Friday, May 25, 2007

Bob Pollard returns with The Takeovers

Robert Pollard fans never have to wait long for some new tunes from their hero. Between his former Guided by Voices stuff, the Fading Captain series, the solo work, the outtakes albums, his stuff with Tommy Keene and Mac McCaughan of Portastatic, there's always something new.

Here's a new side project from Bob (speaking of side projects, we're hoping to have a post soon responding to an email from loyal TRS reader Ben questioning the Rockist-ness of side projects), this time with all kinds of characters. His former GbV buddy Chris Slusarenko joins full-time, but he also calls in Stevie Malkmus, John Moen of the Decemberists, and Dan Peters of Mudhoney to play in a new thing they're calling The Takeovers, and their new release is called Bad Football (if memory serves, wasn't Pollard a star quarterback in high school?).

What does it sound like? Doesn't every Pollard project sound the same? Cheap, fuzzy guitars in 4/4 time, roughly two minutes long, and complimented by catchy vocal lines delivered in a faux-faux British accent. If it's your bag, might as well take these three free (even though "Molly and Zack" is kinda dull) tunes the label's offering up:

The Takeovers - "Molly and Zack"
The Takeovers - "My Will"

and a couple other Bob Pollard goodies -

Robert Pollard - "Supernatural Car Lover"
Guided by Voices - "Hardcore UFOs" (live)
Guided by Voices - "Baba O' Riley" (live, Who cover)

Thursday, May 24, 2007

The Mother Hips Return from the Dead

Long ago, in a small liberal arts college far, far away, I listened to...pretty much the same stuff I listen to now. Many probably shared similar experiences of going to college and discovering record collections vastly different, larger, better-informed, more obscure (or all of the above) than your own. For me, it was encouraging to learn that Britpoppers Travis were NOT the best band of the moment, and that Weezer was just the tip of the iceberg of catchy, fuzzy-guitar centric rock. Anyone with me?

Anyhow, I was raised on the Rockist Canon, including all the big B's (Beatles, Byrds, Beach Boys, Bob) but leaning particularly heavy on a few less celebrated (outside of Rockist circles) California groups like Love, Moby Grape, and the Buffalo Springfield. Which is probably what drew me to bands that mimicked early Wilco -- namely, the Mother Hips, who actually namedrop Jeff Tweedy and co. in their song "Smoke".

I had their album The Green Hills of Earth back then, and somewhere in the past six years I picked up Later Days too, but had pretty much (read: totally) forgotten about them as a living rock and roll entity. Then, out of left field (or Laurel Canyon, as it were), they released Kiss the Crystal Flake, a fine little comeback album that should have some shaggy, ageing rockers and those with tastes similar to shaggy, ageing rockers licking their chops. The Hips have always had a big time Neil Young jones -- you can actually download their cover version of Young's class Everybody Knows This is Nowhere LP on their website -- and they're not afraid to show it. "Not So Indepedent" steals its intro from "Cinnamon Girl", and the harmonies ring out like they did in the Springfield's glory days. "No-Name Darrell" is a Big Star homage too, while "Time We Had" reminds of the Connells' "college rock".

If this sounds like a combination of pretty much band I ever talk about, that's because it is. But I'm just fascinated that a band that released their first stuff in 1992 and stopped in 2001, a band that I've always viewed as sort of a glorified local/cover bar-band, would get it together enough to lay down a new album in 2007. Just a blast from the past that you never expected to hear from again, but then they unexpectedly re-emerge -- triumphantly -- in archetypal Rockist fashion, to put together one last slice of mid-tempo, countrified classic rock that will no doubt be just as forgotten as the rest of their stuff. Gotta admire that kind of resilience.

The Mother Hips - "Time We Had"
The Mother Hips - "Not So Independent"

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

"My Body is a Cage"

This unofficial video for Arcade Fire's "My Body is a Cage" sets the song against footage from Sergio Leone's Once Upon a Time in the West. While I've seen the Dollars Trilogy (thanks in large part to a former roommate's (you know who you are) ample collection of Westerns), I haven't seen this one. Though it seems to work rather well. Let me know what you think...

Casual Dining with Dean Ween

Reviewing Ween's quebec back in '03, Eric Carr of Pitchfork wrote, "...nothing I say makes any difference. It's Ween. Their fans adore them, and the rest of you don't care."

So true. If you've ever been to a Ween show, you know that they a) can sell out Cedar Rapids on a Sunday and b) those fans are rabid as hell. They actually prefer to hear Ween's most self-indulgent, worst material (imagine, for example, if Wilco fans clamored for "Less Than You Think") and they'll drive a few hundred miles to do so.

I can't quite count myself as one of their biggest fans, but I do own virtually every album and I've seen them a few times as well. They haven't put out a proper LP since quebec, which I found to be characteristically spotty but a whole lot of fun. For those of you seeking Rockist credit for picking this one up, please note that Jim James of My Morning Jacket listed it as one of his favorite albums of 2003 in one of those British music mags (still searching for that link).

But to the point -- their infrequently updated website is almost always hilarious, with Dean Ween running the show and providing running commentary through the "Waste" page. They finally updated it, and this time Deaner has provided a list of his favorite cheap snacks to have around the house. Very funny; see his diatribes on cafeteria beverages and the ethnic makeup of his snack pantry.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

And you, my son, shall be a Rockist...

Just wanted to excerpt an email I received yesterday from my dad. For his birthday, my little sister got the two of them tickets to see TRS mainstays the Hold Steady at the Southgate House in Newport, Kentucky (about 75 miles north of where we live). Here's his synopsis:

Loved the Hold Steady and Craig Finn was so much fun to watch, as was the keyboardist. Really impressed with the lead guitarist too. Opening act, The Ratchetts, were pretty good and had some good songs in their 30 minute set, but the next act, the Wolverton Brothers, were the absolutely worst opening act I've ever heard; worse than the Angelistos*, or whatever that band we saw opening for someone who I can't remember at Bogarts... Anyway, still
pumped about the Hold Steady and have tried to spread the word at work today. They only played about an hour, but it was one song after another non stop, although they didn't play "Chillout Tent", one of my favs.

*By "Angelistos", he's referring to Desaparecidos, Conor Oberst's side project, who did absolutely suck, opening for someone I can't remember either.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Sloan @ the Black Cat

Rob: I never thought I'd say this, "Thank you, Black Cat." I know G.H. won't share in my appreciation, but I just had to say it. Arriving solo for the show, I walked up to the ticket counter, set down a twenty and was given a twenty and a ticket. The really cute girl behind the table told me someone upstairs was being nice. Alright.

I also was amazed at the crowd. Although small, everyone seemed into the show. There were a few groups of people singing along to every song with fists pumping and heads bobbing. I was quite impressed.

As for the show, I would rate it strong to quite strong. Within the first hour, they played over 20 songs, many of which were played right after another. The songs were great. A few of my favorites included "Who Taught You To Live Like That?", "The Good In Everyone," and "Money City Maniacs." The highlight of the evening was when Chris Murphy and Patrick Pentland came out to start the encore and played an abbreviated "The Other Man" followed by a few more teases and then the whole band blasted into "Losing California." The weakest parts of the show were when drummer Andrew Scott came out from behind the skins, donned a guitar and took over the mic. He's a fantastic, engaging drummer and should probably stay seated.

What about you GH? I understand you have a different opinion of the Black Cat staff.

GH: Honestly I'm sick of talking about it. They're occasionally real cheery, but mostly they seem like the saddest bunch of bar-attendees I've ever come across. It must suck to work at a place that books great acts and get to see them and meet them all for free. Granted, you have to put up with free, "secret" Good Charlotte shows, but whatever. Small price to pay. One of these days I'm going to be greeted at the door with big smiles and good cheer, and I'm going to take a picture of it and post it here.

Still, whatever I say about the Black Cat doesn't matter -- we don't really have a choice and they do a fine job booking loads of bands I really want to see. Sloan was no exception, and I thought they put on a very good show. I like them. I don't love them. Why? Can't put my finger on it. They're catchy enough, and a very tight band, and I really love the drummer, but the songs don't seem to have much conflict or tension -- none of that bittersweet resignation that just kills on classic cuts like "September Gurls" or "Surrender."

Or maybe it's that the one song of theirs that seems to have these characteristics in spades is "Right or Wrong", and they didn't play that. They did play 30 other songs, and their range is undeniable. All five of them can sing, all of them can apparently play guitar, and having four different songwriters with similar aims but not so similar means really benefits the catalog. There isn't a bad song in the bunch. Anyway, enough of my cynicism -- everyone there seemed to love every minute of the show, and I had a perfectly enjoyable time.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Arcade Fire @ DAR Constitution Hall

GL: OK, not to brag here, but GH and myself first saw the Arcade Fire on their initial US tour after releasing Funeral. With about 70 other people. And we got tickets at the door. For 10 bucks. The show was to this day one of the most fun concert-going experiences I've ever had. At the time I wasn't really all too familiar with the album, but I had heard some good things and, never being one to pass up a good time, I made the trip from Northfield, MN to Champaign, IL with GH in his white Volvo station wagon. The ride down was nearly as epic as the concert itself as we played one of the most prolific games of Rock n Roll Alphabet the Midwest has ever seen. Unfortunately, this also caused us to miss our exit three times over, but whatever.

The show that night was amazing, they played Funeral in its entirety (or very nearly), banged on a bunch of shit, and generally entertained the pants off every attendee. I was very impressed and very happy. I've probably listened to Funeral, like every other self-respecting indie popper, about a thousand times since. Years have passed and the Arcade Fire are now the biggest indie band in the world. As such, when I heard they were coming to DC, I didn't even think about trying to get tickets. Perhaps I was jaded or just plain old lazy, but I was pretty positive it would sell out in like half a second. Apparently it took 5 minutes, but all the same. GH somehow snagged a pair, but I had none. That is until my friend, the beautiful, lovely, gracious, and wonderful "SG" told me that she could not use her ticket and gave it to me. I was pumped.

DAR is a pretty cool place, a nice old hall/theatre type deal with a big stage and tons of seats. I thought the sound was great too, though I've heard reports to the contrary. The National opened up and though we only caught the last 6 songs or so, I really enjoyed them. They played a couple new ones, but "Abel" and "Mr. November" were exceptional (and the only ones I recognized). Then it was time for Arcade Fire. Besides a few more members (seriously, wtf?) and a cool stage setup, not much had changed since the last time we saw them. They still traded instruments like unwanted baseball cards, banged on whatever they could find, and sang and played impassioned indie rock songs with unparalleled energy. In a word: awesome.

The setlist was a good mix of both Funeral and Neon Bible songs as to be expected, and while my personal favorites from the night, "Neighborhood #2" and "Wake Up" were both from the former, I was very impressed with "Windowsill" and "Intervention". The songs off the new album retained their dark and brooding nature and felt very at home in a big room like the DAR hall. The big room really seemed to suit them well I thought, though if they keep adding members they may be playing the Verizon Center next...

Needless to say, I had a blast. GH, what are your thoughts? Are the Arcade Fire the U2 of indie rock?

GH: Yes sir, they certainly are, and the coronation is set for this summer, location TBA. GL gave you all the good background stories from our previous Arcade Fire experience (wait...HA...he forgot one: they covered the Talking Heads' "This Must Be the Place" that night), so I'll just focus on this time around. They were, in my opinion, truly excellent. They've gotten bigger, bolder, and, while I have no idea where this huge stage budget came from, it makes for the best live experience in indie rock. It's the first time in a long time that I've felt a real buzzing anticipation in the crowd just before they took the stage, and, honestly, it was really refreshing to feel that after so many shows where you're just there to "check them out" and "see what their live show is like." As far as the music was concerned, it was especially nice to hear the weirder, slower tracks of Neon Bible in concert, especially the way the title track faded then came back for an a capella reprise. My girlfriend also now loves Win Butler for some reason -- I think she used the term "cute" but that's just because she hasn't seen the lyric sheet to "(Antichrist Television Blues)" yet (which they did not play). For those of us on the floor, the best moment came when Butler defied security and instructed everyone to move out of their seats and get as close as possible. It made for a really great atmosphere around the stage, and seemed to push the band to a new level for the last half of the show.

Let's see, what else? I did think some of the tunes off Funeral weren't quite as poignant as they used to be, but "Rebellion (Lies)" and "Neighborhood #1" were still highlights. I loved "Windowsill" and I love the mandolin/apocalyptic bounce of "Keep the Car Running", both from Bible. One other thing I did notice was that they split the stage up, males on one side, females on the other. I know this probably has something to do with what instruments go where, and Regine Chassagne's move to the drums did mess up that arrangement. But I'll stand by the theory that it creates this sort of familial, gender-divide feel up there, and a lot of the time that's what they're singing about. If you think I'm full of it, just send me an email and we can discuss more at length. The band came back from the encore and did a rousing rendition of "Intervention". Butler looked like his voice was struggling, but the other bandmates coerced him into doing one more -- "Wake Up", always a fan favorite. It wasn't the best song of the night, but it's always good to save your catchiest, most immediate song for last, and end a spectacular evening on a sure-fire high note.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

The Best Album Starters of My Arsenal

Opening songs may be the the most important of every album. While a lot of attention gets put on tracks numbered 3 and beyond, it's the premier track that sets the tune for the rest of the album. Since the invention of the CD and mp3, first tracks have been skipped over effortlessly for the most popular singles of the album. After plowing through the over 475 albums on my ipod, I lay before you my top ten (of my generation. You won't find any Beatles here). Here's to the forgotten first children, in no particular order.

Built to Spill - "The Plan" - Keep It Like A Secret
Probably one of the most powerful openers out there, it's major chords and driving drums set up probably one of the most powerful indie rock albums (in my opinion) of all time.

Field Music - "You're Not Supposed To" - Write Your Own History
What's a post without a Field Music reference? Although this isn't technically an LP (it's a compilation) the light harmonies and poppy refrain are quintessential Field Music.

Sugar - "The Act We Act" - Copper Blue
This is the oldest song on the list (As previously noted, I'm neglecting actual old stuff). Bob's Mould's first attempt after leaving punk is fantastic. Although "If I Can't Change Your Mind" dominated radio play, "The Act We Act" bridged Mould's evolution of genres.

The Bigger Lovers - "Half Richard's" - Honey In The Hive
These TRS favorites could actually have 3 on the list, but I'll spare you. Who knew a paternity test could sound so good?

Metric - "IOU" - Old World Underground, Where Are You Now?
By far the shortest song title from the longest album name on the list, the switching beats and riffs make you curious what the rest of the album has to offer. A fantastic starter to this multidimensional debut album.

Ben Lee - "Cigarettes Will Kill You" - Breathing Tornadoes
Not only a song title, but also a public service announcement.

R.E.M. - "What's The Frequency Kenneth?" - Monster
Ok, ok. So this song was the first single off of The Greatest Rock Band of All Time's only all-electric album. What are you going to do? Mug me?

The Shins - "Kissing The Lipless" - Chutes Too Narrow
Let me map out the first minute of this song:
Yip! --> acoustic guitar/bored vocals --> BLAM!

Radiohead - "Airbag" - OK Computer
One of the greatest albums of all time (even though, as stated before, one Rockist doesn't agree) layed a new path for the band (and modern rock along with it). Ahhh Thom, you ARE back to save the universe.

The Hold Steady - "Stuck Between Stations" - Boys and Girls in America
Does this really need an explanation?

Honorable Mentions

Mates of State - "Ha Ha" - Team Boo
Beulah - "A Man Like Me" - Yoko
The Arcade Fire - "Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)" - Funeral
Beck - "Sexx Laws" - Midnite Vultures
Wilco - "Can't Stand It" - Summerteeth
The Futureheads - "Yes/No" - News And Tributes

Monday, May 7, 2007

This Week in Video: Not Out in Stores Edition

After my 3 week stint in the Dirty Jerz (and before another half week up there) I finally have time to scour the web for the best videos... or just some average ones.

TRS has had the new Wilco album, Sky Blue Sky, for over a month thanks to a brother and friend of the Rockists. I'm a big fan, even though it's a departure from their good old days. It's just a record of songs by a band. Here's a trailer of the new album and DVD. (The Rockist Society doesn't receive any advertisement money because of you watching this... we're poor)

Watching this video brings me back to college when I first heard of The Books. Normally bands like this don't make it on TRS, but The Lemon of Pink was extremely influential in... uh... nevermind. It's great to be alive.

"Take Time"

Again, 2 of the Rockists saw an amazing show. The National opened up for Arcade Fire at DAR on Friday. I wasn't fortunate enough to get a ticket... thanks... no, it's ok... really... I'll be fine... It's a good thing The National is coming back to DC this summer.

"Mistaken For Strangers"