Tag Archives: Live in Chicago

New Album! Fountains of Wayne

First Rate show in the Second City

First Rate show in the Second City

I often engage in discussions with other writers on a wide array of topics. Among the pedantic exercises that such people joust about are lists – the ten best this, the three things that, ad infinitum. One of the more challenging questions raised has been which bands have come right out of the chute with a string of killer albums, and when does the slack usually begin to show? In other words, a band whose first album was killer, and then the sophomore slump was avoided, and then it kept on for a bit. And we’re talking albums, not a repackaging of singles in a twelve-inch format (sorry, Beatles!), and in truth the conversation was concerned more with post-60s artists (sorry, Neil Young). Sure, the Police and REM and U2 are supremely popular, but did they really strike gold immediately, then consistently? Even Bruce Springsteen has people on both sides of the fence. When the conversation eventually focused on the last 25 years, the field thinned dramatically.

But even when you go back to the dawn of rock, the magic number seems to be three, maybe four albums at best. We all know the adage that an artist has their whole life to write their first album, and…well, it used to be six months to create their second, but now it’s more like three years. Whatever. Many artists has solid runs but after an unspectacular debut. Some never even got to four albums before imploding. Seems like the majority might have gotten a great two and then hit a speed bump, temporary or otherwise.

Everyone has a personal favorite, of course – you won’t talk a card-carrying Nickleback fan out of arguing to the death that their mulleted posers haven’t recorded a wrong note. Ever. Which is why these things are best done in consensus, lest the water of truly worthy get diluted with the emotions of the moment. You know, like the IMDB list of the greatest films of all time, an inordinate amount which have apparently been released in the past twenty years, some as recently as this month. More whatever.

Which brings me to the subjects at hand – Fountains of Wayne. Maybe the most consistent career-opening salvo since Elvis Costello, in my book. Literate, funny, poignant, incredibly catchy and just off the beaten path enough to avoid the mainstream (“Stacy’s Mom” excepted, of course) but real masters of songcraft, harmony and…well, art. Go listen to their albums if you don’t believe me.

They’ve long had a reputation for being slightly more exciting than moist toast in concert, despite the nature of their music, and I have witnessed some clips that attest to nervousness at best and indifference or boredom at worst. But this 2005 live recording, now available on DVD from Shout, really changed my mind. And the bonus recordings!  These stripped down recent studio sessions (as a trio) where they are tracking the songs live – no overdubs – are wonderful. No matter what Robbie Fulks thinks.

Check out my full review in Blurt Online.

FOW wiki.

That killer 1-2-3-4 punch.

They've got a flair.

They've got a flair.

Leave a comment

Filed under Film/TV, Music, Reviews

NEW ALBUM! Mike Gent: The Name of This Record Is Mike Gent

Gentleman Figg.

Gentleman Figg.

 Mike Gent is a busy man.

A new Figgs album is imminent and he just dropped another solo record. (You can read my review of  the new album at BLURT ONLINE.)

Someday there might be an Under The Radar column about The Figgs, who quietly release one strong rock record after another. Along with Pete Donnelly and Pete Hayes (and at times, Guy Lyons), they have somehow evaded the public spotlight despite being solid performers and songwriters, even after recoring a blistering live album with Graham Parker. Parker has taken a shine to Mike individually as well, since even when not using the full Figgs complement he has sometimes hit the clubs with Gent in tow. (Graham Parker with The Figgs was magic – you shouldn’t be without The Last Rock’n’Roll Tour or 103 Degrees in June – Live in Chicago.)

And Mike’s other band, The Gentlemen, rock with a similar Stones/Faces/Springsteen sound, an honest, earnest rock’n’roll that seems to be missing from too many records these days. They’re probably due for a new one too. Check out an MP3 of “Velvet Rope” from Brass City Band (other clips available on same page).

In short…we need more guys like Mike Gent making more records like these.

Here’s a treat…The Figgs covering The Small FacesSong of a Baker” and “The Loner” by Neil Young.

Leave a comment

Filed under Music, Reviews