New Tales to Tell: A Tribute to Love and Rockets

L&R Tribute

Various Artists
New Tales to Tell: A Tribute to Love and Rockets
July 28th 2009
Justice Records

Though I might be loathe to write a review about a freaking tribute record, which is often more or less a “best of” album sung by people who have no business doing so, New Tales to Tell: A Tribute to Love and Rockets is pretty damn cool. In some circles it might do you a service to be able to list off which Love and Rockets tunes to think are best, but let’s be honest, no one really obsesses over them. We recognize a song here and there, but the fact of the matter is we are far more likely to say, “Oh that’s who sings this song, I never knew.” They are like The The; a perfectly lovable band that music geeks know just to know, but are otherwise not excited…and I love The The.

The beauty of this tribute album is that the 99% of Love and Rockets songs you don’t know are given life by a myriad of artists who, while not necessarily improving on the original, have the sensibility to make the song relevant in context to modern music. It is not as if they are reissuing a stale post-goth, post punk Brit rock sludge, no this is a project of a different order. It is the reimagining of a body of work that has certainly thrived below the surface in the minds of many musicians, but has never really maintained itself in pop culture or geeky conversation. At best this release will reacquaint music consumers with a great band, at worst it will merely be a blip in a music world that has turned to simmer. Good music and those that produce it have after all become so ephemeral.

For those of you who don’t know Love and Rockets, here is a brief biography. Former members of Goth icons Bauhaus formed Love and Rockets named after a comic of the same name in 1985, releasing three records in three years (’85-’87), another in ’89, and far fewer records release periodically in the ‘90s. The band called it quits in 1999, only to do what every other 80s band has done, reunite for Coachella and Lollapalooza in 2008! Their best known song is So Alive which hit #3 on Billboard and #1 on Modern Rock Tracks. They are, as you probably guessed, from England.

Highlights of the albums are Snowden’s No Words No More, Lossy Coils’ and Ian Moore’s Sweet F.A., A Place to Bury StrangersThe Light, Film School’s An American Dream, War TapesLove Me, Pucifer’s Holiday on the Moon, Black FrancisAll in My Mind. Other artists that contribute include The Stone Foxes, Frankenstein 3000, Blaqk Audio, Dubfire, The Dandy Warhols, The Flaming Lips, Sweethead, Monster Magnet, VEX, Chantal Claret, and Better than Ezra, who scored the task of performing So Alive, but who also unfortunately decided just to blandly reproduce the original. Typically one shouldn’t try and fix something that isn’t busted. However, there is nothing wrong with reinvoking what has been forgotten using a modern medium and a modern voice.



Artist Profiles
Love and Rockets
Ian Moore
A Place to Bury Strangers
War Tapes
Black Francis
The Stone Foxes
Frankenstein 3000
Blaqk Audio
The Dandy Warhols
The Flaming Lips
Monster Magnet
Chantal Claret
Better than Ezra

Brian E- Yellow Light District

Brian E

Brian E
Yellow Light District
Record Label Records
July 15th 2009

“Don’t Stop—Just Slow Down”

This motto on the cover of Brian Ellis’ newest project speaks volumes. Yellow Light District, due to be released as a limited series of 500 individually numbered 12” vinyl in July, is vintage sonic pornography for those who get a hard-on when they listen to the likes of the Beverly Hills Cop soundtrack, or are obsessed with 1988’s Bloodsport…err anything Jean-Claude Van Damme. This record is no conservative, veiled throwback; it is a neon headband inspired synth-feast.

I listened to the LP while jogging through industrial Bushwick and Williamsburg. I quickly transformed into Little Mac training for my final bout with Mike Tyson in NES’ Punch-Out. Yellow Light District’s most penetrating hook is its style; It isn’t intellectual—it isn’t professorial—it is its own weird science. The first track, Theme, flawlessly begins the record with rolling waves of soft synth melodies that eventually starburst into a dance floor beat, textured with free form keyboards. As every track passes, Mr. E never lets up, always reintroducing the listener to an era some wish was long forgotten. But like the venerable Dov Charney seems to believe, some things don’t die for a reason, and there should always be those creatives out there to remind us why.



Other Music
Tech Noir
Beast Beats EP

Sinistyle Video Below!

Black Hat Brigade- Fathers EP

Fathers EP

Black Hat Brigade
Fathers EP
May 29th 2009

Black Hat BrigadeZombie City Shake

Far from the cavernous sprawl expressed by earlier recordings, Black Hat Brigade has recorded an EP that will be described as one of the best releases of 2009. Their Fathers EP kicks so much ass, they aren’t permitted to tour in America for fear that their presence will make the heads of residents in Williamsburg, Greenpoint, and Bushwick explode. This really is a national security thing. It is worth noting that the religious right and Billboard magazine have rigorously lobbied INS to approve visas for the band—clearly an attempt to silence northern Brooklyn’s pesky music scene. You know what I say? Fuck it’s worth it! Get your asses to NYC! Sure Robert Haughey’s vocals might remind some of fellow Canadian Dan Boeckner, but who really gives a damn?

Like the morose joy of Eagle Seagull, Black Hat Brigade’s music is entirely different and in many ways better than Wolf Parade. Fathers is defined by a paradox. Dark lyrics that speak of blood, guts, and zombies are cradles inside of some of the brightest and most expansive dance music written for the small club stage. Or maybe it is just that I can dance to anything, but we all know this to be untrue. While there is not a bad track on the 7 song + 1 reprise EP, there are certainly a few standouts. Zombie City Shake, Castlevania, and Vera are all exceptional. These songs not only have the pop sensibilities that provoke inebriated jigs, but they throw back to the epic layers common on their first EP. Here, the voluminous multifaceted interplay is harnessed to produce ridiculous crescendos, the heights of which truly press the limits of grandeur.



Other Music
Black Hat Brigade EP- 2007


Andrew Bird- Noble Beast

Andrew Bird

Andrew Bird
Noble Beast
Fat Possum
January 20th 2009

I first saw Andrew Bird perform as I watched back stage at 2005’s inaugural Intonation Festival in Chicago’s Union Park. He performed with a lone drummer and a loop machine, displaying his truly awe-inducing proficiency at layering himself over and over until the fullest, deepest chorus emitted from the stage stacks. It was this first encounter that attached me to his third solo record The Mysterious Production of Eggs. It was a record that defined the summer of 2005 along with the other monster releases of that year. While I cannot say that Noble Beast is a return to his earlier work—he has after all an extraordinarily lengthy and impressive repertoire, the vast majority of which sounds nothing like the music of recent years—it is worth noting that Mr. Bird has walked back a bit the more refined direction he pursued with his fourth solo release Armchair Apocrypha, returning instead to slightly more grainy rhythmic loops and eloquently worded lyrics.

The new terrain Andrew Bird chooses to explore with Noble Beast is something of a somber excursion narrated by songs written with epic cadences and animistic themes. The two most rewarding deviances from his prior works are Not a Robot, But a Ghost and Anonanimal, the later of which contains Bird’s finest song writing. Some might accuse him of dipping his toes into full fledged post-rock mockery, Tortoise meets Explosion in the Sky, but the sheer quality of the track quickly wins over and grumblings. Andrew Bird still has his obsessions with medical terminology and molecular compounds, with calcium revisiting his lyric book yet again. This record is punctuated with quaint interludes belying his fascinations with Irish folk and bluegrass. In fact the personal sentiment drawn from Nobel Beast is a result of looking back at the foundational elements of individual style, of looking inward and returning to a sense of self; while at the same time launching forward again, looking at new prospects and new tones of expression without releasing that which make him so great. Nobel Beast is simply said his best record yet.



Other Records

As Bowl of Fire
Thrills (1998)
Oh! The Grandeur (1999)
The Swimming Hour (2001)

As Andrew Bird
Music of Hair (1996)
The Ballad of the Red Shoes EP (2002)
Fingerlings (2002)
Weather Systems (2003)
Fingerlings 2 (2004)
The Mysterious Production of Eggs (2005)
Fingerlings 3 (2006)
Armchair Apocrypha (2007)
Live In Montreal (2008)
Fitz and the Dizzy Spells EP (2009)
Noble Beast (2009)

Jun-8 Merriweather Post Pavilion Columbia , MD
Jun-14 Bonnaroo Manchester, TN
Jun-15 Cobb Energy PAC Atlanta, GA
Jun-18 Radio City Music Hall New York, NY
Jun-19 Bank of America Pavilion Boston, MA
Jul-10 Greek Theatre Los Angeles, CA
Jul-11 Greek Theatre Berkeley, CA
Jul-13 Red Butte Garden Salt Lake City, UT
Jul-14 Red Rocks Amphitheatre Morrison, CO
Jul-16 Britt Pavilion Jacksonville, OR
Jul-17 Marymoor Amphitheatre Redmond, WA
Jul-18 McMenamins Edgefield Amphitheater Troutdale, OR
Jul-19 McMenamins Edgefield Amphitheater Troutdale, OR
Jul-26 Squaw Velley Ski Resort Olympic Valley, CA
Aug-06 Eastnor Castle Ledbury, UK
Aug-07 Lollapalooza – Grant Park Chicago, IL
Aug-07 Eastnor Castle Ledbury, UK
Aug-08 Eastnor Castle Ledbury, UK
Aug-08 Lollapalooza – Grant Park Chicago, IL
Aug-09 Eastnor Castle Ledbury, UK
Aug-14 Haldern Pop Festival Haldern, DE
Aug-15 Haldern Pop Festival Haldern, DE
Aug-21 Glanusk Park Powys, UK
Aug-22 Glanusk Park Powys, UK
Aug-23 Glanusk Park Powys, UK
Oct-02 Austin City Limits Festival Austin, TX

Modernage- Sirhan Sirhan


Sirhan Sirhan EP
September 2nd 2008
Pirilla Records

The advent of adult pop alternative rock was a difficult time. During the mid 90’s, a fevered rush of talented but uninspired musicians emerged on the national music scene riding on the coattails of late 80’s early 90’s college radio and Seattle rock. They could shred, they could keep a beat, and in the parochial sense of the word, they could sing. Often they could do everything except what made the great bands of the early 90’s so exceptional; they lacked a certain madness, depravity, abandon, and self destructiveness that made the Pixies, Sonic Youth, Nirvana, Pavement, and (yes) Pearl Jam worth while. College radio and Seattle rock became ubiquitous staples of MTV and suburban fashion. After the Violent Femmes distributed their collected opus Add it Up, chronicling their music from 1982-1993, there was no going back. It was a genuine and rare moment when radio pop and subversive rock met at a crossroads. The crossroads allowed future iconic bands like the Flaming Lips, who had been making music since the mid 80’s, to release songs on top 40 radio. On the other hand, it was only a matter of time before Candle Box, Bush, Semi Sonic, and Sponge would be playing all the summer festivals, seamlessly taking the banner of subversive rock away from those who had led the way. It was bait and switch all the way.

In a shocking segue, I turn to Miami Florida’s Modernage. Last year they released their latest EP Sirhan Sirhan and I have to say, the record hints at the very same domestication and pasteurization experienced last decade. It would behoove Modernage, or should I say Middleage, to go the route of Tonic or Train, not because they are untalented, but because the aesthetic they construct was never meant to be anything more than FM ready. In moments throughout Sirhan Sirhan, Mario Giancarlo slyly simulates Matt Berninger of The National (“Really?” you ask, listen to the chorus on Creatures), but without the earnestness. The music is pop; it is catchy and easy on the ears. Make no mistake Modernage knows song writing and all the little elements that go into putting out a really cogent, polished record. They have a market with plenty of potential fans. This 5 song EP thoroughly and unabashedly explores the genre of pop alternative- they makes no bones about their decidedly lacking constitution. This could be the beginning of a new era where pop radio is overtaken by this modified indie rock, but somehow I think that things have changed so much in the industry that the formula simply is not the same.



Kinase Moves the Audio- After Silence Part 1


Kinase Moves the Audio
After Silence Part 1
December 24th 2008

Kinsase Moves the Audio– The Flawless Veil

Scientific moments, measured and compartmentalized, structure the expansive debut EP from Lansing Michigan’s Kinase Moves the Audio titled After silence Part 1. However, the aesthetic projected out of that structure is proto-science; it is alchemy in the sense that the band transforms regulated units of time and sound into something else, something that reaches beyond its natural parameters. The ubiquitous Ryan T. Johnson, producer of the EP, writer of much of the music, and band member, has taken up a project of ambiguity. Perhaps stemming from his academic interest in the sexual dimorphism of the amygdala, Kinase Moves the Audio transverses the categories of masculine and feminine. They are at times brooding, while other times deeply melodic. The music shuttles and negotiates the boundaries between mechanistic synthetics and the natural elements of Afro-Latin rhythms, which are themselves an instantiation of music as mestizo. Even the track titles reflect an interest in hybridity. Anthrobotic, Idiology, and A Flawless Veil, are all titles that imply subtraction, compromise, and impurity.

“Fancy Cars and wine and women. Flashy clothes and gold and fashion. Now you sport a freshly sculpted face. Now you stand out in a crowd.”

The music is a garden bed expressing the pollination of an unmentionable number of influences from Maynard James Keenan to Bowie’s short introduction to Diamond Dogs. John Gapp’s vocals are impressive, exuding a noir romanticism and Aristotelian condescension. Modulated effects are woven through a mesh of organic drums and accenting Brass instruments. The orchestration skillfully assembles layer over layer without digressing into a cacophonous annoyance. This skill is a product of exceptional recording and production, as well as the ability of the numerous musicians to coalesce. Kinase Moves the Audio takes disparate parts and makes them one. The energy accumulated and exploded throughout this process is epic.

While it might be true that After Silence is conceptualized and anchored by a specific objective, the self-proclaimed genre that Kinase Moves the Audio operates within allows for an exceedingly large range of sounds. Mod prog—can we move on to post prog yet?—is a tricky genre to attach one’s self to. As a simple label it does little to describe the mode of music production, except to say that the songs are probably long, experiential, and mathematical in terms of composition. After Silence, while containing these components, is an EP that does not commit the foul sins of pretension and hyper-convolution. The aside comment being that prog often misunderstands the nature of music; it is not a collection of notes and time signatures; complication alone is not art. It should also not be contrived, having artificial meaning clumsily masking a clearly blank expression. Kinase Moves the Audio understands this and have sought to produce an opus that stands monolithically unified. The music is the album art.



May 1st @ The Small Planet in East Lansing, MI
May 22nd @Basement 414 in Lansing, MI
June 12th @ Gone Wired Café in Lansing, MI

Arthur Killroad- The things you should know how to do

Arthur Killroad

Arthur Killroad
The things you should know how to do
July 30th 2008

Arthur Killroad- This is Something Witty

Arthur Killroad- Breaking Everything in Sight

I’ve listened to this record over and over again and I can’t help think about my little brother, a two time Iraq War vet who loves to sing and wears his heart on his sleeve. He has steeped himself in the idiosyncrasies of indie music, while still harboring his guiltless pleasure of belting out every note from The Places You Have Come to Fear the Most while driving to get a burrito from Amigos. Similarly, Arthur Killroad’s 2008 release The things you should know how to do (the most?) captures the definitive sense of familiarity, intimacy, and disappointment. The music is steadfastly structured in acoustic pop—forceful open chords decorated with a voice that is gruff and masculine, yet sincere and emotionally wrought with plain spoken pleading. Sounds great eh?

Though the truth is that just like our bipolar moments of mania and displeasure, we are sometimes caught in an unflattering light. Rather than tactically avoiding looking contrived, Killroad seeks to make the telling of mundane moments his anchor. He criticizes the motifs and worn tropes of classic romanticism instead favoring the tactile objects of relationships—gifts, guitars, and shaving blades—trinkets of those quick moments between the archetypical peaks and valleys, unions and break ups. Known as Mike Petruccelli to his mother, Arthur Killroad is extraordinarily adept at addressing these experiences.

Like any Midwest punk cum everyman’s troubadour, Killroad can be confronted with his fair share of criticism. The metaphors can be dumb and the vocabulary can be dry. He runs the risk of forever being attached to the inexperience amassed during college. Some might say that the novelty of the scenester with sad eyes and sad words wore off somewhere around 2001, or that the verbal marshmallows created by Killroad’s songs may be everyman, but they are not important…they are not Bukowski—just a kid bitching about a life short lived. Is it arrogance that he expected real happiness before he even graduated college?

Killroad then confronts this abasement by, what else, writing a song about it. The Starving Artists Convention is a reflexive monologue asking if Mike, Killroad the person, is truely a douche bag. The answer taken away from The things you should know how to do is no. However, along with his noble attempt at emotional exposure, he gets caught in uncomfortable moments. The opening words of Robots and Zombies, speaking to a deep sense of alienation, sets up and unravels a trivial metaphor. Killroad is at his best when he writes about common things in plain terms. Two songs particularly stand out among the rest. This is Something Witty, which ironically tells the critics to take a long walk, is Arthur Killroad‘s manifesto.

“I’m not apologizing; I’m only describing things and saying how I feel about them.”

This track distills what is best about Killroad, both in attitude and style. Breaking Everything in Sight succeeds because of the technical recording choices, from the simple introduction built upon with layers of vocals and an epic grand piano, making a powerful aside to the acoustic power pop tracks.

In all honesty, I have to write about this record from a measured distance because I simply would never have picked it up on my own. The record’s range of artistic value is great. In contrast to the remarkably well arranged songs mentioned above, others like Harvard on the Hocking come so close to Eve 6 that I am convinced Killroad just wanted to make his track list reach 10, no matter the consequences. Who would do that to themselves without a good reason? While I may just have to take a long walk, I know that Arthur Killroad has defined a specific place for himself and is comfortable with his songwriting methodology, and he obviously loves the process of recording his music as documented on his Myspace page. In all Mike Petruccell’s song writing skills are his greatest asset. While the use of an alias cannot insulate him from the criticism he duly receives when he takes the road most traveled, he certainly makes it clear that he is capable of going anywhere he pleases.