It is just amazing to me how popular The Pains of Being Pure at Hearthave become. Not that they don't deserve it — their debut is one of my favorites of the year — it's just that, as a longtime lover of this sort of music, there's one thing I'd come to accept. It's not the kind of stuff that ever gets popular. Or hasn't before. A year ago, they were playing Cake Shop and the Dead Herring apartment, and that seemed about right for their brand of indie pop, influenced by the Pastels, Black Tambourine, The Wedding Present and Beat Happening. These guys had great songs, but history showed bands like this just wouldn't get much bigger. Fast-forward a year later and the Pains are headlining a show at the Seaport and it's as packed as I've ever seen it, rivalling that Animal Collective show two years ago. The weather is perfect mind you, but people are there to see them. And they just sound amazing — the songs roar, the band is tight, you can actually hear Peggy's keyboards and Kip has become a confident singer. Ripping through their set with nary a word in between songs, the crowd bobs and everyone's smiling. The band is smiling too. They are having fun. The new songs are good. While I can't see them ever dethroning Linkin Park or The Black Eyed Peas from the Billboard charts, tonight, the Pains make it seem like anything's possible.
I have ice skated about three times in my life but am ready to brave ankle injuries if rock music is involved. The folks behind the Seaport Music Festival are booking bands at Seaport Ice for the next five Fridays, this week (1/30) being the first with the awesome dude explosion (broverload?) that is Neckbeard Telecaster, plus Grand Mal.
Seaport Ice is located right on Pier 17 where they do the Seaport shows in the summer. Shows are from 7-10 PM and you don't have to skate to watch, but it's gotta be more fun from the ice. It's $5 rink admission and $7 for skates. Weather this Friday is supposed to be in the 30s, so sounds like a cool (sorry) way to kick off the weekend.
What with the NYC Popfest still fresh in my ears (I think it's called tinitus), I've had indie-pop on the brain lately — something that's not that likely to change thanks to these two (three, really) free Summer compilations from originating in Scandinavia.
The fine folks at Swedish label Labrador have just released a 30-track Summer Sampler, containing new songs from upcoming releases as well as some choice cuts from their extensive catalog. Artists include pretty much everybody you'd expect: Pelle Carlberg, The Radio Dept., The Legends, Acid House Kings, The Mary Onettes, Sambassadeur, Suburban Kids with Biblical Names, and my favorite band to contain brackets in thier name, [ingenting].
It's a free (if very slow) download… get it here. (Downloads broke Labrador's server, now up on Pirate Bay).
Meanwhile over in Norway, Knut of the great blog Eardrums (who was on Blog Fresh earlier this year) has put together a two volume Summer's Here compilation, complete with artwork and a downloadable booklet with bios, etc. Some of the tracks are exclusive to this compilation — itt's a really nice package. I'll be honest: of the 48 bands on it, I've only heard maybe four bands (The LK, Northern Portrait, Club 8, Cold Mailman), but Knut has great taste and I can't wait to check it all out.
And while not exactly fitting with the other two, Bradford Cox has just posted a new Micromix on the Deerhunter/Atlas Sound blog, inspired by the Norwegian leg of the Deerhunter tour. Here's what he says about it: "It's mid-summer here so there is only like an hour of actual darkness. this mix is for the burdened youths of the nordic tribes who spit on americans outside kebab shops (credit card receipts flying through the air) like weird weather (fragments) a bottle of still water cost 6 american dollars long live loss." It's got everything from The Bats and Electrelane to My Bloody Valentine and Chrome. Worth a download. And don't forget Atlas Sound plays River to River's Seaport Music on July 25
Maybe I just had LOST's season finale on my mind, but Wire frontman Colin Newman looks more than a little like that show's Benjamin Linus these days. Or a college professor. Dressed in a black suit, with glasses falling off his nose, Newman nonetheless sounded the same with that punk sneer and strong London accent.
This was Wire's first NYC show in eight years. Ripping into "Our Time" from last year's excellent Read and Burn 03 EP, they pretty much announced right off the bat that a) they've still got it and b) they weren't here to trot out the hits. They never have been that type anyway. When the band reformed in 1985 after a six year break, they hired a Wire cover band (The Ex-Lion Tamers) to open for them on tour to do the songs from their first incarnation.
Tonight, however, we got Wire from every era of the group and nearly every album. Seven of the set's 16 songs were 1990 or before, sprinkled throughout the set (despite what Brooklyn Vegan commenters might have you believe), though they did save the best-known ones for the end, including "The 15th" and "12XU" (or as my friend Dorrit calls it, "Twelve Times You"). and Early in the set we The new songs from Wire's upcoming album, Object 47, sounded solid — definitely more melodic than anything else they've done this decade, the best of which was probably "One of Us" which they released as a free download last week.
Again, despite the majority of the set being new-ish material, we did also get "Being Sucked in Again" from Chairs Missing early in the set, as well as "Boiling Boy" from A Bell is a Cup Until it Is Struck, and The Ideal Copy's "Advantage in Height." My only complaint is these oldies are the same ones they played in 2001 at Irving Plaza, and it would be nice if they mixed it up a little giving us "Manequin," "I am the Fly," or "Drill," with maybe one or two of Graham's songs as well ("Blessed State," "Ambitious" or "The Finest Drops").
The band was in fine form, though. Watching from the side area I got a good view of drummer Robert Gotobed who is still a machine at age 57. Bassist Graham Lewis, in a knit cap that had to have been hot, did not look his age, and Margaret Fielder (of Laika and Moonshake) makes a fine replacement for Bruce Gilbert. (I've got to pull out those Laika records…) Hopefully Wire will return once the album is out, and take less than eight years to do so.
SETLIST: Our Time | Mr. Marx's Table | Comet | Being Sucked in Again | Mekon Headman | Perspex Icon | Advantage in Height | The Agfers of Kodack | All Fours | One of Us | Boiling Boy | The 15th | 106 Beats That | I Don't Understand | ENCORE: Lowdown | 12XU
For me, summer starts with the first Friday show at South Street Seaport… which this year is tomorrow, though there won’t be another till July 11. The Seaport Music series is always such a good way to kick off weekends, when it’s not raining or the pier is being attacked by swarms of insects. (The latter only happened once, during Camera Obscura last year but it was really freaky.) This year’s lineup — what they’ve announced so far looks good. It will be interesting to see just how loud A Place to Bury Strangers will be allowed to play, and how much it will scare the tourists.
But tomorrow’s kickoff with art punk legends Wire is what I’m most excited about. I am a pretty big Wire fan. having followed them ever since I heard their song “Ahead” on an Enigma Records sampler I bought for $4.99 in 1987. (It also introduced me to Mojo Nixon and Game Theory.)
Reformation and reunion shows can be dicey affairs, but Wire are not nostalgists by nature and have been active since getting back together in 2000 after a 8-year vacation. I saw Wire when they played Irving Plaza back in 2000 around the time of their reformation and, I must admit, my biggest memory of that show is that I sold my extra ticket to a scalper to which I was given a counterfeit $20… of course I didn’t realize it till I used it at Irving Plaza’s bar. (I didn’t get kicked out, and still have that funny money somewhere… and haven’t dealt with scalpers since.) My memory of the show is that they didn’t do any classics apart from “12xU” and “Drill” but a quick Google search is that it was almost entirely oldies nicely plucked from throughout their career.
This was before they started recording new material, most of which has uniformly good, if not excellent — and not just “good for a bunch of geezers” either — including three Read and Burn EPs and an album, 2003’s Send. Bassist Bruce Gilbert quit the band in 2004 but, weirdly, they seem to have gotten better. Last year’s Read and Burn 03 EP was maybe the best yet of the 00s-era Wire, the highlight of which is the epic “23 Years Too Late” with great vocal interplay between Colin Newman and Graham Lewis:
All of which bodes well for their upcoming 10th album, Object 47, which comes out July 7. To these ears it sounds like update of the kind of songs found on 1987’s The Ideal Copy: dark and sinewy, but with bite and melody too. The band were kind enough to give us a taster:
We’ll hear more tomorrow when Wire play the first Seaport show of the 2008 season. Filling Bruce Gilbert’s spot on guitar will be Margaret Fielder who was in Moonshake and Laika, the latter of whom did a great version of Wire’s “German Shepards” for the 1994 Wire tribute CD, WHORE.
A setlist from Manchester’s Futuresonic festival earlier this month looks like mostly new stuff, with some old nuggets (“Boiling Boy,” “The 15th,” “Lowdown,” “12XU,” “106 Beats That”) thrown in as well, but don’t be surprised if they show up in radically reworked versions. Wire aren’t much for nostalgia.
The essential first three Wire albums were reissued in 2006 on Wire’s label, Pink Flag, and sound great. Actually, I recommend just about everything Wire’s ever done, even the very synthy 1991 Wir album (no “e” as drummer Robert Gotobed had left the band), The First Letter. Only 1990’s Manscape is skippable.
Also worth picking up is Wire on the Box: 1979, a CD/DVD combo of the band’s awesome performance on German music TV show, Rockpalast. You can actually see all of it on YouTube. Here’s “The 15th” which was still a year away from seeing a recorded version on 154, and was later covered by electroclashers Fischerspooner:
If you’re heading down to the Seaport tomorrow and look to drink on the cheap, there’s a fish-n-chips place in the back of the top floor Seaport food court that sells 32 oz styrofoam cups of beer for next to nothing. It’s definitely the way to go.