Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Who - Quadrophenia: The Complete Story

The Who were undeniably at the peak of their powers at the end of the 60's to the beginning of the 70's. Tommy had given them their much-needed mega-hit, provided Daltry with a stage persona and became the band's live tour-de-force. Their follow-up, Who's Next, was their last truly, consistently amazing album but while more than a bit pretentious and overdone, Quadrophenia was certainly (and Pete admits this) their last great record. This documentary reveals the making of the album and the story that it was based on.

I have always found it ironic that this just-barely pre-punk era story of the early 60's Mod movement was performed as an album buried in keyboards, synthesizers and plenty of 70's rock cliches. Of course, there are some superb rock numbers on the record but the sound was a far cry from the sound of the Mods (though it did become adopted by the latest wave of Mods at the time).

This movie explains a bit about the original Mod movement for the uninitiated with some fantastic footage of the Who and their followers. Of course, it also talks about the making of the album and the craziness behind it with extensive interviews with the ever-effusive Pete, some with Roger and a few previously recorded bits from Keith & John.

Nothing earth-shattering here and no big revelations but this is a nice overview of the last Who concept album and of the phenomenon that spawned it. It ends with some footage of their 1996 (I believe) Quadrophenia tour which is good, but far from the Who at their best (with a boatload of extra musicians). Still, a fun documentary and something every Who fan should see.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Bloody Villains, Psyatics, Cold Blue Rebels - Cheyenne Saloon, Saturday July 21, 2012

The Cheyenne Saloon is a cool, decent-sized venue, with a real stage, lights and sound system, that is actually near to our house in the northwest, but it normally specializes is metal bands, so is not a normal haunt for us. But this night was much different than their usual fare, with a couple of the best new bands in Vegas and a crazy touring band to sweeten the deal.

 The night started at the wildly early hour of 8:00 so we missed the first band, but got there in time to see the mighty Bloody Villains. I have written about these cats before and they are on of the only (if not the only) high-energy punk'n'roll band in the vein of the Hellacopters playing in Vegas today. Everyone is a solid player and singer/lead guitarist Verdusco is a blur of motion while singing and playing and the rest of the cats (2nd guitarist Nano, bassist Chris and drummer Scott) all pose appropriately while all looking stylishly r'n'r in converse, black jeans and rockin' t-shirts. Real songs and real rock'n'roll - another band ya gotta see!

Our pals the Psyatics were up next and they never fail to inspire with their highly original 3-piece garage rock'n'roll. Singer/bassist Rob really knows how to write a truly original tune and you would never know that this is his first band playing bass! Nor would you guess that the noise-fueled guitarist Jack is actually a classical violinist in his "other life"! Drummer Jimmy keep everything together and is one of the more interesting players on the scene. This was only their 4th or 5th show, but their sound is already really happening.

I was not familiar with the Cold Blue Rebels before but once I discovered that fellow LA rockers Joe Normal (re: Joe Hutchinson) was in the band, I had to check them out. Joe played in the purple-haired Zeroes - the group that moved from Jersey and became part of the Sunset Strip scene in the 80's, apparently unaware of the fantastic punk band the Zeros that were already local heroes. After that group, Joe and his brother Jimmy formed the terrific power-pop band, the Hutchinsons, but I kinda lost track of him for a while after that. This combo is a completely different trip - a horror/psychobilly group made up of Joe, fellow Zeroes bassist Danny Dangerous, singer Mickey Finn from Jetboy and drummer Spaz Draztik from the Glamour Punks. So, with years of playing behind them, they knew how to put on a wild show and their zombie make-up and total style gave them an edge right from the start. While they are definitely a psychobilly outfit, they have some actual songs and got the audience going the whole time! Fun stuff!

Hopefully, the Cheyenne will put on more cool shows like this and hopefully some of the downtown denizens with come out to the outskirts of town to support the venue when they do!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Loons - Paraphernalia

By now, everyone should be familiar with San Diego’s The Loons – the latest project from ex-Crawdaddies/Tell-Tale Hearts’ Mike Stax. In this incarnation, Mike is the lead singer and has turned over the bass duties to his lovely wife Anja (ex-Diaboliks), and is aided and abetted by Mark Schroeder and Chris Marsteller on guitars and Iain Andrew on drums (who has since been replaced by Mike Kamoo). 

This album lies between the fine debut, Love’s Dead Leaves and the latest, Red Dissolving Rays of Light. While far from a sophomore slump, this record seems to almost be a bit of a transitionary one. Not bad in any sense of the word, but maybe not as thoroughly psychedelic as the first or as cohesive as the last. Still, a fine piece of work, with plenty of garage and psych leanings (often in the same song, as in “Sweet Turns to Sour”), nice folky electric 12-string (“Follow the Rain Down”), mid-tempo rockers with nice fuzz work (“Falsehood”), a frantic number of lunacy with a damn catchy chorus (“Some Kind of Asylum”), epic trippiness filled with feedback and guitar noise (the closer, "Another Life") and much more. There is an over-abundance of memorable licks, nice melodies, trippy sections, punchy chords and some groovy rhythms (I really dig the “Sookie Sookie" vibe in “Craig Smith?”).

As I say, I think the other two releases surpass this, but that’s just cuz they are so good! This is still a great piece of garage/psych which any lover of the genre should own!

Blues People – The Negro Experience in White America and the Music That Developed From It – LeRoi Jones

I have been reading a lot about early blues and this book popped up in my Amazon recommendations so I thought I’d check it out. Initially published in 1963, this is one of the first books written by an African-American about the music that they have contributed to America. The timing of the book makes it especially interesting as it precedes the breaking of black music in the American Top Forty, at least as a movement – soul, Motown, etc. While Jones does discuss the blues, he focuses mainly on jazz, as a uniquely American and distinctly black musical genre, and the changes it went through, the spin-offs it fathered and how it all fits together in the larger scheme of things. In hindsight from 2012, I’m not sure that I agree with all of his conclusions, but coming from a young, black intellectual at the time, it gives a unique perspective.

Not something that I can whole-heartedly endorse, as it at times reads more like a dissertation than a compelling book, but I did appreciate the point of view of this fascinating time capsule. 

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Get Lost - Never Come Back

After experiencing the wonderful hospitality of the Swiss, as well as the incredible talent of the members of the Project Blue music/art co-op (my description - not sure how they described themselves) while on Europeans tours with the Miracle Workers, both Rob Butler (bass) and Gerry Mohr (singer) decided to move there after the Workers broke up. LA scenester Chris Rosales was also enticed to head that way and the expatriates joined together to form a new garage group, the Get Lost, along with native Kat Aellen (on bass, with Rob moving to guitar along with Gerry, though Rob moved back to bass later). The results are in these grooves and are damn near phenomenal - though you would expect nothing less from them!

Sharp, biting chords burst out right from the start on "One Way Street" and this easily sounds like an outtake from the Workers' Inside Out - cool riffs, Gerry's nasal-y vocals and sing-along choruses. Ah yeah, you know you're in for something cool! This feel continues with "Boogie Hut", with lots more fuzz and a hip, almost off-rhythmic beat. "Love is a Garden" is a bit of a ballad (comparatively) with nice backing vocals and clean guitar riffing for most of the tune - except for another overdriven solo!

"One Way Ticket" starts with tons of feedback and is simply buried in fuzz, snarling vocals and primitive drums! Crazed garage at its best! Still, rockin', but with a highly melodic lick is "Second Hand" that adds an interesting interlude in the middle as Gerry haggles with a French-speaking Swiss salesperson! The group throws in a couple of covers here: the fantastic "Leavin' Here", as well as the Gravedigger V's "Spooky", which is a super song, but does sound a little odd coming from anyone other than Leighton.

Their theme song is a dance craze titled "Do the Get Lost", a frantic number with an insistent groove and swinging guitar work. I don't know if "You're the One" is a cover or if it just sounds like it came off of one of the Pebbles albums, but either way, it's pretty freakin' excellent, with a chorus you can't help singing and another pulsating beat (Chris turned into a superb drum-master after splitting the Foot Foot Three in LA!). "MDMation" seems to be a drug-fueled hit with a ridiculously catchy guitar line weaving within the vocals and even more psychedelic is the closer, "Elevator", eliciting memories of the 13th Floor Elevators, unsurprisingly.

All around amazing LP! Don't know if it was ever released on CD, but regardless, any lover of great garage rock should own this! And don't miss Rob's new adventure, the Shit!

The Paul Butterfield Blues Band

This self-titled debut appeared in 1965, not long after some members of the band backed up Bob Dylan on his famous electric Newport Jazz Festival show. This, though, is pure Chicago blues, played by an interracial band featuring Butterfield on vocals and harp - one of the better white players to ever pick up the instrument (along with Magic Dick of the J.Geils Band) - Elvin Bishop and Mike Bloomfield on guitars, Jerome Arnold booming the bass, Sam Lay pounding the drums and Mark Naftalin on keys.

While most of the tunes are covers (or their adaptations of other songs) these cats still inject a wild passion and intensity to the proceedings and show their respect for their influences without overtly and slavishly copying them.

This is a damn solid rockin' blues album, filled with excellent playing and pure coolness. I know that many people say that their record East West is their best, but I frankly prefer the sounds included here. Get it and hear how good the blues can make you feel!

Monday, July 16, 2012

another childhood legend gone

Jon Lord has sadly passed away
Besides being a major contributor to the sound that was Deep Purple (and thus helping to create "heavy metal"), Jon was also part of the Mod scene in the ultra fab Artwoods.

Just about any rock keyboardist working today was influenced by his sound.

Another one gone way too soon.

Monday, July 09, 2012

Kill Your Idols - documentary

The NYC No Wave movement started in the early 80's as a reaction against - or an extension of - the punk rock sounds of the late 70's. Most - if not all - of the people involved in the newer scene were fans of the old bands but wanted to do something even more extreme and less traditional rock'n'roll - which, as much as some of the groups would protest, really was what punk rock was based on. No Wave could sometimes be pure noise, with little relation to music at all, much less r'n'r. Combos like the Contortion, Teenage Jesus & the Jerks, DNA, Theoretical Girl, etc. took the ideas of people like Suicide and expanded and expounded on them and created a short-lived, but intense underground scene.

But, while the original groups didn't last long, their legacy continued, inspiring the Swans, Sonic Youth and others in the 90's through the 2000's and spawning the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Black Dice, Liars and others that I had never heard of. Oddly - to me, at least - the filmmakers include Gogol Bordello in this mix of new acts and while I suppose they have some of the anarchistic spirit of the No Wavers, they are far more musical and even call upon earlier traditions than the original punks ever considered!

I like that the interviewers have the old talk about the new and vice versa, but after the initial burst of creativity in the 80's, this style is not all that appealing to me, and certainly not something that I tink anyone should aspire to decades later. I'm old fashioned enough to dig the power of the beat, so, as much as I dig noise, I want the primal, primitive sounds behind it.

Not the final word on any period of this sound but an interesting overview. Again, not something that I would buy, but I'm glad that Netflix has items like this to choose from.

Sex and Drugs and Rock'n'Roll - Ian Dury bio-pic

Stiff Records ruled the late 70's British "New Wave" scene with a line up that included such stalwarts as Elvis Costello, Nick Lowe, Larry Wallis and, of course, Ian Dury & The Blockheads. His debut album, which this movie got its title from, gave him several hits in England, though he never really made it in the States and I'm not sure if he even toured over here.

So, to me, a fairly unlikely subject for a bio-pic, but I've been a fan of his ultra-quirky tunes since the 70's and this popped up on Netflix, so we gave it a try.

The basic story seems to all be here - contracting polio as a child, getting married and having kids while slogging it out with unsuccessful, truly odd groups (think he must have been influenced by the Bonzo Dog Band and Captain Beefhart), splitting with his wife, eventually getting the Blockheads together and gaining enough popularity to overindulge somewhat. At the same time, he was in charge of his rebellious young son, who traveled with the group and was quite taken by their style and lifestyle - to the point where he is a singer himself today.

While the story is there, the movie never quite clicks for some reason - no fault of the actors or the tale, just something isn't there 100% - I think maybe the direction just didn't work for me on this project. So, I can't recommend it unreservedly, but if you have Netflix and are interested, it will give you some background on this wackily talented man.

Sunday, July 08, 2012

The Shit - Dingleberry Fields Forever

The Shit is the latest musical project from Rob Butler, who is, of course, the ex bassist for the fabulous Untold Fables and Miracle Workers, who then moved to Switzerland and formed the Get Lost with Workers' singer Gerry Mohr and current Jackets drummer Chris Rosales. He has remained active in the Swiss music scene since the demise of the GL but, as far as I know, this is his first release since then where he is not simply a sideman. Now that I think about it, this might be (re: pretty darn sure it is) his first release as the "leader" of the group.

As one would expect, this is appropriately garage-y with well-written tunes and Rob's twisted sense of humor in the forefront (as evidenced by the album title). Rob's on guitar and lead vocals this time out, along with some lap steel and vox organ, aided and abetted by Phillip Thoni on bass, Pit Lee Hertig on drums and Franz Hausammann on guitar. Produced by David Catching (ex of Eagles of Death Metal and innumerable LA bands) with plenty of guest stars, it never sounds overdone or over-crowded - this is pure, noisy garage r'n'r!

Fuzz bass blasts out of the speakers right from the start, followed by the proverbial pounding drums, cool guitar riffage and snarling vocals - as the kids say, this is The Shit! While overall, this is garage rock'n'roll, there is some variety here, with some slower bits, a little bit of country flavor (though the lap steel is used in the more garage settings, as well), some punk (Rob was an OC snot nosed punk rocker before he discovered garage - and after!), some sampling, and plenty of stoner humor!

If you know Rob & his previous bands, then you certainly will want and need this, as well! Currently only available in Europe, you can buy from Rob and can contact him via his Facebook page (he is also the owner/creator of Pantichrist Panties!). Get The Shit!

Sunday, July 01, 2012

The Heavy at the Cosmopolitan Book & Stage Saturday, June 30, 2012

The Heavy, along with Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings and Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears, are part of a new wave in soul, mixing sweet 70's sounds with modern influences such as rock and punk (Honeybears) and hip-hop & sampling (The Heavy). I know that there are some others that I have yet to discover but these three acts get terrific sounds and really know how to write a tune!

This venue is more than a little odd - a stage behind the bar at a sports book in an upscale Strip casino - not exactly my usual place for a rock'n'soul concert. But, the shows are free and they bring in some quality acts, so that makes up for a lot! Due to the location of the stage the group is separated from the audience unless you are standing to the side of the bandstand (as we were), though we were still a good 15-20 feet away. There is a walkway for the band that bisects the half-circle of the bar, but even when transversing that, the singer, Kelvin, still couldn't get more than 6-10 feet from anyone. He did come over to the side of the stage at times and even jumped into the audience to dance with the ladies (with the help of an extra long mic cord), but the distance was distracting.

The core of the band is guitar (Dan Taylor), bass (Spencer Page), drums (Chris Ellul) (who had to play behind plexiglass - I'm assuming this was to cut down the noise due to the proximity to the gambling area), along with Kelvin, though on this tour they are augmented by a keyboardist and a three-piece horn section (who also danced, sang and added percussion), which helps to recreate the sounds of the record, where they do rely on sampling and extra musicians. Everyone was top-notch and added to the sound and vibe of the performance. The set included tunes from their two current albums as well as some new material that they were saying should be out in the next few months. They promised that they will return to Vegas in the fall, so be sure to see 'em, wherever they appear!

Kelvin even came out after the set to talk with fans and was super nice and accommodating - I always appreciate when the acts appreciate the fans!