Tag Archives: Underground Garage

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 – #1

(No TGIF today as we conclude the 2010 countdown…)

When all is said and done, rock’n’roll is supposed to be a release, whether that’s from the pulsating rhythm of the music, the depth of the lyrical message or the sheer enjoyment of playing the damned thing loud. It’s hard enough to compare the apples and oranges of music, but when I was finalizing the list I asked myself… which album brought me the most pleasure? Which did I play the most often? Which did I look forward to playing, even if I had heard it thirty times?

And so I give you Pictures from The Len Price 3.

Video: “Mr. Grey

Recalling the great kinetic music of  The Kinks, The Creation, The Small Faces and the early Who, the trio blends in irresistible pop vocals (think Sire-era Searchers or The Records) and punk energy (The Jam and The Clash being obvious influences). The result is a baker’s dozen of explosive three-minute singles; kudos to the production of Graham Day (The Prisoners, Graham Day and the Gaolers).

The album launches itself with the title track (led by Keith Moon drum fills) and follows that jab with the right cross of the celebretard anthem “Keep Your Eyes On Me“, one of 2010’s absolute classics.

Free Download (while it lasts!): “Keep Your Eyes On Me

By the time I got to the third track, “I Don’t Believe You” I already knew I was gobsmacked…and then it just got better. Music like this is the epitome of what the Underground Garage is going for, so it’s no wonder that Little Steven signed these guys onto his Wicked Cool label. I really liked their first two albums Rentacrowd and Chinese Burn, but Pictures is a leap forward even from those. I had it pegged as a best-of contender when it came out in January, and sure enough,  it held off all comers to finish as the best album of 2010.

Listen to clips at Amazon

Video: “I Don’t Believe You

Len Price 3 on MySpace

The Prisoners heritage is clear

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Top Ten Albums of 2010 – #9

Normally when a band gives itself four stars, it’s unwarranted. Not this time.

Craig Fox, Jack Lawrence and Patrick Keeler might have been on hiatus from The Greenhornes, but they’ve been actively peppering your album collection as members of The Dead Weather, The Raconteurs or backing up Loretta Lynn with Jack White on Van Lear Rose. You can have the Animal Collective; I’ll take Brendan Benson, Jack White and the collaborative Venn diagram between Cincinnati and Detroit that’s released some of the most vibrant music of the decade.

Their marriage of 60s blues rock and garage pop is revered in the same circles that bow to The Lyres, The Chesterfield Kings and a serious chunk of the Underground Garage playlist. Basically anyone with a solid rock’n’roll pulse.

Video: “I’ve Been Down”

Eight years after their last album release, the boys are (finally) back in town, and Four Stars kicks ass from jump street. While “Saying Goodbye” blends the early Who (right down to the Keith Moon drum fills) and The Kinks, the standout is the organ-drenched “Better Off Without It”. My immediate first impression, oddly, was Wilco circa Being There; a pure garage-pop-psychedelia-blues hybrid that makes me turn up the volume and hit the replay button again and again and again. And my god…Craig Fox’s voice?

Easily one of the best songs of the year – listen for yourself!

Yet another example of the great music sailing under most people’s radar. If you’re not already hooked into these guys, catch up now and stay focused.

The Greenhornes website

The Greenhornes on MySpace

Jack White’s Third Man Records

Lost a few people over the past week; Hall of Famer Bob Feller, Captain Beefheart and Blake Edwards. And yesterday, sadly, Steve Landesberg lost his battle with cancer. I recently paid tribute to the man on his birthday, but like just about everyone, I had no idea that he fudged his age until today.

So a belated 76th birthday, Steve, not a 65th. RIP regardless.

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T.G.I.F. – Ten Free Digital Samplers

They say you can’t get something for nothing. Wrong

Having grown up on 45 singles and gatefold albums, I’m still a tactile music lover. I’m being dragged kicking and screaming into the digital distribution world, even though I realize that it’s more convenient and less expensive. Can’t help it. Old habits die hard.

So since I’m not constantly surfing iTunes and Rhapsody and other music services, I sometimes miss out on titles that come out exclusively for the digital market, be they music or comedy. Hell, it’s hard enough to keep track of everything and I’m proactively looking…I can imagine how hard it is to find everything passively. And record companies – small and big – realize this also.

There’s nothing new about samplers, but pressing and distributing vinyl and CD platters cost money and couldn’t be offered for free in large quantities. Warner Brothers used to sell them for two dollars through the mail, which probably was a break-even point for them, although it wasn’t that much cheaper than a normal retail priced album at the time. When CDs became deceptively cheap, the market was flooded with indie samplers, although most would up in dollar racks. It would have been nice to try to discover new bands, but with the plethora of CDs in the store, who had the time and the money to experiment?

So here’s one thing digital got right – free albums, a click away from wherever you happen to be. The purpose is the same – hear some new bands, hopefully find someone you like, become a fan and buy their product. It’s the try-before-you-buy policy that is the new paradigm for a fractured industry. I’ve stumbled across several by pure happenstance; I’m sure you’ll find tons of others. Many bands are happy to give their albums away hoping you will come out to the show and support them on tour.

So here are Ten Free Digital Samplers that I found worthwhile; no-risk free records for the taking. Imagine – a money back guarantee!

01) Ike Reilly digital sampler – one of the best songwriters around and a dynamic performer, a cutting edge Dylan-influenced poet. I’ve got his whole catalogue and if you don’t know him, trust me, you will love this guy.

02) Americana Music Awards Sampler – featuring cuts from John Hiatt, Buddy and Julie Miller, Steve Earle and James McMurtry to draw you in, you’ll come away as fans of Jason Isbell and The Avett Brothers.

03) Wicked Cool Coming Attractions – A great sampler from Little Steven’s label (and Underground Garage playlist) including The Chesterfield Kings, The Breakers, The Cocktail Slippers and contenders for 2010’s best album, The Len Price 3.

04) Merge Records 2010 Sampler – Indie wonderland, featuring Destroyer, She and Him, Clean, The Clientele and The Shout Out Louds.

05) Alive Records 2009 Sampler – Not dated in any way, this runs the gamut from re-released gems from The Nerves to great cuts from The Buffalo Killers, Left Lane Cruiser and Outrageous Cherry.

06) ROIR: So Indie It Hurts Jackpot! New York Dolls, Johnny Thunders, Suicide, The Mekons, The Fleshtones, James Chance and the Contortions…NYC punk bonanza!

07) Ryko: Flash of Light – Worth it for the acoustic Gary Louris tune alone, but this is filled with great singer-songwriters like Will Hoge and Justin Currie (from Del Amitri).

08) Barsuk Records 2009 Sampler – OK, so I wish that Nada Surf was on here, but otherwise this is a killer collection featuring Death Cab For Cutie, Menomena and Ra Ra Riot.

09) CMJ 2009 Sampler – I imagine there will be a 2010 version floating around soon, but this is stuffed with lesser known bands so what difference does a year make? I already liked  The Black Hollies and The High Strung and came away discovering The Generationals and The Bloodsugars.

10) Best of Yep Roc Singles – This is an absolute steal. When you’re one of the best labels of the past twenty years, of course your roster boasts Nick Lowe, Todd Snider, Dave Alvin, The Apples In Stereo and Reverend Horton Heat.

And what the hell – it’s free one from Sub Pop containing Blitzen Trapper, Wolf Parade, Beach House…even a clip from comedian David Cross!

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Sex Pistol Radio

Never Mind the Bollocks, here’s Jonesy’s Jukebox!

Steve Jones, Sex Pistols guitarist, launches a new radio show on the legendary KROQ this Sunday, October 10th, and terrestrial radio just got cooler. One of my big gripes with radio today is tightly formatted playlists and national programming at the expense of regional breakouts.

There was a time when radio jocks really had to know their music, and their love of it bled through the radio speakers. Over time that seemed to die, giving way to morning zoo shows and formulaic he/she pairings; the real rock lovers were either banished to night and weekend slots or settled for weekly themed shows…or left the dial altogether.

Radio has had its share of rockers-turned jocks over the years; probably the most successful has been Little Steven with his Underground Garage empire. And while some have imploded rather quickly (David Lee Roth) others have proven to be quite entertaining. Nights With Alice Cooper showed that while Vince isn’t golfing, he’s got a wealth of anecdotes and great taste in music. And who would have imagined that Bob Dylan would not only sit down at a microphone, but prove to be so subtly hilarious?

Of course with the podcast explosion, all this might go the way of the dinosaur. But as long as rock dinosaurs roam the earth, we need someone on the other side of the dial who is in it for the right reasons. I have no doubt that Steve Jones will play some raucous, ass-kicking rock and roll, but the thing that excites me the most is the open call for bands to submit music directly to the show for airplay consideration. Jonesy’s Jukebox will feature an irreverent mix of new music from iconic artists, developing talent, and eclectic cuts from his personal music collection.

“Sunday nights on KROQ has historically been the home to groundbreaking programming beginning with the legendary Rodney Bingenheimer over 30 years ago. In fact, Rodney was one of the first DJ’s in America to play the Sex Pistols” said Kevin Weatherly,Senior Vice President, Programming, CBS RADIO and Program Director for 106.7 KROQ FM. “Steve is punk rock royalty and a proven tastemaker. I’m thrilled that Jonesy’s Jukebox can now be heardalongside KROQ Locals Only, Loveline and Rodney on the Roq.”

To submit music to be considered for inclusion on Jonesy’s Jukebox, please send band CD/Bio to:

Steve Jones
c/o Jonesy’s Jukebox
PO Box 790
Hollywood, CA 90027

God Save The Queen!

 

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Under The Radar: The Forty-Fives

Hate, hate, hate it when a great band starts to make their mark and then just fades away because of money issues, lack of recognition or some other game-changer. After getting progressively better from Get It Together to Fight Dirty, The Forty Fives looked like they hit paydirt with High Life High Volume. The Atlanta band went to Detroit to soak up the vibe and lay down tracks at Ghetto Recorders with producer Jim Diamond; the results were great! But somehow, not long after that, my expectations – and theirs, apparently – were dashed.

Looking back and giving this one another spin, I remembered why I get so excited when a band like this comes down the pike. At least they did get to tour the world, play gigs with their heroes and even showcase at Little Steven’s Underground Garage Festival at Randall’s Island. Maybe they’ll do me a favor and make another record?

Diamond continues to find and work with great acts (The Charms and The Love Me Nots among the more recent stunners) as does the label Yep Roc, and bands like this do continue to pop up and take their shot. I just have to keep looking since with few exceptions, the radio and the press isn’t much help. And when you find one…ahhhh, bliss.

Here are my words from 2004 as they originally ran in Pop Culture Press

Hip-shakin’, roof-raisin’, ass-kickin’ rock and roll as Atlanta’s finest quartet hooks up with a producer who “gets it” (Jim Diamond behind the knobs) for a jukebox full of dynamite. Echoing every great British Invasion band (with a special nod to the Small Faces), Bryan Malone’s stirring vocals and electrifying guitar chops lead the way, but this is a rock solid band effort.

They’re too cool for school, rocking with abandon, dipping their toe in a cow pie (the countrified “Bicycle Thief”) and even daring an instrumental (“Backstage At Juanita’s” soulful Hammond – kudos Trey Tidwell – is worth the price of the record by itself). Killer cover (“Daddy Rolling Stone”) segues into a Dolls-like glam rocker (“Junkfood Heaven”), before the horns and blues of “Too Many Miles”. And if you’re still wavering, the blazing “Superpill” features the best handclaps since The Romantics ruled the earth.

Did some jackass say rock and roll is dead? No way – it’s right here, baby, on one of 2004’s best records.

Give them a listen on MySpace or at their website.

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T.G.I.F. – Ten Premium Podcasts

iLaugh

iLaugh

Hard to believe that in my short lifetime I’ve experienced the glory of classic AM pop radio, the summit of FM rock radio, the death of terrestrial radio (thanks, right-wing nutjobs and lip-synching pop artists) and the launch of Satellite radio. Somehow, after all that, radio still sucks.

Thank goodness for podcasts.

Of course, the downside to radio at your own terms is that you are able to listen at your own terms. No longer are you tethered to a live broadcast or a physical medium, so you can stack these puppies up like 45s on a spindle and fire one off after another. Productivity? Kiss it goodbye. Family obligations? Whoops!

Hey, in modern society people don’t communicate directly, anyway. This is just another excuse to isolate your sorry ass. So as long as you are going to walk around like a zombie with earbuds, at least let me point you towards some great podcasts so you can laugh out loud while you do so and keep the curious people even further away from you so you can wallow in your self-centered haze…

crowded city street

Alone again, unnaturally

Bill Burr: Monday Morning Podcast. It’s one thing to think quick on your feet, but what do you call it when you’re sitting in a chair? Burr just gets better and better.

Will Durst: A Burst of Durst. Vastly underrated comedian with razor sharp political savvy, a less angry Lewis Black. Grab his CDs – they’re excellent.

Marc Maron: WTF. For my money, one of the three greatest standups working today, along with Doug Stanhope and Louis CK. Twice a week I get to eavesdrop on a conversation I’d kill to be part of.

Jimmy Pardo: Never Not Funny. Three way fun with co-host Matt Balknap and a comedian guest, seemingly plotless but that’s the fun.

Comedy Nerd: The Stand Up Chronicles. Comedians fascinate me, so if I like their routines, I like interviews and features about them as well. Adam has a great ecletic list of comics here.

Ricky Gervais: The Ricky Gervais Podcasts. Don’t let the bland name fool you – he’s never done anything unfunny in his life. Might be on hiatus for now but enough of a backlog to savor.

Doug Benson: I Love Movies. Filmed live in front of an audience at the UCB Theatre and featuring great guests, it’s movie chat and buzzed comedy.

Dylan Gadino: A Tight 5ive. Five minute conversations between the Editor of Punchline Magazine and comics playing at Comix in NYC.

Jon Fisch: In The Tank. A comic who should be better known and a host of visitors chew the fat. Informal and relaxed to the point that they might forget they’re taping.

John Oliver and Andy Zaltzman: The Bugle. I see your RomComs and raise you two BritTwits.

Not secret or hidden Bonus Track: Comedy Death Ray

IOTBS pod

theyPod

There are tons more, of course. Some of my favorite comedians do them very well. Some others who I think would absolutely kill at it (I’m talking to you, Norm MacDonald) just aren’t interested or don’t have the time (or they’re Luddites). Many routines and programs are available for audio and/or video download, of course, but that’s just a convenient way to access already established content. I’m more interested in ones like the above; original material created just for the podcast.

Not saying these are the best shows or even The Best Showyour mileage may vary. Hell, I hope it does!  Enjoy…

Did somebody say Firesign Theatre?

 

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