Given the many guises the songwriting of Mark Eitzel took on after the disbanding of American Music Club in 1995, the band’s 2004 reunion album, Love Songs for Patriots, wasn’t quite the jarring return to form that might have been expected, but more of a subtle dipping back into familiar waters. The band’s new album, The Golden Age (Merge), recalling AMC benchmark California, treads over paths Eitzel first cleared more than a decade ago, only now there’s wisdom where once there was desperation, world-weariness replacing emotional exhaustion. When Eitzel sings “No one is going to save you” on highlight “Decibels and Little Pills,” it may sound like a familiar refrain, but here he comes off resolute instead of at the end of his rope. Elsewhere cuts like “The Dance” may lack such a dramatic lyrical hook, but Eitzel has developed a narrative form that’s just as captivating for its character development and miniature plot lines. Guitarist and only other remaining original AMC member Vudi is the real difference though. In some intangible way, the songs are more firmly rooted for his presence, his intricate playing still the perfect blend of tear-in-a-beer twang and ambient moodiness for Eitzel’s sadsack tales. It would be unfair to say that it’s like no time has passed since the band’s hey day because really it’s specifically time that has produced The Golden Age.
Moviola and the Black Swans will open for American Music Club when they play at Cafe Bourbon Street on Monday, April 14.
MP3: All the Souls Welcome You to San Francisco
By the week’s end, my alcohol consumption was beginning to catch up with me. The day started out well enough with another freebie, but a PBR-sponsored show at the French Legation Museum ended up meaning only dollar beers. While that wasn’t entirely bad news, the beer line there soon grew too long to bother. And after scorching in the sun for a few hours, there was no choice but to seek refuge in the hotel instead of continuing the quest. When I did venture out again, as was generally the case the rest of the week, once the sun set so too did the free beer dry up.
Free beers: 1; Bought beers: 6 (2 of which were only $1)
Free beers: 16.5; Bought beers: 29
If I learned anything this week, it was that if you put music before beer at SXSW, you will most likely be buying most of your alcohol. I also learned that, judging by the response to this blog, that there are not as many people googling “free beer” as I thought.
Friends, I am losing the war. Yesterday I failed to keep the free beer to bought beer ratio in check. I did, however, find a loophole: being bought beers by other people, which of course counts as free beer. So if you’d like to contribute to my worthy cause, feel free to buy me beer. I’ll be the only guy wearing a Maplewood t-shirt.
Free beer: 3; Bought beer: 10
Free beer: 15.5 (again 6 of these were tallboys); Bought beer: 23
(Please remember these numbers are coming from an increasingly diminishing memory.)
Well, my hoped for drinking ratio was shot to hell thanks to Siltbreeze’s Mtv-friendly bands keeping me at the Soho Lounge. (Attempts to get into Beerland and Friends were unsuccessful.) Thus too many $4 Lone Stars were drank. I’m going to have to pound beers at the Fader party today to make up for it.
Free beers- 3.5; Bought beers- 10
Free beers- 12.5; Bought beers- 13
Instead of doing something superfluous like reviews of all the bands I’ve seen in Austin this week, I’m going to try to get to the heart of SXSW. So without further ado, here’s the tally of my SXSW thus far.
Free beers-9 (including 6 tallboys); Bought beers- 3
Midway through Wednesday, I’m at 3.5 (one spilled) free beers and 1 bought. But the night hasn’t even begun so I’ll be posting the grand total tomorrow. I’m going to try to keep the ratioo of free to bought beers at 3 to 1.
Having done one of these top tens every year for some time now, looking back it’s hard to recall a year as pervasively boring in terms of music as 2007. There were few new ideas from new places, while veteran acts (Arcade Fire, Spoon, Radiohead, Wilco, etc.) seemed content to merely meet expectations rather than surpass them. I found it hard to put together this list, and as such was tempted to put a book (Then We Came to the End by Joshua Ferris) on here instead of a record as it’s probably the best thing I’ve read in five years and was more rewarding than anything I heard this year. But this is a music list for a music website and admittedly all of the below are well worth your time.
10. The Lodger, Grown-Ups (Slumberland)
Sounding (to these ears) somewheres between the Delgados and Housemartins, the debut from this Leeds, England group is an arresting bout of vitriolic pop.
9. CocoRosie, The Adventures of Ghosthorse and Stillborn (Touch & Go)
While I dug the Casady sisters’ debut, their sophomore album lost me. Less nefariously obtuse then, their third album is an enchanting mix of worldly rhythms, hip-hop chants and siren singing.
8. Calla, Strength in Numbers (Beggars Banquet)
One of my perennial favorites, Calla parted their oceansize electric guitars with acoustic reveries and Tex-Mex accents for their fifth record. The result is no less consuming.
7. Githead, Art Pop (Swim)
The “other” band of Wire’s Colin Newman, Githead bears much resemblance to Newman’s main preoccupation: glassy guitar riffs, angular rhythms and a mix of pop and avant garde ideas. The band’s second full-length strikes the perfect balance of these qualities.
6. Times New Viking, Present the Paisley Reich (Siltbreeze)
Locals Times New Viking’s last release with the rejuvenated Siltbreeze label before their out-soon debut with Matador, the Paisley Reich shows the band continuing its expert dismantling of pop archetypes.
5. The Maps, We Can Create (Mute)
The debut full-length from the Maps (a.k.a. James Chapman), is a lovingly textured mix of shoegazed electronica. Awash in warm tones, the record is much more affecting than the sum of its effects.
4. Von Südenfed, Tromatic Reflexxions (Domino)
This curious collaboration between the Fall’s Mark E. Smith and electro experts Mouse on Mars, turned out to be one of the best of both’s output. Mutated pulses and jarring beats clash with Smith’s distinct mutterings, making for a truly unique and ingenious record.
3. M.I.A. Kala (Interscope)
With her second record, M.I.A. proved that her multicultural tract on debut Arular was no flavor of the month. She returned with an album enriched with sundry influences manifested in cohesively infectious songs.
2. Shout Out Louds, Our Ill Wills (Merge)
Sweden’s Shout Out Louds increased the pop quotient for their second album, creating a contrasting blend of bittersweets and melodies.
1. The Horrors, Strange House (Stolen Transmission)
I once had a friend tell me that “there are two kinds of people in the world: freaks and weirdos.” So with its liner notes transcription of “Psychotic Sounds for Freaks and Weirdos,” could these British upstarts’ debut unite the two? I don’t know, and it certainly doesn’t matter. The band’s blend of Iggy-ed caterwauling and Birthday Party?recalling rumble is top-notch, while their sense of humor (“Sheena Is a Parasite”) helps lighten the batcave aesthetic. I’m always suspicious of the authenticity of any band (especially one that’s British) with this much put-on, but when it’s this good, best just to suspend any disbelief.
I’m going to make this brief. You should know who Eric Bachmann (former Archers of Loaf frontman and the guy currently behind Crooked Fingers) is. You don’t need me to blab about all the great work he’s done, particularly the four CF records, and besides I’m late in posting this feature. I will say that right now he’s on tour promoting last year’s equally impressive To the Races (Saddle Creek), which is the first proper album he’s done under his own name. (He released a movie score for Ball of Wax under his birth name in 2002.) The album was written while he was living in a van in Seattle, and recorded in the middle of winter at a deserted motel on North Carolina’s Outer Banks. So anyway, I talked to him on the phone last week, and he’ll be at Andyman’s Treehouse tonight, with local Eric Metronome opening.
I hear you’re hocking Cuban sandwiches in Denver.
Not anymore. I was last summer. I had a little sandwich stand and it was good, but I’m touring now.
So no one’s running it for you?
No, I couldn’t find anyone to make the bread. I was making my own bread and I didn’t know anyone that could do it.
So there was a dearth of Cuban sandwiches in Denver?
There were none that were that good. I know how to make them because I spent sometime growing up in Florida. It was always something I wanted to do, and something to get my head out of the music business shell. I’m really glad that I did it, but I don’t think I would do a cart again; I’d do a storefront. There’s so many laws for vending carts and they don’t make it easy to make money.
Are you into cooking in general or is it just sandwiches that are your forte?
No, I like to cook. I’m not the best cook in the world, but I like to do it. Continue reading
More than 30 years ago, the Saints, in what was something of a fluke, made their initial mark on rock ‘n’ roll. Disdained in their home of Australia, the band’s brash sound found an audience in the burgeoning punk scene in England when their single, “(I’m) Stranded,” a seminal meshing of alienation and blistering licks, was released in 1976. But truly mavericks, the Saints didn’t fit in among the spiked and safety-pinned, and soon loss favor with that crowd as well as their record company. After three albums, they were dropped by EMI and the original line-up disintegrated.
The Saints may have been just another, albeit bright, flash in the pan, but singer Chris Bailey has continued to soldier on, recruiting new members while following his muse. The band found widespread success in 1987 with All Fools Day (my introduction to the band), but was stymied two years later, when TVT, the label that released the album in the States, instigated legal proceedings with the band’s Australian home, Mushroom. Bailey and the Saints were caught in the middle and weren’t able to release another record until 1997. But the last ten years have shown the band return with renewed vigor. Their latest album, Imperious Delirium, is a riveting blend of the wit and raucous rock ‘n’ roll that has long been Bailey’s stock-and-trade.
The band is hitting American shores this week, playing their first show Thursday at Cleveland’s Beachland Ballroom, and the second here at Bernie’s on Friday. I caught up with Bailey on the phone in his home in Amsterdam before their departure.
Your new record is out here on Judy Collins’ label (Wildflower). You must find that a little humorous.
On the one hand it could be incongruous, but on the other hand it does make a certain amount of sense. I have to admit that when it was fist mooted to me my reaction was “Why?” But I’m a bit of a Judy Collins fan, strangely enough, and I looked at the roster they have, which is a bit eclectic, and it does make sense. Even though the Saints can be the caricature guys in the bus, hard-living, hard drinking rock ‘n’ roll chappies, there’s a certain girlish sensibility. We’re not just a typical cock-rock band. Over the years I’ve gone off on certain tangents that could be described as quasi-folk so it’s odd that at this particular point in our—is it evolution or de-evolution?—we’ve gone back to a noisier perspective on the music spectrum. It’s a good laugh.
After seemingly finding success in the U.S. on Capitol, Sweden’s Shout Out Louds have found a home on mega-indie Merge for their second album, Our Ill Wills. It’s a good fit; their smart pop-rock fits alongside that of labelmates Arcade Fire and Spoon. Downplaying the garage guitars featured on debut Gaff Gaff Howl Howl, the new record is drenched in majestic melodic sweeps and bouncy ornate pop. From the building lead of “Tonight I Have to Leave It” to the whirring denouement of “Hard Rain,” the album is a near-perfect mix of melancholic emotion and musical euphoria. Singer Adam Olenius wears his heart in his Robert Smith–like warble, similarly evoking a certain amount of sentimentality in simple lines like “On my way home in the car you held my hand” (“Your Parents’ Living Room”), or loss more directly with “Your love is something I cannot remember” (“Impossible”). He’s backed by a confluence of twinkling piano lines, reverbed guitar riffs, cracking beats and strings that make each song at once epic and epochal. Our Ill Wills is nothing short of brilliant, and thus the only thing one could wish for is that the band was playing somewhere other than the Basement.
MP3: Tonight I Have To Leave It
LISTEN: Full Album Stream
It’s been said many times before (I’ve probably already said it in print once or twice already) that Two Cow Garage is one of the hardest working bands to call Columbus home. So it comes as sort of a surprise when singer (and guitarist) Micah Schnabel laments, “I should have gone to college and made a lot of money” on “Should’ve California,” a song appearing midway through the band’s new album, III. He and his bandmates, bassist Shane Sweeney and drummer Dustin Harigle, have given the whole rock ‘n’ roll thing one hell of a college try–and in half the time of most groups. Since releasing their debut, Please Turn the Gas Back On in 2002, they’ve been plying their trade all over God’s green earth. But one gets the sense on this, their succinctly titled third record, that these mid-20-somethings did some questioning about their lot in life and whether or not all the time spent in the van is still worth it. In addition to the shoulda-woulda-coulda themes of the aforementioned track, on “No Shame” Schnabel states, “There ain’t no shame in just giving up and walking away.”
The irony, of course, is that Two Cow has just released the strongest record of its career. Along with the soul-searching, the band has brought together the sonic strains of their debut and its successor, Wall Against Our Back, the former’s twang and the latter’s bombast held together with Midwestern grit. With some nice touches, like keys and horns, III is a fully formed studio endeavor while also sounding fervent enough that you can almost smell the stale beer. So while to the Two Cow boys it may seem like they’re spinning their wheels, it’s pretty apparent that they’re moving forward.
MP3: The Great Gravitron Massacre