Tags: Cherry Red Records, House of Love, Woodentops
I’m always skeptical when bands reunite after 20 or so years. Nostalgia is great and all, but these reunions are usually hollow in nature with the band touring with no new material, or worse they release an album that is a pale imitation of what they once were. A few years back, the Woodentops reunited for some sporadic shows in their native UK, released a best of album (Before During After was complete with unreleased tracks and remixes) and then seemed to slip back into dormancy.
Back in 1988, sometime after the release of Wooden Foot Cops on the Highway and the making of their next album, front man Rolo McGinty put the band on ice. I don’t know how close they were to completing album number three, but I have a Columbia Records compilation with a song called People of Today that was slated for the record. A year or so later I saw House of Love when they toured in support of Babe Rainbow. Guy Chadwick had drafted Woodentops guitarist Simon Mawby to take Terry Bickers place. I remember briefly asking Mawby at that show what happened to the Woodentops. Mawby’s response was something to the effect that Rolo had gone acid house and just lost interest in what the Woodentops were doing.
So I assumed that we would never hear another Woodentops record. Well, well, well thankfully that was not the case. The Woodentops are back. McGinty, Mawby and bassist Frank de Fritas have reunited and it ain’t a nostalgia trip. You know it’s the Woodentops as soon as you hit play, though the band don’t come off as hyper as they did 25 years ago. There’s no Get It On, Stop This Car or Shout, but that’s fine because that was 25 years ago. Woodentops 2.0 are more measured, but no less intense. At first songs seem slower, but McGinty can dial up intensity in more ways than just tempo. Mawby’s guitar sounds pristine, McGinty’s voice sounds like he’s not aged a day and the subtle intricate touches of percussion on each song makes everything sound fresh. Third Floor Rooftop High is the song that sounds most like the band’s heyday, but they throw in some Rolling Stones or Beatles psychedelia into it to make it the same but different. What Was Taken I Don’t Want It Back may be my favorite song on the album and the most mellow, but its gentle beginning builds into breathless crescendo. Granular Tales is like a comedown record, something you would put on after a hard night out. It has the ability to you on the dance floor. Its strength is that it knows that it could, but it is just fine keeping you in your comfortable in your chair with a huge smile on your face.
Tags: Buffalo Tom, Cheatahs, Dinosaur Jr, My Bloody Valentine, Ringo Deathstarr, Swervedriver, Teenage Fanclub, Witchita Records
Cheatahs at the Tractor, Seattle | 23 February
There was a shoegazing dilemma this past Sunday night in Seattle for those of us with a penchant for music made using loads of guitar effects pedals. Option A was for the hot and cool brand of noisy tremolo pop of Austin’s Ringo Deathstarr at El Corazon, and the B option was London based grungy flannel clad gaze of Cheatahs over at the Tractor? Having already seen Ringo Deathstarr a few times I went for option B.
Cheatahs come from London, but the four guys in the band are from Canada, Germany, the US and the UK. Their debut self-titled album is just out on Witchita and follows up the Extended Plays record from last year that compiled their first couple EP’s. There are obvious similarities to Swervedriver in the same way that back in the 90′s Gene looked to the Smiths for inspiration. Like was the case with Gene, I’m sure that Cheatahs have their detractors for sounding too derivative, but when you’ve got the songs to back up your boast of sound it goes a long way in quieting any detractors. As loud as they are with their feet on the pedals they drown out the babble anyway. Beyond Swervedriver and some Dinosaur Jr, you can hear Teenage Fanclub and early Buffalo Tom. I’m not going to kid you, these guys are full on 90′s revivalists, but they make it fun and throw in some switch-ups to keep it interesting.
The show itself was a blast. It felt like I was at a Dino Jr or Swervedriver show 20 years ago. The two guitar players Nathan Hewitt and James Wignall slashed and dove around on stage and dialed up nebulous waves of feedback on every song. Fall may have been the highlight of the night with its My Bloody Valentine-like guitar refrain, but really every song was blisteringly good. Northern Exposure, Cut the Grass and Mission Creep were nothing to sneeze at either. All the songs revved at optimal RPM and at one point I pinched myself to make sure it was real. Realness was confirmed as I walked out of the Tractor with my ears ringing.
stream: Cheatahs – Fall (from Cheatahs out now on Witchita)
These are the remaining US tour dates for Cheatahs:
27 Feb, Los Angeles Echo
01 Mar, San Francisco Brick & Mortar Music Hall
01 Mar, San Francisco Amoeba Records
04 Mar, Brooklyn, NY Baby’s All Right
05 Mar, Philadelphia Boot & Saddle
06 Mar, Washington U Street Music Hall
Tags: Beat Happening, Fishrider Records, Heavenly, Occultation Records, Pastels, The Bats, Trick Mammoth
Earlier this week construction workers were digging a big hole for a new building in the South Lake Union neighborhood of Seattle and discovered the eight foot tusk of a 2,000 to 60,000 thousand year old mammoth. The giant tusk was excavated and is now safely at the Burke Museum here in town, but many questions are still left unanswered. What was this creature doing in Seattle 50,000 years ago? What was the music scene like? Was there any indiepop? Is the tusk real, or was it perhaps, a trick mammoth?
I don’t know if there have been any recent mammoth bone discoveries in New Zealand, but they’ve got a pretty good Trick Mammoth down there. From Dunedin and certainly not prehistoric this trio sounds like they know their history. Taking inspiration from the Bats, Pastels, Beat Happening and Heavenly these indiepop archaeologists piece it together quite nicely. Their debut album just out on Fishrider in New Zealand and Occultation in the UK is full of dainty delights that brush away the dirt. I especially like the way vocalists Adrian Ng and Mille Lovelock blend together like butterfly wings fossilized in ancient sediments. This records is a beauty that is well worth preserving.
You can stream the record at Trick Mammoth’s bandcamp page.
Tags: Apples In Stereo, Beatles, Byrdes, Byrds, Can, Crosby Stills and Nash, Lee Scratch Perry, Mamas and the Papas, Neu!, Stereolab
Quilt at Barboza, Seattle | 10 February 2014
Listening to Quilt and reading about them on the internet you get the initial impression that they are 60′s revivalist hippies. On their sophomore album Held In Splendor the Boston band pluck strings from psychedelic era Beatles, unearth dusty jangle from the Byrds and sprinkle misty mountain vocal harmonies from the Mamas and the Papas. The trio of Anna Fox Rochinski, Shane Butler, and John Andrews are all songwriters which adds to the variety of their sound on the album. They also have voices that allow them to harmonize like Crosby Stills and Nash which are often the focus of their sound. A couple interviews with the band touch on them being into chanting and even some dub. So I was expecting a show accenting their ability to harmonize. I wasn’t expecting a tendency for taking their songs into motorik and dub territory. What are good guitar solos on record turned into hypnotic grooves and made the songs take on new lives during their set last night in the Barboza basement.
When you add in these latent krautrock and dub tendencies you have an unbeatable combination, and at times last night they seemed to lock into jams like they were Stereolab or Neu. Perhaps it was the addition of a fourth member bassist Keven Lareau to the band for this tour that has opened up this new dimension. When they weren’t harmonizing in two, three and four parts, they were jamming and sometimes both at once to chilling effect. Quilt’s brand of psychedelia was already pretty good given their songwriting ability and willingness to go beyond the stereotypical hazy laid back stoner vibe that is all too prevalent in much of this new wave of psyche, but this show put them into by themselves. Already exceptional the songs were put into whatever you want to call the next highest category (neu-super-metronom-psych). Quilt are one of the band’s to beat in 2014.
Quilt are on tour right now.
Feb. 11—Media Club—Vancouver, British Columbia
Feb. 12—Mississippi Studios—Portland, Oregon
Feb. 14—Bottom Of The Hill—San Francisco, California
Feb. 15—The Satellite—Los Angeles, California
Feb. 16—Soda Bar—San Diego, California
Feb. 17—Last Exit Live—Phoenix, Arizona
Feb. 20—The Mohawk—Austin, Texas
Feb. 21—City Tavern—Dallas, Texas
Feb. 22—Fitzgerald’s—Houston, Texas
Feb. 24—529—Atlanta, Georgia
Feb. 25—Local 506—Chapel Hill, North Carolina
Feb. 27—Boot & Saddle—Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Feb. 28—Rough Trade—Brooklyn, New York
March 1—Great Scott—Allston, Massachusetts
March 2—Casa De Popolo—Montreal, Quebec
March 3—Drake Hotel—Toronto, Ontario
March 5—Stone Fox—Nashville, Tennessee
April 2—The Windmill—London, United Kingdom
April 7—El Lokal—Zurich, Switzerland
April 14—Berghain Kantine—Berlin, Germany
April 17—Charlatan—Ghent, Belgium
April 19—L’Espace B—Paris, France
May 2—Carson Creek Ranch—Austin, Texas
May 7—Subterranean—Chicago, Illinois
May 11—Showcase Lounge—South Burlington, Vermont
Tags: A Frames, Bay Area Retrograde, Castleface, Devo, Intelligence, Pow!
I apologize in advance that this post comes too late. You see, there seems to be this contingent of fiends that are obsessed with 80′s post punk synth. Because of this, the first pressing of the Pow! debut album is sold out. If you remember and like the Bay Area Retrograde compilation on Dark Entries that came out a few years ago, then this record is right up your alley. Pow! being from the same place, I bet that they either have that compilation or original pressings of Nominal State, Los Microwaves and Standard of Living. They surely have some Devo, A-Frames and Intelligence records in their collections as well.
Hi-Tech Boom sounds like it was recorded in the 80′s, but it is a commentary on the current state of affairs in the Bay Area. High cost of living and high salaried tech workers pricing everyone out and vanillafying the place. Pow! sound robotic in their outrage. Like everyone these days they are desensitized to the absurdity of reality. They try to hack the mainframe, but the problem is that their are no mainframes anymore. It’s all in the cloud dude. Zombi faced young people walk around staring into their smart phones. These are the same kids that will probably invent Skynet. This world is fucked. Or maybe it isn’t. Pow! exist!
stream: Pow! – Cyber Attack (from Hi-Tech Boom on Castleface)
Tags: Born Bad Records, Brainiac, Cheveu, Devo, Hawkwind, The Intelligence, Wall of Voodoo
I like weird and I like good and Cheveu fits that description. The French band has just released it’s fourth album titled Bum and it just might be their best and weirdest record yet. How could they surpass their cover of Vanilla Ice‘s Ice Ice Baby in terms or strangeness you ask? Ok, maybe Bum isn’t their overtly strangest album. Actually they dial down one kind of weird and dial up another kind. Before they came off as arty punks willing to graffiti over anything, on Bum they are more into a prog rock otherworldly weirdness. They take elements from bands like Hawkwind, Wall of Voodoo, the Intelligence, Brainiac and Devo and come up with something all their own.
You can stream/buy/download the record from Born Bad Records’ bandcamp page.
stream: Cheveu – Juan In a Million
Tags: Hardly Art, Tacocat
The new Tacocat song is called Crimson Wave. It sounds like a surfing song fer sure, but I’m not sure it’s really about surfing. Dissecting the lyrics I think I might have a couple ideas to what it’s about. It could be about algae blooms caused by dinoflagellates that give the ocean a red hue and make it dangerous to eat shellfish during certain months of the year. They do mention surfing these waves, so maybe they like living on the edge surfing with dinoflagellates and algae. It could also be they are fans of the University of Alabama Crimson Tide. They do mention calling in sick to work because of the Crimson Wave. Is that code for being too bummed out about their team losing the Iron Bowl and the Sugar Bowls this year? Of course it could about that Tom Clancy nuclear submarine movie. There are communists mentioned in the song and sharks in hot pursuit. Hmmm.
Whatever this song is about, it sounds like good clean fun. I like it.
Tacocat’s second album NVM is out February 25th on Hardly Art.
stream: Tacocat – Crimson Wave
Tags: Chicago, Gurgles, High Llamas, Hookworms, Jim O'Rourke, Leeds, Prefab Sprout, Saltaire Recordings, Steely Dan
Gurgles are from Leeds. They’ve just released their first single and it’s quite a delight. It’s light and airy and full of life. Think High Llamas, Steely Dan, Jim O’Rourke, Prefab Sprout and Chicago. The keyboards pump sound out like they’re powered by a steam engine while the singing verges on new age gospel. I know. When I first heard it I wasn’t sure, but I found myself hitting play again and again, and the next thing I know I find myself buying the single. Recorded by MJ of Hookworms, so the sound is raw and bleeds a little to make this otherwise slick sounding record oscillate with just enough grime. What an opening salvo for this brand new band!
stream & buy: Gurgles – You Send Me Up / You’re Madder Than Me
Tags: Ceremony, Chameleons, Christian Death, Cure, Jesus and Mary Chain, Moon Sounds Records, Sweet Jesus, Weekend
This new Ceremony record has been hitting a sweet spot somewhere between Weekend, House of Love, Cure Christian Death and Chameleons. It came out at the very tail end of last year, so too late to make my favorite albums list, but you can’t hear it all in time. Ceremony are essentially a one man band based in Fredericksburg, Virginia. It is highly stylized stuff, from the album cover with its striped shirt sunglasses girl to the apocalyptic guitars and vocals. M.C. John Fedowitz has a voice that is slightly monotone, but it adds to the disconnected and lonely feeling his songs have.
Distance is their third album and the first to feature a human drummer instead of a computer and that human touch makes a huge difference. The songs have a Blade Runner feel to them already, but human drums make any replicant tampering undetectable as the guitars buzzsaw to your head and Fedowitz sounds as serious as a heart attack. Dark days are here. Now where are the flying cars?
stream and buy: Ceremony – Distance