This week in the book section, Dave Segal reviews a book about Sly and the Family Stone:
Few artists have plummeted in quality as precipitously as Sly Stone. Gifted with the ability to play many instruments, write, produce, arrange, perform, and radiate a million-watt charisma onstage, Sly (aka Sylvester Stewart) and his multiracial, gender-diverse group the Family Stone have created a body of work that will exhilarate humans for as long as electricity exists. They had an astounding run of albums, singles, and live performances that raised the bar for popular music with their inventive, combustible fusion of soul, funk, and psychedelia. Sly excelled at everything from explosive rave-ups to morose ballads. He was a master crafter of memorable hooks and a pioneer of drum-machine programming. As Jeff Kaliss states in his book, Sly & the Family Stone were "funky enough for Harlem and Watts and trippy enough for the Haight-Ashbury." But following the band's peak (roughly 1967 to 1973), Sly succumbed to the pitfalls that have plagued hundreds of musicians before and since: creative stagnation, financial problems, and drug overindulgence, with its attendant paranoia and unreliability.
A life of such dizzying highs and miserable lows makes for a potentially riveting biography, of course, and Kaliss does about as solid a job as can be expected, given Sly's notorious reclusiveness. Unsurprisingly, Kaliss only secured two very brief interviews with Stone (who forbade the author to record them), both of which mainly serve to show how much spark has drained from Sly's brain. Nevertheless, I Want to Take You Higher is a well-researched, well-reported account of Sly & the Family Stone's career and the group leader's personal life.
Antony and the Johnsons - "Hope There's Someone" (live)
Antony and the Johnsons play the Moore tonight. Dave Segal Charles Mudede wrote about the band in this week's paper. The intro:
Where to begin with Antony Hegarty? Maybe with his band, Antony and the Johnsons, who have so far cut three albums and four EPs, have Manhattan as their home and place of initiation, and have established an international following that is enchanted by the strange and theatrical beauty of Antony's voice, poetry, and music—which can roughly be broken down into these elements: '60s soul, '70s folk-rock, and '80s pop. As for Antony himself, he began his life some 30 or so years ago in the UK, spent a part of his childhood in California, and finally settled in New York in the '90s. Here he attended NYU and participated in an avant-garde theater and music scene that was then haunted by the voices and visions of singers and actors who had lost their lives to the "gay plague." In this sad climate, the aftermath of the '80s, Antony shaped his band, his sound, and the central theme of his tunes, poetry, and theater of the self. In the early 2000s, he participated in a wonderful disco record, Hercules and Love Affair, which was released last year; this year, he released a new album, The Crying Light. The present decade has seen the rise of his name to indie fame and critical acclaim.
H Is for Hellgate - "Tina Fey"
H Is for Hellgate, Mighty Shiny (Comet, 5 pm) H Is for Hellgate—the Seattle poppy-post-punk outfit powered by singer-songwriter- guitarist Jamie Henkensiefken—are gaining national attention for their new record, Come for the Peaks, Stay for the Valleys. But the track that most caught my attention is "Tina Fey," an as-yet-unreleased track I found on the band's MySpace page. Over a sprightlier-than-normal pop-punk riff (one of the band's key traits is their way with slower, heavier tempos), Henkensiefken lays out her deep personal love for the woman who's become America's Sweetheart. "Why did you marry some guy from the SNL band? I think we could have worked it out. If you wanna hook up with a real musician who won't knock you up..." The cute is kept in check by the creepy—the song ends with our frantic-with-desire frontwoman cozying up to her amazingly lifelike Tina Fey Real Doll. DAVID SCHMADER
Speaker Speaker, Flora v. Fauna, the Vague Prophets (marsBar) Unwound bassist Vern Rumsey has a new trio called Flora v. Fauna. If the two songs on their MySpace page are indicative, the Olympia band come at you with a post-punk severity and controlled scrappiness that won't alienate longtime Unwound aficionados. This is a very good thing. As you probably know by now, Speaker Speaker create tightly wound, peppy pop-punk for the youthful at core, making early Buzzcocks sound like Melvins. Speaker Speaker understand the importance of being earnest. DAVE SEGAL
The rest of our online listings can be found here.
by Jeff Kirby
on Fri, Feb 27, 2009 at 9:20 PM
Tonight at work I was humming "The Sprout and the Bean" by Joanna Newsom. I was about halfway through the song when before I knew it, before I realized how or why I was doing it, I was humming "That's What You Get" by Paramore instead. No segue, no explanation, no warning.
by Dave Segal
on Fri, Feb 27, 2009 at 4:43 PM
Quick observations of the night, nabbed from an imperfect memory and bolstered by zero note-taking. Damn this carpal-tunnel…
James Blackshaw sat onstage with his 12-string, looking 18, but playing like he was 38, a seasoned veteran of the solo-guitar wars. With little fanfare, he loosed gently fluctuating streams of chords, making his acoustic-guitar a spur to deep contemplation and hypnotism. Blackshaw debuted many songs off his forthcoming Young God Records album, The Glass Bead Game, and made the profane space of an American bar seem like a pastoral, sacred sanctuary.
Sir Richard Bishop also sat onstage with an acoustic guitar (six strings) and quickly proved why heads worldwide love his fleet fingerpicking and bravura dexterity. The ex-Sun City Girl played with a fire and finesse that are breathtaking, with tonal and stylistic shifts that dazzle. His brother Alan was in the house and he revealed that Richard had been on a serious Arabic music jag, which became evident last night. Richard also dropped cover of a track from Alejandro Jodorowsky’s El Topo. At one point, Blackshaw and Ben Chasny joined Bishop for an improv jam, but nothing they did topped SRB solo.
Earth, enhanced by cellist Lori Goldston, steadfastly plied their slow, melancholy country-rock dirges for blasted landscapes that have come to mark their latest phase of existence. It seemed as if every song trudged at the same leaden tempo, accompanied by heavy guitar twang with long chord hang time and glacial changes.
Earth’s set made me feel what I imagine being on smack is like (I’m never going there, so music like this will have to do). I love Earth, especially their last album, The Bees Made Honey in the Lion’s Skull, but the monolithic pace took a toll, and my yawns started coming fast and furious (more so than the riffs did). Plus, that damn carpal tunnel…
Photo of Sir Richard Bishop by Joseph Peter from Strangr Flickr pool.
Jamie Foxx and T-Pain love the vocoder as much as Kanye, but this new video is more star-studded than anything Mr. West has ever done, with Ron Howard, Jake Gyllenhaal, Forest Whitaker, and, of course, Samuel L. Jackson all making an appearance. Samuel L. Jackson will be in anything.
Man, I had a hell of a time reviewing Police Teeth's new album, Real Size Monster Series this week (you can read the whole review here). Where I think I may have most failed the local punk rock quartet is in the comparison department, where I perhaps questionably deployed Q and Not U, Braid, and Piebald (fucking Piebald, a band I haven't even listened to in maybe six or seven years, so really I'm just going on shaky memories with that one) in an attempt to get at the Seattle band's sound. Oh, and Bow + Arrow. (Also, not included in the review: "I Made Out With You Before You Were Cool" has a pop punk bridge that's total Sicko.) I don't know, maybe some of those aren't so far off as far as they're deployed in the review, but I turned the piece in with the nagging feeling that the perfect reference points were still just on tip of my tongue. So, I put it to you gentle readers of Line Out: What the fuck are Police Teeth reminding me of?
Whatever it is, I just want to make clear, in case the review didn't already: I am really, really feeling this record. The production sounds a little muddy in the low to mid range, but the songs are great—seriously searing, pissed-off punk rock fuck yous at their finest. I have yet to see Police Teeth live—they're playing tonight but I unfortunately won't be able to make this show either—but they are now in my to-do pile in a major way. I have a feeling these songs sound like 100-proof fire live.
Amid antitrust scrutiny of the propsed merger between Ticketmaster and Live Nation Inc., Ticketmaster Chief Executive Irving Azoff is working hard to downplay the potential impact of the deal. Testifying before a House subcommittee yesterday, he noted that:
[H]is company received a warning from AEG Live, the owner of 130 venues including the Staples Center in Los Angeles, that it may cancel its contract with Ticketmaster if it merges with Live Nation Entertainment Inc. in an all-stock deal that would value the combined entity around $2.2 billion.
"Others will most certainly leave if this merger is consummated," Azoff testified before the House subcommittee on courts and competition policy. "AEG has notified us by letter that they believe they have the right to terminate our agreement in connection with this merger.
Today, again before a congressional panel, he hinted at the possibility of selling off a subsidiary, TicketsNow: "Pressed on whether Ticketmaster would sell TicketsNow, Azoff demurred at first, but finally said that for the right price, 'I would certainly vote to do that.'" The recent gouging of Bruce Springstein fans has drawn heavy criticism on TickesNow and its parent company.
TicketMaster is maintaining that the merger with Live Nation is necessary "because of economic woes in the music industry," claiming that the the current problems are partially caused by the scapegoat for all that is wrong with today's music business—piracy.
We do currently have a hiring freeze on. We do believe that the efficiencies created from the merger will actually create jobs on the technology side," he said.
Azoff said he did not see layoffs for Ticketmaster but that that the company may cut less profitable accounts, like museums. "If the merger was approved, we'd be adding people," he added.
What I love most about Antony Hegarty is not the music he makes with his own band, Antony and the Johnsons, but with Hercules and Love Affair. This is not saying that Antony and the Johnsons are bad but that Hercules and Love Affair are very good. The release of their self-titled album is one of best things to happen in music last year and in disco for the last decade.
Ms. Led played their last show only a month or so ago, but frontwoman Lesli Wood already has a new project called The Redwood Plan. The band’s got Lesli, Jamie Hellgate from H is for Hellgate, Sydney Stolfus, and Betty ST. They turned down the hard rock riffs and turned up the sass, synth, and party. They’ve got a great Q and Not U thing going on “Je Suis Romantique,” and “Expiration” feels a little Gossipy. I like it. A lot. It makes me want to dance and kick some ass. Possibly at the same time.
Listen to a few songs via MySpace. Their next show is March 7th at the Sunset.
I've been listening to this song ("For Now" by Nouela Johnston's solo project called People Eating People) at least a dozen times a day for the past month. I'm only slightly exaggerating there; I might've missed a day or two.
There's a wonderful dichotomy that's happening in the tone and the lyrics—the piano is so light and playful, but the words admit to a darker obsession. It's strong-willed and self-assured, but at the same time it's a little pitiful. It's not pathetic, but... almost pathetic. But above all, it's 100% relatable. Because haven't we all been there? Hung up on, and waiting for someone who may or may not be worth the wait because our hearts have (perhaps foolishly) convinced us it's meant to be? "For Now" perfectly captures that emotion, without sounding like a insecure, emotional mess.
Plus, Miss Johnston can fucking sing.
People Eating People - "For Now"
Nouela is in the process of recording People Eating People's debut album right now and plans to release it via the Control Group in a few months. Her other songs aren't as tender, but still impressive. I expect the full-length will be wonderful.
Tinted Windows is a "supergroup" featuring James Iha of Smashing Pumpkins, Bun E. Carlos of Cheap Trick, Taylor Hanson of (duh) Hanson, and Adam Schlesinger of Fountains of Wayne. Who the fuck made this band happen? The answer's out there, but I don't care enough to investigate. I do care enough to listen to the band's first single, though. It's called "Kind of a Girl," and you can stream it from the band's website.
Spoiler alert: It sounds exactly like you'd think it would. First of all, it's about a girl. No surprise there. It's got crunchy, poppy guitar riffs, Hanson-esque whoa whoas throughout, and a catchy chorus a la Cheap Trick. It's simple math, really. It's just the (non-impressive) sum of all its parts.