Monthly Archives: August 2010

Under The Radar: Icecream Hands

Although the band name is also a slang term for the aftermath of a self-pleasuring act, here the creamy goodness of Icecream Hands only refers to sweet music. As the title Memory Lane Traffic Jam implies, there’s a wealth of classic powerpop influences wedged together here. The band is okay with that as long as it’s a “B”Beatles, Beach Boys, Byrds, Big Star, etc.

I discovered the band around the time of this, their second album, four years after their debut. I was glad to see that these Aussie popsters recently fired up the bus again, releasing a new album in 2007 after a layoff of a few years. From their page:

After laying low for a few years, raising families and pursuing solo projects, the Icecream Hands have recently found a new home in the form of Melbourne label Dust Devil Music and have just released their fifth studio album – The Good China. With songs galore and a new spring in their step, their legion of fans worldwide can expect nothing more than an album full of glittering, guitar soaked, harmony laden rock’n roll jewels; fit to be worn by Australia’s regal kings of power pop.

Sounds good to me; that’s twice now that these guys slippedUnder The Radar. Here was my initial quick take on them from TransAction Magazine…

Formerly The Mad Turks, these Aussie popsters call to mind all the usual suspects like Shoes and Badfinger, but on their slower tunes like “Embarassment Head” and “Early Morning Frost” they are also reminiscent of more commercial pop fare like Semisonic and The Gin Blossoms. I much prefer them when they showcase their harmonies on rocking songs like “Here We Go Round Now” and “Supermarket Scene” where their Posies-like energy can really catch fire.

Those who have Bomp’s Pop On Top collection will recognize “Bye”, an excellent JellyfishQueen moment that is actually track thirteen but was inadvertently left off the liner notes (ironically it’s the best song on that disc by a mile). Three “real” bonus tracks round out a solid effort.

Icecream Hands website

Icecream Hands on MySpace

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Post-Emmy Thoughts

Visit the official Emmy website for a list of the winners.

  • Jimmy Fallon, you did great. That opening number will go down as one of the funniest and best kickoffs in the history of the telecast. You were funny throughout the night without being overbearing and milked that child-like innocence for all it was worth. And the musical impressions were pure gold.
  • Although I was pulling for Terry O’Quinn to be recognized for his incredible work on Lost, I can’t argue with the award to Aaron Paul from Breaking Bad. I felt he should have won before, and it’s great to see that his peers recognized his efforts; so many other actors would have made Jesse Pinkman a caricature.
  • Now that Bryan Cranston’s incredibly dramatic chops aren’t catching anyone off guard, I wonder how many will look back and realize just how much he deserved the award for his work on Malcolm In The Middle?
  • It looks like 30 Rock hit the wall across the board – the show and leads Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin were collecting statues like clockwork but all three got shut out last night. I wonder if people are taking that show for granted already?
  • Ricky Gervais proved again that every awards show needs to have him on stage for at least five minutes. Again, the funniest man in the room.
  • If you told me that two people would stand up in the audience and take bows, I never would have come up with Temple Grandin and Jack Kevorkian. Never.
  • Jorge Garcia and Jon Hamm during the “Born To Run” clip – priceless. (Hurley and Hamm does have a ring to it…)
  • Claire Danes is starting to resemble Lauren Bacall.
  • The Tweets sucked the life out of the moment anytime they were read. Dump the idea.
  • Mad Men is an unstoppable force. Ensembles do rule.
  • Tom Selleck looked like Gregory Peck in The Boys From Brazil.
  • Usually those songs played during the Memorium sequence can be pretty lame, but I thought Jewel did a nice job. Might actually be the best song I’ve heard from her in years (not that I’m actively listening…)
  • Some of the “we asked them this question” film clips were beyond painful, but the one with Steve Levitan and Christopher Lloyd mocking the Old Spice man on a horse commercial was genius.
  • Bucky Gunts!!
  • January Jones looked like a Christmas ornament. And I’ll bet any hetero man in the first three rows – assuming there were any – appreciated the view.
  • Archie Panjabi as Best Supporting Actress over Elisabeth Moss and Christina Hendricks?. Are you kidding me?
  • But the absolute MVP of the night has to go to John Hodgman, who did the hilarious voice-overs again this year. They were hysterical in their own right and make you realize just how stodgy and lame and unimaginative most award shows are. Too bad he couldn’t have scripted everything the presenters were told to say.

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Emmy Time

Jimmy Fallon proves he is *not* a Vulcan.

I’ve really turned the corner on Jimmy Fallon. 

Truthfully, he used to annoy the hell out of me on SNL, but then most of that regime usually did. Jimmy always seemed sloppy and amateurish, laughing at this own jokes, but then again I hated Tina Fey always repeating the punch lines to her jokes when doing the news. Time heals

It’s refreshing to see someone who knows he has a long road to the top be willing to take some chances and be genuinely thrilled to be in the late night hunt. I got that from Conan O’Brien when he first started under duress, and it’s one of the characteristics that has made Craig Ferguson so endearing. 

So I’m excited to see what Jimmy will bring to the big stage at the Emmy Awards  tonight. I’m hoping a good dose of irreverence, since this is such a self-congratulatory event. But there has been a pretty big paradigm shift in television, from the power struggles in late night to who is behind the successful money-making comedies. The dynamic is younger and hipper, and that’s his audience and his peer base. 

In the meantime, some wishes for some of the major categories – my ballot for whom I’d like to win, not who I think will win. 

It’s going to be interactive tonight – tweets, emails, IMs, live blogs. Since I have a life, I’ll defer my reactions to it all until tomorrow

 

Outstanding Lead Actor In A Comedy Series
Jim Parsons as Sheldon Cooper
Larry David as Himself
Matthew Morrison as Will Schuester
Tony Shalhoub as Adrian Monk
Steve Carell as Michael Scott
Alec Baldwin as Jack Donaghy  

Outstanding Lead Actor In A Drama Series
Bryan Cranston as Walter White

Michael C. Hall as Dexter Morgan
Kyle Chandler as Eric Taylor
Hugh Laurie as Dr. Gregory House
Matthew Fox as Jack Shephard
Jon Hamm as Don Draper  

Outstanding Lead Actress In A Comedy Series
Lea Michele as Rachel Berry
Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Christine Campbell
Edie Falco as Jackie Peyton
Amy Poehler as Leslie Knope
Tina Fey as Liz Lemon
Toni Collette as Tara Gregson  

Outstanding Lead Actress In A Drama Series
Kyra Sedgwick as Deputy Chief Brenda Johnson
Glenn Close as Patty Hewes
Connie Britton as Tami Taylor
Julianna Margulies as Alicia Florrick
Mariska Hargitay as Det. Olivia Benson
January Jones as Betty Draper  

Outstanding Supporting Actor In A Comedy Series
Chris Colfer as Kurt Hummel
Neil Patrick Harris as Barney Stinson
Jesse Tyler Ferguson as Mitchell
Eric Stonestreet as Cameron Tucker
Ty Burrell as Phil Dunphy
Jon Cryer as Alan Harper  

Outstanding Supporting Actor In A Drama Series
Aaron Paul as Jesse Pinkman
Martin Short as Leonard Winstone
Terry O’Quinn as John Locke
Michael Emerson as Ben Linus
John Slattery as Roger Sterling
Andre Braugher as Owen  

Outstanding Supporting Actress In A Comedy Series
Jane Lynch as Sue Sylvester
Julie Bowen as Claire Dunphy
Sofia Vergara as Gloria Delgado-Pritchett
Kristen Wiig as Various Characters
Jane Krakowski as Jenna Maroney
Holland Taylor as Evelyn Harper  

Outstanding Supporting Actress In A Drama Series
Sharon Gless as Madeline Westen
Rose Byrne as Ellen Parsons
Archie Panjabi as Kalinda Sharma
Christine Baranski as Diane Lockhart
Christina Hendricks as Joan Harris
Elisabeth Moss as Peggy Olson  

Outstanding Comedy Series
Curb Your Enthusiasm • HBO
Glee • FOX
Modern Family • ABC
Nurse Jackie • Showtime
The Office • NBC
30 Rock • NBC  

Outstanding Drama Series
Breaking Bad • AMC
Dexter • Showtime
The Good Wife • CBS
Lost • ABC
Mad Men • AMC
True Blood • HBO 

Remembering Katrina, five years ago. People *still* need help.

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Blast From The Past – The BoDeans

The BoDeans released Mr. Sad Clown this year, and for all I know it fell on deaf ears like most of their work. But the fact that they’re still out there plugging and making great music after thirty years is a welcome piece of news.

I remember seeing them play a local club just after the crest of an early hit, and I thought we must have just missed a fire drill. Surely a band who even got plaudits from Rolling Stone and MTV could draw a decent crowd, but this one was so tiny that my friends and I barely outnumbered the band. No matter – they played a great set. Great bands always do.

As you can tell from this thirteen year old review of Blend, they were getting the same underwhelming response then that they are now. I’m not pretending they’re the second coming, but they are a good band that is well worth delving into if you’re looking for music that is atmospheric, straightforward, rocking, laid back, lyrical and guttural.

Yep, those are contradictions. Life is contradictions. Enjoy.

They’re still here, ten years later, creating solid, soulful records that should be making AAA radio programmers do cartwheels. So why is it that their only glimpse of the “big time” has come from the use of their song “Closer To Free” as the anthem from the television show Party Of Five? And unlike The Rembrandts, they can’t even maximize their opportunity – after all, the show is on FOX, not NBC.

No matter – despite lackluster sales, club tours and sporadic praise, Sammy Llanas and Kurt Neumann have forged ahead, mining the vein they know best. Somehow two vocalists who individually would be unspectacular twist their voices into a well-oiled and irresistible harmony; Llanas’ rasp smoothed out by Neuman’s silk. Think Everly Brothers with a Jason And The Scorchers edge, or a Springsteen lead with a Little Steven who can hang with him all the way through.

Blend incorporates New Orleans rhythms and instrumentation to fill out its sound. “Heart Of A Miracle” could have been plucked off a Willy DeVille record (speaking of under-appreciated artists), and “Red Roses” is that slow dance with a lover on a second floor balcony. When they rock, like “Count On Me”, it’s more akin to the sound of the Long Ryders or Mellencamp than 1-4-5 rock (again thanks to brushes and toms for a backbeat instead of the Big Drum Sound). Other standouts include “Hurt By Love” and “Hey Pretty Girl”, a song that Springsteen would have killed to record for The River.

Someone must like them – they still have a record deal in an age where record execs are preaching corporate liposuction. And they’re still making very good music, despite the fact that there doesn’t seem to be a radio format ready to embrace them. Fans will be pleased to have another release that stays true to the course. Those new to the BoDeans will find yet another quality band toiling in the shadows. Looks like a win-win situation.

The BoDeans website

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T.G.I.F. – Ten Classic Costello Cuts

As I mentioned on his birthday earlier this week, Elvis Costello entered my life with a bag and has hung around ever since. I do admit that I find his earlier work superior, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised at his transcendence from faux angry young man to elder statesman. Not that I don’t punch a hole through the ceiling anytime I hear “Radio Radio“…

And for a man who once called Ray Charles a “blind ignorant nigger” in a drunken stupor, I think his track record has borne out that he’s a musical historian who is truly color blind.

As with many good artists, listing ten great songs – or even albums for some – is going to leave something out. But these weekly lists aren’t meant to be the definitive inclusive barometers of taste. Sometimes they’re just ten great things. Today, that is most certainly the case.

Listen to a wealth of Elvis Costello clips here.

So as you prepare to enjoy your weekend, may I offer Ten Classic Costello Cuts for your dining and dancing pleasure? And my God, if you have any doubt that Elvis is King, please play clip number one…

01) “What’s So Funny ’bout Peace Love and Understanding?”  Seeing double lately?

02) “High FidelitySome things you never get used to

03) “No ActionEvery time I phone you I just want to put you down

04) “Everyday I Write The BookWhen your dreamboat turns out to be a footnote.

05) “I Can’t Stand Up For Falling DownThe vow that we made, you broke it in two.

06) “Pump It Up”  She’s been a bad girl, she’s like a chemical

07) “Oliver’s ArmyNo there’s no danger, it’s a professional career

08) “Watching The DetectivesShe looks so good that he gets down and begs

09) “VeronicaDid you wake from your dream with a wolf at the door

10) “Alison”…segueing into “Suspicious Minds“! I heard you let that little friend of mine take off your party dress

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They Did It!

Light 'em off if you got 'em!

The Graham Parker documentary film Don’t Ask Me Questions achieved its funding goal during the final week of pledges!

Visit the official film Kickstarter page.

Congratulations to Michael Gramaglia, who can now complete the project and get it out into the world.

Congratulations to Graham Parker, who will finally see a decent documentary about his brilliant career become reality.

Congratulations to all the donors whose generosity helped support this vision.

And congratulations to the people who might finally tap into this artist we know and love thanks to their (likely) accidental exposure to this film. Can you imagine just discovering Parker this week and having that incredible catalogue to troll through as a new experience? I don’t think I’d trade thirty plus years of pleasure for one deep dive, but there are going to be some very happy people opening that door for the very first time.

After the success of Do It Again and now this, I have faith that projects about radio-ignored worthy artists can take root. And yes, I’m hoping that the next Kickstarter email I get is asking me to check out the John Hiatt story…

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Happy Birthday, Elvis Costello

Miracle Man.

Today we celebrate the birthday of one Declan MacManus, better known to the world as Elvis Costello, among other aliases over the years. Bursting onto the scene with what is arguably the best ever 1-2-3 punch of albums (My Aim Is True, This Year’s Model and Armed Forces), Elvis quickly grabbed your attention with short catchy songs, a rapier wit and his secret weapon, The Attractions.

For as good as this sneering, scrawny Buddy Holly caricature was – and he was great – Steve Nieve on keys, Bruce Thomas on bass and Pete Thomas (no relation) on drums were as formidable a rock band as you could hope for. They weren’t as spacial as The Police would become, nor were they thunderous like the then-still powerful Who, but they were so tight you couldn’t slip an ant’s ass hair through them.

But before Elvis Costello and The Attractions became one, it all started with an iconic debut; tracks laid down with session musicians who weren’t initially credited, total recording time adding up to less than one day.

People listen to records differently these days, especially if they are digital downloads. No tactile sensation of an album cover, liner notes, lyric sheets. Earbuds instead of walls of speakers. Sigh.

I remember the day my friend Phil showed up at my house with My Aim Is True; import version, of course. My roommate Larry and another friend were already hanging in the living room, music on as always. We had heard about the album coming out that day and planned to go grab it in a couple of hours. Phil was no procrastinator; he snagged it and came over where he knew there would be other willing participants to share the magic with. (Yet another earbud problem – isolation instead of the communal experience).

It was astonishing.

Two of the songs didn’t even hit the two-minute mark. The opening rocker “Welcome To The Working Week” somehow jammed a boatload of hooks, wry lyrics and choruses into a minute in a half; “Mystery Dance” sputtered and tumbled much like the clumsy lover the narrative depicted. There was fury and sarcasm, and there was great wit and wordplay, and the band (preAttractions musicians from Clover and The Rumour, among others) snapped everything to attention.

And maybe it was because it stood out with its winsome melody and broken heart, but “Alison” was an instant classic. The chink in the armor was there for all to see; this snarling wise-ass had feelings after all. When not long after I heard him nail this live it sent chills up my spine.

We were gobsmacked; I can’t tell you how many times we played this album over and over and over that day. It was all we would talk about with friends for days after, and whenever someone came over that album would come out and they would get indoctrinated. Not long afterwards some friends in a band worked up three of his songs so that I could duck out from tending bar and play lead singer for ten minutes. (We were the first Syracuse band to play Elvis Costello songs, and yes, I’m proud of that!)

Of course, Costello continued to floor us with one great album after another, and thanks to him and Rockpile and Graham Parker and Joe Jackson there was a new, fresh volley of literate songwriters serving up an alchemic stew of influences and flushing the distaste of disco and flaccid pop out of our ears. 

The trend wouldn’t last of course – none do – but the music proved timeless. On Friday I’ll celebrate Costello’s career with an Elvis-themed TGIF.

And yes, I know that today is also the birthday of Gene Simmons, Ruby Keeler, Tim Burton, Rob Halford, Wayne Shorter, Walt Kelly (Pogo), Regis Philbin and several others…as well as the tenth anniversary of Jack Nitzsche‘s death and the first for Ted Kennedy. But today, I must honor the Elvis who has been a part of my musical life for over three decades.

No offense, Mr. Presley.

Elvis Costello  wiki page

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Today also marks the 35th anniversary of Born To Run, when a talented performer, a crack band, a savvy manager and an all-too-eager mainstream press joined hands to crown the new King of rock and roll. Bruce Springsteen has since earned every jewel in that crown and then some, but it’s yet another reminder of how fractured the entertainment industry has become. It’s no longer possible to make the stars align on that kind of scale, and with very few exceptions, those things never happened organically.

But that can’t and won’t tarnish the memory of a time when it seemed like a blue-collar bar room rocker grabbed the brass ring and pulled down the whole damned curtain with it. Rock concerts would never be the same.

Could that really have been thirty-five years ago?

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