November 12, 2007

Monday Music Roundup

I watched the new Oasis tour documentary Lord Don’t Slow Me Down on Saturday night, and I was thoroughly entertained beyond what I had anticipated. It’s a look at a band that seemed unstoppable in the cocky cocaine madness of ’95-’96 (years which Noel admits he doesn’t remember. At all.) now doing the unthinkable and growing up a bit. Stable girlfriends, kids, and years of living the rock n roll lifestyle seem to have muted the Gallagher brothers just a tad (even though they are still devastatingly funny to watch, and pull off an epically rocking show with the best of ‘em).

LDSMD provides an all-access look at the band on their 10-month world tour for Don’t Believe The Truth in 2005. As a document of those months, the footage underscores both the high of the huge crowds that sing at the top of their lungs to every word — regardless of their native language (pretty tingly-cool when everyone breaks with “Sooooo, Sally can wait….”) but also the monotony of the *same* blessed pickin’ questions from every single interviewer, a thousand times over, and the jet-lag and disorientation and inner workings of living together with the same folks for that long in a bus. I liked the small, quiet insights best: Liam ape-dancing alone in a dressing room when he apparently didn’t know the cameras were taping, the guys playing a rollicking board game of Frustration backstage (and man, I miss the sound of that dice popper from being a kid), the tinkering around on the instruments in a music store somewhere in urban Tokyo on a day off.

The film is mostly shot in iconic-feeling grainy black and white, except for a few notable scenes in hyperbright ’70s-style Technicolor, like a performance of Champagne Supernova, and a shot of Liam leaning back into the sunshine on the back of a skittering speedboat in the Sydney harbor. It’s a visual treat in the arthouse film style. The elusive angles used in filming lend it a weight that made me feel like I was watching an epic lost Beatles doc or something. Which I suppose may be a point. Combined with the second disc of the complete epic Manchester homecoming concert, this is a vastly entertaining look at a seminal rock band still doin what they do so well.

As for the music this week, I finally attacked some of the emails I’ve been meaning to get around to, and found a few ace new tunes to grab our ears:

Speaking of guys from Manchester . . . Polytechnic is a feisty Britpop quintet that have been called “one of the most uplifting sounds to have emerged from Manchester in recent years — fashionably angular but also joyously buoyant.” (Rock Sound Magazine). I can catch the comparisons to Supergrass, The Shins, and even CYHSY – they’ve got a fun and unique jangly blend of shimmering vocals lit to a danceable perfection. They have two shows on American soil this week, Wednesday at LA’s Spaceland, and Friday at the Mercury Lounge in NYC. These guys are unsigned but sound to me as if they might not stay that way for long. Down Til Dawn is out now.

Sad Songs
The Pendletons
Not a sad song at all, unless sad songs make you want to scream and yell and dance around a sticky-floored backroads bar to this toe-tapping bit of catharsis. The Pendletons are from Athens, GA and their brand of urgent, catchy tunes share a rawness and a jangle with someone we’ve heard before out of Athens (Peter Buck has been seen at their shows, raising a beer to the lads). Rolling Stone recently said that their new album Oh! Me sounds “like Vampire Weekend on a semester abroad with Arctic Monkeys.” I am all in for that kind of action.

Out of Time
Jason Collett

I saw Broken Social Scenester Jason Collett a few months back at the Bluebird (and he’s back in Denver this week with Feist) and his unique brand of earthy twang and clean beats stole my heart. His newest album is called Here’s To Being Here, and this song sounds to me like a hypothetical moment where the droningly lyrical poet in Bob Dylan joins Apostle of Hustle, with a bit of late-night sexy bluesy swagger to it. The new album is out February 5 on Canadian label Arts & Crafts.

Girls And Boys In Love
The Rumble Strips
So is it just me or does the name of this British band sound exactly like it could be the hip new bikini wax to ask for? That’s awesome. But oh, then I remembered that rumble strips are those divots along the outside of the lane lines designed to jolt awake drivers who doze, so nevermind. These Rumble Strips are from London, and this selection is a lighthearted song that sounds best while driving, reminding me of a super peppy, clap-happy Robert Smith. None of the band’s trademark horns here, but it’s a soundtrack for youthful tomfoolery. They are finishing up some Irish dates, and then hitting the US on tour with the Cold War Kids in just a few cities: DC, Philly, NY, LA, and SF’s Popscene in December. Girls and Weather (two fluctuating topics) is out now.

Stuck Between Stations (acoustic)
The Hold Steady

In honor of me seeing the Hold Steady again tonight (with Art Brut) in Denver, we’ll end our roundup with this fantastic tune from last year’s Boys and Girls In America album (ps – now being re-released in the UK with the elusive “Live from Fingerprints” tracks included).

I am not sure where this acoustic version was recorded, but for me it highlights the lyrics even more; I still find them crushing and hopeful all at once:

these twin city kisses.
sound like clicks and hisses.
and we all come down and drown in the mississippi river.

we drink
we dry up.
we crumble into dust.

we get wet we corrode
we get covered in rust.

I can’t wait for the show.

[photo from Chicago Metro Halloween show, credit]

October 20, 2007

Exclusive! Eddie Vedder & The Million Dollar Bashers, “All Along The Watchtower”

The new Dylan biopic I’m Not There takes the interesting, surrealistic angle of illustrating Bob at different stages of his life through the rubric of six distinctively different actors (including a black man and a woman): Cate Blanchett, Heath Ledger, Marcus Carl Franklin, Richard Gere, Ben Whishaw, and Christian Bale. I am very curious to see how this works itself out in the film – at least it’s a fresh angle (I mean, how many Dylan movies can you make?).

In addition to this creative lens used in the film to examine the man himself, the soundtrack is a double disc jamboree of some pretty cool Dylan covers, including disc 1, track 1 with Eddie Vedder & The Million Dollar Bashers covering “All Along The Watchtower.” Fuel/Friends is pleased as punch to get an exclusive stream for you guys to take your first listen of this!

“All Along The Watchtower”

Stream FLASH

And who are said Million Dollar Bashers? It’s Wilco’s god-like guitarist Nels Cline, Lee Ranaldo and Steve Shelley (from Sonic Youth), bass player Tony Garnier, keyboardist John Medeski (from Martin, Medeski and Wood), and guitarist Smokey Hormel (onetime Beck guitarist, Smokey & Miho). I never thought I’d hear musicians from those bands all jam together. The guitar solo (assumedly from Nels?) is pretty blazing, and Vedder’s got the seething caged scream goin’ on.

Historical tie-in from last summer: there was an absolutely scorching live version of this song that full-band Pearl Jam did in San Francisco (when Sonic Youth opened), climaxing in a very rock n roll moment of Mike McCready giving his guitar the Townshend treatment and then surfing on it across the stage. PJ has played Watchtower 4 times live before, but that was my favorite. If you’d like to hear that one as well, the link over on that old post still surprisingly works.

You can also stream four other full songs from the biopic over on the soundtrack’s MySpace (the ones by Sufjan Stevens, Cat Power, Jeff Tweedy, and Jim James with Calexico). Among others, I’m also looking forward to hearing Mason Jennings’ two contributions, The Black Keys cover of Wicked Messenger, and The Hold Steady enticing me to climb out my window. The soundtrack is out October 30, and the film opens Thanksgiving weekend.

Would you like to win one of two copies I have to giveaway of this lovely double disc? Of course you would. Leave me a comment to enter, make sure I have a way to contact you (might wanna spell out that email addy), and if you feel so inclined, please let’s talk about your favorite Dylan cover. So I can wrap this up before I head to NYC, this contest ends Wednesday at midnight.

Disc 1
1. Eddie Vedder & the Million Dollar Bashers: “All Along the Watchtower”
2. Sonic Youth: “I’m Not There”
3. Jim James and Calexico: “Goin’ to Acapulco”
4. Richie Havens: “Tombstone Blues”
5. Stephen Malkmus & the Million Dollar Bashers: “Ballad of a Thin Man”
6. Cat Power: “Stuck Inside of Mobile With the Memphis Blues Again”
7. John Doe: “Pressing On”
8. Yo La Tengo: “Fourth Time Around”
9. Iron and Wine and Calexico: “Dark Eyes”
10. Karen O and the Million Dollar Bashers: “Highway 61 Revisited”
11. Roger McGuinn and Calexico: “One More Cup of Coffee”
12. Mason Jennings: “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll”
13. Los Lobos: “Billy”
14. Jeff Tweedy: “Simple Twist of Fate”
15. Mark Lanegan: “The Man in the Long Black Coat”
16. Willie Nelson and Calexico: “Señor (Tales of Yankee Power)”

Disc 2
1. Mira Billotte: “As I Went Out One Morning”
2. Stephen Malkmus and Lee Ranaldo: “Can’t Leave Her Behind”
3. Sufjan Stevens: “Ring Them Bells”
4. Charlotte Gainsbourg and Calexico: “Just Like a Woman”
5. Jack Johnson: “Mama You’ve Been on My Mind”
6. Yo La Tengo: “I Wanna Be Your Lover”
7. Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova: “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere”
8. The Hold Steady: “Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window”
9. Ramblin’ Jack Elliott: “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues”
10. The Black Keys: “Wicked Messenger”
11. Tom Verlaine and the Million Dollar Bashers: “Cold Irons Bound”
12. Mason Jennings: “The Times They Are a-Changin’”
13. Stephen Malkmus and the Million Dollar Bashers: “Maggie’s Farm”
14. Marcus Carl Franklin: “When the Ship Comes In”
15. Bob Forrest: “Moonshiner”
16. John Doe: “I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine”
17. Antony and the Johnsons: “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door”
18. Bob Dylan: “I’m Not There”

[Vedder photo credit Kerensa Wight, header image credit Playlist]

May 23, 2007

Indeed: how a resurrection really feels

“he likes the warm feeling but he’s tired of all the dehydration.

most nights were crystal clear but tonite
its like it’s stuck between stations”

The Hold Steady were all I had expected and more. We walked into the hot, loud club just as the opening notes of Stuck Between Stations was starting, and I felt a crackle of electricity run through my nerves to my fingertips. I came with really high expectations and Craig Finn pretty much singlehandedly fulfilled each one. To be completely honest, words like “salvation” and “rock and roll redemption” kept flitting across my mind as I watched this band pour every ounce of themselves into each song they created for us with raging ferocity and heartfelt passion.

I didn’t take any pictures or video because I was too involved to be bothered. But the picture that kept echoing in my mind was what I had written about Josh Ritter, another amazing performer:

“Ritter is also a rare, rare performer in his obvious ebullience to be performing. As he weaves his intricate, literate songs on stage, he overflows with each lyric as if he were birthing every line afresh for the first time. There is no sense of a rote performance, and no indication that he’s sung some of these hundreds of times. Instead, he radiates a palpable joy and a sense of barely-contained anticipation with each word that comes out.”

Finn made me think of these things, except — his exuberance in performing is multiplied by a factor of 4,354. It’s as if all the molecules of his being are spinning in a fury of musical joy, barely and not-even-completely contained by his skin from flying out into a million directions. Instead of a gradual dawning of the birth of a lyric, it’s an atomic bomb. He gestures, he spits, he jumps as he shouts out the lyrics. He dances these slightly uncool jigs without caring that folks just don’t do that anymore. The rest are all too hip. He doesn’t care. This is music, their music, their lifeblood pouring out for the joy of the moment.

we had some massive nights
every song was right
all that wine was tight

we had some massive highs
we had some crushing lows
we had some lusty little crushes
we had those all ages hardcore matinee shows.

Go, ye, and be saved.

5.23.07 Salt Lake City UT Urban Lounge
5.24.07 Boise ID Neurolux
5.26.07 George WA Gorge Amphitheatre Sasquatch Fest
5.28.07 Portland OR Crystal Ballroom
5.30.07 San Francisco CA Slim’s
5.31.07 Los Angeles CA El Rey Theatre
6.1.07 San Diego CA Cane’s Ballroom
6.2.07 Phoenix AZ Brick House
6.3.07 Las Vegas NV Beauty Bar (FREE SHOW)
6.4.07 Tucson AZ Plush
6.7.07 Houston TX Walter’s on Washington
6.8.07 Austin TX Emo’s
6.9.07 Denton TX Hailey’s
6.10.07 Norman OK Opolis
6.11.07 Little Rock AR Sticky Fingerz Chicken Shack
6.12.07 Columbia MO Blue Note
6.14.07 Ashville NC Grey Eagle Music Hall
6.16.07 Manchester TN Bonnaroo Festival Grounds Bonnaroo Festival
6.23.07 GER Soutside Festival
6.24.07 GER Hurrican Festival
6.27.07 NOR Hove Festival
6.30.07 BEL Werchter Festival
7.2.07 London UK Shepherds Bush Empire
7.4.07 Portsmouth UK Wedgewood Rooms
7.5.07 Manchester UK Academy 2
8.4.07 Chicago IL Lollapalooza

[img credit]
May 21, 2007

Just hold it steady, will ya?

I am thoroughly excited to be seeing The Hold Steady tomorrow (Tuesday) night at the Ogden Theatre in Denver, as everyone who sees their live show comes back fairly glowing. Last year’s Boys and Girls in America is a solid, lyrically dense, interesting rocker of an album, but I really started getting excited about buying a ticket for the Denver show when I saw the video of Craig Finn performing at Carnegie Hall for the Springsteen tribute:

Now that’s what rock and roll is supposed to both look and feel like.

I also read a very good snapshot interview with The Hold Steady in Paste Magazine on the airplane this afternoon. I recommend the whole article, but here’s a snippet that made me smile:

It’s awfully easy (and somewhat fun) to get tangled up in The Hold Steady’s Midwestern mythos— the band’s aesthetic is straightforward (brews, devil horns, guitars, good times) but not simplistic (Finn’s lyrics are near-prophetic), and they’ve cultivated, however inadvertently, a certain working-class appeal (see Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, The Hold Steady’s most obvious predecessor). They’re the band you go see when you feel like getting drunk on PBR, dancing and then loitering outside the venue, eating crappy pizza on the curb; they embody the half-tragic, half-ecstatic American adolescence every 33-year-old with a desk job wants desperately to re-live.

In some ways, their appeal is as much about escapism—a return to teen-dom, to making out with a friend and hunting down parties in the woods—as anything else. I hold up a stack of press clippings and tell Finn I’m tempted to highlight every instance of the word “beer.” Finn grins, surveys the drained mugs littering our table, and raises his eyebrows. “I have no idea what you’re talking about,” he deadpans.

While I was reading the article somewhere over Arizona, I also listened to a handful of related b-sides and live tracks assembled by my friend Tom and scavenged in various locations.

Enjoy these, and come out to the show tomorrow:

Curves and Nerves (b-side) – The Hold Steady

Stuck Between Stations (acoustic) – The Hold Steady
I just love these lyrics

Against The Wind (Bob Seger cover) – The Hold Steady


(links removed: you can still buy it here!)


And here’s an interesting collection: Craig Finn’s old band The Brokerdealer, which may be likened, at least on these tracks, to Finn’s own Postal Service project. All electronica and club-beats, but those same biting, poetic lyrics.

Give Me Back My Body – The Brokerdealer

If Not For Hipster Pictures – The Brokerdealer

The Last Ones Up Became Lovers – The Brokerdealer

And finally a soundtrack to the season: If you’re a baseball fan like I am, you should read this lovely piece from the Portland Mercury with Craig Finn ruminating on the connections between music & baseball, recording “Take Me Out To The Ballgame” for his beloved Twins, and how he saw Paul Westerberg at spring training.

Take Me Out To The Ballgame – The Hold Steady

March 21, 2007

Odds & ends

It’s been a long time since I compiled one of these odds and ends posts, but there were several little things today that caught my eye:

Ûž Brian Deck is on board to produce the new Counting Crows record, according to Adam:

March 16, 2007 12:53am
Berkeley, CA

Rehearsals have been going really well the past few days. I’m pretty excited about the 2nd half of this record. I really dig the producer we’ve chosen. His name’s Brian Deck. He produced “The Moon and Antarctica” for Modest Mouse, “Our Endless Numbered Days” for Iron and Wine, “The Animal Years” for Josh Ritter, and this album I love by the Fruit Bats called “Mouthfuls”. We’re getting really cool weird twisted folksy sounds.

Ûž Paul McCartney is set to release a new album this summer, the inaugural release for new Starbucks label.

I drink Starbucks. I love McCartney. But why does this just feel so dirty and somehow depressing?

Ûž Mason Jennings has a new blog post that starts with the sentence, “Did you ever just get so high that you wrote on your arm never to smoke weed again? Me neither.” It goes on to discuss music he likes and life in general lately for him, but opening sentences don’t get much more engaging than that one.

Ûž I truly love the new Hold Steady video for “Stuck Between Stations.” That is a dang fine song, and since I haven’t caught them live yet, I’ve never seen it performed, seen the way they jolt out their music.

Incidentally, I think their piano player may actually be Oliver, Kat‘s husband from Miami Ink. Rock the ‘stache, dude.

Ûž SPIN tries to deconstruct the method behind Ryan Adams‘ crazy, internet-facilitated, musical-diarrhea madness.

Ûž Pete Yorn‘s cousin/merch man/video whiz Maxx updates Pete’s MySpace friends with setlists and excellent pictures from the road. The most recent post has a haiku to match each photograph, and is a must-read. I laughed out loud at a few:

sid is funnier
when he’s not wearing his clothes
but someone else’s

simon is undead
he will eat your flesh
even from the stage

Ûž SXSW. Most of the SXSW coverage from my fellow bloggers seems like drinking out of a firehose, and I am not able to fully absorb all of it yet (although I am trying). This, however, was one show that I had read about and found video for — very cool. Pete Townshend was at the fest to speak at a panel and joined British buzz band The Fratellis for a cool little cover of The Who’s “The Seeker”:

And the best picture that I’ve seen so far from SXSW was taken by my friend Brian H., who has been regularly updating me with more pics and details than you can shake a stick at (thanks!). I don’t know the story behind this shot, but I thought it was cool how it speaks to the environment of total musical domination in Austin these past few days:

Rock ‘n roll.

December 6, 2006

The Hold Steady: Outtakes (etc) from Boys & Girls In America

A friend passed this great little collection of outtakes/alternate versions/misc from The Hold Steady, Brooklyn’s best bar band that is finally getting some of the acclaim they deserve with their latest album, Boys and Girls in America [see previous post].

Their sound is gritty but melodic — and I’ll have more to say on that later. For now, enjoy these:

Girls Like Status (bonus track)
Arms & Hearts (bonus track)
Teenage Liberation (bonus single)
Modesto Is Not That Sweet (amen! from Crisp Songs, Vol. 1)
You Gotta Dance (with who you came to dance with) (from Crisp Songs, Vol. 1)
Chips Ahoy! (acoustic) -

Tagged with .
September 27, 2006

The Hold Steady: new song “First Night,” album & tour news

Huh. I think maybe I misunderestimated* The Hold Steady.

Perhaps subconsciously it’s because Craig Finn’s voice sounds exactly like the scruffy, leather-clad, black-dyed-spiky-haired lead singer for the house band in the movie Empire Records (“Gotta have it, really need it, Sugar High . . .”), but here I was pegging them as solely a raucous rock/punk band — when in reality the Brooklyn-based group has more depth than perhaps I gave them credit for.

The cuts I’ve heard from their critically acclaimed Separation Sunday (2005, French Kiss Records) were dirty and rusty, riff-heavy, with a pointed, wry spoken drawl to the lyrics (Exhibit A: Banging Camp,” Exhibit B: Your Little Hoodrat Friend). I missed what some call the Springstonian threads in their tunes, hearing only some dirty Replacements-style rock ‘n’ roll (Finn’s previous band Lifter Puller was from MPLS). And it was good raw fun.

So when AOL Indie (wait . . . what?) offered up a free download of the second song I’ve heard off their upcoming Boys And Girls In America album (Oct 3, Vagrant), I was shocked to hear this melodic, wistful song with a rambling piano and strings:

The First Night” – The Hold Steady

Some reviewers who have their advance copies are pegging Boys And Girls In America as one of their top albums of 2006 (the album is named after a line from Kerouac’s On The Road, so clearly this isn’t bathroom wall scrawl christening here). I also just learned that it is produced by John Agnello (Breeders, Drive-By Truckers, the new Sonic Youth, Son Volt).

Interesting. I stand enlightened and now am really interested in hearing their new album with open ears.

Their tour starts this Saturday, Masonic Temple Connecticut style.

The Hold Steady 2006 Tour
Sept 30 – Hamden, CT – Masonic Temple
Oct 1 – New York, NY – Irving Plaza
Oct 2 – Baltimore, MD – Ottobar
Oct 4 – Atlanta, GA – The Earl
Oct 5 – Birmingham, AL – Bottle Tree
Oct 6 – Memphis, TN – Hi-Tone Cafe
Oct 7 – Denton, TX – Hailey’ s
Oct 8 – Austin, TX – Emo’s
Oct 9 – Houston, TX – Walter’s on Washington
Oct 12 – Tucson, AZ – Club Congress
Oct 13 – San Diego, CA – Brick By Brick
Oct 14 – Costa Mesa, CA – Detroit Bar
Oct 16 – Los Angeles, CA – Troubadour
Oct 17 – San Francisco, CA – Great American Music Hall
Oct 19 – Portland, OR – Lola’s
Oct 20 – Vancouver, BC – The Plaza Club
Oct 21 – Seattle, WA – Crocodile Cafe
Oct 24 – Minneapolis, MN – First Avenue
Oct 25 – Minneapolis, MN – First Avenue
Oct 26 – Chicago, IL – Metro
Oct 27 – Detroit, MI – Magic Stick
Oct 28 – Toronto, ON – Horseshoe Tavern
Oct 29 – Ottowa, ON – Zaphods Beeblebrox
Oct 30 – Boston, MA – Middle East

Oh, and Stereogum’s got the news of the new Hold Steady podcast (which, really, has little to do with music from the actual band, but is a good excuse to listen to some Replacements and Bad Brains).

*that word’s just for you, Chad.

Tagged with .
« Newer Posts
Subscribe to this tasty feed.
I tweet things. It's amazing.

Bio Pic Name: Heather Browne
Location: Colorado, originally by way of California
Giving context to the torrent since 2005.

"I love the relationship that anyone has with music: because there's something in us that is beyond the reach of words, something that eludes and defies our best attempts to spit it out. It's the best part of us, probably, the richest and strangest part..."
—Nick Hornby, Songbook
"Music has always been a matter of energy to me, a question of Fuel. Sentimental people call it Inspiration, but what they really mean is Fuel."
—Hunter S. Thompson

Mp3s are for sampling purposes, kinda like when they give you the cheese cube at Costco, knowing that you'll often go home with having bought the whole 7 lb. spiced Brie log. They are left up for a limited time. If you LIKE the music, go and support these artists, buy their schwag, go to their concerts, purchase their CDs/records and tell all your friends. Rock on.

View all Interviews → View all Shows I've Seen →