Tuesday, May 31, 2016


This is the moniker for Annelotte de Graaf, a Dutch singer/musician with a sweet ethereal styled voice that never gets too goth and instead veers toward dream pop. Yet she still has a bit of grounding, although the strong instrumental prowess of the band has a heavy hand in that. Beats and bass are big, bold and sharp with a bit more shimmer and dreaminess coming from the guitars. There is nothing unheard here, just a bit of extra divergence among the instruments with a band that can keep it all cohesive and effective throughout. This is a steady and high quality album.

Songs to start with first:

Fading Lines - Fine pop moves and strong contrasts within instruments that meld together well.

Right Now - Great popsike moves with some sharp undercurrents.

Turning Light - Lighter touch with crisp snare work and ultra-warm vocal.

Instantly, this reminds me a lot of Fursaxa with the intense yet delicate vocal work. However, each song adds something to the vocal style, whether it is piano, electronic sounds, or some combination, this album builds on the slightest of inclines. This is certainly not for all tastes, as it is stark, dreamy, droning steadiness, but it worked perfectly for me. This type of album is never one you reach for in a passion and marvel at the songwriting, but wait for the mood to be right and let it work its magic, while your mind drifts to your own comfortable thoughts.

Be sure to come see this music live at a perfect venue for her, the 6th and I Synagogue on Wednesday, June 15th.

Songs to start with first:

St. Apollonia - The opener begins with a stark ethereal landscape of looped voices.

Beached - Prominent piano and oh so delicate vocals in the background.

Heading Home - Late on, you sense that she is indeed heading home.

I knew I would be sorry I missed Bent Knee when they played the Songbyrd the other week. But I had another commitment and now after hearing this album, I am even more curious at how these songs would be played live. For on record, the sound is bold and varied with all kinds of instrumentation weaving in and out at wildly divergent volume levels. Courtney Swain’s lead vocals are operatic lounge, were there such a classification. And between her and her bandmates, if it doesn’t exist, they invent it. The experimental components are intriguing enough that even the Zappa-Beefheart brigade will take to this. Yet the melodic sense is generally far clearer than those two and is quite amazing how it all comes together. The dynamic range that you get right on the opening song is as varied as anything I’ve heard. Rarely has quiet to loud worked so well. This hits all the right buttons for me and will for any adventurous listener.

Songs to start with first:

Counselor - Startling guitars and violins work off quieter sounds and intense vocals.

Eve - Nine minutes of surprise.

Good Girl - An intriguing nearly psychedelic folk experience.

This is a good folk rock album of sorts. It is more steeped in pop culture than Americana or classic British style, and there is a heavy Byrdsian jangle which contrasts nicely to the prominent acoustic guitar rhythm. The female vocals are laid back, but with emotion and not so detached as they may initially sound. The beats are steady and the songs are varied enough. This does not always dazzle, but has a steady quality throughout and a few highlight songs to zone in on.

And don’t delay, they open the Nada Surf show tomorrow night, June 1st, at the 9:30 Club. It will be fun.

Songs to start with first:

Dad - No doubt that is Roger McGuinn III playing a jangly 12-string Rickenbacker on this catchy cut.

Burn - A good rock song that pushes it a bit, not quite Deep Purple, but hey the motive is different.

Dad 2 - Short follow-up later in album, yes this is a fine song (or try River Monster the closer, if you want a different song).

It’s been a while since “III” and I was hoping “IV” sounded a little more inventive than the last “IV” I bought from Mahogany Rush, while in high school (actually a serviceable LP). This has all the components you expect in a Black Mountain LP:  a finely honed psychedelic vibe delivered through quivering vocals; big distorted guitar parts; interesting drums; droning bass; and quirky synthesizer bits. There is the usual variety of long droning songs, shorter made for radio songs (almost, anyway), quieter acoustic moments, and other varieties of texture and volume. The main problem I have had on past albums is that there are song clusters where they sound like the best band in the world and others where they sound ‘meh’. I know most albums have this quality, but their divergence was more than most. This time around, they seem a whole lot steadier and while I stay am waiting for that knock’em dead classic, this will do nicely ’til then.

And be sure to join me at the Black Cat on Saturday, June 25th, for the Black Mountain live experienc.

Songs to start with first:

Florian Saucer Attack - More punk style oddly enough, reminiscent of Penetration or Flying Saucer Attack (of course)

You Can Dream - Classic Black Mountain mid-tempo psyche rocker with cool vocals, heavy guitar, and bubbly synth.

Line Them All Up - A lovely little pop psyche-folk cut, similar to a solo project from the guitarist a few years back.

Fiona Brice offers ten postcards from cities around the world. Lots of great places I have been such as Paris, Antwerp, and Dallas (well good anyway). Plenty of other exotic locales are explored, but when there is Denton in addition to Dallas, I think she has a bit too much Texas especially as she is from Northampton, England. Regardless, Fiona Brice is a fine violinist and has worked up arrangements from a highly diverse group of acts from Kanye West to Boy George. The works here have a strong ambient quality to them, although their striking arrangements make me think of a bold soundtrack. And this is the soundtrack to a travelogue around the world with varied tones and imagery in each of these ten songs. I don’t really have any favorites and would just rather play this beginning to end, while deep in contemplation.

Polish chanteuse Monika Brodka has fashioned an exceptionally powerful album, full of mystery and suspense lurking around each eerie keyboard line and guitar strike. Her vocals will pull you in with an attractive lilt that can twist into a quietly intense burst of emotion. And just when you partially figure out this surreal dreamscape she has envisioned, she tosses in a fairly straight pop song and then some strange punk rock cut from Venus. Even the brass additions sound alien. This is profound and great. I list three songs, but get the whole album as this is a creative journey that anyone reading this far into a list of album reviews will want to take.

Songs to start with first:

Mirror Mirror - This is an extremely mysterious opener that has me riveted for what I am in for.

Funeral - This is in a dreamworld, not sounding like dreampop, but in a surreal musical valley that few have ventured to.

My Name is Youth - Where did this avant garde punk rock song come from?

Cohen has a style that veers toward lounge, but there is such an eerie intensity to it, there is not really a simple way to describe his songs. There is an overall easy going quality with some strong sounds underneath. His vocals are relaxed at times but stretch into a slight quivering intensity and are a challenge to get a handle on. But it is a fun challenge, at least in the early songs. Eventually things settle down, even with an edge occasionally present. Often albums rise in drama, but this one evolves into a more relaxed state of falling tension, that is until the grand finish of ‘Mother Mary’. It is an interesting approach and I appreciate the creative effort and unique tracking.

Songs to start with first:

Honeymoon - The opener mystified me and I wasn’t sure if I connected, but I could not turn away my ear.

Bloom Forever - The title cut offers much of the opening song qualities but starts making sense of it all.

Only Us - A moody piece with deep vocals and lovely piano.

I am rather surprised I still rather enjoy music like this—lively soft pop music with a muscular rhythm section. It is all nice and catchy and I thought I was well beyond this. But no, this UK band hits a few buttons that remind me of how I enjoyed the early Cure albums. The guitar work is brisk and busy and surprisingly rocking even as the vocals and overall song structure goes into straight popland. Not bad at all, and quite good if you really and truly like this. And extra credit is given for having a song called ‘Zlatan’.

Songs to start with first:

I D - Electronica beat morphs into a scrumptious melody.

The Zoo - Vocals kick in (to stay) on song two and brighten the music into a soft but gutsy pop approach.

If Things go on like This - Nice rock moves within this catchy number.

If you lean toward country, but don’t want to lose that rock’n’roll vibe, you may want to give Girls on Grass a listen. They have all the component parts of country music in their song and in the vocals. Yet the electric guitars are quite bold with a fine jangly quality throughout and some recognizable rock’n’roll moves spicing up the proceedings. This band pulls me in to their songs more than I expected. I suspect a combination of the rock moves and the deep feeling they have for their songs is what does the trick. This would be interesting to see on stage.

Songs to start with first:

Too Pretty - Country rock with plenty of Americana jangle on a classic rock’n’roll riff.

Drowning in Ego - A fine rumble and lots of snare hits highlight this nimble cut.

Pissin Down a Road - Tough bluesy rocker down at a walking pace. They can grind it out.


These are reissues  from the fine experimental violinist, Petra Haden. One of triplets (that have performed together), she has had a long and varied career working with the Foo Fighters, Mike Watt, and many more along with releasing solo records or collaborations with Bill Frisell and Woody Jackson.
“Imaginaryland” was her first LP in 1996 and features thirteen songs of mostly looped vocals. There is violin at various points and it is all quite engaging. There is more experimentation in the arrangement than the composition, as the songs all have strong melodic character. The presentation is intriguing and successful in sounding unique, but comfortable. That is not to say there is no wild experimentation as ‘Song for the Whales’ has some unique slide violin sounds.
“Petra Haden Sings: The Who Sell Out” is from 2005 and is a faithful interpretation of the album. That is faithful in that it is complete and recognizable in the vocals. The instrumentation is composed of voice orchestration, in fact this is 100% vocals as this album title is literally correct. I would be interesting in the quantity of voices in some of these songs as percussion, basslines, guitar melodies, and vocal harmonies are all covered. This is a lot of fun, although I am not sure how much I will want to revisit this (true of most remake projects, even as audacious and unique as this). Although the faithful lead vocals make this more likely.

By Kyle Schmitt
This Toronto-based four-piece band sounds uptight and unsettled even at their most melodic. D. Alex Meeks’ drumming gives these songs an unrelenting feel (as on the bludgeoning “Dead Battery”), while vocalist Daniel Lee sounds as if he’s rushing both toward and away from something malevolent when breathlessly promising, “I’ll see you to the other side.” Any atmospheric moments are soon preempted by announcements like, “They’re calling your name, but you have no face” on “Plastic Love”. Hooded Fang sounds its best when their music gets a chance to breathe. April Aliermo’s bass provides a welcome counterpart to the group’s normally full-blast sound on “Miscast” and “Vacant Light”, which builds off a commanding rhythm-section arrangement. These tunes, along with “Glass Shadows”, showcase a band that makes you want to dance amidst the cacophony.

Songs to start with first:

Shallow - Almost trance-link despite the intense drumming and shrieking ghost harmonics.

Plastic Love - Spooky treble and Aliermo’s jumping bass line drive this song.

Glass Shadows - All the band’s best elements coalesce during the synth-heavy intro and a terrific staccato bridge.

This is a lovely psychedelic record that reminds me a bit of the Jacks, or at least what they would be doing now if they were still around. There are short snippets and stretched out songs that all feed from the same psychedelic trough at an easy going pace. Yet there are dynamics and freak out fuzz guitar excursions that add a lot of excitement to the spirited mood. Fans of Kohoutek in this town, along with fans of anything psychedelice, krautrock, or psyche-folk should give this a listen. It is a long term keeper in this household.

Songs to start with first:

Kogarahi - Absolutely addictive hook on this lovely popsike cut.

Silver Owl -  I initially thought this ten minute song might be too gentle, but then came the fuzz.

Trad - Anything but ‘trad’, unless it is psychedelic trad krautrock. Yeah, there is no such thing until now.

It is hard not to be impressed with the deep resonant voice of UK folk singer songwriter, Russell Morgan. He has the depth and resonance of Mick Softley with the breathiness of Nick Drake. There are lovely acoustic guitar passages, but some are accompanied by a piano and others are washed out in some dreamy keyboard background. There is some percussion and bass notes at times, but everything is subtle and serves an intriguing base for the rich vocals on top. This works for me.

Songs to start with first:

You Don’t Feel - Deep strong song, sets the mood for the better upcoming cuts.

Go North with You - The violin makes a fine addition to the arrangements.

I am Alive - Rocking, a bit funky, interesting vibe at work here.


This is a tricky little band that features modern sounds with a fair amount of electronica, but used in conjunction with classic instrumentation for an easy going pop folk style that somehow seems out of date, but ultimately works just fine. Pop will never go out of style and Mutual Benefit has their own style that reeks of class and precision. Yet there is nothing pompous or overbearing, so this should succeed with any thoughtful music fans and for those that like rich fulfilling melodic music. And they vary it up quite a bit as they also add some even more romantic folk moves as the album moves onward, on its steady journey.

Songs to start with first:

Skipping Stones - Deep thoughtful pop music with shimmering waters in between the vocals.

Getting Gone - A swaying hammock of a song. Just lay back and take it in.

Nocturne - More mysterious and flowing than hook oriented. A nice break half way through.

Beth Orton came on my radar when she recorded and played with the late bert Jansch many years back. While Orton is not a pure folkie, neither was Jansch when you explore his full catalog. They worked well together and Orton went on to make a big name for herself, especially in Europe. She is teeming with creativity on this record as it does not fit comfortably into any one style. At times it is quite experimental, while other times fits comfortably into a folk, lounge pop, or light indie rock vibe. It is not quite as intense as Kate Bush, but it has that audacious originality within. Even when experimental, there is a comfortable engaging quality that allows this to be easily absorbed, if not fully understood on first listen. So basically, smart music fans should be giving Beth Orton full attention and this album has many wonderful songs to indulge in.

Join me on Saturday, June 11th, when Ms. Orton along with Emmy the Great come to the U Street Music Hall in what no doubt will be a superb show.

Songs to start with first:

Snow - Heavy rhythms and interesting vocal meter will grab you right from the opening.

Petals - Haunting chorus and dazzling arrangment.

Dawnstar - Deep moody piece that flows into the longest cut on the LP, while holding attention firm and fast.

The brisk, slightly jangly guitars will quickly send you back a few years to the heights of indie rock. Yet the vocals have this unique intensity to them that give “Beacons” a lot of personality. The guitars and rhythm section are up for the challenge of taking it up a notch with some powerful breaks that will not let the listener comfortably settle in (some of it approaches shoegaze, even). And that is a positive for this style of music, especially these days. This variety is what makes this album work better than it otherwise would. I say that a lot, so more specifically it is the making of smart instrumental choices and crafty songwriting with twists and turns that is key to having someone who listens to a thousand new albums a year pay more than passing attention to you. And Oxenfree gets my attention.

Songs to start with first:

Fine Dining - A good opener establishes their sound.

Lucky - I like the powerful opening and then the pullback—keeps the intrigue working.

Everybody Knows - Female vocal turn is a good contrast as things were starting to get too vocally settled—cool arrangement, too.

This is a mix of spritely elecropop as well as dreamier light shoegaze rock. There are plenty of electronics, but some strong guitars in some of the songs. Even with the guitar bursts and interesting noises, they still sound like they have sanded the corners a bit on their sound. But they also vary the songs just enough to make for distinct moods. Ultimately this is a good album where they make it more interesting than not, although it does not quite jump out at boldly. I think by the third listen, it will be more embedded in my head.

Songs to start with first:

Evan Evan - Gutsy guitar, still smooth and a good indicator of the musical scope early on.

Feral Bloom - They really stretch their sound in fascinating shapes on this one.

Judy Garland - Darkest song on the LP as they start varying tones and textures nicely.

The Pop Group has returned with a vengeance, but of course they started with a vengeance and had several decades in between where they probably lived with a vengeance. Their recent shows excited their many fans on both sides of the Atlantic and now they offer up this slab of archival live material. It is all from 1980 at several venues in Europe with much of it coming from a show in Köln. The Pop Group was always a bit beyond post punk for me. To oversimplify, they took George Clinton and Captain Beefheart moves and brought them to a punk scene, which was about the only scene at the time that could handle their intense style. The recordings here are well enough to show some of the excitement, but still can’t quite do justice to how crazed this must have been that night. But Pop Group fans should want to grab this fascinating document of what these guys did live. And of course all the classics are here like ‘We are all Prostitutes’ and ‘Feed the Hungry’. This is a strong slice of punk rock history.

These UK psychedelic jammers kind of start slowly here on this live album with carefully layered psychedelic landscapes. It is almost too careful until ‘Notatki’ kicks in with Germanic moves and a 15 minute build to a rousing climax. Then ’Zostan na Noc’ carries the intensity right away with a throaty bass upfront and sax and guitar battling in the background as the drums march them all onward. There are some almost normal songs as the record goes on, but ultimately this is a spacey continuous sonic adventure that works well. The band features Ride’s Mark Gardener and has created an accessible, but still challenging brand of space rock.

Let’s see… Electronica set to pop? Check. Female Vocals? Check. Electro drums beats? Check. It is all here. It is all bright and likable. There were moments that stood out, maybe the vocals on ‘Tell Me’ at different points, but it all blends in to a pleasant backdrop. That is fine and well, but it just is not something that I see the need to ever go back to, especially when there will be dozens more like this coming out soon enough.

I have enjoyed this local trio many times over the years, so it is nice to get a listen to their new full length LP. It is still the same instrumental trio format that has worked so well in the past. The recordings have the luxury of overdubs, although they keep that restrained enough to where you can sense the live show feeling. They have a busy modern post rock sensibility, but they also have moves reminiscent from the days of classic progressive rock with fine melodic runs with lots of guitar notes, contrasting bass runs, and creative rhythms. The epic song suite ‘Trip to Florida’ split into four parts on Side B. It is a lot of drama to it and instrumentally manages to convey a story. Be sure to catch these guys live as well as they always manage to deliver an entertaining set. And this will be something that you can easily put on for a great listening experience. Just don’t try to multitask as it will command your attention.

I can point to many subtle rock bands that I enjoy immensely, but if push comes to shove, I would go for a big bold rock band first. Spookyland is all of that with powerful drums and bass laying down the foundation for great slashing post punk guitars that sound like they are twisting razor wire around your limbs. The vocals have a strange quality to them that may not work for all as there is a cornball vibrato slightly inherent in the high pitched approach. I think they offer a good personality to it all, but others may disagree. They definitely work on the stronger rock songs as opposed to the few that are moodier. There are some shifts with piano led songs or even a moody shoegaze number, but the rockers are the majority and it is a better album for that.

Songs to start with first:

Nowhereland - The second cut has bold slashing guitar and a laconic yet intense vocal line that weave around each other well.

Big Head - Another strong melody with big bold moves from all players.

Prophet - They engage a certain epic surreality here.

I hope I am not becoming too lazy in my reviews (sometimes guilty when deadlines are near), but every now and then I let the artists’ or their webmaster’s descriptions of their style suffice. Of course, I only use that if I like it and agree with it and this time out, the slight puzzled feeling I had after three times was relaxed when I read Sulfur City’s description of themselves as “Grunge Gospel Blues Stomp Dance Scream”. Although I also detect some soul and rap in their as well. Good effort here—a lot of fun rock sounds to digest.

Songs to start with first:

Whispers - The opener is a rousing, bluesy rocker that sounds ever so familiar… hmmmm.

Pockets - Some bold moves in this one, marrying styles from many different decades.

One Day in June - Slower blues rock, but really heavy underneath.

I have really enjoyed this DC band from their early days to their present position of being a fine regular gigging rock band. They feature some fine players as they can infuse R&B into their set that fits comfortably with their more ferocious rockers. This album is a fine representation of what they are all about. The component parts that I have heard many times on stage are all here: strong beat; nimble five string bass runs; ferocious guitars; and flexible vocals that can handle the rockers and the groovier cuts. I always recommend these guys when I can, so why not jump on board now, as they are starting to make some waves around here and maybe beyond.

And be sure to catch the album release show at the Velvet Lounge on Thursday, June 16th.

Songs to start with first:

Locked - Strong gutsy performance showing exactly how these guys rock.

Bones of Contention - Sharp songwriting with excellent arrangements and sonic shifts. Can stand with anyone.

Welcome to Anacostia - Fiery closer has pace and power and a great guitar solo.

Twin Peaks are maturing in a direction that I can’t quite figure out and it is not terribly close to where I would have guessed. Well, it is still catchy pop music and that is close to the power pop sounds they espoused when they were not quite old enough to drink. But now instead of going heavier or more psychedelic, they have embraced a more pop music approach. It is still strong and there is less of that stoner element, which I think works better as you move on (unless you embrace it in a deep psychedelic way). There are even some rootsy folk moves and what I would call psyche-gospel sounds on ‘Stain’. This album will take more than one listen to fully embrace it, but you can tell that it has the elements there to be something that can be enjoyed many times over many years. It is ultimately exciting to see a young band challenge themselves and us with this expansive writing, but I still prefer the live set.

Songs to start with first:

Wanted You - Good pop song with just a touch of psyche and nice bite to it.

Butterfly - Some of that good garage rock with lots of pop include bah-buh-bop-bahhhh’s.

Getting Better - The rollicking piano is a real surprise.

The Reverberation Appreciation Society presents this tribute, so you can kind of guess what the various bands may sound like. And with the Black Angels opening with ‘Good Vibrations’, you probably know exactly the direction this will take. They do a fine job with this classic (and the only song from that era that I truly think is a classic). There are a number of bands I don’t know (as is always the case with these) and others I know of like Holy Wave, but the best thing about this album is that all the bands follow the psychedelic reverb drenched theme and still play recognizable versions of the songs. It is also a good mix of heavier psyche and popsike, with some of the inherent pop in every song here (nothing unrecognizably reworked). This release was to coincide with the Austin festival, but bad weather forced a total shutdown. So this is all that remains for 2016. It may be blasphemy as i am not a fan of this all-time great album, but I would pop the tribute on for spin well before considering the original.

The J. Geils Band was a moderate success in the seventies when I was young. I thought they were not bad, but never excited me a whole lot. I always found it odd it had the name of the band leader who was a rather nondescript guitarist. Thinking now, perhaps this was a band that really had no stand-out players and just laid down a funky, fun rock-soul beat. And they left room for perhaps their best (and most famous) player, Peter Wolf, to sing his heart out. Wolf had a decent solo career, but I have not detected him on my radar for a long, long time, until now. His solo LP is a fine effort that still has his excellent expressive vocal tones, surprisingly intact. He sounds great and interestingly enough has shifted styles somewhat to a more Americana approach with a bit of Appalachian folk and country rock. It is an extremely smart move and works here on both the studio cuts and live songs that are intermingled. For the Geils fans, their is a version of ‘Love Stinks’ but it is played in an uptempo bluegrass style. There are some cuts that are more soulful as it is a nice mix that still fits together well. This is a fine record and a document to show his voice is alive and well and still worth hearing.

And hear it you can, if you hurry on out to the Birchmere on Wednesday, June 1st.

Songs to start with first:

Rolling On - The opener sets the tone of the well known voice as Wolf takes it in a strong folkish sound.

How Do You Know - This has that snappy, funky blues style of Wolf’s old band.

It’s Raining - Just a well written song, with heart and soul on full display

Delicate electropop is not really my thing, but this is awfully cute. The country of origin is Sweden, but this sounds about as universal as anything. There is a coolness to the music, but a warmth in the vocals, which is probably as good of a hint of Sweden that is possible here. The songs are nice, but don’t stand out enough that I prefer one over another. Instead, it makes a nice listening experience if you enjoy modern electronic pop music. Again, not my particular area or expertise or enjoyment, but I am actually liking this enough to think it is better than many more of these I review (and those I won’t even bother to listen to).

And you can hear all of this live at the DC9, on Wednesday, June 8th.

Monday, May 30, 2016


The rain has cleansed the city (ha ha) and we need not of arks to survive, but clubs to hide away in and to take in two (or three) of every band in the world. Here are but a few choices:

Nada Surf headlines an excellent show with Big Thief and Bird of Youth at the 9:30 Club, this Wednesday, June 1st.

And if you would rather go old school, see the excellent Peter Wolf (former J.Geils band vocalist) at the Birchmere also this Wednesday.

Braids weaves their magic at the Comet Ping Pong on Thursday, the 2nd.

The Washington Jewish Music Festival is always fun and kicks off on Friday June 3rd, running all the way to June 15th. See the full schedule here.

Kaytranada comes to the 9:30 Club on Friday the 3rd.

The Slambovian Circus of Dreams pitches tent at Jammin Java on Sunday, June 5th.
The Slambovian Circus of Dreams-Promo 2015 from Slambovian Broadcasting on Vimeo.

The always popular Waxahatchee returns to DC to the Black Cat on Monday the 6th.

Bayonne bounds into the Black Cat on Tuesday the 7th.

King Khan konquers the kountry by storming the Black Cat on Thursday, June 9th.

Beth Orton with Emmy the Great offer an oustanding show at the U Street Music Hall on Saturday, June 11th. Or try Casket Girls at Songbyrd or Eagulls at Rock'n'Roll Hotel. This is one of those nights where I want to have clones.

And Juliana Barwick brings her fine music to the 6th + I Synagogue on Wednesday, June 15th.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Kill Lincoln - Caustic Casanova - Psychic Subcreatures -- Black Cat - May 27 2016

Psychic Subcreatures - A local quartet starts us off tonight in the big room of the Black Cat with a decent enough crowd that is pushed forward, which is a good sign that there is some enthusiasm in the air. We have drums, guitar, female vocals, and a synthesizer player on stage. Yes, he handles the bass sounds and more frequently than the occasional classic synth quirkiness. The opener reminds me of 50-Foot Hose as just about any synth-mysterious female vocal song will do. But they move into more garage punk territory with a bit of that surf-reverb sound working in, such as in many LA bands. The vocals are solid, not over the top, and come somewhat in between Alice Bag and Niagara (Destroy all Monsters). There are some catchy moments in here along with plenty of power. When they nail a particularly good song, they really show off a strong ability to attract a lot of rock fans who seek both intensity and flair. Nice set, well received.

Caustic Casanova - My favorite homegrown trio is back and I am seeing them for the first time in a long, long while. Although I have missed them, it does offer an opportunity to take a more fresh view without the memories of recent reviews in my ever evaporating short term memory. All the signature moves are there: Stephanie's accurate powerhouse drumming along with increasing vocal help; Francis' vocal intensity and throbbing bass runs; and Andrew's sonic assault guitar style that keeps it psychedelic in sound but metallically powerful throughout. The one thing that strikes me is that all the touring has paid off with an even more together and confident band that has the great noisy style that Hüsker Dü used to employ by keeping transitional noise going between songs that never allowed you to catch your breath. And the songs are distinct enough to have their own character, although tonight it was more about the overall effect. As usual they had my mind wandering around to all kinds of great music from different scenes and eras as their opening riff took me back to Ted Nugent's 'Stranglehold' (?!) and their closing freak-out reminded me of the MC5 cutting into 'Black to Comm' but not quite hitting the Paik finish (which is possibly one of the best all-time). And based on the big ovation at the end, the sonic effect of the entire powerfully constructed set worked on all the enthusiastic rockers in attendance. They are off to explore the country further this summer, so if they head to your town, do yourself a favor and check them out.
Kill Lincoln - And the local showcase of strong talented band continues with a power trio that makes room for a brass trio downstage center. The guitar and bass player handle the vocals and along with the drummer cook up a loud raucous dance punk musical blend. Of course you can toss them into ska punk with this kind of lineup, but it was even more straight up rock than many of those bands. The two trombones and one saxophone were up to the pace and power of the rock band and everything came together for some great hard edged dance tunes that the people up close to the stage were taking advantage of. Even us older, cooler heads in the back were enjoying this all. I did not stick around for the full set, due to a late night plan tonight, but I highly doubt any of the energy faded throughout their set. I just didn't get to see if the one on-stage dancer/jumper did anything more than that guy for Madness did in the early days.

Facebook Grab of the Night: Happy 40th anniversary to the Damned one of my favorite and still undersung bands of all-time (and check out this great BBC Radio6 documentary). Their recent shows have gone well, but still allowed time for long-time Crystal Palace supporter Captain Sensible to take in that tough loss to ManU at Wembley with UK Subs bassist, Alvin Gibbs.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Albino Rhino - Automagik - Ménage À Garage -- Velvet Lounge - May 24 2016

Ménage À Garage - This local trois-piece band backs up its clever name with some fine ripping music that sounds straight from the garage. Although the 'garage' has changed over the decades, this group seems to favor the 70s-80s garage punk sound with a trace of power pop in the mix. The songs are good and occasionally show some real flair. They also develop a deep growl in their sound, which is quite effective for the material. Although tight, the one flaw I see or felt was that the music did not quite congeal as much as I would have liked. But that is common when it is early days for a band. It rarely happens immediately and the core sounds and songs are a great basis for this trio to continue to grow and be a fun rock band to have about town.

Automagik - From one of my old stomping grounds (Cincinnati) comes this trio that should be a quartet were it not for an injury to their lead guitarist. Fortunately their lead vocalist's guitar work is good and shows enough flair to keep a set going. The opening song confused me a bit, but then their songs found a groove that brought out an older sort of glam rock infused with occasional funky blasts. I will still have to grade this incomplete rather than try to pick apart weaker moments, but if their guitarist is named Johnny Thunders, Jr., this could be an act worth checking out again for a full review.
Albino Rhino - We finish with a four-piece that adds keyboards to the classic rock trio and a couple of the guys trade the vocal parts. But these guys bring the funk in that Isaac Hayes manner. The wah-wah was so prominent in their brisk opener, I thought I would be dreaming of it all night (turns out I slept better than usual). Wild Cherry came to mind as well as this took me back to my younger days when this was more prevalent. They had some twists in different songs and almost went progressive--further adventures there could be fun. But this is the kind of music I would want to see people dance to, well played and energetic and not that monotonous beat. It is hard to believe I miss this style as much as I do, since I certainly did not in 1975, but these guys work the style proudly and effectively.

Quote of the Night - Overheard behind me after a cut from the opener.. "I love that song--it takes me back to 2000"  ...or for me, it takes me back to my glory middle age days, that I wax nostalgically for, so often.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Twin Peaks - Ne-Hi - Jimmy Whispers -- Rock'n'Roll Hotel - May 19 2016

Jimmy Whispers - The last time I saw Twin Peaks in DC, they brought another Chicago act to open called the Lemons. They were silly fun and it was a good choice. This time around we have a solo artist who isn't nearly as funny or as musical as the Lemons. Whispers just plays backing tracks that I would imagine are a mix of home-made items along with whole songs like Louis Armstrong's 'What a Wonderful World'. I really didn't write any notes as nothing really went on. The young crowd up front was far more accommodating than the more usual cynical crowd would have been, so this happened without incident. Oddly enough, I did not recall last night how much I disliked his last album when I reviewed it here last March. I really did not need that reminder.

Ne-Hi - And another Chicago act is here on this tour and we fared a bit better this time. These guys are sound enough and feature the usual twin guitar quartet rock approach. There is nothing lo-fi about Ne-Hi. They integrate thoughtful runs by all four players in a way that connects well enough and offer a lot to hone in on. They almost remind me of Savage Republic if they had taken a pop approach. At least that comes to mind on the more rocking songs with pace, where they are at their best. This almost goes post-rock, but manages to keep a pop sensibility in there, so it rests somewhat comfortably in between worlds. Not bad at all.
Twin Peaks - This is the third time I have seen this young Chicago band. They have added keyboards to the twin guitar attack since the first time I saw them, which fills out their raucous sound just a wee bit more. It also adds another vocalist as all four front men join in on several choruses and there are a few different lead singers as well. But it is the rollicking guitars and catchy songs that will grab your focus. And they still do it well with a bit more confidence and maturity now that they are a veteran road band. They hit all the right power pop and pop-punk buttons to make for a sound that will certainly attract a crowd. They did that tonight as the club was quite full and probably even better attended sense the density of young fans that crowd to the front was pretty high as opposed to the relaxed older crowds that disperse evenly throughout the club (sorry, I saw a baking show examining how to make sure a cherry cake has well dispersed fruit in the batter). Anyway, this band is solid as ever and becoming a fine reliable outfit that you can expect good things from if you want to cut loose on the evening they come to your town.

Quote of the Night: Jimmy Whispers after a failed crowd surfing moment that lasted 3/4 of a second... "You guys suck."

Funny, I was sort of thinking the same thing.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

The Strawbs -- AMP - May 18 2016

The Strawbs - I have seen one of my favorite bands many times in recent years as the Acoustic Strawbs where Dave Cousins, Dave Lambert, and Chas Cronk play mostly acoustic instruments in a rock fashion. But this is the first time I have seen the full 5-member electric Strawbs since 2004 (and the first time they have toured this way in the USA since 2007-8). The show I saw had the full members from the 1973-75 Strawbs, although this time the core trio are joined by long time drummer Tony Fernandez and new keyboards wiz, Dave Bainbridge (from Iona). And what a sound these guys come up with. The keyboards are magnificent with plenty of organ/mellotron type sounds that thicken the atmosphere both within the songs and as transition pieces. The drums of course push things forward and a heavier bass and an electrified Dave Lambert really make things soar. Even on acoustic guitar, Dave Lambert showed a great ability to solo and keep things rocking but now he can carry it further, yet still knows how to pull back and add lighter touch to the more delicate passages. Dave Cousins still has that incredibly resonant voice and Lambert and Cronk are there to fill in with the occasional lead vocal as well as the harmonies. The set list is heavy from that very progressive 1973-75 era with a first set having such classics as 'New World', 'Ghosts', and 'The River/Down by the Sea'.
photo: Dick Greener

After the break, they treated us with a rendition of what Rolling Stone called one of the Top 50 Progressive albums, 'Hero and Heroine' in entirety, although done 21st century style as Dave Cousins pointed out. They worked wonders with this material as it sounded fresh as ever and the pace and complexity of the title cut came through brilliantly. This finished off an excellent night where you could really obtain the full understanding of why the progressive scene was so exciting in the early seventies. Yet it is fresh as ever and extremely well played by a great band. If you think you have seen them enough as a trio, do yourself a favor and see the full band while you can.

And the sound was immaculate at my first experience at AMP, a small couple hundred or so club run by Strathmore (although a bit north of Strathmore auditorium and mansion). It is a comfortable venue that is booking well and they certainly had the PA to let a rock band shine.

Quote of the Night: Dave Cousins - "People don't understand what I'm doing, but I do." Well, not exactly the quote of tonight, but one he gave me in 2012 when during an interview which I enjoyed immensely. Read it here, much of it is still relevant.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Adia Victoria - The Grey A -- DC9 - May 17 2016

The Grey A - I thought I had seen this local quartet before, but it was actually fellow writer Kyle Schmitt who took a set in at a Those Darlings show a couple months back. He covers their approach well and I found this blues rock band to be a a fine outfit that can work on many a bill. There is not a whole lot new here, but when you play it well and vary it a bit with distinct songs, you are going to do well. And their second cut had some absolute magical guitar parts embedded within, so they are capable of transcending from the many average bar bands. Definitely worth a look and the crowd dug this set well enough.
Tiny Desk Show photo: @miraehontzphoto

Adia Victoria - I was sure I had seen Adia Victoria before and I did take her set in at a Those Darlings show one year ago. But no Those Darlings tonight, just this fellow Nashville singer songwriter guitarist who is making one of my predictions come true (infrequent as that is) by rising up into headline status and drawing a big crowd on a Tuesday evening. She has an album out now, which no doubt will do well as people discover her great take on blues rock and intense songwriting. She has an air of mystery to her approach that seems gentle, but has a razor sharp intensity cutting through her quiet songs and her loud rockers. The band adds drums, bass, and guitar to her offerings and there are also keyboards, which add just the right amount of magic in the background and in the transitions to really elevate this already strong material. She could hold a room at full attention just playing solo. But all five members are locked in tonight as they control the atmosphere with Adia Victoria's vocals left to strike out and leave a lasting memory to take home. Although she has worked her magic at the DC9 a number of times, she may have to move up a club size or two the next time through.

Photo Grab of the Day: The other Lemmy dated back to 1945.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

The Zombies - Bruce Sudano -- Robert E Parilla PFC - May 14 2016

Bruce Sudano - I must admit I had not heard of Mr. Sudano until now, but he has been a force as a songwriter for a long time. Oh, and he also had a very famous and talented wife, Donna Summer. Tonight he showed off some lovely original songs which he strummed on acoustic guitar along with one guitarist with him, who did an exemplary job of adding tasty acoustic leads and slide moves. Style wise it was more assertive folk than folk rock and there was some soulful blues moves in some of the songs, too. His best story was when he was writing a song, 'Starting Over Again' about his parents divorce that his wife had him add some lyrics. She then liked it so much she took it with her to perform on Johnny Carson rather than do a number from her album that she was to promote. Dolly Parton heard it, negotiated for it, and had a number one single with it. Reba McIntyre recorded it as well. Good solid set, nice songs, and the two guitar lineup had enough 'oomph' to be a solid opener for a rocking set to follow.
The Zombies - I have seen this reborn version of the Zombies many times now in clubs all over the metro area. Early on I found it remarkable how fit Colin Blunstone and Rod Argent were with all the magic still present in their vocals. But that was 12 years ago and the fact that I can still say this, is nothing less than astounding. What better way to prove it, then by opening with 'I Love You' to show off the four-man harmonies before allowing Colin to belt out 'and I don't know what to say' with all the power and finesse that we heard 50 years ago still fully intact. Rod Argent's keyboard work was amazing from early on all the way through the rocking encore. The Solomon Burke song 'Can't Nobody Love You' showed off his jazzy side, which along with his classical style, makes its way into many of the pop and rock tunes (as he described in a very fun interview I had with him a few weeks back). The father and son rhythm section has been there for years now and Rod and Jim are cousins and go back to the early days and were together in Argent. Tom Toomey fits in well on guitar with subtle backing and bold solos when required. And of course, a great set list with early singles, strong vibrant new material, sharp covers, Argent songs, and a nice song suite from the brilliant 'Odessey and Oracle' makes for a fabulous evening. I normally say try to catch these veteran acts while you can because age will take its toll. But for a band that has been around nearly 55 years now, who knows when it will end? They simply don't stop recording and tour pretty hard and far. Long may the run, as this music is some of the most inclusive and diverse in all of modern pop rock history.

Photo grab of the night: Although Rod Argent is far less reliant on synthesizers than most keyboardists, this photo of one of the earliest Moog synthesizers from 1970 may offer a good reason for it.

Saturday, May 14, 2016


Here ye, hear ye...

Young Magic works their tricks at the 9:30 Club on Monday, May 16th.

Adia Victoria works a different sort of magic at the DC9 the following night, Tuesday the 17th.

The Strawbs are in town, fully electric with rhythm section, so don't miss. They are at the AMP (Strathmore) in Bethesda on Wednesday, May 18th (and in Annapolis the day before if you can't make this one).

Twin Peaks appreciate a fine cup of coffee and a big audience and will likely get one at the Rock'n'Roll Hotel on Thursday, May 19th.

Rise up and venture out to see Bent Knee at Songbyrd on Friday, May 20th.

Don't call them Art or Wayne, but check out Rooney at the Rock'n'Roll Hotel.

Car Seat Headrest pulls into the Black Cat on Monday, May 23rd.

Islands and Lushlife play the Rock'n'Roll Hotel on Tuesday, May 24th.

And finally RJD2 (not R2D2) plays the 9:30 Club on Sunday, May 29th.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Titus Andronicus - La Sera -- 9:30 Club May 12-13 2016

by Kyle Schmitt

La Sera - This three-piece group brought some hop to their opening songs, a necessity given the 10:30 p.m. start time. La Sera’s single “High Notes” showcased a sound marked by ringing guitar and singer/bassist Katy Goodman’s self-assured vocals. Her singing recalls Debbie Harry’s vocal style, remaining clear and controlled even during the most intense instrumental sections. La Sera’s set gradually increased in aggression, notably on “Time to Go”, as Todd Wisenbaker’s thrashing guitar brought a welcome new element to their sound. “I Need an Angel” even verged on mid-80s REM before a Wisenbaker solo segued into a breezy cover of “Whole Lotta Love”. Goodman reminisced about driving out to hang in 7/11 parking lots with Titus Andronicus frontman Patrick Stickles when they were high schoolers. La Sera’s set marked the start of a far more productive road trip for both of them. 
Titus Andronicus - Patrick Stickles made a Hulk Hogan-style stage entrance, gesturing to the crowd and cupping his ear to encourage fan approval. He welcomed everyone to the “inaugural edition” of his band’s May tour before performing a solo rendition of “Upon Viewing Oregon’s Landscape With the Flood of Detritus”. After this stripped-down version, the full-band sounded that much heavier on tunes like “Lonely Boy”, which could have passed for a long-lost Heartbreakers song. Titus Andronicus delivered their expected uplifting set, bashing out “Fatal Flaw” and “Mr. E. Mann” to fans’ delight. Their music always feels life-affirming, whether the faithful are chanting along with “It’s alright!” or “You will always be a loser”. Stickles even paraphrased the Christ, begging for this cup to be taken from him in “Upon Viewing Brueghel’s Landscape with the Flight of Icarus”, then acquiescing gracefully with “Thy will be done.” His band continues to give their true believers much cause for rejoicing. 

Esoterica: Katy Goodman: “Todd, what are all these songs about?” Todd Wisenbaker: “Fuckin’ shit up.” … Patrick Stickles, on keeping violence out of his shows: “This is punk, and punk is about freedom for everybody, regardless of our physical stature.” … As his early show counterparts did hours earlier, Stickles asked the audience about the night’s other headlining act, and reported gratefully that Parquet Courts were good guys. His own band’s set concluded shortly after 1 a.m.

Parquet Courts - B Boys -- 9:30 Club - May 12 2016

B Boys - Brooklyn's B Boys began by bringing bright British based beats. There, alliteration aside, this trio engaged in a solid pop-punk style that had a kind of half spoken half sung detached vocal line that reminded me a lot of Howard Devoto and early Wire. I heard quite a bit of Pink Flag (and I really did as the DJ played 'Reuters' right after their set), although I hesitate comparing even a fine young opening band with one of the best albums ever. But B Boys brought... pause... they delivered fine songs that maybe just lacked some of the mystery of that classic British punk/post punk sound from bands like Wire and Magazine. This is solid material and was a fine set that went over well with the trickling in crowd at this incredibly early hour (It wasn't even 7pm when they started).
Parquet Courts - I finally catch the live show of a really hot band that has sold out smaller venues in town and did a pretty good job of filling up this big club for the first of two separate shows tonight (Titus Andronicus, La Sera after 10pm). They start with an arty innocence to their music, but add sonic skronks and blasts that are reminiscent of a more laid back Sonic Youth. Not so much art-punk, but perhaps art-post punk. Their songs varied incredibly but all sounded logical and connected. It was the dynamic shifting that stood out; fast-to-slow, melodic-to-atonal, loud-to-quiet, detached-to-intense. Quite the roller coaster ride, these guys offer. The crowd was enthusiastic with lots of movement up front, proving that intense shows can happen in the early hours. This is an excellent band, although their patter needs a bit of work, because George Carlin they are not--deconstructing their observational analogies was fairly easy. But the music was spot on and that's what we came to see.

Quote of the Night - The PC's were amusing with their thoughts on the double show night... "How many of you are double dipping--anybody sticking around for the Titus Andronicus, La Sera show after this? Yeah, quite a few of you. So they got you to pay twice for the same rock show. Smart guys in the music business..."

Thursday, May 12, 2016


April 15 2016

It is an great honor to get to chat with such a distinguished musician that has been creating and producing lasting music for well over 50 years. He and Colin Blunstone are defying time with their incredibly active run in the Zombies along with a fine band including former Argent/Kinks bassist Jim Rodford (Rod’s cousin), Jim’s son Steve, and Tom Toomey on guitar. They have played with their original Zombies band mates for special shows as well. They sound like they have not aged a day with all the great vocal harmonies on top of their stellar pop, rock, popsike, and even progressive songs.
Their Annapolis show is already sold out, but tickets remain for Saturday’s show at the Robert E Parilla Performing Arts Center on Saturday, May 14th. They do a fabulous job and remind you how great their music is from all the decades they have worked in. Long time readers know that has been reported here numerous times.

Thanks to Melani Rogers for setting this up.

DAVID HINTZ - (After the usual introductions) I hope you will indulge me with questions on the early days. I know you have answered them forever, but I think it will be good background for everyone, if that’s ok.


DH - OK. I have read you were in choirs as a child, but how did the piano and keyboards come into play for you?

RA - Well, we always had a piano in the house because my Dad was with a dance band from the age of 17 to the age of 83 and he was a pianist. But he rarely played in the house actually, but he loved playing. The only time he played in the house was when people came round. My Mother really loved classical music, but it was more the Romantic lighter side of classical music and that mainly was what I heard until she got me involved in a very very good choir, actually. I have to say it was a brilliant musical education.

DH - OK.

RA - And you know, the music around was fantastic. That was my introduction to Bach and other classical music as well. But I definitely wanted to play the piano. And strangely enough I only had piano lessons for two years from the age of about 9 to the age of about 11 and I actually played the piano less at that time than any other time. But, it gave me a knowledge of where the notes were and I sort of taught myself after that really. I really got turned on to popular music for the first time when I heard Elvis sing ‘Hound Dog’. I am not alone in that.

DH - (laughs) No, your’e not.

RA - I just really wanted to hear rock’n’roll for about six months after that to my parents horror at that particular time. All this time I had already started experimenting with playing by ear and working out chords and things by myself because it actually just completely intrigues me. I actually loved sport and I used to go out and play football for my  priory school, and when I say football it is what you call soccer over there, when I was eleven years old. But I used to get caught up with the piano on long summer-six weeks holiday. My Mother used to get worried and say “shouldn’t you be outside playing” because we always went outside as there were much fewer cars in those days. So we used to play cricket and football with the kids around right in the road, which you couldn’t do now. But I would just get pulled to stay and mess around for about four hours on the piano, just plunking around and being fascinated by working out harmonies for myself and chords and everything like that. So, as I said I was self taught aside from a couple of years of lessons, but I never took an exam or anything.

DH - Umm hmmm.

RA - But I was at one with John Lennon. Years later hearing John Lennon say to me when I was growing up “Music felt like the real world” and what other people’s real world was the environs really. And that was very much how I felt at that age. But your question about the piano, really was that, the piano was there and I was endlessly fascinated working out things on it.

DH - Great, and you lead into where rock’n’roll came in because you were right there at the beginning of the Beatles era. And it’s kind of well known that the Beatles and the Beach Boys had kind of a competition to top each other’s production qualities from album to album as the technology improved. Now I think your (Zombies) singles sound great and have a lot of complexity, too. So were you listening to these other bands and following their studio advances?

RA - Oh yeah, we certainly listened to the other bands and the Beatles hit in the UK a couple of years before they hit in America. It was ’62. We started in ’61 and the Beatles came on to the scene in ’62 and we, like everybody else, were completely blown away. I think by far they were the biggest influence on popular music for any band in the UK at that time, including and particularly the Stones. It used to make me smile, I thought the Stones were great, but the Beatles would maybe come out with a single that had maybe a picked guitar like ‘I Feel Fine’ or something—I can’t remember exactly, but then the Stones would come with ‘The Last Time’ or something, if it had a picked guitar, I just used to be very aware of it. The Beatles just had  a huge influence… I’m rambling here.

DH - That is quite alright.

RA - But back to your question… our early singles were produced by a guy called Ken Jones right up to ‘Odessey and Oracle’ actually, so most of our life. Now he was an old school producer—he was a generation older than us. We thought he did a fantastic job on our very first session where we recorded ‘She’s Not There’, ‘You Make Me Feel Good’ which was the B side written by Chris (White). A song called ‘It’s Aright With Me’ which was virtually the first song I ever wrote. ‘She’s Not There’ was the second one, although there was one very Beatles like cut that I completely forgot about that turned out was actually recorded at Olympic Studios unbelievably and it is quite charming, but very derivative of very early Beatles. Oh, and ‘Summertime’ was on the first session.

DH - Oh Right.

RA - But after this session, it used to frustrate us incredibly that after that every session instead of just taking the music as it was and making the best of it, which is certainly what we did on the first session, he was always thinking what was the sound of the first record. Well, in his eyes it was Colin’s breathy vocals. Well, Colin’s vocals did have a breathy quality to them, but it was a lot more than that. It was everything involved in the recording and by concentrating on that, we sometimes used to be frustrated that sometimes the balls had been taken out of the way the records were sounding—those early four-track productions. So we were not in charge in any way of the production facilities of the singles. As I say, we thought they were great from the first session, but after that we had our reservations. And when Chris and I felt that as if the band might be splitting up in the not to distant future. We were desperate to do an album ourselves to where we could put our own ideas into play. To give Ken Jones, the original producer, his credit—he was a very autocratic producer as we were never allowed into the mixing sessions or anything.

DH - Really.

RA - But when we said we wanted to do it ourselves, he was great. He helped us and he even got us into Abbey Road. Now, we of course had listened to everything the Beatles had done along with everybody. There was a DJ on English radio called Kenny Everett and he used to do this thing where he would play a fraction of a second of a Beatles song of the first note, literally like an eighth of a second, so the sound was just there in the most minute fashion and people would weigh in on what the record was. And I always knew because of how close we paid attention to what was going on. And we loved what the Beatles and George Martin were doing in a production sense, absolutely wonderful, groundbreaking as everyone in the music world knows. And when you were talking about the Beatles and the Beach Boys competition, we were very aware of ‘Pet Sounds’. ‘Pet Sounds’ came out several months before our ‘Odessey and Oracle’ album was recorded. We were very aware of it and we loved it and it did inspire us. The Beatles competition with the Beach Boys was ’Sgt. Pepper(’s Lonely Hearts Club Band)’ and Sgt. Pepper was recorded almost minutes before we started ‘Odessey and Oracle’. They virtually walked out of Abbey Road studios maybe a week before we went in to start recording. But it was not so much of the competition between the Beach Boys and the Beatles that we were aware of, but we were very aware of their production values and what was going on. And when we went into Abbey Road to record ‘Odessey and Oracle’, because we were just about the first band (not sure how it came to us) that were allowed to record in Abbey Road Studios that were not signed to EMI.

DH - Oh?

RA - But we walked in, and because we used some of the same engineers-Pete Vince and Geoff Emerick, for the work they had just done, they were fresh from all the techniques that were going on with Sgt. Pepper and some of the technological advances the Beatles and their production team had forged. And we were able to be one of the first bands to be able to use a virtual multi-track recording that was more than four tracks. They did not do it by using a dedicated eight track machine, as there were none in the UK, but we could use some of the techniques they used to create more tracks. It was fantastic for us because for the first time we could double track harmonies, well not quite the first time, but we would overdub extra harmonies. So we could put down what we rehearsed, that was one thing. Then there would be an hour or two left in the session and we would run a harmony that was in our heads and put it on and so it gave us a real expansion of what was going on. So in some ways, we were using the same palette as the Beatles and the other thing was that Lennon had left his mellotron in there (DHlaughter). I’ve guess you heard that.

DH - Yeah I had, that is great.

RA - Yeah, it was fantastic for us. So that was about the situation.
DH - That is very interesting.  You tell great stories on stage about Odessey and Oracle (and yes it was misspelled by the printer or so the story goes), so we don’t have to go over them again on how belatedly the album ‘took’.

RA - Yeah.

DH - So anyway, moving on to a couple questions about Argent and you (the Zombies) even play a song or two from your Argent days. That was a much tougher and progressive rock’n’roll sound. Was that something you were actively seeking or was that due more to the band’s chemistry?

RA - I think it was more than anything due to the natural make-up of the band. The fact that we had a different drummer in Bob Henry, a different bass player in Jim Rodford (now a current Zombie), and at the same time along with everybody else, it always frustrated me particularly when we first went with this phase where people wouldn’t accept anything we did on stage because they would say ‘oh, you’re moving away from…’ well, look at the difference from what the Beatles were doing from their first singles to when they split up. If any band had any ounce of invention about them, they were drinking in every influence around and getting excited about cutting edge things. And we were aware of other things going on at the time. And it was just natural. We were not trying to do anything in a contrived way. We were just expressing how we were feeling at the time and trying out different avenues, really. And it was a very natural process. But I think you were right when you say it was partially due to the different people involved in the creative input as we were before and in the way a particular piece of musical material is shaped. I mean the first two Argent albums were recorded at Sound Techniques. And we were a little bit frustrated again, because we wanted the sound to be bigger, but I think they had a huge amount in common—the first two albums, they sounded like a very natural progression from where the Zombies had finished up on—the ‘Argent’ album and ‘Ring of Hands’. They are my favorite Argent albums, by the way, and they sound like they are a natural progression. We then moved, strangely enough, to Abbey Road again because we wanted slightly bigger sound. And that is when we recorded ‘Hold Your Head Up’ for the ‘All Together Now’ album. In some ways that album does not hold together as well as the material on the previous two albums for me.

DH - Huh, interesting. Hey, I gotta ask since I am a psychedelic folk record collector and a writer for Folkworld magazine, I noticed during my research that Mac MacLeod actually played bass on the first Argent demos.

RA - Yeah!

DH - So how did you meet up with him? You were all from St. Albans?

RA - Yeah, indeed. That’s where I grew up and that’s where Jim Rodford our bass player grew up and as I say on stage if you hear me there, I say that Jim was the very first guy I asked to be in the Zombies because he was a real inspiration to me because his group the Bluetones, which started out as a skiffle group then got some of the first electric instruments in the south of England. I just thought it was wonderful when I was 11 years old—he’s a bit older than me, but I just wanted to put a band together. But Mac was Jim’s contemporary and was a friend of his. I think I got to know him through Jim. There’s a funny story I can tell you about Mac.

DH - Oh, yes please.

RA - But I had no idea he was known in America! Obviously in the folk scene, he was. But in those days, there were soft drugs like cannabis or whatever, it wasn’t so prevalent—not when we started. You know, it was not a common thing to be around in those very early days. And Mac was in to that and he got caught using and prosecuted for it. And he was hauled up in front of the Judge, or the Magistrate as we call it over here in the small courts, and the Magistrate said to him “Well Mr. MacLeod, this is your first offense. I think if you can assure me that you won’t do it again, I am inclined to let you off this time.” And Mac said “No your honor, I can’t honestly say I won’t do it again.”

DH - (laughter) That’s great!

RA - (laughter) So the Magistrate actually laughed and said “Well, I have never heard that before, but I appreciate your honesty.” But you know he gave him something light—I can’t remember what he gave him.

DH - I like that. Now, he’s not extremely well known over here, but those of us really follow the British folk scene, we know him.

RA - Wow, well done.

DH - Now the business world in music has changed since you and Colin decided to restart the Zombies. How much do you appreciate the control you have over the music and the business side these days?

RA - Well, yeah, it is nicer to have a bit of particular control. Although what is nice is that when we started out with the Zombies, the whole scene was so heavily concentrated on singles to the extent in the mid-sixties that albums were a complete afterthought. You were just as good as your last single and a single came out every 12 weeks. And you expected the life of the single to be just a few months long and no one would hear it again. I was speaking to Graham Nash when he came to see us on our last American tour and he said if we had spoken together 50 years and said to each other in 50 years time we would meet again, while still creating music and feeling very energized about that, but still would be playing some of the songs we had written now, we would be crazy. And the fact that we are not tied commercially to how successful the last single was. It is a great feeling now and that side of things is great.

DH - Unh hunh.

RA - From a technical point of view, strangely enough—I’ve done a lot of production in my life as well and I’ve used most every aspect of technical production; but when we did this last album, we really wanted to get to more old fashioned way of doing things. Not in any way obscuring what’s there—use as many tracks as it takes, but really to record in the same room together in the way we used to do it because we had to do it when we started, in a way to just capture a performance rather than build something up slowly in a layered way. But to capture the magic moment of people playing together and that magic moment when it gels and all comes together. The way we did it… we had to raise more money than we had been recently doing, so we used a pledgemusic campaign which was great because it allowed us to do it and we got a great producer, Chris Potter, who had done the Verve’s ‘Urban Hymns’ and recorded the Stones and lots of people. So he was in the control room and when we played a track together, Colin would do a guide vocal, since it was important that we could relate to what he was doing and he could relate to us, as it was going down. The idea was we were going to have five days of recording, five days of overdubbing, and then a day for each mix that Chris could use. And we thought that we would lay the tracks down with minimal overdubs, but during the overdub process work on the vocals and the solos. But in fact we enjoyed it so much, that virtually with just one exception, that all the vocals were used were the live vocals Colin did as the guide.

DH - Huh.

RA - We didn’t use a click track so we could use any technical secrecy or anything or any adjusting of the time in that way. It was recorded very much as a performance and we captured it. And even the solos, we did not erase one solo. We did the solos improvised at that moment in the studio. It was fantastic and we did overdub backing harmonies—we couldn’t do those at the same time so we did those afterward, but virtually the backing harmonies, a tiny touch of percussion, and maybe a couple of other small solos and that was it. So in a way, we came full circle, we used the digital technology that was available, you know the more things are played, you will lose quality as bits of tape will come off and we used as many jacks as it takes, for if you wanted to use twenty on the drums for balance quality you did. But all of the performance element was done in the way we used to do it in the early days and it ended up with sounding like us now, but it has more relevance for me because we still have the same values when we write and record.

DH - Right, ok that’s fascinating, for as much as you have been in the studio, you can go from one extreme to the other and back from live performance to build-up and back. That’s exciting. Just a few more questions, then. I first saw you when you toured with Love, which was a dream showcase for me to see both bands at one time. Was that as fun for you or was that difficult?

RA - Well, it was great fun.

DH - Good!

RA - At the time, we could not understand that one night we would go down great and other nights not so well, and we realized half way through the tour that it was because we did not have our own sound man and Arthur (Lee) did. We realized how important that was, so that taught us that on that tour. And after that we made sure we got a sound man we really loved and now I would not go out without the current guy we have got. I mean Colin and just wouldn’t work without him because it is just so important to get your own idea of the correct way you should sound across the stage. But the actual artistic side of things, we very much enjoyed doing that. And it was lovely to meet Arthur. It is not like we had hugely close contact with Arthur, but we had a couple of chats and he was very sweet with us. It was nice.

DH - That’s good, because he could be a challenge.

RA - And his great mate, from the original band…

DH - John Echols.

RA - Yes. He was really lovely.

DH - Yeah, that was a surprise for me as I was not aware he was on the tour. It took me a while before I thought, oh my god, I think that’s John Echols!

RA - Yes, indeed and he was a really nice guy.

DH - Good, I’m glad to hear that. And since that time, at least in DC, you have played so many different clubs and you seem to really try different things. And I am also curious on how things went in Austin at the Austin Psyche Festival. How was that with its really diverse crowd.

RA - It went absolutely brilliantly. Our experiences in Texas general and Austin in particular have been fantastic, actually. And when we did South by Southwest for the first time.

DH - Oh right, you did that previously.

RA - Yeah, I was really nervous about doing it because I thought no one was going to come because it is such a big showcase for young emerging bands, although at the same time you have people like Prince dropping in. When we did our showcase gig at the first one we had Prince about 400 yards away doing a concert, so I thought no one is going to come. But they did, we had a packed hall. And I thought also that if anyone did come, we wouldn’t get noticed with so much going on, we won’t get any coverage. But we did! It really amazed me. The great thing from my point of view and Colin, was when we first toured with the Zombies… and Argent as well, we never really made a great impact in the south as I remember. And when we were back in our second incarnation—when we started touring the States again maybe in 2003 or when it was, when we played in the south, we played to just a handful of people. But now, we have a real following in the south and we seemed to have cracked it. And that is fantastic to me.
DH - Yes, it is fascinating how that works, you get hotspots in different parts of a country or different parts of the world. I would not have guessed that about the south. Here’s another question I ask everyone… Although you have a lot of musical influences, who in the Artistic world including writers or artists, is there anyone you particularly love or inspired you?

RA - Ummm, well I have always loved literature on the whole actually. I read… not as much now, but when I am on the road, it seems to be the time you read the most because you have long trips. I can never read anything very demanding when I am on the road. It has to be a… what you call it, a potboiler, something that takes you from one thing to another with cliff hangers or whatever. So I find myself reading a lot of things like John Grisham because I find it quite easy to read and I want to find out what’s on the next page. I do read a lot but I don’t seem to have time to read other than that… I am trying to think of things that have inspired me recently. I do come across books—Oh, one of my favorite books ever is by an English writer that I don’t know if he’s known in the States called Laurie Lee and he wrote a very famous book over here called ‘Cider with Rosy’ and his second in the trilogy was called ‘As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning’, which I think is a very beautiful book and one of my favorites. He just left a very small country place in the 1930s in the UK and walked out with a violin as a teenager, and just walked. And he found himself just walking across Spain and Spain was a very medieval country in those days and later on he got involved in the Spanish Civil War by accident. And it is (the second) part of a trilogy and I would recommend them to anyone. I think it is really beautiful.

DH - Oh, OK. I don’t know him.

RA - Ah, what was something else I read recently. Oh there was something called ‘Red Joan’ (by Jennie Rooney) which I thought was great. It was about… God, I’m getting old, I can’t remember the writer (Jennie Rooney). It was about the time people were very idealistically excited by the emergence of communism and around the time of the 2nd World War. And some English people got involved with it in an idealogical way from the universities—Oxford and Cambridge over here and with Russia and this book ‘Red Joan’ explores that area and is really good.

DH - Huh, have not read that one either.

RA - And when I was in the States last time, I read the Harper Lee thing that was thought to be a sequel to… the famous book. God, I can’t recall the words!

DH - To Kill a Mockingbird (laughs)

RA - (laughs) To Kill a Mockingbird,yes! But that turned out to be more of a prequel to which ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ came from. That was the last thing I read that wasn’t a potboiler while I was on tour. So from a writing point of view, and I’ve always enjoyed poetry although I read much less of it now. And I have always loved Art and from a general interest artists are people like (Théodore) Gruyere I would say in some ways and a lot of art in a general interest. And other than rock’n’roll, I have always been passionate about music, even when I was most passionately a teenager in love with rock’n’roll, I still didn’t see any need to stop listening to people like Bach and Stravinsky. I didn’t see any difference, really. I now it sounds weird to say, but if something works, it comes from the same well. And in about 1958 after I had discovered Elvis, I discovered the early groups of Miles Davis with “Cannonball” Adderly and John Coltrane.

DH - Yeah.

RA - The ‘Milestones’ album… and I still listen to jazz from that period and I never stopped. Even when the Beatles came out and I was completely in love with what they were doing, it still didn’t stop me listening to Miles and the great jazz scene of that time along with the whole panoply of classical music. And now, still now one of my favorite things to do is to put my IPOD on shuffle, so you might have a bit of early Ray Charles followed by Stravinsky followed by maybe on of the few newer things I listen to like Kings of Leon occasionally or things like that might come up, maybe followed by a bit of early Cream if you know what I mean. Then perhaps Miles or Bill Evans. That whole era of music is something I am interested in and still listen to. Whether it is a very romantic, but beautiful piano concerto like Rachmaninoff. The whole thing, really.

DH - Right. That is a full answer and I am going to look up some of those books because I like to read a lot.

RA - Yeah. Do you know the Ishiguro book ‘Remains of the Day’? It became quite a big seller and a movie with Anthony Hopkins.

DH - That is on my all-time Top 10 fiction list. I love that book.

RA - Yeah, me, too. That just came to me because I can never think of this when people ask. (laughs).

DH - Right, right.

RA - It is also one of my favorite films, a bit of a desert island film as well. Just a great film

DH - Oh, yeah. And I read the book first, which I like to do when possible to separate it from the film a bit and appreciate both.

RA - Absolutely, yeah. I will tell you another thing that I read. We had some time off last summer and for Valentine’s Day, which is obviously well before summer, I went into an old book shop and bought the original 1930s edition of ‘Gone with the Wind’

DH - Oh, OK.

RA - And I couldn’t believe what a great book it was. I mean I enjoyed the film, but the book was a wonderful document laying out not only the Civil War, but what was happening before the Civil War in America. And where society was and where people came from. I mean I know it is very slanted to one point of view, that is obvious. But my wife and I ended up reading it to each other, which is something we hadn’t done for ages. You know, just sitting in the garden in the nice weather just reading it for an hour to each other. That was a lovely experience, actually.

DH - Well good, the film is so famous that I don’t think people have gone to the book that much.

RA - Ah, but the book… of course the book was amazingly famous at the time.

DH - Yes, exactly.

RA - That was why it became such a famous film. And it was read by such a huge amount of people, and yet it is written so beautifully. I couldn’t believe how well technically Margaret Mitchell wrote. Brilliant.

DH - One final question, you mentioned football earlier, do you follow a team in the Premier League or in somewhere in England?

RA - Well, years ago I used to follow it more avidly in a detailed way. But I got really turned off because of the real cultural violence that came in with the supporters. This is different than any sports event in the states and it really turned me off. I mean I still follow the International matches, but not the domestic leagues. The sport I follow most is tennis.

DH - Oh, yes.

RA - I can tell you the 16-year old girl who is making waves in a very minor way in tournaments, Katie Swan you know. I can tell you what is happening in detail on the British tennis scene. Although still last night I went to bed at 11:00 and while my wife was reading I put on the headphones and was watching a match that was on (Liverpool). I’ll watch Match of the Day in the Premier League, but I mostly watch the International matches.

DH - Yes, I follow tennis too. And England is getting better younger players in and hopefully they will be taking over Wimbledon finally.

RA - We have won Wimbledon at last.

DH - Oh of course, you have done so on the Men’s side at least, courtesy of Scotland’s Andy Murray.

RA - That was huge at the time a few years ago. And then he won in New York so he has a couple of grand slams to his name.

DH - Although Novak Djokovich is becoming a rather impenetrable wall for him.

RA - Unbelievable. He doesn’t get the esteem he deserves, really. It must be very frustrating for him as he has been absolutely extraordinary. I mean he lost this tournament in the second round and that has got to be the first time in ages that he has that early. He always is great in the Grand Slams and tournaments like Miami.

DH - He is amazing. Well I will let you go to get back into your day or evening actually.

RA - Yes, it is evening here.

DH - Well I thank you for spending some time with me and I hope we get a big crowd for you show at Montgomery College (at the Robert E Parilla Performing Arts Center on Saturday, May 14th) but I am sure you will have a big crowd like you always do. Thanks again.

RA - OK David, bye.