New York Music Daily

Global Music With a New York Edge

Tag: power pop

Libel Put Their Fiery Guitar-Fueled Stamp on Classic Glamrock

Libel is the kind of band you picture up on a big stage, all dressed in black leather, everybody except the drummer with his foot up on a monitor, half-obscured in mist from the smoke machine. They’re from Brooklyn, but their sound is 100% British. Their sardonically titled album Music for Car Commercials is stagy and dramatic, a mix of wickedly catchy vintage glamrock tunes whose influences run from Bowie, to Spacehog, to more swirling and psychedelic, with an unexpectedly impressive socially conscious edge. Unless somebody in the band owns a studio, this must have cost a fortune to produce: layers and layers of big, raging, echoing guitars; Nick Brzoza’s boomy big-room drums; Brian LaRue’s dynamic, melodic bass, and frontman/guitarist Gavin Dunaway’s Bowie vocal theatrics, which are often a dead ringer for the real thing. The whole album is up at Libel’s Bandcamp page as a name-your-price download.

This Is Love sets the stage: with its uneasy, chromatically-fueled verse making its way methodically up to a big, catchy, upbeat chorus, it’s a good way to start the album. It segues into Golden Child, which is Supergrass with lusher sonics, a sardonic look at showbiz machinations lit up by a paint-peeling slide guitar solo that burns out with a shriek of feedback. Old Boy also makes fun of the entertainment-industrial complex and its clueless consumers, opening with a quote from Daydream Nation and going straight into oldschool Bowie after that. Broken Wine Glass, a kiss-off anthem, has more of a jangly 80s feel, Dunaway dropping his stagy falsetto for a more somber delivery.

Tomorrow’s Children is part Oasis, part glam, a triumphant shout-out to Millennial optimism in the face of adversity. Perceptions, with its blazing, lingering minor-key riffage, is one of the strongest tracks here, with a deliciously backward-masked guitar solo midway through. Empath juxtaposes a grim video game narrative against richly swirling, anthemic atmospherics that echo the Church at their most envelopingly psychedelic.

Filthy Mouth, another screaming minor-key anthem, might be the best song on the album, musically at least; it’s too bad that the lyrics never rise above “I love it when you talk dirty” cliches. No Past Tense goes back to relatively quiet and pensive, again reflecting on the shallowness of corporate music marketing. It segues into the cynical final track, Thoroughly Modern Milieu, which sounds like mid-90s Blur with louder guitars. The Thin White Duke may be past 70 now, but his legacy still resonates, particularly with this bnad. Libel are at Radio Bushwick, 22 Wyckoff Ave. between Troutman and Starr in Brooklyn on Jan 17 at 8 PM.

Avi Fox-Rosen’s Monthly Album Marathon Reaches the Finish Line

Avi Fox-Rosen set out this past January to release an album a month this year. That he achieved his goal is noteworthy enough; that the music has been so consistently good is mind-boggling, except for the fact that he’s always been a strong songwriter and a hell of a guitarist. Did he simply have a huge backlog of unrecorded songs waiting and decide to get it all out there this year, or are all of them brand new? The answer isn’t clear. Whatever the case, you can guess for yourself and enjoy everything he released because it’s all up at his Bandcamp page as a name-your-price download..

Fox-Rosen approached this project thematically. January’s album contemplated getting old, February’s was about love, followed by – in monthly order – money, stupidity (April’s album, the pick of the litter), fairy tales, teen angst, nationalism, sex, religion and fear (the existential kind),

November’s album focuses on family dysfunction. Oh boy, does it ever. Fox-Rosen’s tunesmithing is as eclectic as always, his cynicism at redline as it has been throughout much of this past year. And so is his snide sense of humor.The most LMFAO funny song here is Eat. It’s a noir cabaret tune about a mother who equates food with love. But that’s only part of the story. One of Fox-Rosen’s most effective tropes is to take a straightforwardly comedic song and use it to deliver savage sociopolitical commentary, and this is a prime example. Halfway through, he turns the story away from the ridiculous mom and launches into a litany of ridiculous food, a parody of fussy foodie trends. The jokes are too good to spoil.

Together Again is a sardonic gospel rock song about a family that likes to bond: their bonding mechanism happens to be fighting, the physical kind. We Ain’t Never Gonna Forget (What a Shit You Were) is a new wave tune and much as it it’s a little obvious, it’s irresistibly funny:

Well you were just two feet tall
You took out your penis and pissed on the wall
And everybody in town thought I cussed
When I said, “Hey, that little shit is pissing on the wall!”

Intertwined, a pensive folk-rock ballad, is a lot more subtle, contemplating some of the quieter ways a child’s individuality gets crushed. The album ends with one of the longer songs in this project, Demon Inside (Corporate Family), a big, enveloping art-rock anthem set in a surreal, futuristic, grey Orwellian world that is actually the here and now, Fox-Rosen offering a quietly revolutionary message. On another level, it might also be a Coldplay parody.

December’s album hints at being triumphant coda to all of this, but the central theme is rockstar narcissism: an easy target, and Fox-Rosen takes full advantage. Listen closely and decide for yourself which of these parodies might be outtakes from previous themes.  As he will do occasionally, Fox-Rosen occasionally drops his guard – in the first song, So Fucking Happy, a wry spin on generic Bad Company-style riff-rock, he admits that “I’ve never been happy quite this long, I’m either doing something very right or doing something very wrong.”

Where Is My Parade is a warped circus rock song that gets more over-the-top, and funnier, as it goes along – and the big brass band Fox-Rosen assembled for the track matches that surrealism. With Sisyphus, Fox-Rosen goes back to the classic radio rock for a spoof of optimistic “keep on keepin’ on” cliches. You Think That Was Something straddles the line between powerpop parody, a Spinal Tap-style narrative about an aging rocker mounting a dubious comeback, and a defiantly triumphant message that Fox-Rosen may be done with this project, but his best days are still to come. The album ends with Thank You, a generic blues ballad which on one level makes fun of musicians onstage pandering to an audience, but on the other puts both a scowl and a self-effacing shrug on the grim reality that most guys with guitars face. Fox-Rosen and band play a celebratory end-of-marathon show at Rock Shop in Gowanus at around 9 PM on Jan 9; explosive Balkan brass jamband Raya Brass Band, who put out one of the most phenomenal albums of 2013, open the festivities at 8.

Purist Highway Rock Tunesmithing from Carly Jamison

Nashville rocker Carly Jamison‘s 2011 album Everything Happens for a Reason mixed up crushingly sarcastic, Americana-flavored four-on-the-floor rock with the occasional detour into honkytonk, spiced with former Georgia Satellite Dan Baird’s nonchalantly scorching guitar work. Her new one, Ungrounded is much the same musically, less assaultively lyrical, with similarly purist production and solid tunesmithing. Simple, catchy hooks, warmly familiar themes and a heavy foot on the kick drum propel this solid, oldschool mix of tunes. It’s got the feel of a vinyl record from the 80s…but an American one, drums in the back, vocals up where they should be, with rich, volcanic layers of roaring, smoldering, jangling, screaming guitars.

The opening track, Superman Fantasy sets big brass riffs and swirly organ over a Stonesy stomp: “I don’t need no x-ray vision to see right through your walls,” Jamison intones. And then after an all-too-brief Baird solo, she turns the lyric inside out. It’s a cool touch.

No Easy Way Out is richly layered noir 60s garage-psych rock with a heavy 80s backbeat. I Don’t Think We Have Ever Met reaches for a mid-60s Dylanesque folk-rock vibe. Small Talk takes a dirty indie blues theme and beefs it up with big-studio drums, organ, soaring bass and more of those deliciously roaring, multitracked guitars. And Sailing Away disguises a stereotypical 90s singer-songwriter tune amid all the searing Stonesy sonics: “You could have been the careless sailor, could have been the helpless crew, could have been the broken compass that let the ship through.. maybe you’ll be sailing away, but I know I’ll be back dredging you up,” Jamison murmurs.

Prison builds from a slinky, fingersnapping kiss-off ballad into a gorgeously swaying, explosive rock anthem – the way Baird’s evil, backward-masked solo takes everything down to the second verse is one of many of the innumerably cool production touches here. Runaway Train, an amped-up rockabilly shuffle, is a lot more optimistic; Brand New Day nicks the chords from Iggy Pop’s the Passenger while revealing Jamison’s fondness for chocolate donuts.

Traveling On is a catchy highway rock tune with a distant Tex-Mex feel, followed by the shuffling Say Goodbye. The album ends with Jamison’s best song here, I Said I Loved You But I Lied, a creepy acoustic bolero with ominously lingering accordion and violin that wouldn’t be out of place in the Marni Rice catalog. Roll down the windows, let out the clutch and leave some rubber on the road with this one.

Lush, Resonant Chamber Pop from Ukulele Tunesmith Sweet Soubrette

Ellia Bisker’s eclectic tunesmithing has recently taken a deliciously lurid, noir direction. Most recently, she’s joined forces with Kotorino frontman Jeff Morris, playing his femme fatale foil in that menacing circus-rock band as well as in the more stripped-down but equally dark duo Charming Disaster. So it’s no surprise that she’d color the songs on Burning City, the new album by her other project, Sweet Soubrette, with punchy brass and enigmatic, ominously hovering strings. Bisker has also taken her vocals to the next level: she’s got a lot more power and resonance in the lower registers these days. Her band here is excellent. Bisker plays uke, with Heather Cole on violin, Stacy Rock on piano, Bob Smith on bass, Mike Dobson and Don Godwin alternating behind the drum kit along with Erin Rogers on tenor sax, Carl Scheib on trombone and John Waters on trumpet.

Stylistically, the songs run the gamut. The opening track, Be My Man begins with an allusively latin feel and vamps up to to a vintage disco groove. The intriguingly moody, swaying chamber pop title track could be about the Arab/Israeli conflict, or citizens versus gentrifiers in New York City, or warfare in general. Charlatan, a piano ballad, offers an intriguing glimpse of a hardworking fortune teller who might or might not be the real thing. The catchiest, most upbeat number here is Just Your Heart, building to a coyly pulsing second-generation Motown vibe.

Homing Pigeon, which is just uke and violin, works an old country music trope, an endless series of variations on the same metaphor, Bisker running through the bird imagery for all it’s worth.  She does the same thing with electricity on Live Wire, which is a Pat Benetar-ish powerpop song disguised as eerily atmospheric chamber pop, and with stormy weather in Port in a Storm, a gently dancing country waltz. And Rock Paper Scissors gives the band the chance to work all kinds of neat dynamic shifts, back and forth between enigmatic, noirishly artsy pop and swirly circus rock. The remaining two tracks could have been left off and the album wouldn’t be any worse for it – top 40 is top 40, no matter how tasteful the arrangements or playing. Bisker plays the album release show for this one tonight, November 24 at 9 PM with excellent noir cabaret band Not Waving But Drowning opening at 7:30 at the Jalopy; cover is $10.

Another Assaultively Brilliant Album from Hannah vs. the Many

It’s never safe to say that one artist is the best in a particular genre: every time you think you’ve heard everything, a songwriter like Nehedar comes out of the woodwork and blows you away. But it’s safe to say that there is no better lyricist, tunesmith or singer in rock right now than Hannah Fairchild of Hannah vs. the Many. Her previous album All Our Heroes Drank Here was rated #13 on the best of 2012 list here and probably should have been #1. With its torrents of lyrics, savage humor, menacing noir cabaret cascades, scorching guitar riffage and relentless angst – not to mention Fairchild’s searing, wounded wail – it illustrates a bitter, doomed urban milieu as memorable as anything Leonard Cohen or Jarvis Cocker ever wrote. Hannah vs. the Many have a new ep aptly titled Ghost Stories just out and an album release show coming up on Nov 14 at Cake Shop. They’re ferociously good live, and Fairchild is as charismatic a frontwoman as you would expect after hearing her studio material.

The new ep reinvents several of the tracks from Fairchild’s 2010 solo album Paper Kingdoms. It’s amazing how different they are, yet how much the original, mostly acoustic versions sound like demos for these volcanic full-band performances.

All Eyes on Me builds from layers of resonant guitar from Fairchild and her brilliant lead player, Josh Fox, as the organ and keys rise to a slashing insistent Strat-fueled chorus. The narrative could be about a triumphant flight above the “the sorry strangers under glass, no time to think about their lives, identical in horror” – or it could be the desperate tale of a double suicide told from the point of view of someone with no fear of the reaper.

Lady of the Court is Fairchild at the top of her dramatic power, a bitter cautionary tale from the perspective of someone who’s just willing enough to work her way up…but to what? From its faux-bombastic twin guitar intro, it hits a roaring anthemic groove, Fairchild’s voice low and menacing as she traces another angst-fueled trajectory:

Unlikely princess in the eyes of the day-old drunks
I’ve never been the girl whose name is in the title
The story is ending and the world just blurs away
Turning pages and waiting on the hero
I am a guardian of thieves
Flying on unbuttoned sleeves 
Falling in the backstreets but not for too long

It hits a wry 80s keyboard interlude on the way to a surprise ending.

Nicollet captures a bitter breakup over creepy piano-based art-rock. The original version has a folkie acoustic feel, albeit with a distant menace; what’s stunning about this version is how much more power, yet more nuance there is in Fairchild’s voice:

Crossing yourself at my door
You’ve come seeking some quick and easy absoloution
But I’m only as clean as the floors I’ve been kneeling on

The most explosive and arguably best song here is Poor Leander, a corrosively poignant account of two probably irreparably damaged souls hell-bent on NOT making things work, set to marauding noir cabaret rock:

Bedsheet around your shoulder, scrapes on both your knees
Were you running off the rooof again, my broken friend?
Now you’re flying out to save her from the latest ivory castle that you found
But the second she lets you in her window it’ll all come crashing down

The closest thing to the original here is the luridly torchy, aptly titled Slow Burn, which wouldn’t be out of place in the Julia Haltigan catalog. As with the rest of the album, guitars gleam and smolder, electric piano tingles and Fairchild’s voice rises from an anxious murmur to a vengeful scream and then back again. Forget about Grace Potter and all those wannabes: Hannah vs. the Many are the real deal, the teens equivalent of what Siouxsie & the Banshees were in the 80s or the Avengers ten years before.

Noisy, Stylized Guitar-Driven Rock from Todd Clouser

Todd Clouser‘s new album Man Without a Country is sort of a cross between Kevin Salem and Steve Wynn. It’s tersely and purposefully produced by Anton Fier (whose notable production jobs in recent months include sensational albums by Lianne Smith and Serena Jost; he also plays drums here), alongside an A-list lineup of Tony Scherr on bass, Medeski Martin & Wood’s Billy Martin on percussion and drums, Erik Deutsch on piano and organ and Sexmob‘s Steven Bernstein on trumpet and additional brass. Clouser plays guitar with a searing, raw, sustained attack reminiscent of Salem (whose playing most recently spices Robin O’Brien‘s brilliant Dive Into the End of the World), or Wynn in more assaultive moments.

The album opens with Never, just solo Wurlitzer and vocals, a three-chord gospel vamp that  reminds of Nick Cave. Throughout much of the album, Clouser sings in a drawl so exaggerated it’s comedic. Whether the buffoonishness of the vocals is intentional or not not is hard to tell. He winds up the song with a long feedback-infested solo that sounds much like Lou Reed’s most recent, extremely vigorous adventures in noiserock.

The brief Clock at the Top of This Town sets a bubbly, metalish looped lead guitar line over similarly bubbly, fat bass and shouted, echoey vocals. The title track is catchy 4-chord gospel-infused backbeat rock, Clouser’s guitar jangling and occasionally screaming over Scherr’s sinuous pulse and the occasional swell of the brass. Pocket Full of Bones has something of a classic Detroit/Sonic’s Rendezvous Band vibe, Clouser’s recurrent, acidic lead line resonating over Scherr’s overdubbed wah guitar and swelling, slipsliding bass.

Clouser drops the vocal affectations on How to Trust a Lover, a wistful, minimalist solo vocal-and-electric-guitar tune, Bernstein and the band eventually adding their own echoey, lonesome spaciousness. Mighty Bird matches a mid-70s Dylanesque electric bluesiness with a windswept, dusky Wynn surrealism. Where’s Her Money From has a slow, talky, skronkily bluesy nocturnal groove that looks back to a CBGB of the mind circa 1983 and what John Cale might have been doing around that time. Clouser again drops the vocal shtick for Kaylee, which evokes Botanica in an pensive, gospel-inspired mode,

Eyes for You flavors a slow, hypnotically enveloping one-chord vamp with increasingly ominous guitar and organ fills over Fier’s leadfoot thump, much like an 80s anthem by the Church. We Are a Generation looks back ten years previously to David Bowie circa Alladin Sane but with a noisier guitar edge. The last track, Pistol Storm, again evokes Botanica, this time in a bludgeoning, bluesy vein. Fans of dark-tinged rock with noisy guitar have a lot to enjoy here.

Dark, Brilliant Lyrical Tunesmithing from Nehedar

What is a tunesmith as catchy and lyrically powerful as Nehedar a.k.a. Emilia Cataldo doing so far under the radar? In a world where people who liked smart songwriting still listened to the radio, she would rule the airwaves. At heart, she’s a purist pop songwriter with a thing for oldschool soul, and a punk rock edge that sometimes defiantly raises its spiky head. Elsewhere, bits and pieces of so-called urban radio styles – hip-hop, trip-hop and neosoul – filter through the mix. Her lyrics draw biting, savage portraits of clinical depression littered with dashed hopes and dead dreams. And not only is she a brilliant songwriter, she’s also a great singer, with a big range that tops out way up the scale, and plenty of attention to lyrical detail. Lots of women with good voices sing everything the same way: Nehedar (Hebrew for “wondrous”) varies her approach depending on the lyrics. All of her albums are streaming at her Bandcamp page.

The one you ought to download right now is the freebee, Power Plant Beach, from a couple of years ago. The album cover graphic says a lot about the songwriting: in gentle pastels, a pink, sandy beach sits with a nuclear plant in the background. Kinda Simpsons, sure, but in a post-3/11 world there’s nothing more worrisome. Growling guitar and a tricky tempo fuel the opening track, They Lied, introducing a recurrent theme in her work. It’s the great powerpop hit Blondie never had. The stream-of-consciousness, neosoul-tinged Make the Sun Come Up is a lot more optimistic: “I wanna write the songs that make the sun come up,” she announces. Pretty Young Thing, a trip-hop tune, has the feel of a demo, or a one-woman band piece: it’s a cautionary tale about strangers with evil intent.

The political edge kicks in hard, Cataldo’s voice leaping and diving over a mix of burning powerpop and hip-hop on Debtor’s Lament:

I am not the sum of my belongings
Ad I am not the sum of my degrees
And I am not someone who is falling down to you
On my hands and my knees

Serious despair sets in on Headlights as it rises from an artsy piano ballad to more trip-hop. A little later on, she goes in the opposite direction with what might be her funniest song, My Roommate Is an Assclown: it’s pretty classic, something that will hit the spot with anyone who’s ever shared a private space with someone who doesn’t respect it. Then Cataldo brings back the stormclouds with Running Away, an escape anthem fueled by weird, off-center synth and elegant piano.

Over wickedly catchy major/minor powerpop changes, Let Down pensively explores at a scenario where “pain might be the same as beauty.” Another powerpop number, Sad Clown paints a bitter picture of being down and out in New York. The album’s last song, Metronome ponders a situation where the girl’s spinning her wheels and itching for a change, spiced with smoky organ and a surreal, sunbaked guitar solo.

Her latest album is This Heart. The songs here are a little quieter, bleaker and more defeated, in contrast with Cataldo’s bright, lively vocals and the melodies underneath. The first track, Bells of the City starts out nebulously, like Stereolab, and builds to a nonchalantly soaring, hip-hop-influenced chorus, “Building a nice career out of a life of fear, but the bells of the city call you home,” Cataldo sings without a hint of the menace that line implies. Take This World, a snarling guitar-driven garage rock tune, is one of Cataldo’s best, lyrically and musically:

Take this world from me
The dull monotony
The working endlessly, I’m giving up
Yes, take it all, I don’t care what you say
So fuck off yesterday, let’s burn it all
Everything you ever knew was a lie
Everyone you ever loved’s gonna die
They own the world I was born in, you see
All they want is to rent it to me
The only thing I ever thought was magic
Is the only thing I’ll never get to be…

Weight of Your Bones keeps the theme of alienation going over ba-bump cabaret rock done as new wave. What’s Becoming drolly juxtaposes tongue-in-cheek 80s Ghostbusters pop with an absolutely morose lyric. On Killing, a bolero, is another standout track, a brutally cynical portrait of wartime shellshock and its consequences.

The title track, a pensive folk-rock tune, offers guarded optimism: “This soul is very old, glad to be here, for reasons unclear,” Cataldo muses. Something to Call Mine, a breakup song, works an acoustic Nashville gothic vein. Why Do They Tell Me, a funky, Rhodes piano-driven soul song, brings back the angst:  “Time for the curtain or the door, ’cause nothing is certain anymore,” Cataldo laments. The bouncy, trumpet-spiced I Used to Have Friends is even sadder: “I’ll get them back someday when I’m not so down,” she insists quietly. Then she raises the energy again with the snide acoustic punk song A Dollar’s Fine, making fun of religious nuts: Cataldo is from Florida originally, and it’s easy to imagine her being surrounded by those kind of freaks when she was small.

Self-Fulfilling Prophecy, an eerie, apocalyptic trip-hop song,  keeps the quasi-religious metaphors going. To Be Small also has a trip-hop beat, a stark violin solo and more gothic imagery. The album ends with Bring It Up, a funky latin soul tune, maintaing the persistent tension between hope and despair that permeates Cataldo’s work. Although she’s not a frequent live performer, she’s very prolific in the studio: get to know her before these darkly catchy, often haunting songs go viral.

Josh Berwanger’s Strange Stains Updates a Classic Powerpop Sound

Powerpop genius Josh Berwanger, formerly of 90s band the Anniversary, brings his breathlessly catchy songs to the Mercury on Oct 19 at 8 PM. This guy is a brilliant tunesmith: comparisons to Alex Chilton, Cheap Trick, the Raspberries and ELO are not an exaggeration. His new album Strange Stains traces a predictably doomed romance from its origins to the realization that it’s just not going to work out, along the way referencing several decades worth of catchy, anthemic three-minute songwriting.

The album opens with Bullets of Change, an incongruously successful blend of ELO pop with a C&W bridge – it’s so catchy that it actually works. Enemies mines a 60s noir Orbison doo-wop pop groove, the girl in question “overmedicated with all the pills I gave to you.” In the gorgeously jangly, Raspberries-ish Baby Loses Her Mind, the problem is that “Jenny’s up on the roof again, she’s not taking her medicine…she yells down, I was young, I’m getting old and it’s no fun.”

Time Traveller warps another Orbison-style pop tune into the 80s; it reminds of Milwaukee cult favorites the Shivvers with a guy instead of a girl in front of the band. Gypsy Girl & the Tombs of Atuan works its way to an angry, ominous vibe with a period-perfect late 70s twin guitar solo, bass rising against it tensely as it hits a high point.

Berwanger follows Mary, a la-la pop homage to ganja, with the dark, minor-key 60s folk-pop anthem I Can Feel the Moon. The 12-string guitar solo hits in the sweetest place possible, and then hands off to a terse blues solo, bass soaring underneath the sweep of the string synth. All Night Long sounds like Cheap Trick taking a stab at retro 50s rock, followed by the crushingly sarcastic, bouncy, horn-fueled Spirit World. The Spector-esque kiss-off number Sweet Little Girl is where everything unravels; the album ends with Everybody Knows, which is not the Leonard Cohen classic but another angry powerpop gem: “Everybody knows that your mind’s made out of clay, and you don’t have much to say,” Berwanger snarls quietly. What a cool new update on an old sound this is.

The Pretty Babies Do Blondie Better Than the Originals

Some cover bands are actually better than the original because the music they cover is so horrible. That the Pretty Babies‘ Blondie covers might be better than the originals is a lot more impressive. Subversive cabaret personality/chanteuse Tammy Faye Starlite pulled this group together as one of her snarkily hilarious but musically spot-on all-female cover projects, after savaging the Rolling Stones in the Mike Hunt Band and then taking a stab at the New York Dolls with Prima Ballerina. Beyond the nonstop, cruelly sardonic and usually LMFAO stream-of-consciousness banter, what makes this band so good is that they absolutely nail the music. Last week at Arlene’s their drummer had Clem Burke’s machinegun rumble down cold, their bassist (who apparently had been brought in to pinch-hit on short notice) had Chris Stein’s agile lines in his fingers, and both “Frannie Infante” and Sit N Spin’s Heidi Lieb on guitars pulled off their parts like their hair was still feathered (yeah, they might go back that far) and it was 1983.

Another cool thing about this band is how deeply they go into the catalog. What do you do if you’re a Blondie cover band and your keyboardist is AWOL? You play the powerpop songs. That meant no Rapture, or Heart of Glass, or The Tide Is High – and the set was better for it. They opened with Hanging on the Telephone, Tammy wailing with a power that Deborah Harry would have killed for in 1977, Lieb completely deadpan as she played her leads through a chorus pedal for the perfect, watery new wave guitar tone. There were technical difficulties on One Way or Another, and Tammy seized the opportunity to wordlessly harrass the sound guy – hasn’t every band that’s ever played this venue wanted to do that?

Their titular song, Tammy explained, was about a thirteen-year-old girl having sex and was ostensibly written for Brooke Shields, who “had the eyebrow thing to bond on” with Chris Stein, a joke the band’s two blonde women ran with until it was beyond tasteless. And their take on the song was as sad and pretty as Blondie ever got, maybe more so: name a goth band that hasn’t done something influenced one way or another by that tune. From there they cannonballed through Dreaming, went back to ethereal and pretty for Touched by Your Presence, Dear, channeled the Dolls on Rip Her to Shreds and then the Ramones on I’m Gonna Love You Too. The funniest moment of the night was the intro to Call Me, where they launched into another song that sounds exactly like it – but it wasn’t Children of the Grave. The joke is too good to spoil – if you’re lucky you’ll get to see them do it again. Watch this space for upcoming shows, always a possibility when Tammy’s not doing her poignant/hilarious Nico revue Chelsea Madchen (which earned a rave review here).

Gorgeous Noir Janglerock and Dreampop From the Lost Patrol

The Lost Patrol have been around in one form or another since the late 90s. They started out as a cinematic soundtrack project, then became a surf band more or less and about five years ago morphed into a deliciously noir janglerock band, sort of the missing link between the Church and the Cocteau Twins. The addition of frontwoman/guitarist Mollie Israel pretty much brought them to their peak as a recording and touring band. In an era when supposedly nobody makes albums anymore, this band has ten (10) to their credit plus numerous singles and contributions to anthologies. Their latest one, Driven, with its lushly clanging unease and swirl, is streaming at the group’s Bandcamp page. They’re headlining Otto’s – a venue far too small for a band this good – at around midnight on Saturday, August 3 on one of Unsteady Freddie’s surf rock nights with purist Connecticut instrumentalists the Clams playing at 10 followed at 11 by powerhouse original reverb rockers Strange But Surf.

The album’s first track, Spinning sets the stage for much of what’s to come, an anthemic janglerock tune straight out of the Church circa The Blurred Crusade. With its lingering guitars and sweeping synth, All Tomorrow’s Promises sets Israel’s dreamy vocals against guitarist Stephen Masucci’s tersely echoey resonance, a spot-on evocation of the Church’s Peter Koppes. Chance of Rain is a morbidly gorgeous, twangy 60s garage tune lowlit by Israel’s brooding, elegaic vocals: “A chance of rain/Still remains/You tried in vain/To wash away/All the days you left behind.”

Israel takes the sultry menace just short of over the top with Little Black Kitten, a slow, slinky, simmering noir organ/janglerock groove. See You in Hell builds off a familiar old garage rock riff: where other bands would take it straight to cliche central, this crew sways it gently and lushly and makes it all the more ominous. The echoey, anxious, tonebending sway of Burn Me Down brings back memories of the late, great late 90s/early zeros New York rockers DollHouse.

There & Back shuffles along on a dark surf groove, followed by the moody dreampop ballad Tell Me. Invincible looks back to the early 80s for its apprehensive new wave swirl, followed by Just Go, an abrupt but impressive detour into torchy saloon jazz featuring Rob Schwimmer’s jaunty ragtime-fueled piano. The two most Lynchian songs here wind up the album: the propulsive noir 60s pop hit In Too Deep and then the towering, angst-fueled Disguise. One of the half-dozen best albums of 2013, by this reckoning: you’ll see it on the final list at the end of year here if we make it that far.


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