Thursday, July 31, 2014

St. Paul & The Broken Bones - Live KEXP 2014-04-19 (concert)

Breaking with the metal theme of the last few posts but staying with the NPR theme of the previous post, today I feature St. Paul & The Broken Bones.  The easiest way to explain the sound of SP&TBB is that the ghosts of Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett, Sam & Dave, Booker T. & the MGs, and the rest of the Stax Records back catalog have found new life, new shoes, and moved from Memphis TN to Birmingham AL. 

I suppose a critic could say they're derivative, but I think it would be more fair to say they're celebrating an established genre.  I mean, Otis died before these guys were born, and I welcome new artists revisiting classic sounds. 

I learned of them a few months ago on NPR's Morning Edition.  That NPR did a feature on these guys should surprise no one.  Joy hooked us up with their debut LP "Half The City" but until I find the time for a proper review, this four song live in the studio set will have to suffice.

BTW  -- The KEXP Youtube channel is simply amazing; tons of good stuff there.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Horseback - "Live at Nightlights 2011-11" (concert)

I came to know about Chapel Hill's Horseback by way of Butch at Squealer Music.  Last week he gave me a pointer about alt-country Mount Moriah (great stuff), and apparently the guitarist, Jenks Miller, also plays in Horseback, a sort of Crazy-Horse-plays-drone-metal band.  I thought I was posting something new and edgy but apparently NPR covered them over two years ago, so once again I'm less than timely.

I've listened to some of their studio material online, but I have to say I like this short concert better (I'm pretty sure there are just two songs).  The music is quite heavy, mostly instrumental, and the cookie monster vocals are further back in the mix and thus less distracting.  The end result sounds more like a 32 minute metal version of "Careful With That Axe Eugene".

I haven't decided whether or not to pick up one of their studio releases, but this nicely edited video is worth checking out.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Motorhead - "Ace of Spades" (spotlight)

Let's keep the Motorhead theme going... Rik Mayall died just over a month ago.  Rik, of course, played "Rick" on The Young Ones.  I'm not even going to attempt to explain The Young Ones, other than to say it was one of the many BBC shows that PBS and MTV imported in the mid-80s that were a breath of fresh air to teenagers, like myself, marooned in an otherwise dull suburbia.

I remember, like it was yesterday, being at Terry's house sometime in high school when this episode came on and Mike looked at the camera and simply said "Music!"  I was already a Motorhead fan, and "Ace of Spades" is probably their most enduring song, but The Young Ones version is especially fun.

Ace of Spades: The Young Ones version, official video

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Motorhead - "R.A.M.O.N.E.S." (spotlight)

Tommy Ramone, the last of the original Ramones, died yesterday.  Tommy was originally their manager & producer but drummed on the first three LPs because they couldn't find anyone else. That is the very essence of punk.   I've only reviewed the Ramones once so far, but that has been more of an oversight rather than a conscious decision because their impact and influence cannot be easily overstated.  I remember when Danette and I first learned that Joey Ramone died in 2001 (we were still in Chapel Hill), followed quickly by Dee Dee (2002) and Johnny (2004).

How influential were the Ramones?  So influential that Motorhead wrote a tribute song for them, "R.A.M.O.N.E.S.", which appears on their 1991 LP "1916":
New York City, N.Y.C.,
Pretty mean when it wants to be,
Black leather, knee-hole pants,
Can't play no high school dance,
Fuzz tone, hear 'em go,
Hear 'em on the radio,

Misfits, twilight zone,

Bad boy rock, bad boy roll,
Gabba gabba, see them go,
C.J. now hit the gas,
Hear Marky kick some ass,
Go Johnny, go, go, go
Go Tommy o-way-o,

Bad boys then, bad boys now,
Good buddies, mau-mau-mau
Keep it up, rock'n'roll,
Good music save your soul,
Dee Dee, he left home,
Joey call me on the phone.
If Motorhead namechecks you... well, I'm hard pressed to think of a higher honor. 

Motorhead: "R.A.M.O.N.E.S." (live), studio
Ramones + Lemmy: "R.A.M.O.N.E.S" (live)
Ramones: "R.A.M.O.N.E.S" (studio)

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

We Were Promised Jetpacks - "Live in Nashville, 2012-03-29" (concert)

Following on from the previous review of "These Four Walls", I wanted to share this excellent hour-long concert video of We Were Promised Jetpacks.  There is no shortage of live videos of WWPJ on Youtube, but I especially like this one camera shoot of their March 29, 2012 show in Nashville.  With only minimal panning or zooming, it nicely complements the "jeans & t-shirt" lo-fi sound of the band. 

The band itself is in fine form, reworking many of the songs with a different sound from the LP versions while still sounding crisp.  For example, they offer a completely different and extended version of "A Half Built House", this time serving as an intro to "Keeping Warm" (starting at about 17:10).  There is even a nice bit of (nearly) a capella singing at about 38:10 (I'm not sure of the song (edit: it's "Sore Thumb" from "In the Pit of the Stomach").

Thanks to palabra17 and exitin for sharing this.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

We Were Promised Jetpacks - "These Four Walls" (LP Review)

I wish I had a better story of my discovery of We Were Promised Jetpacks...  Perhaps a recommendation from one of my well-connected friends (Butch, Terry, Herbert, Johan, Joy, Scott, etc.), or hearing them at a small club while on travel, or some connection to The Cribs, or something equally cool.  Instead, I first heard them in the soundtrack of "Hall Pass", which featured the song "Quiet Little Voices" as the otherwise bland film's most memorable moment.  From the little snippet of lyrics I heard ("I'm young again..."), it took me a while to determine the artist and song, but afterwards I quickly sampled some of their other music and then ordered their debut 2009 LP "These Four Walls".

I haven't been disappointed.  WWPJ works the Pixies loud-soft-loud formula to perfection, and their Scottish burr makes it sound all the better (e.g., "beh-her star-ah naow" --> "better start now").  I think there is a rule that all reviews of WWPJ must compare them to fellow Scotts & label mates "Frightened Rabbit" (e.g., the Allmusic review).  I realize I discovered WWPJ first, but after several listenings of "The Midnight Organ Fight", I can say WWPJ rawks much harder than FR.  In fact, that might be what I like best about this LP: this is basically a metal LP for grown ups.  And I don't mean that in an alt-metal, later Queensryche Pink-Floyd-wannabe kind of way, but rather in a more Pixies or Weezer kind of way, but without the wry humor.  For example, when Frank Black sings "Got me a movie / I want you to know/ Slicin' up eyeballs / I want you to know", its playful and mischievous.  But it is just disturbing when Adam Thompson sings:
Somethings happened in the attic,  
There's no way I am going up there,                                                                    
Somethings happened in the attic,                                                                      
We both know I'm not going up there,                                                                   
Somethings happened in the attic,                                                                      
This is my house, This is my home 
Lyrically, many of the songs have a creepy ambiguity between the victim and antagonist.  Musically, it is more like metal (albeit with a melodic pop sensibility), with an almost martial, heavily structured and almost formal progression from segment to segment.  Listen to "It's Thunder and It's Lightning" and how the tension builds from 1:20-3:10 on the way to the chorus.  That's not how punk songs are structured (the Pixies would never take two minutes to reach their destination); that's pure metal.  Weezer occasionally does that with songs like "Only In Dreams". 

I suppose an unkind review could say WWPJ has just written the same song 11 times.  Sure, there is a formula here but who cares when the formula is this good.

Standout songs: "It's Thunder and It's Lightning" (live), "Ships With Holes Will Sink" (live), "A Half Built House" / "This Is My House, This Is My Home" (live), "Quiet Little Voices" (live), "Short Bursts" (live), "Keeping Warm" (live)

Skip 'em songs: none

Final score: 9/10.  I considered giving it an "8", but the best songs just don't wear out.  

Bonus link: KEXP has a link to an MP3 of "Quiet Little Voices" (this is either the EP version or a live version, I'm not sure).

Gratuitous "OK Computer" link: In my book, "A Half-Built House" sounds like the guitar version of "Fitter Happier".