from the early to mid 90s are apart of my "old reliable" and Weezer is one of those bands. I am not a massive fan - naver actually got The Green Album and Maladroit (though I have heard both) and I have not heard Make Believe yet (so I have no opinion on the discussion of whether Pitchfork's recent blasting of the album - but I will say that the artwork reminds me quite a bit of Bjork's Vespertine). Nonetheless, as a fan of The Blue Album and Pinkerton, when I was offered a ticket to see them at Roseland, it seemed like a worthwhile show to catch.

Fortunately, last night's show focused heavily on those two albums. Opening with "Tired of Sex," =W= played their fair share of big hits from these beloved albums: "My Name is Jonas," "No One Else," "Undone - Tte Sweater Song," "In the Garage," "Buddy Holly," and "The Good Life." I also dug "Hash Pipe" and the new songs sounded ok to me on first impression.

The crowd was fairly low-key and acceptable until "My Name is Jonas" brought out the teenage moshers. Come on boys - moshing is fine at a Rage Against the Machine show or if you don't push your way to the front while slamming around, but don't force your way up close - I seriously doubt that the thing that fragile Rivers wants to most see is a bunch of acmed adolescents push aside all the geek rockers that got to the show early to stand close to their heroes.

Weezer have made some great pop songs along the way. Their concert hasn't changed a whole lot since I first saw them in 1994 or 1995 at Roseland. They still have have the illuminated =W= and Rivers has a little less than no personality on stage. But with several great songs to play, it is certainly a fun concert.

One of my blogging co-workers, Megan, or Jersey Steel, as she is known by Jones Day-litigating Weezer superfans that are basking in the post-coital glow of seeing Rivers and co., wrote about the show last night - here is her postive impression.

On Monday night, the nostalgia will continue when I see Nine Inch Nails at Hammerstein. At that point, they will abdicate the title of "Band I Have Most Wanted to See (and reasonably will be able to) but Haven't Yet" after a slightly less than two week run. It sounds like a monkey Phil Mickelson finally got off of his back or something. They took the title after I saw New Order last week.

News bits

MMM has become less of a news source - only deeper, more thorough writings is the MO here (that's what I tell myself to justify the big gaps in posts)! But when the exciting, personal bits of news come around, I love to share:

1) Goldfrapp's new album has a name and a lead single! It's called, Ooh La La (very Goldfrappian) and it comes out on August 22 in Europe. The first single is also called "Ooh La La" and that is released a couple of weeks prior. The band describes the single as "sulky" and "sexy" - sounds like Allison and Will are moving into uncharted territory. In all seriousnness, those words might be the only common denominator between the icy Felt Mountain and the electrodisco of Black Cherry. No matter, I'll be first on line dressed as a half man, half wolf to buy the album.

2) Bits of Tosca's J.A.C. are available for stream here. The name of the album comes from the first names of Richard Dorfmeister and Rupert Huber's sons - Joseph, Arthur and Conrad. The album comes out in June in Europe - no idea about here. It sounds like Tosca - dubalicious, a little jazzy, and a little housey.

3) Billy Corgan has announced NYC dates (if you read Pitchfork, you saw this too). Two nights at Webster Hall - June 27 and 28. I dunno - before Zwan, I would have done this in a second. After seeing over and hour and a half of Zwan (a band with one album) and no Pumpkins played, I left that show about as disappointed as I have ever left a concert. I am hoping that perhaps in light of how Billy is starting to shine a light on his past with his very revealing blog on his website, perhaps he will be more comfortable playing Pumpkin songs this time out.

4) One Louder has changed up the look, getting snazzier than ever, and the url, which is now www.oneloudernyc.com

Friday, May 06, 2005

New Order @ Hammerstein Ballroom - May 5, 2005

NME is often full of shit, using hyperbole as a means of drumming up buzz about second rate poser rock bands, and then taking credit for breaking these “lauded” groups (see The Libertines, Razorlight, etc.). However, they are once in a while spot on when they toss around the hyperbole and giving New Order an award for being Godlike Geniuses (which New Order uses on those promotional sticks on the front of their new album right next to a quote from FHM calling it the best New Order album since the last one), NME was almost understating it.

Last night, New Order played their first NYC show in a very long time. It had the feeling of one of those "event" concerts. I did my best not to get overly excited because I was worried I would be ultimately disappointed and that they would be old fogies just phoning in uninspired performances of the hits. Fortunately, my fear was completely off the mark. Barney, Hooky, and Stephen strutted onto the stage as if they just jetted away from their Spanish villas with those signifiers of living the good life (tanned and a bit of extra weight - except for Stephen who looked quite svelte and less tan). They opened with "Love Vigilantes," which spun the very diverse crowd into a frenzy, and from there they threw nothing but big hits at us for 90 minutes. They also played a handful of Joy Division songs, which I know some think is sacrilegious. I thought they were great - it's the same band that wrote the songs, and while Bernard obviously sounds nothing like Ian Curtis and doesn't sing with the same time of energy, it didn't matter. To hear the original band playing those songs gave me chills. A few songs from the new album, Waiting for the Siren's Call, including the title track, "Hey Now What You Doing," the duet with Scissor Sister Ana Matronic "Jetstream" (which she came out for), and "Krafty." I like "Jetstream" on the album but it didn't resonate that well live.

I must give much love to Peter Hook. I saw him spin in Barcelona last summer and it was plenty of fun, even though he essentially just played the 24 Hour Party People Soundtrack. The guy is an old rock star, but he does it with such panache. And when you see him live, the significance of his basslines is completely reaffirmed. Few bands have featured the bass as the melody maker as Joy Division and New Order have. "Love Will Tear Us Apart," "Blue Monday" (which he rocked a 6 string bass on live!), "Krafty," and virtually everything else totally ride on his bass. It's also not just the melodies that he plays, but the way he plays his bass - low slung and casually as hell - like an f'ing rock star!

Bernard injured his knee while in California but it didn't stop him from hopping around like a clumsy middle aged relative getting down at a wedding. Between his goofy dancing and his oddly timed loud yelps throughout the show, he isn't a natural performer but his energy is infectious. He could yelp a little less often though.

Clearly younger than the other three, a guy named Phil has replaced Gillian and he plays the guitar and the synthesizers occasionally (but not that much - making it look like a lot of the keyboard parts were pre-recorded). He must feel like the luckiest SOB on the planet touring with such a great band and playing all of their hits. Something to think about: would you rather achieve success on your own for a couple of albums and have fans sing your songs to you or would you rather play with one your favorite bands for a while? I think I might pick the latter, but not sure.

There were many highlights for me, but the biggest were "Temptation," "Crystal," "Transmission," "Atmosphere," and "Blue Monday" (which they cut up a bit of Kylie's "Can't Get you Out of my Head" making a cheeky reference to the famous mash-up of those two songs). Sure the sound wasn't perfect as it was the Hammerstein (but it wasn't terrible), but it didn't matter - here was a great band playing tons of great songs which the entire crowd was completely lost in for 90 minutes. Excellent night.

Junior Boys, et al @ Bowery Ballroom - May 4, 2005

Things have been pathetically slow here at MMM as of late. Lo siento.

I will attempt to make up for it by offering all kinds of news and reviews (but only one on this post). On Wednesday night, Peephole and I saw the quadruple-header Caribou/Manitoba, Four Tet, Junior Boys, and the Russian Futurists. Of the four groups, Junior Boys were the big pull for me as I really like their album, Last Exit. I was supposed to see them in December at a Hanukah show at Joe’s Pub, but the 11pm start time and that the tickets were not paid for in advance made it less compelling to make the trek from Morristown that night. I had seen Four Tet three times in 2002 as the opening act for Radiohead when the Oxonians toured tiny concerthalls in Spain and Portugal for 2 weeks. One Louder (both halves) got to the venue as the doors opened and landed an ace location at the first table upstairs – needless to say, I was very happy to have a good seat waiting for me when I got there. Yeah I know I am getting old but sitting at a concert is generally the way to go.

We got there in time to catch a few tracks of The Russian Futurists. Musically, they were fine – Belle and Sebastian's gentle sensibilities played on slightly distorted synthesizers. However, their lead singer had one of those annoying shiny and whiny voices (Peephole likened it to Ben Gibbard of Death Cab for Cutie/The Postal Service), which did nothing positive for me. Fortunately, we didn’t have to suffer through that much of it.

Junior Boys came on at 9:30pm – which isn’t a bad time for an act to start, if it wasn’t for the fact that there were two more to come after them, so it felt as though they were a bit of an opening act. They played some new songs, which were good, and then a handful of album tracks, including “Bellona,” “Birthday,” and “Teach Me How to Fight.” I was disappointed that “More Than Real” wasn’t played. Jeremy Greenspan added a rich U2-influenced guitar line to many of the songs (OL is right that it's straight off The Unforgettable Fire), giving their gentle understated electro pop sound a slightly more rock band feel. Peephole is right that calling for the crowd to dance is a bit of a faux pas - especially when your music could easily appear on a downtempo compilation. Overall a very quality set that made me regret missing the Joe’s Pub gig. Hopefully they play a headline show in New York again sometime soon

One Louder was partially right about Four Tet – laptop wankery is the jumping off point to describe his abrasive live sound. There is a fine line between abstract sound being artistically interesting and pomo (you know, post modern…weird for the sake of weird!) shit. That fine line, of course, is a strictly subjective standard and in my humble opinion, Kieran Hebden/Four Tet comes down flush on the pomo shit side. I don’t know his albums at all, but OL’s description makes sense – he started with something that resembles a song and then deconstructs it/juxtaposes it against walls of noise. Again, I feel old for saying this, but I enjoyed about 30% of his set, which is what one member of OL estimated as the percentage of his own music Tet played. So perhaps I would enjoy his albums…

All I knew about Caribou was the legal battle the band had with LES bar owner Handsome Dick Manitoba over the fact that the band used to go by Manitoba. I once read that not particularly Handsome Dick said that he had to file the suit because he was being hassled by people thinking he was the band. A) That is probably a bunch of shit, and B) that is hardly enough to make a trademark claim on. Dan Snaith, the man behind Caribou/Manitoba, apparently didn’t challenge the lawsuit because of the ridiculous legal fees he faced to protect the name. I know a handful of attorneys that would have been happy to have represented him pro bono (and if any other modern acts get sued by old punk rock – and how fucking unpunk is a trademark suit – curmudgeons for trademark violation, drop us a line here!). Ok, enough of that – I enjoyed Caribou’s live show. Energetic rock, with two drumsets going for a good chunk of the set, melded with pretty synthesizer melodies. I will certainly check out the new album.

A good night of music but four bands was a bit much for me - virtually a weeknight festival, but seeing the Junior Boys live was certainly worthwhile.