Tags: B-52's, Born Bad Records, La Femme, Stereolab, Vera Project
Paris by way of Biarritz, France group La Femme released one of my favorite records of last year. Psycho Tropical Berlin was a mix of electronic metronomic underground, cold wave surfy twang and punky ye-ye. It’s sly, fun, and playful. Listening to the album you it’s readily apparent that La Femme know how to have a good time. This impression was confirmed Wednesday night at the Vera Project.
The group knows how to throw a party, even in a sterile all ages venue where the nearest alcohol is blocks away (or in the flask you snuck in). Indie music is full of inanimate objects on stage so it was refreshing to see all six members of La Femme know how to entertain. Three keyboards buttressed the stage, but that did not stop them from coming into the crowd and dancing with each other. Singer Clémence Quélennec was constantly dancing, displaying some cool robotic 80’s Valley Girl moves, while her co-keyboard MC Marlon Magnée danced and pranced about the stage. It was infectious, fun to watch and provoked the entire audience into dancing too.
A couple highlights of the set were the manic Antitaxi with its lengthy synth introduction building anticipation that exploded in a twangy surf guitar riff to everyone’s elated satisfaction. The epic It’s Time to Wake Up in showcased guitarist and Theremin maestro Sacha Got playing some tiny wooden leaf shaped gypsy guitar from which he coaxed huge washes of sitar like hallucinogenic sounds.
I’m sure touring and playing the same songs night after night gets old for a band, but La Femme genuinely seemed to be having a great time. They are a band in search of a party and if there isn’t one nearby they are fully capable of starting it themselves. Like a French B-52′s.
Tags: Barboza, DFA Records, Factory Floor, Factory Records, New Order
A few things about the Factory Floor show last night:
1. The name Factory Floor conjures up many connotations. The Factory part evokes Manchester’s Factory Records and the austere and eccentric sounds from so many releases on the that classic label. The name also makes me think of dilapidated rusting out buildings where formerly existed the engines of capitalism, or if you aren’t a pessimist maybe you think of present day hangars where jumbo jets are made, or air the tight pristine confines of computer chip factories. It all contributes to what this London based trio sound like.
2. Factory Floor are a band. You might not get that impression listening to their self-titled debut album from last year. Although two thirds of the band stood behind tables of electronics last night poking nobs like old Ma Bell connecting long distance phone calls you could tell by their eye contact that they were synced up.
3. Early on New Order drummer Stephen Gilbert remixed their track Wooden Box solidifying a connection with Factory Records. I remember seeing New Order in the late 80′s a couple times and Gilbert would alternate between playing drums for a song or two and punching some buttons and grabbing a glass of water and walking off to the side of the stage for a for a break while the rest of the band played. The songs when he actually played drums where always the better ones and Factory Floor seem to understand that a live drummer makes for a better song as well. Set up on one side of the stage the drummer was the catalyst of the set and made the songs crackle and with extreme punctuation.
3. Singer, guitarist and button pusher Nik Colk played her guitar with a bow like some prog rocker. When she sang what came out was undecipherable, like a robot version of Nico singing in binary.
4. Factory Floor make dance music for people who don’t normally dance. Maybe because they are heavily influenced by bleak post punk, they draw more of a rocker crowd. At least, last night the room appeared to be filled with more rockers than dancers, but the hypnotic bouncy grooves that they laid down had most everyone at the very least with their bobbing their heads. A few times I felt my body unconsciously start moving and I looked down and I was dancing. How did they do that?
5. Most of my past experiences seeing electronic groups live have been underwhelming because frankly watching someone turn nobs and stare intently at their laptop is hard to get excited about. Factory Floor, by incorporating live drums and guitar with their nob turning and a minimal amount of laptop gazing made their live show something not to be missed. The songs extended beyond their recorded versions into expeditions into the unknown and the band pulled off a rare feat for an electronic group, they are better live than on record.
Tags: Cate Le Bon, David Bowie, Elvis Costello, Kate Bush, Leonard Cohen, Nick Lowe, Spacecase Records, Talbot Adams, The Chills, The Moles, Ty Segall
Everyone’s in a band these days. Even solo acts give themselves a band name to give you the impression that they’re a gang of cool kids. I suppose it isn’t very punk rock or cool to be a solo artist. Are there any Elvis Costello’s, Leonard Cohen’s, Nick Lowe’s, Kate Bush’s or David Bowie’s these days. Yeah, I know those guys are actually still alive. What I mean, is there anyone new putting his or her name up on the marquee of that caliber? Very few people come to mind. Cate Le Bon, Ty Segall and Mac DeMarco are all I can think off the top of my head. One more you can add to that very short list is Talbot Adams. Adams was in a band called the Black & Whites who put an album out on Douchemaster in 2008 and then broke up in 2011. Now he is solo and not using a faux band name to masquerade his solo career. He doesn’t need to, as is evident on his newly released self-titled solo album.
For all intents and purposes, this self-titled album is his debut LP. Last year’s download only album was made up mostly of acoustic self-produced home recordings. Now he has a band and it’s electric. Drummer Beau Bourgeois and bassist Matt Patton to complete the power trio. The record is sort of powerpop with a psychedelic streak to it. Adams sings with an intensity the way Elvis Costello did when he was an angry young man but he tempers it with a smooth sophistication that was often present in Nick Lowe’s albums. He also employs some gentle psych touches that bring to mind bands like the Chills and the Moles. This record has all the ingredients to destine it to pop classic status, at least in realm of cult classics, and in my book there is no higher honor.
Tags: Barboza, Cities Aviv, Seattle, Slumberland, Weekend
Sometimes you meet a microphone stand that you just want to fight. Last night at Barboza, moody post punkers Weekend were scheduled to play. Their alter ego’s who don’t seem to give a fuck are who actually played. I don’t know if bassist and singer Shaun Durkan had taken the wrong elixir or was off on a bad trip, but he appeared to be in an erratic state almost from the start of his band’s set. During the first song of their set the mic stand went floppy, drooping down to his knees, Durkan seemed slightly perturbed by this, but not too upset. The guitarist came over to fix it in the middle of the song and all was good.
Not quite. Durkan then proceeded to grab the mic stand and wrestle with it. Apparently the stand was more stable than he was, because he lost his balance in the mic melee and bounded out into the audience, in the process whacking his bass against the monitor and then the floor. Song over. He picks up the pieces of the mic and his bass with the help of the band and the Barboza sound guys. He tries to tune his bass only to discover that one of the tuning nobs is bent so badly that he can’t tune it. He hurls some incoherent insults at the audience and then asks with a smirk if anyone has a bass he can borrow. Nobody is eagerly volunteering their instrument having seen the damage he’s done to his own guitar so the band proceed to play another song with the broken bass and no vocals since the mic seems to have lost round one. The bass player from the opening band Haunted Horses takes pity and bravely offers up his bass. Another song is played with the loaner bass but the mic still doesn’t work. Durkan is visibly annoyed that the mic could not withstand his attack, so he walks off the stage at the end of the song. The rest of the band look like they’re not sure what to do so they walk off the stage while the sound guys fix stuff.
Eventually Weekend come back out and play End Times and everything seems ok, but not for long. Coma Summer is next and it looks like Durkan wants to fight the mic stand again. It’s almost a like a total replay of the first round, except this time he’s fighting with someone else’s bass guitar. Not Ok. The sound guy rushes to the stage, grabs the bass from Durkan and walks off with it. Show over.
Upset that he didn’t get the chance to destroy someone else’s instrument, Durkan grabs his board of effects pedals and lifts it above his head and slams it to the stage. House lights, queue exodus. Not quite. Durkan comes back out yelling at nobody in particular and lumbers to the merch booth where he hopes to sell some t-shirts and records. Worst show I’ve seen since the Fall in 94 at the Black Cat in DC.
I missed first opener Haunted Horses, but caught Cities Aviv who is really just a guy and a laptop. He’s from Memphis and makes industrial noise come from his laptop. Sometimes it was abrasive loud, sometimes it was ambient loud. I couldn’t understand a word he was saying but it sounded cool.
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)