Thursday, June 30, 2016

Best News Of The Week, Folks: Kaleidoscope World From The Chills To Be Reissued In August! Spin Early Version Of The Oncoming Day Here!

For a whole lot of people, 1986's Kaleidoscope World was the introduction to the world of New Zealand's The Chills. Originally released on the wonderful Homestead Records here in the United States, the comp. was part of a wave of releases of bands on the Flying Nun label that made people like lifelong fans of both that label and that band.

It's worth remembering that while Brave Words (1987) was the first official full-length album from The Chills, Kaleidoscope World was the release where so many of us heard so many classics from this band. "Pink Frost", "I Love My Leather Jacket", "The Great Escape" and on and on, there are just so many durable songs from the Chills back-catalogue here that one can easily make the case for this compilation being an absolutely essential purchase, and certainly an equal to that official first album (Brave Words). Originally released at a shorter length, Kaleidoscope World has now been expanded to 24 tracks on this upcoming Flying Nun vinyl and CD reissue which I'm happy to report will be released in August.

The new track listing for Kaleidoscope World:

1. "Kaleidoscope World"
2. "Satin Doll"
3. "Frantic Drift"
4. "Rolling Moon"
5. "Bite"
6. "Flame Thrower"
7. "Pink Frost"
8. "Purple Girl"
9. "This Is The Way"
10. "Never Never Go"
11. "Don't Even Know Her Name"
12. "Bee Bah Bee Bah Bee Boe"
13. "Whole Weird World"
14. "Dream By Dream"
15. "Doledrums"
16. "Hidden Bay"
17. "I Love My Leather Jacket"
18. "The Great Escape"
19. "Oncoming Day (Early Version)"
20. "Dan Destiny and The Silver Dawn (Unplugged)"
21. "Martyns Doctor Told Me"
22. "I’ll Only See You Alone Again"
23. "Green Eyed Owl (Live)"
24. "Smile From A Dead Dead Face (Live)"

You can listen to that early version of "The Oncoming Day" below. The cut, later a standout on the band's major label debut here in the United States, Submarine Bells (1990), is here rougher and a bit more insistent than it would later be. Like most of the stuff from The Chills, it succeeds on the back of Martin Phillips' very distinctive delivery. When I first heard a lot of this stuff in 1987 or 1988, his talents seemed so unique to me and I quickly became a fan of The Chills. And when one considers the superb bits of songwriting on last year's Silver Bullets, one is thankful that Phillipps is still plying his artistic trade as he is, without a doubt, in the midst of a bit of a career renaissance these days.

This new version of Kaleidoscope World will be out in mid-August via Flying Nun Records. Follow that site for more details on this reissue.

And for all your Chills needs, follow the band's official website,, or via the band's official Facebook page.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

A Quick Review Of The Fine New Album From Lake Ruth (The New Lines Members)

Lake Ruth make music that is going to draw a lot of comparisons to that of Broadcast and Stereolab. A few years ago, such a comparison would have been a lazy way for music writers to describe anything that was a bit retro and a bit trippy.

And yet, to say that Lake Ruth, on their new album Actual Entity, out now on The Great Pop Supplement, sound like early Broadcast is to say that the band makes music that is precise in its grasp of past pop styles and that vocalist Allison Brice recalls in her delivery the late, great Trish Keenan of that band in her ability to get these very lovely bits of chamber pop across.

Lake Ruth also features Matt Schulz and Hewson Chen from The New Lines and, yes, there are some similarities between that band's tunes and those here on Actual Entity. Like the cuts from The New Lines, those here owe big debts to both the sort of baroque pop one could find in the Top 40 some decades ago, as well as the indie of fairly recent acts who looked to the past for direction. Opener "The Greenfield Industrialist" percolates like both Broadcast and mid-period Stereolab, all languid rhythmic patches stretched out under Allison's coos and the tinkling keyboard lines. "The Only One Who Knows" edges in the direction of the sort of rockiness that punctuated so many Komeda cuts on that Swedish group's early releases. Lake Ruth here have hit on an ability to sound utterly live on these tracks and for a band that makes music like this, full of so many nods to past genre pioneers, that's an enormous accomplishment.

Now, sure, Lake Ruth craft soundscapes that are positively redolent with echoes of stuff like the best sides of The Left Banke or The Free Design but, in fairness, the three-piece do manage to imbue every cut here -- the pulsing "Helium" or the ascending "Dr. Snow And The Broad Street Pump", for example -- with enough flashes of modernism that this stuff never once feels as retro as, say, something like "The Book Lovers" from Broadcast which sounded remarkably like a remake of an Elephant's Memory song. "Cabin Fever" unwinds with a gentleness that made me think of old Saint Etienne singles, while the superb "A Victimless Crime" showcases some subtly fierce bass and drum fills from Chen and Schulz.

There's a Shirley Collins-inspired romp ("One Night As I Lay On My Bed") and what is the best approximation of Dots And Loops (1997)-era Stereolab as I've ever heard ("The Timekeeper's Lament"). Nearly-epic closer "Yet Still Tomorrow Comes" underpins the familiar elements of this group's chamber pop with another set of expert bass and drum runs from Chen and Schulz.

At times, the tune-age on Absolute Entity recalls the obvious touchstones of an earlier generation's Sixties-inflected indie pop, whether we're talking the trippy bits from an old Stereolab gem re-imagined here or a set of riffs that chime like something from The Clientele in a new setting. Still, for all that, and for all the ways this trio have absorbed so many great influences and internalized the things that made them great in the first place, the band members have managed to make this project more than just a retro exercise. There's a lot of heart and soul on Absolute Entity, and for all the vocalizing and precision in the chamber pop here, these performers sound like they are enjoying the whole endeavor immensely. As a band, Lake Ruth mesh as players perfectly and a listener could be forgiven for thinking that Chen and Schulz should stick with this band a bit before heading back to The New Lines. And, more importantly, the album sounds great and it almost feels like you are hearing this beautiful set of tunes unfold live. Maybe kudos should also go to the mix by Graham Walsh 'cause this just sounds wonderful.

Absolute Entity by Lake Ruth is out now via The Great Pop Supplement for the vinyl, or the Bandcamp link below for the download.

Follow Lake Ruth via the band's official Facebook page.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Perhaps The Perfect Bernard Herrmann Compilation Is Out Now From Cherry Red Records

If you are going to own just one Bernard Herrmann CD, it should be this one. The Fantasy Film World Of Bernard Herrmann, out now via Cherry Red Records, collects, as the title states, some samples of some of the more famous "fantasy" film scores from the legend's vast body of work.

Now, I am the sort of guy to argue for buying any score Herrmann composed since even the crap (It's Alive even?) has musical bits that elevate the soundtrack far above what any other composer's work was capable of being. But the reality is that it's not possible to be a Herrmann completist, I guess, so a compilation like this is a godsend.

Collecting selections from The Seventh Voyage Of Sinbad (1958), The Day The Earth Stood Still (1951), The Ghost And Mrs. Muir (1947), Journey To The Centre Of The Earth (1959), Beneath The 12-Mile Reef (1953), and The Portrait Of Jennie (1948), The Fantasy Film World Of Bernard Herrmann serves, at pretty much 80 minutes, as the perfect one-disc collection of Herrmann's scores minus the Hitchcock ones.

From the exotic motifs of the cuts from The Seventh Voyage Of Sinbad (1958) and on to the solidly robust bits from Beneath The 12-Mile Reef (1953), this set showcases both Herrmann's creativity at matching music to action as well as his skill at composing pure music that works so well even if one hasn't seen the film in question (as was the case for me with 1953's Beneath The 12-Mile Reef).

The famous bits from the Theremin-infused The Day The Earth Stood Still (1951) score still resonate as perhaps the prime example of what music can add to a sci-fi film, while the inventive instrumentation on the cuts from the Journey To The Centre Of The Earth (1959) score highlight Herrmann's ability to bring his very best to projects that perhaps didn't deserve it. That film of Verne's novel is not that great, though it does have its defenders, and it's not a big stretch to say that the Herrmann music from the film is admittedly much more memorable than the back-projected lizards the characters face in the actual movie itself.

But it is, of course, the music from The Ghost And Mrs. Muir (1947) that pulls at the heartstrings so successfully every time I play it. The Herrmann score here elevates what is a quite good film into one that is borderline great and one can only wonder if the film would have ever been half so successful with, say, a Lionel Newman score or something? Lush, romantic, and wildly sentimental, the selections from The Ghost And Mrs. Muir (1947) are perhaps my favorite pieces of music in the whole Herrmann catalog and that's saying something when one remembers the work Herrmann did with Hitchcock and Scorsese.

The Fantasy Film World Of Bernard Herrmann, out now from Cherry Red Records, is a splendid crash-course into the back-catalog of Bernard Herrmann. If you're new to this guy, start here. If you're a fan of this guy, get this as a sort of one-disc option to carry around.

Absolutely essential folks.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

In Which I Finally Get To See Sansyou Live Along With Thalia Zedek (Live Skull, Come)

D.C.'s Sansyou make something that is beautiful and uncomplicated. The 3 musicians in this band -- David Nicholas, Davis White, and Matt McGarraghy -- seem to be able to craft music that is serious and Art with a capital "A" and yet they remain entirely unpretentious while doing it. That's a rare skill in this world and they brought that skill to D.C.'s Rhizome last night.

Now, readers of this site probably know that I've been a fan of this band for a few years and have happily written about them in the past. However, I had never seen them live. I had an excuse before since my wife and I were living in Hong Kong until late August 2014. But every Sansyou show I missed in this area after that seems a mistake now since these guys are so good live, as I learned tonight.

Dual guitarists Nicholas and McGarraghy owe debts to earlier artists in the indie genre but they understand how to take something that sounds a bit like early Ride in spots, or Cocteau Twins in another, for example, and turn it into a unique piece of tune-age. Bits of the performance tonight recalled Durutti Column, or even early New Order sides sans vocals, and I can think of no higher compliment than that. Lorelei drummer Davis White brought a sort of heavy jazz-style to some cuts and that worked well in the setting as Nicholas and McGarraghy traded runs on guitar. Employing a bunch of effects pedals, Nicholas worked some obvious magic while McGarraghy added the melodic bits. On familiar tunes like "Black Nerve Administrator", from the band's superb when we become ghosts release, reviewed by me here, the trio really hit their stride and produced sounds unlike a lot of what put this city on the musical map.

During the gig tonight, Sansyou was showcasing a few cuts -- 4, I think? -- from the band's upcoming EP. The next release is being mixed by drummer Davis White even as we speak and I think it's going to be something special and something worth waiting for. For a brief taste, enjoy the clip of a bit of "Field Of View" below.

Boston's DYR Faser offered up a unique set of noise-rock that blended blues riffs with samples and fiery bits of Sonic Youth-esque guitar hooks into something wholly original. The band, a two-piece consisting of Eric Boomhower and the legendary Thalia Zedek (Live Skull, Come), managed to unfurl lines of guitar-weirdness that remained focused despite being entirely avant-garde and bracing. Traces of bands as disparate as Throbbing Gristle and Zedek's own Come showed themselves tonight in the band's music and I immediately rushed home and looked to see what was available from this group on Bandcamp.

Full confession: We split before Insect Factory came on so I cannot report back on their set. However, Sansyou and DYR Faser were both fantastic and the space at Rhizome is a cool one, as you can see from these pics.

Follow Sansyou via the band's official website, or via the band's official Facebook page.

Follow DYR Faser via the band's Bandcamp page, or via the band's official Facebook page.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

A Handful Of My Pics From Tonight's Scorching Pere Ubu Set At D.C.'s Rock And Roll Hotel

Pere Ubu delivered a scorching set at D.C.'s Rock and Roll Hotel tonight. The cuts in tonight's nearly 90-minute gig came from the recent box sets put out by Fire Records. The esteemed label is in the midst of a welcomed reissue project that sees the early Pere Ubu albums coming back into print in sets. The first set, Elitism For The People 1975-1978, dropped in 2015 and the second one, Architecture Of Language 1979-1982 came out earlier this year.

Tonight, the band behind leader and legend David Thomas was Steven Mehlman on drums, Michele Temple on bass, Robert Wheeler on keyboards and Theremin, and Gary Siperko on lead guitar. Thomas remained seated for most of the night but he did seem to command the room with every utterance from his lips, whether it was a yell, a coo, or a bit of between-song-banter. I took most of these shots during the encore of "Final Solution" and, it's certainly worth noting, the cut had a large contingent of the crowd singing along.

Never in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine that I'd be in a crowd singing along to a Pere Ubu song but such is life, eh?

Read my interview with David Thomas of Pere Ubu from 2015 for a few details on these reissues.

Check out Fire Records for news on the reissue series and the tour. And for all your Pere Ubu needs.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

A Quick Review Of This Fab New Bangles Compilation, Out Friday On Omnivore

Long before they were walking like Egyptians -- and it's 30 years since that famous single dropped, folks! -- and ages before they were lighting eternal flames, The Bangles were a rock band called The Bangs. It's rare enough to find someone who can look all the way back to "Hero Takes A Fall" but even harder to find someone who knows who The Bangs were.

Well now we're all in for a very pleasant musical education thanks to the fine folks at Omnivore Recordings as they are releasing Ladies And Gentleman...The Bangles, a superb compilation of early recordings from this band, this week. The collection, which drops tomorrow (June 24), is easily one of the most listenable -- is that an adjective? -- releases of 2016. Pure power pop goodness from start to finish, that's the only way to describe this one.

The liner notes credit David Roback (Rain Parade, Opal, Rainy Day) as a co-writer on early cut "Call On Me" but the song, pure Bangles-like goodness, is, like other numbers from the era on offer here, the sort of crunchy guitar-based pop that a lot of skinny tie bands were cranking out in the aftermath of the New Wave boom. "The Real World" chimes in equal measure and is clearly one of the very first classic cuts that this band would record. Somehow more robust than some of what ended up on All Over The Place (1984), the Vicki Peterson/Susanna Hoffs-penned rocker is the highlight of this release for me and, luckily, there's also a demo version of the song here on Ladies And Gentleman...The Bangles.

By the time they recorded the supple "I'm In Line", the 3-piece Bangs had become The Bangles with guitarist Vicki Peterson's sister Debbi joining on the drums and bassist Annette Zalinskas handling the duties that Michael Steele would soon take over. The Byrds-esque touches of "Mary Street" hint at the band's connections via that Rainy Day project with the other members of the then current so-called Paisley Underground of the era, while the cover of obscure Sixties stomper "How Is The Air Up There?" (originally by The La De Das in 1966) allows Hoffs and crew to show their chops at updating that sort of material for modern audiences. That the song doesn't sound like a cover attests to the talents of this group at adapting earlier styles and making them their own.

Elsewhere, on a cover of the Warren Zevon-penned Turtles jam "Outside Chance", The Bangles line themselves up next to the Beatles of the "I Feel Fine" era. The cut, a demo version here, positively rocks, as does a later live version of Love's "7 And 7 Is", recorded by the time that Michael Steele had joined the band.

The collection is rounded out with a few radio commercials that the band recorded and one gets the sense that Ladies And Gentleman...The Bangles is meant to serve as a sort of round-up of all the band's pre-Columbia Records recordings. Not quite sure it succeeds on those terms but it certainly works as just a fantastic set of tunes that are all the equal of any of the Sixties-inflected flower power-pop and the sort of West Coast New Wave-influenced guitar-rock that peers like The Three O'Clock were also making at the time.

Of equal appeal to fans of Nuggets-era pop tunes as it is to simple fans of The Bangles, Ladies And Gentleman...The Bangles offers up as much listening enjoyment as the band's official first album release (All Over The Place) did in 1984. Nearly flawless and full of ringing guitars, Ladies And Gentleman...The Bangles, out tomorrow via Omnivore Recordings, is the first absolutely essential reissue of 2016.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

A Few Words About The New One From D.C. Legends Tone

The band Tone has been a fixture in this town for longer than I can remember. The band's press says that they've been around for more than 25 years. So, yeah, if your band has played both the "old" and current 9:30 Clubs, then you're a legend. Which is why I titled this post that way.

Still, for a bunch of legends these cats make music that is both wildly expansive and modest in approach. Without a whole lot of pretension, this collective of musicians make big tunes that soar and agitate in equal measure. A perfect example of this dynamic can be found on the band's newest album, Antares, out Friday via Dischord and TMinusOneMusic.

If the title cut is familiar and a way to ease a fan, new or old, into the music that's on this record, the superb "Weapon Of Moonlight" is the furious unfurling of all the talents in this group. The guitars of Norm Veenstra, Jim Williamson, and Gustavo Vargas slash chords with some abandon while bassist Charles Andrews and drummer Gregg Hudson battle it out down below. The cut is controlled chaos and if it sounds like the guitars are like animals circling their prey (to use a really awkward description), the rhythm section is the beast in the center fighting back. Instrumental music that's not jazz is rarely this effectively emotional.

Elsewhere, "Quiver" unwinds with all the plucked precision of early Mogwai, and "Incoming" skirts the edges of the sort of hard rock that one found on mid-period Soundgarden records. Antares ends with the sublime-and-epic "Bright Angel Falls", all delicate guitar hooks amped up amid chugging chords and brutal drum-work. For a 12-minute song, things move at a very brisk clip -- even the "quiet bits" -- and yet things feel deliberate and precise throughout the course of the track.

In a nutshell, that's sort of the appeal of Tone, isn't it? The band has been making music that straddles a line between absolute chaos and checked fury for more than 2 decades. They have shown themselves to be some of the best musicians in this city full of great musicians and they've done all this without a great deal of unnecessary pretension. I'm always impressed by artists who make something serious and affecting without making a big damn deal about it and with Tone there's modesty to the presentation that adds to overall impact of this band's music.

Tone are playing DC9 on Thursday. Find out more details via the band's official website, or official Facebook page.

Antares by Tone drops this Friday and the you can order it via the Bandcamp link below or via the Dischord website.

Monday, June 20, 2016

New Tunes From D.C.'s The Jet Age Are Up Now On Bandcamp!

It seems like only yesterday that I was reviewing Destroy.Rebuild, the sixth album from the D.C. area's The Jet Age. The power trio had managed to channel their biggest influences -- The Who and some-time touring mates The Wedding Present -- in the service of what was, in some ways, the band's sharpest album yet.

Following some dates in this area, from which that pic up above was taken by my wife, and a festival in Brighton, England, last fall, The Jet Age laid low for a bit. And now -- bam! -- they've come back and dropped 2 new songs and a remix today in anticipation of the unveiling of album number 7 some time later this year.

The wonderfully titled "Your Sweet Nothings" enters your ears, like most of the cuts from this group, on the back of drummer Pete Nuwayser's Moon impression on the skins, and bassist Greg Bennett's Entwistle-meets-Geezer Butler bass-work. And, of course, then comes Tischler with his insistent vocals, fuzzed out guitar riffs, and personal lyrics. The sound is, thankfully, uniquely that of The Jet Age and one can think again that this band can do certain things extremely well, and in doing them has crafted a sound that is so singular that it begs for more fans.

The flip, as it were, is "The Only Difference" all down-tempo beats and languid riffs percolating around Tischler's yearning vocals. The guitar almost takes a backseat here to the bass and drums but, this being a Jet Age record, eventually Eric's axe is going to grab some attention too. The guitar effects here, like on "Your Sweet Nothings" as well, are used subtly. In other hands, a guy like Tischler's love of shoegaze stuff like Swervedriver and My Bloody Valentine would have resulted in a band that sounded like an American clone of one of those acts. Instead, wisely, Tischler puts his fandom in the service of something else entirely and while there are traces of those acts -- most notably Swervedriver -- here (like they are in all Jet Age releases), the tracks are more than just tributes to an earlier era.

Look, I really dig these guys and with each release I fully expect them to reach more people and get more fans just like me. These 2 new cuts are the start of the build-up to album 7 and it's time to get onboard now if you aren't already.

Follow The Jet Age via their official website, or their official Facebook page.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Looking At Looking On (And Something Else) From The Move Thanks To These 2 New Cherry Red Records Reissues

What one hears when listening to 1970's Looking On by The Move is the end of one band and the start of another. The album, the band's next-to-last release, contains the seeds of what would later become Electric Light Orchestra within it. And that makes some sense considering that this is the first Move release that Jeff Lynne is on.

Still, the album is a bit messy as it straddles genres but in the new edition, recently released by Cherry Red Records, one can hear some of the bravest music of the post-flower power era. The band here took some risks and sort of laid the groundwork for almost everything ELO would do later. If this is not exactly ELO Mach 1, it's darn close despite some bits that place it far outside the range of anything those chart-toppers would do later at the end of the Seventies.

The band was now a four-piece (Jeff Lynne, Roy Wood, Bev Bevan, and Rick Price). Carl Wayne, such a huge part of The Move previously, had left by this time. The act was, by all accounts, Wood's project now but, as the liner notes explain, the genius didn't feel upstaged by the arrival of Lynne. Oddly, as those notes elaborate, Wood saw Lynne as an equal musically which gave him someone to bounce ideas off of and someone to compete with in a friendly way. Nowhere is this probably more apparent than on tracks like the title cut, all Wood flourishes from near-prog to jazz, and "Open Up Said The World At The Door" with its decided chamber pop touches, surely the work of composer Jeff Lynne. A listener is hearing 2 geniuses spar, basically.

Elsewhere, on the fab "When Alice Comes Back To The Farm" and "Brontosaurus", Roy Wood dabbles in what can only be called glam rock despite it being recorded a year or two before that genre really took off. Here, Wood amps things up, piles on layers of instrumentation, and adds a bit of Fifties riff-age to what are big, silly, and fun songs. Never one to take himself too seriously, Wood sounds like he's having a gas on both these seminal cuts and that's significant when one considers the era in which they were recorded with Vietnam raging, and po-faced singer-songwriters racing up the charts. Significantly, Wood placed a premium on rocking out on these 2 songs and a listener can thank him for that when so much else on this record -- "Turkish Tram Conductor Blues", for example, or even Lynne's sublime-and-unnerving "What?" -- tries so darn hard to be something else.

Still, don't let that remark fool you; even at their most serious, or most experimental, The Move were never plodding or dull like so very many of the prog pioneers operating in this same era. For all the near-classical breaks, or psuedo-jazz percolating throughout Looking On, the album remains a pleasure to listen to. Cherry Red Records has done the world a favor by reissuing this album in such a fine fashion, pairing the original record with a full bonus disc of radio sessions and interviews. The radio recordings here yield some real gems for a fan: Jeff Lynne's "Falling Forever" and 2 very Move-esque stabs at "She's A Woman" by The Beatles. And I would be remiss if I didn't mention the proto-grunge version of "Brontosaurus" buried among those radio sessions. The cut, all Sabbath-ed up, is as far removed from the eventual Cheap Trick cover as possible and this run-through positively drips with bad intent.

Also of note from Cherry Red Records is the earlier Something Else From The Move, also recently reissued by the U.K. label. The original 1968 "mini-LP" has here been beefed up with a whole raft of bonus cuts and taken all together they show The Move to have been one of the very best bands of the era. Roaring through Move hits like "Fire Brigade" first, the group also tries their hand at some covers of classics of the time by Love, Janis Joplin, and The Byrds. The band would change a bit right after this, as we've seen, with the departure of Carl Wayne and this expanded version of Something Else From The Move serves as a sort of souvenir of the firepower of this band as a live unit. The studio releases -- singles and albums -- tended to showcase the more psychedelic chops of Wood and co. that placed the act in line with the other flower power giants of the era, yet it's worth remembering that this band was, like The Who, an awesome set of players as equally adept at rockers as they were at near-mod swings through r'n'b and rock standards.

Something Else From The Move and Looking On are both out now via Cherry Red Records.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

A Few Words About The New Album From Big Deal (ex-Pull In Emergency)

Previously, Big Deal singer Alice Costelloe was in a band called Pull In Emergency. I think back in 2010, I may have been one of the only Yank bloggers writing about the band. And the band's debut album, reviewed by me here, really was a charmer.

In the last year or so I read about the new band, Big Deal, and only then a bit after that noticed that it featured Alice Costelloe. The sound here is similar to what that earlier group laid down but things seem more robust now and I'm here today to share with you a few thoughts on the new album, Say Yes, out tomorrow on FatCat Records.

If opener "Hold Your Fire" snarls like mid-period Hole, it also soars in spots and it's that sense of release that punctuates so many of these tracks. If the tunes here are indeed indebted to the whole quiet-loud-quiet-template that Pixies and Nirvana favored so much, then they are also more than just nods to the Eighties and Nineties. Instead, on stuff like the title cut, there's a real effort to make this swirling sonic chaos palatable and -- dare I say it? -- catchy. The tune, all big hooks and Warpaint-esque riffs, bubbles and roars in equal measure.

Elsewhere, on the radiant "Veronica", guitar effects take center-stage and the band tap into the same sort of shoegaze vibe that fueled so many classic Ride and Cocteau Twins songs. And yet, Big Deal never get lazy about this sort of thing and one could never say that the act was a bunch of revivalists; these are fresh, largely buoyant tracks that sound as absolutely wonderful on a car stereo as they do booming in your headphones.

Other highlights of this Big Deal album for me were the vaguely Mazzy Star-like "Saccharine", and "Don't Forget" with its big, big, big hooks. Album closer "Idyllwild" one ups Slowdive at their own game and a listener can listen to this and marvel at the range of this group within the confines of the indie tropes at their disposal.

Say Yes isn't a game-changer but it is supremely good indie rock delivered with more economy and dexterity than most bands are capable of anymore. Concise and expansive in equal doses, the 11 cuts here showcase Alice Costelloe's voice as the sort of anchor around which the waves of the fuzzy-and-amped-up guitars race around her.

Follow Big Deal via the band's official Facebook page.

Say Yes by Big Deal is out tomorrow via FatCat Records.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Pere Ubu Kick Off Rare U.S. Tour (With D.C. Stop Next Week)!

Pere Ubu frontman David Thomas is in the midst of a bit of a renaissance now. The renaissance has seen the legendary singer take his first band, Rocket From The Tombs, out on the road (pics by Davis White of a D.C. gig here, and that shot up above). And he's had Fire Records begin an enormous, and enormously important, string of reissues recently. The first box set, Elitism For The People 1975-1978, was released in 2015 and this year saw the release of the next set in the series, Architecture Of Language 1979-1982 which came out a few months ago. This set, containing material a good deal more bracing than the more famous works on the first box, showcases the risk-taking that David Thomas and his band -- whatever the line-up -- have undertaken in the first few years of the band's long existence.

Now, beginning tomorrow as a matter of fact, Pere Ubu will be taking their act on the road on these shores. The band's current line-up of David Thomas, Steven Mehlman (Drums), Michele Temple (Bass), and Robert Wheeler (Synth and Theremin), will be joined by Gary Siperko (Rocket From The Tombs, Whiskey Daredevils, Mofos) on lead guitar. The group will be performing a variety of cuts from those first radical releases collected on those 2 box sets.

Still, "This is not a greatest hits tour!" as the press materials state. No, in typical Thomas fashion, the tour, dubbed "Coed Jail! Tour 2016", will present Thomas with the task of replicating some of the most challenging music recorded in America in the post-punk years live. He remains an artist, as he explained in this interview with me last year, driven by "the need to get it right--just once."

Pere Ubu are playing D.C. on June 24 and details of that gig are here on the Rock and Roll Hotel website. Follow the adventures of Pere Ubu and their reissue series via Fire Records.

Video of a recent live performance of "Navvy" from Dub Housing (1978) below, courtesy of Fire Records.

[Photo: Davis White]

Monday, June 13, 2016

Dance On Broken Glass: A Look At Album Number 5 From D.C.'s Own Dot Dash (Plus Free MP3)

In terms of the number of songs and overall duration, Searchlights, out now via, is the longest Dot Dash album yet. This one, the fifth from the D.C.-area band, is also the loudest. To not mention that would be silly; the record's got kick, you know?

If previously on the earlier records Dot Dash sounded like The Jam, this time out they sound like another power trio entirely: Husker Du. At least in spots, I guess. The group -- drummer Danny Ingram, bassist Hunter Bennett, guitarist Steve Hansgen, and singer-guitarist Terry Banks -- have simultaneously managed to have moved the whole Dot Dash sound forward while retaining enough of the traces of the earlier stuff to please long-time fans. Significantly, guitarist Steve Hansgen now sounds perfectly at home in the band, the Minor Threat ace's axe even more an integral part of the Dot Dash effect than it perhaps was on 2015's Earthquakes and Tidal Waves where he was the "new kid" in the group.

With a bit of wit, Banks kicks things off with "Dumb Entertainment" which reminded this listener of nothing so much as "Rock and Roll" by Led Zeppelin, complete with harDCore wiz Steve Hansgen's blistering Page-does-Chuck Berry-style solo. The band -- maybe more so than ever before -- sound loose and at ease here, even with the added volume. Up next is the roar of "Lonely Serenade" complete with what sounds suspiciously like a Billy Idol-style audible snarl from one time St. Christopher member Terry Banks. Things settle in by the time we get to the title track, all big riffs wrapped around the usual Banks twists and hooks -- American indie amped up as never before.

At times on Searchlights Dot Dash make the kind of beefy tune-age once favored by Superchunk, or the kind of hook-heavy college rock pioneered by The Smithereens a generation earlier, though there's still that hint of indie here thanks to this frontman's past in a few other bands. Still, in a measure of his growing range as group leader, it's worth noting that Banks sounds equally at ease on the lyrical "Wishing Star" as he does on the more fiery "The Infintite". On the positively hard rock-ish "Dance on Broken Glass", the band try their collective hand at a more mainstream sound, Banks even recalling Ian Hunter of Mott The Hoople a tiny bit in his vocal delivery. "Woke Up Saturday Night" packs in the sort of metallic k.o. found on the the best bits of the criminally underrated Don't Tell A Soul. If, like The Replacements on that 1989 disc, the boys in Dot Dash are extending their reach this time out -- and taking a few risks along the way -- they are doing so on the backs of some of Banks' best hooks. On tracks like "Holly Garland" and "Daddy Long Legs" his songwriting seems to have hit a tuneful peak even if the volume has gone up around him and his melodies. Without a doubt, Hansgen, bassist Bennett, and D.C. legend Ingram are all playing at full tilt in partnership with Banks, and every cut on Searchlights is one that could be taken off this record to showcase the myriad strengths of this act in a little 2- to 3-minute bite. It should be no surprise that the musicians have rarely sounded better on a Dot Dash album but it's also worth highlighting how the new styles on Searchlights suit Banks as a frontman this time out; who knew that the guy from The Saturday People would sound so at ease growling through big riff-rockers like these?

The highlight of this album for me was the riskiest number by far. At nearly 6 minutes, "Fading Out" is something new in the Dot Dash holster, a secret weapon of talents this band hadn't showcased yet. Combining bits from previous projects -- harDCore riffs from the "salad days" of both Hansgen and Ingram, for example -- of the members of the band, the cut is a blistering bit of channeled college rock fury that seems the equal of "You Can Live At Home", the final selection on Warehouse: Songs and Stories (1987) by Husker Du. As Hunter anchors things on that bass, and Danny pounds his way out of through the noise around him, Terry and Steve provide some of the most interesting and varied guitar-work this band has so far put to tape. It's a long way back to "There And Back Again Lane", folks. As the music roars and things stay just one step on this side of chaos during the cut's extended outro, one can feel like you're hearing the next logical stage in this band's evolution. If the song is bracing and challenging, it's also a joyous celebration of tuneful cacophony, much like another Husker Du song, "Crystal". The track, downloadable for free up above, is both unlike so much of this group's back catalog and so wildly promising of what's going to be possible on future releases.

If so much of Searchlights seems so different from albums 1-4 from these D.C. cats, it's all sort of forgiven when the overall punch of the songs hits you. If the volume is up, so are the melodies and, like those Mac-penned hooks in any classic Superchunk number, the skills of Terry Banks at drafting a jaunty melody are still on display. Things are louder but Banks hasn't entirely abandoned his indie roots -- just imagine if The Smiths had made a whole album full of cuts like "London" and you'll get what I mean. If you've never seen this band in concert, this album is a pretty good representation of their live sound. As a whole, Searchlights works as a leap forward for these guys. You know how there's a classic rock album hidden amid the hard chords of Never Mind The Bollocks? That sort of blending of punk -- thanks to Hansgen and Ingram -- with alt-rock -- Banks and Bennett -- is brought to full fruition on Searchlights. That parts of this sound like Zeppelin, and the Pistols, and The Damned, and The Buzzcocks, shouldn't surprise anyone, should it? These 4 guys are bringing 4 lifetimes of performing experience (and deep music knowledge) to the project here and Searchlights sounds like nothing so much as a template for the next 5 Dot Dash albums. I don't think any act since Dag Nasty or Government Issue has so successfully bridged the worlds of punk and alt-rock. That the album is dedicated to the late, great John Stabb (Government Issue, Emma Peel [with Steve and Danny], History Repeated, etc.) makes perfect sense given this record's cocktail of harDCore traces and ferocious power pop.

Searchlights by Dot Dash is out now via Follow Dot Dash via the band's official Facebook page.

[Photos: Glenn Griffith...just like the one inside the CD tray on this album! Thanks guys!]

Friday, June 10, 2016

Everything's Groovy: My Review Of The New C87 Box Set On Cherry Red Records

The original C86 cassette, put out by the NME magazine 3 decades ago, gave birth to a rather limiting genre label even if the term ended up describing bands that sounded little like the bands on the actual tape. In an admirable attempt to break the shackles of that C86 label, Cherry Red Records has today released a 3-CD set called C87 that looks at the immediate aftermath of the C86 wave, as well as serves as a survey of a wildly disparate set of U.K. indie acts operating in the era when The Smiths were still together, and house -- as the liner notes by Neil Taylor mentions -- hadn't exerted any big influence on pop music. Yet.

The year 1987 could very well be one of those years when so many things -- both indie and mainstream -- really caught fire: The Smiths broke up; rap broke big; The Cure and Husker Du dropped monster double-albums; and nearly 100 U.K. indie acts recorded music that pushed the borders of what constituted indie even further away from the center...which is why Gaye Bikers on Acid, pictured up above, rub up against The Weather Prophets on this set. It seems, with the benefit of hindsight, we can see how wild the year 1987 was, and how ultimately liberating the era was for musicians in the U.K.

Of course, some of those acts from the original C86 tape are here and with songs that are more familiar to most listeners ("Anti-Midas Touch" from The Wolfhounds, pictured up there on top, and "Frans Hal" from McCarthy, pictured beneath). Additionally, there are a few acts here who'd break big in the U.K. in 1988, a year after this era: The Shamen, represented by the thudding "Young Till Yesterday"; the crunchy "It's Not True..." by The Wonder Stuff; and the rather rough "Real Animal" by The House of Love. What a listener can hear here -- especially on those 3 cuts I used as examples -- is the sound of an act finding itself. I wouldn't be stupid enough to say that those 3 cuts were perfectly representative of those acts but, like the majority of songs here from recognized acts, the cuts chosen for C87 are rather brave choices which illustrate the breadth of risk-taking happening in the U.K. scene in 1987.

To further a point I tried to make above, it's worth restating how rough and fresh some of these more well-known acts sound here: "Escape!" by Kitchens of Distinction sounds more like a bunch of early Joy Division riffs than the soaring U2-isms found on some of the band's later cuts; "Brighter" by The Railway Children is positively radiant and not as over-produced as some of the band's later tracks would seem (at least to this listener); and "Sweet Sweet Pie" by Pop Will Eat Itself sounds, frankly, more like The Wonder Stuff than the actual Wonder Stuff selection on this box as none of the band's eventual experimentation with rap and sampling is evident here.

There are, of course, some big indie staples here: "Paul McCartney" by Laugh; "I Could Be In Heaven" by The Flatmates (pictured below); and "My Favourite Dress" by The Wedding Present (also pictured below). These tracks, like so many here, feel like templates for everything good about U.K. indie that would come after; can you imagine a British alt-pop scene that didn't have Gedge's act -- or bands that cribbed from his playbook -- in it?

Of the less familiar stuff here, standouts include the sublime and buoyant "Grey Skies Blue" by The Submarines, or the buzzing "Big Rock Candy Mountain" by the unforunately-forgotten The Motorcycle Boy, or the delirious shredding of "Secret Goldfish" by Baby Lemonade which seems, with the benefit of hindsight, to have been the perfect precursor to what Maryland's own Black Tambourine would do not so long after 1987.

Elsewhere, it's nice to encounter a Bodines song that isn't "Therese" ("Clear"), or a rougher track ("Hang Ten!") from The Soup Dragons that makes one mourn again how much their sound changed when they went mainstream, or a Primitives number that's from the band's early years ("We Found A Way To The Sun") rather than from off of their slightly more polished albums on RCA.

Phil Wilson (pictured below) offers up the post-June Brides classic "10 Miles" which sounds now so much like a Forster-number from The Go-Betweens back catalog that one wants to pat Mr. Wilson on the back. Elsewhere, a pre-Heavenly Amelia Fletcher provides "Talulah Gosh" by the band of the same name, one of the rare examples of a song that's a band name too and which doesn't entirely suck. Fletcher's crew (pictured below Wilson) still seem a bit underappreciated but their inclusion here is one of the most significant nods to more traditional styles of U.K. indie that can be found on C87.

If casting such a wide net for that post-C86 wave of music makes this set nearly unwieldy, the curators at Cherry Red Records have accomplished something remarkable here amid the chaos: they've broken the shackles of such a narrow representation of U.K. indie of the era. I mean, for 3 decades writers have tagged stuff as being C86-like, or something similar, never recalling for a second how varied the music on that seminal tape was, or how enormous the range of styles was in the output of the generation that flourished in the year after, collected here on C87.

Unlike on their recent superb shoegaze box, Cherry Red Records has performed a more needed task than simply assembling pioneers of one genre: shining a light on one of the most fertile periods of sonic experimentation in U.K. music-making. There are bands here that sound absolutely nothing like one another, especially in the context of this C87 set. But that's fine 'cause, instead, the range of what constituted indie back in those days is shown more clearly. That fleeting moment in time, between the demise of The Smiths and rise of house, before Creation Records acts went mainstream, before grunge got exported to the U.K. amid the rise of shoegaze, and before The Stone Roses made Manchester the center of so much attention (again), U.K. indie was flourishing and producing dozens and dozens of bands who populated a broad spectrum of artists crafting clearly-outside-the-mainstream music. Bold, brash, noisy, and fuzzy, the tracks here on C87 share one similarity and that is they are each the product of an age where risk-taking was rewarded. If not every act here broke as big as, say, The House of Love, or The Shamen, they all seem equal in statute here, in the context of what made up U.K. indie in 1987.

This superb overview of the post-C86 wave, the 3-CD set called C87, is out today via Cherry Red Records.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

A Look At The New Smiths Photo Book By D.C.'s Own Nalinee Darmrong

While I'd seen Nalinee Darmrong around the (old) 9:30 Club for years, I probably didn't speak to her too much back in the day. She certainly seemed cooler than me for one and now here's proof of exactly how cool.

Back in the Eighties, Nalinee actually had the nerve to follow The Smiths around on tour, both here on these shores and in the U.K. That she did that is impressive enough, that she had the good sense to photograph the band so expertly is a thing to be thankful for some 3 decades later. Collected in the new book, The Smiths, published in June by Rizzoli, her photographs are both a wonderful chronicle of the band, as well as a sort of snapshot of exactly what indie rock was long before it was even called that. In a sense too this book is about fandom itself as her adventures with the band say as much about her devotion as a fan as they do about why this band was worth following around to begin with.

All that being said, one holds this art book in one's hands and wonders: "Why the heck didn't someone think of making a book like this about The Smiths before?" Yes, there are some unnecessary tomes amid the glut of rock coffee table books in this world but this isn't one of them. What this is is a supremely high quality (thanks to the folks at Rizzoli) photographic survey of the peak performing years of one of the U.K.'s most important bands. Even for those of you who might not be fans of The Smiths -- and Dear God in Heaven why the heck are you even reading this blog if you aren't!?! -- the book still works as it captures a few moments in time when it was actually possible to follow a band on the road, across a few continents, and produce rather intimate shots of the group both on stage and off.

That Nalinee did all that when some of us were barely aware of The Smiths is nothing short of impressive. And, thankfully, she's such a skilled photographer that the pics here in this book are probably some of the best you're going to see of the band too.

Nalinee staked out The Smiths at their hotel in D.C. around the time of a local show on the Meat is Murder tour in 1985 and shot some pics of the musicians in a casual setting. After that she got put on the guest list for a Smiths gig in NYC by Johnny Marr himself and things took off from there. Not quite an official photographer of the band at the time, it seems that she was indeed warmly welcomed by all 4 members of The Smiths as she followed them both here and in the U.K.

Perhaps my favorite shots in the book are the ones of the band off-stage as the pics reveal the group to be seemingly not as pretentious as they perhaps had a right to be. Rather than dour, Morrissey appears jovial in a few of these shots as he signs autographs for fans. Johnny Marr, Andy Rourke, and Mike Joyce -- and later, additional guitarist Craig Gannon -- also look so young in these pages. This perfect indie band look so un-spoiled here that one sort of marvels how the enormous the effect of the band's Art; how did these 4 guys do so much in such a short amount of time? Additionally, the look of the group seems both of its era and timeless; Morrissey, Marr, and crew wisely avoided the egregious trappings of Eighties fashion and stuck to a look that now seems undated and fresh. For all of those people who think the Eighties was all big hair, Kajagoogoo-style crap, the shots here are a blessed reminder that Morrissey and Marr were making a fashion statement that wouldn't go out of style so instantly.

Elsehwere in The Smiths, Nalinee Darmrong chronicles the ephemera of life on the road with the Mancunian legends -- ticket stubs, hotel bills, flyers, etc. -- and a reader is rewarded with a glimpse at these little mementos that make these larger-than-life artists much more human and less the stuff of classic rock books of another sort. That Nalinee lived through all this -- that all the photos are hers and the souvenirs of another age things she shot -- is a fact that makes the book more special and oddly touching. For fans of this band, you're liable to want to binge-play all their singles and albums after flipping through this book. Better yet, you'd spin 'em while you were flipping through it.

In addition to all the pics of the band live on stage and in backstage settings, there are a few curios of Nalinee's adventure -- a pic of Morrissey's (beautiful) paisley shirt that he presumably threw off while singing and which she grabbed. And the two-page spread of Smiths buttons gave me a little chill as I recalled having some of those and wearing them proudly on a suit coat over a paisley shirt. (I found myself trying to remember in which record shops I bought those same buttons -- Smash! in Georgetown, maybe? -- long before I started working in D.C.-area record stores.) The shots here of those trinkets, and the band, obviously, reveal a freshness that is more than the simple pangs of nostalgia. In an era of Stock, Aitken, and Waterman -- and I'm a fan, don't get me wrong -- The Smiths were the real deal. And they've been made all the more real by these dozens and dozens and dozens of photos. It's all here -- an era alive again in glorious black-and-white and the band that now, like The Go-Betweens, seem more and more important and rare with each passing year of time.

The Smiths by Nalinee Darmrong, out Tuesday via Rizzoli, is the book Smiths fans always needed but little dreamed could exist.

Decades ago -- probably when I was trying to look hip at the old 9:30 Club and seeing some band that would never be The Smiths -- I remember passing Nalinee Darmrong in the club and she looked like the coolest girl in the room. Having seen her around at the old location on F Street I knew who she was and I remarked to my friend: "I bet that girl has the best taste in music."

Yeah, turns out she did and she was having adventures that music fans then and now should seriously envy. Luckily she documented them in order to produce this book, The Smiths by Nalinee Darmrong (Rizzoli).

D.C. peeps: there will be an exhibition of some of the photos in this book next Friday (June 17) at Studio 1469 in NW. More details on the event's Facebook page here.

[All photos (c) Nalinee Darmrong, The Smiths, Rizzoli, 2016.]

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

A Look At The New Album From Mistochord (Bill Crandall, ex-Dot Dash)

I really was not sure what to expect when I sat down to play this one. Bill Crandall was the original guitarist in Dot Dash, as well as a member of seminal D.C. area mod band, Modest Proposal (along with WTOP's Neal Augenstein, in case you didn't know that). And while I was pretty sure that his new album, New World Voyage, wasn't going to sound like either of those acts, I was also unsure what exactly it would sound like.

Billed to Mistochord, the album very clearly shows how much can be done with a minimal style without making a new age album. So don't let the cover fool ya, you know? While Crandall uses trappings of what can only be called space rock on the gentle-yet-expansive title cut, he also makes sure that this sort of thing remains focused and not too wispy on the majority of cuts on this release. The tracks here on New World Voyage are uniformly well-thought out and expertly played even if the style is decidedly more minimal than the tunes on other projects Bill's played on previously. The haunting "Echoes" reminded me -- oddly -- of a Foo Fighters ballad stripped down to its basic elements. "Love Again" recalls the best solo Jason Falkner cuts, and even Air or Grandaddy.

Elsewhere, on the subtly surging "Feel", Crandall employs a near-blues hook in the service of a strong melody. Fans of Eric Matthews, Richard Davies, and Cardinal will love this. This is U.S. chamber pop of the very best sort, more trippy than ornate though. Crandall has absorbed a few lessons from the Eno solo output, both the vocal and instrumental albums, as he seems to be making what owes a debt to those records, as well as more modern stuff like Iron and Wine or Elliott Smith. "Old Time" unfurls with a hook that wouldn't necessarily have been out of place on Led Zeppelin III as the tune here spirals out and into space and away from the blues tradition. Crandall allows these songs plenty of room to expand in a listener's mind and the overall effect is haunting. On "Old Time Redux (Arrival)" he and collaborator Sean Winters indulge a bit in what can best be described as the sort of thing that populated side 2 of Low but, wisely, Crandall and Winters don't overdo it, choosing instead to take inspiration from that Bowie classic rather than attempt to replicate it. The electronic effects here are understated for the most part and perhaps credit for that should also go to producer Mike Fanuele who brings what he learned working with Thievery Corporation to this project.

New World Voyage by Mistochord is highly recommended for fans of the previously mentioned Cardinal, as well as those of you who liked and remembered that Logan's Sanctuary project that Jason Falkner worked on. Fans of Crandall's work in Dot Dash and Modest Proposal are going to be surprised in a good way at the understated depth here. If he's not working in the realm of power pop now, at least he's still making affecting music.

You can buy the album via the Bandcamp link. Further details on New World Voyage are found in the press release, here, and details on Bill Crandall's photography and other projects via his website:

Additionally, check out some sample pics from the New World Voyage release here.