New Titus Andronicus: ‘Local Business’

High expectations – they’re dangerous.

I first heard Titus Andronicus on a jog around the neighborhood in March 2011, a few months after they released their 2nd full length, The Monitor. Halfway through the opener, “A More Perfect Union,” I was all systems go, hair standing on end. It was exhilarating (as was their live show a month later). The album was rich with imagery, rage, a continuity and flow from song to song, an abundance of fist-to-the-air-moments, and a full production sound.

So maybe I can be partly blamed for the high expectations I brought to the table today when I tapped “Play” on T.A.’s new release, Local Business. I strapped on the earbuds and the running shoes and embarked on that familiar jog around the neighborhood, ready for that feeling, that Red Bull-will-give-you-Wings rush that music can provide…

Wasn’t happening.

Granted, the opening trio of songs – “Ecce Homo,” “Still Life With Hot Deuce on Silver Platter,” and “Upon Viewing Oregon’s Landscape With Flood of Detritus” – are solid rockers with that familiar angst and anger, a specialty of frontman Patrick Stickles. They’re good, and they very well may grow on me, but where The Monitor had that epic, fulfilling feel to it, Local Business has a garage-y, rushed quality to it.  And, a lot like the (disappointing) album cover, the record’s production sound seems a lot more Do It Yourself and lower quality than the two previous releases.

I know it’s not really fair of me to rush to the web on the first day of its release to spit out my less than favorable judgment. But dammit, I was expecting more! They captured lightning in a bottle on The Monitor, and I know Stickles has it in him to go to that level again. On first listen, Local Business doesn’t come close.

→ Local Business on Amazon.

→ Titus Andronicus Web Site

Here’s “Still Life with Hot Deuce on Silver Platter” at Shayz Lounge in Brooklyn. See all Local Business Sessions at locations around Brooklyn here on Pitchfork.

New Gaslight Anthem: “45”

Photo by Tony Cano

I’ll be honest, The Gaslight Anthem‘s last record, American Slang, didn’t do a whole lot for me. After being knocked out by their preceding album, 2008’s The ’59 Sound (the title track and “Here’s Looking At You, Kid” being two of my favorites), Slang just seemed to lack that spark, that connection and excitement I felt with ’59.

With their brand new single, “45”, Brian Fallon and the boys are clearly back in that hard-driving ’59 frame of mind.

The single comes from Handwritten, TGA‘s new album due out on June 24th. The album is produced by Brendan O’Brien, who we Springsteen fans are well aware of (he produced The Rising, Magic, and Working On A Dream), but who has also produced the likes of Pearl Jam, Incubus, Mastodon, and Trey Anastasio (and a whole lot more).

It should be an entertaining listen, and I look forward to checking it out – and of course I hope TGA are returning to my neck of the woods on tour. The albums are one thing, but their live shows take their songs up in the stratosphere.

The Modfather’s Mid-Life Renaissance

For me, music begins with John Lennon. The very first step after that is Paul Weller.

And it’s always been that way.

Ever since I heard Sound Affects by The Jam back in 1981, Paul Weller has taken me on where no other artist (save John, of course) has really taken me. A few come close…Todd Rundgren…Joe Jackson…U2…Oasis…but none really compare to Weller simply because his mark on the music world has been so exciting and diverse. The Jam were punk, soul, and absolutely fun pop with a few ballads thrown in for seasoning. The Style Council were smooth jazz, cafe chic, solid R&B, symphonic pastorals, and house music before there was such a thing.

His solo career began with acid jazz and then segued into hippie soul, power trio bombast, and psychedelia. His last record, Wake Up The Nation, charted even newer (and older) territory that completely took the UK music scene by storm. Bruce Foxton, former bass player for The Jam, even played on the punked up track, “Fast Car-Slow Traffic.” Praises were showered over him and the word was that he was moving beyond his moniker, The Modfather, and into God Like Genius mode.

With his latest release, Sonik Kicks, there is no doubt that he has arrived to lord over us from musical heaven. This 14 track album (16 if you spring for the Deluxe Edition) is simply magnificent. I’d use the phrase “tour de force” but that would be paltry in illustrating how truly amazing this fucking record is by the man who has been the soundtrack to my life of for the last 30 years.

With a nod to Kraut Rock, the album opens with “Green,” an explosion of aural delight that sends one’s heart racing directly into the matrix. “The Attic” is next with its wistful nostalgia. “Kling I Klang” could easily be on All Mod Cons or Setting Sons. “Sleep of the Serene,” a trippy instrumental, dovetails nicely with the acoustic beauty of “By The Waters.” On these last two tracks, Weller seems to be going back to the VERY under-appreciated Style Council record, Confessions of a Pop Group. “That Dangerous Age,” is the first single from the album, is next and laments the trials of being a parent to teenagers.

At this point I was already in love with the record and wasn’t fully prepared when the next track took it up another notch. “Study in Blue” completely blew me away. It could easily be on any Style Council album with its smooth cafe sound. And me, being the hopeless romantic, was completely sucked in to the abundance of amore that spills out on this track.  Having his wife Hannah sing on the track was simply brilliant as her voice adds to the perfect and never changing mood.

“Dragonfly” and “Around the Lake” are more tracks that sounds Jam-ish (The Gift era, towards the end), each with a dash of macabre thrown in. “When You’re Garden’s Overgrown” brings us back to Kraut Rock but with that signature Weller melody and refrain. This is my second favorite track on the album as Weller takes a page lyrically from the biting commentary of Dylan’s Blood on the Tracks. The link track “Twilight” steams ahead nicely into “Drifters” sonic and aural panorama. Listening to the latter track, one is simply stunned at how fresh Weller sounds. “Paperchase” reminds me of Berlin era Bowie.

The album proper closes with a loving message to his ever growing brood of kids, “Be Happy Children.” An upbeat message for all of us, really, Weller indeed sounds happier than he ever has and why not? His music is more relevant, wonderful, and, indeed, more innovative than ever!

The Deluxe Edition contains the single from last year, “Starlite,” which is devastatingly gorgeous and “Devotion,” an acoustic rock jaunt that will put a smile on your face. I highly recommend plunking down the extra greenbacks and getting it.

Here’s my favorite track from the album, “Study in Blue.”

http://youtu.be/gK3kc63xKXQ

It’s Good to Leave Home

If you find yourself with an extra half hour today, you should really listen to the Ramones 2nd album, 1977’s Leave Home. I’ve been getting back in the swing of things after more than two weeks of vacation, and yesterday, in the midst of catching up with my backed up work email, I stepped back, took a deep breath, turned up the speakers, and cranked Leave Home.

“Glad To See You Go”, “Suzy Is A Headbanger”, “California Sun”, “Pinhead”, “You’re Gonna Kill That Girl”, and my album favorite – “Gimmie Gimmie Shock Treatment”… a therapeutic tour de force of headbanging rock n’ roll NY punk.

It does the body good.


Leave Home on Rdio / Amazon / Spotify

If you can’t spare half an hour, surely you can spare a minute and 35 seconds?

“I was feeling SICK, losing my mind, heard about this treatment by a friend of mine…”

Remembering Joe Strummer / Live Clash from Jamaica

Today marks the seventh anniversary of Joe Strummer‘s untimely death at the age of 50 (due to a heart defect). To mark the occasion, and to celebrate the legend – born John Graham Mellor in Ankara, Turkey – here’s a nice boot from the Clash at the height of their popularity.

Touring behind their hit album Combat Rock, the tour took them through Montego Bay, Jamaica for the Jamaican World Music Festival. The Grateful Dead had headlined the night before, and this night, it was the Clash’s turn.

According to the Clash resource Black Market Clash, the “Bob Marley Centre” was nothing more than an immense gravel parking lot with a stage at one end. Earlier acts of the evening included Rick James, Jimmy Buffett, the English Beat, and Bob Weir’s band, Bobby and the Midnites. By the time the Clash came on, it was closing in on dawn.

So enjoy the show, and pass it on to those snot-nosed shits who think they know music, but can’t tell you who Joe Strummer is.

Rest in Peace Joe…

The Clash at the Jamaican World Music Festival (download)
Bob Marley Centre – Montego Bay, JA
November 27, 1982

Introduction
London Calling
Police on My Back
The Guns of Brixton
Magnificent 7
Armagideon Time
The Magnificent 7
Junco Partner
Spanish Bombs
One More Time
Train In Vain
Bankrobber
This is Radio Clash
Clampdown
Should I Stay or Should I Go
Rock the Casbah
Straight to Hell
I Fought the Law

My Night With The Pogues (@ the Marquee Theater)

Check another one off of my bucket list – I have now seen the Pogues.

Last night’s show at the Marquee Theater in Tempe was their first stop in Arizona. Ever. And it was my first chance to catch a band I’ve long admired – a legendary British band masterfully playing Irish folk music since 1982. A band fronted for most of their years by the notoriously erratic and often [always?] inebriated Shane MacGowan.

This was the 7th show of a relatively short swing across the West and central U.S., and reports in from their Los Angeles show a few nights ago had me reconsidering the steep $60 ticket price. Shane wasn’t in great shape at the Nokia Theater – stumbling and fumbling around, falling down multiple times; at one point finishing a song lying on his back.

But Shane is like that box of chocolates – you never know what you’re gonna get. He has his good days and his bad days, and I wasn’t about to miss the chance to see these legends.

After a couple pints of Guinness at my old haunt, Casey Moore’s Oyster House (I lived around the corner for five years back in my single days) – it was off to the Marquee Theater across the Mill Avenue bridge.

It was a little after 10pm when the band sauntered on  stage to the sounds of the Clash’s “Straight to Hell” on the PA. 10-15 seconds after his bandmates came out (just enough time for the crowd to think “Uh oh” to themselves), Shane MacGowan – drink and cigarette in hand – shuffled out to center stage in a seasoned drunkard’s stagger.

Then the opening notes of “Sally Maclennane” kicked in, and there was no looking back. My friend Todd and I spent the show front and center, just on the outer edge of the drunken mosh pit that would vary in intensity throughout the evening (but was never still). Even during songs like “Dirty Old Town” and “Rainy Night In Soho”, there were at least a few testosterone-laced brutes jostling around.

As the show progressed, a pattern began to take shape: a couple songs with Shane, and one without – while Shane took a breather side stage (I assume). But like clockwork, Shane would make his way back to center stage, grab the mic in his signature style, and sing the great songs of the Pogues. Unlike his earlier shows in San Diego and L.A., he stood the entire time. It seems funny to be thankful that an artist you paid $60 to see was able to simply stand for a whole show. But this is Shane MacGowan we’re talking about. I’d be interested to know if Shane has ever been sober for a performance.

Clearly it was one of Shane’s “good” nights. Maybe it was the Arizona sunshine at the Biltmore luxury resort, where the Pogues stayed; or maybe it was the U2 concert in Glendale the night before, where Shane was in attendance, and prompted a shout out from Bono himself (and a segue into “Dirty Old Town”). Maybe the U2 show inspired Shane to pull it together for his fans.

Whatever forces of nature were in place, it resulted in over 90 minutes of unbridled Irish-inspired joy and revelry. The crowd – old and young alike – swayed, danced, and most notably, smiled. This was one of those live music experiences where time stood still. Before I knew it, the final song,”Fiesta”, was playing, Spider Stacy was smashing a pizza pan against his forehead, and Shane was leading the crowd in a singalong:

“Come all you rambling boys of pleasure / And ladies of easy leisure / We must say Adios! until we see Almeria once again”.

And then it was over.

I may never see the Pogues again. God willing, Shane MacGowan will continue to defy all odds behind his self destructive behavior, and he will continue to front this amazing band. But I thank the Music Gods I had an opportunity to experience the spirited majesty of a Pogues show.

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On Twitter: well, people do read the Twitter ramblings of @ickmusic! Check out this Phoenix New Times article.

On Youtube: 1123Mozart captured this great quality video of “Rainy Night in Soho”..

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Set ListMarquee Theatre – Tempe, Arizona – 10/21/2009

Sally Maclennane
Streams of Whiskey
If I Should Fall From Grace With God
The Broad Majestic Shannon
Young Ned Of The Hill
White City
A Pair of Brown Eyes
Tuesday Morning
Transmetropolitan
Kitty
Sunnyside of the Street
Repeal of the Licensing Laws
Body of an American
Old Main Drag
Thousands are Sailing
Dirty Old Town
Bottle of Smoke
The Sick Bed of Cuchulain

Star of the County Down
Rainy Night in Soho
Irish Rover

Paddy on the Railway
Fiesta

Ick’s Pick: Laughin’ and Cryin’ with the Reverend Horton Heat

Jim Heath and his power psychobilly trio Reverend Horton Heat are like the damn Energizer bunnies of rock & roll – they keep on a goin’. It wouldn’t surprise if they’re out on the road 300 days out of the year. And this has been going on for 20 years… I’ve seen ’em many times, and it’s always an experience.

The Rev’s 11th studio album, Laughin’ and Cryin’ with the Reverend Horton Heat was released just a few weeks ago, along with its unsettling cover (especially for you coulrophobics out there… yeah, had to look it up). The new record is stocked full of the types of tunes and lyrics that endear him to his cult following. Songs about drinkin’ and cigarettes, Vegas, using his growing belly as a beer holder…even an ode to Arizona’s Saguaro cactus.

With Jimbo slapping hard on his stand-up bass, and the Rev pickin’ mean on his Gretsch, the album gives us high dosages of rockabilly, punk, and the ever-present humor. A case in point found in this tune, featuring the standout line: “His dirty feet might dangle like it’s [??] / But it’s not a grocery basket if there’s booze inside”. Kudos to whoever can nail those missing lyrics there…

Reverend Horton Heat – Please Don’t Take the Baby to the Liquor Store (mp3)

Buy Laughin’ and Cryin’ with Reverend Horton Heat

Links: Official Site | MySpace

Oh hell, if you haven’t heard “400 Bucks”, then you need to… this song is the best part about seeing the Rev live, in my humble opinion.

Reverend Horton Heat – 400 Bucks (mp3)

From the still amazing 1993 album, The Full Custom Gospel Sounds of the Reverend Horton Heat

Dananananaykroyd

Photo by Lucy Johnston

Seriously. Do you think I’m going to come across a band named Dananananaykroyd and not share it with you? Don’t even think twice.

The guys are from Glasgow, Scotland. They have a pretty hard/post-punk edge to them, and have been compared to Los Campesinos. Another unique feature along with their name is that they have two drummers bangin’ away. Nice.

I just downloaded a few from their full length debut, Hey Everyone, off eMusic – and this one immediately caught my ear. Turn this one up LOUD, folks…

Hear: Pink Sabbath (mp3)

Buy Hey Everyone on the Banquet Records site or  Dananananaykroyd - Hey Everyone

Visit: Dananananaykroyd on MySpace

All You Gods and Goddesses: Bloc Party @ First Avenue

Bloc Party
May 4th, 2009
First Avenue, Minneapolis

“Hello, Minneapolis! We almost didn’t make it.”

Kele Okereke shouted this from the stage last night from First Avenue right after they finished their opening number, “One Month Off” from their new album Intimacy. One month off indeed. Bloc Party was originally scheduled to play 1st Ave on March 30th in what was to be the kick off for my six date Brit Rock Spring Wank with gentle ball cupping (Keane and Doves still to come). When they canceled due to Kele losing his voice, I checked their tour schedule to see if they could swing back through at a later time. I saw several dates in Canada and since we are basically part of that country, I thought it still could happen.

It did.

And it was bloody marvelous.

Right off the bat one could see that the boys in the band felt bad for missing us on the original date. Kele promised a thunderous AND extended set. They fucking delivered playing nearly all of their new album and several tracks from their first two albums. Since I missed them the first and only other time they came through in 2005, it was great to hear them play “Blue Light”, “Like Eating Glass” and “Positive Tension” from Silent Alarm; and “Flux” from A Weekend in the City really got the pit swaying around.

In addition to fantastic performances of “Mercury”, “Ares” and “The Prayer”, Kele and the rest of the lads charmed the crowd… carrying on conversations with people in the audience, flirting with girls (natch!) and chastising people for walking out during the encore which saw “She’s Hearing Voices” tacked on just for us Minneapolitans.

This last bit prompted Kele to say, “Alright, that’s it! I’m coming out there.” And he did…gloriously allowing all of us to body pass him around the pit and eventually to stage left where he proceeded to run up the steps to the upper level! He paused  on the area of the steps that has always been known to elicit cries from staff saying, “You can’t stand here, dude!” Well, he not only stood there, but found a woman to dance with – continuing to run around all areas of the club with the roadie following behind him, frantically trying to give him more slack on the mic cable.

Sure I would’ve liked to hear “Biko” from the new record and my fave Bloc Party tune “Tulips” (a shiver and a sigh), but the energy from the band and the crowd more than made up for it. Sadly, this is the last North American show for Bloc Party. They are off to Europe though, so all you Ickmusic readers there should go to see them. It will be a corker!

Links: Bloc Party’s Official Site | MySpace

Buy their latest: Intimacy

Ick’s Pick (Week X): Cursive – ‘Mama, I’m Swollen’

This week I thought I’d adventure off to unfamiliar territory again. I just couldn’t get myself all geeked up to listen to the new Kelly Clarkson or Chris Cornell / Timbaland over and over. So I decided on Omaha’s Cursive, mostly because of their label, Saddle Creek, which was founded by Conor Oberst.

I can affirm, after a few listens, that:

  1. Cursive do indeed rock. And…
  2. Their drummer’s name is Cornbread Compton. That’s reason enough to buy this album as far as I’m concerned.

The album kicks off with “In the Now”, featuring a feedback/effects laden intro, and launching into the repeated chorus “Don’t wanna live in the now / don’t wanna know what I know”; followed up later with “So history repeats / ‘cause present won’t repent”. It’s short, simple and ferocious, like a lot of moments on this record. I find it pretty cathartic myself.

“From the Hips”, which the band kindly offers up gratis on their web site, starts off slow, before singer/guitarist Tim Kasher’s squealing “right?!” brings in the up tempo, double beat madness.

“I Couldn’t Love You” has Kasher channeling his inner Robert Smith – which makes sense – Cursive was picked by the Cure to open for them on their 2004 tour.

You won’t believe how soft and pleasant they can make a song called “We’re Going To Hell”. But there’s also an underlying doom and creepiness. The song has sort of a Pixies-like vibe going on too.

And the boys get downright evil on “Mama, I’m Satan”:

I’m writing out a confession
My fathers and brothers
Raped your sisters and mothers
We are the sons of butchers
All in all we’re pawns
The darkness of mankind stirs in us all

Songs like “Mama, I’m Satan”, “Let Me Up”, and “Mama, I’m Swollen” – and really the feel of the record – take the listener into the darkness – some ugly fugly places. I feel like taking a shower and finding a church, and I’m not even that religious. Holy smokes…

For those looking for some quality power-indie-post-punk, and aren’t afraid to step into the shadows for a while, this album fits the bill.

Buy Mama, I’m Swollen

Links: Official Site | MySpace (be sure to listen to “Dorothy at Forty” – one of the rockin-est grooves I’ve ever heard) | Last.fm