Oooh, I learned some rugby basics this weekend, moving me exponentially along the spectrum of familiarity from “why are they all locking arms and butting heads?” to “He was robbed of a try! Don’t miss the conversion!” What a crazy, visceral, fantastic sport. Like soccer, gone mad.
British friend Jamie invited me to his viewing party on Saturday to watch the Rugby World Cup which pitted England against South Africa (I know the history of Dutch colonization, but shouldn’t there be more than like two non-white people on that team?). Jamie’s house was festooned with with St. George’s cross flags, his whole family was in matching jersies. He took the time to explain the game to me — in between comically trying to squelch already-half-uttered profanities that wanted to be directed at the ref, under the watchful eye of his wife and two little boys. They even served curry and dark beer. So fun, even though England lost. I gained a miniature rugby education.
Up and Down
I wrote about these guys last year and they’re back with a fantastic new album that manages to summon the spirit of the Stones and the Ramones simultaneously. New York’s The Chesterfield Kings are enjoying a renaissance of sorts after being together for over a dozen years (I was reminded of their new album by a glowing mention in the newest Rolling Stone). This cut has gypsies screaming and acid rain in the lyrics, harmonicas wailing, and a huge street-strut swagger. Their new album Psychedelic Sunrise is championed by E Street guitarist/radio host/Soprano/”Patriot” songwriter Little Steven Van Zandt, so much so that he’s signed them to his own Wicked Cool label. Lead singer dude is still channeling the unfortunate “I slept on my mohawk/mullet” hairstyle, but I guess that’s just all the more rock ‘n’ roll.
Ramblin Man (Hank Williams)
A wistful version of this 1951 Hank Sr. song will be the third track on Cat Power‘s forthcoming 2nd album of covers, Jukebox (due Jan 22 on Matador). Absolutely every song that this woman touches is transformed into a smoky, sultry resurrection, often bearing little resemblance to the original. She rocks effortlessly and completely and I can’t wait to hear this collection. Plus I dig the Fleetwood-Mactastic cover, in triple-threat Technicolor. This particular recording comes from her grand little eMusic EP.
Scottish lads Travis have unleashed a new idea in collaborative viral marketing to promote this tune, about a selfish gal named Jean. The website www.selfishjean.com models itself a bit on Post-Secret, allowing random fans to contribute confessions of bad selfish behavior, pay penance, and view others in the Hall of Shame. Frontman Fran Healy smartly notes that “all confessions will be vetted by a panel of smug, righteous ex-priests.” And because I seriously dig the bright and brassy vibe of this song from their new album The Boy With No Name, and because the website is interesting, I am furthering their viral aspirations. Oh, plus I’m a tad voyeuristic. So it works out well for everyone.
I Want A New Drug (Huey Lewis)
Apostle of Hustle
Suddenly, Huey Lewis is hip again. Stereogum recently featured this inventive, swankily rich cover by Toronto indie musicians Apostle of Hustle to draw some props to the still-labelless compilation effort CD Are You Still With Me?!. I’d love to see Apostle of Hustle live again; check how fascinating they make this song, what with all the dialogue en espaÃ±ol, slow-burn guitars, and the layers of fab percussion. The album also includes tunes from unlikely suspects such as Long Winters and Will Johnson of Centro-matic, and since you know that you can still sing the chorus of either “Stuck With You” or “Hip To Be Square,” you should probably get it.
The State of Massachusetts
You might remember hearing these guys very effectively used in The Departed to convey a textured and nuanced feeling of “I’m Irish and I’m going to kick your ass.” That’s pretty much what I get from this feisty Celtic punk tune by Boston’s Dropkick Murphys. Their new album The Meanest of Times is out now, and I am pretty sure that I heard this song used last night after the Red Sox clinched their spot in the World Series facing the Rockies. I remarked to my husband that it felt funny to be cheering the Red Sox last night, knowing full well that by Wednesday I’d be doing the exact opposite with great vigor. I just think it’s gonna make for an awesome Series.