Oh My God is simply one of the greatest live shows that has ever existed. I have been following these guys since about 2003, from Duffy’s Tavern to the Double Door and now to Pianos in Manhattan. It has been nearly eight years since I fist got a glimpse of the insanity that emanates from the stage – I was once fortunate enough to open for them. Anyways, I’ve told my stories about one of my all time favorite bands in prior posts (here and here), but here they are again, beginning their fall tour with us in NYC. If you know what is good for you, you’ll go to Pianos tonight a see it for yourself.
Below are a few videos from their new material. Also, visit their website oand myspace.
Theory of My Mind
Knock Out Noise
June 15th 2010
Imaginate by the Amygdaloids
In the Fall of 2005 I walked into Union Hall in Brooklyn to catch a public lecture given by Dr. Joe LeDoux, professor at NYU’s Center for Neural Science. While I have many interests, I always fell short in the sciences, so you can imagine I was quite certain I wouldn’t understand a word of Joe’s discussion of the world of neurons, memory, fear and that little nut shaped region in the brain called the amygdala. But Dr. LeDoux’s lecture was entirely accessible and served as testament to his ability to communicate the business of neuroscience. He has written two books aimed at a general readership, offering not-so-science-savvy folks an avenue towards understanding how their brain works. So one might say that Joe has embraced his role as neuroscience’s public intellectual, ensuring that what goes on in the realm of his discipline does not become too far removed from the questions and curiosities of the people. Think Ted Talks. But LeDoux’s connection to the complex world of neuroscience is not the end of the story. After the lecture, the audience joined LeDoux and a few of his fellow scientist friends up to the first floor of Union Hall where they performed as The Amygdaloids. Right before my eyes I watched these scientists shatter every stereotype concerning the “right brain-left brain” dichotomy. But that was 2005; The Amygdaloids have come a long way since that Union Hall show, releasing their latest record in June called Theory of My Mind.
The two clearest influences that inform The Amygdaloids’ music are the distinct styles of lead guitarist Tyler Volk and LeDoux. Through Volk’s guitar flow accents and power riffs reminiscent of the Monterey Pop Festival of 1967 and the immortal Woodstock that followed two years later. He celebrates the work of Jimi Hendrix and Carlos Santana with his blues laden psychedelia. LeDoux for his part writes songs that project the giest of 60’s dream pop, his songs are products of an ethic that demands good pop be, as Jack Tatum from Wild Nothing said, “catchy but not cheap.” LeDoux is a story teller who, with regard to lyrics and music, is guided by the path set out by the likes of Bob Dylan and The Byrds. The two band members’ influences combine to make a whimsical explication of neuroscientific import embedded in the form and fashion of rock and roll. The lyrics present in Theory of My Mind all hail from the band’s public intellectual ethos. Crime of Passion is a track that explores the question of how much responsibility individuals have when they commit crimes during heightened emotional states. The narrating character of the song croons from a prison cell, recalling the reasons he committed murder and his regrets, singing, “If I could go back, I wouldn’t have killed for you. You’re not worth what I am going through.” Appropriately, to accompany this morose contemplation, Rosanne Cash (daughter of Johnny) sings backup, imbuing the track with a strong sense of sadness.
Itis clear from the various titles of the songs that theme of Theory of My Mind is brain science, with all titles in some way referring to motifs of memory, fear, and individual will. Rhythmically, Tyler Volk’s Automatic Mind is a very creative endeavor that diverges slightly from the overall cohesion of the record. This side item song has a style of its own, mixing the choral melody of 60’s pop with the grim and gothic verse of early 80’s British post-punk. The song succeeds as an unexpected amalgamation.
The CD’s title track, Theory of My Mind explores a psychological question concerning when individuals begin to impute mental states such as desires and beliefs to others, and in turn believe that other individuals impute such mental states to them. In essence, when do we feel empathy; when do we recognize the hopes and fears of others and when do we believe they know or think about ours? Often the answers to these questions have been idealized as representative of our most human emotions, but these emotions are not so easily understood. These questions have diffused over a broad field of disciplines including anthropology, primatology, philosophy, etc. Theory of My Mind is a record that explores these and many other questions. Using the language of love, regret, and all the other entries in the lexicon of rock and roll, Theory of My Mind translates the inquisitiveness of the laboratory onto the forceful expression of the stage.
Pharmacy Spirits – Books
Pharmacy Spirits – Just Like Charles
This spring we received a beautiful gift from Nebraska’s Pharmacy Spirits. Following the path carved by their debut EP Every Song Ended In 1994, Teen Challenge stands on the shoulders of giants, and it stands tall. The record somewhat insinuates a contradiction, sharing the name of an evangelical Christian outreach program created in the 1950’s to heal the country’s youth of their addiction to drugs, alcohol, and sexual perversion. Pharmacy Spirits and Teen Challenge explores the expanse between depraved debauchery and outlandish treatment programs; the anxiety of each extreme is encapsulated by the band’s style. Taking a listen to their earlier EP, one recognizes a celebration of British and American new wave and post-punk engaged in fornication with college radio demigods, producing a dance driving vegrandis opus that is ultimately hip.
The observation that sometime in 1994 the music died sells the narrative that the 80’s was a truly significant decade. The lives of such admired artists as The Glove, The Cure, Joy Division, Bauhaus, The Fall, and later bands like the Pixies and Pavement (Slanted and Enchanted, 1992 and Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain 1994), all flared and faded by the time 1994’s final sun set. Though this would be only one telling of the story, as many would argue that the few bands who still release albums are alive and well, not to mention, the very existence of Pharmacy Spirits’ seemingly inarguable relevance underscores the fact that many of these bands’ early catalog has never been hotter. These artists though have come through the looking glass marred by the now romanticized experiences of sex, drugs, and death. Enter Teen Challenge.
Piecing together and then articulating the ambient qualities of a record is never easy. The critic is forever the douche bag for ever even considering the use of his vocabulary. Teen Challenge though has a warmth and beauty that is so exquisitely wrought with desperation and exhaustive emotion that it would be difficult to talk about it without reading like a canvas description at the MOMA. Teen Challenge has all that the throw-backs of the modern era could ever hope. The best songs make you want to dance, the rest are just as cool, though the contrast between pulsations such as Books or Just Like Charles and the slow downs like Safety Now only serves to elevate the power and energy of the former. Simply put, Teen Challenge is a beautiful gift that has reified all that we ever loved about the decade of decadence, yet at the same time Pharmacy Spirits has the guts and vision to move beyond a bygone time, through the looking glass, to explore what still counts, what is still relevant. By all measures they have succeeded.
August 28th 7PM Eclipse Records w/ Dragons Power Up! & tba Minneapolis, Minnesota
August 29th 9PM Vaudeville Mews w/ Gabe Cordova & tba Des Moines, Iowa
September 3rd TBA
September 4th TBA
October 1st 9PM The Cave w/ Gospel Gossip! Northfield, Minnesota
October 2nd 9PM 331 Club w/ Gospel Gossip Minneapolis, Minnesota
The Longest Day of My Life
I Don’t Eat Syrup, I’m a Man
Life in the Malebolge
Once again I have spent way to much time considering how I should approach a record that is miles away from my cup of tea but one which I have great respect for in terms of song writing and recording. What can you say when a guy simply does what he does really damn well. Arthur Killroad’s music reminds me of a good and dear friend who, even when surrounded by the snobbiest of snobby indie kids, says “I write great pop songs, I can’t help it, and I’m not going to run away from it.” Arthur Killroad, or Mike Petruccelli if you prefer real names, has recently self-released The Longest Day of My Life, a seven track pop-core confection that shamelessly employs nearly every hook in the book producing a record so easy on the ears you almost forget the constricting waistline of your Skinny 511’s™. Killroad’s latest effort has markedly improved on his last venture, which was similarly hook laden, but this time around he has not only kept the lyrics clever, but he has cradled his words in a soundscape of music employing much more than his flicker fast acoustic guitar and gruff impassioned voice.
The addition of a trap set, bass, and the occasional crunchy distorted guitar punch in has added considerable value to his project. This is not to say that his solo recordings are empty, but he has simply written better music that functions in large part due to layers and contrasts. In some ways I think he could go even further. Fine…he can keep the hooks, keep the borderline emo-nouveaux melodies, keep the Ben Folds inflected voice; keep ‘em, but The Longest Day of My Life demonstrates that Killroad knows how to orchestrate, he knows how to arrange and I am interested to hear what comes next. Killroad hails from Athens, Ohio; though I am pretty sure I spied him walking around Alphabet City last year. His myspace mentions that he is on his way to Chicago, a town I am very familiar with. With new plans, a new city, and new friends, he will have a whole new pool of experience from which to draw. Killroad has let it be known that he has turned a corner in his life and his music clearly reflects that.
The Atlantic Manor
The World Beneath This World is Brightening
Do Too Records
“The Captain’s Name Was Death” by The Atlantic Manor
“I am proud to be lo-fi. I know of no other way.”
The above sentiment offered by R. Sell, the Miami based singer-song writer known as The Atlantic Manor, has so much heart it inspires. He rightly suggests that no matter your resources, you can find a way to record and circulate your music amongst a community of listeners. Over the last decade R. Sell has released 11 diy, lo-fi records under the The Atlantic Manor moniker and from the looks of it, this dude has no intention of stopping anytime soon. Sell strongly identifies with the American underground music scene whose beauty and authority comes from the pure motives and raw energy of those artists that dare to do something out of the ordinary. With complete disregard for the monotonous expectations of the cacophonous clamor of the music industry’s crony-capitalist regime, Sell envisions the American underground as a community and a movement that is required in order to maintain any semblance of genuine and authentic artistry within America’s broader music economy. Simply said the shear volume of work and the grit and guts with which this project has been engaged is awesome. But it must also be said to be problematic. Any record from one moment to the next can be said to have varying degrees of relevance, but I am unsure if this can be said of The Atlantic Manor’s 11th release The World Beneath This World is Brightening.
The record opens with lackadaisical strumming and a twisted child like voice singing what seems to be a satanic version of Old McDonald Had a Farm. The second track Vessels somewhat resembles Joy Division’s Atmosphere. It is a 14 minute long cyclical and meandering progression with muted and indistinct lyrics. The strategy of the track is the same as Velvet underground’s Heroine, a simple structure with vocals littering the staccato guitar notes, though the track never builds, it does not crescendo, and it does not really move a muscle from the first note until the last. The next song, Failing By the Second, begins with a muted strum subtly sounding in the background, and a metronomic back beat that is upfront and unwavering, save the occasional fill. The song is minor and brooding; it is haunted by guitar distortion that mimics the sound of a depressed whale song or the moan of steel beams that shift back and forth in some post-apocalyptic wind.
Like the majority of The Atlantic Manor’s music, The Captains Name Was Death is structured by the cyclical pattern of a few strummed chords. R. Sell’s voice is bloodshot with humility. The track just rolls along as tremolo accents and an inartful clean tone guitar solo dance with the synthesized sound of a wood saw song. The drums for DeathCrown, the epitome of diy recording, have Stephen Morris all over them, but it is at this very moment that R. Sell’s formulations become tired. The songs run into to each other, making it difficult to decipher one from the other. While Apple Dreams definitely has wistful qualities, these qualities are mere replications of what was heard for 14 minutes in Vessels. The songs may not be exactly the same, but some might say that one’s existence makes the other obsolete.
The World Beneath This One is Brightening, like the record itself, is out of sync and out of tune; it is a mélange of minor chords and baritone mud sack sadness that never really translates into anything. At this point it becomes clear that the record is limited in its depth. The transition from The World Beneath to The Good Son is astounding in its sameness. The closer is a 12 minute depressant that perhaps encapsulates Sell’s best effort. Black River Runs’ attempt to infuse various unorthodox sounds into the haphazardly strummed guitar backed by a syth drone is quite appealing. I have received much of Atlantic Manor’s back catalog and am eager to peruse the collection of songs. Like a second-hand store, The Atlantic Manor conceals the occasional diamond in the rough, but that gem is all too often embedded in throw away tracks. I understand that The Atlantic Manor wants to be profoundly productive—11 albums in 10 years—but I would say that the band/the song-writer would be very well served if they or he or whomever was more selective of the parts of themselves that they choose to exhibit; that is if they would like their community of listeners to grow.
Slow Drugs and Other Sorrows (2009)
On the Wrong Side of Saturday Night (2008)
All the Best Girls Have Winter Hearts (2007)
Sneaking Up on the Death Scene (2006)
The Trouble that You Left (2006)
Special is Dead (2005)
Failing by the Second (2004)
The Desperate Vibe of Emotional Devastation (2002)
The Hate We Get Going (2001)
When I am a Viking (2001)
Worst Case Ontario
Once again Sam Weisberg and company have sucked our faces back to the summer of 1994. Worst Case Ontario and their fan base may get tired of people saying this, but it is meant in the best possible way. The epic two part guitar melodies juxtaposed with Weisberg’s gas huffing garage rock voice shuttles me back to the sidewalk out of Duffy’s Tavern to listen to the Flaming Lips sing Pilot Can At The Queer Of God. This is the stuff of geniuses; it was a time when you either sided with Pearl Jam or Nirvana; it was a time made for Little Bastard, Semisonic, Sponge, and all the other pop wrought bands that emerged mid-decade, after the descriptive “alternative” no longer referred to otherness or alterity, but rather the very essence of the mainstream. Slacker culture had won out on top. The only thing known about irony came from that damn Alanis Morissette video. This was a time for Mall Rats and Swingers; a time for being money. Tucked within those days of corduroy and flannel, were debates pitting Doolittle against Surfer Rosa, or Slanted and Enchanted against Wowee Zowee. Worst Case Ontario cannot help but evoke these memories. This isn’t the same thing as the Williamsburg music scene or the Bushwick art scene. Who had time for fine things? This band might circulate within the New York music scene, but they do not supplicate the trends of the day.
While their last record Burning Politely was noted to have had the same effect, Worst Case Ontario has made a shorter more concise EP trimming off much of the fat that weighed them down in the past. Like Burning Politely, Smallcraft is both endearing for its saturated musicality of the late 20th century, and inspiring for its display of rawness and earnestness. Particularly salient in this regard are the songs The Complainer and Starve, which encapsulate the very spirit of the band, though the other tracks on the EP are not nearly as interesting. The entirety of the Smallcraft project is displayed a marked improvement. The band has harnessed that space in the garage, that love affair we have with our slacker selves, and has added to it the slightest promise that they aim to be better, that they aim to be more. This is at no time more apparent than the 5:22 minute marker of the concluding track Capricorn every member of the band draws their instrument out full throttle, it is the very second where an otherwise bland track is given life and the band asserts themselves, that they aren’t exactly about not giving a fuck about life. Though the band does need to figure out how to find their sweet spot a little more often….the EP is so far from perfect…it doesn’t need to be perfect.
So it is almost here. The most anticipated album in a…well…a long time. As part of a promotion for their upcoming record Year of the How-To Book, Eagle Seagull is having a free online listening session as well as making I Am Sorry But I am Beginning to Hate Your Face, a most delicious song off of the new record, free for download. All you have to do is sign up for their email list. Here is the address for the offer, http://media.pias.com/eagleseagull/. Visit their Myspace as well, http://www.myspace.com/eagleseagull. For those of you who don’t know this band, it is about fucking time you get your priorities straight.
Mostly Other People Do the Killing
Woos & Woes
January 8th 2010
So I’ll keep this one short. It is long over due, and I wasn’t going write anything, but I figure why not take an opportunity to call it like it was. The title of this piece should be “Woos & Woes and our mountain Got Fucked by Mostly Other People Do the Killing,” which I’ll now refer to as “that jazz band” because I don’t have the patience to write their damn name. For those who don’t know—and who doesn’t—an opening slot for a 3 band gig is 45 minutes with 15 minutes for the break down. So let’s start there. That jazz band played for over an hour and a half and took their sweet time breaking down. To quote one exceptional jazz player, “If you can’t convince the crowd you’re good in seven songs, you won’t be able to do it in 14.” This is advice that jazz band needed to fucking take. The music was a flutter of circus acrobatics meshed with a rhythmic train wreck…and some how I think he might like such a description. At one point, during the syncopated scaled masturbation, the drummer sundered his kit and howled in the kick’s microphone, orgasming like basset hound. The band was confused…they thought we enjoyed their cheap pornography. I can’t tell you how many people looked at one another in absolute disbelief. What commitment…what style! I suppose they were releasing their new album that night.
Woos & Woes, whose recorded music by the way is pretty damn good, had a dreadful amount of mic issues. It clearly put them on edge. In fact if that is the description I’d give the night, on edge. They mostly performed well but the venue and mic set up was not suited for their delicate ambience, or their cavernous washed out vocals. Woos & Woes are an LA band that I imagine could have been, and should have been an excellent preface to the final show of the evening, our mountain. Woos & Woes played as a guy gal duo trading off instruments and vocal leads. Both members seemed stifled by the venue’s seeming lack of care for their performance.
Our mountain finally made it to the stage at 12:30, an hour and a half later than their scheduled slot. Those who stayed had likely by then spent all their money on booze and hardly had much to tip…yes a bucket was passed around. Our mountain played their usual energetic and explosive show. They debuted some new tunes, all of which were cradled comfortably within their brilliant repertoire compiled over years of refining their sound. I cannot say enough for this band, especially because they stuck to their gritty guns and gave a great performance, despite the fact that the venue hadn’t the slightest care. I can imagine there was a strong enough impulse to “say sorry guys,” to those who remained, and get the fuck out of dodge, but they didn’t. They played and played well. The venue, Zebulon, looks great, it has a Parisian feel with tons of wood and nameless beer taps. But they accidentally poured a beer down the shirt of a girl sitting at the bar and made a passive apology, failing even to play nice and offer a drink on the house. More importantly they lost control of their stage, letting a bunch of self indulgent jazz hacks suck out the oxygen from what could have been an amazing night.
Thought & Memory
January 1st 2010
“Man is a wolf to man” (“lupus est homo homini” Plautus: Asinaria, 495). This quotation from Though & Memory’s myspace embodies the reflexive and philosophical frame through which their debut EP ought to be absorbed. Referencing the atrocities man inflicts on man, Thought & Memory have built and self-released an epic four song EP titled Time, a record wrought with an animistic serenity, ruptured by the thunder of collided sheet metal and the feral intensity of natural violence. Song titles like Wing by Wing, Sixty Sunsets, and What Are We Now, are the only words attached to the music. They are also indicative of the thought put into every moment of the EP. The music is both beautiful and obscure, sophisticated and primal, calming and destructive. The band sprouts from the post-rock genre, finding fraternity with the likes of Explosions in the Sky, Mogwai, or early Pelican, but the cutting juxtaposition of instrumentation on the record reveals a unique and compelling band who do not wear the tag of “knock off,” rather they have orchestrated a brilliant mélange with considerable energy, which culminates in the sixth minute, fifty-sixth second of the fourth and final track What Are We Now. The EP is short and definitely leaves the listener wanting more. Having seen a few of their live performances, I know that more will be released soon enough.
Be Safe, Be Aware
September 2nd 2009
Not to contradict the legions of intelligent and insightful music critics who have commented on the worth and wonder of Color Radio’s newest EP Be Safe, Be Aware, but the best you can do is compare these kids to Coldplay, Arctic Monkeys, Doves, Travis, and Radiohead?! Let me set the record straight, if they must be compared to something or someone, let’s talk about Matt Johnson, Morrissey, and Tim Kasher smoking reefer in an alternate universe where 1984 and 2009 collapse into an eternal nightclub in Manchester. In this sense I can see why some might compare them to Doves, but not necessarily because they sound alike, but because Doves actually used to hang out at The Haçienda in Manchester in 1984. Some may say Tim Kasher, really? And I say yes, he is there, at least for a moment or two. But that would only be if I wanted to compare them to anyone at all.
Color Radio’s music is modern-it is heart felt-it is a topographic tour of dreamscape melody. Jonathan Ifergan and Tohm Ifergan, are an excellent guitar drum duo charmed by the familial fact that they are indeed brothers. The two are only increased in beauty by Matthew Thomas and Joel Chasco who in infuse the intense ambiance with their respective contributions of keys and bass. I would be excited to have this group meet and pair up for a couple of nights in New York City with another great Midwestern band Eagle Seagull. Color Radio are what their band name says they are. They pulse with color, attitude, and passion. Better yet, they are having a three date stint next week in New York, so December calls people, let’s go…
Newest News- 2009
Feeling Like You Used To EP- 2008
December 11th 9PM Skully’s w/ Loyal Divide Columbus, Ohio
December 12th 8PM TBA Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
December 14th 8PM Arlene’s Grocery New York, New York
December 15th 8PM Midway Cafe Boston, Massachusetts
December 16th 8PM Glasslands Gallery Brooklyn, New York
December 17th 9PM Lulu’s Village Pub Port Jefferson, New York
December 18th 9PM Cranky’s Manatee Pub Cleveland, Ohio
December 19th 8PM TBA Fort Wayne, Indiana