No One Twisting His Arm…

I bought the new issue of The Big Takeover over the weekend. (REM's on the cover… am I the only one that thinks Peter Buck kind of looks like Bea Arthur these days?) I'm always anxious to tear into it — it's always good and one of the few music magazines these days that takes longer than an afternoon to read — but I was specifically looking forward to this one to read the second half of editor Jack Rabid's interview with New Pornographers' AC Newman. The first half, in the last issue (which also featured AC on the cover), was one of the best interviews with a musician that I'd read in I don't know how long.

To be honest the second half is not quite as good as the first — Carl takes a lot of BT reader questions — but he did talk about his band Zumpano who were signed to Sub Pop in the early '90s, and were really one of the first pop bands, along with Velocity girl, to be signed to the Seattle label that was then known as the home of grunge. Jack asks if there is any chance, what with New Pornographers' success, that we might see their two albums reissued…

AC: No, I still don't really want to do it. A friend at Sub Pop was talking about how they wanted to repackage both records as a two-for-one. But they're just a part of my past. I feel like it was a learning process.

JR: You don't wan't people to hear them???

AC: I just want them to go away.

JR: Why?! They're excellent!

AC: They're all right. I still feel kind of embarrassed by them. I feel like New Pornographers is the music I've always wanted to make.

JR: I can't imagine someone buying Zumpano records and not buying New Pornographers. Not buying it?!

AC: Maybe… I don't have any problems with those records. But some things from your past, you just want them to exist in their own time. It would be nice if they become really sought-after. If all the copies disappear, and then people start paying $100 for them on eBay… like Game Theory CDs from the '80s. Those have become sought-after because they're all long gone.

JR: Maybe I should sell mine!

AC: Apparently Lolita Nation is the one that everybody wants..

JR: I've got that.

AC: Get rid of it before the market falls out!

I had no idea Game Theory CDs were such hot property, though in a weird bit of happenstance I've been listening to Lolita Nation a lot lately — which I won't be selling to anyone. I bought Lolita Nation my freshman year of college after hearing a couple Game Theory songs on that Enigma Variations 2 compilation I mentioned in my Wire post last week. (You all remember that, right?) And the college radio station was playing it and they sounded similar to a lot of other, paisley-wearing bands I liked at the time — Let's Active, The Three O'Clock, and R.E.M.

Like a lot of double albums, Lolita Nation is a sprawling mess. Songs crashed into one another, with some half-baked 20 second snippets thrown in, along with a really weird sound collage near the end of the record. But in between all that unbridled creativity, there were all these amazing songs and I thought it was the most awesome thing I ever heard. Obsession set in quick. This was maybe the first
record I'd heard at that point that attempted to bring a Beatles
aesthetic to the "college rock" sound.

And again, the songs. Lolita Nation has at least ten great ones. Mitch Easter produced and, apart from some thin-sounding keyboards, it doesn't really sound all that dated. Probably because they resisted the reverby/gated drum sound that was so prevalent at the time. It really holds up. Most of Game Theory's album's are worth hearing, but Lolita Nation is genuinely essential.

Frontman Scott Miller says there's not enough demand for reissues, but seeing how '80s indie classics from Let's Active, The Three O'Clock ,and Dumptruck (who were probably equal on the obscurity level) can get them, surely so can Game Theory. The real reason is probably because Miller doesn't own the rights to the masters.  Until someone rectifies this situation, here are a few of Lolita Nation's choicest cuts:

MP3: Game Theory_- Not Because You Can

: Game Theory- We Love You Carol And Alison

: Game Theory – The Real Sheila

MP3: Game Theory_- Slip

MP3: Game Theory_- Chardonnay

Scott Miller's post-GT band, The Loud Family, are worth checking out too, as is the Loud Family website. He's a true musicologist, and has lists of his Top 20 albums for every year from 1965 – 1999, which makes a great shopping list for those who want to fill out their music collections.

Meanwhile, for those of you who started reading this thinking it was going to feature some Zumpano songs…

MP3: Zumpano – The Party Rages On

MP3: Zumpano – Behind the Beehive

Tally Ho! The Clean to Play NYC?


Well here’s a bit of a mystery. Heather at Ugly Floral Blouse emailed me asking if I knew anything about The Clean playing Cake Shop at the end of the month. Um, no I hadn’t. A visit to the venue’s website did indeed show three — three! — nights featuring the legendary New Zealand band, Nov. 29 – Dec. 1. This would be pretty big news if true, so I went to Merge Records’ website, the label who put out the entirely-essential Anthology (#85 on Blender‘s Top 100 Indie Rock Albums Ever) and there were the three shows.

It kind of makes sense. Singer David Kilgour is in America touring for his new solo album (my review of his recent Union Hall show here); his brother and Clean drummer Hamish lives here in New York. The big question is whether Robert Scott will be apart of these shows’ lineup. He’s the third constant in the Clean over the band’s nearly 30 year existence, who also fronts the wonderful Bats (who played Cake Shop, upstairs, last year), and that would really make it something. Otherwise, it’s the Brothers Kilgour. Either way, it will be the first time Clean songs have been played on these shores in a long, long time. I know they toured the U.S. in 1990 for their then comeback album, Vehicle. Not sure if they’ve been back since then (probably) but it’s still a big event. Certainly one you’d think wouldn’t have slipped out as quietly as this.

UPDATE: According to Cake Shop’s website, it is the Brothers Kilgour and Robert Scott… hooray!

The extremely nice Cake Shop folks obviously are Flying Nun fans, so I guess I can’t begrudge them having the shows but I do kinda hope they announce another show somewhere else, like Union Hall or Mercury Lounge. I can’t imagine the average Clean fan (mid-30s at the youngest) enjoying the nonexistent sightlines and other problems the venue has. But three Clean shows at Cake Shop are better than none at all.

If you’re unfamiliar with perhaps New Zealand’s most influential band, here are two gems, including the indispensable "Tally Ho." They’re both on Anthology which you should buy right now.

MP3: The Clean – Tally Ho

MP3: The Clean – Diamond Shine

The Less-Known Sound Bites

Yes, I cringed back in 2005 when I heard that Franz Ferdinand frontman Alex Kapranos was going to have a column in The Guardian with the same name as my blog. Same idea too — Music and food. (Note to self: post occasionally about food.) And yes, mine was first, and I guess I could’ve had my army of lawyers something about it, but I figured the poor guy, as he is fond of singing, "needs the money."

His weekly reports from around the world while on tour were like little epicurean postcards, snapshots of where they were, what they were eating, and who they were eating with. And dammit, they were actually quite good. Maybe it shouldn’t have been a surprise as he logged time as cook, wine steward, waiter before starting Franz Ferdinand. Plus, his previous band had the word Yummy in their name.

As you may know, all those Guardian articles have been collected in a book, also called Sound Bites. It’s straight-to-paperback, quite a nice little read and, at $13 it’s cheaper than a Franz Ferdinand CD.

And those of you in NYC can pick up a signed copy — and hear Kapranos read from the book — tonight at the Barnes & Noble Union Square. There are a number of New York entries in the book, and I’m hoping he’ll read the article on Greenpoint’s Peter Pan Donut Shop. It all starts at 7pm.

Meanwhile in related news, Franz Ferdinand have posted a new song, "Hallam Foe, Dandelion Blow" to their MySpace page, and Alex drops a note about it too:

I’ve put a new song on this page. We wrote it a couple of months ago as
a theme for a Scottish film called Hallam Foe, directed by David
who directed Young Adam and Asylum. The title character is
played by Jamie Bell who was the lead in Billy Elliot.

tension, voyeurism, dark humour, Scotland and death are themes of the
film – all of which seem good ingredients for a song by the Ferdinand.
Nick and I read the script and went to screenings of early edits in the
Glasgow Film Theatre which gave us the ideas for the melody and lyrics.
Other Domino artists appear on the soundtrack including Psapp, Unpoc
and Sons & Daughters.

And if you go… and if you buy a book… and if you get him to sign it… be sure to say "hey, you know there’s *another* Sound Bites, right?"

Young Knives Get Sharp for U.S.

One of my favorite shows of 2006 (that I never got around to writing up) was seeing The Young Knives at the Annex back in March. It was an after-party for the rowdy Rakes / Towers of London gig at Bowery. The Brakes played too, but the Young Knives were the real treat for me. They play that kind of nervy pop that I love and, like The Rakes, their lyrics are angsty in a funny, relatable way.

Released in the UK in August, Voices of Animals and Men, was just shy of my Top 20 list, falling somewhere around 22, but "She’s Attracted To" made my Best Singles list. As far as I’m concerned, its extended refrain of "You were screaming at your mom and I was punching your dad!" was this year’s "I’ve seen her naked twice!"

I’m happy to report that Rykodisc has snatched up The Young Knives in the US and will release Voices of Animals and Men in March 2007, which I’m guessing will coincide with a stateside visit for SXSW (and NYC along the way). In the meantime, start screaming along…

MP3: The Young Knives – "She’s Attracted To"

The video for "She’s Attracted To" is a classic as as well.

For Those Who’d Still Like to Rawk

With this week’s sad news that Justin Hawkins had quit the Darkness (and the sadder news that the band was going to continue on without him), I know this leaves a glammy, hammy hole in many people’s hearts where the rawk used to be.

Fear not. Moi? can ease your pain. Fronted by former Double Dong & Wyld Lixx guitarist Royce Peterson, the band are more obviously tongue-in-cheek than the Darkness, but no less fun, melodic or over-the-top.

MP3: Moi? – "The Bitch and the Bull"

Every Moi? show is like a Behind the Music episode — glory, ego, hubris, overindulgence, bottoming out, and rebirth. One time I saw them, Royce battled drug addiction on-stage, singing a love song to a bottle of pills. There is usually some audience participation too, so if Royce comes into the crowd looking for a girl to dance with, don’t say I didn’t warn ya.

Moi? play a FREE show at Fontana’s tomorrow night (Oct. 14) and the rawking will commence at 11pm.

More MP3s and such can be found at the Moi? website.

More New Sloan

Sloan are offering another track of their upcoming 30-track opus, Never Hear the End of It (due September 19, in Canada at least). Penned by resident ham Chris Murphy, “Fading into Obscurity” is an opus in its own right, and sort of feels like the whole of 1999’s Between the Bridges shrunk down into one 4:18 song. It’s starts off slow and dreamy, then makes right turn into “All the Young Dudes” descending chord progression territory before taking a couple more musical bends in the road. Murphy’s self-depricating wordplay is also in full effect: "For that matter, this cake is baked but I much prefer the batter / perhaps in part because it had so much potential / to be delicious and still be influential."

Any more baking secrets, Chris? Between this and “Who Taught You to Live Like That?”, Never Hear the End of It seems to have the makings of a return to form – at least for those who were nonplussed with Sloan’s last album.

MP3: Sloan – "Fading Into Obscurity"

Meanwhile, the band has released the full tracklisting for Never Hear the End of It, which will be one CD but a double on vinyl:

Album_diagram1. Flying High Again
2. Who Taught You To Live Like That?
3. I’ve Gotta Try
4. Everybody Wants You
5. Listen To The Radio
6. Fading Into Obscurity
7. I Can’t Sleep
8. Someone That I Can Be True With
9. Right Or Wrong
10. Something’s Wrong
11. Ana Lucia
12. Before The End Of The Race
13. Blackout
14. I Understand
15. You Know What It’s About
16. Golden Eyes
17. Can’t You Figure It Out?
18. Set In Motion
19. Love Is All Around
20. Will I Belong?
21. Ill Placed Trust
22. Live The Life You’re Dreaming Of
23. Living With The Masses
25. People Think They Know Me
26. I Know You
27. Last Time In Love
28. It’s Not The End Of The World
29. Light Years
30. Another Way I Could Do It

If you look closely at that vinyl sequencing diagram, you’ll notice each song has a color next to it, which I’m guessing is for who wrote what, which should put the song count at:

Chris – 13
Patrick – 8
Jay – 5
Andrew – 4

And one ("HFXNSHC" is not on that board) unaccounted for.

New Sloan

My favorite Canadians, Sloan, are set to release their eighth album on September 19 and earlier in the week Stereogum posted about the first single, "Who Taught You to Live Like That?," being available on the band’s MySpace page.

Today, Chromewaves reported that the album is 29 songs long (!) with equal contributions from all four members. Never ones to shy away from self-deprecating humor, the album is called Never Hear the End of It.

Sloan’s last album, 2003’s Action Pact, seemed like a obvious stab at the charts, with a de rigeur overly-compressed digital sheen and way too many negligible pop-punk songs from Patrick Pentland, and none from drummer Andrew Scott. Keeping it from being a sad suckfest were resident ham Chris Murphy and his melodic skills, Keith Moon imitations and corny/clever lyrics; and the two contributions from vinyl freak Jay Ferguson — the best on the album.

For a while it looked like Action Pact would be their last, but when the boys played Bowery Ballroom last year in support of their singles comp A Sides Win, Chris Murphy said the band were already working on their next album… and obviously they weren’t kidding.

The very Bolan-esque "Who Taught You to Live Like That?" is the first Jay-penned Sloan single since "The Lines You Amend" ten years ago (and technically that was Jay/Chris). It may not be the strongest Sloan song ever, but it sounds like a real band playing, not something pieced together on a computer. I can’t wait to hear the other 28.

MP3: Sloan – "Who Taught You to Live Like That?"

My favorite Sloan video: "People of the Sky"

Van Go

I don't trust them, either.
There hasn’t been a whole lot of talk, at least amongst the NYC set, about Denton, TX band Midlake, so I’ll take this opportunity to do so. Their newly-released second album, The Trials of Van Occupanther, is one of my favorites of 2006 so far. British mags are throwing around Flaming Lips and Radiohead comparisons, but to me they sound like something transported from the early ’70s. Folk rock with lush instrumentation, gorgeous, dense harmonies, and some psychedelic/proggy flourishes as well… it’s quite a lovely album.

But don’t take my word for it. Here’s what skateboarder/Kevin Smith pal/My Name is Earl star Jason Lee says…

"The Trials of Van Occupanther is now one of the most important modern records I own. In an age of overly-used
irony and disconnected nonchalance, this record actually
means something, and MidlakeVan Occupanther has backbone, and the fact that you don’t
feel cheated by it gives one hope that sincerity can still exist
within modern alternative music." should be forever hailed for
their unique and genuine approach to music.  Simply put, Van Occupanther has backbone, and the fact that you don’t feel cheated by it gives one hope that sincerity can still exist within modern alternative music."

What he said. I can’t wait to hear if they can really replicate the album’s sonics onstage when Midlake play Mercury Lounge on June 20. The Trials of Van Occupanther has yet to receive Stateside distribution (what’s up with that?), so maybe the show won’t sell out, but I’d buy tickets just in case.

There are some mp3s (zipped, no less) on the band’s somewhat out-of-date website, but here are a couple Van Occupanther gems to hopefully pique your interest:

Midlake – "Roscoe"

Midlake – "Young Bride"

Acid House Kings to Play U.S.

Swedish pop royalty Acid House Kings are hitting America for a weeklong visit in July, including two stops in NYC. If you’re not familiar with AHK’s particular brand of melodic jangle, think Camera Obscura, any number of early ’90s bands on the Sarah label, or basically anything Chickfactor covered. Though best known for 2003’s Mondays are like Tuesdays and Tuesdays are like Wednesdays and last year’s Sing Along with Acid House Kings (both released by Labrador, also home to the Radio Dept and the Legends) they’ve actually been holding court since 1991. They don’t get this way very often, so be sure to check them out if they play your town. Here are the dates (sorry West Coast):

July 6: Chicago, IL (at Lakeshore Theatre)

July 7: Detroit, MI

July 8: New York, NY (at The Cake Shop)

July 9: Brooklyn, NY (at North 6)

July 10: Boston, MA

July 11: Washington, DC

July 12: Philapdelphia, PA

And a couple MP3s…

Acid House Kings – "Sunday Morning"

Acid House Kings – "Do What You Wanna Do"

Dears Finish Album, Announce Details

Just in time for their appearance at Coachella this Sunday, my favorite live band of 2005, The Dears, have announced details of their just-completed new album, Gang of Losers. According to a post on the band’s MySpace blog by frontman Murray Lightburn, the album was recorded this winter in Montreal at Parc X home Lightburn shares with keyboardist Natalia Yanchack and their new daughter Neptune, and mixed and mastered in New York City in March.

Lightburn says Gang of Losers is "a somewhat stripped-down, raw affair," which would be in stark contrast from the bombast of its predecessor, 2003’s No Cities Left. "As clich as this may sound, it’s by far the ‘best work we’ve ever done.’ But seriously, it doesn’t sound like anything else and it’s pretty relentless," he adds.

The album title was also the working title for a song, now called "You and I Are a Gang of Losers," that the Dears have been playing live since early 2005 and has become a highlight of their shows. Clocking in at a reasonably compact 48 minutes, the tracklist is as follows:

01. Sinthtro
02. Ticket to Immortality
03. Death or Life We Want You
04. Hate Then Love
05. There Goes My Outfit
06. Bandwagoneers
07. Fear Made the World Go ‘Round
08. You and I Are a Gang Of Losers
09. Whites Only Party
10. Ballad of Humankindness
11. I Fell Deep
12. Find Our Way to Freedom

Look for Gang of Losers to drop in August, with a single — most likely the title-track — preceding it in June. Until then, the band have put "Fear Made the World Go Round" available to listen to on their MySpace page.  Lightburn sounds decidedly less like Damon or the Moz this time around.