Tag Archives: John Entwistle

Almost Romantic

Tell it to Carrie…

Like many cities, mine sponsors a series of events during the Summer season to get people out of their houses and hopefully expose them to the wonders of downtown. Like many cities, there aren’t many wonders downtown, but for two dollars you can enter a section of city pavement boasting a temporary stage and beer tents and catch some music on a Thursday night. Last week I headed out of the office at 6:30 (or as I lately refer to it, lunchtime) to catch The Romantics.

I hadn’t seen the band in years – a short set maybe a decade ago – but when they were in their prime they used to roam the NorthEast club circuit. I’ve seen them in snappy red leather (like the latter-day New York Dolls sans commie flag) and often they’d pair up with local legends The Flashcubes. Met them all at one point, they were nice guys catching a good break and taking advantage of it. In the 80s, when they started to split, Jimmy Marinos formed The Motor City Rockers and they were referred to the management company where I was working. They played a great demo, but despite my pleading, I was outvoted 2-1 and they went elsewhere. Had I realized who Robert Gillespie was at the time, I might have followed them out the door.

Video: “What I Like About You

The band now boasts five members, and while I initially assumed as many as three might be replacement members, I think that drummer Brad Elvis might be the only one with a recent pedigree. Wally Palmar was still up front, Mike Skill (still boasting that mop of hair) stage left, and I’m pretty certain that was indeed both Rich Cole and Coz Canler on guitars. That would mean that the first three guitar players in the band  – all of whom replaced each other in the lineup at some point – were sharing the stage. Naturally one of them now handled bass guitar duties, although for the life or me I don’t understand why a few of the songs featured one guitar and two basses. None of them are John Entwistle, so I can only assume that the five dollar Newcastle drafts blurred the set list. I’d hate to think that they were trying to bring the thunder on purpose.

Things started off swimmingly with a robust “Rock You Up“, classic chunky power chords that make you wonder where you last left the guitar so you can bash it out when you get home. But after another kinetic rocker, Wally told the crowd they were going to take it down for a minute. I know the wandering mass of city workers, mullet heads and bikers might not have been jumping up on stage, but give us credit for the ability to withstand more than seven minutes of upbeat tunes without having to lay down. I started to get the feeling that what was set to be a ninety minute set might have a little padding in it.

They sprinkled the more recognizable songs through the set – “When I Look In Your Eyes“, “Stone Pony“, a majestic “Tell It To Carrie” – but at these gigs the crowd only snaps to attention when the big hit records are played. Fortunately The Romantics have two, so “Talking In Your Sleep” and especially “What I Like About You” got everyone’s attention. Even if that meant a few Bic lighters while daylight was still present plus the bane of any reunion gig – some of the worst no-rhythm soccer mom gyrations ever seen, a sad attempt at dancing. (Lady, there are kids here. Get back in your minivan.)

The band played with energy, and Brad Elvis is a showman as well as a keen timekeeper, but there was something lacking. In fairness, the sound at times was atrocious, and powerpop needs to be crisp and clean (although they extended several songs to remind us they are rockers from Detroit, not pansies). My friends wondered whether a shorter, tighter set might have been better, as momentum was occasionally lacking. The strong finish did include the requisite Kinks cover and audience participation, but as my friend Bill aptly put it, we were neither overwhelmed or underwhelmed. Just…whelmed.

The band is supposed to be working on a new album, and they certainly have the chops to pull it off, plus Palmar’s voice is in fine form. Maybe Jack White or Jim Diamond will work their magic and rekindle this flame? If so, Do Me Any Way You Wanna, guys – I’m on board.

The official Romantics website

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New Album! The Who Sell Out

If you fart in a tub of beans, does it smell?

If you fart in a tub of beans, does it smell?

Well, not new, really – but finally my favorite Who album gets the full remaster/reissue/rebirth process. I always felt that The Who Sell Out was the perfect intersection of their early powerpop singles and their later epic thematic recordings. “I Can See For Miles” got airplay and rightfully so, but wasn’t the monster it should have been. But even more amazing is the deep well of other great songs that never got their due. “Tattoo” remains one of my favorite Who sings of all time, and I still love the twist in “Odorono”, as silly as the subject matter is. But “Our Love Was”, “I Can’t Reach You”, “Relax”, “Sunrise”…these are brilliant tracks.

Who fans will relish the new edition, but casual or new fans who never explored this album will be blown away. With stereo and mono versions, boatloads of alternate mixes and bonus tracks and an informative booklet, it’s well worth grabbing. Some fans might complain that there could be more (all mixes of the singles, live cuts, etc.) but I think this is one of the better reissues I’ve seen come down the pike.

A few years back there was an tribute album slated for Futureman Records  called The New Sell Out that boasted an A-list of current powerpop bands (Splitsville, Myracle Brah, The Shazam, Young Fresh Fellows, etc.). The cuts I heard were fantastic, but ultimately the project was aborted. Some of the songs have shown up as bonus tracks on the individual band’s releases, while most sadly remain on the shelf. Hopefully someday this sees the light of day. (You’d think now would be the appropriate time, hmmm?)

And for a wildly original take on this classic, you must check out Petra Haden‘s acapella tribute. Unbelievably amazing… she recreates all the songs – and commercials – with just her voice.

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Under The Radar: Taildragger

I am not skeptical - this rocks!

I am not skeptical - this rocks!

I’ll admit that you can grab my attention with a witty band name or album title, and Taildragger hit both bulls-eyes with Skeptictank. Even better news? The band flat out smokes.

Taildragger the band (not to be confused with Taildragger the Chicago bluesman or Spokane’s fabulous Too Slim and the Taildraggers ) is a blues rock trio led by guitarist/drummer/vocalist Jon McGee. McGee is also a member of The Mighty Jeremiahs as is Taildragger bassist Mark Hendricks. On this album Rob Hulsman splits drum chores with McGee, and I believe Jon’s sister Sherri even whacks skins with them on occasion. Greg Martin smokes the axe on several tracks as well.

Skeptictank is a tour-de-force of swampy blues, stinging rock and even some countrified soul (think  the fringes of the Flying Burrito Brothers and Byrds, especially on “Mary Virginia” and “Believe”). But the bands that popped into my head most frequently were southern rockers Gov’t Mule and Lynyrd Skynyrd, Texas blues rockers like Stevie Ray Vaughn and ZZ Top and even Jo Jo Gunne and Irish legends Thin Lizzy. The latter comparison is likely due to the fluid bass playing (the band has the chops and the stones to cover John Entwistle’s “My Wife”!). I’d be remiss by not complimenting keyboard player Kevin McKendree, whose organ really adds a ton to the sound.

If you like classic 70’s boogie, greasy slide shuffles or high-charged power trio rock, you’ll find a lot to love here. I could drop a million more names from vets like The Rolling Stones to contemporaries like The Muggs, but it’s really this simple – classic American rock and roll played by grade-A musicians. I don’t know how I missed out on Taildragger for four years, but it’s discoveries like this that make me keep digging. I suggest you dive into this Kentucky magic  right away.

Taildragger’s MySpace page.

Hear clips from Skeptictank at CD BABY.

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