! = recommended
* = all-ages
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Usually when a band gets down to business time it isn't always fun: it can be a release of pent up disappointments and missed chances. But Tennis Pro do a complete 180 degree breakdance spin and, instead, throw a party of a record. And their world domination just means fun for everyone at that party. The opening lines of tight gut-funk opener "Dance Hit Number 1" (this isn't a track on a UK greatest wavo-disco 12" from the 80s compilation??), upon which is preached, "Are you downtrodden my brother? Afflicted, my son? Well, pick yourself up, you're not done."
From there, drummer Sean Lowry, vocalist and guitarist David Drury, and multi-talented bassist Philip Peterson (oh yeah, vocals, strings, backrubs, brass, breaking glass, keyboards, champion snogger, knows a guy, who knows a guy, works a room, keeps swinging, et al) just fully determined to break out of the miasmatic indie rock ghetto of focused failure and small club woes. The big fat bold blue sound of Shimokita Is Dead? puts all the clocks to bed and demands the guests have at least one more, to paraphrase the sweet warning of " Saratomi Bicycle" -- those beloved fellow partiers being Dita Vox (Thee Emergency!), Cristina Bautista, guitarist Matt Black, Jessica Abbey, and Blake Jeffcoat. Their crisp, welcomed talents add to the jumped-up franticness what all those weed dealers dealers did for The Clash on Sandinista! Except in one third the size and only dubbed out at the end of a couple surfy, bonfire-glowing burn-down tracks (and you got to have those by 3 am).
Friday night was one of those nights we forgot we were working -- of course, Friday night being the sold-out show at the Showbox with The Head and the Heart, Lemolo, and The Devil Whale. In between the big-guitar feel-good riffs of the The Devil Whale, Lemolo's mesmerizing sparse brand of genius, and THatH's forty-five-minutes-to-the-minute (plus a three-song encore) professionally polished set, we managed to snap off a few shots -- you know, when we weren't dancing, swooning, tweeting, or singing along to every word coming off the stage.
We're happy to report that THatH's songs have evolved beautifully, and having been present at last summer's Sonic Boom and Comet shows, we can safely say that not one ounce of that thing they do was watered down by the size of the stage or the vibe of the room. Naysayers be, um, nayed! Instead, here's a big fat bravo, lady and gents. You've certainly earned it.
It seems that a lot of people I speak with are not fans of live albums. Contrarily, I have always been a collector of both official and bootleg live releases by groups that I follow.
In many instances, bands sound so much better live, especially when considering dated production periods such as the mid to late 1980s. When great songs are marred by stale production, similar era live recordings often sound so much more natural and powerful than their often rigid studio counterparts. In other examples, artists work out different arrangements or simply have more time to develop a track when it is performed over a period on the road. Of course, many live releases are not definitive, but following are a few that I consider to be as good, if not better than the original album renditions.
Portishead: “Sour Times” (from Roseland NYC Live, 1998): This murky, intense version of “Sour Times” was occasionally performed in this arrangement during the tour for their eponymous album (1997) and is included on the CD (but not the DVD) of Roseland NYC Live. This amazing and rather different rendition was actually recorded in San Francisco in April of 1998. I will take this over the standard version any day.
You should come to my (absolutely free, though 21+) live interview with Steve Ignorant tomorrow night (April 26) at The Comet starting at 6 pm - because Crass, the band he sang vocals for, sound better and truer and more meaningful than ever in these uber-apocalyptic times. Have a listen to their greatest non-hits collection Best Before 1984, and you will hear the voices and noises of women and men beating back the darkness as hard as they could. Whether that despair be political repression, male domination, religious hypocrisy, Crass sounded like the Sex Pistols and The Clash on overdrive, in song revolutions so real you could taste the tear gas and pints that fueled them.
As keenly described in his honest and humorous autobiography The Rest Is Propaganda (scribed with Steve Pottinger), which Ignorant will be signing copies of for sale at The Comet, he was a fun-loving teenager when he began hanging out at the Dial House, a hang-out for artists helmed by Crass co-founder Penny Rimbaud. Ignorant was kicked off the dole for a bad attitude, and didn't have much hope given him growing up in a poor, violent part of England. When he saw the near-30 year old book designer and vegetarian Rimbaud living life exactly the way he wanted to, he came along, in his own fashion. Wine-soaked nights ranting about the UK going right wing, along with seeing Rotten in the Pistols on TV and Simonon of The Clash commanding mod coolness live, put these two men into a spoken word/drums duo for rants like "Do They Owe Us a Living?" and "Reality Asylum."
Most Wire fans agree that their first three albums are excellent recordings that still sound as vibrant and challenging today as they were upon their initial release approximately thirty years ago.
Pink Flag, Chairs Missing and 154 are all timeless classics in their own right and each successive LP was vastly different from the previous one, making them that much more impressive. Interestingly, Wire fans tend to have wildly fluctuating opinions about their subsequent output. Personally, I quite like the 1980s albums too, but have not exposed myself nor been exposed to any of their records after that period. Last Wednesday evening (April 13), Wire took the stage at Neumos and offered a retrospective of their entire career, which provided the audience with a sampling of each decade’s evolution through music.
Photo by: Amy Bernard
Between the star-studded opening of the Nirvana exhibit at the EMP, and the 800 different kinds of awesome that took place on Record Store Day, we could barely keep up. However, we did manage to sneak a few shots off at the EMP, as well as at The Head and the Heart's evening set at the Queen Anne Easy Street, both of which are below for the viewing. Enjoy!
Friday night's opening of the Nirvana exhibit:
Based on all current internet reports, tonight is going to kick some serious ass.
EMP members, press, and invited guests are being beckoned down to Seattle Center to check out the prefunk for the opening of Nirvana: Taking Punk to the Masses. It's just the beginning of a weekend full of grand-opening events, but we're particularly excited about this evening's affair -- because some legendary folks will be taking to the turntables (!!) and spinning hits for the night, including Kurt Bloch, Steve Fisk, Charles Peterson, and Mark Pickerel. No shit.
You know. Just another Friday night in Seattle.
Here's the whole rundown of the weekend, if you're out kicking some Record Store Day activities and want to take break to peek at the EMP's happenings. Please note that tonight's event was closed for RSVP replies last week, so the first chance you'll have to view the exhibit is tomorrow morning (for members, at a family-friendly pre-opening) or tomorrow afternoon (for non-members, starting at noon).
It is more than a little daunting to write about the music of Bob Dylan. He has been recording music for fifty years now, and so many beautiful things have been said about his songs for decades.
Taking this as a cautionary guideline, I have always preferred Dylan’s post-1960s output to his earlier, universally-lauded material and wanted to discuss some of his great latter day albums. His earliest records feature ahead of their time political and humanitarian statements, while the mid-60s ones have an amphetamine-fueled surrealistic brilliance to them.
There is no doubt that every album he released up to Nashville Skyline (1969) is unadulterated genius, but his work after that is what I am especially drawn to. I gravitate to the records and songs that Dylan recorded when he was vulnerable and not fully confident. This, to me, is the Bob Dylan that is truly fascinating.
THIS LP POPPED MY NEW WAVE CHERRY. It was 1979, my parents had taken me to Peaches on 45th (R.I.P.), a great big old record store, and my mom made me choose between this, Nick Lowe's second solo album (after playing with pub rockers Brinsley Schwarz, which I still don't think I've heard to this day, and while he produced Elvis Costello's first few amazing records), and The Clash's Give 'Em Enough Rope. A hard choice, but Labour Of Lust became my 13th birthday present.
Up until that purchase, it had mostly been all Queen and Heart and such for me. One day in 1978, I heard "Somebody's Gonna Get Their Head Kicked In Tonight" on the radio when some rednecks from Walla Walla were making fun of it for an April Fool's Joke as they did their radio shift. I expected to hear Dr. Demento that Sunday evening, but discovered The Rezillos instead. And I started to think of myself as "punk," but that meant listening to the end of "Bohemian Rhapsody" over and over, you know, the part where it gets really aggressive.
When my wife heard this playing yet again on the stereo last night she chirped, "So you found a record you really like a lot? That's awesome!" Yes, Sean Rowe's brandy-baritone vocals from his ANTI- debut Magic have become as sonically ubiquitous in our apartment as, say, those by Dylan, Cohen, and most recently Van Morrison. Now, that's pretty heady praise to write those names in a review of a new artist, and I'd need you to check in with me this time next year to see if Magic is still pouring out through apartment #301 here above the Ave. But the fact that the juxtaposition is even presumed should tell you enough that there is unique promise involved.
Most of the praise I have for this full-length would better be used by the placement of a handful of the tracks on a mix tape to friends. Because it's a really, really good album -- but due to so many slow burners with similar tempos, the sequencing lacks a certain ingenuity. Still, maybe that's OK: The first of the ten tracks is titled "Surprise," and it's a hale, modest, romantic soul number that might have been better placed as the third track. A steady hand full of flowering imagery ("Your body shows up to take it all")... still, this is where the average consumer is going to look for the quick pop fix, and this is the closest thing to a Steve Winwood number Magic is going to give. (However, deep cut art song fans will love following lines like, "I found a little shelter inside of the sickness ... I want to bottle the night and use it on you when the night goes down.")
There is further proof that new singer-songwriter gods can possibly be born new, or at least their rhythms reborn through the cryptic night poetry and the plainly textured strum and thrum of their dusky song-blankets. It's when Rowe starts to caterwaul supernaturally halfway through "Old Black Dodge," like how L. Reed has been using Antony's otherworldly vocals to augment his more minimal sing-speak. "Wet" may have been a better opener; I can guess what it's about, but I love how (spartan) it sounds. Pretty much just a couple of acoustic guitar notes, over and over, with confessions about "leaving friends behind the graveyards with jars of rum" razoring out of the song's almost-stillness. Whether the kitchen knives and abusive boyfriends and moving are metaphorical, it all (as they say) rings true. Just as true as "Fast Car" from Tracy Chapman, and it's been a long time since alternative-kissed soul-pop has been both this pinching and relaxed.