Tuesday, February 28, 2006

The M's/Future Women/7.6

The M's have found a canny chemistry out of seemingly simple parts (three-part harmonies plus a powerhouse drummer), and now, they've got swagger to spare.

I think Jason Crock has a secret. While I live many miles from Chicago and don’t know him personally, I suspect that Jason’s been a long time booster of The M’s.

Normally, we Tuningforkistas like nothing better than skewering bias on the part of Pitchforkmedia. Based on his review of Future Women and The M’s live performance of it at Schuba’s, I smell a fan. However, Crock’s fondness for The M’s makes me nostalgic for the old days of ‘zines – days when you supported local bands because you’ve seen them in the same clubs for years. Even if those bands would have been panned if they came in from out of town, you loved them because they were local. It probably didn’t hurt if your girlfriend liked them as well.

The M’s have been treading the stages of clubs for years in Chicago. Like many hardworking bands, I suspect that there is a crowd of regular scenesters who’ve seen them open for countless other bands and keep saying, “When are folks going to realize how awesome these guys are? When are they going to release a CD?” Is Future Women the CD that will break them to the rest of the world? Not quite – it’s a little burdened by its influences. However, it does offer up some great guitar rock as well as showing a lot of passion and care by the band themselves.

I like The M’s when they steer away from a poppier sound similar to their label mates and veer into big-shouldered guitar rock. Crock is correct when he points out that the CD doesn’t really grab you until Trucker Speed. Two of the first three tracks sound like a slightly milder, Americanized Augie March. However, as the band turns up the overdrive knob, they create amazingly energetic, cacophonous pop. The drumming on Trucker Speed is loose and energetic. And I agree with Jason Crock that there is with just enough cowbell. The highlight of the record, My Gun, is smack dab in the middle, combining glockenspiel with overdriven guitar and more vibrant drumming. The only song that screams out T-Rex to me is Underground, but it completely steals the energy of early 70s glam and adds enough newness to keep things interesting.

The rating is maybe a skosh generous comparatively. The record is seven solid tracks and four acceptable ones. But if you’re an old Soft Boys fan or a recent Pavement fan, The M’s have a lot to offer you. I also feel that there is something more real and more immediate in their music rather than whatever next big thing is usually flying over from England.

Based on Crock’s live review, I suspect that the real appeal of The M’s is their live shows. I’m not sure if I’ll get to see them; the closest they’re coming to me is my old college town. However, if you can, both Jason and I would recommend you go out and support them – hopefully their van is now fixed. And the next time that you are watching a local band open a show, pick up your drink from the bar and head up to the stage to give them some love.

Jason Collett / Idols of Exile / Rating: 7.6

The record humbly takes its place in history's queue: Perhaps not what BSS fans are looking for, but, weighed against the impulse for continuity instead of disjunction, deeply satisfying.

Feeling sentimental for the past is not in my nature but every now and then a record comes along that makes me wish I still worked at a record store. I suppose the feeling I miss is something similar to that of a religious zealot who has shown another the light. Turning on a customer to a record you know they will love but would have never discovered on their own is an intoxicating combination of excitement and power. Call me crazy but I honestly feel passionate about connecting the right record to the right person and as I put this idea into text I suppose it is a very point of inspiration that drives me to post on this blog every day. Sure I want to right what I feel Pitchfork has wronged but the other giant part of it is passing along information that hopefully will connect these orphan records to the right parents.

Hipsters don’t need to be steered toward Jason Collett because they have undoubtedly read about him in a music publication, one blog or another, or have stumbled across his music while looking for a Broken Social Scene record. Who I would like to direct towards JC (the religious comment fits even better now, ha!) are the folks over 40 who patiently wait for the next Dylan, Petty, Neil Young, Ray Davies, _______ insert rock/blues/country legendary singer/guitar players here.

Talented songwriting aside, Jason Collett’s playing, his back up band, and the overall production of his record seamlessly piece together a thing of timeless graceful beauty that we have come to expect from only the legends of the rock community. In fact Idols of Exile capture the kind of heartfelt story telling artists like Ryan Adams & Tweedy haven’t come close to in years.

To further my faith… Mr. Collett and Leslie Feist pull off an even more stunning performance live. I actually felt shame for all the “rock” bands I have paid to see play in the past; bands that gave their shot at the rock and missed the hoop completely… and I am the bigger jerk for accepting it as the norm. I think for some reason with indie rock comes a lowered expectation of the material executed live; meaning we take passion in the place of perfection, rather than believing we can have both. Collett / Feist have on stage personality that is massive, the kind of greatness one might expect from a stadium show in need of larger than life gestures and all the right in-between banter. I know Mark Lanegan and Isobel Campbell are aiming to be the next Lee Hazlewood and Nancy Sinatra but it is Collett and Feist who recreate the sexy push and pull of male/female chemistry the best duets are made of.

There are few indie rockers I am willing to file under star quality but Jason Collett does better than come close, he is. A PFM 7.6 rating ain’t bad but Idols of Exile is an 8+ to the girl in me who can’t stand behind a counter at a record store and tell you all this face to face.

PS: Let me remind you that I am not a Broken Social Scene or much of a classic rocker so my love for this record comes as a total surprise to myself. I even suspect it will make my end of the year favorites list .

Battles / EP C / B EP / Rating 8.0

"So why do they have my confidence? Because Battles are tough without being confrontational, innovative without recourse to bells and whistles, and completely transparent in process. When they're good, they're great; when they're anything less than good, they're so thrillingly alien it doesn't matter."

I have to confess that I can’t give the Battles cd a proper review as I have only heard one of their three ep/singles but if anything this UK import is kinda nice just because Warp has collected all three of their American releases and compiled them on two discs, one stop shopping so to speak.

Three you say? But Pitchfork only listed two. I can’t really blame PFM’s assumption because the title of this collection leads one to believe otherwise. EP C / B EP. Maybe adding the word Tras just make the title too long?

These cds are actually a collection of 5 tracks from C, 5 tracks from B and 2 tracks from the Tras single. All of these records are still in print in the US so this is why Warp is not releasing it for the states.

For a Sam Ubl review (sorry to keep picking on this one writer but what can I say, we all have our least favorites) this is actually VERY coherent but in this modern age you don’t have to trust a music journalist’s rating or review. If there is any doubt in your mind you can always go to the label website. I mean if you are going to spring for a more expensive import you should take the extra steps to make sure you are going to get your money’s worth.

I have loved the little bit of Battles that I have heard (I am a sucker for self indulgent riff-a-licious math rock) thus far so I can’t wait to pick cd up.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Mylo / Destroy Rock and Roll / Rating: 8.4

I typically don’t recommend reading the cliff notes rather than the actual book but here are the cheat sheet facts from the Mylo PFM review. Mylo is the cotton candy of electronic music and while I did give the cd multiple spins, had I these crib notes I may have avoided the experience all together. I wasn't sure this kind of record would fit into the spectrum of my personal taste and sure enough...

it doesn't. (Not 100% true, I will save this cd for a long road trip)

But for those who don’t make the who farted face when you keep on reading, you may have just found a favorite record of 2006 (even if the tracks themselves are more like 2003) and the 8.4 rating may not be high enough. I don’t have to like this cd to understand that a million others will LOVE these 17 tracks.

Not just PFM but looking over several reviews they site Daft Punk (PFM mentions them 4 friggin times in their review), Basement Jaxx, Scissor Sisters, Röyksopp, and Junior Boys as an RIYL.

“What he does isn't very complicated. Technically, he's not even very good at it. But that's all just part of the treat.” Word on the street is most of the record was created on a G4.

“If anything, this is house music as Saturday-morning cartoon-- all bold lines inked in bright, primary colors. That simplicity-- Dance Music for Dummies-- is a big part of what lets this collection feel so solid. “ This PFM quote is so precise it’s scary.

If you like songs that recite lists of things like cars or famous people then you have two new jams to call your own. My only real complaint is Cyndi Lauper’s name is pronounced Looper twice. Is that a Scottish accent at work?

Does an ode to Kim Carnes and a repeat remix of said ode seem like a good idea? Then Mylo is your man.

“There isn't much in here that could be considered hip, or that shows technical skill. But there's a total gut-level joy, as if these were tracks made by an ecstatic, well-meaning kid who hadn't yet encountered the complicated concerns of the places people might actually dance to them.” Indeed.

If doing more with less and doing it well is a creed you can happily subscribe to, Destroy Rock and Roll will marco your polo and pop your tart. (Warning: this does not mean you should introduce pop tarts to your swimming pool activities. That just spells trouble.)

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Maxïmo Park / Missing Songs / Rating 6.4

Missing Songs is the rare curio that actually inspires curiosity.

Don't believe the hype because there is next to nothing in PFM's entire review that supports that closing statement.

PFM says: "The rest of the world be damned, Maxïmo Park had a great 2005."

Actually Maxïmo had a great year in the UK and that is about it. American interest in the band was unfortunatley VERY mild in comparison. The U.S. sales are barely over 10% of what the UK purchased.

PFM says: "Maxïmo Park are a pop band lacking pop music's crucial feature: its immediacy."

Not so.

To quote myself here is what I said about Maxïmo Park's A Certain Trigger in an old Tuning Fork post from last year:

"I am going to go out on a limb here and say at least in a recording studio Maxïmo Park reminds me of post punk’s answer to Rites Of Spring.That's right I said Rites of Spring. A Certain Trigger shares the same kind of messy imperfect brutal honesty that made me worship R.O.S. over a decade ago yet it also carries the endearing sappy Brit-bite of the Smiths.( w/ the addition of a keyboard) "

PFM goes onto say: "A Certain Trigger cloyed before it joyed; yes, it was a grower. I'm convinced that had partly to do with the way the band recorded the album. Favoring muted dynamics (Sam used these very words in his first Maxïmo review) and fat, diffuse guitar and drum sounds that belied the music's rhythmic intensity, they leavened and prolonged what could've been a sugary hit-and-run."

Paul Epworth who has produced Maxïmo Park has also recorded post punk favorites like Bloc Party, The Futureheads, and The Rakes to name a few. Not to dwell on the production but at least for me, Paul Epworth is as important to this list of bands as the members themselves.

PFM says: "So it goes with this collection. The songs don't wow, but neither did/does A Certain Trigger. "

A Certain Trigger pleases from front to back and Missing Songs does not but who expects a collection of unreleased material, live tracks, and demo versions to totally blow their mind anyhow? This particular record serves two purposes (I lied it is actually three but the 3rd comes later), it keeps the band's name alive in the press and fresh in the minds of its fans and it offers the Maxïmo collector something to savor until the next proper full length release. I agree with the 6.4 rating strictly because while I am a fan who appreciates these songs, it still is the ugly step child to their debut release.

ATTN ALL LABELS: No label should release these kinds of marketing tools, I mean records and try to hype them as an equal to a normal full length. Secondly music journalists should never approach them as such.

PFM says: "Just as on the debut, singer Paul Smith exercises an English probity that starts boring and ends up either charming or still boring, depending whether or not you have the time."

Funny how the most frustrating writer to read in PFM’s history (Sam Ubl) is the one to comment upon a band’s use of the English language. Oh the irony.

Paul’s lyrics aside, the man knows how to fill a song with enough hooks to fill a tackle box. Maxïmo’s rock formula may be on the simple side but their songs have a jingle like quality that after just one listen you will find yourself humming for days after. Amazingly even their second rate material carries this winning song writing gene.

PFM's parting words are: "Missing Songs is the rare curio that actually inspires curiosity."
Is that even a compliment? How does that sum up his review in the slightest? By definition isn't curio just an abbreviation of curious?

The 6.4 rating and the review itself would lead anyone to think Sam is in fact feeling uninspired by Maxïmo Park and it is nearly impossible to believe Sam reviewed A Certain Trigger and gave it an impressive rating of 8.4.

As I have said in many of my reviews before, these kinds of odds and ends collections aren’t meant to lure in new fans, just keep the old ones happy and in same cases will force record stores to create a Maxïmo Park header card which gets the band out of the ocean of assorted rock cds starting with the letter M and into their very own section.

FYI: bands with their own place card / section in a record store sell better than those without so many labels try to pad a band's catalog just to ensure special placement in the bin.

One last point about this record: Maxïmo's debut cd was a bit on the pricey side for a relatively unknown band trying to make it in the States but this new record appears to be selling for a hunk of change less.

At least something about this record is a step forward.

PS: PFM says "vegetal folkies Gravenhurst." Vegetal? Gravenhurst are neither a stinky wine or vegetable related. I don’t even think the word organic would fit here. Sons of Slint maybe but decayed foliage? No.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Record Store file no. 988

My friend Drew who works at a local record store called Plan 9 was kind enough to allow me to share this better than awesome story.

If all goes well I hope to post other tales from the world of music retail so if you have one, please email us!


Older black lady selling VHS with this very sketchy dude with her:

Her: (((after staring for a few seconds))) WOW! I LOVE your hair.
Me: Thanks!
Her: No! I really love it. It's so nice. REAL nice.

(((my manager is looking at her stuff - I'm pricing records)))

She sits on the floor in front of the counter.

Her: What's your name? Michael?
Me: No. Drew. (please note Michale is the name of her sketchy friend)
Her: Ohhhh. Drew - your hair is sexy. I'm serious - don't ever cut it.
Me: Thanks - don't worry - I'm not planning on it.
Sketchy dude: Mumbles something I can't here - ends with shut up.
Her: (((whispering loudly))) HEY! PSST! DREW!
Me: Umm. Yeah.
Her: If you ever want someone to dance with CALL ME!
Sketchy dude: (((mumbling))) something that ends with FOR REAL!
Her: You ain't my boyfriend! Shooooooot.

In her bag underneath all of the videos is a vibrator. So glad I didn't look through her videos.

Just another day at the record store.

All of this is true - believe me, I don't have the time to make this up.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

What is the Best Buy and Why?

Best Buy to Indies: Drop Dead

A PFM “story” this 101 is a fine starting point but skimming the surface doesn’t tell the bigger more realistic truth behind all industries need to co-op or the history of its price points. This is not the kind of writing I excel at but here is a list of points you might want to consider after reading PFM’s Best Buy story.

I really recommend reading the PFM piece before you read this which is the link at the top of the page.


This PFM story isn't timely; as their article states this whole pricing at the chain level issue was posted by Patrick from Carrot Top back on 1/24/06. I guess it takes a month to obtain a few quotes a throw together a small news story?

Co-oping is an industry standard used by businesses of every shape and size; it is not just a music industry practice. That toothpaste on sale, the Coca-Cola at the end of your supermarket isle, the magazine featured in the window display, these fabulous positioning and pricing points are secured by a co-op.

A co-op is not a bad thing. It is as the name suggests a cooperative effort where there is something in it for everyone. A food co-op works on the same principal and people seem to be okay with those.

Chains are not the only people who co-op. Most small ma & pa’s carry their own brand of in-store promotions as well as on-line promotions and there are also several indie music store coalitions like CIMS and AIMS who run their own specialized co-ops (IE exclusive records and added values) that chains are left out of. In fact CIMS had a program running with their coalition of stores which offered an exclusive Broken Social Scene 7” single if you purchase the BSS full length from them.

Lets investigate the necessary evils of a smaller record store who often sell the promo cds they are given for free as promotional tools that say in big letters DO NOT SELL. The practice of selling “used” cds is a perk chains do not participate in. The ability to buy and sell cds also offers these smaller stores something the big chains cannot and do not offer.

Loss-leader pricing is not illegal. The whole idea is to lure you into the store for a cheap cd and hope you walk out with a stereo or a computer. They wouldn’t do this people unless it worked. In fact I wonder how many people reading this or even the person who wrote the PFM article or Patrick at Carrot Top have purchased an item like a TV, stereo, camera, DVD player, video game system at one of these evil chains with great prices.

It is common for a small store to actually buy stock at a chain because it is in fact cheaper than buying it from a one stop or a distributor. In an industry striving for impressive Sound Scan numbers (the bigger the better) not only is this artist / record label getting one sale / scan per unit purchased but a second scan when the small store sells it to one of their customers.

Not all the titles in the Best Buy program were hot off the presses new releases which means the indie stores who would normally break these kinds of artists had the first pass at it.

The chain stores sell a shit ton of records, like it or not, and a label would be crazy to not want to be a part of that. A label wants to sell records for themselves and their artist and when opportunity knocks, especially in these tough retail times, you take it. It would be irresponsible to your roster not to.

Why is a loss-leader good for a label / artist / distro? The idea is as Mac Merge puts ir "Someone who discovers an artist because the 'popular' record is on sale at Best Buy will then hopefully be driven to find out more about the band. [Then,] they'll have to get the back catalogue at a store that sells mostly music." Trying to capture back catalog sales is one of the key reasons labels like to co-op besides the obvious reason of wanting to move a title right of the box / the week a record streets.

If a person purchases a cd at a chain maybe, just maybe this same person will further support the artists and go see them live or buy a band shirt which these days seems just as important as owning the music itself. Don’t get me started on ring tones.

The selection at most chain stores are limited to HOT titles meaning new releases. One would typically need to turn to a smaller retailer if you want the earlier releases by these newly popular indie bands. Does the serious indie music fan buy their music at a Best Buy or Circuit City, for the most part the answer is no. In fact I know many an indie kid who won’t step foot in a chain on principal alone.

If these indie stores with doors as so important to Pitchfork why are there none linked to the PFM website?

How about an article about indie rock being the new mainstream?

Let’s investigate the buying public’s love for the big box retailer rather than the local independently owned stores. I hate to point out the hypocrisy but how many people shop strictly shop at just DIY locations??? Why is it okay to buy your food or shoes or books from a big chain but not your music?
I respect a DIY standard of living but I don’t know many people who truly live up to it. It’s like a vegan who eats meat or cheese if it’s given to them for free.

There are so many other / better tangents worth investigating like why the music industry is a mess, a fucked up failing pyramid of cause and effect. Lets start with how easy it is to make a record these days, ANYONE and everyone seems to be doing it and we all know just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should.

How about a never ending influx of labels who think it is a good idea to put out all these records? Do you know how many records are released a week? Thousands and I ask you how the hell a store is suppose to carry all of these titles that may or may not sell. Can you blame retail for wanting to focus on the sure things? The market place is flooded and with this gluttony of product dirty business habits are formed. It is cut throat out there and the sad reality is it takes money to make money and if a label wants to stand a chance and actually sell some records, they have to be pay for a co-op in hopes of standing out against a sea of other products. It doesn’t always have to work this way but this is common practice.

Why not explore what a cd actually costs to make or how inflation affects our industry on the whole. How are manufacturing companies suffering when oil prices shift? When it cost more to ship product to warehouses and stores who is suppose to swallow that price increase? Every part of the music industry has a bottom-line and what are all the different pieces of the puzzle doing to work it out together? Are artists willing to take a smaller cut from record sales and have their cds and records act like a marketing tool to other money making adjuncts to their career like touring or tee-shirts? Are labels re-working contracts with their artists and creatively working together to help bring cd prices down? Why is a 16$ Cage show okay but 13.99 for his cd isn’t. Sisters of Mercy and the Warlocks is 50$ at Webster Hall. Animal Collective is 22$ at Webster. So you are willing to pay out the ass for a live show, a happening that comes and goes but not the artist’s actual cd.

If we are going to complain about music related pricing at the very least we should look at ALL the heads of this ugly beast.

Liars - Drums not Dead 9.0

Drum's Not Dead is a majestic victory lap, and on all levels, a total fucking triumph.

Brandon Stosuy has entered my mind and stolen my thoughts. He nails this review and his feelings about this album are eerily similar to mine (Brandon will you be my friend?). I can't disagree with what he says, and 9.0 seems right, so let me instead pile on more praise for this album.

I am not lying when I say that I was the rare indie music listener who did not abandon the Liars when I heard their second full length. Did it do what the first album did and make me feel good like 3 strong cups of coffee at 1am? Well, no it did not. They went a total opposite direction from They Threw Us All... and its well they did. Dance-punk is a genre I enjoy, but the creative possibilities hit a wall at a certain point. For most bands in the genre that magical certain point is the 2nd album. Why not stave off the repetitiveness?

Was I initially turned off by They Were Wrong...?


But as soon as I let myself become detached from They Threw Us All... and let the album function on its own and separate I grew to love it. Hell I even sang the tunes in my head. "Fly fly, the devils in your eye. Shoot shoot. We're doomed! We're Doomed!" That is some highly enjoyable stuff right there.

So yes I have been a fan all along, yet I still wasn't prepared for Drum's Not Dead. This is the sound of a group that has been trying every trick in the bag and have finally found their definitive voice. It is hypnotically good. Bringing the percussion to the forefront gives the album a relentless forward projectory, and an overall cohesive feel. I have yet to listen to this album in snippets. Every spin i have given it has been of the full record. Maybe as a writer of fiction I am a sucker for the narrative form, but there is a beautiful story in this music, and it should be heard beginning to end. I think everyone has at one time had to deal with their own fear and the ability to overcome that fear. Liars tap into something universal and consequently open their canvas and audience. Let's face it, as much as i like They Were Wrong... not everyone can related to a dark album about witches. Except, you know, witches.

A Visit from Drum sets the tone for half the album with its relentless drums, and Angus' falsetto vocals. The flip side is Drum Gets a Glimpse, a shimmering ethereal thing that, and here again I aggree with Stosuy, is just a wall of guitars away from being an M83 song. And really that is the split personality of the album; the heartbeat of the drums and the quite beauty of everything else.

The Wrong Coat for you Mt. Heart Attack is a slow beast, a simple background vocal of "oooh" floating in and out. It was this song, that upon first listen, I realized this album was going places the band hadn't gone before. It is a simple beautiful tune, something I honestly couldn't see Liars doing a couple years ago. There was more of that to come. With each passing song i found myself instantly connecting with either the strangely alluring voice of Angus or the soothing repetition of the drums.

Not to cop everything from the Pitchfork review, but The Other Side of Mt. Heart Attack is simply the best thing Liars have ever done. If you were to get into my Indie-rock time machine (Patent # 3449755) and play this song to someone who had just heard 'Mister you're on fire, Mister" for the first time they would call you a liar (no pun intended) if you said that both songs had come from the same band. This is hands down my favorite song of 06. Some band will have to come along and really shake my ass or make me weep to knock it from its position.

Not to sound like a sappy jackass, but have you ever had a moment in life when you stared at something simple and everyday, say a mile of street lights all lit up in perfect little rows or a tree in a park or even the clouds and been floored by how perfect and beautiful it is?

The Other Side of Mt. Heart Attack is the musical version of that moment.

I can't imagine where the Liars go from here, but honestly I am not going to worry about it. I will follow them there. Until then I will savor this album for a long time.

PS: nobody better steal Sappy Jackass as their band name.

Various Artists / Rough Trade Counter Culture 05 / Rating: 7.2

"In this manner, this collection serves the noble mission of the tastemaker, graciously pointing the way towards the Promised Land of cool bands. I know your struggle, Rough Trade, and I salute thee."

As a certified music junkie I have multiple dealers. I also seek out other addicts who are not just a partner in a never ending quest for new music (which can also mean old records new to me) but who make me feel a little less pathetic when I can’t pay my car insurance yet have scraped enough cash together for a sealed copy of the 2nd Lee and Nancy lp.

Record clerks, older siblings, parents, friends, music publications, favorite labels, favorite bands these are all resources I have turned to in the past but few have been as dependable as Rough Trade.

The PFM review of Counter Culture reads exactly as it should. I wouldn’t change a word, the rating is reasonable and for any music fan who reads Pitchfork daily and or has over 30 indie: labels, bands, music blogs, and music publications bookmarked in their favorites folder, the Rough Trade sampler series should be required listening.

It’s a pain in the ass to keep on top of a music scene as mercurial as the indies (trust me, even after 8-14 hours a day I still don’t know a tenth of it) yet Rough Trade seems to have a tight grasp of it all and the kicker is they have delightfully refined taste. Consistency over a stretch of time is nearly impossible so in this aspect Rough Trade is the double stuff. To quote the inside cover of the Counter Culture booklet I too believe RT is the “John Peel of record shops.”

Mmmm…double stuff.

As PFM explains these cds aren’t exactly meant for more than a few straight through listens but they are spectacular tools for digging up your next favorite band. Matson Jones, Modlang, Good Shoes, 101ec6, Attack Formation, these are all artists I can’t wait to hear more from but I think my surprise favorite of the entire disc is a new Daniel Johnston track called “The Beatles”. It reminds me of an old and far out Built to Spill or Modest Mouse song worthy of a appearing on a greatest hits for either band.

For those on a larger learning curve the songs supplied by more well known artists such as Sleater-Kinney, Boards of Canada, Serena Maneesh, Fall, Franz, Lightning Bolt, Brodsky Quartet, Test Icicles, Six Organs, Brakes, Low, and The Long Blondes are all meticulous choices.

An indie music starter kit couldn’t be better stocked and with 50 tracks to choose from there is more than something for everyone. And you...you record elitist types... I know you can' t know everything but this collection will help you fake it.

The only thing I love as much as the cds themselves is the care put into the booklet. Small basic blurbs about each track / artist are there for your reading pleasure but give yourself a few hours to do so. As with many of the Rough Trade comps the booklet in theory is wonderfully informative but it is damn near IMPOSSIBLE to read. I love the old school typewriter font as much as the next but placed over a busy collage of show flyers, record art, ticket stubs, store photos and the likes it creates an 8 page headache (18 total panels of hell on the eyes).

Those Rough Trade folks may have some of the best alterna-taste in the world but their graphic design skills spell DIY catastrophe.

PS: a full track listing can be found here.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Man Man/Six Demon Bag/8.3

You'd think after all the Zappa/Waits/Beefheart darts thrown his way after the band's 2004 debut, lead singer Honus Honus would cut the gravel shtick-- the stache, too. Instead, he seems to have bought all three's entire discographies over again, zeroing in on Waits' freak empathy, Zappa's klezmatics and turnarounds, the Captain's sense of surprise.

I don't have much issue with Sylvester's review except for the opening paragraph - Tom Waits, Frank Zappa and Captain Beefheart are influences cited in the one sheet. Sylvester isn't the only critic to cite Waits, Zappa and Beefheart as influences but I only hear two of them on the record. The weird tin pan alley instrumentation is similar to Waits' records on Island. However, where Waits writes songs about other people's stories, Honus Honus's songs seem far more personal and direct. The tracks also hearken back to Beefheart, but mostly from Safe As Milk. There are few songs that approach the bizarre cacophony of Trout Mask Replica. As far as "klezmatic Zappa", Zappa had many influences on his music, but I don't remember klezmer being one of them. If anything, Zappa was deeply rooted in R&B and blues - the Mothers frequently included doo wop covers on their early records.

To me, Man Man carries on more in the tradition of later Pere Ubu records, Snakefinger and some of the old Rock In Opposition groups such as Henry Cow. There is the use of band instruments as well as rhythms that come from European music more than they do from African American music. Also like those bands, Man Man's playing is airtight. In particular, drummer Pow Pow (Chris Powell) manages to accent Honus's plodding keyboards with a flurry of rattles, thumps and crashes that allow each track to swing. Also, Honus Honus's voice is both slightly jarring yet compelling in a way similar to Pere Ubu's David Thomas. Man Man isn't noise - it's highly controlled, very tonal and very orchestrated. It's also just particularly dissonant.

Nick Sylvester is right in guessing that many folks won't like Man Man. This isn't music you'll hear in a coffee shop or restaurant. You might hear it in a bar, but only if the bartender is trying to drive out a specific clientele. Typically, music critics and many record geeks have ears that are thirsty for Man Man's flavor of difficult listening. Personally, I have a good section of vinyl devoted to such records - Aqsak Maboul, Fred Frith solo albums, Henry Kaiser - that I have seldom inflicted on friends. If I had to turn someone on to Man Man, I'd start with Van Helsing Boombox, then go to Black Mission Goggle. I'd also make sure that my listener was already comfortable with the kind of discord produced by Pere Ubu or Deerhoof or at least older Animal Collective. Frankly, if it's someone I trust, I'd let them take the CD home and listen to it a few times. This is a CD that ages better with repeated listens.

Sylvester nails the record in his assessment of Honus Honus's lyrics. The songs manage to combine comedy with personal pain. On Spider Cider, he goes from the repeating the nonsensical refrain of the title to the line "you should always run with loaded gun in your mouth". Other lines scan initially like nonsense, then reveal themselves as the songs progress. Overall, the 8.3 rating is fair, though I'd warn potential listeners that loving this record takes time.

Lastly, I haven't seen any reviews that mention the origin of the title of the record - Six Demon Bag. The title comes from a magical bag carried by a character in John Carpenter's Big Trouble in Little China. If anything, the dialog from the movie sums up a lot of what's in the bag and on the record-

Jack Burton: Hey, what more can a guy ask for?
Egg Shen: Oh, a six-demon bag!
Jack Burton: Terrific, a six-demon bag. Sensational. What's in it, Egg?
Egg Shen: Wind, fire, all that kind of thing!

Througout the rest of the movie, Egg pulls out a variety of tricks from the bag. Like Shen's bag, Man Man's latest is an unpredictable bag of tricks, providing a suprise whenever you pull something out of it.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Test Icicles / Boa vs. Python / Circle. Square. Triangle / What's Your Damage? / Rating: 7.7 / 4.2 / 6.0

Post-hardcore means not being afraid of keyboards. Post-hardcore means not having to apologize for fourth-grade humor. It means you acknowledge that moshing is not the only acceptable dance move. It means you don't find it a sell-out move to commission remixes from that "Music Sounds Better With You" guy and his buddy. Post-hardcore means occasionally sounding like a video game. It means you don't always have to be putting your vocal cords in mortal danger, though an old-fashioned primal scream still has its time and place. Post-hardcore means it's alright to release three singles from one album.

For those of us over the age of 30 post-hardcore meant your band really liked the early to middle years of Dischord and there was an even better chance you had at least one song that was directly influenced by Rites of Spring, Embrace and or Fugazi. Hardcore + emotional core (what the DC stuff was called first) eventually equaled the first generation of emo and I am not talking about the sappy singer songwriter material kids today or publications like Spin and Alternative Press call emo.

Rule number one of emo in the early 90’s: if you really were emo, you didn’t talk about it and you NEVER used the word emo in relation to your band. Others could toss around the term in reference to your band but the term post-hardcore seemed less whiney and self important.

What I am getting at is calling Test Icicles post-hardcore doesn’t really work for me; a derivative of later day screamo perhaps (Blood Brothers / Locust) or a metal seeped step child of the Faint maybe but the Braid angle only goes so far.

Braid represented the nicer Midwest side of post-hardcore- even with their occasional yelps and howls. I could get even more painfully technical, talk about the history of their mathy time changes, the artwork, and guitar tones but all you need to know is Test Icicles are too rough and tumble and have too much attitude to truly represent this early to mid 90’s sound.*

(Braid you could bring home to meet the family but Test Icicles, not so much. I don’t even think I could announce their band name across a table of relatives without at least few of them crossing themselves or kicking me under the table for trespassing upon some invisible code of table conversation honor.)

I do however appreciate PFM’s Rob Mitchum pleading to a possibly inaccurate genre association. ("post-hardcore" may not be a wholly new or particularly accurate classification, “)

In this interview with Test Icicles the band talks about the music they like but how most of these bands don’t influence their music much. Few music journalist would guess that Smashing Pumpkins, Nirvana, Descendents, Sonic Youth and West coast spazzcore were among the band’s list o' favorites.

(spazzcore is yet another branch of hardcore this one being well, mathyscreamyfastchaos and a good drummer is a must for this genre. Today this is called noise / art / experimental music)

Anyhow this all goes to show a music journalist can talk out their ass about band’s possible list of influences but these bands we name drop are more like a RIYL list for the reader to use as a reference guide.

There are now at least two generations of bands who have built upon the post-hardcore foundation that bands like Braid and the whole Gravity records roster had helped to build. The Test Icicles boys in 1993 (the year Braid was born) were probably under or around the age of 6.

Holy fuck where do the years go?

Suddenly I feel ancient and possibly too old to enjoy Test Icicle singles as much as I do; especially “Boa Vs. Python” but the band plays and in turn satisfies about 8 different genres I like and relate to.(metal, dance, pop, hardcore, punk, rap, screamo, and rock)

Test Icicles’ sound may be difficult to pin down but Pitchfork did an acceptable job rating each single and let’s face it LOTS of people take note of their number rating and skim over the words so dragging this review out any further would be more masturbatory than it already is.

* (I should add here that it is easy to knit pick at these silly details because it is one genre of music I know TOO much about. I spent over 5 years being in one of these bands during post-hardcore’s golden years and with that came years of playing shows and touring with these bands. I also think I am one of like two other people I know who kept all these records in their collection. Navio Forge, Garden Varety, Thumbnail, Boys Life, Cap’n Jazz, Pitchfork {the band}, ATDI, Giants Chair, Shotmaker, Boilermaker, VSS, Antioch Arrow, Lync, Heroin, Ebullition samplers, Second Story Window, Angel Hair, UOA, Merel…hells yeah I still have them!!!)

Arctic Monkeys / Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not / Rating: 7.4

Fittingly then the NME awarded this album a 10/10. To the rest of us, however, the album is at times charming, oddly affecting, and certainly promising but understandably something less than life changing.

Hate is too strong of a word.

It’s not a feeling of intense dislike either, just indifference.

Artic Monkeys mean nothing to me.

They don’t strike me as a headlining band, they sound like a tolerable opening band I wouldn’t recall a week from now.

The production of the entire record is as beige as the music itself. I’ve heard live sound board recordings with more POP and power.

Beginner’s guitar solos, an abuse of clean to distortion dynamics, bass lines that chase each song rather than anchor it, secondhand funk / ska repetitions… all of this equates to a barely above average bar band. Didn’t I hear an version of this band open for Living Color and Blur over a decade and a half ago?

Singer Alex Turner gets the job done but I say the same thing about my half fast UPS guy who is too lazy to ring my bell and opts to instead leave boxes on the front porch against the door. If your whole purpose is to deliver a package why not throw a little effort into making sure it gets there?

Arctic Monkeys have lyrics that are as interesting as pub banter between two boys nursing their pints.

Is Artic Monkeys really a better band name than say, AIDS Wolf. Can we please have a wildlife band name strike for 2006?

This can’t possibly be the band NME called one of the best British rock records of all time, could it? I am convinced someone has slipped me a demo from a UK university dorm band as a joke because NME couldn't possibly be that delusional...could they?

If I was a member of Oasis or The Clash I would be pissed as shit that this gimpy rock band is being pimped as the next big thing out of England.

A PFM 7.4 rating is about double what I am willing to give Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not.

What is the best thing about Artic Monkeys?


Saturday, February 18, 2006

New Tuning Fork Mailing Address

Tuning Fork will be celebrating our one year anniversary as of March 1st so we decided it was about time we got ourselves a proper mailing address.

Thank you Relative Theory for putting up with us this past year; record stores don't get much better than you.


Tuning Fork Media
P.O. Box 5431
Richmond, Va. 23220

All promos, love notes, sugary treats, and Kid/Giant robot type items should be sent here. It is almost our birthday......

Thursday, February 16, 2006

AIDS Wolf / The Lovvers / Rating: 3.9

The "buzzworthy" aspects of AIDS Wolf's The Lovvers LP are the basically pointless, peripheral details you've probably heard a couple of hundred times by now.

FYI: Before you attack a band in this modern age of technology it is pretty damn easy to seek out band facts without too much trouble but then again it is so much easier and fun to be grossly judgmental.

PFM says: "There's the Montreal mailing address"

How dare a band have a hometown that for whatever reason is embraced by the press?
Wait which band started that crazy buzz for our friends up North?
Arcade Fire.
Who started the crazy hype on Arcade Fire?

If you want to roll your eyes-bored with star power A.W.'s list of friends like Death From Above and the Unicorns might be a better place to start, not their postal code.

PFM says: "the cluelessly offensive name"

The history of the band's name can be found here:

“Our buddies, An Albatross, were playing in this backyard in Ohio,” Deluxe tells me. “There were, like, 400 people there, people were setting off fireworks, it was insane. We happened to look down this alleyway, and spray-painted on the side of this building was just ‘AIDS WOLF.’ It felt like a weird message from God.”A resident of said vandalized building later informed the band that the phrase was derived from an urban legend (this is Ohio, mind you) concerning AIDS-infected wolves coming down into the city and biting people’s housepets. The pets then passed AIDS on to their owners via seemingly innocuous licks. “They had a ferret stuck in their walls,” she says, “and when it would scratch around, they’d be like, ‘Oh no! There’s the AIDS Wolf!’”

PFM says:
"the awkward hairy-fairy nude photos"

And the press didn’t always take kindly to the Slits, Roxy Music, Janes Addiction, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Hendrix, Kevin Blechdom, The Dwarves, Pixies, John & Yoko and Kites cover art to name a few either.

Oh no!!!!!!! Not nudity!!!!!!! Have we uncovered a “never nude” among camp PFM?

PFM says
: "and the fact that Wolf Parade's Arlen Thompson helped record the eight tracks that make up the official debut (though they spelled his last name wrong in the liner notes)."

One more annoying famous friend this band has: Wolf Parade, which clearly is a better use of the word Wolf? Who likes that that Wolf Parade band anyhow?


Secondly typos happen. Just look at Brian Howe’s Feist review up on the front page of PFM right now. (It’s in the last paragraph)

PFM says: "The blogs and boards are already wondering whether it's rock or if it's noise. Maybe it's a joke? For now, let's just call it shit in wolf's clothing."

Avante-noise / what ever the hell you want to call is rising to a new degree of popularity and with this insurgence of bands come a varying degree of quality. PopMatters didn’t love Lovvers much more than PFM and hiking around on line I found equal parts of positive and negative reactions to this band. I guess it's never to soon for the backlash to kick in and surprise surprise, PFM took the most dramatic low road in voicing their distaste for AIDS Wolf.

There are lot’s of experimental bands I don’t get (like half the Load roster, much of the Bulb roster, Magik Markers, some of the Menlo Parks releases, over 40% of the Sonic Youth side projects…) but to call one band flat out shit if anything will peak the interest in this band more. I am also rather certain after reading a few interviews with AIDS Wolf that this kind of negative press is served like cake at their practice space.

I checked out AW’s MySpace page and they already had some 70 hits as of 10am this morning, 200 hits at 3pm, over 430 hit by 11:30pm. They also have close to 5k “friends”. ( Thurs. Feb, 16th 2005)

Looks to me like this “shit” is kinda popular with the kids and thanks to Pitchfork more popular than yesterday.

Decide for yourself here.


Beth Orton/Comfort of Strangers/7.2

So it's nice to have the old Beth Orton back. It's also nice to have Jim O'Rourke at the helm,

CD artwork and liner notes are good things. In fact, sometimes record buyers have an edge over reviewers in this regard. Advance copies don’t always come with liner notes and art; often the art is still being completed at that point. It’s one more argument for buying the actual package rather than getting a digital copy. Besides, it’s okay to have a wholesome crush on that cute guy or gal who works at your local record store.

I found that the credits on Beth Orton’s Comfort of Strangers answered a lot of questions for me. For one thing, I was a little concerned when I heard that Jim O’Rourke was producing the album. Many of my Y’all-ternative friends blame O’Rourke’s dense production for ruining Wilco for them. While I like those records (and O’Rourke’s solo stuff), I was a little concerned how he’d handle Orton’s songs. Looking at the instrumental credits (and listening to the tracks), I’m pleased with the outcome. O’Rourke has let Beth Orton’s voice shine through and complimented it with minimal instrumentation. On the title track, O’Rourke adds slightly more dense arrangements, but still shows considerable restraint – accenting with a marimba here, a little flourish of keyboards there. According to a recent interview in Harp with Beth Orton, she decided to work with O’Rourke based on his promise to put her voice at the forefront. After listening to the record, I would have to say that O’Rourke has accomplished that mission.

In terms of songwriting, there’s not much surprising - a quick spin through the lyrics lays out a list of songs about new love, current love and past love. If you’re looking for clever love songs, I’d recommend Jens Lenkman over Beth Orton. However, Orton definitely wins in terms of feeling and sincerity as well as using enough craft to keep things interesting. Orton even co-wrote a couple of the songs with M. Ward – Comfort of Strangers and Shopping Trolley. See, I wouldn’t have known that without the insert.

If you’re a Beth Orton fan (or better still an M. Ward fan as well), the limited edition of this record is worth the extra scratch. The bonus disc includes six tracks that Beth Orton recorded with M. Ward – including a version of the title track with M. Ward singing a couple of the lines. Orton’s record label rejected these initial tracks but they’re an interesting look at the process Orton went through to put this record together. I’m glad that Orton went with O’Rourke rather than M. Ward as her main collaborator for this record. However, the rough, simple charm of these tracks does provide an interesting contrast to the main record.

The only thing that kinda bothered me about the insert was the prolifereation of little hand drawn hearts amidst the lyrics. However, Beth Orton is credited with doing the interior illustrations, so at least it's not the label's attempt at making her seem more sugary. If Beth hearts her listeners, I guess we can heart her back.

Musically, the PFM review is on the mark. I might-could bump this up a half point, but I don’t feel inclined to make a fuss about it. If you enjoyed Cat Power’s latest (or the latest Fiona Apple), this record should be in your hot little hands. If you’re an M. Ward fan, hunt down the limited edition – I bet that attractive person behind the counter of your local record store would be happy to help you.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

That was so 2005

It appears that once a day at least one review is a 2005-er and while this isn't a crime it can be a little confusing. I say confusing because most people associate record reviews with new. The definition of new will vary but typically up to three months is considered new. On a retail level (stores with doors) usually by month two or three a record gets moved from new release sections and eye level top racks to just another cd in a bin of thousands.

In a perfect world I would like to have a street date as a regular part of a review as well as a mention if something is an import.

That being said here are a list of recent (Feb) PFM reviews and their actual street dates.

Nine Horses / Snow Borne Sorrow/ Samadhi Sound / Rating: 7.7 - 10/11/05 ( U.S. distro from Ryko - 1/30)

A.R.E. Weapons / Free in the Streets / Defend Music / Rating: 6.0 - 9/20/05

Earthride / Vampire Circus / Southern Lord / Rating: 6.0 - 11/15/05

The Ex / Singles. Period. The Vinyl Years 1980-1990 / Touch & Go / Rating: 7.8 - 9/13/05

Greg Davis and Sebastien Roux / Paquet Surprise / Carpark / Rating: 7.8 - 10/18/05

Lindstrøm & Prins Thomas / Lindstrøm & Prins Thomas / Eskimo / Rating: 6.8 - 11/14/05

Residual Echoes / Phoenician Flu and Ancient Ocean/ Holy Mountain / Rating: 5.5 10/25/05

Damo Suzuki's Network / 3 Dead People After the Performance/ Ektro / Rating: 6.5 - 11/28/05

The Caribbean / Plastic Explosives / Hometapes / Rating: 7.2 - 9/20/ 05

The Dolls / Vladislav Delay / The Dolls / The Four Quarters/ Huume /Rating: 2.4 / 7.4 - 10/31/05

Bob Marley & the Wailers / Africa Unite: The Singles Collection / Island / Rating: 7.0 - 12/05/05

Ricardo Villalobos / Achso/ Cadenza / Rating: 8.9 - 12/12/05

Steve Reid Ensemble / Spirit Walk / Soul Jazz / Rating: 7.8 - 10/17/05

Glen Hall/Lee Ranaldo/William Hooker / Oasis of Whispers/ Alien8 / Rating: 6.7 - 11/1/05

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Adventures in Indie Rock: Issue 3

The Ring Of Pain

Robert Pollard was scared.

When he agreed to the fight, he thought that he even though he was at a height disadvantage he could take him. But sitting there on his stool in the corner of the ring looking at Abe Lincoln's shirtless torso he knew he had picked a fight he couldn't win. He had assumed that since Lincoln was so skinny that there would hardly be any muscle, but he was wrong.

Very wrong.

Lincoln stood across the ring as his son Tad rubbed baby oil on his shoulders, Lincoln cut an impressive figure as his 6'4" frame was cut, each muscle taught and bulging. He was in amazing shape for a 52 year old man.

Pollard on the other hand felt every bit his 49 years, and the half dozen mugs of ale he had downed the night before certainly weren't helping matters. Plus Lincoln looked to have about 6 inches on him. But Pollard was a man of his word, and if that meant fighting a glistening Abe Lincoln using nothing but his bare knuckles, with a wicked hang over to boot, well so be it.

The Caller stepped to the middle of the ring. The crowd of five thousand that had gathered on the White House lawn quieted.

"Ladies and Gentleman," the man yelled in a booming voice. "Today you will witness an epic clash of wills and body." He motioned to Pollards corner. "In this corner, from our 17th state Ohio, we have the Prolific Pugilist, The Musical Marauder, the one the only, Robert 'punch-drunk' Pollard!"

Mostly boo's came from the crowd, and some threw tomatoes as well as copies of the ill-received 'Do the Collapse' album. Pollard ignored them and sipped some hard liquor from a flask to calm his nerves.

"And in this corner," the Caller continued motioning to Lincoln's corner, "the man you know and love. The President of Pain, the Illinois rail splitter, Aaaaabraham Lincolnnnnn!".

The crowd cheered wildly. Men shouted 'Hurrah" and women held up babies. Pollard took another sip from the flask.

"We will be following the London Prize Ring rules," the Caller said to all. "Biting, headbutting and hitting below the belt are fouls. Everything else is fair game. Now come and shake hands gentleman."

Pollard put down the flask and approached the center of the ring. He was met there by Lincoln. The President was wearing long black pants, but had no shoes. Atop his head was the stovepipe hat that he helped popularize. He eyed Pollard like a cougar sizing up a feral rabbit. Pollard looked him up and down.

Holy fuck, Pollard thought as he looked at Lincolns hands, is that barbed wire?

Sure enough Lincoln had wrapped barbed wire around his knuckles. As the two combatants shook the sharp edges gauged into Pollards hands. Lincoln released his grip, and flashed an devilish smile and they stepped apart.

"On the count of three," the caller started. "One, two, th..."

But Lincoln couldn't wait. He swung hard with his right and hit Pollard on his right temple. Before he could even react the President had sunk his left fist into Pollard's stomach. Pollard swung his fists, but got only air. Lincoln was like a crazed animal. His huge frame moved effortlessly, his fists finding their targets all over Pollards torso and head. The singer was bleeding and his blue button up shirt was shredded, as he tried to defend himself. Lincoln swung over his head and Pollard used this opportunity to get the other side of the ring, and was trying to regroup when Lincoln came after him again. The great emancipator swung a mighty right hook but missed as Pollard dodged under it. The bell rung. Round one was over.

Pollard felt like he had played a 7 hour set when he came out for the next round, and the pummeling Lincoln put on him just made it worse. Round after round this went on. Finally in the 11th round Lincoln started to tire, as the effort of throwing so many punches into his opponents body wore him down. Lincoln was slowing and as he swung weakly at the bloody head of Pollard he left down his defenses. Pollard seized the moment and delivered a right hook of his own directly into Lincoln's solar plexus. The president stumbled backward and fell on his back. When he hit the canvas his hat flew off.

The crowd, which had been loudly calling for Pollards head as the fight went on, suddenly hushed. People murmured in hushed tones. Seeing the President lose his hat disturbed them. Many of the babies started to cry. Somewhere in the distance a dog barked.

Pollard walked to his corner, picked up the flask and emptied its contents into his mouth. Lincoln was slowly getting up. Pollard tore off the remains of his shirt and made a bandana of it. Blood trickled into his mouth and down his neck. He walked towards Lincoln and looked him in the eye.

"Bring it on toothpick," he said. Lincoln's eyes blazed as if Stephen Douglas himself had leveled this insult. Lincoln rose to his full height and he held his fists out in front of him. Pollard could see bits of drool involuntarily gathering at the side of his mouth. He's a mad dog, Pollard thought.

Lincoln moved forward, but he was too angry, he swung wildly. Pollard had him where he wanted. He threw punch after punch at Lincoln, his hands strong from having written and played on 187 Guided By Voices albums. Lincoln backed into a corner and put his arms up to protect himself. But it was no use. Pollard had him. He threw one last punch and then backed away. Lincoln swayed for a moment, and then fell like a mighty oak. The crowd was stunned.

Pollard smiled and lit a cigar that he had kept in his pocket. The Caller moved to the center of the ring.

"The winner by knockout, and new President of the United States of America, Robert Pollard!"

The crowd moaned as one and started to disperse. All that remained were a few hardcore fans of GBV. They gathered around Pollard. Some handed him Ale.

Lincoln walked over, held up by Tad and Mary. He held out his hat, which Tad had retrieved.

"This is yours sir," he said handing the hat to Pollard. "You are as cunning as you are crafty."

"Pfff," Pollard said throwing the hat to the ground. "No hard feelings. Lets go get a drink."

And together they headed into the White House.

Late into the night they drank while out on the lawn fans who had taken daguerreotypes of the match eagerly traded them. They would be invaluable when compiling Suitcase # 3.

J Dilla Update

Taken from the Stones Throw website:

February 7, 1974 - February 10, 2006
It is with great sorrow that the Family and Friends of J Dilla announces his spiritual transition on the morning of February 10th, 2006 in the loving arms of his mother, Maureen Yancey.

J Dilla had suffered for over three years with an incurable blood disease, and had also been diagnosed with lupus.

Mrs. Yancey relocated to Los Angeles in order to care for her son J Dilla during his lengthy illness. On behalf of Mrs. Yancey we ask that in lieu of flowers, any heartfelt donations be made payable and sent to a fund which has been established in her name:

Made Payable to Mrs. Maureen Yancey

Donations can be mailed to:Maureen Yancey
132 N. Sycamore Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90036

Bank Wires can be sent to:

Wells Fargo Bank of Los Angeles, CA
Routing Number: 122000247
Account Number: 6043250676

Monday, February 13, 2006

Earthride / Vampire Circus / Rating: 6.0

Neither aggressively slow nor aggressively fast, Earthride does a weedburning, mid-tempo cheesy riffs and lyrics thing; actually, what it really is, is rock and roll.

If I may direct your attention to the left for just a moment. This is Earthride singer Dave Sherman in Baltimore during a Sunno))) show in 2004.

PFM says: "Dave Sherman sounds (a lot) like Lemmy" and while I have never talked or been harassed by Lemmy for a night I can conquer that there is an uncanny vocal similarity, on stage and off. The night this photo was taken Dave was so unspeakably destroyed (a normal night for Dave) I opted to take his photo in hopes of a time out from his indecipherable banter which took the invasion of personal space to a whole new level. Mutual friends of Sunno))) I patiently tried the classic smile and nod at his marathon talking in tongues, swaying, and second base groping but Lemmy sound a like or not it was buzz kill on my whole night.

And no, I didn't ask Dave to sign this picture, this was his name tag for the night in case he got lost.

Earthride are no second coming of Motorhead (live or on record) and in the end a drunk is a drunk is a drunk. PFM writer Zach tells it like it is and I seriously can’t in good metal consciousness thumb a guy who actually attended the Grief reunion show.

A 6 is also how many fingers Dave sees when you are actually holding up three so yes, the 6.0 rating works for me too.

My only bone of contention, PFM says: “Vampire Circus never stops eying the prize, something you couldn't say about, say, the new Earth, so pick whichever one doesn't bore you.”

But you guys, guys meaning PFM, gave the Southern Lord Earth record a stellar 8.2 rating. I say F both of these SL records and in their place you should track down the Frost EP or the Craft full length- you know if you are in the market for something “Nigel hipster”.

Oh, and F Wrest of Leviathan who seems to have serious issues with his record buying audience. I’m not sure what a metal fan is suppose to look like or be to the very core but in print that kind or backwards stereotype doesn’t sell me on how metal he is, just how shamefully ignorant an artist can be.

Toodles to Insound

I've been meaning to post about this for a bit. If you take a look at the PFM reviews as of late they no longer tag Insound but rather Amp Camp and Emusic as the place to buy your Pitchfork reviewed music from.

Amp Camp is the music store attached to Neighborhoodies, the site I posted about a month or two ago.

And FYI :

Call it haunted house-- and one of the best albums of the year to date.

The Knife / Silent Shout / Rabid; 2006 (band's own label) / Rating: 8.6 is an import and not available via Emusic because it doesn't come out until the end of March. (March 20th) Come to think of it I don't know if Emusic will get this at all. Anyhow, I don't see a list for a domestic release but in the meantime you can check out their music here.

Audio Bullys / Generation / Rating: 2.7

Here's an idea: Wait, there it went.

Back in 2003 PFM writer Nitsuh Abebe said this about the Audio Bullys:

"They could be the next Basement Jaxx, wrapping house music around a dozen genres-- rock, hip-hop, R&B, UK garage-- cranking out purified pop from their blender. They could be the next Streets, packing up a street-level vision of Brit boylife and mailing it out on bumping beats. They could christen a new genre-- "hooligan house?""

Those words couldn’t be any more accurate and to the point.

Fast forward to the 2006 Audio Bullys review and per the norm I only sort of know what Sam Ubl is talking about. Thank God for the trusty number rating system because without that I would be spending hours or precious time trying to brush up on my Woody Allen analogies which apparently were scrapped for something Sam calls "Sublime Syndrome". I know even less about the band Sublime so the whole opening paragraph of this review is lost on me. I didn’t see School of Rock either so color me clueless.

PFM goes onto say:

“But Audio Bullys don't request attention, they irrupt into your headphones like a drunk at a curry house, usually bullhorning pep rally piffle like, "You are now entering the mode of the Audio Bullys." “

(You know how those drunks in a curry house can be. ? ! Piffle isn't in my sub par dictionary either. I knew I should have taken more SAT vocab classes.)


Generation makes you appreciate ketamine's bottomless suction or space disco's eternal ascent.”

(I had no idea ketamine = special K…I had to look that up. I am neither an animal vet or a drug user, what do I know?)


“But Audio Bullys chase Bombay Sapphire, not white rabbits, tracing a pedestrian trajectory: It's all good 'till you puke or someone gets his nose hairs burnt.”

(I clearly don’t do enough drugs or watch enough movies to appreciate any of this review but the use of chase and trace would make any poet applaud)

Can you hear the crickets in my head…and two sentences starting with “But”?

I swear I am not an idiot, my IQ is actually 159 but this goes beyond a typical IQ test. This whole review is a test of patience and Sam’s decadent use of the English language strangles the whole purpose of a music review. So umm….what does this cd actually sound like?

In situations like this I like to ask myself, what would short story writer Raymond Carver do? To quote the man himself he would say “Get in, get out, don’t linger, go on.” That guy didn’t fuck around. With a drink in one hand he got to the heart of the matter and fast. ..oh and he didn’t write like it was a party favor for the gifted child society.

I also remember an English teacher back in high school (honors English Yo!) scolding me for writing papers that assumed too much of the reader and I am pretty sure while an elite group of music journalist workshop friends might appreciate this PFM review, those not working towards a master in counter culture and sarcasm might be left in the dust.

At least salvation can found in Sam’s final paragraph. Angels may not be singing but this is as close to the direct point as Sam gets.

Generation is a sonic mess, all weightless synth swish, dull beats, and maybe-ironic midi horns.”

Okay now we are getting somewhere but in the end it is still the 2003 PFM review I turn to for my final thoughts. Audio Bully’s had their chance to be better than just the next Basement Jaxx or The Streets but they blew it. They didn’t just sort of miss the mark, the pissed while yawning all over their own two “Block Rockin’ Beats”. Seriously didn’t at least one person at Astralwerks here “Eq-ing” and have a Chemical Brothers déjà vu?

The Stylus review of Generation puts my overall feelings to words perfectly:

“Rare is the sophomore record that makes you question why you liked the debut in the first place, but that's where my first listen to Generation led me.”

Generation is really that mid tempo, lyrically speaking live journal fall flat bad.

I’m going to try to leave this on a positive note and suggest a quote from Audio Bullys’ “Get Myself on Track”

“The future looks much brighter than those bad yesterdays. I’m not saying that they are all bad but tomorrows another day.”

Indeed and better luck next time fellas. I hear threes a charm.

Sunday, February 12, 2006


About once a month we here at Tuning Fork try to share the wealth and offer up a few promo cds to our nice readers.

To win all you need to do is:
A) Check the comments section to see if anybody claimed the cd you want to win first.
B) If the cd you want has yet to be requested leave a comment saying your first name and the cd you want. This will let others know the cd has a new home.
C) Email us at tuningforkmedia@hotmail.com your name / address / and cd you want.

You can only win one cd per contest and only if you haven't won a cd from us in the past two months. It is as easy as that. There is no creepy catch. I don't email spam in the future or mail you adult catalogs three months from now. You get a cd (sometimes more cds if I have some extra stuff sitting around) and a DIY fold / cut / and fill out tuningfork membership card that has zero meaning to about 99.9 % of the world but that .1 % who are record inter-web geeks too will totally be barely impressed. Awesome right?

The goods:

Slowdive - Pygmalion - Castle - new cd WE HAVE A WINNER!!!

Messer Chups - Crazy Price - Ipecac - promo cd w/ art WE HAVE A WINNER!!!

White Stripes - Walking With A Ghost - V2 - promo cd w/ art WE HAVE A WINNER!!!

Belong - October - Carpark - cd w/ art WE HAVE A WINNER!!!

Audio Bullys - Generation - Astralwerks - promo cd w/ art WE HAVE A WINNER!!!

Good luck and yes I will mail cds to people living out of the USA. Non-American indie music fans deserve presents too!!! PS: Selling your prize to a local store makes you a bad bad person. If you don't like the music please pass it onto a friend who might.

Saturday, February 11, 2006


As promised yesterday:

About once a month we here at Tuningfork try to share the wealth and offer up a few promo cds to our nice readers.To win all you need to do is:

A) Check the comments section to see if anybody claimed the cd you want to win first.
B) If the cd you want has yet to be requested leave a comment saying your first name and the cd you want. This will let others know the cd has a new home.
C) Email us at tuningforkmedia@hotmail.com your name / address / and cd you want.

You can only win one cd per contest and only if you haven't won a cd from us in the past two months. It is as easy as that. There is no creepy catch. I don't email spam in the future or mail you adult catalogs three months from now. You get a cd (sometimes more cds if I have some extra stuff sitting around) and a DIY fold / cut / and fill out tuningfork membership card that has zero meaning to about 99.9 % of the world but that .1 % who are record inter-web geeks too will totally be barely impressed. Awesome right?

The goods:

Bonnie Prince Billy - Summer in the Southeast - Drag City - promo cd w/ art WE HAVE A WINNER!

Prefuse 73 - Security Screenings - Warp - promo cd w/ art WE HAVE A WINNER!

Le Tigre
- This Island - Chicks on Speed Records - paper sleeve promo cd WE HAVE A WINNER!

J Dilla - Donuts - Stones Throw - promo cd w/ art WE HAVE A WINNER!

Logh - A Sunset Panorama - Hydra Head - paper sleeve promo cd ( This band combines elements of Sonic Youth, Blonde Redhead, and Isis!!!!) WE HAVE A WINNER!

Good luck and yes I will mail cds to people living out of the USA. Non American indie music fans deserve presents too!!!

PS: Selling your prize to a local store makes you a bad bad person. If you don't like the music please pass it onto a friend who might.

Friday, February 10, 2006

J Dilla / Donuts / Rating 7.9

The end result is akin to Norman Smith and DJ Shadow sitting in on a RZA-produced session-- spry, voiceless prog-hop by any other name.

No review of a review here today.

I just wanted to pass along some very sad news. It appears that J Dilla (James Yancey) has passed away. I don't have much more info on this breaking news yet but it appears to be true.

"LOS ANGELES - Hip-hop producer J Dilla, whose soulful beats formed the backdrop to songs by artists like Common and A Tribe Called Quest, died Friday of complications from lupus, his manager said. He was 32."

I will post more info when I get it.

This just in: Pitchfork has just posted this as their lead news story.

Another Tuning Fork First:

This just might be the first and only time nearly every staff writer here at TFM has posted a little something for our readers. Heck yeah!

This also seems like the right time to announce that TUNING FORK has a brand new member of the staff AKA GHOSTBEARD. He may not be a pirate but he does have some serious music knowledge and writing skilz that puts whatever nonsense I eek out to shame.

Lastly to celebrate our weekend readers I will be giving away a total of ten cds this weekend, 5 on Saturday and 5 on Sunday. Not to say you aren't a winner already but if you want to be a lucky TFM reader then please check back this weekend.

Greg Davis and Sebastien Roux: Paquet Surprise, Rating: 7.8

Paquet Surprise is filled with so many textures and ideas it feels like some Edenic tapestry delineating the natural and the digital as one densely populated world.

Over the years we've all had to get used to shrugging off a lot of the creative writing that Pitchfork passes off as album reviews. The quote above is something else, though. It's a dandy. What is Brandon Stosuy saying? I think he's trying to say, in a way that shows how overmatched he is when attempting to colorfully use the English language, is that Paquet Surprise has both digital and acoustic (for lack of better term) elements, and the duo does a good job combining the two.

But Brandon didn't say that. He took a longer route between points A (the thought) and B (expressing it to the reader). Keep to the shorter, more sensible routes. It makes for better reading and less embarassment for the author.

A guy I used to work with would use the word delineate all the time. It was a word that made for good corporate speak. People like to use words that make them sound smarter than they really are. Delineate, I've noticed, is one of those words. It shows up in album reviews a lot, too. Probably for the same reasons.

And just what is an "Edenic tapestry"? Google has no idea. I don't have a clue. Edenic refers to the Garden of Eden. For those of you who like a little less God in our rock, it's an unnecessary Biblical reference. Taken metaphorically, Edenic could mean pure, unspoiled, natural or bountiful. I suppose indie rock writers don't have too many adjectives to describe mellow music, so they come up with things like Edenic. But Edenic tapestry? Did Adam and Eve weave those?

Overall, the quality of the prose here is about as good as if Jim Morrison were commissioned by cheese artist Thomas Kinkaid to write flowery poetry. Yeah, it's that bad. It would come in last in a county fair. "It bursts into dainty droning vocal choruses and glisteny sonics"? Gimme a freakin' break.

You Do the Math

I've noticed something in the last couple days at Pitchfork. What do all these stories/reviews have in common?






That's right. All have something to do with the Decemberists. I think the members of this band are getting way too much done and I have begun to have suspicions that the band is up to something sinister. I have felt that something is brewing. Something bad.

Wel, my worst fears have been realized.

While trolling Google news last night I came across this article. Unfortunately the link is broken but I was able to cut and paste before it went down:

Big weapons stash found at "Base of Operations".
Portland, Oregon.

Police searching the the 3 story Victorian home at the center of the vast Portland compound of band/cult leader Colin Meloy found hundreds of knives, guns, a donkey-shaped piñata and a metal sign that reads "The Revolution starts with clever, wordy songs!," law enforcement sources said yesterday.

Police also found prescription pills, a 3-foot-long samurai sword, 17 kittens, a barn full of horses with machine guns mounted on their backs, a stockpile of Royal Crown Cola and a makeshift obstacle course, primarily made up of smashed drum kits and amps.

Investigators weren't sure what to make of the arsenal, but neighbors said Meloy, singer for the band The Decemberists, is a hunter - and an oddball.

"I see him once or twice a week," said neighbor Dominick Frascello. "He looked kinda weird. He kept mumbling about shanty towns, downtrodden mistresses and how the war would begin at Bumbershoot".

Police said they became suspicious when neighbors complained of loud explosions and searing accordion solos emanating from the compound. Meloy was charged with four counts of weapons possession, mischief, assault on a police officer, polygamy and driving while impaired after he attempted to ram a police car with his model T ford, which disintegrated on impact.

Police spokesperson Jack Weaving said that the Portland PD has long been investigating Meloy's suspicious activities. "We have a pretty big file on the guy," Weaving said standing in front of the confiscated guns and kittens. "Other than the complaints from neighbors we have observed 'indie' types coming in and out of the compound at all hours. Add that to his use of Petra Haden as an opening act, a suspicious and dubious act on its own, and we were convinced there was criminal activity going on."

Weaver added, "That song 'We both go down Together'? I think we all know that is a thinly veiled call for a violent overthrow of the government."

As I said this link is now broken. But it seems clear that all this recent activity by the band members is just a build up to an attempted takeover by the Decemberists. Why wouldn't Pitchfork report this? Can you say co-conspirators?

His Name Is Alive/Detrola/8.4

What matters is that Defever is doing exactly what we've always claimed to want from musicians. His world is his own, unique and uniquely stylized, describable less in terms of genre and more in terms of impressions: snow, transistor radios, empty rooms, sepia tones, dreams.

If you listen to music long enough, some interesting things happen. New bands that you like show up that sound like older bands you hated ten years prior. You begin making references to old artists that no one else remembers. Also, what seemed odd, cutting-edge or provocative in the past soon becomes commonplace.

I started listening to His Name Is Alive in the early 90's towards the end of a long love affair with 4AD records. His Name Is Alive's early records were unique at that time. The first two, Livonia and Home Is In Your Head, combined acoustic guitar with unsettling electronic sounds and haunting female vocals. I can't listen to The Books or most of the current New Weird America records without thinking of those first two HINIA records. Mouth By Mouth treads in more shoegazer territory, but still included the disturbing "Can't Go Wrong Without You" along with a sumptuous cover of Alex Chilton's "Blue Moon". His Name Is Alive's fourth record, Stars On E.S.P., was a Brian Wilson homage combining a variety of musical styles. Released in 1996, that record predates most of Elephant 6's revival of 60's pop. Whether it's Architecture In Helsinki, Broadcast or Akron/Family, many of my current favorite artists share a great deal in common sonically with HNIA's back catalog. So when I heard that Detrola was coming out, I was hoping to be taken in another new musical direction. However, after listening to Detrola, I don't see that new direction. Instead, Detrola mostly blends into the montage of current musical styles.

Listening to too much music seems to have spoilt my enjoyment of Detrola. For every good track on Detrola, I can think of another artist doing the same thing better. That said, there are still some good songs. "*C*A*T*S" merges electronic sounds with Andy FM's vocals for a catchy track. The closing track "Send My Face" starts out as a weird folk song, then is washed with reverberating guitars and strings, then closes in blend of acoustic guitar and electronic beeps. The first track would stand along anything by Broadcast; the second would go well with the Books or a track from Akron/Family's debut. However, after listening to each track, that's just what I want to do - go to my shelf, pull out the other CD and listen to it instead of Detrola. I just have a hard time sitting through this CD. When I go back and listen to Mouth By Mouth in comparison, I find myself lost in the tracks, starting at a particular song as a reference than listening to the next and the next. With Detrola, it just doesn't happen.

Nitsuh Abebe gave Detrola an 8.4 - a tenth of a point shy of a "Best New Music" rating. I'd probably shave that down a full point and then some to a flat 7.0. Detrola is an good record but not one of the best. I'd much sooner recommend Home Is In Your Head or Mouth By Mouth if you're new to His Name Is Alive. Given that those records are hard to find these days, Detrola may be the best you can do as a starting point.

If you listen to music long enough, you'll eventually hear yourself saying, "I like that band's earlier stuff better" and you shudder a little. Saying that feels like something you hear from people who've stopped buying records. However, with Detrola, I say that because I still buy new music and listen to new artists - and I continue to want something new from the music that I encounter. Detrola is good; as a fan, I'll still play it from time to time. However, it does not push the envelope as much as His Name Is Alive's past work.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

The Mars Volta

It appears that this blog is linked to The Mars Volta message board right now and if you are following the link and scratching your heads as to what the connection is let me take a minute to explain. This site was started just under a year ago after reading Pitchforks TMV review and we have been posting pretty much every day a review of one of their reviews ever since.

Fun Fact:

Our guest writer responding to the Frances the Mute Pitchfork review in March of 2005 is a member of a "metal" band Pitchfork gave an 8+ rating to a few years back.

Belong / October Language/ Rating: 8.0

Four lucid paragraphs celebrating "shimmery wet electric sound" is something I can’t give you, luckily Nick Sylevestor can.

My ears favor subsonic doom rumbles over static, hiss, sirens, and scrape so depending on your frequency preference a PFM 8 rating may not be music to your ears.

Below are my notes from listening to October Language divided track by track.

ice skates on ice
rechargeable shaver
electric storm passing
music gear I can’t afford
a coins into cash machine
band saw
the “M” sound as it vibrates the mouth
beach metal detector
riding with the car windows down
a guitar creeping closer
advanced decay
sun spots
a fear of the dark
a land of no beats
interference on the line
an underwater cave’s curious echo
every light on in a house
muffled joy
Mego meets Kranky
crying saucer attack
Note to self: clean tape heads
my ears are over taxed
UFO landing in my head
static smoke bomb
too dense to think
wait for smoke to clear
can breathe again.


I miss my mom. She would have been 63 today.

Prefuse 73 / Security Screenings / Rating: 6.9

First things first: Herren insists that this is not an "actual" album. I have no idea what this means, but critical preemptions aside, Security Screenings is a marked improvement over last year's directionless Surrounded by Silence, which missed its mark of collaborative opus

Oh how the mighty have fallen, One word Extinguisher earned Prefuse 73 a 9.1 rating and he’s been throwing sixes and a seven ever since.

PFM writer Peter Macia was onto something; a record that comes with a tag line this specific:

Prefuse states: “It’s a collection of songs based on reactions to certain things that happened through the course of doing press, touring, and recording for the past year or so. It's not a follow up to Surrounded By Silence, but merely a transition between the last album and what's to come, the next one is to be completely different all together.” And "God bless airport security in America and the countries that are a part of the "Coalition of the Willing."

leads any curious mind to wander. How exactly does Security Screenings reflect this theme? I am tempted to poll local airport security but I suspect a southern version of “Go Fuck” would follow shortly there after and come to think of it I don’t even think our airport has any flights at all this late hour.

With a theme this cryptic (okay... actually invisible if it weren't for the surreal interview clips) a new genre of instrumental music has been born: crypt-hop.

I could go on....

Big bottomed glitch?

Lap Hop?

Music this complex, owning so many threads of influence is an easy target for music schmucks like me looking to be clever. Nothing I could say is going to properly articulate how dense yet clean sliced Security Screenings actually is.

I haven’t loved much Scott Herren has done post One Word Extinguisher and still nothing tops the live Prefuse shows I saw with Amon Tobin in 2002 and Beans back in 2003. After multiple failed Prefuse releases and flimsy alter ego projects I had lost all hope but for a certified non follow up release (the press release really does allude to this) Security Screenings has brought me back into the Prefuse 73 fold again.

These tracks are Prefuse flashcards, brief ( around 3 minutes long) but to the point samples of some of his best spellbinding beat making and breaking.

Pitchfork gave a cruel review and one star rating to Security Screenings' single song “Mud in Your Mouth” and while it isn’t the best track of the release, it certain isn’t worthy of that bitch smack it was given.

I don’t mind the radio dial turning Far East flavored R2D2 bleeps, bounces and bending but clearly Tom B felt otherwise.

If flashcards are used to maintain and sharpen skills it’s best to look at Security Screening cd as a textured knife sharpener and in theory the next Prefuse 73 full length could be honed into a seriously dangerous weapon. A PFM 6.9 rating isn’t shameful but I believe a medium flame 7 would be closer to the point.


On a personal note: It’s hard not to be a jealous of a record collector (Scott) who actually uses and recycles out the riches from his seriously magnificent library of wax. Herren Ginsu-s (remember those never a dull blade knives???) samples out of vinyl that otherwise collects dust and remains untouched in my house.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Belle and Sebastian: The Life Pursuit


Recorded in Los Angeles with Tony Hoffer, who oversaw Beck's divisive Midnite Vultures, the album runs over with flute, horns, call-and-response vocals, and even a funky clavinet (on soul survivor "Song for Sunshine"). The playing, meanwhile, is surprisingly chopsy, down to the breezy guitars and Hammond organs-- a far cry from the days when indie meant never having to say you tried.

Let me say one thing right off the bat: I love Los Angeles. I was born in Los Angeles, I still reside in Los Angeles, and I plan to stay here for as long as I can see. Now that I have that out of the way let me say something else:

Los Angeles will corrupt and destroy you. There is no way around it. You've been warned.

We don't like real beauty and we don't like real talent: Give us something fake and shiny. Give us our plastic women, actor wannabes and shitty, shitty bands.

But dear God please don't send us your bands! No good can come of that. You know what happens if you do that? One of the best rainy day bands in the world decides to bulk up (that being a relative term for b&S) its sound and put out an album that I cannot for the life of me understand.

I know what you're gonna say: bands have a right to change their sound. Its called progress. Well as the Curator of the Twittlebotton Museum of Music I Like, let me say I don't like this progress. I could be very happy with B&S making 1970's Scottish folk albums forever.

I don't mind at all the opener, but its on the 2nd song 'Another Sunny Day' that my Spidey sense started to tingle. Is that a twangy Gram Parsons alt/country guitar I hear? Oh no it is. Is it required that if you record in LA you must incorporate a twangy guitar? Is it somewhere in our city's charter?

Oh and lets talk about 'White Collar Boy'. Let's face facts: this is a Bay City Rollers song. I don't mind those boys, but unless B&S make a video for this song where they are at a skating rink in matching uniforms AND that was the only reason they recorded this song, there is no excuse. In fact I can imagine a lot of these songs being sung on some bizzaro Brady Bunch Variety Hour. 'We are the Sleepyheads' features a guitar/synth(?) solo straight out of Boogie Nights. They can't expect me to be taking this seriously.

I have to agree with Marc Hogan that Stuart Murdoch maintains the level of songwriting that made me a fan in the first place, and that's what is most frustrating about The Life Pursuit. I like the songs, I just don't what they're wrapped in. It's like a rotten apple with chocolate in the middle. I love the chocolate when I finally get to it, but dammit I had to eat a rotten apple to get there!

Let this album be a lesson to all those bands that think that coming to LA will afford them a little relaxation and time in the sun. We will eat your soul, or at the very least make your folk music sound like background music for porn (track 8 Song for Sunshine).

8.5? Oh brother no. I give it 3 palm trees out of a possible 10. Now where is my copy of Fold Your Hands Child...

Monday, February 06, 2006

Morningwood / S/T / Rating 3.9

Where better throwbacks such as Brooklyn-based Blood on the Wall overcome their heavily earmarked influences, Morningwood don't even try to put a unique spin on their pilfering: Their tracklist reads like an AudioScrobbler profile, systematically tallying new wave and glam ingredients in ways only machines and computerbrains can.

If you don't have anything nice to say....
The PFM review is not the problem here, Morningwood is.

PS: Too bad Pitchfork doesn't have a negative rating system.

Low/His Name Is Alive/Death Vessel at the Black Cat, DC Feb. 4th

When my dad went to Catholic school, nuns would monitor the school dances making sure that dancers had "room for the Holy Spirit" between them. Depending on the nun, the Holy Spirit needed about 9 to 12 inches of air between the teens. At the Black Cat, there were several boy/girl couples with zero room for the Holy Spirit, their hands in each other's back pockets, pressed shoulder blade to shoulder blade (they were about the same height as well). I hadn't seen anything like it since I was a student-teacher and then only from 10th graders or younger.

It was just one part of an evening that included a search for religious allegory, audience divination, a personal crisis regarding my old Goth tendencies and ultimately some fine sad-core. It also included some of the usual things that make the Black Cat a less than ideal venue. Fortunately, I got to hang with Pitchperfect at a show with plenty to talk about.

I walked up the stairs to the main room as Death Vessel was performing, waiting for Pitchperfect to get cash from the ATM. From the back of the room, I saw that there was only one performer on stage with long dark hair and an acoustic guitar, singing in a clear strong alto. As we made our way to the front of the crowd, our eyes adjusted and we got a little more confused. Is that a boy or a girl up on stage?1 The voice was way up in the alto range. However, the figure on the stage was more boyish than girlish. After a couple more songs, we figured out the riddle and realized that Death Vessel is a man with an uncannily high voice - frankly a touch higher and clearer than Antony and the Johnsons. Some confusion would have been avoided if Death Vessel performed under his real name, Joel Thibodeau. But he has a remarkable voice and plays guitar well also. His brief set made for a good opener.

Wating for His Name Is Alive, Pitchperfect began scanning the crowd and provided me with color commentary that had me scratching my head for most of the night.

Pitchperfect: So, you know this is two religious bands in one night, Grettir.

Grettir: No...um. I have three CDs by His Name Is Alive. You mean that the His Name is HIS Name?2

P (Nods): Look at the crowd, no one's drinking around us.

G (Looking around, seeing empty hands): Well, the bar seemed busy.

P: No smokers either.

G (pointing to some smokers at 6 o'clock from them): There's two there.

There was a couple of smokers standing near one of those interlocked boy/girl things.

P: Just two?

G (pointing at the far side of the stage): I can see a plume of smoke over yonder.

P: That's my point. The air's clear enough for you to see that far.

At this point, my head was racing to decipher any old HNIA lyrics - a tough proposition after two beers and a frustrating day at the office. Had I been subjected to some strange religious brainwashing during my distant Goth phase?

G: Hey, I remember them covering Rainbow.3

His Name Is Alive came on stage with Warren Defever and five additional musicians including longtime singer Karin Oliver. Warren and the bass player started off seated, then gradually rose - starting with Cornfield then moving into new songs from Detrola. At first, it seemed a little odd to see them trading off instruments and playing with their backs to the audience, but I've since had flashbacks to old shows by Bedazzled records bands where this kind of vibe was considered ideal. Now, it just didn't seem as appealing. Somehow, the dense production of the old HNIA records wasn't making it into the performance. I was disappointed. Also, Warren seemed a little disoriented - using the same confusing Baltimore for Washington joke twice. 4

Pitchperfect and I moved to the back of the club for Low as the crowd was towering over her by now. I also think she was relieved to see more smokers and drinkers in the back.5 Thankfully, Low's soundman took over the board and the band sounded great, though a little quiet, from the back. At that point, Low was wonderfully themselves - slow, beautiful and occasionally loud. New bassist Matt Livingston blended right in with Mimi and Alan. Not much else for me to say, except that they were great.

I had asked Pitchperfect to see Low with me before she went to Deerhoof. Unfortunately, her Deerhoof experience shared a lot in common with the Low show. For some reason, folks go to the Black Cat to talk. Maybe there are heart-felt reconciliations between lovers, reunions between old friends and estranged family members making peace6, but can't these folks find someplace that doesn't charge a $14 cover fee to talk things over? I don't understand why someone would buy a ticket to see a band, then proceed to completely ignore that band while standing in the club.7 I guess no one knows who they're seeing. In fact, one guy left during Low's set shouting out "boring" as the door swung behind him. Dude, it's Low.

As we walked back to the car, Pitchperfect gave me the assignment to review the show. She was still trying to figure out the God connection. I was just tired - Low does make me both happy and sleepy.


1There's a good song by the Barbarians about this phenomenon.

2In fact, the name in question is Abraham Lincoln.

3HNIA covered the Dio/Blackmore song Man On The Silver Mountain on Home Is In Your Head. Then again Pat Boone once covered Holy Diver.

4Is someone writing stage banter for indie rock bands? Akron/Family used the same joke at Cafe Iota. Ya know, it doesn't really work at the Black Cat. That big white stone pointy thing you pass on 14th street named after George Washington? The building with the dome in the opposite direction from it? They ain't got those in Baltimore.

5As I later learned, Pitchperfect was only partly relieved to be at the back of the club. There was a guy wandering around the back with a whisky glass eyeing the ladies. So, being with the sinners at the back of the club can be less than ideal.

6No, Pitchperfect, it was not a prayer meeting.

7Pitchperfect later told me that she overheard a conversation about the band between a woman and her date. The woman said that she "likes Mimi because she has a beautiful voice and is also beautiful looking, but not too beautiful so that [she's] jealous of her." While neither Pitchperfect or I know the lady's escort from that evening, we are unanimous in our advice to him - Run away. Run away and never look back.