lisa Germano | SOUL ASYLUM | FISH IN A BARREL | Tapes ‘n Tapes
july 2006 | $2.95
“We’re really happy people...just normal guys.”
No place like the road
Cannes Film Festival | Raising a Mustache | Riddle of Steel tour diary | Minneapolis’ Walker Art Museum | The Hush Sound | The Living Blue
the sunderland lads return as big strong men
from the editor By the time you read this, the World Cup will be well on its way to being decided, it not outright settled. The U.S. will have recovered from its disastrous first game with a bit of redemption, although probably not advancement. We American soccer fans will be able to hold our heads high again because, hey, at least we went. And we didn’t finish dead last (remember 1998? Ouch). But you’re not reading PLAYBACK:stl to find out about soccer, are you? You want to know what’s hot in the world of music and entertainment...and we deliver (better than our starting 11, I tell you). From the cover story with the Futureheads, who return this month with the more mature News and Tributes, to the gaggle of profiles we’ve assembled, you’re gonna be on top of this summer’s must-hear list. Jeremy Goldmeier has a one-on-one with Editors and finds (surprise!) they’re so happy to have quit their day jobs. Cindy Gao talks with Tapes ‘n Tapes, the buzz band of this year’s SXSW, and finds them to be rather down-to-earth and, well, normal. Sean Moeller
also catches up with Champaign, Ill.’s super-hot Headlights; once you read his interview, you’ll want to catch them on tour this month. Finally, for anyone lucky enough to have tickets to the sold-out Panic! at the Disco/Dresden Dolls show, pay special attention to Brian Kenney’s feature on tour mates the Hush Sound. Oh, and did we mention idols yet? Kevin Renick’s deep and meaningful conversation with Lisa Germano sheds some light on her creative process and inspiration. And when Soul Asylum’s Dave Pirner called the PLAYBACK:stl offices looking for Jason Green, he was beside himself. Their engaging conversation is captured herein. We’ve got interviews with newer bands, too, including the Evangelicals (what with their warped sense of humor) and Monsters Are Waiting. And just because the members of the Living Blue are young doesn’t mean they haven’t been around the block a time or two; don’t miss our Take Five with them. Even the ferrets are getting into summer concert mode; don’t miss Carlos Ruiz’ talents on Elliot Goes (to say nothing of Pretentious Record Store Guy; admit it. You hide it from the boss at work but inside you can’t stop
laughing.) If, like me, you couldn’t get enough of Brendan Flaherty’s exploits with a stolen panda bear, you’ll want to read his experiences when good mustaches go bad. To bring you the world of art, this month Rudy Zapf takes us to Minneapolis and the Walker Art Center. And in Band on the Run, St. Louis prog-rock faves Riddle of Steel take us along on their tour of Europe. (Stonehenge, anyone?) Book editor Shandy Casteel’s picked out handful of releases from Perceval Press to highlight in Page by Page, while Panel Discussion finds Jason Green doing some investigative reporting of his own on CSI: Dying in the Gutters. You can also flip to Pete Timmermann’s review of the new Kevin Smith flick, Clerks 2, after which you’ll surely want to go online and read his interview with stars Jeff Anderson and Brian O’Halloran. We’re also chock-full of DVD reviews this month, plus the usual collection of CD reviews—cream of the crop for you, our readers. Stay cool with us! | Laura Hamlett 1
“If you’ve lost your faith in love or music, ah, the end won’t be long.” | The Libertines, “The Good Old Days”
a love letter Over the weekend I picked up a copy of PLAYBACK:stl at Crazy Bowls & Wraps. While I am not privy to the local music scene (my cell phone ringer is Barry Manilow’s “Copacabana,” if that’s any indication), your new layout looks great and I thoroughly enjoyed reading your articulate and entertaining magazine. Keep up the great work and congrats on your success! By the way, very few people know about that Copacabana thing so keep it under your hat. | Bob “Mr. Happy Crack” Kodner making dreams come true I am a 30-year-old lover of Rock’N’Roll and a longtime supporter of St. Louis music scene (as well as an avid PLAYBACK:stl reader). Although your coverage of the local scene is very thorough, I have been watching your magazine for one band in particular. Months back, just by chance, I stumbled into Off Broadway for some drinks and some Rock’N’Roll. I found myself pleasantly surprised by what I heard and saw onstage. The band was dressed to kill with a stage presence that rivaled Led Zeppelin. By far the best local band I have
seen in a long time. I don’t know if you have already heard them, but they are called Melody Grove & the Movement. They recently rocked the hell out of Mississippi Nights. I would like to hear more about this band and think St. Louis should as well. Thank you for your time and your publication. Keep up the great work! | Jamie Bulger (Rock Fan) Hmm...Jamie, I’ve got to say I’m quite suspicious about (a) your motives and (b) your true identity. Am I to believe it’s just a coincidence that your letter arrived after a somewhat heated e-mail exchange we had with a very member of that same band? An exchange that found said member proclaiming, “Rock and Roll magazines attend local shows because they want to know what is going on in their town musically and usually have a desire to pass that information on to their readers. We are Rock and Roll; we live it, we know it.” Besides, if you were truly an avid fan of PLAYBACK:stl, as you claim, you’d know our local coverage is anything but thorough. It’s not that we don’t love St. Louis and its musicians, because we do; it’s just that PLAYBACK:stl has grown from a St. Louis magazine into a national magazine based in St. Louis. Which is still pretty darn rock ’n’ roll, wouldn’t you say?
vol. 4, no. 7
Publisher Two Weasels Press LLC
MANAGING EDITOR Laura Hamlett
3 . . 5 6 Tapes ‘n Tapes 8 Editors 10 The Evangelicals 10 Monsters Are Waiting 11 Lisa Germano 13 Soul Asylum 14 Headlights 15 The Hush Sound 16 The Living Blue 17 Regina Spektor, AFI, Eric Anders, Alejandro Escovedo, Hot Chip, Miles of
ASSOCIATE EDITOR/ART DIRECTOR Jim Dunn
Wire, Oneida, Prototypes, The Raconteurs, Corinne Bailey Rae, The Rakes, Snow Patrol, Sonic Youth, Sound Team, Sufjan Stevens, The Streets, Global Underground 10, Graciously, a Gulf Relief Compilation
28 30 32 34 36 38 39
Eagles of Death Metal, Imogen Heap, Gomez Working With Professionals Cannes Film Festival
41 43 Conservative Leftovers 44 Cinema: Clerks II, Little Miss Sunshine, A Scanner Darkly 46 DVD: Acquired Taste, Kate Bush Under Review, Faith No More, Gorillaz, Let’s Rock Again!, Refused Are Fucking Dead
48 50 51 52 53 55 55 57 60
The Heart-Wrenching Saga That Is Raising a Mustache Childhood in Song
Pete Yorn, No River City, Robin Trower, Quintron and Miss Pussycat, The Roots Paul Stark | Chippewa Chapel
Creative Consultant Bruce Burton
Comics Editor Jason Green
Editorial Assistant Kimberly Faulhaber
Film Editor Pete Timmermann
COLOR COMMENTARY Jim Campbell
Contributing Illustrator Carlos Ruiz
Book Editor Shandy Casteel
Interns Jeremy Goldmeier, Katie Herring, Julia Rubin, Chris Schott
An Albatross, Frank Black, The Chapters, R. Luke DuBois, Fatboy Slim, David Ford, The Grates, Mason Jennings, Lansing-Dreiden, Cameron McGill & What Army, Murder by Death, Alexi Murdoch, Plumb, The Sammies
Editor-at-Large Kevin Renick
Live Music Editor Brian McClelland
The Rules of Engagement
Riddle of Steel
Contributing Editor Bryan A. Hollerbach
Contributing photographer Todd Owyoung Contributing Writers Greg Aubry, Katie Bordner, Jim Campbell, Shandy Casteel, J. Church, Thomas Crone, Nate Dewart, Jim Dunn, Andrew Elstner, Kimberly Faulhaber, Brendan Flaherty, Cindy Gao, Jeremy Goldmeier, Jason Green, Janelle Greenwood, Laura Hamlett, Ryan Hamlett, Mary Beth Hascall, Katie Herring, Bryan A. Hollerbach, Preston Jones, Brian Kenney, Byron Kerman, John Kujawski, Derek Lauer, Sarah Lenzini, David Lichius, Paul John Little, Danica Mathes, James McAnally, Brian McClelland, Bob McMahon, Sean Moeller, Greg O’Driscoll, Daniel O’Malley, Jim Ousley, Kevin Renick, Jeffrey Ricker, Tracy M. Rogers, Carlos Ruiz, Chris Schott, Randy Schwartz, Bradley Terebolo, Pete Timmermann, Anne Valente, Rudy Zapf Cover Photograph Courtesy Magnum PR Advertising Sales Jim Dunn | 314-630-6404 | email@example.com Distribution Two Weasels Press LLC PLAYBACK:stl is published monthly. Current circulation is 20,000.
Books From Perceval Press, Johnny Green, Ryan Nerz CSI: Dying in the Gutters, Astonishing X-Men, Wonderland #1, Conan #28, The Surrogates
© All content copyright PLAYBACK:stl 2006. No material may be reproduced without permission. For advertising rates and submission information, please check our Web site at www.playbackstl.com or send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Submit calendar information to email@example.com. Manuscripts for consideration must be typed and e-mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org. We want your feedback! Write to email@example.com. Subscriptions are available for $25/year (12 issues) prepaid and include a free T-shirt & CD. Send check or money order and T-shirt size to: PLAYBACK:stl | P.O. Box 9170 | St. Louis, Missouri 63117-0170 | 314-630-6404 ISSN 1559-6516 PRINTED IN CANADA
EDITORS’ VOCALIST TOM SMITH at the BLUE NOTE in COLUMBIA, MO | photo: JIM DUNN
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By Kimberly Faulhaber & Sarah Lenzini
Toke on the Water | If you’re looking for something to do on January 2, 2007, and you love extended bass solos, have we got a deal for you. Jam Cruise 5, a five-day journey on the MSC Opera, will set sail from Ft. Lauderdale early next year and feature performances by Derek Trucks Band, Drive-By Truckers, Greyboy Allstars, Deep Banana Blackout, and many others. You—yes, you—could have the opportunity to share awkward conversation in the buffet line with the flutist from Hot Buttered Rum (“Dude, that’s a shitload of cold cuts.” “True dat, Dude. Hand me the tongs?”). Life changing moments like this are well worth $1,000 to $2,200 a person, right? Although this year’s activities have yet to be revealed, past Jam Cruises have included sunset yoga, a Social Change Through Music panel, and stupid human tricks (peaceniks are so bendy!). We’ve got money on a Drive-By Truckers’ escape-by-dinghy on or before Day 2. We almost thought this floating festival could be a hoot until we viewed the “vibe preview” video of past cruises on the official Web site—sweet, fancy Moses. The bewildering, convulsive dancing. The heartfelt hugs. The ill-fitting tank tops—this is what our darkest nightmares look like. Oh Poseidon, won’t you call forth your mighty wave and wash these hippies clean? Anyhoo, you’ve only got six months left to sell enough pocket shrines and silvertone jewelry to reserve a cabin, so unfold that card table outside the farmer’s market and get to it. Oh, and there are no pets allowed (you’ll have to leave your five dogs at home) and a passport is required—good thing you got one that time you totally almost joined the Peace Corp. What Costello’s Dutch Opera Hath Wrought | Unsatisfied with boring listeners in the musical traditions of the 20th and 21st centuries, Sting is branching out to further anesthetize his fans with the music of 16th century composer John Dowland. (Don’t pretend to know who that is. No one believes you.) Sting’s next album, due in October, has been self-deemed “strange,” “delightful,” and intriguing to all. (We deem it “cutout-bin-tastic.”) “The album is voice and lute, there are a few four-part harmonies that I sing, and it’s all music from the 16th century.” Score! Finally someone has stepped up to fulfill the desperate need in popular music for lute virtuosity. In keeping with this trend of mining ancient history for album concepts, we expect Bryan Adams’ Caveman Tunes (Arrgh) and Norah Jones’ Rats! Croonin’ ’Bout the Black Death sometime in 2007. Only time will tell if Sting will whip out the lute (ahem) during his
Another celebrity noodling on his flying V at Planet Hollywood? Oh no, dear friends, Steven Seagal is the real-fucking-deal. While we’ve been pissing away our days mocking the Chili Peppers’ comeback and working on our math-rock side project, this man has toured the world to promote his upcoming album, Mojo Priest. Well, OK, he played one date in Japan and one in L.A. The album features the tracks “Alligator Ass” and “Talk to My Ass” (what can we say? The man loves asses), and is being shipped to FIAB headquarters, posthaste. In the interim, we’re going to kick back with a can of Steven Seagal’s Lightning Bolt™ Energy Drink (starting with “Cherry Charge” flavor, then transitioning to “Asian Experience”) and enjoy the wait. European tour this summer. Albarn Hates Some More, Attains FIAB Idolatory™ Status | We love us some Damon Albarn. The Blur and Gorillaz frontman can always be relied on for slightly incoherent vitriol, usually aimed at his Brit-rock contemporaries. While we took exception to his proposed campaign to rid the world of Pete Doherty— Awesome English Dude™ heir-to-the-throne (reigning king: either Gallagher brother) and wearer of natty hats—we were more than willing to overlook our differences when Albarn launched repeated attacks on Live 8, calling the effort off-target and “imperious.” And now he’s after Radiohead’s elaborate live shows: “[Y]ou’ve got this developing humanist thing that’s coming out of you, which is great. Then you’re creating these massive impersonal events where you set up as the subject of thousands of people’s adoration. Where is the humanity in that? That’s just idolatory [sic, we think? Is this one of those fake British words? If so, shouldn’t it contain at least one “u”?].” Now, some people might wonder if Damon should be so critical of ridiculously expensive, stadium-only tours while he plans the Gorillaz’ holographic, digitally displayed, 3-D, two-years-in-the-making 2007 world tour. Not us, though. We’re just happy to hear someone else say mean things about
mousy Thom Yorke & friends. Oh Damon, you had us at “imperious.” Bono: Equal Opportunity Exasperator | It’s been far too long, FIAB readers—it’s time to return to our roots, get back to basics, reflect on why we’re all here. We’ve neglected the Fly as of late—mocking him had become too easy, too cliché. For cricket’s sake—Blender has taken to gently ribbing him, and those pantywaists still toss the Black Eyed Peas’ salad on a regular basis. However, recent events demand notice. While kicking back at a bar in Mali during a trip to campaign for African aid, Bono saw fit to jump on stage with a band performing archetypal African chant songs, grab the mic, and add his own lyrics. We bet he thought he’d get the crowd pretty jazzed, but—shocker!—they were unacquainted with the honky in tinted shades and his vast catalog of politically themed anthems. We’d sell our souls to see the glances exchanged after he tossed off a goodnight wave and retired to the Mali Four Seasons. After saving Africa again (will you people please pull it together? He’s only one man!), Bono returned to Europe to pursue his other favorite pastime: making insincere, gushy appearances in biographical documentaries (we’ve been introduced to a plethora of his “greatest influences,” including Eminem, New Order, Kylie Minogue, Morrissey, “Cowboy” Jack Clement, Roy Orbison, Woody Guthrie, Lead Belly, Abba, and Patti Smith). In Leonard Cohen: I’m Your Man, Bono waxes poetic about the impact Cohen had on his songwriting (yeah, yeah, yeah—we had the Natural Born Killers soundtrack, too) and dubs him “the original rapper.” Ah, sweet Bono, whether you’re simultaneously stealing hip-hop from the black community and misunderstanding Cohen’s contributions to music and poetry, or faking your way through a tribal chant in front of stunned locals, we believe your true legacy is providing FIAB with respectable column-filler in a month dominated by news of American Idol and Ashlee Simpson’s new nose. And we thank you. | The above are the opinions of Fish in a Barrel, and not necessarily those of the editors of PLAYBACK:stl. Just the funny ones. And the ones who can’t decide which is more exciting: the Strokes’ sure-to-be soul-tastic cover of Marvin Gaye’s “Mercy Mercy Me” featuring Eddie Vedder and Josh Homme (together at last!), or Diamond David Lee Roth’s upcoming album of bluegrass renderings of Van Halen classics (please find his recent Leno appearance on YouTube
. . . Compiled by Shandy Casteel
Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke is not only releasing his solo record, The Eraser, on July 10, but is scheduled to appear on IFC Network’s The Henry Rollins Show July 15 to promote the record and chat with the former Black Flag frontman. Blowoff, the moniker for a monthly DJ party at Washington D.C.’s 9:30 Club and the collaboration of Bob Mould and Richard Morel, is set to release a self-titled debut album September 5, under the auspices of the duo’s own Full Frequency Music label, with a tour most likely to kick off at some point later in the year. After just one release on the label, the Ataris are leaving Columbia Records. This move leaves any plans for the band’s new record, Welcome to the Night, up in the air at the moment. A message posted on the band’s MySpace blog read: “As you know, So Long Astoria sold nearly a million records, following the tremendous indie success of our previous albums. Normally, a label like Columbia would not honor a million-selling band’s request to leave the label. Fortunately for us, the people granting our request were, in fact, leaving Columbia themselves.” The Mars Volta and Trent Reznor are both making appearances on hip hop star El-P’s upcoming new album, I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead. Reznor contributed to the song “Flyentology,” while the Mars Volta track has yet to be named. Metalcore act As Cities Burn is calling it quits after four years together. A member of the Solid State Records roster, the band will headline some July and August shows before finishing up at the House of Blues in New Orleans on August 19. Doves are taking a break from live performance for the rest of the year while they hit the studio to record their fourth album. Slayer, currently headlining their Unholy Alliance tour, has pushed back the release of their first new album since 2001 from July 25 to August 8. The new record, Christ Illusion, will also mark a return to the band’s original lineup of Jeff Hanneman and Kerry King on guitars, Tom Araya on bass and vocals, and Dave Lombardo on drums, for the first time since 1990’s Seasons in the Abyss. Suzanne Vega has signed a deal with Blue Note and is tentatively set to debut on the label with a release next spring. The record will be a follow-up to the 2001 album Songs in Red and Gray, which was Vega’s last with A&M, a label the singer/songwriter has been with since 1984.
SUZANNE VEGA the go-betweens’ grant mclennan (front) wolf parade
Bob Dylan is also putting out his first new album in five years. Modern Times is slated for an August 28 release. Even on the heels of strong album sales, the Dixie Chicks are finding the road a tougher terrain. Still reviled by many country fans for the band’s 2003 appearance in London where singer Natalie Maines told the audience the group was “ashamed” President Bush was from their home state of Texas, ticket sales for live dates are sporadic at best, forcing the act to cut back on arena configurations and sizes. The Crane Wife, the newest release from the Decemberists, is due October 3, and will be the band’s first since jumping ship from Kill Rock Stars to Capitol. Country singer Loretta Lynn was forced to cancel a handful of shows set for June and July after she broke her shoulder in a fall at her home, and was scheduled to have replacement surgery. After 45 years of competing, Finland finally came out on top of the Eurovision Song Contest. The win by GWAR-lite rock group Lordi came after the band scored a recordsetting number of points for their lively performance of “Hard Rock Hallelujah.” On July 8, Sonic Youth is performing a free show at a secret Los Angeles venue for a limited number of fans who purchased the band’s new album, Rather Ripped, from area
record stores. The group is also set to play several late summer shows with the Flaming Lips that will begin August 24 in St. Paul and wrap up September 3 in Boston. The Strokes have recorded a cover of Marvin Gaye’s “Mercy Mercy Me” as the B-side for the “You Only Live Once” single. Scheduled for a mid-July release, the song features Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder sharing vocals with Strokes frontman Julian Casablancas and Queens of the Stone Age’s Josh Homme joining the Strokes’ Fabrizio Moretti on drums. Rob Zombie is giving new life to Michael Myers and the Halloween franchise by writing and directing a new chapter for the long-running series. Zombie will also act as a producer and a music supervisor on the film, which is conveniently penciled in for an October 2007 release. Wolf Parade and Frog Eyes are joining forces for some North American tour dates later this summer, and will kick things off on August 4 in Ottawa, Ontario. Spencer Krug, Wolf Parade’s vocalist/keyboardist, will be playing both sets, having ended his extended break from Frog Eyes when he rejoined the band earlier in the year. Hot on the heels of their successful new album, Eyes Open, Snow Patrol has been forced to postpone the rest of its North American tour. Singer Gary Lightbody needs the time to recover from polyps on his vocal cords. Concerts will be rescheduled in September. The Grateful Dead’s last keyboard player, Vince Welnick, died on June 2 at the age of 55. Welnick was also a veteran of bands such as the Tubes and Missing Man Formation. Billy Preston, the keyboard player, singer, and songwriter frequently referred to as “the fifth Beatle,” died on June 6 in Scottsdale, Ariz., from respiratory complications. Preston had also toured and recorded with the Rolling Stones, in addition to working with the everyone from Aretha Franklin to Bob Dylan over the years, and scoring major hits with his own work: “Outta Space,” “Will It Go Round in Circles,” and “Nothing From Nothing.” Novelist Gilbert Sorrentino died at the age of 77 of cancer May 18 in his Brooklyn, N.Y., home. Sorrentino, who the New York Times once said “has long been one of our most intelligent and daring writers,” authored more than 20 books of poetry and fiction, and was best known for his critically acclaimed Mulligan Stew.
AVERAGE JOES TAPES ‘N TAPES | By Cindy Gao
ou’ve probably heard of Tapes ‘n Tapes before, most likely on a music blog or a Web site. Maybe you downloaded their most buzzed-about track, “Insistor”; maybe not. Perhaps you dismissed them as another overrated product of the hype machine that is the music press. But where 2004’s the Arcade Fire were made up of artsy Canadian fucks, and 2005’s Clap Your Hands Say Yeah were made up of artsy New York City fucks, 2006’s biggest Internet buzz band is refreshingly…normal. Hell, they’re from Minneapolis. It doesn’t get much more normal than that. On paper, Tapes ‘n Tapes’ debut album The Loon sounds like everything else that’s out there right now. I don’t know about the rest of you, but Pavement and Pixies comparisons don’t exactly excite me the 50th time around. But as my wise Latin teacher would say, “What
you do, you do well,” and there’s no other way to say it: These guys do music well. Bright and urgent guitars mix with frontman Josh Grier’s wonderfully terrible voice for an upbeat sound that belies a sense of melancholy hidden just beneath the surface. As I mention my observations to Grier about the album, he describes the environment that The Loon was born out of. “A lot of the songs were written while I was living in a dirty studio apartment by myself. I’d never lived on my own before.” He pauses. “You might find some darker places there.” Poorly lit areas aside, The Loon is also home to some deliciously obtuse lyrics. “It’s weird,” he admits. “I think, unless there’s a particular point to the song, like I’m trying to tell a story, the words usually just serve as sounds. Then I’ll try to match words to sounds and try to
make it so that it lyrically doesn’t detract from the song.” When I ask Grier about the line, “I’ve been a better lover than your mother,” taken from the excellent “Cowbell,” he laughs. “We were playing and it just came out, and we were like, oh man let’s keep that; it’s pretty dirty.” But while music is important and all, let’s be honest here: There are more factors than just sound in determining the next big thing. What makes Tapes ‘n Tapes so appealing is their normalcy. These are not Lower East Side hipsters, make no mistake. An inquiry about the band’s current tour leads us to a recounting of Grier’s brush with two drug users, and he does so with such glee and bewilderment that it’s downright endearing. “I was out in the van. After five minutes, I hear this noise and were these two dudes smoking crack outside!”
JUly 2006 JULY
He chuckles before adding, “We don’t see that a lot.” So when I ask about Grier’s musical tastes during his formative years, it’s fitting, somehow, that his favorite artist as a child was Bruce Springsteen, the ultimate everyman. “When I was about four or five, my parents had to teach me how to use a record player because I wanted to listen to Born in the USA over and over again.”
“WE WERE PLAYING AND IT JUST CAME OUT, AND WE WERE LIKE, OH MAN, LET’S KEEP THAT; IT’S PRETTY DIRTY.”
Josh Grier, Jeremy Hanson, Matt Kretzmann, and Erik Appelwick | photo: cameron wittig
editors ESCAPING THE WORKROOM | By Jeremy Goldmeier
ou’ll find bassist Russell Leetch hulking menacingly in the background of most of the Editors’ press photos. Perhaps standing alongside his diminutive rhythm section partner Ed Lay makes him seem larger than he actually is. Still, with his close-cropped haircut and sturdy build, Leetch gives every impression of being an incredibly tough customer, like a longshoreman who somehow found his way into one of the United Kingdom’s hottest new rock acts. In person, however, Leetch effectively undoes any misconceptions that an ignorant young rock journalist might have formed based on promotional snapshots alone. He’s affable, accommodating, and animated, fueled by the excitement of being part of a band that’s just beginning to crest in prowess and popularity. But just as Leetch’s appearance belies his personality, fans and the rock press alike often mistake his band’s grimly elegant sound as signifying a group of four young men in dire need of some sunlight and a Prozac prescription. “We’re really happy people,” says Leetch, sounding almost worried that anyone might think otherwise. “Just normal guys.” Part of the Editors’ appeal is indeed a certain everyman factor. The United Kingdom loves an underdog story just as much as the folks here in the States, and the music press across the pond has championed the Editors as a classic example of how to pay one’s dues and find immediate success, all without the benefits of a well-oiled hype machine. “We’ve never been shoved in the people’s faces,” Leetch says, “so people do discover our music quite organically.” The Editors discovered each other by chance, at Staffordshire University. They all majored in music technology, which is of course a breeding ground for bands, thinly PHOTO: Jill Furmanovsky
veiled as a field of study. Possessing similar musical tastes (including a shared adoration for Elbow and the Strokes), the foursome began the process of gelling as a unit and sharpening its chops. As early as graduation, the group’s output had begun to attract label interest, including a few ardent advances from the majors. Encouraged by this promising start to its career, Leetch says that the group decided to “give it a crack,” and in autumn of 2003 relocated to Birmingham, where their management team was located. It was a homecoming of sorts for Leetch, who was born some 20 minutes outside of Birmingham. The return proved to be less than ideal, however. The band’s members had to start grinding out a living while continuing to rehearse together, working what Leetch lovingly refers to as “crap jobs.” Leetch drew the “mind-numbing” gig of a call center drone. After a year-and-a-half term of imprisonment amongst the working undead, one can speculate that the desperation and bleakness of the situation played no small role in molding the songs that would become the band’s platinum-selling debut, The Back Room. “Munich,” one of the singles that helped to catapult the band atop the U.K. charts, is shot full of the kind of anxiety that only a wage slave could fully comprehend. From the onset, the song craves to burst forth from its moors, with Chris Urbanowicz’s guitar line careening wildly up and down, while Lay’s hi-hat works overtime just to keep up. Sure, frontman Tom Smith
sounds like he’s singing about the frailty of the human condition with the central line, “People are fragile things you should know by now/be careful what you put them through,” but isn’t he really just railing against the indignities of working a dead-end job for peanuts? With songs like these, it’s easy to see why the Editors had a sizable portion of the record industry at their beck and call during the ceremonial label-artist courtship period. Ultimately, however, the group opted for the independent label Kitchenware, signing on in September 2004. “The people that we chose were the ones who were the most friendly to us and got what we were about, so that’s why we signed to Kitchenware,” says Leetch. Those who have kept their ears to the ground here in the United States might have heard some of the rumblings as the Editors conquered their homeland through a string of hit singles and incessant touring. Be warned: They’ve now set their sights on our fair nation, and fired the first major salvo of their American campaign with a string of dates this past spring. And yes, there is a follow-up record in the offing, with some early appetizers from it beginning to trickle into the group’s live setlist. Though there’s always a redoubled pressure for a hotshot young band to reproduce its early success on album #2, Leetch views the sophomore squeeze as a healthy motivator. “I think a little pressure is good because you want to make [the new album] better than the last one. We’re hungry for our music to get better and be more successful with our music.” Whatever the band produces next, don’t expect it to conform snuggly to expectations. The Editors have a nasty habit of defying those things.
the evangelicals SAVED? | By Jeremy Goldmeier
Go ahead, throw all of your Christian puns out at the Evangelicals. Chances are, they’ve heard them all before. “They’re on a crusade to spread the gospel of Oklahoma’s indie scene to the masses!” “They’ll convert any nonbeliever who dares oppose them!” To engage in this silliness, however, is to miss the point. “The term ‘evangelical’ isn’t an inherently Christian word,” explains the band’s singer/ guitarist, Josh Jones. “It just means anyone who is zealous or enthusiastic about a cause, and I supposed you could say we are zealous and enthusiastic about music and life.” This exuberance shows in the band’s winsome pop stylings, which have drawn the inevitable comparisons to Norman, Okla.’s favorite graduates, the Flaming Lips and the Starlight Mints. Jones, however, prefers to describe his group’s sound as “grindcore meets Wizard of Oz,” hard and galloping but with a candycoated exterior. The less-than-divine inspiration to form a band came after Jones did a few days behind bars on what he calls a bogus burglary charge. “It kind of put things into perspective,” says Jones of the incident. “I can either go around getting arrested…or try and write some
music and not be a burden on society.” Now resolved to rock for a (somewhat) higher cause, Jones teamed with the rhythm
I CAN EITHER GO AROUND GETTING ARRESTED…OR TRY AND WRITE SOME MUSIC AND NOT BE A BURDEN ON SOCIETY.
section of Kyle Davis (bass/keys) and Austin Stephens (drums) to form his new project. Signing aboard Misra Records of Austin, Tex., the group gained exposure with a slew of gigs at SXSW ’06. In the sweetest of ironies, the band then released its debut, So Gone, on 6/6/06, our anti–Lord and Savior’s birthday. Now comes the sometimes hellish process of promoting the new record. “There’s a bunch of stuff we need to do,”
monsters are waiting PATIENTLY | By Katie Herring Pop quiz: You have heard Monsters Are Waiting if you: (a) watch angst-y teen melodramas such as One Tree Hill, (b) frequent concerts by acts such as She Wants Revenge and Boy Least Likely To, (c) constantly scan MySpace for new bands, or (d) have great taste in music. The answer, of course, is (e) all of the above. The music of Monsters Are Waiting, whose debut album Fascinations was released last
month, was prominently featured during one of One Tree Hill’s notorious makeout scenes. The band hails from Echo Park, Calif., and consists of Annalee Fery (vocals/keys), Andrew Clark (bass/guitar), Jonathan Siebels (guitar/ bass), and Eric Gardner (drums). They came together quite accidentally, explains Fery, when the guys heard some songs that she had written. “They were like, ‘Let’s just play together,’ so we just started
playing and we just kept playing,” she says with a laugh. “We just couldn’t stop.” During our telephone conversation, she is full of insight and modesty, with a hint of self deprecation, especially when it came to her keyboarding skills. “I don’t even think I know how to play the keyboard that well,” she says, laughing. “It’s the moron kind of playing…I want to actually take a class and learn how to play the piano really well. It seems like a nice challenge.” Don’t believe her for a second though, for Monsters Are Waiting’s debut disc is superb, with bass-driven tempos and sultry melodies. They will be hitting the big time in no time. Not that it’s all about fame or fortune. Professes Fery, “We really just want to make music and have fun doing it. Not worry about anything else. Whatever comes comes. Just take it day by day.” Spoken like a true soonto-be rock star.
“THEY WERE LIKE, ‘LET’S JUST PLAY TOGETHER,’ SO WE JUST STARTED PLAYING AND WE JUST KEPT PLAYING,” SHE SAYS WITH A LAUGH. “WE JUST COULDN’T STOP.” PHOTO: geoff moore
lisa germano definitely back in the maybe world | By Kevin Renick
ome singer/songwriters do it by the book. They release albums filled with ear-friendly melodies, sing-along choruses, and immaculately produced tunes suitable for car commercials or teen movie soundtracks. But Lisa Germano epitomizes another breed of singer/songwriter, the kind that creates emotionally raw, deeply personal art for listeners seeking cathartic release. The enigmatic Germano was last heard on 2003’s scarily intense Lullaby for Liquid Pig, which contained some of the most nakedly vulnerable moments ever recorded. Fans wondered if the artist planned to call it a day after laying her demons so bare. “I never know,” said Germano, reached by phone during press for her new album In the Maybe World. “Music comes to me when I need it. It’s very stomachachy. My stomach says, ‘You’re gonna write something right now.’ It’s a very emotional thing to express that feeling. I’ve learned to always have a tape player available or a pad of paper. Because when it comes, it’s a gift and you need to write it down, ’cause it’ll leave. After Lullaby, I did hit kind of a downer. It was yet another record that took so much to finish and to realize.” Germano’s uneven career trajectory began with playing violin for fellow Hoosier John Mellencamp, starting with 1987’s Lonesome Jubilee. 1991’s On the Way Down From the Moon Palace marked her debut as a solo act, but hardly made her a household name. Neither did the Capitol Records set Happiness two years later. Germano fared better after signing with 4AD. Several of her releases there—Inconsiderate Bitch, Geek the Girl (praised as one of the best albums of the ’90s by Spin), and Excerpts From a Love Circus— helped Germano gain a cult following. But low sales eventually led being dropped, and the subsequent Lullaby for Liquid Pig had the misfortune of being released on a short-lived Internet label called Ineffable. Germano’s gotten used to rickety career wheels. “A record company goes out of business or a manager leaves. Something I didn’t do! I mean, I’m ready to tour, I show up.” She laughs when asked if she feels cursed. “No, these are things I’m supposed to learn. In the Maybe World offers a fresh helping of Germano’s patented breathy, sharp-edged vocals, atmospheric keyboards, and evocative lyrics. The beautiful “Too Much Space” has a Sondheim-esque melodicism that tugs at
your heartstrings with its piercing melancholy. “Moon in Hell” is vintage Germano, with sparse guitar and trickles of keyboard underscoring the somber lyrics: Few artists have such a remarkable ability to convey intimacy— and make the listener feel she completely understands and empathizes with their most painful moments. “The songs I record, they aren’t just about me,” said Germano. “When I write a song, one way I know it should be in the world is that I just start crying. It’s like, ‘Oh, other people feel like this; how sad.’ I can distance myself from it—I don’t even think it’s about me. When it reaches people, it reaches them personally. They don’t listen and go, ‘Oh, that poor girl.’ Mostly they’re taking it in, identifying with whatever emotion is happening.” One assumes such introspective music earns Germano a fair share of impassioned responses. “Yeah, I’ve had people after shows cry, or tell me it helps them to know somebody else is out there saying this. When I get letters, very few say, ‘Hey baby, rock on!’ My letters are like, ‘I can’t thank you enough.’” Certainly Liquid Pig helped this writer battle unsettling health problems in late 2002. And Germano appreciates that kind of impact from her work. “You have to be so self-focused and keep working in this business. I sometimes think I’m just being very selfish, not doing anything for the world, you know? I think of quitting, not from bitterness but because I wanna do something. So it just takes one person telling me something like what you said, and I’ll go, ‘All right! It’s good!’” On Maybe World, there’s the slightest sense of, if not optimism, something approaching greater clarity. The songs aren’t as filled with darkness/disturbing portent as previous work. “Liquid Pig is all about questions. Like, ‘Is this my problem? Or somebody else’s problem that they’re putting on me? Am I sick, am I weird?’ It was a whole record of questions. On this one, there’s a few questions, but it’s more about looking at life and death and going, wow,
maybe there are different ways to think.” Some big names have responded to Germano’s work—people who have hired her for sessions or toured with her. A partial list includes David Bowie, Neil Finn, Simple Minds, and Sheryl Crow. She also collaborated on OP8, an interesting project with Giant Sand and Calexico. What inspiration do such artists provide? “It’s all about energy. You learn that from working with other people. Probably the highest thing for me was working with Neil. We did this thing in New Zealand that was great, ’cause I met Johnny Marr, who’s like the most vibrant spirit in the world.” The legendary Smiths guitarist played on Germano’s previous album and returns for two songs on her new record. “The more you work with really great people, the less ego is involved. You learn a lot about yourself and your life. Then you take that to the music.” Germano’s style is unique: She sings everything like a painful secret, shifting the emphasis at will from bitterness to humor to shiver-inducing poignancy. Arrangements underscore themes perfectly via a “flickering” effect, where minimal guitars or fuzzy, echoey keyboards evoke either nostalgia for something irrevocably lost, or an emotional borderland between the seductive dream state and the clammy grasp of reality. There’s both childlike fragility and weary self-disclosure. The music’s often beautiful, though with a level of emotional intensity uncomfortable for some. But Germano sounds reenergized by her new label. “Absolutely. It’s almost like, until you put the record out there, nobody knows you’re around anymore. The hardest thing is just trying to make a living, keep doing it. I want to, but the way things have changed in the business, I literally can’t make a living at it. I have no ideas right now. It’s the first time I’ve put a record out without having another one I’m at least thinking about.” In the Maybe World (Young God Records) drops July 18.
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stand up and be strong soul asylum | By Jason Green
very kid who picks up a broom and plays air guitar has a dream that probably looks a lot like the career of Soul Asylum. Formed by three high school friends in 1981, the band created a cult following in their native Minneapolis through a series of breakneck punk rock records on the indie label Twin/Tone. Honing their songcraft over the course of five albums, the band rode the early ’90s alternative revolution to superstardom on 1992’s Grave Dancers Union, the doubleplatinum album that spawned an omnipresent single (“Runaway Train”) and led to Grammy Awards and dates with movie stars. Soul
“Comfortable” is a good way to describe an album that finds Soul Asylum settled, reveling in their classic-rock influence as never before. Though often pigeonholed as ’90s alt-rock, The Silver Lining is a collection of utterly timeless rock, packed with Dan Murphy’s soaring guitar solos and Pirner’s epic, melodic choruses, bursting right out of the gate with its opening track, the anthemic, positively Springsteen-ian “Stand Up and Be Strong.” Says Pirner, “In a lot of ways, the new record embraces every element that the band has managed to touch on. If it sounds like a departure from our last record, parts of it
Gear Daddies, and, together for the first time in 16 years, Hüsker Dü’s Bob Mould and Grant Hart. “To see people come out like that for Karl was stunning,” Pirner remembers. “It had a lot of positive emotion. And everybody sounded so good, too. It seemed almost like time was standing still or hadn’t passed as much as it had. Suddenly, for one night, everybody was united.” Sadly, Mueller passed away at his home on June 17, 2005. Much of the recording already finished, The Silver Lining was completed with the only person who could ever suitably fill in for Mueller: Tommy Stinson, ex-Replacements bassist and the band’s longtime friend. “It was
IN A LOT OF WAYS, THE NEW RECORD EMBRACES EVERY ELEMENT THAT THE BAND HAS MANAGED TO TOUCH ON.
Asylum released two more albums and then, surprisingly, went silent. “We sort of hit a wall,” singer/guitarist Dave Pirner says of the time following 1998’s Candy From a Stranger. “The band had reached a point where we just needed to take a break. And that’s what we did.” Now, eight years later, the band finally returns with The Silver Lining, out this month on Columbia/Legacy. “We took our time to get this record together,” Pirner explains, “because there wasn’t a real pressing demand for it. We didn’t want to just keep on cranking out records for the sake of cranking ‘em out. It just took a while to get it right.” In the downtime between albums, Pirner released a soul-influenced solo album, 2002’s Faces and Names. “It was kind of a relief to return to form,” Pirner says of the new album. “[The solo album is] what I had to do in order to miss it. I sort of painted myself into a corner with the whole loud, loud, loud guitar thing. So actually coming back to it was great—the way I equated it was like putting on a comfortable pair of jeans.” PHOTO: brian garrity
sound like a return to things that happened a long time ago. We always hoped not to fit into a niche or try to appease a certain aesthetic.” The mood was tense during the recording of The Silver Lining due to the illness of bassist and founding member Karl Mueller, diagnosed with throat cancer in May 2004. Mueller, Pirner, Murphy, and drummer Michael Bland entered the studio determined to finish. “There was a real urgency to make it happen and a lot of that had to do with this looming fear about Karl’s health,” Pirner remembers. “At the same time, there was a never a moment where I actually thought he wasn’t going to make it. So there’s a real strong element of hope and faith going on there where you just have to believe he was going to pull through. It never had crossed my mind that he wouldn’t survive.” The following October, a massive benefit concert was planned to pay for Mueller’s medical treatment. A celebration of both Mueller and Minneapolis, the concert featured Soul Asylum and such Twin Cities favorites as the Replacements’ Paul Westerberg, the reunited
very important to [Mueller] that the record came out,” Pirner reminisces. “He was elated when the band got the record deal that we have. Those things were his life. He lived to rock; he loved being in a band. He was such a big spirit of the whole thing. It affected the project in all the right ways when he was there, because he was there. I don’t have a day that passes when I don’t think about him.” Despite the hardships, Pirner is confident that the band will be sticking around. “The attitude is that it appears like it’s some sort of return. We didn’t really go anywhere,” Pirner concludes. “We’ve always said once it stops being fun, we’re not going to do it anymore, and I think for a minute there that it stopped being fun. I think that continuing without Karl is still very daunting. Adversity has always been a part of the game. It’s never been easy, it’s always been a struggle, but it’s been a struggle we’ve come to embrace and we’ll keep making music as long as people let us.” | Check out the full interview online at www. playbackstl.com.
headlights fight for respect | By Sean Moeller
oderation? What the fuck is moderation? It’s the answer you’d get from Champaign, Ill., band Headlights, a trio so invested in keeping itself on the road—a minor form of self-mutilation—that it’s even talked itself into thinking that there’s no place like it. This belief would make the decorative pillows and cross-stitchery of all the pat adages about home skewed to the Willie Nelson sort of thinking. This is a group that bleeds for the tour van, cries when it’s idle, and still seems to put more into it than it needs to. In fact, it hasn’t even released a full-length album yet. Lead singers Tristan Wraight and Erin Fein and drummer Brett Sanderson have been running their tires bald since November, playing behind the Polyvinyl Records release of The Enemies EP—an album that barely gives a hint of the record that they’ve readied for August—and a recently dropped seven-inch split with Most Serene Republic. The three old friends played 150 shows behind the EP, including a 72-show, two-and-a-half month, and one-bar-fight tour that tested everything they had in them. “There were moments where we were terrified of being completely exhausted,” Wraight said, not surprisingly from the road. He and Fein were driving to New York for his cousin’s wedding. Driving was the last thing he wanted to do at the time, but it’s something he’s come to accept. “We were worrying about coming home, not having any shows to play and working at our jobs. They aren’t bad jobs…but— wait, fuck it; they’re bad. No one likes working at a grocery store or working for a landlord. [Sanderson] and I are handymen and paint rollers. We’re duct tape handymen for a landlord. PHOTO: elise mcauley
“We were out for a really long time and we just wanted to come home so we could recuperate and write some new songs. We’re not going to do much for the next couple of months, so when the full-length comes out, we can be out as long as our bodies hold up. To be honest, the whole time we were out, it was all pretty much awesome.” All except for the brouhaha that erupted in an Akron, Ohio, bar following a set. Just the thought of Wraight, Fein, and Sanderson being capable of throwing down and getting into the faces of an incorrigible bunch of punks seems abnormal. Their music—best heard on the forthcoming Kill Them With Kindness (also the name of the last Jealous Sound album)—is graceful and stunning, calling to mind the best traits of Rainer Maria in a way that makes them more like a pleasing abomination of Beulah and former Polyvinyl underdogs/ now Sundance Film Festival young guns Volcano I’m Still Excited!! They’re more rabbits and lap cats than bears and badgers. They’d lick you to death, but shouting matches and confrontation would not flatter them. “We got into a huge bar brawl with a punk band in Akron,” Wraight said. “It was a really obnoxious punk band and they were as bad at their instruments as they were at being human beings. They were on stage talking shit about us and telling us to go fuck ourselves. In hindsight, it was pretty hilarious, but I got really mad and I called them out. All’s well that ends well. We still got paid. The club owner told us, ‘Sorry we put you on a bill with them.’ It was a pretty ugly situation. When we came out
to our van after the show, we had beer bottle dings all over our van.” All of the touring taught the two-year-old band—a conglomerate of former members of Absinthe Blind and Maserati—that having a soft indie rock pedigree and the combination to the vault of sweet harmony don’t necessarily mean you’re winning over the paying club customers. “Every show brings a new set of challenges. When you play every night, you really get to concentrate and focus on all your bits and pieces. The more perspective you have on your songs, the better. Often, when you’re not playing shows, you write songs that are mellower or convoluted,” Wraight said. “I’ve lear ned that I like songs that are fun to play live. When you’re a band that no one knows, it’s easier to sell a show that’s upbeat. If you play a really morose set, it can be really boring. You don’t want to play a set where you can hear people yelling at the bartender over it. We write all kinds of music, and we hope to play all kinds of music soon.” The new album should make that easier. It’s already garnering some positive reviews from all of those faceless bloggers out there, loving it for its impeccable pop sensibilities and its dozen tracks—“Owl Eyes” and “Lions” will be two of the best songs you’ll hear all year—that sound like mini-fireworks. “There are so many different moments in there,” Wraight said. “Most of what I hear is a real excitement for what we’re doing. I think we’re all very much in love with this record.”
the hush sound keen observers of the observed | By Brian Kenney
h, to be young again. The careless, carefree summer after your senior year in high school. Those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer. You might spend some time at the lake. Spend some time at the family cottage. Avoid working that summer job. You might spend your college savings. Or, if you’re Greta Salpeter (piano, guitar, and vocals for the Hush Sound), you go on tour with Panic! at the Disco and Dresden Dolls. (What did she do during the last semester of her senior year? An arena tour with Chicago’s favorite flavor, Fall Out Boy.) And most of Salpeter’s bandmates—guitarist, vocalist, and fellow songwriter Bob Morris, drummer Darren Wilson, and bassist Chris Faller—aren’t old enough to have a beer in the very venues they sell out. Ah yes, to be young, and with a history. Morris and Salpeter met in high school, sort of: He was in tenth grade and she in seventh. Morris, who formed his first band when he was 12, recognized the genius in the classically trained piano prodigy Salpeter and formed the Hush in the cold Chicago winter of 2004–05. Immediately compatible, they wrote countless songs together as an acoustic guitar/ piano–driven duo—a stripped-down version of what the Hush Sound would become. Many of those early tunes would end up on their debut, So Sudden. Fearing fallout by an Eminem wannabe Detroit rapper who expressed ownership over the name “Hush,” Morris and Salpeter added “Sound” to their moniker, also adding drummer Wilson and bassist Faller, and soon after recorded the folksy, indie, artsy So Sudden. “We recorded [So Sudden] for like $2,000 and it was a first impression of everything we liked.” Morris admits. “It’s an awesome representation of where we were.” At times, So Sudden shows a sophomoric Hush Sound, an album that lacks the glue that polished pieces are known for. Yet, isn’t that what defines an indie release? The disc is sometimes self-conscious of its own emotions, as calculable as that kid who rips his own jeans rather than letting them fray with their own wear and tear. At other times, it’s eloquent, intelligent, and satirical beyond its own comprehension. But it’s never predictable.
“With So Sudden, we were all over the place and people complained, so we were like…” Morris trails off, self editing with critical caution. Echoing Death Cab for Cutie, Hot Hot Heat, and Ben Kweller, So Sudden is an approachable collective: articulate, decisive, definitive, at times witty. “Some say the songs are good and catchy,” Morris concedes. “But catchy and good don’t always mean the same thing.” While their debut offered expressions that volleyed between introspective and extroverted lyrics (which might surprise the listener when you consider their age), 2006’s Like Vines finds the Hush Sound continuing to see the world as a bigger place outside of their immediate glance, far and away from the prefrontal lobe reactions that preoccupy twentysomethings in a postmodern world. All the world’s indeed a stage and they revel in the comfort and employment as keen observers of life’s little ironies. “Structurally the disc is more intelligent, and in some respects this is our first disc,” Morris acknowledges. “It’s a great counterpoint to So Sudden. We’re still all over the place but in different ways. We never want to write the same song twice.” The band was inspired to artistic peaks by the production team of producer Sean O’Keefe and co-producer Patrick Stump of Fall Out Boy—whose bandmate Pete Wentz signed the Hush Sound to his Fueled by Ramen, Decaydance label based on the net buzz of So Sudden—and Like Vines, similar to its predecessor, had a learning curve. Yet Morris & Co. approached this learning curve with vigor and zeal, producing satisfying results. “With this
one we spent a little more time in the studio. [The production team] was teaching us things about our playing that we [hadn’t been introduced to].” Lead single “We Intertwined,” Morris declares, is “probably the poppiest. But it’s a good way to introduce ourselves and a good way to introduce the album.” The follow-up
“Wine Red” possesses the melodic sensibilities and harmonic capabilities of Smashing Pumpkins minus the self-depreciating sonic drowsiness. Like Vines is expressive but not swarthy, and plays out like an impressionist’s dream with tactile and olfactory nuggets painting imagery-laden landscapes. It’s a hyperactive auditory companion to the works of Gauguin, Toulouse-Lautrec, and Mondrian. While the entire band is accomplished enough to take on singing and songwriting duties, Hush Sound is clearly a marriage between Morris and Salpeter, who seemed to split custody on So Sudden to such an extent that it rivals Kramer v. Kramer for the most dramatic of all divorce proceedings. Kidding aside, we want this marriage (between all members) to last, and Like Vines shows a settlement and an anniversary of sorts, a Hush Sound evolving and maturing further into its compatibility in its wise-beyond-its-years sound.
the living blue some kind of oddball | By Laura Hamlett On their latest offering, Fire, Blood, Water, the four young members of Champaign, Ill.’s the Living Blue—Stephen Ucherek (vocals/ guitars), Joe Prokop (guitars), Mark Schroder (drums), and Andrew Davidson (bass guitar)—sound wise beyond their years. The disc—their third, and the first on Minty Fresh Records—is an incredibly fresh and diverse offering, incorporating a variety of sounds and influences into a high-energy, pop-indie-punk shell. The diversity and talent are appreciated, as evidenced not only by the band’s consistently growing fan base, but also by upcoming tours with Dressy Bessy and Headlights. We caught up with Ucherek on the road.
Which singers most influenced your sound? Tom Verlaine from Television. I like him a lot; he kind of wails and I love his lyrics. More recently, Ian McCulloch from Echo and the Bunnymen. Early on, Mick Jagger, that snarling over the blues rift. I’m into phrasing, taking two words and working them into a rift or something with a little bit of style or swagger. That’s why I like Mick Jagger; that’s what he would do. Instead of just singing a line, he
would work in into a groove. On certain songs on the CD, you sound as though you’re British. That’s what everyone says. And that was a shock; we’ve never gotten that on any of the other records. I think it was my attack and the phrasing of the songs. That, and I have this overbite. That’s my explanation. What was it like working with producer Adam Schmitt? He is great to work with; he is a Nazi and a real stickler in the studio. He really digs into the stuff. But at this point in our career, with him at the helm, we can guarantee it will sound great; he can translate for us pretty well. There was a lot of energy with the last record; we cut like 14 songs in five days. Do you read reviews of the album? Even the negative ones? We read them all; we’re critical people ourselves. I don’t think people know what to think of us here in the States, or especially in the Midwest. I think a lot of times, in this day and age, [it’s hard] if you’re not 18 years old and playing hipster rock or Americana or whatever. It’s not like, “Here’s another emo band on Victory Records.” We are on Minty
PHOTO: chris strong
Fresh, which is this oddball label, and we are kind of oddball. What’s next for the Living Blue? Meeting new people, playing, and the whole adventure of it; I like traveling and getting it done. It gets lonely, but we get through it. It builds character. We are going to tour like mad into late summer and all through fall. And keep pushing this record. In the meantime, between this tour and that, we are going to make our next record. We are crossing our fingers that our label will keep us, because they are going to Japan right now, and Australia.
regina spektor begin to hope (sire) Regina Spektor’s debut, Soviet Kitsch, was an odd, exciting bird. Aggressively quirky and unwilling to wrap even the most pop of compositions in comforting familriyl: Fiona Apple, Tori Amos iarity, it heralded the arrival of a new-school songstress capable of competing with beautiful weirdoes such as Tori Amos, Fiona Apple, and Kate Bush. So bracing was the avant-garde angularity of Soviet Kitsch that to hear “Fidelity,” the opening track of Spektor’s bracing sophomore effort Begin to Hope, approach normalcy is so startling that you wonder if her debut wasn’t just to shake loose the fad-hungry. Those put off by discovering that the propulsive single “Us” was an anomaly within the context of Soviet Kitsch should dive headfirst into the surprisingly accessible Begin to Hope. Spektor, for the most part, sheds her arty exterior, revealing an achingly raw singer/ songwriter who (gasp!) is more old-fashioned than she’d have you believe. “Fidelity” gives way to “Better,” which could easily be a forgotten radio hit from the mid-’90s, a straightforward declaration of love that shows Spektor able to dial down the vocal affectations and deliver a sweetly hard-edged performance that will have you reaching for the repeat button. The soaring “Samson” is breathtaking in its unadorned beauty, laying bare Spektor’s range and heretofore partly obscured talent at wringing pathos out of stark, evocative verses. I could go on and on about the delights of every track, so rich and rewarding are the songs included here: “On
the Radio” is a poperatic piece of work, while “Field Below” is a bluesy left turn that serves as the gateway to the album’s more experimental second half. Produced by the unlikely choice of David Kahne (I can’t say as I would’ve thought to put the knob-twiddler for Sugar Ray in the same studio as Spektor), Begin to Hope has the faint gloss of Top 40, but not so much that it distracts from the occasionally brutal beauty of Spektor’s singular vision. Begin to Hope is truth in advertising: One hopes that Spektor’s profile will be dramatically raised with this latest release, and those once burned will be rewarded with one of the year’s most compelling records. | Preston Jones afi decemberunderground (interscope) This is my rifle. There are many like it but this one is mine. And this is my anger, my sadness, my inadequacy. They’re also mine, and by wearing them on my sleeve I might riyl: Love Equals Death, Suicidal become strong, Tendencies, The Circle Jerks accepted, safe. Such is the mantra behind the current wave of punk and emo-rock bands, leagues apart from the generation of feral street punks that birthed the genre. With their wide-eyed yearning and outright pleas for acceptance, the new breed look like they could fall to a stiff wind. Leading the charge is the mainstream cross-over AFI (an acronym that stands for “A Fire Inside”). Last we checked in with the band, they were burning up MTV2 with their genre-hopping breakthrough Sing the Sorrow. Still a high point of 2003, the perfectly balanced album managed to pack the band’s essence into each
track, creating long-form solidarity of a dozen disparate energies ranging from Bay Area punk, goth, new wave, even a touch of thrash metal. Singer Davey Havok looked the part with his full-sleeve tattoos and pierced lip, though the latest incarnation sports a lopsided bob that bears a notable resemblance to schoolyard bully Dolph from The Simpsons. It’s hard to separate the music from the fashion, since this is a band so obsessed with their (highly romanticized) expression of authenticity and individuality. Decemberunderground continues the band’s move toward ’80s modern-rock influences like the Mission U.K. and Love and Rockets, though the album adds a new stylistic touchstone from the ’80s to the fold: pop metal. Songs such as “Summer Shudder” and “Love Like Winter” resurrect that Winger melody you thought you’d buried in the late ’80s, along with Stephen King’s hard-drinking alter ego. The album’s arrangements aren’t as intricate as Sing the Sorrow, though the slick veneer is in abundance from start to finish. Ultimately, each track is packed with so many hooky sounds, creative ideas, and propulsive rhythms that you find yourself wishing they’d pick one and let it germinate for at least a whole verse. The single “Miss Misery” is the album’s singular highpoint, a tightly wound corker that carries the rollicking energy of a modernrock crossover like you haven’t heard since Green Day last stormed the charts. The gothglam stomp becomes memorable despite its soporific refrain of, ”Hey Miss Murder, can I make beauty stay if I take my life?” Like the single, many of the songs revolve around a safe and sanitized vision of suicide, while “The Killing Lights” ultimately sets Havok’s existential ambivalence against vintage New Order–meets-Cure guitars with the albumcontinued on page 18
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defining lyric, “Am I beautiful, am I usable?” Decemberunderground is a highly creative work, maybe as much as its predecessor, though notably more derivative and ultimately less enduring. Where Sing the Sorrow’s that CD you already own yet look for on the used racks so you can marvel at the diamonds people throw away, Decemberunderground will be the one you actually find. It’s disarming, entertaining and compulsively listenable. But once you break the rhythm and put it down, it might be down for good. | Randy Schwartz
eric anders tethered to the ground (baggage room) This is a big, quiet album. By that, I mean the music is laid back, richly woven, contemplative, and inviting. The vocals are hushed, gentle, whisperstrong. And the lyrics? They’re provided (of course), and they’re the riyl: David Bazan, Iron & Wine foundation of Eric Anders’ creation, snapshots of the not-sonice, the inequity, the unhappy, the worse off. The album’s title came from a review of J.M. Coetzee’s novel Elizabeth Costello, quoted on the booklet: “...disabused of the fantasies devised by the mind, [Coetzee’s characters] arrive at a truth that is modest, humble, tethered to the ground.” Heavy stuff, indeed. But if you can wrap your mind around its desolate concepts without contemplating that straightedge in your medicine cabinet, you’re in for a real treat. This, friends, is what that whole singer-songwriter
movement is all about: one man with a vision, a unique voice, solid instrumentation, and words that can—and will—open your eyes. Without a doubt, the awe-inspiring highlight on Tethered to the Ground—Anders’ third full-length release—is his reworking of the Violent Femmes’ classic, “Blister in the Sun.” It’s got the blessing of Gordon Gano himself, as Anders rewrote some of the lyrics (for example, “We’re high as a kite/I just might/stop and check you out” has become “From high as a kite/now we might/stop and just check out”). But stripped down, low-key, bleak, with Anders’ honeysmooth voice lamenting his loss, it’s perfection in a pair of headphones. There are 12 additional Anders-penned tracks to complete the offering, including opener “Big World Abide.” With its slow groove and carefully plucked guitars, it conveys the sound of eyes opening for the first time, taking it all in. Anders voice is bedtimestory smooth and rich as he sings a fairytale gone wrong: “From the big world we’ll ever hide/Not abide/Say goodnight.” With its catchy, slow groove, “Earth Rise” has a more wide open, Western feel to it, opening to the expanse of the scenery as music and vocals rise to ask, “Is there anything but this ride?” “The higher the climbin’/the harder the fall,” murmurs Anders to kick off the anti-Bush “Looking Forward to Your Fall.” Brushes on drums lend a tightly controlled jazz feel to the track, which grows in volume and intensity on the refrain. There’s a nice dip into falsetto on “These People,” while the smooth “So Wrong” keeps politics atop the list of injustices. “Don’t believe it/Nothing there for you/They’ll just keep singing their false patriot songs,” Anders sings, backing his own words before being joined for the chorus by Anna-Lynne Williams (of Trespassers William). On “Truth Be Told,” Anders’ voice seems tired, stretched, thin as he admits, “I’ve hollowed out myself.” Tethered to the Ground is bedtime music for adults, realists, thinkers. Nah, scratch that; it’s a damn fine album for anyone who expects to be challenged while entertained. Expect the world, I always say. | Laura Hamlett alejandro escovedo the boxing mirror (back porch) Alejandro Escovedo’s The Boxing Mirror, the first new album in more than four years from the singer-songwriter once hailed by No Depression magazine at the close of the ’90s as its “Artist of the Decade,” is somewhat disappointing. It would riyl: Lucinda Williams, Calexico, not have been Los Lobos unreasonable for listeners to expect that the underappreciated Tex-Mex rocker and producer John Cale might
err on the side of the turgid, given the latter musician’s penchant for experimentation and the former’s unabashed idolatry of the latter. But this album’s biggest sticking point is its flat production and frequently unexciting midtempo grooves. The sound that is most out of the ordinary here is the glass harmonica that opens the album, but its crystalline swirl is immediately followed by the rest of “Arizona,” a murky number that wouldn’t sound out of place on one of John Hiatt’s least impressive swamp-rock records. The Boxing Mirror is an album that takes its time getting to know itself; it’s perhaps a result of this that it ends up being a terribly uneven listen, its strong songs cluttering the second side while the first is pocked by misfires. “Dear Head on the Wall,” for example, loses points for having first appeared on the several-years-old Por Vida benefit disc, and it loses a few more for paling in comparison to guitarist Charlie Sexton’s earlier recorded version. Its chunky bass string section here forms an interesting, if unchanging, rhythm that all but drowns out Escovedo’s guitar. “Looking for Love,” a strictly by-the-numbers AOR exercise complete with banal lyrics and embarrassing synthetic backing, sounds like a relic from the ’80s that would’ve stood to benefit from remaining a forgotten artifact. Fortunately, The Boxing Mirror rallies at the midway point, beginning with the gorgeous ballad “The Ladder.” A honey-toned Tejano waltz coaxed to life by acoustic guitar and accordion, its lyric offers sparkling romantic imagery, making it far and away the album’s finest song. “Break This Time” is a sturdy rocker in the tradition of such Escovedo classics as “Velvet Guitar” and “Paradise,” and could even be said to recall the singer’s work in the ’70s with his band Rank and File. “Died a Little Today” owes much to Escovedo’s recent battles with illness and mounting debt, but it is also speaks of death in a less than literal sense, suggesting perhaps that although we may indeed die a little each day, we also continue to adapt to new circumstances and ultimately find new ways in which to persevere. Another new-old song, “Sacramento & Polk” (which also appeared on Por Vida as well as Escovedo’s 1999 LP Bourbonitis Blues), serves as an unexpected highlight, transformed here into a fiery rocker that shares little in common with any of its previous incarnations. continued on page 20
otis gibbs, cameron mcgill, & tim easton perform at the 2005 midwest music summit | photo by jim dunn
August 24, 7pm â€” 3am Historic Soulard Pubs, Bands, Romance... Dating Just Got Really Interesting
$15 in Advance/$20 Day of Event Tickets Available at www.metrotix.com All participants qualify for a romantic at Mike Shannonâ€™s and the Adams Mark Hotel.
Play by Play It’s all streetwise snarl, worn and drug-addled, distorted but not defeated. You might say the same about the man who wrote it. | Paul John Little
hot chip the warning (emi/astralwerks) How to please a music reviewer, Tip #11: Put three great songs in a row near the beginning of the record, and make sure the second half of the record is at least fairly consistent. British electro-soul outfit Hot Chip don’t know me, of course, but they followed my advice riyl: Pet Shop Boys, Blur, LCD on their sophoSoundsystem more release The Warning. This is a thoroughly listenable platter in which most of the kicks come early, indeed. “And I Was a Boy From School” engages the ears with a propulsive rhythm and multitracked male vocals an octave apart (always an effective trick, kids!); there’s also a nice bit of shimmering synth near the end. Singer Alexis Taylor has a nifty little way of doing a call-andresponse all by himself, as in this track’s “I got lost/He said this was the way back” chorus. “Colours” then proceeds to set a record for repeating that word probably the most times ever in a song, but in a thoroughly beguiling manner. The rhythm is infectious, there’s a kind of twittering-bird synth that graces the latter part of the song (in fact, electronics whiz Joe Goddard has a propensity for coming up with effective pings, buzzes, and whirs that enliven almost every track), and once again the vocals are a delight. “I’m everything a girl could need/There’s nothing in this heart but me/If everything you want is free,” Taylor sings, and just when you’re sorry to see this perky tune come to an apparent end, surprise—it keeps going. Nice! “Over and Over” completes this fantastic trio of ace tracks with a kick-ass rhythm, some effective guitar distortion, and a bit of lyrical straightforwardness that is so spot-on, it’s inspiring: “The joy of repetition really is in here.” Thanks, guys, we can tell that from the way you milk every catchy element of your sound for all it’s worth. “Tchaparian” is an enjoyable enough song that alternates between two different melodic elements, but the other real classics here are the luminous ballad “Look After Me,” which Taylor sings with exceptional warmth over a George Martin–style arrangement; “Arrest Yourself,” which is electro-peppy pop that once again illustrates the benefit of repeating
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a cool phrase; and the intoxicating closer “No Fit Stage,” a bright, multitextured tune that you never want to end. “I’m in no fit state/I’m in no fit shape,” goes the chorus over and over, with Taylor filling in things like “to drink out of your cup” or “to act a fool in love” to illustrate what he thinks he’s in no shape for. I don’t know, guys—on the evidence of this smart, chic little platter, I’d say you’re in perfectly fine shape not only to broaden your audience, but to add to the creative dialogue regarding what makes great modern electronic pop. The Warning makes itself heard loud and clear on that score. | Kevin Renick miles of wire can you feel it? (self-released) Maybe I’m just prejudiced. But the moment I hear another whiskey-scarred voice singing about the bottle, and marital difficulties, and getting laid backstage...well, I recoil just a bit. Raphael Maurice of Miles of Wire is another such voice, but, as he riyl: Early Wilco, The Walkmen, implores on his The Replacements band’s sophomore album, “take me as I am.” I’ll do my best, sir. Although this St. Louis group’s breed of hardrocking Americana might not be my favorite musical subgenre, they succeed on their own terms, which should be far more important to fans than this outsider’s opinion. The negatives first: Maurice is treading well-worn lyrical ground here, which is no crime in and of itself. Although he leans heavily on references to alcohol abuse—and routinely follows each of these with a “she-doneme-wrong” chaser—it’s important to note that these themes are enduring in rock music for a reason. They still resonate with a great number of listeners. But if a singer makes these overly familiar topics his stock and trade, he’d best find an interesting way of expressing them. It’s a thin line between being affectingly direct in one’s lyrics and just plain generic, and Maurice unfortunately falls on the latter side too often. Take “Catholic Boys,” which at nearly seven minutes should serve as the album’s emotional centerpiece. However, irksome couplets that pair “take me to court” with “child support” and “year” with “too much beer” hopelessly mar a story that could have sounded a lot more interesting. Still, to continue to harp on the frontman, Maurice really does have a great voice for these songs. His hoarse drawl lends a crucial
credibility to his compositions. While I’m not sure how much of Maurice’s material is autobiographical, when he roars the hook of “Frustrating Mess,” I feel the rage boiling up from beneath each syllable. According to Miles of Wire’s Web site, Maurice presented his bandmates with skeletal acoustic compositions, and the group developed them from there. That might explain why the rest of the band rarely intrudes upon Maurice’s spotlight. The rhythm section of Randall Eickmeyer (bass) and Adam Anglin (drums) provides solid support, but never takes on a standout role in any of the arrangements. Guitarist Shawn T. Bell, meanwhile, contributes a selection of tones sympathetic to Maurice’s lyrics. He pulls out a spiky riff for the barnstorming pop of “Funny Feeling,” sparks a brief diversion into light reggae on “Belleville, IL,” and adds some gently rolling waves to wash over “What the Ocean Said.” But in the end, these instrumental touches are all mere ornamentations for the heart of the songs, which ultimately brings us back to Maurice. Miles of Wire’s lead singer still seems to be working out his own lyrical voice, at times hiding behind trite expressions or goofy throwaway numbers like “Big Dick Rocker.” When he focuses his abilities, he produces ragged gems like “I Am a Cigarette,” which delivers a poignant tale of a man inheriting his grandfather’s legacy of failure. The song is not overly complex in its construction, nor does it need to be. When Maurice’s voice cracks over the song’s title as the track climaxes, that’s all that needs to be said. It’s intensely personal, emotionally raw moments like this that the band should aim for on future releases. | Jeremy Goldmeier oneida happy new year (jagjaguwar/brah) Never content to stay in one place too long, Brooklyn’s Oneida have developed a welldeserved reputation for continuous experimentation. Also, for the most part, Oneida is not going to be accused of making the same the same album twice. Since unloading riyl: Trans Am, Modest Mouse their debut LP in 1997, Oneida have followed up with a staggering six full-length releases, along with an additional seven EPs. With Happy New Year, these Brooklynites up the LP count to eight in the course of nine years. continued on page 22
otis gibbs, cameron mcgill, & tim easton perform at the 2005 midwest music summit | photo by jim dunn
September 8 ~ 10 The 5th Annual
Madahoochi EarthSol Vitamen A Bottoms Up Blues Gang Rodney Branigan Horshack Pikn Likn Anna Roland Johnny Fox Fab Foehners East End Girls Heather Barth Meancat Monday Auset Plum Tucker The Elements Defined Perception Escape Wake Up Report
Music & Peace Festival At Bearcat Getaway on The Black River Camping for a Cause, Music on Two Stages, Artist Caravan, Silent Auction, Raffle, Vending, Kidâ€™s Tent, Awareness Walk, The Black Riverâ€Ś and lots of Fun in the Sun!
Benefiting The Center for Women In Transition & Restorative Justice www.tocofestival.com
Play by Play
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Described as a testament to the ever-changing landscape of their home base and of their own musical evolution, Happy New Year is self-described as “a record to mark the end of an era in Brooklyn music and to celebrate the rebirth of idealism in a harsh climate of profiteering.” Featuring several guest musicians, including the newly christened Oneidian Phil Manley (Fucking Champs, Trans Am), HNY picks up in the terms of quality where 2005’s The Wedding left off. However, this time around, Oneida presents tunes that are more cohesive in style, resulting in a far less schizophrenic record. Opening with the monotonous harmonization of “Distress,” Oneida quickly shifts into their genre-defying mish mash—think psychedelic krautrock as an approximation—with the album’s title track. However, the album does not pick up steam until “The Adversary” and the disc’s killer seven-minute centerpiece “Up With People.” It should come as no surprise, especially with Manley as a guest musician, that both cuts have an uncanny resemblance to Trans Am. After the subsequent “History’s Great Navigators” and its subtle MiddleEastern flavor, HNY’s tempo slows rapidly with five rather low-key numbers. With the exception of “You Can Never Tell,” the remainder of Happy New Year, while not as memorable and catchy as its first half, is sturdy nonetheless. Oneida’s new disc doesn’t quite reach the emotive qualities of The Wedding, though it’s an excellent addition to the band’s expansive catalog. | David Lichius prototypes prototypes (minty fresh) Bands that choose to sing in a language other than English often have a hard time breaking through commercially, at least in the United States. So it’ll be interesting to see what happens to Prototypes, a zippy little French electronic-rock trio with more than enough going for them to perk up some ears on these shores. prototypes
Their self-titled stateside debut is about the danciest, sexiest little thing to come out in ages, and if you have any trouble at all with Isabel Le Doussal’s sassy but precise riyl: Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Elastica, French vocals Plastic Bertrand (most won’t), just try resisting the wildly energetic, jumpedup riffs and rhythms conjured by her bandmates Stephane Bodin and Francois Marche. Prototypes have already had a top-ten single in France, and it’s likely that clubgoers over here will soon learn what is already known in the underground clubs of Europe: These kids have got it, baby. The infectious chorus of “Je Ne Te Connais Pas” (which is mostly “yeah, yeah, yeah” sung repeatedly) lets you know right away you’re about to get a good dose of pure pop for maintenant persons. “Tir Aux Pigeons” offers ultra-cool synthesized percussion and Le Doussal’s liquidysmooth enunciation, rounding out the flavoring with some taut, lively electric guitar. “Melodie, mon cherie!” Le Doussal shouts by way of kicking off one of many straight-up dance romps here, in this case the irresistible “Medicalement.” If this tune were played in any small urban club in America, at least half the patrons would likely get out there and start shakin’ it. On most of these songs, like the peerless “Gentleman,” the sound is a gleaming wonder to behold. Instruments snap, crackle, and pop; multiple rhythmic elements compete for your attention (like the finger-snap percussion that kicks in several times on this tune). And the vocals overflow with zesty allure; they’re tres bon, whether you understand them or not. Although very few tracks are weak enough to skip, some are so fine that they deserve special mention. “Dis Moi” begins with a unique two-beat mechanical sound that’s a real grabber, before completely erasing your resistance with an urgent vocal, a potent rhythm, and some delightful little retro keyboard passages. The aptly titled “Sexy” is just catchy as hell, and inexplicably features the band singing in English on the chorus. And the oddly titled “06 60 92 92” is so deliriously good, it can barely contain its own gleeful energy. The rhythm track is unstoppable, and there’s an extra little quirky electronic flourish that keeps recurring, adding musical interest to a sound that’s clearly not content to merely be dance rock. And that’s the secret to Prototypes: Yes, they want you to move, but they also want
to tickle your ears and keep you coming back for more. This is party music supreme, and although Prototypes didn’t invent this sound, they blend the retro and the modern with more pure style and joie de vivre than any band in ages, French or otherwise. | Kevin Renick the raconteurs broken boy soldiers (xl) Remember all that frothing-at-the-mouth Pitchfork prerelease buzz you heard last month comparing the debut record from Jack White and Brendan Benson’s new supergroup with a certain breakthrough Nirvana record? Well, nevermind. While riyl: Fountains of Wayne, Led the Raconteurs is Zeppelin, Foghat a fabulous idea— these two veteran Detroit scenesters (since relocated to Nashville) have an obvious talent for collaboration—Broken Boy Soldiers can’t help sounding like exactly what it is: a stellar yet frustratingly uneven collection of first-draft tunes smashingly recorded by two old friends who just happen to be masters of the Perfect Pop Song™. For all the talk (and magazine covers) touting the Raconteurs as “Jack White’s new band,” the album feels much closer to Benson’s previous work. In the Joe Jackson basslinecribbing skinny-tie first single, “Steady as She Goes,” it’s easy to mistake White’s lead vocal turn for Benson—like many fans, until I came across “Steady”’s dreary performance video, I had no idea that White could quite possibly out-Benson Benson. Although Benson sticks to what he does best on the bouncing rocker “Hands”—a gem that would have fit nicely on his 2005 release, The Alternative to Love—it’s when White joins in for the chorus’s huge Revolverworthy four-part harmony that the collaboration finally starts feeling like a band, and the song really soars. White steers clear of Benson’s pop terrain with two dark standouts: the (almost) title track “Broken Boy Soldier” and the smoky sizzling blues closing number “Blue Vein.” The former showcases a new level of brilliant weirdness from White, yelping “the boy never gets older” and “I’m done ripping myself off” like a helium-smacked Robert Plant (or perhaps an evil Munchkin) in a wicked groove reminiscent of Zeppelin’s “Four Sticks.” The thankless task of being two not-quitecontinued on page 24
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Play by Play as-super parts of a four-man supergroup falls to bassist Jack Lawrence and drummer Patrick Keeler of Ohio garage-rocking critical darlings the Greenhorns—the same rhythm section White employed last year for his critically acclaimed Loretta Lynn collaboration. While drummer Keeler’s one misstep is a big ’un— nearly drowning the album’s sweetest pop song, “Yellow Sun,” in drum patter so strident and busy that it robs this otherwise the gorgeous tune of subtlety and nuance—he easily redeems himself on the remaining nine tracks, revealing a knack for loose and propulsive rhythms in a diverse variety of musical styles, most notably on the thundering “Broken Boy Soldier.” Minus a couple under-produced/-written/sung tunes—the meandering, chorus-free “Call It a Day” crawls to the finish line with nary a payoff in sight, and the purposefully obnoxious production on “Yellow Sun” renders the vocals nearly inaudible at times— what you have left is a tasty sneak preview EP of what could potentially turn into the coolest combo to rock the pop scene since hookers ’n’ blow. | Brian McClelland
corinne bailey rae corinne bailey rae (emi) You can’t swing a piano bench these days without hitting the next up-and-coming twentysomething chanteuse; from Holly Brook to Katie Melua to Rachael Yamagata, the age of youthful singer/songriyl: Marvin Gaye, Jill Scott writers is in full, VH-1– hyped bloom. While it’s a pleasant palate cleanser and a welcome change of pace from mewling emo and thudding, brainless sludge-
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rock, there’s an inherent danger in this explosion of female talent: the law of diminishing returns. U n f o r t u n a t e l y, many, if not all, of these spry performers begin to sound alike after awhile—if you’ve heard one lilting chorus, you’ve heard ’em all. So rare, then, is the young woman who can break from the pack, leaving an impression beyond an initial listen. British import Corinne Bailey Rae, whose music glows with the spirit of vintage soul and R&B, seems to be a worthy challenger on her U.K. smash debut disc, but beyond a single here and there, doesn’t linger long after the final notes fade. Corinne Bailey Rae is, however, an album tailor-made for summertime relaxation. Fresh, breezy, and utterly mellow, her mellifluous vocals run through tracks like “Put Your Records On,” “Like a Star,” and “Choux Pastry Heart,” skipping across the surface of such disparate influences as R&B fountainhead Marvin Gaye and the girl-power neo-soul of Jill Scott. Sharp-eared listeners could probably pinpoint a half-dozen more influences floating to the surface; call Rae a vocalist for the age of the iPod, sounding like everyone but herself. It sounds like I’m tearing her record apart, but in truth, it’s slicker and far more digestible that much of what passes for R&B these days (Rihanna, I’m lookin’ at you). Rae’s amiable competence marks her as a talent worth
keeping tabs on, but the strength of Corinne Bailey Rae is fleeting, a triumph of mood over tangible substance. | Preston Jones the rakes capture/release (v2) The Rakes owe a lot to the music of the ’80s— more specifically, the Romantics, Talking Heads, and the Police, but the whole decade could be paid proper dues by listening to Capture/ Release, the band’s first album. On a whole, art-punk is kind riyl: Art Brut, Blur, Human of a tricky genre. League, the 1980s Balanced by being tasteful but dangerous, sometimes the objective can be distorted and the message of the music can be fuzzy within the style of the band. Simply put, identities can be lost. This isn’t the case with the Rakes, however; they know who they are. With such company as Franz Ferdinand, Bloc Party, and Art Brut, how will the Rakes stand apart from the rest in such a competitive and undeniably talented genre of the music industry? Answer: lyrics. The band writes from an extremely personal standpoint on some songs (as most punk-influenced bands do), while bringing a more intangible and conceptual side on others. The trick is doing all this while not taking what a listener hears lyrically for granted. “I’m walking unknown territory/ snow patrol
riyl: Ann Peebles, The Undisputed Truth, Gene Chandler
Where the sun’s not shining/There’s nothing golden about Golden Lane/The smoke is heavy in my lungs…/Everything is temporary these days/Might as well go out for a third night in a row.” An unsettling feeling emerges over the Rakes’ lyrics: the band can only use their music as an escape, projecting themselves into a reality only they see fit. Capture/Release offers up a couple singles to give us an idea of the band’s slacker ideals (but not in a bad way), along with guitarist Matthew Swinnerton’s terrific riff style—think Wire but modernized. “Work, Work, Work (Pub, Club, Sleep)” makes the right kind of first impression of fun mixed with meaning, something a lot of bands often botch, either coming off as overly dramatic or just plain cheeky. “All Too Human” offers clarity through its choppy guitar lines with driving bass and hi-hat–driven beats. Throughout, the band keeps a close eye on catchiness, making sure they’re never too far from our attention span. The other songs on the album all live within the same zip code as the singles, never traveling too far out of commitment to the sound of the Rakes. “Open Book” stands out as a song that might get people hooked on that deeper (“I’m so in love with the Rakes”) level. It’s hooky, in a sneaky kind of way, and throws its easy-to-learn chorus straight in your face (“Oh-oh. Oh-oh”), forcing you to sing along. It’ll be interesting to see if the London band can capture success here in the States. Does America have the attention span for another indie-dance band? Capture/Release will have the major label support it needs to get off the ground, and the songs are good, but it has yet to be seen if pale, white, skinny kids everywhere will be grabbing their neckerchiefs and dance shoes for this band. Let’s all hope the Rakes prevail. | Chris Schott snow patrol eyes open (A&M/fiction/polydor) Two years removed from their third album, Final Straw, and one year removed from cofounder Mark McClelland’s departure from the band, Snow Patrol has returned with Eyes Open. Some of the songs feel like they could have been included on 2004’s Final Straw, riyl: Coldplay, Travis, Ryan most noticeably Adams “Chasing Cars,” made famous in the Grey’s Anatomy season finale. Singer Gary Lightbody’s crooning is instantly recognizable and tugs immediately at the heartstrings, making it perfect for broken hearts and sappy montages. (Poor Denny!)
However, Lightbody and Snow Patrol aren’t afraid of changing their sound, and “Hands Open,” the first American single, is a prime example. More of a straight rocker than the sleepy, Coldplay-esque sound they are known for, it has driving drums and guitar to keep the song moving. They even dip into the spirit of Buddy Holly’s “Everyday” on “You Could Be Happy,” complete with a light, music box–like glockenspiel and a hushed, sequenced drumbeat as background. Of course, where Holly sang of a hopeful consummation of love, here, Lightbody can only sing about the happiness he had. What is not so successful is the song “Shut Your Eyes,” in which Lightbody pairs with folkrock singer Martha Wainwright. Martha has one of the most unique and interesting voices in music today, and it’s a shame that it isn’t used to its full potential here. Except for the chorus, when she really gets to shine, it is a sing-songy waste of three minutes. Though the band is always fairly strong in the lyrics department, Eyes Open is leaps and bounds above previous efforts. Lightbody is capable of condensing into couplets what many writers take a song to say, and he does it better. Lyrics such as “For once I want to be the car crash/Not just the traffic jam” on “Headlights on Dark Roads” evoke the desire to leave the safety of the gawking masses and effect change, any change, even if it may hurt. On “It’s Beginning to Get to Me,” Lightbody embodies the lover who realizes he had everything that he needed, but only after he lost it: “You are the only thing that makes sense/Just ignore all this present tense.” There is a rather questionable name drop of Sufjan Stevens’ song “Chicago” in the lyrics to “Hands Open” that banks on Stevens’ song gaining “timeless” stature—either that, or it will only date this album; time will tell. Eyes Open takes a few listens to take hold, but once its wistful and insightful barbs stick, it’s going to be around for a while. Melancholic twentysomethings rejoice; this can be your breakup album for years to come. | Bradley Terebelo sonic youth rather ripped (geffen) Here in the fast-paced, disposable pop culture in which Joe Millionaire is quickly forgotten and replaced by yet another reality TV show, it’s very difficult to think of a modern rock band that’s retained any lasting staying power. It’s an even shorter list when you
wrack your brain trying to come up with bands that have been around for over 20 years but are still makriyl: Velvet Underground, ing good, solid Television, Flaming Lips records. U2? OK, there’s one. REM? Debatable, given the rather dismal reception of Around the Sun. Metallica? Forget about it. They haven’t made a truly good record since 1988’s …And Justice for All. Which brings us to New York City’s Sonic Youth. While never reaching the pinnacle of mainstream success of the aforementioned bands, Thurston Moore, Kim Gordon, Lee Ranaldo, and Steve Shelley are still at it, rocking out in their moderately successful underground. Indeed, 25 years have passed since Moore’s formative years under the wing of avant-garde “no wave” noise-symphony composer Glenn Branca led him to form a band with wild ideas about song forms and freedom of expression. Unafraid to revel in strange tunings, off-kilter rhythms, propulsive attacks on their instruments with machine tools and drumsticks, and wafting, out-there vocal tracks, Sonic Youth have tried it all and given the world an enormous catalog of material as a result. Always living in the moment, the band effortlessly bats out a new record that stands as possibly its most accessible. While nobody can be sure if the record is named after a legendary record store in Berkeley, Calif., or just a general feeling of chemically induced euphoria, Rather Ripped extrapolates on the jamband sound they’ve been working toward over the last handful of records, concentrating and distilling that approach into a series of short and sweet blasts of real-deal modern rock. At first listen, Rather Ripped feels pretty lightweight compared with their older stuff, but as with most of the last few releases, repeated spins reveal a world of melodies, riffs, distortion, and strange sounds hiding under the main grooves. New listeners will find a lot of interesting new sounds with which to connect. Seasoned fans will hear aspects of the entire Sonic Youth canon floating about, invigorated by the immediate approach taken by this recording. Fans of the recent handful of records will likely appreciate the underfive-minutes brevity of the lion’s share of the songs, where devotees of the 20-minute-plus romp “The Diamond Sea” or the almost as long “Hits of Sunshine” from the late ’90s might find this record and its songs a bit short. Rather Ripped is a fine record to add to the stack. Here’s hoping Sonic Youth’s hot streak holds up a little longer and gives us a few more where this one came from. | Greg Aubry sound team movie monster (capitol) continued on page 26
Play by Play
You can tell a band’s character by how they want their music to be heard. Sound Team chose cassette tapes to be the helm of their initial recordings. How cool is that? Fans with aging four-wheeled rovers can appreciate the joys of slipping in a brand new riyl: Spoon, Bloc Party, the cassette tape and Moog synthesizer then happily flipping it over to repeat. Sigh... In January 2003, Matt Oliver and Bill Baird began Sound Team as a recording project. Now with its self-made recording studio (christened the “Big Orange”) the Sound Team has the space to be as creative and loud as possible. After snagging a demo, Capitol Records promptly signed the band and released the Work EP last December. Movie Monster is their first full-length effort and it is amazing. With six members in the band, the album has a full musical landscape featuring traditional rock instruments as well as piano, keys, and the Moog synth. Producer Mike McCarthy (Spoon) helped the band with making the record sound so effortless and whole. Not easily identified with one genre or influence, the Sound Team appeals to a wide array of musical coinsurers. They have a goal of creating good, soulful songs, and they succeed. Movie Monster begins with a short light pop intro “Get Out” and leads into “Born to Please,” on which Baird’s Moog makes its sonic appearance known. “No More Birthdays” showcases Oliver’s pop/punk vocals and lyrical talents. Though Oliver’s lyrics may seem to float around topically as they are indecipherably sung, they have an impact on the listener and are unique. The title track switches to a low-key pace with pouty vocal delivery. Again, the words— “we put our hands into the air but we don’t need to be delivered”—and the cool beat of the drums/synth effects sets the tone. The addition of the Moog brings out a beautiful haunting quality to the music. “TV Torso,” more techno than pop, speeds up the tempo of the record. Clocking in at over six minutes, it reminds one of “Dirty Epic” by Underworld, especially the fuzzy guitar and flowing lyrics in the background. A favorite on Movie Monster is easily “Back in Town,” with a handful of lyrics describing what its like to return home: “You don’t need to look for trouble, trouble will find its way to you”; “The bleachers are empty, the sky is an impossible blue”; and “When there’s 9,000
from page 25
neckties in a swarm all around you and you lunch counter girls.” Closing Movie Monster is the fun and energetic “Handful of Billions,” a good drivingin-the-car-on-a-summer-day kind of tune. This hardworking team of musicians should feel proud of their first major label release, though I still enjoy the throwback appeal of those oldschool cassette tapes. | Mary Beth Hascall sufjan stevens the avalanche: outtakes & extras from the illinois album (asthmatic kitty) The Avalanche, Sufjan Stevens’s long-awaited companion to 2005’s Illinois, is nearly as breathtakingly expansive as its predecessor. According to various reports, the sprawling Illinois was initially conceived as an even more sprawling double LP, but riyl: Arcade Fire, Elliott Smith, was ultimately Rosie Thomas trimmed back to just 22 songs totalling 75 minutes (clearly the meaning of the word “just” is highly subjective as it appears here). The 21 songs and instrumental bridges comprising The Avalanche run 75 minutes as well, and so the full scope of what was arguably 2005’s most artistically relevant and conceptually ambitious pop album stands revealed at last. In a modern world in which undercooked singer-songwriters who are as hamfisted as they are precocious jockey for attention among the college rock set, Stevens seems downright important with his truly peerless knack for crafting indelible melodies, literate songs, and refreshingly inventive pop arrangements. Predictably, The Avalanche is merely a continuation of the emotionally resonant “list songs” of Illinois; not so predictably, these songs are in most cases more than mere leftovers. The most baffling omission from the parent disc is The Avalanche’s first and title track, a wide-eyed folk song that culminates in a musical pastiche combining such seemingly disparate elements as banjo music and choral backing vocals, and approaches the disarming brilliance and stark beauty of Illinois’ triumphant ballads “Casimir Pulaski Day” and “Jacksonville.” The jubilant “Adlai Stevenson” is a playful tribute to the notoriously hesitant failed presidential candidate that asks in its capricious refrain, “Adlai, Adlai, what did you say, and what is the answer?” as marching band drums and handclaps join with horns and reed instruments to provide a colorful
musical backdrop. Prickly literary giant Saul Bellow is given props of a kind in a song bearing his name, the sort of laconic banjo strum that Stevens has gradually been perfecting for years now. Meanwhile, three alternate versions of Illinois’ epic centerpiece “Chicago” compete for the listener’s affection: there is the straightforward “Chicago (Acoustic Version),” the facetiously dubbed “Chicago (Adult Contemporary Easy Listening Version),” and “Chicago (Multiple Personality Disorder Version).” The first is a stripped take on the song that replaces the breathless exuberance of the final completed version with a kneehugging, tight-cardiganed intimacy that flatters its lyrics nicely; the second features fuller and more varied instrumentation, as well as a stunning round-robin vocal section; and the third and final version is a less than successful abbreviated take that involves staccato electric guitars and burbling keyboards fitted to stilted, robotic vocals. Such is the power of the song that it can withstand even the most determined attempts on the part of its creator to invert it and distance it from its inherent emotional content. The Avalanche is no Illinois. To be perfectly fair, there’s no way it could ever have been a true match for its forebear, as it consists wholly of orphaned songs considered unworthy for inclusion on that disc. As collections of odds and sods go, however, The Avalanche ranks with the best of them. The underlying structure that shaped Illinois is ever present on this collection as well, and even though there the streets’ mike skinner
are repeated songs and half-finished doodles strewn about its landscape, the work hangs together admirably. | Paul John Little the streets the hardest way to make an easy living (vice/atlantic) Mike Skinner has coasted this far on charm. The man behind the Streets has become the face of British hiphop in America and, insofar as he has thrived, it has been in contrast to the Mafioso myth-making of the New World version. Skinner’s narratives are riyl: Dizzee Rascal, Lady microscopic, the Sovereign, Wiley world written in a grain of sand. Sidewalk chalk drawings across the street from grand graffiti art. Then he sold three million albums and entered the unreal world of celebrity. The Hardest Way to Make an Easy Living is unstable and overstated, yet, at times, it emerges as his most developed work yet. Perhaps the primary distinction of Skinner from any other hip-hop superstar is that he does not trust himself. More than anything else, it is this skepticism that anchors an album that walks along the razor’s edge of self-absorption. After all, the hook of first single “When You Wasn’t Famous” sends up the first of many red flags: “When you’re a famous boy/It gets really easy to get girls/So when you try to pull a girl/Who is also famous too/It feels just like when you wasn’t famous.” If the rest of the song wasn’t a bittersweet tabloid-baiting account of an affair with a crack-smoking pop star who dumped him, I might be less likely to overlook the awkwardness of the sentiment. It is a basic celebrity fallacy that just because one seems important as an individual, one’s thoughts also become important. The Hardest Way to Make an Easy Living succeeds most when it turns inward. In particular, “Prangin Out,” the title track, and “Never Went to Church” maintain a worn authenticity. Skinner has always been the master of the well-placed detail that is able to draw the listener in as if involved in a private conversation. Pacing-wise, these moments aren’t allowed to accumulate, as they are broken up by genuinely awful tracks such as “Memento Mori,” which has perhaps the worst hook I’ve heard. “Can’t Con an Honest John” follows, digging the channel deeper. The album ultimately loses internal coherence, the only uniting aspect the surprising insularity of its public narrator. Judging by the press surrounding
the album, The Hardest Way was meant as a red-carpet epic, but it ends up as a widescreen diary, small in every way but presentation. | James McAnally various artists global underground 10 (global underground)
When Andy Horsfeld and James Todd came up with the idea of starting an international music label focusing on house/dance music, I doubt they had any idea just how influential their label would become. Ten years later, Global Underground, the brainchild of the two Geordie clubbers turned music producers, is set to unleash a massive retrospective highlighting their impressive arsenal of global house music. The CD collection is being offered in two formats. For most of us, the overstuffed threedisc collection would be more than ample to get our collective grooves on, but for the hardcore fans of the Global Underground label, there is a limited edition four-disc set just to make sure that you don’t miss a beat. On the three-disc set, the first two platters focus on GU’s back catalogue. The beauty of this particular collection is how GU has mixed up a little something for everybody no matter what your house music taste. If Chicago’s Felix da Housecat’s progressive trance-infused “Silver Screen Shower Scene” doesn’t get you going, then Albion’s swirling trance rhythms on “Air” will allow you to release your inner dancing queen. Out of the 20 (!) artists who appear on disc one, my personal favorite is Fatboy Slim’s “Sunset (Bird of Prey),” with its phenomenal blend of minimalist breakbeats and simplistic vocals. Disc two is slightly slimmer, featuring only 17 electronic artists, but the talent is just as fierce. Highlights include Alcatraz’s “Give Me Love (That Kid Chris Tribute Mix),” the Forth’s trippy “Reality Detached (K Roxx 2006 Mix),” and Dark Globe’s infectious “Break My World.” Perhaps the most impressive track on disc two is from the one-time opening act for Moby, Hybrid, with their progressive trance track, “Theme From Wide Angle.” Where the first two discs allowed us to revisit artists on previous GU albums, the third disc contains 28 house/club gems from 1987–95. In case you haven’t been keeping count, this collection contains 65 tracks logging over three-and-a-half hours of fantastic house/ trance/breakbeat/electro/disco/trip-hop music. While the average clubgoer might be over-
whelmed with the onslaught of music herein, there are so many tasty musical morsels contained in this compilation that it’s a must-have for any club music lover’s library. | Jim Campbell various artists graciously, a gulf relief compilation (funzalo)
After Hurricane Katrina and the Bush regime conspired to turn much of the Gulf Coast into a monstrous aquarium, support of all sorts— a verb like this seems inescapable—poured into the region. That support continues with Graciously, A Gulf Relief Compilation, a 12-track, multiple-artist CD recorded at Tucson’s famed Wavelab Studio, from which a third of the net proceeds will fund the New Orleans Area Habitat for Humanity Musicians’ Village project. Like tribute discs, of course, benefit discs instantly spark suspicion; purity of motivation scarcely necessitates preeminence of music— the road to hell, et cetera. Happily, the good intentions inspiring this Funzalo Records release lead not to the infernal regions but to some fairly enjoyable listening. A fence-sitter of an assessment, that. Contributions from Calexico, John Doe with Virgil Shaw, Robyn Hitchcock, and Steve Wynn and the Miracle 3 all bolster the CD’s sonic gravitas without (alas) producing tracks that transcend basal craftsmanship; gravitas alone does not a groove define. Moreover, Nik Freitas’s “Picture Song” sprawls markedly— although not without merit, it wants judicious tightening—and on “The Gits,” the nasal quaver of Richmond Fontaine’s Willy Vlautin prompts little enthusiasm. That said, before closing with a sweetly dreamy instrumental rendition of “Moon River” from Friends of Dean Martinez, Graciously features various felicities. Luca’s “Shadow Painting” manages the neat trick of sounding at once bleak (“Politics means nothin’ when you’re lyin’ in the grave”) and boisterous, while Amelia White stages an aural parade with the spellbinding “Skeleton Key.” The disc’s most noteworthy track, though, comes from Howe Gelb with Scout Niblett; they perform a four-song medley beginning with “I Want Candy,” an echoic, ebullient effort that should have folks boogying throughout the Big Easy, and everywhere else. | Bryan A. Hollerbach
By Rudy Zapf
the rules of engagement open-ended (the art of engagement) the walker art center, minneapolis march 4 – june 18, 2006
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Thank God for museum personnel. Being followed around by a studiously emaciated undergrad art student passing himself off as a security guard added just the right whiff of officious air to the exhibit. Had he not casually hovered—careful to avoid eye contact, yet remaining just within peripheral vision—the exhibition’s title could perhaps have been fatally misinterpreted. A person might have assumed that the works on display were meant to be interactive and experiential. OPEN-ENDED (the art of engagement) should under no circumstances be misconstrued as an invitation for museumgoers to view postmodern artwork as anything other than preciously sublime and inviolable objects that may only be approached in a manner that the museum deems appropriate. Which, within their context, were quite interesting pieces. The exhibit was created by former Walker artists-in-residence, and the artists stretched themselves to embrace the audience. The challenging idea, presumably put forth to them by curator Doryun Chong, was to transform a gallery into a community. As the PR packet states: “…an exhibition that invites visitors to go beyond mere viewing to playing an active role in the art.” The Walker’s premise was to transform the Target gallery into either a “chaotic utopia or a utopian chaos,” the alchemy intended to foster an intellectual salon fecund with diversity and lively conversations. Heady aspirations, indeed. Three of the five projects were built onsite, and they did an admirable job of trying to turn a typically innocuous gallery exhibit into a forum for interaction—either between viewer and art, or in the form of discussions between gallery visitors. The site-built projects were constructed by choreographer Ralph Lemon, visual artist Rirkrit Tiravanija, and filmmaker Spencer Nakasako. Other projects were created by visual artists Catherine Opie and Sam Durant, whose less-splashy works were significant in their own light. One felt that these individuals are truly interested in the world around them; that they care about other humans, as either necessary participants or subjects for their art. It is the unforeseen perspectives,
narratives, and responses of other people that have driven these artists to thus frame their unconventionally inclusive projects. Each work invites, (but never forces), participation on more than one level of the senses. As Rirkrit Tiravanija says, “It is not what you see that is important but what takes place between people.” Aptly put, as his wooden construct is a spiraling two-story ramp/stage/ theater; it has been the setting for an avantgarde fashion show, as well as the housing for Spencer Nakasako’s filming booth and cinema. While viewers were watching Nakasako’s continuously evolving film that documents people’s responses about what freedom means to each of them, the awareness of footsteps overhead and multitudes of bodies passing around the perimeters of the semi-open theater created a sense of claustrophobic comradery. This only made the filmed responses all the more poignant, from the occasionally imbecilic young adult to the naively profound wisdom of one particular child. Of all the projects, Ralph Lemon’s piece, Come Home Charley Patton, was the most racially charged, as well as the most intellectually and time-demanding; therefore, it was also the one less likely to entice participation. This installation was the third part of his Geography Trilogy, a coalition of history and personal anthropology with movement, sound, and art. While working on this 10-year Trilogy, and in the process defining what he considers a global language of movements and visuals, the choreographer grappled with the social pressures of race and identity in the 21st century. For OPEN-ENDED, Lemon wanted to remodel a stage performance into an installation that was animated by what he called “a series of gracefully coded socio-atmospheric questions.” A combination of large screen videos, sound systems, faux room constructions, basketball hoops, and TV monitors, demanded probably more than an hour’s worth of undivided attention if all the elements were supposed to be experienced. Lemon’s work is partially influenced by historical lectures on race, as well as his relationship with Walter Carter, a near-centenarian still living in Mississippi, the message being
that the coexistence of the past and the present is a subtle stream to navigate, and Lemon’s objective is to rouse viewers’ somnolent consciences. Icehouses, taken from Catherine Opie’s artist-in-residence project (Skyways and Icehouses) illuminates large-scale photographs of Minnesota fishing huts floating on frozen lakes. Opie, who exhibited several years ago at St. Louis Art Museum’s Currents program, had the intent to speak volumes about humans’ interaction with their environment—with nary a person in sight. Exhibition guests were allowed to listen to recordings of Minnesotans, recounting their personal experiences attached to the prefab boxes that are a winter anomaly of the Great White North. While the humanistic stories buffered the edge of otherworldliness of the icehouse people, they were unnecessary—it was the indomitable grace and sheer strength of character that made these photographs so arresting. In fact, it was the stubborn fortitude of their builders that the fishing huts personified, resolutely standing on a horizenless expanse of white, making the best of each long winter, even deriving some pleasure from them. What makes such a pastime incomprehensible to others can still be honored without apologies, as Opie does with confidence. And confidence is something that the Walker Art Center understands well. The Walker takes its starring role as a leading civic guidepost very seriously. As a longhonored bastion of postmodern sensibilities and enlightened cultural programming, the museum has been a magnet for artists, designers, and scholars. A quick surfing of the superplugged-in Web site gives visitors a dizzying array of possibilities, from films, lectures, and dance, to nighttime “capture the flag” games in the sculpture garden. Rather than suffering a brain drain, the über-cool climate of Minneapolis has produced a flourishing garden of arts and intellect, thanks in large part to the Walker as a drawing card. Couldn’t one assume, then, that such an innovative, brave institution would have the courage to accept engagement with the public, especially within an exhibit that specifies
an albatross blessphemy (ace fu) Philadelphia’s An Albatross have unleashed a sonic eggbeater on their second long player Blessphemy (Of riyl: Melt Banana, Blood the Peace-Beast Brothers, Daughters Feastgiver and the Bear-Warp Kumite). Filled with 18 lightningfast cuts of howling, screaming no wave, Blessphemy opens appropriately—trust me on this one—with the introductory regal melodies of “In the Court of the Bear King.” This ironic counterpoint of pageantry quickly gives way to a 27-minute blitz of screaming vocals and instruments. With each track averaging around 90 seconds, An Albatross knows that you can only milk this kind of wonderfulness for so long before it annoys even its most ardent supporters. Blessphemy does not contain a bushel of standout tracks, yet it has plenty consistency and good spirited anarchy. You have to love this shit. | David Lichius frank black fastman raiderman (backporch) Fastman Raiderman is the product of Frank Black tooling around in the studio for two years with a rotat30 riyl: Pixies, Bob Dylan circa ing cast of musiNashville Skyline cians that included the Band’s Levon Helm, Tom Petersson of Cheap Trick, and the same renowned session players with whom Black worked on 2005’s Honeycomb. Like Honeycomb, Black’s new double-disc effort finds him coasting his way through 27 laidback tunes. It’s melodic, relaxing stuff—in short, it couldn’t be much farther from the sort of music that made the Pixies frontman a genre-bending icon. Fortunately, he still has a knack for twisting a phrase that sets him apart. | Daniel O’Malley the chapters distant ep (self-released) If I were to check this Texas foursome’s CD collections, I would expect to find plenty of Bauhaus riyl: Bauhaus, Joy Division, and Joy Division. Modest Mouse You know, the dark, gloomy stuff, further heightened by haunting keyboards. Still, Distant manages to avoid sounding derivative or overly depressive, thanks to upbeat, probing guitar work and. Following the alluring opening track “Disconnected,” “Bleeding for the Blind” is more Modest Mouse than British gloom, thanks to near-recited lyrics and echoed backing vocals. “The Absence of Decency” is will get those indie kids out on the dance floor, while “Inevitable Doubt” brings the tempo down a thoughtful notch with a song that is
catchy and beguiling, perfect for multiple spins (or even, dare I say, indie radio). You’ll move more than just a pinkie toe on the final track, “Lend Me Your Prayers”; good stuff, indeed These five tasty songs go by far too quickly; let’s hope for a longer course soon. | Laura Hamlett r. luke dubois timelapse (cantaloupe) It seems logical to ask what an average #1 hit sounds like. In his highly conceptual piece “Billboard,” riyl: Karlheinz Stockhausen, composer R. Luke Fennesz, William Basinski DuBois revises the question: What does the average of a #1 hit sound like? Using his invented technique of “time-lapse phonography,” DuBois has quite literally compressed every #1 Billboard single from 1958 to 1999 into the sonic equivalent of a Rothko painting. The three-minute pop song becomes a single-second memory, heard not in a dream, but with the ears of a machine for whom a day is a thousand years. Perhaps in no other musical piece has time so directly been altered. The process is repeated using Bach’s “The Well-Tempered Clavier” and the audio of Casablanca, both of which work better as musical pieces apart from their theoretical value. Music as math doesn’t always sound like either. | James McAnally fatboy slim | the greatest hits: why try harder (astralwerks) Dropping beats like a madman juiced up on tainted O.J., Fatboy Slim changed the way dance music was riyl: Chemical Brothers, Groove done. Norman Armada, big beat house music Cook defined a new genre and influenced DJing to the point where DJs became the main attraction, not just the warm up for some rock band. By moving the music from the dance clubs in the cities to house parties in mainstream America, Fatboy Slim slowly slid into a worldwide music consciousness. This greatest-hits album showcases just how influential his music has become. Why Try Harder features about every song you would put into a playlist, and two new songs—the hip-hop rhythms of “Champion of Sound” and the soulful “That Old Pair of Jeans.” Listeners will enjoy reliving many of these songs and appreciate the latest tunes from our ole friend. We praise you, Mr. Cook! | Mary Beth Hascall david ford | i sincerely apologize for all the trouble I’ve caused (columbia/ red ink)
Thank god for a switch from all the sac-
charine-sweet male singer-songwriters plaguing the radio these days. That’s not to say that the James Blunts and riyl: Adam Duritz, Neil Young, Daniel Powters of Damien Rice the world are bad, but it’s time for a breath of fresh air. David Ford leaves sentimental garbage to the MTV boys and delves right into reality. This music is the soundtrack for every guy who’s been dumped or dumped on. “Cheer Up (You Miserable F***)” is Ford’s answer to Powter’s “Bad Day.” And I think every guy out there will stand behind his message. Ford is honest, and we could all use a dose of that. | Janelle Greenwood the grates | gravity won’t get you high (dew process/universal music) Gravity Won’t Get You High is a bit of a hitand-miss recordriyl: Blondie, The Sounds, The ing but it’s not Breeders lacking in originality. The Grates are an Australian trio that writes upbeat pop songs with simple guitar melodies and catchy lyrics. Patience Hodgson has an appealing voice and delivers the songs well throughout the entire recording. Ultimately, it’s her voice that really sets this band apart from others and makes for an original sound. She somehow manages to sing at a frantic, fast pace throughout most of the disc, hitting all the notes perfectly. Her voice alone is almost enough of a reason to buy this disc, but some of the songs are stronger than others. Songs like “I Am Siam,” “Trampoline,” and “Lies Are Much More Fun” are a delight, energetic and catchy and demanding to be played over and over again. Other tracks like “I Won’t Survive” and “Howl” just aren’t as memorable and fail to deliver any strong melodies or likable hooks. | John Kujawski mason jennings boneclouds (epic/glacial pace) Boneclouds is the first official release from Modest Mouse’s riyl: Rhett Miller, David Gray, Isaac Brock’s new Jack Johnson label Glacial Pace. the grates
On it, singer-songwriter Mason Jennings is searching for peaceful enlightenment, particularly with the opening track “Be Here Now.” Chanting aside, this album delves deep into a meditative state in which one must ask the questions of humanity, existence, and the inevitable, “What does it all mean?” “Jesus Are You Real” and “Moon Sailing on the Water” are climactic highlights of these ideas, while “Where the Sun Had Been” sounds new wave, an odd departure from Jennings’ normally folk-friendly sound. Jennings’ potential is evident, especially now flying under Brock’s label. | Janelle Greenwood lansing-dreiden the dividing island (kemado) Lansing-Dreiden sounds like the name of a shoddy law firm. riyl: Depeche Mode, T. Rex, Officially, Lansingpretentious people Dreiden is a multimedia business, with their hands in film, publishing, music, and visual art. They would have you believe that they were an enterprise rather than a band, a faceless conglomerate with unnamed members making music for the mind and money clip. The music is sleek, with a lingering haze left from the smokescreen they have created. Content-wise, however, The Dividing Island is a return to the fauxdecadence of early new wave, sometimes wandering into glam rock postures. It is intelligent, but sometimes overcomes this handicap by being enjoyable. Mystery usually exists to create gravity, but The Dividing Island as a whole simply isn’t compelling enough to excavate. | James McAnally cameron mcgill & what army ep (self-released) The Chicago singer-songwriter/folk troubadour is back, and he’s brought his rock
band—and the results serve to well whet your appetite for more. A too-short guitar-and-keys intro begins “XO riyl: Jeff Buckley, Ed Harcourt, Hurts,” which Freddie Mercury itself turns into a full-fledged rocker, culminating in McGill wailing, “When you’re in love, you know you won’t listen.” Mellotron-like keyboards begin “She’s a Killer”; when McGill’s voice joins in to admit “Oh, I’ve always had death in my sides, hooked in my brain” over a simple piano, the result is reminiscent of the ’70s-inspired greats. Last year’s Web site download “Depression Glass” is just as lovely reworked, the perfect example of what McGill and Co. are capable of: simple piano or guitar with vocal accompaniment, contrasted with the full band in all its glory—all in a single song. “Got a secret? Honey tell me, tell me,” McGill begs as the pianos, drums, and guitars swell into the refrain. Strings and falsetto on the bridge are an especially nice touch. Pianos are the foundation of “Ready as I’ll Never Be,” a highlight of both McGill’s musical chops and vocal ability; listening, I can easily visualize his hair flopping across his face as he pounds the keys. The disc ends too soon with the sexy rocker, “Betsy Wrote to Me.” McGill’s voice drops an octave as he dares, “Mmm, crack a smile.” Truly, this is What Army in all its glory, McGill at his very finest. | Laura Hamlett murder by death in bocca al lupo (east west) Like the black sheep brother to Calexico, Murder by Death revisits the West as in a terrible vision. Reportedly riyl: Calexico, Castanets, Man inspired by Dante’s Man Inferno, In Bocca al Lupo pauses at the scene of violence, orchestrating the fearful recollection of past wrongs. Life is solemn in this corner of history, but it certainly isn’t boring. Within its saloon-soaked template, the songs are surprisingly varied, moving from twisting minor waltzes to stately acoustic flourishes. Taken together, the 12 tracks overlap like an epic murder ballad, a journey from sin and regret into bittersweet redemption. In particular, “Boy Decide,” “Dynamite Mine,” and show-stopping closer “The Devil Drives” fold all the elements of a breakout band together. Whenever quick-draw gunfights on main streets become the Saturday afternoon routine again, Murder by Death will become the biggest band in the world. Until then, they will live in a niche, the crowd coming to watch a Western spectacle unfold. | James McAnally alexi murdoch | time without consequence (zero summer) Alexi Murdoch’s first offering, Four Songs, is CD Baby’s all-time best seller. Therefore, the
most natural and satisfying progression for this independent hero would be, of course, a self-produced full riyl: Nick Drake, Coldplay, length from his Gary Jules own label. The interesting part is that this comes four years later. Unsurprisingly, the qualities that made him so appealing the first time—his extremely rich and warm pillow of a voice and his simple yet refined, spacious arrangements—are alive and, well, practically undeniable. The rolling and expansive qualities of “All My Days,” “Breathe,” and, of course, “Orange Sky” (the original version from the EP was Garden State– soundtrack worthy) are gems. It’s so hard to resist his quandaries and observational subtleties, as they stir such a significantly defined mood: a somber yet comforting space. For foggy-day singer/songwriter lovers, it is really hard to imagine a better 21st century artist. | Nate Dewart plumb chaotic resolve (curb) Plumb is no a stranger to the music scene. Although not necessarily successful on mainstream radio, riyl: Dido, Evanescence’s Amy Tiffany Arbuckle Lee Lee, nicknamed Plumb, has found a respectable home on many film and TV soundtracks. Chaotic Resolve, Plumb’s fourth studio album, further highlights her songwriting talents. “Motion” and “Better” are classic examples of tying her strong vocals with almost edgy pop rock. Although labeled as a Christian artist, Plumb doesn’t waver from tapping into her own soul to bringing out emotions to which people from all backgrounds can relate. Her songs tell great stories, ones worth listening to. | Janelle Greenwood the sammies the sammies (morisen) A combination of post-punk, garage, and southern rock, the debut album by Charlotte, N.C.’s the Sammies riyl: Slick 57, Rev. Horton Heat is a combination of heavy, infectious hooks and crisp rock riffs that showcase the band’s potential to come to the fore of the college rock genre. Lyrically, this eponymous debut borders on cliché; musically, the band marries hard rock guitars, new wave bass, and almost incomprehensible vocals. That is not to say that there are not some stellar moments on The Sammies. “Coming Out Wild” may well be the party anthem of the summer, while “Caretaker” features a down and dirty riff and raucous vocals worthy of the Cult. However, The Sammies marks the debut of a band that has yet to hit its stride. | Tracy M. Rogers
BY LAURA HAMLETT 32
here are a handful of ways to bomb a sophomore release. You can overhype it, thereby ensuring it doesn’t live up to expectations. You can do exactly what you did on your first album, causing everyone to wonder if you’re a one-trick pony. You can switch directions entirely, leading to speculation that your band is without direction or definition. Or you can avoid the slump entirely, and create a follow-up album that demonstrates your musical and songwriting growth. One that takes the high points from your debut offering—fresh vocal arrangements and harmonies, tight and tricky arrangements, an upbeat, up-on-your-feet delivery—and expands on them, adding depth and maturity. The Futureheads are back, and they’re all grown up. Or, in the words of vocalist/guitarist Barry Hyde, “Our first album was made by giddy teenage boys but this one has been made by big strong men.” The band played its first gig in 2000, its members meeting at a lottery-funded youth project designed to get kids off the streets and into music. Joining Hyde on guitar and lead vocal duties was Ross Millard, with Jaff providing bass and backing vocals and Hyde’s younger brother, Dave, on drums and backing vocals. The band quickly made a name for itself, touring England and delivering highenergy live performances with all four members contributing to the vocal delivery. Where their self-titled 2004 debut was full of manic, three-minute songs, instantly hooking the listener with its frenetic pace and smart four-part harmonies (to say nothing of a positively shimmering remake of Kate Bush’s song “The Hounds of Love”), News and Tributes is the sound of a more assured band stepping back, slowing down, assessing its strengths and career objectives. It’s one of those albums that’s instantly accessible, yet deepens with repeated listens. These 12 songs slow the pace a bit, taking time to reflect and remember
before grandly forging ahead. “That’s all we wanted to do with this record, really,” says Jaff, “to push ourselves, not just do the same again. Become better singers, become better songwriters, become better arrangers, better players. And personally, I think we’ve done that; I think we’ve pushed ourselves in a way that’s a bit of a
risk.” If early reviews are any sign, the risk has paid off. The band has raised the bar on itself. “I don’t want to think it was a lot more complex,” says Jaff of News and Tributes. “I think it was more concise and directional, more like a body of work rather than just a collection of songs. The first record was very much about us growing up, where we lived— kind of straightforward. For the second album, obviously, we didn’t live there anymore; we lived on a tour bus. You can’t just write about that; that’d be really boring for 99.9% of the people. You’ve got to imagine scenarios, have fictional examples of things you think are interesting to write songs about.” Or maybe not so fictional, as in the album’s title track, its most somber and touching. “News and Tributes” retells the tale, in tightly controlled bursts and crescendoing harmonies,
of the top-ranked 1958 Manchester United soccer team, one third of which tragically perished mid-season in a snowy plane crash. “Cut down in their prime in silence/on that day, in February ’58,” sings Millard soberly. Lest you get too weepy, the band follows that track with “Return of the Beserker” which is manic, intense, time shifting—everything its name implies. Disc opener “Yes/No” is fast-paced with frenetic drumming, a pointed guitar line, and a swelling, shouted, simple chorus. “Cope” is similarly structured, a veritable toetapper—in short, much of what you’ve come to expect from the Futureheads. Still, the band insists on mixing it up. “Thursday” is more of a ballad, while “Face” closes the disc with a stripped-down feel, proving emphatically there’s more to the Futureheads than threeminute torrents of post-punk madness. News and Tributes also marks the band’s U.S. departure from behemoth Warner Bros. to indie label Vagrant Records. “They’re just great guys, you know,” says Jaff of the band’s new label. “And they’re really into the band. Warner Bros. really weren’t. We put our heart and souls into our music, and as soon as Vagrant sent their request in, it was a load off for us. They’re definitely like-minded people.” A Village Voice review of the band’s debut album claimed, “There’s that Ramones sense that songs should be short like life, and that XTC sense that songs should be complicated like life.” Do the longer songs on News and Tributes signify the band’s perspectives on life have broadened? “Not really, to be honest,” laughs Jaff. “But I think we obviously have grown up a little bit. It’s not fashionable music that was made, but I think we’re hoping to make the fashion like we did in the first record. And we’re really proud of the album.” And then there’s the paradox of a band known for its arresting live performances being so capable of making such satisfying studio albums. In early interviews, the band pro-
...WE LIVED ON A TOUR BUS. YOU CAN’T JUST WRITE ABOUT THAT; THAT’D BE REALLY BORING FOR 99.9% OF THE PEOPLE. fessed a desire to make music “as precise as robots.” How, then, does one go from such precision to a self-contained upheaval of a live show, full of manic energy and audience participation? “It’s a confidence that you can only get by being precise in your arrangements,” explains Jaff. “When we first started, we used to practice—and still do when we’re at home—everyday. We’d just practice those same songs again to find that robotic precision. Because that allows you to concentrate on stage, to know that, if you want to, you can change them. I mean, you know the songs backwards. Like, Barry and Ross can snap a string and arrange the guitar part a different way because they know the songs so well. “I think that, when you’re making music, you feel a little insignificant in comparison to the people who are changing the world,” he continues. “All you can really do is really accept yourself. You know, some people like our [music]; other people like other albums more. But you could [still] enjoy our live gig, because we’re really comfortable. We’re really good live. We put so much effort and work into it, we’ve just become professionals almost.” Although they’ve been together six years, the band’s ascent seems both sudden and well deserved. Says Jaff, “We worked our asses off to get here, driving ourselves and the band to get a little bit of recognition without having to change anything, without having to compromise. We’re really proud because we’ve never had to change our songs.” He sees their formula for success as having been relatively straightforward. “I don’t know what some bands have had to do, but all we did was just use all the gigs, release the albums, release the singles, and use all the press, and people bought into the band. It’s really kind of nice, you know. It’s hard to imagine the Futureheads having a better year than last year, with two headlining U.S. tours, a top-10 U.K. single (“Hounds
of Love”), and appearances at the Coachella, Glastonbury, and Fuji Rock festivals, to name a few. With the release of the shimmering News and Tributes, the band is poised to do just that.
the futureheads: dave hyde, ross millard, jaff, and barry hyde
I THINK THAT, WHEN YOU’RE MAKING MUSIC, YOU FEEL A LITTLE INSIGNIFICANT IN COMPARISON TO THE PEOPLE WHO ARE CHANGING THE WORLD.
riddle of steel the holy grail | By Andrew Elstner St. Louis’ Riddle of Steel makes prog-rock without the pretentiousness, Andrew Elstner’s effects-laden, intricate guitarwork gliding over the thunderous rhythm section of bassist Jimmy Vavak and Traindodge’s Rob Smith on drums while Elstner and Vavak trade off on catchy yet off-kilter vocal melodies sure to please any Police fan. No strangers to the road, RoS took off across the pond for a European tour this April. Elstner fills us in on the mayhem.
april 20 | frankfurt, germany We arrive in Germany, grab our gear, meet up with our tourmates Roma 79, and have brohugs all around. Our van driver Georg finds us rather easily; I imagine it wasn’t too hard to find six scrubby rocker dudes hanging around a street curb, standing next to a pile of gear while taking digital photos of each other. We stop at perhaps the cleanest gas station ever and are alarmed at the amount of beer for sale here. And yes, you can drink it anywhere, anytime. I’ll take the giant can with the Viking head on it, please. We buy our weird snacks; the woman behind the counter speaks English without first asking. We get to Saarbrucken, a beautiful city apparently known for its shopping, and finally meet Chris (our booking agent who arranged all of this over the last six months). We decide to walk around the city, take in the sights, perhaps have another beer? Ice cream is really big here; tons of it everywhere. If I didn’t know any better, I’d think the Germans live on ice cream, sausage, and beer. april 21 | Belvaux, luxembourg Wake up from the jetlag–induced coma. The plumbing is inevitably equipped with some strange shower contraption. Forget it; I’ll wash my hair in the sink. I’m only slightly embarrassed to admit that I’m the butt of all jokes on taking too long in the bathroom. Chris has breakfast ready: coffee, tea, juice, rolls with various euro-spreads for them. After, we go out to the van to inspect our rental gear. I should mention here that obviously we couldn’t take our drumsets, guitar, or bass amps with us. It costs thousands of dollars to ship it all, so everyone rents a backline of gear. At least cosmetically, all the gear looks great, possibly better than our stuff at home. After a bit of walking around in a nearby park (yes, there was a beer stand), we left for
Luxembourg. Belvaux is a very small town with one main road and lots of farmland on either side. The club we played, the 911 club (named after the Porsche), had a bar up front and a kind of all-purpose room way in the back where the shows went down. The bartender/ owner was very friendly but she only spoke French; lucky for us, Georg speaks French. Set everything up and began working out the kinks in our gear. The guitar amps in particular sound pretty awful. We did our best to work around it. The turnout wasn’t what everyone had hoped for, but not bad considering that Stars was playing just 20 minutes away. Two young guys even drove 200 miles from Germany to see us play. After the gig, we followed the show promoters to a hostel in Luxembourg City. The older chap behind the counter spoke Luxembourgish (yes, that’s what it’s called), which to my ears sounded almost like Italian. It’s supposed to be a combination of French and German, but our driver had no idea what he was saying; luckily, the promoter did. The hostel was really pretty nice, very clean and all that. Georg slept in the van, which left one room for five of us, and another room for one person. Jimmy took the card-key to this room, assuming he’d have a room all to himself, only to switch on the lights and find four very drunk and utterly naked young European men in the room. He walked right back out. The architecture in Luxembourg city is really pretty amazing. Lots of French-style buildings, almost Renaissance fair kind of stuff. Everywhere in Europe I’m always expecting a parade of nobles to come down the road while a minstrel strums a lute or something. Isn’t Luxembourg still a kingdom? april 22 | dunkerque, france Today we drove to Dunkerque, another easy drive. Arrived at the venue, 4 Ecluses, which as a building is sort of like a big bomb shelter, a giant cylinder sliced in half, laid sideways. Amazing stage, super nice, high-end P.A. system, multiple soundmen, a lighting guy, and a couple of loaders/helpers, as well.
Behind the club was the “green room,” a separate building with two bathrooms/showers, a stack of towels, two fridges crammed full of beer, a kitchenette with coffee, tea, juice, a ton of food, clean chairs, and couches...all for us. The club was also paying for all the bands to have dinner at this restaurant on the beach. After our soundcheck, we met the other band, Gwen, from Lille, a town we’ll be playing at the end of the tour. After the show, the promoter gave us directions and a key to an old farmhouse that seemed to have been recently converted into a hostel-type place. Still had chicken coops out back, and what looked like a horse stable. Yeah, I know, sleeping in a rehabbed French farmhouse where people make you breakfast in the morning? Huge bummer. Note: Sometimes the French drink coffee out of bowls. Who knew? Summary: Amazing, overwhelming hospitality and friendliness from everyone. It was hard to leave.
OPPOSITE PAGE: (top) The joy of the tour bus. (bottom) Spinal Tap–style posturing at Stonehenge. THIS PAGE: (top) Taking in the pristine scenery of a perfect hedge. (bottom) The comfy lodging provided by the Frankfurt airport. All photos by Riddle of Steel.
far, six hours. We missed an exit on our drive up, which made us a tad late, but the alternate route we took was really nice. Views of the British countryside, mazes of stone walls, sheep farms on rolling hills, houses hundreds of years old. Found the venue, the Star and Garter, in a relatively rough part of town. The turnout was great, and the crowd was perhaps the most enthusiastic so far. Afterward, we stayed with a friend of Andy’s and partied with the locals, all great people. They’d even made us a sheet of shortbread that had “For the Yanks” cut into it. Sweet.
april 23 | london, england For us to get into the U.K. as a band playing shows, we had to have work permits. I could write a small book on how difficult it was. London is incredibly hard to drive around in. Georg did a stellar job of it, and has been dubbed the “Clint Eastwood of van drivers.” We arrived at the venue, Upstairs @ the Garage, where we learned the load-in was as follows: park around back, enter rear door, go through main room then behind the bar into the kitchen, hang a right until you reach the tiniest load-in door in existence. We didn’t think this could be possible, but after taking all of our gear out of its hard cases, we were just able to fit everything through the door’s 24” wide, maybe 4-1/2’ tall frame, then up another flight of stairs into the venue. Many photos were taken, many Spinal Tap jokes made. A couple of guys from Kerrang! were there. During our set, I managed to throw myself off the side of the stage, legs-over-my-head kinda thing. Rob and Jimmy, being the awesome rhythm section they are, kept the song going until I got back up and finished the song to much applause. Oddly enough, I was unharmed. april 24 | manchester, england The drive to Manchester was the longest so
april 25 | lancaster, england Lancaster is a gorgeous city. There’s almost a medieval vibe to it, complete with Lancaster Castle, which though it is now half prison, half museum, is still really striking. Towny pubs on virtually every corner with names like “The Duke of Lancaster” and “The Bobbin.” The show at the Yorkshire House went well. The sound here was superb, more free food and beer (hooray!). At one point, a group of college-age guys got so pumped during our set, they formed a spontaneous human pyramid in front of the stage. april 26 | glasgow, scotland Northern England—Scotland, in particular—is really beautiful. Kind of reminds me of Vermont. We get into Glasgow, a very metropolitan town, very “U.K.” but different somehow. Despite warnings, everyone we met was incredibly friendly. We nabbed a sweet parking spot right in front of the club, The Vox at the Vale. The room we played in was pretty small. We were worried we’d be way too loud. The soundman said, “Too loud??” as if this was even a possibility. Our kind of club. april 27 | bath, england Long, long drive. We get to the venue, Moles Club (Go Ape! night), and load into another, almost impossibly tiny door. Got another excellent hookup with some free food at the restaurant next door. The crowd here was the best by far, the sound was great, and people were dancing the entire time. I was even privileged enough to have a few groupies who were intent on petting my right arm while we played.
april 28 Day off. We finally got to complete our Spinal Tap–pian pilgrimage to mecca, i.e., Stonehenge. I do believe we quoted all of the Stonehenge references in Spinal Tap, even got them on video. “Oh, how they danced...” Truly an inspiring sight. april 29 | grimsby, england When we arrived, Greg’s parents had dinner waiting and beds all made up. They went so far as to crack open a couple bottles of wine for us, then prepared brunch in the morning. Watched a bit of a game of cricket in the front yard, then headed over to the Matrix Club. Everyone played a good set, club folks were kind. We were annoyed by the non-English speaking bathroom attendant and his incessant, “Freshen up! Freshen up! Freshen up!!” while holding some cruddy cologne. After the show, a DJ started playing rock music. His first song: Aerosmith’s “Love in an Elevator.” Everyone flipped, dancing really hard. april 30 | lille, france Have to drive to Dover, catch the ferry to Dunkerque, then drive the rest of the way to Lille. No, no one has slept at all. Very, very tired right now. Attempting nap. We leave the ferry and drive to Lille. Lille is yet another beautiful, old city with seemingly plenty to do; too bad we’re here on a Sunday when most everything is closed. The prices in most of the cafes around here seem to be very touristy, though most everyone is friendly. Tonight’s show is at the Stax Soul, sort of a hole-in-the-wall, but fine just the same. The band Gwen, from our first gig on this trip, all came out to see us off and have one last round of beers; even provided the P.A. Sort of a nice, circular way to end things. We had a great time at this show, busted an encore (or two). The guys in Gwen offered to “buy you a round of beers for every encore you play.” Unfortunately—or fortunately, rather—the bartender wasn’t keen on this idea. May 1 | frankfurt, germany Today was freaking rough. We had to drive straight to the Frankfurt airport from Lille and be dropped off for our flight which leaves at 11:55 a.m. 5/2. Yes, quite a long wait, about 18 hours. We staked out a spot and took turns walking around the airport while the others guarded our stuff. It was tough, but who am I to complain? We just toured overseas for the first time and broke even, a feat in itself.
jesse hughes of eagles of death metal at creepy crawl | photo: todd owyoung
eagles of death metal
creepy crawl, st. louis (may 31) “It’s hot as hell in here—I’m doing my best to not pass out. Can I get an amen?” Packed into the cozy confines of the airconditioner-free Creepy Crawl, the sold-out crowd gladly obliged the request from Eagles of Death Metal’s frontman Jesse Hughes. Indeed, it was so hot that by the time the group played “Flames Go Higher,” they might as well have been talking about the venue. However, the Eagles weren’t helping the problem with their fiery performance—fueled by their heavy yet tuneful sound and Hughes’s hilarious stage presence, the group valiantly fought through the heat to deliver a blistering performance. After leading off with a good but somewhat shaky rendition of “Bad Dream Mama,” the band locked into a tight groove on “Kiss the Devil.” That song’s start-stop feel (and instrumental hoedown section) rocked hard and showcased the quartet at their best. They stayed in top form for the remainder of the set, confidently charging through rockers like “So Easy” and “Don’t Speak (I Came to Make a Bang).” The Eagles also proved adept at slower tempos with the bluesy, Stones-inspired “I Like to Move in the Night” and the country-tinged “Whorehoppin’ (Shit, Goddam).” Hughes proved to be an entertaining host throughout, frequently imploring the crowd to cheer for rock ’n’ roll, St. Louis, and above all else, “the ladies.” Feeding off of the other band members’ energetic performances, he always looked happy to be playing, a joy that transferred directly back to the audience. The middle portion of the show dragged a bit, mostly due to the bunching together of lesser songs like “Already Died,” “English Girl,” and their pleasant but unremarkable
cover of Donovan’s “Stuck in the Middle With You.” But none of this mattered once the group got back to their A-material. Showcasing the power of simplicity, the Eagles blazed through straightforward but fun songs “I Want You So Hard (Boy’s Bad News)” and “I Only Want You” before Hughes introduced “a new song we’re gonna fuck up for you.” Though its chorus lacked its over-the-top falsetto, the band in no way screwed up “Cherry Cola”—in fact, it was one of their best performances. The group rode this hot streak to the set’s close with knockout renditions of the stuttering “I Gotta Feelin’ (Just Nineteen)” and the wickedly rocking “Speaking in Tongues.” As always, there was an encore, with guitarist Dave Catching emerging first to showcase his potent soloing skills before the band reassembled for the roots-flavored “Flames Go Higher.” The group then paid their debt to the Rolling Stones with a rendition of “Brown Sugar.” Though these final performances were fine, they felt like a victory lap after the thrilling end of the main set. Then again, with a show this good, the band had more than earned it. | Bob McMahon
the cannery, nashville (may 20) Standing alone in the middle of an overgrown garden of wires and Christmas lights, Imogen Heap opened the show quietly, looping an a cappella version of “Just for Now.” Before beginning, however, she first listed every piece of equipment onstage. A harbinger of bad news, perhaps. Her voice broke on the first note as she was looping it, forcing her to start over. Looping technology can multiply a single voice into a chorus, but it will also reiterate a mistake, showing the stitches all too clearly. She seemed intent on tearing at the layers of her own creation, but it just proved that
Heap is a creature of the studio. Her voice sounded immaculate live, her instrumental acumen consistently impressive, yet the concert was riddled with the stops and starts of either distraction or unprofessionalism. Throughout the set, I couldn’t help but attempt to mentally fill in the spaces of the live show with the density of the album’s arrangements. Her voice, however incredible, simply sounds better with the isolating cacophony of electronic textures. She seemed to get lost in her own birdsong, the elasticity of her voice finally becoming plastic and brittle. My patience was finally dismissed in the encore, when Heap returned with a guest guitarist to perform “Breathe In,” only to spend the next five minutes trying to figure out if he was playing the right chords. (He was.) Maybe she lost focus. The crowd certainly lost interest. I would hate to see her written off as a one-anda-half-hit wonder, but I’m not sure what else she has to offer. None of this is meant to discount the utter beauty of “Hide and Seek” and “Let Go,” just to observe that they are maybe best left for headphones rather than cavernous clubs. To be sure, “Hide and Seek” remained powerful, if changed, amplified over the hushed crowd. Most of the songs were reproduced perfectly—any disjoint between performance and appreciation just showed me the importance of context. Heap’s songs will never overwhelm you. They insinuate their necessity over time. Glancing around the room as I was leaving, it became clear that she is loved mostly in memory, as if the shivering effect of her best work can never be heard apart from the scenes she soundtracks. Private seconds, films absorbed, a show’s emotional currency. But there was no story to unfold on this night, no individual electricity of moments remembered.
Mmm whatd’cha say? That you only meant well. Well of course you did. | James McAnally
fox theatre, boulder (may 16) Elastic, enigmatic, experimental. Gomez epitomizes more creative characteristics of namesake Gomez Adams than Virgin Records recognized—yes, this is the band Virgin let get away. On their latest disc, How We Operate, like the aforementioned Adams’ toy trains colliding, Gomez detonate their tunes rather than easing into them via haphazard jams—a weakness that plagued their last recording for Virgin, Split the Difference. That new explosive quality carried over to their recent show in Boulder’s Fox Theatre. Gomez’s most credible attribute—the three-prong attack of frontmen Ian Ball, Ben Ottewell, and Tom Gray, evenly dividing their lead singing duties—was in fine form from the fiery opening number, “Shot Shot.” Thriving on multilayered melodies and existential lyrics, it’s the merging of these three distinct personalities—any one of them could easily find success as a solo act—that makes Gomez so unique and accomplished as a musical entity. On stage, the visceral essence and individual identities of this trio are key to the ebb and flow that is Gomez: Ball’s the garage kid rock star with his Telecaster, Ottewell’s the subdued, quiet leader/older brother figure with a Les Paul, and Gray’s the poster man-child for ADHD; an enigma as acoustic guitarist, percussionist, and keyboardist who plays the everyman, pantomiming every lyric, every bridge, every chorus. Gray’s infectious energy is major part of the band’s allure. Arrested in the moment, whether he’s singing lead (the radio-friendly “girlshapedlovedrug”) or not (the heavy, melodic “Ping One Down”), it’s always obvious to the audience that he genuinely enjoys Gomez’s music; he is a fan among fans of his own craft. He cajoles and charms the crowd; he loves what he does and we love him for it. As a musical offering, How We Operate features a mature, more accomplished Gomez— and is quite possibly the band’s very own Abbey Road, as exemplified during the performance of standouts “Hamoa Beach,” “Tear Your Love Apart,” and “Notice.” “I know what you’re thinking,” Gray addressed the 700-strong, sold-out Boulder crowd as the band began the Beatle-esque “See the World,” “Don’t take your foot off the gas now, Tom.” But it was the title track—a sinister musical noir of Ball’s arpeggio Telecaster intro draped in a moody, ominous backbeat from founding drummer Olly Peacock, bassist Paul “Blackie” Blackburn, and multi-instrumentalist Dajon Everett—that proved the show’s highlight.
“Operate” also provided a welcome showcase for Ottewell’s meticulous gruff tenor, a treat for fans disappointed by the band’s omission of his set staple “Get Miles.” The band’s stellar 2002 offering In Our Gun—the record that single-handedly resuscitated Gomez’s live act—has become the cornerstone of their show, resulting in a harder-edged, high-velocity set of songs spearheaded by the cacophonous Who-influenced
“Ping One Down” and “Army Dub.” Another Gun gem, the drug-reference fueled “Ruff Stuff,” was well received and celebrated by the Boulder crowd. Gomez closed out the night by revisiting crowd-pleasers from earlier in their career, including Ottewell’s melodramatically innocent “Get Myself Arrested” and Ball’s encore of “Whippin’ Piccadilly,” never once taking their foot off the gas. | Brian Kenney
OK Go’s DAMIAN KULASH at mississippi nights | photo: todd owyoung
one lone car’s dei plegge | photo: todd owyoung
lorenzo goetz’s larry gates | photo: todd owyoung
By Danica Mathes
working with professionals
As an entertainer, you have to play a number of roles to get your career off the ground. For example, although you are the lead singer and songwriter for your band, you also find yourself booking shows, making sure the band performs the shows, sending out press releases to get the word out about what the band is doing, and trying to keep track of all the money being spent and (hopefully) being earned from your band’s performances and record sales. If you were a major recording artist selling millions of albums, you would probably have a booking agent, manager, publicist, record label, and accountant working with you to perform these tasks—which would be great, so you could spend more time focusing on singing and songwriting. But the reality is that these industry professionals may not be knocking down your door for the chance to work with you, and none of them work for free. At some point, you will need one or more of these industry professionals if you are going to continue growing your business as an entertainer. Regardless of whether you are ready to add these individuals to your team, you should always be on the lookout for potential team members so you have a contact or relationship in place when you need it. You should also be realistic about what you can do with your resources (i.e., time, money, expertise) and when it makes sense to bring an industry professional into the picture. For example, if you are presented with a recording contract, you would absolutely need to hire an entertainment attorney to review it before you sign, as the initial investment you make with the professional could end up saving you much more in the long run. The following tips will help you conduct yourself more professionally as an entertainer, decide when to work with industry professionals, and establish how to work with them to make your relationship as effective and efficient as possible. • Act professionally | Present yourself in the best possible way and be respectful of others in the industry at all times. Make it easy for people to get in touch with you by including your contact information on any documents you submit, leaving your phone number on voicemails, etc. • Be organized | For meetings, bring any relevant documents as well as a written list of questions, tasks and topics to discuss, and outcomes to accomplish. • Keep detailed records and receipts | Even if you throw everything in a shoebox and organize it once a month, keep everything in one place at all times so you know where to look when you need it. • Be on time for meetings | To most professionals, time is money…literally. Be as respectful of their time as you want them to be of yours. • Expand your network | Relationships are key in this business and it’s often who you know that matters. Keep in touch with (and keep track of) industry contacts, and organize business cards and other contact information you acquire throughout your career. • Educate yourself | The more you learn about the industry, the more likely you will be to succeed in it (and not get taken). • Make it a team effort | Keep your team members informed about what you are doing and what your other team members are doing. Make sure everyone’s role, responsibilities, and time frame are clear. • Get everything in writing | This is especially true for contracts and other agreements, but also take good notes when meeting with a professional, and/or ask for a summary of the meeting (i.e., what was discussed, what you need to do/give to the professional, what the professional needs to do/give to you) from the professional.
• Sign on the dotted line…eventually | Don’t sign anything until your lawyer has reviewed it. • Shop around | When shopping for professionals, ask questions about experiences the professional has had that are similar to your situation, ask what kind of fees the professional charges, and ask for references. Follow up with references. Choose the professional you feel most comfortable with and have the most confidence in.
• Pay your bills | If you have questions about a bill or statement, or are not able to pay a bill in full upon receiving it or think a statement is incorrect, call the professional and discuss the matter with them. Most professionals are flexible with their billing and can work with you. Do not just ignore the bill and hope it goes away. • Communication is key | As Dicky Fox so aptly noted in the motion picture Jerry McGuire, “The key to this business is personal relationships.” Professionals work for you, but relationships are a two-way street. If you keep your professional contacts informed of what’s going on with you and the rest of your team, they will be better able to advise you, you’ll get to know each other better, and your relationship will be strengthened in the process. Don’t forget, professionals are people, too. They have busy schedules and lives outside of the office. They need to be reminded sometimes and they even make a few mistakes now and then. But if you are clear about your expectations and truly develop relationships with your professionals, you’ll be able to deal with life’s obstacles, and your successes will become theirs. • Cross your fingers | Luck plays an amazingly large role in entertainment industry success. I’d rather have luck than brains any day of the week (although having both is even better). Remember, luck is 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration. Translation: Luck is preparation meeting opportunity. Be prepared and keep your eyes open. This article provides an overview of some issues you should consider if you are engaging in activities in the entertainment industry. Please consult with an attorney and/or other professional who has industry experience for advice regarding your particular needs and issues. | Danica L. Mathes is an entertainment and intellectual property attorney with Blackwell Banders Peper Martin LLP and an adjunct professor of entertainment law at Washington University School of Law in St. Louis.
JUly 2006 JULY
By Pete Timmermann
cannes film festival
cannes film festival I spent most of the 2005 Cannes Film Festival disappointed that the films weren’t better, but as it turned out, all of the good films (Three Times, Broken Flowers, Princess Raccoon) screened in the last few days of the festival, and all of the bad ones in the first few days. The 2006 festival was the exact opposite, which did a lot of good for my disposition throughout its duration. For example, the very first competition film that the festival screened for the press was Lou Ye’s Summer Palace, which wound up being my favorite film in the festival’s main competition. Summer Palace is an aggressive love story set in China in the political turmoil of the late ’80s. Palace maintained a lot of press coverage over the course of the festival because Ye (Suzhou River, Purple Butterfly) allowed the fairly graphic sex-filled film to be screened at Cannes without the prior approval of the Chinese government, which could be a major issue not just for China and Ye but for the entirety of the world’s audience for seeing the film, as the lovely version I saw might very well be quashed from further release. Here’s hoping that, if nothing else, the film as I saw it will become available through the omnipresent Chinese bootlegging system. Keeping up with the trend, my favorite film of the Un Certain Regard sidebar, and what wound up being my favorite film of the 45 I saw at the festival, was the first film I saw from the UCR sidebar, Hungarian director György Pálfi’s Taxidermia, which is a better film than his borderline masterpiece (and SLIFF alumnus) from 2002, Hukkle. Taxidermia is an orgy of demented imagery and innovative filmmaking; it follows three generations of a family, with the first generation being a serial wartime masturbator, the second being a competitive eater (who at one point brags that he had a vomiting technique named after him), and the third being a taxidermist who invents a machine that can kill and stuff whatever he sticks in it. Based on this, you can probably guess what kind of movie we’re dealing with here. Regardless, I absolutely loved it, and since Hukkle saw a respectable release on the film festival circuit and on DVD here in America, I’m hoping that Taxidermia won’t be left to the world of difficult-to-track-down import DVDs. Although the Director’s Fortnight sidebar this year was extremely strong (some maintained that it was better than the main competition at Cannes), the first film I saw in it, the animated anti-porn epic Princess, despite being one of the more liked and hyped films to emerge from Cannes this year, was my least favorite of the sidebar. However, my opinions were not really on the pulse of the other critics at the festival; for example, I loved William Friedkin’s Ashley Judd–starring Bug, which
pretty much everyone else uniformly hated. It is the type of movie that you can expect people to hate, though, as it turns weird and never looks back about halfway through, and in a perfect world it would become a hit on the midnight movie scene (it might just yet). Another Fortnight film that no one but me seemed to like was the French film The Exterminating Angels, which is Eurosleaze of the highest order—impossibly hot French girls breaking “taboos” (lesbian sex, mostly) at the behest of a filmmaker. Imagine the type of film that one would see on Cinemax in the middle of the night in the early ’90s, and then imagine the best possible film like this, and you have The Exterminating Angels. The final Fortnight movie that I adored (and I wasn’t alone on this one; it was one of the most talked about films of the festival) was the Korean filmmaker Bong Joon-Hon’s (Memories of Murder) schlocky horror movie The Host, which was garnering comparisons to Alien and Jaws, but is really much more lighthearted and screwy than its predecessors. About the only film that I saw toward the end of the festival and truly loved was Guillermo del Toro’s (Hellboy, Blade II) Pan’s Labyrinth, which is like a kid’s movie for adults, as strange as that might sound. The film is from an original story by del Toro that plays like a classic fairy tale, and the imagery is of the sort suggested by last year’s Mirrormask or 1986’s Labyrinth. However, there is (necessary) language and (necessary) violence that makes the film unsuitable for children, but perfect for adults who have not yet lost their sense of wonder. Look for it to be a breakout hit; if not in the theaters, then certainly on its eventual release to video. I could go on here for a while—I’m skipping some important films for lack of space, such as John Cameron Mitchell’s (Hedwig and the Angry Inch) Shortbus or Pedro Almodóvar’s Volver. However, I can’t let this column go without bragging about the fact that, thanks to Cannes and their sway, I had the very rare fortune of not only seeing Alejandro Jodorowsky’s El Topo and The Holy Mountain on the big screen with an audience, but that Jodorowsky was in attendance at both of them, with The Holy Mountain projected from a film print onto a screen that is in the ocean while the film’s audience sits on the beach of the French Riviera. I will be hard pressed to ever do anything cooler than that in my entire life.
EXTRA BLUE KIND at CICERO’s | photo: jim dunn
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By Shandy Casteel
conservative leftovers After the National Review recently published a list of 50 conservatively themed rock songs, many were miffed at the jaw-dropping interpretations of the lyrics. These weren’t the usual slate of flag-waving musical stars the magazine was rallying behind, but a co-opting of a slate of liberal idols such as the Who, David Bowie, Bob Dylan, and the Clash. Fortunately, the list topped out at 50, but as anyone who makes a list knows, there’s always the handful of near misses. Here now, for the first time anywhere, the ten songs that almost made John J. Miller’s list. 1. “Unskinny Bop” | Poison Commonly misread as a tale of sexual proclivities, this song is actually a love of all things petroleum—that most patriotic of liquids. As Bret Michaels proudly proclaims: “Like gasoline you wanna pump me/And leave me when you get your fill, yeah.” 2. “Dude (Looks Like a Lady)” | Aerosmith A National Rifle Association anthem that celebrates the right to bear arms for everyone—no matter what you’re packing: “Then she whipped out a gun/Tried to blow me away.” 3. “I Want It That Way” | Backstreet Boys Capitalism and freedom of choice celebrated by one of the greatest boy bands of all time. Having it your way just isn’t for the Burger King drive-thru: “Yes I know it’s too late/But I want it that way.” 4. “She Blinded Me With Science” | Thomas Dolby A warning that putting too much stock in science will leave you unable to see the truth only faith can show you.
5. “We Didn’t Start the Fire” | Billy Joel
8. “Heaven Is a Place on Earth” | Belinda Carlisle
A rebuke to the “Blame America First” crowd, reminding everyone: “We didn’t start the fire/No we didn’t light it/But we tried to fight it.”
Not as blasphemous as one might think, it’s a shout out to those helping build the Kingdom down here—one president at a time.
6. “Never Surrender” | Corey Hart
9. “Hangin’ Tough” | New Kids on the Block
Maybe Corey Hart is an unusual place to find inspiration, but his song preaches the good gospel of never giving in to evil doers: “Cause no one can take away your right/To fight and never surrender.” 7. “We Don’t Have to Take Our Clothes Off” | Jermaine Stewart Sometimes it’s the man that has to stand up and be counted for morals and abstinence: “You just took for granted that I want to skinny dip/A quick hit, that’s your game/But I’m not a piece of meat...”
A tough song from an equally tough group that expresses an all-American attitude: “Everybody’s always talkin’ ’bout who’s on top/don’t cross our path ’cause you’re gonna get stomped.” 10. “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” | Bobby McFerrin The liberal elite and their cohorts in the mainstream media keep trying to bring us down with talk of wiretaps, stolen votes, Iraq, and more, but McFerrin has a cure for all that ails: “In every life we have some trouble/When you worry you make it double/Don’t worry, be happy...”
jeff anderson and brian o’halloran in clerks II | courtesy the weinstein company/mgm
clerks ii (the weinstein company/mgm, r)
After 2001’s Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, Kevin Smith stated publicly that he was retiring the Jay and Silent Bob characters. His next film was 2004’s disappointing (and yet at least a little underrated) Jersey Girl, and shortly thereafter, Smith reneged on his claim that he wouldn’t make any more Jay and Silent Bob movies, and announced Clerks II, which, at the time, he was calling The Passion of the Clerks (thank, um, Christ that he scrapped that title). This artistic flip flop to return to the characters that made him famous made a lot of his longtime fans both happy and nervous, as, while a new film filled with Dante (Brian O’ Halloran) and Randall (Jeff Anderson) yelling at customers would be welcome, Smith has been losing relevance with every film he’s released since 1997’s Chasing Amy, and none of us want to see our favorite characters besmirched by an ill-advised sequel. As it turns out, both the hope that the film might be a return to form and the worry that it will bastardize Smith’s arguably most beloved characters are valid, as the film somehow manages to do both. Clerks II begins with the Quick Stop that has employed Dante and Randall since the first Clerks burning down, and then it jumps in time a year or two to when Dante and Randall have moved on to the local Mooby’s (the McDonald’s-like fast food joint first seen in Dogma), under the command of Becky (Rosario Dawson), their very likeable and attractive manager. Dante’s now engaged to a girl named Emma (played by Smith’s real-life wife, Jennifer Schwalbach) and plans to move to Florida with her in a few weeks. Randall, on the other hand, has no desire to do anything other than be a low-level clerk all his life, and seems upset with the fact that Dante is motivated to get out. On the periphery are Jay (Jason Mewes) and Silent Bob (Smith), of course, as well as a newcomer named Elias
(Trevor Fehrman) who works with them at Mooby’s, and the usual smattering of cameos from Smith’s cronies (Ben Affleck and Jason Lee, among others). When Smith sticks to what he first made his name on—great, realistic dialogue on love, sex, and pop culture—the movie is everything you could want it to be (Mewes does a classic impression of The Silence of the Lambs’ Buffalo Bill, for example, and there is also a great ongoing feud between Randall and Elias regarding whether the original Star Wars or The Lord of the Rings films are a better film trilogy). Also, Smith retains his knack for perfectly casting every single role, right down to the minor ones—Fehrman is a find as Elias, Dawson sells a borderline impossibly written role, etc. But still, a lot of the follies that have befallen Smith in his recent pictures are all too glaring: dated jokes (something called Freedom Toast would have been funny, what, five years ago? And let’s not bring up the film’s original title) and undisciplined sequences abound (a John Hughes–like dance number starts out humorously but wears out its welcome long before it is actually over), the last line of the film is embarrassing, Smith’s schtick as Silent Bob gets more over the top with every film, and his forgoing the human comedy for slapstick is a terrible trend that he needs desperately to kick. Ultimately, if you’re a fan of the original Clerks but are afraid to see this one, go see it; you won’t regret it. Even so, Smith has some serious work to do if he ever hopes to re-attain the comedic gold and cultural importance of Clerks or Chasing Amy; it would be heartbreaking if films like Clerks II are the best he can muster for the rest of his career. | Pete Timmermann
Read Pete’s interview with Clerks 2 leads Jeff Anderson and Brian O’Halloran online at www.playbackstl.com.
little miss sunshine (fox searchlight, r)
As one of the breakout hits from a Sundance Film Festival where all of the breakouts were from big names and thereby foreseeable, I’m happy to report that Little Miss Sunshine at least deserved its breakout status, as opposed to some of the others (Michel Gondry’s The Science of Sleep is for suckers, and The Night Listener was a joke), despite its seemingly strange inclusion in the festival in the first place. Little Miss Sunshine is a road movie wherein a family has to get their precious daughter Olive (a surprisingly uncloying Abigail Breslin) across the country in a derelict VW bus to a beauty pageant for which she’s been practicing for ages and has her heart set on. The family is full of characters, as you would expect from a movie like this, such as Grandpa (Alan Arkin), a vulgar war vet, Frank (Steve Carell), and a gay and down-on-his-luck scholar, Richard (Greg Kinnear, playing the type of role he always plays), among others. Also expected is that Murphy’s Law is in full effect on the trip, especially with regard to the constantlybreaking-down and horn-deficient bus. With a cast of name actors and a plot as predictable and generic as it has, Little Miss Sunshine
seems like it would almost have to be a disappointment coming from Sundance (films such as this one often only show there to gain some kind of otherwise unobtainable street cred). Credit its success to the film’s directors, Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, who are primarily known for directing music videos and episodes of Mr. Show, and producer Ron Yerxa, who had a hand in getting Alexander Payne’s Election made, as well as to the cast, who, while well known, are well known for a reason: They are talented. (How novel!) Industry analysts have already been saying that comedies have generally been huge disappointments in the box office this year, and in this regard, Little Miss Sunshine is bound to be a breakout hit and a high point for a summer of (arguably) poor-performing comedies. Perhaps this is because, unlike many of the others, Little Miss Sunshine continues the comeback of R-rated comedies begun last year by Wedding Crashers and The 40-Year-Old Virgin. So, while it might be surprising that a film as mainstream-seeming as Little Miss Sunshine had to go to Sundance to get noticed (it didn’t have a distributor until Fox Searchlight picked it up after its first screening there), it makes more sense when considered that, even after similar films proved their marketability last year, R-shy studios still don’t have the good sense to make them; once again, independent filmmakers have to come to the rescue of American cinema. | Pete Timmermann a scanner darkly (warner independent pictures, r)
Philip K. Dick’s classic sci-fi novels have been fodder for many films over the years—from Blade Runner to Total Recall, Minority Report to Paycheck—to varying degrees of success. Dick is a singular talent, and not every filmmaker can tap into his mentality as well as is needed to produce a good film from his source material. The infinitely talented Richard Linklater seems a good choice to tackle the work of Dick, as Linklater has hardly made a misstep in his career. Perhaps it is a tribute to the incomparable inventiveness of Dick’s stories that Linklater fails in his attempts to wade into Dick’s waters. The work from Dick’s massive back catalogue is A Scanner Darkly, a story of a paranoid futuristic police state (is there any other sort in Dick’s fiction?) where two out of every ten civilians are picked by the government to spy on the other eight. Identity is a major issue here, as it is in Dick’s other work, and the spies wear “scramble suits” to disguise their identities, even from their employees. The events of A Scanner Darkly involve a reluctant spy named Bob Arctor (Keanu Reeves) who is assigned to spy on his friends (including Robert Downey Jr., Winona Ryder, Woody Harrelson, and Rory Cochrane) and himself, who are all suspected drug dealers and users. Linklater uses the same rotoscoping technique that he used in 2001’s Waking Life here, which involves the filming of live actors more or less like usual, and then having animators go over the footage after the fact to make it an animated film. The technique added a lot to Waking Life, which took place in a dream and thereby benefited from the freedom combined with reality that rotoscoping allows. I’m not sure that it was necessary here, as it does not really add anything to the film, aside from the cool-looking scramble suit, which would have been very difficult to create in a live action film. Most of the acting is crappy—Harrelson and Cochrane are way over the top, and only Downey Jr. is a success as an actor in this film. The paranoiac overtones and faux-trippy imagery seem to cater to an audience other than me, as it all seemed forced and generally irritating to someone who was not high or stupid (or both). It would seem like matching Linklater’s inventiveness with Dick’s would be a great collaboration (well, sort of, as Dick has been dead for over 20 years), but Linklater’s lack of actual invention points to an ugly possibility: Linklater might be running out of ideas. | Pete Timmermann
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DVD acquired taste (sub pop)
God bless those geniuses/ lucky bastards at Sub Pop. They’ve been holding out on us, sitting on this collection of odds and ends of visual dessert to an already delicious musical meal they feature. In a time when MTV shows no music videos and there are more than ever to be seen, Sub Pop has graced us with their Acquired Taste. This collection of music videos ranging from the Postal Service and Iron and Wine to Sleater-Kinney and Wolf Parade is, in fact, meant for a certain cultured (read: hipster) type that has an acquired taste of music and the videos that compliment it, not so much the ADD-visually stimulated MTV viewer. You will see no booty shaking in any of these videos. If, however, you have acquired the taste of enjoying video footage of poop, farts, and insects, then you are in luck with this DVD, due to Ugly Casanova’s “Things I Don’t Remember (unedited version).” (Which, I can only assume/ hope is different from the edited version.) A note of warning: This DVD is a collection for the fan of the music, not so much for a fan of music videos in general. It’s not part of any Director’s Works Series. Some story lines are muddled at best, but there are creative gems within the list, such as Kinski’s “The Wives of Artie Shaw.” There is also a good amount of animation throughout the DVD. Acquired Taste isn’t made to be a showcase of great illustrative talent, but it’s definitely an enjoyable one in the sense that, even though you might not understand it, it’s still pretty cool. | Katie Bordner kate bush under review (sexy intellectual)
If you’re a Kate Bush fan, you’ll probably give anything that has her name and/ or likeness on it a chance. That’s not a criticism so much as a confession; I once bought a terrible concert bootleg
(from her one and only concert back in 1979) and an unofficial compilation of all of her B-sides and alternative mixes, as well as a couple interview discs (that were listened to exactly once). That’s more or less where Kate Bush Under Review fits in. Subtitled “An Independent Critical Analysis,” this DVD bills itself as “not just the only documentary DVD about Kate Bush available” but also “the finest work on this extraordinary performer yet to emerge.” While it may not live up to its own hype, it’s still an enjoyable documentary of the reclusive British singer/songwriter whose career spans 28 years and only eight albums—but what albums they are. The 90-minute documentary ranges from her earliest songwriting as a teenager to the present, and features interviews with music journalists, DJs, and musicians. It’s a bit unsettling the way the interview subjects refer to Bush in the past tense, as if she were no longer creating or recording (or alive, even) when, in fact, she released one of her most ambitious works just last year, the two-disc Aerial. There probably isn’t much in here that diehard Bush fans don’t already know. It’s not surprising to hear, for example, that she was headstrong from the start, when she overruled her label (at 19 years old, no less) and insisted her first single be, not “The Man with the Child in His Eyes,” but “Wuthering Heights,” a bizarre and complicated song that was inspired by the Emily Brontë novel—and became the first British No. 1 single written by a British woman. While it may not break new ground, the documentary is still a good retrospective of her career to date. There probably isn’t much in the way of footage that is all that new, either, although there are some clips from old TV interviews and performances that are grainy but wonderful to see: Bush performing “The Man With the Child in His Eyes” on the BBC or the video for “Wow,” her homage to the stage (watch for the part of the video where she pats her behind while singing the line “he’s too busy hitting the Vaseline”—you have to wonder if anyone could get away with that now). Still, it’s a pity that other footage, like the video for “The Sensual World,” is so poor when my old VHS copy of the video is sharper. The DVD also includes what’s billed as the hardest Kate Bush Interactive Quiz in the World Ever” (yes, ever!), and if my performance is any indication (“a mediocre 13 out of 25”), they’re not far off. Or maybe I’m not as big a fan of hers as I thought. No, that can’t be it. | Jeffrey Ricker
faith no more | live at the brixton academy/who cares a lot? (rhino) If it was grunge that felled the wickedly horrible tree that was ’80s hair metal, it was Faith No More that had weakened its root structure long before we’d ever heard the words “teen spirit.” Their double DVD release Live at the Brixton Academy, London – You Fat B**tards/Who Cares a Lot? The Greatest Videos is a perfect time capsule of 1990, at that perfect moment where the Poisons and the Mötley Crües began to topple, but just before everyone began to wear plaid. The first disc, Live at the Brixton Academy, is the concert you wish you could have seen your favorite band perform. It’s the show, in that kinda medium-sized venue, just as they have begun to get popular, when the sky is the limit. Shot in April 1990, fresh from the growing success of their first major album, The Real Thing, Live at the Brixton features an 11-song set list mostly comprised of cuts from the aforementioned album. Frontman Mike Patton (who has, thankfully, churned out many albums under numerous monikers since Faith’s 1989 breakup) is in perfect form, bouncing about the stage with 22-year-old abandon, whipping his “war-stripped” long hair around theatrically, and mockingly weaving bits and pieces of New Kids on the Block’s “Right Stuff” and Technotronic’s “Pump Up the Jam” in with his own lyrics. Like I said: time capsule of 1990. The second disc, Who Cares a Lot? The Greatest Videos, is as advertised, a compilation of 18 music videos arranged in not quite chronological order spanning their 16-year history. Highlights include their breakout hit “Epic” and its famous slow-motion flopping fish, and their cover of the Commodores “Easy (Like Sunday Morning)” with Patton singing to a number of transvestites, including keyboardist and future Imperial Teen founder Roddy Bottum. The videos run the gamut from highly creative to amazingly dated to quite possibly the (intentionally) worst video ever, “Everything’s Ruined,” making community access television quality usage of green screen effects. This DVD release, apparently prompted by the amazingly high prices the previously
released VHS version had been going for on eBay, is very cut-and-dry. Though a must have for any FNM or Patton fan and worth a look for anyone else, don’t look to this double disc for any bonus features or extra material. The first nine videos feature short snippets of home movies and interviews, but they strangely give way to simple text song introductions by the tenth video, which oddly coincides with the departure of founding guitarist Jim Martin. Perhaps he took the camcorder with him when he left. | Ryan Hamlett gorillaz demon days live (virgin) Though not necessarily a fanatic Gorillaz fan (there is much to take up your time on their Web site), I have always been impressed by the undertaking. The band offers a veritable what’s what of music. The music trips across territory in such a jet-powered fashion so as to cross centuries. The DVD release of a live concert featuring material primarily from their second album, Demon Days, covers the band’s appearance at the Manchester Opera House, a five day stint in late 2005. Gorillaz is the creation of Jamie Hewlett (the cartoonist who brought us Tank Girl) and Damon Albarn (lead singer/songwriter for Blur) who inhabit the characters of 2D, Noodle, Russell, and Murdoc. The idea has spawned two hugely successful albums and allows for a rich brand of music that weaves together Albarn’s varying musical interests with dozens of inspired guest musicians. However, it makes a live appearance somewhat complicated. It is rumored that the band will perform a tour in 2007–08 as holograms. For now, the solution was a brilliant stage plot by Hewlett that offered the music’s actual creators playing in silhouette in the background, a symphony full of musicians midstage, and guests up front. The effect, when fully realized, is of a comic book page with framed moving images. The DVD offers some beautiful editing, which allows for closer cropping of the staged scene, making the visual aspects of the show knit together nicely with the music. Like all concert films, it takes away a bit of your ability to pick and choose what to watch on stage, but the
DVD offers an invigorating show. If you liked the album, you will love the show; for the rest of you, there is still much to offer. Where the DVD is most effective is in allowing the viewer to hone in on the musicians, especially Albarn. Hunched over the piano and making gestures to the band, he seems content at playing the “unseen hand that guides the project.” Even in silhouette he is riveting. In one of the DVD’s most touching moments, the band pays tribute to the Cuban star Ibrahim Ferrer, an early collaborator on the beautiful “Latin Simone (Que Pasa Contigo),” who died in August 2005. The song, originally on the band’s debut album and performed by Albarn, is now performed to a video of Ferrer singing the lyrics. The DVD offers the same “bring it to the party” esthete as the albums, with a gentle collision of styles and talents that makes for an enjoyable evening. The guests include a children’s choir, St. Louis’ own Ike Turner, Nenah Cherry, and the Happy Mondays’ Shaun Ryder. Some are better choices than others, but for the most part, the guests are well chosen and the perfect accompaniment to the show. The Gorillaz method seems to be equal parts musical enthusiasm and exploration, pushed into party mode and accentuated with a visual richness that is rare and appreciated. Not only do they create music that is eminently listenable, but they bring in guest performers who shine under their production (the recorded version of “DARE” with Ryder is a return to his brilliant ’80s persona), and they create a band that is fully formed and entertaining in their own right. The DVD just adds texture to the whole story. | Jim Dunn
let’s rock again! (image entertainment) When Dick Rude began filming for his Joe Strummer documentary in 2001, there’s no way he could’ve known how important the footage would be. With Strummer’s death coming just 18 months later, it was some of the last documentation of a punk icon. Let’s Rock Again! opens with a montage of the Clash in the late 1970s, then jumps forward 25 years to follow Strummer on tour with his new band, the Mescaleros. Through intimate interviews, backstage footage, and stunning live performances, Rude paints a candid portrait of a Strummer few knew in life. More than a passionate performer or a defiant punk, he was principled, witty, adept at storytelling, and genuinely concerned for his band and his fans. And he was modest almost to a fault. Of his status as a lyricist and musician, he said he was somewhere “on the level of crossword puzzle writers.” Modest or not, it still hurts on the inside to see footage of the man, after an 11-year break from the music business, go unrecognized on the Atlantic City boardwalk as he handed out hand-drawn concert flyers, or trying to talk his way into a radio station to plug his new album. But when the Mescaleros hit the stage in any of the film’s outstanding live clips, Strummer plays with so much intensity, it’s continued on page 63
By Brendan Flaherty
first it took over my face, then it took over my life the heart-wrenching saga that is raising a mustache
When I first grew a mustache, I was the happiest guy in the world. My mustache and I would go on bike rides, wake up early to buy the freshest baguettes, and comb the beach for the handsomest of seashells. We’d stay up all night talking, my mustache and I—not about anything, but about everything. Women were secretly thrilled by the tenacity and grace of my mustache. Two high school girls even asked my mustache to the prom, but he politely declined, because they were, as he claimed, jailbait. Men with mustaches would give me a knowing look as we approached on the street. Men without mustaches would tip their top hats and give me taffy out of respect for the majesty of my mustache. And life was good, until the night of June 24, when I woke up in the middle of the night…and my mustache was gone. I had had this crazy dream that I was falling into a deep hole I had dug to China in order to meet General Tso. I was so scared that I had sweated through my nightgown and my sleeping cap. I reached for my candleholder but couldn’t find it atop the stack of ammunition I keep next to my bed. I was a-panic, all a-frazzled, and in desperation I decided to wake up my mustache, for moral support and maybe a back rub. When I tugged my upper lip, however, my mustache was gone. After a few hours, I was able to cry myself to sleep. When I woke in the morning, my mustache was back. Even stranger, it smelled like perfume. “Zippity do daaaaaaa,” I mused to myself, eyeing my mustache suspiciously as we brushed our fangs. “Zippity…dooo…da!” I chalked up the incident of the mysterious missing midnight mustache to my own confusion. Maybe I was still half asleep or half dreaming, and my mustache had been there the whole time. Stranger things have
happened: Horses have sexed donkeys, ballots have gone missing, mummies have driven gocarts. The world is a weird place. And then I received my credit card statement. Mustache gel: $20. Mustache silk tie: $50. Mustache lube: $23. There were additional charges at bars and restaurants all over town, not including a $315 charge at Condom World…for Mustaches. I had never been there. No sir, I am no pervert. When I brought these charges up to my mustache, he growled and told me to get him a goddamn jar of moonshine. “Mustache,” I said. “You don’t drink.” “Shut your ugly head!” he said, sounding drunk. “You don’t know what I do!” “You’ve been using my credit card,” You’ve been spending all over town. You’ve been fraternizing with loose women.” I was trembling and crouched in the corner of our apartment, holding a rolling pin for protection. Suddenly, my mustache jumped off my face. I screamed like a castrato. “Where are you going?” “Out!” my mustache yelled, lighting a cigar and lumbering toward the door. “Where?” “Get off my case already!” my mustache roared. “I bust my hump all week and I gotta come back to you and face the goddamned inquisition!” He slammed the door, shattering my Faberge egg. I ran to the refrigerator and started shoveling handfuls of ham and ice cream down my gullet. I was so upset, betrayed, and swindled by my good friend and mustache, with no one to turn to but the fleeting solace of a pork and dairy binge. When I calmed down, I called up my good friend and confidante, Tom Selleck, on his emergency line. “Magnum,” I said into the tin can, “I grew a mustache and it stole my credit card.” It was a long distance to Tom Selleck’s private island and my voice had to carry over thousands of miles of yarn, so there was a slight delay before he could respond. “Idiot!” he said finally. “A mustache? You might as well have invited a vampire into your home!” “But you had a mustache and you seemed so happy,” I responded into the can. “Imbecile! That was the ’80s, and that was a hologram. I wasn’t happy at all.”
“What?” I whimpered, confused. “Just because I wore a Hawaiian shirt doesn’t mean I was happy. I spent two years in rehab after I got hooked on a goatee. “Brendan,” Tom Selleck said to me. He could tell I was about one inch away from a violent feeding frenzy. “You know I love you. You’ve always been a great friend and a huge inspiration to me. You saved my life on more than one occasion; the wolverine, the plane crash, the cannibal cults. But you gotta grow up. Mustaches will only make you look like a pervert and get you into trouble. They serve no logical purpose. You didn’t pitch for the Dodgers 20 years ago. You don’t eat krill, do you?” “Krill?” “Forget it. Listen, change your locks, cancel your credit card, shave, and stop calling me every weekend, all hopped up on ham and ice cream with a new crisis that you want me to solve. I’m Tom Selleck; I don’t have time for your crap.” “You know what, Tom Selleck, you’re right. I will follow my dreams. I will become an astronaut.” “No. That is not what I am saying at all. You don’t listen…” I hung up the emergency line, inspired. As an investigative reporter, the world needed me. I couldn’t sit on the sidelines, feeling sorry for myself because my mustache left me. I couldn’t shrivel up inside and turn my apartment over to a gang of feral cats. I needed to go where nobody ever, in the history of time, had gone. I needed to keep pushing the bounds of human knowledge, regardless of minor setbacks like a bill for mustache lube. I needed to investigate something so unknown that most people had never even heard of it. Next month, to prove to my mustache that I am doing completely fine without him— ahem, it (and by the way I haven’t even thought about it the good times we used to have making up limericks and looking for animal shapes in the clouds)—I am going to the moon. That’s right, I’m going to the moon, mustache. What have you done, huh? Probably nothing. Stay with your whores, you whore-mongering scallywag. See if I care. I’m friends with Tom Selleck and I am going to be the first person ever to walk on the moon. So there! Who’s the idiot now, mustache? Who’s the idiot now?!
By Anne Valente
childhood in song
Something bizarre happens to me at the beginning of every summer, and I’m curious as to whether it happens to anyone else: As soon as my body registers an outdoor temperature ranging above 80 degrees, the opening riff to “Surfin’ U.S.A.” starts flickering through my mind. I hear it in the unlikeliest of places, like at the grocery store when I’m busy pulling wheat bran from the cereal aisle shelf and suddenly this do tootle tootledy tootledy tootle do! explodes in my head. It’s like my body has been eternally programmed to understand summer only as a Beach Boys–inspired prototype full of boardwalks and surfboards, even though neither of these things ever made an appearance at the neighborhood pool when I was a kid. I can only attribute this association to having grown up with my parents’ records, an impressive collection that included not only a steady rotation of Endless Summer but a number of other albums that have likely molded the way I continue to understand the world. I know there’s some truth to this, because two of my earliest memories involve the Who. And while guitar solos from their albums don’t invade my thoughts like the Beach Boys tend to do, those memories count for something. In the first, my father is trying to teach my sister and me the lyrics to “Boris the Spider,” and he keeps returning the record player needle back to start position so that we can hear the words again. We’re trying to sing along but we keep giggling over John Entwistle’s booming baritone (honestly, he does sound like a trash can Oscar). Our giggles are compounded by the fact that every time the chorus comes on, our dad’s face becomes cartoonishly grumpy to accommodate the low registers. To this day, I can’t listen to this song without trying to test the deepest reaches of my vocal capacities. In my second Who-related memory, we’re all
As soon as it comes, he explodes in a windmill air guitar, yelling, “See, girls! This is how Pete Townshend used to do it!” and in a matter of seconds, both my sister and I are throwing out windmills, too.
standing around the stereo listening to the opening bars of “Pinball Wizard,” and my dad is crouched over in anticipation waiting for the first roaring guitar riff. As soon as it comes, he explodes in a windmill air guitar, yelling, “See, girls! This is how Pete Townshend used to do it!” and in a matter of seconds, both my sister and I are throwing out windmills, too. These are what I think of when someone mentions the Who, and all because my father so purely and wholeheartedly wanted us to truly grasp the greatness of his generation’s music. And it certainly didn’t stop with the Who, nor was my mom innocent in leaving us free to enjoy our NKOTB and Marky Mark, she none the wiser. Both parents ran the gamut, from my father clarifying the subtle differences between Cream and Derek and the Dominoes to my mom teaching me a rockin’ version of “Stairway to Heaven” on the family piano. And although I used to wonder which albums belonged to which parent, those answers became abundantly clear once I learned how to read and noticed that my mom, being the more systematic of the two, had printed her name on each of her albums in neat, collegeaged handwriting. (This, incidentally, is also how I learned that people’s names change when they get married.) Of the many albums that my parents introduced us to, there are certainly a few that stand out. The entire Beatles collection is an obvious frontrunner, and my sister and I spent one creepy summer looking for hidden clues on the Abbey Road and Sgt. Pepper’s album covers. We also tried to play the albums backward without killing them entirely, and while we didn’t find much, I do know that I distinctly
heard someone whisper “I buried Paul” at the end of “Strawberry Fields Forever.” After that, the Beatles collection was put back on the shelf in favor of more pleasant albums, like Cat Stevens and Simon and Garfunkel. Of course, what probably surpassed the Beatles in its disturbing quotient was Bert Sommer’s Road to Travel—does anyone else remember this guy? I looked him up on Amazon, and there isn’t a single comment written about him, which leads me to believe that my father was his only fan. At any rate, the album contains “A Note That Read,” a track detailing a son’s suicide letter to his estranged father. Talk about depressing. At least my dad waited until our teen years to introduce that one to us, but suicide wasn’t such a shocker by that time anyway, considering Kurt Cobain’s untimely demise. My parents’ interest in shaping our musical tastes obviously paved the way for the future, because now not only do I make the connections between every modern album and its forerunners, but I also find myself gathering digital recordings of the albums I grew up with so that I can keep this music far beyond when the original records become too scratched to play. Of course, this might be an unnecessary endeavor considering that the Beach Boys do just fine keeping their songs on my mental playlist, with or without a tangible recording. But it’s kind of comforting to know that I have my own copy of Dark Side of the Moon, along with every other album my parents are responsible for introducing me to, so that one day maybe I, too, will be teaching my kids how to throw out a windmill that would make Pete Townshend proud.
By Byron Kerman
By Byron Kerman
see the oscar meyer weinermobile at summerfest in collinsville july 9.
Thru July 28: Works in Progress by Terrell Carter at Baseline Gallery (314-621-9188) Summer: Maplewood Farmers’ Market from 4–7 p.m. Wed. at Schlafly Bottleworks parking lot (www.schlafly.com) Thru July ’07: BJC Sportsworks interactive sports fun at St. Louis Science Ctr. (www.slsc.org) Thur. thru Aug.: Chihuly Nights with dramatically lit views of Glass in the Garden exhibition, glass-blowing demos, music, cash bar, & appetizers at Mo. Botanical Garden (www.mobot.org) July 1–4: Fair St. Louis with fireworks, parade, Eats Bridge dining on the Eads Bridge, exhibits, kids’ fun, and performances by B5, Jason Mraz, & Hootie and the Blowfish on Riverfront (www.fairstl.org) July 5: Strange Brew: Cult Films at Schlafly Bottleworks features campy ’60s film Batman: The Movie, sponsored by Webster Films (314-9687487, www.webster.edu/filmseries.html) July 6: Select Nights with music, $2 drinks, & appetizers at Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis (www.contemp orarystl.org) July 7: Gazebo Series with free vocal jazz concert by Erin Bode and screening of Sixteen Candles at Gazebo Park in Webster Groves (www.webstergroves.org) July 7: First Friday Gallery Walk downtown (www.downtownstlouis.org) July 7–23: Act Inc. presents Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest at Fontbonne Univ. Theatre July 8–9: Contemporary Indian Art Show & Sale at Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site (www.cahokiamounds.com) July 8–9: Animal Planet Expo with animal shows, live-insect enclosures, mini-cinema, face painting, disc dogs, & booths in Forest Park (www.animal.discovery.com) July 9: Lost episodes of Chappelle Show air on Comedy Central (www.comedycentral.com) July 9–10: Maplewood Comm. Fair with kids’ activities, concessions, art fair, & kickball tournament in Deer Creek
Park (www.ci.maplewood.mo.us) July 13: Editor of The Nation Victor Navasky reads from & signs book A Matter of Opinion at the Ethical Society (www.left-bank.org) July 13–30: Stray Dog Theatre presents John Guare’s House of Blue Leaves at Little Theatre at Clayton HS (314531-5923, www.straydogtheatre.org) July 14: Everything, Now! & Kid Primitive free in-store performances at Vintage Vinyl (www.vintagevinyl.com) July 14: Competitive double-Dutch jump-rope team Steppin’ Higher performs at St. Louis Science Ctr.’s Lunch & Learn Series (www.slsc.org) July 14: Let Them Eat Art! progressive art walk thru Maplewood restaurants & galleries (314-646-3607, www.ci.maplewood.mo.us) July 14–Aug. 12: Live on the Levee with fireworks, Eats Bridge, family fun, local bands and live music by Sister Hazel, Better Than Ezra, India Arie, Big Head Todd, Toad the Wet Sprocket, Cheap Trick, Grand Funk Railroad, Edwin McCain, Lyle Lovett, & Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Fri. & Sat. on the Riverfront (www.fairstl.org) July 15–16: International Funfest at Mo. History Museum (314-7464599, www.mohistory.org) July 15–23: Henry Shaw Cactus Society show & sale at Mo. Botanical Garden (www.hscactus.org) July 15–30: Louis Malle retrospective at Webster Films (314-968-7487, www.webster.edu/filmseries.html) July 17: River Styx presents Hungry Young Poets with music by bluegrass band Counterfeit Caboose at Duff’s (314-533-4541, www.riverstyx.org) July 19: Free screening of Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride at St. Louis Co. Library, Indian Trails Branch (314-4285424, www.slcl.org) July 20: Ciné 16 16-mm academic films screened at Mad Art (www.afana.org/cine16stlouis.htm) July 21: ArtLoop Gallery Hop with a dozen galleries in U. City Loop area, 5–10 p.m. (www.stlrac.org) July 21–22: Fusion Street Festival
| More listings online at www.playbackstl.com/Events
with live outdoor concerts, art displays, kids’ talent show, & activities in Belleville (www.bellevillemainstreet.net) July 21–30: St. Louis Shakespeare presents Mary Zimmerman’s waterstunt-drama Metamorphoses at the Grandel Theatre (314-361-5664, www.stlshakespeare.org) July 22: MoonStock commemorates moon landing & Woodstock with music, activities, demos, & concessions at St. Louis Science Ctr. Planetarium; plus Herpetological Society talk & meetthe-lizards earlier in day (www.slsc.org) July 22: Washington Ave. Music Festival with live music, DJs, activities, concessions, dog adoptions, vendors, & art market near Washington & Tucker (www.washavemusicfest.com) July 22: Steve Davis as Elvis at Chuck-a-Burger of St. Charles (www.chuckaburger.com) July 22–23: Festival of Nations featuring Parade of Nations, live music & dance, intl. food & market, kids’ fun, craft demos, & sports participation in Tower Grove Park (314-773-9090, www.iistl.org) July 23: Ivory Perry Park Summer Concert Series w/blues guitarist Bennie Smith (www.union-avenue.org/ipp.html) July 23–26: St. Louis Filmmakers Showcase at Tivoli Theatre (314-4540042, www.cinemastlouis.org) July 26: Jammin’ at the Zoo evening benefit with live music, cash bar, & happy-hour food ($5, 314-781-0900, www.stlzoo.org) July 26: Hill Day featuring Italian food & drink sales, bocce ball, games, etc. in The Hill neighborhood (314773-3560) July 27: Dave Barry & Ridley Pearson sign Peter and the Shadow Thieves at St. Louis County Library HQ (314-994-3300, www.slcl.org) July 29: The Art of Food Slow Food benefit with gourmet foods, food-related art & activities, auctions, & raffles at Mad Art (firstname.lastname@example.org) July 29: St. Louis Writers Guild presents St. Louis Under the Stars outdoor readings at Kirkwood Park (314-821-3823)
AMaybe poetryitreading by K. much isn’t wise to Curtis call an Lyle eventis not the so “PoleaVaulting performance as a group gesticulates Explosion.” Soundsritual. like Lyle something that and a shaman, weaving spell,Let’sworking windschants up onlike “Real TV” or “Web Junk a20.” hope the juju. exhibition vaulterscome attempting trackat& Readings field’s mostat his Come,of come, hear him dangerous event smoothly bloodlessly the the Schlafly Tapgoes Room Dec. and 1. He’s joined byat poet annual St. Charles in Frontier Park. Watch Marcellus LeonardRiverfest (http://belz.net/readings). the soaring athletes, eat a hot dog, ooh at the fireworks, devotion art again andPhil feel Slein’s the vicarious pain oftotheunderground X-treme Strongman yields up the best eye candy on Washington Avenue. competitors, too, at the Independence Day extravaganza The Men: 6 Influential Tattooists, which fea(JulyMarked 2–4, www.stcharlescity.com/fourth_of_july). the annualDon mock-beheading of turesSpeaking flash artofbyblood, the legendary Ed Hardy, bows Antoinette at BastilleDec. Days makes peasants atMarie Philip Slein Gallery, 2–30. Thethe gallery also feel rather pleasant. Watch the letterpress procession toposters the guiloffers a mess of old-fashioned and lotine, participate in various events at dozens of bars, such in Eric Woods: Firecracker Press. Woods’ enjoy live music, and drink, drink, drink in the village of handmade greeting journals, and similar booze calledretro Soulard (July cards, 7–9, 314-865-1994). merch fairly scream out “classy Christmas Behold, the artist! Subsisting on a diet ofgift” mac(314’n’ 621-4634, cheese and www.philipsleingallery.com). big dreams, she toils away in her studio, beseeching the muse, pulling her one hair dude in anguish, Rasputina. Two gals without cellos; on the reaching,Corsets. stretching, striving, and The yes,black yes, humor that’s it,of drums. Funereal ditties. finally:like crafting something from nothing. Enter the songs “Howard Hughes,” “Kate Moss,” andcruci“The ble of making at the first self-guided Citywide Artists’ Donner Party.” The aural equivalent of an Edward Open Studio tour. Pick up a map at Contemporary Gorey cartoon.St.TheLouis, most which tightlysponsors controlled and the Art Museum the peek at funniest onstage commentary between songs these gritty spaces, spattered with the detritus of ever the (“Our undergarments may be soiled, but our hearts divine (July 8, www.contemporarystl.org). Organized is for schmucks. TrueHouse spirituality remain pure”;religion “The rumor that the Full twins comes from staringand up at giant Brooks Catsup abused a priest, thattheanimals were involved, Bottleon.andBut,joining other celebrants the annual rages we still perform their atmusic”; “Julie Summerfest in Collinsville. With root beer floats; Andrews comes into me and tells me to do bad a car, truck, and bike show; craft booths; ice-carving things. She tells me to sing and spin, spin closer demos; kids’ activities; live music; a catsup taste-test;to the edge of the mountaintop”). 10 at Attack of the KillerAlpine Tomatoes karaoke; and Dec. a stopover by the (www.rasputina.com). Oscar Meyer Wienermobile, the festival Pop’s rewards acolytes of the roadside too attraction Can you honestly seetowering Blade Runner many (July 9,Arewww.catsupbottle.com). powersmoldering of conditimes? your bored with SeanTheYoung’s ments compels you. robot gaze and her cigarettes? Are you tired of the No one’s saying much about Zombozo, an “original Vangelis electronic-noir soundtrack? Arescheduled you sick toof circus zombie play” by Jason Lauderdale Rutger Hauer’s big suicide speech? you bow at the Tin Ceiling this month. MaybeHow that’scould because be? Replicants and their secret lovers are making it’s being billed as a “silent tale of romance, murder, zombie for clowns, and bloody death.”ofI Science-Fiction can’t keep silent tracks the Five Decades about this series Whitman’s sampler of the perverse, I Cinema at the St. Louis County though. Library love County it when a Branch clown getsfor what’s to him (July –justMid the comin’ Dec. 13 screening 14–30, www.tinceiling.org). of Dr. the Robert Ridley Froehner Scott masterpiece (314-721-3008, isn’t content just playing the www.slcl.org). theremin. Oh no! The theremin, an electronic device played Jesus, Christmas. the hypocrisy by Oh, waving your it’s hands around it,End is about as sci-fi as aof itmusical all with the NonProphet Theatre’s Militant instrument can get. But Froehner wanted more. So he took up theBingo musical saw, as well. Now, this dread Propaganda Machine sketch-comedy schizoidat musical half Center. Max ReboThe andSLSC’s half show the St.Frankenstein, Louis Science Buck Owens, joins up withFriday the yuksters the party Compton young/hip/trendazoid NightsofLive welHeights Concert Band for two nights of performance comes the proudly offensive comedy troupe for an designed to blanch and destroy the life forms in Francis evening of interactive mirth, mistletoe, and mommyPark (July 30) and Tower Grove Park (July 31, make-it-stop (314-289-4444, stlouis.missouri.org/chband). Bringwww.slsc.org). a lawn chair.
Mars, will return to St. Louis a one-night engagement at The geant. Headlining their first ional tour in order to promote ir latest disc, A Beautiful Lie, o and Co. are set to prove that y have what it takes to not only rease their growing rock audie, but also to help keep rock ve with their own mix of rock, tal, and industrial electronica. king a name for themselves with lentless tour schedule, 30STM proving thatyorn they are a formipete le rockatforce whohill’s justduck happen blueberry room to July 1, 9 p.m. heartthrob | 21+ e a well-known for a TIX: $20 | CALL: 314-727-4444 d singer. Not only do you get one Singer/songwriter Pete Yorn’s brilliant 2001 o onstage, this band gives debut Musicforthemorningafter was you the perfect rainy-day record for bothis breaking and mako—brother Shannon the upgroup’s ing up (and making out, for that matter). Rarely mmer. have From delicate melodies to such a profoundly world-weary voice and such bittersweet melodies intertwined so effortne-crushing guitar power chords, lessly, and with so much do-it-yourself pop STM manages to stand out not enthusiasm. Even the quiet acoustic numbers y for their great music, but also were perpetually in motion, seemingly intent on taking the listener their passionate livesomeplace—maybe perfor- not very far, but just far enough to make you lose nce, which is not toyoubescratching missed. your bearings, leaving your head and wondering how youand got there. Althoughit. the | ck an52Oscar in that smoke tempos and moods were constantly shifting m Campbell throughout those 12 songs, as a whole, the record left you feeling as if a new friend with the most amazing voice had just told you his single great story, full of whispered secrets and better-left-unspoken regrets. Music was a knockout—both an artistic achievement for the then–27-year-old Yorn (having written the songs and played most of the instruments) and a certified-gold success. Still, some critics derided Yorn’s 2003 followup Day I Forgot as too earnest and, more to the point, too much like a slightly lesser Musicforthemorningafter; even more flash-inthe-panned Yorn for following Day with an oldfashioned live record, 2003’s Live From New Jersey. Many pop pundits were left wondering if the not-so-young-anymore troubadour had indeed, er, blown his wad too early. Three years later, intent on reestablishing himself as an artist and reconnecting with fans who’ve since wandered off to buy crap Coldplay records, Yorn’s embarking on his first ever “acoustic (with friends)” outing. The 35-date “You & Me” tour—booked in fan-pleasing intimate rooms—is focused on introducing fans to material from Yorn’s forthcoming Columbia full-length Nightcrawler, due in stores August 15. | Brian McClelland
quintron and miss pussycat
at CREEPY CRAWL July 26, 7 p.m. | all ages TIX: $10/12 | Call: 314-621-9333
a summer Midwestern jaunt, accompanied by a newly cut EP. | Brian Kenney
robin trower at the pageant July 18, 8 p.m. | all ages TIX: $25 | CALL: 314-726-6161
no river city at off broadway July 8, 9 p.m. | 21+ TIX: $5/7 | CALL: 314-773-3363 Raised on a steady grain of Gram Parsons, Uncle Tupelo, and Henry Miller, No River City has carved out a niche for themselves in the alt-country landscape. Not quite as hyper as Ryan Adams and not quite as somber as Tom Waits, No River City exists in between as Atlanta’s answer to the Waterboys. No River City have a certain Jack Kerouac presence about them. Other than the fact that they’ve toured for what founding member singer/guitarist/songwriter Drew de Man describes as 80,000 miles—often with the likes of Calexico and Mason Jennings—the music lends itself to the beat poet’s blue folk country vision, employing poetic lyrics commenting on the wayward and tumbleweed lives of blue-collar America. After its initial status as a duo featuring de Man and a cellist, the lineup evolved as de Man, seeking a fuller sound, beefed up the band to a five piece. After a brief hiatus after touring in support of 2003’s This Is Our North Dakota, the band is hitting the road again for
If you love that sweet, sweet sound of a vintage strat wailing the blues, then you need to go to this show. On tour to support his new DVD, Robin Trower will be performing a set of songs spanning his entire career—classics like “Too Rolling Stoned,” “Day of the Eagle,” and “Bridge of Sighs”—providing a great opportunity for fans vying for a close-up view of his guitar mastery. The beautiful thing about Trower’s playing is his touch, able to veer from feather-light taps to full-out wide bends with ease. He has an incredible range—from a warm, round tone, similar to Hendrix’s “The Wind Cries Mary,” to a gritty, hard-rock edge. It takes a lot more than a few blues licks and a vintage rig to be a master of the subtly of the blues. It takes seeing Trower play live to properly feel the power and emotion of this living legend. You have to stand there and hear the sound of his amps right in your face in order to fully appreciate his control and fluidity. | Derek Lauer
Remember that dream you had where you’re locked in a demented circus by a mad scientist, then you’re rescued by a talking alligator and a crawfish? No? Well, if you did, the music of Quintron and Miss Pussycat would have surely provided the soundtrack. Somehow managing to mix the B-52s and Jim Henson, Quintron and Miss Pussycat lay rocking and swelling Hammond organ over Drum Buddy beats, and combine it with—I shit you not—a puppet show. When this fun-filled fantasy freak-fest rolls through St. Louis, expect to hear such ditties as “Swamp Buggy Badass,” “French Quarter Faggot,” and what is surely to cause ripples of discussion throughout the KISS Army, an astonishingly cool cover of “God of Thunder,” finally bringing organ to its rightful home in Cock Rockville. Kneel before Quintron and Miss Pussycat at the Creepy Crawl and let them rob you of your virgin soul. | Jim Ousley
the roots at the pageant July 27, 8 p.m. | 21+ TIX: $18/21 | CALL: 314-726-6161 From their days back in a Philadelphia high school to the Aug. 29 release of their latest album Game Theory, the Roots have kept true to their built-from-the-ground-up hip-hop sound. Since The Roots’ formation in the late ’80s, rapper Black Thought and drummer ?uestlove have set the standard for dynamic hip-hop, lacing underground beats with a lyrical purity that is rarely matched. A focus on live performances and heavy instrumentation is what makes this band so powerful. Lyrically, they stand up and make a point. Inspiration comes from all corners. Politics, drug abuse, love, and the genuine love of music all play regular parts as each member—including bassist Hub, MC Malik B, Rahzel the Godfather of Noyze, and Kamal—brings his individual flavor to the group. | Janelle Greenwood
By Thomas Crone
paul stark chippewa chapel Already long known as the voice of KDHX’s popular “Ska’s the Limit,” Paul Stark was also recognized by the visitors the late Frederick’s Music Lounge, where he held up a corner of the bar on many an evening. Always a gregarious sort, Stark was the fellow that kept the trains moving on time at Frederick’s, which shuttered this spring, to the disappointment of many live music fans. The weekly schedule at Fred’s offered the “Noiseday Hootenany,” a concept that reigned for a few years as the leading open mic in town. When the venue closed, it didn’t take long for Stark to hatch a plan that would keep the spirit of that seven-years-running night alive at barrooms all over the South Side. It’s an idea called the Chippewa Chapel and Traveling Guitar Circle & Medicine Show. Recently, we caught up with Stark at the Tower Pub, a short walk down Morganford from the Tin Can Tavern, where that night’s open mic was just about to switch on. Was Chippewa Chapel devised before or after the doors were locked at Frederick’s? After; it hadn’t even crossed my mind prior to that. The week after we closed, we were cleaning out the bar and went out looking for something to do that Thursday night, and I didn’t have much luck. I went to a lot of spots and didn’t find much interesting, musically. Those that did have something had a cover charge. The following Tuesday, I was at a pub in the neighborhood, Riley’s, which hadn’t had live music prior to then. I got the idea that night. Maybe a place that doesn’t have music could have it, so let’s take it on the road. What have been some of your favorite surprise spots so far? There are some I’ve enjoyed more than others, I think because of the newness of having music in a place. Mr. Bill’s Clubhouse we like a lot. It’s a big building, a lot of space. And it was early on in the tour; a lot of people found it, a lot of familiar faces were there. There were people there that night we hadn’t seen since the bar closed. A month and a half later, people got to meet each other again. That was a favorite because of the reunion aspect of it. They’ve all been fun because each bar has its own atmosphere, with familiar faces coming in to lead. It’s hard to pick one favorite. How closely do the audience and performers mirror those at Frederick’s? The core of it is probably a group of six to ten people who were regulars at Fred’s.
Another half or two thirds just joined up or are playing for the first night because it came to their corner bar. They were hanging out there anyway and found, “I can go up and sing for my friends tonight.” They don’t have a guitar with them, weren’t prepared to do it. But once they got there and saw equipment to borrow, they showed off for [their] friends. Is there something interesting about this for the performers, bouncing from space to space, rather than having to play a set location’s open mic? Yes. Most of the time, they’ve not gone on a scouting mission before that night. They’ve got an address, a map, and don’t know much about the place, at all. A lot of them are surprises. [For] most of the people, it’s the first time they’ve been in that bar. Bartenders have their own personality. Each has different drink and food menus, as well. Are there certain songs you’d like to not hear again anytime soon? No. I figure if they’re played that many times, they’ve become classics; they’re all fine. Unlike the security of being at Fred’s every week, we don’t always have the same people showing up, playing the same songs every week. There are some songs that I’ll have a discussion during, but I’m not sick of any of them. An open mic night can, over time, become an insider’s club. How does this one stay welcoming? I think because of the change of venue; that’s a big part of it. Nobody’s completely familiar with the environment. They don’t know their favorite barstool, they’re not knowing the timing of how it flows in a place. That’s the big difference, the traveling. Nobody has as much control of an environment as they did. This might be a week-to-week thing, as well. Some weeks, people might be there for every reason but live music. Do you ever find a mild culture clash between those specifically there to take part and the regulars? Very infrequently. Definitely, sometimes a regular at a bar has been surprised we were there. Most of the musicians who are good at this know how to warm up an audience. Play something peppy, or something that the room will know already. Play a cover, then their song after that. Seldom are they shocked, though sometimes they take a while to warm up to it. A last thing: This has been word of mouth, but also a Web movement. How
PAUL STARK | PHOTO: THOMAS CRONE
much has the Web helped in growing this? So many people are using MySpace, so many people are in the habit of using their computer every day, that for anyone promoting anything, the Web is useful. I think it’s important, maybe more so, than word of mouth is saying “chippewachapel.com.” It makes me think of one of my favorite things about this: Musicians that have been at any open mic who are meeting each other, especially now that we’re moving around. Maybe a guitarist finding another. Bands are being formed through this. That’s pretty cool.
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The Lucas School House, a beautiful 250-capacity venue/rental facility with stateof-the-art sound, recording capability, and an outdoor patio, opened last month at 1220 Allen Ave. in Soulard. The adjoining church is expected to be an additional venue in the future. Shame Club has been recording a new CD in Norman, Okla., with Carl Amburn (Riddle of Steel, Traindodge, Roma 79). The band performs July 13 at the Hi-Pointe. Zone, a short experimental movie by resident visual artist Zlatko Cosic (www.eyeproduction.com), has been accepted by the Independent Film Channel. To view the film go to www.medialab.ifc.com and search by the artist’s name or movie title. Waterloo has released a new record, Out of the Woods, through Undertow Music and will celebrate the release at the new Lucas School House July 1. Opening the show will be Adam Reichmann and Steve Rauner of Nadine. Mad Art presents an exhibit by two St. Louis artists, Sarah Giannobile and Rebecca Eilering, July 7–20. A free opening reception will be held on July 7 from 7–11 p.m.; call 314-771-8230 or visit www.madart. com for more information. Vendors are wanted for Essence of Logic’s End of Summer Bash at Bearcat Getaway in Lesterville, Mo., on August 12. The event will
feature a four-hour concert with E.O.L., guest musicians, and a party atmosphere. Tickets are $10 and include camping, firewood, and concert access. For more info, check out www. essenceoflogic.com or www.bearcatgetaway. com. If you had a LocalMp3.com or Stl-Pulse. com account, you may have noticed that your account has been linked to TorqueMusic. com. The new site has quite a few changes, including a show calendar, weekly artist, album, music charts, and an enhanced section on local music news. www.TorqueMusic.com/ Tourguide Area rockers Brain Regiment will begin work on a new recording this month. Catch them playing songs for the new release at Off Broadway on July 1 and Lemmon’s on July 8. Kemp Auto Museum’s second annual “Kemp Summer Concert Series” is underway.
Here are just three of the great original St. Louis bands that play around town on a regular basis. Check them out as soon as you can. Holding Cell | You know you’re sold on a band when you keep thinking about their performance days after the show. This was certainly the case when I saw Holding Cell perform at the Hi-Pointe last month. Holding Cell is a band made up of four proud headbangers from Cuba, Mo., who live by the philosophy that metal music is, in fact, “brain food.” Heavy music fans will certainly be pleased by Holding Cell’s hard-hitting rhythms and lightning-speed guitar solos. Lead singer/guitarist Edward Bowen is a unique performer who ranges from being subdued, to shaking his fist along with the audience, to running into the crowd. His low, smoothed-out vocal style is distinct and a bit different from what you might expect. The overall result is quite satisfying. Jonathan Cour | This 21-year-old singer/ guitarist/songwriter brings a great batch of
melodic, sophisticated pop songs to the stage, with a live show that is equally as rewarding. His band consists of Grant Essig (Sevenstar: guitar, keyboards, vocals), Matt Hickenbotham (Colony: drums, vocals), Mike Steimel (Just Add Water: bass, vocals), and Dave AlanS (Lord Baltimore: lead guitar, vocals). With a lineup like this one, it’s hard to go wrong and these musicians sound great playing together. There is no shortage of great guitar parts and a solid rhythm section; simply put, the band tears it up on stage. Cour has a strong singing voice, one that is literally haunting at times, which it makes the show all the more interesting and memorable. Kronus | Kronus is a young metal band from Cuba, Mo., that likes to give people a lot for their money. Of the five members in the band, four are singers. Instead of just one or two guitar players, they have three. If you go
Compiled by J. Church Acts include the Smash Band July 7, the Ralph Butler Band Aug. 3, and Hudson and the HooDoo Cats Sept. 7. For more information, call 636-537-1718. Registration is underway as bands from across the U.S. and Canada prepare for the eighth annual Battle of the Bands Festival. The Festival starts July 1 and ends Sept. 16, with shows in Las Vegas, Hollywood, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, St. Louis, Atlanta, Chicago, New York, Atlanta, and more. Visit the official BOB Web site at www.worldfok. com. To celebrate the 206th birthday of Missouri Botanical Garden founder Henry Shaw, admission is free on July 24 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The celebratory atmosphere includes music, a silhouette artist, stilt-walker, magician, actors in Victorian fashions, and children’s games. Livewire Recordings has signed Devon Allman’s Honeytribe, with debut disc Torch due August 29. Wydown’s Noise of America CD release party is July 7 at Mississippi Nights; the first 50 people receive a free CD. Ultra Blue Kind, Groupthink, and Geoff Koch will also perform. Fontbonne Theater’s upcoming summer season includes Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest and Lennox Robinson’s Drama at Inish. For more information, contact
By John Kujawski
to see this band play, you’ll feel like it’s time well spent. The vocals arrangements are quite impressive, with neat mixes of scream vocals and melodic singing often combined in the same song. The members trade off on lead vocal parts and sound great over all the fancy guitar work and the strong rhythm section. All five bring as much energy to the stage as
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images of disquiet books from percEval press | By Shandy Casteel The conceit of stars—those so ennobled by the public and media to carry such a title—sometimes gets the best of the performer, especially when aspirations of serious art beckon all levels of talent. Nowhere do these desires turn feeble more quickly than in the realm of literary musings. From Ethan Hawke to Jewel, and right through the likes of Madonna; everyone seems to want to publish a book, whether or not they are capable of such work. Occasionally, the crossover manages a success or two. Steve Martin has produced notable fiction and plays while raking in money from the occasional piece of boxoffice chum; and last year, established indie music star John Wesley Harding published a radiant first novel, Misfortune, under his real name, Wesley Stace. For others though, like Viggo Mortensen, the art seems to be part and parcel of who he is, the antitheses of the narcissist, a true Renaissance man as adept at carving out a musical interlude as he is putting brush to canvas, eye to lens, and words to poetry. On the heels of his international success starring in the popular The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Mortensen founded the independent publisher Perceval Press, giving himself an outlet for his own work and a platform for showcasing other talented artists. Perceval Press specializes in art, critical writing, and poetry, and makes no bones of its political leanings—from its adamant stance against the war in Iraq, to the politically charged home page (www. percevalpress.com), and publications such as Twilight of Empire: Responses to Occupation, which features contributions from activists and journalists.
Whatever one’s ideological kinship, Perceval Press’ most appealing aspect of the creative endeavors they undertake is the approachability of the work. The small art books are easily held, well-constructed, and beautifully produced, with an affordable arts-for-the-masses verve—all characteristics shared by each of these recent releases from the press: viggo mortensen linger (perceval press; 104 pgs; $35) Mor tensen’s previous book, Coincidence of Memory, represented a span of creativity from 1978 to 2002, while Linger naturally picks up with pieces from the last handful of years. A combination of prose, poetry, and photography, Linger is more focused and bare than Mortensen’s recognizable abstract work. As the title of the book suggests, the black-and-white images and the words, be they Mortensen’s own or quotes from Goethe or Rumi, dwell on the intimacy one can share with strangers, whether it is a uneven tranquility of a landscape or the warm shape of a cart-wheeling figure in the “Erfound” series. The photographs are equaled by the text, short poetic bursts along with longer, heartbreaking pieces like “Letter to Brigit,” which recounts the process of losing a beloved pet with the exacting tone of a minor key: “I could not bring myself to take pictures of
any of it, to take anything, although I did for a moment consider grabbing my camera to ensure that later on I’d have an image, some tangible visual record of the process of losing you.” In Linger, Mortensen’s eye pierces everything around him with both stillness and movement, a contradiction never at odds from page to page, or form to form. Like most of Mortensen’s work, Linger is refreshing because the art within is not informed by the actor’s self-awareness of his growing fame, instead remaining grounded in a world of renewal, tucked between moments of disquiet. stanley milstein furlough 55 (perceval press; 92 pgs; $35) Furlough 55 is a work of discovery in which bored 11-yearold Hugh Milstein is introduced to a lifetime affinity for photography by his father in the summer of 1976. For the son, learning to print his father’s negatives was an inspiring journey, one recounted through photographs snapped with a used Italian Rectaflex camera by Stanley Milstein while he served at a U.S. army hospital in France, amidst the Europe of post–World War II. Both son and father introduce the book. Hugh recounts his initial brush with photographic art, and how collaborating with Viggo Mortensen on an exhibit led to a discussion of continued on page 58
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Stanley’s negatives, and Mortensen’s wanting to publish the images. What comes together in Furlough 55 is a portrait of a time and place, a confluence Stanley admits was helped by a “...once-in-a-lifetime access to free film and processing.” The black-and-white photographs in Furlough 55 have the keen eye of documentary, a mix of portraiture and scenic framing. Some of the images are enticing with their scope, like one photo in which a quartet of chefs is spied amongst the jungle of metal that is the Eiffel Tower, while other pictures are more formal profile snapshots, technically proficient and brimming with a noticeable innocence, the kind left when the pall of war has been lifted. Each image is accompanied by Stanley’s handwritten captions, shakily scrawled announcements like “Stone stairway leading down to Loire River” and “Playtime Paris Streets.” The book is broken up by a conversation between Hugh Milstein and Mortensen, as the two discuss the photographs and the process of creating the book as if they are doing a DVD commentary. With its cross-section of the universal as the personal, Furlough 55 fits neatly into the Perceval Press catalog. david newsom skip (perceval press; 104 pgs; $35) David Newsom, who has graced many a television screen as an actor on popular network shows, has turned inward and crafted an expressive family album in Skip, the effusively colorful photographic story of his developmentally disabled brother Lloyd (Skip) Curtis Newsom Jr. In the concise snippets of essays accompanying the images, Newsome relays his brother’s struggles, giving readers a narrative to fill in the vast spaces of landscape in southeast Idaho that fulcrum the book.
from page 57
Skip’s troubles began early, as Newsom writes, “Excitable and prone to grab or push, Skip more than once placed his baby sister in the doctor’s office, so he was moved to a state facility in south Jersey.” Like it does to so many, such confinement left Skip with irreparable fears and a sense of distrust. “He still keeps nearly all he owns in his pockets—a Bible, the broken flashlight, his flashcards, some breath spray, an old bottle of cologne, his ball cap—the nervous habit of a boy protecting what’s his.” The photographs in Skip succeed in presenting the vision of a damaged being without any of the fetishized voyeurism sometimes celebrated in documenting broken lives. Newsom, as maybe only a brother could have done, enraptures the images around his brother, so that Skip is perfectly at home in each frame, an organic part of the environment that gives Newsom’s images a distinctive otherworldly feel, like 2004’s “Untitled,”which is colored with hope, rays of sunlight filling the backdrop, as Skip stands with his hands on his hips looking off into the distance. Others, like 2003’s “Untitled,” are brewed with paranoia, as Skip looks off to his right, seemingly ensnared by his own shadow. Skip is a perfect marriage of narrative and picture, a family tale sketched in melancholy hopefulness. lindsay brice | supernatural (perceval press; 68 pgs; $30)
In the foreword to Lindsay Brice’s alluring Supernatural, Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon
writes: “As much as we might manipulate dolls to suit our fantasies, they might easily appear able to read our minds. They were to us objects half-human, half-unnatural—supernatural beings with minds of their own.” Gordon’s words are a perfect preamble to the engrossing garish beauty of the dolls that fill Brice’s book. Supernatural is a feast of imagery, and thanks to the inclusion of Flannery O’Connor’s “A Temple of the Holy Ghost,” an equally nourishing read. O’Connor’s short story of the consequences of a Catholic upbringing on an adolescent girl is perfectly staged in the realm Brice has conjured through her color and black-and-white images. In Supernatural, the dolls take on a life of their own, preening for classic portrait poses and caught in momentary glances of action, as much alive as any figure in a photograph can be, giving life to the inanimate like overactive imaginations have for hundreds of years. The picture “Impolite Lisa” shames the viewer for looking while her hands are under her dress, while on the facing page, the doll in “Awake at Night” seems to want reassurance against the darkness enveloping her. Brice’s masterstroke is how she is able to focus the eyes of the dolls outward, as if the figures are aware they are being photographed. Supernatural is a beautifully unsettling collection of imagery, a peek into a strange environment of cloned expectations, where the dolls are living their own lives and know we are watching.
johnny green | push yourself just a little bit more: backstage at the tour de france (orion; 256 pgs; $9.95) As the eyes of the cycling world were set on Lance Armstrong while he pedaled his way through the Pyrenees toward another victory in the Tour de France, Johnny Green sat at the top of the mountain, listening while Sheryl Crow explained how professional cycling might just be the new rock ’n’ roll. It was a notion that jibed well with the former Clash manager’s own perspective and one that helps frame his witty and irreverent backstage account of the Tour de France. Through Green’s spectacles, the worlds of cycling and music don’t look all that different. As a scholar of both, he’s able to weave the two together and spot connections no one else would likely consider, such as the link between his favorite rider, the flamboyant Italian sprinter Mario Cipollini, and another “exhibitionist extremist,” Iggy Pop. Like Pop, Cipollini “was there to explode like a Roman candle. His push was all or nothing. Never dutiful mediocrity.” As Green’s other book, A Riot of Our Own, did for life on the road with the Clash, Push Yourself Just a Little Bit More seeks to capture the essence of the world’s biggest bicycle race. While many members of the press watched the race on huge screens tucked away in airconditioned halls, Green was out on the road. He basked in the twin surges of wind and adrenaline as the riders raced up and down
mountains and stormed through tiny villages across France. What he sought wasn’t a dutiful account of the race, which everyone knows Armstrong dominated. He was on a quest for the intangible forces at work that keep riders and fans alike motivated and moving for 23 days and some 2,200 miles each July. Like the best journalism, Green’s work is the product of a writer absolutely immersed in his subject. And one with a keen eye and sharp razor-sharp wit, to boot. He may not be up to speed on the sport’s more technical aspects, but his quest comes closer than any other account to locating the heart of cycling’s grandest tour. | Daniel O’Malley ryan nerz | eat this book: a year of gorging and glory on the competitive eating circuit (st. martin’s; 308 pgs; $14.95) Two things happened in New York during the summer of 2001 that would send shock waves through a dumbstruck world: Terrorists murdered thousands by steering jets into the World Trade Center, and a 131-pound Japanese man named Kobayashi ate 50 hot dogs and buns in 12 minutes at the Nathan’s Famous hot-dog-eating championship in Coney Island, obliterating the previous record of 25 dogs. A foreign power had struck at our vitals, and we would never think of our national security, or our stomach capacity, in quite the same way again. Many probably don’t know that the hotdog-eating contest—though televised on ESPN every Fourth of July—is just one event
in a long season of gustatory challenges that have their own sports league, with ranked eaters and modest cash prizes. The International Federation of Competitive Eating (IFOCE) sponsors contests to pack in the most hardboiled eggs, meatballs, pumpkin pies, you name it, in brief bursts of speed-eating. The subculture has its own peculiarities. Hot dogs are often dunked in water to speed their passage down the gullet. Competitors train by gulping down an entire gallon of water in a minute or so, to stretch the stomach. Contests involving spicy items, like the jalapeño-eating championship, can cause hours of intense pain later on. The eating contests may be freaky, but no more so than the colorful eaters themselves. Eric “Badlands” Booker is a 6’6”, 420-pound New York subway conductor who has released an album of rap songs all based on the theme of speed-eating, called Hungry and Focused. Sonya “The Black Widow” Thomas, a 100pound wisp of a woman, is currently ranked No. 2 in the world, and has eaten 48 chicken soft tacos in 11 minutes, and 46 dozen—yep, that’s 552—oysters in 10 minutes. Like some kind of exotic animal, she has been known to eat more than 10 percent of her body weight Emily on the melodica | Photo: Karin Partin during a competition. The mysterious Eater-X wears a different mask to every contest. Crazy Lags Conti once tried to eat his way out of a “sarcophagus of popcorn.” Eat This Book reads like a hilarious, stranger-than-fiction magazine piece extended to book length, with laughter throughout. The endpapers feature a list of all the current speed-eating records from the IFOCE circuit. It would only be fair to call it…a bursting appendix. | Byron Kerman
comics’ most wanted csi: dying in the gutters | By Jason Green
In the insular world of professional comics, Rich Johnston has made his share of enemies. For the past 12 years, Johnston has dug up dirt on his fellow creators in “Lying in the Gutters,” his witty, weekly online news, rumor, and gossip column at ComicBookResources.com, much to the delight of his readers and the chagrin of those who end up on the wrong side of Johnston’s poison keyboard. Sounds like the kind of person who just might end up dead. That’s exactly the fate that awaits Johnston on the printed pages of CSI: Dying in the Gutters, a five-part miniseries launching this August from IDW Publishing. Writer and fellow CBR columnist Steven Grant and artist Stephen Mooney will guide the cast of the hit CBS procedural crime drama as they investigate Johnston’s untimely fictional death. Grant was a natural choice, not only for his association with Johnston, but also his previous experience with the property on the series CSI: Secret Identity. Grant gives the following sneak peek at the crime scene: “A San Diego–style comics convention takes place in Las Vegas. Various CSI team members go for various reasons— Catherine takes her daughter to watch anime and buy manga, for instance, and Grissom views it as an anthropological outing. Internal comics industry problems boil over at the Legend: W=writer | A=artist | P=penciler | I=inker
convention, though, ending in the apparently accidental death of my fellow CBR columnist, gossip monger Rich Johnston, which is greeted with applause in many circles, until it turns out he has actually been murdered, in full view of a number of people, apparently by Joe Quesada [Marvel Comics’ editor-in-chief]. Even then many still applaud, it’s just that then they’re applauding Joe. Meanwhile, other members of the team investigate the apparent suicide of a graphic designer for video games. There are a lot of comics industry faces in the series, some very surprising.” Was it hard to convince real-life people to become on-page murder suspects? “There were a few who didn’t want to be in it,” Grant admits, “especially those with a real life grudge against Rich, who has had a wonderful sense of humor about the whole thing and was eager to become the murder victim. I haven’t told him who his killer is or why, though. Even the artist doesn’t know that yet. I don’t think anyone does but me, Chris [Ryall, IDW editor-in-chief] and the killer.” The book may be packed with the names and faces of actual comics personalities, but Grant is quick to assuage any fears from fans of the show who worry they might not be in on the joke. “I’m specifically writing it to not focus on those things,” he counters. “The first job of
any CSI story is to be a CSI story, and they have specific rhythms and requirements. The first thing I told Chris when he asked me to do this series was that we had to make it accessible to everyone. There are plenty of in-jokes, but anyone who doesn’t get the jokes gets story or character information instead.” Though Grant has been a comics writer for decades, most famously for his run on Punisher in the mid-’80s, many readers know him best from his own CBR column, “Permanent Damage.” Unlike his earlier column “Master of the Obvious,” “Permanent Damage” is far more than just a comics column. Grant packs his column with no-nonsense reviews and industry discussion, but he’s just as likely to tackle the current American political landscape or the state of network television as he is the world of comics. “When I switched to ‘Permanent Damage,’” he explains, “I told Jonah [Weiland, owner of CBR] that what I wanted to do was more of a compressed magazine where I could talk about anything I wanted. He doesn’t care as long as I get hits, and I got lots of hits. The political commentary is far more popular than the comics commentary at this point.” As both a creator and a reviewer, what is it that Grant looks for in a good comic? “Storytelling, proportion and dynamics, in both script and art,” he states. “Entertainment value. A distinctive, original viewpoint. Good characterization. Mainly, a really good comic will just suck you in so that you’re not looking for flaws. It creates its own believability, regardless of subject matter or setting. The usual term is ‘suspension of disbelief,’ but I think it’s more appropriate to say that a good comic will not remind us of our own credulity. More often, though, comics (and TV shows and movies and books, etc.) instead plead with us to ignore our awareness of our own credulity pretty please with sugar on it pleeeeeeeeeeeeze. “That’s actually a pretty good rule of thumb for creators,” Grant concludes. “If your material depends on the kindness of strangers, it’s probably not as good as it ought to be.” Steven Grant talks politics, “Permanent Damage,” and his other upcoming project, Whisper from Boom! Studios, in our extended interview online at www.playbackstl.com. continued on page 62
IN REVIEW astonishing x-men vol. 1 hardcover (marvel comics; 320 pgs FC; $29.99) (w: joss whedon; a: john cassaday)
The title for Joss Whedon and John Cassaday’s first 12-issue run pretty much sums it up: Astonishing X-Men is simply astonishing. Collecting the six-part storylines “Gifted” and “Danger ous” from the superstar creative team— Whedon is the superstar writer/director/producer behind TV’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, and Serenity, while Cassaday’s art is a fan favorite from his runs on Planetary and Captain America—this newly released hardcover beautifully shows what an X-Men comic should be. Whedon and Cassaday get the characters. Their run is classic X-Men and deserves to be put right up there with the Claremont/Byrne run of the late ’70s, what many people think of as the series’ definitive run. Gone are the multiple teams and an overload of second- and third-tier characters. What Astonishing X-Men gives you is a core group of X-Men: Wolverine, Shadowcat (Kitty Pryde), Beast, Cyclops, Emma Frost (White Queen), and Colossus, outcast and fighting against the whole world, which is when the X-Men are at their best. The cause for concern in the first storyline, “Gifted,” is the unveiling of a drug that “cures” mutants of their mutant ability and changes them back to regular old Homo sapiens. (If that sounds familiar to anyone, it was lifted wholesale for the movie X3: The Last Stand.) Only here, “the cure” isn’t the only thing concerning the X-Men: Jean Grey is dead, Magneto only recently having taken over New York and turned Manhattan into a human concentration camp, and Professor X is nowhere to be found. If that’s not enough fuel for the fire, Nick Fury and S.H.I.E.L.D. now view the X-Men in a less than favorable light, Beast is seriously considering testing the cure on himself and, oh yeah, there is a crazy, super-powered alien who has traveled
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to Earth to personally eliminate the X-Men and he’s working in conjunction with the U.S. government. All of that pales in comparison to the next “villain” that the X-Men face in the second story arc “Dangerous.” It kind of makes you rethink your bad day, huh? But the beauty of Whedon and Cassaday’s run is that, amidst all the insanity, the alien terrorists, and the fighting, there is genuine humor and little moments of character development that shows this book is the byproduct of two of the best professionals working in the business today. And while we’re at it, colorist Laura Martin brings a whole new dimension to Cassaday’s work with her palette of hues. Whedon and Cassaday show the X-Men for who they truly are: a family of outcasts who have come together to the one place where they can be accepted. They stand as a family, they stand as X-Men, and they are truly astonishing. | Carlos Ruiz wonderland #1 (slg publishing; 24 pgs FC; $3.50) (w: tommy kovac; a: sonny liew)
In the minds of many, the name Disney is synonymous with crass commercialism and exploitation of their properties. Apparently the company believes that “…and they lived happily ever after” isn’t the ending audiences are looking for, releasing countless inferior, unnecessary straight-to-video sequels to their theatrical movies. Saturday Night Live’s Robert Smigel brilliantly lampooned this trend in a recent episode—the one Lindsay Lohan hosted; don’t lie, we know you watched it—in a skit that packed in such pandering sequels as Sleeping Beauty 3: Lil’ Sleepy Meets Aladdin and Lion King 5 2/3: Simba Sits in for Meredith. With that in mind, the concept for SLG’s new comic Wonderland sounds truly frightening: What happened in Wonderland after Alice left? Unlike some of Disney’s more mediocre animated endeavors, however, this sequel is one worth checking out.
Wonderland introduces us to Mary Ann, the only other normal human in Wonderland. A precocious neat freak, the young maid is off to visit the White Rabbit, who the Queen of Hearts has been convinced by Tweedle-dee and Tweedle-dum is responsible for the whole Alice debacle. Faster than you can say “Off with their heads,” Mary Ann is caught in the middle of the revenge-obsessed Queen and the innocent Rabbit. Rather than re-treading Disney’s movie for this sequel, writer Tommy Kovac uses it as a springboard for an all-new adventure. The dialogue is engaging, and the story moves at a brisk pace—so briskly, in fact, that some readers might balk at paying $3.50 for such a short story. Their loss, as visually this book is a killer. Sonny Liew knocks it out of the park with a style that is cartoony yet quirky, more Sam Kieth than Uncle Walt. Oddly, it appears the pages were colored straight from pencils. This robs the art of a certain slickness, but on a book like this it works flawlessly, keeping things loose without looking sketchy, and the painterly colors top things off beautifully. This is a wonderful first issue for a book that has the potential to appeal to readers of all ages, with a cute storyline based on wellknown characters for the kiddies and stunning artwork for the grown-ups to drool over. The only complaint some may have is with the rather slight amount of plot for the price. Whether you wait for the trade to get more bang for your buck or hop on board right now, be sure to take a trip to Wonderland. You’ll be glad you did. | Jason Green conan #28 (dark horse; 32 pgs FC; $2.99) (w: kurt busiek; a: eric powell, dave stewart)
Let me tell you, my friends, of a man of high adventure. Robert Ervin Howard was born 100 years ago. For a man whose work dealt with millenniums, e’en untold aeons of time, a century doesn’t seem that long. Luckily, Howard’s work
has a timelessness all its own. A troubled man who took his own life at the age of 30, Robert E. Howard is best remembered as the creator of Conan and, perhaps, the preeminent writer of adventure fiction. Conan #28 is a memorial to Howard and the legacy of adventure he has bequeathed to his fans around the world. Wedged somewhat jerkily into the continuity of earlier issues, the story focuses not upon the bold warriors and sultry women that populate Howard’s worlds, but rather upon Rovann, a misunderstood young man derided by his fellow villagers even as they drunkenly cheer on his tall tales. Rovann is clearly Howard and the story is a sad, but heartfelt elegy for a prodigious talent that, perhaps, burned too brightly. So what happens when demons attack the village and only Rovann knows they have found a way in? Howard’s fate is only hinted at in Rovann’s tragically unsung end. “And none who knew him would ever know the true story. How could they...when there was no one to tell it?” Busiek respectfully lionizes a man who should have died as bravely as the heroes he dreamed into being. Visually, Powell and Stewart do no less, bringing a cartoonish flair to a story that is true in spirit if not in fact. The art is full of weighty lines and lively caricatures that evoke memories of Eisner, all enhanced by muted colors lending the smoky haze of a campfire yarn to the whole. Fittingly, the best
tribute to Howard is the boon of a well-told tale. | Greg O’Driscoll the surrogates (top shelf comics; 208 pgs FC; $19.95) (w: robert venditti; a: brett weldele)
The same elegant conceit that blessed the first Matrix movie— that we may think we know ourselves and our place in the world, but truly, we have no idea—is at the heart of The Surrogates. Imagine a world in which video games, emerging technology, and virtual reality take us to the point when we literally never have to leave the house. Cyborg “surrogates” do everything for us—work, smoke, screw, wait in line at the DMV—and we observe it all via “data feed,” feeling every emotion and physical sensation from afar. There is no violent crime, because if one surrogate punches another, the home operator may choose to turn off the data feed, and never feel the blow. There is no ugliness, because the surrogates are twiggy Barbies
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and handsome Kens, writ large. Into this brave new world a shadowy figure arrives, electrocuting surrogates—“frying” them—and then disappearing into the night. Who is terminating the cyborgs and why? The five-issue comic The Surrogates, now a trade paperback, is a police procedural that imagines two cops—one surrogate, one fleshand-bone—pursuing the answers. Brett Weldele’s art is utilitarian—no splash pages here—and the palette of colors is muted, even drab. Remember, though, this is an unusual foray into action/adventure for indie imprint Top Shelf, so we get a marriage of thoughtful, indie pacing with cinematic ambitions—and any story in which a cop ruefully tosses his badge on a desk and says “I don’t think I’ll be needing this anymore” feels an awful lot like a movie. As Detective Greer—the real cop, divested from his damaged surrogate—prowls a dark, rainy city in 2054, he begins to feel the forgotten pleasures of honest sensations. Through his eyes, we feel them, too. We’re not quite ready to live through robot doppelgangers in 2006, but some of us live and die by e-mail and X-Box, and have never actually met our neighbors. Technology drives a wedge between us and our lives. Author Robert Venditti gets it, and laboring under the shadow of Philip K. Dick, offers a cool noir extrapolation of our march to a numb future. | Byron Kerman
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hard to believe he ever took a break at all. If somehow you didn’t know who Strummer was, you’d think this was just a documentary of an ordinary Joe trying to make it in the music business—and, in a way, that’s exactly what the film’s about. With a treasure chest of special features, including additional live performances and Strummer’s musings on music, politics, and life in general, Rude’s film digs deep to uncover the man behind the legend. It’s as fitting a tribute as anyone could ask. | Daniel O’Malley refused are fucking dead (burning heart/epitaph)
Formed in 1991 by close friends Dennis Lyxzén and David Sandström in Umeå, Sweden, Refused, whether they like it or not, have become one of the most seminal hardcore bands ever. Driven by their strident
political convictions and idealism, Refused tore apart at the seams shortly after recording the classic The Shape of Punk to Come while on tour in the United States. In their final press release, they refused to speak about the true reasons for the breakup, maintaining their silence with an angry and reticent fervor for years. Now, guitarist Kristofer Steen’s short film Refused Are Fucking Dead finally puts the story of their final days on the record. Through interviews with each band member, the film tells the story of Refused’s early days, their rise in stature, and the night in Harrisonburg, Va., when local police abruptly ended their final show. The most striking aspect of Steen’s film is how well constructed and strikingly good looking it is. Refused Are Fucking Dead isn’t just a beautiful film about a hardcore band, but a beautiful film, period. The pace and storytelling are well put together and even handed. However, it’s not perfect. The opening moments of the film foreshadows Refused’s final show and how it ended prematurely, white text on a black background stating, “In the middle of their set flashlights appear in the back of the room.” Accompanying this scene is
a wall of eerie music building to a crescendo. Balancing this stimulus versus the actual event is a tad over the top. In addition, referring to their final show being shut down by the cops, as a “tragedy” is so out of proportion with reality, it’s ridiculous. Unlike most band documentaries, Refused Are Fucking Dead isn’t a DVD for those unfamiliar with the band. The strong feelings and rhetoric espoused will likely leave the uninitiated wondering who fuck these guys are and why they were so important. Also, the degree of how seriously some members felt about the band isn’t likely to strike a chord with those who don’t have the fervent attitudes that punk manifests. This is a disc for those who loved and/or worshiped the band. Refused Are Fucking Dead is an excellent film, but it’s not for everybody. Along with the 37-minute feature, the disc includes a healthy amount of concert footage that covers the majority of The Shape of Punk to Come, as well as music videos for “Rather Be Dead” and “New Noise.” | David Lichius
PLAYBACK:stl and RIYL (Recommended If You Like) give you the real top 50, based on radio play from hundreds of stations across the country. For expanded charts, go to www.PLAYBACK:stl.com/riyl.
WEIGHTED vs. UNWEIGHTED The RIYL Music weighted chart recognizes that some stations are simply more “influential” than others. Stations are assigned a value between 1 and 6; a #1 chart position is assigned 30 points and then multiplied by the station’s weight. For example, an artist charting #1 at a station weighted “2” is assigned 60 points, while a #1 charting at a “5” is assigned 150 points. Once RIYL’s robots have calculated the chart values for each artist, they simply sort by points. Long live the king! The RIYL Music unweighted chart feels that every voice should be heard...and believes every voice is equal. Stations are stations. No favorites, just pure data. A #1 chart position is assigned 30 points while a #30 chart position is assigned 1 point. Once RIYL’s army of robots has calculated the chart values for each artist, they press the “sort by points” button. Voila. Power to the people! www.riylmusic.com
1. GNARLS BARKLEY | St. Elsewhere 2. CAMERA OBSCURA | Let’s Get Out of This Country 3. FIERY FURNACES | Bitter Tea 4. GRANDADDY | Just Like the Fambly Cat 5. SOUND TEAM | Movie Monster 6. THE WALKMEN | A Hundred Miles Off 7. RADIO 4 | Enemies Like This 8. SNOW PATROL | Eyes Open 9. MURDER BY DEATH | In Bocca Al Lupo 10. FLAMING LIPS | At War With the Mystics 11. PEARL JAM | Pearl Jam 12. THURSDAY | A City by the Light Divided 13. NEIL YOUNG | Living With War 14. MISSION OF BURMA | The Obliterati 15. ASOBI SEKSU | Citrus 16. YEAH YEAH YEAHS | Show Your Bones 17. TWILIGHT SINGERS | Powder Burns 18. PHOENIX | It’s Never Been Like That 19. WOLFMOTHER | Wolfmother 20. ART BRUT | Bang, Bang, Rock and Roll 21. TOOL | 10,000 Days 22. BE YOUR OWN PET | Be Your Own Pet 23. ZERO 7 | The Garden 24. BLACK HEART PROCESSION | The Spell 25. BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN | We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions 26. TILLY AND THE WALL | Bottoms of Barrels
WEIGHTED 1. GNARLS BARKLEY | St. Elsewhere 2. CAMERA OBSCURA | Let’s Get Out of This Country 3. FIERY FURNACES | Bitter Tea 4. GRANDADDY | Just Like the Fambly Cat 5. SOUND TEAM | Movie Monster 6. THE WALKMEN | A Hundred Miles Off 7. RADIO 4 | Enemies Like This 8. FLAMING LIPS | At War With the Mystics 9. SNOW PATROL | Eyes Open 10. MISSION OF BURMA | The Obliterati 11. PEARL JAM | Pearl Jam 12. MURDER BY DEATH | In Bocca Al Lupo 13. ASOBI SEKSU | Citrus 14. NEIL YOUNG | Living With War 15. WOLFMOTHER | Wolfmother 16. YEAH YEAH YEAHS | Show Your Bones 17. THURSDAY | A City by the Light Divided 18. PHOENIX | It’s Never Been Like That 19. TWILIGHT SINGERS | Powder Burns 20. ART BRUT | Bang, Bang, Rock and Roll 21. ZERO 7 | The Garden 22. BE YOUR OWN PET | Be Your Own Pet 23. TOOL | 10,000 Days 24. BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN | We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions 25. BLACK HEART PROCESSION | The Spell 26. TILLY AND THE WALL | Bottoms of Barrels
27. ELF POWER | Back to the Web 28. TAKING BACK SUNDAY | Louder Now 29. JOLIE HOLLAND | Springtime Can Kill You 30. PRETTY GIRLS MAKE GRAVES | Elan Vital 31. DAMONE | Out Here All Night 32. FORECAST | In the Shadow of Two Gunmen 33. MOJAVE 3 | Puzzles Like You 34. MASON JENNINGS | Boneclouds 35. BUILT TO SPILL | You in Reverse 36. BOUNCING SOULS | The Gold Record 37. RACONTEURS | Broken Boy Soldiers 38. ANATHALLO | Floating World 39. JUANA MOLINA | Son 40. MATMOS | The Rose Has Teeth in the Mouth of a Beast 41. RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS | Stadium Arcadium 42. PEEPING TOM | Peeping Tom 43. DANIELSON | Ships 44. SUNSET RUBDOWN | Shut Up I Am Dreaming 45. KIMYA DAWSON | Remember That I Love You 46. LES CLAYPOOL | Of Whales and Woe 47. PAPER CHASE | Now You Are One of Us 48. CRACKER | Greenland 49. PONY UP! | Make Love to the Judges With Your Eyes 50. CONCRETES | In Colour
UNWEIGHTED 27. BUILT TO SPILL | You in Reverse 28. RACONTEURS | Broken Boy Soldiers 29. JOLIE HOLLAND | Springtime Can Kill You 30. FORECAST | In The Shadow of Two Gunmen 31. ELF POWER | Back to the Web 32. TAKING BACK SUNDAY | Louder Now 33. BOUNCING SOULS | The Gold Record 34. PRETTY GIRLS MAKE GRAVES | Elan Vital 35. DAMONE | Out Here All Night 36. MOJAVE 3 | Puzzles Like You 37. MASON JENNINGS | Boneclouds 38. MATMOS | The Rose Has Teeth in the Mouth of a Beast 39. JUANA MOLINA | Son 40. DANIELSON | Ships 41. ANATHALLO | Floating World 42. KIMYA DAWSON | Remember That I Love You 43. SUNSET RUBDOWN | Shut Up I Am Dreaming 44. RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS | Stadium Arcadium 45. PONY UP! | Make Love to the Judges With Your Eyes 46 PEEPING TOM | Peeping Tom 47. NOFX | Wolves In Wolves’ Clothing 48. MINISTRY | Rio Grande Blood 49. MATES OF STATE | Bring It Back 50. LOVE IS ALL | Nine Times That Same Song
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