Tag Archives: Greg Cartwright

T.G.I.F. – Ten More Bridesmaids

You’ve seen the Top Ten for 2010, and the full list is still being whipped into shape, but there’s no harm tipping the cap to ten more albums that didn’t make the top of the list but were great purchases during the year. Some finished high on other lists – including one that straddled the top on many of them – while others can claim a handful of people like me in their fan club.

Huge followings don’t affect my barometer, nor does a lack of a visible fanbase make me think less of the artist. I like what I like; there’s no such thing as a guilty pleasure. Guilty pleasures are for cowards.

So here, in no particular order, are Ten More Bridesmaids to check out. Hopefully a few of these are already spinning repeatedly at your place too.

01) Manic Street Preachers – Postcards From A Young ManSome say they went commercial with their tenth album; I say they have one of their most irresistible collections of songs in years. Why are they not huge in the US?

02) Paul Collins – King of Power Pop. Maybe a slew of living room concerts inspired him to revisit his more energetic power pop side, and revisit his Beat days. The Flamin’ Groovies and Box Tops covers are icing on the pop cake.

03) Dwight Twilley – Green Blimp. The Man of A Thousand Comebacks makes yet another one, but Green Blimp is very much a return to form. You can almost hear him ripping himself off on these tracks, but in-house sampling is fine when it’s this good.

04) The Parting Gifts – Strychnine Dandelions. Greg Cartwright from Reigning Sound collaborating with Coco Hames of The Ettes, and I would have bounced it higher if Greg sang everything. Great guests including Dave Amels and Dan Auerbach, and the songs are stellar – of course.

05) Arcade Fire – The Suburbs. I like this album quite a bit, but not with the overwhelming fawning that it is getting across the board; I suspect it will finish atop this year’s Village Voice Poll (nah, they’ll cop out for Kanye West…). More of a consistent album than usual and it is growing on me.

06) Jason and the Scorchers – Halcyon Times. Dare I say it? The Scorchers are back. New rhythm section, but Jason Ringenberg sounds young and refreshed, and Warner Hodges is once again a guitar slinger to be bowed down to. Your move, Del Lords!.

07) Stereophonics – Keep Calm And Carry On. Another band that inexplicably doesn’t find success in America, and I’m dumfounded. Kelly Jones and crew just keep getting better and better; maybe one day we’ll catch up with the rest of the globe?

08) Locksley – Be In Love. Maybe it’s the reputation as a band for teens? Their second album is a big leap forward, stuffed with energetic, bouncy, dance-worthy pop songs and great vocals. Remember – no guilty pleasures!

09) Marah – Life Is A Problem. The sound of a band falling apart and being glued back together at the same time. Organic, loopy, rough, heartfelt, strange and exciting, it’s by turns depressing and magical; listening to it is like eavesdropping. I see light at the end of this tunnel.

10) Pernice Brothers – Goodbye Killer. Really, have these guys ever made anything less than a compelling album? Joe Pernice has to be one of the most under-appreciated songwriters around; here his gems echo everything from 60’s singles to late 20th century indie angst. Meant to be listened to cover to cover.

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Having A Wild Weekend

A very fab foursome

No, not the Dave Clark Five movie. But even more fun.

Jumped in the car with my friend Bill and drove through Pennsyltucky to the wild plains of Northern New Jersey to visit pop bands in their natural habitat. Enjoyed Pat DiNizio’s Fifth Annual Halloween Party and Smithereens Fan Fest, which this year featured a long day of great music and all the food and drink you could ingest (which is a good thing, since you can’t get a beer in Jersey after midnight if your life depended on it!).

“It’s my fervent wish and desire to help you feel better for a few hours,” DiNizio said. “All of us need to get away from the six-foot plasma television, shut off our phones and start talking to each other with our breaths, smiles and laughing, and enjoy some rock ‘n’ roll music.”

Mission accomplished, sir.

I’ll tag the full magazine feature I’m writing when it posts online. For now let’s just say that I had more than my moneys’ worth by the time The Scotch Plainsmen (DiNizio fronting a band of eight wonderful musicians) finished playing their Beatles set, which was Let It Be in its entirety –  including dialogue from the movie and cuts from the sessions. Two other bands had already performed, and a wonderful steak and pasta dinner accompanied by open bar was in full swing. Had that been it, I would have been satisfied that the drive and expense was well worth it.

But then The Grip Weeds blasted an explosive set featuring their new album (and Best of 2010 contender) Strange Change Machine.

And then the inimitable Graham Parker – voice, guitar playing and wit all in top form – played a career-spanning yet eclectic set that brought the packed house to its feet.

And then The Smithereens – sounding fresh and vital – played a selction of their hits, a medley from their Tommy tribute album and a brand new song from the upcoming record before inviting Parker back onstage to recreate one of my favorite collaborative musical moments – “Behind The Wall of Sleep“. The evening was capped by a jam session with various group members jumping in and out.

Eight hours of great fun. Met one of the DJs from KFOG in San Francisco who was headed home to get his station manager to add a couple of these artists to their playlist. Ran into Reigning Sound organist Dave Amels who tipped me to the new project he and Greg Cartwright worked on, The Parting Gifts. And then Bill and I laughed our asses off all the way home listening to great comedy albums, none funnier than Jim Jefferies.

Pete Townsend was wrong. I’m glad I’m still here.

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Valentines Day? Love and Curses!

The Best Album of 2009

On this day of gooey lovey-dovey Keep-Hallmark-Cards-afloat palpitations, allow me to remind you that sentiment and passion is not always a positive thing. Sometimes love can be gut-wrenching and soul-sapping and unrequited and dark. And no one – no one– captures the spirit of desperation and bitter loneliness in song better than Greg Cartwright

And as good as his recorded canon is (including solo efforts and his work with bands including The Oblivians and The Compulsive Gamblers) his live performances are stunning. Onstage there’s not a single moment when he does not wholeheartedly inhabit these characters and songs and – as the classic adage says – let it bleed

Time Bomb High School has long been my favorite Reigning Sound album; I consider it almost a perfect record. I truly believe that Love And Curses can proudly stand alongside it: 

Like prior Reigning Sound albums, Cartwright offers a strong theme and excellent sequencing to make a powerful statement that flows with dynamic appeal. Despite the aroma of desperation, unrequited love, and loneliness in the lyrics, there’s an infectious magnetism to a man who can bare his soul so completely in his music. Cartwright is a happily married man with a family, but he’s able to dip into some dark places and channel the angst and pain of a tortured soul with amazing clarity.  

He’s willingly haunted, like the man in the horror movie who is warned not to go in the basement but clutches a lit match in shaky hands and starts the descent anyway. The album was recorded over time in two studios but has the immediacy of a group documenting a feverish all-nighter, and the balance of hard rock and desperate shuffles is flawless. 

Read my full review of 2009’s best album at PopMatters

Check out some samples here

The Reigning Sound MySpace page and Wiki site

Curses...foiled again.

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Show of the Year?

I'm gonna do me some prowlin'

I’m shuffling off to Buffalo (NY) to bear witness, to testify, to have my head dipped in the Baptismal pool of garage and punk and pure unadulterated genius that is The Reigning Sound. The combination of great band and great club (Mohawk Place) should make sparks fly with abandon.

I could listen to Greg Cartwright’s songs all day long – they resonate whether he’s playing a solo set or rocking the house with the band (David Wayne Gay on bass, Lance Willie on drums and the amazing Dave Amels on organ). In an era where the record industry machine is collapsing, they are a reminder of what rock’n’roll was supposed to be about all along. High expectations? You bet!

But I have a feeling they will vault that high bar and slam dunk my melon.

Stay tuned.

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T.G.I.F. – Ten Things I’m Stoked About

The upcoming Eddie Izzard documentary

Seeing Ian McLagan solo and hoping there is a Faces reunion.

Also getting to see Todd Rundgren in an intimate show.

The Seinfeld reuinon on Curb Your Enthusiasm  

The Big Star box set

Mitch Ryder singing “What Becomes of the Broken Hearted?”

Louis CK’s new show.

Finally getting to catch a performance by Otto and George

Blasting the new Reigning Sound and Greg Cartwright albums.

Opening my copy of the Life On Mars DVD

happy happy joy joy

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Taking It To Detroit, Part 2

Day Two of the manic weekend found me heading downtown to the Alley Deck in the Majestic Theatre complex to catch a set by one of my rock’n’roll heroes, Greg Cartwright. Having missed the Oblivians concert the night before (cloning is not one of my abilities) I knew I could not leave town without catching his solo set…even with a seven hour drive and two border crossings staring me down. I crawled in the door after midnight, but I’d do it all again in a heartbeat.

An American Original

An American Original

Greg apologized for being of raw throat and said he’d sing as long as he was able, then smiled and added “…but I will further fuck my voice up by smoking this cigarette“. The warning was all for naught;  he wound up playing two sets to an appreciative crowd of fans and fellow musicians… and I lost count at thirty-six songs.

Besdies a catalogue rich in great material, Cartwright had the crowd in stitches between songs – his story about Jack Oblivian selling his guitar to Jack White was classic. But he also paid genuine props to his peers, pointing out a friend who introduced him to an early Detroit single that’s now a live favorite, or how he learned how to better sing his own song “Bad Man” after hearing Rachael Nagy’s interpretation with The Detroit Cobras.

While there were some planned songs in his set, he also frequently took requests with the caveat that he might not remember all the words. Fumbles were rare, but when he hit the wall during “Two Thieves” he simply stopped and said “when I am beaten by my own brain, I will stand down“.  Then, laughing, he fired up the next tune. I’m not certain who had more fun, Greg or the audience. He’s an approachable guy who is the antithesis of the rock star persona, which is probably why so many other musicians are almost reverential when his name comes up in conversation.  

The set list touched upon all his band associations like The Oblivians and The Compulsive Gamblers but mostly drew upon The Reigning Sound, with at least one new track (“Pocket Full of Broken Things“) from their upcoming album Love & Curses. Hard to pick highlights, but “Reptile Style”, “We Repel Each Other”, “Time Bomb High School” and “Stop And Think It Over” each lit the place up like a rocket.

The Reigning Sound is now headed for Europe, but will return Stateside by mid-August to prepare for a tour to support the new album. Do not miss the opportunity to see not only one of America’s finest bands, but a true icon of independent music. I’ll hopefully interview Greg later this summer as part of a feature article about the band.

 Stop And Think It Over

Bad Man

We Repel Each Other

detroit 2

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Under The Radar: Mary Weiss

 I was thinking about how much I miss The Compulsive Gamblers, which of course made me realize that The Reigning Sound are way overdue for a new album. It also reminded me of the genius of Greg Cartwright and how much fun I had watching him (with The Reigning Sound) open for and then back up Mary Weiss a couple of years ago at the Beachland Ballroom in Cleveland, Ohio. Weiss, of course, scored multiple hits forty (!) years ago as the leader of The Shangri-Las, and while “(Remember) Walking in the Sand” and “Leader of the Pack” were intregal parts of this set (and thoroughly appreciated by the audience, natch!) the new songs were flat-out killer. My favorite, “Stop and Think It Over”, is a classic Compulsive Gamblers tune that many bands cover; The Hives light it up pretty well and Sarah Borges even had a hit of sorts. And speaking of huge Shangri-La fans, this song has David Johansen written all over it – maybe a cover on the upcoming New York Dolls album, please?

But all this daydreaming only made me realize that despite all that magic, most people probably missed the tour and album. So true to the column header, I thought it would be a good time to shine a light on a well-deserved target.

Aren’t segues great?

Still the Leader of the Pack.

Still the Leader of the Pack.

Mary Weiss
Dangerous Game (Norton)

So many bands have been stitched back together for money-making stints at the local casino that it’s hard to remember what the word “comeback” really means. How about changing the sonic landscape in your teens, then aside from some oldies gigs, all but disappearing from the public eye for almost forty years…then launching a vital, contemporary sounding statement? Former Shangri-La Mary Weiss has done just that, thanks in large part to The Reigning Sound as her band and Greg Cartwright as chief songwriter and co-producer (along with Norton’s Billy Miller). Of course, when you can sink your teeth into Cartwright gems like “Don’t Come Back”, “Stitch In Time” and “Stop and Think It Over”, how can you not sound great? Who else could give Weiss the wiser-than-thou single “Cry About The Radio”, which opens with the immortal couplet “Kids / Kids don’t know shit”?

Miller and Cartwright create a wonderful sonic platform for Weiss, aided by some ace songwriting from John Felice, Barry-Greenwich and The Dictator’s Andy Shernoff. The latter’s “You’re Never Gonna See Me Cry” (a co-write with Miller) defies time, bridging the gap between the heyday of Spector and Shadow Morton (complete with short spoken word bridge) and twenty-first century neo-garage pop. Her old fans will certainly be thrilled by “the voice” along with enough angst and doom in the lyrics (though not as melodramatic). New fans will marvel that a sixty year old looks forty and sounds thirty.

If Mary Weiss spiked the ball with Dangerous Game and walked away, this would be great closure; a glorious and worthy cap on her career. But I hope she’s got a couple more in her.

***

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