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Hugh Cornwell The Mercury Lounge (New York City) – October 26, 2010
Since the singer/guitarist left the Stranglers in 1990, he has toured the world relentlessly and recorded several accomplished records. He has not, however, broken out, which may help explain why on this tour he is playing one set comprised equally of Stranglers songs and solo songs and the Stranglers’ potent debut Rattus Norvegicus IV in the second set. I have seen Cornwell several times and this was clearly the most inspired I’ve seen him. I suppose a packed house at the Mercury Lounge can do that. Clem Burke’s constantly-in-motion Keith Moonesque drumming was also something to behold and only raised Cornwell’s game. The band’s attack was sharp and aggressive. However, on some level it must annoy Cornwell that he has to play more Stranglers songs than he might like to draw crowd. That said, the outpouring of affection was palpable and the line at his merch table snaked on and on and on.
Bad Religion Irving Plaza (New York City) – October 26, 2010
I saw the legendary punk band for the first time as it celebrated its 30th year. Better late than never! The group played three nights at Irving Plaza, with each show focusing on a different era. This evening focused on the group’s middle period, which features some of the group’s very best work (“Against the Grain” and “Recipe for Hate”). The group, which also played a number of tracks from its latest, the generally excellent “Dissent of Man,” didn’t disappoint. And Renaissance Man, Greg Graffin, amply showed why he may have the best voice in punk. The man can sing! And you can hear his awe-inspiring lyrics very clearly even as he spits his words out at machine gun speed. Interestingly, the highlight of the night for me was the slower stunner “Struck a Nerve.”
Bad Religion The Dissent of Man (Epitaph)
The band’s 15th studio record is a winner, despite a few clunkers (“Where the Fun Is”) in the last third of the record. Less political than personal, and less aggressive, though not significantly, than recent efforts like the occasionally overheated “Maps of Hell” and “The Empire Strikes First,” “Dissent” is slightly softer around the edges yet more nuanced and philosophical (see “Only Rain” and “Avalon”). The show-stopper here though is “Someone to Believe,” and though “Pride and the Pallor” doesn’t seem to be resonating with many fans, I love it. For the record, I can’t think of anyone today who is more talented as a vocalist, lyricist and songwriter than Greg Graffin. The man’s talents are breathtaking.
Greg Graffin Anarchy Evolution: Faith, Science, and Bad Religion in a World Without God (HarperCollins/It Books)
Greg who? Oh yeah, the guy who is at number two and three right above! While touring to promote the group’s new album, Graffin also has a new book on the bookshelves. Graffin, who has a PhD in Zoology from Cornell University and teaches evolution at UCLA, has co-written a substantive book that largely discusses his worldview, which focuses on naturalism, religion, faith, evolution and natural selection. The autobiographical and scientific are intertwined throughout ensuring that fan and non-fan alike should get plenty out of this.
The Hard-Ons Most People are a Waste of Time (Bad Taste)
I just recently discovered this 2006 record and it’s quickly become one of my favorite records in recent years. Here we have a group consciously making a pure pop record and this is one of the very best in its long catalogue. I love the band’s older material with ex singer/drummer Keish (who sings the third song on this record), but this inspired “pop” is more experimental and unpredictable though entirely accessible. Listen to “Bubble Bath” and listen in awe at the bridge that builds 1:20 into the song. And then listen to how the release flows seamlessly back to the verse, which effectively acts as a chorus too. This little known album is a gem and can be had for just $5.98 on Amazon.com. To quote stock maven Jim Cramer: “Buy, Buy, Buy!”
The Hard-Ons Alfalfa Males Once Summer is Done Conform or Die (Boss Tuneage)
The Aussie power trio’s latest (2010) is a fascinating blend of punk, pop and “death pop” to quote bassist Ray Ahn. You never know what you’ll hear on this record, and I have no idea what the record’s title has to do with anything, (on some level it evokes song titles that Love’s Arthur Lee could have come up with) but most songs slot into one of the aforementioned styles. Though I think the group excels best at pop/punk some of its death-pop/metal offerings (see “In the End We All Die Alone”) are positively chilling in their force. Some of the ripping tracks though are filler and should have been dumped from the album. The best stuff is on the first and final third of the record.
For Against Coalesced (Words on Music)
What a GREAT record. This is one of America’s best kept treasures. I suppose being in Nebraska, rarely touring, and writing songs that don’t get the hips immediately shaking will do that to you. But if you have a discerning ear, by all means dive into this gem from 2002.
Devo Freedom of Choice (remastered) (Warner Brothers)
Thirty years on, FOC has aged gracefully. “Gates of Steel” remains as powerful as ever and less popular songs like “Mr. B.‘s Ballroom” and “Planet Earth” resonate strongly today. The remaster adds six bonus live tracks from the same period. The “Freedom of Choice Theme Song” is a standout.
Street Dogs Street Dogs (Hellcat)
More top-notch fist in the air singing/chanting from ex-soldier/fireman Mike McColgan. The band is as vital and energized as ever.
Adam Franklin I Could Sleep for a Thousand Years (Secod Motion)
The Swervedriver frontman’s third solo record is a winner but not as upbeat and energized as some reviews make it out to be. Upbeat or not though the album is a keeper and like much of Franklin’s work, it casts its spell over time.
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