This whole “going into the future” thing has me thinking about how long I’ve been in LA, and tangentially about the Silver Lake music scene I was hanging out in when I first got here in the earlier half of the ‘oughts. So, for your listening enjoyment (or your ignoring pleasure, whatever), I thought I’d take a glance back at the “old school” Silver Lake indie scene and give a shout-out to all the fun indie bands that were making the rounds. Hey, many of them still are…
People on the street were talking about Interpol, Ambulance LTD, the Shins’ second album, and MySpace. (What?) Silversun Pickups was appearing on Letterman. The Sunset Junction music festival was bringing Blonde Redhead and the Buzzcocks in to entertain everyone. And most importantly, these guys were dominating the scene…
Autolux – Turnstyle Blues
Army navy – Saints
When you hear The Shins breakout tune “New Slang” back to back with this track, it’s almost a joke that “New Slang” hasn’t been completely eclipsed by now, considering the increasingly insane songwriting skills James Mercer has flaunted in each album since then. Wincing the Night Away, partially recorded in Elliott Smith’s Portland home, has an inexplicable Smiths-like feel to it. The album Port of Morrow, named for a thought-provoking road sign in Oregon, brings up all kinds of new ideas. The melody and lyrics to “It’s Only Life” can bring a knot to your throat, and the chorus of “40 Mark Strasse” opens up like an ocean of sweet pancake syrup. But by far the most interesting direction the Shins have taken yet is the album’s title track, which sticks out like a purple tree growing in the Redwood Forest. Weird, watery opening. Strange, alien instrumental shrieks and moans. Heroin-esque Velvet Underground bass. Not an acoustic guitar in sight.
Mercer starts the verse sounding kind of like a female blues singer from the ‘20s. Then as he moves into the pre-chorus, he sounds damn near like John Lennon. Still no traditional New Mexico Shins-y-ness, just a haunting aura of superstition that might frighten children and the elderly. The subtle low-end doubling on parts of the vocals do a lot to seriously build up the track’s freakiness. Lyrics like “I saw a photograph, Cologne in ’27 / And then a postcard after the bombs in ’45 / Must have been a world of evil clowns that let it happen / And then I recognized … you were there and so was I” add an air of ominous terror, like this particular song foreshadows the end of the world. Is it a coincidence that Mercer wrote it while pondering death, inevitability, and doorways into the netherworld? “Life is death is life” … I think not.
Now imagine this song live, when its languid, staring menace is replaced by louder, even more menacing guitar sounds and a chorus that jumps out at you like a huge, black cat. If most Shins songs make you feel better, this one is here to make you terrified.
In an act of unparalleled musical terrorism, San Diego bands Transfer and Family Wagon reduced local music venue the Casbah to rubble, broken glass and flailing limbs Saturday night. The bands, joined by Oakland’s Mister Loveless and local band the New Kinetics, descended upon the helpless venue with serious megatons of sonic fury and gnarly weapons of mass distortion. Not a single eardrum survived the melee.
This writer arrived in time to see Family Wagon take the stage, and was consequently blown back several yards by the band’s sheer intensity. Heel tapping and head bobbing kicked in by themselves, defying any attempt to stop them. Before long the scene was one of total annihilation of any people looking bored or not acting completely rowdy and riled up. Lead singer Calen Lucas made a performance out of flipping out righteously and crushing any semblance of sanity, and bassist Gareth Moore’s hair became the 6th member of the band as he redefined the motion ranges humans are capable of while holding a mahogany log. CDs were sold and stickers were passed out.
Transfer took what was left of the place and utterly smashed it with their set, which was part loud, electric fury, part intense vocal power, and part frightening volume levels. Besides their obviously high-impact stage show, their songs are extremely catchy and somewhat sing-along-able, unless one is stunned into silence as was the case with “White Horse” and “Wake to Sleep.” Listening to those is similar to standing in the middle of a hurricane while demons scream at you and pound on your head with giant drumsticks. The experience was traumatically awesome.
Acknowledgement of Long Delay in Posting
Seeing as it has been a little while (around 2 ½ years, give or take) since I have posted anything here, it really took an event of this magnitude to spark things up. To keep it short and sweet, the impetus here is two bands.
Transfer: The indie band you actually want to hear even though you know they’re an indie band
Take everything people don’t like about indie bands, throw it into a garbage bag and toss it into the cement bed of the LA river, because sometimes indie bands can be powerful, confident and put together. And no, they’re not venturing into lame underground hip-hop or being produced by Timbaland. Listen to this song, this song, and especially this song, and see whether you agree they may have the force to drive music blogs back into publication.
Family Wagon: The indie band that sort of makes you want to try shooting Southern Comfort
I have been acquainted with this southern-style rock band for roughly 40 hours, but I have faith they will be on your TV on a late-night show within a year or so, and will one day become one of those bands that headlines for an act they once opened for, causing all of their fans to exuberantly recount their rise to glory, a la those kids from Detroit Rock City. That’s because aside from their music being fun and loud, their stage presence ensures it is cheerfully rammed through your brain, with a toothy grin and a “you’re welcome, ma’am.”
Stay tuned for more rants, stale news, and unfounded musical armchair analysis. The ship has left port once again.
Check out this new video, featuring a guy who looks a lot like Christian Bale and a song that sounds a lot like the Talking Heads’ “This Must Be The Place.” This makes me very happy.
Directed by the same guy who made this random, funny squirrel video and a bunch of other cool stuff. I’d say he has a future ahead of him.
I got home at 1 am Thursday morning knowing I had to wake up in five hours, and the tinnitus roaring in my ears could probably have woken up the neighbors then and there. But I was extremely, utterly, brazenly happy.
I had just seen the Smashing Pumpkins live at the Viper Room. One of the most scarce, long-shot bands that also happened to define half of my generation’s high school, college and post-college experience had played less than 20 feet from me in a venue the size of a large studio apartment. There are a handful of lifetime events I decided long ago were essential in order for me to die happy, and this one just got slammed out of the park.
After making the crowd wait about three hours (except the die-hards who had been posted up outside since 7 am), The Corgan and ensemble trickled up the left side of the crowd and onto the stage, where they started up a feedback frenzy that could best be described as very fucking loud. (This is where the aforementioned tinnitus kicked in.) Corgan wore a thin, dark, long-sleeved shirt reading NATURE, which recalled his trademark ZERO shirt and made everyone feel back home in 1996. His head glistened like a well-polished agate.
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That was a shocker.
A musician I hadn’t thought about in 10 years or so, except while briefly remembering high school as I thumbed through my CD collection, died last night of heart failure at age 48.
Even though I lost track of Type O Negative shortly after World Coming Down, hearing about Steele’s death was a little like hearing about one of your favorite countries being bombed, or finding out the college pizza place you spent all your time in closed down. Hearing he was 48 was a little weird, too — I’d always thought that guy had to be immortal or something.
The 6 -foot-7 bass player and lead singer was originally named Petrus T. Ratajczyk, hailed from Brooklyn, was a control freak, and had a baritone voice that could be mistaken for a bus driving by. Rumors of his death circulated in 2005, but it was found to be a publicity stunt related to the band’s signing to a new label. He also apparently posed in Playgirl as another stunt. Fascinating.
Malcolm McLaren, the producer and band manager known for being the brains behind the Sex Pistols and the New York Dolls, died of cancer this morning in New York. He was 64.
McLaren gained notoriety after the Sex Pistols single “God Save the Queen” was banned in 1977 by the BBC and the Independent Broadcasting Authority, yet still managed to reach number 2 in the UK charts. He is also known for projects such as his solo albums Duck Rock and Waltz Darling, as well as his Zombies/Esther Bigeou collage “About Her,” from the soundtrack of Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill 2.
More about his intriguing life story can be found in the links below:
Preface: Since I haven’t had time to write anything in quite a while (try maintaining your music blog as an LA career-type whose spare time can be measured in half-seconds), here’s a re-post of an article I penned for Cinema Blend, back when — well, back when I wrote for them. Enjoy.
We know about physical, people-type overpopulation. That’s when there are too many new neighbors moving in all at once – then their cars use up all the convenient street parking, grassy fields turn into slum hives, and suddenly one-bedroom apartments with no washer or dryer rent for 1,700 a month.
Well, as you might have guessed, the same thing can happen in music. It’s what happens when too many indie rock bands form all at the same time, and with all the same ideas. What logically follows is a phenomenon pretty nicely stated as rock-overpopulation, or to be more succinct, “overrockulation.” When overrockulation occurs, bands start elbowing each other off the good rock real estate by using up all of the good riffs, taking all the cool styles, and – in the most prominent and embarrassing manifestation – taking all the good band names. What’s left behind are the cardboard-shack and overpass-tent band names, the 12-syllable fixer-uppers that are so far out there it’s impossible to imagine moving into one by choice. It’s a shameful degradation.
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This new video, just released by Chicago natives and current LA transplants OK Go, will put a cinch in the underpants of anyone who likes high-school science experiments, paintball, the game Mousetrap, or this video of a Cadbury Creme Egg getting smashed.
“This Too Shall Pass” is currently making the rounds, astonishing even the most stoic indie kids. Watch and be awed.
P.S.: You might also like this version, filmed live with the Notre Dame Marching Band. Collegiate.
Fans of Hollywood indie outfit Red Arrow Messenger have something else to look forward to besides the band’s melodic folk-pop, tight three-part harmonies and awe-inspiring stage presence. Every Monday in February the band is hosting a free variety show-style concert featuring favorite local bands, comedians, magic, food, and even a much-anticipated laser light show.
The February 1 show featured a magician escaping from a straight jacket (and mystically conjuring a pair of chickens), a stand-up comedy act, a self-photography setup, and the musical stylings of Last American Buffalo along with the dark, velvety croon of All Wrong and the Plans Change. With this Monday’s bill featuring tribal-tronic two-piece Rumspringa and oldies-inspired Jenny O, it’s pretty much guaranteed to meet or exceed the mark, whatever else the band has up its sleeve. (I hear it’s barbecue.)
The audio-visual (and nutritional) smorgasbord takes place at the Bootleg Theater in Echo Park, starting at 8 pm. Everyone gets in the door free, and beer and wine is relatively cheap.
Update: The Feb. 8 show was even more awesome than the last one. It featured two hilarious stand-up comedians (taking on religion and alternative porn), the timeline-spanning music of Jenny O, the two-piece jungle-jamming of Rumspringa, and (finally) the much-hyped laser light show — which consisted of fog, darkness, mirrored surfaces and a bunch of tiny laser pointers distributed to the crowd. Speaking of low-budget ingenuity.
The band was giving away their EP, fans were slurping up Jell-o shots in the back, and I got some video that will find its way online soon.
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