Tag Archives: Radiohead

Under The Radar: Morgan Taylor Rock Group

I used to get down to Manhattan far more often than I do now, and those missions invariably included trips to the Village to Arlene’s Grocery and The Living Room among  other stops. Invariably there would be a few bands cycling through sets at each, some of whom I’d target, others would catch me completely off-guard. Morgan Taylor definitely fell into the latter group.

It’s not unusual for a newspaper in a small or medium size city to rave about a local artist; quite often the writer is someone from the music scene who knows everyone personally, and let’s face it – while every town has its local heroes, most don’t graduate much further than their zip code. I’m sure I have had my share of “gonna be huge” reviews over the years and if I ever finish straightening out the basement, I can probably prove that. But Manhattan is a jaded bitch who has her pick of the world’s entertainers; she need not crow about one of her own. But yet there was Morgan Taylor’s name next to a review so enticing I had to see for myself.

When grabbing the CD cover for this post I came across this 2008 interview about his new animated creation that was merging musical theatre and children’s entertainment. Whimsical stories? Check. Infectious pop tunes? Check. Moms and Dads who have been taking their kids to see this show might want to grab his older album for themselves.

You and I know people who have a quirky, inventive sense of humor, but most don’t do anything tangible with it. Guys like Morgan Taylor do. Gustafer Yellowgold? Yeah, I’d say any guy who can release a 70 song CD collection called Box Of Monster could do that. Kudos to you, sir.

Here is my brief but enthusiastic 1998 review from…


Despite the moniker, the quartet is anything but generic, looking like they had been beamed in from 1970, or perhaps freeze-dried (with headphones blasting great tunes 24/7 during the thirty year repose, though). Sonically adventurous, yet always swooping in for a melodic chorus, the quartet’s pulse frames Taylor’s deliberate, almost breathy vocals.

The result is a focus upon Taylor’s imaginative lyrics, where broken hearts metaphorically tango with voyeuristic partners. Imagine Marc Bolan fronting Radiohead; whimsical stories capturing your attention as the band locks into a groove or slowly grinds a chorus to a halt as if someone is placing their finger on a turntable in your head. Apparently there’s quite a buzz about this band in Manhattan, and rightfully so; I was floored.

Check out sound clips at Amazon

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What Decade is This, Anyway?

It's the end of the world as we know it, and I feel...dizzy?

Seems like a lot of famous bands from my wonder years want to get one last album out before the world explodes into dust in 2012. Probably time for an arena tour too, although I don’t know why they’d need all that cash. Don’t you only need new Nikes and a roll of quarters to board the spaceship?

I guess what triggered this post today was remembering that The Cars are regrouping and releasing a brand new album (Move Like This). Now a quartet since Ben Orr is no longer with us, the band decided they didn’t want to bring in any outsiders. Well, that’s their take on it with Ric Ocasek in the fold, anyway; they are conveniently not mentioning a failed experiment called The New Cars. But that’s just picking nits.

Videos: The Cars – Blue Tip” (full song), “Sad Song” (clip),  “Free“(clip)

And it doesn’t end there. Steve Miller resurfaced with Bingo last year after a very long hiatus, and now he has another called Let Your Hair Down. Former Babys and Bad English frontman John Waite is releasing Rough and Tumble, pouting puss and all. The New York Dolls continue their rebirth (albeit with another change in band members) with Dancing Backwards In High Heels, and R.E.M. has Collapse Into Time.

Low Country Blues is Gregg Allman’s first solo release in fourteen years. Paul Simon will turn seventy this year (!) but So Beautiful Or So What ends five years of (sounds of) silence for him.

More recent bands are also ending extended vacations. The Strokes have their first in five years as do the Foo Fighters, and Radiohead ends an even lengthier one with The King Of Limbs. Social Distortion has already blazed back on the scene with Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes, and most of Oasis is back under the name Beady Eye.

Video: Beady Eye – The Roller

And even artists I avoid like Duran Duran, Stevie Nicks and Edie Brickell are taking another shot. (Brickell nauseates me so thoroughly that I’m not even providing a link.)

Amazon is even dangling an order for Robin Zander’s Countryside Blvd for the third year in a row. I’m starting to think there’s really no album at all. Look at that album cover – maybe he’s just mocking Toby Keith. Ludicrous suggestion? Anything is possible – remember, this really happened.

Hey kids, rock and roll. Rock on.

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Under The Radar: Welsh Rabbit

Welsh Rabbit was another band I stumbled across on those late-night “sounds like” tangents that I have been addicted to for most of my life. Back in 1991 all I was able to get my hands on was West 11th Love Letters. I wrote it up for Cosmik Debris but lost track of them soon afterwards and figured they might have been yet another band who high-fived the brass ring but didn’t grab hold.

As you can see from this CD Baby comment page, I wasn’t the only person being pleasantly surprised. It also appears like I have a fellow Tangent Monkey in the commenter who cites following a recommendation based upon his purchase of The Rosenbergs. You’ll note references to Weezer, Elvis Costello and The Beatles, although I think the Soft Boys and Big Star references more accurately pick up the dissonance they employ.

But we all agree that they’re a band worth checking out. Here are my original thoughts on that first EP…

I must admit when I heard the first few notes of “Where You Are,” I would have bet the farm that the singer would launch into “I Wanna Hold Your Hand,” but it was merely a tip of the cap to the Fabs (as is the closing vocal harmony). West 11th Love Letter is a low-frills EP collection of some basic tracks laid down in vocalist/guitarist Nick Levine‘s basement. The sound is good, but more impressive is the charm of the songs; they’re amazingly strong for a first recorded document.

Somehow “Do You Want To Dance” juggles the indie cred of early REM with the hypnotic guitar work of The Edge in his prime. “My Summer Girl” and “Tonight” both have great hooks and show that the band can handle midtempo as well as power pop. Bassist Kyle Chilla, drummer Ian Campbell and keyboard player Rolf Nordhausen form a tight quarter with Levine. Overall the lead vocals are pretty good, although the harmonies are stronger; the guitars go for the jangle over the flash. For the first five tracks, anyway.

Nothing prepared me for the closing song, though. “Rollin'” is a ten-minute track that doesn’t waste a second. Somehow the pop path veers off into Neil Young meets Radiohead territory, and it works. Haunting, pulsating guitar work drives the song as the melody gains steam and the vocals build into a crescendo, tagging a minor chord to reset the mood. I know that most of their songs are now a little shorter and sharper, but this is one that I hope they keep playing at full length – it’s a stirringly emotional piece of music that few bands outside of Built To Spill can pull off well.

Looks like they are now a trio (Nick, Kyle and drummer Jordan Selman) and finally have a full-length album out called Don Quixote vs. Sancho Panza. I’ll have to grab that along with the other EP I missed, Forward Motion.

Welsh Rabbit on MySpace

Welsh Rabbit website

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New DVD: Muse Under Review

Thanks to the exquisite taste of my younger daughter, I’ve had the good fortune to see Muse in a club not once but twice, which today seems absurdly intimate. The first time I was the willing driver and back-of-the-room hanger-on at the local rock club, a duty that gave me immense pleasure even if I didn’t know the bands that well. (My daughter was interested in going to concerts – what else mattered?)

Sure, I suffered through some total dreck like the manipulative choreographed faux-punk of Fall Out Boy, but the karmic payback was in this trio that seemed to blend Radiohead, Queen and ELP into something greater than the sum of its parts. And not only were they phenomenal musicians, they had a light show that was probably better than many I’ve seen in outdoor arenas – and this was in an 800 seat club! Flat out mesmerizing.

The next time I saw them, I drove to Buffalo which meant enduring a carload of hyperactive and excited teenage girls talking over each other in a high-pitched cacophony that I imagined could strip the asbestos from old pipe insulation a hundred yards away. But by now I was as interested in seeing the band as they were, and Muse did not disappoint. In this slightly larger room – perhaps 1200 capacity – they played like they were rocking Wembley, albeit with appropriately scaled impeccable sound and an even better light show than before. Little did any of us know that they would be actually be rocking Wembley within a year.

I’ll save the dissertation on Muse’s music for another time; suffice it to say they are becoming one of the most popular bands on the globe and deservedly so. But their back story is almost as interesting as their rise; three musicians who united as teens and remain a trio to this day through hard work and careful career planning. They deserve their success, and when it comes to entertaining an audience, they get it.

I’m a big fan of music documentaries when they are done well;  I don’t mind those talking heads if they’re actually providing some useful information. Fortunately there have been several DVDs released in the last couple of years that are the antithesis of the gossipy tabloid crap you’ll find clogging channels and programs that I won’t even validate by naming them.

So if documentaries are your cup of tea, and you like Muse, check this out. And a shout out to Eli for turning me on to this great band in the first place.

Matthew Bellamy, Muse’s principal songwriter, had always believed that their concerts required spectacular production as well as pristine sound. His earlier songs focused on spiritual and mystical topics; veritable space operas that leveraged his instrumental versatility and classical music background. As each successive tour brought more confidence, the band’s stage show expanded to include more and more spectacular lighting and visual effects from multiple video screens to giant fluorescent glitter-filled balloon orbs dropped over the audience.

He also displayed an uncanny balance of following sage advice and taking chances; willing to work a long term plan true to his artistic vision rather than aim for the bigger dollars a more commercial sound would bring. Muse began road-testing songs prior to recording, lyrics and themes became both mature and otherworldly, and the band changed producers from album to album before finally taking the reins themselves.

By the time of their global breakout headlining Glastonbury in 2004, any doubts about their abilities vanished with a stunning performance that had fans and critics raving. That their stature has only gotten larger is impressive; as of 2010 they are arguably among a handful of the world’s most successful bands and only getting bigger.

Read my full review of this documentary at PopMatters

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New Album! The Hot Rats

So...what are the other two Supergrassians doing?

I love tribute albums more than I should, and when a band tosses a well placed cover into their set or onto their own album it can often be a real treat. And while playing the song straight can be reverential, adding your own flavor to the stew can often be far more rewarding. On Turn Ons we get both from The Hot Rats. While that latter name may call to mind one of Frank Zappa‘s greatest albums, it is also what two famous UK pop stars call their fun side project. 

Gaz Coombes and Danny Goffey of Supergrass have teamed up with producer Nigel Godrich (Radiohead, Beck, Travis) for an album of well-chosen covers of some of their favorite artists including The Kinks, Squeeze, The Doors, Gang of Four, Elvis Costello and David Bowie among others. While some of the songs (i.e. the Lou Reed stomper “I Can’t Stand It”) are made for the stripped down thumping, you will be amazed at how they approached songs by The Sex Pistols and The Beastie Boys

Despite the limited instrumentation, the versatility on the album separates The Hot Rats from the pack of bands flailing to surf the wake of The White Stripes. Simplicity merely repeated gets monotonous, but The Hot Rats wisely employed Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich to add his brush to their canvas, and the result is an exciting and surprising collaboration. At its core it’s brimming with the exuberance and fearlessness of a garage band, and with twelve tracks in just over half an hour, one is left wanting more

Read my full review in Blurt Online.

And yes - grab this too!

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