Sebastien Grainger may be alright after all.

I actually really enjoyed Death from Above 1979, but the Pitchfork-axis jungle telegraph was all het up about whether or not Sebastien was a colossal prick or not.   

I stumbled across Sebastien’s solo MySpace page today.   I have always thought he was a fantastic drummer, and I tried to model my duo group (with Zaxx from Music Hates You, alternately called Inkfist, James Dean Death Guitar, or something else) as a cross between DfA1979 and Emotional Legs era Leaving Trains.  

I am particularly feeling the symphonic Cheap-Trick-meets-Built-to-Spill pop of “American Names” and the Big Star/Sparks stomp of “I’m All Rage.”  Check out the naked telecaster sting of the intro contrasted with the sweet string section in the chorus.  Really lovely.  

The solo album comes out in early 2008.  I’ll snag a copy as soon as I can and let you know what I think.  

In the meantime, I hope to see more pictures of his dog. 

Sebastien's dog. 

How to get some of the music I’ve been raving about….

You can get the startlingly subtle and gorgeous ohbijou record here

Shannon Wright’s new record is called “Let in the Light.”  

Five-Eight’s only record available online is here.   

Dead Confederate have an EP in the iTunes store here.   

Band of Horses “Cease to Begin.”   

Pylon has just re-released their classic album “Gyrate.”  

You can walk into your local record store and buy Gang of Four, I feel fairly confident.  If not, you should check on them in the iTunes music store

 Baroness is a Relapse Records band.  Relapse has a ton of bands I love, and hopefully ONE DAY they’ll sign Music Hates You.  You can get the Baroness record through their (exceptionally well done) online store.   

Christmas is coming- give music to your nieces and nephews… how hip would you suddenly become in their eyes? 

The Indestructible Beat of Soweto

Today I am revisiting the “Indestructible Beat of Soweto, Vol. 1” that I got in the mail last year.  Released in 1986, it was a document of the vibrant and rocking music scene from the shanty clubs and party spots in the black villages and “homelands” of Apartheid-era South Africa.   As I have said here before, I believe that the Civil Rights Movement in the US is one of the greatest struggles for human justice and dignity in the history of the Western World.  The soul and R&B of the late ’50s and the ’60s is the soundtrack of this amazing story.   The same goes for this music and its relationship to the struggle for justice in South Africa.  Looking back, I remember that there was a time when I found it difficult to imagine a world without Apartheid in South Africa.I boycotted acts who played Sun City, wrote letters of support for Nelson Mandela and Walter Sisulu on behalf of Amnesty International, and I bought ALL of these records when I could find them.  The music, like the music of the American Civil Rights movement, was amazingly positive, almost giddy with its skittering guitars, sinewy basslines and pounding acoustic disco drums.  It was the vocal harmonies that lifted this music into the sublime, though.  Not being any more of a musicologist than the average record buying nerd, I can only guess that this is a logical extension of the strong vocal music tradition of South Africa.  All of the demonstrations I saw on television and read about in the copies of the Manchester Guardian I found at the library seemed to be accompanied by unison dancing and chanting, often with songs sung in these amazing harmonies.  This flawless vocal stratification comes through loud and clear in the pop music of the era.   Speaking of record nerds, here is our king, Robert Christgau, reviewing this same record

At once more hectically urban-upbeat and more respectfully tribal-melodic than its jazzy and folky predecessors, marabi and kwela, the mbaqanga this compilation celebrates is an awesome cultural achievement. It confronts rural-urban contradictions far more painful and politically fraught than any Memphis or Chicago migration, and thwarts apartheid’s determination to deny blacks not just a reasonable living but a meaningful identity. Like all South African music it emphasizes voices, notably that of the seminal “goat-voiced” “groaner” Mahlathini, who in 1983 took his deep, penetrating sung roar, which seems to filter sound that begins in his diaphragm through a special resonator in his larynx, back to the studio with the original Mahotella Queens and the reconstituted Makgona Tsohle Band. But with Marks Mankwane’s sourcebook of guitar riffs hooking each number and Joseph Makwela’s unshakable bass leading the groove rather than stirring it up reggae-style, it’s also about a beat forthright enough to grab Americans yet more elaborate than the r&b it evokes. The defiantly resilient and unsentimental exuberance of these musicians has to be fully absorbed before it can be believed, much less understood. They couldn’t be more into it if they were inventing rock and roll. And as a final benison, there’s a hymn from Ladysmith Black Mambazo. A+

 This is not just one of those “important” records, it’s a FUN record.  See if you don’t find yourself dancing around the living room if you put it on.

Also, as Christgau mentions, Ladysmith Black Mambazo have a song on this compilation.  They inspired Township Vocal Band tradition which later flourished in the culture of the South African workcamps.  Men in these camps toiled ten or more hours a day, often working in the horrible conditions of the South African diamond mines.  They had been bused hundreds of miles from their families and they largely lived in barracks.  When they weren’t working they grouped together by township and had contests to pass their off-time to see which band could sing most sweetly.   Imagining music this entrancing and gorgeous being created by people living such desperate and hardbitten lives often brings me to tears.   This is the music of the waters being parted so that people could come up out of slavery and degradation. 

You really should own this record

This is where metal is going

You should check out the live footage of the Baroness show from the Bowery Ballroom.  I dig these guys.  Their idea of metal is much closer, I think, to Can than it is to someone like, say, Megadeath.  I think it’s a lot more interesting, this sort of improvisational metal.  However, it can get a little too proggy for me at times, and I get Black Flag cravings. I definitely think it’s sort of a ‘metal-fans-only’ genre, this weird new byzantine jammy metal, but it’s a nice break…     

Other folks are talking…

My wife’s theatre company is putting on a fantastic play, the second act of which is pretty amazing, and heartbreaking. I dunno… something about Truman Capote’s take on the holidays appeals to me.  Gordon Lamb does a nice write up and includes .mp3s of Capote reading “A Thanksgiving Visitor.”  Good stuff.  No, amazing stuff.

Fountains of Spain

The Fountains of Wayne have announced their tour dates in 2008:

  • 1.11.08   Murcia, Spain, EU   Murcia Auditorium
  • 1.12.08   Valencia, Spain, EU   Mirror Club
  • 1.14.08   Santiago, Spain, EU   DC Capitol
  • 1.17.08   Madrid, Spain, EU   Joy Eslava
  • 1.18.08   Bilbao, Spain, EU   Kafe Antzokia
  • 1.19.08   Zaragoza, Spain, EU   OASIS

I am gonna buy a lottery ticket today, y’know, just in case.  I have been to all of these cities, and I love them dearly.  My love for the Fountains of Wayne is well documented. If there was a perfect vacation for my lovely wife and me, well there it is. 

The drummers’ sushi roundtable

Over edamame, spicy tuna rolls and Kirin last night, I was fortunate enough to find myself alone at a table with Hugo Burnham and Curtis Crowe, the drummers of Gang of Four and Pylon, respectively. (You can read a fantastic interview with Hugo at Gordon Lamb’s excellent music blog.)

I don’t mind telling you that I was a little awestruck. You won’t find two drummers more responsible for the entire rhythmic element of dancepunk and a huge slice of ’80s pop music. I found myself reflecting on the difference in their styles- Curtis is more of a linear powerhouse drummer. He’s very straightforward and his style is muscular and propulsive with open highhat on the and of one and three that would sound fey if any other drummer did it. Somehow Curtis makes it both danceable and brawler tough. He’s not prone to any sort of eggheaded Mastah Drummah frippery. He just drives the beat like a tractor. Hugo has the same powerful impulse, but he tempers it with a very English drummer/post-ska swing. He has all the effusive force of Curtis’ playing, but his style also has a bit of understatement- a kind of subtle extension of the fact that he’s a complete gentleman. Unfortunately, I have never seen them play back-to-back.

Hugo was in town to DJ between sets at Pylon’s show at the 40 Watt last night, and my understanding is that he’s no longer messing around with Gang of Four. Evidently, there have been some bad management decisions and (once again) the best thing to do was to quit while he was ahead.

My favorite moment last night was when Hugo and Curtis were comparing “My kids dig my band” stories. Curtis’ son came to one of the recent Pylon reunion shows and sat with his cousin while the band played, watching intently. Of course, the rest of the bar did what people do at a Pylon show, which is jump up and down and dance like crazy people. Curtis kept trying to get a read on what his son (who was 14 at the time) was thinking, but from behind the kit, it was impossible to see too clearly what Stacy’s reactions were. After the show, Curtis was driving home and Stacy said “Dad, you’re in an AWESOME party band.”

Curtis said it was the best review he’d ever gotten.

Hugo, on the other hand, said that his highest moment was at the first big Go4 comeback show in London, after they’d played two encores, and they came out to do their last bows to a RAPTUROUS crowd in a sweat-soaked, completely packed London club. The fans were completely beside themselves, and Hugo was giving them one final wave when his lovely young daughter ran out onstage and leapt into his arms. Hugo told me “…and then the audience just went COMPLETELY insane. I walked up to the mic and said my last goodnight and carried my daughter offstage. It was fantastic.”

Band of Horses

What can I tell you about Band of Horses? Here is everything that I know: They lived in Seattle for a number of years, then moved back to their hometown of Easley Motherfucking South Carolina. This is a move that i totally understand, both for pragmatic reasons and for more esoteric reasons. Band of Horses have become a touring machine, as best as I can tell. Fact #2 about them: Microsoft bought them a “Zune” branded tour bus for their US tour. It’s way more practical for a band that is touring as much as they are to keep residencies in a small South Carolina town than in a place like Seattle, particularly when it comes to things like rent costs and getting in and out of town.

More esoterically, back when I lived in Chicago, I remember this time of year, as the skies turned grey and it just got colder and colder. It got to where I thought “This is the coldest I have ever been. My god, how could it be so cold?” Then it got even colder. I was really struggling to find work up there and I was starting to find that a lot of my time was spent driving from here to there to there chasing ever more elusive dollars. It was rough. Then, one day I heard a story on the radio about rural people who watch trains in South Georgia, and I heard their soft voices on the air. I heard the softness in their ways, too- the way they said “Thank you” to the interviewer and how they listened to the questions that they were being asked, laughing politely at the right times. I had to pull the car over and just sit for a while until my heart wasn’t so heavy. I knew I was done with Chicago. I knew I had to get home.

I hear Band of Horses, and I remember what that was like.

Here are the lyrics to “The General Specific”:

If your trials end, are really getting you down
We had a close call, I didn’t even see it, then another one, I hardly believed it at all.
What the writers say, it means shit to me now.
Plants and animals, we’re on a bender when it’s 80 degrees, the end of December was coming on,
Only for you and me.
When the showing up ends, going back to the south, where hungry necks that I know, and runnin’
A blender in a lightning storm, disguised as a blessing I’m sure.
Knowing up here, there comes a fork in the road, pants have gotta go, we’re on an island on
The fourth of July, looks like the tide is going home.
In time I’d find a little way to your heart, down to the general store for nothing specific,
Gonna wash my bones in the Atlantic shore – only for you and me

I have heard criticisms of Band of Horses, mostly that they’re trying to take their brand of indie/Americana mainstream, and that they’re the most commercial (and this implies: “possessing the least integrity”) of the Low Lows/Sparklehorse/My Morning Jacket mope-along-little-doggies axis, but I love this band, so far. Talk to me again in a week, we’ll see. But right now, I am digging it.

I have new drums

By the way, I don’t think I have posted photos of my new drums here yet.

Well, here they are….

I am not sexy enough to deserve these drums.

Suddenly awash in new music, and I think it’s my responsibility to share

I am really enjoying ohbijou. I find them to be sort of orchestral pop without the kind of OHMIGODWE’RETHEMOSTIMPORTANTPOPBANDEVER!!!! presentation of Arcade Fire. Don’t get me wrong, I see where Arcade Fire are going, but I think ohbijou is a little more subtle and lovely. I suspect that I will be just as into ohbijou a year from now.

Also, my old friend Shannon Wright has just(?) put out a new record. I knew her as “the girl from Crowsdell” back in the ’90s, then lost track of her, only to have her pop back on to my (admittedly limited) radar as having done some amazing work with Steve Albini at Electrical Studios in Chicago. You should check out the songs on her MySpace page.

I have been playing with Five-Eight lately. God, what a blast that’s been! I played with Five-Eight for about nine years back in the ’90s. We did innumerable tours, including at least five Big Laps around the country. It was good, then it was great, then we got tired of each other and touring and I left the band. After eight years off, the drummer who replaced me has moved out to Los Angeles and I have been filling in here and there. It’s amazing what happens when you take a little time off. The practices have been revelatory, amazing, moving. There’s a level of communication that happens when you’ve played with guys for that many years. It’s good. It’s been a lot of fun. I have no idea what the future holds, but y’know, even when I pretend that I do, it’s all guesswork, so we’ll see.

I have also been listening to Dead Confederate a lot. These guys are from Athens, and I stumbled up on them from the nice things that they had said about Music Hates You in an interview. They’re an interesting mix of influences. I hear a little Radiohead, some Flaming Lips, some Sonic Youth, but there’s no denying that they’re a great pop songwriting team. I dig this band, and I predict great things. You can see some very funny photos of them doing Sonic Youth covers on my friend Mike’s website.

There will be more music updates soon. I am starting to think this might need to just turn into a music blog. I am so much more interested in music than politics these days.