Sonic Youth Wins Again.

May 9, 2008 at 5:22 am (rock and roll, videos)

Over at his excellent blog Dubious Quality, Bill Harris is talking about bands that sort of become “brands”, so that they just sort of keep on keepin’ on, even when original members are retired or dead. Find a guy who sings like Brad Delp and you get more Boston albums; find a guy who can screech like Steve Perry (who himself made a career of doing a spectacularly bad Sam Cooke imitation) and you get Journey on the State Fair Festival circuit.

Bill notes, though, that bands who age into their fifties tend to be done making artistic statements. That’s an astute observation, because usually rockers still being relevant at fifty are solo artists, not actual bands. If you like the new REM (and I like it without loving it), they’re an example I suppose. Anyway, apparently Bill’s readers have suggested Rush and King Crimson as the two best examples of bands in their fifties who are still artistically relevant.

Yech. Rush is…well, Rush. I love “Tom Sawyer” too…but they’re Rush. Fans pack their shows to hear “Fly By Night” and “Spirit Of Radio”, not so much to hear the new stuff (yes I know, you Rush internet fanatics LOVE the new Rush material. You’re oddballs. We were trying to keep it from you.)

King Crimson is laughable, since I think the roster of “people who played in King Crimson” is now approaching 200. Crimson was Robert Fripp in 1968, and remains Robert Fripp now. They’re as much a “band” as “Bob Dylan” is.

Obviously there are some bands out there still getting it done at 50. Mission Of Burma sounds as fresh as ever….but then you remember they were on hiatus for 20 years. If Ira and Georgia would spill it on their ages, Yo La Tengo would certainly count, too.

But for my money, the band out there that remains the most relevant and impressive into 50 is Sonic Youth (Lee Ranaldo is 52, Kim Gordon is 55, and Thurston hits the big 5-0 in July of this year). The Sonic Youth career arc is a wonder to behold: arty experimentalists at the beginning, noise pop auteurs in the middle, math-rock noodlers through the ’90’s….and now for their last three or four albums, they’ve been cranking out some of the best rock and roll on the planet.

Don’t take my word for it though. Here’s the evidence from 2006’s brilliant Rather Ripped album:



“Turqoise Boy”

Thing is, none of those amazing songs are old standards; those are all new songs from a band that continues to be an artistic powerhouse.

There’s my answer for you Bill!

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Viva Peru!

April 28, 2008 at 4:51 pm (cool band alert, rock and roll, videos)

Run down Myspace all you like, because everything bad that can be said about it is absolutely true. Forever and ever though, for me, Myspace will have a special place in my heart, because without it I’d have never discovered one of the silliest, most wonderful, exciting rock and roll things on the planet.

First test for you before I get to that: think of the coolest band name–real or imagined–that there ever could possibly be. Take some time. Bookmark this page. “The Rolling Stones” is a great name. “The Who” is a great name. “The Flashing Lights” is a great name. “The Grifters” is a great name.

Ok. Now I’ll connect the dots of coolest band name ever to Myspace. I suppose because I “friended” (worst…verb…ever…) Murcia’s wonderful Ross (see blog post elswhere here) a few weeks ago, I ended up getting a friend request on Myspace over the weekend from a rock band from Peru. Yes, *that* Peru. When I saw the band name, my breath caught. It was the funniest, hippest, most outrageous band name I’d seen in a long while. I hoped and prayed that the music was able to even remotely live up to the moniker. The band is called (drumroll) “Los Fuckin Sombreros”.

Thanks to the info on their English language myspace page, I read that LFS are pretty big in Peru (and before you scoff at the Incan rock scene, there’s actually a surprisingly rich tradition of great music from that country; check the Nuggets II box and hit up youtube for videos from We All Together, who sound like a latino Emitt Rhodes or Zombies…). They played a series of 2007 “adios” concerts before going on a bit of a hiatus, though. Some North American labels came knocking, and it seems as if their latest (and best?) album Sha La La is going to get proper US release soon, and the band is talking about a US tour.

A very good thing, that, because Los Fuckin Sombreros are more than just a cool name. What I love about these guys is that no one has explained to them that trying to embrace influences like The Creation, Oasis, The Stooges, late-seventies Def Leppard, and AC/DC shouldn’t work. Screw it! It’s rock and roll! Hell yes it works, and looks like it’d be a total damn blast to be a part of! Crazy thing is, I’m listening to their songs on Myspace and totally getting into them, and thinking “I really, really like these guys…I wonder if they have any vids on Youtube.”

Lord do they. In fact, the videos that are posted there have cemented the relationship for me; LFS isn’t just a good band, they’re a GREAT band. Check out this video here, cheese:

Yeah, right? Worth noting here is that Los Fuckin Sombreros have a LOT of female fans. They seem to outnumber the guys…and said female fans are extremely hot. Ever go to a Vines or Hives show? Yeah, sausage-fest. Check the unselfconsciousness of the goings-on there too. NONE of any of that should work, but try telling that to the crowd who is shout/singing along at ear-shattering volume. I go to way too many shows where people just stand there, arms crossed as if they’re in a museum and studying some neo-cubist painting. Hell with that. I watch this video and I want to be in the middle of that shrieking, crazy-ass sweaty crowd going nuts with everyone else (and not because of all the chicks, who are, again, incredibly easy on the eyes). Any band performing at Pitchforkfest (or whatever they call it), CMJ, SxSW, or any other bitchy hipster rock festival should be required to watch Los Fuckin Sombreros get it done. Anyone going to see a band at said ‘fests should watch those videos too; rock and roll nowadays needs more abandoned, drunken, dance-y fun like this.

Or like this:

Or like this: (HEY! When did 25-year-old Peter Buck join LFS???)

Their English-language Myspace page is here.

Their official homepage is here.

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Another Reason The Music Industry Sucks.

April 20, 2008 at 5:30 am (cool band alert, rock and roll, videos)

It was last September that sort-of Chicago rock band The Living Blue (nee The Blackouts) announced that they’d finished their new record. If you’re really, really looking forward to this disc, that was nearly 7 full months ago. Not that anyone’s counting. Ok, I am counting. And waiting. Impatiently.

My “Best of” list of records from 2005 is utterly screwed up because I didn’t actually discover The Living Blue’s incredible debut disc Fire, Blood, Water until about May of 2006–four months after I’d finished that list. Although the record and band get lumped into the garage-rock genre (and certainly their roots are there), there’s very little “retro” appeal here, despite guitartist Joe Prokop’s Rickenbacker and Brian Jones haircut. “Tell Me Leza” sounds like Franz Ferdinand without the cliches and with more inspiration; “State Of Affairs” and “Murderous Youth” roar along with a fire and verve that you simply don’t get with bands doing the revivalist thing. In fact, let’s us take a little break here and provide evidence to The Living Blue’s (and Fire, Blood, Water‘s) greatness:

(“Tell Me Leza”)

(“Serrated Friend”)

(“State Of Affairs”)

Ok then. If that was your first exposure to The Living Blue, we should probably clarify a few things:

1. Yes, I know; those are killer songs.
2. Yes, I know; guitarist Joe Prokop is the great unknown guitar hero on the planet, and yes, he does shred, and yes it is inexcusable that he isn’t mentioned when people talk about the most gifted rock and roll guitarists in the world.
3. Yes, I know; singer/guitarist Steve Ucherek does indeed sound a little like a teenaged Bono singing as if he was terrified and desperate and angry and strung out on caffeine.

Fire, Blood, Water came out on indie-pop label Minty Fresh, but it seems the band and Minty have parted company. So, despite having a completed followup album called Walk, Talk, Rhythm, Roam ready for release, I gather that the band is still at the point of seeking out someone to release it…which is insane. The tracks I’ve heard at the band’s website and myspace page are absolutely killer. There are nods to their garage-rock roots on tunes like “Numb” and “Without You”, but songs like the amazing title track (which might be in the running for song of the year), “Something You Do”, and the stunning “Venus Fly Trap” are a quantum leap ahead of even the brilliance of their debut, and “Nightwind” would be a massive hit if there was any justice in the world. That the band seems to be having trouble finding a taker for this either means they know how good it is and are asking a dear price for a label lucky enough to put it out, or is further evidence that the music industry is in a deserved death spiral.

Between the band’s website and myspace pages, you can hear 6 or 7 songs from the 12 on the completed record. Hopefully very, very soon you’ll be able to hear the rest. The Living Blue are one of the most exciting rock and roll bands on the planet and are fully deserving of better treatment than this.

The Living Blue myspace page, where you can hear “Nightwind”, “Walk, Talk, Rhythm, Roam”, “Something You Do”, and “Venus Fly Trap”.

The Living Blue’s under-construction website where “Numb”, “Nightwind”, “Without You” …and one other song which may or may not be “Refugee” can be heard.

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