Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Up from the Muck: It's the Black Lips!!

Tennessee Williams described Southern Gothic as having an "intuition of an underlying dreadfulness in modern experience." With their unkempt hair, wiry frames, and complete disregard for dental hygiene (one of the guitarists had grillz), the Black Lips look like they crawled out of a backwater swamp. Hailing straight from Atlanta, the Black Lips promise us self described "flower punk." I'm going to go with my first analogy because there is nothing flowery about them. Dirty and sweaty swamp punk is more like it and their live shows capture this "underlying dread" with such past staples involving peeing, public drunkenness, fist fighting, vomiting (the other guitarist did this allover himself Monday night) and sexual acts (both guitarists swapped tongues Monday night and it is reported that a female fan in Tijuana could not keep her excitement to herself and just had to show the band how excited she truly was right on stage.) They pull off the rawness of the early Rolling Stones and the white noise of the Velvet Underground with a Southern rock vibe amazingly well. Sure, this isn't new but, just another garage rock band? Not at all. Brilliant songs like the amped up surf rock of "Not a Problem", the working class Yardbird-like anthem "Workin'" the fire and brimstone dirge that is "The Empassant", the lethargic and droning "Hippie, Hippie, Hoorah" or the violent dance punk of "Can't Dance" are testament to this. My nomination for possible favorite however is the seedy re-write of "I Want to Hold Your Hand" and "The Kids Are Alright" that makes up the beach side romance of "Dirty Hands." Saving this as one of their later and slower numbers of the night, the band asked us in the audience, "Do you really want to hold my dirty hands?" Not likely. Finally, they end "'cause you're gonna do what you want to do." Hmmm, they've got a point there. The Black Lips are dangerous for America's youth. Oh yeah, and they're fun too. One of my new favorites.

Don't forget to pick up 2005's Let it Bloom

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Songs of the Day: "Double Vision" by the Ponys & "Someone Great" by LCD Soundsystem

"Double Vision"- The Ponys

I've just had a being blown away by this song live tomorrow night when I go see the Ponys at the Bowery. Man am I hip. But mainly, I'm just in awe. This is one of the first rock singles of the year to really grab me from the get go. What a cliche, but it was worth it! If you like garage rock, if you like bands that names begin with "the" and are compared to Richard Hell and Television, then what are you waiting for?

"Someone Great"- LCD Soundsystem

Rolling Stone says James Murphy is one of the best dressed of the year. Thanks Rolling Stone. He's also a good songwriter. You might even want to add that "Someone Great" is a fantastic song. In fact, one of my favorites of the year so far but, its no rock song. No sir. Future of popular music? We've heard a whole lot about electronic music taking over ever since the day Kraftwerk reared their German & expressionless faces. You rockers out there who fear synth pop, electronica and all forms of dance need not be afraid. If this is the future of pop music, the future of dance music, then we'll all be just fine. The droning beat that starts off the song soon links up with the song's robotic but lovely, melancholic melody. Painting a portrait of heartache and loss (standard pop song material) Murphy never fails to show his wry humor,(The worst is all the lovely weather/ I'm sad, it's not raining. The coffee isn't even bitter/Because, what's the difference?) and surprising vulnerability:

I wish that we could talk about it
But there, that's the problem.
With someone new I could have started,
Too late, for beginnings.
You're smaller than my wife imagined,
Surprised, you were human.
There shouldn't be this ring of silence,
But what, are the options?
When someone great is gone.

Here, more in common with Joe Jackson rather than Daft Punk, does Murphy stand out on that crowded dance floor.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

The Filth and the Fury!

On December 1, 1976, the Sex Pistols were called in as last minute replacements for Queen to appear on the popular Today show with veteran British TV personality Bill Grundy. Both the band and Grundy were severely intoxicated. The interview was a disaster. Asking if Mozart, Bach, or Beethoven were influences on the band, a sarcastic Johnny Rotten rolled his eyes, "Yeah they really turn us on" and muttered the word "shit." Grundy knowing exactly what the band was doing decided to provoke them and ask Rotten to repeat the word. He did. Grundy, again being very drunk, decided to hit on a then 19 year old Siouxsie Sioux, "I always wanted to meet you" she joked. Grundy probably had no idea whether she was serious or kidding and invited her to chat after the show. An amused Steve Jones proceeded to call Grundy a "dirty old man" which in turn had Grundy further goad the band, "say something outrageous." Jones happily continued calling Grundy a "dirty bastard" and a "fucking rotter." The broadcast ended shortly. The following day, the British papers slammed the words "The Filth & the Fury" on their headlines. Parents were outraged that their children were exposed to obscene language during dinner time. It ruined Grundy's career. It launched the Sex Pistols.

And now, the documentary of the same name. The Filth & the Fury does the band justice as it tells their story from their perspective. We never actually see the band members or their estranged and controversial manager Malcolm McLaren. Instead, we see their shadowy figures during the interview segments. It reminded me of watching someone in the witness protection agency. Perhaps it alludes the bands perceived criminal element. Julian Temple tried once before telling the band's story but it was in the aftermath of their breakup and was very much steered in McLaren's direction. The film does not stray from your basic rise and fall story chronicling the bands humble beginnings to their disintegration at the Winterland Ballroom in January 1978, but when contrasted with Temple's excellent use of stock footage of 70s strife in Britain (garbage, lorry & grave digger strikes, fuel shortages, race riots),Queen Elizabeth's Silver Jubilee, footage of Roxy Music, Bowie and T. Rex on Top of the Pops, the sketchy characters who hung around Malcolm McLaren's SEX shop, and scenes from Olivier's Richard III, the documentary succeeds in placing the band within the context of the times as well as establishing their legacy. And, any documentary that has John Lydon choking up over the death of Sid Vicious is worth viewing for that rarity alone. Speaking of Vicious, we get plenty of him through a 1978 interview of him telling his side of the story. It's a great documentary about a great band. The detractors like to point out they only had one album and they couldn't really play: A.) They could play. Only Vicious was incompetent. B.) Who the fuck cares? I mean, wasn't that the whole point of punk rock? To be an alternative to boring dinosaur rock? Steve Jones tells us that he used to think musicians dropped from the sky. And then came the Sex Pistols who showed that anyone could have a stab, for better or for worse mind you. There was, however, something liberating in knowing that you could make it up as you were going along. Not interested? Well, isn't there a Zepplin DVD you should be getting stoned to?

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Song of the Day: "I'd Rather Dance With You" by Kings of Convenience

We've been here before, "I don't know much, but I know I just want to dance with you...all we have is tonight etc." All those cliches about meeting a stranger on the dance floor or at a party and just "groovin'" to the music have been done before. This is Whitney Houston territory. And yet, who would have thought that the dance-pop song would be getting a nice touch up from a pair of quiet and introspective Scandinavian lads who normally favor autumnal folk songs? Not me. That's for sure. "I'd Rather Dance With You" assaults us with the standard thumping dance beat and smooth bass line that are commonplace with many dance songs minus the synthetics. Sweeping strings, castanets, piano and Spanish flavor guitar give the club beat more of a baroque and chamber pop feel. Quiet, awkward guy tells the cutie at the party (and us) that, well, he don't know too much about music, art, politics, and movies, in fact, the only film he's seen he did not all. So he's not one for conversation,"Even if I can hear what you said / I doubt my reply would be interesting for you to hear." He just wants to dance. And so will you once you hear this lost dance floor classic.