The Darkness’ Awesome Album Art

The cover art to The Darkness‘ new album One Way Ticket to Hell…and Back — a gatefold sleeve, no less — is a thing of over-the-top beauty. Click on the image to admire the detail in its full-size glory. I really like how the doves morph into bats…
Backfront

The album is out November 29, with the title cut single hitting stores November 15.

I Left a Toothbrush in San Francisco

Just got back from a long weekend in San Francisco, visiting friends, eating lots of stuff, seeing Jens Lekman (again), missing American Analog Set, and falling for my friend’s adorable 18-month-old daughter, Diaz. A full report to follow, but here are some photos:

Bernalheights_soapbox1TenderloinresidentBernalheights_soapbox2DungenousBill_n_donSunsetcar
Bill_n_diaz

Wolf Parade | NorthSix | 10/25

Very good show from these endlessly hyped Canadians (which is a somewhat redundant phrase these days) but not the transporting experience some were hyping them as. Which is pretty much how I feel about Wolf Parade‘s album, Apologies to Queen Mary. It’s good, but don’t quite understand all the fuss. There were plenty of people who felt differently, however, and they were whooping and hollering and clapping and just the right points in songs that required clapping. I prefer the songs the keyboardist Spencer King sings (especially "You Are a Runner and I am My Father’s Son," my fave on the album. Yes, I have listened past the first track) to those of guitarist Dan Boeckner, who kinda both looks and sounds like the dude from Eddie & the Cruisers. (Technically he sounds kinda like John Cafferty of Beaver Brown Band fame who actually sang the song; Michael Paré lip-synched in the movie.)

I missed openers Think About Life and Dante DeCaro, apparently my loss. As I waited to to get my Will Call tickets, some dude with an ENORMOUS back pack came down the steps shouting to anyone who cared to pay attention, "You just missed the best fucking band ever." I was like "Well, dude with enormous backpack, you just missed the best Gilmore Girls episode of the season so far," though I didn’t actually say it out loud. He looked like the kind of guy who only watches The Family Guy. I later saw this guy in the middle of the crowd during Wolf Parade’s set still wearing his enormous backpack. I know I’m uptight, but this is highly inconsiderate, right? This thing stuck out a foot from his back. A whole other person could have been standing there. How much stuff do you really need with you at all times?

But I digress. I like that almost all the current Canadian groups put effort into making their shows entertaining in an unforced way. The other guitarist had chimes hanging off his mike stand that he hit with a drumstick often, and he also had what looked like a muffler that he beat on as well. But Wolf Parade, for me, are lower on my list than Stars or Arcade Fire or certainly the Dears (who are the best of all of them and probably Live Band of 2005 as far as I’m concerned — hey really don’t get the love they deserve) or Sloan or Eric’s Trip or the rest. (Wolf Parade are better that DFA1979, though.)

But, great, great show. I’m talking about Gilmore Girls, of course. "It’s like I’m drinking a My Little Pony." And one of the DAR ladies was named Catherine Thurston-Moore. Wolf Parade aren’t bad either.

More reviews and pictures: BrooklynVegan, Central Village

Wolf Parade play NYU’s Eisner & Lubin Auditorium tomorrow (Thursday, 10/27) with the very worthwhile Dirty on Purpose opening (get there and don’t miss ’em… they’re in a zone right now).

 

Where the Girls Are

GirlgroupsoundsEverybody loves girl groups, right? Though I have a soft spot for more modern ones like  Banarama, Girls Aloud and even, yes, Tatu, I’m talking classic girl groups. The kind that sing about falling in love with boys —  even the bad ones that end up cheating on them and getting them pregnant and not treating them very well in general. In the ’60s, girl groups tackled taboo issues that couldn’t be talked about on TV. The Shirelles‘ "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?" dealt not-so-subtly with going all the way; and The Crystals — the best girl group ever — dealt with physical abuse in their infamous "He Hit Me (and it Felt Like a Kiss)." (Both were written by the Brill Building workhorse team of Gerry Goffin and Carole King.)

But there was a lot more to girl groups than the big hits you hear ad naseum on Oldies Radio. For proof, look no further than One Kiss Can Lead to Another – Girl Groups Sounds Lost and Found, an amazing new box set from the good folks at Rhino. What makes it so awesome is that Rhino has eschewed the hits — and most of the hitmakers — of the genre, focusing instead on groups and singles that should have received more attention. Included are rare early singles by singers who would soon be famous (Cher, Dolly Parton, uh, Toni Basil), songs that would be hits for other people ("He Was Really Saying Something," "You’re No Good"), lesser-known singles from big names (The Supremes, The Ronettes) and a whole lot of stuff you probably never knew existed. In fact, chances are most of the 120 tracks on here will be new to you.

My favorites are some of the crazier songs, like The Fabulettes‘ diet solution "Try the Worryin’ Way"; The Starlettes‘ frank and funny "I Sold My Heart to the Junkman"; The Hollywood Jills‘ call-and-response "He Makes Me So Mad"; and some of the attempts at jump-starting a dance craze like The Goodies‘ "Sophisticated Boom Boom" and Marsha Gee‘s "Peanut Duck" (strangely, not about Thai food). There are also some songs that border on garage rock (Luv’d Ones "Up Down Sue" and The What Four‘s "I’m Gonna Destroy That Boy") and  a couple lightbulb moments, like Dusty Springfield‘s "I Can’t Wait Until I See My Baby’s Face" (there are a number of Northern Soul songs on here) which I’d never heard but instantly recognized, as whole chunks of the song formed the basis of Saint Etienne‘s great early single "Nothing Can Stop Us."

My favorite song on the whole thing, though, is The Exciters‘ somewhat manic "He’s Got the Power." The Exciters’ only big hit was "Tell Him" and this song was obviously cut from the same mold — the musical resemblance is immediate — but lead vocalist Brenda Reid’s performance is so unrestrained it catapults the song to greater heights.

Rhino really outdid themselves on the packaging — the set comes in a hatbox, and each of the CD cases are made like compacts (complete with mirrors), and the booklet has the story behind each and every song with lots of cool, rare photos. One Kiss Can Lead to Another – Girl Groups Sounds Lost and Found is very likely to be Sound Bites Box Set of the Year.

You can buy it from Barnes & Noble, Amazon, or Rhino’s website. Here are a couple of select MP3s from the set:

The Hollywood Jills – "He Makes Me So Mad"

The Luv’d Ones – "Up Down Sue"

The Exciters – "He’s Got the Power"

 

Music Video of the Week

North American Halloween Prevention Initiative – "Do They Know it’s Hallowe’en?"
HalloweenWhat else could the video of the week be but this swell animated clip for charity single "Do They Know it’s Hallowe’en?" whose proceeds go to support UNICEF. An homage to Band Aid (and perhaps a parody of USA for Africa’s "us too" mentality), NAHPI features a who’s who of current faves (Feist, Devandra Banhart, members of Arcade Fire and Rilo Kiley), respected alt-rock mainstays (Beck, Redd Kross’ Steve McDonald, Sloan’s Chris Murphy), plus David Cross, Malcolm McLaren and many (Thurston) Mo(o)re — but thankfully no Kool & the Gang or Dan Aykroyd.

The song’s actually not bad (though I could have done without Cross’ hammy singing), but the video is a lot of spooky fun. No credits are given on Vice Recording’s NAHPI website, but it looks like the work of Plates Animation, who did similar looking videos for The Shins’ "So Says I" and The Arcade Fire’s "Neighborhood #3 – The Power Out."

Watch the video here.

NAHPI also has a Myspace page.

BBC 6 Roundtable

6mus_blue6 Music is the BBC’s "alternative/indie" station. It’s only available on Satellite radio or online but it’s definitely one of the best professional channels out there. Somehow they’ve managed to wrangle a lot of top talent as their "presenters" (DJs), people who genuinely love music and know what they’re talking about. Sometimes, when regular presenters go on vacation, they get musicians or other notables to fill in for them — Blur’s Alex James (who could totally have a career in radio), former Elastica frontperson Justine Frischman, Factory records founder Tony Wilson are some of the ones I remember distinctly. Former punks Marc Riley and Tom Robinson have regular gigs. There is a playlist, but the DJs are also given a lot of freedom within it too. It’s how radio should be. A lot of now well-known bands were played on 6 Music before almost anywhere else, and I wouldn’t have been at Franz Ferdinand’s first US show at Pianos if it hadn’t been for them.

My favorite show on the station is Roundtable, the ‘Beeb’s version of Jukebox Jury. Each week, veteran scenester Steve Lemacq (who reffers to himself "Lammo" on occasion) has three "celebrity" guests listen to and rate six notable new releases — usually a mix of debut singles, new stuff by established artists, and a couple songs of the week’s biggest new album. The guests are a mix of musicians, music journalists (NME editor Connor Nicholas is on a lot), TV personalities, and occasionally actors (The Office’s Martin Freeman has been on a couple of times). One of the slots is usually filled by an old cranky guy who hates everything but is really funny, like Paul Morley, the guy who created Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s brilliant publicity campaign back in 1984.

Roundable airs Friday afternoons at 1PM EST (actually 6PM in England) on BBC 6 Music, and the show is archived for a week to listen to at your leisure from the show’s webpage. This week’s guests are oining Steve this week are Arab Strap‘s Aidan Moffatt, Hotel (aka Jamie Hilton) of The Kills, and Eamon Hamilton of Brakes. And they’ll be listening to…

The National – "Lit Up"

Skin (former Skunk Anansie singer) – "Alone In My Room"

Athlete – "24 Hours"

Madonna – "Hung Up"

The White Stripes – "The Denial Twist"

L’il Kim – "Lighters Up"

The Paddingtons – tracks from First Comes First (album)

South Park Returns

Southpark1New episodes of South Park are finally back with a typically topical comment on the whole Hurricane Katrina blame game. Here’s the official synopsis from Comedy Central:

Global Warming is determined to be the cause of the massive flood that destroys a neighboring town. It’s a brand new episode of “South Park” entitled “Two Days Before the Day After Tomorrow,” premiering Wednesday, October 19 at 10:00 p.m. on Comedy Central.

The world’s largest beaver dam breaks and the waters overtake the adjacent town of Beaverton.. As the victims wait for help to arrive, everyone in South Park tackles priority number one: who is to blame? The President, the mayor, scientists, the press and even the flood victims themselves are all busy pointing fingers. Only Stan and Cartman know who’s really at fault.

It’s just amazing how consistently great South Park is and I still find it incredible thatSouthpark2 they will start writing next week’s episode tomorrow. Trey and Matt are interviewed in the Times today, admitting that the show’s reputation for timeliness can be a burden. "Now it’s like, ‘What’s "South Park" going to do this week about
Hurricane Katrina?’ " Stone said. "I don’t know what we’re going to
do. We should do an episode about how the town can’t wait to see this
show and what they’re going to do about Hurricane Katrina."

South Park will be with us through at least 2008 and the show is currently in the middle of its ninth season. The Season Six DVD set, which includes such classics as "The Simpsons Already Did It," "The Return of the Fellowship of the Ring to the Two Towers" and the crap-out-your-mouth  and Lemmywinks episodes, was released last week. Season Five is the set to get, though, with perhaps the series’ best-ever episode, "Scott Tenorman Must Die"

 

Come See the Softer Side of Joe Pernice

From the Pernice Brothers mailing list…

Apparently the use of our tune "There Goes the Sun" in a Sears ad was seen by roughly 50 trillion people. As I own many high-quality Craftsman tools (and I like to eat food) I had little-to-no problem with it. A few years back, Errol Morris made a European TV spot for the booze Southern Comfort and used one of my songs for that. Besides thinking Mr. Morris is a genius (Thin Blue Line, Vernon, Florida, The Fog of War, Gates of Heaven etc.) I have certainly given the Southern Comfort people plenty of money in my day, and thought it was high time they give a little back.

I also want to thank the kind people at The Gilmore Girls for including "Saddest Quo" in an episode this season. Everyone at Ashmont Records, Inc. has been a fan of the show since the start, so it continues to be a kick for us to be involved. We’re just little people, and they are giants. And for the record, I’d pick the mother.

Joe also has just posted the 3rd installment of his Joe Pernice: Cribs video series, this time focusing on what’s in his garage. CribsridesHis rides are all pretty much pimp-free. And is it just me or is Joe looking a lot like Elvis Costello circa Mighty Like a Rose? Oh… and please buy The Pernice Brothers’ latest, Discover a Lovelier You, a real peach of a pop record. Those scooters don’t grow on trees, you know.

Oh What a Knight

JenslekmanJens Lekman generally gets compared to two people: Stephin Merritt and Jonathan Richman. The former because they have similar baritone voices; and the latter for the innocent, silly, romantic nature of his songs.

At the Mercury Lounge on Saturday, there was no denying the JoJo influence on this very charming Swede. He’s also got quite a following. I didn’t know what to expect when I walked into the club right as he was about to go on. The bar room was empty, but when I opened the door the main space was jam-packed with people and he was already playing (a couple minutes before the scheduled Midnight start time on the chalkboard outside, but well before the 11:30 start time in the ads).

On record, Lekman’s songs are sometimes a bit cheesily produced — another thing he has in common with Jonathan Richman — but his touring band was fromage-free, with a stand-up drummer, cellist, violinist (also played keyboards), and three backup singers, one of whom also played trumpet. I knew a few songs but by no means consider myself a big fan, but I could’ve watched him play for twice as long. Most of his songs are narratives, and told stories about nearly all of them between numbers. At one point they released around 15 balloons into the audience, turning the room into one giant pinball machine during Multiball play (cannot remember which song) — sort of magical. For his last song, "Julie," he came out into the audience and climbed onto one of the couches (well, booth seats) against the wall stage left and performed un-miked with a ukulele.

The crowd were all genuine lets-have-fun fans and not a bunch of mopey types who only came because they heard it was cool. Refreshing for the Mercury Lounge. I didn’t realize he was a popular as he was, but after seeing him it makes sense. There were, though, a lot of fratty types there, one of whom uttered the overheard soundbite of the night: "Crap, I just spilled beer on my head."

Here are Jens Lekman’s remaining North American tour dates:


Mon 10/17/05 Boston, MA Boston Fish Pier
Tue 10/18/05 Toronto, ON Music Gallery
Wed 10/19/05 Cleveland, OH The Spot
Thu 10/20/05 Chicago, IL Empty Bottle
Fri 10/21/05 Bloomington, IN Second Story
Sat 10/22/05 Richmond, IN Earlham College
Tue 10/25/05 Austin, TX Emo’s
Fri 10/28/05 Silver Lake, CA Spaceland
Sat 10/29/05 San Francisco, CA Rickshaw Stop

Check out Jens’ exceedingly well-shot video for "You Are the Light" at his Secretly Canadian page which goes a little ways towards explaining the suit of armor he’s wearing in that publicity photo.

Too Many Egg Pun Headlines to Choose

EggIn the morning, before Sparky’s in Williamsburg becomes Sparky’s, it is Egg. Locally sourced ingredients, skilfully, tastily prepared. It may be the best breakfast in the WB. Those quality raw materials aren’t cheap, though, and Egg is not likely replace anyone’s daily dollar egg-n-cheese sandwich breakfast. Things started off quiet (and is still relatively so on weekdays), but at weekend brunch there now has a line out the door by 11 AM. And now you can be ready for things to get even worse for brunch, as Egg is this week’s Diner’s Journal in the NY Times. Unless you plan on going at 9 AM this weekend, forget about it.

Egg only goes till Noon. What I don’t get is why they don’t extend Brunch hours to at least 2 PM on weekends. Even at it’s busiest, Sparky’s is never as jumping as when it’s Egg on weekends. Certainly the demand is there, especially now that Oznots is closed. And everyone — the Egg folk, the Sparky’s folk, and us hungry folk — could benefit from a longer window of enjoying those fluffy pancakes, stone-cut oatmeal, and free-range eggs.

Egg, at Sparky’s: 135 North Fifth Street between Bedford and Berry. (718) 302-5151.