NICK MAN ART CAVE MAN BRUT
THIS IS NOT AN INDIE ROCK MAGAZINE
LCD Soundsystem THIS IS THE END
The Sea and Cake
THE MAKING OF POST-ROCK/JAZZ/ ELECTRO CLASSIC THE FAWN
Comedy’s quiet genius overcomes a near-fatal sleep disorder and stages a one-man revolution PLUS
Broken Bells, Joan of Arc, O’Death, Gang Gang Dance, Ryat, 13&God, Cat’s Eyes, Dennis Coffey, Dodos, R. Stevie Moore, Felice Brothers
Hole drummer Patty Schemel’s war with addiction RODNEY ANONYMOUS
Are you taking the right drugs?
$4.95 | ISSUE NO. 12
THANKS TO EVERYONE WHO CAME OUT ON RECORD STORE DAY 2011 TO SUPPORT THEIR LOCAL INDIE AND CELEBRATE THE CULTURE OF THE RECORD STORE. The stores are open yearround and so is www.recordstoreday.com In May check out special contests and video premieres, and find out about special exclusive record store releases from ANVIL (on sale now) and RADIOHEAD (coming June 14).
Juggernaut Of Justice
All releases scheduled at press time. Changes to dates and releases may happen. 2
Radiohead Supercollider + The Butcher
Mike Birbiglia, April 10, 2011, in New York City. Photographed for Cowbell by Gene Smirnov.
Mike Birbiglia went (sleep) walking after midnight and lived to tell the tale, barely
> music 03 Wave of Mitigation Musicians unite for Japan
12 M otown guitar slinger Dennis Coffey mounts his comeback
04 Pat Jordache Triumphs over technology
16 S ilky-smooth soul man Raphael Saadiq rocks it out
05 Cat’s Eyes Rock the Vatican
18 A rt-punk pranksters Man Man hone their hooks
06 13&God Notwist collaborate with Themselves? 07 Ryat Electro-edit freakout 10 LCD Soundsystem Gone, baby, gone
cover photo by gene smirnov
20 He formed a band! The straight dope with Art Brut’s Eddie Argos 22 Legendarily prolific, peculiar songsmith R. Stevie Moore prepares for his close-up
26 Making Of Inside the recording of the Sea and Cake’s boundarypushing The Fawn. 37 Lead Review Gang Gang Dance mellow out 38 CD Reviews Bachelorette, Bass Drum of Death, Broken Bells, Nick Cave, Daedelus, Damon & Naomi, the Dodos, Ear Pwr, Felice Brothers, Joan of Arc, Ladytron, Oval/Liturgy, Moby, Okkervil River, High Llamas, O’Death, QotSA, Sloan and more
> more 54 Poster Boy Movie poster designer/Ben Folds skinsman Sam Smith 55 Dystopian Dreams Rocker/author Nathan Larson’s anti-hero Dewey Decimal
> movies 47 Lived Through This Doc looks behind Hole drummer’s struggles with addiction 48 DVD Reviews Korean revenge drama I Saw the Devil; Brian Eno 1971-1977: The Man Who Fell to Earth; Something Wild; Kids in the Hall 52 Celluloid Corral Andrew Bonazelli on the best, worst, weirdest and wildest in home video entertainment
> dispatch 64 Rodney Anonymous Taking the right drugs?
> from the editor publisher
The Funny Business You’re probably all like, “What’s this comedian doing on the cover of my Cowbell? Cowbell’s a music magazine, dummies.” Fair question. We were a little unsure about it ourselves. I mean, we’ve been fans of Mike Birbiglia for a while now. We’ve dug his standup, loved him on This American Life and The Moth, and we were all kinds of anxious for this Sleepwalk With Me empire (a book, a one-man show and now a live CD) all based around a sleep disorder that nearly killed him. But was he face-of-the-mag material? Let’s take a step back. The name of this periodical is, yes, an allusion to the finest in bovine neckwear. But as you’ve likely already deduced, sleuth that you are, it is, more accurately, an allusion to said bovine accessory’s percussive use in the rock milieu. And if you want to get really granular, it’s an homage to a very specific comedy sketch starring Will Ferrell and this magazine’s patron saint, Christopher Walken. Comedy’s in our blood. (Our publisher would never, ever admit to it, but he harbors secret dreams of working in front of the brick wall.) And comedy’s got rock and roll in its blood, too. From Lenny Bruce to Redd Foxx, from George Carlin to Eddie Murphy, from Sarah Silverman to Dave Chappelle, America’s afforded its best comics the rock-star treatment. Which is to say that Cowbell contributor Patrick Rapa’s profile on how Birbiglia’s transformed a near-death experience into a one-man show phenomenon is not the last comedy feature you’ll be reading in these pages. Rapa (senior editor at Philadelphia alt-weekly the City Paper) and photographer Gene Smirnov spent a New York weekend with Birbiglia as he worked matinee and evening performances of his new one-man show, My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend, at the Barrow Street Theater. (Despite the frantic performance schedule, Rapa reports that Birbiglia’s a pretty affable guy: “Plus, I think he’s just really happy when he’s eating pizza.”) If you’ve been paying attention, you’ll notice that in the last few issues we’ve been branching out from our music-and-movies wheelhouse into comedy, books, graphic novels, art, soundtracks, activism and environmentalism, with more on the way. If you’re like us—and we think you are—“independent” attitudes don’t end at your media library. Expect Cowbell to reflect that.
Alex Mulcahy firstname.lastname@example.org editor-in-chief
Brian Howard brian.howard@ cowbellmagazine.com 215.625.9850 ext. 115 managing editor
Andrew Bonazelli art director
Jamie Leary email@example.com designer/illustrator
Kevin Juliff firstname.lastname@example.org 215.625.9850 ext. 105 writers
Sam Adams Rodney Anonymous Julia Askenase Brian Baker Raymond Cummings M.J. Fine Jeanne Fury Adam Gold Nick Green Joe Gross Justin Hampton K. Ross Hoffman Sean L. Maloney Michaelangelo Matos Shane Mehling Michael Pelusi j. poet Michael Pollock Patrick Rapa Eric Schuman Rod Smith Matt Sullivan John Vettese Julia West photographer
Gene Smirnov Loren Wohl illustrator
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Wave of Mitigation
In efforts to help tsunami-ravaged Japan, bands and labels put their music where their mouth is / by Eric Schuman ry as you might, you can’t fix the world with a song. Doesn’t
mean you shouldn’t try. In the considerable wake of the mid-March earthquake and tsunami in Japan has come a groundswell of artists and bands contributing time, material, and proceeds toward relief and awareness for the disaster’s victims. Here’s but a sampling of the musical benevolence.
Power-popsters the Rentals contribute Resilience, a collection of orchestral compositions by frontman Matt Sharp and violist Lauren Chipman. The pieces’ origins lie in the band’s 2009 multimedia experiment, Songs About Time, which also included a handful of EPs, a short film and a year’s worth of photographs. Guest contributions to Resilience come from a variety of global sources, including members of the Brasileiro Strokes offshoot, Little Joy. The collection will be available in a variety of formats, released in cooperation with the American Red Cross (Los Angeles Region) and the Ernest Jenning Record Co. More at rentals.com. Leading SXSW4Japan, a showcase of over 40 artists, is brotherly trio Hanson. The guys have been longtime supporters of a variety of international causes, so their involvement in this effort should come as no surprise. Back at March’s South by Southwest music conference, Hanson organized a mammoth, 12-hour benefit concert that’s now being released as an equally contentpacked download. Featured artists on SXSW4Japan include Ben Folds, Stephen
Kellogg and Tracy Bonham. Hanson are also putting out a new single, “Give a Little,” whose extras include a remix from ?uestlove of the Legendary Roots Crew and a selection of music videos. More at sxsw4japan.org. Also in the giving spirit are reggae-rockers Slightly Stoopid, whose “420 at the Greek” concert (which also boasts sets from Bad Brains, Del Tha Funkee Homosapien, Barrington Levy and more) marks the start of their spring tour and the legendary L.A. theater’s 80th anniversary. The concert will be recorded, then made available for download (slightlystoopid.com). The Stoopids will also be giving a song to Download to Donate (downloadtodonate.org), an evergrowing repository of downloadable songs by artists like Placebo, Surfer Blood and R.E.M. Once a donation is made, access is granted to the frequently updated collection of previously unreleased songs. It’s not just the established acts that are banding together. Parrot on a Porch Records has assembled a compilation of new and emerging artists (plus a track from Shudder to Think-er Craig Wedren) for the
portmanteau-rifically titled COMPassion. I Hate Our Freedom, (Damn) This Desert Air and Office of Future Plans might not be household names, but COMPassion is proof you needn’t be a superstar to put your labors to a good cause. Every little bit counts. More at parrotonaporch.bandcamp.com.
Some musicians offered gifts of more than just the aural variety. EMI’s roster came together on April 21 for an online auction of memorabilia and special-edition goodies, from signed albums, posters and guitars to a phone call from Huey Lewis, Daft Punk’s Ferrari and one of Deadmau5’s masks. As of press time, the assortment had already racked up a small fortune in donations. Of course, no musician-curated relief effort would be complete without a rousing collaborative song. Simon Cowell’s doing his best Bob Geldof, announcing that he’d be recruiting Katy Perry, Justin Bieber, Britney Spears and more megastars for a charity single. With these and already completed promotions from the likes of Yep Roc, Vs. the Earthquake and more, the support for Japan’s afflicted has come (and continues) in a big way. And you can also donate directly to organizations like the American Red Cross (american.redcross.org ) and Medecins Sans Frontieres/Doctors Without Borders (donate.doctorswithoutborders.org) providing aid in Japan and other areas of crisis around the globe.
The long, uncertain slog to Pat Jordache’s debut was worth the pain / by Brian Baker
at Jordache’s debut album, Future Songs, was
home-recorded on outmoded computers, so it fits the lo-fi definition while displaying great sonic complexity. Jordache doesn’t dispute the categorization… to a point. Future Songs
April 26 [ Constellation ]
“It’s lo-fi in terms of implements, but not in terms of casualness or quickness of approach,” Jordache clarifies. “I’m super meticu-
lous, anal retentive in the studio. I’ll do so many takes and mix the shit out of stuff and fuss on the EQ for a half hour on the high-hat microphone.” The Montréal resident, whose given name is Patrick Gregoire, mixes contemporized elements of ’70s art wave on Future Songs, a sprightly extrapolation of Brian Eno producing Joy Division in a world where love keeps Ian Curtis together rather than tearing him apart. “I watched Control, and it really struck a chord with me; I listened to a lot of Joy Division after that,” says Jordache. “Vocally, he’s an awesome model. He stepped up to the mic and it would sound how it sounded. That’s liberating. A lot of the punk I grew up on was pretty conservative, where bands replicated this formula. When I came across Joy Division, Talking Heads and Television, I loved the spirit and ethos behind it, but it goes hand in hand with this effort to do something different.” Future Songs’ circuitous path to its official release on Constellation Records began with Jordache’s self-re-
leased version last year, recorded on sub-par hardware. “I had this crappy laptop I inherited from my uncle; you had to put books under it so the fan would ventilate it,” says Jordache. “It was pretty patient and constant work.” A new laptop improved the sonics, but Jordache lost the better version when he left said laptop in a sandwich shop, where it was stolen. When Constellation expressed interest, Jordache only had files he’d uploaded to a Mediafire account. An engineer attempted to salvage Jordache’s mixing experiments when a folder of unmixed files appeared. “It sounded like crap and nothing he did could help,” says Jordache. “Then I dug around these unmastered files I completely forgot about. He was like, ‘Why didn’t you tell me about these hours ago?’ It sounds so much better now. It’s awesome and amazing.” As Future Songs began three years ago, when Jordache was still a member of Sister Suvi (with Merrill Garbus, now working as tUnE-yArDs), the album represents his creative mindset back then. Backed now by an actual band, he’ll update his sonic profile soon. “There’s three or four songs in the can,” says Jordache. “It sounds better. It still has a homemade feel, because that’s important to us, but some of the rough edges are smoothed out. It has a sexier feel.”
Gang Mentality T
Girl-group throwback Cat’s Eyes rock houses of the holy / by Jeanne Fury
raditionally, a band’s first gig takes place in a
basement or other dilapidated establishment, and the crowd consists of a few supportive friends and a less-than-stoked bartender. On the surface, Cat’s Eyes aren’t one for tradition. First off, the duo consists of Faris Badwan, frontman of British gothrockers the Horrors, and Canadian-born opera singer/ classically trained instrumentalist Rachel Zeffira. Second, the band popped its cherry in St. Peter’s Basilica. No, that’s not a hip new underground club in Brooklyn—it’s the St. Peter’s. As in Vatican City. To hell with tradition! In actuality, Cat’s Eyes comply with one of the most timeless rock ’n’ roll standards: the girl group. “In spite of our seemingly really different musical backgrounds, there were parallels, especially with girl groups,” says Zeffira. Cat’s Eyes take the sounds of producers like Phil Spector and Joe Meek, and filter them through a foreboding rain cloud with the help of a full orchestra. Like a Hitchcock film, their debut, self-titled album feels both sinister and romantic. Lust and heartbreak photo by chris cunningham
permeate the lush, stylish tunes.
“When I listened to the lyrics [of girlgroup hits], I was really surprised at how dark the songs are,” notes Zeffira. “There were girl fights, people running away from home, boyfriends dying. We didn’t set
out to write anything dark; we wanted to write simple lyrics that everyone could relate to. That allowed us to be more creative with the arrangements.” The permission to explore was a thrill for Zeffira, an opera soprano. “It was so liberating to sing in a natural voice without rules or thinking about my diaphragm,” she laughs. “I didn’t have to sing someone else’s music. I didn’t have to follow conductors’ suggestions.” So far, Cat’s Eyes have managed to impress some tough critics. Remember the gig at the Vatican? “[The attendees] were under the impression that [the song] was something sacred, and that’s how we wanted it to sound,” says Zeffira. “The Cardinals really liked it.”
Available Now [ Rough Trade ]
More at catseyesmusic.com. COWBELL
Ghosts With the Most
There’s no drudgery in 13&God’s haunting repetition / by Justin Hampton
bout three years have passed since in-
die pop/alt-rap Munich/Oakland supergroup 13&God have released any music, which, if new LP Own Your Ghost (anticon) is any indication, must have weighed heavily on them. Themes of time, aging, decay and death are constant preoccupations in these Own Your Ghost May 17 songs, so clearly, members of Germany’s [ anticon ] the Notwist and California’s Themselves— having become fast friends during the first self-titled full-length’s creation—were in no mood to procrastinate. “The first 13&God recordings and the tour afterwards were a very special and unique experience for all of us,” recalls the Notwist’s Markus Acher. “So, we knew that we wanted to record new music as soon as possible. We knew that it was important to not let it stay a one-time project.” With anticon collective members Antonionian and Dax from Subtle joining in, Own Your Ghost was composed in Oakland, with all members of 13&God creating the music in the same physical space for the first time. The sessions, however, remain defiantly unconventional, with field recordings, glitches and loops dragging the pop-acoustics of the Notwist into willfully eccentric interludes of abstraction, thanks to Adam “Doseone” Drucker’s suitably elliptical free verse. “Adam would send me lyrics and
I could pick whichever line fit into my songs… play with them and give them a new context,” says Acher. “That’s why some of the lines appear again and again, but sometimes sound different in a different song.”
The “Death Major/Death Minor” tracks form the basic thematic core—or “lozenge,” as Doseone refers to it—of the LP’s concerns. In suitably impressionistic terms, Doseone states, “The content on Own Your Ghost is meant to be an appreciation of life through acceptance of death... with crosses, or glitz. These truths were not so entirely wordable to me, before this age.” Read Shane Mehling’s review on p. 38.
photo by Gerald Von Foris and Mathew Scott
backtracks IN STORES
Steve Miller Band
MAN IN MOTION
LET YOUR HAIR DOWN IN STORES
IN STORES NOW
SETZER GOES INSTRU-MENTAL
IN YOUR DREAMS © 2010 OP EVE 2, LLC. All Rights Reserved.
QUEEN • 1973 1. Keep Yourself Alive DE LANE LEA DEMO, DECEMBER 1971 2. Great King Rat DE LANE LEA DEMO, DECEMBER 1971 3. Jesus DE LANE LEA DEMO, DECEMBER 1971 4. Liar DE LANE LEA DEMO, DECEMBER 1971 5. The Night Comes Down DE LANE LEA DEMO, DECEMBER 1971 6. Mad The Swine JUNE 1972
QUEEN II • 1974 1. White Queen LIVE AT HAMMERSMITH ODEON, DECEMBER 1975 2. See What A Fool I’ve Been BBC SESSION, JULY 1973 - 2011 REMIX 3. Seven Seas Of Rhye INSTRUMENTAL 4. See What A Fool I’ve Been B-SIDE VERSION, FEBRUARY 1974 5. Nevermore BBC SESSION, APRIL 1974
SHEER HEART ATTACK • 1974 1. Now I’m Here LIVE AT HAMMERSMITH ODEON, DECEMBER 1975 2. Flick Of The Wrist BBC SESSION, OCTOBER 1974 3. Tenement Funster BBC SESSION, OCTOBER 1974 4. Bring Back That Leroy Brown A CAPPELLA PLUS 5. In The Lap Of The Gods… Revisited LIVE AT WEMBLEY, JULY 1986
with deluxe reissues of their first 5 studio albums, each stuffed with killer bonus tracks ≥
1. Keep Yourself Alive LONG-LOST RETAKE, JUNE 1975 2. Bohemian Rhapsody OPERATIC SECTION A CAPPELLA 3. I’m In Love With My Car GUITAR & VOCAL VERSION 4. You’re My Best Friend BACKING TRACK 5. ‘39 LIVE AT EARL’S COURT, JUNE 1977; TBC 6. Love Of My Life LIVE SINGLE VERSION, JUNE 1979
A DAY AT THE RACES • 1976 BONUS TRACKS
CELEBRATE 40 YEARS of QUEEN
A NIGHT AT THE OPERA • 1975
1. Tie Your Mother Down BACKING TRACK 2. Somebody To Love LIVE AT MILTON KEYNES, JUNE 1982 3. You Take My Breath Away LIVE IN HYDE PARK, SEPTEMBER 1976 4. Good Old Fashioned Lover Boy TOP OF THE POPS, JULY 1977 5. Teo Torriatte LET US CLING TOGETHER; HD MIX
Every edit Philly electro duo Ryat made turned to sonic gold / by Julia Askenase
hristina Ryat and Tim Conley—Philadel-
phia-based experimental electronic duo Ryat—have achieved a rare kind of creative synergy. When the pair composed their latest record with producer Greg Augenblick, they literally passed around a communal laptop, each Avant Gold person complementing, distorting or totally Available now doing away with what someone else laid down [ Obvious Bandits ] before—creating something truly composite. “It was this total experiment,” says Conley. “You never know what’s gonna happen when you hand what you just did to them. They have full right to chop it up and do whatever they want with it.”
“You had to have a lot of trust, and you had to let a lot of things go,” adds Ryat.
The theme of letting go permeates their new record, Avant Gold, which provided Ryat lyrical catharsis for various relationship strains while abandoning genre strictures through shape-shifting song forms. Ryat and Conley both received jazz training and played in local bands before splitting off to pursue Ryat’s ongoing live electronics project full-time. Equipped with software like Ableton and Reason, the two multi-instrumentalists can alternate swiftly between sounds—like an old Wurlitzer, distorted electric guitar and Minimoogs—layering, looping and sampling to satisfaction. This eclecticism glimmers on Avant Gold, which oscillates between avant-garde freak-out and tight, addictive pop, calling to mind Björk, Portishead and Bat for Lashes. Album standout, “The Fish That Lived Out of Water,” opens to the hypnotic swirl of glitchy, harpsounding synths, followed by a stuttering snare that ushers in Ryat’s gently processed soprano in a wave of “ah-ahs”—and that’s just the intro. Ryat continues to gain momentum as their crowds grow larger and electronica peers take notice; Brainfeeder, the record label of L.A.’s influential Flying Lotus, just featured them on a single. “I’ve always wanted to be an innovator in sound, and I feel like I’m finally on some stuff that I’m really excited about,” she says. Read John Vettese’s review of Avant Gold and Avant Gold Remixed on p. 45.
a Record Store Day vinyl figure series created by
FRANK KOZIK Four figures.
Limited edition run of 5000 blind box pieces. Available at select indie record stores and online at www.recordstoreday.com
Turn Out the Lights
James Murphy says goodbye with a bow and a bang by Sam Adams From the beginning, LCD S oundsystem sang ab out
endings. On “Losing My Edge,” James Murphy worried about being past his prime while proving he was just entering it, fretting about the young kids breathing down his neck while schooling them in the finer points of minimalist dance-rock. So it was only fitting that Murphy gave his fans a chance to bid farewell, a Madison Square Garden blowout dubbed “The Long Goodbye.” Over three sets and nearly four hours, Murphy played everything his diehards could have wished to hear, and a few only they would have expected. Opening with the skittering slow build of “Dance Yrself Clean,” Murphy and an ensemble that eventually swelled to more than two dozen poked into obscure corners of LCD’s catalogue, reviving the high-speed cover of Harry Nilsson’s “Jump Into the Fire” from an early radio session and recreating the album-length “45:33” in its entirety. The latter proved more exciting in concept than it was in execution, even with the help of a pair of aliens crash-landed on the Garden’s bleachers, but that was the only dip in the show’s breakneck momentum.
Apart from a larkish Arcade Fire cameo on “North American Scum,” LCD’s swan song was free of guestshot gimmickry. This was the band as they were, and had been, with former members pitching in as needed. Cranks questioned whether a one-man band could actually break up, but Murphy made clear in advance his intent to quit while he was ahead, before his edge actually started to dull. Murphy’s obsession with endings made every song sound like a valedictory. The mourning in “Someone Great” is directed at a more final finale, but the crowd took over the song, adapting Murphy’s personal goodbye to the present circumstances. But LCD Soundsystem’s last waltz was less a funeral than an Irish wake, a raucous celebration of what they were, up until the moment they weren’t.
photo by l0ren wohl
Coffey! Like the city he helped put on the map, Motown stalwart Dennis Coffey—the least recognizable guitarist everyone in the world has heard—returns from oblivion / by Brian Baker
here is a certain anonymity associated with Dennis Cof-
fey’s illustrious career. As the guitarist for the Funk Brothers, Motown Records’ house band, Coffey’s distinctive wahwah sound was prominent on much of the label’s legendary output in the late ’60s and early ’70s. As a solo artist, the Detroit resident’s lone megahit with his Detroit Guitar Band, 1971’s “Scorpio” (since sampled by Public Enemy, Rage Against the Machine, Queen Latifah and dozens more), was followed by a handful of regional hits with similar sonic potential. They just didn’t quite pack the same widespread commercial punch. Thankfully, Coffey does not toil in obscurity. He gigs fairly consistently, around Detroit and beyond; he played and sat in on several shows at this year’s South by Southwest Festival, and he’s celebrating the release of his new eponymous solo album, his first collection of new/newly recorded material in five years. Two important factors have raised Coffey’s profile immeasurably: his small but potent appearance in 2002’s Standing in the Shadows of Motown documentary, and the Internet. “The first time I went to London on a book tour, they all knew,” says Coffey from his Detroit home. “The collectors and the music mavens know the history. And because of the people who’ve sampled me, all the hiphoppers know who I am. It created a whole other fan base.” And yet, Coffey’s path has not been particularly easy. He tried to capitalize on his reputation in Los Angeles and New York in the ’80s, but found no takers, forcing his return to Detroit. The music scene there wasn’t any more receptive, so Coffey shifted gears, moving into the automotive industry for 20 years. “I had kids to support, so I ended up working the assembly line at General Motors because I needed a job,” says Coffey without bitterness. “Then I got a job as an in-plant 12
Hair and Thangs shows up all over Europe—probably pirated—and it’s the vibe that kids in their 20s like.” —Dennis Coffey
trainer; I had taught guitar, so they trained me in instructional systems design.” Throughout his automotive experience (which included finishing his degree from Wayne State and a Master’s in instructional technology), Coffey maintained his rigorous guitar practice schedule. With the economic downturn and Detroit’s falling fortunes, Coffey found himself being shunted aside and
realized the time was finally right to return to music, starting with his 2004 memoir, Guitars, Bars and Motown Superstars, and 2006’s Rise of the Phoenix, a self-generated online project. “I was still doing consulting, but I always had a guitar in my hand; I’d sit in with bands when Ford was sending me around to plants on the corporate jet,” he says. “I wasn’t doing it for a living anymore, but it was an undercurrent. I never stopped playing and I never forgot that’s who I am. I got thrown out of music, then I got thrown out of Ford, so I said, ‘Time to go back to music.’ I guess that’s the impetus... I get thrown out of places.” The first step was getting reconnected. A colleague of Coffey’s wife, a Detroit radio account exec, pointed him to producer Al Sutton, whose work routinely earns accolades from the Detroit Music Awards. Sutton attended some of Coffey’s local sets, then invited him to check out his studio and start recording. “I said, ‘That’s the easy part; the hard part is what do you do when you get the stuff done?’” says Coffey with a laugh. “He said, ‘Well, let me work on that.’” To that end, Sutton assembled a management team and devised a post-release strategy. In the meantime, Coffey attacked an interesting collection of freshly written songs, then eventually reworked a few timeless classics he had contributed to back in the day, including Funkadelic’s “I Bet You,” 100 Proof (Aged in Soul)’s “Somebody’s Been Sleeping” and Wilson Pickett’s “Don’t Knock My Love.” “The strategy was to do covers where I played on the original sessions,” says Coffey. “That was the connection with my history.” After whittling 40 new compositions down to three, Coffey recorded the tracks and the team shopped them, with the most interest coming from London’s Strut Records. Coffey Photo by doug coombe
headed to England to play Richard Thompcontemporary verve, a successful blend that son’s 2009 Meltdown Festival and meet with Coffey credits to following the stylistic lead Strut, which led to his signing. Coffey, his of his studio guests. team and the label all had specific and mu“Having the young players helped give tually agreeable ideas about the new album’s it that young vibe; Detroit has never let me direction. down,” says Coffey. “We weren’t trying to “My  Hair and Thangs album shows recreate the past—we were trying to create up all over Europe—probably pirated—and the future, but also respect the past. In no it’s the vibe that kids in their 20s like,” says way was I going to tell these young kids, ‘I Coffey. “We weren’t going to recreate that want you to play like we played back when album, just have small sections we were your age.’ That would of Guitar Band stuff. And it had be insane.” a sparseness to it, so we pared Coffey’s first official release in down some of the mixdowns to over two decades is reminiscent stay within that vibe.” of the halcyon days of vinyl and While most of Coffey’s solo the guitarist’s early work with the Guitar Band. Coffey has a ready catalog is comprised of funky, explanation for the old-school soulfully slinky instrumentals, warmth that emanates from his he peppered the new album new work. with several vocal numbers “Al Sutton’s got Pro Tools and and enlisted young talents to Dennis Coffey will be available May 3 the new API board, so he’s mixed provide the words, including from Strut Records. new with retro, but he’s got vinMayer Hawthorne, Paolo Nutini, the BellRays’ Lisa Kekaula, tage amps up the yin yang, and the Detroit Cobras’ Rachel Nagy, Orgone’s I used my Gibson Firebird guitar that was on all the Motown hits... hits are just in its Fanny Franklin and the Dirtbombs’ Mick DNA,” figures Coffey. “Ed Wolfram was an Collins (Kings Go Forth occasionally apengineer at Motown and he created this pear as Coffey’s backing band). The vocal direct box where we would go into the box and musical collaborations are a fascinating combination of timeless classicism and right onto tape, no amps. So, I used that, too.
Premium Blend 1
“Cloud Nine” The Temptations
That was the first time I played at Motown and played with the guys. I knew some of the Funk Brothers from the outside sessions, but to be sitting there in Studio A, the whole vibe was just magical to me. It was such a great band. I can see Norman Whitfield at Motown counting off those songs standing in front of the drummer, and it’d be August and 120 degrees in there, but we’d pound it out, getting all funky in there.
“It’s Your Thing” instrumental Lyman Woodard and Melvin Davis
That was part of the live gig thing I was doing with them, and we recorded that, which led to the Hair and Thangs album. That was special because it was what we were doing in the clubs; it was raw and funky, and it was fun doing that album. The sidebar to that is I was down in New Orleans and so was Skip Pitts, who did the wah-wah on “Shaft” and the Is-
Coffey’s Fave Five
ley Brothers’ “It’s Your Thing.” So, we’re at the House of Blues doing dueling wah-wah solos on “It’s Your Thing.” It was great.
Cold Fact Rodriguez
I thought that was a great album; I played guitar and some bass on that. I really thought Rodriguez was ahead of his time with what he was doing. We did one of his songs (on the new album), “Only Good for Conversation.”
We used amps for recording guitar for one track and for another track, I was recording through my Motown direct box, so that helped give it that sound. Al’s got a great ear; he knew how to make this stuff work because he understands what we were doing back then, but you can’t recreate anything. Somehow you keep the history intact, but you have to move forward.” While Coffey humbly notes that he’s content with the path he’s followed, it’s obvious that his name should be shouted from slightly higher rooftops and the new album should be a much bigger deal. For Coffey, the most important element in his work, new or old, is the place he’s called home since his family moved from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula in the mid’50s, a place whose name is synonymous with economic ruin and musical revolution. “Detroit has got it going on,” says Coffey with pride. “I saw Kid Rock at South by Southwest and we were talking about it. There’s that DNA in the city itself, musically, and it survives no matter what. It’s here, the players are here and they’re going to take care of it. And I’m here, because I still believe in it.” More at denniscoffeysite.com.
“Handy Man” Del Shannon
That was the first time I played on a millionselling record, so that stood out. We were in New York and working with this arranger, Bill Ramel, and Del wanted to use one of the amps that was there, and they said, “No, those belong to the Manhattan Guitar Club; they don’t want to lug their amps around, so they chipped in and they all have amps here.” I don’t know what Del said, but Bill got irritated and said in front of everybody, “Well, Del, why don’t you play us a medley of your hit?”
Northern Soul era in Michigan “Open the Door to Your Heart” by Darrell Banks, that was a great record from that period, and that one by the Volumes, “I Love You,” that was a great record we did. There’s so many. I enjoyed every day I was doing sessions. We had so much fun making that music that it’s hard to pick the greatest this or that because they were all great for different reasons.
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Feel-Good Hitmaker of the Summer
After a quarter-century in the limelight, Raphael Saadiqâ€™s rhythms still feel good to us, baby / by Sean L. Maloney
earch & Destroy”: We can all agree that covers of this Iggy
In an era where memes have replaced trends, trends have replaced traditions, and & the Stooges classic are the standard by which all bands technology has more or less supplanted the can be judged, right? It’s the pinnacle of primal, puerile need for any semblance of talent (lookin’ rock ’n’ roll rebellion, a psychedelic revolution in three at you, Rebecca Black!), it’s comforting to minutes and 30 seconds of—pardon the pun—raw power. see a commercial artist still creating new sounds from old styles, from the ground And do you know who does the single best cover of “Search up. It’s one thing for an unknown indie art& Destroy” that you will ever witness live on stage? R&B legend ist to dip their ink in the retro-well, but it’s Raphael Saadiq, that’s who. Yeah, the guy from Tony! Toni! Toné!; another for a commercial artist—a bona fide machine—to wander deep into the world the guy from Lucy Pearl; the dude that sang the hook on the Roots’ hit of fetishistic vintage sound reproduction. breakthrough hit, “What They Do.” That dude does the most blis- But then again, that bizarre moment in the tering, burly cover of “Search & Destroy” that you will ever hear. late ’60s when soul, jazz, psych and pop were essentially synonyms is really the last era in Just think about that for a second. post-Eisenhower American R&B that Saadiq And now that that has sunk in—it’s hasn’t completely and totally conquered. a bit of a trip, ain’t it?—you’re prepared Stone Rollin’ was bound to happen sooner for the righteous nugget of garageor later. The And the timing couldn’t be better—it’s a psych-soul that is Saadiq’s Stone Rollin’ . Sure, it might seem a little odd that well-documented fact that soul music makes summertime a better time, and songs like one of the primary architects of the ’90s Stone Rollin’s lead single “Radio” and the New Jack Swing sound, the man behind Starter Kit some of the funkiest songs of the last barreling boogie-woogie of “Day Dreams” are proof. There is something about the sunshine two decades, would do anything that Tony! Toni! Toné! and some squealing, distorted guitars that could even be loosely termed “garage” Sons of Soul or “psychedelic”—we’re talking about a can obliterate all your pressing problems, and Best R&B album of the ’90s. Yeah, we said dude world-renowned for his smooththere’s something about a swinging sitar over it. Though not the commercial success of ness—but here it is, equal parts Flamin’ a bouncy breakbeat—as heard on the stuntheir debut, T!T!T!’s junior effort stands Groovies mod-stomp and early Chi-Litesning “Just Don’t”—that can make you forget the test of time and is smoooooth. style fuzzed-up soul. From the openthat the rest of the world seems to be tearing itself apart. The swirling, slinky ing power-chord-and-flute Lucy Pearl Lucy Pearl blues of the title track is primed rave-up of “Heart Attack” Saadiq, En Vogue’s Dawn Robinson to the spaced-out strings of for a bit of boozy beach-blanket and Ali Shaheed Muhammad form like “Good Man”—which echoes bingo, and “Go to Hell”—despite Voltron to create the perfect fusion of its title—is the sorta uplifting the symphonic-soul experihip-hop and soul. There’s little more mentalism of ’60s Chicago soul anthem that’ll make you bummerific than the fact that this label Cadet Concept—Stone glad you partied till sunrise. group was one-and-done. But that brings up the quesRollin’ gets far out, man. But this shouldn’t be a tion of where Saadiq goes from Raphael Saadiq here. Who cares—it’s gonna be surprise for anyone who’s Stone Rollin’ will be Instant Vintage been following Saadiq since awesome! If we learned anything available May 10 from Almost a decade old, and Instant Vintage Columbia Records. “Feels Good” hit the Top 40 in the two decades since we first still sounds ahead of its time. Totally way back in the Bush the scored the “Feels Good” cassinworth the purchase price just for the tuba First era. Whether it was bolstering Bad gle, it’s that if the liner notes say “Saadiq,” we breakdown on “Still Ray.” Boy Records’ batting average with aweare in for something amazing. Hell, the dude some album cuts in the mid-’90s, workeven made Joss Stone kinda cool. And if you Raphael Saadiq ing with neo-soul hitmakers like Erykah can manage making a record with Joss Stone All Hits at the House of Blues Badu and D’Angelo at the turn of the cenand crank out the best “Search & Destroy” Let’s just say that modern R&B hasn’t tury or cranking out his own retro-soul cover we’ve seen in a lifetime of watching been a very live album-friendly medium, masterpieces like 2008’s The Way I See Stooges covers, well, you know you’ve got but this is so good it makes up for every asshole who ever lip-synched to AutoIt, Saadiq has always pulled from deep something special. Tuned backing tracks. canyons of classic R&B. Hell, even his Raphael Saadiq will begin a U.S. tour May decidedly modern records, like 2002’s 10. For more info, hit raphaelsaadiq.com. Raphael Saadiq instant classic Instant Vintage and the
The Way I See It
A stone-cold soul classic released 40 odd years after the Summer of Love, The Way is definitely the essential record from the 21st-century soul revival.
future-funker Ray Ray, sound like they were recorded with a time machine rather than a tape machine. (It should be noted that the direction which said time machine is traveling along the space-time continuum is entirely up for debate.)
It’s All Good Man Man’s Fantastic planet continues to revolve and evolve / by Rod Smith
oachella, All Tomorrow’s Parties, SXSW, a rabid
fan base rife with bloggers and critics—for a guy in his first band, Ryan Kattner has hella indie rock earmarks to his credit. But on the eve of their fourth album’s release, Man Man’s founder, frontman and creative center couldn’t be less complacent.
“It was a miracle all our other records got completed—just because of the circumstances under which they were recorded,” Kattner explains. He’s only been back in Philadelphia for a few days after playing nine shows at South by Southwest (one with Man Man and eight with newish side project Mr. Heavenly), and makes no bones about feeling under the weather. Still, his voice is suffused with passion—the kind neither exhaustion nor our dodgy phone connection can stifle. “Even our last record, Rabbit Habits— which was our first for Anti- —was a hellacious experience. It was recorded in two sessions on opposite sides of the country, with touring in between to finance. This is the first time we’ve ever actually been able to really buckle down in a real studio for a while.” The recording facility’s location, Omaha, makes a lot more sense for a band from Philadelphia when you factor in ARC Studios owner Mike Mogis (Rilo Kiley, the Faint, Cursive), who produced and mixed the album. The Monsters of Folk and Bright Eyes member’s involvement also enabled the notoriously eclectic quintet to dip their collective schnozzle deep into the city’s (and Saddle Creek’s) talent pool. Neely Jenkins (Tilly and the Wall), Laura Burhenn (Georgie James, Mynabirds) and Susan Sanchez (Bear Country, Mynabirds) all sing backup on the album. Bright Eyes’ Nate Walcott did string arrangements. “We were originally supposed to spend seven weeks in Omaha,” says Kattner. “I ended up being there for, like, three months. Sure, it felt like the middle of nowhere, but at the same time, for me, I liked the narrative of being in the Midwest. The lyrics were all written on the East Coast, the Man Man West Coast, and down men, from left: Christopher Powell, south. I felt it only right Russell Higbee, and proper to do the reRyan Kattner, cording in the heart of Billy Dufala. photo by mike persico
Hooks are really important, and the guys in my band can definitely write great hooks. But in most songs, we only need two—not 12. We needed someone to come in and be like: ‘Look: These 10 other hooks are just canceling everything out.’” —Ryan Kattner America—right smack dab in the middle. It made geographical sense to me.” Kattner’s instincts served him well. Life Fantastic is easily Man Man’s most focused release to date. The band’s tendency to “throw in everything, including the kitchen sink,” as Kattner puts it, rages at least as fiercely as on their 2004 debut: The Man in a Blue Turban With a Face. But the results don’t harbor nearly as much clutter. From opener “Knuckle Down”’s darkly rollicking carnival keyboards through Walcott’s stringdriven tribute to Van Dyke Parks on jazzy cabaret closer “Oh, La Brea,” those bits of everything are more situated, more framed. Kattner credits Mogis. “It was a great experience, working with Mike,” he says. “At the point where this band photo by andrew parks
is right now, we needed to have an outside year to write. It was during a bad period. I person step in—somebody to be like, ‘That’s was down in Texas, visiting my father. I just too much.’ When I bring in the songs, they’re didn’t really know what to do—what to sing, barebones. That’s when everybody else starts how to write songs, how to play music—and throwing parts in, and the songs eventually that song was what came out of all that. I was mutate into what we record. Mike’s thing is processing a lot of bad stuff.” that he would just go in and throw out 75 perWhile pouring one’s personal life into an cent of the parts. Hooks are really important, album isn’t exactly a new strategy, it’s someand the guys in my band can definitely write thing Kattner’s never done to this extent. “I great hooks. But in most songs, we only need just felt like the time had come,” he says. two—not 12. We needed someone to come in Right again, Honus. Man Man’s status as and be like: ‘Look: These 10 other hooks are an avant-party band suffers not one iota from just canceling everything out.’ It makes me either their new, hi-def musical approach or wish that I could go back in time and record the singer’s nascent emphasis on heartfelt lyrics; the only difference is that now they all the other Man Man records with Mike.“ bring the whole party—complete with breakHis willingness to cede such a hefty measure of control marks a first for Kattner, who’s ups, vomiting episodes and the dude in the piloted his brainchild through countless backyard threatening to cut his throat with personnel changes since forming the band a freshly broken PBR bottle. in ’01, always keeping his core conceptual “I think the thing that’s been overlooked in tags—from goofy stage names (he’s “Honus the past is that we are writing songs,” KattHonus”) to war paint and color-coordinated ner says. “There are songs here. We’ve never outfits (white often predominates)—intact. been into arbitrarily throwing in transitions While the band’s hard-won clarity is bound just because we have a lot of parts. We’re not to alienate a few old fans, it’s just as likely to afraid of a groove. We won’t disrupt a groove just for the sake of doing it. And we won’t jam bring a slew of new ones into the fold. Nowhere is the change more apparent than it out, either. One thing we acknowledge—and on the heartbreakingly gorgeous Mike very much agrees with this— “Steak Knives.” Acoustic guitar is that the heart of a song is the and vibraphone form an apvoice and the beat. Once you’ve got propriately stark backdrop for that locked down, everything else Kattner’s tale of love and loss, should just follow naturally.” but thanks to Walcott, it’s lamMan Man will be on tour through bent strings that give the song June; they will play the Roots Pictexture and color as they curl nic in Philadelphia, June 4, and around the singer’s gruff voice. Bonnaroo in Tennessee, June 11. “That song still kinda devLife Fantastic will be For more, hit wearemanman.com. astates me a little bit,” he says. available May 10 from “Believe it or not, it took me a Anti-. 19
The Proclaimer* Eddie Argos makes friends and influences people on Art Brut’s latest / by Michael Pelusi
ddie Argos changed rock ’n’ roll. On British band Art Brut’s first album, 2005’s
Bang Bang Rock & Roll, the singer tore up the rulebook for catchy U.K. rock. He didn’t sing—he declaimed. “We formed a band! Look at us!” he’d shout. Or “My little brother’s just discovered rock ’n’ roll!” And “I’m still in love with Emily Kane!” At first, it seemed like Argos was deconstructing rock, maybe even taking the piss. But on two subsequent albums, it became clearer just how much he really meant it, as the band became a hard-touring, well-honed unit. Yet, he was equally committed to removing all the false sentiment and bogus clichés of rock lyrics, replacing them with unabashed, directly stated, real-life enthusiasm. ¶ Art Brut’s new album, Brilliant! Tragic! (Downtown), produced by the Pixies’ Black Francis (who also produced the band’s 2009 Art Brut Vs. Satan), represents a new direction. Most of the songs are less brash; they seem closer to grunge and funk than punk. And, for the first time, Argos actually sings. Cowbell caught up Tragic! will with Argos in England—he now lives in Berlin with Dyan Valdes, his girlfriend Brilliant! be available May and bandmate in side project Everybody Was in the French Resistance… Now!— 24 from Downtown Records. as the band was preparing for their record release show in London. 20
For all the bands I’ve ever started, being in a band, for me, is the best way to make friends with people.” —Eddie Argos Whenever I’m singing, I’m not very selfaware. So, I’m doing the whispery thing [during recording]. But when I went to listen to it, I didn’t recognize myself. “Oh, this is me?” It was very strange, but it was cool. Is “Clever, Clever Jazz” about a band you saw, or is that about some of your own experiences being in a band?
It’s a bit of both, really. When I was younger, I played in a band called the Art Goblins. We were quite a strange band. I played the Hoover [vacuum] and all this cool, weird stuff. And for some reason we’d been asked to play [a gig] in this small village. And people started shouting, “You’re not music! This isn’t music!” And then I defended it: “No, it’s clever, clever jazz!” And it stuck in my head. I just love it when you see a band playing for the first time. They’re trying to work it out, you know? In my head, that is a good, new genre of music by itself: clever, clever jazz. That describes it—people who are just happy to play for the first time. It’s nice to have a realistic song about being in a band. The great thing about that song is there are still these human, relatable moments. You can relate to the band being really enthusiastic, trying to do something different. And you can relate to the audience, who are not enjoying it. It sounds like you guys really tried some different things on Brilliant! Tragic!—some different styles of songs, different things you’re doing with your vocals.
I think it was just because it’s our fourth album. That’s the way we are now. I think we just changed a bit. [Some online reviewers] have said my lyrics aren’t as painfully frank anymore. And I really thought they were. [Laughs] Maybe I’m just losing my mind. One of the first songs we recorded was “Lost Weekend,” with the whispery singing. It was like a light going on, “Ohhh! We can do this new thing.” I’d not really realized that my voice is an instrument. “Lost Weekend” is fascinating. It’s so different from any Art Brut song, and your voice sounds completely different from what we’re used to.
Yeah, they have to put up with it. It’s alright to glamorize it. We did it with “Formed a Band,” about how we’re gonna write a song about Israel and Palestine. But it’s quite challenging to write a song about what it’s like being in a band. What’s the relationship between the song “Martin Kemp” and the Spandau Ballet member/actor Martin Kemp?
My secondary school when I was growing up was called Martin Kemp Welch. I don’t know why it was called that. It’s not named after him. I always liked that song by the Ataris, “San Dimas High School Football Rules.” I thought it would be fun to write about my school in the same way that Americans write about their schools. Most schools aren’t very good, you know. Looking back now, the only thing I learned at school was boys who played football got all the girls. It’s the same all over the world.
Your lyrics throughout the band’s career have been about topics rarely covered in music, or you just have such a different approach to love songs and songs about girls.
For all the bands I’ve ever started, being in a band, for me, is the best way to make friends with people. It’s nice when we play and people come up and say, “How’s your brother?” and “What’s going on with Emily Kane?” I don’t know, maybe it’s selfish of me. I want the songs to be relatable so I can make lots of friends [laughs], and just chat with people. You’ve often written and talked about your love of Bob Dylan. And your favorite Dylan song is “Brownsville Girl.” And that also has a conversational tone with lots of weird detours. He gets sidetracked and starts talking about a Gregory Peck film. Lyrically, it does feel a little like an Art Brut song.
I love that song. I’m a massive Bob Dylan fan. Knocked Out Loaded  is not one of his best albums, but that song is amazing. It’s like a revelation: “It’s 11 minutes long!” There’s a documentary on YouTube about a band talking about it. They read the lyrics and they thought it was going to be like “All Along the Watchtower,’ like “We’re gonna play this classic Bob Dylan song!” And then it’s “Brownsville Girl.” And they’re coming down on it, but I think that song’s amazing. I really want to cover that. That would be amazing.
It would be tiring to play it for that long. We’d have to get backing singers in. Why did you decide to move to Berlin?
We thought it would be fair to move somewhere where neither of us lived. [Valdes is from Los Angeles.] We both loved Berlin. We’ve been there so many times. We found this nice, sort of ’70s house, even the furniture. It’s like living in a Pulp video. People are friendly, conversation’s good, beer’s cheap. There’s a whole island full of museums. What more do you want? I love it there. For news and tour dates, and to download the non-album track “Unprofessional Wrestling,” hit artbrut.org.uk. 21
Off the Margins
R. Stevie Moore may be losing his anonymity, but his edge remains intact / by Sean L. Maloney
“How’d you recognize me?” Legendary underground-pop auteur R. Stevie Moore tugs his Nirvana ballcap over his glasses, white hair and bushy beard exploding out in every direction. He smiles wryly, spins on his heels and turn-skips across the club, disappearing into the backstage area at the Muse, an all-ages punk club in downtown Nashville. He’s headlining a benefit for WRVU—a local college radio station that may be taken off the air in the near future, yet another battle between capital and community in our media landscape. He’s preparing for a new tour and a new album, his first since returning to his hometown after three decades in New Jersey spent cranking out home recordings for an international cult following. Moore is the outsider-musician’s outsider musician, a font of absurdity spilling into a river of avant-pop brilliance, an artist whose medium could best be described as “constant creation.” Audio, visual, whatever—as long as he’s moving, he’s making something. Moore
Highlights Galore A cross-section of Moore’s greatest hits
Phonography [Sundazed, 2009]
Original copies of this record are considered a holy grail in certain record collector circles, but fortunately the skewed, self-recorded pop contained within has been rescued from obscurity by the fine folks at Sundazed. Veers between studio weirdness of the Frank Zappa variety and a knack for hooks that recalls Todd Rundgren, Brian Eno and Jeff Lynne.
has recorded thousands of songs, only a fraction of which have ever seen a formal release, instead selling his lo-fi gems to fans directly— long before any marketing turd ever started babbling about “1,000 true fans” or how “music was like water.” He’s the sort of artist that’s so far left-ofcenter, you’re liable to miss him if you don’t have your antennas way, way up. The sort of artist that’s revered by record store clerks everywhere and that buddy from college with the huge collection of fourth-generation VHS cable access bootlegs. But he has returned to Nashville a conquering hero, riding a wave of expanded interest, with current indie wunderkinds like Ariel Pink and MGMT singing his praises, a reissue of his private-press breakthrough Phonography and a whole new generation discovering him via the massive amounts of archival material he’s unleashed on the Internet. (To wit: The $10,000 recording budget for his forthcoming new album, Advanced, was financed by 160 backers through kickstarter.com, where Moore is currently trying to raise money to fund the R. Stevie Moore and Tropical Ooze World Tour 2011 which will take him and his backing band across the country, then to Lisbon and finally, the July Creepy Teepee festival in Prague.) When Moore takes the Muse stage later that night and unleashes a set of affably anarchic pop on the audience and yells, “This is not your father’s rock ’n’ roll!” into the microphone, it’s clear that this an artist so far ahead of his time that the world is only now catching up—an elder statesman of the lo-fi frontier. Cowbell caught up with Moore via e-mail from New York.
Hobbies Galore [Cherry Red, 2003]
Most of Moore’s songs have never seen an official release, and 40 years of nonstop productivity can be a little intimidating to the newcomer, but this compilation of his late ’70s/early ’80s work is your best chance at a concise and authoritative take on his career. That said, if you told us that this record was made two weeks ago in Brooklyn by two skinny kids wearing headbands and Chuck Taylors, we wouldn’t doubt you for a second.
ODDFELLOWS: R. Stevie Moore (front) with Brooklyn’s Tropical Ooze (from left), Wilson Novitski, Sam Levin and JR Thomason.
Where did you record the new album, and with whom? When is it coming out?
It’s titled Advanced, created at the Nashville home studio of my long-longtime best friend and musical collaborator Roger Ferguson on super Pro Tools. As usual, I’m playing almost all of the instruments and singing all parts. It’s been rather glorious, the biggest and fullest sound I have ever gotten, frankly. Almost mainstream. LOL. And we’re trying to focus on straight-ahead pop and rock results, minimizing my usual wreaking total havoc of the undisciplined variety and lo-fi home quirkiness. It’s kind of geared toward the uninformed listener, spotlighting the songwriting and arrangement qualities over the weirdness elements. I’ve also gone back deep into my back catalog and selected old songs to remake in a mega-produced manner.
Teenage Spectacular [New Rose, 1987]
One of Moore’s rare studio records for the late, lamented French indie label New Rose—they also released albums by Alex Chilton, the Real Kids and the Replacements in Europe—Teenage Spectacular is about as close to mainstream pop as Moore gets. Well, if you consider the Feelies and the dBs mainstream, which you totally could, comparatively speaking.
How has Nashville changed since you left? How have crowds been reacting to your return?
Well, extremely lots, since it’s been 33 1/3 years passed. Yet it still retains a nice laidback, more relaxed vibe for me. The young music fans are far more open-minded and imaginative than they ever were in the ’70s. I’m hoping to be able to tap into that big time. So far, it’s working nicely. (I hope.) I’m somewhat surprised to discover I do have a semilegendary reputation down here
What are your plans for the summer?
For the first time in my life, I am concentrating full-on on assembling and rehearsing several band ensembles for live gigs and probable touring. Currently visiting NYC,
Youtube.com/user/rsmko Moore may have 40 years of audio recordings under his belt, but that’s only half the story—he’s had the video camera rolling almost the entire time, and it’s all up on YouTube. There are Internet wormholes that suck you in for hours, and then there’s Internet wormholes that shoot you into another dimension entirely; Moore’s channel is like being transported into an alternate dimension where Santo Gold sells his chains on the Tonight Show and Jack Kerouac teaches kindergarten.
practicing with my brand new crew Tropical Ooze, guys living in Brooklyn originally from Texas. So, there are daily developments in regards to securing confirmed engagements from coast to coast, Europe and beyond. Very grassroots level in its DIY approach; we are hoping to burst out with enthusiastically wild abandon, yet fully contained purpose and delivery. Next week I am not only playing [and] headlining but actually “hosting”/ MCing the big two-day Culture Shock festival at SUNY Purchase. Advanced will be available this summer. To download massive amounts of early recordings, watch hours of video, donate to the world tour and immerse yourself in the R. Stevie oeuvre, hit rsteviemoore.com.
FairMoore [Old Gold, 2002]
Look, we’re not gonna lie: We’ll take any opportunity to talk about Half Japanese’s HWIC (High Weirdo in Charge) Jad Fair. The man has created some of the world’s most off-kilter audio art over the last 30-plus years, and this collaboration with Moore doesn’t disappoint. Improvisational and experimental, FairMoore deconstructs the very concept of songs to create way-out tone poems for oddball punks.
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by the sea and cake
Members Sam Prekop
The Crack of Fawn The making of the Sea and Cakeâ€™s The Fawn by Brian Baker
Eric Claridge bass
Archer Prewitt guitar, vocals
John McEntire percussion, drums
hen the Sea and Cake came together in 1994, there
was little doubt that something unexpectedly wonderful would result from the unusual grouping. Vocalist/ guitarist Sam Prekop and bassist Eric Claridge had come off a six-year stint with skewed indie rock quintet Shrimp Boat, guitarist/vocalist Archer Prewitt had defected from loungecore stylists the Coctails and drummer John McEntire opted out of post-rock phenoms Gastr del Sol. During the first three years of their creative partnership, the Sea and Cakeâ€™s four members gelled into a fascinating unit that accurately reflected their eclectic and experimental roots.
Cowbell reopens the vaults on indie rock classics.
With their 1994 eponymous debut and the songs he had written for The Fawn for 1995’s Nassau, the Sea and Cake were clearly his bandmates, they quickly gleaned how exploring the intersections of the quartet’s different their next album was going to be, disparate yet related directions, playing off and how this departure was going to impact each other’s estimable talents, yet trying to their work going forward. Although it wasn’t find the commonality that would bind them voiced or intended, The Fawn became somein the future. On The Biz, the band’s third thing of a manifesto for the Sea and Cake; its emphasis on atmosphere and texture necesrelease and second of 1995, the foursome coalesced into a cohesive group, displaying sitated viewing each member’s contributions the verve and invention suggested by their in lateral directions and finding new ways to initial collaboration, a visceral blend of utilize everyone’s varied talents. post-rock energy and indie-jazz coloration. The Fawn was most assuredly a launchThe positive critical response that greeted ing pad for the Sea and Cake, the moment The Biz was a ringing endorsement of the when they went from post-rock boho jazz Sea and Cake’s evolution to that point, and nodders to serious indie rock experimentalsolid evidence that the band could easily have ists. It also helped to shape the individual mined another two or three albums from the members’ identities outside of the group; same musical vein. The Sea and Cake were both Prekop and Prewitt would embark decidedly less interested on solo careers (Prewitt in revisiting what had alwould continue to purready been created, and sue cartooning with his more vested in leaping characters Sof ’ Boy and off a creative precipice Funny Bunny; Prekop of their own making into also pursues artistic whatever sonic unknown endeavors as a painter), lay before them. McEntire would explore The Sea and Cake new and similarly advenwere and remain guided turous ideas in Tortoise, by four creatively restand Claridge would beless souls, perhaps none gin concentrating on his so much as Prekop, the personally and profesband’s primary songwritsionally satisfying alterThe Fawn er. By the time the group nate career as a painter. Thrill jockey, 1997 finished an extensive When the Sea and Cake tour for The Biz—much reconvened to work on of the circuit was done their follow-up to The Track Listing Fawn after a nearly threewith Tortoise, which year gap, they moved the McEntire had formed 1. “Sporting Life” 4:54 chains again with the almost simultaneously 2. “The Argument” 5:02 lush and expansive bedto the Sea and Cake— 3. “The Fawn” 3:07 Prekop had already been room pop of Oui, the next, 4. “The Ravine” 3:18 thinking about how to aland certainly not the last, 5. “Rossignol” 3:30 ter the band’s sonic specsonic rung on their evolu 6. “There You Are” 4:48 trum, and had been writtionary ladder. 7. “Civilise” 3:21 ing with that in mind. On the eve of a Spanish 8. “Bird and Flag” 3:51 tour to preview selections Electronics had played 9. “Black Tree in the Bee Yard” 3:04 a minor role on The Biz, from their latest release, 10. “Do Now Fairly Well” 5:51 but Prekop had become The Moonlight Butterfly, increasingly enamored and sample the rest of of their possibilities and their widely varied but purchased a rudimentary similarly threaded catasynth to make inroads down that path. log, Prekop, Prewitt, Claridge and McEntire set their time machines back to 1997 to By the time the Sea and Cake entered the studio to begin work on their fourth album, reveal the steps and transitions that have The Fawn, nearly two years had passed since made The Fawn one of the Sea and Cake’s The Biz; by contrast, they had done their most important and beloved albums in their first three albums in a similar time period diverse canon. after forming in 1994. When Prekop played
The Sea and Cake
The Fawn offered something of a departure from your first three albums, although there were hints of it early on. Were you actively pursuing a shift with The Fawn, or was it more organic? Sam Prekop: It was a combination of the
two. In the writing of The Fawn, I had become fed up with guitars, or was looking for another way to generate material and come up with ideas. I know there’s a lot of guitar on the record, but a lot of the initial ideas came from keyboards that I was working on at home. That’s what presented a nice changeup for us. I had become a bit frustrated with my guitar playing limitations; I was running out of new angles to take. Which has never been a problem, really, and it’s still how I work. I’m not exactly an accomplished guitar player, definitely not trained; it’s just a matter of working harder, and hopefully things you haven’t heard before come up somehow. John McEntire: I think we felt like we had come to a certain point with those first three records, and it was all very natural and had maybe gotten to a point where we needed to challenge ourselves a little bit. We were trying to shake up the writing approach a little, bringing in some new sonic elements, especially with regards to the samplers and sequencers and things like that. The Fawn was also the first album you’d done that took a considerable amount of time to realize—two years, your longest gap to that point. What was going on in that time? Archer Prewitt: Tortoise was really taking
off, Sam had started working on solo stuff and I started working on solo stuff, so it developed into a hiatus that we didn’t necessarily want. We’ve never been a band that’s aggressively trying to keep up with the album-a-year plan and a lot of touring and things like that. We didn’t mind breaks from the norm. When you share a drummer with a great band, you have to roll with it. He’s worth it. John is one of those guys I would describe as a musical drummer. Prewitt: That’s what I’ve always said. I think
he comes up with very specific things, and he has a very finely tuned ear for things in the music that should be accented. Even to the point [where] if he doesn’t hear them onstage, he’ll miss his cue. If he takes the guitar cue, and I have to be moved across the stage 27
for some reason and [he] can’t hear what I’m playing… most drummers would just woodchop through it and not think about it, but he really is part of the music. He also was excited about the prospect of sampled drums and cut-and-paste drums, in the same way he approaches developing a beat on the kit. He spent a lot of time notating how he wanted certain things to happen on the drums, and he would be writing feverishly these little notes on paper and creating a pattern. It wasn’t four-on-the-floor beginning to end; he put in all these details on The Fawn that only a drummer could. Also, he was the engineer, and we didn’t know what the hell he was doing over there, but he would put this detailed effort into creating a really interesting pattern, so it was very exciting. How did your studio process shift? McEntire: It was kind of liberating because
it was a chance for me and those guys to be totally fine with the concept of me not playing drums for a lot of the record; there was live drumming on about a third of it. It became this whole other challenge of taking Sam’s demo ideas and finding the best possible sample, or something that would bring the song to life, or working on the programming to make an interesting contrast to everything that was going on. Eric Claridge: Sam had been messing around with an old-timey sampler, so we knew we were going to take a little bit of a jog. I did a lot of stuff—not improvised, but quickly put together before we recorded, so it was very off the cuff. The Biz was all worked 28
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out beforehand, and Nassau not as much, but The Fawn was a departure from The Biz. There was a definite restless quality to the proceedings in terms of a different take, mostly due to the technology. I think that was the first record we did on a computer; it was pretty small time, Podunk-y system, nascent technology, so it had its definite drawbacks and limitations, but working within those limitations went to the feel of the record. Prewitt: When you have this existing material, like a loop, it’s difficult to know how to play off it sometimes, whereas when we developed musical ideas, we were thinking of the idea of the interweave rather than solos sitting on top of things. We do have solos, but we try to keep it brief, and we’re more interested in how the guitars interlock. With The Fawn and [2003’s] One Bedroom, there was a difficulty for me as a guitarist to find spots to add music and information. I’m always excited about doing something minimal. When I listen to a really good pop song, I don’t hear the guitar blaring away; I hear choice moments to do something musically, and a lot of sitting out or just playing barebones rhythm, so I’m always really interested in employing that idea of staying out of the way until it’s time to do something. Prekop: For The Fawn, I remember it was like, “Okay, I’m going to put this guitar down and try out these new instruments.” I must have bought some stuff, because I had a primitive home studio at that point, and I can re-
Greg Kot’s 1997 Tribune feature calls The Fawn “trancelike, layered and groove-oriented”; a list of working song titles; the band at Chicago’s legendary Lounge Ax.
call being completely baffled by the concept of Midi and all that, but I was intrigued by some of the new technology coming up. At that point, though, it felt like the Dark Ages as compared to now. And in terms of technique, John had acquired his first computer that was able to record because he had gotten it to do the soundtrack for a John Hughes movie called Reach the Rock. With that money, he bought the computer. We didn’t actually record on it, but we sequenced things on it and synched it up with tape. It was really arduous, but exciting. What did you think when you first started to glean what Sam had been working on when you reconvened to start working on The Fawn? Claridge: I’m always pretty much up for
whatever gets thrown at me, so it was more like, “Let’s see what the hell I can do.” And working with the drum machine and the different way of recording, in terms of not all being in the room playing at the same time; it was much more like doing overdubs. For my part, I was spending a lot of time down in Memphis with my mother, who was sick at the time, and because I was so scattered and sleep-deprived, it was pretty slapdash on my end of things, just trying to come up with
makingof parts and lay them out. But I’m usually cool with whatever gets thrown at me and then I’ll just try to throw a bunch of squirrels in it. That’s generally my operating procedure. The sampling thing was weird, I have to admit. I can’t say I was into it at the time, but I think it worked out well, just because it was used fairly judiciously and not an overwhelming thing. And of course, the weird sound of the band comes through however we approach stuff. There are general elements that, no matter how far afield we take it, it tends to wind up in the same ballpark. McEntire: We could see tons of potential in everything, but it was slightly frustrating because we had committed to working in this new way and we were still learning the ropes on the technical end of some of it. It did feel like there was a learning curve involved, for sure, but once we finally got out of the woods, it was super exciting to realize we’d taken our core sound and twisted it in a really interesting way. Prekop: The band was evolving really quickly during that time, so it wasn’t something that we thought about so much. We didn’t think, “Oh, we’ve got to do something else.” I feel like we’re always guided by innate intentions and gut feelings about what we do, so it’s never a point of fulfilling a concept before we go into it. I’m quite sure we were excited in that it sounded pretty different. For “There You Are,” we lifted a straight loop; I don’t think we felt like people in rock bands were doing things like that, and it seemed pretty wild that we thought it would be okay for a rock band to do that. And on “The Argument,” John programmed the beats, and that seemed like a totally alien concept; it was pretty early on in the jungle movement, and a little of that was leaking over to the States, and I think some of those ideas were put into the drum programming at the beginning of “The Argument.” And that seemed alien and peculiar and exciting. And it took forever. Were there songs that you felt particularly close to in this process? Claridge: “Bird and Flag” probably stands
out as the one. That one just came out; I started playing it immediately. It was one of those weird things, like something in the brain that you’re not really attached to just pops, and it flowed out. That one stands out to me. A lot of them were that way for me— everything was kind of off the cuff. I know we got together and practiced, but back in those days especially, I felt [like] the lesser of the group, especially in terms of the rhythm sec-
tion, because John is so freaking good. I’ve always been trying to live up to a standard I doubt I’ll come close to. “The Argument” is pretty good, “The Sporting Life” is totally bizarre, one of those weird things where I pushed the song into a different kind of feel for no particular reason. McEntire: Well, the obvious ones were “The Sporting Life” and “The Argument.” But I think there are a lot of really great downtempo tracks that have a lot of cool subtle stuff going on, and a lot of it was the result of trial and error and some dumb luck, and I think the whole project coalesced in a really interesting way.
The Biz was us locking into the sound. The Fawn was us walking away from that, or screwing with it considerably.” —eric claridge
The Fawn is clearly more textural and atmospheric. Did it feel like you were being guided by different influences and inspirations? Prewitt: I think Sam was listening to a lot of
different things, as he always does, and John and I were, too, to a lesser degree. Sam was turning me onto Aphex Twin’s home recordings, and we’ve always liked a lot of dub and early reggae, like Lee Scratch Perry. We were all listening to a lot of Morricone via John; we were listening to a lot of experimental early ’70s Brazilian records, so there was a lot of listening and discussion. We’d take a dinner break and we’d rush out to what used to be record stores and CD stores, and buy a bunch of records, like, “I know this song has a really good snippet of drum work,” or “We should grab this Chaka Khan and Rufus record and grab this one spot,” so we’d grab that loop and start working again. It was exciting; it was like, “Oh, I know what to do on top of
that.” And it was, “Shut up, Prewitt.” I’m Mr. Kitchen Sink, I think. But it was fun to be really fluid about the whole thing; there was definitely a sort of devil-may-care attitude going into it. Prekop: It was probably close to when we were hearing Brazilian music, although we weren’t really able to tap into those ideas or that influence until later. I’m almost positive that it was around that time where I first heard a record by João Donato. Early on, there was a guy in Chicago who was bringing in bootlegs of rare, obscure Brazilian records, and this was before most people were paying attention to this kind of stuff. I remember it specifically just taking my head off; I just couldn’t believe it. The other thing is that I have to give John a lot of credit for exposing me to a whole lot of stuff, like Neu! and even Kraftwerk, and even something as basic as the Beach Boys. I had always been opposed to the Beach Boys because I was only familiar with the radio hits, so I have to hand it to John for educating me over the years. And a lot of new things have not quite deliberately become touchstones for the band and part of our language. Hats off to John. McEntire: That’s a tough one. I do remember around that time that there was an explosion of consciousness in terms of outside music, especially with regard to Brazil. That was a big revelation, to get exposure to all that stuff and realize how amazing it was. That was certainly something in the air at that time, and just diving more seriously into things like Morricone and all of the Italian film composers. I don’t know how much of that comes through directly, the fact that we were probably more aware of different kinds of things, even if they weren’t current, necessarily, but just having that all swirling around in the atmosphere I think was helpful. Well, to channel the wisdom of the great Geddy Lee, if you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.
McEntire: [Laughs] Exactly.
Did The Fawn feel like a crossroads album, at the time or in retrospect? Prewitt: Yeah, but we didn’t say, “Okay,
this is the direction we need to go.” I’ve read things like, “They did The Fawn—why didn’t they keep growing in that direction?” I don’t know. We’ve always just developed the records we want to make without a whole lot of thought about it. We could have gotten more electronic, and some records employ that liberally and others don’t. I do think it 29
helped shake things up for us and brought in a broader fan base. More people were coming to the shows. Prekop: I don’t know if it did at the time, but it definitely has ended up that way. We often think pre- and post-Fawn in retrospect, but at the time I don’t think we quite realized it, because there was a much longer break between The Fawn and Oui than we had ever experienced before, and I did my first solo record and that changed things quite a bit. Tortoise was quite busy at that point, and that’s why I decided I couldn’t wait around for John to come back, so I had to do something else. Claridge: It definitely felt like a bigger departure. But like on the first record, I met John on his way into the drum room; that first record stands out as a really bizarre record for me, in terms of we didn’t really have a band at that point. Nassau was done so quickly after that, we had started to coalesce, but The Biz was us locking into the sound. The Fawn was us walking away from that, or screwing with it considerably. It definitely felt like a much different statement than we’d made before. And it’s not like we’re ever trying to make a statement—I think we just get bored easily and wander around. It’s our interest in different sounds and approaches, which we still somewhat [have], but at that point we were bizarrely still searching for the end result of the four of us playing together. McEntire: Yeah, definitely. It felt like the absolute right thing for us to do at that time. And for me at least, it didn’t seem forced—it seemed like a totally logical, natural evolution of what we were already doing that just also happened to be a really cohesive record. We were super proud of it. How did The Fawn affect how you approached your live presentation? Prekop: It presented some difficulties, and
that’s probably why we shifted back to playing instruments in the band. I remember it being technologically problematic as [far] as, “How do we play this loop or keep it in sync to do these songs?” I think we did something crazy—and it didn’t work—like burned a CD of some of the backing tracks and it would skip at the wrong time. It was kind of a nightmare, so we vowed to never do that again. For Oui, we hired a keyboard player to play the extra parts. We were in over our heads a little bit. Prewitt: I do remember the difficulties in trying to present some of that stuff live, 30
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with triggered drum patterns and things. It didn’t go over well when we toured Europe, and we tried it on the U.S. tour, and people were crossing their arms more at shows, and some would yell out, “Let John play!” And he couldn’t play because we made a decision collectively that this was the sound of the record. And people were getting upset, but they also liked the record. But live it was an odd thing that we never wanted to revisit; maybe playing those songs live taught us a little lesson about what you create and what you’re able to represent when you go on tour. It wasn’t
The band was evolving really quickly during that time. I feel like we’re always guided by innate intentions and gut feelings about what we do, so it’s never a point of fulfilling a concept before we go into it.” —Sam Prekop
something that defined our sound from then on, but I do think it was a consideration. We’d do “There You Are,” and it would start with canned drums, and then John comes in, and when the song was over, people were halfheartedly clapping. We thought it was going to be a big hit, and it was met with total indifference; we played it in three or four shows in the U.S. and three or four shows in Europe, and we axed the sucker. It wasn’t working, and no one cared. I was like, “This is one of our best songs ever!” I guess not. Claridge: It was definitely squirrelly. I think we had to add some technology, some samples and stuff. And we had to strip down
the songs, and people had to learn different parts on different instruments—I was let out of that because I just do the bass—but it became a much more involved procedure. We took a keyboard player out on the next two records. It definitely affected the live set-up. We did some stuff as a four-piece and John was triggering samples from the drums at one point; and of course, back then, technology had a tendency to fail you at the worst possible time. How did The Fawn impact your direction from that point on? Claridge: I think it was a combo effect of
Sam’s solo [work], Archer’s solo [work], where Tortoise went and a departure from The Fawn; we always want to depart from the last thing we did, except for [2008’s] Car Alarm, which I feel is a little too close to everybody in terms of the approach we took to it. But we had gotten away from any kind of sampling and Oui just feels like a completely different record; it’s very lush and it’s got live strings and horns, and it’s [the] opposite of the cranky sampler approach. There’s always a knee-jerk reaction that we have to the last record, and not wanting to do another Fawn, or at least build on it and not take the exact same approach. But so much time had passed [that] at that point it was like starting over, in a way. But with The Fawn, once we took this far-flung adventure and didn’t fall on our faces, I think the gloves came off and we felt like we could pursue whatever within the confines of the four-piece that we are. Prekop: Oui was as big a leap from everything else, and maybe more so, in some ways. We had developed quite a bit, and become better musicians, and also we were just deeper in it by that point. It was more what we do all the time; it became more of our life, in a way. Prewitt: I think we raised the bar on what we did as a band. We were accused of not shaking it up enough—”More of the same from the Sea and Cake”—but I guess we have a pretty specific ear that we bring to making a record that maybe is overly consistent. But we wouldn’t put out the record if we didn’t believe in it, so I guess what we’re striving to do is be consistent. We’ve had people come up to us after shows and some people cite that as one of their favorite records—Oui is one of my favorite records that we did—but I think The Fawn surprised a lot of people. But a lot of fans often ask, “Why didn’t you continue down that path?” Usually Germans ask that. They would.
makingof Archer and Sam did solo things subsequent to The Fawn, and John ramped up his Tortoise activities, but Eric, you concentrated on your painting at that juncture. What was the genesis of that? Claridge: At around the Fawn era, when
Sam was doing his first solo record, I started having shows. I had a show in Tokyo and a record store in Melbourne; my main gig every August, for like the last 17 years, is a show in a bar in Chicago. But I’ve had a lot of shows around the world, and the door is opened by the connection to the music. I’ve sold a ton of work, and it’s kept me from having to get too far afield so I’m available when the band coalesces back together. I’ve done some solo work musically, but nothing that I felt good enough about that I wanted to put it out. I’m always threatening to do it, but I’ve never quite pulled the trigger; but to be perfectly honest, the art career has consumed so much time, the thought of putting together another band and going out, I just can’t deal with it. It’s hard enough with the Sea and Cake and the art career at the same time. It’s a shock and, believe me, I’m not bitching. The break between The Fawn and Oui probably did more for my art career than anything else, just suddenly having that open time, and the interest in my art, so it really kicked my ass to boot it up. If the Sea and Cake had been a full-time endeavor over the years, I’m sure I wouldn’t have been able to get as far with the art career. At the time, I was like, “Come on, fellas, let’s do another record,” but in retrospect, that did me more good in terms of the art. I know in the music world that
doesn’t really count for much, but that’s what I was doing. If people don’t know about the art career, I just look like a lame-ass, like, “What were you doing for three years?” With the perspective of a decade and a half, how does The Fawn hold up in the Sea and Cake catalog? Prewitt: It’s up there in the top three re-
cords, I would say. The Biz, The Fawn, Oui. The last time I heard it, I liked what I heard. It feels like a young record. I liked the way Sam was singing on those earlier records— more throat singing and less breathy. There’s a certain quality to those early records where he’s a little more loose-limbed. I do think it’s an exciting record, but I do prefer to hear John’s drums rather than the manufactured stuff, and in that way, it does feel a little dated to me, because there was a lot of that stuff happening around that time. But I do think it was successful in the way we did it. Claridge: They’re all kind of odd, but that one really stands out as an oddball. It seems like it stands alone in the catalog as a more experimental experience, but I think a lot of that has to do with the cranky technology that we took, and the limitations that we had played a huge part. I listened to it not too long ago, and it seemed [like] it was still standing up all right. This is really the one that laid the groundwork for whatever else we’ve done; whether it succeeded or failed, it planted the seed that we could do different things with our sound. Prekop: I couldn’t tell you. I haven’t heard it in a decade and a half. I don’t go back and listen to the records. I should, probably. It’s
quite likely I would glean something from them I hadn’t known previously, and it could be useful to what we do next. We toured with Broken Social Scene, and Kevin [Drew] is probably the biggest Sea and Cake superfan I’ve encountered. It’s frightening—he can sing back songs to me that I’ve completely forgotten. And he was always trying to curate our sets; he’s very attached to certain records and songs of ours. At some point, in an exasperated state, he was like, “You should really listen to some of your old records; you might learn something. Figure it out! I’ve had it with you guys.” Perhaps I should take that advice. McEntire: I think it holds up really well. I would put it in the top three for sure. My one very minor complaint is that I think it may have suffered a bit sonically. I didn’t even have Pro Tools yet; we just did it on the sampler and a half-inch 8-track, so we were just slaving all the Midi stuff off a synthy track, and that’s pretty primitive when you think about it, but it worked out fine. We were able to do what we wanted, but Oui is so much richer, not in terms of ideas, but the very objective listening approach is benefitted by not only the fact that we were in a real studio, but also that mastering technology went through a major improvement around those years; everybody started doing 24-bit. But it’s safe to say that if you hadn’t made the inroads with The Fawn, Oui would never have sounded the way it did. McEntire: That’s true, for sure.
The quietly brilliant Mike Birbiglia stages a one-man comedy coup story by
Mike Birbiglia was in his underwear, bleeding, covered in broken glass and running around the front lawn of a La Quinta Inn in Walla Walla, Washington, at three in the morning. Moments before, he had leapt though the closed window of his room on the second floor. He wasn’t drunk. He wasn’t stoned. He was asleep. Sleepwalking. Sleeprunning and screaming his head off. And the question he had to ask himself—after getting his bearings, after asking the unfazed dude behind the front desk for a spare room key, after driving himself to the emergency room to have shards of glass tweezed from his legs and arms, and being told how close he’d come to dying—was: “Is this funny?” It’s a fair question. He’s a stand-up comedian. The answer for a long time was “no.” After years of keeping it secret, and not seeking help for what was pretty obviously a serious sleep disorder, he did decide to tell it, at a true-story kinda live show called “Confessing It” at the Montreal Comedy Festival.
“I’ve told it on This American Life, I’ve told it on The Moth—at this point it probably seems like, ‘Oh that’s a no-brainer that he would tell that story.’ But at the time, it was mortifying to be up there telling that story. Absolutely mortifying. I thought people would think I’m crazy. They would lock me up. They’d take me for psychological evaluation. I just thought the worst, all the worst things that you’d think.” After he got off stage—to wild applause—he ran into fellow comedian Doug Stanhope. “And he was just like, ‘Are you telling that story in stand-up?’ I was like, ‘I’m trying to, but it’s hard…’ He was like, ‘You’ve got to tell that in stand-up.’” And that’s about when the answer changed to “maybe.” And the new question became “But how?” The answer was the one-man show. It’s a lot like stand-up comedy, except it’s more scripted. And the audience is seated and knows it’s not cool to yell things at the performer. And he could get up there and tell stories instead of jokes.
saw a doctor and got diagnosed with REM behavior disorder. Basically, when he’s stressed and sleep-deprived, he’s prone to get up out of bed and act out his dreams. Not nearly as fun as it sounds. He takes medication and sometimes goes to bed bundled up in a sleeping bag and wearing mittens to keep him still even if his body wants get up and move around. All that stuff, plus some poignant and funny relationship stories, powered Sleepwalk With Me along a long theatrical run and countrywide tour. Since then, it’s become a book and a live album that just y problem with plays that claim to be comedies is often came out on Comedy Central Records. This summer, shooting will that the laugh lines aren’t good enough. And with stand-up, begin on the movie version, a narrative (not a concert film) produced by This American Life’s Ira Glass. Birbiglia will direct and star. you can workshop them. You can do them night after night. You can do them two, three hundred times in front of an audience, and after a He does have theater chops. He acted in plays in high school and while you go: That’s a surefire laugh. That’ll work.” college, directed his improv troupe, and majored Birbiglia’s eating salad and pepperoni pizza in a booth at in playwriting and screenwriting. a popular little place called John’s in the West Village. We’re “One of the things about Sleepwalk With Me is The nap is around the corner from the Barrow Street Theatre, where he that when you pitch it to people, they don’t laugh. important. just finished up a matinee performance of his second one-man But when you tell them the story in a certain way, If you saw show, My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend. After this dinner interview they laugh,” he says. “That’s part of the reasoning for the title, ‘Sleepwalk With Me.’ The idea is: and a power-nap, he’ll do it again, part of a two-month run. Sleepwalk The nap is important. If you saw Sleepwalk With Me, his Come with me into my universe of this phenomWith Me, his first one-man show, you know: That time he jumped through enon that is really borderline indescribable, but first onethat motel room window was not an isolated incident. After just come with me on it.” man show, years of somnambulistic incidents wherein he smashed a And that kind of prolonged leeway with an auTiVo or knocked over a dresser (he was having a dream that dience just wasn’t going to happen in a comedy you know: Fight Club-era Brad Pitt was chasing him), Birbiglia finally club. When I was 19, I had a malignant tumor in my bladder. But it’s funny— stay with me—because I’m a hypochondriac. And I think the funniest thing that can happen to a hypochondriac is that you get cancer, because it confirms every fear you’ve ever had in your entire life. You’re like: See? I told you! Remember last week when I was overtired and I thought I had rickets? I was probably right about that, too! There’s gonna be a lot of changes around here! —f r o m Sleepwalk With Me
That time he jumped through the motel room window was not an isolated incident.
“It’s funny because, back then, I so desperately wanted to be a Tough Crowd comedian. Like, when I moved to New York, that was the cool crew,” he says, recalling the edgy, frequently bleeped show on Comedy Central. Colin Quinn would hold court over a panel of loudmouth comics like Nick DiPaolo, Jim Norton and Patrice O’Neal—sort of like Politically Incorrect for funny assholes. Birbiglia remembers his manager at the time, Lucien Hold (a comedy legend instrumental in the careers of Jerry Seinfeld and Chris ike Birbiglia recalls this quote when trying to sum Rock), sitting him down for a little tough love. “‘No one’s gonna want up his love-hate relationship with comedy clubs. He needs you to be part of their crew.’ He’s like, ‘You’re your own thing. Eventuthem. The one-man shows don’t make him much money. Comedy’s ally you’ll have a crew, but you’re just never gonna be in someone’s his bread and butter. On the other hand, he’s tired of the “’80s theme crew no matter how much you wanna be.’ And he was kind of right.” Birbiglia did eventually make it onto Tough Crowd, once. “I had park” vibe that inevitably comes with it. “I feel like, by being in theater, I’m kind of fortunate. With This one moment of being kind of funny. It was a dis, like a vague dis of American Life and The Moth, people who have started to come to Paul Mooney, and he snapped at me in his way. I was like, ‘Oh, okay, my shows are people I’d want to hang out with. And it’s like, those guess I shouldn’t talk.’” people don’t go to comedy clubs. Sometimes I’ll still do Caroline’s It’s not that Birbiglia can’t do the dirty stuff, or the mean stuff, if and those people don’t show up. They won’t even go,” he marvels. he wants. “When I’m among close friends, I can dig deep. I can dish “But they’ll show up to the Barrow Street Theatre. There’s something it and take it. I think sometimes those are the funniest jokes. You’re about comedy clubs where some people who I really like just won’t getting to the heart of who somebody really is.” go to them. They don’t want the drink minimum. They don’t want But his shows rarely make room for that sort of thing. He has yet the cheesiness of it.” to appear on a Comedy Central Roast. When he and Seth Barrish—who directed both of the one-man “The problem with those roasts right now is they’ve almost become World Wrestling characters. It’s not like Lisa Lampanelli fucks a hunshows and whose own off-Broadway play, The Tricky Part, was a huge influence on Birbiglia—sat down to hash out Sleepwalk With dred black guys, you know what I mean? She’s married, to a white Me, they had to think about silence. It’s one thing you don’t really get guy. But that’s like a thing, that’s like the thing they’ve decided her superhero character is. And so that’s what all the jokes are. There’s something about the roast that feels a little bit put-on.” The problem with those Comedy He’s not saying they’re not funny. “Greg Central Roasts is they’ve almost Giraldo. He was unbelievable. Some of the stuff that he did about Larry the Cable Guy become World Wrestling characters. is some of the most penetrating comedy It’s not like Lisa Lampanelli fucks a I’ve ever seen in my life. When it happened, I watched it online like six or seven times. hundred black guys, you know what I was on tour; I kept showing it to people, I mean? She’s married, to a white like, ‘Watch this.’” In case you missed it, that’s the one guy. But that’s like the thing they’ve where Giraldo’s sweating, exasperated, decided her superhero character is. shouting at the faux-redneck comedian, “Why? Why are you so successful?!” —mike birbiglia “A completely great moment in comedy,” Birbiglia says. “But that whole concept of ‘Greg Giraldo’s not successful.’ It’s like: No, he’s really successful. The in a comedy club. In fact, it’s something comeguy makes six figures doing comedy and traveling around the world. dians in general are terrified of. He’s really popular. Has a lot of fans. Is that joke really that true?” But the pair thought of the breathtaking silences in Richard Pryor’s Live on the Sunset here’s a really funny, telling moment early in episode Strip and decided to go for it. “He tells that story of being on fire. He was freebasing and 94 of Marc Maron’s WTF podcast. As usual, the unabashedly he lit himself on fire and was running down neurotic host has decided to open with a long, fragmented rant about how he always kinda, sorta resented his guest for being younger and the street,” Birbiglia pauses to remember it. more successful than he is. In fact, this person he was about to sit “That was always our goal—having real moments of true pathos and comedy simultanedown and interview in a New York hotel room was a fixture on Maously. In comedy clubs, it’s like you can’t really ron’s Wall of Spite, next to Louis CK and Jon Stewart—other comics pull that off. whose popularity and ambition infuriated him. “Giraldo always understood it. He was really And his guest Mike Birbiglia’s retort is, “I’m struggling like anybody supportive of what I was doing.” else. I’m not set in any way. My wife and I live in a small apartment in Birbiglia grew up in Shrewsbury, MassaNew York City. I work the road all the time to make a living. I’m not chusetts, went to Georgetown University, and one of these guys like [Jim] Gaffigan or Dane [Cook] who’s stacking moved to New York City soon after that, where up millions. I don’t have that, man.” he started playing important clubs like the ComMaron: “Oh, okay. I feel better.” ic Strip, the Comedy Cellar and Caroline’s. Sometimes that’s the level on which comedians interact. The busiComedy’s just a fucked-up art form, because on the one hand, everything you’re saying is dead-on. It’s the most substantial sort of social force in entertainment. …And it’s so funny and powerful and moving to so many people. And it takes an amazing amount of work. On the other hand, you’re also plying this craft in a fucking chicken wing-slinging factory. — Greg Giraldo , 1965-2010
I’ve had multiple people at this point say that they decided to get married based on [My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend]—which is amazing, because the whole show is an elaborate argument against —mike birbiglia marriage.
ness can be a competitive sport. With the one-man shows, Birbiglia, the man without a crew, has found a way around the game. “It’s gonna sound pretentious, but I view it as the post-Seinfeld era of comedy where everybody sounds like Seinfeld, but they’re not as good as him. They’re doing observational, but you’re kind of like, ‘Who gives a shit? You’re not as good as Seinfeld.’ “And there was a period of time where people were just doing [Mitch] Hedberg impersonations essentially. You’d go to a comedy club in the Midwest, St. Louis or Chicago, and you go to an open mic or whatever and every person who comes on stage is doing Hedberg. And it’s like, well, Hedberg’s a genius, but the mimeographs of him are kind of boring. They do the affect, they have the kind of skewed-man delivery, but they don’t have the genius of the words.” Before he became a storytelling comedian, Birbiglia says he hardly distinguished himself from the pack. “I feel like I was doing some version of my own Hedberg, my own Seinfeld kind of thing, when I was on stage. My own Steven Wright, you know what I mean? And when I told a story for the first time, I was like, ‘Oh: I’m better at this. This, actually, is what I do. This is closer to what it’s like to hang out with me in real life.’ “And audiences were connecting,” he says. “It had just as many laughs as what I was doing before, but it was like a deeper connection with the audience, and I was just really charged up by that.”
ometimes, maybe once a show, Mike Birbiglia does this
thing. He’ll be telling a story, a little scene from his past, and building the tension bit by bit. And he’ll get to some part where the Mike Birbiglia from the story is about to do something dumb or regrettable, and the Mike Birbiglia who’s telling the story pauses to let the audience murmur with anticipation, maybe even grumble lightly with disapproval. “I know,” he’ll say. “I’m in the future, also.” It’s more than a good line; it’s a brilliantly economical device. In just a few words, Birbiglia’s reminded the audience that what they’re feeling, what they’re judging him with, is hindsight, and it’s okay, because he’s doing it, too. This line works in stand-up and his one man shows. It’s not, “You might be a redneck,” but it does have a certain catchphrase cache to it. It’s well-timed and tested. Unlike some comedians, Birbiglia writes everything down. “The only thing I run into is the writing can’t keep up with the changes sometimes. Because I record every show. I transcribe every show. Sometimes you just can’t keep up with your homework. If you look in my laptop, it’s like 30 drafts of my show.” What he and Barrish strive for is simplicity over artifice. The best way to do it is to stay in control of the show. “Three years ago I did a sitcom pilot for CBS. It was the most boring depiction of my life that I could imagine,” he says. “Just by a hair, they didn’t pick it up for a series. And then they called me like two months 36
later and were like, ‘We want to redevelop it for a midseason replacement.’ “At that point I was already working on Sleepwalk With Me and I was like, ‘Forget it—I want to do this thing that I care about.’ It was very eye-opening for me. No matter how much integrity you think you have, I think there is always some part of you that’s like, but money would solve a lot of problems. Sleepwalk With Me You know? And I think that I had that with Live is available now that sitcom. And I think had the sitcom gone from Comedy Central to air, I would have a lot more money than Records. I do right now, but I think I would be a lot unhappier. A lot more miserable than I am. I wouldn’t be proud of what I’m doing.” His current one-man show, My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend, doesn’t have the blood of Sleepwalk, but it’s got the guts. “I’ve had people, multiple people at this point, say that they decided to get married based on this show. Which is amazing because the whole show is an elaborate argument against marriage.” It is, but it’s also a hilariously awkward love story, and despite all the philosophical and intellectual issues the show raises to the contrary—as you can guess from the title, the elusiveness of monogamy is a recurring theme—Birbiglia eventually does give in and marry his wife, Jenny. It’s a real head vs. heart kind of battle to get there, though, and you’re surprised to leave the theater feeling good. “I think to have an optimistic ending in comedy is hard. Comedy is so much about, ‘I’m gonna really go dark,’” he says. “I try to, ultimately, go dark and bring people back.” My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend is at New York’s Barrow Street Theatre through May 15. More on Birbiglia at birbigs.com.
new music reviewed and graded for your aural pleasure
Seeing Is Disbelieving I
f Gang Gang Dance’s early, analog feats of multi-culti derring-do
called out for smudged passport stamps, their latest escapade warrants a blunted DeLorean cruise. While 2008’s Saint Dymphna saw the ambitious, Brooklyn-based quintet expanding their range—reinventing house music in their own image, funneling polyrhythmic grooves through digitally varnished wormholes, somehow making room for rapper Tinchy Stryder’s other-side-ofthe-pond toasting—Eye Contact finds them making full use of studios and artificial sonics, easing away from the shaggy gypsy-pop gumbo that thrust them into a dark electronic Candy Land. “It’s everything time,” someone mumbles at the onset, and there’s truth to this. From the slow-building, amniotic grandiosity of “Glass Jar”—the keyboard scaffolding that illuminates the song at its most intense moments will haunt you—to the feathery, NohGang Gang Dance derived interlude at the core of “Thru and Thru,” one Eye Contact gets the sense that, this time, the stakes are higher. “Chinese High” opens by swallowing and regurgi4ad tating Asiatic radio chatter, then goes in for twinkly synth effects and fat, killer basslines that will reward those who ponied up for good speakers; “Adult Goth” glides along on a pealing, Olympic keyboard motif photo by Brian DeRan
Mystical Brooklyn weirdos Gang Gang Dance fully embrace pop gloss, mellow out and a world-beating Liz Bougatsos vocal that’s as bewitching as it is discomfiting. But it’s the adrenalized “MindKilla” that steals the album; think of it as Gang Gang Dance’s “Here Comes the Hotstepper.” Tones blip; snares rattle on the fringes; a riotous bass-synth bumps. That amped, strafing hook snarls, recedes, seems to slice Bougatsos’ slippery incantations apart. The “Hush Little Baby, Don’t Say a Word” nursery rhyme, which she leers through here, has never seemed so sinister, so condescending; the track’s a DJ’s wet dream, an irresistible rave-up that will launch a million sets and remixes before the summer’s through, and, in a way, it suggests that Gang Gang Dance have transcended the Wire/New Weird America scene from whence they came. Given “MindKilla,” it’s almost 37
possible to forgive the band for the Terry Riley/ Jimmy Jam goof “Romance Layers”—a take on the kind of jazzy, New Jack Swing cut you’d expect to hear on the radio between Janet Jackson and Bell Biv DeVoe singles at 2 a.m.—and “Sacer,” which strands Bougatsos in pillowy Reagan-era synthpop fluff, albeit with trippy effects. Bougatsos’ liquidy ululations remain in full, lurid effect on Contact, which is significant, and a relief; in a lot of ways, her voice is the last remaining link between her band’s unvarnished origins and its overprocessed, glossed-out present. With each subsequent LP, the group’s sound feels a bit less idiosyncratic, a bit less internationally recombinant. The danger Gang Gang Dance face? Losing their identity en route to realizing their musical vision. —Raymond Cummings
reissues Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds
Let Love In
Own Your Ghost anticon
More than the sum of their parts The Notwist and Themselves were made for each other. The German indie rockers and American hip-hop duo first joined forces as 13&God in 2005, seamlessly producing an album representative of both their styles, as well as pushing each others’ boundaries. Follow-up Own Your Ghost is no different. It’s often hard to see where either band begins or ends. Breakbeats, acoustic guitars, glitchy synths, pop hooks and record scratches all work organically together like they sprouted from the same radical brain. Markus Acher’s delicate warble is an unlikely match with Doseone’s nasal cartoon raps, but balance is somehow maintained, keeping songs from becoming too sedate or hectic. Both bands are known for a dearth of releases in the last decade, and these 13&God records make this collaboration almost as legitimate as its two halves. Own Your Ghost is more proof that this is probably how the musicians prefer it. —Shane Mehling Atmosphere
The Family Sign Rhymesayers
You can’t imagine how little fun we’re having Indie hip-hop mainstays Atmosphere carved out a niche over the course of their decade-plus career as the standard-bearers of emo rap. With producer Ant in tow, rapper Slug took on the role of MC less as a rabble-rouser than an angsty drama king. He could occasionally be charismatic and funny, which is why we check to see what the duo is up to every so often. The Family Sign is about maturing. It’s reserved, understated and pretty boring. Ant’s tracks, while leaning more heavily on live instruments, tend to
The Dark Passenger Four remastered reissues reveal bad guy Nick Cave at his best
’m a monster, I admit it,” Nick Cave sings on
“The Curse of Millhaven,” drawn from 1996’s Murder Ballads, wryly encapsulating a career spent in darkness. Part of a quartet of remastered reissues (all including surround-sound mixes and copious B-sides), Ballads is both summation and endpoint, distilling his morbid streak to a concentrated, potent stream. Duets with Kylie Minogue Boatman’s Call (“Where the Wild Roses Grow”) and Cave’s then-flame PJ Harvey (“Henry Lee,” “Death Is Not the End”) helped make it his and the Bad Seeds’ biggest seller; one can only imagine Kylie completists’ ears melting at Cave’s astonishingly profane “Stagger Lee” rewrite. Although it lacks the supplementary tint of Ballads’ vocal cameos, Let Love In engages a broader palette, from the No More Shall reeling romance of “Nobody’s Baby Now” to the apocalyptic We Part clang of “Red Right Hand.” In retrospect, the 1994 album inaugurated an almost unbroken string of great recordings Mute that’s continued as far as last year’s Grinderman 2. The relatively stripped-down Boatman’s Call takes a minor hit; without the full strength of the Bad Seeds behind him, Cave’s swagger nearly tips the boat. But the four-year gap that preceded No More Shall We Part cleared the decks for one of Cave’s finest albums, one whose hushed arrangements equal and even surpass the drama of Let Love In’s Gothic sweep. —Sam Adams focus more on (ahem) atmosphere than drive. Slug is feeling extra-introspective, but there’s only a couple break-up songs. A younger Slug might have tackled the heartbreak dozens of ways across several albums. There are a couple classic-sounding Atmosphere tracks, like the hooky, self-loathing
“Just for Show” and the strong backing track on “She’s Enough.” But on the whole, we’re mostly treated to plaintive numbers like “The Last to Say,” which tackles the perpetuation of domestic abuse. All that would be great and pointed if it sounded like they gave a shit. —Matt Sullivan
Bass Drum of Death
Bird of Youth
Folk siren vs. machine Some listeners mistake the calm in Annabel Alpers’ voice for something robotic, but that’s a mistake—it couldn’t sound more human. Take “The Light Seekers,” from Bachelorette’s self-titled fourth effort, in which Alpers strikes a tone halfway between kindergarten teacher and prison matron. But it’s not hard to understand why some are left looking for the android behind the woman. At heart, Bachelorette is the confrontation between Alpers and her machines. On “Waveforms,” the most analog track, she’s a folk siren facing off against sonic squiggles; “Digital Brain” is more of a pas de deux with each partner on equal footing. And sometimes the machines win: A drum machine with a mind of its own rebels against new age-y synth (“Not Entertainment”); a computer pins the singer to the floor, leaving her to chant a single word for almost a minute (“Polarity Party”). And, human that she is, she gets back up for the next match. —M.J. Fine
Zipping it up The solo auteur disguised as a band is a long-standing indie-rock tradition, and Bass Drum of Death, the working alias of Mississippi singer-songwriter/guitar-basher John Barrett, is no exception. Not everything on GB City, BDOD’s debut after the usual round of early vinyl 7- and 12-inches, is memorable, but when Barrett connects, he’s thorough. The album is basically what you’d expect from a duo (Colin Sneed plays drums live, though not on the album) steeped in lo-fi garage-rock ramalama: rousing one-line choruses (the title cut), brash, cymbals-heavy stomps with harmonized ooh-ooh backing vocals (“Young Pros”) and, on “I Could Never Be Your Man,” something you’d imagine the Ramones doing after taking a lot of cough syrup. The Black Keys come up as a consistent comparison (same state, same label, same basic lineup), but there’s a lot less blues on GB City and at least as much bash. —Michaelangelo Matos
Soar spot Former rock critic Beth Wawerna left the backstage scene for front and center as singer-songwriter for Bird of Youth. Apparently she didn’t burn too many bridges as a scribe: Lending helping hands with the Brooklyn band’s debut are members from the National and Nada Surf, not to mention co-producer—and Wawerna’s beau—Will Sheff (Okkervil River). On downtempo sad jams like “Sex,” “Blood and Fire” and “Spearfish,” the band moves deliberately, with dark, sulky piano and banjo that’s, one might say, Okkervillian. Wawerna’s velvety voice and snarky cadence don’t quite match the mopey lyrics, coming off guarded and aloof rather than vulnerable. The antitheses are swelling and tumultuous tracks, like “The Great Defender,” that make great use of twangy acoustic guitars and cymbal-happy drums to propel the weepy lines into a folky crowd pleaser before throwing in a barbed line like “all my friends are fakes and / there’s no good leads” that leaves you feeling suddenly, unexpectedly hollowed. —Julia West
Measure Twice, Cut Once Daedelus’ ninth suffers from an over-deployment of ideas
eatmaker Alfred Weisberg -Roberts, a.k.a. Daedelus, does a lot of hopping around—on his records
and throughout his career. He began by making screwy IDM for labels like Phthalo and Plug Research, then switched to weirdo hip-hop, crafting beats for left-field MCs Busdriver & Radioinactive, and as his catalog has accumulated—Bespoke is his ninth album, not counting collaborations, EPs or DJ mixes—his try-whatever sen-
photo by brendan goco
sibility has made him into a godfather of his home city’s teeming bass-music scene (think Flying Lotus and friends). Bespoke is, then, a typical Daedelus album, all over the place in more ways than one. It kicks off with “Tailor-Made”: Shaftstyle wah-wah guitar over a filtered intro that sounds reconstituted from Joy Orbison’s dubstep landmark “Hyph Mngo,” and that’s before Milosh’s vocals come in. The ideas just keep piling up from there. “Sew, Darn, Mend” throws folksy acoustic guitar on top of a cascade of drum rolls and fills. “What Can You Do?” brings back Busdriver to croon (something he’s doing more of lately) over splashy speed-breaks and Kate Bush’s cut-up title phrase. “French Cuffs” is a team-up with fellow Southern Californian vocalist/producer Baths, which pulses waywardly, like it’s actually a couple of tracks playing at once, slightly out of phase. That stuff-it-all-in sense is admirable, but like his previous work, Bespoke is still frustrating. For all his evident talent as a producer, Daedelus could use a sterner inner editor. —Michaelangelo Matos
Meyrin Fields EP Columbia
Plowing ahead The only recent development in the Shins’ camp more startling than James Mercer’s dismissal of most of the band was the fruition of his collaboration with producer du jour Brian Burton, a.k.a. Danger Mouse, in their Broken Bells project. Mercer’s lyrical whimsy and pop melan-
choly were evident on the duo’s 2010 eponymous debut, as were DM’s psychotronic spaghetti western atmospherics, a successful if unlikely merging of two disparate talents. The duo’s new four-song EP, Meyrin Fields, isn’t necessarily a hint of future directions; the tracks are leftovers from sessions that date back to 2008. Interestingly enough, Meyrin Fields definitely tips in Burton’s sonic direction, highlighting his experimental textures and transforming Mercer’s pop melodicism, particularly on the Morricone-tinged
expanse of “Heartless Empire” and the Beckian lope of “An Easy Life.” There is a ’70s synth pop menace that bubbles up through the title track, while “Windows” plays like a poppier-yet-still-dark evocation of Depeche Mode. Meyrin Fields may not be Broken Bells’ vision of things to come, but it’s solid evidence that what they’ve already explored has been fascinating. —Brian Baker
Damon & Naomi
False Beats & True Hearts 20/20/20
Grit Expectations New York neo-folkies dig up their roots
t’s easy to hate on the Felice Brothers. They’ve got
the young-dudes-with-True Grit-voices thing. And the Shrinky-Dink-Dylan thing. And those whiskey-soaked The Felice lyrics about baseball and trains and America. It’s all so conBrothers trived, right? I dunno anymore. Celebration, Celebration, Florida throws some light electronic accents Florida into the mix, and suddenly it’s starting to look like they’re onto Fat Possum something. They certainly get off on the right foot with “Fire at the Pageant,” an oversized jigsaw puzzle that finds spots for a chorus of children yelling “Fire! Fire on the mountain!” and chiming tambourines and some spectral studio glitches and these crazy lyrics about, amongst other things, a dead guy who digs himself up and walks back to town. It is, without question, the band’s finest moment to date, and a song you should make sure to hear this year: ambitious, schizophrenic, not oppressively derivative or grandiose, fun as hell. From there, the album moves to an aching slave ballad called “Container Ship,” vivacious harmonica waltz/rocker “Honda Civic” and tortured torcher “Oliver Stone.” And so on. The brief moments of non-rootsiness—“Ponzi” starts with a snippet from 1963 thriller Charade; that might be a drum machine on “Back in the Dancehalls”—stray from the band’s old playbook nicely. Everything’s earthy, dusty, sprinkled with pianos, and dripping with drama and old-timey overtones—even the foot-stomping peppy numbers. Plenty to hate on if you want to, but, like I said, that’s easy. —Patrick Rapa
All truth, no falseness This, ladies and gentlemen, is where summer starts—right here, with the new Damon & Naomi record. Beach parties and bathing suits might be the ultimate signifier of the season, but the lilting, liminal sounds of False Beats & True Hearts captures the more subtle beauty and sublime moments— afternoon naps in the sun, slow drives down back roads, bonfire embers on a moonlit beach, that sorta stuff. In the 25 years since Damon & Naomi first took the stage as Galaxie 500, they have mastered the art of spacious, ethereal indie rock. Imagine that a copy of the Velvet Underground’s self-titled album became sentient and spent the next two and a half decades refining itself to become the perfect combination of atmosphere and emotion, guitar feedback, pastoral piano and hushed voice. False Beats finds the pair in top form, creating some of the best music of their career and some of the best music for a lazy summer day. —Sean L. Maloney Alela Diane
Alela Diane & Wild Divine Rough Trade
Heart in the wind, feet on the ground Don’t be fooled by the bohemian name of Alela Diane’s new band, Wild Divine. For one thing, the music on her fourth full-length is more grounded than ever, with rootsy rock flourishes—spirited drums, pedal steel and the occasional piano— leaving few vestiges of the feral folkie. For another, the key players don’t really constitute a new band; the singer’s father, Tom Menig, remains on lead guitar, while her husband, Tom Bevitori, has moved from bass to rhythm guitar. Their recent marriage gives context to the lyrics’ ambivalent approach to love, but it’s just one of many domestic concerns on display here. One highlight, “Elijah,” examines the conflicting emotions of a free spirit who’s been weighed down by a child, and two others were inspired by the singer’s own mother: “Suzanne” and “Rising Greatness” confront memory and mortality with a clear eye and a clear voice. —M.J. Fine
Quite the contrary Retreating from the illreceived Time to Die like a skinny-dipper stepping on a piece of glass, Dodos are up to their old tricks on No Color. Eccentric plucker Meric Long and polyrhythmic thwacker Logan Kroeber are a duo again, shed of supplemental vibraphone and trendy producers; but No Color is a step sideways, not back, a course correction rather than a fullfledged retreat. The songs gain focus without losing their skittering energy. In “Hunting Season,” Long repeats the phrase “How’m I ’sposed to know that” as Kroeber’s drums gather speed behind him, like a car spinning its wheels until they finally catch and throw you against the seat. Neko Case’s frequent harmonies smooth the passage, but the band’s voice is strong enough to accommodate hers without losing their own. —Sam Adams The Dwarves
Are Born Again MVD
Think smaller The Dwarves have always been punk rock sadist assholes. These bastards would sell out their own mothers for a chance to kick you in the mouth so your lips swelled up and looked like gigantic hemorrhoids on your face. Then they’d write a song about it, and the song would be so catchy, you’d simply have to shout along. Twenty-five years into their career, the Dwarves are still delivering the hilariously nasty goods on Are Born Again, proof that this San Francisco-based band is more tenacious than the crabs undoubtedly festering under guitarist HeWhoCanNotBeNamed’s always-exposed ballsack. Are Born Again is packed to the cheeks with tight, swinging hardcore punk built on grooves from the ’60s, complete with ooh-ooh backing harmonies and surfy guitar leads. Blag the Ripper’s sleazy vocals contrast with Rex Everything’s (a.k.a. Nick Oliveri’s) teeth-gnashing, methmouthed screams. Tunes like “The Dwarves Are Still the Best Band Ever,” “I Masturbate Me” and “Working Class Hole” are indicative of the band’s determination to outlive, outrock and outfuck the rest of humanity. They’re born (again) to be wild. —Jeanne Fury Ear Pwr
Wax off Though they spent time in Baltimore, Ear Pwr have recently returned to Asheville, NC, and this self-titled album is a hell of a lot calmer than 2009’s spazzed-out Super Animal Brothers III. This time around, instead of evoking their star labelmate (and Baltimorean) Dan Deacon, Devin Booze (music) and Sarah Reynolds
(vocals) are closer in spirit to their other star labelmate, Toro Y Moi: hazy, keyboard-dappled, very homemade semi-pop songs that sound, in places, like they were intended to be sung along with, from “North Carolina,” about the glory of moving back home, to “Feel It”: “I feel it in my body / A Milky Way in my brain,” goes the chorus. But while Ear Pwr ramps up the duo’s seriousness, the songwriting itself is largely blasé (Reynolds’ Milky Way might as well be the candy bar); the album’s major highlight, “Geodes,” is a fizzy, live-drums (we think) instrumental. —Michaelangelo Matos
Here We Go Magic
The January EP
It’s raining mediocrity again Bleepy-folky indie bands are not exactly as unique and precious as snowflakes, if you catch my drift. Being one of those bands, Brooklyn’s Here We Go Magic don’t entirely distinguish themselves on this companion EP to their album of last year, Pigeons. But they don’t completely embarrass themselves either. Half of this six-song release strikes a successful balance between memorable melodies and itchy, repetitive rhythms. “Tulip,” “Song in Three” and “Backwards Time” sound like the band is subtly integrating the influence of XTC and Talking Heads, rather than just shamelessly pilfering. However, frontman Luke Temple’s voice is an acquired taste throughout. At best, he’s a nondescript Wayne Coyne. At worst, on “Mirror Me” and the excruciating “Hollywood,” his elfin falsetto hits unnervingly Supertramp-like notes. —Michael Pelusi Joan of Arc
The Windy City’s math hysteria If Tim Kinsella were any more experimental, he’d be playing with beakers and Bunsen burners rather than guitars, tape loops and revolving personnel. Over the past decade and a half, the Joan of Arc sparkplug has crafted a catalog that defies description, incorporating math rock precision, post-rock crunch, aggressively ambient noise, angular pop melodicism and jazzy time signatures—sometimes simultaneously—in the service of his lysergic lyrics and anti-pop vocals. On Life Like, the 16th studio album under the JOA banner, Kinsella and this year’s Joan—cut down to a streamlined quartet—strip away the noodling electronics and utilize a more typical sonic arsenal on a set of actual songs. Well, typical for them, anyway. Life Like’s 10-minute opener, “I Saw the Messed Blinds of My Generation,” offers jarring blasts of noise, circuitous mathy riffs and stuttering pulses, as well as sheets of guitar noise that sound like the second post-rock coming of Jimi Hendrix. It’s the perfect introduction to Kinsella’s singular version of a song-based rock album. —Brian Baker
Best of ’00-’10 Nettwerk
Revisiting the nü-new wave Ah yes, the “good” old days of post-9/11 electronica, where no one felt like partying, club attendance took a nosedive and everything sounded a bit bleaker. Groups like adult., Miss Kittin & the Hacker and Liverpool’s Ladytron were well positioned to take advantage with the sort of catatonic, dystopian observations and retro-synth punk touches that would define the early 21st century electroclash movement. And now enough cadmium-laced water’s under the bridge that Ladytron can safely examine their legacy. Considering the inherent limitations of their creative persona, Ladytron were able to cover a lot of ground over the last decade. They could evoke Moroder-style Italo-disco as easily as they could surly modern electro, while lead vocalist Mira Aroyo suffused the multilingual proceedings with an appropriate sangfroid. The release of retrospectives like this often suggest a band at a creative crossroads—or a dead-end. But at least they’ve had a good run so far.—Justin Hampton Oval/Liturgy
Aesthetica Thrill Jockey
Progressive black metal, glitchy electronica, PB&J On paper, Oval and Liturgy make a strange pair. The former pioneered the use of digital glitches in electronic music, scratching and carving chunks out of CDs, then integrating those rhythmic pops and hiccups into their work. On the flip side, Liturgy play sprawling black metal. If you’re familiar with each, there are no big surprises on either side. Oval are accompanied by drums on the first of four tracks, while thick rhythmic pops drift between abstract, freeform noise and cyclical loops. Oval use less than 10 minutes to get the point across. Liturgy need nearly 20 of them on a single track. The untitled song opens with a six-minute single-chord riff before delving into some vaguely electronic psychedelia. By the end, the Brooklyn group gets the dense squall expected of them. New album Aesthetica finds Liturgy riding out single chords extensively as well. “Generation” takes a root note and drops it all around the downbeat in jerky, irregular rhythms, while one- and two-note riffs crop up throughout the rest of the record. Renihilation’s noodliness is still present, and unfortunately, so are the multi-layered moans that are being passed off as chants (although the burlier riffs are a welcome addition). —Matt Sullivan
Thar he blows! It only makes sense that the majority of Moby’s 10th LP, Destroyed, was constructed during jetlagged periods of consciousness during international gigs, for the results are a snoozefest for pretty much everyone else in the world. The Great White Blowhard has consistently embraced the sappy and quasi-classical in his work, but at least knew enough in his raver days to inject enough raw enthusiasm to make it work. Now that Moby’s in midlife crisis mode, lethargy has set into the arrangements, and the lyrics are dreary reflections on addiction (“The Day”), isolation (“The Low Hum”) and anything else an aging Joy Division fan can find reason to get depressed about. No doubt, Moby’s fans are growing older, too, and need their music to grow up alongside them. But they ain’t dead yet—to listen to this, one feels like Moby’s playing their funeral march a little prematurely. —Justin Hampton Mountains
Air Museum Thrill Jockey
Brooklyn sorcerers conjure nirvana via effects pedals Air Museum opens with a sustained, resonant church-organ drone and winds down with a fluorescent feedback fusillade. Between those bookends, a new electronic classic throbs consolingly. On their fifth LP, the Brooklyn duo of Brendon Anderegg and Koen Holtkamp scale a peak, hitting on the perfect combination of sound sources, gear and compositional technique, and emerging with the ultimate soundtrack for cerebral dissociation. On “Thousand Square,” an overbearing paddleball beat pattern gives way to twin constellations of pointed bleeps set to the squeak of high-tops on a basketball court. “January 17” daydreams a rippling matrix of maypole ribbon synths beset by chirping effects; shimmering, white-noise cascade “Newsprint” slowly tears a page from the Oval/12K playbook. Most intriguingly, “Blue Lanterns on East Oxford” mimics a high-pressure barometric system, conflating unalike rhythms into shivering, hypnotic bliss. Getting lost within Air Museum’s sprawling expanse isn’t difficult. Finding your way out is a whole other issue. —Raymond Cummings Okkervil River
I Am Very Far Jagjaguwar
Oh, the places they will go For Austin’s Okkervil River, there’s no shortage of chugging guitars, horn blasts or Phil Spector-ish drum wallops to catch the pieces of crooner Will Sheff’s fragile heart and
Chill Wave The High Llamas release a tropical vacation in a jewel case
hances are, back in 1994, you weren’t aware
of the High Llamas’ debut album because you were too busy listening to more prominent releases of that year, like The Downward Spiral, Live Through This, NirTalahomi Way vana’s MTV Unplugged or, uh, Sixteen Stone. Dark, depressed music with dissonant rhythms was the ambrosia that couldn’t Drag City be gobbled fast enough. Happy tunes were out; slovenly sadness was in. The High Llamas were as far from the grunge moneymaker as one can get. The band’s albums were compared to that holiest of grails, Brian Wilson’s Smile period: sunny and psychedelic, full of dulcet tones and majestic arrangements. And now, while most of those grunge gods are either dead, struggling to stay in the game or relying on nostalgia to fuel a comeback, the High Llamas are still solid. Principal songwriter Sean O’Hagan continues to craft orchestral folk-pop nuggets of exceptional joy on the Llamas’ ninth album, Talahomi Way. O’Hagan’s lullaby voice sings of vacations to lush lands, harbors full of ships and ocean groves. The escapist moods he creates are as intoxicating as 100-proof rum punch served in a pineapple. This album should come with a hammock. “Take my hand and run it through the sand,” he implores. Swells of strings and horns and delicate bossa nova beats roll through his airy yet hardly flimsy compositions. Talahomi Way is lyrically evocative as well, but thankfully doesn’t sound like a breathless travel diary. “The bags have hit the ground in the lobby of a small hotel,” sings O’Hagan on the title track. By this point, we’re already unpacked. —Jeanne Fury The High Llamas
photo by Steve Brummell
tortured mind. Sheff goes grand again on the band’s sixth studio album. Here, as producer, he pulls the rest of the band in new, exciting directions, making his haunting vocals even more, well, haunting. “Back
bloody / Black gunshot to the head / He is fallen in the valley of the rock ’n’ roll dead,” Sheff sings over an echo-stomp in album opener “The Valley.” Elsewhere, he’s mysterious (the film-noir strut in “Piratess”), high as a kite (“Lay of the Last Sur-
vivor”) and blissfully depressed (“Hanging from a Hit,” where indie rock meets gospel). But the band changes moods with him: stretching out, scaling back, moving from piano twinkles to minisymphony back to piano in a single song (“The Rise”). They’re far, but they’re also right at home. —Michael Pollock
Jim O’Rourke & Christoph Heemann
Plastic Palace People Vol. 1 Streamline/Drag City
Morbid Angels O’Death ponder the dark at the end of the tunnel
’Death have cut a wide swath with their de-
mented live shows and a sound that melded the traditional sounds of bluegrass and Appalachian Outside folk to the frenetic energy of punk. They traded on traditional tunes and originals that dealt with the bleaker side of life, lost highway but maintained a dark, ferocious sense of humor. While they were on tour supporting their last album, drummer David Rogers-Berry had a real brush with death. After Rogers-Berry’s chemo and shoulder replacement, the band went into the studio and took two months to write and record Outside. The songs still deal with somber subjects, but the arrangements are calmer and more introspective. The band has always been lyrically sharp, and now that you can hear the lyrics, you realize just how impressive the songwriting is. The louder tracks here aren’t manic rockers, but soundscapes that use volume, dynamics and ambient noise to intensify their impact. “Ourselves” is a dark waltz that starts quietly, with subtle banjo and the hissing of brushes on a snare, before building to a cacophonous climax featuring what sounds like an eclectic sitar; the mysterious lyrics of “Look at the Sun” seem to foretell an inevitable tragedy as it reaches its perplexing denouement. Other tunes are quieter and more acoustic, but just as grim. Greg Jamie’s quavering vocal contemplates growing shadows, decaying buildings and the ultimate darkness on “Bugs,” while a ghostly echoing banjo introduces the skewed bluegrass of “Black Dress,” another tune full of disturbing images with hints of looming mortality. —j. poet O’Death
photo by Steven Oberlechner
The weirdest thing about Vol. 1 is that it didn’t drop long ago. Not that anything about the album’s contents even faintly hints at convention. Recorded in 1991—long before O’Rourke entered alt-rock’s consciousness as a member of Sonic Youth—this first of two volumes documenting the composer, producer and multi-instrumentalist’s early collabo work with experimentalist Christoph Heemann sounds like it could have been made next year, in another dimension. Three untitled tracks sometimes anticipate Mirror—the exemplary drone entity Heemann and Andrew Chalk helmed in the late 20th and early 21st—unsurprisingly, given that O’Rourke guests on six Mirror albums. But for every stretch of slowly unfolding, harmonically rich surrealism, the album offers an equal measure of demented alien insect chatter—in the very best way imaginable. Thrill-seekers take note: If Oneohtrix Point Never is starting to sound normal to you, Plastic Palace People might well be what’s up.—Rod Smith
Josh T. Pearson
Last of the Country Gentleman Mute
Reclusive Texas heartbreaker returns, slays Some might say Josh T. Pearson makes a career out of underperforming. In 15 years, he’s released a sum total of two albums—2001’s The TexasJerusalem Crossroads, the only major output by his haunting post-rock trio Lift to Experience, and this year’s way-way-after-the-fact solo debut, Last of the Country Gentleman. What Pearson lacks in productivity, he makes up for in potency. Crossroads was a visceral force of guitar overdrive and narrative symbolism, while Gentlemen’s country-tinged ballads cut to the bone. The album works long. “Honeymoon Is Great, Wish You Were Her” spends 13 minutes unpacking a would-be adulterer’s dilemma to nimble, aching acoustic guitar picking. You eventually think Pearson can’t possibly make his narrator’s tale any more tragic, but he does, in a grizzled, trembling tenor: “Whenever we make love, I get sadder every time / ’cause I feel like I am cheating on a woman who is not my wife.” Listening requires serious emotional commitment and patience. You may have to stop and step away. But you’ll be back. —John Vettese
Generation Indigo Future Noise
New friend request denied “Some people think little girls should be seen and not heard,” Poly Styrene deadpanned on X-Ray Spex’s epochal 1977 single “Oh Bondage, Up Yours!” With her gleeful scream, Styrene (née Marian Joan Elliott-Said) razed the limitations that would have kept a biracial, braceswearing teenager out of punk clubs and off the stage, and laid the groundwork for generations to come; Sleater-Kinney and M.I.A. are equally un-
imaginable without her. Nothing Styrene has done in the decades since has come close to equaling the fire and inventiveness of that opening salvo, and Generation Indigo, her first album in seven years, does little to reverse the trend. With their loping disco bass and choppy guitars, the songs, produced by Killing Joke’s Youth, sound woefully out of date, and the references to fanzines and MySpace (on “I Love Ur Sneakers” and “Virtual Boyfriend”) don’t exactly up the timeliness quotient. The Gorillaz-esque “Code Pink Dub” sounds marginally more in touch, and Styrene’s voice retains its giddiness, if not its urgency. —Sam Adams
Queens of the Stone Age
Queens of the Stone Age Rekords Rekords/ Domino
Just deserts Josh Homme might as well have just gone ahead and promoted this reissue—bolstered by three bonus tracks—of his band’s 1998 self-titled debut as if it were a new record. Every bit as smart, fresh and catchy as anything QOTSA have built their impressive career around since, standout tracks like “Regular John” or “If Only” have just as much
IDM, IDK? Prefuse 73’s Guillermo Scott Herren should find a new moniker for his easy-listening fare Prefuse 73
t first blush, The Only She Chapters comes across
as a throwback to the first Savath & Savalas album on Hefty, when the Prefuse 73 moniker was critical shorthand for the marriage of glitch + hip-hop, and Guillermo warp Scott Herren needed to trade aliases to experience the freedom to explore jazz and ambient electronica. Almost a decade into a very prolific—and at times, frustratingly uneven—recording career, Prefuse 73 has accrued additional meaning, as Herren has broadened his palette of influences, become less heavy-handed with his genre-fusion experiments and added a few tricks to his wheelhouse. At this point, labels have become meaningless: Prefuse 73 is simply the sum of his passions, and Herren’s music tends to be judged more on its conceptual framework and style of presentation. As with 2009’s Everything She Touched Turned Ampexian, the latest Prefuse 73 full-length continues Herren’s trend towards easier listening: an undeniably mellow series of compositions stripped of the hard-charging beats he favored in his earlier work. A series of female guests— including Faidherbe, Zola Jesus and My Brightest Diamond’s Shara Worden—lend their ethereal voices and a little bit of texture. The cynic might suggest that they’re all under-utilized here, but it serves Herren’s approach well enough. Still, like 95 percent of the Windham Hill catalogue, The Only She Chapters is serene and inoffensive. It’s a fine soundtrack for an afternoon at the spa or getting intimate with household cleaning products. But the Prefuse 73 brand is worth so much more. —Nick Green The Only She Chapters
photo by Angel Ceballos
potential to be rock radio hits today as they should have been when the album—criminally long out of print—was originally released. “Mexicola”—arguably the finest track—is the quintessential Queens song, with its gut-curdling, meandrous bass line that almost makes you queasy, stadium-sized riffage, Bonham-indebted booms and baps, and radio-ready chorus. And a cut like instrumental “Hispanic Impressions” is as good a Hendrix impression as one could ever hope for—a stoner-rock guitar-and-groove fest primed for maximum stoneage. Despite the record’s full-throttled barrage of riffs, rock, hypnotic vamps and braying intensity, from beginning to end it carries a laid-back vibe of slowly smoking a cigarette on dark desert drive. —Adam Gold
Avant Gold Ryat
Avant Gold Remixed Obvious Bandits
Electropop duo’s remixes top their album Emerging Philly duo Ryat move in obedient step with their electropop contemporaries. Askew drumbeats slam like the Golden Filter, Knife-esque synthesizers beep and bubble betwixt serene and eerie tones, and the requisite nods are made to forbearers like Björk and Kate Bush. Which isn’t to be dismissive; Ryat’s debut full-length Avant Gold is certainly good—particularly the menacing, late-era Portishead drive of “The Gaze.” It just isn’t particularly unique. Yet its companion EP, Avant Gold Remixed, somehow winds up better and more satisfying than any remix collection should rightfully be in comparison to its source material. The Botany version of “Not for This Lifetime” notches up the drum attack of the original, loses the funky wank guitar and adds a chorus of ghostly voices—a perfect opening stroke. The Mikronesia remix of “Bells”— already a pretty good song on the album—is taken into powerhouse overdrive with a fierce hi-hat snare beat and pulsating staccato synth. Six of the album’s nine songs are revamped in this fashion and, most impressively, none of the changes are dramatic departures. Ryat’s collaborators aren’t mystifying us with deconstructed set-pieces; they’re not bloating songs by repetition into unnecessary dancefloor lengths. Rather, the tracks on Avant Gold Remixed are tweaked subtly and smartly, so much so that it’s tempting to wish they’d been swapped out with the originals. —John Vettese Scattered Trees
Death is only the beginning As much as we fear the Grim Reaper and want to keep him at a distance, some-
times he’s the only muse that fits the bill. Chicago sextet Scattered Trees were on the verge of calling it quits altogether when lead singer Nate Eiesland’s father passed. The bereavement process is recounted in Sympathy. Whereas Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross suggested five stages of grief, Scattered Trees stubbornly use only two or three. Whether peddling whisper-thin arrangements, a rough-hewn guitar lead or handclaps and a kooky vibe, the band is on a constant morphine drip. Eiesland’s crooning and sighing, though lovely, are locked in a dream. When processing grief, it’s difficult to shake that somber feeling, and Sympathy translates this reality well, if unremarkably. “I can’t relate to what I say because I’m not myself,” he sings on “Five Minutes.” A low, heavy rumble rushes in, and fades into silence, closing the song. It’s confusing, but it also makes perfect sense. —Jeanne Fury
Black Up Sub Pop
Black and forth Ishmael Butler’s much-hyped Sub Pop full-length is to dubstep what his previous ventures in Digable Planets and Cherrywine were to jazz and blues, respectively: rule-breaking hip-hop completely untethered from typical versechorus-verse structures. Butler’s Afrocentric lyrics envelop the jagged beats, as he splits the difference between message and medium and just goes for “the feeling” (as he repeatedly intones on “Are You… Can You… Were You?”). Erik Blood’s production is a love letter to the Warp Records catalog: a maxi-minimalist canvas that incorporates glitch-hop and little snippets of Memphis soul. The music is certainly pleasant, but it’s almost incidental to Butler’s disarmingly smooth cadence—“Recollections of the Wraith” even sounds like a retrofitted freestyle. And for the Digable Planets faithful, there’s “Endeavors for Never,” which openly name-checks Butler’s old alias “Butterfly” and sounds like an outtake from Blowout Comb—a little familiar comfort to go with the new-new. —Nick Green Emilie Simon
The Big Machine Universal
Inhuman behavior When she’s sledding that Aeolian voice across a showtune-y tundra, Frenchborn Brooklynite Emilie Simon is sublime. Grand and loopy, like a stack of baby Björks. But once she goes wading in shallower waters, the pop puddles of Tings Tings and Pipettes, well, life’s too short for robo-handclaps and cartoonish choruses (although singing them en Français is a nice dodge). Luckily, The Big Machine, available as an import since 2009, dwells more in the former. “Rocket to the Moon” is some kind of nutball Betty Boop piano bar standard that makes economical use of swelling synths and honking trumpets, while
bloopy, bleepy spy-thriller “Chinatown” rides moody keyboards. “Dreamland” whisks us off to some Madonna/Monáe melodramatic dancefloor dimension. A number of tracks—“The Cycle” and “Rainbow,” to name two—have this curious Regina Spektor-does-Genesis vibe. There’s a lot to compare her to (look at all the proper names in this review), but it’d be dumb to dismiss Simon as derivative or retro. She’s more like some alien chef, stirring up proven diva pop ingredients and waiting to see what rises. —Patrick Rapa
The Double Cross Yep Roc
Best northern pop export since Canada Dry For everything that’s changed during Sloan’s 20year existence, the constants have made all the difference. Sloan’s lineup from their 1991 debut, the Peppermint EP, is intact, and so is their foursongwriter methodology; given their long string of four-star reviews, the results speak volumes. On The Double Cross, their 10th album in two decades (20 years, XX, double cross, get it?), Sloan again churn out a short but potent set of crystalline pop that channels a brilliantly arrested development Beatles-to-Badfinger ’60s/’70s vibe, sharpened to the contemporary edge that distinguished similarly inspired translators like Jellyfish and the Grays. “Your Daddy Will Do” is a 10cc concept suite condensed into three glorious minutes, “She’s Slowing Down Again” sounds like a Turtles outtake, “Traces” is prog-pop with a Doors complex and “It’s Plain to See” swings like vintage Fabs with Mick Ronson on guitar. There isn’t a wasted note or moment of filled space on The Double Cross, and every track is a multifaceted gem. Here’s to 20 more Sloan years. —Brian Baker This Will Destroy You
Long story short, good title If I call This Will Destroy You cinematic, are you gonna think I mean hobbits hopping around the Shire smoking grass? ’Cause hell no. This is heavier stuff: grim, deep, eerie, then sweeping, huge and horrifying. It’s a formula the Texas instrumental four-piece has been working on since ’05, but Tunnel Blanket might just be a breakthrough in doomgaze technology, because even the preludes are scary. A typical track—they have names like “Communal Blood” and “Glass Realms,” but it doesn’t matter— opens with ominous tones and withering cymbal whispers that plant the seeds of dread, the first tumbles of existential nausea. Guitars, bass, synths, strings, drums: These things emerge or reveal themselves as always having been there. Things get louder, faster and bigger, until all that early potential has gone full on kinetic, and you are surrounded. —Patrick Rapa
Ernie Chambers v. God The Control Group
Big man off campus Active during the last decade, Seattle band the Cops (not to be confused with the Australian outfit) never made much of a splash outside the Northwest. Frontman Michael Jaworski’s new outfit, Virgin Islands, deserves national attention. Jaworski works in his comfort zone on the band’s first full-length: tough, intertwining guitars, relentless rhythms, pugilistic vocals and politically conscious lyrics. If that sounds exhausting, well, only sometimes. On the better part of Ernie Chambers v. God, it’s inspired, thanks to irresistible anthems like the title track, “I Come Correct” and “Kat Named Katastrophe.” Imagine Ted Leo and the Pharmacists minus the sugar rush. The lyrics address corrupt corporations, cults and materialism (as well as Chambers, the former Nebraska state senator and activist who actually did file suit against God in 2007, as a protest against frivolous lawsuits). But the band’s tough roar, and Jaworkski’s Strummer-esque conviction, ensures that they avoid sounding preachy. —Michael Pelusi
The Watson Twins
Alt-country sweeties pop out The Watson Twins—sisters Chandra and Leigh— were raised on country music in Kentucky. Their close harmony singing echoes the sound of the Brothers Everly and Delmore, but the arrangements they favor lean more toward the soft rock sound of ’70s California. This EP of eclectic covers may be an attempt to introduce them to listeners outside the country/folk fold, but its bland production and laid-back arrangements rob the originals of their spunk and energy. You can’t cover the Eurythmics without drawing comparisons to Annie Lennox. When the Watsons tackle “Here Comes the Rain Again,” there’s no thunder and lightning, just some pleasant and rather mild harmonies. The quiet soul of Sade’s “Sweetest Taboo” is undermined by the Watsons’ lack of spirit and an arrangement without the tension that would make you believe there’s any struggle going on between desire and resistance. —j. poet Younger Brother
a.k.a. Psytrance Recruitment Tool #74 While the rest of dance music built its slow rapprochement with pop during the ‘90s, the global
Digging Their Grave The Raveonettes’ latest is marked by dense sonics and a complete lack of emotion The Raveonettes
ike them or not, restrictions have made the
Raveonettes what they are. Whether that meant Sune Rose Wagner and Sharin Foo limited themselves to Raven in playing an entire album in a certain key or stripping down to a the Grave few essential instruments, they’ve done better by obeying their Vice own arbitrary rules than by trying to stretch. What detractors have dismissed as monotony has, to fans, been an admirable consistency. Early on, their dedication to Phil Spector-meets-Jesus and Mary Chain sonics was branded a gimmick, but a decade on, their followers in fuzz are legion. Their real trick was in putting a sunny beat behind a grave scenario or dropping a deadpan line into a dead serious song. The trouble with Raven in the Grave, their fifth LP, is that Wagner and Foo seem to have forgotten how to play with the dissonance between light and dark. Actually, they haven’t forgotten—the unrelenting bleakness is intentional. The vocals are so icy, the synths so removed from humanity, that even the most bereft lyrics have no emotional heft. That isn’t to say there aren’t worthwhile moments to be found. Double-tracked vocals lend a spooky edge to the skeletal “Summer Moon,” out-of-focus arpeggios knock “War in Heaven” off its axis, and a pretty guitar squall every now and then serves as a reminder of what they do best. But those random moments of pleasure aren’t enough to sustain Raven in the Grave’s nine songs, and even at 35 minutes, it feels exponentially longer than it should. —M.J. Fine psytrance underground played mainly to itself in various exotic international landmarks, amassing a fiercely devoted fan base over the course of two decades by injecting rapid, arpeggiated basslines and squelchy, mangled noise directly into their pituitaries. Simon Posford stands second only to Infected Mushroom as one of the field’s leaders thanks to his work in Hallucinogen and Shpongle. And for the uninitiated, this third LP from Posford collabo
Younger Brother provides the most accessible introduction yet to the field. It’s by and large a folkish prog rock LP, though there’s plenty of electronic flourishes tastefully sutured into the proceeding. Don’t expect much more than timeworn New Age affirmations of the “Be what you wanna be / Say what you wanna say” variety for lyrics, albeit tastefully sung by vocalist Ruu Campbell. There’s plenty of likeable beats and musicianship to distract from the occasional cliché. —Justin Hampton
photo by Ashlie & Amber Chavez
Patty Schemel with Kurt Cobain and his daughter, Frances Bean Cobain.
Living Through This A new documentary exposes Hole drummer Patty Schemel’s epic struggle with addiction by Jeanne Fury
it So Hard, director P. David Ebersole’s documentary of the life of Hole drummer Patty Schemel, is less about the musician than the survivor. When Schemel left Hole in 1997, fans didn’t know what happened to her. Did she quit? Was she fired? Did she get sick? Turns out the answers are yes, yes and yes.
Culled from footage Schemel shot during her years in the band, as well as recent interviews with her, her friends and her family (Schemel’s mom is a highlight), the film combines pitch-black humor and gut-wrenching grimness. Unlike a watered-down Behind the Music, its candor raises eyebrows. But instead of focusing on the hot mess that was Hole, Ebersole wisely anchors his movie on gender and sexuality, Schemel’s spectacular prowess behind the kit and the tenacity of addiction. During her formative years with Hole, Schemel was extraordinary in both her creativity and power, but she had to overcome a lot, not the least of which was her genitalia.
The movie doesn’t gloss over the fact that Schemel is, for all intents and purposes, a homosexual female drummer. In an ideal world, it wouldn’t matter, but here on Earth, it does. In between praising Schemel’s technical abilities, four generations of female drummers, gay and straight, share tales of discrimination and frustration. Alice De Buhr (Fanny), Gina Schock (the Go-Go’s), Debbie Peterson (the Bangles), Kate Schellenbach (Beastie Boys/Luscious Jackson) and Izzy (Care Bears on Fire) are all truly excellent instrumentalists, but with all due respect, none played or are playing music as aggressive as Schemel was in Hole. She didn’t simply play well—she made heads cave in.
movies Her band won’t let you forget it, either. With clownlike makeup stuck to her face, Hole frontwoman Courtney Love gobbles shortbread cookies and yammers about Schemel’s brilliance through a mouthful of crumbs. But talent didn’t matter to Celebrity Skin producer Michael Beinhorn. The studio sessions of 1997’s follow-up to Live Through This are what ultimately sent Schemel off the rails and onto “crack heroin island.” Beinhorn planned to enlist a session guy (derisively referred to as “Johnny One-Take”) to play Schemel’s parts because—according to what the band was told—it happens so often on albums, it’s basically protocol. A demoralized and baffled Schemel walked out of the studio; her bandmates didn’t fight for her. As dedicated as Schemel was to her musicianship, her fix of choice came in the form of drugs. Lots of drugs. After multiple rehabs and relapses, she became a full-blown homeless junkie who litHit So Hard is erally forgot she was screening on the a drummer until she festival circuit. happened to catch a glimpse of a drum kit inside a church. But it was a fleeting moment; she went off in search of her next fix. How Schemel finally kicked altogether is never really fully explained. To hear her tell it, the realization came overnight. She settled into a sober-living home for women, and began her recovery. She’s been clean for six years, got married and is raising her newborn baby. She keeps busy with her dog-care business, plays in a few bands (Green Eyes, Psychic Friend), gives drum lessons and works with rock ’n’ roll camps for girls. Back in ’97, you had to wonder if she’d become one of the many casualties of rock. Somehow, Schemel is around to share her story. Like a solid drummer, Hit So Hard provides the fills and then some.
I Saw the Devil peers uncomfortably close at the evil that men do / by Sam Adams
Soo-hyun comes across evidence of unouth Korean filmmakers have speakable crimes, not all perpetrated by all but cornered the market in the object of his search. The cab driver blood-soaked revenge dramas. With I Saw the Devil, Kim Jeewho stops to pick you up on a deserted road might have a body in his trunk, and Woon (A Tale of Two Sisters) tries to carve out his own slice. the dogs who guard a secluded mansion Choi Min-Sik, the victim of Oldboy’s in the woods may have developed very twisted plot, here plays the victimizer, a special tastes. The world, it seems, is full serial killer who dissects his victims with of killers. Any one of us might become the terrifying calm. The evidence of his handititle’s subject, or the object of its horrified work lands at the feet of distraught Soogaze. hyun (Lee Byung-hun of Kim’s The Good, From its buckets of gore to its nearly the Bad and the Weird and A two-and-a-half hour running time, I Saw the Devil is excessive in nearBittersweet Life) when his fiancée’s head slips from a crime ly every extreme, but Kim keeps his scene tech’s hands. That gruecamera on a short leash, watching some burden sets Soo-hyun, a the show, but never partaking in it. government operative whose You might be grateful for the distance, but after a while it starts to job remains secret even from us, on a corpse-strewn path of feel oppressive; you’re close enough vengeance that becomes as dark to smell the stench of blood, but not and twisted as the killer’s. close enough to intervene, or even I Saw the The idea that obsession can understand. If we see the devil, it’s Devil will be available on cause the hunter to resemble only on the outside. Blu-ray and DVD his prey is old hat, but I Saw May 10 from the Devil raises the stakes with Magnolia Home Entertainment. gory glee. At nearly every turn,
More info at pattydoc.com.
Lee Byung-hun and Kim In-seo. Photos courtesy of Magnet Releasing.
A new Brian Eno doc only scratches the surface of the legend’s prolific work / by Sean L. Maloney
othing will make you feel like
a less productive person than watching Brian Eno: 1971-1977 The Man Who Fell to Earth. True fact. Not to say that you’re an unproductive person, but it’s hard—maybe impossible—to match the sheer quantity and genius of those first six years of legendary sound artist Eno’s recorded output.
Really, when you look at the entire body of work, you can see that he helped rearrange the entire paradigm of “modern”—which, for a guy who claimed to be a “nonmusician,” is sort of a monumental accomplishment. The closest we’ve come to a momentous accomplishment in the past six years was making it through the entire two and a half hours of Eno: 1971-1977 without drooling on ourselves. While Eno: 1971-1977 is an unauthorized documentary, hence missing any new interview with the man himself—not to mention the paucity of archival video footage from the post-Roxy Music years—the interview content with music critics like Robert Christgau and Simon Reynolds, and Eno-collaborators Hans-Joachim Roedelis and Brian Turrington, is informative and insightful. Sure, it’s sort of a love-fest, and there’s a really nerdy, fanboy air about the proceedings, but Brian Eno brings that level of enthusiasm out in people. Granted, a weekend-consuming, 20-hour analytical marathon is really what’s in order to thoroughly explore the man’s catalog during those years. We’re talking about not just his four mind-melting vocal solo records, but also the first two RM records, two collabs with Robert Fripp, three albums with Krautrock duo Cluster, and his first album-length ambient experiment, Discreet Music. Oh, and he managed to squeeze in collaborations with David Bowie, John Cale, Nico and Phil Manzanera. And let’s not forget his Obscure Music label, which released important experimental music from folks like John Cage, David Toop and Gavin Bryars during that stretch as well. And the movie doesn’t even get to his New York years, producing albums like Devo’s Q: Are We Not Men, Talking Heads’ More Songs About Buildings and Food and the classic Brian Eno: 1971-1977 The No New York compilation. Or the 30 Man Who Fell years of music he’s made since then. to Earth will be available Like we said, it’s next to impossible on DVD May to be as productive as that dude. 17 from Sexy Intellectual Records.
Crazy in Love
hat the title of Jonathan Demme’s Something Wild could fit both an out-of-
control party and a feral creature is no accident: There’s loads of fun to be had in his off-kilter romp, but it comes at a cost. A Manhattan stockbroker with a mild larcenous streak, Charlie (Jeff Daniels) gets caught dining and dashing by a sultry free spirit who calls herself Lulu (Melanie Griffith). Both Griffith’s pseudonym and her jet-black bob pay homage to Louise Brooks, the silent star of Pandora’s Box, just what Daniels opens when he accepts a ride in her convertible. One handcuffed motel-room tryst later, they’re a couple bonded by lust and lies, posing as newlyweds for Lulu’s mother (who’s not taken in for a second) and the classmates at her high school reunion. They’re lovers on the run, if only from themselves. Jeff Daniels as Charlie. Inspired by a stylish black couple, Charlie cuts loose on the dance floor, his suppressed passion generating moves almost frightening in their violence. That’s a harbinger, as it turns out, for the appearance of Lulu’s ex-, a manic, razor-thin Ray Liotta, who pushes the movie into territory you’d never expect from its lightweight beginnings. An avowed Feelies fan who shot their “Away” video around the same time, Demme cast them as the high school reunion band; covers of the Monkees, Bowie and Freddy Fender ensue. The snowballing momen-
The Surreal World
Blame Canada’s Kids in the Hall for five years of sketch comedy genius / by Sam Adams
he sketch-comedy kings (and cross-dressing queens) of the
first half of the ’90s, the Kids in the Hall specialized in free-associative gags and breaking the fourth wall, harnessing the comic power of the non sequitur. Although more outré characters—Kevin McDonald’s Chicken Lady and Scott Thompson’s flamboyant Buddy— took over the show later in its run, its most inspired sketches were low-key one-offs, like one in which Dave Foley tells the audience the Kids have discovered the cause of cancer, and then ushers out a sheepish Bruce McCulloch. “I’m sorry I caused all the cancer,” he says, with the air of a child caught with his hand in the cookie jar. Favorite sketches are too numerous to name: McCulloch as a masked squash-court champion called the Eradicator; Thompson and
Jeff Daniels and Melanie Griffith plunge down the rabbit hole in Something Wild / by Sam Adams tum of “Loveless Love,” from a slow stomp to a breathless rush, signals the moment when Charlie and Lulu’s adventure starts to skid like a car on wet asphalt. Demme’s always had superlative taste in soundtrack music, even when it doesn’t fit the story— the confluence of Liotta’s jailbird and the Go-Betweens’ “Spring Something Wild will be Rain” is particularly disjuncavailable May tive. Something Wild plays like 10 on Blu-ray and DVD from a catalogue of Demme’s favorite Criterion. things, and people; John Sayles turns up as a motorcycle cop, and John Waters contributes a delicious turn as a venal used-car salesman. But unlike the endless parade of favorite bands that derailed Rachel Getting Married, the homages are brisk and unselfconscious enough that they don’t derail the movie. Griffith, for once (and only once), is perfectly matched to the role of a badgirl romantic, and Daniels manages to make Charlie a square without looking down on him. The movie’s been out of print for years, but Criterion’s edition brings it back full force, and at full speed. See p. 52 for Sean L. Maloney’s interview with Ben Folds’ drummer Sam Smith, who designed the cover for the Criterion re-release.
Mark McKinney unleashing a bilious tirade against the defenseless Swiss; all five sitting around a campfire, wistfully reminiscing about a friend who, it emerges, they brutally murdered. “It just goes to show you,” McKinney muses, “Kill a guy, fold him up, stuff him in your trunk, and still, you don’t really know him.” Fifteen years after disbanding—let’s overlook their ill-fated feature film Brain Candy, shall we?—a period during which the Kids’ following expanded from a dedicated cult to soldout houses, they reconvened for the eight-part miniseries Death Comes to Town. The series exploits the Kids’ aptitude for creating their The Kids in the own idiosyncratic world, populated with slick Hall: The Complete politicians, obese orphans and a potbellied Series DVD Megaset and The Kids in the reaper. Death is arguably short on punchlines, Hall: Death Comes but it offers the distinct pleasures of visiting to Town will be available May 24 for an extended stay. from A&E
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This month’s best, worst, weirdest and wildest in home video entertainment by andrew bonazelli
Blue Valentine Of the four principals on Dawson’s Creek, the only one worth jumping on a couch about is Michelle Williams, who routinely disappears into a variety of avant garde roles (I’m Not There, Synecdoche, New York, Wendy and Lucy). So, it’s no surprise that she’s stellar again in Blue Valentine, whose NC-17 rating validates the continued inexistence of a just God. She and co-star Ryan Gosling went method, living together before filming this engrossing lament about a couple’s gradual, crushing disintegration. We attest that similar subject matter was depicted a bit more poetically in Maren Ade’s grossly underseen Everyone Else, but that’s no reason to avoid this gem and its two straight-up bravura performances. Anchor Bay
Ryan Gosling and Williams
The Dilemma Dilemmas surrounding this film are more interesting than the dilemma within the actual film (Vince Vaughn wondering whether to tattle on philandering wife of best bro Kevin James): Should filmmakers who prominently spotlight gay jokes in the trailer be accused of homophobia or just lazily pandering to their target meathead audience? Is “sense of humor” enough of an aphrodisiac to justify
schlubs like Vaughn and James scoring the likes of Jennifer Connelly and Winona Ryder? Has Vaughn’s affable asshole shtick been stretched so far that you’d actually prefer seeing him in the “serious” likes of Psycho or Return to Paradise again? Wait a second: Are these “dilemmas” or “rhetorical questions”? Super—Ron Howard has evidently done for “dilemma” what Alanis did for “ironic.” (All that said, there’s no way this movie is shittier than The Da Vinci Code.) Universal
movies Drive Angry First sentence of the Wiki synopsis: “John Milton (Nicolas Cage) is a criminal that has broken out of Hell to kill Jonah King (Billy Burke), a cult leader that tricked Milton’s daughter into joining his followers in the wake of Milton’s death, only to kill her and her husband and steal their daughter— Milton’s granddaughter—to be sacrificed in a Satanist ritual.” Soooooo, it’s like Ghost Rider meets Dragnet? Cage is pretty comfortably ensconced in the “one out of every 10 movies I make will totally rule, but nobody will ever see it” stage of his career, but this is too close to the incredible Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans to be that movie. Thanks for playing, Drive Angry. We can’t promise that we’ll be high when you pop up on Encore some day, but we’ll certainly try. Summit Entertainment
Seth Rogen and Jay Chou
Solaris (Blu-ray) The Green Hornet For a guy who’s carried exactly one bona fide mainstream hit (Knocked Up), Seth Rogen sure gets first billing in a lot of big tentpole flicks. This is, uh, definitely one of them. The presence of Michel Gondry behind the camera got a lot of people excited that The Green Hornet wouldn’t be another slick, generic beat-em-up, but those people forget that the auteur has sorta been coasting a long time off Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. His self-aware, lovingly handmade aesthetic (not to mention innate thoughtfulness) doesn’t translate into hand-to-hand + badass gadgets + Rogen in full, engorged dickhead mode. We’re quickly reaching the bottom of the superhero adaptation barrel, and the dregs ain’t pretty. Also, what’s with Cameron Diaz being cast as Rogen’s saucy, 10-years-older assistant? Sony
From Dusk Till Dawn (Blu-ray)
If you’ve got the means, the only thing sweeter than Criterion transfers are Criterion transfers on Blu-ray, and in that regard Andrei Tarkovsky’s methodical 1972 masterpiece is a must-have. Haven’t read the source novel or seen it (or the underrated Soderbergh remake) already? Prepare yourself for druggily staggered pacing, lush coloration and trippy sound design. The story follows a cosmonaut’s journey to a planet that feeds off and interprets human emotion, manipulating fears and memories into highly uncomfortable, telling scenarios. The Soderbergh one strips Tarkovsky’s philosophical labyrinth down to a simple love story, so come here first for the thought-provoking junk. Just make sure you have the tube to yourself for three hours, Donatas and no idiots around to whine “when’s something Banionis and Natalya going to happen?” Criterion Bondarchuk
Yay for the first—and easily best—Tarantino/ Rodriguez collaboration. George Clooney’s a suave murderous badass, QT his rape-tastic brother (his first of, believe it or not, multiple rapist roles). They kidnap Harvey Keitel, Juliette Lewis and some poor Chinese kid who doesn’t excel at this thing called “acting,” drag them across the border to a Mexican shitkicker titty bar, and vampireimmolating cult awesomeness ensues. Everyone’s seen this at least once—many of us have seen Salma Hayek’s cameo much more than once—so the most interesting FDTD talking point in 2011 is… Michael Parks! He was the hardscrabble Texas Ranger in the opening scene (“Them damn burritos ain’t good for nothing but a hippie when he’s high on weed”), and actually gets the lead in Kevin Smith’s upcoming Red State, as a psycho evangelical. He’ll bring the awesomeness, even if Smith’s screenplay fails to. (Which it will.) Echo Bridge
art & design
Creased Lightning Ben Folds skinsman Sam Smith is Criterion’s new poster child
interview by Sean L. Maloney
am Smith is a Nashville-based cinephile
and graphic designer, who also just happens to be the drummer for alt-legend Ben Folds. After a poster he created for an art-house screening of Japanese cult film House caught the attention of the powers that be at Criterion, Smith was enlisted to design the covers for this month’s Criterion Collection editions of Soviet-era sci-fi masterpiece Solaris (see Andrew Bonazelli’s review on p. 53) and Jonathan Demme’s classic Something Wild (see Sam Adams’ review on p. 50). We caught up with Smith, who’ll be on tour throughout the spring, to chat up the sweet spot between film and design. How did you hook up with Criterion?
I was doing posters for fun for [Nashville theater] the Belcourt and I made a poster for House. It was because of screenings like ours—it sold out the first night with no one knowing what the movie was—that they were like, “maybe we should give this a midnight movie run around the country.” Janus [Films, a Criterion subsidiary] was like, “Can we use your poster for the theatrical run?” Janus is just a cubicle inside the Criterion Collection, so it was very easy once Janus liked my poster for Criterion to say, “We’d love to work with you.” What stokes your design fire? What are you into right now?
Oh my god, so much... I guess I’ll just look on my desk. [Laughs] Polish poster art of all kinds, but film posters made in Poland and Czechoslovakia. Those are my favorite two things ever, those two things. Puffin book covers, which are the Penguin covers they put out in the ’50s and ’60s with insanely cool artwork, just like all Posters and their other books from Criterion DVD covers by Sam that time. Smith.
Something Wild (May 10) and Solaris (May 24) will be available on Blu Ray and DVD from Criterion.
How did you discover cinema beyond the multiplex?
My mom took me to the movies every Tuesday night, but that would just be the multiplex. Well, not necessarily—my mom took me to see Gummo at the Belcourt when I was like 13. I remember seeing my first Stanley Kubrick movie; it was a life-changing kind of moment. I started seeing film in a different way. You can’t articulate it, but you realize that it’s more than just a movie and there’s a lot of other ways to look at it and study it. You’re a world traveler by trade— what’s the next hot international film scene?
Do you know about the Thai filmmaker Apichatpong Weerasethakul? His new movie is called Uncle Boonmee [Who Can Recall His Past Lives]; it won the Palme D’or at Cannes. This filmmaker is… he’s just working on a whole other level. He’s a master. I love him, and you get such a great sense of his country. All of his films are about his country, and they’re all very spiritual. I love Southeast Asia, so I’m always looking for new Thai or Vietnamese stuff. For more of Smith’s work, visit his blog, Sam’s Myth: samsmyth.blogspot.com.
Designated Hit Man
Postwar is hell in Shudder to Think shredder’s debut novel
by Raymond Cummings
ost-apocalyptic noir anti-heroes don’t come much
darker—or stranger—than Dewey Decimal. He’s a post-traumatic stress disorder-afflicted ex-veteran whose past is as fractured as the milieu he inhabits: a not-quite-abandoned New York City where thugs and organized crime figures call the shots, where government agencies lack much clout, where life is cheap. A series of coordinated terrorist attacks and a virulent Superflu have created a teetering world.
The Dewey Decimal System will be available in May from Akashic Books
This jittery uncertainty is mirrored in Decimal’s own scattered psyche: he’s OCD, delusional, acerbically witty, addicted to a prescription supplied by his employer, constantly slathering his palms with Purell disinfectant, and as prone to dumb mistakes as he is to extraordinary, Robert Rodriguez-esque displays of violence. Where did this miscreant—a killer-for-hire who calls the silent, darkened New York Public Library home—come from? Nathan Larson wrote The Dewey Decimal System (Akashic), and even he’s not sure how to answer that question. “He just popped into my head. I just started the whole book off with a mental picture of this dude alone in the New York Public Library,” the film-score composer and Shudder to Think guitarist admits in an email interview. “I’ve always had this image of that library totally empty, and it creeps me out in a way I can’t explain. I sat down to write it with no plan and no idea beyond that image. The more I work with him, the more I see where I got this or that aspect, but it’s been a very organic process. Now Dewey is just up and walking around, doing his thing, and my job is just to follow him and see what happens.” Larson wove his Philip K. Dick- and William Gibson-inspired tapestry of brusque interior monologues, double-crosses, European baddies and tangled allegiances while caring for his pregnant wife. Like any inaugural event worth its salt, Dewey Decimal sets a scene that’s difficult to turn away from, then leaves the reader hanging with more questions than answers. How widespread were the terrorist attacks, which occurred on Valentine’s Day, 2011? What’s the world like beyond the five boroughs, and why does it seem that no consumer good in the novel was manufactured after 2010? Why does Decimal pass up repeated opportunities to discover his true identity? Larson, who promises that all will be revealed in two planned sequels, says that Decimal’s persona is drawn in part from aspects of his own family history. “I won’t deny that some of my own political beliefs are slipping into this series, especially with respect to the way our imperialistic society handles veterans, the medical/military establishment, the connection between the plenitude and availability of guns in relation to the way we ignore our society’s mentally ill,” he explains. “I have folks in my own family who are totally crippled from PTSD-style disorders as a result of having been in the active military, and as a result have seen their lives unravel.” More on Nathan Larson at nathanlarson.net.
3 Non Juans Above Us the Waves According to Jim: Season 3 Adventures of Tom Thumb & Thumbelina ATV: The Movie Aviation: National Archives Being Human: Season Three Below Ben 10: Ultimate Alien – Power Struggle Blindness Bloomington Bloomington Bob Dylan: Revealed Bon Jovi Most Wanted Bootsy’s Rubber Band: Houston Summit 1978 Boudica Boy Meets World: Season 5 Bruce Springsteen: Promise – The Making of Darkness on the Edge of Town Curious George Plays Ball Daddy and Them Dali: Love at First Sight Dave Matthews Band: The Brixton Academy 2009 Degrazia Centennial Concert Dilemma Dirt Bikes: Unsung Heroes Dirty Jobs: Collection 7 Discoveries… America, Special Edition: Magic of Flight Discoveries… Ireland: Castles & Ancient Treasures Discoveries… Ireland: Music & Dance – A Rich Culture Dora the Explorer: It’s Haircut Day Dream Theater: Panem Et Cicrcensis Drop Dead Diva: The Complete Second Season Encounter Englishman Who Went Up a Hill But Came Down a Mountain Fat Girl First Dog Fist Full of Dirt Fly Fishing Adventure: Alaska Rainbows From Prada to Nada Ghost Sweeper: Mikami – Collection 4 Grace O’Malley the Pirate Queen Green Collar Comedy Show Green Hornet Guan Ian Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench Harvest I Inside I’m a Potty Princess Jay Cutler: Undisputed Bodybuilding Iced Earth: Festivals of the Wicked Identity Joan of Arc Johnny Reid: Live – Heart and Soul Julian Assange: A Modern Day Hero? Kiki Melendez’s Hot Tamales Live Kustom Cars, Lead Sleds: Back From the Dead Disc 1 Kustom Cars, Lead Sleds: Back From the Dead Disc 2 Last Dinosaur Leaves’ Eyes: Meredead Lookout
Lozen: Apache Warrior Make It or Break It: Season Two Vol. 3 Malta Story Marvin’s Room Megan Is Missing Melrose Place: Sixth Season Vol. 1 Midnattsol: Metamorphosis Melody Miramax Futuristic Action Series Miramax High-Octane Action Series Miramax Jackie Chan Series Miramax Romantic Comedy Series Vol. 2 Momentum Mopar or No Car Mopar Plumb Crazy Mother’s Prayer/When the Lights Go Out Movie Magic: Disasters at Sea Mud Country Murdoch Mysteries: Season Three Music of the Heart My Own Love Song Mysteries of the Jesus Prayer Ninjas vs. Vampires No Code of Conduct Norwegian Ninja O Ordinary Decent Criminal Palata No. 6 Party Animals Penn & Teller: B.S.! The Complete Eighth Season Penn & Teller: B.S.! Seasons 1-8 Phoenix and the Magic Carpet Pirates: Scourge of the Seven Seas PJ’s: Season 1 Pocoyo: Let’s Party Pokemon: Destiny Deoxys Pokemon: Jirachi Wish Maker Proof Proud Rebel Quiet Kill Real Mulan Return to the Dunes Revolution in Cairo Rise and Fall of Michael Rimmer Ritual River of Darkness Rockpalast: Miller Anderson Band Rockpalast: Steve Gibbons Band Sarafina! Sea of Sand Second Moon Sex, Lies and Death Sharks of the Great White North Sheep of Stone Shipping News Silent Discoveries: Yesterday and Today/After Six Days Sinister Super Hero Squad Show Vol. 4 Supercop Sync or Swim Talking to Heaven/Reading Room They Thoroughbred: Born to Run Tina Bina and the Soul Patrol: Get Off the Pews UFC 127: Penn vs. Hughes Used People Valley of the Dinosaurs Village Des Ombres Waiting for Forever Waking Up in Reno Way to the Stars Wendingo: Bound by Blood Wow! Wow! Wubbzy! Wubbzy Saves the Day X-Men Origins: Wolverine MAY 10
200 MPH 35 Years of Stony Plain AC/DC: Live at River Plate Ace of Hearts
may 10 eXistenZ
One could construe David Cronenberg’s underrated 1999 gem as an unofficial thematic sequel to Videodrome. The master of body horror is at his squeamish best in this virtual reality mind-bender. [Echo Bridge Home Entertainment] Alien Visitor Almighty Thor American Smartass American Son Angelo Stasrouchas: Bigger Is Better Archies: The Archie Show Ash Wednesday Asunder Bananas! Best of the West Vol. 1: Season 2009 Bhutto Black Death Blood Junkie Blood Oath Blue Valentine Bravestarr 1: 20 Episode Collection Bravestarr 2: 20 Episode Collection Bravestarr: Complete Series – 65 Episode Collection Buckaroo Caillou High Flyers Carnera Fighter Children of the Corn 666: Isaac’s Return Children of the Corn V: Fields of Terror Chloe’s Closet: Meet Chloe Chobits: The Complete Series Chop Kick Panda Christmas in July Civil War Journal: The Commanders Civil War Journal: The Conflict Begins Coffee Samurai: Hoshizora Kiseki Cougars, Inc. Cropsey Crossing Guard Curling Dahmer vs. Gacy Detention Dinosaurs: Extreme Survivors Doctor Who: Planet of the Spiders Doctor Who: Terror of the Autons Dog Tails Collection: 4 Movie Set Dragon Lord Du Big Bang Au Vivant Existenz Exotic Malice Fuga Gene-Fusion Getting High Godfathers of Ganja Guitar Artistry of Bert Jansch
Conundrum: In Concert, 1980 Guitar Artistry of Guy Davis: Teller of Tales Hail the Conquering Hero He Who Finds a Wife 2: Thou Shall Not Covet Hit List Home Improvement: The 20th Anniversary Complete Collection Horse Tales Collection How I Ended This Summer I Am Legend I Saw the Devil Infraganti J’ai Oublie De Te Dire Jackie Chan’s Project A2 Journey to Mecca Junjo Romantica: Season 2 Justin Bieber: Never Say Never Kiddy Grade: Complete Box Set Killer Yacht Party Krews Lassie: Classic Collection Last Chase Lovers & Other Problems Making of Plus One My Little Chickadee My Vietnam Your Iraq No Strings Attached Nova: Smartest Machine on Earth Now & Later On/Off: Mark Stewart Project A PT 109 Pure Barre: 16th Street Vol. 1 Pure Barre: 16th Street Vol. 2 Romper Stomper Russell Mulcahy’s Tale of the Mummy Sabrina the Teenage Witch Science of War Collection Scooby Doo Mystery Incorporated: Season 1 V. 2 Sex, Demons and Death Shigurui: Death Frenzy – The Complete Collection Shingu: Secret of the Stellar Wars Sign of the Cross Sledgehammer Slime City Massacre Something Wild Soul of Bellydance Splat the Cat… and Other Furry Friends Steven Seagal Collection Story About Ping… And Other Fine Feathered Friends Tapas Total Recall 2070: Machine Dreams Triple Threat Collection: Damage/ Marine 2/In the Name of the King Two Hands Ultimate Fighting Championship: Ultimate Royce Gracie Venom Webster: Season Two Wild Australia: An Underwater Love Story Wild Australia: Crater of Life Wild Australia: Land of the Giants Wild Australia: The Living Graveyard WWE: Wrestlemania XXVII MAY 17
Alabama Moon All in the Family: The Complete Ninth Season Allison & Lillia: Generation 1 American Experience: Freedom Riders American Experience: George Washington – The Man Who Wouldn’t Be King Ancient Astronauts: The Gods from Planet X Araya Avenged Sevenfold: The Metal Kings
may 17 Diabolique
Henri Georges Clouzot’s feminist thriller was way ahead of its time in the mid’50s, and just as righteous today. This is the Blu-ray version of the Criterion edition. Avoid Sharon Stone’s awful remake. [Criterion Collection]
Baghdad Texas Ballistica Barney: I Can Do It Beetle Queen Conquers Tokyo Belle Personne Best of Global Lens: China Beyonce: Life on Stage – Unauthorized Documentary Beyond the Game Biebermania! Big Trouble in Lil Oakland Bionic Woman: Season 2 Black Eyed Peas: United We Stand – Unauthorized Documentary Blood Shed Bloodbath Over Bloodstock Blues Fest: Live at Hungary Braille Brian Eno: 1971-1977 – The Man Who Fell to Earth British Rain Journeys II: East Anglia British Royal Weddings of the 20th Century Broken Hill Brotherhood Budrus Caroline Rhea and Friends Chaplin and His Impersonators Chicago Cubs: The Heart & Soul of Chicago Chocolate Sundaes Presents: Live on Sunset Strip Vol. 2 Circles of Deceit Classic U.S. Combat Aircraft of WWII: P-38 Lightning Coldplay: Longevity – Unauthorized Documentary Corporate Cutthroat Massacre Covert Affairs: Season One Cowboy G-Men Vol. 4 Daydream Nation Dead or Alive Deep Red: The Hatchet Murders Degrassi: Next Gen – Seas. 10, Part 1 Destination Inner Space Detention Diabolique Die and Let Live/Raising the Stakes Dizzy Gillespie Dream Band Jazz America Don Pasquale Einstein’s Cosmic Messengers Live Emerging Past
Eric Candori & Ibrahim Moginot: From Traditional Martial Arts to MMA ESPN Films: 30 for 30 Collection ESPN Films: 30 for 30 Collection Vol. 2 Excel Saga: The Complete Collection Exploited Feathered Serpent: The Complete Series Fergusons Flashpoint: The Third Season Forget Me Not Fortress Franklin and the Gloomy Day Freedom Archives: Cointelpro 101 Gargoyles Gerry Mulligan: Jazz in America Glenn Tilbrook and the Fluffers: Live in New York City Hawkwind: Solstice at Stonehenge 1984 20th Anniversary Histories of the Holocaust: Buchenwald 1937-1945 Hurry Sundown Hypnotized I Heart Doomsday I Want Your Money Jay-Z: The True Story Jeff Beck: The Visual Story Ju-On: White Ghost/Ju-On: Black Ghost Justin Bieber: Never Say Never Kanye West: Evolution – Unauthorized Documentary Ke$ha: Her Life, Her Story – Unauthorized Documentary Keith Richards: The Human Riff Killer Grade L.A. Friends: Live 2001 Live Like a Cop, Die Like a Man Louis Prima: In Person – His Wildest Performances 1936-1973 Marc Verillotte: Immobilizations Vol. 1 Marc Verillotte: Immobilizations Vol. 2 Max Roach: Live at Blues Alley Mechanic Meet Corlis Archer Vol. 6 Memoirs of a Lady Ninja Missionary Mob Rules My Bloody Wedding Nickelodeon Favorites: Food With Friends Nik Kershaw: Live in Germany Nova: Venom – Nature’s Killer Oprah Winfrey: Past, Present and Future Other Woman Pale Flower Phish: Live in Utica Photography: As Told by Life Magazine Photographers Project A-Ko Rabbia Rawhide Terror Reader’s Digest: Nature’s Power Revealed Red White & Blue Reindeer Games Revenge Ricky Dillard & New G: Keep Living Rihanna: The Rise and Fall of Rihanna – Unauthorized Documentary Rite Rivers of a Lost Coast Ronnie James Dio: In Memory Roommate Royal Pains: Season Two Schoolgirls in Chains/Terror Circus Shoeshine Shooter Shutterbug Skin Eating Jungle Vampires Slim to None Smokin’: Classic Cigarette Commercials Sons of the City: New York
Sophia Loren: Award Collection South of Santa Fe South Riding Sputnik Moment Strip Tease Stripperland Such Good Friends That’s What I Am Thomas & Friends: The Birthday Express Thor: Tales of Asgard Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job: Season 5 Tom Waits: One Star Shining Transparency Tribute to Miles Davis Twisted Desires Box Set UFOs and the Extraterrestrial Threat Ultimate Death Match III Vampire Knight: Guilty, Vol. 2 Vanishing on 7th Street Wagner Family Warriors 2: The Return of Krav Warriors Wartorn 1861-2010 Who?Mag TV: Season One Box Set Wild Thornberrys: Season 1 Witchcraft: The Magick Rituals of the Coven Yes: Rock of the ‘70s Yes: The Revealing Science of God Zapatista MAY 24
After Dark Originals: Fertile Ground Against All Odds/Victory Road 2011 Air Gear: The Complete Series Anton Chekhov’s The Duel Autre Dumas Backyard/Bajo La Sal Basquiat Bat Shit Crazy Best of Caillou: Caillou’s Summer Vacation Best of the Dean Martin Variety Show Big Bang Bitter.Sweet Bravo Two Zero Burning Palms Capodocia: Season 1 Children’s Hospital: The Complete First and Second Seasons Cruzando D-Day: The Total Story Death Hunter: Werewolves vs. Vampires Discreet Doc Martin Collection: Series 1-4 Dogfights: The Complete Season One Dogfights: The Complete Season Two Dry Land/How the Garcia Girls Spent Their Summer Eatrip Efficiency Expert Every Little Thing Exit No. 6 Fanboy & Chum Chum Fighting Mad/Moving Violation Final Encounter Forget Me Not Fresh Gerry Gettysburg Gnomeo & Juliet God Went Surfing With the Devil Going Places With Caillou Great Dictator Heaven Hit Favorites: Sweet Dreams Hole Hotel California/The Ministers I Am Number Four Ice Road Truckers: Deadliest Roads Season 1 Impostor
In the City of Sylvia In the Land of the Deaf Jim Henson’s Dinosaur Train: DinoMighty Music Jon Lovitz Presents Journey of August King Kid: Chamaco/Amexicano Kids in the Hall: Complete Series Megaset 1989-1994 Kids in the Hall: Death Comes to Town King of the Wind La Regate Last Days of World War II Laura Dore Show: Laura Dore in Italy Lemonade Mouth Lilly’s Thorn Line/Chasing 3000 Looney Tunes Super Stars: Road Runner & Wile E. Coyote Mad World Mans Melissa & Joey: Season 1 Part 1 Mickey Mouse Clubhouse: Mickey’s Great Outdoors MLB Bloopers: Deluxe Doubleheader MLB: Prime 9 – Major League Baseball’s Best Mr. & Mrs. Bridge Mystery of the Nile National Geographic: Return of the Ghost Ship National Geographic: Ultimate Factories Car Collection Nenette Night Listener North Star… And More Stories About Following Your Dreams Operation Condor Operation Condor 2: The Armour of the Gods Perpetual Peace Picasso & Braque Go to the Movies Planets Playing God Psycho Gothic Lolita Public Speaking Queen’s Blade 2: The Evil Eye – Series Part One Rabbit-Proof Fence Reagan Rick Steves’ Europe: Spain Rick Steves’ Europe: 10 New Shows 2011-2012 Rick Steves’ Europe: All 90 Shows Rick Steves’ Europe: Eastern Europe Rick Steves’ Europe: Mediterranean Mosaic Rick Steves’ Europe: Scandinavia Rick Steves’ Europe: Travel Extras – Portugal/Israel/Egypt Robinson Crusoe Ron Howard Action Pack Saurai Champloo: Complete Series Scenesters Secret Service Files She’s So Lovely Simply Red: Farewell: Live at Sydney Opera House Sirens Sleep Dealer/Hunter Prey Small Act Solaris Soul Eater: Parts 1 & 2 Tapage Nocturne Thief and the Cobbler Today’s Special Transcendent Man Transformers: The Complete Series Twin Dragons Two Bits Unknown War: WWII and the Epic Battles of the Russian Front Unloved Ville Louvre Violet Tendencies William & Kate: Planning a Royal Wedding Yes Sir: Jack Nicklaus & Historic 1986 Masters Victory
2033: Apocalipsis Futuro 4 Single Fathers AC/DC: Let There Be Rock All Lies on Me: Ready to Get Back in the Game America’s Sickest Home Video 1 America’s Sickest Home Video 2 American: The Bill Hicks Story Angelina Ballerina: Pop Star Girls Animal Crackers Banned in America 6 Pack Big Stars Collection Blue Crush 2 Bob Hoskins Collection Bratz: BFF – Best Friends Forever Breaking Bad: The Complete Third Season Burn Notice: Season Four Carancho Care Bears: Flower Power Children of God Chronicles of the Third Reich
Del Tha Funky Homosapien
The Funk Capital of the World
Hot Sauce Committee Pt 1
The Book of David
Classic Adventures Collection Cocoanuts Company Men Despair Dragonball Z Kai: Season One, Part Five Duck Soup Dudley Do-Right Elephant Dreams Elephant White Exorcismus Flight From Beginning to End Ghastly Grabs 7 Ghastly Grabs 8 Girl Who Leapt Through Space, Vol. 2 Green Lantern: Emerald Knights Harlem Blues Harmony: Oneness Here We Come Hawthorne: Season Two Horse Feathers Housemaid How It’s Made: Auto I Only Want You to Love Me In Her Skin Journey of the Bonesetter’s Daughter Just Go With it Le Tigre: Who Took the Bomp? Le Tigre on Tour Legends of Flight Lethal Landscapes: Canvases of the Combat Artist Leverage: The 3rd Season Little Cars 6: Fast Lane Fury Love’s Kitchen Madagacar Madeline and Her Friends Manolete: Blood and Passion McMillan & Wife: Season 2 McMillan & Wife: Season 3
Available now at your local indie record store.
Abbott and Costello Show: Hit the Road After Dark Originals: Seconds Apart All the World’s a Stage America’s Cutest Dog/America’s Cutest Cat American Chopper: Senior vs. Junior American Graffiti Ancient Mysteries: Lost Cities Bands on the Run Barbarians Battle of Britain Benny Bailey: Road Rage… and Accidental Ornithology Biutiful Brad Beltzer’s Decoded: Season 1 Brute Corps Christine Schafer: My Art of Singing Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe Classic Fighters Cross Czech Mate: Films of Jaromil Jires Darsin’s Lost Paradise David Byrne: Ride, Rise, Roar Dinosaurs Dog Whisperer With Cesar Millan: Season 5 Drive Angry Ellery Queen Mysteries Endure Extraordinary Minds: Noam Chomsky Extraordinary Minds: Yo-Yo Ma Fabulous Beekman Boys
Stanley Kubrick: Limited Edition Collection Storming Juno Streetball Supermarine Spitfire: The Pilot’s View Swamp People: Season 1 Synesthesia Toute La Verite True Blood: The Complete Third Season Undertow Upstairs Downstairs: Series Three Waiting City World War II: The War Chronicles WWE: Extreme Rules 2011 Zubin Mehta in Rehearsal
Freedom Call: Live in Hellvetia Genius of Britain Grand Canyon Serenade Green Dragon Guin Saga: Collection 2 Hawker Hurricane If I Want to Whistle I Whistle Immortal Beaver Johannes Calvin: Reformer and Man of Controversy Joy of Sharing: Leonard Bernstein in Japan Kaboom Lancaster at War Legend National Geographic: National Parks Collection Nature: Salmon – Running the Gauntlet Nightmare in Las Cruces Over Kansas City Passion Play Pay Back Phil Plait’s Bad Universe Pierre Boulez: In Rehearsal Prey Psych: The Complete Fifth Season Red Green Show: 2002 Season Red Green: The Midlife Crisis Years: Seasons 2000-2002 Revolution Rookie Blue: Season 1 Savage County Secrets of the Dead: China’s Terracotta warrior Secrets of the Dead: Lost in the Amazon Sites of he World’s Cultures: Teotihuacan – City of the Gods Sites of the World’s Cultures: Jerusalem – City Between Religions
A STUDY FINDS
TO BE THE SECOND MOST TREASURED MOTHER’S DAY GIFT* *first most treasured being the macaroni-art picture frame you made in kindergarten
DON’T LET THE LADY DOWN Hit her up with tunes from some of these ladies.
Stevie Nicks Trouble In Shangri-La
Stevie Nicks Bella Donna
K.D. Lang Ingenue
Emmylou Harris The Very Best of Emmylou Harris
$9.99 or LESS Titles and prices vary by store. More music, from ladies and not-ladies, $9.99 or less every day at indie record stores COWBELL
/music/new_releases By the Hands of the Devil The Great Mass Somewhere in the Stratosphere (CD/DVD) Wayne Shorter Introducing Wayne Shorter Sixx: A.M. This Is Gonna Hurt The Slits The John Peel Sessions Small Sins Pot Calls Kettle Black Soundtrack Camelot Soundtrack Fast Five Soundtrack Fringe: Season 2 Soundtrack Mildred Pierce Soundtrack Thor Spike God’s Hotel Spirit Potato Land Spirit Tales From the Westside Clyde Stacy Hoy Hoy Suidakra Book of Dowth Title Fight Shed Big Joe Turner Rocks Twisted Tower Dire Make It Dark Ulver War of the Roses Unholy From the Shadows Unholy Gracefallen Various Artists Bob Dylan’s Country Selection Various Artists Emerging Past Soundtrack Various Artists Fire & Fury R&B Story Various Artists No Future Various Artists Now ‘80s Hits Various Artists Now 38 Various Artists Screen Freak Various Artists Sun Ballads Various Artists The Bullet Records Story Voodoo Circle Broken Heart Syndrome Loudon Wainwright III 40 Odd Years Western Jazz Band Songs of Happiness... While Heaven Wept Fear of Infinity Wild Beasts Smother The Winchester Club Negative Liberty Winstons Color Me Father Wormrot Dirge Xerath II Lester Young The President Zen Rock and Roll Undone Rob Zombie Icon Rob Zombie Icon 2 Satan’s Host Septicflesh Shinedown
Still Looking for Answers When You Grow Up Architecture in Helsinki Moment Bends Argus Boldly Stride the Doom Artillery My Blood Beastie Boys Hot Sauce Committee Part Two Before the Dawn Deathstar Rising Big Scoob Damn Fool Blitzkid Apparitional Blut Aus Nord 777 – Sect(s) Cat’s Eyes Cat’s Eyes Chalie Boy Grind Pays Off Cheeseburger Another Big Night Down in the Drain Dick Damron More Than Countrified Alec Dankworth Spanish Accents Dark Funeral Attera Totus Sanctus Dead Rider The Raw Dents Decree Fateless Donny and Marie Donny and Marie Down Theory Invisible Empire Dredg Chuckles and Mr. Squeezy Epitaph Outside the Law Fleet Foxes Helplessness Blues Fling When the Madhouses Appear Foundation When the Smoke Clears Galactic The Other Side of Midnight Grand Pianoramax Smooth Danger Greylevel Hypostatic Union Stefan Grossman Live! Jim Hall Trio: The Complete Mick Harvey Sketches From the Book of the Dead Heavenwood Abyss Masterpiece Hellfighter Damnation’s Wing Larry Hoppen One of the Lucky Ones Izegrim Code of Consequences Wanda Jackson Let’s Have a Party Joel Jerome When Beck Was Cool The Jinxs Sun and Lightning The Jolly Boys Great Expectation Jukebox Romantics A Lion and a Guy Stan Killian Unified King King (feat. Alan…) Take My Hand King Kobra King Kobra Kool G Rap Riches, Royalty & Respect Steve Lacy Complete Whitey Leaves Eyes Meredead Lil C Purple Drank Vol. 4 Jennifer Lopez Love? Bobby Lord Everybody’s Rockin’ but Me Lucky Luciano Money Bags Barry Manilow Duets Midnattsol The Metamorphosis Melody Modern Superstar Under My Skin Music Video? If This TV Could Talk Musiq Soulchild Musiqinthemagiq Mani Neumeier Smoking the Contracts Tara Nevins Wood and Stone Niagara Niagara Stevie Nicks In Your Dreams Nine Stones Close Traces Conny Ochs Raw Love Songs Odin’s Court Human Life in Motion James Pants James Pants Poison Double Dose of Poison Jean-Luc Ponty Open Strings The Poodles Performocracy Putumayo Presents Jazz Reach Around Rodeo … Dark Days, Dark Nights Gruff Rhys Hotel Shampoo Rush Moving Pictures (CD/DVD) Sade The Ultimate Collection Samael Lux Mundi 41point9 Priscilla Ahn
Aerosmith Tough Love: Best Of The Antlers Burst Apart Anvil Juggernaut of Justice Aosoth III Ark of the Covenant Separation Balance … Composure Separation Blue October Ugly Side: An Acoustic Evening Greg Brown Freak Flag Burns & Poe Burns & Poe The Cars Door to Door The Cars Move Like This Peter Case The Case Files Catalepsy Bleed City Center Redeemer Gerald Clayton Bond: The Paris sessions Clutch Blast Tyrant: Deluxe Edition CMG The Jane of All Trades Christopher Cross Doctor Faith The Damned Machine Gun Etiquette EMA Past Life Martyred Saints The Felice Brothers Celebration, Florida Forgotten Tomb Under Saturn Retrograde Gang Gang dance Eye Contact Gardens Gardens The Gates of Slumber The Wretch Lesley Gore Hits & Rarities 1964-1969 Hate Eternal Phoenix Amongst the Ashes Warren Haynes Man in Motion Here We Go Magic The January EP Russell Hitchcock Tennessee: Nashville Sessions Hooray for Earth True Loves Hugo Old Tyme Religion Janis Ian Playlist: The Very Best Of
Jesu may 10 Ascension
Justin Broadrick is the most prolific thirtysomething indie crossover hero west of John Darnielle. From Godflesh to “metalgaze” ringleaders Jesu and a billion projects in between, he continues to rule. [Caldo Verde]
Jackie O Motherfucker Volume 1: Fig. 5 & Liberation Jesu Ascension Joan of Arc Life Like Booker T. Jones The Road From Memphis Korn The Essential Korn Le Butcherettes Sin Sin Sin Liturgy Aesthetica The Lonely Island Turtleneck & Chain Love Inks E.S.P. Man Man Life Fantastic Man Overboard The Human Highlight Reel Teena Marie Playlist: The Very Best Of Messy Marv Goon Vitamins Mexicans With Guns Ceremony Moonshine Bandits Whiskey and Women Matthew Morrison Matthew Morrison Mountains Air Museum Moving Mountains Waves Nazareth Big Dogz Necros Christos Doom of the Occult Randy Newman Randy Newman Songbook 2 November’s Doom Aphotic Okkervil River I Am very Far Original Cast Women on the Verge... Other Lives Tamer Animals Oxbow King of the Jews Walter Parks Walter Parks Christina Perri Lovestrong Polkadot Cadaver Sex Offender Sam Roberts Band Collider Pete Rock Petestrumentals Raphael Saadiq Stone Rollin’ Dan Sartain Legacy of Hospitality The Sea and Cake The Moonlight Butterfly Sleeping With Sirens Let’s Cheer to This Sloan The Double Cross Troy Sneed My Heart Says Yes Ben Sollee Inclusions Soundtrack Bridesmaids Sparks the Rescue Worst Thing I’ve Ever Been... Spearhead Theomachia Stillwell Dirtbag Johnnie Taylor Tailored in Silk Sebastien Tellier Sexuality Chris Thile & M Daves Sleep With One Eye Open This Romantic Tragedy Reborn This Will Destroy You Tunnel Blanket Town Mountain Steady Operator Tyler, the Creator Goblin Urge Overkill Rock & Roll Submarine Various Artists Nigeria 70 Sweet Times: Afro-Funk Various Artists Playlist: Very Best of ‘80s Metal Wilderness of Manitoba When You Left the Fire Johnny Winter Playlist: The Very Best Of Young Legionaire Crisis Works Zombie Escape Velocity
Anaal Nathrakh Passion Arsonists Get … Girls Motherland Atlanta Rhythm Section With All Due Respect Patti Austin Sound Advice Austral Feel It Break Black ‘N Blue Hell Yeah Black Label Society The Song Remains Not the Same A Blaylock & Redline I’m Going Back to Old Kentucky Hillary Blaze Exposure BMX Bandits C86/Star Wars Breaking Laces When You Find Out The Chariot Before There Was Atlanta, There Was Douglasville Chrome Division 3rd Round Knockout Turner Cody Gangbusters Company of Thieves Running From a Gamble Cousin Joe From New Orleans Katelynne Cox One Girl CSC Funk Band Things Are Getting Too Casual Danger Mouse/D Luppi Rome Demonaz March of the Norse Richard Dorfmeister Private Collection: G-Stone Master Series Lee Dorsey Soul Mine: Greatest Hits and More Egypt Central White Rabbit The Elected Bury Me in Rings Endstille Infection 1813 Face to Face Laugh Now… Laugh Later Finnr’s Cane Wanderlust Bela Fleck & Fleckt… Rocket Science A Forest of Stars Opportunistic Thieves of Spring (CD/DVD) A Forest of Stars The Corpse of Rebirth Rory Gallagher Notes From San Francisco Gallhammer The End Gandalf Earthsong and Stardance Marvin Gaye What’s Going On: 40th Anniversary Edition Girls in Trouble Half You Half Me Glasvegas Euphoric///Heartbreak The Go-Go’s Beauty and the Beat: 30th Anniversary Edition Gosta Berlings Saga Glue Works Michael Grimm Michael Grimm Ben Harper Give Till It’s Gone Hay Rock Follow Me Home Hazmat Modine Cicada The Head Cat Fool’s Paradise: Deluxe Ed. Hell Human Remains Levon Helm Ramble at the Ryman In Flames Sounds of a… (Deluxe Version) Infestus Ex/ist Gregory Isaacs Love Is Overdue Kidz Bop Kids Sings Monster Ballads Adam Kilker Reflections Killer Mike Pl3dge Jordan Knight Unfinished Legend The Pale Horse Let’s Wrestle Nursing Home Liquid Sound Co. Acid Music for Acid People Living With Lions Holy Shit Cheikh Lo Jamm MC Lars 21 Concepts Phil Miller Cutting Both Ways Miracle Fortress Was I the Wave? Moby Destroyed Motorhead The World Is Yours Yael Naim She Was a Boy Necrophagia Deathtrip 69 New Boyz Too Cool to Care A Nod to Bob 2 Artists’ Tribute to Bob Dylan Nosferatu Vampyres, Witches, Devils & Ghouls Owl City All Things Bright and Beautiful Parachute The Way It Was Pendragon Pure Phish Live in Utica 2010 Iggy Pop Roadkill Rising: The Bootleg Collection Pretenders Loose Screw
Degenerating Anthropophagical J. Rawls The Hip-Hop Affect Reform … Resistance The Truth Is Dangerous John Rich Rich Rocks Nader Sadek In the Flesh Scar Symmetry The Unseen Empire Seether Holding Onto Strings... Sick Puppies Tri-Polar (Deluxe) Wadada Leo Smith Heart’s reflection Soulstice In the Light Soundtrack I Am Number Four Soundtrack Pirates on Stranger Soundtrack Sharpay’s Fab Advent Soundtrack The Borgias Supremes Let Yourself Go Swimming w Dolphins Water Colours Trae 48 Hours Part 2 V8 Wankers Iron Crossroads Vampires Everywhere Kiss the Sun Goodbye Chand Vangaalen Diaper Island Various Artists All Blues’d Up: Songs of the Rolling Stones Various Artists Legit Ballaz Various Artists Marijuana Madness Various Artists Meaning in the Blues Virgin Steele Noble Savage Warrant Rockaholic The Waterboys In a Special Place The Wiggles Ukelele Baby Hank Williams III Hillbilly Joker Zao The 2nd Era Putridity
Interminable Night Total Clarity Brilliant! Tragic! The Graduation Ceremony Andasol People Changes Strange Negotiations Defender Passage Through Purgatory Book of Black Earth The Cold Testament Paul Brady Hooba Dooba Bringers of Disease Gospel of Pestilence Dennis Brown Reggae Royalty Carter’s Chord Wild Together Rosanne Cash Essential Rosanne Cash Cave In White Silence Chino Chino… The Autobiography David Crosby If I Could Only Remember My Name Darwin Deez Darwin Deez Sandra Dee Visions of Pain Dels Gob Bob Desper New Sounds Destroyer 666 To the Devil His Due Willy Deville Come a Little Closer Devolved Oblivion Dishammer Vintage Addiction Dot Dot Curve I’m Still Here Drainland And So Our Troubles Began Dynasty Truer Living With a Youthful Vengeance Ear Pwr Ear Pwr Face Candy Waste Age Teen Land Flame March Into Firelands For the Fallen Dreams Back Burner Foster the People Torches Friendly Fires Pala The Globes Future Self Good Lovelies Let the Rain Fall Haemorrhage Hospital Carnage Human Eye They Came From the Sky In Solitude The World; The Flesh: The … Inevitable End The Oculus Ipsissimus The Way of Descent Sean Jones No Need for Words The Latebirds Last of the Good Ol’ Days Lonero J.F.L. Stephen Marley Revelation Part 1 Jimbo Mathus Confederate Buddha D McKagan’s Loaded Sick The Men Leave Home Efrim Manuel Menuck Play’s High Gospel The Moaners Nocturnal Acephalix Against Me! Art Brut Joseph Arthur Ash Black Bufflo Nat Baldwin David Bazan Bird of Youth Black Tusk
Death Cab for Cutie may 31
Codes and Keys The world may never get that sophomore album from the Postal Service, but Ben Gibbard’s “other” band still confounds expectations, this time dialing down the guitars on their seventh full-length. [Atlantic]
Thurston Moore Neal Morse Motopony NKOTBSB Original Score Brad Paisley Brandon Perry Ravencult The Rods Second Sky She Wants Revenge Slynkee & Miss Lisa Smod Soundtrack
Demolished Thoughts Testimony 2 Motopony NKOTBSB The Tree of Life This Is Country Music Ark Morbid Blood Vengeance Art of Influence Valleyheart Get Blahsted Smod Kung Fu Panda 2
Athem The Extended Mind Autopsy Macabre Eternal Big L The Danger Zone Black Stone Cherry Between the Devil and... The Black Swans Don’t Blame the Stars Bleeding Fish Devil’s Ferox Blue Stone Pandora’s Box BT … Re-imagined Machines Robert Calvert Revenge/Centigrade 232 Canibus & K Murray Undergods Cheer-Accident No Ifs, ands or Dogs Coldstream Guard Pride of the Nation Death Cab for Cutie Codes and Keys Flogging Molly Speed of Darkness Gamma Ray Skeletons & Majesties Hanggai He Who Travels Far Tom Harrell The Time of the Sun Katana Heads Will Roll King Crimson Projekct A Scarcity of Miracles Jordan Knight Unfinished Les Rhinoceros Les Rhinoceros Mando Diao Give Me Fire Dave Matthews Band Live at Wrigley Field Melvins Sugar Daddy Live My Dying Bride Evinta Kelli O’Hara Always Pagan’s Mind Heavenly Ecstasy Panzerchrist Regiment Ragnarok R Pinhas & Merzbow Rhizome Pokett Three Free Trees Jill Scott Just Before Dawn Dan Seals Very Best Of Seapony Go With Me Sweatshop Union The Bill Murray EP Sweetback Sisters Looking for a Fight David Sylvian Died in the Wool James Torme Love for Sale Alex Turner Submarine Soundtrack Tommy Tutone A Long Time Ago Twisted Sister Under the Blade U.D.O. Rev-Raptor Jeremy Udden If the Past Seems So Bright The Vaccines What Did You Expect From the Vaccines? Eddie Vedder Ukelele Songs cowbell
NEW RELEASES FROM SONY PICTURES HOME ENTERTAINMENT
IN STORES MAY 10
© 2010 Django Films Illusionist Ltd, Pathé Production S.A.S. and France 3 Cinéma. All Rights Reserved. © 2011 Layout and Design Sony Pictures Home Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved.
IN STORES MAY 17
IN STORES MAY 17
The Roommate The Mechanic
© 2011 Screen Gems, Inc. All Rights Reserved. © 2011 Layout and Design Sony Pictures Home Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved.
© 2011 Layout and Design Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
LOOK & LISTEN
Rated R for sexual content including strong dialogue, and language © 2010 Europacorp. All rights reserved.
New DVDs from your favorites
ALSO ON B LU RAY
N ALSO O Y B LU R A
Bruce Springsteen Green Day Awesome As F**K
The Promise: The Making of Darkness On The Edge of Town
Bestselling Books About Music at Indie Bookstores for May ’11
n e T p T o The
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Visit IndieBound.org for more great reads and to find an indie bookstore (or other great indie business) near you.
461 OCEAN BLVD [2 CD DELUXE EDITION]
ICON [2 CD]
DISRAELI GEARS [2 CD DELUXE EDITION]
Derek & The Dominos LAYLA AND OTHER ASSORTED LOVE SONGS [2 CD DELUXE EDITION]
John Mayall BLUES BREAKERS WITH ERIC CLAPTON [REMASTERED]
Blind Faith BLIND FAITH [REMASTERED]
ERIC CLAPTON COWBELL
Two Minutes of Hate
Drug Is the Love O
n his deathbed, Charles Dickens confessed
to his friends Lady Chatterley and the Marquis de Sade that not only was Tiny Tim’s “malady” opium addiction, but the lad’s “crutch” was, indeed, a euphemism for a syringe. And with that, the great author gently closed his eyes and peacefully passed away (after suffering 12 hours of excruciating abdominal pain and agonizing bowel movements, following which he scrawled the cryptic message “I did it all for Johnny” on his sheets in his own feces).* The point is that drug usage has been part of our artistic culture for as long as even people who don’t get high can remember. And yet, today, almost no musicians admit to taking drugs, let alone actually write any songs about drugs. And that’s a shame, because, to paraphrase Harry Lime: Less than a decade of indulgence gave us the Velvet Underground, the Rolling Stones and the Fuggs. While 30 years of “Just Say No” culture has resulted in Contempo* All facts about rary Christian Rock and Justin Bieber. the life of Charles Am I implying that young musicians Dickens have should take drugs? Certainly not! I’m simply been taken from saying that young musicians should take the Wikipedia. RIGHT drugs. Heroin, for example, will turn you into a lazy slob who lives on your parents’ sofa and rips off all your friends. If you’re a musician, this most likely already describes your lifestyle, so you don’t need to incur the extra expense of a habit. Cocaine and marijuana were pretty much the catalysts behind most of the musical merde that more or less summed up the ’70s. Weed gave duckfuckers like the Eagles the inspiration to crank out drivel like “Hotel California,” and blow gave them the ability to stay up all night and record it. So, now that we have an idea what drugs you shouldn’t take, here are a few substances you might want to try:
PCP (Street names include “Dust,” “Boat” and “Mommy, My Eye-
balls Are on Fire”): This is obviously a lukewarm recommendation, as odds are that if you smoke a lacy, you’ll spend very little time in the studio strumming your guitar and a majority of your day naked and waving a machete at passersby. That said, can you think of one rock ’n’ roll biopic that wouldn’t have been greatly improved by having the protagonist dusted out of his or her skull? Wouldn’t The Buddy Holly Story have been much better if it had included a subplot in which Buddy and the Crickets stripped down and fought a dozen cops? If I’ve learned anything from watching countless hours of VH1, it’s that Gary Busey could’ve pulled that scene off in his sleep… or, at the very least, a sort of trance-like state.
Caffeine According to those “Coffee Achiever” ads which ran back in the ’80s, this is David Bowie’s drug of choice. If it’s good enough for the Thin White—and presumably jittery— Duke, it’s sure-as-shittin’ good enough for the rest of us.
Cigarettes Sweet mutha of fuck, tobacco is poised to make a
comeback as a “cool” drug. Why? Because it’s currently seen as the most dangerous drug on the planet. Shit, Luther, if you tie off and shoot up in front of a group of kindergarteners, you’re likely to hear, “Oh, that poor individual has a problem; we need to get them help”, but ignite ol’ Joe Camel within a hundred blocks of a school and people will drive in from out-of-state for a chance to give you a Rodney King-style asswhupping.
Human Pituitary Gland Because getting high on it
might cause someone to write the following lyrics: “Mom and Dad just don’t understand / Why I’ve got to chew the gland.”
Blotter Porn Technically, this drug doesn’t exist yet. I just
thought it up after drinking six cups of coffee and repeatedly listening to Bowie’s Low. Basically, it’s tiny dirty pictures scanned onto blotter acid. (Admit it: You’re dying to hear some stoner say, “Dude, Sasha Grey is inside my head.”) It’s the perfect combo of drugs and porn. Two things—unlike, say, guns and superstition—our society currently frowns upon.
Rodney Anonymous is the singer for Philadelphia punk rock
legends the Dead Milkmen (though not the guy singing on “Punk Rock Girl”), the hurdy-gurdyist for 25 Cromwell Street and the guy behind the Philadelphia City Paper’s world music column, “Aid or Invade.” He tells you how to live at rodneyanonymous.com. illustration by jim tierney
BOWLING FOR SOUP
FISHING FOR WOOS
CHUCKLES AND MR. SQUEEZY
MOVE LIKE THIS
BUILD A ROCKET BOYS!
THE BELLE BRIGADE
COMPANY OF THIEVES
A PERFECT DAY
THE BELLE BRIGADE
RUNNING FROM A GAMBLE
THE CIVIL WARS
THE DEFAMATION OF STRICKLAND BANKS
indie record stores in your own backyard
Hereâ€™s where to find a local retailer that carries the MonitorThis! Sampler and even more treats!
Silver Platters Seattl e
Gallery of Sound
r i c h m ond, va
Toronto, On tario
Maine, N e w H a mpsh ire
Salt Lak e City
CD Warehouse Ot tawa , O n tar io
Independent Records Col orado
The Sound Garden Syracuse & baltimore
Monster Music & Video
Sac r amento
Ch arl eston , SC
The Exclusive Company
Zia Record Exchange
San F rancisco & berk el ey
Ariz ona & Las Vegas, NV
wi s c o nsin
Vintage Vinyl fords, nj
For a complete locations list, special offers and more, visit www.monitorthis.com 4
Published on Apr 26, 2011
"This is Not an Indie Rock Magazine." Cowbell Magazine features Mike Birbiglia, LCD Soundsystem, The Sea and Cake, Nick Cave, Man Man, Art B...