July 29, 2014

REVIEW: "The Next Four Years" by United Nations

United Nations Detonates
on The Next Four Years
   It's been a tough Thursday for Geoff Rickly. It's also been a tough Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Since the overdo demise of his main thing Thursday, in 2011, luck hasn't come too often.
   In the aftermath of Thursday Rickly worked in retail, lost a girlfriend, got robbed and toured houses behind the solo material he recorded as Hurricane Sandy hit. All of that churning ill will had to be released somewhere, at some time.
   United Nations is the side project Rickley started in 2005 with various members of other bands. He has revived it for their excellent, hair-raising second album, The Next Four Years.
   Immediately, the album gets right to it's intended point: to riddle the boombox with bullet holes and scream about it. Musically, it's abrasive and destructive--a siren call to society's devastation.
   Over the years, the actual members of the group have changed and been kept secret due to contractual obligations, but have consisted of players from Converge, Pianos Become Teeth, Thursday, Glassjaw and others. Rickly has always been at the helm.
   Throughout these eleven songs United Nations is in a relentless pursuit of music that combusts from exhaustion. The ceiling caves in under the weight of the album's opening song, "Serious Business," and leaves the listener to search the rubble. "Revolutions At Varying Speeds" gives a constant jolt to the brain until you start to wonder if the track is skipping or if you've fallen into some grindcore purgatory.
   Fans of Thursday's lighter side--the one that supplanted the term "emo" in the black hearts of millions--might find the album a turn-off. This is the metal music Thursday always stayed flailing on the outskirts of. It's compact, direct and in the business of crushing ear drums with mid-level blast beats.
   Rickly's pained vocal wallowing comes through his inner-Venom screams, but only barely. When he screams, he sounds like a bitter Gollum galloping through the forest seeking revenge.
   The raining down of rockets quiets only for brief interludes. "F#A#$" pulls the listener in close for the only long-lasting moment of calm on the record. The guitars lull contemplatively, pushed along by a forceful drumbeat, before turning back to the singed sounds of depravity.
   The project has been apt to court controversy, most obviously by sharing a name with a certain powerful intergovernment agency (who is not pleased). They've also bastardized iconic album covers, making them their own (The Beatles smoldering in flames walking down Abbey Road for their self-titled debut; a near-exact replica of Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols for their four-song EP, Never Mind the Bombings, Here's Your Six Figures.)
   The music on The Next Four Years, and of United Nations, is a direct reflection of the frustration felt in dealing with, and conceding to, the arbiters of inaction in the United States government. It hardly matters any more which side you're on.
   As the album fades from the onslaught, the final thing we hear is Rickly shouting over the sound of a gavel knocking on a piece of wood. "Changing parties / Changing minds," he shouts on the closing track, "Music For Changing Parties." Between each line, a voice mutters, "Always the same."

Key Tracks: "Serious Business," "Revolutions At Varying Speeds," "United Nations Find God," "F#A#$"

source: http://imp

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds at Prospect Park, Brooklyn

Nick Cave inserts himself into the crowd at Prospect Park, Broolyn. All photos by Eli Jace.
"Some people say it’s just rock and roll / Ah, but it gets ya right down in your soul” -- from "Push the Sky Away"
   He’s that bad motherfucker called Nick Cave and last Saturday night he and his renegades in The Bad Seeds played Prospect Park in Brooklyn, potentially waking up God from a deep, deep sleep. 
   They kept the crowd in hysterics all night with a career-spanning set. By all accounts it was a perfect performance from one of the most gripping musical acts around. 
   The Bad Seeds took the stage to the cunning, rumbling bass loop that starts “We Real Cool” off their newest album, the magnificent Push The Sky Away. The lights were dark, except for a line of downcast blues at the back. 
   As always, when the impeccably dressed Nick Cave enters the picture, the first, most recognizable thing you notice are his eyebrows. Like his hair, slicked back, and his finely pressed suit, they are jet black and frame his leering, distrustful eyes. They seem to move out ahead of the rest of his body. 
   Cave, the man, stood at the edge of the stage, lit-up in dark cobalt blue light. His eyebrows flipped inward like they were trying to touch as he began, “Who took your measurements from your toes to the top of your head? Yeah, you know.”
   They kept to the new album and played “Jubilee Street” with perfect transcendental precision. The strings grew manic while Cave slithered in one spot, reaching lyrical climax. “I am alone now / I am beyond recrimination…,” he sang as the song shot out over Prospect Park and lingered into the Brooklyn air. “I’m transforming / I’m vibrating / I’m glowing / I’m flying / Look at me know!” 
   Only two songs in and the jubilation was already sky-high. Saturday’s show came at the tail end of the Australian group’s second tour of the States for their fifteenth album, Push the Sky Away, released last year. The show was one of the slotted benefit events for Celebrate Brooklyn. 
Devendra Banhart alone on stage.
   Nicole Atkins started the night off with songs off her new album, Slow Phaser. Following her was Devendra Banhart who gave a shambolic performance with strands of songs from all over his discography. The stage may as well have been a living room as he lazily teased out versions of “Body Breaks,” “Golden Girls,” “Little Yellow Spider” and others. Nobody was trying to hide it. Everyone was present for Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds and even the openers sensed it. 
   Cave spent most of the show gliding from one side of the stage to the other, engaging heroically with the crowd. As the roaming “Higgs Boson Blues” concluded, Cave was nearly lying on top of the audience. “Miley Cyrus floats in a swimming pool in Toluca Lake,” he sang between heaves as the song died, “and you’re the best girl I ever had.” 
   Every sinewy step he took radiated with energy. The man moves with alarm, like a wiley Dick Tracy villain in an expensive suit. He’s one of the greatest frontmen the world has seen and The Bad Seeds expertly back up his every physical and lyrical outburst.
   The night’s emotional apex struck the middle of the set when Cave took to the piano for “Love Letter” and “Into My Arms.” Positioned sideways, he played the keys with aching clarity as he sang about love’s arresting ways.
   Midway through, Cave ditched the black suit jacket to reveal a gold lamé dress shirt underneath. By the end it was rumpled with sweat. 
   The set ended with a gunshot and some gauze to help the wound. “Stagger Lee” was as forceful, ruthless and vile as one could hope the murder ballad to be. Then “Push the Sky Away” flooded the park with its ominous drone.
   The band returned for two encores, first tearing through the classics “Red Right Hand” and “Deanna.” The second was unexpected with Cave wading into “The Lyre Of Orpheus” for the finale. “Orpheus looked at his instrument / And he gave the wire a pluck,” Cave sang. “He heard a sound so beautiful / He gasped and said, ‘Oh my god…’”

July 25, 2014

Final Photo from Final Moment on Final Night of Seegerfest

Amanda Palmer riles the masses, with members of anti-flag and others.    Photo by Eli Jace.
     On Monday night, July 21, in Central Park, five days of music celebrating the Life and Career of Pete Seeger came to a close. Least of all content to simply end the extravaganza with a curtain call sing-a-long and some waves was Amanda Palmer. She closed out the festivities with a revolutionary spirit that everyone seemed to tired for. As the show concluded and everyone began to penguin-walk away from the stage, Palmer's eyes lit up, as they often do for the adventurous performer. Clutching her precious ukulele she jumped the barricade between performer and spectator and beckoned the other performers to join in. After some ambling, most of them did and the crowd eventually fell for it, singing along and putting fists (and camera phones) into the air.
     Pete Seeger, the man who tied activism to music and became a folk icon, passed away early in the year at the healthy age of 94. New Songs of Justice: An Evening Honoring Pete Seeger was presented by City Parks Foundation.

Walking Through A Musical History of The Walkmen

Mash of all six full-length studio albums from The Walkmen.                                    Image by Eli Jace.
Walking Through A Musical History
of The Walkmen: A tribute for
Quiet Lunch Magazine
   The first song I heard from The Walkmen was “The Rat” off 2004′s Bows + Arrows. It starts with this nerve-wrecking guitar chop and instantly puts the mind on high alert. Drummer Matt Barrick spits out tightening rounds on the hi-hat, bombing across the set again and again.
   Hamilton Leithauser’s vocals swarm with frightening toughness and a scorched throat spitting out vulnerable lyrics. “When I used to go out I’d know everyone I saw / Now I go out alone if I go out at all,” he rips. “The Rat” is a song to crank on a night when things aren’t going your way. The song crests, erupts, then crests and erupts again. It leaves jagged cuts in the speakers demanding all the attention of the room.
   “I’m sure we’ve been through this before / Can’t you hear me, I’m beating on your wall / Can’t you see me, I’m pounding on your door,” Liethauser shrills. He packs a tantrum into each sentence with shredded screams. Behind each yowl there is this heavy suppression of desperation, this erratic need for emotional payback. He’s the vocal equivalent of your bratty cousin who throws a fit whenever things don’t go his way.
   “The Rat” is bitter, angry, and full of teeth-gritting emotion, but also steeped in self-doubt and loneliness. A lesser band would cut the vile determination for spite and turn it into some vapid punk rock song or an emo moper. The Walkmen’s music is structured to accurately reflect Leithauser’s ever-changing mood. They manage to sound both caustic and sensitive, pissed off but tear-stained, irrational but apologetic. Their music straddles the intensity of punk rock and the emotional output of indie rock, but careens into a space that is all their own. It’s never quite one thing, edging equally toward post-punk, Americana, folk-rock, and whatever else lies between.
Artwork for the single, "The Rat," released April 19, 2004.
   The roots of The Walkmen sprout from Philadelphia, Washington D.C., and New York City. Hamilton Leithauser, Matt Barrick, Peter Bauer (on bass and organ), Paul Maroon (on guitar and piano) and Walter Martin (on organ and bass) formed the group in Manhattan at the turn of the century, and so were lumped into the emerging scene at the time–The Strokes, Interpol, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, TV On The Radio, Liars–among others.
   Back when computers were bulky and anchored to the home’s “computer room,” I downloaded “The Rat” and a few other songs off KaZaA, the long-gone pale white and lime green peer-to-peer music service–with dial-up. When it would take days to get one full song. Days.
   The name was promising. The Walkmen. In the style of both the recent crop of indie stars, as well as the early rock bands of the 50′s and 60′s, the name was a wink and nod to the musical past that would be ever-present in their musical DNA. It’s also a tongue-in-cheek send-up to the old hand-held cassette players–the memory of which was fading fast with each percentage point notched during my long download.
   I immediately fell in love with their raw and wounded rock-and-roll. They were always a step away from the coolness of the other bands–not as debauched and careless as The Strokes, not as mysterious and aloof as Interpol. The Walkmen leaned more toward the hardscrabble reality of the Average Everyday, the monotony of forgettable afternoons, the crippling effect of boredom and heartbreak.
   Their music is full of tough sorrow, the type of sadness that creeps in the shadows of a leather jacket and a hidden flask of whiskey. Liethauser doesn’t hide his regrets, he puts them front and center and barks right at them, mocks them a little.
   The Walkmen sound reaches across the generational divide. They follow the regular paradigm of rock music: drums, guitar, bass, heart-shredding vocals. But with that, they add a swirl of circus percussion, jingle bells, old-timey saloon-style piano, sprawling organ and drums that smoke and burn out. As much as they might seem like a current day revivalist act, their sound can stump the listener into thinking they’re some undiscovered gem from the Appalachians at the end of the last century, or a swilling bar band in New Orleans from decades past. There is no finger on it you can place.
Bows + Arrows released Feb. 2, 2004.
   Their first full-length album Everyone Who Pretended To Love Me Is Gone was released in 2002. Right away they realized their sound. Maroon’s lazy jangling guitars do the tango with skittering piano notes; Barrick’s cascading drums circle the many jingle bells jingling on “Wake Up,” “The Blizzard of ’96,” and “We’ve Been Had,” some of the album’s best songs. The album is loose and discordant with lo-fi leanings and Leithauser stringing everything together.
   Two years later they released their second breakthrough album, Bows + Arrows, featuring the aforementioned “The Rat” as the lead-in single. “Hang On, Siobhan” is a lazy after-hours waltz over twinkling piano keys. “Hang on,” Leithauser cries, holding the weight of a long lonely night in each sobering note.
   The music of The Walkmen really started to chisel a home in my head when I first visited the East Coast; Boston. It was 2006. May. Their third album, A Hundred Miles Off had just been released. Right down to its title, the album is perfect for the road. It’s easy-going, dry and coated with horns rusted by the sun.
   The spring freshness–that relucent dew–itrushed in and out with each breath. I sat on a dark red bench with the Charles River slushing before me, smoking cigarettes, feeling woozy, and listened many times to A Hundred Miles Off as the sky turned darker shades and left me with an adhesive film of sweat stuck to my skin.
A Hundred Miles Off released May 23, 2006.
   The album is more laid back in tone than the previous two. It’s perfect for wandering under bridges and through public parks in range of the springtime sun. The streets in Boston are cobble-stoned, entrapping, and shrouded by trees that overhang and brush the back of your neck as you pass. They lead into knotted intersections and unknown alleyways and many times you might find yourself far from where it was you thought you were.
   When “Lost In Boston” came on during these directionless moments my face eased with a smile at the casual irony. “Lost in Boston drinking rum and chocolate / A hundred thousand blinking lights are making me exhausted,” Leithauser sings with that clunky rhyme scheme. The song became an anthem for my wayward existence. When I hear it now, I see Massachusetts Avenue before me and can feel the near-dizzy tobacco lift launched by a hundred dangling cigarettes.
   Over the course of The Walkmen’s discography Leithauser’s inner angst starts to meter out into melancholia, and then finally into remission and complacency. Their final three proper albums, released every other year starting in 2008–You & Me, Lisbon, and Heaven--offer the world the definitive, refined sound of The Walkmen. Any of these three albums could be presented as the group’s best. They are records with an awareness of the bigger picture. They work through the throes of adulthood and family life and look back at the trials and tribulations that brought them to their current standing.
   “I was the Duke of Earl but it didn’t last / I was the Pony Express, but I ran out of gas,” bellows Leithauser on the opening track of Heaven, “We Can’t Be Beat.” White flags are raised. The crowds have gone home. Leithauser isn’t seeking revenge anymore, only the comforts of home and a piece of solitude after the smoke clears. “Back to school / Back to work / Can this go on forever? / Angela / What’s the difference? / Life goes on all around you,” he sings with equal detachment and acceptance on “Angela Surf City” off Lisbon.
138th Street and Broadway, Harlem, New York.                     Photo by Eli Jace.
   After living for a number of years in Massachusetts, I leapt and landed in Manhattan, uptown, about twenty blocks from where The Walkmen first started their recorded existence: somewhere near 138th Street in Harlem, in the now-defunct Marcata Recording studio. (The engineer Kevin McMahon has since moved the studio to Upstate New York.) Fifteen years ago Maroon, Martin, and Barrick–then in the band Jonathan Fire*Eater–built the studio. A year later they would join Bauer and Leithauser, who were playing in The Recoys, and form The Walkmen.
   Their debut, self-titled EP and first three albums were recorded there. “Pussy Cats” Starring The Walkmen, a note for note re-recording of the classic Harry Nilsson album, was a tribute to the studio, before they were evicted.
   Walking down dark Broadway Avenue now I listen to “The Rat” and feel the distressed grip of each note. Ten years later the song still gives me the chills like it did when I first heard it.
   “We have no future plans whatsoever,” Bauer told The Washington Post last November. “I’d call it a pretty extreme hiatus.” It wasn’t a red line, but the offhandedness of the statement makes it feel this may be all we get of The Walkmen.
   They are all free agents. Three members are pursuing solo careers, jumping at the chance to stand at the helm giving input and direction. Leithauser released Black Hours in June, Bauer just put out Liberation! (as Peter Matthew Bauer), and Walter Martin recorded We’re All Young Together with some members of the Walkmen, Yeah Yeah Yeahs and the National.
"Pussy Cats" Starring The Walkmen released October 24, 2006.
   The word “hiatus” leaves open the hope that they may return to the stage at some point in some undefined future. Fingers are crossed. If it never does happen though, The Walkmen leave us with a fourteen-year discography–six full-length albums, one Harry Nilsson reboot, several EPs–to carry through life’s many wide and deviating curves.

July 24, 2014

REVIEW: "Deep Fantasy" by White Lung

Follow the trail of gun powder to
White Lung's Deep Fantasy
   Deep Fantasy by White Lung takes off like a burning trail of black gun powder leading to a sonic bomb blast. It's 22 minutes--a quick toxic burn over the horizon--ten crushing songs of grating, apocalyptic punk rock, each under three minutes long. No seconds are spared.
   "Drown With The Monster" cracks open the album with the intent of making the walls in your room shake. Feedback squall circles the drums like beasts of prey. "Sycophant" is driven by panic and sounds like buildings falling.
   Deep Fantasy is the Vancouver group's third album and their first for Domino Records. Mish Way unhinges her jaw, Kenneth William shreds the guitar, Anne-Marie Vassiliou splats the drums and Hether Fortune chokes the bass. Their last album was Sorry in 2012.
   The group expertly pack in full, winding song structures in their limited scope. At the first clack of each drum stick the songs explode, then shift into crushing punk rock blows to the head.
   On "Lucky One," maybe the best song in a pointless race between songs, the guitars chomp down like saliva-dripping panther fangs. "You are the lucky one and I'm a dyin' breed," Way wails, her voice crackling like an isolated flame.
   Mish Way is one of the fiercest, unforgiving, fist-in-the-air, fist-down-your-throat singers to spit in the recording booth in a while. She unleashes the energy of anxiety, frustration, doubt and discontent whenever her mouth opens.
   Way's voice can intimidate at a lowly Joan Jett grumble or squawk like yellow-haired Bubbles from The Powerpuff Girls. She takes Deep Fantasy beyond the expected energy of any punk rock record and adds to it the vicious poetry of the bitter heart. "Despite of me losing my mind / All the world's pretend," she sings on "Face Down," "I seem to be on the valley / Of the weak and damned."

Key Tracks: "Drown With The Monster," "Face Down," "Lucky One," "Snake Jaw"

source: http://imp