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September 21, 2008

About Last Night #4

Not last night actually, but Friday night.  Prisonshake started off slow, but ended up obliterating the faithful who stuck around.

Mr. Rubberburner started off.  The bassman extraordinaire wasn't in the house, but the band nevertheless sounded better than the last time.  The songs definitely were a bit more polished.  I'm down.

Mr. Rubberburner at the Summit

Mr. Rubberburner (bigger pic)

The 'Shake was the main attraction, though, and damned if they didn't end up kicking some ass.  Not without some drama.  The equipment was going out left and right early on.  "Fake Your Own Death," the opener, was ruined due to the malfunctions, and the amps or whatever kept going out for the first 15 minutes or so.  That, coupled with the need to get the guitars completely retuned for different songs, got things off to a fairly rocky start.  Cut 'em some slack, though.  This was their first show in a year and a half.

Prisonshake at the Summit

Prisonshake . . . Enkler wasn't messing around (bigger pic

Things continued to be a little tense throughout the main set.  As the equipment kept freaking out and a handful of people started streaming out of the bar, the band looked more than a little frustrated.  There was a knowing, shiteating grin on Enkler's face during "The Cut-Out Bin" as he pointed to the stage floor and sang, "Some say that rock and roll has died, and at times like these I wish they were right."

Prisonshake at the Summit

No shit, Griffin's the man (bigger pic)

Early set highlight was "Fuck Your Self Esteem," after which Enkler and Griffin gave the origins of the title.  By the end of the set, the band was on fire.  "Elijah" was probably my fave, which may have been fairly obvious when Enkler singled me out to join in on the backup vox.  Those encores killed, too.  Damn, they played "Carthage Burns" and "Seemed a Brilliant Idea."

All in all, this started a bit rocky and was maybe in peril, but by the end this turned out to be one of the more memorable shows for me this year.  These dudes are definitely cool guys as well.  I was a bit scared I might've freaked Enkler out with my fanboyism, but he seemed to get a genuine kick out of me requesting "AIDS Reduction Plan."  Scariano came up and talked to me after the show (he couldn't talk me in to driving up to Cleveland for the show Saturday, but he did hook me up with the setlist pictured below).  And Griffin graciously gave me 45 minutes for an interview that'll go up on the Agit Reader site.

Prisonshake live at the Summit setlist

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September 19, 2008

About Last Night #3

No power yet at Bourbon Street last night, so the sure-to-be-stellar El Jesus de Magico and Dan Melchior und das Menace twin bill got moved to Carabar.  Despite the game day confusion, both bands came through with sets that lived up to expectations.

El Jesus opened with two longish, plodding jams that I totally dug.  Thus setting the mood, they transitioned nicely into the more "traditional" stuff.  'Twas all good.  As cliche as it might sound, every time I see El Jesus, it seems like they top themselves.

I'd first seen Dan Melchior und das Menace during SXSW this year and really dug their set.  They rocked then, but the band sounded tighter during this Ohio appearance (maybe it was just me).  Anyway, high-energy, tension-filled rock hit after hit here.  Definitely check them out when they come by your locality.

Dan Melchior und das Menace at Carabar

Dan Melchior und das Menace at Carabar

The two-band bill let each group find their groove and (at least in El Jesus' case) seemingly explore some areas that they don't normally get to in their live sets.  And it was all over before 2 a.m.  More two-band bills, please.

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September 17, 2008

"What did you expect?"

Prisonshake, Dirty Moons

Prisonshake's Dirty Moons saw its official release a few weeks ago, and I've gotten the chance to give the record a good six to eight listens so far.  Obvious first impression: this sucker's long (close to 80 minutes), not to mention dense. 

Usually when it takes forever for a band to get a record together, it's a sign that it's going to get dragged down to mediocrity by virtue of its intended grandiosity.  Thankfully, Robert Griffin, Doug Enkler & Co. know better.  When I say this is a dense record, I mean that there's a lot going on here, and it's going to take a lot of listens to get a handle on everything.  That's the mark of a good record, but it's also the mark of a challenging record, so don't expect this one to totally kick you on your ass the first listen or two.

Stylistically, Dirty Moons goes all over the place, but it gets there the right way.  Take side one for example (it's one of the best sides of a double-LP in recent memory).  Prisonshake lets you know you're listening to Prisonshake with "Fake Your Own Death," which is a sorta slow, scheming rocker that takes off a little over half way through, throwing guitar solos, abrupt sonic shifts, and wholly unexpected snippets in the mixer.  Just like Ma used to make, if Ma made I'm Really Fucked Now.  "I Will Comment," an instant classic 'Shake anthem (maybe think a slow, mature "Fall Right Down"?), follows and leads into the kick-ass "The Cut-Out Bin." Next comes a stellar reworking of "Dream Along," which some of you will recognize from its former incarnations about 10 years ago as "Dream King" on the Anyway Records songwriter CD compilation and "Dream Along With Me" from the "Fuck Your Self Esteem" 7" and which might represent the most legitimate example of Tender Rock, what with its plaintive piano outro and all.  Side One rounds out with "You're Obviously The One," maybe Prisonshake's first foray into powerpop, replete with a hearty serving of "ba ba ba ba"'s.  And that's it -- five songs, all a little different, yet somehow a cohesive whole that works.

Sides two and three are where the "density" really comes into play, especially with side two's extended Scissors Suite and the side three "Year of the Donk"/"Leftover Monkey" medley.  I'm guessing, though, that as time goes on it will be these two middle sides that might be the most continually rewarding, with their essentially symphonic movements.  The band reaches some nice heights on the instrumental interludes here.  We get a good share of trademark Griffin guitar dirty fireworks, but now the rest of the band gets to join in for a sort of more fully realized envisioning of what they were maybe trying to do with the extended "Sweat Like Candy."  

Before first listening, I was curious to hear what the band was going to do with some of the "old" songs that had made appearances in various forms during the mid/late 90's.  Pretty much unanimously, though, all the new versions are improvements over the originals.  "Dream Along" benefits from solid harmony vocals, "Crush Me" sounds a little more fully realized in a Roaring Third way, and "Fuck Your Self Esteem" comes off even more kickass than before.  "Leftover Monkey" sounds slower and more sinister and works as the meat in the "Year of the Donk" sandwich.

Prisonshake's still got their sense of humor, too.  No farts that I've heard yet, but Marty makes a reappearance on the intro to "The Cut-Out Bin."  And side two starts off with "Your Sad Friend."  Young and old alike have to marvel at Enkler crooning, "Well, bring your sad friend, if you must / maybe she'll dance / let's hope she don't get too drunk" lounge style with piano accompaniment.  In true old-school Cle fashion, there's also the sound of shit getting busted before "It Was A Very Good Year."

Other quick thoughts:  "Memo From Chambers" totally rocks.  I like the instrumentals (e.g. "Nowhere Near (Slight Return)" and "Janus").  This is a great sounding record -- all analog, never overproduced, and thoughtful in the sense that each song tends to have its own sound.  And did I mention this new Prisonshake powerpop rules?  "In Disguise" (this one's got handclaps) goes nicely with "You're Obviously The One."

Anyway, I'll stop rambling.  Quick summary: you'll get a lot of mileage out of this record.  Prisonshake still does whatever the hell it wants to really well.  And I know I keep making my fanboy references here, but this isn't an album that requires familiarity with the rest of the band's discography.  If you haven't gotten hip to Prisonshake yet, this is as good a place as any to start.  Buy the friggin thing from your local record store or order it from Scat.

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September 01, 2008

It wasn't Little Bros., but it'll do

I wasn't going to miss the Silver Jews show last Thursday, which also doubled as the official debut of the Milo Arts gym as a proper music venue here in town.  There were a few assorted snafus -- late start time (after an early start time was announced), power outages, etc., but it wasn't anything that can't be sorted out soon.  The Joos set itself lived up to expectations.  While this time around might have lacked some of the "first ever tour" freshness of the Little Bros. set a few years ago, the band made up for it with a newfound general sense of comfort with being on stage, particularly on Berman's part.

Silver Jews at Milo Arts

Obligatory bad photo of D.C. Berman & Co. (Bigger pic here)

No guitar or music stand with the lyrics this time around for Berman.  Instead, he went with the sort of "Southern English professor meets Elvis" stage persona.  The set was loaded with classics: "How to Rent a Room," "Random Rules," "Trains Across the Sea" are three particular faves of mine that made the cut.  More recent songs that stood out included "Punks in the Beerlight," "K-Hole," and "Horseleg Swastikas."  Too many to list, really (full-ish setlist here).

All in all, I really dug getting to see the band again, and hopefully they swing back here again soon.  Berman seems like a fan of Columbus -- he's got Central Ohio roots and he gave the city some praise in between good-natured swipes at Eddie George (probably rooted in #27's late-career ineffectiveness for Berman's hometown Titans). 

After the show I went up to Berman to shake his hand and told him that I've dug his music since I was a wee lad in high school and he graciously said, "Thanks for sticking with us."  It's been my pleasure.

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