Monday, November 29, 2010

Completely Conspicuous 152: The Year in Rock, Part 3

Special guest Jay Breitling joins me on the podcast for part 3 of our discussion about the best music of 2010. Listen to the show in streaming audio or download it directly (right click and "save as").

Or you can listen to it here:



The show notes...

Topics:

- Breitling's #1

- Kumar's #1

- Disappointments

- Most anticipated releases of 2011: Destroyer, Dears, Twilight Singers, Johnny Foreigner, Yuck

- Breitling laments the demise of Run DMC

- New Radiohead album?

- Yuck makes a Scorpions video

- Bonehead of the Week

Music:

Ted Leo and the Pharmacists - Even Heroes Have to Die

Los Campesinos - The Sea is a Good Place to Think of the Future

Ted Leo and the Pharmacists - Bottled in Cork

Destroyer - Chinatown

Buffalo Tom - Arise, Watch

Completely Conspicuous is available through the iTunes podcast directory. Subscribe and write a review!

The show is sponsored by Eastbay/Footlocker.com. Use the following codes to get athletic gear from Nike, Adidas, Asics and more. AFCOMP15 will get you 10% off any order of $50 at Eastbay.com, AFCOMP20 will get you 15% off any order of $75 at Eastbay.com and AFCOMPFL will get you 10% off any order of $50 or more at Footlocker.com.

The Ted Leo and the Pharmacists songs are on the album The Brutalist Bricks on Matador Records, where you can download the songs for free.

The Los Campesinos song is on the band's album Romance is Boring on Arts and Crafts. The song is courtesy of IODA Promonet:

Romance Is BoringLos Campesinos!
"The Sea Is A Good Place To Think Of The Future" (mp3)
from "Romance Is Boring"
(Arts & Crafts)

Buy at Napster
Buy at Amazon MP3
More On This Album



The Destroyer song is on the forthcoming album Kaputt on Merge Records, where you can download the song for free (right click and "save as").

The Buffalo Tom song is on the forthcoming album Skins on Scrawny Records. Download the song for free at Stereogum.

The opening and closing theme of Completely Conspicuous is "Theme to Big F'in Pants" by Jay Breitling. Find out more about Senor Breitling at his fine music blogs Clicky Clicky and Keeping Some Dark Secrets. Additional music used in the show is by Me and Boris the Bull, which is the brainchild of the mighty Mark Campbell. Thanks to Bob Durling for the album art; find out more about his photography at his blog. Voiceover work is courtesy of James Gralian.

Completely Conspicuous is a Tan God Production. Word.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Unsung: A Little is Enough

Unsung is a new feature in which I take a look at a pop culture phenomenon (be it music, TV, literary, whatever) that has been forgotten or underappreciated. In this first installment, I discuss Pete Townshend's solo work, specifically from 1980-1985.

There are rock legends, and then there's Pete Townshend. Beloved for his work as the driving force behind The Who, Townshend has been a rock icon for more than 40 years. Despite the deaths of original members Keith Moon and John Entwhistle, The Who continues to live on, playing the last Super Bowl halftime show in February 2010 and performing its Quadrophenia album in concert in March. There are tentative plans for another tour in 2011, but Townshend's ongoing problems with tinnitus has everything up in the air.

But one area that Townshend seems to have lost interest in is his solo career, which by the mid-1980s had him entrenched as one of the top contemporary rock artists of the time. His three albums--Empty Glass (1980), All the Best Cowboys Have Chinese Eyes (1982) and White City:
A Novel (1985)--were critically and for the most part, commercially well-received. He had escaped the Who's shadow, something bandmates Roger Daltrey and John Entwhistle were unable to do despite many attempts. The Who had disbanded after its 1982 "Schlitz Rocks America" farewell tour and Townshend was staking his place as a vital and modern artist. But after White City, he was unable to keep the momentum going.

Townshend originally released solo material in the early 1970s, encapsulated in three albums that were devoted to Indian spiritual leader Meher Baba. He also collaborated on a 1975 album with Ronnie Laine of the Faces. But it wasn't until 1980, two years after Moon's death, that Townshend released Empty Glass, considered by many to be his first real solo album. Today, the album is best remembered for the hit single "Let My Love Open the Door," which reached #9 on the U.S. singles chart and has been used in countless movies and TV shows. It's a light, synth-laden pop number that sounded absolutely unlike any Who song that had come before it. But the album is much more than that. Townshend explores the homoerotic overtones of the punk scene in "Rough Boys," a song he partially dedicated to the Sex Pistols. Daltrey was reported angry that Pete didn't save the song for The Who, but I can't picture Daltrey singing it:



"And I Moved" was originally written for Bette Midler and Townshend didn't change the gender of the person the narrator is longing for, which again probably tweaked a few Who fans who were wondering exactly what Townshend was saying here. Townshend also references his substance abuse problems on songs like "A Little is Enough," which equates his lover with heroin and/or booze, and "Empty Glass," which features the refrain "My life's a mess I wait for you to pass/I stand here at the bar, I hold an empty glass."

The following year, 1981, saw the release of the first Who album since Moon's death, Face Dances. Featuring Kenney Jones on drums, the album hit #4 on the U.S. charts and had FM radio hits with "You Better You Bet" (also one of the first videos ever played on MTV, which launched in August of that year) and "Another Tricky Day." I had it on vinyl and played the hell out of it, but it didn't have that familiar Who roar. It struck me as a continuation of the territory staked out by Empty Glass, which isn't a bad thing, but to this 13-year-old hard rock enthusiast, it didn't rock to the appropriate degree.

Townshend released All the Best Cowboys Have Chinese Eyes in June 1982. This record was tougher for rock radio to pin down, as it featured even more synth musings than its predecessor as well as spoken word sections. As a result, I didn't hear much of it until I ordered the album from the Columbia House record club. The song that best combines Townshend's old and new personas is "Slit Skirts," which is an autobiographical sounding, piano-heavy song that also builds up to rocking crescendos:



"The Sea Refuses No River" is a majestic tale of Townshend overcoming his heroin addiction, filled with religious allusions, while "Somebody Saved Me" and "Exquisitely Bored" also deal with the fallout from his drug problems. "Communication" is an uptempo, almost New Wavey take on, well, communication. "Stop Hurting People" works in some of that pesky spoken word. And of course, there's that ridiculous album title. It all added up to the album being a commercial failure (it hit #26 on the Billboard album chart) and drifting off into the ether. But there are some great songs on this record.

A few months after Chinese Eyes was released, the Who's final album, It's Hard, came out. This was less successful than Face Dances and continued the sound of that album. On the whole, the album was pretty unimpressive, although "Eminence Front" is a truly terrific song. The Who made the tour for this album its "final" jaunt, taking the Clash out as its opening act as sort of a passing of the torch. Sadly, the Clash didn't last much longer than the Who and never reformed.

It was a few years before Townshend was heard from again, but he returned with a vengeance. In November 1985, he released White City: A Novel, a concept album that focused on a London housing project similar to the one he grew up in. The album was accompanied by a short film based on the story; here's the first 10 minutes:



Townshend even went on Letterman to talk about it, although he didn't want to play that night:



Right from the start, the album's first single was a complete change. "Face to Face" was a punchy big band tune with Pete as carnival barker/bandleader, a horn section and backing vocalists and was about as different from a Who song as you can get. And it was terrific:



The rollicking live video was a hit on the MTV and the song was all over the radio. But Townshend didn't totally turn his back on rock. The album opener "Give Blood" featured David Gilmour on guitar and is as rocking as anything Townshend had done in the last 10 years; it also featured the murky bass noodlings of Pino Palladino, who would step in to fill the bass slot in the Who when Entwhistle died while on tour in 2002.

The bluesy "Secondhand Love" features some terrific Townshend guitar work and also had a great video to accompany it:



Townshend originally wrote "White City Fighting" for David Gilmour's album About Face, but it ended up fitting better on White City instead. "Come to Mama" closes out the album on a driving note, as the couple featured on the album finishes at odds with each other.

White City ended up going gold, even though its highest chart position was 26, the same as Chinese Eyes. "Face the Face" actually spawned a few dance remixes, and the popularity of the live big band videos led to a follow-up live album called Deep End: Live, which featured several Who songs and a great cover of English Beat's "Save It for Later":



So after the success and brilliance of White City, Townshend was poised for even greater things. Or so I believed, anyway. Alas, his only solo releases since then were 1989's The Iron Man, which was based on the children's story, and 1993's Psychoderelict, another concept album that revisits Townshend's old Lifehouse story (which was begun and then aborted in favor of the classic Who's Next album). It's a mish-mash of spoken word and a radio play that doesn't quite work. In between these projects, Townshend's been organizing various and sundry
Who reunions. But unfortunately, we never got a true follow-up to White City. Which is too bad, because it would have been neat to see where he would have gone next.

After all he's contributed to rock over the decades, Townshend certainly doesn't owe anybody anything. He's given us more timeless music than nearly any other rock artist. But it is interesting to wonder what he could have done if he'd continued on the solo path he'd forged in the 1980s.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Mixology: Rock On, Rocker

Mixology is a recurring feature in which I take a look at one of the many mix tapes I made over the years. Some are better than others, but all of them are fun to revisit.

Rock On, Rocker (7/2/04)

This mix was made entirely from CD tracks because I still hadn't gotten on iTunes yet. I had just picked up a bunch of new CDs (remember when people used to buy CDs?) from Modest Mouse, Sonic Youth, PJ Harvey, Wilco and the Tragically Hip, so there was plenty of good new music to choose from.

The previous weekend we went down to Sesame Place, an amusement park not far from Philly, and I was listening to a bunch of the discs on the drive down and back. I also had recently purchased a CD from one of the first dates of the Pixies reunion tour, so that was represented here as well.

I had also subscribed to eMusic, which at the time was an all-you-can-eat service: unlimited downloads for a monthly fee. It was pretty great, and I discovered a lot of new indie music that way: !!!, the New Pornographers, McLusky, etc. I was also finding a lot of great bootlegs, like the Franz Ferdinand one I sampled for this mix. The French DJs yapping all over it just add to the enjoyment in my book.

All told, this mix was a good representation of that summer. I spent much of it changing diapers, as Lily was a few months old and Hannah was only 2. If I try hard enough, I can still smell that nasty trash bin we had designated just for diapers. Ugh.

The name of the mix came from a saying often used by my good friend Senor Breitling. Says it all, really.

Summer's Killing Us - The Tragically Hip
The Good Times are Killing Me - Modest Mouse
Take Me Out (live) - Franz Ferdinand
When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Get Karazzee - !!!
So Says I - The Shins
At Least That's What You Said - Wilco
Who the Fuck? - PJ Harvey
Unmade Bed - Sonic Youth
Hunt Again - Mission of Burma
C'mon C'mon - Von Bondies
U-Mass (live) - Pixies
Can't Keep - Pearl Jam
The Laws Have Changed - The New Pornographers
Ball and Biscuit - White Stripes
Fix Up, Look Sharp - Dizzee Rascal
Wrong 'em Boyo - The Clash
Are You Done? - Consonant
KC Accidental - Broken Social Scene
Faster Gun - The Wrens

The good times are killing me:


Faster Gun:

Monday, November 22, 2010

Completely Conspicuous 151: The Year in Rock, Part 2

Special guest Jay Breitling joins me on the podcast for part 2 of our discussion of the best music of 2010. Listen to the show in streaming audio or download it directly (right click and "save as").

Or you can listen to it here:



The show notes...

Topics:

- Breitling's #6

- Breitling schools us on the videogames and such

- Kumar's #6

- Breitling's #5

- eMusic's changing again

- Kumar's #5

- What's the deal with Mumford & Sons?

- Breitling's #4

- Kumar's #4

- Breitling's #3

- Kumar's #3

- Breitling's #2

- Kumar's #2

- Bonehead of the Week

Music:

Superchunk - Digging for Something

Everyone Everywhere - Obama House, Fukui Prefecture

Walter Schreifels - Arthur Lee's Lullabye

Completely Conspicuous is available through the iTunes podcast directory. Subscribe and write a review!

The show is sponsored by Budget, the country's premier car rental service with 900 locations. Go to Budget.com/CompCon and save 10% off any reservation or $30 off a weekly rental.

The Superchunk song is on the album Majesty Shredding on Merge Records, where you can download it for free (right click and "save as").

The Everyone Everywhere song is on the band's self-titled album on Tiny Engines. Download it for free courtesy of Clicky Clicky.

The Walter Schreifels song is on the album An Open Letter to the Scene on Dine Alone Records. Download it for free courtesy of Clicky Clicky.

The opening and closing theme of Completely Conspicuous is "Theme to Big F'in Pants" by Jay Breitling. Find out more about Senor Breitling at his fine music blogs Clicky Clicky and Keeping Some Dark Secrets. Additional music used in the show is by Me and Boris the Bull, which is the brainchild of the mighty Mark Campbell. Thanks to Bob Durling for the album art; find out more about his photography at his blog. Voiceover work is courtesy of James Gralian.

Completely Conspicuous is a Tan God Production. Word.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Mixology: Otto's Hot Rock Pile

Mixology is a recurring feature in which I take a look at one of the many mix tapes I made over the years. Some are better than others, but all of them are fun to revisit.

Otto's Hot Rock Pile (or songs to crash a bus by) (8/14/02)

Well, it was bound to happen. After nearly a year of documenting the mix tapes I compiled, I've finally run out. I'm pretty sure there are a few more that I just haven't found yet, but for the time being, that's all of 'em. But a few years after my tape deck died in early 2000, I got my first CD burner. Which meant I was able to create mixes again, albeit ones without an A and B side. For about three years, I made mixes using a couple of different burners, ripping tracks from CDs. Then I downloaded iTunes for the first time and discovered the joy of playlists. I was making a monthly playlist of MP3s I had just downloaded and burned a lot of them to CD for a while, until the last two years or so, when I got lazy and just listened to them on iTunes. Alas, when our old PC was starting to croak a little (aka ye olde Blue Screen of Death), we had it wiped clean. Which unfortunately wiped out all my iTunes playlists. But I still have plenty of CD mixes to talk about here.

This particular mix was one of the first ones I burned, back in the summer of 2002. I wanted a mix of songs that just totally kick ass, regardless of whether I'd put them on mixes in the past. The name of the mix was a nod to metal-lovin' stoner Otto ("I like to get blotto") the bus driver from The Simpsons, although there was probably a lot of stuff on here that he probably would never listen to, like Fugazi, Mission of Burma, Big Black, Pavement, etc.

The song that probably best typifies the Otto mindset is one of the most rockin' songs of all time, Fu Manchu's "Evil Eye." Mainstream rock fans won't know the Fu, and I hadn't heard of them until late 1999 when I picked up a free cassette single previewing a couple of songs from the band's upcoming album King of the Road. I snagged it at the Webnoize 1999 conference in LA and immediately dug it and bought the previous album The Action is Go! "Evil Eye" is the opening song and just melts your brain from the get-go. Pure awesomeness.

Most of this mix came in handy when I was running the 2003 New York City Marathon. I put a good chunk of the songs on my old Rio 600 MP3 player; ended up listening the mix four times as I ran the race. It was a hot day for November and I needed that mix to keep my legs moving as I struggle through the last few miles. I think the song that got me the most fired up was Motorhead's "Killed by Death." It was as if Lemmy hisself was yelling at me to keep going.

You Didn't Need - Rollins Band
Unsung - Helmet
Bed for the Scraping - Fugazi
Jesus Christ Pose - Soundgarden
Negative Creep - Nirvana
In 'n Out of Grace - Mudhoney
Leash - Pearl Jam
I'll Stick Around - Foo Fighters
The Wagon - Dinosaur Jr.
Youth Against Fascism - Sonic Youth
That's How I Escaped My Certain Fate - Mission of Burma
What's Going On - Husker Du
Hit the Plane Down - Pavement
Kerosene - Big Black
Evil Eye - Fu Manchu
Killed by Death - Motorhead
Peace Dog - The Cult
Let There Be Rock - AC/DC
Paranoid - Black Sabbath


Evil Eye!


Killed by Death:

Monday, November 15, 2010

Completely Conspicuous 150: The Year in Rock, Part 1

This week on the podcast, I'm joined by special guest Jay Breitling as we discuss our picks for the best music of 2010. Listen to the show in streaming audio or download it directly (right click and "save as").

Or you can listen to it here:




Topics:

- Last show from Casa Breitling in Cambridge

- Going through our top 10 albums for 2010

- Breitling Honorable Mention: Arcade Fire

- Kumar HM: Les Savy Fav

- Breitling HM: Deerhunter, Adebisi Shank, Frightened Rabbit

- Kumar HM: LCD Soundsystem, Drive-By Truckers

- Breitling's #10

- Kumar's #10

- Breitling's #9

- Breitling explains how cassettes work, sort of

- Chloe B. provides background vocals

- Kumar's #9

- Breitling's #8

- Kumar's #8

- Breitling's #7

- Kumar's #7

- Bonehead of the Week

Music:

Los Campesinos - There are Listed Buildings

Spoon - Written in Reverse

The Henry Clay People - Your Famous Friends

Completely Conspicuous is available through the iTunes podcast directory. Subscribe and write a review!

The show is sponsored by Eastbay/Footlocker.com. Use the following codes to get athletic gear from Nike, Adidas, Asics and more. AFCOMP15 will get you 10% off any order of $50 at Eastbay.com, AFCOMP20 will get you 15% off any order of $75 at Eastbay.com and AFCOMPFL will get you 10% off any order of $50 or more at Footlocker.com.

The Los Campesinos song is on the album Romance is Boring on Arts and Crafts. Download the song for free courtesy of IODA Promonet:

Romance Is BoringLos Campesinos!
"There Are Listed Buildings" (mp3)
from "Romance Is Boring"
(Arts & Crafts)

Buy at Napster
Buy at Amazon MP3
More On This Album



The Spoon song is on the album Transference on Merge Records. Download the song for free courtesy of IODA Promonet:

TransferenceSpoon
"Written In Reverse" (mp3)
from "Transference"
(Arts & Crafts Mexico)

More On This Album



The Henry Clay People song is on the album Somewhere on the Golden Coast on TBD Records. Download the song for free at Spinner.

The opening and closing theme of Completely Conspicuous is "Theme to Big F'in Pants" by Jay Breitling. Find out more about Senor Breitling at his fine music blogs Clicky Clicky and Keeping Some Dark Secrets. Additional music used in the show is by Me and Boris the Bull, which is the brainchild of the mighty Mark Campbell. Thanks to Bob Durling for the album art; find out more about his photography at his blog.

Completely Conspicuous is a Tan God Production. Word.

Evil!

My fall rockstravaganza (seven shows in the last three months) came to a close Saturday night with a bang: the Nick Cave-led Grinderman at the House of Blues. It was an early show at the HOB, but that didn't diminish from the raw power on display (check out some great photos from the show). These middle-aged Australians rocked way harder than most bands 30 years younger than them.

Right from the moment Grinderman hit the stage at 8 and tore into "Mickey Mouse and the Goodbye Man" from the band's latest release Grinderman 2, Cave and crew had the crowd captivated. The 53-year-old rail-thin frontman paced the front of the stage, slashing out rhythm parts on his guitar and exhorting the audience like a crazed revival preacher. His main partner in crime was Warren Ellis, who committed various forms of instrument abuse as he wrung out tortured sounds from guitars, electric violins, bouzoukis. Ellis, with his long straggly hair and even longer beard, pranced around like a demented wizard as he sang backing vocals and on songs like the slow-burn closer "Grinderman" bashed the hell out out a cymbal with a pair of maracas. Bassist Martyn Casey and drummer Jim Sclavunos held down the rhythm while Cave and Ellis brought the fire. Indeed, the sounds Ellis got from his overdriven violin were louder and more dangerous than any guitar could emit.

Cave and his Bad Seeds are known for darker, gloomier meditations, but with Grinderman, it was full-on garage rock insanity. The highlight of the 80-minute set was "Kitchenette" off the new album, which featured Cave screeching about he just wants to relax while the kids of the married woman he's wooing "TIPPYTOE, TIPPYTOE!!!" through the house. Cave was like an unholy combination of Iggy, Elvis and Lux Interior as the band ripped through blistering versions of "Heathen Child," "Honey Bee" and the middle-aged lothario's lament "No Pussy Blues." All of which made more conventional pop-rock like "Palaces of Montezuma" and downtempo numbers like "When My Baby Comes" sound downright striking.

Alas, HOB's Saturday dance nights mean that bands have to wrap things up by 10. But when Grinderman finished its set at the shockingly early time of 9:20, nobody felt like they'd been shortchanged. Cave et al left it all on the stage.

A couple of choice live performances from Later with Jools Holland:



Friday, November 12, 2010

Mixology: More Music Your Mom Hates

Mixology is a recurring feature in which I take a look at one of the many mix tapes I made over the years. Some are better than others, but all of them are fun to revisit.

More Music Your Mom Hates (11/4/92)

The year was 1992. I was 25 and fairly happy with the way my life was going at the time. And yet, for some inexplicable reason, I liked the Spin Doctors. Cut me some slack: They wrote catchy tunes, there was some decent guitar and...yeah, I know. They quickly rose and fell, victims of the massive radio oversaturation and the wave of darker themed music that was taking hold of the rock world. Chris Barron and the fellas didn't have the staying power once "Little Miss Can't Be Wrong" and "Two Princes" finally stopped getting MTV play.

I was getting into the whole alt-rock scene that emerged in the wake of Nirvana and Pearl Jam: Mudhoney, Soundgarden, Screaming Trees, Alice in Chains. I was digging it all. In fact, a few weeks after this tape was made, my brother and I went to see Alice in Chains, Screaming Trees and Gruntruck at the late great Channel nightclub in South Boston. It was a pretty terrific show. I was impressed with Gruntruck, who were more of a metal act than anything else, but they rocked. The Trees provided the interesting visual counterpoint of Mark Lanegan standing statue still while the Conner brothers were bouncing and rolling all over the stage. And then AiC came out, Layne Staley singing while in a wheelchair because he had a broken leg. The album Dirt had just come out a few months earlier and was blowing up, and despite all the lyrics about heroin and death, Staley seemed to be fairly with it. At one point during the show, he jumped out of his chair and grabbed ahold of one of the overhanging pipes from the low ceiling, singing as he held on literally right over our heads. The Channel was a great little claustrophobic club and that was one of the last shows ever held there. I think it became a strip club after that before closing down for good. Staley descended into a nasty heroin addiction in the years that followed, doing one more album with AiC and becoming a recluse. He died in 2002.

My life, thankfully, was much more boring by comparison.

Side A
Jimmy Olsen's Blues - Spin Doctors
All in the Groove - Blues Traveler
My Morning Song - Black Crowes
Ignoreland - R.E.M.
World's Such a Wonder - Kim Mitchell
Digging in the Dirt - Peter Gabriel
Dyslexic Heart - Paul Westerberg
Rest in Peace - Extreme
Paper Scratcher - Blind Melon
Suck My Kiss - Red Hot Chili Peppers
Suck Me Dry - Mudhoney

Side B
Them Bones - Alice in Chains
In Bloom - Nirvana
Nearly Lost You - Screaming Trees
State of Love and Trust - Pearl Jam
Make It Now - Mudhoney
Naked in the Rain - Red Hot Chili Peppers
Soak the Sin - Blind Melon
Hotel Illness - Black Crowes
Midlife Crisis - Faith No More
Seasons - Chris Cornell
What's Good - Lou Reed
Man on the Moon - R.E.M.

My Morning Song:


Them Bones:

Monday, November 08, 2010

Completely Conspicuous 149: Cover Me

Less talk, more rock this week on the podcast as I discuss the fine art of the cover song. Listen to the show in streaming audio or download it directly (right click and "save as").

Or you can listen to it here:



The show notes...

Topics:

- Covers rarely outshine the originals

- Hendrix made Dylan's "All Along the Watchtower" his own

- Jeff Buckley's cover of "Hallelujah" spawned many awful imitators

- American Idol and Glee have made covers more popular than ever

- Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'" just won't die

- Tribute albums have grown popular in recent years

- Bonehead of the Week

Completely Conspicuous is available through the iTunes podcast directory. Subscribe and write a review!

The show is sponsored by Budget, the country's premier car rental service with 900 locations. Go to Budget.com/CompCon and save 10% off any reservation or $30 off a weekly rental.

The opening and closing theme of Completely Conspicuous is "Theme to Big F'in Pants" by Jay Breitling. Find out more about Senor Breitling at his fine music blogs Clicky Clicky and Keeping Some Dark Secrets. Additional music used in the show is by Me and Boris the Bull, which is the brainchild of the mighty Mark Campbell. Thanks to Bob Durling for the album art; find out more about his photography at his blog.

Completely Conspicuous is a Tan God Production. Word.

Shocker in Gloomtown

Reunion tours are becoming so commonplace these days that it's easy to become rather blase about them. Hey, I don't begrudge any band making some well-deserved cash years after its heyday, especially some of the indie acts like the Feelies or the Pixies (yeah, they were on a major, but nobody was buying those albums back in the day). But when you see acts like the Eagles, Police or the Who charging sky-high ticket prices for reunion shows, it's a bit soul-deflating.

That certainly isn't the case with Guided By Voices, who have reunited the classic early '90s lineup to do a club tour that came through Boston's Paradise Rock Club last Friday. Bob Pollard and boys hadn't played together in 14 years, although different lineups toured through 2004. The show quickly sold out, which is a testament to how beloved that stretch of albums was to indie rock fans. Pollard, who is one of the most prolific rock artists of all time, continues to make quality power pop, but classic GBV releases like Alien Lanes and Bee Thousand rank among the best rock albums ever.

A few hours before the show, I joined my pals Senor Breitling, Bryan Hamill, and other GBV diehards at the Sunset Cantina down Comm. Ave. enjoying a few adult beverages. Just down the bar was Mitch Mitchell, GBV guitarist supreme, getting a head start on the evening's festivities. Even though this was my first GBV show, I knew the band's live reputation: Loud and drunk. And sure enough, they didn't disappoint on either count.

The Dise was packed with plenty of soused fanboys (and a few fangirls) singing every word to each of the 39 songs, most of which didn't surpass 2 minutes in length. Pollard and Mitchell were both chain-smoking throughout, with Pollard alternately swigging from a bottle of tequila and Miller Lite longnecks. Classics like "A Salty Salute," "Motor Away," "Gold Star for Robot Boy" and "Echos Myron" had the club reverberating.

Pollard was clearly having a blast, whether he was remarking that his band Boston Spaceships didn't come close to selling out the Paradise or ripping on the hometown Mighty Mighty Bosstones and shoegazers alike. He swung his microphone like Roger Daltrey and let fly a few classic high leg-kicks while Mitchell and bassist Greg Demos happily made awesome rock poses all night. Meanwhile, guitarist-songwriter Tobin Sprout looked like a college professor on the other side of the stage, quietly providing rhythm guitar and occasionally stepping to the mike to play classics like "14 Cheerleader Coldfront" and "Awful Bliss."

Mitchell even had a cigarette roadie, who would light his smokes and then place them in his mouth in mid-song. It was a sight to behold. Mitchell enthusiastically praised Boston and its women in a hilarious X-rated rant and took on drunken lead vocals on "Postal Blowfish" in the first of the band's three encores.

GBV played for two hours, but could have easily played two more before anyone even thought about going home. It was a testament to everything that makes live rock great, that feeling that you'd rather be nowhere else in the world at that moment. A salty salute, indeed.

Some fan-shot clips from the show:


Thursday, November 04, 2010

Let Spirits Ride

Tuesday night's double-bill of Black Mountain and the Black Angels at the Paradise Rock Club could have been easily dismissed by some as derivative '70s stoner rock. But that would be missing the point. After all, after 60 years or so, what rock band isn't derivative in some way? And sure, Black Mountain doles out heavy portions of Zep/Sabbath/Floyd-influenced tunes, while the Black Angels traffic in Velvet Underground-esque psychedelic drone-rock that wouldn't have been out of place in a hazy weed-filled club in 1974. Yet both acts bring an intensity to their music that takes the influences to another level.

This was my first show at the recently renovated Paradise, which seems roomier but isn't drastically different than it used to be. I'd seen both bands before: Black Mountain in 2008 at the Middle East upstairs and the Black Angels opening for Queens of the Stone Age at the Orpheum a few years back. But to have them team up on the so-called Dropout Boogie tour seemed too good to pass up.

The Black Angels opened up and immediately settled into a steady groove, with singer Alex Maas intoning his nasal vocals but occasionally letting out a heavily reverbed shriek. The band surprisingly did not jam much at all during the 75-minute set, keeping most of the songs to 4 or 5 minutes, and switching instruments for every song. Their songs tended to melt into each other, but not in a bad way. The Angels are a band that was made for head-nodding. Highlights included "Black Grease" from the band's debut album and "Telephone" from the latest release, Phosphene Dream. It's hard not to find yourself floating away on their dark, trippy soundscapes.

Black Mountain didn't waste much time getting onstage and immediately ratcheted up the heaviness factor, with drummer Joshua Wells pounding away furiously and bandleader Stephen McBean piling on the riffage. McBean and Amber Webber traded vocals throughout, underlying the metallic fury with hippie-inspired vocals, although they were drowned out a bit by the music. No matter, the band's sturm-und-drang power was undeniable on the epic "Tyrants," which starts off heavy, gets really quiet and then builds to a fiery crescendo. The set was peppered with sludgy rockers like "Old Fangs," "Rollercoaster" and "Let Spirits Ride" off the band's latest album, Wilderness Heart, and "Evil Ways" and "Angels" from 2008's In the Future. Halfway through the set, I noticed one J. Mascis of Dinosaur Jr. making his way into the club and sure enough, McBean brought him on stage to trade licks on "Druganaut," a 10-minute slow-burner from the band's debut. It was a classic rocksplosion that was worth the price of admission.

It doesn't matter whether you've heard the riffs before. When they're done right, nothing else matters.

Old Fangs:


Telephone:

Monday, November 01, 2010

Completely Conspicuous 148: Runnin' with the Devil

After a three-week delay, the podcast is back. This week, I share my thoughts before and after running the Baystate Marathon last month. Listen to the show in streaming audio or download it directly (right click and "save as").

Or you can listen to it here:



The show notes...

Topics:

- The night before the race, I'm feeling pretty confident

- Ran Baystate in 2007 in 3:46

- Hoping to do a little better this time

- Had disastrous run in May at Providence Marathon because of 80-degree heat

- Check back in after the race, driving home

- Struggled with side stitch from mile 9 on

- Weather was perfect

- Taking the spring off from marathons

- Bonehead of the Week

Music:

Drive-By Truckers - Your Woman is a Living Thing

Wire - Two Minutes

Crystal Castles with Robert Smith - I'm Not in Love

Completely Conspicuous is available through the iTunes podcast directory. Subscribe and write a review!

The show is sponsored by Eastbay/Footlocker.com. Use the following codes to get athletic gear from Nike, Adidas, Asics and more. AFCOMP15 will get you 10% off any order of $50 at Eastbay.com, AFCOMP20 will get you 15% off any order of $75 at Eastbay.com and AFCOMPFL will get you 10% off any order of $50 or more at Footlocker.com.

The Drive-By Truckers song was originally released as a single on Record Store Day. The band is giving it away as a free download to its Facebook friends.

The Wire song is on the forthcoming album Red Barked Tree on the band's label Pink Flag, where you can download the song for free.

The Crystal Castles song features Robert Smith of the Cure on vocals and is a cover of a Platinum Blonde song. The remix is available as a single on Fiction Records. Download the song for free at Stereogum.

The opening and closing theme of Completely Conspicuous is "Theme to Big F'in Pants" by Jay Breitling. Find out more about Senor Breitling at his fine music blogs Clicky Clicky and Keeping Some Dark Secrets. Additional music used in the show is by Me and Boris the Bull, which is the brainchild of the mighty Mark Campbell. Thanks to Bob Durling for the album art; find out more about his photography at his blog.

Completely Conspicuous is a Tan God Production. Word.