Tag Archives: The Grip Weeds

Happy Record Store Day!

Can’t say it better than Jack White:

I think it’s high time the mentors, big brothers, big sisters, parents, guardians, and neighborhood ne’er do wells, start taking younger people that look up to them to a real record store and show them what an important part of life music really is. I trust no one who hasn’t time for music. What a shame to leave a child, or worse, a generation orphaned from one of life’s great beauties…”

It’s National Record Store Day – good things are happening all over. Hell, the event is so grand that it even has an Official Ambassador.

The Smithereens have a new album!

The Grip Weeds released a hi-def version of Strange Change Machine!

The dBs have a new single and an album on the way!

And check out this list of special releases – many with limited availability.

You can find your local participating record store here. Now get your ass to a record store…and bring someone along with you!

National Record Store Day!

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Village Voice Pazz & Jop

One of my favorite things every year is contributing my “best of” list to the prestigious Village Voice Pazz & Jop poll, a compilation of the opinions of seven hundred music critics. I consider it an honor as well, and I’m happy that the albums I vote for at least get a little bit more attention. I don’t keep track of favorite songs closely enough to always do the singles; last year I figured that Ce Lo Green’s “Fuck You” was so dominant that any of my other nominations would concede defeat, so that’s exactly what I wrote down when I submitted my ballot. And the song, as expected, took the top prize.

What did surprise me was how much of my ballot placed me on a deserted island. While I thought these artists released incredible efforts, in most cases I was the sole person to nominate them. I’m well aware that my preference for powerpop, glam, rock and blues doesn’t endear me to a world of rap, shoegazing indie pop and ludicrous Autotune warriors. But where are my brothers and sisters who celebrate this music, despite its low profile?

Each year a brilliant data analyst named Glenn McDonald produces some amazing metrics regarding voter centricity – whose ballots were the most consistent with the results, and whose were in the stratosphere. According to the 2010 report, I’ll need an oxygen mask and a very long cord.

 Here is my top ten, in order, along with the number of votes each album received in the poll. If that number is one, that means I am the only Pazz&Jop critic who voted for it.

Len Price 3 – Pictures (one)

Christine Ohlman and Rebel Montez – The Deep End (one)

The Jim Jones Revue – Burning Your House Down (two)

The 88 – The 88 (two)

The Grip Weeds – Strange Change Machine (two)

The Mother Truckers – Van Tour (one)

The Sights – Most of What Follows Is True (four)

Edward O’Connell – Our Little Secret (one)

The Greenhornes – Four Stars (one)

Farrah – Farrah (one)

Now some of these I can understand. Farrah is all but unknown in the USA; O’Connell is a DC musician making a debut album that’s self-promoted and self-distributed. But Ohlman and The Greenhornes have history and a strong legacy; Len Price 3  and The Grip Weeds were getting a massive push from Little Steven and The 88 are well-known from their film and TV work.

WTF, people?

Click here for a trove of comments and essays along with the final results.

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Top Ten Albums of 2010 – #5

You have to have brass balls to release a double album in an era when the record industry is imploding upon itself. But psych-garage popsters The Grip Weeds decided to go all in with Strange Change Machine, and from the critical and popular response, it’s clear that they made the right decision.

Blessed with multiple singers and songwriters, the Grip Weeds have enjoyed a long career at the forefront of the modern pop movement. The sound from brothers Kurt and Rick Reil (on drums and guitar) with bassist Kristen Pinell and guitarist Michael Kelly is exponential thanks to all of the band members being multi-instrumentalists, but I must single out Kurt’s powerhouse drumming – he should be mentioned alongside Clem Burke and other greats. Many bands are just individuals orbiting each other; The Grip Weeds are truly a four-headed organism.

Based upon the title alone it should come as no surprise that several of the tracks on Strange Change Machine will teleport you to groovier times. “Coming and Going” and “Twister” are Sgt. Pepper-ish while “Don’t You Believe It” and “Truth Is Hard To Take” deserve to be pumping full blast out of jukeboxes and radios. “Close To The Sun” (my favorite) features harmonies that lift you up within the song, while “Be Here Now” is delicate and mesmerizingly melodic.

Although this is not a derivative effort, an artist whose name did pop into my head was Todd Rundgren, mostly for the overall feel and the complexity of the arrangements (“Speed Of Life” and the title track could be slid into a Utopia mix with good results). Ironically the album includes a straight-ahead cover of “Hello It’s Me”, which although well performed seemed an odd choice for mid-album placement. It broke the mood for me; perhaps it would have been better as a hidden bonus track?

Video: “Speed Of Life

I was fortunate enough to see them play two months ago at Pat DiNizio’s annual Halloween Bash; their set was heavily laced with the new cuts. I am pleased to report that these songs are just as dynamic in a live setting, reinforcing my decision that this is one of the best albums of the year and probably their most consistent effort. At twenty-four tracks long it’s not perfect, but the hits vastly outweigh the misses. And for great music contained on one album, the ranking should answer your question.

The album is deep, and repeated listenings only bring out more nuances. This is also one of the best engineered and produced albums I have heard in a long time – the clarity and presence is in audio Technicolor on everything from a car stereo to a full system. I recommend setting aside 80 minutes with a good pair of headphones for maximum bliss…and then repeat as necessary.

Listen to clips on Amazon

The Grip Weeds on MySpace

Outstanding in their field.

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Paying Tribute: Men In Plaid

Someone tagged a comment on an old post of mine chastising me for mentioning that Kyle Vincent sang lead forThe Bay City Rollers – insisting that there were only two lead singers and he wasn’t one of them. After correcting my non-fan (and posting a video link to prove my point) I was reminded of how back in their day, fans of The Rollers were constantly scorned but very resilient. Nothing has changed.

I was not a fan of the band at the time; for I (1) was not a teenager anymore, (2) wasn’t female (still not one) and (3) thought Tartan plaid looked bad enough on Rod Stewart, who at least had the songwriting and performance chops to overcome the ridiculous look. (Then again, I didn’t expect his brilliant early 70s run to be followed up by thirty-five years of underwhelming records. But I digress…)

As you might know, I have a weakness for tribute albums. For every gem there are ten clunkers, although there are usually one or two tracks worth excising and preserving. If you want to do it right, you need access to a group of good bands, a smart label, a certain sense of levity and material that is at least recognizable if not worthwhile. One rule of thumb is that great bands can often overcome lackluster material. Case in point – Men In Plaid. Bullseye Records, a Canadian pop label, had previously succeeded with a Klaatu tribute and did another nice job on this Rollers collection. Of course, having first-rate pop artists like The Flashcubes, Anton Barbeau and The Squires of the Subterrain doesn’t hurt, either.

I’m trying to get away from the concept of guilty pleasures, which infers a level of secrecy and/or embarrassment. Either you like something or you don’t, and if you don’t have the courage of your convictions for some things, then your opinion on anything else is worthless. I didn’t like the band much in their heyday and I wouldn’t have worn those asinine plaid clamdiggers at gunpoint. But is “Saturday Night” a great pop song? Hell yes, it is.

My original review ran in Comsumable Online ten years ago. Looks like an extended version of the CD came out a few years later.

Bullseye follows up last year’s excellent Klaatu tribute with another winner, once again featuring a Who’s Who of Contemporary Pop Bands. Rollermaniacs, having seen their heroes suffer the torture of VH-1’s Behind The Music, can now revel in a newly issued Greatest Hits collection and this enthusiastic homage. But even if you hated the Rollers – and I just know many of you did – you’ll be surprised at how many great songs are buried beneath the plaid exterior. Maybe “S-S-S-Saturday Night” doesn’t carry the same cultural weight as “My G-G-G-Generation” to you, but for millions of fans across the world, The Bay City Rollers were their Beatles.

To say that The Flashcubes launch this record like a rocket would be an understatement; Paul Armstrong and Arty Lenin rip into “Wouldn’t You Like It” like Keith Richards and Mick Taylor circa “Brown Sugar”. Although no one else blows the roof off quite like that opening track, there are several other solid contributions. Gary “Pig” Gold sounds like he’s been a closet Grip Weed for years; this “Rock And Roll Love Letter” can stand proudly alongside The Records’ version. There are two versions of “Saturday Night”; Anton Barbeau adds his trademark left-of-the-dial approach while The Dipsomaniacs attack the song with a fever pitch. Tom Davis and Jeremy handle the mellower cuts equally well, while the appropriately named Squires Of The Subterrain dial in from the basement.

Other highlights include Ed James’ one-man-band take on “You Make Me Believe In Magic”; this performance will have people running to the store for his record. And both Reptopia and Fudge chose to take some liberties with the bubblegum pop songs, and their arrangements result in two of the standout cuts. Of course, not every cut bears repeated listening – for me, The Bobbies‘ version of “Let’s Go” was devoid of energy – but beauty is in the ear of the beholder.

Men In Plaid features a solid collection of bands who treat the songs with some reverence, but also have a lot of fun with them. That’s the way music used to be in the Rollers days. Some of these bands are old enough to remember, but the others probably had to be told. And the little girls still understand.

The Original Wardrobe Malfunction

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Having A Wild Weekend

A very fab foursome

No, not the Dave Clark Five movie. But even more fun.

Jumped in the car with my friend Bill and drove through Pennsyltucky to the wild plains of Northern New Jersey to visit pop bands in their natural habitat. Enjoyed Pat DiNizio’s Fifth Annual Halloween Party and Smithereens Fan Fest, which this year featured a long day of great music and all the food and drink you could ingest (which is a good thing, since you can’t get a beer in Jersey after midnight if your life depended on it!).

“It’s my fervent wish and desire to help you feel better for a few hours,” DiNizio said. “All of us need to get away from the six-foot plasma television, shut off our phones and start talking to each other with our breaths, smiles and laughing, and enjoy some rock ‘n’ roll music.”

Mission accomplished, sir.

I’ll tag the full magazine feature I’m writing when it posts online. For now let’s just say that I had more than my moneys’ worth by the time The Scotch Plainsmen (DiNizio fronting a band of eight wonderful musicians) finished playing their Beatles set, which was Let It Be in its entirety –  including dialogue from the movie and cuts from the sessions. Two other bands had already performed, and a wonderful steak and pasta dinner accompanied by open bar was in full swing. Had that been it, I would have been satisfied that the drive and expense was well worth it.

But then The Grip Weeds blasted an explosive set featuring their new album (and Best of 2010 contender) Strange Change Machine.

And then the inimitable Graham Parker – voice, guitar playing and wit all in top form – played a career-spanning yet eclectic set that brought the packed house to its feet.

And then The Smithereens – sounding fresh and vital – played a selction of their hits, a medley from their Tommy tribute album and a brand new song from the upcoming record before inviting Parker back onstage to recreate one of my favorite collaborative musical moments – “Behind The Wall of Sleep“. The evening was capped by a jam session with various group members jumping in and out.

Eight hours of great fun. Met one of the DJs from KFOG in San Francisco who was headed home to get his station manager to add a couple of these artists to their playlist. Ran into Reigning Sound organist Dave Amels who tipped me to the new project he and Greg Cartwright worked on, The Parting Gifts. And then Bill and I laughed our asses off all the way home listening to great comedy albums, none funnier than Jim Jefferies.

Pete Townsend was wrong. I’m glad I’m still here.

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T.G.I.F. – Ten from Rainbow Quartz

Rainbow Quartz is one of my favorite labels, because they had a vision and have been both aggressive and consistent in fulfilling it. They were determined to create the best guitar pop roster on the market and some might say they have. Their target artists are pop bands with strong writers that combine a bit of jangle and a bit of psychedelia; true outgrowths of their classic roots rather than simpler melodic Beatle imitations.

There’s an interview with label founder Jim McGarry from 2001 (conducted with esteemed pop writer and International Pop Overthrow honcho David Bash) where Jim breaks down the evolution of rock into distinct phases. Now any of us who have been around for a while can certainly draw lines of demarcation in the sands of time, but I was struck by the fact that when I interviewed Little Steven a few years back he passionately discussed a very similar scenario (albeit with different dates). The constant is that both men felt strongly enough that an era of rock has gotten short shrift that they were determined to do something about it.

So here are ten links to some of my favorite Rainbow Quartz bands. By no means is this an exclusive list; there are many more for you to explore at their site and elsewhere. Each link will take you to the appropriate band page with bio, discography, reviews, links and audio clips; more than enough to read and hear to make up your own mind.

Also enjoy their SXSW promo page audio files

As the weather here in the north-eastern US starts to warm up a bit, so does the call for music like this to be wafting through the air. Enjoy!

 

* The Broadfield Marchers – link

* The Contrast – link

* Deleted Waveform Gatherings – link

 VIDEO: “Ride Pillion” by Deleted Waveform Gatherings

* The Grip Weeds – link

* The Lackloves – link

* The Orchid Highway – link

VIDEO: “Sofa Surfer Girl” by The Orchid Highway

* Outrageous Cherry – link

* The Rhinos – link

* The Summer Wardrobe – link

* The Three-4-Tens – link

VIDEO: “Everyday” by The Three-4-Tens

 

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