Only a month after Merge announced that they had signed the band, King Khan & the Shrines have released their first single for the label, and it's pretty great. And it isn't exactly spare or simple. On the contrary, they called on a bunch of horn and string players* to pull this thing off. According to Khan, the self-proclaimed "Beetlejuice of rock 'n' roll," it's "an apocalyptic ode to the heinous war machine that to this day ruins our lives." And yet, "Born to Die" is anything but a bummer.
* On top of the trumpet and saxophone players that are a regular part of the group.
Merge releases Idle No More on Sept 3. King Khan & the Shrines play Neumos on Oct 16 ($15 adv, 21+).
John Grant Pale Green Ghosts (Bella Union-Partisan Records)
I am the greatest motherfucker you're ever gonna meet / from the top of my head down to the tips of the toes on my feet / So, go ahead and love me while it's still a crime / but don't forget you could be laughing 65% more of the time. —John Grant, "GMF"
Recorded in Reykjavík with GusGus's Biggi Veira, former Czars front man and Midlake sideman John Grant's Pale Green Ghosts is one of the year's most surprising records—it's also one of the best.
I could tell from the first few electronic pulses that I would like it, but in truth, I'd already read a few things about the album—the Other Music summary, the Pitchfork review—so I had some idea as to what to expect: a gut-wrenchingly confessional song cycle with none of the reedy singing that makes so many coffeehouse troubadours so un-listenable.
And that's because this isn't a folk record and Grant's rich baritone voice is hardly reedy. Nor does he over-enunciate every word, a musical-theater trope drives me around the bend. No, this is dance music. And fuck-you music. But the beats never overwhelm the lyrics, and he barely raises his beautiful voice, which just makes his statements sting all the more, i.e. "You think I hate myself, but it's you I hate." That's right: his sophomore release recounts a breakup. It's also his first full-length since revealing his HIV+ status. Suffice to say: anger fuels this art.
I'm always sad when I miss the chance to see a dynamic band play a tiny club. You've either got to catch them before they hit it big, hope they stay small (which isn't exactly fair to the band members), or work a schedule that's more flexible than mine.
In other words, I wish I'd gotten the opportunity to see Parquet Courts at Capitol Hill's Cairo in January, as that isn't likely to happen again (and I'm just as bummed to have missed Blank Realm at the same small venue this weekend).
Main man Tom "Tobacco" Fec and his merry band of musicians play KEXP 90.3 FM at 11:00am today (Pacific Standard Time). If you miss their on-air performance, the station maintains an invaluable archive at kexp.org/live (recent guests include Kurt Vile, Os Mutantes, and Colleen Green).
I'm curious to hear what the glammed-up material from Cobra Juicy sounds like without the safety net of the studio. Black Moth Super Rainbow plays Neumos tonight with the Hood Internet and Oscillator Bug. $15 adv, 8pm, 21+
The Oakland trio (vocalist-bassist Shannon Shaw, guitarist Cody Blanchard, and drummer Ian Amberson) have outdone themselves with this finger-snapping, Technicolor torch song that re-imagines Roy Orbison as a Shangri-Las singer.
Stream the whole thing at the AV Club through tomorrow. You can also watch a short documentary here. Hardly Art releases Dreams in the Rat House on May 21. Then, on June 7, Shannon & the Clams play the Tractor Tavern with Mikal Cronin.
* "Into a Dream" hit my inbox on May 1, but I didn't get the chance to listen until yesterday.
Psych-glam Bay Area outfit the Burnt Ones have released a video for the song "Web" off their new record, You'll Never Walk Alone, which I wrote about here.
Though I referred to them as a trio, because that's what all available information indicated—profiles, promo portraits, press releases, etc.—four people appear in this clip, so I think there's something they're not telling us, though bands are known to call on auxiliary members from time to time.
In any case, the thing was shot on video, which reminds me of last year's scrappy horror anthology V/H/S, except it isn't scary, though the glowing neon images provide the perfect fit for their fuzzy T. Rex-meets-Pink Floyd maelstrom (and look for V/H/S/2 at this year's Seattle International Film Festival).
Burger Records releases You'll Never Walk Alone on May 14. Stream it now at Ad Hoc. They'll also be playing Chop Suey with Pony Time on June 17 ($7 adv, 21+).
My favorite band photographer Sarah Creighton tooled together a steak chastity belt and took a series of these Virgin Suicides-with-a-twist photos after a conversation where the band was joking about making it a habit of throwing raw meat at apathetic crowds. It makes for some striking feminist imagery, and I gotta give props to Chastity Belt for having the guts to not take the same stupid "band lined up in front of a brick wall" press photo... it also made me think of what Everett True from Collapse Board just said about the new Hot Fruit video this week, "I love women who produce art for themselves and don’t ask for your approval. Women can be brave and rude and intelligent. Women can make you uncomfortable and they can set their own terms."
Chastity Belt play tonight with Street Gnar, Massenger and the Memories (all three are Burger Records bands) tonight at the Rendezvous. Also, Massenger (who share a drummer with La Sera ) make delightfully perfect pop songs and are not to be missed.
Helado Negro (Roberto Lange) has just issued a video for "Relatives," the most bass- intensive cut off Invisible Life.
I'm not sure exactly what it all means, but Lange is a visual artist, so I'd imagine he was involved somehow in director Zircon Prince's multimedia conception. It doesn't all work, especially that blurry pan towards the end, but I like the song, which benefits from Jon Philpot's José González-like vocal contribution, an airy counterpoint to Lange's more earthbound approach.
In the press notes, Lange describes the impressionistic clip as follows:
"The video uses a lot of hard cuts with video generated by synthesizers and some from travels, late nights and early mornings. Jon from Bear in Heaven created a really amazing counterbalance to the song that acts like some residue of things in my brain—like a resonant echo that keeps repeating itself to me as I keep following."
I was afraid there wouldn't be a lot of people at Barboza last night for Angel Olsen, but that was definitely not the case. The crowd was a little sparse for Villages, but they filled the room before Olsen took the stage (I stayed in the back during Villages' set; Ross Gentry's carefully controlled brand of drone-rock was a bit sleepy for my taste).
Olsen brought a talented three-piece with her (bass, drums, cello), and they began with "Acrobat" off Half Way Home. It was a great way to start the show.
More low-light pics below (I turned off the flash to reduce the irritation factor).
EDS NOTE: Entry #2, from Zack of the Ex-Girlfriends. You should listen to them right here, and then read on! —Kelly O
"We wake up to two pugs named Dave Grohl and Chris Shiflett, taking turns sitting on our foreheads. Our first show is in Ikebukuro, at a bar called The Manhole—a tiny smoky basement bar beneath an optometrist's office. All six bands get a 20-minute sound check (that the other bands watch, dutifully) followed by a meeting that apparently happens before every show, wherein each band is introduced to everyone in a huge circle, and then they welcome us to Japan. The level of commitment here is humbling—playing a show is a seven or eight hour chunk out of the day, not the two or three hour stumble-into-the-Comet Tavern shit that we're used to. Every band we play with is incredibly polished. Before the show, we go to a bar to eat, and our waitress comes out with a live squid in a bag for our approval as she brings our drinks. We nod like we know what the fuck we're looking at, and half an hour later it comes out, sliced up and raw. Halfway through picking meat off it's back, a stray chopstick pokes the squid in the face, and Pete swears he sees it move. We ask if its still alive, and our friend Yuto says, "Just a little bit."
Dave Grohl is a pug!
Our show is amazing, everybody's super-enthusiastic. Afterwards we go to an after-party—called "uchiage"—that's all-you-can-drink-AND-eat for 25 bucks. They teach us how to yell "SIT ON MY FACE" in Japanese. We get tanked and video tape a urinal with a built-in video game that measures the volume of pee in the bowl."
Quote of the day "There is nothing like a bidet to wash the shame of beer shits off your ass."—Mike Loftus
EDS NOTE: Entry #1, from Mike of the Ex-Girlfriends. You should listen to them right here, and then read on! —Kelly O
"After 14 hours of flying, and countless hours spent waiting around, we finally landed in the Narita International Airport. The flight was star-studded. We took the sightings of both of Rihanna and the Pharcyde on our plane as omens of good luck. One of the dudes from Pharcyde was even nice enough to switch seats with me so that Chris and I could sit together. We took advantage of the free beer and laughed ourselves to sleep with Mrs. Doubtfire, Beverly Hills Cop, and Xanax.
When we got to Narita, after a short wait, our friend Hiroki drove us straight to a punk show, where he fed us many Budweisers. Let it be known, that we hadn't eaten in quite some time. The possibly least responsible member of our band proceeded to get smashed. Chris fell in love with a super sexy bass player, and was super pissed when we made him leave." —Mike, guitar
Quote of the day: "The best part about people thinking you're Kurt Cobain is that when you can't get it up, you don't have to be embarrassed—you can just pin that shit on him" —Chris, drums
photo by Hiroki Okano
(L-R) Zack Marley, Peter Christensen, Chris Byrne, Michael Loftus, and Elizabeth Marx
Attention, Spring Chickens! Florida punk rocker Chuck Ragan (Hot Water Music) will be at Silver Platters for an in-store performance before showing his deep-in-the-mangroves-country roots later in the evening with The Revival Tour at the Tractor Tavern on Thursday.
If you’re a fan of any of the above artists, or their bands, it’d be wise to attend this show, but don’t expect your typical concert to take place. In case you aren't aware, The Revival Tour works like this: There will be an opening set featuring all members on stage at once playing songs they worked on together! Be on time for this! Afterwards, the individual songwriters take turns playing their own material with the other members of the tour serving as their backing band (this usually results in unforgettable improvisational magical moments), then after everyone gets a chance to play, the whole group will play another set together at the end. They are their own opener, support acts, and main act.
They are a festival of their own, coming at you like a wall of wordy, painterly poets, wielding mostly stringed things which they’ll pick, pluck, strum, and bow the folk out of for you.
In 2012, Chicago's Angel Olsen released her second full-length, Half Way Home, on Bathetic Records (JagJaguwar, home of Bon Iver and Dinosaur Jr, has since added her to their roster). It's an impressive effort from a skilled singer and songwriter.
There's an old-timey feel to the record that shares sacred space with the early works of Marianne Faithfull and Emmylou Harris, i.e. she invests her skeletal folk with beauty and sorrow, but you've never heard a vocalist quite like Olsen, who floats freely between higher and lower registers—singing, talking, keening. One minute, she sounds like a free-spirited soprano; the next, a tormented alto. She's a showoff with the skills to back it up, but those who prefer reserve should probably look elsewhere.
On the basis of "Time in the World," which plays like "Lucky Star"-era Madonna gone shoegaze, I expected good things from Colleen Green's full-length debut, and she delivered (and she really should cover "Lucky Star"). That first single sets the template as Green sings in an inviting voice over hot-rod guitars, rickety drum-machine beats, and the odd synthesizer flourish.
Sock It to Me also brings femme-fronted '90s outfits like Lush and the Breeders to mind, but that may have more to do with the way she sings than the music she makes, and I don't recall that's she's cited either of those acts as influences. Instead, she's mentioned the Descendents, who inspired the 2010 cassette Milo Goes to Compton, but punk doesn't come to mind when I listen to this record.
BLACK FLAG has reformed and is in the process of putting finishing touches on a new album with founder Greg Ginn on guitar, Ron Reyes on vocals, Gregory Moore on drums and Dale Nixon on bass.
The one constant member throughout the history of BLACK FLAG, Ginn — named one of Rolling Stone's "100 Greatest Guitarists Of All Time" — defined the west coast punk sound and the DIY ethos of punk rock. Greg Ginn also currently plays with Good For You and Greg Ginn And The Royal We.
Ron Reyes of Decline Of The Western Civilization fame was the BLACK FLAG vocalist from The Church / Jealous Again era. Reyes also currently plays guitar in Piggy.
Gregory Moore has played with Gone and BLACK FLAG (2003) and brings his relentless and driving drum style to the band.
Notorious for not touring, Dale Nixon never-the-less played bass on the My War album and is the author of iconic BLACK FLAG bass lines such as Jealous Again, Nervous Breakdown, Six Pack, TV Party, Revenge, Gimme Gimme Gimme etc... etc... While Dale has lent his skills to the new album, he is currently contractually obligated for a stint on Celebrity Rehab. Still, as he has always done in the past, he will continue to provide insight and spiritual guidance to the current bass player.
MTNS are on tour right now with Oakland band Laughters (I'm green with taco/swimming hole/Lone Star jealousy!) and as usual, Arizona cops seem a little overzealous in their policing... as well as their Facebook activity.
Yep, that's a comment from the officer that stopped them on Monday. MTNS drummer Daniel reports from the road:
We were on our way to New Mexico for a show at The Plant and we got pulled over for failing to wait three seconds to get in front of a semi. The cops said they could smell a vague scent of marijuana. They asked to search us and since we knew we didn't have anything, we agreed.
They patted us down and had us stand on the side of the road for three hours where we smoked cigarettes and attempted to do yoga. They found a Horse mask, sea shells from the redwood forest, and a pyramid headdress made by our friend Adair Tudor in the van. When the cops searched my bag, they found an Enya cassette and Valentine's candy hearts. They were highly confused/amused by our choice of lifestyle, but they seemed to come to the conclusion we were harmless weirdos.
The officer who ended up posting on our Facebook wall said (during the detainment), "I thought you guys were in a heavy band," and sang the line "come sail away." He asked how to find our band on the internet. We explained how to find us and he looked up a video of us from when we played the Crocodile (with "this is the first time the cops have ever been called to the Crocodile" as the description). He stopped watching after 30 seconds (I think seeing me in a white nightgown might have had something to do with it).
They finished the search and let us leave with our mason jar of whiskey three hours behind schedule... so no, officer, we didn't make our New Mexico show.
Well, good thing you can't go to jail for a faint weed smell, even in AZ. Here's hoping better luck finds them on the rest of their tour stops!
3/13- 3/17 Austin, TX (SXSW) 3/18 New Orleans, LA 3/20 Mississippi, MO 3/21 Nashville, TN @ Springwater 3/22 Columbia, SC @ Hunter Gatherer 3/24 Durham, NC @ Pinhook 3/26 Pittsburgh, PA @ Gooskis Bar 3/27 Philly, PA @ Lava Space 3/28 Boston, MA @ Discovery Zone 3/29 Brooklyn, NY @ Public Assembly Brooklyn 3/30 Brooklyn @ the Ho_Se 3/31 Brooklyn @ Silent Barn 4/1 Cincinnati, OH @ Rake Ends Bar 4/2 Cleveland @ Now That's Class! 4/3- Detroit @ PJ's Lager House 4/4- Chicago, IL 4/5- Milwaukee, WI 4/6- Iowa 4/7- Denver, CO 4/9- SLC, UT 4/10- Reno, NV 4/11- SF, CA 4/12- Oakland, CA 4/13- Portland, OR @ Multiplex 4/14- Seattle, WA @ Vermillion
After working on a deadline, putting down my cat*, and other fun stuff, I was pretty tired by the time Wednesday rolled around, so I didn't feel like working too hard to get any pictures of the evening's line-up at Neumos: Horse Lords, Matmos, and Mouse on Mars (but I did meet my damn deadline and the check is in the mail).
In fact, I deleted all my Matmos photographs. If I'd had the energy to tunnel to the front—a sizable audience filled the room—I might have gotten a few passable ones, but the spot I staked out near the bar provided the perfect vantage point for maximum enjoyment. Sometimes I'd rather just relax and enjoy a show than scribble on a notepad or twist myself into pretzel shapes to get a good snap.
* A seventeen-year-old gentleman of Burmese extraction named Sterling Morrison (II).
Since I wasn't able to capture any decent images of Matmos, here's a new remix:
German duo Mouse on Mars, Jan St. Werner and Andi Toma, released two albums in 2012, the full-length Parastrophics and the mini-album WOW (an initialization of their name turned upside down). Try as I might, I was never able to get the download of the record to play, so I decided to check out the mini-album instead.
The press notes describe WOW as a "club-oriented counterpart" to Parastrophics, but it's not the kind of music that would inspire me to move, and that isn't meant as a diss. It's just that the tracks are too oddly-shaped to fill any dance floors I can imagine, not counting those that exist in certain science fiction scenarios.