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November 29, 2007

I keep telling ya, it's a good time to be in Columbus . . .

I've been itching to check out The Moon and Badtimes since reading rave reviews on Population: Doug and World of Wumme.  Yeah, that was in August, but I did finally get around to checking 'em out Tuesday at Carabar and I can attest that they're as good as advertised.  I totally dug the sorta looping, I-270 motorik beat.  I'm also a sucker for properly executed three-guitar lineups, which the guys really nailed when they switched into that mode.

Anyway, I'm not going to embarrass myself trying to put a finger on their sound.  Other than a song on their MySpace and a few YouTube clips floating around, it doesn't look like there's much M.A.B. recorded output to take in, but it may be just as well for the time being because their live show is something to be experienced.  All's I know is, after missing out over the past three months or so, I'm not going to be missing many M.A.B. sets in the future.

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November 28, 2007

Knights' PH+CB now on Amazon MP3

Paris Hilton & Captain Beefheart by the Knights of Infinite Resignation
The Knights of Infinite Resignation's Paris Hilton & Captain Beefheart single is up on the Amazon MP3 site now.  Click here to be taken directly to the page.  It's at $0.89 per song right now (not too shabby), and as far as I can gather the files are DRM-free with a variable bit rate (attempting to average 256 kb).  Keep in mind, this is the "digital download" version of the single, which means that it's just two songs ("Paris Hilton & Captain Beefheart" and "Cricket The Bug") and doesn't include the Pere Ubu cover that's only available on the cd format (most easily purchasable at the NBR Online Store).
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November 20, 2007

Nothin' like chili and football

Ohio State's fourth straight victory over Michigan wasn't the only notable event of this past weekend.  A friend of mine also hosted her third straight chili cookoff.  Not being much of a culinary prodigy (except maybe for making kick ass omelettes and having an uncanny knowledge of the varieties of generic brand mac & cheese), I played a vital role in convincing my compadre Bone Fresh to cook up his great chili.

Bone Fresh Valient Chili

Based on an ancient Nordic chili recipe, Bone Fresh Valient Chili took first prize.  After the awards ceremony, Bone Fresh may or may not have been heard to quip, "It's great to finally get some recognition, especially after our two 12-packs of Pabst were denied entry into the communal beer cooler and we were forced to have to go out onto the front porch to get a beer."  (Coincidentally, I agree -- it was kinda annoying that we had to go oustide to get our Pabsts, especially given that they were the only beers placed on the front porch, but it was all worth it when Fresh won.)

In all seriousness, though, it was good fun and all the chilis were great.  Fresh has got his work cut out for him if he wants to repeat next year.

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November 19, 2007

R.I.P. Chas Smith

I'm a bit out of the loop with the Cle rock news, so I've just recently found out that Chas Smith passed away last month.  I never got the opportunity to meet Chas, but I've always admired him for the vital role he played in any number of great Cleveland bands (most notably, to me, the Pagans and the Clocks).  From all accounts, he was an all-around great guy, both as a human being, a rocker, and a professor (I was never bright enough to realize it probably would've been fairly easy to enroll at Cle State as a visiting student to take his course on rock history).

Since I only got to see Chas play live a few times (once or twice with Einstein's Secret Orchestra and once or twice with the post-GBV Cobra Verde), I'll best remember him for his contributions to the Clocks (by then the Radio Alarm Clocks) LP, Wake Me When It's Over.  As a Northeastern Ohio kid in high school during the 90's, I became enamored with anything and everything connected to the 80's Cle underground rock scene, so it was a good day when I stumbled upon a copy of Wake Me When It's Over (probably at Record Revolution).  It's been one of my favorites ever since and it's filled with a ton of great songs, from the frantic "Slave Planet" and "Kill Talk" to the pop brilliance of "Confidentially Renee" to the hip "Tick Tock Man."  On top of it all, it has the Clocks' great version of "Time Is On My Side" (also heard on the Cleveland Confidential EP). 

So yeah, if you ever come upon a copy of Wake Me When It's Over, be sure to grab it so you can take it home and dig those Chas Smith keys.  In the meantime, if you're in Cleveland this Friday night, you can't go wrong by stopping by the Chas Smith tribute show that evening at the Beachland.

Thanks for the rock, Chas.

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November 16, 2007

Got a feeling that '08 is gonna be a good year

I've already written in this space about my almost Beatlemania-esque giddiness surrounding the upcoming Spring '08 release of Dirty Moons, Prisonshake's first album in a long time.  Now comes news that their new single, The Nice Pricewill be out in a month or so


Prisonshake's The Nice Price


In classic Prisonshake fashion, the single's being released in two formats: (1) black vinyl with a regular paper sleeve, for the unbelievably low price of $1.50!; and (2) limited edition of 200 blue vinyl with a fancy sleeve and a cd-r that includes all the songs on the 7" plus two bonus tracks.  You can preorder at scatrecords.com.  Have I preordered already?  You bet.

I don't think I've written about the equally exciting and upcoming 7" and LP by Times New Viking.  Matador has been slowly dishing out the info and hype of the new TNV record, Rip It Off


Times New Viking's Rip It Off


A week or so ago, they posted an MP3 featuring the album tracks that adorn their pre-LP single, which is supposed to hit sometime next month.  "(my head)" is TNV taking their game to a new anthemic level, with guitar riffs and drums wrapping the tandem vocals in a sorta beautifully fractured layer of sound.  "R.I.P. Allegory" may or may not be a sequel to Present the Paisley Reich's "Allegory Gets Me Hot", but either way it's equally boss.

Today, Population Doug pointed me in the direction of Matador's one-sheet for Rip It Off.  In itself, the one-sheet's a masterpiece hearkening back to 12 or so years ago, when Matador's printed promotion was really top-notch, entertaining stuff.  Don't think for a second that Rip It Off can't live up to its billing as being on par with Slanted And Enchanted and Alien Lanes in terms of debut Matador LP's. 

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November 07, 2007

The soundtrack isn't there

I'm the first to admit that I tend to be a bit of a rock cheerleader on this space when it comes to writing about music.  I suppose, though, that it should be fairly apparent that I use this space to write only about the stuff that I'm really into, and that every glowing hyperbole I use is genuine.  Over the years, my tolerance for stuff I'm not into has dwindled, and there's a reason I ended my formal "career" in rock criticism after one assignment.

Right now, though, I take a break from my usual "positive prose" to perform a public service.  For more than a year, I've been anticipating the release of the soundtrack to the new Dylan biopic, I'm Not There.  I've been anticipating seeing the film as well, but given that the soundtrack was due to hit the streets first, that was first on the list.  I mean, come on, look at the freaking lineup of artists:  Sonic Youth, Stephen Malkmus, Cat Power, Yo La Tengo, Mark Lanegan, Jeff Tweedy, the Black Keys, Tom Verlaine, John Doe, etc.  And they're all covering Dylan songs! 

Think of all the great Dylan covers we've been blessed with over the years.  Jimi Hedrix's transformation of "All Along The Watchtower."  Nico's "I'll Keep It With Mine."  The Byrds' folk-rock igniting version of "Hey Mr. Tambourine Man."  The Turtles' version of "It Ain't Me Babe" (seriously).  Manfred Mann's version of "The Mighty Quinn" (kinda seriously).  Jeff Buckley's sparse live version of "I Shall Be Released."  Hell, the Band's version of "I Shall Be Released."  And throw in the Beach Boys' version of "The Times They Are A-Changin'" and the Dreadful Yawns' live version of "She Belongs To Me" for good measure.  Now, think of how great a compilation of some of today's better rock artists interpreting Dylan's work should sound.  If you're a Dylan fan (I am), it sounds good, right?


I'm Not There Soundtrack


Unfortunately, it sounds better on paper than on disc/hard drive.  A lot of this stuff sounds like half-spirited attempts at trying to replicate the original backing track for whatever song is being covered, and having Singer X throw in vocals in his/her usual manner.  I guess this is good for fans of, say, Stephen Malkmus (I’m one) who have always wanted to hear him do a karaoke version of “Ballad of a Thin Man” (I’m not one).  I guess I thought there'd be a lot of creativity on this record, but any kind of departures from the original versions are few and far between.

In fact, there's a good amount of unlistenable stuff on here.  Jack Johnson's "Mama You've Been On My Mind / A Fraction of Last Thoughts on Woody Guthrie" is so bad that I had to skip the track before I even got to figure out what "A Fraction of Last Thoughts of Woody Guthrie" constitutes.  It's probably a bit of Dylan's spoken word piece thrown over a backing track . . . but guess what?  I'm not going to go back and listen to it.  I don't know what Karen O (apparently of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, who, I admit, I've never heard anything by before) was aiming for with her version of "Highway 61 Revisited", but it doesn't do anything for me.  I'd rather hear Craig-O sing it.  Sufjan Steven's "Ring Them Bells" starts off ok, but gets a little too overindulgent in the end, essentially begging you to hit "skip" again.

The majority of the stuff is ho-hum, and really the only people who are going to dig it are dedicated fans of the original artists.  I'm talking Eddie Vedder's "All Along The Watchtower", Jeff Tweedy's "Simple Twist of Fate", and -- gasp! -- the Stephen Malkmus stuff.  For whatever reason, it seems The Million Dollar Bashers pops up on a lot of these mediocre tracks, which is especially disappointing.  Again, on paper, the Bashers is a classic all-star group: Sonic Youth's Steve Shelley and Lee Ranaldo on drums and guitar, respectively.  Dylan's longtime bassist Tony Garnier on, well, bass.  Nels Cline on guitar.  TOM VERLAINE ON GUITAR!  Maybe I was wrong to expect these guys to come up with inventive arragements, since they were basically assembled just to be the backing band for a bunch of singers on this comp.  These guys can basically do no wrong in my eyes, but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't bummed to hear relatively stale backing track after backing track.

But there are some tracks worth salvaging.  In the interest of brevity, I'll give ya a quick list (in no particular order) of the good stuff:

  • The Black Keys, "Wicked Messenger".  If any song on this album surpassed the original in a way akin to Hendrix's "Watchtower", it is this one.  Summit County's native sons put together an epic, bluesy take on the John Wesley Harding track (for whatever reason JWH is a popular source on this comp).  They give a sorta apocalyptic feel to Dylan's original, developing the song in the process.  A+ for Carney & Auerbach.  Would you expect anything less from Ohioans, though?
  • Tom Verlaine, "Cold Irons Bound".  A little more plodding (in a good way) than the Time Out of Mind original.  Desolate and dark, too.  Why couldn't Verlaine have convinced the rest of the Bashers to arrange every song as well as this one?
  • Cat Power, "Suck Inside of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again".  This one also remains pretty true to the original, but there's some kind of extra bounce in this version that I can't quite put my finger on that's not there on the original (which is one of my favorite Dylan tunes).
  • Yo La Tengo, "Fourth Time Around" & "I Wanna Be Your Lover".  I guess I shouldn't have been surprised that Yo La Tengo exceeded my expectations.  Both tracks (Georgia Hubley takes lead vocals on "Fourth Time Around" and Ira Kaplan sings on "Lover") are fresh and you can tell the trio gave the songs the attention and energy they warranted.  Yo La Tengo's always been great at doing covers, and these two are keepers.
  • John Doe, "Pressing On".  His version of "I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine" is nice too, but this one works really well, for whatever reason.  It's a bit on the karaoke side (a gospel version of . . . a gospel song), but it hits in a way the more fully karaoke stuff doesn't.

Also noteworthy are the inclusion of Dylan & The Band's original "Basement Tapes" version of recording of "I'm Not There" and Sonic Youth's cover of the same song.  The original is a nice treasure for those of us who don't scavenge the Earth for Dylan bootlegs.  It's not "This Wheel's on Fire" or "Tears of Rage," but it's still a great song.  Sonic Youth's version (basically the original with the Sonic treatment) is cool as well.

It's a good thing the retail price is fairly modest on this one, or I'd honestly be feeling ripped off for the two-cd set.  For those who haven't gotten the package yet and are interested, I'd say just go on iTunes or your digital weapon of choice and download the Black Keys and Yo La Tengo tracks, and then pick and choose from the tracks by bands you're already fans of.

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November 04, 2007

Rock Trifecta

This week, Columbus was lucky enough to host a veritable Rock Trifecta across 30 or so hours spanning Monday & Tuesday. 

The Monday night show at Bourbon Street was super-fantastic.  Cheap Dates, who were completely new to me, kicked it off right with some tight punky garage/surf-type rock with a sorta Halloween theme (it was a Halloween show, after all).  Definitely psyched to see those guys again.  The night ended locally as well, with The Feelers, whose amped-up jams suited the post-1 a.m. hour just right.  Sandwiched between the two local acts were two (count 'em) bands from France: The Magnetix and Sonic Chicken 4.  Magnetix battled through some equipment problems to deliver some solid, spastic rock.  The duo (the ever-fashionable guitar and drums) has a few shows left in their North American tour, so if you get the chance to catch 'em, do it. 

The revelation of Monday night was Sonic Chicken 4, and luckily whoever schedules these things was smart enough to have them stay over in Columbus for a set Tuesday evening in Used Kids, cause they're really great.  They were solid Monday and Tuesday, kicking out their seemingly-perfect blend of rock, pop, guitar riffs, noise, and xylophone.  Unfortunately, it looks like they've finished their U.S. tour, but they've got a new record coming out on the 12th via In The Red Records that promises to be a keeper.

Leg Three of the Rock Trifecta wound back to Bourbon Street Tuesday night for a bill headlined by the mighty Psychedelic Horseshit (whose praises I continue to sing to anyone who'll listen).  The Blank Tapes (or, more correctly, Matt of the Blank Tapes) opened with a really chill set of acoustic tunes.  P.H. really capped off the two days' worth of music properly, with what I guess you could call an "intimate" set that ruled from start to finish.  Horseshit has just started out on a fairly extensive U.S. tour that will also feature what's apparently the final live shows of Pink Reason, so be sure to catch them when they come to your town.

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November 02, 2007

Be the envy of your friends, even the ones who also have iPhones

I guess I should be more up on these things, but apparently the Knights of Infinite Resignation's entire catalogue is now available as iPhone ringtones on the iTunes store.  Ever wanted your incoming calls to trigger the refrain from "Paris Hilton & Captain Beefheart" or "Diesel Rules"?  Well, now's your chance.  Lee Wadlinger's What's Wrong With Me and Twentieth Century Apprenticeship are also available as ringtones.

Speaking of iTunes, the Knights' Paris Hilton & Captain Beefheart single and Lee Wadlinger's Twentieth Century Apprenticeship are now available as iTunes Plus downloads (higher bit rate and DRM-free files) for the standard price. 

You could ask me why only one record (rather than both) by each artist is available on iTunes Plus, but I wouldn't have an answer for you.

Oh yeah, as of Tuesday, a used copy of the Knights' PH & CB CD was available in the $3 used cd rack at Used Kids (that's $2 cheaper than what we're asking for it).  I shouldn't have to remind you that you can only get a copy of the boss cover of Pere Ubu's "Ice Cream Truck" on the cd version.

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