Entries Categorized as 'From Blown Speakers'
April 17, 2006
Live in Concert / RecCenter Studio
April 1st, 2006
It’s probably starting to feel a lot like the early 90s again for Petra Haden, who’s getting her career back in high gear after it was delayed by a bad car accident a few years ago. Oh look, she’s garnering major props for her cover album of The Who Sell Out. Oh look, she’s one of the merry rogues of the Decemberists. Oh look, she’s on The West Wing playing with the Foo Fighters. All of a sudden, she’s EVERYWHERE.
On this April Fool’s evening, Haden teamed with local hero and BFF Mike Watt to present an array of sensational music. The pair may seem like an odd couple, but it was Watt’s idea to record the Who record as a tribute to D. Boon, and it was Watt that gave Haden the 8-track recorder and the impetus to cut it together. Tonight, Watt would open with bassist Kira Roessler as Dos, the dual bass outfit that is now in its 20th (!) year with their 3rd album on the horizon. Dos albums aren’t releases as much as they are anniversaries. Despite being two punk legends, Roessler and Watt’s outfit is mostly experimental, instrumental, jazz, pushing at the boundaries of what bass guitars can and should do. It’s all very loose and fun, even if they don’t settle into convincing grooves often. Dos works best when Roessler takes the mike and sings, grounding the music with sweet calming vocals.
After Dos finished, Watt stayed on stage and was joined by Haden to do a short set of covers. Haden stayed on the jazzy tip by knocking out a killer version of “Angel Eyes” (not the Jeff Healey song, but the Ella Fitzgerald standard) and then another piece from “Porgy and Bess.” Then it became Ike and Tina time, as Haden and Watt tried their best to do “Funkier than a Mosquito’s Tweeter,” which was tough with just a bass and a violin. Also, Petra Haden is about the least funky lady you can find, so a lot of the fun was her struggling along with her awkward WhiteGirl charm. It wasn’t as crazycool as her cover of Thriller, but it was fun nonetheless.
Petra and the Sellout Choir were the main event, and of the three times I’ve seen them, this was by far the best. Being up close I could hear the all the different voices in the choir swarm around me, but still differentiate all the voices and pick apart the harmonies and arrangements. Tonight, they sang an assortment of “The Who Sell Out,” but also played three songs from Haden’s first solo record Imaginaryland, including a beautifully complex Bach arrangement. To close out the show, the choir premiered their version of the Beach Boys “God Only Knows.” There were a few false starts before they hit the right cues, but when it got on track it was heavenly, as powerful and pretty as the original while carrying its own brand of ethereal magic.
Petra Haden and the Sell-Out Choir will be performing again May 25th, 2006 at The Troubadour
April 9, 2006
Live in Concert / El Rey Theater
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah!
March 23rd, 2006
Hipsters’ choice Clap Your Hands Say Yeah invaded L.A. with their first headlining tour, complete with ginormous tour bus. New bands should really still be rocking the econovan, but the Clap’s control of their own distro and wildfire internet talk has given them a well-earned economic advantage. Since the band is so new, I went to the show keeping my expectations low.
The sold-out crowd was significantly more charged than I was, anticipating a show to match the buzz. For the most part, the band was on and delivered. If you’re not a big fan of the singer’s David Byrne/Jeff Mangum voice, the live experience will not work for you, as it’s more nasal and whinging than on record. I don’t mind it so much, and the band itself sounded much better live than on record. The band is much bigger than on the primitively recorded CD, with swarming guitar washes and charmingly bouncy bass riffs.
When the Clap played material like “Lost and Found” and “Yellow Country Teeth,” they were better than the hype, sounding like a band that could take on a festival or arena crowd with ease. The big problem with the band is that just don’t have enough material. They only have a handful of upbeat crowd-pleasers, and stretching those out across the set makes it all lag. After four or five songs, the band really didn’t have any more magic bullets to save the show. For their encore, the band went with their carny talk album intro, which was fun, but not really the stuff of encores.
Since I went in with my head down, the band exceeded my expectations, especially for the first 30 minutes. If they can get their second album in order they’ll be able to have a killer show setup by the time they hit L.A. again.
April 1, 2006
In Concert – Vista Theater
Jenny Lewis With The Watson Twins
February 2nd, 2006
Anyone headed to the Jenny Lewis/Watson Twins show at the Orpheum tonight? If their record release show a couple of months ago at the Vista Theater was any indication, tonight should be magic.
For anyone unfamiliar, the Vista is actually a movie theater located in Sunset Junction, with just enough of a stage to fit a makeshift band. It was an odd place to hold a show, but it had a great vibe, with plush seating and plenty of legroom. Each audience member was handed a program with lyrics and information, like it was a high school talent show. The ladies came out dressed in long elegant gowns, color matched, of course. Each little touch reassured you that this wasn’t your average rock show, but something more like Lewis’s version of an Opry concert.
Musically, it was virtually identical to the record, sparse in production but packed with emotional power and graceful harmonies. “Run Devil Run” and “Born Secular” showed off the choir like effect of the three voices the best, while Lewis featured on lovely tracks like “Melt Your Heart” and “Happy.” Tracks like “Charging Sky” lacked a little oomph without a full band, but guitars from Johnathan Rice and Farmer Dave gave enough textural changes to keep things interesting. With a slim list of songs to choose from, the show was augmented with a wry reading of “Met Him on a Sunday” by the Shirelles and a rousing version of traditional “Cold Jordan” to close the show.
It wasn’t a perfect show though. There were some feedback issues that had to be surmounted. Also, this being Rilo Kiley home turf, it seemed some of the audience was a bit too familiar with Ms. Lewis, to the point of being a touch rude. Dude, we all know she used to be in movies, but there’s no need to yell “TROOP BEVERLY HILLS” in between songs. Lewis also told a story about watching Kill Bill in the very same theater, but it was ruined by someone yelling the punchline before she was able to even start.
On the way out, ushers handed out rabbits feet with a tag commemorating the album and the concert date. Now, how often does that happen? Anyone headed to the show tonight probably shouldn’t expect too many souvenirs, but maybe you’ll be surprised anyway.
March 29, 2006
It’s been a while, but the white clad rocker has returned with his first DVD, Andrew WK – Who Knows, which compiles a three year long party for one Mr. Andrew WK. In 2001, nobody rocked dumber than WK, and personally I couldn’t start the week without revving up with “Party Hard.” I also had a thing for “I LOVE NYC,” where he sounds like the Simpson’s DuffMan screaming “OH YEAH!”
Yeah it was silly, but it was fun and WK was frighteningly earnest about it all. Who will forget his MTV special where he spent an entire weekend at North Carolina Central University, a historically Black college? The childlike naivete that carried him through that social experiment is the same thing that lets him sing “We do what we like and we like what we do” and, you know, mean it.
The Knitting Factory LA hosts screenings of Andrew WK – Who Knows, followed by live performances by the man himself, on April 4th and 5th.
March 12, 2006
Live in Concert / El Rey Theater
January 22nd, 2006
Does anyone care about a show I went to two months ago? Probably not, but I wanted to blog it just for posterity’s sake, I guess. This was a far cry from the solo Meloy shows I went to last year at the teeny-tiny Hotel Cafe, where the fire code only permitted about a tenth of the El Rey. This show would be a lot more crowded, including a large percentage of scenesters who really liked to talk during the show.
Going for a campfire feel, Meloy put on another excellent show, a nice blend of acoustic performance and self-deprecating banter. The setlist was the most diverse I’d seen from him. The Decemberists standards ranged from ancient tracks like “Shiny” to more picaresque numbers like “Engine Driver” and “We Both Go Down Together.” With the recently released Omnibus available, Meloy also played a few Tarkio tracks, “Devil’s Elbow” and “Tristan and Iseult.” On the rarities side, there was the old b-side “Every Thing I Try To Do, Nothing Seems to Turn Out Right,” and the more recent nugget “Bandit Queen.” On top of that, there were two new songs that may eventually end up on their major label debut, the romanticly overrought “Valencia” and a macabre new cautionary song called “Shankhill Butchers.” If that weren’t enough, he also played a song from his tour only EP, a cover of Shirley Collins’s “Barbara Allen.”
I always have a blast hanging with Colin, and this show was no exception. Now if I could only figure out a way to keep all the chatty cathy’s out.
Photos available at IceCreamMan.com
NPR has the Washington DC show available streaming and on MP3
March 6, 2006
Fox Confessor Brings The Flood
Available March 7th, 2006
Neko Case’s fourth studio record is arguably her finest country noir record, mesmerizing in its dark corners. It’s also her richest sounding record, with flourishes of soul and pop that keep it just a little livelier than her previous dirgey efforts.
“Hold On, Hold On” may be her strongest track, with Ennio Morricone guitars providing an epic backdrop for Case’s sweeping vocals. “That Teenage Feeling” feels like a 50s standard, and “John Saw The Number” feels even older. “Lions Jaws” has Case doing her own take on White Girl soul (take that Jenny Lewis and Cat Power) while “Maybe Sparrow” finds her blowing out the pipes, cutting loose in the final minute. The songwriting is bizarrely constructed at times, but Case’s voice is unmatched by her peers, and it adeptly navigates the listener through some unconventional arrangements.
When Case fronts the New Pornographers, she is the biggest and baddest vocalist around, louder and clearer than every instrument in their cacophony. Her solo records are a different affair, where her talents for nuance and texture come to the fore. Fox Confessor isn’t for everyone, but I found these mysterious stories of love and death to be spellbinding.
Neko Case will be appearing at Amoeba Records, Hollywood on March 8th and The Tonight Show on March 9th.
“Star Witness” (mp3)
“Hold On, Hold On” (mp3)
January 23, 2006
Available January 24th, 2006
Despite being teamed up with an all-star lineup of Memphis soul musicians (essentially Al Green’s band), The Greatest isn’t quite Cat Power’s big soul record. It’s a soulful record, but it retains the same Southern goth longing that defines almost all of Chan Marshall’s work. The biggest difference is that the basslines and snappy guitar licks add enough fun to bring Cat Power out of the sadcore ghetto. You Are Free was the first Cat Power album to feel varied throughout a front-to-back listen, and The Greatest is even more accessible.
The record starts with some of the more obviously funky sounds, with “Could We” living off giant horn blasts and playfully guitar bends and “Lived in Bars” coming out of it’s doldrums with a final segment that’s all sweet Otis Redding groove. “Islands” and the “Moon” are both album highlights, sandwiching a loping country number in “After It All.” The old school mopey Cat Power is still around in a track like “Hate,” one of the few tracks with just Chan on vocal and guitar. It’s about two songs too long and could use better balance (it’s fairly frontloaded), but the smoky mystery of Chan’s voice retains it’s undeniable allure throughout.
The collection of songs is not quite as good as You Are Free, but the musicality makes up for it. Cat Power fans looking to stare into the abyss again will be disappointed, but it’s an easy sell to everyone else. It makes a fine faux-Dusty Springfield complement to Jenny Lewis’s Rabbit Fur Coat, and with a new Neko Case record still in the works, 2006 looks to be a big year for chanteuserie (totally not a word).
“The Greatest” (mp3)
January 22, 2006
Standing in the Way of Control
Available January 24th, 2006
Back when bassless garage rock bands ruled the earth, the Gossip were my fucking favorite. Down home beats, chunky guitar lines and the pure passion of Beth Ditto’s bluesy vocals made every Gossip track groove with a sweaty swagger. While they’ve always been about getting butts shaking on the floor, their third album finds the band making a stylistic transition in that dancepunk direction. The blues punk fusion is still there, but it’s mixed now with explicitly disco drums.
The first three tracks showcase this newfound formula effectively, featuring clean danceability in their instrumentation and anthemic punk choruses. “Fire With Fire” sounds like a remixed track from The Movement era and the crazed hi-hats of the title track and “Jealous Girls” both have feverish energy. The record starts to break down with “Coals to Diamonds,” a torchy ballad that stretches Ditto’s range. Her performance is wonderful, but the track is repetitive and you get the sense that the band just isn’t ready for this territory. The rest of the album has the same issues, where the bands don’t quite have the chops instrumentally or creatively to fill out these songs. You’ll hear a good hook or the germ of an idea that never really get anywhere.
I can understand the need to move beyond the dirty punk of the previous two records, but as of right now the Gossip are in an awkward state. Changing up drummers has given them another facet, but they’re definitely trying to find themselves again. A lot of the new songs will probably play better live, when the Gossip can ramp up the downstairs basement atmosphere and get the dance party going, but the band will need another record to complete their transformation.
“Standing In The Way of Control” (mp3)
January 11, 2006
On the heels of their Arthurfest success, Arthur Magazine is now inviting everyone to Arthurball, a smaller indoor weekend of entertainment. Tickets available at Ticketweb.
January 4, 2006
Rabbit Fur Coat
Jenny Lewis with The Watson Twins
Available January 24th, 2006
In the midst of all the perky, cute pop of “More Adventurous,” Rilo Kiley snuck in a Dusty Springfield style showstopper called “I Never” which showcased lead singer Jenny Lewis’s pipes and her flair for the melodramatic. With her new solo record, Rabbit Furcoat, Lewis fully succumbs to her inner Patsy Cline. A typical Rilo Kiley song will wrap Jenny Lewis’s wry wit and natural melancholy in a layer of infectious melodies. Without Kiley cohort Blake Sennett, Jenny Lewis lets Furcoat unravel and lay bare in its stripped arrangements, languorous in its loneliness. The resulting songs of love, doubt and God are a blend of blue-eyed soul, country, folk and gospel, but all of them beguile with cozy intimacy.
Lewis is aided and abetted by the supernatural harmonies of the Watson Twins, whose detached vocals hang and flutter in the air to great effect. Their best work lies in “Rise Up With Fists,” where their lines haunt Lewis’s every thought. Lewis may sing to her adulterer buddy “It was not pretty, but she was…” but it’s the Watson Twins that finish the thought with “… not your wife.” The Twins also augment the hymnal “Run Devil Run” and the choral sections of “Born Secular” with appropriately angelic contributions.
Conor Oberst and Ben Gibbard also swing by for a Traveling Wilburys cover (“Handle Me With Care”), but the album stands strongest when Lewis truly goes solo and leans on her dulcet vocals. “Happy” is heart-wrenchingly sad, with Lewis singing the word repeatedly with seemingly no idea of what it means. Every other reading of happy seems to end with a question mark and an inquisitive crick of the neck. “Melt Your Heart” is, shockingly, heart melting with it’s “Wild Horses” guitar chords and a particularly alluring vocal performance. The title track is a storytime fable of materialism and values that ties together the record. It asks, in its own endearing roundabout way, “What the hell do we want out of life, really?”
Jenny Lewis never quite revs up the motor, but the pace does quicken on a few tracks. “Big Guns” is a bluegrass inflected romp and “The Charging Sky” is a quick witted reflection on the gambling life. The huckster quicktalk of “You Are What You Love” plays out a tale of unrequited love with repeated allusions to magic, slowing down just enough for my favorite line on the record: “I’m in love with illusion, so saw me in half / I’m in love with tricks so pull another rabbit out your hat.” The wordplay is just shy of Elvis Costello, clever and fun but keeping its emotional center at all times.
I don’t know enough about Jenny Lewis’s life to say Rabbit Furcoat is autobiographical, but it sure does feel authentic, a tougher feat by far. It captures a lifetime’s worth of angst and solipsism but delivers it with a the weary resiliency of someone that’s already past it, a series of letters from big sister Jenny. Early in the year, sure, but it’s my favorite record of 2006.
Rise Up With Fists (MP3)
Melt Your Heart (MP3)