Archive | January, 2012

Do You Really Want Your Favourite Band to Reform?

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Do You Really Want Your Favourite Band to Reform?

Posted on 13 January 2012 by Joe

So there’s been much talk of big comebacks in recent days. The other evening I found myself halfway through watching a rather soggy Arsenal performance that was eventually enlivened by the return of the team’s much heralded legend Thierry Henry. By coincidence during the match  I received a phone call from a friend informing me that At The Drive In, one of our favourite bands from our teenage years, are to get back together.

At The Drive In

Now at first glance, despite their considerable egos and knack of trending simultaneously on Twitter, a cult hardcore punk band from El Paso and a Parisian, Renault-endorsing footballer might seem to have little in common. Admittedly when investigating musical landscapes, the world of football is not an obvious first port of call (I don’t think Paul Scholes attends Hardcore Punk shows in his spare time) but think more broadly and there may be comparisons to be made. It got me thinking about why, when they should really be looking forward to the next best thing and reveling amongst the current exciting crop,  fans of music and sport alike are more concerned with dragging up the old masters and prodding them onto the stage once again for a dose of sweet nostalgia.

Despite gaining a reputation for their energetic stage shows accompanying accomplished albums, Acrobatic Tenement and In/Casino/Out, It wasn’t until At the Drive In’s fourth album and a link up with producer Ross Robinson that they really broke away from the crowd.  If there is one thing Robinson has a knack for, by all accounts it’s getting a band to give it their all and 2000’s tour de force, Relationship of Command was the sound of a band giving it their all, so much so that just as the At The Drive In tornado was gathering full speed it dissipated and amongst petty arguments and claims of exhaustion the band broke up, with its two factions going their separate ways.

Back then I remember watching a band that looked and sounded like nothing I’d ever seen before. Sometimes you know when you’re witnessing something truly original and I consider At the Drive In one of those bands. Lots of bands shout, lots of bands smash equipment, lots of bands jump about while they play but they all look choreographed compared to At the Drive In in full flow. There was something about that combination of the grinding Fugazi mettle, Omar’s flamboyant guitar twiddling and Cedric’s blood curdling screams and cattle-prod charged rumba dancing  that made At The Drive in seem really, well, real.

When twelve years later a band like this announces that they’re going to patch things up and give it another whirl it really should come as a surprise. Great bands often come together like chemical reactions, certain elements meeting in the right place at the right time, flaring up and then dispersing. As much as the music will exist harmoniously for years and years after it is very often the case that band mates can’t exist amicably for the duration of a concert and as such the band capitulates as quickly as it formed much to everyone’s disappointment. But it is in that capitulation that part of the romance lies. But there is question of whether it is more romantic for a band to leave it at that and sit in the ‘what could have been’ chapter or to cave in, accept their reliance on each other and satisfy those that never made a show the first time around, it sems that opinion now favours the latter.

The Pixies recent reunion proved a huge success for fans

We’ve seen so many bands reunite in recent years that it’s hard to say anymore “oh those guys will never reform” or “they’re not in it for the money.” It’s rare now that a major festival line-up is released without rekindled past masters gracing the top lines. Since the rise of bands like The Strokes, The White Stripes and in the UK, The Libertines the Arctic Monkeys, rock music has been where the money is at so there’s never a shortage of demand to see older alternative bands reform. In fact there always was demand to see good bands reform but the money had to come from somewhere. Bands like Pixies and My Bloody Valentine were never actually that big in the first place so a bunch of forty year old ‘grungers’ had little sway in bringing these bands back but the landscape has now changed.  Now Reading festival is mainstream, Glastonbury sells out before any bands have been announced, Rage Against The Machine reach a UK Number One and At The Drive (in an astonishingly un-punk move) are announcing their reformation via Twitter.

In the face of persistent requests for The Stone Roses  to reform it must be hard for the likes of Ian Brown to keep saying “fook off” and so after so long they could be forgiven for thinking they owe it to the fans to take the money and give it another whirl.

It is understandable that people want to see their favourite bands ride once again and for most the chance that the experience might be incredible makes it worth the risk of witnessing a dire embarrassment but the fact is we are not talking about Duran Duran or Fleetwood Mac, we’re talking about ‘alternative’ bands, the nature being they weren’t that popular in the first place so in many ways it is peculiar that these misunderstood bands are being pressed into action so many years later and that the audiences awaiting them are so massive.

The Stone Roses - another act to reunite in 2012

When pressed on the possibility of a KYUSS reunion Josh Homme made his feelings clear.

“…if you weren’t there, well, you weren’t. That’s just the luck of the draw. I don’t feel the urge to do it for somebody who didn’t have the opportunity to see us, or just didn’t take the opportunity to see us. I’ll let other bands alter their great legacies. KYUSS has such a great history that it would be a total error. I like that nobody saw KYUSS, and that it was largely misunderstood. That sounds like a legend forming to me. I’m too proud of it to rub my dick on it.”

Of course the KYUSS reunion tour has now happened, albeit without Homme. You might say that he has little reason to hop off that high horse given that he’s gone on to find so much success with Queens of the Stone Age but his integrity is to be admired.

Back in 2002 fellow Texan rockers … And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead, released their excellent and highly revered third album Source, Tags & Codes, after riding the same sonic wave as the other American bands Deftones, Queens of the Stone Age and At The Drive In. Since then they’ve struggled to recreate that sublime blend of beauty and carnage, they’ve churned out steady albums and carried on playing mid-level venues but interest has undoubtedly wavered and many of the original fans have strayed. (You might note that whilst many At the Drive In fans were open minded to the first two Mars Volta albums, many have become disillusioned with their ever more absurd and ambitious efforts.)

It’s interesting to consider had … And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead broken up amongst the hype of that seminal album could they re-enter the fray now and jump straight to the top of the bill? Would we be waving cheques at them and proclaiming how Source, Tags & Codes… changed our lives. Maybe not, but it is an interesting thought.

It’s been said that financially speaking, it would make more sense for a band to break up at their peak and then get back together than it would for them to stick it out. Now I’m not saying that At the Drive In’s comeback will garner as much attention as those of Pixies, Pavement or Rage Against The Machine, I don’t know whether they’ll make anywhere near the amount of money those bands made, but I do wonder what kind of venues they’ll be able to fill this time around and where they’ll feature on the festival billings.

In the last few years we’ve seen Ashcroft and McCabe put their differences behind them and steer The Verve so far from the Storm in Heaven that they resembled a dodgy cabaret band. We’ve seen Pixies kiss, make up and step over the broken guitars to play to armies of Fight Club fans and we’re about to see At The Drive In, a band about as abrasive as they come, return for an encore. One wonders how long it will be before Morrissey and Marr are seen together again or how talks to bring back Talking Heads are progressing. The shows can be good or bad, there can be tears of joy (I genuinely felt quite stirred watching Pixies perform) or despair (think Smashing Pumpkins comeback) but either way one wonders if at this rate they’ll be any legends left unaltered, anything left for us to romanticize and lament about while we listen to our old, timeless albums.

by freelance journalist Joe Marren. More of his work can be found here.

 

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The Lemonheads – Hotel Sessions

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The Lemonheads – Hotel Sessions

Posted on 10 January 2012 by Joe

I got a warm feeling when I first listened to Lemonheads Hotel Sessions. Hearing a spritely, 25-year-old, Evan Dando playing acoustic tracks, which would later appear on the album Come On Feel The Lemonheads, not only evoked feelings of nostalgia for the music but also for my own youth. Memories of crowdsurfing at Glastonbury festival 1994 in the warm, June sun to Down About It came flooding back. Ditching college for impromptu road trips where these songs would crop up on mixtapes that used to take me hours to make. Smoking sticky black hash with my friend Robert in my bedsit while he worked out the chords to (cringe!) My Drug Buddy on his acoustic guitar. You get the idea…

Evan Dando at The Days Inn, Chattanooga, Tennessee - 3am, Sunday 2nd October 2011. Photo Credit - © Tim Hirschmann 2011

Hotel Sessions was recorded for $53, that’s $50 for the Walkman it was recorded on and $3 for the tape inside. By the sound of it, no expense has been spent on the mastering either.  These songs would be lost on an old fashion mixtape or modern day i-Tunes playlist, almost too quiet to hear.  It is about as lo-fi as you can get. Just one man, at the height of his musical career, in a hotel room in Sydney playing songs into a Walkman, complete with birds singing outside, traffic noise and that lovely background hiss that only a cheap tape recorder can create.

Hotel Sessions was originally recorded for the Lemonhead’s Australian agent at the time, Stephen Pavlovic, so it does have a promotional feel to it. It’s basically plugging the album Come On Feel The Lemonheads and it would be more at home as a bonus disc on an album re-issue rather than as a release in its own right. That said, this is still a nice piece of musical memorabilia that most fans will lap up.

I met Evan Dando recently after a low key Lemonheads gig in Chattanooga, Tennessee. He approached me in the men’s toilet of all places and thanked me for coming out to see the show. We later got talking outside the venue and my girlfriend and I ended up joining him and the support band back at their hotel for drinks. We drank until the early hours and he played us some of his favorite songs on his acoustic guitar – Townes Van Zandt, Neil Young, Dinosaur Jr, Cat Stevens, Hank Williams, as well as a couple of new songs he was in the process of writing.

After over 20 years of playing and even at 4am on a Sunday morning he seemed in his element, enthusiastically clutching his guitar and taking requests like a one-man acoustic jukebox and sharing anecdotes, like the time he visited Keith Richards at Redlands and sat at the same piano that Gram Parsons once played.

I sometimes worry about the future of my old favorite bands. Hardly any are still together and the ones that are jump from small record label to even smaller record label trying to keep afloat. Artists like Evan Dando give me hope though. I’ve heard nothing but good things from friends who’ve attended the recent, sold out It’s a Shame About Ray shows and seeing his enthusiasm and genuine love for music in person has made me realise that he is unlikely to ever retire.

The Lemonheads Hotel Sessions may be a flimsy release but it shows that you don’t need big record company dollars to get your music out there. It is also comforting to know that as long as there are recording devices, however cheap, and people to listen Evan Dando will continue to make music.

7/10

By Tim Hirschmann

 

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Gomez Addams – Summer Viking

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Gomez Addams – Summer Viking

Posted on 10 January 2012 by Joe

We are based  in the UK but have a world view when it comes to the albums and EPs we review. From Australia to Canada, from Brazil to Ireland and Spain, we’ve traveled far and wide with our reviewing.

Time and time again we seem to end up in the humungous US state of Ohio. Some of our favourite bands , such as Guided By Voices, Devo and The Breeders are from there. One of our favourite music blogs, The Indie Handbook is located there. And last year we made a new favourite band discovery, Columbus, Ohio’s wonderful Obviouslies.

At the start of 2012 we find ourselves back in Ohio, after being sent Summer Viking, the 12th release from Cleveland’s Gomez Addams (pictured). We are not quite sure what Gomez’s real name is. He wouldn’t tell us when we emailed him. We think its Joey though from a few Google searches. He did tell us though that by day he is an early American history teacher, something he loves. There is every possibility he also admires The Addams Family, having named himself after its rakish lead character.

He has never been signed by a record label since he started putting out releases in 2006, but admits that “I suppose part of me aspires to be signed”. If he were to be signed he’d still want to teach as well as put out music. Since he already does both he’s not entirely sure what a record label could do for him. Promotion is one area that perhaps a label could help him with. He adds: “it would be nice to have some additional word of mouth and support. It’s hard to do it alone.”

Summer Viking is a slight departure in being entirely written, played and recorded by Gomez in his basement. On previous releases he has been supported on instrumentation by occasional co-writer Daniel Eli Weiss.

To put it bluntly I love it. Its got a lo-fi edge, with a slice of humour and full of sixties garage band influences. A little like a softer Guided By Voices, a slicker version of Box Elders and a less Kanye West inspired Bon Iver.

There’s some fine guitar riffs, not showy, just right. There’s also a whole bunch of history as you’d expect, with Andrew Jackson and the US government’s treatment of native Americans getting mentions.

Title track and opener is among a number of highlights, setting the blue print for his sound – angsty introspective vocals and guitar lashed in vintage reverb with simple, shuffling Ringo-esque drumming.

Track two ‘Teacher’, is perhaps my favourite and about Gomez himself, a history teacher who puts too much reverb on his voice so people can’t hear it properly, has a fear of elevators and wants to go to Europe “to drink lots of coffee and ice cream.”

Perhaps if he ever gets signed a European tour, during the school holidays naturally, could be a possibility. On this evidence he’d certainly receive a warm welcome.

8/10

by Joe Lepper

Summer Viking is available for free download here.

 

 

by Joe Lepper

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Oddfellow’s Casino – The Raven’s Empire

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Oddfellow’s Casino – The Raven’s Empire

Posted on 09 January 2012 by Dorian

January is a slow month for album releases, after the December slow-down it takes time for the new releases to start appearing. This does make it a good time for lesser known acts to get some attention whilst the big acts are waiting for more commercially targeted periods to release new material. Brighton band Oddfellow’s Casino, lead by David Bramwell, start the year in a very positive way with an excellent showing on their third album.

The Ravens Empire

Opener ‘The Day The Devil Slipped Away’ starts gently, soft guitar and keyboards layered against Bramwell’s hushed vocals. The initial feel is similar to some of the more keyboard lead 60s acts, The Zombies sping to mind, or forgotten 90s band the Kingsbury Manx. The sound here though is more intricate and sounds are layered sounds superbly, then8-track recording here achieves a big studio sound, the song reaching a storming prog-rock conclusion.

The second track ‘Winter In A Strange Town’ mixes picked guitar and jazzy drumming in a way that recalls Pentangle, no surprise on an album called the Raven’s Empire. Again the arrangements are superb and continue to be so for the length of the album. As the album progresses more and more instruments make an appearance with wind and brass instruments becoming increasingly dominant on the second half of the album.

It is the playing and arrangements that make this album a little bit special. The vocals are good, and the lyrics are literate, but they are subtle and can’t compete with the relative bombast of the instrumentation. This is no criticism and the vocals are nicely layered through the tracks adding to the slightly hypnotic effect of the songs.

It really is a masterclass in recording, and comparisons that have been made to Sufjan Stevens are certainly accurate in this respect. The horns during the codas of ‘We Will Be Here’ and ‘Bluebirds’ or the drums in ‘When The Comet Came’ sound brilliant and you can imagine how good these songs would sound played by the full compliment of musicians live on stage.

The album closes with the much smoother club jazz sound of ‘Death Won’t Have Me’, with accordions joining the orchestration, but like all the tracks here it is a complex, building and beautifully arranged piece. This is the kind of album that it seems particularly unfair to review after only a handful of listens, it reveals more of itself each time and demands more attention. It is, however, an immediately enjoyable and interesting set of songs that makes for a pretty perfect start to music in 2012.

9/10

By Dorian Rogers

Oddfellow’s Casino launch the album at the Brighton Proud Ballroom on the 23rd February. Click here for details.

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