Tag Archives: Jason and the Scorchers

Under The Radar: Venus Throw

As soon as I saw this cover I knew I had to buy the CD.

When I first heard the title track, I was wondering if Venus Throw was one of my favorite cowpunk bands performing under an alias. Damned if Bruce Smith’s voice didn’t call to mind E*I*E*I*O, Jason and the Scorchers and The Accelerators. All the songs were written by Smith, who also handled guitar and bass duties; Johanna Boulden played keyboards and Herbie Gimmel manned the drums.

The title track is a greasy, garagey tribute to its title, even bastardizing a bit of the “Peter Gunn” theme in the mix. That same pulsating downbeat is used to great effect in “Black Cherry Blues“, so guttural in tone that it sounds like the woofers in your cabinet are already blown out. (Attention kids – woofers are part of real speakers.) Love the humor in “Ten Horn Devil” as well; these guys have that roadhouse roots rock thing down. Swamp rock? Noirbilly?

Walk Dumaine” is a more kinetic paced rocker, but even that is ambling compared to the Webb Wilder meets Jerry Lee Lewis vibe of “Get Hot Or Get Gone“, a perfect closer that leaves you wanting more (and by “more” I mean “hit the repeat button while you Google for other albums”).

Film Noir is a tight and rocking appetizer, but now I have to get my hands on a copy of Raised Right, Gone Wrong, which came out last year after an apparent eight year hiatus.  The band is now completely different except for Smith; Dirk Laguna is now on bass, with Eddie Brown on drums and Bill Motley on keyboards.

If it’s as good as this one, it’s another reward for my incessant tangent tracking and blind faith purchasing. Once again, how could I not buy a CD with a cover like that? Both covers were illustrated by Robert Ullman and I hope he and the band signed on for life.

Drop a mere fin for this great EP on CD Baby or Amazon.

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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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New Album! Ginger

Well, almost new. This will have to hold you until the new studio album from the new band (Ginger, Michael Monroe and others) produced by Jack Douglas hits the streets this year.

Ten is a sampler of sorts, featuring a few songs from a few solo albums with the obligatory new cuts to make it required purchasing for the completest (assuming you’re not thieving the damned thing, that is.)

The lead singer of The Wildhearts has always been interesting to me, for he’s all over the board musically. Some tracks sound like Metallica, all heavy thunder and woofer bleating. Others are delicate, hook-laden pop numbers, reggae tunes or straight-ahead glam rockers with catchy verses and a memorable chorus. Beatle sounds, glam, garage rock, power pop…all in a blender. When he and The Wildhearts are on, they remind me of  a cross between The Del Lords and Jason and The Scorchers…

Video: The Wildhearts – “The Revolution Will Be Televised

I first came across him in one of my favorite bands, The Quireboys, from which he was fired. Turns out the move was better for them as well as him, as The Wildhearts have had major success (although not so much here in the States). But equally fascinating are his multitude of side projects, including Silver Ginger 5, Brides of Destruction and Clam Abuse. Although he discounts his own singing ability, his acoustic shows prove that he’s adept whether playing a coffeehouse or Wembley.

Video: Ginger –  “Yeah Yeah Yeah

If you’re a Ginger guy you’re probably already all over this; if not 10 might be a good place to indoctrinate yourself. Personally I’d advise you to take a flyer on Valor de Corazon, Yoni or Market Harbor, but then again I like all his albums with the exception of Clam Abuse. I find that album almost as appealing as the band name.

Listen to clips at Amazon

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T.G.I.F. – Ten Absent Artists

I hope they're not lost...

As I’m going back and revisiting the year, I’m reminded once again of those artists I hoped to hear from who didn’t pop up and release an album. Some of them might just be in the normal development cycle, but for others it’s an unusual gap between efforts. I know they won’t all go on forever, but there are many who are still creating at a high level and I selfishly want more from them. I am the customer, after all, and rumor has it that I’m always right.

It’s not too much to ask, is it? Jason and The Scorchers reformed and released an absolute gemDwight Twilley came out with a brand new album this year after a half-decade of vault outtakes. Robert Klein has a new comedy release scheduled for January. I’m not going all Tinkerbell on you here, but things can happen. (Clapping hands is optional.)

So here are Ten Absent Artists – I hope each of them read this and kick it into high gear. I promise to be appreciative of the effort, and I’m hopeful that my anticipation will be replaced by a huge smile.

01) Walter Clevenger – He’s been more centered on his production work than recording. Maybe he’s busy, maybe it’s the frustration of releasing wonderful albums that failed to launch him into the mainstream. But I wish he’d keep punching that wall until it falls. Stop breaking my Paper Heart.

02) Tonio K – A repeat submission, I’m sure, and I know he’s out there because his work shows up on other people’s albums. I wish he’d just saddle up and form a band – Nashville, LA, whatever – and record his own material again. Don’t that make you want to jump right up and start to dance?

03) Fountains of Wayne – There have been a few collaborations with others, from songwriting for Russell Brand to the apparently one-off Tinted Windows project. We need your pop genius, now. Don’t give up.

04) Joe Jackson – You came out in that same “angry man” wave as Graham Parker, Elvis Costello and John Hiatt. Guess who is the only one not releasing new material? Pretty soon now, you know you’re gonna make a comeback.

05) Richard Belzer – you might think this is an odd choice, but Belz was a great stand up comic long before he made a living playing Detective John Munch. Call me a rooster on acid, but i think since he’s been popping up on celebrity roasts, he might have an album in the can.

Waiting to be rocked.

06) The Montgomery Cliffs – Man, I miss this band so bad. Great songs, great presence, big sound and a killer sense of humor. That band, she was good! Hope they reunite or Joey Salvia will have to continue to play for Republicans.

07) Artful Dodger – A lot of pop bands have reunited in the past few years, some for the cash, some out of curiosity, some purely out of the respect for their music and their fans. Artful Dodger never got the credit they deserved the first time around, and their 2006 show in Cleveland proved they still had it. Will bands who copped their style be jealous? I say there’s honor among the thieves.

08) The Faces Rod is back to spewing out collections of pop standards, but Ron, Mac and Kenney hooked up with Glen Matlock and Mick Hucknall to play a series of shows and apparently not only have more dates in 2011 but some new material to record. Rod passed, so let him go!  Seize the day, mates! And this time stay with me.

09) Love NutAndy Bopp moved from Love Nut to Myracle Brah to solo and collaborative efforts, but the pure pop power of Baltimucho needs to be revived. You could just change anything that you want, ’cause that’s alright.

10) The Kinks – Yes, I know there’s another Ray Davies album on the way. Yes, I know he and Dave have sibling issues. I hoped Pete Quaife‘s passing would have woken them up to how tentative life is, since Ray’s bullet hole didn’t do it. Come on, boys…give the people what they want.

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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 Roots Rockers

Last night I saw two great sets from the pride of Festus, Missouri – The Bottle Rockets. Great albums and an even better band live, and it’s nights like that which make me thankful that there are still some great bands making the rounds these days playing Great American Music.

Of course, radio isn’t exactly following suit…roots rock, Americana and good old country soul rock’n’roll doesn’t market to the tweens. That’s the target audience with the most disposable income, the highest sheep mentality and the most easily swayed loyalty. And since no one is trying to cultivate careers anymore, it’s all about the quick hit and the cash grab, because tomorrow is someone else’s marketing bonanza.

Well, there are great bands out there plugging in and rocking out, and despite the ambivalence of the media, they’ve managed to carve out a career and a loyal audience. It’s not likely that they’ll play the Enormodome anytime soon, but who wants to watch a band through binoculars, anyway? Give me the honest sweat and pulse of a great club show any day.

The Bottle Rockets are such a band – they play with passion and heart and write songs about real people and real lives. They’ll plug in and blast off just as hard for fifty people as they will for fifteen hundred or fifteen thousand. So in their honor, here are ten artists that your neighbor might not know the name of, but their mission was to carry the torch for Great American Rock’n’Roll.

All deserve to be household names, and in my world, they are.

01) The Bottle Rockets: “I’ll Be Comin’ Around

02) Jason and the Scorchers: “White Lies

03) Webb Wilder: “Tough It Out

04) The Del Lords: “Burning In The Flame Of Love

05) Terry Anderson: “You Know Me

06) Dan Baird: “I Love You Period

07) The Jayhawks: “Save It For a Rainy Day

08) Lucero: “She’s Just That Kinda Girl

09) Drive-By Truckers: “This Fucking Job

10) The Beat Farmers: “Hollywood Hills

Of course, it’s just ten songs, not the canon. From Credence to The Replacements, from Walk The West to The Bo Deans, from The Blasters to The Gaslight Anthem, there’s a wealth of timeless music beyond that radio dial. Enjoy these ten, and go find yourself some more.

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The Lost Weekend

It only ends once

Everything that comes before that is just progress.

***

Speaking of Lost Weekends, I had many of those at The Lost Horizon in Syracuse, New York. If you ever played music or hung out in Syracuse, you knew the place and you knew of Greg Italiano, the man behind the club. Sadly, he passed away this week at 59; he would have been 60 this August.

I never got to know him personally but I did know many promoters and hundreds of musicians who always spoke highly of him. He gave countless bands their first break, and I’m sure the thoughts and well-wishes will pour in from around the globe as the sad news spreads through the music community.

Once Wanda’s and later The Yellow Balloon, Greg started running The Lost Horizon in the 70’s. In my stomping years, the club was anything but the Shangri-La the name implies, but in fairness Syracuse was known for having many clubs where it would be healthier to pee your pants than enter the bathroom.

But what it lacked in decorum it made up in solid bookings. My mind is clouded but a Who’s Who of rock bands played in that room – The New York Dolls, The Ramones, Jason and the Scorchers, The Beat Farmers, and on and on. Every local band worth seeing rocked that stage and probably put a few guitar necks through the low ceiling.

In its recent incarnations it was primarily an alternative and metal club, but ask any touring bands of that ilk where to play and draw the crowd and they’d drop that name. As always, that was Greg – finding out what kids want and providing it for them.

R.I.P. Greg – thanks for everything. 

Condolences here.

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