Steve Wilson. On music.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Lydia Loveless - Somewhere Else (Bloodshot Records) - courtesy

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

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 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

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:

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)


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)


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

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:

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Chris Wilson - It's Flamin' Groovy (Twenty Stone Blatt/U.K.) - courtesy of

Welcome to Reverberations, point of entry for all things Steve Wilson, rock writer. The link takes you to my review of It's Flamin' Groovy by long-time Flamin' Groovies singer-guitarist, Chris Wilson.

Since there are no current "videos" for tracks from It's Flamin' Groovy
let's time trip; shall we?

           Back in the day - Chris Wilson with the Flamin' Groovies, performing "Slow Death."