Steve Wilson. On music.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Reverberations: Rambles, Rants, and Raves (05-05-2015)

Everyday I listen to music. And think about music. Today I was listening to the Real Kids, specifically their eponymous debut album on Red Star, a label started by Marty Thau. Marty was a good egg. Got to know him a little by correspondence toward the end of his life. Let's put it this way, he managed the New York Dolls and started a label that introduced the Real Kids and Suicide to the world outside the Northeastern United States. The fucking Sam Philips of St. Mark's Place, I tell ya.

That Real Kids album is a masterpiece. John Felice is a true believer in rock 'n' roll - as form, process and heart. His Real Kids were not exactly original. With every stud showing, you could see the materials from which they built their church. But it was in the mixing and personalizing of these materials that Felice and crew put their own stamp on the music they love. "All Kindsa Girls" - there are few better rock songs - a lot of Chuck Berry, a wad of Beatlegum, those heart tugging strains teased from Them's "Brown Eyed Girl" on the coda. Whether it was instinct or craft, it was surely inspiration, the inspiration of a kid (Felice) for whom Rock 'n' Roll was a way of life, not just an entertainment.



"Reggae Reggae" gives Felice a second opportunity on the record to diss homosexuals ("she thinks I'm a fag") to complement "the guys are all faggots" from "Do the Boob." So, no - political awareness wasn't John's strong suit. Appalling? Sure. But in the context of Boston-rock in the Seventies not to be wholly unanticipated from a working class Italian kid with fucked up teeth. The guitar sounds on "Reggae Reggae" are so great you just don't care, anyway. A weaving groove of Velvets (think "Foggy Notion") and Paul Revere (early, garage-y), the track is powered by drummer Howie Ferguson's uncanny, unconscious blend of Mo and Ringo. It's tribal, a clarion hip-shaker. The lyrics are ridiculous. What the fuck does it have to do with the Jamaican musical idiom, reggae? Fuck-all as far as I can tell. Apparently it's a - dance? But ultimately it's about drive and thrust, and the 'text' don't mean shit. When the words ("Reggae Reggae") are sung with such exhilaration it sounds revolutionary, just because joy and release always sound like liberation.



Oh, I was listening to The Magic Whip, Blur's reunion album. Am I wrong or is Britt Daniel
from Spoon's whole mid-Atlantic combination of clipped Anglo-diction and marble-mouth booze slur copped from Damon Albarn?



Have a great tomorrow.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Reverberations' Picks for Best of 2014, Blurt magazine and Blurt online




Well, well, well - It's been a long time. Maybe someday we'll talk about the reasons for the hiatus.
Or not.

Anyway, I did get off the couch long enough to muster up a top 10 for my friend Fred Mills at Blurt to kiss 2014 goodbye. A link to my list, and everyone else's, is immediately below.

http://blurtonline.com/feature/revenge-writers-blurts-best-worst-2014/

And further below that is my part of the "Writer's Revenge" feature excerpted for your quick digestion.

These are all good records. I don't regret my choices. But I probably do regret no including some other titles, chiefly the Reigning Sound's Shattered.


*****************************************
STEVE WILSON
2014 Albums
Benjamin Booker – s/t (ATO) Reverend Gary Davis and the Velvet Underground not only co-exist, they jam in Booker’s music. The production is field song-punk verite, all rock salt and grime. The songs are sturdy and roiling from the soul. – Booker’s guitar a punk-metallic force, his vocals like Ted Hawkins singing with the Pixies.


Sloan – Commonwealth (Yep Roc) Their eleventh album finds the Canadian quartet giving a “side” to each of the four musicians. While their individual proclivities and qualities emerge, it’s clearly Sloan – the best pop band in the world (since Super Furry Animals, who contested the crown, are no more).

Vashti Bunyan – Heartleap (Fat Cat) It took her 35 years to record a sophomore album, after releasing the (eventually) influential sleeperAnother Diamond DayLookaftering was a lovely song suite with gorgeous arrangements from composer Max Richter. Heartleap follows Lookafteringby a mere nine years. A self-produced affair, recorded privately and quietly for private, quiet listening.

Felice Brothers – Favorite Waitress (Dualtone) The studious, earnest “New Basement Tapes” have their moments, but the Felices are closer to the loose, ragged spirit of the original “Basement Tapes,” and a lot more fun.

Ex-hex – Rips (Merge) From Helium’s density, to Wild Flag’s super-woman jam rock to this – Mary Timony’s new band delivers a straight up pop-punk album. Just when Timony’s vocals start to sound a little too Smith College she flashes signs of Patti Smith inspiration, and her Thunders-esque guitar, plus the drumming of Laura Harris, keeps the music rocking.

Parquet Courts – Sunbathing Animal (What’s Your Rupture) Pavement – blah, blah, blah. But Parquet Courts reflect the Monochrome Set, Richard Hell, and the Embarrassment, too. On this, their deepest and rangiest album, Parquet Courts rock dirtier, harder and more driven than Malkmus and company ever did.

Lykke Li – I Never Learn (LL/Atlantic) Lykke Li follows her breakthrough,Wounded Rhymes, with a record, despite a few pop moments, that is a slower, darker and more exposed set of songs. Like some Piaf for a new age, her songs of heartbreak and defiance thrill and charm.

Ty Segall – Manipulator (Drag City) Ty Segall, a modern garage-pop Bach, is often too prolific for his own good. Manipulator, though, hits (mostly) on all cylinders and reveals many layers of the artist’s talents. Just enough hooks, just enough irreverent smack.

War on Drugs – Lost in the Dream (Secretly Canadian) Before I got lazy and preoccupied with life I wrote this for Blurt (but now I’m back!):http://blurtonline.com/review/war-drugs-lost-dream/

Real Kids – Shake … Outta Control (Ace of Hearts) It’s an admittedly sentimental pick. A little jerry-built, all studs showing – it won’t make anyone forget their iconic debut from 1977. But as his work with the Devotions demonstrated, Shake proves that John Felice is still rocking.

Archival/Reissues
 Velvet Underground – s/t 45th Anniversary Deluxe edition. (Polydor) The Val Valentin mix, the mono mix, the “Closet Mix” (Lou’s vocals forward, instruments panned hard right and left) – all gathered together in one place. The quality of the two-discs of live material from the Matrix in San Francisco is remarkable; and so is the playing – loose, spirited, Lou and Sterling in guitar hero mode.

*************************************

Friday, June 20, 2014

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Lydia Loveless - Somewhere Else (Bloodshot Records) - courtesy blurtonline.com


Blurt (blurtonline.com) just posted my review of Somewhere Else, the latest Bloodshot release from Lydia Loveless. Click the link below to read the review, eh? ...


http://blurtonline.com/review/lydia-loveless-somewhere-else/

Thanks for visiting Reverberations, and for clicking through to Blurt.




Also, enjoy this video clip of "I Really Want to See You Again."

Thursday, May 15, 2014

THE DANDY WARHOLS/KANSAS CITY/RIOT ROOM/FRIDAY, MAY 9TH (Show opened by the Warlocks)


The posted capacity of Kansas City’s Riot Room is 240.

In the early days of the new century Portland’s Dandy Warhols looked like the last of the rock stars. Their best record, Thirteen Tales from Urban Bohemia (2000), earned critical plaudits and scored a hit of sorts with “Bohemian Like You,” while its successor, Welcome to the Monkey House, further expanded their audience.

The underground success of the 2004 documentary Dig, an unsparing look at the love/hate relationship between the band and their mentor-antagonists The Brian Jonestown Massacre, narrated by the Warhol’s singer Courtney Taylor-Taylor, also increased the band’s profile.

Since then the band has been marginalized by critics and seen its audience contract some. Earlier trips to the area included stops at larger venues like Lawrence’s Granada Theater and Liberty Hall.

Still, the audience that packed the Riot Room on Friday night was enthusiastic and receptive. Live, the Warhols continue to pack a punch. Their performance on Friday night was tight, at once driving and relaxed. Built from the pieces of 1968’s ultimate jam – equal parts Velvet Underground, “Satanic Majesties” Stones, and early Syd Barrett vintage Pink Floyd, and super modified by jolts of everything from Hawkwind and Spacemen 3 to Chic, the group’s seductive grooves and pop built tunes hold up well.

Most of those in attendance were clearly fans, singing along and dancing, which took commitment since the club felt like a stuffed phone booth inside of a sauna. Front man Courtney Taylor-Taylor made frequent references to “freezing.” The Dandy Warhols have always oozed irony, so go figure.

He also flattered the Kansas City audience as he noted the positive response to their cover of a Desmond Dekker song (“Intensified”), suggesting that previous dates on the tours had featured less astute fans.

Dekker’s “Intensified “ was good fun - not exactly ska, but certainly a nice change of pace from the band’s sparkling drone. Audience favorites from Monkey House, like “We Used to be Friends” kept the energy level high, but the fans saved their full rock out fervor for the trio of songs from Thirteen Tales, that climaxed the show - the band’s best-known song, the Stones-inspired “Bohemian Like You,” drawing the most enthusiastic reaction.

Zia McCabe’s keyboard playing is both bed of drone and chief instrumental voice. Taylor-Taylor and lead guitarist Peter Hellstrom, the band’s founders in 1994, lock in to a distinctive psych-groove with drummer Brent DeBoer, who in addition to driving the band is Taylor-Taylor’s chief harmony foil.

The band’s set list called for more songs than the band ultimately performed, the magisterial “Godless,” and “Boys Better,” an early favorite from the Dandy Warhols Come Down were omitted. I guess Mr. Taylor-Taylor really was freezing. The band played “Get Off” and did not return.

San Francisco’s Warlocks, veterans trafficking in Warhols-complementary garage-psych and bluesy shoegaze, opened the show. The band was tight, assured and well received by the audience.


This review was intended for the Kansas City Star's Back to Rockville blog. Traffic issues intervened. Sad to see good writing go to waste. So, here it is ... Reverberations-ized.


Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Ran Blake - Plays Solo Piano (ESP-disk) - courtesy of blurtonline.com


The linked review is of Plays Solo Piano, the 1965 solo debut of the remarkable jazz pianist Ran Blake.

Fred, my editor, gave me the green light. The nice folks at ESP Records sent me the disc. I listened, enjoyed, ruminated, and then wrote. I've long been a fan of Ran Blake, and it gives me great pleasure to promote his music. Here's the link:

http://blurtonline.com/feature/man-keys-ran-blake/





The video below is not from Plays Solo Piano, but it gives you a taste of Blake's singular work.



Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Excavations/Magnetic Fields - Realism (Nonesuch)

EXCAVATIONS*

Magnetic Fields – Realism (Nonesuch)
By my count, “Realism” is the ninth record from the Magnetic Fields, an ensemble that’s essentially a vehicle for the songwriter Stephin Merritt. Merritt is a busy guy, sitting around in gay bars writing songs all day. Hey, that’s what he says. He sure is prolific. Between Magnetic Fields, The Gothic Archies, the 6ths, and Future Bible Heroes, heck, he barely has time to eat, although he is fond of Scandinavian dairy products. But I digress.

Glad to be unhappy (Rodgers-Hart reference – Merritt would like that), Mr. Merritt lives in a world of melody and wit. And by golly if you relish such qualities Magnetic Fields is for you. Having made his masterpiece, the sprawling “69 Love Songs” in 1999, Merritt amuses himself with varying the sonic textures of his work — he's completely abandoned the synth-pop that established his work. The Magnetic Fields' last record, “Distortion,” lived up to its name, avowedly something of a tribute to the Jesus and Mary Chain (although Merritt is capable of the glibly facetious), the song craft was still pure Merritt. “Realism” dials back the decibels, eschewing electric instrumentation almost entirely and employing diverse instrumentation (how about flugelhorn, Cajon, accordion, banjo, etc.) well beyond the usual folkie palette. Both, the volume dial-back and the acoustic instrumentation are perfect for these hurt, bitter, but oddly blithe songs.

One could spend the day quoting from Merritt’s dour, witty songs. I shan’t. Vaguely comparable: Stuart Murdoch’s writing for Belle & Sebastian and God Help the Girl, although Murdoch is a sad humanist and Merritt is a borderline misanthrope — albeit a lovable one. Neil Hannon’s work with the Divine Comedy has a kinship with Merritt’s, but Hannon is a morally ambivalent European flatterer while Merritt is something of a New England scold for all his love of personal liberty. What else can you call the author of a jolly, but scathing putdown like “You Must Be Out of Your Mind?” It’s hard to imagine any other contemporary songwriter producing a Rudy Valli-like, Twenties homage/parody with the nod and a wink ambivalence of “Seduced and Abandoned” — Randy Newman, maybe?

Finally, Stephin Merritt is a post-rock Stephen Sondheim in search of a new Broadway, perhaps a Broadway for smarter people, indeed smarter people than those who typically support Broadway. Such is his dilemma. He’s too blisteringly direct for polite set. And he’s too literate for ninety-percent of, well, college rockers. The gentleman sure has a way with words and tunes, though, and a lovely, refined recital like “Realism” makes a fine case for his art.




EXCAVATIONS = I've written forever. Well before Reverberations entered the blogosphere. WithEXCAVATIONS, we'll occasionally feature some of my work from the vaults. Some pieces will be dashed off reviews for use at Kief's Downtown Music, others will have been from periodicals like the Kansas City Star, The Tornado, The Kansas City Free Press, or others. The intent? It's simple, to give Reverberations readers a look at some older writings, and to plug some records that still sound fine to these ears.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Excavations/Max Richter - 24 Postcards in Full Colour (Fat Cat)

EXCAVATIONS*

Max Richter - 24 Postcards in Full Color 
A collection of (mostly) short pieces (the composer jokingly refers to them as 'ringtones'). There are solo piano compositions, compositions for strings, ambient pieces, even the odd guitar thrown in. I first became aware of Richter as the producer of Vashti Bunyan's beautiful 2005 release Lookaftering. Then backtracked to check out Piano Circus who covered the noo-classical canon of work by Arvo Part, Steve Reich, and the like. Postcards is in the same vein. If you enjoy the works of the those guys, or Philip Glass e.g.(although M.R. isn’t sooo repetitive), Richter should please you. The variety of instrumentations, textures and tempi makes for an enjoyable listen. There's something melancholy and autumnal about this record that somehow suits the coming season. Some of these short works give you something to chew on, others are basically thinking man's easy listening, but that's not such a bad thing at all. A perfect record with which to close a busy day.

* EXCAVATIONS = I've written forever. Well before Reverberations entered the blogosphere. With EXCAVATIONS, we'll occasionally feature some of my work from the vaults. Some pieces will be dashed off reviews for use at Kief's Downtown Music, others will have been from periodicals like the Kansas City Star, The Tornado, The Kansas City Free Press, or others. The intent? It's simple, to give Reverberations readers a look at some older writings, and to plug some records that still sound fine to these ears.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Roky Erickson, Black Angels, Winter Psych Storm! - courtesty of blurtonline.com

I covered the opening night of the Winter Psych Storm! tour, featuring the Black Angels, Roky Erickson, and the Golden Animals for Blurt. The show took place on Friday, January 31st, at the Granada Theater in Lawrence, Kansas.

The Black Angels were terrific. But it was Roky's performance that seized my attention, and my heart. Besides, I've given the Angels a lot of ink over the last three years.

I think they'll understand.


Roky's set list

Visit the link to read the story:

http://blurtonline.com/feature/cold-night-alligators-hounds-angels-roky-erickson-live/