Tags: Barboza, Close Lobsters, Go-betweens, Neil Young, Orange Juice, Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever, Seattle, Sub Pop, Tenorio Cotobade, The Bats, The Clean, The Feelies, Zebra Hunt
One thing about Melbourne, Australia’s Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever is that I can never seem to get their name right. It doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, you know. How many bands have four word names these days? People are lucky enough to be able to remember two word band names. It seems that their US label Sub Pop realizes this, shortening the band’s name for their US debut to Rolling Blackouts C.F. I don’t know if this is better though. It isn’t a whole lot easier to remember, and it gives the impression that there is already a band named Coastal Blackouts and these Blackouts are from some country with the initials C.F.
Another thing about Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever is that they jangle. You hear the likely suspects (Bats, Clean, & Feelies) in their sound, but their jangle comes from a more classic rock corner of the universe. Their sound can best be described by the Close Lobsters‘ cover of Neil Young‘s Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black). They sound like they’ve done their time on the bar circuit, and taken their lumps winning over hard drinking, blue collar fellows in dungarees.
One more thing about Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever, they’re show this past Tuesday at Barboza here in Seattle was a lot of fun. The five piece band featured three guitarists and singers, but their secret weapon, which all great bands will attest to, was their rhythm section. Every song was anchored by some great bass riffs which was really apparent live. That firm mooring allowed the guitarists to really go into their hyper-manic-riff mode trading licks and often vocal spots. This band seems to be very well oiled machine.
One final thing about Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever, they do a mighty fine cover of the Orange Juice classic Blueboy!
Seattle’s designated openers for all Australian jangly type bands, Zebra Hunt did just that. On this night I found out:
- In Australia, zebra is pronounced with a short ‘e’.
- Zebra Hunt’s second LP is coming out May 19.
- The band now seems to be a permanent four piece.
- They have got a brand new set of songs that rivals the ones the made me fan in the first place.
- They just keep getting better!
- They might actually be Australian judging from their ace cover of the Go-Betweens‘ Was There Anything I Could Do?
Tags: Beat Happening, K, Olympia, Sub Pop
Beat Happening probably didn’t invent indiepop and twee, but they may as well have. The landscape past and present is littered with references to this band from Olympia, Washington which says a lot about their long lasting influence. Looking at their songs, it’s kind of astounding how many bands have covered them named themselves after their songs, certainly more than those that have named themselves for Velvet Underground songs. Not bad for a band that confessed to writing songs mostly about sex and food. The band never officially broke up, but retired soon after the release of 1992’s opus You Turn Me On. Front guy Calvin still runs K Records and has found other outlets for his unique take on pop in Dub Narcotic, Halo Benders and solo albums. The band never released a best of album, so they seem ripe for a best of list. Here are my top 10 Beat Happening songs, and probably not what would show up on a best of list, but who knows?
10. Other Side (Black Candy 1989) – Beat Happening were a lot of things. They could rock out like the Cramps, be wayward mavericks a la Lee Hazlewood, and of course sound like 60’s beatniks. Other Side comes from Black Candy which is probably considered their weakest album, but they always started their records with a splash and this duet between Calvin and Heather is full of wistful beauty.
9. Tiger Trap (You Turn Me On 1992) – This song starts off Beat Happening’s final album You Turn Me On. Right from the start you know this record is going to be different than the others because they’d never started off a record with ballad and they’d never recorded a seven minute song (Godsend is nearly 10 minutes). Recorded by Stuart Moxham of Young Marble Giants the droning pastoral jangle of Tiger Trap hypnotizes and soothes you like a babbling brook through a meadow.
8. Not a Care In the World (Sassy Single 1992) – This one was also recorded by Moxham during the You Turn Me On sessions, but it didn’t make the cut and was relegated to a single released by Sassy Magazine (anyone remember their Cute Band Alert?). This one has Moxham’s fingerprints all over it, I would be surprised if he didn’t play guitar on this. Heather usually sang only a couple of songs per record, but they were always highlights and this would have been a great 10th song on Your Turn Me On and hints at what might have been if they had recorded a follow up to their final album.
7. Indian Summer (Jamboree 1988) – Indian Summer may be Beat Happening’s best known song thanks to Luna, REM and Ben Gibbard who have all covered it. This song demonstrates what Beat Happening did so well, it’s so minimal yet paints such a vivid picture. You only hear sparse guitar and drums accompany Calvin’s voice yet it evokes autumnal colors, long shadows and the end of something special.
6. Nancy Sin (Dreamy 1991) – Beat Happening weren’t all campfires and s’mores, Calvin sang about sex a lot and this song is dripping with it. This one has a noir feel to its lust. Probably because Nancy always made me think of Nancy Drew and Calvin wanting to get it on with here. And what red blooded adolescent kid wouldn’t want to get it on with Nancy Drew?
5. Our Secret (Beat Happening 1985) – This was Beat Happening’s first single. Often bands never do better than their first single and Beat Happening set the bar pretty high. They barely knew how to play at this point, but they knew what a great pop song should sound like. Ever the gentleman, Calvin is going to run away with a girl, but first he’s going to have dinner with her family, I assume to tell them of their plans. What a punk.
4. Fortune Cookie Prize (Dreamy 1991) – Heather sings this wistful song evoking the happenstance of love. Sometimes you find it when you least expect it, but the other half doesn’t quite know it. The best love song the band ever wrote.
3. Sleepy Head (You Turn Me On 1992) – You’ve been up for hours, but your partner likes to sleep in. Now the complication comes in. Is this song about letting your lover sleep in, or is it about anxiety and depression about not being able to sleep? Heather’s gentle voice keeps you guessing.
2. This Many Boyfriends Club (Jamboree 1985) – There are some amazing stories of when Beat Happening toured the west coast with Fugazi. Punks there to see Fugazi at the Los Angeles show just didn’t get Beat Happening. One story is of Calvin getting hit in the nose by someone throwing an ashtray at him. He didn’t miss a beat and quoted Darby Crash of the Germs back to the audience, “Somebody broke my nose. Dump the whole balcony.” I don’t know what song they played after that, but I like to think it was this one. All guitar squall and feedback with Calvin doing spoken word that sounds improvised. This Many Boyfriends Club demands your attention and keeps it until mic hits the floor with a thud and a girl screams at the top of her lungs. This is punk!
1. Tales of Brave Aphrodite (Beat Happening / Screaming Trees 1988) – Tales of Brave Aphrodite comes from the four song EP that Beat Happening recorded with Screaming Trees. Calvin went to grade school with Trees singer Mark Lannegan and Lannegan had helped record Jamboree. Beat Happening have said that they felt like Screaming Trees cast off songs were better than their best stuff. Aphrodite really soars thanks to the additional power of collaboration and a swirling organ riff. Even if they didn’t team up with the Trees, this song features some of Calvin’s best lyrics and one of his best melodies. “Silver Aphrodite in her chocolate nightie, Says she wants to try me, she won’t bite me”combines the food and sex theme of Beat Happening into a single line.
Tags: Kelley Stoltz, Sub Pop, Third Man Records
Kelley Stoltz @ Chop Suey, Seattle | 7 October 2013
Poor Kelley Stoltz, dropped by Sub Pop after three records, played to a nearly empty Chop Suey last Monday night. I know Seattle is not a pop town and it skews more toward beard and flannel rock, but I really thought that there were more than ten folks in this town that are big enough fans of Stoltz’s near flawless pop to get off of their butts on a Monday night and come down for show. Alas, my faith in the human race and my city’s pop tastes continue to deteriorate. Even though he doesn’t have many fans in Seattle, he is a pillar of the San Francisco scene. Drumming part time for Sonny and Sunsets, producing the latest Mantles album and generally being pillar of the DIY community.
Stoltz had a full band with him (including a saxophone) and was in a gregarious mood despite the turnout. He kicked off the set with Pine Cone, which is his Fred Neil number and his ode to trying to get a pine cone through airport security. He mixed in some other oldies including Every Thought of Coming Back from Below the Branches with songs from his latest album Double Exposure which came out earlier this month on Jack White‘s record label Third Man. Stoltz has been churning out great pop for years and it doesn’t look like his well is running dry yet. The new songs were the highlights. The Johnny Cash bass of Are You My Love, the icy cool Double Exposure and the sweat Marcy all more than filled empty room. I was hoping to get to hear him play Kim Chee Taco Man the quirky first single from the record and Inside my Head the droney number that ends in something of a glassy Harold Budd/Brian Eno ode, but Stoltz being the showman, knows how to leave them wanting more. He closed his set with an energetic cover of the Compulsive Gamblers girl-group inspired Think It Over which saw him put down his guitar and totally go for it. A real blast!
Near the end of the set two frizzy haired guys were dancing in front of the stage. They were enthusiastic, but Stoltz deserves more than two geeky guys dancing in front him and a third one writing about the show.
stream: Kelley Stoltz – Are You My Love (from Double Exposure out on Third Man Records)
Tags: Aarght!, Cherry Red, Daughn Gibson, Girls Names, House of Love, Jacco Gardner, Little Black Cloud, Myron & E, Ooga Boogas, Slumberland, Stones Throw, Sub Pop, Trouble In Mind, Universe People
Welcome to day two of the half year round-up. Giddy-up! Here are the next set of seven records from the first half of this year that I think deserve your attention. It’s kind of an eclectic bunch but in at least one warped world they go quite well together.
Myron & E – Broadway (Stones Throw)
It seems like it’s been ages since those first couple Myron & E singles came out. I had nearly lost hope of them ever releasing an album, but the wait was worth it. Broadway is more than worth the wait, evoking Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On which is no easy feat. The Motor city may be bankrupt, but its soul legacy keeps paying dividends. Top notch stuff.
stream: Myron & E – They Don’t Know
Daughn Gibson – Me Moan (Sub Pop)
Part of Me Moan sounds like Gibson grew up with the Stuart Copeland and Stan Ridgway song Don’t Box Me In on repeat. The other part sees Gibson reading from the same book as Dan Bejar was on Destroyer’s Kaputt. Both parts consist of lush and sweeping 80’s inspired pop from a unique voice.
Stream: Daughn Gibson – The Pisgee Nest
Universe People – Go To the Sun (Little Black Cloud)
Descending from the Intelligence family tree, this Seattle trio fronted by Australian ex-pat Jo Claxton deliver serrated pop that teases and caresses before puncturing skin. This very sharp record deserves way more attention than it has received, because it’s pretty damn brilliant and would look fine next to your Intelligence, Fall and Dolly Mixture records.
stream: Universe People – Druids
Girls Names – The New Life (Slumberland)
The new life sounds like dark era Cure (Seventeen Seconds, Faith, and Pornography) without being too obvious. It didn’t immediately grab me, but its hypnotic bass and vocals has made gradually overcome my conscious and now The New Life is my go-to record when the need often comes to zone out into the horizon which is quite often.
Stream: Girls Names – Drawing Lines
Ooga Boogas – Ooga Boogas (Aarght!)
Ooga Boogas have not left their garage roots, but the garage has been remodeled or converted rather. The record walks the line between ECSR and Total Control and sidesteps into Velvet Underground, Tubeway Army, the Fall, Modern Lovers and the Soft Boys territories.
stream: Ooga Boogas – A Night to Remember
House of Love – She Paints Words In Red (Cherry Red)
House of Love guitarist Terry Bickers acrimoniously left the band during the recording of the band’s second album. Since then he mad ammends with HOL frontman Guy Chadwich and they made a reunion record Days Run Away back in 2005. It was ok. Eight years later they’ve record a follow up that is immediate, elegant and while not quite reaching the heights of their debut it feels like they’ve recaptured the fire that blazed in their creative partnership.
stream: House of Love – Holy River
Jacco Gardner – Cabinet of Curiosities (Trouble In Mind)
Dutch wunderkind pulls out all the psychedelic stops on his debut album. Amazing harmonies done to the backing of exquisite chamber pop backing. If you ever thought that the Left Bank sounded too effeminate and that Syd Barrett was too zany Gardner strikes just right balance.
stream: Jacco Gardner – The One Eyed King
Tags: Kelley Stoltz, Les Disques Steak, Sub Pop
The floors of Kelley Stoltz‘ San Francisco digs must be littered with great songs. When he cleans, he probably throws a bunch out into the dumpster because they’re crowding him out. Of course he doesn’t throw all of them out with the dishwater, he sometimes put’s them on wax. As a stop-gap between albums (and recording the next Mantles album) Stoltz has just released a 7-inch single on Les Disques Steak over in France. He’s calling it Two Imaginary Girls: Caroline is the A-side and Marcy is the B-side.
“Caroline, Well you’ve been sung about so many times,” Stoltz deadpans. Yes Caroline has been the muse to many songwriters, but Stoltz’ contribution to the Caroline cannon is easily up there with the best of them. It’s an undeniable rocker with so many hooks in it that when Kelley tried to throw it out it got stuck in the doorjamb. Marcy hasn’t had as many song written about her, probably because it doesn’t roll from the tongue the way Caroline does, but Stoltz makes her name sound pretty in a strange way with his Marcy refrain. This sadder acoustic beauty is B-side in name only. Only 300 of these records were pressed up, so head on over to Les Disques Steak to get a copy.
Tags: Ganglians, Lefse, Still Corners, Sub Pop, Witch Gardens
Still Corners, Ganglians and Witch Gardens at the Sunset Tavern, Seattle | 1 November 2011
The record that got Still Corners noticed was their Don’t Fall In Love 7-inch on the Great Pop Supplement from last year. It was stark, icy and sounded like it came from a band wise beyond its years. Singer Tessa Murray had a haunting voice that sounded like Julie Cruise and the band sounded like they existed on a diet of Broadcast, Ennio Morricone and Peter Thomas. That record got bought up as fast as they were snatched up by Sub Pop after its release. Fast forward a year and Still Corners have released their first album Creatures of an Hour on Sub Pop and are in the United States for their first big tour.
The band ably replicated the rich sound of their studio creations at the Sunset Tavern in Ballard Tuesday night. Tessa Murray spent part of her time behind a small keyboard and the rest to the side with just a microphone. Guitarist, main songwriter and sound architect Greg Hughes was off to her right coaxing all kinds of ethereal sounds from his guitar and effects pedals. The highlights of their set were the afore mentioned Don’t Fall In Love and Cuckoo which was another 7-inch single. Both of those songs generate a haunting cacophony that hits just the right nerve in me to generate a wave of euphoria. During those two songs it was as close to as good as Broadcast were when I saw them for the Noise Made By People tour. Broadcast kept it going for their entire show, Still Corners still have a little ways to go. They played a cover of Bruce Springsteen‘s I’m On Fire which was ok, but didn’t seem to quite fit and then played a couple other songs without any drums that veered too close to Cowboy Junkies territory for my taste.
Neither of those two things were showstoppers. Murray is easy on the eyes and commands attention. The band were addept and excelled at making the most of their somewhat quiet songs. Hopefully this is the Still Corners laying the groundwork for a run of impressive future records and shows. They’re off to a good start for this only being their first album.
I thought I like openers the Ganglians, but like Brian Eno thinking about his laundry when he was on stage with Roxy Music, I found myself thinking during their set about how I need to insulate my attic before winter arrives. I also waxed nostalgic about the Alarm. When I was a kid use to hate how they always were dismissed as a lesser U2. I also did some math, calculating that by the 2060’s the Ganglians would be in their 70’s, the 1960’s would be a hundred years in the past and would people still remember what hippies look like in the future.
Seattle’s Witch Gardens played a short set with limited commentary from guitarist Casey Catherwood. It had been a few months since I last saw them, but time has been kind. They still posses ramshackle K-like qualities, but they seemed like they knew what they were doing this time, in a vague sort of way.
Tags: Kelley Stoltz, Sub Pop
For a while there, you couldn’t turn on the TV without one of Kelley Stoltz‘ songs blaring from the boob tube being used to hock credit cards, hotels, Volvos and Viagra (not true). My guess is that about 70% of of Kelley Stoltz fans do marketing for a living. The rest of us do other stuff. To Dreamers is Kelly Stoltz third album for Sub Pop and number six overall if you’re counting. The man is still fastidiously solo, in his house crafting multilayered pop songs all alone and getting by with a little help from his friends when necessary. The guy is meticulous, every listen seems to provide some new found sound on every listen.
While To Dreamers is primarily a guitar album, Stoltz incorporates horns into a handful of the songs. The effect is subtle, and they are so deftly employed that you sometimes think they’re another guitar. On the opening Rock & Roll With Me I didn’t notice them until the second or third listen. I Like, I Like features a saxophone right up front, but not in your face like Springsteen and John Cafferty. You almost have to struggle to hear it near the end of the song, instead of it breaking out into some kind crazy solo.
The Kinks, Beach Boys and Harry Nilson are still ever-present in Stoltz’s antique glow, but he seems to be broadening his pallet this time out, because I swear I hear some Electric Light Orchestra (Rock & Roll with Me), Fred Neil (Pinecone), Bowie (Fire Escape), and Krautrock (Keeping the Flame) not to mention a bit of post punk droning in places. When he’s not being a rock n’ roll star, Stoltz works in a record store in San Francisco, and you see how the dusty stacks of vinyl seep into his mind and keep expand his musical horizons. To Dreamers benefits from Stoltz’ ever expanding musical palette, making it a more varied record and so far, my favorite of his albums. The record ends with the pensive Bottle Up which gives a nod with it’s baritone guitar to Jack Nitzsche‘s Lonely Surfer. Stoltz’ sixth album is another solo triumph, shooting the curl at some obscure California break. I just hope that there are some people back on the beach watching besides those in the TV commercial making business.
Stream: To Dreamers
Check out this video made by Yours Truly about the making of To Dreamers. Sounds like Mikey from Eddy Current Suppression Ring turned Kelley onto doing the cover of “Big Boy” Pete Miller’s Baby I Got News for You.
Tags: Art Fag, Captured Tracks, Graffiti Island, Internet Forever, Male Bonding, Mazes, Pens, Sex is Disgusting, Spectrals, Sub Pop, Swanton Bombs, Tough Love, Veronica Falls
A few months ago I wrote about this do it yourself ethos that has begun to flourish in the indie underground over here in the US. Record Labels popping up like dandelions in the spring and bands jumping from label to label with a 7 inch here, an album there and a cassette on another one. Back in March when I wrote that post it didn’t seem like there was a similar thing happening over in the UK. Fast forward to now and those dandelion seeds have blown across the Atlantic and are sprouting. Within the last two months I’ve heard so much good stuff originating from the UK that it nearly feels like the early 90’s again. The only drawback to this nascent UK scene is that a 7 inch single in the UK costs nearly twice what costs in the US, and that’s before you add in shipping. It’s not the man keeping me down it’s rock n’ roll.
This UK DIY scene is slowly making it’s way over to the States, with records, tours and more records starting to happen. Coming up later this month, San Diego’s Crocodiles are bringing their UK friends the Pens and Graffiti Island with them on a west coast tour. The Pens are an all girl three piece outfit from London who as far as I can tell, have yet to release a record that isn’t a split 7 inch. They’ve done singles with Male Bonding, Graffiti Island, and have a four way split coming on Art Fag that they share with the Crocodiles, Graffiti Island (again) and Dum Dum Girls. They’ll abandon the split singles (at least for one release) when their album appears on De Stijl next month. It’s called Hey Friend What Are You Doing and promises to be a shambolic, ramshackle affair with lots of noise to bury the melodies. Pens tour mates Graffiti Island could best be described as cave rock. The vocals are full of reverb and they like to sing about wolf men, and other primitive stuff. They’ve also had their share of songs on the old 7 inch medium, the latest being the Head Hunters single on House Anxiety. They have a bunch more on the way including the afore mentioned Art Fag split single, one on Sex Is Disgusting and 12 inch on Capture Tracks later this year.
Speaking of Sex Is Disgusting (the label), they’ve just released a limited edition (250) by Mazes, a band that answers the question what if the Woods’ Jeremy Earl had fronted Guided by Voices. Based on the a-side to their single it would have been very good indeed. Their mySpace is pretty funny, on it they state: “We wanna do rad things like back Mark E Smith and tour with Jonathan Richman… email us if you can facilitate stuff like that.” Mazes apparently have an album in the can, that they “wanna put out”, meanwhile look out for an upcoming split 7 inch with the Pens.
One of the more pretty sounding lo-fi bands of the current crop is Internet Forever who remind me of very underrated It’s Jo and Danny. Their songs are precious sounding but they keep the fidelity at the low end as not to sound to precious. Their cover of Beat Happening’s Bewitched is a prime example of just that. No records yet from this three piece, but that won’t be the case for long with releases lined up on Art Fag and Twenty Years of Boredom.
The Spectrals could be the UK doppelgangers of the Crystal Stilts except that their a bit more girl-group loving than the darker exploits of their Brooklyn brethren. The song Leave Me Be which I’ve pretty much killed has been floating around the internet for a good month. No physical releases yet from this one man band, but he’s promising a single and full album sometime in the near future on Captured Tracks. The Spectrals and Graffiti Island aren’t the only UK bands that Captured Tracks has signed up. Veronica Falls have promised a 12 inch record to the label, so I’m assuming that they have more than one great song that has been up on their MySpace for the last month all by itself, but it’s so hauntingly good that I’ve been going back quite often in hopes of some more. Veronica Falls are made up of former members of the Royal We, so I’m not too worried about them only having one good song.
Another London band (they’re all from London except for Mazes) is the duo Swanton Bombs who put out their Mammoth Skull ep at the very beginning of this year. They also made an album of demos that is available for free over at their MySpace. They seem to get compared to the White Stripes mostly by people who don’t know what they’re talking about. Yeah, they’re duo playing guitar and drums but piano plays a large part in their sound. It’s all very basic and some of the songs remind me of early Billy Bragg, but they also have these little prog-like parts in some of their songs that remind me of what the Mystery Jets were doing on their first record. They’re kind of a breath of fresh air if you are geting tired of the lo-fi distorted guitar sound that most of the other bands in this post specialize in.
Last but not least and hot off just signing with Sup Pop is Male Bonding who have done split 7 inches with the likes of Graffiti Island, Pens, Cold Pumas and Eat Skull. Based on all that, they may be the poster children of the entire scene. If the Spectrals are the bastard sons of Crystal Stilts then Male Bonding are the illegitimate child of No Age and Abe Vigoda. Abandoned by their parents they were raised by their grandparents Husker Du, or something like that. The split 7 inch with Eat Skull just came out and is pretty hot, expect an album sometime early next year on Sub Pop.
If you’re on the west coast you don’t want to miss the Pens/Graffiti Island/Crocodiles Tour starting next week. Tour dates after the click. Continue Reading D.I.Y. Part II…