New York Music Daily

Global Music With a New York Edge

Tag: 60s rock

The Allah-Las Brighten Their Surreal, Catchy Psychedelic Pop – Just a Little

The Allah-Las reaffirm the reality that if you tour good music coast to coast, larger and larger crowds will come out to see it. Watching them grow from small club band to solid large-venue attraction has been one of the more satisfying success stories among rock bands over the last couple of years. Their new second album, Worship the Sun, was produced by retro music maven Nick Waterhouse and is streaming at bandcamp.

The opening track, De Vida Voz continues the catchy, eerie, retro 60s psych-folk-rock vibe that filtered through their brilliant 2012 debut album: “Voices carry through the canyon,” is drummer Matthew Correia’s mantra over the band’s signature, jangly blend of twelve- and six-string guitars. The second track, Had It All bulks up a simple-but-catchy garage rock tune with twelve-string clang and a period-perfect solo that’s little more than just a single, reverberating note – you can pull that off with vintage guitars and amps and tons of reverb. The darkly anthemic Artifact is a real gem, frontman/guitarist Miles Michaud intoning his doomed imagery over a reverbtoned melody that sounds like a cult classic from the 60s that Carl Newman might have decided to appropriate.

With its keening, twangy guitar leads and insistent piano, the instrumental Ferus Gallery pays homage to the well-known LA art spot: it wouldn’t have been out of place as, say, the Sunset Strip theme in the Blues Project’s soundtrack to The Trip, the Jack Nicholson cult classic. Recurring builds the same kind of gentle but apprehensive Peanut Butter Conspiracy-style psych-pop atmosphere that distinguishes much of the band’s prior output.

Nothing to Hide takes a deceptively simple latin-tinged vamp and makes psych-pop out of it, with a tremoloing, aptly out-of-focus guitar solo out by lead player Pedrum Siadatian. The two guitars intertwine tersely on the similar Buffalo Nickel, then they trade punchy riffage on the distantly Kinks-flavored Follow You Down over Spencer Dunham’s judiciously dancing bass and Correia’s tight, nimble drumming. Likewise, 501-415 sets vertiginous Siadatian repeaterbox echoes to a brightly jangly vamp straight out of the early Kinks.

The instrumental Yemeni Jade adds elegantly jazzy touches to its delicately chiming twelve-string pulse, segueing into the balmy Classics IV-tinged title track. Better Than Mine reaches for an unexpected but successful detour into Rickenbacker-fueled, early Beatlesque pop sounds – with steel guitar, for extra surrealism. The dusky, wary surf/spaghetti western instrumental No Werewolf – the first of the two bonus tracks – is one of the strongest ones here. The other is Every Girl, a dead ringer for Van Morrison-era Them. Overall, as the title more than implies, this album is a sunnier if still surrealistically cloudy and interesting update on a classic 60s sound. It’ll be interesting to see what this band comes up with next.

Purist Psychedelic Tunesmithing from the Allah-Las

The Allah-Las play period-perfect 60s-style psychedelic pop, folk-rock and punchy garage rock sounds, but more tunefully than most of the bands who were playing that stuff over forty years ago. Byrds twelve-string guitar jangle? Check. Dark, surreal, hard-hitting Arthur Lee garage stomp? Doublecheck. Nonchalantly sinister Peanut Butter Conspiracy psych-folk? Some of that too. What makes the Allah-Las different from all of those bands, other than the Byrds, is that they jangle and clang their way through their songs rather than playing riffs or recycled blues and R&B licks. Their not-so-secret weapon is lead guitarist Pedrum Siadatian’s twelve-string, although frontman Miles Michaud will sometimes play twelve-string as well for extra chime and clang. Their album – streaming at their Bandcamp page – is one of the best original retro rock efforts of recent years. They’re scheduled to play Rough Trade on March 27, but whether the venue has reopened or not, you won’t get a chance if you don’t already have a ticket because that show is sold out. What a heartwarming story these guys are: a year ago, when they made a stop in New York, they’d be at the Mercury. If there’s any proof that there’s a massive audience for good music in this town, these guys are it.

The album’s opening tune, Catamaran is a classic, catchy midtempo Ventures-style surf tune which they beef up with organ after the first chorus. The kiss-off anthem Don’t You Forget It sets Spencer Dunham’s trebly descending bassline over a gorgeous twelve-string hook, Siadatian’s solo spiced with eerily bluesy bends. Drummer Matthew Correia builds from a rumble to a steady backbeat on the wickedly tuneful, Byrdsy Busman’s Holiday. The surf instrumental Sacred Sands has a lush beauty that rises to a more incisive chorus with the twelve-and six-string guitars in tandem.

No Voodoo goes more in a trad garage rock direction, but with more lush sonics. The ominously echoey backing vocals on Sandy reminds of the Yardbirds, while Ela Navega could be Los Destellos playing a Brazilian tune, something the Peruvian psychedelic legends did frequently. “Tell me what’s on your mind, cause I can’t find it,” Michaud suggests on the jangly number afterward.

Catalina is clinic in tasteful, incisive twelve-string playing, followed by Vis a Vis, which sounds like the Church at their poppiest, with the two twelve-strings answering each other as the song hits a high point. Seven Point Five works a brooding psych-folk groove, while Long Journey, with its low, creepy Yardbirds vocal harmonies, slashing fuzztone breaks and murderous lyrics, is the darkest and longest track here. There’s reverb on everything, especially the guitars, and an underlying sense of unease throughout all of these songs despite all the catchy clang. If psychedelia and just plain good retro songwriting is your thing, keep your eyes out for when these guys make another trip through town.

Classic 60s Psychedelic British Rock Sounds from New Electric Ride

New Electric Ride play catchy psychedelic songs that offer a wink and a nod to the 1965-70 British rock scene, more loving homage and period-perfect evocation than parody. Their debut album is streaming at their Bandcamp page. Among American bands emulating those styles with a similarly faithful, goodnatured tunefulness, Love Camp 7 come to mind.

The opening track, Mr. Bumblebee, has spot-on, trad 60s production values – trebly guitar, punchy/trebly melodic bass, a slow Byrdsy jangle groove with tremolo organ on the chorus. It’s sort of a less dense, less satirical take on XTC’s Dukes of Stratosphear retro-psychedelic project. “Never let them say that you don’t work hard, never let them say you don’t go to a bar????”

Bury a Mule sounds like it could have been an Abbey Road outtake if the Beatles had an extra soul/blues number left over from the Let It Be session. Ditto Lovers, which riffs on a purloined Beatles riff and hints at a familiar Abbey Road vamp that never arrives. In Chains reaches for a Spencer Davis Group/Vanilla Fudge organ soul groove, fueled by the bass and then an absolutely irresistibly watery, Leslie-speaker guitar solo. The final track here, Stone for Stone is the most modern-sounding one – if you buy the proposition that 1970 is modern – pairing pensive, echoey guitar with Rhodes piano, rising to an unexpectedly soaring chorus evocative of early Nektar (that band again – far more influential now than in their 70s prime!).

New Electric Ride’s latest single, All Who You Know, continues in an auspiciously heavier but also quirkier vein.

Dark Retro Garage and Soul Sounds from Sallie Ford & the Sound Outside

Portland, Oregon band Sallie Ford & the Sound Outside mix retro guitar influences from the 60s into a defiantly unique, high-energy sound that’s part garage rock and part oldschool soul, with a lot of Link Wray snarl as well. They’re playing a free show at Pier 84 at 44th St. and the Hudson at around 8 PM on July 11; their latest album, Untamed Beast is streaming at Soundcloud.

“Never gonna apologize for being so intense, how the hell would that make any sense?” Ford sneers on the opening track, They Told Me, over drummer Ford Tennis’ caveman stomp, bassist Tyler Tornfelt going way up and hitting hard over the lingering Link Way Rumble menace of the two guitars. On the funky, doo wop-infused Addicted, Ford slashes and tremolo-picks against lead guitarist Jeffrey Munger’s resonant, reverb-drenched lines, building to a firestorm of trumpet, backing vocals and chord-chopping. “I know where the party can be found…dancing in the living room, drinking white wine,” Ford grins over a snarling minor-key soul vamp on Party Kids. Bad Boys works agile handoffs between the two guitars over a dark minor-key soul vamp lit up by a couple of slashing Dick Dale-style slides down the scale; then Ford pushes the beat on the slow, sultry, luridly noir Shivers.

Devil takes an oldtime gospel vamp and makes a rockabilly shuffle out of it. The album’s best song, Paris takes a richly successful, tuneful turn into open-tuned acoustic country blues. Do Me Right works a slyly innuendo-packed litany of food for a hokum blues vibe over a 60s soul shuffle. Lip Boy pounds along on a boomy, Cramps-y surf groove. Munger’s savage surf playing brings Rockability to a screaming peak; the album winds up with the surprisingly laid-back, acoustic Roll Around, Ford wishing for an escape back to the 50s away from teens technology overkill.

Another cool thing about this album, and about this band, is that while everything they’re doing has been done before, they don’t lapse into cliche or go over the top. Ford could put  a snotty pout into her nonchalantly sweaty alto delivery and probably get away with it, and the rest of the band could recycle more well-worn licks than they do. But they don’t. Much as they’ve got the 60s sound down so cold that someone hearing them might assume that these songs were recorded 45 years ago, nobody is going to confuse this band with anybody else.

Tammy Faye Starlite Plays Nico to the Hilt in Chelsea Madchen

Tammy Faye Starlite’s chillingly evocative musical portrait, Nico: Chelsea Madchen has two more nights to run, June 17 and 24 at the opulently renovated Cutting Room  (44 E 32nd St. just west of Park Ave.) at 8 PM. Tickets for both nights are still available as of today, June 14. This past Monday’s performance was as hauntingly sad as it was hilarious, illuminating the life of the iconic gothic songstress against a pitch black backdrop, both literally and figuratively. Much as Tammy Faye Starlite is best known for her searingly funny, spot-on political humor, she’s also had a lot of fun over the past few years leading snarky cover bands playing the Rolling Stones, Blondie and the New York Dolls. This revue is a step in a different direction, a distinctly tragicomic role that more than does justice to Nico in all her many guises: muse to scores of musicians and filmmakers, pop singer, darling of the avant garde, goth icon, hardcore junkie and existentialist.

Tammy has Nico’s voice down so cold it’s scary. That brittle little vibrato, the wide-angle vowels and inescapable German accent are so perfect that, listening back to a recording of this week’s show, it’s as if Nico had risen from the grave. In a more or less chronological narrative whose doomed foreshadowing never relents, the story and the songs trace the grim, self-defeating path that led her there  A fascinating mix of both obvious and obscure material from throughout Nico’s career gets a surprisingly lively interpretation from a first-class art-rock band: Dave Dunton on piano, Rich Feridun on guitar, Keith Hartel on bass and acoustic guitar, Craig Hoek on sax, flute and trumpet, Ron Metz on drums and Tammy on harmonium. In between songs, Jeff Ward plays the role of a befuddled Australian dj trying to keep an interview – clearly set in Nico’s later years – on the rails.

Tammy has the research down just as much as the accent. Via dialogue constructed from actual Nico interviews and conversations, along with some deliciously ribald improv, a little audience-baiting and a fourth wall waiting to be smashed to bits, Tammy creates a portrait that’s as stunning in its verisimilitude as its depth – and sordidness. One minute Nico is articulate and philosophical, the next she’s bashing Jews or fixated on an unseen adversary. The proto-feminist wishes she’d been born a man. For someone who time and time again perceives herself all alone in a hostile world, there always seems to be a guy lurking nearby. Gloom and doom notwithtanding, there’s a light flickering inside: this Nico is funny! Her putdowns of the men who ran through her life, from Dylan, to Iggy Pop, John Cale and Lou Reed among them, are hysterical: the latter is “a usurper of souls…like a cat.” All this and more makes her all the more tragic, the girl who had everything and ultimately wanted to be nothing.

Tammy’s wardrobe harks back to the early new wave/goth era Nico: many shades of black, scarf forlornly draping her shoulders, face ashen (although unlike her subject, Tammy does not mute her own natural beauty). While an air of apprehension lingers – Ward gamely if hopelessly trying to build a repartee with his subject – Tammy lets off steam with moments that seem to be completely off the cuff. This time out, one of them was an extended, rather violent Freudian interlude involving a flute.

And the music is lush and diverse and sensationally good. Some of the obvious choices – Femme Fatale, which opens the show; I’ll Be Your Mirror; Chelsea Girl; All Tomorrow’s Parties; These Days (featuring some nonchalantly brilliant guitar work from Hartel) and Frozen Borderline (performed solo on harmonium) stick close to the originals. Others take unexpectedly rewarding liberties. The End shifts not into raga-rock but a snidely funky interlude. Nico’s pre-Velvets single, a cover of Gordon Lightfoot’s I’m Not Saying, has an almost alt-country feel. David Bowie’s Heroes is transformed into a roaring stadium rock anthem, My Funny Valentine into wrenchingly beautiful, elegaic chamber pop. The closing number, an unexpected treat. is so apt that it wouldn’t be fair to give it away here. Go see the show and find out for yourself, then leave, thrilled and haunted and wishing that Nico was still alive.

In Memoriam – Michael Davis

Michael Davis, the MC5’s smart, versatile bass player died today of liver failure. He was 68. Davis was a master of many styles: slinky soul grooves, fast melodic pop lines, hypnotic botttom-heavy psychedelia and jazz. He and drummer Dennis “Machine Gun” Thompson were one of the greatest rock rhythm sections ever, whether playing pummelling proto-metal, catchy janglerock, blues, soul or crazed avant-noise freakouts (where Davis would hang out and let the guitars go wild while he anchored the sound). Always active in music, he recently toured with the regrouped version of the classic Detroit band alongside bandmate Wayne Kramer. Davis was an underrated player, an important figure in rock history, especially in the great Detroit scene of the 60s and 70s, and will be missed.