As is par for the course around here of late, I have been tardy in declaring my top gigs from 2011 (to go with my 2010 and 2009 lists):
#5 Foo Fighters and Tenacious D at Sydney Football Stadium, December 8 – simply because stadium rock was such a novelty (and because we were undercover for the persistent rain). Grohl and co certainly can work a crowd!
#4 Michelle Shocked at Joe’s Pub, New York City, May 29 – captivating dinner and show set up with Michelle revisiting The Texas Campfire Tapes and showcasing some new stuff in a hilarious fashion:
#3 Bright Eyes, Wild Flag & Superchunk Radio City Music Hall, New York City, March 8 – A spectacular show with great supports.
#2 Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears at Bowery Ballroom, New York City, March 26 – So much fun, such a big surprise. Sweaty and groovy and all that…
#1 Bettye Lavette at Cafe Carlyle, New York City, May 25 – this is one of the gigs of my life time. In a fancy piano bar with this compelling chanteuse but metres away. Her voice and emotion was compelling.
So what were your favourite live outings?
As I did this time last year, here’s my list of favourite gigs from the year that was 2010:
#5 Emiliana Torrini at the Forum, Melbourne, January 3 – the jungle-drum beating Icelander made me smile all night…
#4 Justin Townes Earle at Corner Hotel, Melbourne, April 16 – he didn’t blow me away as much as on debut in 2009, but his bluegrassy brilliance was still a joy
#3 Dinosaur Jr followed by Pavement at Golden Plains Festival, Meredith Amphitheatre, March 6 – it was a miserable festival weatherwise, but this pairing of acts on the first night gladdened my heart (also of note was the performance of Nashville Pussy the following afternoon)
#2 The Pixies at Festival Hall, Melbourne, March 19 – Playing the Doolittle album in order with a great visual show (perhaps to hide their increasing girth). Again, not as exciting as seeing them for the first time a couple of years ago, but still a great night.
#1 Pavement & Gersey at Palace, Melbourne, March 12 – a dream pairing and both acts were in stand out form. Made me feel a good 15 years younger…
March was certainly a great music month, while the rest of the year was less impressive.
What were your favourite live outings?
Where would the world of røck and röll müsic be without the trusty umlaut? Much heavy and death metal might never have happened.
Of course, the doubly umlauted lads of Hüsker Dü were not long-haired, lycraed up pose rockers, but they did reportedly add the umlauts in honour of the mark’s musical heritage.
Like many who arrived late on the scene, I fell for the Dü-esters because of that Don’t Want to Know if You Are Lonely track, which isn’t here. The vibe is, however, with buzz-heavy guitars, a cracking pace, and often-competing vocals.
I gave this album a couple of listens on a Friday afternoon, and it works perfectly as a energy-boosting, caffeine like jolt to the system. This is such a chronicle of how powerful, and at the same time melodic, various indie bands of the mid-t0late 80s could be (think REM, The Replacements, Dinosaur Jr).
Punk plus melody = these guys. Check out the title track (plus a later career goodie) – this is a band I wish I’d seen live (Bob Mould didn’t cut it 15+ years later):
File under: Not a bad moon in sight
I clearly need to listen to that Roosevelt Franklin album more closely as my alphabet seems a bit rusty. I skipped over a chunk of the FOs in my collection as I rushed to blues-soul-funk trifecta of my past three reviews.
I thus missed a very white boy – Lou Barlow of Dinosaur Jr/Sebadoh etc fame – and another of his dalliances. I threw this in the CD player well aware that it was lo-fi chicanery from the otherwise rocky Barlow.
What I’d forgotten about was how blatantly underwhelming this album is. It really sounds like a couple of blokes in the middle of writing some new tunes, but a couple of rooms away. There are little snatches of possibility amongst the dross. Barlow’s voice is still somewhat alluring, and one or two tracks (e.g. Had to find out) the guitar work hints at a hook.
But there is really not enough here to warrant listening again. And with the fourteen tunes only adding up to 22 or so minutes of listening pleasure you’ll feel very shortchanged.
File under: Look away now
So I sat listening to this third and final Dinosaur Jr album while in a hospital waiting room today. Why I was there is not particularly important (but fear not dear readers, I was not the ailing one, nor is the patient in question in any bad way).
It was amusing, however, was that said album opens with a very appropriately titled track – Feel The Pain. Said tune is a classic J. Mascis effort, with a killer (but simple) riff and languid vocal. In the spirit of the doctor-filled setting of this review, it also is one of the rare alt-rock classics to feature a golf-themed video clip (see below).
I’d forgotten how well this album opens, with the lovelorn I Don’t Think So second in the order. This masterful portrayal of masculine pain demonstrates how Mascis shares that finely-balanced of vulnerable yet axe-wielding and dirty-haired angle that Kurt Cobain portrayed so well.
To follow this with a track like Yeah Right which is a very frank description about an ambivalent relationship is brilliant sequencing.
The rest of the album is not as engaging, but still a nice contrast with the earlier two for the relatively sedate and measured sound.
Here’s that golf-cart flick:
File under: A sneaky treat
Fear not, I still have some more (!) DiFranco action, but here’s some rock’n’roll to appease my (and your?) restless soul.
Unlike on Bug, Dinosaur Jr launched this album out into a post-Nirvana world and on a major label. That’s sort of interesting in a historical sense, but what it means to the listener is very little.
All that really matters is that the production levels have skyrocketed, Lou Barlow has been kicked out of the band (and is now off Sebadohing), and we are really getting J Mascis is pretty much solo mode. So, that means loads of guitar work, and those lazy stoner vocals.
It all works pretty sweetly. This is a much for more public-friendly version of the band’s sounds, with no vocal histrionics to scar off the uninitiated . If anything the sound here is much closer to the more electric Neil Young-stuff (sorry, I’m far from an expert/fanboy in explained which part of his much-storied career).
Mascis has one of the voices that sucks me in, fractured and wavering over lyrics that sound profound even if they probably aren’t. This still feels like the soundtrack to some mid-90s film about useless, self-absorbed, pontificating slackers (folks that might be bloggers now?). And this tune would be over the opening credits:
File under: Going the right direction
Given the next Ani DiFranco album is another double, I’m skipping forward and grabbing one of the older and well-worn records in my collection.
I would have heard the Freak Scene single off this album in 1988 some time, and eventually found a vinyl copy of the associated album (this was before I owned a CD player).
I then spent many days immersed in the contrasting waves of screaming guitar and typically lazy/cosy vocals. This was when I really saw what guitar-based indie rock could be.
It has been a pleasure to dive back into this. Freak Scene is as catchy as ever, with J Mascis’ drawled vocals chronicling the slacker ethos beautifully.
The guitar work on this album was and is revelatory. If future humans (or aliens) want to know what could be done with those strange devices (and in particular the associated pedals) this album would be a great insight and showcase.
I saw a quote from the band noting that they were fans of death metal and the mid-80s Paisley Rock scene. That sums the sound up perfectly. The guitars wail and jangle in equal measure. Lou Barlow screams his lungs out on the closer (Don’t), yet at other times the vocals are classic indie-op (reminiscent of Smudge‘s Tom Morgan).
This is classic stuff that I’m in love with again. Relish this video:
File under: I’m buggin’!
Posted in D, On Vinyl
Tagged album, album review, CD review, Dinosaur Jr, J Mascis, Lou Barlow, music, music review, Smudge, Tom Morgan
The Cure occupy a curious spot in pop music history. They somehow retain pseudo-alternative credibility, while pumping out what is pretty mainstream New Romantic material.
Perhaps we were all distracted by the dishevelled persona of Robert Smith with his quirky mix of edginess and vulnerability.
Irrespective, this collection showcases their capacity to deliver hit after hit. The band did progress over their career, moving from a more synth-heavy approach (think Duran Duran or Japan) to more jangly, layered guitars (James or Wonderstuff).
At their best the band is hard to fault. Gems like Let’s Go To Bed, The Lovecats, Why Can’t I Be You and Close to Me are catchy as all hell, built around Smith’s hiccupy vocals, basslines worth wiggling to, and horn blasts screamed out for mouth-trumpet-alongs.
The standout track is the justifiably lauded Just Like Heaven. Of course, the Dinosaur Jr version topped the original, but you can see why J Mascis was inspired.
Speaking of inspiration, there is a certain music-geek-delight in discovering that the band’s Friday I’m in Love has become a big enough cultural icon to inspire its very own t-shirt. The song deserves it and your record collection deserves this this album.
File under: Good for what ails ya
Posted in C
Tagged album, album review, CD review, Dinosaur Jr, Duran Duran, J Mascis, James, Japan, music, music review, The Cure, Wonderstuff
Looking back at the list of reviews so far, I reckon Buffalo Tom are the third act thus far that I have owned a t-shirt in honour of. In fact, I have worn out two tees from this Boston trio. Both were purchased at gigs in the mid 90s, presumably when they toured albums 3 & 4.
It was album three that lured me (and many others) to this mob’s guitar-heavy indie-rock. I subsequently picked up this earlier work.
The debut reveals yet another band that was born pretty much fully-formed. The core sounds and approach are there for all to hear. Bill Janovitz’s voice is powerful and distinctive. The drums are pounding. The guitar buzzes and squeals in Dinosaur Jr-like majesty.
This last comparison is worth pursuing. J Mascis from said band produced this album. The guitar runs free on here perhaps more than on the band’s later works. The mix is a little dirtier too. Janovitz’s voice is the distinguishing characteristic – it lacks Mascis’ laconic drawl and is closer to Bob Mould’s (without the straining).
In the end what is lacking here is a killer single or two. The songwriting is still a bit weak and hackneyed.
File under: Nowhere near as ugly as the cover art