Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Previews of Upcoming Attractions for early January 2015 (and a quick message)

State of the Blog Address or rather a few thoughts on where we are at.

We are into the seventh year of DC ROCK LIVE. There were many times last year where I was 90% positive I would be fully retired by now. But on we go. The one revelation that worried me most was when my late afternoon thoughts went from ‘Oh, good I’ve got a good show tonight’ to ‘Oh good, I get a night off’. I guess doing over 200 shows a year will do that to you. But as I’ve gone from over 200 shows in 2012 to over 160 in 2013 to about 130 this year, I am finding a better balance for the rest of my life and all the various aches and pains.

But stay tuned for more this year. I want to stay active and continue to document a few of the fun things that go on in this city. I’ve enjoyed it tremendously, even as my body and mind are at their weariest. Whether we continue with more writers or a smaller schedule, we shall see. The reason ‘taking it one day at a time’ is a cliche is because it is a sound way to approach many things. Now on to the business at hand.

Here are just some of the upcoming shows I am hoping to see, time willing. Give them a listen and join me if you like. Despite all the negatives, the power of live music can't be beat.

Local rockers Dale and the ZDubs are one of four bands at the Fillmore this Friday night, January 2nd.

Willie Watson comes to the Hamilton on Thursday, January 8th.

New Orleans Suspects have two nights for you to choose from at the Hamilton on Friday or Saturday, January 9-10th. There are also a couple members of Little Feat on hand.

I have seen both Cracker and Camper van Beethoven touring in recent years, well now since those bands share so many members, they are touring together at last and hit the stages of the 9:30 Club on Wednesday, January 14th.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Jonny Grave and the Tombstones -- Hill Country - Dec 27 2014

Jonny Grave and the Tombstones - Another fine local band presented for free at the best BBQ place in Penn Quarter (well, the only one as the other place closed and was too small for music anyway). Grave is an excellent guitarist either solo or with a band. Tonight he has a strong complementary outfit complete with rhythm section, guitar, and harmonica. They cover the usual terrain of blues rock with some Americana roots, but do it in a way that is fresh and vibrant, which can be a challenge for most. It helps that the guitarists can duel away with lead runs that reflect different styles and personalities. The vocals are rich and all the players have the touch to make their integration smooth but with plenty of heft to push things along in an exciting manner. It is a smaller crowd as holiday travel is taking a toll, but they are more engaged with the music than a larger crowd would be, so it was a great way to take in this band.
Quote of the Night: From JG after an audience request... "Moby Dick? Ha. No, the last thing we need is a 15-minute drum solo". Then people clamored for everything in the key of 'D' before the cliched Stairway to Freebird requests came in.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Lilt -- Holiday Market - Dec 20 2014

Lilt - 'tis the season for free shows as this is the second in a row for me. In this case, there was a bit more sacrifice as it was a chilly day for this outdoor show with a couple of tents for performers and some of the holiday shopping crowd. It is a bit awkward with people walking in between doing their shopping and in Lilt's case, the music was so inviting to the passerby, that there were a few human traffic jams with interested listeners. And that is no surprise, as Lilt's music has always had an immediate appeal to me with the skillful playing of Tina and Keith on flutes and strings respectively. The music is Irish traditional for the most part, which works perfectly in the wintery season as the melodies add warmth while recognizing the cool environment surrounding. They were supplemented with some nice bodhran playing and with a couple of Irish dancers, which is often a part of their sets. The audience appreciated the quality presented whether they stayed for a couple of songs or were there for far longer than I stayed. If you like Irish music at all, make Lilt a part of your live experience as their particular brand is one of the more inviting brands out there.
Photo from yesterday's show from Lilt FB page.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Alex Vans and the Hide Away -- Hill Country Barbecue - Dec 19 2914

Alex Vans and the Hide Away - It's been a while since I've seen this fine local outfit and when you have a free show in a comfortable setting, it is pretty hard for me to justify staying home watching Rosemary & Thyme. The club is quite full and the only unfortunate part of that is that people are a bit preoccupied with their conversations. While this is an annoyance, I understand it more at free shows (odd that this was not the case last time here). But it is the holiday season and Alex Vans is a pro, so the band whips through songs pretty quickly and effectively and make their presence felt. They are more a warm straight up rock style with some roots, but not brazenly roots oriented as are many of the performers here. It is just them all night, so they sprinkle some covers in to the mix. 'Suzie Q' worked well, although I missed the CCR psyche moves. Queens of the Stone Age was even more of a pleasant surprise as they worked these songs in between several of their fine originals. The band works well in a bar setting as they have a warm delivery with vocals, like smoother Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers type sound with plenty of guitar and a flowing rhythm section. I did not last until 'the wee hours of the morning' but I doubt little changed in the quality of the performance.

New Years Plans? I do not really recognize this holiday any more than I get excited about odometers turning over into a new set of numbers, but.. if you are interested in taking part in The Downtown Countdown featuring Third Eye Blind, Delta Rae, The Lloyd Dobler Effect, DJ Urban Cowboy, and DJ Dirty Elbows, then just click on the link above or right here. Use the code dcrock for a $10 (of which nothing comes back to me, so it is just for your pleasure and savings).

Monday, December 15, 2014

Paperhaus - U Street Music Hall - Dec 14 2014

by Kyle Schmitt

Paperhaus - Eight months after the masters themselves played a few blocks over at 9:30, Paperhaus took on the audacious task of playing Kraftwerk’s classic Trans-Europe Express in its entirety. The band told the audience that they used to cover “Neon Lights” by Kraftwerk, claiming that the band is “a huge part” of how they understand music. They proved they understood Kraftwerk in turn, bringing out the pop in “Europe Endless” and the ominous sensibilities of “Hall of Mirrors”. Credit goes to Danny Bentley and Matt Dowling for keeping on the beat even while playing a multitude of repetitive rhythms. The drumming on “Trans-Europe Express” was especially impressive, as the band had three percussionists playing simultaneously to reproduce the correct sound. This undisputed highlight got the crowd moving and helped Paperhaus put their own imprint on a personal tribute.
Esoterica: Steven Faith played several songs sampling Kraftwerk’s music before and after the live band set… A mysterious hooded figure gyrated onstage to “Hall of Mirrors”, creeping it up during the verses before darting back towards the DJ booth… Andy, who’s seen Kraftwerk five times beginning in the 1990s, thought the Paperhaus set was “terrific” and captured the more-attractive elements of the German originals.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Black Checker - The NRIs - Sarmust -- Rock'n'Roll Hotel - Dec 11 2014

Sarmust - This is the only band in tonight's local showcase that I have not yet seen... much the fool I have been. The exciting beginning chant over light keyboards and percussion reminds me of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, not exactly something expected from any opening band. I am almost disappointed when the guitar chimes in and the trio moves to a rock format with such an amazing beginning. Yet there should not be any reason for me to lack confidence that these guys would deliver further creativity in their music. And they did. The vocal work was somewhere between Omar Souleyman and Bob Theil, powerful expressive and at times mystical. The drummer knew how to pull back or deliver a rock beat when needed. The keyboardist had good variety with a subtle style to enhance the songs. Guitar work was jagged, rocking, and even funky at times. Simply great vibrant music that will push boundaries of even those of us who are well versed in world music. Do not stand still, go see this band the next time out.

The NRIs - And now to the known bands for me--known, respected and always enjoyed. The NRIs have solid rock songs but offer so much more to the two guitar, rhythm section lineup. Specifically, there is violin, keyboards, sax, and both male and female backup vocals to make for a full exciting set of arrangements. They use all these instruments judiciously as warm songs always come forth even with so many interesting components within. It is always a pleasure to see this band and it was no different tonight.
Black Checker - Speaking of pleasure, this wild power pop trio should be putting a smile on your face if you are listening at all. They always conjure up great pop hooks, but are adding even more energy and speed to their set. The speed is great as they maintain clarity and inventiveness keeping it all under control, perhaps teetering at the edge at times (which is more fun than never teetering at all). A recent drummer change seems to be pushing things along nicely. Everything is crisp, fun with a sense of classic pop music evident even as it is revved up to punk rock speeds and beyond. I should point out that the sonic and lighting improvements at the Rock'n'Roll Hotel aided this show as well. Soundman Dennis is just getting started with the changes and it should make for even steadier and more inventive experiences at this fine venue. And when the Rock'n'Roll Hotel delivers a great local showcase like this (as they often do), you owe it to yourself to give DC bands some of your time, as you will find it well spent.

Quote of the Night: from Black Checker after their opening cut... "That was a fast song." they went into their second cut which was just about as fast.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Cymbals Eat Guitars - Alex G - Ricky Eat Acid -- DC9 - Dec 10 2014

Ricky Eat Acid - Ricky sits at an electronica table working up loops, samples, beats and just a wee bit of live vocals. The good news is that he did not have a Macbook open and refrained from bobbing his head up and down. He seemed like a nice guy, too.

Alex G - The last time they were billed as Sandy Alex G as there is an Alex G out there as well in the music scene. As confusing as the name is, this Philly quartet combines a lot of familiar sounds such as Violent Femmes, Mission of Burma, and Sebadoh into some odd mix of rock with an overriding Meat Puppets vibe, particularly in the vocals. They make it work with a seemingly laconic attitude where clearly there is plenty of power underneath it all. It is a lot of fun with good songs and the occasional extended jam that moved into some surprisingly heavy territory. This is a fine band that is developing enough fans around here to support their own shows.
Cymbals Eat Guitars - This quartet was just here in September opening for Bob Mould. They did a fine job that night in the big environs at the 9:30 Club. But tonight, it was the smaller but nearly full room at the DC9 for them to test their music out. And they easily passed this test as their vibrant rock music had the intimacy and variety to keep the crowd fully involved throughout the lengthy set. I was pleased that they began the show with a song that they had never played before. Bands that tour frequently should try to add new songs or odd covers whenever possible to spice it up for us that were at the last show. The opener showed a fine command of tension in the controlled pace fo the music with the vocals trying to push outward. The band then varied the pace with crisply played faster rhythms,  bouncy keyboards, ringing guitars, and the intense lead vocal work. They impressed me even more than I expected tonight seeing them up close and good things await future tours for this Staten Island band.

Obit of the week - Brian Goble died of an apparent heart attack this past Sunday in the Vancouver area. Brian was the lead singer of the Subhumans (Canadian, not UK) as well as a long time bassist for DOA. He had a quiet intensity that burst out of his vocal work with those bands, as well as a wry understated sense of humor amongst the serious times. He was a great guy that will be sorely missed by many people all around the globe. Joe Keithley says it well here. But I'll leave with a great photo from Bob Montgomery that shows what punk bands looked like before they found punk. From left to right, this is Brad Kent (DOA, Avengers), Brian Goble, Dimwit (DOA), and Joe Keithley (DOA).

Monday, December 8, 2014

Centro-Matic - Elephant Micah -- DC9 - Dec 7 2014

Elephant Micah - After a delay getting started, the large crowd was treated to a fascinating opening band that was more than worth the wait. Joseph O'Connell is the songwriter, voice, and guitar behind the name. He is assisted by second guitar and sax and a percussionist/keyboardist. The band creates a great sense of space yet offers diverse sounds making these seemingly simple droning folk songs move into ethereal territory. The first song sounds a bit like a spacey Jackson Browne cut, but they drift into Greg Sage (Wipers) solo territory, which is a great place to hang out. The drummer used one hand to play some atmospheric droning keyboard patterns while offering some tasty percussion on a couple of fine numbers. They went over pretty well with the crowd, although bands like this tend to completely engage only portions of the audience. I was in the completely engaged camp as this music, when done this well, is some of my favorite music to drift away with.
Centro-Matic - I find 'farewell tours' kind of creepy in some ways, but they are certainly good for the fans as they know this is the last chance to see a band they have enjoyed, in this case for nearly 20 years. This Texas quartet certainly drew their fans as the club was packed with a diverse crowd that enjoyed their brand of indie rock. The sound is something between the old Nirvana/Sebadoh sound heading into the Iron&Wine/Band of Horses environs. It is all competent with some strong songwriting that I enjoyed more than the strained vocals. Good dynamics musically, so there was enough to enjoy here. Could be the last...

Quote of the Night: From two of the opening musicians...
"They (Centro-Matic) will be sadly playing for the last time."
"They'll be gladly playing."

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Jesse Marchant - County -- DC9 - Dec 3 2014

County - This is actually a solo guitar and vocals outing from a member of County, whose very name makes for internet research difficult that I'm not willing to expend effort on today. More importantly, this was a fine set of music that was a pleasure to listen to. He has a Dino Valente style voice, rich and powerful with just enough range. The guitars varied from electric to acoustic, all adding a strong and steady melodic focus to work off of. He stretched the first two songs into mini-epic length, but was able to hold attention throughout. Good job and I am sure the full band experience would also be a lovely time.
Jesse Marchant - This is actually a full band effort from Mr. Marchant on this tour and quite a band it is. Marchant begins in a folk rock vein by showcasing his rich singing voice, which is quite similar to the opener. He has even more assured restraint that the band is more than capable of complementing. They control the volume and build rising tension and highlights as well as anybody I've seen recently. There is plenty of outright rock moments as they can crank up the volume as well as create intriguing guitar moves and pulsating rhythms. They remind me a bit of a 60s artist named Beau who did two albums of folk and psyche-folk. He had two songs that had gonzo electric moments on them, which would have worked perfectly in this set. There was a modest crowd into this music in a big way and if it gets heard by enough people, Jesse Marchant will become a major draw, quite soon. There is just too much quality in song and playing not to connect with a wide audience.

Quote of the Night: From the opener... "Thanks for coming out and being quiet--that's cool" ... about 5 minutes after I told the people behind me to please keep it down as I'm trying to LISTEN.

Monday, December 1, 2014


Let's start with this release featuring two songs per side for a couple of ultra heavy metal monsters courtesy of Dutch label, Reflections Records. Acid Deathtip has mighty Sabbath riffs with a deep dark sludgy undercurrent. Although sludge isn't quite right as there is a clarity to the powerful and tuneful noise they conjure up. The vocals stretch and strain but hold down the melody to keep this quite entertaining for most any hard rock or extreme metal fan. Whereas Hangman's Chair will appeal more to the psyche metal crowd as there are moody beginnings before the intense vocals and guitars turn the dirges into metal tunes. There is an almost post Seattle edge in here as well as these are pretty good songs that could be arranged a few different ways. More heavy and exciting music from northern Europe here. Take a listen.

The latest Belgian musical sampler courtesy of Hypertension Records is yet another fine edition in this excellent series. This one is just two bands and two long songs. Alkerdeel move from a dirge like post death metal intensity into furious post hardcore pace. It is thick sludge with nimble beats underneath and pained vocals being carried away by a tune. Whereas Nihill starts out with a post death metal sound played with some pace and full throttle intensity. They take it into a spacier realms that are more chaotic toward the finale, so these two songs are like Sisyphus going up and down the hill before conclusion. Unlike Sisyphus, you can choose whether or not to repeat the journey. I plan on it a few more times at least.

They do… let loose, that is. If you like your blues raw and stripped down musically, yet revved up to honky-tonk tempos with an easy attitude, then let the Bloodhounds into your world. These guys keep it squealing and skronking throughout these twelve oddities that will fit in well in between your Stampfel & Weber and Gun Club records. There's even a cover of 'Security' which I remember the Saints tackling way back in the day. I like the washboard sound and some of the uptempo numbers. This is not every day or even every month listening for me, but it is a fun change of pace.

Songs to try first:

Indian Highway - Start at the beginning as the opener gets off to a rollicking start.

Dusty Bibles & Silver Spoons - and old washboards and loose and crazy folk.

The Wolf - A long lazy blues walk down a twisting trail.

The Cool Ghoul was an amusing horror movie host in Cincinnati during my youth. Some of that fun is present here, as well as that sixties psychedelia that the Cool Ghoul employed in costume and style. These Californians do it with jangly guitars and fuzzy lo-fi production. The vocals are spirited and likely stoned, still with lots of energy behind it. They tend toward the rawer side of Red Kross here, although it's more a fuller sixties punk as opposed to seventies. This is a little too lo-fi at times for me, but the thrust in the vocals mixed with the cool guitar sounds ultimately work favorably. Not my favorite psyche record of the year, perhaps, but one I'll go back to.

Songs to try first:

And it Grows - and grows and grows with fuzzy jangly duels, while blissfully unaware.

Orange Light - Nice hook in this one, like Black Angels through tinny amps.

Insight - Cool guitar solo with backing that is nearly Velvet Underground.


It is great to see the brilliantly original Canterbury band Gong still making music. They still attract some fine musicians in surrounding crazed spacey beatnik Daevid Allen. Sadly, he is recovering from cancer and can’t tour with the band, but at age 76 he still provides the vocals and the vision for this slippery band. There are the expected psyche-rock moments, jazz runs, mototik moments, and beat improvisations. They can lay out some heavy rock moments as well and have kind of a Hawkwind meets Third Ear Band when they really cook. The artier side of this makes me think that Gong even influences a band like Pere Ubu. This has all the eclectic moves you expect from the band Gong, even after four and a half decades. They are still too difficult to fit into comfortable patterns for many a music fan, but for people who like prog, psyche, odd jazz rock moves, and much more, Gong will carve out sonic space that few others know where to find.

This is an interesting mix of quirky pop, chamber music, and Americana folk music. There is banjo and orchestral strings with edgy guitar parts and interestingly odd vocal lines (among others that are smooth as silk). The vocals are in the neighborhood of Bryan MacLean (Love) and the music nimbly shifts about in various interesting forms. It is light music for the most part, but very well thought out through either careful writing or playful jamming, perhaps both? There certainly is more than enough imagination here and it is refreshing to hear something that seems quite familiar, yet has a clear distinct style standing away from the pack. These Bostonians are well named.

Songs to try first:

My Rides Already Here - Fine folk opener before they stretch out their rock moves.

Astronomy as Therapy - Great title and a nice mix of their styles.

The Fight Against Paranoia - Twisted pop with a great instrumental break where paranoia wins.

I really enjoyed the live set I saw from this Nashville based, West Virginia born singer songwriter. He has a deep dark folk style that has a classic feel like Derroll Adams, yet pushes well into the psychedelic folk dimension as well. The album is a little less trippy in the overall sound as compared to the live set, but the psychedelic vibe is inherent in the songs and vocal work even more than the music. Some people may be less enchanted by this music, but they can find their pleasure elsewhere. If you want to join me, seduced into a deep trance that has enough edge and presence to keep you alert and listening closely, then join me with this very fine album.

Songs to try first:

Jackson - Almost a touch of whimsy (rare here) with this mysterious song.

Black Coal - Deep COB-like mystical folk music here.

Way Gone Wrong - A murky folk rock sound down deep with a great vocal and guitar on top.

Roots music is plentiful. It often does not push the barriers too much, but if the heart is there, the songs are there, and the musicians are competent or better, there is always an eager audience. Sam Llanas gets checks in all of the above boxes with this album. It is not too much of a surprise as Llanas had a good bit of success in the band the BoDeans which he was in for 28 years. There is a touch of Tom Petty, David Ackles, and more all mixed with plenty of raspy expressive vocals and maybe even more than a touch of the Jayhawks and REM in there as well. I like the pop hooks he uses as well that has a romantic old time rock’n’roll feeling even as the sound is much more modern with ringing guitars over a strong rhythm section. My comparisons seem a bit slippery here and elusive, which means that Llanas is doing plenty right with his own personality and style dominating the proceedings. I’ll stop writing and give this another listen and will recommend you try it out as well.

Songs to try first:

Deja Vu - Rich opening track has a full sound and an invigorating melody.

Everywhere but Here - A lovely song that could be interpreted in a roots or thick rock style and comes somewhere in between here.

Something’ Comin’ - A deep Dick Gaughn beginning, alone much more American slowly unravels into a full and interesting rock song.

Mariusz Duda, like many a musician today, needs to find things to do in the gaps between his major work for his band, Riverside. Thankfully, instead of taking up golf or writing a bad children’s book, he creates delicious solo albums. This is his fourth album and shows profound songwriting in a unique musical atmosphere created amazingly enough without guitars. There is some ukulele which treated carefully sounds like a delicate acoustic guitar here. There are also heavy synthesizer parts as well as a rhythm section along with some ethnic instrumental flourish. There are moments of Trent Reznor here, but I get even more of a Steven Wilson feeling when I listen to this, as there is that same sense of variety and sonic touch that you get in a Wilson record. But give this a listen at let Lunatic Soul carve a special place in your musical world.

The real highlight in Making Movies music is their bilingual lyrics divided evenly between Spanish and English. This gives a surprising flair to the fine singing and allows rhythms and song patterns to show more variety as the vocals either punctuate or wrap around them. There is a lot of creative flair in the music as well. Although much of it is intricate indie rock with some worldly touches, the band can extend things out and play with a wide array of rock moves.

Songs to try first:

Lo Que Quiero - Great flowing lyrics and snappy backing.

Pendulum Swing - Drumming that mixes snappy quiet moments and loud power moves with a quick catchy pop number at the heart of it all.

Ciego Sin Querer - Great sonic textures from quiet to heavy make this the best of a fine bunch of songs.

Marianne Faithfull has become the Carol Channing of rock'n'roll to my ears (and amazingly enough, she has now been a recording artist for 50 years!). She has this raspy, throaty voice that is spoken/sung in a highly personal style that does not exactly fit any script. But somehow it works more and more as she continues making music. Fine songs with interesting arrangements certainly help--I particularly enjoy the Velvet Underground style on 'Sparrows Will Sing'. I see some Bad Seeds scattered about along with Ed Harcourt on keyboards (he being my first interview for this blog). Brian Eno and Steve Earle also show up for a song. She gets some songwriting assistance, but contributes some fine lyrical work in many of the songs. There are some thoughtful cover choices as well. If you like what Scott Walker has done to twist music around to something personal, this may work for you as well. It is quite a bit more straight forward than that, but add this unique voice to some excellent players to mix up the notes in strange combinations, you have a remarkable finished album.

Songs to try first:

Sparrows Will Sing - Glorious arrangement of a Roger Waters song filled with twists and turns.

Mother Wolf - Menacing music with Warren Ellis on cello and vocals that match the intensity.

I Get Along Without You Very Well - The perfect song to end this fascinating album with.

These guys are twisted. They play psychedelic music and stretch out there jams in connected songs that move from hard rock to odd jazz, to even some folk moments. The songs bleed into each other with no pause for thought as they hammer their way into your brain. It's loose and trippy at times, but the rhythm section underneath cuts a fierce and mighty engine that pummels the music along. They should be mighty fierce on a stage, which I hope to try next.

Songs to try first:

I'm in Your Mind - A good psyche song turns into a really cool extended jam.

I'm Not in Your Mind - And then it continues into the next song.

Am I in Heaven -  A folk beginning kicks into their fastest and wildest moments on this album.

Stark, dry folktronica is a strange beast. It seems so inviting, yet the personal feelings are so very cool and slippery. Many of these songs have a lot of space in surrounding the vocals and backing that it lends an eeriness to the attempts to penetrate. Yet there are also some bouncier pop electronica moments such as in 'Never Becomer' which keeps this being so relentlessly difficult to grasp. I like dark places, but I may not want to spend a whole lot of time in this particular environment.

This is a soundtrack album for the Jim Jarmusch film, written and performed by Jozef van Wissem (and others including Jarmusch) under the moniker SQURL. Psychedelic music works well in instrumental forms, and you can drop your needle anywhere on a record like this and immediately let the music pull you in. It is a bit slower with mixed degrees of heaviness, but does not quite go to psyche-folk territory, more like world psyche. There are chanting vocals at times, which adds even further mysticism into the overall feeling here. This sounds like a quality soundtrack that could enhance a variety of styles of film, but it works just fine in the dark as a series of transcendent pieces. I enjoyed it and I shall partake again, later at night this time.

I also took a listen to a four song ep, “EP3”, which had four excellent moderately paced psyche rockers. It could almost be alt metal, but it has a post rock deep psyche manner where the music has room to breathe over the steady rhythms below. Three have vocals with ‘Francine Says’ reminding me of the Mirrors filtered through Jesus and Marychain.

Songs to try first:

Sola Gratia (Part 1) - Contemplative psyche more than psyche folk, but it works the same.

The Taste of Blood - Slower psychedelia that oozes into your psyche.

Hal - Sumptuous chanting atop rich music--melt right in.

This album has thirteen ambient snippets as opposed to songs. They work as a whole unit with just enough distinction among the parts to warrant the pauses between. This makes for good background music, but does not leave me with a burning desire to replay over and over like my favorite albums do. But if ambient music is your thing, there is a lovely feeling developed here at times.

Imagine a James Williamson guitar sound being played in an early Ron Asheton style covering Ramones songs and you get an idea of what Wild Smile sounds like. This smile seems a bit more controlled than wild, although there is a wild undercurrent in this powerful power pop music. The vocals are assured and the rhythm is steady with just enough edge on the guitar to appeal to punk power pop fans. This is a pleasant listen for me, for as long as the hooks are there, I just can't say no.

Songs to try first:

Fool for You - The opening buzz saw guitar sets the stage for the fine album to come.

Never Wanted This - OK, the main section is nearly cribbed from Nirvana's 'Dumb' but I love that song and love how they twist this one around into something really cool.

Girlfriend - This simply has to be a Ramones song.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Previews of Coming Attractions - Early Dec 2014

The holiday week is over and December is here, so let's head back into the clubs. Here are a few ideas for you and me. Take a listen and join me for some of these fine shows.

Yung Lean is at the Black Cat this Wednesday, Dec 3rd. Or you can check out Jess Marchant just a few blocks away at the DC9 on that same night. I will be at one of these, but which?

Medeski Scofield Martin & Wood sounds more like a law firm, but plays fine music at the 9:30 Club on Friday, Dec 5th.

Elephant Mica stomps into the DC9 on Sunday, Dec 7th.

Cymbals Eat Guitars makes their way to the DC9 on Wednesday, Dec 10th.

Exit Verse hits the Black Cat on Thursday, Dec 11th.

Matt Nathanson makes his way to the Fillmore on Monday, Dec 15th.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Drop Electric - Cigarette - Young Rapids -- Black Cat - Nov 22 2014

Young Rapids - This is the first of three fine veteran local bands that have all attracted a good fan base in the area, thus earning the big room at the Black Cat. I have not seen this quartet in some time, but as much as I liked them before, I have even more respect for what they are doing now. They have pushed their pop moves into an even stronger and more assured sound--Grace with power. They start with crisp drumming and the bass player adding some percussion before strapping on. The guitarist is awash with interesting sounds and strength, while the keyboardist lays out dreamy yet strong runs that gives this the sound of an old Socket Circuits band (like a lighter Imperial China, say). The instrumental parts are interesting and the vocals are strong and moving. There is a lot to like here.

Cigarette - This quartet puts the slow into slo-core. And it is a bit of a challenge for me tonight as I am really tired and their low key but lengthy sound check made it unclear of when the set actually started (I think it was 36 minutes following the previous set). These guys do capture a dream pop sound that is so steady and pulled back, it can't help but lull you into its world. I am not sure it was a good fit for this Saturday night show, but the quality earned the respect of some of the crowd. There were some sound issues even as the set went on, but the overall sonic approach is an effective one, in the right time and place.
Drop Electric - It has been a couple of years since I have caught up with one of the finer DC bands working these days. This band has such an inner power that pushes their sonic qualities to rarely heard heights, that it is always a pleasure to hear what they come up with next, song by song, show by show. I have previously written of Cocteau Twins, Dead Can Dance, Goblin, and Bardo Pond. I heard a bit of the former and plenty of the latter tonight as well, although I heard a melody construction that reminded me of Mono as well. The female vocals from the keyboardist are quite wonderful and they are a match for the powerful music underneath. Each seems to push the other to get closer to heaven. There are some hooks in here along with the intricacy and intensity. There was a fairly large crowd here for this show and no doubt, they left it with lots of smiles after hearing this wonderful band. Don't wait as long as I did to see them again.

Benefit Info... This was a show to benefit Girls Rock DC, a fine organization that has been around since 2007. They put on rock camps for young girls, age 8 to 18 and give them a valuable and fun experience at learning the ropes of being a musician and songwriter. Check them out.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

The Allah-Las - Tashaki Miyaki -- Rock'n'Roll Hotel - Nov 21 2014

Tashaki Miyaki - This is an LA power trio and since it is from LA, they are rather easy going on the power. Instead, they opt for that classic easy brand of psyche-rock that shows a bit of roots as well as decent song structures. The female drummer handles the lead vocals with only a touch of harmony from the bass player now and then. Her voice has a chill to it, but is not too icy but rather contemplative. The guitarist works in many layers of fuzz and leads the band into a few extended space exploratory jams that do not overly dominate. The songs are decent enough but it gets to be a bit of background like at times. I also thought they were doing 'Wild Thing' once until they turned those riffs into their own song. To be completely fair, I could not quite capture the magic due to an even worse than typical Friday night crowd of idiots around me whose conversation was far more important than the music.
The Allah-Las - Also from LA, this twin guitar quartet extends that California brand of psychedelic music even further into this night. It is not surprising to recall that they once toured with the Black Angels, for their sound is as if the Black Angels relocated to California and worked in a Long Ryders sound into their core. This band has great command over the pace of their music, so that the jangled guitar will warmly pull you in to enjoy the pop hooks present in their melodies. The vocals have a distinct personality and complete the package. I was hiding as far away from the noisy crowd tonight, but it was difficult as this band nearly sold out the venue. Based on the live show and their fine album, it is no surprise to see them drawing big crowds. They have hit on an approach that is both comfortable yet original enough to last long in the memory.

Classic billings from the past... This one generated a fun discussion, with Comus's manager recalling that the show was not as good as it sounded, as the PA was woefully insufficient that night. And Arthur Lee was proving to those that met him, that he really was not comfortable touring. Still, if I had a time machine...

Friday, November 21, 2014

Five Guys Named Moe - Arena Stage - Nov 20 2014

Five Guys Named Moe - The Arena Stage is one of the finer DC theatrical institutions and is celebrating its 65 years of presenting fine theater, including several musicals in recent years that have been quite wonderful and a great historical connection of the history of rock'n'roll with the present rock scene in DC.

This musical is yet another link in the long chain of rock'n'roll, yet goes back a bit further than the usual rock origins and has deeper roots to blues and jazz. This is the music of Louis Jordan, 'The King of the Jukebox', who was quite popular in the middle of the 20th Century and had a versatile style that eased blues and jazz into a popular form that lays the roots for rock and also makes for fine musical theater.

The play features a character named Nomax who has the blues over girlfriend problems. In his imagination, the characters from the Jordan song 'Five Guys Named Moe' come to life out of his radio and through Jordan's music walk him through the ups and downs of life and relationships. The device is quite simple and with not much new ground being broken here, yet still has an inner strength due to the focus on this central character. Kevin McAllister in the role both has fine vocal moments as well as a low key acting style that is often upstage behind the action of the five Moes and makes for excellent theater.

The set is clean and bright with the band upstage center allowing the Moes to run around on steps all around and above them with plenty of room up front for dancing. Everything is quick and keeps the audience on their toes as the songs keep coming. The performers are all well cast and show great personality and enough characterization to make for a well rounded presentation. There is some calypso music, theatrical song stories, and plenty of dancing including tap and audience participation. The crowd clearly had fun as that is ultimately the main theme of this presentation. Well that, and Nomax's more thorough understanding of the path to make his relationship with his girlfriend work.

As I have said many times before, I fully encourage club going music fans to branch out into musical theater, dance, and the vast array of arts available in DC. For me, a theater experience like this makes important connections with the music I see created by young bands in front of a few dozen people in a small dark club. And 'Five Guys Named Moe' is a well performed and well defined link in this long chain.

Monday, November 17, 2014

The Very Small - Model Stranger - Time Columns -- Velvet Lounge - Nov 16 2014

Time Columns - If you are a fan of the local band Buildings, you will want to check out this Frederick/Baltimore trio. They play an instrumental neo-prog style that is assertive and nimble with plenty going on. Early on, they go psycho crazy after a rather funky start. This deep dark noisy passage is something I hope they explore more. Even if they stick to their bouncy rhythms and tricky guitar and bass counterpoints, there is plenty to enjoy. I just like that King Crimson 'Red' sound that can break things up and really lift this to new heights. OK, call this post rock if you like that term, but there is plenty to rock out with here. Enjoy.

Model Stranger - This trio hails from Chicago. They start with a rather basic marriage of classic rock and indie rock, but thankfully their 33 minute set allowed them to show off a few special moves. The guitar sound varied smartly from a rhythmic grinding sound to a spacier psyche approach depending on the song. The bass kept things flowing, while the drummer varied the beats in subtle ways. They had songs with some pop hooks, although they could stretch them out into classic rock jams. The particularly soaring last number reminded me of Dust meeting Leafhound, which is a rather ungodly sound. So this was a fun and fascinating set from a band that is slippery yet with an interesting approach that yields some great results.

The Very Small - We are three for three with the power trios tonight, as this local band hits the stage. It's a little late for me as the equipment shifting was a bit onerous tonight. In fact, there is more equipment in the audience area than actual audience, despite a decent Sunday night turnout of a couple dozen or so. I rather liked their low key Amon Duul II opening jam as they were warming up before they exploded into their louder stronger music. This may be post punk meeting post funk as the basslines punch up the rhythm quite a bit. Good energy all around and some powerful three part harmonies are quite nice and unexpected. Some of the lead vocals are almost too edgy in a Suicide Commandos/Jell Biafra manner, but the music makes it a decent enough match as it is strong and challenging much of the way. Hope I can catch these guys again for more than a few songs. They are worth a listen.

Quote of the Night... from a recent F365 column: Aston Villa got a much-needed point at West Ham on Saturday, but no surprises that it was achieved through a 0-0 draw. It's now five goals in 11 league matches this season. The goals in their last seven matches read 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 1, 0. I think that's a binary translation of 'TEDIUM'.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Empires - Cold Fronts -- DC9 - Nov 15 2014

Cold Fronts - Here's another punk/power pop hybrid outfit, this time hailing from our north in Philadelphia. They have a more desperate edge to them than most and that propels their 34 minute set forward with a vigor and a sense of abandon that makes it pass quite quickly. The edgy near romantic vocals remind me quite a bit of Richard Hell and the guitars have wild edgy moves that add to the chaos. Yet the melodies and rhythms keep it under control and it holds together well. Good fun.
Empires - Good crowd tonight for an early show at the DC9, who have been drawing good crowds at the three recent shows I have attended. This Chicago band has a good following and proved why with a tight 35 minute set that showed that indie alt rock still works. First off, they are one of the rare bands of this type with a dedicated full time lead vocalist. I have always found that odd that what is fairly normal in metal and punk, just does not happen with frequency in the indie rock scene. But it works here as the vocals are warm and smooth, but with plenty of heart and avoidance of saccharine. The music matches the warmth but with a bite in the guitar that keeps the songs rocking. Empires are a band like what U2 or even Big Country would sound like if they stayed in the clubs. There is also an Echo and the Bunnymen vibe when they kick things up a notch, particularly in the closing number. There is nothing reinvented here, this is just five guys that know how to write and play very good songs and have the energy and conviction to make it an entertaining evening.

Photograb of the Night: Here is a school teacher who in his 40 year career, wore the same outfit for class picture day for their yearbook. I am glad I did nothing like this...

Friday, November 14, 2014

O'Death - Joe Fletcher - Stone Jack Jones -- DC9 - Nov13 2014

Stone Jack Jones - He was a Coal Miner's son... and grandson, and great grandson and... well, he is a musician now and a very fine one at that. From West Virginia via Nashville comes Mr. Jones and his two extremely capable sidemen who gave me a great dose of my favorite sort of mystical folk. One sidemen used a keyboard mostly as a drone accompaniment while he played electric guitar. The other sideman had some mysterious banjo and guitar runs. That left Jones to handle the deeply contemplative vocals and add some guitar and harmonica. This is dark, deep woodsy folk music that reminds me of Woven Hand or Bill Callahan with vocals that range from a classic style of Derroll Adams, yet with a hint of Lou Reed now and then. This is exactly how you transcend traditional folk into a modern form and still take the listeners on a journey where time becomes a blur while the magic of the song wraps around you. Great music, great set, I hope people take time from their busy lives and spend some time in this world. It will do you good.

Joe Fletcher - Also from Nashville comes a more classic style blues and country folker. It is just Fletcher with voice and guitars, acoustic or electric. He shows some fine touch and guitar and pounds out the riffs as well as he brings some old time rural rock'n'roll into his songs. He did manage to get some of the sizable crowd to sing along to a fairly complex bit, so he connected well tonight. This will take you back and is always a good fit on a bill like this.
O'Death - I have not seen this band in ages and it was high time I caught up with them. They take a singer songwriter on acoustic guitar and surround him with high quality musicians that could raise the dead with their playing and brand of music. This is rootsy material but it is frenetic or mannered and always has a lot going on. The rhythm section is excellent and powerful, while the guitar is flanked with violin and banjo/ukulele. The violin work is great and absolutely frenetic at times in the manner of Boiled in Lead. Yet the vocals are warm and the one harmony voice lifts them even higher, atop this great music. I hope I don't wait another five years before I see these guys again. They do the body good.

Quote of the Night: From Stone Jack Jones after two mesmerizing songs... "We're going to play a song that has more than one chord in it now."

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Saintseneca - LVL UP - Dead Professional -- DC9 - Nov 10 2014

Dead Professional - This is my first time in seeing this one-man act with a full band. In lieu of backing tracks, there is now a rhythm section behind John's vocals and guitar. Immediately, all the benefits are apparent: harmony vocals, extra embellishment, more rhythmic variation, etc. The two newcomers play a smooth style which lays the foundation for these fine rock songs that often cover extensive power pop territory. The crunchier pop tunes remind me a bit of Sloan, but there is quite a variety of style between the songs--some poppier, others heading into deeper moods, even ballad like. Dead Professional always has delivered a solid set, only now it is even fuller and more accomplished. Do keep this band on your radar.

LVL UP - These guys live a little north of my brother who lives just north of NYC. The crowd was really packed in tonight and made this their best trip yet to DC, or so they said. It worked for me too, as this twin guitar power pop/punk attack was really clicking tonight. These guys have the songs and the understated vocals enhanced the rich melodies. They even pull back to ballad pop rockers as well. So this was quite pleasant and filled with energy from stage to the crowd. Bonus points for snare attack that reminded me of the MC5's Dennis Thompson. That is always a good thing.
Saintseneca - From one of my former home towns of Columbus, Ohio, comes this talented rootsy rock outfit. I've had some health issues lately so I had to cut out after just a few songs, although I wanted to at least catch the vibe. And from what I saw, this band has a core strength of sound that they can move beyond cliche with some interesting arrangement choices. They also showed off at least one well written song that was rich in vocals and smooth and flowing underneath. Hopefully I can catch more next time, although based on the large crowd tonight, it may be tough getting in.

Quote of the Night: From John in the opening set...
"Are there any hecklers in the crowd?"
"More bass!!!"
"That is a good heckle."

Friday, November 7, 2014

Ian Anderson -- Lincoln Theatre - Nov 6 2014

Ian Anderson - It is always a pleasure to catch up with the latest tour from Jethro Tull icon Ian Anderson, as it is like welcoming an old musical friend who never fails to have some new tricks up his sleeve. Jethro Tull was about my 4th or 5th concert ever at Hara Arena in Dayton, Ohio from way back in my high school days. It was such a mob getting in that you could lift your feet and be carried into the arena hundreds of feet later. Some windows did not handle the stress quite as well as I recall. Tonight's crowd could have included some of those same youngsters that have stayed with Ian Anderson through the many different bands and style of music he has created under the widest of progressive labels. Tonight he brings a tight veteran band consisting of drums, bass, guitar, and keyboards to join in with his flute and acoustic guitar. The biggest change over the years is a guest vocalist who works with him not only on harmonies but also on shared lead vocals, often with a tradeoff on individual lines within a song. It is quite evident that Anderson's 67 year old voice does struggle with the high notes and the famed flexibility that he worked into his music over the last 45 years. Once you get used to this presentation, it works well as Anderson still can nail the core parts and works to extract everything he can for his part. The harmonies work well on a few of the songs that were double tracked in studio and it allows Anderson to do some flute flourishes when Ryan O'Donnell handles the vocals.

The band is top notch as you would expect with David Goodier and John O'Hara from the Tull days on bass and keys respectively. Add the slightly younger Scott Hammond on drums and the 'kid' Florian Ophale on guitar and you not only have a great band, but the same band that worked on the latest album. And that works out great as they begin with seven songs from 'Homo Erraticus' all complete with some theatrical bits and well above average backing videos. I thought the material was excellent and it holds its own amongst the classic songs. But they added a cool version of 'Bouree' and a good block of 'Thick as a Brick' to end their first set.
In the second set, it was all Tull material with a clock and calendar projected behind the band to aide in the placement of these songs from the second album on, including some famed singles. This was a blast as not only were there some of the expected songs, but a cut like 'Sweet Dream' was a pleasant surprise. But the true shock was hearing a great 'With You There to Help Me' from a Benefit, an album he virtually would not touch for many a decade, as he never felt he could give it on honest go due to some of the lyrical content and memories. He later joked that the critics may have been right when they said he stepped over the line with 'A Passion Play', but still wanted to do one of his favorites from that album, 'Critique Oblique' which certainly tends toward a challenging oblique progressive musical form. I was thrilled that he covered his folk rock phase as well, as the diversity of the Tull material is half the fun. But there was 'Aqualung' to close and 'Locomotive Breath' as the encore, which the crowd always appreciates (and then some). Quite simply, it was terrific fun for me and I was pleased that my friend who doesn't hit the old rock circuit much anymore also had a great time. As long as Ian Anderson can get up on one leg and play those flute runs with a great band beside him, I'm there.

Set List:  Doggerland, Enter the Uninvited, Puer Ferox, Adventus, The Engineer, Tripudium ad Bellum, The Browning of the Green, Cold Day Reckoning, Bouree, Thick as a Brick Living in the Past, With You There to Help Me, Sweet Dream, Teacher, Critique Oblique, Too Old to Rock'n'Roll, Songs from the Wood, Farm on the Freeway, Aqualung, Encore - Locomotive Breath.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Cass McCombs - Meat Puppets -- Black Cat - Nov 2 2014

Meat Puppets - This must be about the fifth or sixth time I have seen this legendary band along with a couple of Curt Kirkwood solo shows tossed in for good measure. The first thing that is odd is that there is a second guitarist and he looked a lot like one of the Kirkwoods, and sure enough he is Curt's son and of course, Cris's nephew. His guitar work is mostly rhythm and adds a lot of heft and pace to let his older relatives do their crazy moves that have made this band famous. This set is really heavy in spite of some Freddy Fender covers and a quaint Sloop John B. The guitars were firing and the drums strong, courtesy of Doug Sahm's son Shandon (as there are interesing family connections everywhere). This band taught me and a lot of people the value of the Western side of Country & Western, although they really shared more sonic and geographic space with other desert dwellers like Kyuss. The band had its astral exploration gear on tonight and they really took off much of the time. There was even a crazed 'Black to Comm' type song that had me watching a tennis match trying to keep up with the two guitars, let alone the bass in between. Trippy, heavy fun as this 71 minute opening set flew by. I wasn't sure they would still have it, but they do, so I won't give up on them anytime soon.
Cass McCombs - This was an interesting set in that there was a clear line of demarcation for me. When McComb's second guitarist went to the pedal steel, the songs lost me. But when he played electric guitar, I found the music enchanting and I was fully engaged. This is a bias of mine that some bands can fend off with creative use of the pedal steel, but it just did not happen tonight. But to focus on what really worked, I found McCombs' songs with two guitars to be quite deep with airs of mystery that subtly pulled me in. There was almost a mototik beat in the first song that offset the moody vocals and scenic guitar work. They could rock out a bit, too and had a nice array of songs that showed some real class. The music that did less for me was not a complete turnoff and probably has more than its fair share of fans out there. I saw enough of what I did like to recommend a fair listen to his songs. There will likely be something special to grab on to, no matter what your taste as there is a lot of class here.

Photo Grab of the Day (and yes, I resort to bathroom humor when desperate).

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Dum Dum Girls - Cherry Glazerr - together PANGEA - Ex Cops - Mozes & the Firstborn -- Black Cat - Nov 1 2014

This is the Burger Record Label's showcase tour, which seems to be turning into an annual event. I have a blast at these, so let's dig in as it is a big lineup...

Mozes & the Firstborn - I recognized this band as someone I have enjoyed before and a few songs in, I was reminded why in a big way. They bring a popsike style with a heavier psychedelic rock approach like combining the 3 O'Clock with Black Mountain. This band from two of the countries comprising Benelux are touring hard and have a great record along with a great live set. It was nice to see a good crowd for them at tonight's early start. All it takes is one careful listen and this band should be on your watch list. They have all the components and really kick it into high gear, which is what you want in psyche rock music (and look into Netherlands history for a great foundation to work off of).

Ex Cops - And from North Carolina and North Denmark, comes this intriguing little trio that uses drums, guitar, and female vocals to stir up their brand of pop rock music. The guitarist adds some harmonies and there are some undercurrent sounds, but the steady drums lay out the landscape for some careful edgy guitar sounds and powerful vocals. At their best, they achieve a grandeur sound with soaring vocals that sound as if they were cathedral born and echoing throughout a valley. They pull it back for a few songs, but the powerhouse cuts are the ones that will stay with me for a long time.

together PANGEA - Second time around for me for this LA twin guitar quartet. They brought their srong west coast jangly punk garage sound to the Black Cat once before and have it working every bit as well tonight. They vary their songs quite a bit with different tempos or a slant to pop or rock, punk cuts either 60s style or 70s style, etc. The crowd had grown quite a bit by now and they were fully into this set as this is a band that knows how to blast away from a stage.

Cherry Glazerr - This LA trio brings the rawest simplest approach tonight with a jagged edge pop punk style that takes me back to the early days of punk with bands starting from nothing. But just as those bands started from scratch with more vision than ability, the ability came with a fresh approach and created some memorable music. Cherry Glazerr does the same as each song built into a very fine set of music with just enough variety among a mostly hypnotic beat and grinding Rickenbackers. Feral sounds mix with more under control moments as everything pulls you into their murky powerful environment. Very interesting music and yet another interesting vision on this showcase event.

Dum Dum Girls - This established quartet is augmented with another guitarist so that lead singer Dee Dee can focus more on vocals. But she straps on a guitar as well for a rare three-guitar sound. Her vocals smooth out the intricate post punk guitar style that gives this band its own edge in what by now is a fairly established environment. The rhythm section is sharp and adds to the mysterious overall approach that cooly embraces this Black Cat crowd. The harmonies are excellent and at times are four-women all at once almost composing an alto section of the choir. The music is as deep as the voices as there is a lot going on to drift away with. Very alluring music here and a great ending a night of five unique bands that have a lot to offer.

Quote of the Night: from the soundman after the fourth band concluded... "Long night."

Yes, but thankfully to the Black Cat and all of the bands, it went smoothly and even I who get so very tired after a couple of bands was going strong all night. The Black Cat started it early and every band got to play a full set without the show running long. There are still a lot of screwups in this regard from other clubs, but most of the shows in DC from small to large do a pretty good job here and I thank them for that (especially when I remember some disasters for me and my friends in other cities).

Saturday, November 1, 2014


I have not even come close to reaching the saturation point of popsike bands who take that 1960s pop and psychedelic styles and deliver the 21st century goods with clean, crisp, and occasionally powerful music. The Allah Las have fine garage pop vocals with spacey harmonies, jangly guitars, and rat-a-tat drumming. They mix it up a bit with some California country styled songs as well as a few modern touches, but they could vary it even further--especially with fourteen songs. But this LA band on only their second album, has done a fine job of adding their easy going style to the popsike formula and have come up with something I'll be playing further.

Songs to try first:

Had it All - Great hooks, strong jangle, and strong vocals.

Follow You Down - Nice chunky guitar with a more modern slacker songwriting touch.

Worship the Sun - All sun worship songs are good.

Made in Belgium indeed. Is everything coming out of Belgium so vibrant and exciting these days? It certainly is on the football pitch and always has been in the chocolate shoppes, but now the music scene seems to be exploding as well. Everything that comes to me is at least interesting and more often genuinely exciting. Aranis is easily on the exciting side of the scale, but not in ways that so many of the other bands are. Here, we have a progressive form of classical, folk, and rock music that invokes Magma and other original progressive bands. There is a lot here and something for just about any music lover who really likes music in all its forms.

Songs to try first:

Skip XXI - A great entry into this magical world of dextrous musical forms.

Tolles Pferd - Pianos at sprinters' pace.

Kablamo - A strong playful mood with great flute, piano, and strings and just a great title.

This local band has a six song EP out, which offers something more than the usual indie rock fare. I hear a sort of twisted King Crimson at times (Basement Town) as these guys try to stretch out vocally and musically a bit from the comforts of pop rock. Yet there are some quirky catchy pop moments as well and some interesting keyboard work throughout. As with anyone in this town, I want to see what they do on stage some time--could be very interesting.

Prolific musician, author, and activist Tim Bragg is back with another fine collection of fourteen songs. His style is almost lack of style, but in a positive way of playing feel good rock music that is not trying too hard to fit into any latest or retro trend. Instead, it is straightforward rock music, light at times, driving at others. The vocals are thoughtfully delivered and the guitar tones change from jangly to slightly fuzzy to clean or whatever the emotional tone is desired.

Songs to try first:

Some Answers - Just a simple song that has effective guitar work underneath.

Life Ain't So - Bragg channels old fashioned pop rock moves and still manages to make it seem so fresh.

Been Before - A tougher blues rock song with some harmonica and fine vocals, too.

I enjoyed this Nashville band's live set a few weeks back and was anxious to hear how they translated to recorded works, as their hard driving rock music is a natural for a live stage. And it is refreshing to hear that this is a fine record with a slightly different approach to their brand of hard driving pop rock music. There is a little less garage punk edge on the recording, although the toughness of the songs are still there. Instead, the focus is more on the vocals than the guitar with double tracked harmonies and such that won't sound the same on stage. The guitars still sound crisp and cutting with a nice bite to them when needed. This is a fun band that can fit into a lot of rock fans' listening habits.

This is all just voice and electric guitar. The electric guitar has a lovely striking tone and his voice is easy going as these songs amble along a crooked little path in a sunny glade. This is nearly outsider music, with enough skill and melody to keep it firmly musical. I would rather listen to outsider music than the latest quality indie rock-Americana band that sounds like far too many other bands. Give this one a shot and see what you think.

Songs to try first:

I'm a Mess - Playful folk rock song with nicely plucked clean electric guitar and easy going vocals.

Call - He makes odd and quirky seem smooth and normal.

St. James Infirmary - Breezy, bluesy, but still with his unique approach.

This six song ep provides a lot more than I expected. Yes, there are quirky catchy pop moves in here, but there is almost a spacey progressive tone in some of these songs. Chicago's J Fernandez has brought out some personalized textures to these songs that dance around the melodies in nimble ways, giving room for the vocals to occupy a more inner space in the proceedings. I would write more but I get more confused as I try to decode the formulas here. There are only six songs. Give them a spin and see what direction you head toward. Retro-future pop, indeed.


Good rootsy blues rock is plentiful and has been plentiful for my entire lifetime and then some. Handsome Jack does not break any new ground as few are able to do with this style anymore, but has some fine characteristics in his music that make this worth a listen. First off, his voice has a restrained approach that creates drama because he pulls back with great clarity as opposed to forcing himself forward in a more cliched manner. The music is crisp and plays around with paces and styles from early rock moves to deepwater blues sounds. These ten songs move along nicely and create a full pattern of an album that is more successful than most of this type.

Songs to try first:

Echoes - No, not the Pink Floyd classic, but a gritty blues rocker that sets the tone for the album.

Leave it all Behind - A slower one to change the pace and tone effectively placed in the middle of the album.

You and Me - Undulating currents of rhythm set the stage for this song.

Spirited garage punk works most of the time if the spirit is truly present and Hundred Visions quickly shows that it is. They have many of the requisite components, snarling vocals, assertive fuzzy guitars, and a pounding rhythm section. The bigger step is having good hooks and/or something unique to bring into the sound. The hooks are here more often than not and they really employ a panoply of sounds and tempos to keep everything fresh with each song bringing something new to the plate. Yes, this style works for me, but Hundred Visions has even a little bit extra to climb higher on my personal play list.

Songs to try first:

Our Ritual - Fierce guitar and a cool song.

Thanks for Nothing - Great vocal melody and a good variety of sounds.

Embalmer's Apprentice - Bouncy beat, acoustic guitar, and noisy breaks. What is not to like?


Normally I don't get too excited about 'covers' albums or Eps, but this band made their six-song EP essential listening with a cover of the Wipers 'Mystery'. Between that and 'Gouge Away' by the Pixies, I was a happy listener. These guys rock in an easy going manner and manage to sound faithful to the original songs with enough personal spin to make it worth everyone's while. Add My Bloody Valentine, Colleen Green, Teenage Fanclub, and Beck, and you have a lovely little record, especially fun if you enjoy these things.

Could be the new drummer that is driving this local trio in a heavier direction from eclectic psychedelic folk to all over the place psychedelic folk-rock or it could be just the way they feel these days. Fear not, New Canada fans, they still have that strange outsider art approach that I have long written about and use acoustic guitars as well as electric to get the musical message across. The rhythms section is there to anchor it with the occasional baseline that adds as much trippiness to the proceedings as that of the fuzzbox. This is one of those bands that dances around edginess while seemingly offering comfort, which offers a pleasurable challenge for the listener. Yet, it is all easy to relax and enjoy if you want to go that route. I suggest you give it a try.

Songs to try first:

Gyroscope - Great grinding psychedelic backdrop for vocal gyrations.

I am Not Your Moon - Sort of the soundtrack to your dream at the carnival.

Lifeboat - Lilting melody with comfortable twists and a fine arrangement.

This is one of the oddest albums I've had in quite some time and one of the more exciting albums as well. They start off by reminding me a bit of Cigarbox Planetarium with instrumental keyboard and guitar works that cast evocative shadows about. But they go to far deeper and darker places in addition to the bright dreamy landscapes from CP. They even add some vocals, disturbing in their simple intense style. Each song hikes along a different landscape, yet it all barely stays together in a manner that invites creative initiative. Their song title 'Carnival' sums up the spirit here, with a sense of fun that has a thick dark scary undercurrent to it.

Songs to try first:

Death in Space - One of the spookiest instrumentals I have heard in a long time.

Do the Raid - A very twisted Christmas song, of sorts.

Steve - Nice rocker, although it sounds like something in your head if you awake at 3am.

This Belgian album is available at a special November 29th tribute concert at the Muziekodroom in Hasselt, Belgium. Although it is a sad occasion as it marks the one year anniversary of Kabul Golf Club member Florent Pevee's death from a traffic accident. The concert will be comprised of the bands on this record that have all covered Kabul Golf Club material. Filling out this LP are some of the brilliant post-hadcore attack songs of the Kabul Golf Club. The band was really hot and had great material and great style with a cutting edge energy that lifted their music up to great heights. The cover songs here are quite good and employ a few variant styles that each band brings to the material. It is intense, but in some cases more nuanced. I particularly enjoyed the range that the Sore Losers showed in their cover of 'Demon Days'. Kabul Golf Club was a great band and this is yet another fine (and limited) release by Hypertension Records--a label that should be on your radar.

I have been a fan of this Scottish band ever since I first heard their name. Then, when I actually attended a show, the real fandom began as their strong assertive power pop songs were wonderful. This band is so accessible, but there are some thoughtful songwriting moves in their material as well. With this new album, that is even more evident as these eleven songs all have outstanding individual personality, even as they feel like a united album. They have such smart shifts between shoe gaze, pop, rock, and post punk and it is all quite seamless thanks in part to the emotive vocals. This is definitely one of the classiest post-Radiohead rock bands working today.

And check out their great live set at the 9:30 Club on Wednesday, November 19th.

Songs to try first:

Safety in Numbers - Not the Adverts song, but a smooth dish of their power pop music served with relish.

Peaks and Troughs - Monster rock songs may have hooks this good, but they are rarely this warm.

Disconnecting - A long spacey cut still with pop hooks and surprises, but a unique tone for this band.

As a major Stooges fan, I've followed the band's activities closely over the years. I heard that in recent times James Williamson pitched an idea to Iggy for them to rerecord the post-Raw Power Stooges songs that were incomplete and that had been released in various bootleg and authorized rough and unfinished versions. Instead the Stooges made a new album, which while much better than 'The Weirdness', still was not quite up to what new versions of 'Open Up and Bleed' and 'I Gotta Right' would have yielded.

So James Williamson took it upon himself to do this album with a series of guest vocalists. And of course, everyone of them invites comparisons to Iggy and the older recorded versions of these songs, which while raw, still have that feral brilliance of the Stooges. Some of that is evident here in the ferocious Williamson guitar which still has that needed nasty streak. The Stooges rhythm section does well and the arrangements are good. But this record still ends up frustrating me with lots of vocalists that either do cliched blues versions or their own punk or rock styling to the songs. Only a few of them work well enough to really get me excited (see below). But if you like James Williamson the guitarist, there is still plenty here to give a fair listen to.

Songs to try first:

'Til the End of the Night - Alison Mosshart gives it a lighter blues workout, which works here (along with some hot guitar leads).

Rubber Leg - Two versions. I like the Ron Young one better, but the JG Thirlwell one is fine. I think this song is just brilliant and raw enough to work with more than Iggy.

I'm Sick of You - Cool song where guitar work remains similar and Mario Cuomo doesn't mess up the singing.