Monday, October 31, 2011

Pulco Artwork In Advance Of The New EP


Pulco will be releasing a new EP soon. As the release is going to be called Sketchbook Season -- I think -- it seems fitting that there's some artwork to promote it. Here's a set of sketches from Pulco (and Derrero) man Ash Cooke. The drawings are somewhere between modern art and abstract, child-like and primitive, careful and absurd. I like 'em!

The artwork is here.

Follow Pulco on Bandcamp: http://pulco.bandcamp.com/

And on Folkwit Records: www.folkwit.biz

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Free Music From Smith and Burrows


Andy Burrows was in Razorlight and Tom Smith was in Editors but together they sound like The Feeling. Go figure!

"Funny Looking Angels" is a nice throwback to the sort of warm pop you could hear on AM Top 40 radio when I was a kid.

The debut album will be out on 28 November and you should visit their website in the meantime: www.smithandburrows.co.uk

(Put your cursor over the picture, when the countdown gets to 1, click and you'll get the free MP3 download pop-up.)



Here's some video of Smith and Burrows doing "Funny Looking Angels" in the studio...

Friday, October 28, 2011

Sophie Ellis-Bextor Covers Arcade Fire -- Listen Here! (How Did I Miss This?)


Sophie Ellis-Bextor makes a bit of a return to the indie-rock world with her cover of Arcade Fire's "Rebellion (Lies)" and you can listen to it here!

(Hat tip to http://poplabyrinth.wordpress.com by way of Soundcloud!)

The third-time mother-to-be updates this cut from the Canadian band in her own inimitable style. If theaudience had stayed together with SEB at the lead, they would have ended up sounding like this.

The song was recorded for a charity compilation -- that also features Ed Harcourt, a fave of mine and writer of "Straight To The Heart Of Me" on Sophie's most recent album Make A Scene -- called Songs To Save A Life and you can get the Brit-heavy release on US Amazon here!

Sophie Ellis-Bextor - Rebellion (Lies) (Arcade Fire Cover) by Pop Labyrinth

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds: A Track-By-Track Review Of The Debut Album


Are we gonna play that game? Are we going to do a riff on "Wibbling Rivalry" and give in to that Britpop-era nonsense?

On those terms, Liam wins. Period. Beady Eye rocked the house with Different Gear, Still Speeding. I think readers of this blog know how much I enjoy Liam, his tunes, his swagger, his attitude.

That said, it would be entirely unfair to pit the Gallagher brothers against each other when they're each doing different things.

Given his comfort since 1993 with letting Liam take the mike, Noel seems content to be thought of as a songwriter first and it's best to judge this record that way.

Noel Gallagher's debut solo album, Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds (2011), is out in America on 8 November -- (it's already out in England) -- and it's a remarkably consistent affair that pleases with a nice bit of easy charm.

This is not the debut of some earth-shaking combo. These are solid, well constructed ditties with a lot of melody delivered by one of the world's best songwriters.

It's a pleasantly modest affair and I think the media hype -- those daily fluff pieces on NME.com -- is probably making listeners expect too much, as if this was gonna be Oasis Mach 2, or something.

Judged against the songs Noel sang on recent Oasis albums, the cuts here beat those handily. Judged against what I consider the nadir of Oasis -- 2008's Dig Out Your Soul -- and this record scores as more enjoyable and memorable.

The 10 tunes here are all hummable and they fall somewhere between terrace anthems and mid-tempo rockers.

Well then, on to the tunes!



"Everybody's On The Run"

It's Floyd's "Us And Them" meets Weller. A languid near-ballad that wouldn't have sounded entirely out-of-place on Be Here Now. The tune is a wisp but it's buoyed by some production effects -- a choir? -- into almost-epic proportions.

"Dream On"

Easily my favorite song on Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds, this cut has menace, punch, and bite. Noel needs to do more stuff like this. The incessant boot-stomp-sounding drums are a nice touch as well. What sounds like weariness at first soon turns into near-joy:

"Shout it out for me!" goes the refrain as the riffs jackhammer the melody home.



"If I Had A Gun..."

The familiar single that sounds quite a bit better in the context of the whole record. There's a touch of "Born On A Different Cloud" from Oasis here, though the bridge on this cut is more memorable.

"The Death of You And Me"

The almost shameless nod to Jon Brion -- that creaky wooziness straight from an Aimee Mann cut on the Magnolia (1999) soundtrack -- makes this first single such a delight. One of the most replayable cuts on the record.



"(I Wanna Live A Dream In My) Record Machine"

As the title was bandied about back in the waning days of Oasis, it's a pretty safe bet to say that this cut was written with Liam's voice in mind -- the hooks practically beg for the younger Gallagher brother's snarl. Still, not an entire misfire. Noel gives the cut his all and it rocks-and-sways in a sturdy fashion. Sure to be a good one during his live performances.

"AKA...What A Life"

There's a nice piano-bass-drum figure here that gives the song a radio-friendly vibe. For some weird reason, this composition sounds to me like what you almost wanted Pete Townshend to sing in the mid-1980s -- like a lost gem from 1985's White City or something.

"Soldier Boys and Jesus Freaks"

An update -- improvement, really -- on "The Importance Of Being Idle" from Oasis, this ups the Kinks-isms in volume with a more forceful melody. A nice guitar line anchors the cut and it's a shade darker than that earlier song. The immaculate production here really highlights Noel's voice. Frankly, this is the direction he should go should he decide to remain a solo artist. Even the lyrics here are a good deal wittier than the rest of the record. The trumpet solo is also a plus.

"AKA...Broken Arrow"

A bit over-produced, this song is fairly radio-friendly -- think Weller during the Wild Wood (1993) era. Noel's vocals are good here, warm, understated, and natural sounding. There's a touch of solo Ian Brown on this one as well.

"(Stranded On) The Wrong Beach"

Sinister, Kasabian-like instrumentation gives this cut some edge. This is a pretty strong tune that would probably sound just as good with only Noel and his acoustic in the mix. Here, it's one of the highlights of the record and a sort of weird twin to "The Death of You And Me" with the whimsy replaced by weariness.

"Stop The Clocks"

Probably the best example of Noel's strengths as a lead vocalist since "Let Forever Be" by The Chemical Brothers, this is my 2nd favorite cut on Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds. Yes, the title smacks of the Oasis era, but the tune is quite a bit different. Beatlesque but less cloying than "Whatever" or something from back then in the infancy of Oasis, "Stop The Clocks" is, oddly, similar to "The Morning Son" which closed the Beady Eye album. The difference is that this song builds considerably until it finally snaps in an orgiastic guitar freak-out where Liam's tune sort of faded away like the sound of the waves. For all their differences, the Gallagher brothers each ended their post-Oasis debut records in a similar fashion.



But that's where the similarity ends. This is a tidy package of tunes with the production elements almost afterthoughts. Noel sounds comfortable on his High Flying Birds release and the record portends his future success as a solo act. He's a good deal more confident here than I expected him to sound. With nothing as dour -- or dire -- as "Sunday Morning Call" or "Where Did It All Go Wrong?" in sight, Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds proves my hunch that Noel was hiding a few aces up his sleeves the last few years before his band went bust.

Or he just tossed off these 10 charming tunes in the last year. If so, his talents are more considerable than I ever imagined.

Still, it's worth noting for long-time fans that of the two post-Oasis releases, this one sounds the most like Oasis. Sure, Liam's familiar nasal snarl was the spark on the Beady Eye record, but the surefire sing-a-long-ness of the old Oasis anthems wasn't there. Liam was leaping out into a new (band) venture while Noel here is reshaping his strengths for the delivery of a different end result.

(I said I wasn't gonna compare the brothers' work and here I am doing it!)

I guess what I'm getting at is that there will be a lot of Oasis fans quite happy to slide into these almost immediately familiar cuts. He's the less strident Weller on the majority of this. It's like if The Jam made an album's worth of "Fly" or another mid-period gem. Intimate without being precious or self-indulgent, Noel's crafted 10 little Britpop gems here.



Follow Noel Gallagher on his website:
www.noelgallagher.com

Or on his Facebook page:
www.facebook.com/noelgallaghermusic

Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds will be out in America on November 8, 2011.

You can get the CD from Amazon here, or you can get the deluxe CD/DVD edition from Amazon here, or you can get the MP3 album from Amazon here.

And check iTunes as well.

Download Live MP3 Of This Is The Day From The Manics For Free On Facebook


With the career-spanning singles compilation National Treasures due out in the UK on Monday, the Manic Street Preachers are understandably on a bit of a media blitz at the moment.

For those of you who didn't see this on the Manics' Facebook page today, you can get a free live version of the Manic Street Preachers' cover of The The's "This Is The Day" on Facebook. Directions below.

Go here www.facebook.com/SEATmusic, "like" the page, and then click on the "On Track" page to see the downloads.

National Treasures is out on Monday. Check Amazon.co.uk or HMV.co.uk for details.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Shake Until Your Heart Breaks Mixtape From Little Boots


I might be one of the few Americans who bought Dead Disco music before that group's Victoria Christina Hesketh formed Little Boots.

I think I got the "Automatic" CD single at Tower Records in Rockville, Maryland, before the chain closed for good at the end of 2006.

(Most likely that purchase was determined by a favorable mention in the NME...)



Victoria formed Little Boots shortly after the end of Dead Disco in 2008 and she's taking her relatively new project on the road for a DJ tour in November.

The details can be found on the official website.

Or follow Little Boots on the Facebook page:
www.facebook.com/littleboots

You can play a 41-minute mixtape from Little Boots below. Check out the "Shake Until Your Heart Breaks" mix from Little Boots now.
SHAKE UNTIL YOUR HEART BREAKS MIXTAPE by LittleBoots

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Oh My! - Dirty Dancer - Play It Here (And Watch The Video Too!)


I'm probably too old to enjoy stuff like this but...I love this!

UK dance-rock-pop at its best, Oh My! bring us "Dirty Dancer" -- there's a bit of Girls Aloud to this cut but this is a touch more street. Add a dash of Sugababes -- think a scruffed-up "About You Now" -- and you've got a winner.

Another sizzling bit of Brit pop genius from Oh My!

I can't wait to see what they do next (I think I've probably said that after each of their singles, haven't I?)

Alex and Jade -- Oh My! -- bring us "Dirty Dancer" -- play it or watch the video below!

"Dirty Dancer" from Oh My!
Oh My! - Dirty Dancer [Feat: Scru Fizzer] by PurplePR

"Dirty Dancer" [video] from Oh My!

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Jezabels Bring Us Endless Summer - Play It Here


I don't really know much about The Jezabels but when Slowdive-meets-The Corrs rush of "Endless Summer" made its way to my ears, I knew I had found a new band worth following. Expect more from this Aussie four-piece in the near-future: they have some big UK gigs lined up following their recent international tour.

For now, follow the band on Facebook:
http://www.facebook.com/thejezabels

Stream/play "Endless Summer" by The Jezabels below
The Jezabels - Endless Summer by thejezabels

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Derrero - Radar Intruder - Live In Cardiff, October 22, 2011

I'm just the messenger. Credit goes to whoever took this video last night in Cardiff. Well done.

Here's Derrero doing their John Peel-fave "Radar Intruder" last night at the SWIGEN festival in Cardiff.


Follow Ash from Derrero in his Pulco guise here:
http://pulco.bandcamp.com/

And on Folkwit records:
http://www.folkwit.biz/

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Dot Dash and Hugh Cornwell Rock Rockville (And Another Free MP3)


Dot Dash brought the Brit-inspired post-punk spark to Rockville tonight. The band opened for Hugh Cornwell of The Stranglers.

In fact, leader Terry Banks had to step in and loan Hugh a new amp when the one on stage went out near the end of the punk legend's set.

Dot Dash roared through most of their debut CD and included 6 (?) new songs. I didn't get the name of any of them -- I was off my game tonight -- but the final two seemed harder -- the last one of their set sounded like a cover of some old Clash song.



Don't forget: Dot Dash will be opening for Chameleons Vox -- a reunited version of England's The Chameleons -- at the Black Cat in D.C. on November 28!

Details here.

And, because Dot Dash are four nice guys, and they said I should, I'm giving you another free MP3 from the debut album. See below.

Hugh Cornwell played some solo material and a lot of familiar Stranglers hits to an appreciative audience. It wasn't the largest crowd I've seen in this area but at least the audience seemed to be just as receptive to Hugh Cornwell's solo material as they were to his punk/new wave hits.

As for me, I was looking forward to seeing Clem Burke from Blondie on drums. Mr. Burke didn't disappoint. Not looking much older than he did in all those old videos, Clem pounded the skins like a madman at times. Keith Moon would have been proud as Burke's hands blurred in a flurry of skin-hitting frenzy.






The place wasn't packed but just hearing the fans there eat up "Peaches" was a pleasure. And Hugh Cornwell did "Nuclear Device" and "Bear Cage" and "No More Heroes" and quite a few other classic Stranglers cuts...




Hugh Cornwell, with Clem Burke on drums, does one of the greatest songs ever written as far as I'm concerned. Here's a taste of "Always The Sun"


Okay, in honor of the punk legend who headlined tonight, here's one of the cuts from the Dot Dash album that seems to owe a huge debt to that early rush of UK punk. This is "No Reverie" by Dot Dash from their album Spark>Flame>Ember>Ash.

"No Reverie"



For all of your Dot Dash needs, follow them on their Facebook page.

You can buy the album, Spark>Flame>Ember>Ash, from Dot Dash, as a download via Amazon.com.

You can also get Spark>Flame>Ember>Ash, from Dot Dash, via iTunes in the US here.

And the physical CD is available from TheBeautifulMusic.com.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Derreo Reunion Tomorrow At SWIGEN Festival in Cardiff!


My grandfather's last name was Weare and that sure as hell sounds Welsh. And he had family with the name Davies which is a common Welsh name. And I've been told that my grandfather's grandfather was probably the first one off the boat from Wales here in America.

I don't really have any kind of ethnic identity, and I've only been to Wales once for one day when I was stuck working in Surrey, but I feel a certain affection for all things Welsh.

Lucky then that there was such a boom in Welsh music a few years ago. Super Furry Animals seemed to kick things off in 1995 or so and then loads of great bands started to surface.



John Peel faves Derrero were one such band. I did an overview of Derrero last summer and I'm pleased to report that the band will be playing a reunion gig -- their first live gig in 10 years!?! -- at tomorrow's SWIGEN Festival in Cardiff.



Not only that but Derrero front-man Ashley Cooke will be performing as Pulco AND Dave Fung, also from Derrero, will be bringing his band No Thee No Ess to the festival as well.

For now, let's give a listen to a free MP3 from Derrero's 1997 EP Small Pocket Machine -- download "Stoned Rider below.

With that intro like "Mama Told Me (Not To Come)" by Three Dog Night, the song starts a bit weird but the Silver Sun-meets-SFA-meets-Beach Boys harmonies are sublime. The crunchy guitar and pounding drums push things along into memorable riffage -- it's a mix of a about half-a-dozen things but it works. Not only that, it reminds the astute listener of a pre-Coldplay era of great UK indie -- when bands took risks by mixing and exploring genres like this.



"Stoned Rider"

For more details on the festival, check out the website:
www.swigen.co.uk

Pulco will be releasing a new EP, Sketchbook Season, in November. I'll have more details on that soon.

For now, follow Pulco here:
http://folkwit.com/artists/pulco
http://pulco.tumblr.com/
http://pulco.bandcamp.com

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Dot Dash: Hugh Cornwell (ex-Stranglers) Gig is Friday and Here's A Free MP3 Today!


I'm gonna start calling these guys the American Doves. You can easily pick out the influences when you listen to a Doves track like the surging "Catch The Sun" -- Joy Division, New Order, and other Manchester bands.

However, Doves make those familiar elements into a totally new thing. They create their own identifiable sound.

D.C.'s Dot Dash are doing the same thing. Wire, Buzzcocks, New Order -- maybe a touch or two of The Clash; think "Stay Free" and "Guns On The Roof" and not "Rock The Casbah" -- and other post-punk bands all pieced together in a unique way.

You have doubts? Check out the free MP3 of "Dissolve" from debut album Spark>Flame>Ember>Ash below.

I gave the record a rave review and I think the four D.C. rock veterans in this band have done an awesome job in creating a sound on their first record

I'm a bit partial to the basic voice/guitar/bass/drums format -- though Dot Dash have got 2 guitarists -- and I like short, punchy songs. There's not a lot of fluff on Spark>Flame>Ember>Ash, just 14 lean-and-mean songs in the vein of Wire and Buzzcocks.

"Dissolve" is yearning and nearly anthemic. The drums, from Youth Brigade/Strange Boutique/radioblue/Swervedriver vet Danny Ingram, have a touch of the heaviness you can hear on something like "She's Lost Control" by Joy Division, and the bass-work from Hunter Bennett echoes the sort of forceful bass-lines Peter Hook would throw down next to Stephen Morris, and the twin guitars of singer Terry Banks and Bill Crandall recall The Skids. Props too to producer Eric Tischler (leader of The Jet Age, ex-The Hurricane Lamps) for capturing this so successfully.

To put it simply: it's as if "Love Vigilantes" had been kicked into life by Ian Curtis and JD and not a Curtis-less New Order.

Can you tell that this may be my favorite song on Spark>Flame>Ember>Ash?

Download "Dissolve" here



I hope they play this one tomorrow when they open for Hugh Cornwell.

Dot Dash are opening for Hugh Cornwell, one-time lead singer of punk/new wave/alternative legends The Stranglers, in Rockville at Montgomery College tomorrow (Friday, October 21, 2011). Details here.

For all of your Dot Dash needs, follow them on their Facebook page.

You can buy the album, Spark>Flame>Ember>Ash, from Dot Dash, as a download via Amazon.com.

You can also get Spark>Flame>Ember>Ash, from Dot Dash, via iTunes in the US here.

And the physical CD is available from TheBeautifulMusic.com.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Free MP3 From Cardiff's Laurence Made Me Cry


Well she may not be Welsh but she's there now. Jo Whitby is the main musician behind Laurence Made Me Cry, a musical act/project encompassing animation and tunes. Jo performed in Bristol but now she's made Cardiff her home. She's got a lovely voice and I'm bringing you a free MP3!

On Saturday, 22 October 2011, Laurence Made Me Cry will be playing the SWIGEN Festival in Cardiff. Details are in that link. Derrero will be performing live there for the first time in 10 years -- more on that later in the week -- and there will be loads of great music to enjoy for those of you lucky enough to be in Cardiff.

The Rain Song EP is folky but a bit modern, heartfelt but not morose, lyrical but not sickly sweet. The songs that are more upbeat reminded me of the rollicking moments from England's classic folk boom in the early 1970s as well as older Tracey Thorn solo tracks.

A track like "In The Moonlit Garden" sounds like a busking Alison Moyet.

While "The Rain Song" is all over the 'net -- and probably the sort of song a lot of folk-oriented people will gravitate to -- for today's free MP3, I wanted to showcase another cut that has more of an indie vibe.

"It's Easy When You Know How" sounds like the sort of song you'd hear on a Cherry Red records compilation in the 1980s. And for this Yank who grew up scouring import bins for that sort of thing in the 1980s, that's high praise indeed.

You can download the song here:
"It's Easy When You Know How"

Find out more about Laurence Made Me Cry on the act's Bandcamp page:
http://laurencemademecry.bandcamp.com/

Or on the Facebook page:
http://www.facebook.com/laurencemademecry

Additionally, Jo runs a cool site that features quite a few music pieces that should interest readers of this blog:
http://catonthewall.net/

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Other Bit Of Big Reunion News Today: Sugababes!


It's not all Mani, Reni, John Squire, and Ian Brown today. No. The other news is the rumour that the original line-up of Sugababes is rehearsing new material and looking for a label.

Now, my friends know but I guess it bears repeating: I have a very high tolerance for UK pop. You name it -- Stones Roses to Spice Girls, Roxy Music to Rachel Stevens, Smiths to Steps -- a good pop single from England is the sort of thing I live for.

And Sugababes made a lot of great ones. The trio has changed members quite a few times -- and they scored their biggest hits when Siobahn Donaghy left -- but the first line-up seemed the most serious one. The 2000 debut, One Touch, was like a more street version of early All Saints; it smacked of real soul and urban pop without being Pop, you know what I mean? The harmonies were just awesome on stuff like "Soul Sound" but the record tanked in America.



I sort of lost interest in the group when original member Mutya Buena dropped out -- (Yes, I did order her 2007 solo CD from England!) -- but I pay attention when the girls release a new single.

Still, glad as I am that the original line-up is getting back together, I'm thinking now of the sublime magic of one of their biggest post-Siobahn hits:

This 2002 mash-up of "Freak Like Me" by Adina Howard and "Are 'Friends' Electric?" from Gary Numan's Tubeway Army is a work of genius. Like the best Kylie Minogue singles, it's an ass-shaker that works intellectually as well. Somehow, the Brits and Aussies seem to excel at this sort of thing. With the exception of Madonna and Lady Gaga, most American dance-pop is just dumb.

Just like America could never produce a Morrissey, we could never make something this witty and clever that was so pleasing to the ears. I read about this single before I heard it and it looked good on paper. And it sounded even better when I finally got the CD single in the mail.

Sugababes -- "Freak Like Me" on "Top Of The Pops" in 2002


[Footnote: If you noticed, that clip has the logo of BBC America. To my fellow Yanks: Yes, it was once not all "Top Gear" and "Dr. Who" reruns on BBC America!]

The Stone Roses To Reform. I Guess I Should Be More Excited.


As the NME reported, The Stone Roses are reforming. The four original members will go on tour in 2012, including a few sure-to-be mammoth gigs in the UK.

I wish I could get more excited but I can't; reunion gigs just don't do much for me. Make no mistake: I loved seeing a classic -- though Eno-less -- line-up of Roxy Music in 2000 but I just normally don't care about trying to make lightning strike twice.

Hell, The Pixies were a trifle disappointing in 1989 when I saw them live so why would I want to see them now when they're older and, presumably, less edgy?

As for My Bloody Valentine: I don't even listen to them very much anymore so I really didn't have any interest in seeing their reunion act.

The Stone Roses put out one flawless, perfect record in 1989 (and another crappy one in 1994). The first album was re-issued later in 1989 to include the epic "Fools Gold" on the CD and it's hard for me to hear it without thinking of The Record Co-Op again (!) -- I know, I know!



In early 1989, I read about the band in the NME and Melody Maker and I *think* either Kelly or Archie -- future members of Velocity Girl -- told me in the store one day that Yesterday and Today Records in Rockville had the debut LP on vinyl but I was strictly a CD man at that time.

The college PR guy at RCA in NYC had me on the phone one day -- this was before RCA in the D.C. area got a very cool college rep. of their own -- and he and I discussed the album. The guy raved about it and said the hype was deserved.

He mailed me a tape he had made of the vinyl LP and, even before the album had been released by RCA/Silvertone in America, my coworker/buddy Don and I were hooked on the band -- I even remember Don or another coworker saying that for once I had hyped a good English band, or words to that effect.

The magnificence of that record cannot be dismissed. Here's album opener "I Wanna Be Adored" in the full LP version, not the shortened single edit.

Monday, October 17, 2011

A Review Of The Debut Album From D.C.'s Dot Dash


As a lifelong D.C. area resident, I'm always a bit bemused when D.C. gets defined by one genre. In the 1980s, with the success of Dischord Records, it seemed as we were living in a punk city. In the 1990s, when some guys and gals who used to shop where I worked (the late Record Co-Op on the College Park campus of the University of Maryland) formed a few bands (Velocity Girl, Black Tambourine, Air Miami) and a label (Slumberland) and achieved some deserved success, it seemed as if the D.C. area was the new epicenter of C86-inspired jangle pop.

Now, maybe we're gonna get labeled a sort of post-punk revival city? Or we could bring that New Wave of New Wave label the UK press used back in the days of These Animal Men and S*M*A*S*H to describe the area's best new band?

That's a long way to introduce you to Dot Dash. Their full-length debut, Spark>Flame>Ember>Ash, is out now -- links below -- and it's a stomper.

Early songs that made it my way seemed to fit with the era of the song and band (Wire) that gave Dot Dash their name. But, upon listening to Spark>Flame>Ember>Ash, it's clear that Dot Dash are 4 guys able to push a restrained raucousness into 14 concise songs of constrained chaos.

This is thought-out post-punk and it's catchy as hell!

These are fresh takes on a familiar formula that, oddly but refreshingly, don't sound like the work of the other great bands these guys have been in.

The pedigrees of these individuals are well-known: Terry Banks (guitar and voice) and Hunter Bennett (bass) were in Julie Ocean (with Velocity Girl's Jim Spellman, and Terry was also in The Saturday People with Velocity Girl's Archie Moore). Bill Crandall (guitar) was in Modest Proposal, leaders of D.C.'s mod revival in the 1980s. And Danny Ingram (drums) was in D.C. punkers Youth Brigade (as well as Strange Boutique, radioblue, and England's Sweverdriver).

With that out of the way, onto the tunes.



Forget Wire, opener "The Color and the Sound" sounds like a beat era band trying to speed up a Beatles b-side side. There's a touch of D.C.'s own Chisel here, but the cut is a unique mix of the influences of about 10 different eras.

Spark>Flame>Ember>Ash seems to be split between songs that sound a bit like Wire -- a trifle detached (?), but maybe that's too strong a word -- and songs that are wildly lyrical which recall the melodic charms of stuff like "E.S.P." by The Buzzcocks.

Take "Dissolve": the cut has a nearly plucked guitar line that reminds one of Bernard Sumner's work on side one of Brotherhood but then the drums-and-cymbals crash, the guitar cuts-and-soars, and the vocals yearn -- this is a great song, to put it simply. It is very much like hearing an American version of These Animal Men - something from that woefully underappreciated 2nd album.

Likewise, "Tragedy/Destiny" adds mid-period Jam -- think "In The Crowd" -- to the mix. "I'm Going Home" sounds almost like early Supergrass -- early Supergrass pummeling some lost Yardbirds gem, maybe.

"Gripped" and the melodic "Alright, Alright" showcase some strong bass-work from Hunter Bennett and that pulsing bass almost pushes the cuts into the territory of ska -- there's a slight hint to my ears -- and it also reminds me of the bouncy pop of the original new wave era -- stuff like early Plimsouls, The Boomtown Rats of "She's So Modern" and not "I Don't Like Mondays" if you get my meaning.



If it seems like I'm stressing all of these influences and similarities, it's for a reason: when I read about this band, I could feel the band getting pigeon-holed as post-punk revivalists, Ian Curtis acolytes, Wire fetishists. Nope, nope, nope.

This is punchy, sprightly stuff, filled with hooks. Kudos also goes to producer Eric Tischler who manages to make the band sound like they are all playing live in the same room. The instruments sound real and Terry's voice is nicely placed in the front of the mix. Danny Ingram's drumming is like early Keith Moon when he was trying to control himself but the fury was still seeping out in the singles of the era. Frankly, the drums on most rock records should sound like this; you can hear a human furiously playing behind that kit and I dig that.

These are 14 songs tailor-made for live shows and I look forward to seeing these guys when they open for ex-Stranglers frontman Hugh Cornwell this week -- details here -- and then again when they open for a revamped line-up of England's The Chameleons in November.



Check back here in a few days for a free MP3 from Dot Dash.

The band will be opening for Hugh Cornwell, one-time lead singer of punk/new wave/alternative legends The Stranglers, in Rockville at Montgomery College on Friday, October 21, 2011. Details here.

For all of your Dot Dash needs, follow them on their Facebook page.

You can buy the album, Spark>Flame>Ember>Ash, from Dot Dash, as a download via Amazon.com.

You can also get Spark>Flame>Ember>Ash, from Dot Dash, via iTunes in the US here.

And the physical CD is available from TheBeautifulMusic.com.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Kim and Thurston: Further Proof That Marriage Is A Mistake



I don't want to sound like a naive teenager here but I really did take some solace in the fact that Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore had been happily (?) married for so long.

Now, the NME is reporting that their 27-year marriage is over. The rockers' marriage was one of the only examples I'd frequently grasp at when I wanted to consider if the idea of wedlock was ever a good one.



I don't really know the details of the break-up, nor are they anyone's business I suppose, but 27 years is a long time.

I guess you could look at it that they got a good run out of it, that things turned out better than the majority of marriages.

Still, the big question now is what will happen to Sonic Youth? The union of Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore has been not only a cool -- or should I say, kool? -- thing but the basis of one of the most significant partnerships in rock music history.



I've been listening to Sonic Youth for 25 years. I sort of drift away from what they are doing sometimes -- NYC Ghosts and Flowers (2000) seemed like crap to me, as did the albums immediately before and after that one -- but recent releases had seemed to signal a comeback.

Both Kim and Thurston have done interesting work outside of the band so I have no doubts that both will be making great music even if the marriage's split causes the band to go bust.

Frankly, it might be better for the fans that way too.

One of my favorite moments from David Letterman's CBS show: Sonic Youth, featuring a visibly pregnant Kim Gordon, rip up "Bull in the Heather" from 1994's wonderful Experimental Jet Set, Trash and No Star...

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Electrify Your Head: In Which Throwing Muses Bring The Magic To D.C.'s Black Cat


Following the recent release of their new career-spanning Anthology, Throwing Muses are embarking on a brief US tour and they played D.C. last night.

I was there. My ears are still ringing.



The band played a long set to a wildly appreciative crowd -- myself included -- and launched things off with a blistering "Garoux Des Larmes" from 1987's The Fat Skier.

I spent the first few minutes watching Ian MacKaye from D.C. legends Fugazi as he lurked in the wings. The punk pioneer watched most of the show from the side of the stage. I tried to take a pic but it was too dark and blurry.

Throwing Muses delivered the goods and -- as if anyone could forget -- drummer David Narcizo is a formidable powerhouse behind the kit. As the cymbals shook, the guy pounded out the Muses canon.



Bassist Bernard Georges held things down with supple lines and a loose, almost jazzy feel on some cuts.



Promoting the recent Anthology, Throwing Muses gave up a rip-roaring "Finished" from 1987's Chains Changed EP, an edgy "Devil's Roof" from Hunkpapa (1989), a quick take on "Firepile" from Red Heaven (1992), a languid "Furious" from the same album, and a slow-burn on "Vicky's Box" from their first, self-titled album.

There was a run at "Mexican Women" and a few of the other mainstays from the 1988 masterpiece House Tornado, but the encore closer of "Mania" is what made my head spin.

Somehow stronger and even more...robust than the version I would have heard the group do back in 1989, "Mania" reminds a listener that 1) Throwing Muses are one of America's best live acts (and have been for 25 years now) and 2) Kristin Hersh was perfecting this sort of cathartic, emotional alt-rock when Cobain was still learning Sabbath chords back in Seattle.



I was near the stage so I got a lot of great shots of Kristin but not quite as many good ones of David Narcizo rocking the skins, and even fewer of Bernard Georges wielding his bass.










Follow Kristin Hersh and all her various incarnations here on Throwing Music.com and on the CASH Music site.

4AD will be releasing a single-disc edition of Anthology outside of the US. However, you can still get the deluxe limited edition 2-disc edition of Anthology from KristinHersh.com here.



Throwing Muses - "Bright Yellow Gun" - D.C.'s Black Cat, 10/14/11


Throwing Muses - "Soul Soldier" (excerpt) - D.C.'s Black Cat, 10/14/11