Archive for the 'music' Category

26
Oct
10

If Derek Zoolander managed the Runaways …

… it would look and sound something like the Plastiscines.

 

 

24
Sep
10

Amy Rigby: “Between doomed and most wanted”

Amy Rigby has been the source of much musical joy for me since I discovered her, way too late, about a decade ago. “Knapsack,” “Dancing with Joey Ramone,” “Keep It to Yourself,” “Like Rasputin,” “Balls,” “The Summer of My Wasted Youth.” Any of these would be a career-defining achievement for a singer-songwriter, but she has dozens more.

Born in Pittsburgh, Amy spent much of her career in the New York music scene, and now resides in a hickish region of la belle France. I know it is hickish because I read Amy’s blog, where her brainy, cynical (and yet romantic) wit is in evidence in every entry.

She writes of the joys and frustrations of being a musical act of a certain age, of living in rural France, dealing with rude bureaucrats and check-out girls. In one entry she lends her unique perspective to some subtle distinctions of French life

It’s comprehending the difference between “péypère” – sort of semi-retired, laidback, easygoing (masculin) and “mémère” slovenly, letting-it-all-go, sluttish, bad-humored (feminin) and ideally, straddling the two because going in the one direction is boring and going too far in the other direction is depressing.

Of course, she is still a working musician, and much of the blog deals with touring … typically in unreliable vehicles, and always nowadays with her current love and musical partner, Stiff Records legend Wreckless Eric. In her latest entry, she tells of having to conduct a phone interview with Herald Scotland while broken down on the A1. Trucks whizzing by. “Cannae you talk now?”

Most musicians, confronted with the fact that their audience, loyal and discerning as it is, will never grow large enough to make them rich and famous, or even financially secure, decide at some point to call it a day. Amy’s blog is a beautiful account of the highs and lows of keeping at it into your fifties, of saying “fuck that. There is nothing else I’d rather be doing.”

I will now refrain from saying how great her blog is and just let the reader sample for his or her damn self:

Wish we could’ve hung around in Scotland – in between Glasgow or Edinburgh, two of my favorite cities. Instead we had to head on down to Hyde. The promoter called and said the pub had been broken into the night before. He jokingly said maybe that would bring more people out, so they could get a look at the crime scene. We should have known right there it was going to be a tough night. From the barbed wire and old tires around the junkyard entrance next door, to the dogshit scattered across the astro-turfed pub “garden”, to the load-in up a wet metal fire escape because the police were busy dusting the inside stairs for fingerprints, to the leftover scraps of astroturf covering the surface of the stage, to the panicky soundman, to the greasy yet sticky surface of everything in the place – it was hard not to feel depressed. You know you’re in trouble when you look to the resident heckler for affirmation.

But next night was wonderful, Kitchen Garden Cafe in Birmingham – like being in a weird aunt’s living room. Odd garden furniture, slate on the floor and a relaxed feeling. We’d played there once before and saw familiar faces this time. It felt like everyone was on our side. The only thing that had changed was that the copy of Tim Rice’s autobiography, a massive tome I’d used as a keyboard bench booster seat last time, was missing from the bookshelf. I had to make do with a hardback copy of Beach Music.

Now we’re in the Norfolk countryside, taking a rest until Brighton, London and Manchester – tomorrow, Friday and Saturday (and Winchester on Tuesday). I often feel like Bonnie and Clyde where they hole up at CW Moss’s dad’s place when we stop for a few days out on the road. A couple of steps ahead of the law, somewhere on the sliding scale between doomed and most wanted.

10
Sep
10

My kind of pop star

Marina had me with her funny, pitch perfect “OH MY GOD, You look just like Shakira, No no, you’re Katherine-Zeta…..” schtick on “Hollywood.” And “Hollywood infected your brain/You want to kiss it in the rain” is a terrific line, too.


And that crazy voice. Hyperactive, whoopy, insane range. “What a pair of lungs! She shrieked as I imagined an eagle would shriek. It felt wonderful to be alive to hear it! I’ve gone looking for that feeling everywhere.” (That’s Denis Johnson in an entirely different, but applicable, context.)

The personality that comes across in interviews is down-to-earth, if not straight-up goofy, but she loves to dress up and play the diva. Which she does rather well.

Her songwriting can be a bit Big Statement-y, but she’s young. Let it pass. If all divas were this funny and clever, and had such great songs, the world would be a better place.

This video for “Shampain” makes it five official videos and counting for her first album. It’s got zombies in sexy party frocks doing a spazzy dance routine that owes at least a little bit to Thriller. What is not to like?

02
Sep
10

Songs of innocence and experience

The other day I decided  Sleigh Bells had come up with the greatest song ever, and I made a point of doing errands that required lots of slow driving with the window down and the car stereo cranked. I slunk down a bit in the seat, head back,  rocking steady to “Rill Rill.”

Right? Truly, it’s a perfect song for that kind of thing. But today I’m a little sheepish. Don’t know if anyone I knew saw me, but … a 51-year-old man in a 15-year-old station wagon cruisin’ to a song made by and for twenty-something hipsters….

… I’m thinking I should maybe groove out to that sort of music in private. Or out in back of the house.

But the good thing about getting old is that you can choose to enjoy Sleigh Bells’ apocalyptic thrash with a layer of sugar on top. Or not. And you have the Weepies too, who released their first album in four years yesterday. Which is positively thrilling to  me. The young folks, I’m not so sure not all the young folks get the Weepies.

Deb Talan and Steve Tannen are the Weepies. They both had solo careers, then they got married. To each other. They have a son they took years off touring to have and raise.

Their music could only have been made by grownups. It’s got real wit and occasionally bizarre imagery, but to me it’s a lot about the thick and thinnin’ of married life. Dealing with commitment and contentment and little pleasures without making the listener feel brain dead.

Here is the first song from “Be My Thrill”:

Wise. Warm. Modest. Wry. Polite. Grammatical. “When I’m gone, Please speak well of me.”

Note the “please” and  “well,” kids.

(Also, I still love Sleigh Bells).

09
Jun
10

Big hits from the Reagan era

This song! From the golden age of the thrift store, this Voice of the Beehive gem has kooky vintage clothes and jewelry, goofy dancing, sunglasses worn indoors, and a great sunny melody (with dark undertones). It is the perfect eighties tune.

Also, it has censorship issues. Californian sisters Tracey Bryn and Melissa Brooke Belland were based in London for the peak Voice of the Beehive Years. The BBC folks insisted they change the lyrics “she says I get it every night” and “he’ll rip you right in two.” The best lines of the song! Here they are “she says I see him every night” and “he’ll rip your heart in two,” which just ain’t the same thing.

They have a Web site that makes me regret even mentally categorizing them as a one-hit wonder eighties band. They worked hard at it for nearly a decade, had a number of respectably charting singles, and headlined shows on both sides of the Atlantic.

Also, this is a pretty awesome Partridge Family cover:

06
Jun
10

Always with the hands

Was channel-flipping the other night and came across an Elvis documentary featuring this amazing footage.

Put your own soundtrack to this insane silent slice of history. Liberace: always with the hands, and clearly hopped up on something or other.

04
Jun
10

Sweet DIY pop

There have always been retro bands like Lucky Soul around, and if they haven’t made it big by now, they probably won’t. (But they have Glastonbury in late June….)

But I think they are fab. There are echoes of early Cardigans, St. Etienne, Camera Obscura, and even Swing Out Sister!

I confess to adoring their tunes, and singer Ali’s voice, attitude, and cheekbones pretty much equally.




Ineffable beauty, unspeakable evil, and all sorts of crap in between

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