Chris-Forsyth-The-Solar-Motel-Band-Intensity-Ghost_535_536_c1After releasing the masterful Solar Motel last year, guitarist Chris Forsyth put together a group to take the LP to the stage. Pretty quickly, it became clear that the Solar Motel Band was one of the most powerful ensembles out there, finding the fertile middle ground between the razor sharp dynamics of Television with the cosmic leanings of the Dead. Dig the Solar Live Record Store Day release from earlier this year for a demonstration of the group’s potent onstage chemistry.

The new Intensity Ghost is Forsyth and the Solar Motel Band’s studio debut and it crackles with energy. It’s pure, unadulterated guitar heaven – classic rock remade. Unlike the extended song suite of Solar Motel, the album is made up of five distinct songs, each one showing off the virtuosic and versatile skills of Forsyth, bassist Peter Kerlin, guitarist Paul Sukeena (Spacin’), and drummer Steven Urgo (ex-The War on Drugs), augmented by the subtle colorings of keyboardist Shawn Hansen.

The interplay between the musicians on Intensity Ghost is intoxicating; check out the 10 minute thrill-ride opener, “The Ballad of Freer Hollow,” as it goes from a Richard-Thompson-jamming-with-The-Who vibe to a gorgeous feedback drone, before snapping back for a thunderous finish. From there, the slide-guitar-fueled, morphine-drip boogie of “Yellow Square” is reminiscent of Exile-era Rolling Stones at their most menacing. The “Marquee Moon”-inspired descending guitar line of “I Ain’t Waiting” shows that Forsyth can do high drama with the best of them. The title track kicks off with a vicious, No Wave-y riff but segues beautifully into a ragged and glorious Crazy Horse lurch. Finally, the elegiac “Paris Song” conjures up the ghost of Lou Reed and Robert Quine’s majestically entangled guitars. Like Uncle Lou always said: “You can’t beat two guitars, bass and drums.” words / t wilcox

MV-FRONTonlyModern Vices describe their sound as “dirty doo-wop,” but don’t get too confused. These Chicago-based rockers — vocalist Alex Rebek, bassist Miles Kalchik, drummer Patrick Hennessey, and guitarists Peter Scoville and Thomas Peters – owe more to the heritage of the Modern Lovers and the Velvet Underground than the group harmonies of the Del-Vikings or the Flamingos. In the case of Modern Vices, the doo-wop tag is more an abstraction, a descriptive nod to the prevailing mood that dominates their self-titled debut for Autumn Tone. Even at their hardest, on songs like “Cheap Style” and “Taller in the Sunshine,” there’s a tender, lovelorn spirit hovering over Rebek’s bathed-in-reverb vocals. Like Hamilton Leithauser before him, the young front man ditches the detached persona that plagued indie rock through much of the ‘Aughts, instead going all in, crooning with crazed passion and force, like Sinatra or Bobby Darin fronting a punk band.

Sonically indebted to the tangled rock of Television and the sharp pop of the Smiths, the album is a blur of guitars and drums, and occasionally Rebek sounds as if he’s climbing to get out from under it all, but his straining only makes lines like “Let the night begin/let it never end” all the more compelling. And when the band does overtly embrace their R&B influences, like on the smoldering “Smoke Rings” or closing epic “Baby,” they indicate that that whole doo-wop thing kind of transcends stylistic concerns, tilting toward universal themes and concerns: quick glances, heavy breaths, and broken hearts. words / j woodbury

Modern Vices :: Pleasure Gun
Modern Vices :: Cheap Style

sergeOur weekly two hour show on SIRIUS/XMU, channel 35, can be heard twice every Friday – Noon EST with an encore broadcast at Midnight EST.

SIRIUS 361: Jean Michel Bernard – Générique Stephane ++ The Who – Fortune Teller ++ Billy Nicholls – Girl From New York ++ The Kinks – Supersonic Rocket Ship ++ Scott Walker – 30 Century Man ++ Tommy James – Midnight Train ++ Ty Segall – Bees ++ Bernard Chabert – Il Part En Californie (He Moved To California) ++ The Blue Things – High Life ++ Donovan – Wild Witch Lady ++ Charlie Feathers – That Certain Female ++ The Beach Boys – Over The Waves ++ Françoise Hardy – Till the Morning Comes ++ Richard And Linda Thompson – Calvary Cross ++ The Who – Shakin’ All Over ++ Big Mama Thornton – I’m Feeling Alright ++ Black Merda – Cynthy-Ruth ++ Michael Kiwanuka – I Need Your Company ++ Benjamin Booker – Falling Down Blues (Aquarium Drunkard Session) ++ The Aynsley Dunbar Retaliation – Watch ’n Chain ++ The Cramps – New Kind Of Kick ++ Chuck Berry – Lousiana  ++ The Black Lips – Hippie, Hippie, Hoorah ++ The Rolling Stones – Downtown Susie ++ Barrett Strong – Misery ++ Johnson, Hawkins, Tatum, & Durr – You Can’t Blame Me ++ Shintaro Sakamoto – In A Phantom Mood ++ The Hygrades – Rough Rider ++ The Meters – Handclapping Song ++ The Peoples Temple – More For The Masses ++ The Troggs – Our Love Will Still Be There  ++ Shin Joong Hyun – I’ve Got Nothing To Say ++ The Samurai – Fresh Hot Breeze Of Summer ++ Jack Name – New Guitars  ++ White Fence – Pink Gorilla ++ David Vandervelde – Nothin’ No ++ Yo La Tengo – Autumn Sweater ++ Richard Swift – Lady Luck ++ The Art Museums – Sculpture Gardens ++ The Shaky Hands – Why And How Come ++ Modern Lovers – You’re The One For Me ++ Modern Vices – Taller In The Sunshine

*You can listen, for free, online with the SIRIUS three day trial — just submit an email address and they will send you a password.

__________________________________________________________________________________

arthur-russell

The latest release from the Red Hot Organization is a tribute compilation to the late cellist and experimental composer Arthur Russell, whose work spanned the verse of classical music, disco, country, folk and the avant-garde.

The players on this release include the likes of Sufjan Stevens, Lonnie Holley, Jose Gonzalez, Sam Amidon and Devendra Banhart. But tucked in the middle of the compilation, is a show-stopping contribution from the mighty Phosphorescent. Matthew Houck and co. adapt Russell’s 90-second “You Can Make Me Feel Bad,” from the posthumous Calling out of Context, into a fully-fleshed hymn, a mantra-like meditation on material surrender. Houck transforms the metallic confinement of the original, letting it breathe and mixing the core into his own atmospheric alchemy, all chanting vocals and country guitar, ragged and electric. words / c depasquale

Phosphorescent :: You Can Make Me Feel Bad (Arthur Russell)

twin peaks

Twin Peaks’ 2013 debut Sunken, issued by Aquarium Drunkard’s sister label Autumn Tone, was a tight, fuzzy blast of garage rock. It was a brief, but powerful, statement from a couple Chicago kids inching toward their twenties.

Wild Onion the band’s 2014 LP for Grand Jury, takes the promise of their first expands it outward. Originally conceived as a double album, that standard hallmark of lofty rock & roll ambition, a (barely) older and wiser Twin Peaks pared the selections down to 16 essential songs, crisscrossing blown-speaker verve with jangling pop, snotty attitude with lovelorn gazes.

“We had so many songs, we were having trouble pinpointing what we wanted to do, trying to narrow it down,” says Peaks’ guitarist/songwriter Cadien Lake James. “We were like, ‘Fuck it, we don’t have it narrowed down yet, that’s not who we are at this point.’ We’re just some dudes who like all sorts of rock & roll, and we span genres, and it just made more sense to put it all on the album. We tried to make it like a mixtape, where the songs could be very different, but flow together.”

Wild Onion indeed plays like an expertly-curated mixtape, with songwriters James, plus guitarist/singer Clay Frankel and bassist/singer Jack Dolan, and drummer Connor Brodner, cranking out cocksure jammers like “I Found a New Way,” and balancing them against chorus-laden dream ballads like “Strange World.” Not to be outdone, “Stranger World” layers synths and saxophone, right before giving way to classic a jangle pop stunner, “Telephone.” Despite the variety, and despite that fact that the songs are the result of three distinct songwriters, Wild Onion sounds remarkably cohesive, held together by energetic youthfulness and unceasing melodies.

“For us, what it always comes down to is it’s us playing the songs,” James says. “If we’re all playing together it’s going to sound like us. Because we dig each other’s songs, and we dig putting it all together.”

Citing acts like Exile-era Stones, the Oblivions, and Jay Reatard (James’ “favorite artist for a year or two”), the band struck a balance between cutting tracks live, to retain maximum energy, and layering and building compositions through overdubs, a tactic employed by inspirations like Tame Impala and Mac DeMarco.

“There were four of five tracks [including] ‘Flavor’ and ‘Sloop Jay D’ with all the instruments live,” James says. “But, growing up as someone who started recording to Garageband, always building stuff up from the bottom, that’s still sort of how I approach it. I’m intrigued by people who are doing it that way.”

Tellingly, the band traces its roots back to elementary school, and the though the band’s songwriters have begun to explore individual directions, they continue to draw on connections established early on.

“As much I don’t like being considered a pop-punk band…it’s something when you’re first getting into guitars in elementary school, that’s something that surrounds you,” James laughs. “As much as we’ve grown out of it, it shows itself if you really look deep. It’s like, ‘How can we be energetic and punk when we’re actually soft boys?’” James laughs, but Wild Onion suggests they’ve figured it out. words / j woodbury

Twin Peaks :: Good Lovin’

JoniGraham

Having last week seen Gone Girl back-to-back with another (far quieter, far more chilling, far superior) infidelity-noir, The Blue Room, I’ve been thinking a lot about contrasting points of view and conflicts of interpretation. In both these films, the drama is refracted through a he-said-she-said-they-said prism in which every perspective is revealed as partial, cluttered-over in prejudicial evidence. As an audience, the central challenge we are posed with is how to navigate these contradictory perspectives—especially when, like little detectives, what we want are facts, damnit. We are pushed by such narratives to decide whether our sympathies will tip one way or another.

Narrative songs, however, have a great way of avoiding this challenge because unlike plays or films, problems of perspective are in fact no problem at all. There’s something more immediately flexible about them. Within the same song, ‘I Shot the Sheriff’ might be just as viable as ‘The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence.’ We all know we can sympathise equally well with both the singer and the sung-to in ‘Like A Rolling Stone.’  We don’t have to pick sides.

Take the classic example of ‘Jackson,’ popularized by both June Carter/Johnny Cash and Lee Hazlewood/Nancy Sinatra in 1967. ‘We got married in a fever,’ the couple sings together before giving divergent takes about what’s about to go down in Jackson Town. Lyrically, we’re kept on the fence, but hearing both protagonists out isn’t problematic. There’s no challenge in our having two differing points of view coexist or given the same amount of time in the spotlight.

When the parents offer their opinion during the Beatles’ ‘She’s Leaving Home,’ it might on the face of it, seem a moment for the villains of the story to chime-in. However, Lennon’s ghostly vocal reveals the way in which the entire song can be ‘read’ from the parent’s perspective and still lose none of its melancholy grandeur.  Tom Waits’ ‘Christmas Card from a Hooker in Minneapolis,’ is likewise exemplary in showing us how, within a song, our sympathies can be everywhere at once. Ostensibly a letter written from said hooker to an old lover named Charlie, we’re placed somewhere vaguely between the two of them: she’s writing, he’s presumably reading what she wrote. (Things are made even more indeterminate as her words are performed in the voice of Tom Waits.) Yet the abstraction has a democratizing effect: because we ultimately share the revelation that the writer has fictionalized the details of her letter (‘Charlie, for chrissakes, if you want to know the truth of it, I don’t have a husband, he don’t play the trombone’), we are drawn closer to Charlie; because we can sympathise with the hooker’s desire to imagine a better life for herself, we’re at the same time drawn closer to her.

Something similar often occurs in songs that are historically and/or lyrically linked together. There are of course a whole plethora of ‘answer’ songs that re-imagine the point of view of an original. But one lesser known example is ‘Oh, Brother!’, Joan Baez’s answer to Bob Dylan’s ‘Oh, Sister’, which turns out to be far less hokey than it sounds. In fact, like any good rejoinder it doesn’t dismiss but re-informs—in Baez’s case, drawing our attention to all the women that have been simultaneously revered and steamrolled down the long dusty road of Dylan’s oeuvre. An even better example of this sort of reversal may be found in Baez’s own ‘Diamonds and Rust’ (arguably the best song she wrote), which isn’t an answer song per se, but a song that speaks directly to the existentially and romantically prevaricating figure that Dylan came to embody in his songs circa Blood on the Tracks. The imagery Baez is playing with is tangled up and familiar without ever being referential: phone booth, moon, blue eyes, leaves falling, crummy hotel. (You don’t have to be a Dylanologist to solve that equation.) Again, the effect is that of two songs, two perspectives, shadowing one another, adding extra depth and color.

What you might call an operatic effect (separate arias, same drama), is also in evidence on Graham Nash’s album, Songs for Beginners. In 1970, Nash received a telegram from his longtime girlfriend Joni Mitchell: ‘If you hold sand too tightly in your hand, it will run through your fingers. Love, Joan.’ And at that point he says, he knew ‘it was truly over.’ She was in hanging out in Crete at the time, taking a breather from their relationship, writing songs—a period which would, of course, inform her first real masterpiece, Blue. Shortly after receiving the telegram, however, Nash sat down at the piano (some say that same afternoon) and wrote this:

Graham Nash :: Simple Man

Not a brilliant song lyrically, not by any stretch, but listen for the way Nash balances out the preciousness with his production skills. The piano sounds lost, as if it’s being played at the far side of a church. And yet his voice is right there, up close. A cello gradually drifts in, followed by a gloriously rounded Crosby-Nash harmony: ‘I just want to hold you/I don’t want to hold you down.’ When David Lindley’s violin comes in, taking over where the chorus left off, we’re only a minute into the song and we’re already here: above the earnestness of lyric, but genuinely feeling the ache of it now.

The same can be said about ‘Better Days,’ again about Nash’s break-up with Mitchell, but written while he was rebounding with Rita Coolidge (who would herself go on to record a version of the same song). Again, there’s the quiet, almost disconsolate opening passage, then the song gets gradually filled out. With a strum of a guitar, we’re suddenly couched in an After the Gold Rush atmosphere. Nash sounds like he’s standing on a cliff, hoping his hurt will carry all the way to Europe (‘You went to a strange land searching/ For a truth you felt was wrong’) An organ churns away, burying the vitriol while moving the song someplace airy and epic, almost McCartney-esque. This time it’s a bass clarinet solo (played by someone mysteriously credited as Sermon Posthumas) that delivers the catharsis.

Graham Nash :: Better Days

Nowhere on Joni Mitchell’s album is a break-up directly referred to (yes, she’s ‘strung out on another man’ in ‘California,’ and there’s some romantic ambivalence (‘I hate you some, I love you some’) on ‘All I Want’. However, there is a heartbroken-ness lurking somewhere in the background of every song on Blue. What Nash’s album does—among a great many other things—is give us another angle with which to approach Blue, and see not only what the central figure in Mitchell’s songs might have been running from, but what she left in her wake. words / dk o’hara

Jungle-Fire-TropicosoSince 2011, Los Angeles based Jungle Fire have been cementing their reputation with incendiary Afro/Latin/funk performances via gigs at small local clubs to sharing festival stages with the likes of Shuggie Otis and The Budos Band. Now, the rest of the world is about to get a taste thanks to their debut LP, Tropicoso, on Nacional Records.

Far from yet another run-of-the-mill retro funk band, Jungle Fire has set themselves apart by drawing on influences like Phirpo Y Sus Caribes, Ray Camacho & The Teardrops, Joe Bataan, and Nico Gomez. The multicultural musical union is one of the most exciting developments in what had become a very staid funk/soul scene. That exuberance and enthusiasm can be felt across the eleven tracks that make up Tropicoso.

After a short percussion intro, the album kicks off, appropriately enough, with “Comencemos (Let’s Start)”. Originally a Fela Kuti tune, Jungle Fire’s version is based on the cover by Phirpo Y Sus Caribes. Covers are hard enough to pull off. Covering a definitive version of a legendary song by a legendary artist seems, to me, an insurmountable task. Yet, Jungle Fire do it and do it well. “Firewalker” is a tune tailor made for the dancefloor. Fuzz guitar collides with four on the floor disco and Afro/Latin percussion to create one of the heaviest club tracks I’ve heard in years. Even on more subdued selections like the title track, “Tropicoso”, and “Snake Pit” the focus and energy never waiver.

With Tropicoso, Jungle Fire has accomplished the rare feat of releasing a debut record that lives up to the fire present in their live shows. words / c weaver

Jungle Fire :: Firewalker

aquariumdrunkard

Our weekly two hour show on SIRIUS/XMU, channel 35, can be heard twice every Friday – Noon EST with an encore broadcast at Midnight EST. Our latest installment of Maison Dufrene aired today during hour two. Download it, HERE

SIRIUS 360: Jean Michel Bernard – Générique Stephane ++ Jack Nitzsche: The Lonely Surfer / Oscar Harris: Twinkle Stars Boo Galoo ++ Joe Bataan: Chick-a-boom ++ Jacques Dutronc: Les Cactus ++ The Shadows: Scotch On The Socks ++ Koldo: Disc Man ++ Vican Maneechot: Dance, Dance, Dance ++ Linda Van Dijck: Stengun ++ Carl Carlton: I Can Feel It / Janey & Dennis: Take It From A Friend ++ Donald Jenkins & The Delighters: Elephant Walk ++ Symphonic Four: Who Do You Think Youre Fooling ++ Milton Henry: Gypsy Woman ++ Lulu: Rattler ++ Monomono: Give The Beggar A Chance ++ Tony Joe White: Stud Spider / Lee Hazelwood: No Train To Stockholm ++ Marine Girls: Love To Know ++ Allen Toussaint: We The People ++ Nairobi Sisters: Promised Land ++ Ty Segall: Caesar ++ Harpers Bizarre: Witchi Tai To ++ Dirty Projectors: Swing Low Magellan / Gladys Knight & The Pips: Tracks Of My Tears ++ Doris Troy: Whatcha Gonna Do About It ++ The Olympics: Dooley ++ Bobbie Gentry: Somebody Like Me ++ Wuta Wazuri: Mondo Soul Funky ++ The Lijadu Sisters: Danger ++ Bobby Hebb: You Dont Know What You Got ++ The Kinks: Tell Me Now / Nancy Dupree: James Brown ++ James Brown: Taurus (interview) ++ Foxygen: Make It Known ++ Linda Brannon: Deep Inside Me ++ Al Stewart: Year Of The Cat ++ Unknown Mortal Orchestra: Swim And Sleep (like A Shark) ++ The Equals: Ooh That Kiss ++ The Orwells: In My Bed ++ Ananda Shankar: Jumpin Jack Flash ++ Del Shannon: Under My Thumb ++ Ariane: Tuvoudraisquejoublie ++ Witch: Like A Chicken ++ Bob Azzam & His Orchestra: The Last Time ++ Pill Wonder: Wishing Whale ++ Ramones: Dont Come Close ++ Tame Impala: Apocalypse Dreams ++ The Pretty Things: The Good Mr Square / Kyu Sakamoto: China Nights ++ Mike And Herb: Ive Been A Fool ++ Atons: Yellow Ribbon ++ The Oh Sees: Floods New Light ++ Jimmy Norman: Gangster Of Love ++ Wendell Stuart & The Downbeaters: Hey Jude / The Rollers: Knockin At The Wrong Door ++ Foxygen: Teenage Alien Blues (outro) ++ Peter Ivers: Miraculous Weekend ++ Bruce Langhorne – Opening ++ Lee Hazlewood – If It’s Monday Morning ++ Townes Van Zandt – Like A Summer Thursday ++ John Stewart – Willard ++ Jerry Jeff Walker – Mississippi You’re On My Mind ++ Terry Allen – Do They Dream Of Hell In Heaven ++ Bob Dylan, Booker T. & Bruce Langhorne – Billy ++ Bob Dylan – Thirsty Boots ++ James Talley – Give My Love To Marie ++ Ramblin’ Jack Elliott – With God On Our Side ++ Townes Van Zandt – My Proud Mountains ++ Bruce Langhorne – Ending

*You can listen, for free, online with the SIRIUS three day trial — just submit an email address and they will send you a password.

__________________________________________________________________________________

cover

Nevermind Lifehouse — this is the Great Lost Who Album. Originally intended as a stopgap release between The Who Sell Out and Tommy, Who’s For Tennis was shelved in 1968. All of the tracks have been released in one form or another over the years, but the wonderful blog Albums That Never Were has pulled them all together in one handy package (with very groovy cover art to boot). It’s a crackling good time, highlighting Pete Townshend’s poppier sensibilities in such deep cuts as “Glow Girl,” “Dogs” and “Little Billy.” words / t wilcox

Get it HERE . . .