Tag Archives: The Byrds

New Album! Long Arms

Okay, not brand new, but a late 2010 indie is likely new to you.

Long Arms To Hold You is primarily the work of Richmond singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist James Menefee, who apparently did flesh it out in a band format using the moniker Long Arms. This debut album is an infectious swirl of Americana, folk and power pop; the songs are very well-written and the collaboration with producer Pedro Alda yielded an exquisite blend of instruments to support it.

Listen to these songs. Indie my ass.

Video: “Strung Out On You

Judging by the lyrics, Menefee must have been pretty despondent at the time, because the lyrics are confessional and desperate – the dude is hurting. Yet the music is sweet, buoyant and happy, an odd juxtaposition that not many bands can pull off well.

Song like “Strung Out On You“, “Kiss The Bottle” and “So Long And Thanks For The Toothbrush” (that last title is brilliant!) are a tiptoe through the ashes of a break-up. I hear everything from The Byrds to The Jayhawks to The Old 97s in Menefee’s wanting vocals. “The Ballad Of Joni and James” is what “Livin’ On A Prayer” or “Jack And Diane” could have sounded like if Bon Jovi or John Mellencamp had spent any time writing the words.

Video: “Downtown Dreams

This is a massive breath of fresh air and you need to hear this album.

Listen and buy at Amazon

Long arms on Facebook and MySpace

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Blast From The Past: Wilco

Tangents are wonderful things…

While reading the Morgan Taylor interview the other day, I noticed that he’d opened a lot of shows for Wilco. That made me pull out Being There and Summerteeth; both those records sound perfect when Spring is trying to shake off the doldrums and give you a warm day or two. and despite my town setting its all time record for rain during the month of April, birds and buds and ants are telling me that little liar groundhog’s ruse is almost over.

In other words, my review of Summerteeth from 1999 in…

When asked about his plans for Wilco after Being There had caught people off guard, Jeff Tweedy hinted that the band would most likely take another unexpected turn and create “a twisted pop record“. Let it never be said that Tweedy is not a man of his word.

Once again self-produced by the band (Tweedy, Jay Bennett, John Stirratt and Ken Coomer), Summerteeth thrives on the juxtaposition of introspective, sometimes dense, lyrical wordplay fleshed out in a rainbow of musical style. There are several songs that will immediately strike the listener as upbeat, sing-along melodies, yet underneath lurk images of loneliness, confusion and unfulfilled dreams.

Video: “Candyfloss

Candyfloss” jumps out of the speakers with a bouncy, 60s pop calliope beat, yet Tweedy’s confessional says otherwise: “I’m the boy who looks excited/I’m the boy who’se gonna fall apart…I’m the boy who eats his heart out…” . Likewise, the opener, “Can’t Stand It” is a groove rocker but boasts a chorus that states “our dreams will never be answered again“.

Via Chicago” is one of the few that matches sonic pulse with lyrical imagery. Slow and deliberate, the opening line is as disturbing as the distorted, feedback-laden guitar solo that cradles the fade-out: “Dreamed about killing you again last night / and it felt all right to me…”. Then – just as your heart and brain are splattered across the floor – “ELT (Every Little Thing)” rockets out of the speakers like the hit single it should be, a cousin to Bowie’sHeroes” filtered through The Byrds. It’s another song of lost opportunity or maybe Fate’s warning, but which? Hopeful or hopeless? Tweedy’s deft pen leaves that open to your imagination, and depending upon your mood, it will be either.

Video: “ELT (Every Little Thing)

The title track, like “Candyfloss” and “ELT“, will no doubt pump out of radios all summer long. No matter that the subject is denial about the rut that his life has become; the infectious refrain will have you singing along with the “ooh-ahh” background vocals (with lilting keyboards and chirping birds, no less) and have you daydreaming as well. “My Darling” and the stark “We’re Just Friends” echo Big Star circa Sister Lovers with a little Brian Wilson harmony thrown in, while “You Wake Up Feeling Old” is ironically finger-snapping pop.

The band must have gathered up every instrument in the studio and then some – bells, bird chirps, penny whistles, shakers, flutes, horns and tympani are sparingly but creatively used throughout the record. And as he promised, Tweedy has stripped down the band and reconstructed its direction, a move that will probably alienate some diehard Uncle Tupelo purists (assuming they aren’t already pissed off) but should thrill anyone with an open mind and a respect for the art of songwriting. Summerteeth is funky, soulful, rocking, heartbreaking, pensive and explosive – in short, a masterpiece.

Wilcoworld

Listen to clips here

Roger that!

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New Album! The Parties

Not quite brand new, but hopefully new to you..

Maybe it was the personnel turnover, maybe the effort to avoid the dreaded sophomore slump, but whatever the motivation, Coast Garde is a solid step forward for The Parties. Sounding at times like a merger between Let’s Active and The Three O’Clock, the jangle-pop, harmony-laden album also boasts some primal early Who and Stones DNA for muscle. It’s a great combination that grounds the more ethereal elements with substance, elevating what could be sing-along pop songs into something more substantial. 

Video: The Parties Much Better” (live)

Can’t Seem To Get My Mind Off Of You” is so catchy it could make a bus full of strangers sing along in unison; it’s a sixties AM radio formula repurposed through a current filter. Ditto “The Target Smiles”, a piano pop melody that Paul McCartney would have likely slotted on an album circa Ram. And tell me “Leavin The Light On” wouldn’t have been a smash for The Hollies. But the most impressive bit is the three-part “Suite”, clocking in at over seven minutes and incorporating everything from Kinks references and Byrdsian chord changes to Stones horn riffs and Who-like anthemic flourishes.

Don’t misunderstand – this is way more ambitious than it is derivative, and it’s persistently listenable. If you like the references you’ll love the album.

Listen to clips at Amazon

The Parties on MySpace

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Top Ten Albums of 2010 – #8

If the overt visual homage to Jesus Of Cool didn’t tip you off that there’s some Nick Lowe influence here, one spin through this excellent debut disc will clearly prove that Edward O’Connell is a product of his influences. Had he Photoshopped Elvis Costello’s head on those shoulders instead of a paper bag, you’d have his two major ingredients clearly identified.

Pop guy influenced by Nick Lowe? Maybe that’s why I immediately thought of Walter Clevenger when I heard Our Little Secret. If like me you are pining for Clevenger to release another album, I implore you to grab this one, for it pushes all the same buttons (I bet you could play “With This Ring” to a Clevenger fan and fool him).

What separates O’Connell from most artists with melodic chops is strong lyrical songwriting. Gotta figure that a law student knows his way around a lexicon, and like Elvis Costello, there’s a lot going on in and between the lines. I was gobsmacked at just how good this album is wall-to-wall. The lyrical wordplay of “Acres of Diamonds”, “Happy Black” and “We Will Bury You” is at a level I would expect from a vet like John Hiatt. How could I never have even heard his name before when he drops this as his debut?

Jangly, chiming guitars. Massive hooks and choruses. Superior vocals. Organic warmth. A sound that recalls (in addition to the aforementioned geniuses) Tom Petty, The Byrds, Richard X. Heyman, Teenage Fanclub, Michael Carpenter and their ilk. As fulfilling on the tenth play as the first. Why he has a bag over his head like The Unknown Comic is beyond me; this is clearly a major pop release that deserves widespread attention.

Let’s not make this (ahem) Our Little Secret – spread the word far and wide. We just might have a major pop star on our hands.

Listen to clips at Amazon or CD BABY

Edward O’Connell website

Edward O’Connell on MySpace

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Blast From The Past: Liquor Giants

I guess writing about the closing of Not Lame sent me to the record racks for consolation. Grabbing a Liquor Giants disc is never a bad thing to do. Meaning to select Every Other Day At A Time, I accidentally grabbed the next disc in the rack, Something Special For The Kids. An audio Freudian slip? The latter disc was originally a series of hidden bonus tracks on some editions of EODAAT and was not released on its own until later that year.

When I wrote the review for TransAction Magazine in 1998, I couldn’t focus on the bonus tracks; it wasn’t a sure thing that they’d see the light of day. But it’s okay now! Hell, I love tributes and cover tunes, and Something Special For The Kids is loaded with them. Jeff Beck, The Move, The Turtles, Connie Francis (!), Dusty Springfield, Jeff Lynne…I’m sure they did it for fun and I’m glad they did.

And Every Other Day At A Time is no slouch either.

It’s almost Christmas! Go grab both of them.

Ward Dotson and company are at it again with perhaps their strongest effort to date.  Calling to mind The Byrds, The Plimsouls, Big Star, The Kinks and several other similar influences, their Replacements-like “sloppy but tight” sound worms its way into your heart very quickly.

Although “What’s The New Mofo” won’t get airplay (thanks to the well-enunciated long version of “mofo“), ringing guitars and heartfelt harmonies songs like “Dearest Darling” “Kentucky Lounge” and “Caroline” deserve serious air time. The promo copy includes eleven covers as bonus tracks (to be released as a separate disc later this year) and is capped by a tremendous cover of Bowie’s “Boys Keep Swinging”.

Everybody loves a clown

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Mixtape: I’ll Be You

 

Back when I had that kind of time, I participated in a monthly tape swap, and for a time I had to dub these puppies in real speed. When we finally got to the CD stage and I could burn a disc at 2x I thought I was in heaven. What used to be a serious committment – the group was usually 35-40 people, so imagine the time and money involved – now can be done dirt cheap and at lightning speed. (I still participate in one of these groups twelve years running, although we’re down to one or two trades a year.) 

I used to make the cassette art by hand; sometimes a drawing and other times a cut-and-paste job, then type and shrink the set list to fit on the inside flap and print them off on colored paper…cut them along the outline…fold and insert into the J-Card slot on every one. Like I said, I had that kind of time. If I find the original art for this one I’ll upload it someday, but I remember it was a variation on a Powerpoint silhouette image of a man holding a mirror. 

I love tribute records, so this mixtape (from March 1997) was a tribute to tributes. It’s a great set and these covers are well worth seeking out. Now I have to find the actual tape, because just reading these names has me jazzed. 

And I still miss Material Issue.

  

you be me for awhile and….I’LL BE YOU

SIDE ONE
Dance Dance Dance Manitoba’s Wild Kingdom (Handsome Dick and a couple of Dictators) pay homage to Brian Wilson
Pictures Of Lily The ‘oo, done with great passion by that great sideman Ian McLagan and the Bump Band
She’s Got Everything The Droogs, Aussies yet, service Mr.Davies’ classic well. Can’t believe there aren’t more great Kinks covers.
Time Has Come Today Willy (Mink) DeVille from last years fab “Loup Garou” record. This Chambers Brothers song still rules!
Pictures Of Matchstick Men Status Quo song covered by the pre-Cracker Lowery in the late, great Camper Van Beethoven. Respectful yet cool!
Charlot Choogle Would have picked a better T-Rex cover if I could have but Sky Blue nailed the Bolanisms better than anyone else did.
Sweet Hitchhiker The fabulous DM3 (wow, I’ve already been to Australia twice in seven songs!) absolutely rip this one up! Go Don!
Mr. Spaceman Miracle Legion from another spotty tribute disc. For all you who remember the Byrds as electric Dylan, try this instead.
I Can’t Let Go Still the best tribute disc ever made, eggBert’s “Sing Hollies In Reverse” featured wall to wall greatness like this Continental Drifters cut.
My Minds Eye Ah, the Small Faces. Northern Uproar did yeoman service on last year’s tribute. A must-have for all true pop fans!
S-L-U-T The Woods, America’s Rockpile, nail this Todd tune. I will not rest until the name Jack Cornell is known far and wide.
Handyman True Story: Frank thought they were cutting “Candyman” for a Sammy Davis tribute. Nah…he loves Otis Blackwell too!
Sweets For My Sweet Doc Pomus gets the Brian Wilson post-sandbox/Landry treatment. And Mike Love is an asshole.
Love Is All Around Christine Ohlman is recording again! If you remember Big Sound Records or Dusty Springfield, Trogg out with this!
And Your Bird Can Sing Weller and company grew tired of “The Jam is just aping The Who” rumors. So they aped the Beatles instead.
SIDE TWO
I’m Not In Love Chrissie and the Pretenders snapped out two covers for movies/TV – this 10cc track and “Angel In The Morning”
Town Without Pity Gene Pitney covered by Steppenwolf’s John Kay on heroin. Naah..it’s the wonderful Thin White Rope from “Spoor”
Daydream Believer The Monkees tribute is way cool, including this John Stewart song ably harmonized by Man Size Job? Who? Me neither.
Run To Me If there were any doubts that Material Issue could do it all, this will silence them. Haunting BeeGeeutiful song. RIP Jim.
Hard Luck Woman The Kiss tribute is pretty funny, and I gotta admit that when I realized this was THE Garth Brooks I almost had a seizure.
It’s The Little Things And you thought Sonny Bono couldn’t write hooks. He did work with Spector, y’know, so bow down for The Skeletons.
Listen To Her Heart Tom Petty as seen through the eyes of Truck Stop Love, produced at Ardent by some guy named Jody Stephens.
Don’t Want To Say Goodbye Last year the Raspberries tribute came out, chock full of great versions, few better than this homage by The Flashcubes.
Have You Seen Your Mother Baby, … Wow that’s a long title! Believe it or not, this is The Records from a free EP that came with the first run of their LP.
Build Me Up Buttercup David Johansen, post-Dolls and pre-Buster P. David always kicked ass live and paid props to great 60’s soul music.
When Something Is Wrong With My Baby Wow – Sam and Dave voiced by the immortal Herman Brood, who truly is a rock and roll junkie. Live track.
Back Of A Car When you hear this song now you wonder how Big Star wasn’t huge then. This is The Loud Family – same comment.
Earn Enough For Us Freedy Johnston does XTC (who appeared on their own tribute record in disguise!). Love the pedal steel!
No Matter What Closing the set with a song by “the next Beatles” (Badfinger) done by “the next Beatles” (The Knack). Oasis my ass.

As always, play loud, play often.

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Blast From The Past – Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

Awaiting their new release Mojo, I was reminiscing about the band’s earliest days. Those who have never enjoyed the tactile sensation of cracking the seal on a vinyl album and anticipating the first notes from the speakers might not get it, but when you held a twelve-inch album jacket in your hand, you were more likely to focus on the task at hand.

I’ve clicked as many MP3 and WAV files as the next guy, but they all look antiseptic. The smell of the record, the familiar label pattern and most importantly the art on the front cover would set the stage for the next fifteen or twenty minutes…before you had to get up and flip the thing over for side two (or as I liked to think of it, the home stretch).

And on Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ first album, there was this leather jacketed punk with the thin blond hair staring me down with a smirk on his face. He didn’t look that tough, though – I could probably kick his ass if the rest of the band didn’t jump me – so subliminally my response was something along the lines of  “prove it, buddy”.

And, of course, he did. “American Girl” still sounds as fresh as it did in 1979, and as someone who had spent many a night listening to cars on 441 “like waves crashing on a beach” it was right in my wheelhouse. Two years later, when You’re Gonna Get It proved there was no sophomore slump going on (“I Need To Know”, “Listen To her Heart”) I was dumfounded that the band was not immensely huge. Not that I didn’t have a large collection of albums that shoulda woulda coulda.

Video: “Listen To her Heart”

When Damn The Torpedoes came out, I was able to get an advance copy from a friend who was the local MCA Records college rep, and I was absolutely convinced it was going to be the record that finally broke these guys wide open. I was running a club at a University at the time, a place where Friday happy hours were huge, although we usually just piped in a local rock station for music. I was so convinced that one listen to “Here Comes My Girl” or “Refugee” or “Even The Losers” or “Don’t Do Me Like That” was going to blow their minds that I dubbed it onto cassette, brought my own tape deck in from home and wired it up.

Not me, not now.

The room was packed and I made a brief announcement; for a moment I felt like those AM jocks did when they were about to drop the latest single on their listening audience. Because here in my hands I held the perfect hybrid of The Rolling Stones and The Byrds, and in Petty’s voice and words you could feel the desperation of a man who had just watched his career almost get flushed down the toilet when his prior record label (Shelter Records) went bankrupt. I was about to do three hundred college kids a huge favor. I was going to change their lives. I was going to scoop the local rock station by three full days. This, indeed, would be one of those moments we’d remember forever.

Well, I was half right.

The record held up its part of the bargain, but the crowd just…didn’t…get it. The second song wasn’t even ten seconds old when people started yelling to play some Grateful Dead. The Grateful fucking Dead? What the hell was wrong with these idiots? I wasn’t that much older than the kids in the room, barely out of college myself, and the rule for Happy Hour was rock’n’roll, not trippy noodling. This was a town that was dominated by rock radio. I was crushed.

Of course, it wasn’t the first time I shook my head in disbelief as a great record fell on deaf ears, and it was far from the last (my annual submissions to the Village Voice Pazz&Jop poll look like alien transmissions). Lesson learned, again. But time would prove me right, as Damn The Torpedoes went on to become one of the biggest records of the year and the album that singlehandedly turned Tom Petty’s career around. I never anticipated he’d become actual rock royalty with such a critically acclaimed career, but I do know a great record when I hear it. Most of the time, anyway.

Hearing the recent Mudcrutch releases and the first sounds from Mojo, it sounds like Tom is looking fondly backwards as well. And that’s just fine by me.

 Tom Petty website

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