The Figgs with The Charm Offensive and The Thirteen- Tritone (Philadelphia, PA) – June 12, 2009
What a show! The Figgs played for almost two hours (!) and until closing time, occasionally joined by TOMMY STINSON (who they backed on a tour in 2003), who’s apparently a resident of Media, PA (a Delaware County suburb 40 minutes outside of Philadelphia). In addition to songs from their stellar back catalog, we got drunken covers of THE WHO (“My Generation” and “Happy Jack”) along an impromptu version of THE UNDERTONES‘ “Teenage Kicks” that was started when Stinson ran up on stage and grabbed Figgs guitarist MIKE GENT‘s guitar!
New-ish DC band THE CHARM OFFENSIVE (featuring GEORDIE GRINDLE from IAN MACKAYE‘s first band TEEN IDLES and ALEX DANIELS, former drummer for SWIZ and much more recently JULIE OCEAN) sounded much more direct and energetic live than the songs I’ve heard from them so far on their MySpace page.
The Thirteen, playing only their third show ever, were terrific, bookending their set by covering WIRE‘s “Dot Dash” as an opener and closing with CHUCK BERRY‘s “Thirty Days”. In between, they played selections from last year’s excellent The Secret History of The Thirteen, including “City Gardens” and the super-catchy “Bubblegum Crisis” (dedicated to singer/guitarist SAL CANNESTRA‘s sister NATALIE CANNESTRA, who flew in all the way from Chicago for the show; that’s dedication!).
John Vanderslice with The Tallest Man on Earth –
Johnny Brenda’s (Philadelphia, PA) – June 11, 2009
Supporting his new album Romanian Names, this was a much more rockin’ show than the last time we saw him at the same venue back in 2007 and as such, quite enjoyable. We even got a song from his recently released split EP with JOHN DARNIELLE of THE MOUNTAIN GOATS and a song where he and his band played on the floor of the club completely unplugged. Great!
Opener The Tallest Man on Earth was a pleasant surprise, too. Playing solo with just an acoustic guitar, he overpowered the audience with a GIGANTIC voice that at times reminded me of JEFF BUCKLEY, though the sound was more akin to if Buckley was fascinated with Americana as opposed to NINA SIMONE, GENESIS and THE SMITHS.
Flipper – Fight (MVD Audio)
A companion piece to the almost recently released studio album Love, this live album features songs from two separate shows in 2007 and finds Flipper in as fine form as ever, sludging their way through classics like “Way of the World” and “Ha Ha Ha” and newer dirges like “Be Good, Child!”
Sonic Youth – The Eternal (Matador)
Although I’ve been listening to this for over a month now, the official release was this past Tuesday.
Anyway, from the opening notes of KIM GORDON‘s “Sacred Trickster”, you know you’re in for a corker. She also sings Malibu Gas Station another one of the album’s finest songs. The highlight for me, though, is “Walkin Blue”, an eight-minute plus riff and melody fest that might be one of their greatest songs ever.
Overall, the feel is highly reminiscent of other recent Sonic Youth records (especially 2004’s Sonic Nurse), though a bit rawer, but otherwise the change from Universal to Matador really isn’t such a big deal because they’ve always done what they wanted. Parts of this album also remind me of their mid to late ’90s period (i.e. Washing Machine and A Thousand Leaves), so don’t expect Daydream Nation or Sister. Still, this is one of 2009’s finest releases so far.
The CD version, like the much more expensive vinyl version, comes with a bonus live Lp taken from their show at Battery Park last July 4th.
Elvis Costello – Secret, Profane and Sugarcane (Hear Music)
Featuring an absolutely gorgeous front cover drawn by the renowned artist TONY MILLIONAIRE, this is a vastly different record from last year’s Momofuku. Instead of a rock and roll record with his band THE IMPOSTERS, this is Costello backed by top-notch bluegrass musicians picked out by producer T-BONE BURNETT (most famous for producing the soundtrack to the movie O Brother, Where Art Thou? as well as the ROBERT PLANT/ALISON KRAUSS collaboration Raising Sand but also a fine musician and songwriter in his own right and a past collaborator and producer of Costello’s as well).
As such, it’s no King of America (the 1986 masterpiece which was last Costello album that was as roots-based though 2004’s The Delivery Man had its share of such moments as well), but it’s still a nice listen. The re-recording of “Complicated Shadows” (originally recorded for 1996’s underrated All This Useless Beauty) is particularly compelling.
The Trashcan Sinatras – In the Music (Lo-Five)
What can I say? This is another fabulous record from the greatest Scottish band of the last 20 years (sorry BELLE AND SEBASTIAN and IDLEWILD, though I love both of them, too). I absolutely can’t wait for their show here in August!
Flipper – Love (MVD Audio)
Whoah! Where did this one come from? Their first album since 1993’s American Grafishy is an absolute stomper, every bit the equivalent of MISSION OF BURMA‘s The Obliterati in 2006 or THE EFFIGIES‘ Reside in 2007 in terms of the shock and impact of a classic band not losing a step. In other words, this is sure to be the finest new album of 2009 made by a punk band whose roots go back to the late ’70s and early ’80s. OK, it’s not Generic or Gone Fishin’, but it’s damn close. Singer BRUCE LOOSE and bassist KRIST NOVOSELIC (yes THAT Krist Novoselic; he left the band last year, thus ensuring that their tour was canceled, which is too bad; if only they could get it together and tour behind this phenomenal record) fill in capably for the deceased WILL SHATTER and everything devolves into a blurry, repetitive, psychedelic haze. In fact, this might be the best psych album I’ve heard all year, too, if people’s limited definition of psych wasn’t wrapped up in pastels, paisley, incense, hippies, et al. (not that there’s anything wrong with any of that).
Bob Mould – Modulate (Granary Music)
Inspired by transcribing the interview that Mould that’s currently running on my blog (link here), I decided to pull this one out. Controversial at the time and reviled by many fans, it’s actually not a bad album.
It’s certainly Mould’s most experimental album. Half of it is straight-up electronic music with his vocals on top and of the other half, about half of it consists of almost STOCKHAUSEN-esque “musique concrete” type ephemera. However, a quarter of this (if not a little more) is classic Mould in the mold (ha) of SUGAR or his late ’90s solo records. Of these tracks, mostly concentrated on the second half of the disc, “Comeonstrong” is a definite highlight.
Overall, though, the album feels hazy and druggy and perhaps it was an attempt to capture the feeling of a night in clubland.
Galaxie 500 – Box Set (Rykodisc)
I’m currently reading DEAN WAREHAM‘s memoir Black Postcards (I was inspired to read it after last week’s DEAN AND BRITTA show) and as such, reading through the passages about the formation and brief career of Galaxie 500 led me to pull out their now long out-of-print box set.
This baby has it all, including all 3 studio albums (complete with bonus tracks and the then thrilling but now annoying and redundant video tracks), a 4th disc of oddities and rarities called Uncollected Galaxie 500 and a beautiful booklet filled with quotes from all 3 band members and liner notes from producer KRAMER.
While the world will probably never seen a Galaxie 500 reunion due to the long-held animosity between Wareham and his former band mates DAMON and NAOMI, it can still revel in the otherworldly, almost heavenly beauty of these lazy, hazy, reverb-soaked greatness found here.
Various Artists – Score! 20 Years of Merge Records: The Covers (Merge)
To celebrate Merge Records’ 20th anniversary, the label got contributions from (appropriately enough) 20 non-Merge artists to cover songs from Merge’s back catalog. This ranges from LES SAVY FAV‘s extremely faithful take on SUPERCHUNK‘s “Precision Auto” to THE HIVE DWELLERS‘ (who?) experimental take on Superchunk’s “My Noise”.
In between, we have BRIGHT EYES adding an Americana-ish twist to THE MAGNETIC FIELDS‘ “Papa was a Rodeo”, DEATH CAB FOR CUTIE answering the question of what Superchunk’s “Kicked In” would sound like with BEN GIBBARD‘s beautiful, light-as-air vocals and the last track, TIMES NEW VIKING‘s pointlessly lo-fi take on ARCADE FIRE‘s “Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels).
So in summation, not all of those works, but most of the covers are at least respectable and some are very good and as such, this is definitely worth picking up.