Friday, March 21, 2008

Chart Attack! at Popdose

Every other Friday, Popdose runs a feature called "Chart Attack" in which that week's top ten singles from a chosen year in the distant past are dissected, lauded and lambasted, all in the name of entertainment. The feature's originator, the witty and talented Jason Hare, afforded me the opportunity to be a guest 'chart attacker' this week, and I invite you to join in the fun too. Check out my guest 'Chart Attack' entry as we look back at the top ten songs for the week ending March 22, 1975.


Thursday, March 20, 2008

New Costello record IS a record!

Whenever I've talked up the move some indie labels (i.e. Touch and Go, Sub Pop, etc.) have made with new releases -- making free digital downloads available with the purchase of a vinyl LP -- I've gotten little response. Might as well say "who cares," right?

Well, check this out: Billboard reports that Elvis Costello's next album, Momofuku, will be released (for now) solely as a RECORD bundled with a digital download on the Lost Highway label on April 22. NO CD!

There have been iTunes exclusive tracks and EPs released with no CD (Smashing Pumpkins, Paul McCartney, etc.), but these weren't full albums. Prince has released some internet-only downloads, but his site has gone kaput and nobody outside of his die-hard fan-base knew about them. Even Radiohead's 'pay what you want' download scheme eventually gave way to a traditional CD release (which debuted at number 1).

That an artist of Costello's stature is going the vinyl + download route and leaving the CD format out is very interesting indeed. This is one to watch. Will more people feel inclined to buy a turntable so they can "spin the black circle" while waiting for their iPod batteries to recharge? Will other artists follow suit? Is the CD really going to follow the cassette, the 8-track, and the brittle 78 RPM record into media format heaven?

Friday, March 7, 2008

Reviews update & a farewell

In the crazy hustle bustle hamster wheel that is 2008 Q1, some reviews have nearly slipped off the radar of this little web cubby. Rescued from the very recent past, here they are:

The Gutter Twins - Saturnalia

You read about them here, now read about them at Bullz-Eye and anywhere else that gives these guys some ink. Dulli and Lanegan have created a masterpiece. Lovers of darkly spiritual alt-rock, beware!

Kula Shaker - Strangefolk

Another one for Bullz-Eye. Maybe you remember these guys from 10 or so years ago, back when Brit-pop records were actually moving off shelves in the U.S. They're back, finally, with their third album, and not much has changed - the Eastern hippy-drippy psychedelia is still there, they still rock, and they still make uneven albums. But a good amount of the tunes are worth ripping and keeping.

More to come in the not too distant future...

P.S. - R.I.P. Teo Macero. You made Miles' records the events that they are!

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

The Gutter Twins at Bimbo's, San Francisco, 3/1/08

L-R: Greg Dulli, Mark Lanegan; Photo by Julie Bernstein

It becomes increasingly difficult to get large groups together to go out and enjoy a concert, as many of the big names for which our friends share a common love have been pricing us out of the market. I don’t recall a time since perhaps back in college when I was part of a group as large as seven to attend a concert together (and I think the group might have actually been five or six). It might have been a Neil Young show. That’s the one I remember most clearly, and in fact, the Afghan Whigs were set to play first, followed by Jewel. I was a little miffed that we couldn’t get it together to arrive on time for the Whigs, and we missed their set. Fortunately I’d be able to make up for it next time they came to town, and nearly every time Greg Dulli has played within driving distance.

Which brings me to this past Saturday night. A group of seven! I’m still pretty high about it. It was myself, my friend, co-worker and band-mate Julie (taking photos that evening), my ex-girlfriend (but a friend first and always) Jennifer and her friend Alex, my co-worker Derek and his brother, and my friend and band-mate Mike. All of us shared either a curiosity or strong devotion to Greg Dulli and/or Mark Lanegan, who kicked off their first tour as the Gutter Twins here in San Francisco on Saturday night as part of the annual Noise Pop festival.

I’ve had my review copy of Saturnalia playing constantly since receiving it in the mail, and I’m already feeling that it will probably end up as my pick for album of the year. It’ll be a tough one for anyone to top.

Lanegan had been a part of previous tours with Dulli’s Twilight Singers band, but he would only appear on stage occasionally. It was one of those occasions during the last Twilight Singers gig in San Francisco, back in ’06, when the music was elevated to a status one could call ‘magical’ or ‘transcendent’ or whatever your preferred term. Lanegan took his place at the microphone and sang an obscure Massive Attack song called “Live With Me” that only those who picked up the Collected best-of that summer would have known. Fortunately, the Lanegan-sung version was recorded for posterity in the studio and appeared on the Twilight Singers A Stitch in Time EP last year. It was effectively a preview of things to come, and it is now a part of the Gutter Twins’ live set.

Besides Lanegan on vocals and Dulli on vocals, guitar and keys, the band consisted of: Dave Rosser, guitar and vocals; Scott Ford, bass and vocals; Jeff Klein, guitar, keys and vocals, and Cully Symington, drums.

Lanegan and Dulli both remained on stage the entire time, and there wasn’t a single song where either one was silent vocally. When Lanegan was singing lead on a song, Dulli would have some background parts to sing, and vice versa. And on occasion they would trade leads, as on “I Was in Love with You.” This is the one song on Saturnalia where Lanegan is not present, but on stage, he sings most of the leads and Dulli takes some of it later. The best shared leads were saved for the encore, however – the old Twilight Singers tune “Papillon” found Dulli inserting a line from Steve Miller’s “The Joker” (in an apparent acknowledgement of his smoking on stage in a city where smoking indoors in public places is illegal), followed by Lanegan inserting a line from the even older Screaming Trees chestnut “Shadow of the Season.”

Uniquely interpreted covers are always a part of any show Dulli plays, so we got the aforementioned “Live With Me” along with a Lanegan-sung cover of Jose Gonzalez’ “Down the Line,” with Lanegan extracting all the blues out of the song that his gravelly voice can muster.

The entirety of Saturnalia was performed, with few words spoken between songs. Lanegan is typically silent between songs on stage, or as Mike put it, he’s “all business.” Some of this vibe has rubbed off on Dulli, who used to be far more talkative with the audience. But all that means is more music. And given the shorter set times with a total of four bands performing that night, the twenty-song set split between new songs, solo Lanegan tunes and Twilight Singers material was quite generous. And satisfying.

Set List:

The Stations
God’s Children
The Body
Live With Me
Seven Stories Underground
All Misery / Flowers
Idle Hands
Circle the Fringes
Bete Noire
I Was in Love with You
Down the Line
Who Will Lead Us
Each to Each
Front Street

The River Rise
Papillon/The Joker/Shadow of the Season
No Easy Action
King Only
Methamphetamine Blues
Number Nine

Saturnalia is out today on Sub Pop, as a CD, mp3 download and double 180-gram vinyl LP (which itself includes a coupon for a free mp3 download of the whole album).


Joy of joys! USA Today's pop culture writer Whitney Matheson linked yesterday's Bullz-Eye feature ("Rock of Pages") in her Pop Candy blog this morning. Even though she did not mention Bullz Eye by name, we are still quite happy. Thank you, Whitney!

Monday, March 3, 2008

Rock of pages

Bullz-Eye just posted a cool new feature today called "Rock of Pages: 45 Books for the Literate Music Fan." It's exactly what the title implies: a list of rock books with short reviews on each. All the entries were chosen by the staff writers, and I have three entries in the bunch (on "Songbook" by Nick Hornby, "Chronicles, Vol. 1" by Bob Dylan and "Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung" by Lester Bangs). There's also a "celebrity edition." Edie Brickell's entry is particularly amusing. Check it out and enjoy!