Repricussing from Woolen Men

Last night was the second time I had the pleasure of seeing Portland’s Woolen Men here in Seattle. I didn’t realize until they mentioned it, that I was two for two with them. This being only the second time they’ve made the trip up the Five to play here. The last time being at the Josephine in January of last year with Orca Team and their Australian brethren the Woolen Kits.

I remember remarking at that show how they seemed to have a stash of dB’s records and an innate ability of making killer noisy skewed pop. Those special powers have not been lost in the year and a half since I last saw them. In fact they have been enhanced, they’ve signed with Woodsist,  released their ‘debut’ record, and self-released a pre-Woodsist greatest hits record.

Last night at the Comet opening for BOAT, they played a short set that left me wanting much more. Their songs can sound like early REM, Wire, the Clean and the unheralded west coast obscurity 100 Flowers (if unfamiliar seek out this year’s reissue on Superior Viaduct). Woolen Men are only a three piece, but they pack the power of four or five. All three members sing which leads me to believe they all write songs, but they’re all well versed in the same school of rock. You feel like you are in the south in the mid-80’s with Mitch Easter in a garage or in Dunedin in early 80’s with one of the Kilgour brothers by your side. Go see them if they decided to come to your town, there are few bands that pack this kind of power and prowess in one guitar, one bass and drums.

stream: Woolen Men – Head On the Ground (from their self-titled album on Woodsist)

BOAT were fun as usual. I thought that Forever In Armitron was the best BOAT song, but Lately sounded pretty killer last night and they threw in a cover of Lou Reed’s Satellite of Love just for fun. Who knows when they’ll play again as their drummer is moving to New York. I doubt it will keep them down long though. D. Krane tells me that there are plans afoot to release the first two BOAT albums on vinyl and he’s working on something totally new with Charles Bert from Math and Physics Club. The future’s so bright, I gotta wear shades.

Poor Alderaan

Ringo Deathstarr at the Comet, Seattle | 23 September 2012

One of these days I’m going to see a good Ringo Deathstarr show. Unfortunately last night was not it. On record I love this Austin band’s poppy take on shoegaze. Their second album Mauve which comes out this week is just as good if not better than their debut Colour Trip. These guys write melodies to accompany their guitar miasma, making their songs into more than just the comet trail of My Bloody Valentine. At times they even exceeding their prime influence in the ability to marry god pop with head splitting noise.

So what about Ringo Deathstarr live? I’ve heard reports that they can be good, but the previous time I’d seen them here in Seattle I was underwhelmed.  Last night’s show started off on interstellar overdrive. The band sounded great with the right mix of crazy candy coated guitars, fuzzy bass and crashing drums,  even the vocal interplay between guitarist Elliott Frazier and bassist Alex Gehring was sounding great. The band blasted through a couple new songs from Mauve and highlights from Colour Trip and guitar induced pop bliss was descending down on the Comet. Then Gehring’s bass amp died and oncoming pop bliss flew out of the window like a balloon that had been untied. From that point Murphy’s Law went into full effect. A new bass amp was procured, but Frazier had turned off one of his guitar amps so that Gehring could use it for her bass, but forgot to turn it back on when they got a real bass amp. This left them sounding like they had lost 60% of their guitars. Then Drummer Daniel Coborn’s bass drum kick pedal broke which brought another break while he MacGyver’d his pedal with some chewing gum and a stapler. Eventually they got back on track but the damage had been done.

In all fairness, last night was beyond their control, and they handled it quite well. Never did they lose their sense of humor or their perseverance. The glimpses of greatness at the beginning and end of the set when everything was working were evidence that they are up to the task of recreating the sonic amazingness of their records live. Hopefully they don’t think that they’re jinxed in Seattle and will return soon.

mp3: Ringo Deathstarr – Drag (from Mauve)

You can stream Mauve in its entirety over on soundcloud.

Young Prisms Almost Nearly There

Young Prisms at the Comet, Seattle | 25 February 2012

According to the how-to book on shoegaze there are a couple things that a band must posses to be considered descent. You must hero worship Dinosaur Jr. The guitar wizardry of J Mascis is well known and many of the early shoegaze bands noted him as influence. Second, you must have great bass player. You might think this to be counter-intuitive, but anyone can buy a bunch of effects pedals and pipe their guitar through them, but you need something solid to drape those washes of guitars over.

Young Prisms can put check marks next to both of those items. Saturday night at the Comet, the quintet crammed themselves onto the Comet stage with the lead guitarist sporting a Dino Jr cow t-shirt. Check.  As they began to play the bass is up in the mix, almost too much, giving the twin guitar attack something to hang itself on. Check.

I’ve liked a lot of the records that Young Prisms have released to date, but I haven’t really loved one. That is all about to change when the band  release their second album In Between on Kanine at the end of March. They’ve tempered their noisy side and allowed the dreamier parts of them to take over. In Between has distinct and obvious shoegaze influences, but it also has a more straightforward pop element to it. There are songs like Gone that remind me of Velocity Girl‘s Simpatico album, maybe because when guitarist Matt Allen sings he sounds like Archie Moore. Others have some keyboard flourishes that bring a slight Cure feel to them. So it’s not all Kevin Shields worship in the Young Prisms camp, there’s a diversity of influences evident in their songs.

Live, many of the above nuances weren’t identifiable. Main vocalist Stefanie Hodapp doesn’t have a strong voice and she was often overpowered by the rest of the band. This might not have been a problem in a place with a better sound system that could separate the vocals out from the rest of the mix a bit more.  Seeing them live you also realize that nearly all of their songs are about the same tempo. They would benefit greatly by having one or to Twisterella’s , Duel’s or Soft As Snow But Cold Inside’s to liven it up a little more. Those are minor complaints, they generated a formidable maelstrom that more than held my interest. Their new album is a winner and with more touring I bet these new songs will get their show legs. I’m a believer, all I needed was good bass player and a Dino Jr. t-shirt to confirm.

Stream: Young Prisms – Floating In Blue (from In Between)

Swooning With Devon Williams At the Comet, Seattle

Devon Williams brought his Euphoria tour to the Comet Tavern last night. His new album (his second) just out on Slumberland is full of intricate and lushly textured songs. The guy obviously is a student of the 80’s. Euphoria is an understated winner that I recommend heartily to fans of the Church, Modern English, East River Pipe and the  Icicle Works. It’s an easy record to like combining Williams’ big sounding songs with his plaintive delivery that strips them of any pretentiousness.

As I was standing in the somewhat redesigned Comet (the place actually has a stage with space for an entire band can stand) watching them play, a couple things came to mind.  I liked the extra muscularity that his five piece band brought to the songs even though some of the instrumental flourishes, had to be given up in the live versions of the songs. The second was how much they reminded me of Prefab Sprout. Not that Mr. Williams sings like Paddy McAloon, but his songs have this undeniable sense of hope and optimism while at that same time sounding sad. Sounds crazy I know, but it’s a great trick if you can pull it off as a songwriter and Devon Williams did exactly that last night. He and his band played a for about half an hour and seemed to enjoy every minute of it and the handful of us in the audience did as well.

mp3: Devon Williams – Sufferer

mp3: Devon Williams – Your Sympathy

Both songs are from Williams’ album Euphoria, available now from Slumberland.

Here are the remaining dates for his west coast tour:

THU 9/8 – Sacramento, CA @ Luigi’s Slice Fungarden
FRI 9/9 – Santa Cruz, CA @ The Crepe Place
SAT 9/10 – Los Angeles, CA @ House Show
SUN 9/11 – San Diego, CA @ Soda Bar

Forget the Season Go See Summer Babes Friday

Summer Babes appeared this summer seemingly out of nowhere with an EP they put up on bandcamp.   I got sucked in by the undeniable pop hypnosis of their song Crack Habit and ponied up the $5 for a download and was not disappointed. The Babes are lead by Jeff Albertson who sings sometimes in the Lights but mostly plays bass in that band.  Summer Babes are his outlet for the songs that don’t fit into the Lights’ prickly, sharp edged design.    Their EP is full of laid back, wistful and nostalgic songs that are easy to like.  They even incorporate some reggae (or is it Pere Ubu‘s version of reggae?) into their sound on the song Bad News. Reggae aside, they’ve got kind of a 90’s thing going on and Albertson’s voice reminds me a little bit of Buffalo Tom‘s Bill Janovitz and he knows how to turn a pop hook which makes this EP pretty easy on the ears.

I can’t help but think seeing them live will put a smile on your face.  They’ll be playing at the Comet Tavern this Friday along with the Redwood Plan and Night Train if you are so inclined.

mp3: Summer Babes – Crack Habbit (from their self-titled EP)

Bare Wires Blitz

Bare Wires at the Comet, Seattle | 17 August 2010

In his book The 10 Rules of Rock and Roll, Robert Forster lists 10 truths of rock. Rule number ten states that the three-piece band is the purest form of rock and roll expression. Oakland, California’s Bare Wires evidently know this.  The guitar, bass and drums equaled more than the sum of it’s parts last night, filling  the place with sonics that most bands would need a second or third guitar to accomplish .  The drums cracked and the bass rumbled while Lead Wire Mathew Melton’s guitar blasted out of a six foot tall amp and created a breeze in the otherwise stuffy Comet Tavern.

The new album Seeking Love hints at glam rock, but live Bare Wires are pure unadulterated 70’s glam from their haircuts, to their silky women’s blouses, to the power chords being dispensed and the poses rendered. Melton and his band look like they just got off the boat from 1974.  Melton’s look with his moppy curls and mustache treads a very fine line of cool rock god and creepy guy.  The band blasted through most of Seeking Love as well as a couple new songs (apparently they’ve got another album nearly ready to go) and seemed to get caught up in the energy of their own songs. Melton literally threw his guitar aside for another after breaking a string, and bassist Fletcher Johnson somehow lost his shoe midway through the set.  The small (It was a Monday and they just played the Funhouse last month) but enthusiastic were got caught up in that same energy, but I couldn’t help but think how much better this show would have been if wild beer swilling moshing crowd of last month’s Ty Segal gig would have shown up for Bare Wires.  All in good time, because after the garage overload of the last few years, I’m definitely ready for 70’s glam revival and bands looking to Sweet, Slade, Mott the Hoople and Cheap Trick, and Bare Wires are poised to be leading the pack.

mp3: Bare Wires – Romantic Heat (from Seeking Love on Castle Face)

This was the second gig of a lengthy tour that will take the Bare Wires to the East Coast and back. Here are the dates.
Aug 18 – The Aquarium, Fargo, ND
Aug 19 – Triple Rock, Minneapolis, MN
Aug 20 – The Vault w Real Numbers, Ramma Lamma, Milwaukee, WI
Aug 20 – Cactus Club w/ A Frames, Headache City, Milwaukee, WI
Aug 21 – Crown Tap Room w Real Numbers, Chicago, IL
Aug 22 – Landlocked Music, Bloomington, IN
Aug 23 – Black Sparrow w/ The Boy Toys, Lafayette, IN
Aug 24 – The Lager House, Detroit, MI
Aug 25 – Case University w/ Tyvek, Cleveland, OH
Aug 26 – Now Thats Class, Cleveland, OH
Aug 27 – Monster Island Basement, Brooklyn, NY
Aug 28 – Bruar Falls, Brooklyn, NY
Aug 29 – M Room, Philladelphia, PA
Aug 30 – Velvet Lounge w/ Mabye Baby, Washington, DC
Aug 31 – The Station, Carrboro, NC
Sep 1 – Little Kings, Athens, GA
Sep 2 – Star Bar, Atlanta, GA
Sep 3 – Glen Danzig’s House, Nashville, TN
Sep 4 – Murphy’s w/ River City Tanlines + The HUMMS, Memphis, TN
Sep 6 – Ole Tavern, Jackson, MS
Sep 7 – Saturn Bar, New Orleans, LA
Sep 8 – Notsuoh, Houston, TX
Sep 9 – Beerland, Austin, TX
Sep 10 – Beerland, Austin, TX
Sep 14 – RIPS, Phoenix, AZ
Sep 15 – Bar Pink, San Diego, CA
Sep 17 – The Smell, Los Angeles, California
Sep 18 – The Juke Joint, Anaheim, CA

The Cave Comes Alive

Ty Segall & Idle Times at the Comet Tavern, Seattle | 28 June 2010

Prior to Melted I was on the fence about Ty Segall. After seeing him at the Sunset Tavern a few years back opening for Thee Oh Sees and Intelligence, I was kind of amazed how he played guitar, drums and sang all at once, but I thought the songwriting on his first two albums was  monochromatic and sonically they seemed a little flat. It was all  three chord jams that pegged the VU meter in the red. Listening to his self-titled debut or Lemons all the way through could be monotonous and a little bit mind numbing. Somewhere along the way Segall eschewed the garage for some acid.  Last year’s Reverse Shark Attack record he did with Mikal Cronin  and the single on Trouble in Mind (that included a cover Echo and the Bunnymen‘s Do It Clean) hinted at a move toward something a little different.  His third album Melted which came out earlier this month on Goner meets those heightened expectations and  is leaps and bounds ahead of than anything he’s done to date.  It’s got this rich garage-y psychedelic sound, and sees Segall hitting a sweet patch with regards to his songwriting.  Melted boasts songs so good they could make you start believing all of the wunderkind accolades this guy was getting early on are valid.

I’m not sure if the packed house at the Comet cared whether or not Segall was branching out as a songwriter or not. They mainly cared about getting their PBR’s and rocking out. The bar seemed a little overwhelmed for the thirsty mass of Ty Segall fans on a Monday night, but Segall was more than obliged to provide the jams for the rocking out part.   The set was sprinkled with a couple new songs, some older ones, but mostly concentrated on the new album. He set the bar high early on with the song Imaginary Person. While good on record, this song really shined displaying its huge unabashed pop hooks. Segall looked all California, with his sun bleached Surfer Joe locks and his laid back, rocker attitude. He sweetly dedicated songs to his muses, his home state California and the girl at the merch table, but forcefully delivered the garage jams. The set ended with Caesar, the song from Melted that features piano and Thee Oh Sees’s John Dwyer of going nutty on a flute. There was no piano or flute at the Comet just a killer song with a huge chorus and a room full of sweaty Ty Segall fans wanting more.

mp3: Ty Segall – Imaginary Person (from Melted, destined to be one of the better albums of the year)

Seattle’s own Idle Times opened as a three piece and sported a new drummer.  Leo Gephardt who is usually in the band only stepped out of the crowd and played guitar for one song, leaving Brian Standeford to handle all the guitar and vocals the rest of the time.  This downsizing didn’t seem to alter Idle Times’ ability to rock out. In fact, I think every time I see Idle Times I’m more impressed by them than the last.  To me, their songs evoke Led Zepplin and Bad Company without being too obvious. Their first full length is due soon from Hozac and is something you should keep your eye out for.