Tuesday, April 29, 2008

"Where Do You Go (My Lovely)"

So Dewey Dell got obsessed with this song by Peter Sarstedt recently (and then got me obsessed, natch). It graces the soundtrack of the Wes Anderson short film "Hotel Chevalier" that preceded "The Darjeeling Limited." We had to do some Google research on Sarstedt (one-hit wonder, #1 on UK Top 40, 1969) and even strummed out the song on guitar (easy: C, Am, F, G, repeat). But this video takes the cake. Again, the power of the mustache can't be overstated, especially if a French accent is coming out from underneath it.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

The Impasto Soul/White Dub Nexus

The sonic drift is like some sort of Kontiki cross current, blowing pathetic pilgrims in their makeshift barks, half-ass dug-outs, and nut-job rafts of strung-together bottles and styrofoam, hurling wind-battered searchers into the blustery void, to land, half-mad, on shores peopled with distorted man-gods and leering stone giants. Crazy vegetation. When you’re a pioneer, you’ve got to be ready to charge into frightening territory. To face the enemy. And, upon returning, the trail-blazer must be prepared to meet disbelieve and outright hostility when reporting back from new frontiers.

Midway through the week’s journey I found myself at a dark pass. Seeking refuge from the cubicle hum, I dipped into the stacks of one of the record stores near the office. After some initial searching, I had to muster up the backbone to ask the old jazz-bo behind the counter where I might find Cher and Bobby Goldsboro records, having already poked around in the respective general alphabetical sections. He led me over to the oldies section. It was there that I saw the color, making my fool’s-gold discovery of a Tommy James and the Shondells record from 1970 called Travelin,’ basically their last record together. Painting of a rowdy stagecoach ride on the cover. (Funny that Lefty should mention TJ in his previous post.)

A few of these tracks are classic examples of a bogus generic classification that seems to become more real the more absurd the concept becomes. I’m speaking of proto white dub. This is Trenchtown via Ohio. Curtis Mayfield and Superfly via the Beastie Boys and the Egg Man. Howlin Wolf via Beefheart. Sprinkled with a lifted bit of grandeur from “Come Together.” Impasto soul with worrying Native American incantations. Vocals-through-the-Leslie-cabinet abuse. Boneheaded genius. Like Joe Walsh.

“Candy Maker” - Tommy James and the Shondells

“Moses and Me” - Tommy James and the Shondells

Thursday, April 24, 2008

This New Old Sound Pleases Me

When the White Stripes first came out, I loved how Jack channeled Tommy James, that Top 40 pop master of yore. It was the raw 60s garage production, but more importantly the peculiar candy-striped pop sensibility. So this CD by The Dutchess & the Duke just hit my desk and I was struck right away by how they channeled another not-often-channeled pop master, Eric Burden. He of The Animals. They've got the same chiming guitar lines, jingle-jangle rhythm and echo-blasted folk-blues yawp. Their hollered Mamas/Papas harmonies sound piped through a time-travel transistor radio. It's delightful stuff. The album, She's the Dutchess, He's the Duke, comes out July 8 on Hardly Art, so I won't blow it for them and start leaking all the songs into the black inter-hole (trust me, it's a song-for-song champ), but here's what you can already get off their myspace page.

Reservoir Park - The Dutchess & the Duke

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Saturday Morning Spring Awakening

All morning, over and over, I've let this Fleet Foxes song wash over me like a breezy open-window bliss. Volume up, windows open. Yes! Despite its title (or because of it?), the gorgeous reverb-soaked harmonies of "White Winter Hymnal" are feathering perfectly with this new spring air, the little red and yellow buds popping on branches all down the block in a psychedelic haze, the sun pulling magnolia bouquets out of the air and raining white and pink waxen elf ears all over the walk, all of it finally conquering my seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Ah! Glory! And I must add, Fleet Foxes, the top secret invention of J. Craig Venter's hippie-rock laboratory (as I've previously discussed here), are the best and loveliest thing to hit me in ages. Listen and revel.

White Winter Hymnal - Fleet Foxes

In the Hot Hot Days - Fleet Foxes

She Got Dressed - Fleet Foxes

Monday, April 14, 2008

The Shock of the Old

Now that we can rely on search engines, external hard-drives and entirely digitized texts to access all the information that we used to house in our pathetic little brains, you’ll routinely hear people talk about the importance of synthesis. It’s no longer a matter of remembering shit, it’s now about making connections. But I had one of those iPod-shuffle-enabled epiphanies this afternoon on the way home from work. The kind that suggests that even our synthesis can be digitally aided. I had just finished soaking up Karl Blau’s autistic white dub of “Are You Done,” with its lolly-pop guild vocals, sea-anemone-meets-Congolese-guitar lines, and stretch-taffy ricochet reverb beats. Then, seamlessly, came on “When I Grow Up” from The Beach Boys Today! I guess I’d never listened to this track before. Or at least not with much focus, because I found myself “nearly” devastated. This is a dangerously weird recording, made even more subversive by the Brill Creme lyrics about growing up – will I love my wife, will I dig the stuff I dig now, will my kids think I’m a square? But what are we to make of the Rubiks Cube harpsichord part, the near suffocating layers of vocal harmonies, that anti-groove snare roll and snap? In just about 2 minutes the song thoroughly creeps me out, over and over. It made me think of the Gary Giddens piece on Ornette Coleman from the New Yorker the other week. He quotes someone on the subject of Ornette’s quarter-tone intonation, meaning that he’s playing notes that technically fall outside the zone of Western scales but that he does it in a regular, in-tune, fashion. I’d never heard it put quite like that before. I mean, you can tell that Ornette’s intonation and the crying slips are not exactly by the book, but they always sound right in more important ways.

Not to overstate the connection, but there’s something equally not-right about the harmonies toward the end of the Beach Boys tune. The voices sound like they’re being Hoovered up, or like the tape is being messed-with, sped-up just a bit. It all gets wobbly.

“Are You Done” - Karl Blau

“When I Grow Up” - The Beach Boys

Friday, April 11, 2008

Near Devastation Is Just Total Devastation In Grey-Flannel Slacks (UPDATED!)

Sometimes it's nice to be reminded that you're not alone. I experienced a subtle frisson of fan-boy glee and smug self-congratulation when I read Ben Ratliff in the New York Times calling the Nick Lowe show I saw the other night "nearly devastating." Me, I'd go so far as to strike the "nearly." But I'm sure Times editorial standards require a certain reasonable restraint. Otherwise you're just blogging, right? And the "nearly" qualifier makes it that much more devastating anyway.

I've loved Nick Lowe for a while, but had few to share my enthusiasm with until the other night at the Manhattan Center. I mean, yeah, you guys have listened to me bark about him at TDSP, but I didn't get the sense everybody was rushing to join the chorus. Then again, he doesn't inspire that kind of overt raving. It's a private affair. Secret handshake music. And that was the essence of Nick's program: just a man and his guitar on a dark stage, a singular presence with a rare magnetic command that you associate with very few. How did this dapper Brit so naturally and authentically come to inhabit the blue-note phrasing of George Jones and Johnny Cash and Sam Cooke? You hang on his every note. That he does it in a starched white shirt and flat-fronted grey-flannel slacks only accentuates the curious genius. He's got some of the best lyric phrasing I’ve ever heard. I "nearly" crumpled at "Shelley My Love," a song I discovered the next morning was recorded on his 2004 live album, Untouched Takeaway, a close approximation of what I heard. He played all these:

Shelley My Love (Live) - Nick Lowe

I Live on a Battlefield (Live) - Nick Lowe

What's So Funny About Peace, Love and Understanding? (Live) - Nick Lowe (Yes, he wrote this.)

Cruel to Be Kind (Live) - Nick Lowe

Oh, the picture? Only the moment Nick was joined by Elvis Costello (left) and Robin Hitchcock (right) for a cover of the Beatles' "If I Fell." Um, I "nearly" cried with joy. Strangers had to recognize each other in wide-eyed wonder at this rare and "near" historic moment. In fact, the young gal in front of me agreed to email some pictures she snapped. Blurry, but perfectly captures the energy of the show in a way a clearer picture would not. (Thanks, Sonya.)

PS: I HIGHLY recommend buying Nick Lowe's 2001 album, The Convincer.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Bill Fox, Slight Return?


Exciting developments for fans of BILL FOX, the reclusive singer-songwriter genius from Cleveland, OH!

First, SCAT RECORDS will reissue his two late '90s solo albums over the next year, both on CD and vinyl. Apparently Fox has decided to peek out from his long-held seclusion. Here is the announcement, as published on the label's website on April 3:

Quick bit of killer news... I spoke with Bill Fox yesterday, and we have agreed to reissue his two mid-90s solo albums, Shelter from the Smoke & Transit Byzantium. If you've been trying to get copies of either of these I know your wallet just sighed with relief. Even better, we'll be issuing both on vinyl (a first) as well as cd. I hope to have at least one of them out by the end of the year.

For those of you in the know, this is a BIG DEVELOPMENT, apparently the result of renewed interest after THE BELIEVER story on Fox last summer. Happy day! (Longtime readers of TDSP know we're big boosters of Bill Fox going way back.)

Second! Some rare and not-supposed-to-have-been-released songs from Fox's late '80s power pop group THE MICE have emerged over on music blog I Rock Cleveland and they're worth checking out.

Lastly, and perhaps most tantalizing: I hear that Fox recently jammed with his brother, legendary drummer of the Mice and THE REVELERS, TOMMY FOX. No word on whether this will metastasize into Bill's reemergence or (imagine!) some kind of new project. Very unlikely, but a boy or girl can dream, right?

Lay You Down - Bill Fox