New York Music Daily

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Tag: paula carino

Jangle and Clang and Roar at Local 269

Thursday night at Local 269 began auspiciously with Tracy Island, the new project from Ian Roure and Liza Garelik Roure of the Larch (who have a reputedly excellent and far more psychedelic album than their usual literate, new wave-ish fare due out soon). This new band – a duo at this point – seems to be the newest edition of Liza & the WonderWheels, who had a good run through the zeros as wiseass  psychedelic popsters. Jauntily and methodically, they made their way through a mix of new songs and old favorites, voices and guitars hypnotically intertwining, Liza’s casual jangle and percussive riffage against Ian’s precise chords, terse accents and the occasional lickety-split wah-wah solo. The most stunning song of the bunch was a newer one, Cold Wind, which took on an unexpected gravitas and ominous majesty. Another especially interesting, and insightful moment was when they took Lou Reed’s Caroline Says back in time to the folky jangle of the Velvets’ third album – which is probably how Reed intended it, considering how vociferously he’s disowned Bob Ezrin’s production on the Berlin album.

An older song dating from Liza’s days as the leader of a band from the Continental scene – it’s hard to imagine this meticulously jangly couple on that overamped stage! – had a paisley underground Rain Parade/Mazzy Star vibe; one of the newer ones brought a Spanking Charlene punk-pop defiance. Nebulous verses built to harder-hitting, sometimes apprehensive choruses, best exemplified by the offhandedly dismissive No Exceptions, a track from the WonderWheels’ 2006 album Meet the Animal. Newer flavors appeared as well, particularly a slow, resolute, twangy southwestern gothic anthem. It became obvious early on that they’ve got plenty of material for an album, however they decide to do it, as a duo or with a full band.

Paula Carino and her band were next on the bill. NYMD’s sister blog rated her album Open on Sunday as the best one of 2010. Interestingly, this show went light on that material, heavy on both the very recent and also the deep-space edge of Carino’s consistently brilliant, tuneful catalog. This version of the band – Carino on Strat and vocals, Dave Benjoya on lead guitar, Andy Mattina on bass and Nancy Polstein on drums (and vocals on an irresistible, bluegrass-tinged version of Rise und Shine, from Carino’s classic 2003 Aquacade album) – roared more than it soared, mangled more than it jangled.

The opening song, Bad Actor rampaged like the early Jam. The tensely biting, bittersweet Never Saw It Coming, Carino’s reflection on the loss of her dad a couple of years ago, switched tempos artfully. Maybe because the guitars were so loud, maybe because the songs simply demanded it, Carino reached beyond her usual plush, velvety alto delivery with a raw insistence through the cold ending of the dead-end narrative Jimmyville and then an especially amped version of the pulsing Tip of the Iceberg, which as Carino explained, is about the subconscious: “Tip of the iceberg, meet your bottom half,” she intoned, cool and deadpan, letting the image speak for itself.

Chimp Haven burned slowly and ominously, with a poisonously serpentine Benjoya solo, followed by the irrepressible bounce of 3 Legged Race and then a surprisingly subdued version of the elegantly lyrical, aphoristic Paleoclimatology: “Let it go, that ancient snow that wrecked Tyrannosaurus,” Carino purred. They picked up the pace with the haphazardly shuffling Queen’s Tornado, backed off with the slow, brooding I Want Mars, an older song with the same sense of longing if not any melodic resemblance to the Bowie song about that planet. They wrapped up the show with a careening version of Mayor Beam, a wickedly catchy, off-center 80s-inflected janglerock number, and then the big audience hit Robots, a deviously shapeshifting Twilight Zone pop song.

The rest of the night was tantalizing: Out of Order, who’d transcended 112-degree heat to play an even more scorching set a couple of weeks previously at the East River Bandshell, were also on the bill, as were the K’s. Sadly, in this music blogging “business,” sticking around for an entire quadruplebill isn’t always in the cards. Watch this space for upcoming shows.

Neko Case – Unstoppable in Lower Manhattan

Neko Case’s concert downtown on the water behind the World Financial Center Thursday night started late. Early in the set she explained gracefully. “Your sexy energy has created a Ghostbusters situation up here. Everything electric has stopped working, so we’ll be” – she searched for a split second for the word – “Apocalyptic.” Case’s stage monitors had blown out (or weren’t properly hooked up – what exactly happened, nobody seemed to know) before she ever took the stage. Were they even working as veteran soul man Charles Bradley, who preceded Case onstage, strained and strained to hit the notes throughout his set? Maybe not. Although visibly exasperated at being unable to hear much if any of themselves onstage, Case and her bandmates improvised as the show went on, switched out electric guitars for acoustic ones, changed the set list on the fly and in the process played a transcendent show. Case – “the girl with the amazing notes” as she sardonically but accurately described herself – warned the crowd that she was going to hit a few bad ones. “Oh no, I start this one,” she griped and then launched into a version of Wish I Was the Moon that she ended up hitting over the moon and whatever comes after that with some stratospheric highs to match those of harmony singer Kelly Hogan.

As riveting a chanteuse as Case is – like Paula Carino but with more range – she couldn’t do what she does without a brilliant band and that’s what this one was: John Rauhouse moving between pedal steel, guitar and banjo, Paul Rigby on guitar, Tom V. Ray on upright and electric bass and Kurt Dahl on drums. Case pulled out her gorgeous white Gibson SG tenor guitar for a couple of songs, taking a brief solo during a matter-of-factly chilling version of The Tigers Have Spoken that she obviously couldn’t hear, anxiously looking to Hogan for reassurance that she’d pulled it off. Hogan nodded approvingly and then playfully flipped her the bird after she’d finished – although Hogan delivered plenty of her own casually spine-tingling moments with that maple sugar voice of hers. It’s the perfect complement to Case’s quietly seething, nonchalantly sultry menace: the two are the ultimate noir vocal ensemble.

Case likes short songs, and that’s what most of the set was. She and Hogan held onto Teenage Feeling, defiantly trailing out the end of the chorus and thrilled the crowd with a torchily bittersweet Maybe Sparrow. By the time they hit the maneater chorus of People Got a Lotta Nerve, it was clear from the visuals if not the audio that there were sonic problems onstage. That didn’t stop Case from her guitar solo and all kinds of chilling nuance on The Tigers Have Spoken: “If he wanted to remember,” Case half-spoke, coldly sotto voce, for the caged beast in anyone who’d “lived that way forever” before being gunned down. Favorite, another audience favorite, was as sarcastically noir as expected, with an outro lit up by some practically Middle Eastern chromatics from the electric guitars. Ray bounced his bow off his strings for some scary overtones on a brisk, biting take of the bluegrass-flavored escape anthem Things That Scare Me and did the same later on a haunting, dirgey take of Knock Loud, a song that wouldn’t be out of place in the Randi Russo catalog.

Margaret vs. Pauline was all understated rage over gorgeously noir sonics; Hold On, Hold On, “co-written with the Sadies of Canada,” took on a towering, anthemic, Steve Wynn-style angst maxed out by the jangly reverb of Rigby and Rauhouse. Hogan cranked a music box and timed it perfectly to the vocals during a surprisingly creepy take of Middle Cyclone, which they followed with a pulsing new song with distant Velvet Underground echoes, Hogan explaining that it was “about dating your dad who turns about to be your mom.” The most tender place in Case’s heart is for strangers, so she suggested that audience members imagine her holding them to ease the darkness of the lyrics. Shortly after a lusciously lurid, bitter, harmony-driven Star Witness, they encored with Don’t Forget Me, Rigby taking centerstage with a tersely acidic, sostenuto noiserock solo. It was transcendent in every sense of the word for both band and audience: despite the sonic snafus, nobody was about to forget this one.

A word about Bradley – his vocals aren’t usually ragged like they were this time, probably the result of touring and trying to overdo it since he may not have been able to hear himself over the band. Who were stupendously good: from a distance, this Daptone crew looked a lot like the guys who usually back Sharon Jones. They were a time trip back to 1967 in the best possible way: nobody overplayed, the organ purred, the bass was smooth but sinewy, the horns punched in and then disappeared in a split second and the guitarist showed off expert command of every good, useful, emotionally vivid lick from that era. Bradley has been playing on and off at Bowery Ballroom and the Music Hall of Williamsburg lately: if oldschool soul music is your thing, he’s worth seeing – unlike the lame, cliched, kitschy Delaney & Bonnie wannabes who opened the show.

A Clinic in Tunesmithing with Daniel Stampfel

Thursday night Daniel Stampfel played the album release show for his new ep at Fontana’s. The singer/guitarist looks the same as he did when he was packing the old Luna Lounge ten years ago, fronting the Inevitable Breakups, a fantastic powerpop outfit that should have been the band representing New York around the world instead of the Strokes or Interpol. Stampfel’s crowd hasn’t changed any more than he has: fellow musicians out to watch a talented colleague work his magic live, and wide-eyed twentysomething women (Stampel always pulls the chicks no matter where he goes). The band was tremendous, as usual: good tunesmiths never have a hard time finding musicians to play those tunes. The lead guitarist switched expertly from searing, sun-drenched slide lines, to rapidfire, pointillistic bluesy runs, to plenty of nimble Johnny Marr-style jangle and clang, while the drummer walked the line expertly between swing and anthemic and the bassist picked out a steady, often suspenseful new wave pulse (and took the most interesting solo of the night on the next-to-last song). Stampfel’s nonchalantly soaring vocals sometimes took a back seat to the roar of the band, but that didn’t matter: people were there for the hooks.

As usual, there were plenty of those. Stampfel works a catchy area between the Jayhawks at their most cosmopolitan, the Raspberries at their most melodic and Big Star at their most focused, with a more propulsive, rhythmic drive than any of those bands. While those are all old groups, what Stampfel is doing is putting his own stamp on an oldschool style, tuneful verses working their way up to irresistibly catchy resolutions when the choruses hit. He opened playing acoustic guitar on a jangly midtempo number that wouldn’t have been out of place in the Gary Louris songbook, following with a bouncy, 80s-influenced song that was the poppiest one of the night. The band picked up the pace with a biting riff-rock number, then a more laid-back soul-flavored tune with a gorgeous little hailstorm of tremolo-picking by the lead player. Hurricane Bells’ Steve Schiltz (who produced the record) then came up to add an extra layer of his characteristically thoughtful, spacious guitar on a lush, anthemic tune that reminded of the Church back when that band was writing the occasional pop song. They closed with an unexpectedly minor-key new wave tune (the one with that great bass solo) and then an exuberant one that might have been an Inevitable Breakups song.

That was the music. Lyrics don’t really figure into what Stampfel does: some of the songs could have been titled Oh Baby I Love Your Way or Just the Two of Us (they weren’t, but you get the picture). In order to take his stuff to the next level, i.e. Carl Newman/Steve Kilbey/Elvis Costello territory, he needs a lyricist: tunes as good as this guy’s deserve some substance. One can only imagine the greatness that would result from a collaboration with, say, a Paula Carino or Ward White.