New York Music Daily

No New Abnormal

Tag: britrock

Yet Another Richly Tuneful Album From the King of Retro Britrock, Edward Rogers

Born in Birmingham, England, crooner/songwriter Edward Rogers has been a staple of cutting-edge lyrical New York rock since the 80s. A connoisseur of retro British tunesmithing, he’s got a characteristically brilliant new album, Kaye – a homage to the Soft Machine’s Kevin Ayers – streaming at his web page and an album release show at 7 PM on August 17 at Joe’s Pub. Advance tix are $16 and highly recommended because Rogers’ shows there tend to sell out.

For this gig, he’ll have pretty much the same all-star band he enlisted to record the album, live in the studio: James Mastro and Don Piper on guitars; Sal Maida on bass; Dennis Diken on drums; Joe McGinty on keyboards; and Tish & Snooky on backing vocals What’s obvious right off the bat is that although Ayers’ writing is an obvious influence, Rogers’ songs here have the same lushly arranged mid-to-late 70s-style anthemic Britrock sound of the tracks on his previous album, Porcelain, from 2011. The lone cover here, Ayers’ After the Show, gets a jaunty neo-glam treatment, right down to the droll twin guitar leads.

The opening track, My Street kicks off with a snarling, low-register Mastro guitar hook, a decidedly ambiguous look back at a gritty upbringing. There’s a briefly evocative, psychedelic bridge that rises to a searing web of guitar leads that’s viscerally breathtaking. With its lingering spaghetti western tinges, the angst-ridden No Color for Loneliness is sort of a mashup of Bowie’s 1984 with late 60s Vegas noir.

Street Fashion keeps the glamrock vibe going while raising the guitar amperage (that’s Don Fleming and the Ladybug Transistor’s Gary Olson joining the melee with Mastro), Rogers contemptuously contemplating the shallowness that continues to invade and pervade his adopted city. Worry for the World blends funk tinges into a sunny chimepop tune that contrasts with Rogers’ gloomy lyric. The waltzing, summery yet elegaic title track is a wistful shout-out to Ayers, and the most Soft Machine-influenced song here:

You don’t shine if you don’t burn
Hide the mystery so well learned
I’ll bet you walked and turned
And touched the brain that never learned

Fueled by Byrdsy twelve-string guitar, What Happened to the News Today takes a snide swipe at how the media-industrial complex distracts us from what’s really going on. Copper Coin could be a 60s Zombies hit taken about five years into the future with a mostly acoustic, flamenco-tinged arrangement – is that Pete Kennedy playing guitar?

Rogers keeps the delicate acoustic ambience going with Borrowed & Blue. Then he hits a peak with the haunting, organ-fueled Fear of the Unknown, which could pass for a standout track on an early 70s Strawbs album. The album winds up with an apprehensively sprawling psychedelic jam, Peter Pan Dream and then a tantalizingly brief choral reprise of the ninth track.

Wickedly Catchy Britrock Anthems from the Reflections

If you love catchy singalong riffs and choruses – or if you like the idea of Coldplay, but the actual thing puts you to sleep – Los Angeles band the Reflections are for you. They have a knack for big, anthemic, incredibly catchy retro British sounds. The songs on their album Limerence typically kick off with a hook and then take it in an unexpected direction: their signature sound is lush arrangements with simple, uncluttered, hard-hitting tunesmithing, often working a basic two-chord vamp spiced with all kinds of neat touches from guitar and atmospheric keyboards. The vocals are pleasantly nonchalant: think Richard Ashcroft without the affectations (ok, that’s an oxymoron, but give it a try). Lyrics are usually pretty much beside the point. The whole thing is streaming at their Bandcamp page; these guys would have been all over the radio back in the 90s.

The hypnotically vamping opening track, Disconnected is a dead ringer for one of the darker tracks on New Order’s Movement, with more dynamic vocals and digital production values. Summer Days goes steadily marching with staccato organ and acoustic guitar and builds to sweeping mid-90s Britrock a la the Verve. Daydreamer rises through a thicket of echo from a moodily resonant minor-key guitar loop to hypnotic, dreampop-flavored atmospherics with distant echoes of Pink Floyd. All Along and Looking Back each look back to the 90s for more of the lush, Verve-inflected minor-key anthemicness.

Ruthless, a portrait of a femme fatale, is darkly delicious, with soaring bass and an icepick guitar chorus that nails the song’s theme. In Another Life colors an 80s pop tune with echoey, wickedly catchy reverb guitar riffage. Until You’re Near, with its slide guitar and insistent piano embedded in nebulously Floydian sonics, is the slowest and most hypnotic track here. The final track, In Your Head, makes dreampop out of snarling 60s noir psychedelia. Who is the audience for this? Anybody who likes tunes that are catchy but not stupid.

Today’s Batch of Goodies

Can you name a better NYC band than Spanglish Fly? There are a bunch of others who are just as fun: Chicha Libre, Rev. Vince Anderson and his funk band, the Roulette Sisters, LJ Murphy in his many incarnations, but is there anybody better? Check out their latest summery single and see for yourself. Spanglish Fly play bugalu, a wicked mix of Puerto Rican grooves and oldschool soul music that originated in the 60s when the Puerto Rican kids in Spanish Harlem started listening to soul music. Meanwhile, the black kids uptown were listening to Puerto Rican music – it was one of those gorgeous melting-pot moments that could have only happened here. They’re playing the release show for their new single on Feb 16 at Zebulon starting at around 9. The A-side, Me Gusta Mi Bicliceta has frontwoman Erica Ramos wailing like never before. The B-side, The Po-Po is absolutely killer, a sarcastic plena soul groove that explores a universal NYC phenomenon: kids getting busted for open containers by cops desperate to make their “quality of life” arrest quotas. Check out that cool baritone sax! Both songs are streaming here; the vinyl – this stuff is pure analog! – will be out on Electric Cowbell Records.

Wave Sleep Wave – the latest project from the Blam’s Jerry Adler – has a new free download, Hey What – hypnotic, jangly reverby Britrock that wouldn’t be out of place on Wire’s 154 record. A full album is scheduled for next month.

Another free download worth checking out is the Feeling Anxious PR Valentine compilation. Not everything here is worth uploading, but the good stuff is choice: Tatiana Kochkareva’s bouncy retro psychedelic pop, Hannah vs. the Many’s assaultive, hyper-literate noir cabaret and Bryan Dunn’s super-sly country drinking song, Flowers, an anti-Valentine song if there ever was one.

And in case you missed Either/Orchestra’s transcendent three-hour marathon show of mostly brand-new Ethiopian-flavored jazz at the New School last November, it’ll be airing on WGBO’s Jazz Set program on Feb 19 at 6 PM and then on Feb 22 at 6:30. Listening back to a recording of the show, it’s amazing: an eclectic new suite by bandleader Russ Gershon plus several Ethiopian pieces never played outside Ethiopia, performed for probably the first time since the 60s or early 70s.

Good Stuff from Alfonzo Velez and King Porter Stomp

Endorsements from other musicians are usually BS: it’s usually some quid-pro-quo thing, pretty much bought and paid for. But when noir piano titan Fernando Otero says something good about somebody, you just have to pay attention and Otero is right: Alfonso Velez is the real deal. He has a couple of tracks up at his bandcamp that sound like The Verve for the heroes down at Ground Zero – in Zucotti Park, that is. It’s a classic mix of accessible anthemic sweep and moody intensity.

Meanwhile, Brighton, UK’s King Porter Stomp are doing a deliciously original mix of oldschool analog Afrobeat, rocksteady and hip-hop. Here’s Let It All Out, a big kick-ass new anthem from an ep scheduled to come out early next year.